Homesteading For Beginners – The Complete Guide

If you are on this page, you are probably searching for how to start a homestead or may have come to a decision of starting a homestead. In case the latter is true, congratulations! You have just made the best decision and are moving towards an amazingly rewarding and self-sufficient life.

Luckily, I have come up with a perfect guide that can help you get started as a homesteader, even if you are a beginner. Irrespective of whether you live in a country or in a neighborhood, it can be super-simple to start homesteading. All you will need is the mindset of living a simple life and the heart of a homesteader.

In this article, you will get a clear idea about what a homestead is and what its benefits are. Also, there is a step-by-step guide on how to start homesteading to cut costs, develop more self-sufficiency, and live closer to nature. Let us get started.

A Brief History Of Homesteading

On May 20, 1862, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in the United States. As per this law, settlers were to get 160 acres of public land for free. The motive behind this was to encourage more and more people to migrate further into the Western United States. 

In order to get this land under the Homestead Act, a settler had to pay a small fee. Once done, they had to live continuously on this land for five years. On the completion of this period, they were given full ownership of the property by the US government. 

As long as the owner lived on this land, all this land and any building on it were exempted by the homestead law. This further ensured the property from being sold or seized to cover debts. By 1900, almost 80 million acres of public land were distributed owing to this act.

What Is A Homestead?

Before I tell you about how to start a homestead, do you know what a homestead actually is? Chances are, you do! In case you do not, it is all about living a self-sufficient lifestyle. A homestead can mean different things to different homesteaders. For most of them, it means owning land for building and small-scale farming.

When talking about a homestead, people usually apply it to a farm. However, it may be an urban homestead, as well. As per my belief, a homestead cannot be defined by the place you live in but by the lifestyle choices you make. In the most common sense, you can define homesteading as living off the land.

Most of the homesteaders practice agriculture and preserve their own food. It makes techniques like canning and pickling another major part of homesteading. Then, there are some homesteaders who produce their own textiles. All of this can either be done for one’s own use or even as an additional source of income.

Furthermore, some homesteaders also prefer living off the grid. When people relate homesteading with farming, it does not imply living in a village. Homesteading is different than that because of its isolation geographically as well as socially. Typically, a homestead houses a single/extended family. Thus, homesteaders tend to live a more independent life.

Why Should You Start A Homestead?

Before moving on to how to start a homestead, let us have a peek at some of its benefits. Have a look:

  • In some US states, homesteaders have homestead exemption. With these, they can protect the value of their land from taxes and creditors.
  • Homestead exemption in some states also lets the land transfer on to a spouse if the homeowner dies.
  • By living the homesteading lifestyle, you will have lower bills. So, you need not worry if you tend to make a lower income.
  • Homesteaders experience a lot less stress than those living in cities and urban centers. Also, they are closer to their family than the folks in the city.
  • Homesteading includes agriculture practices that are sustainable and hence help save the environment. It also brings you closer to nature.
  • Running a homestead provides better physical health as it requires a lot more physical labor than that of a job in the city. Also, it ensures a healthy diet and clean surroundings.
  • Since starting a homestead requires a whole set of new skills and hobbies, it can help boost your self-confidence.

How To Start A Homestead? A Step By Step Guide

Now that you know what a homestead is and its benefits let me tell you how to start one without any delay. Read ahead to find out.

1. Know All About Homesteading

First things first, in order to start homesteading, you need to make sure to know all about it. Start with learning about the day-to-day activities and chores homesteaders need to follow. Then, ask yourself if you are doing those every day. Also, you need to ensure that your family is on board with it. Make sure they are aware of all the facts and knowledge needed to run a homestead, as well. 

Further, you can even read books on homesteading or watch documentaries to fully immerse yourself in the idea of starting a homestead. If you know a person who is already a homesteader, do not hesitate to ask them lots of questions about homesteading. As a beginner, gain as much knowledge as you can. That’s what I did!

2. Make Friends With Other Homesteaders

When I thought about starting homesteading, I associated it with people who are not very sociable. However, as I learned my way through it, I realized it is not true. In reality, most of the homesteaders are very friendly. If you reach out to them and show your interest, they will not hesitate to share what they know.

In fact, if you have a homesteading buddy, it can turn out to be quite useful for you, especially when you have any questions or concerns. Trust me, someone who has done it before can help you a lot better than most of the books and other materials out there. Such a person knows almost everything – the required weather, laws, growing conditions, and a lot more.

Therefore, before you dive into getting land and other things, make sure to reach out to other homesteaders. While this can help you set up your homestead, it makes sense from a material point of view too. For instance, if you have grown too much of a crop, you can barter it for what you need. Trading products for other supplies can turn out to be beneficial for you and the other homesteader.

3. Set Achievable Goals For Yourself

If you have done your research about homesteading, as stated earlier, you may know that taking care of a full-time farm is not for everyone. Still, if you want to try, it is possible to practice it even without selling everything and moving to the country. 

Yes, you read that right. You can have a sustainable lifestyle even in an urban setting. What I am saying here is that you do not have to go all the way straight away. Instead, set achievable goals in the beginning, and once you are able to meet them, expand your tasks. 

For instance, if you do not want to move to the countryside at the beginning, you can start a vegetable garden even in an urban setting. You can even get a few backyard chickens. Thus, when you decide to start homesteading and have learned all about it from research, sit down and jot down all the things you would want to do as a homesteader. 

For instance, figure out if you want to live completely off-grid, on-grid, or partially on-grid. Another example of this is deciding if you only need to farm or even raise livestock. Once you have your goals handy, move on to the next step.

4. Decide Where You Want To Live

Your goals in the above step will make this step easier for you. Depending on them, you can choose the size and place of the property you need. For those who only wish to start homesteading as a hobby, an urban or semi-rural environment works the best. This way, they can have a full-time or part-time job and still practice homesteading.

Alternatively, for anyone who wishes to make homesteading a full-time job and lifestyle, a larger piece of land is needed. They will need enough space to grow all that they need and even a place for any livestock they wish to keep. It is also essential for you to set parameters on the general area you want to live.

Ask yourself if you want to live in a remote area or simply outside your town. All of this will depend on the homestead lifestyle you wish to have. For instance, those who want to grow crops will need land that is not very sandy or rocky. Another thing one may need to consider is the travel time. Sure, you will be living on your own, but you still need to go to the city every now and then for supplies.

The next thing you have to keep in mind is that emergencies may strike at any place. So, your land should be at a place that has easy access to an ambulance or police facility. Here, I will tell you about some crucial factors that beginners need to keep in mind while looking for land. The first one is having easy access to water.

Be it for farming, rearing livestock, or surviving in general; water is a necessity. Therefore, always make sure the lands you choose should have easy access to freshwater sources. You can look for a place with lakes, rivers, or ponds nearby. 

Alternatively, there can be a well on the property if the underground water level is good. Another thing you need to consider is the amount of rainfall the area gets per year. It will be needed for farming.

The next thing you may want to keep in mind is the safety of the land. Consider how safe the place is to live. For instance, never settle on a place that is prone to drought or other natural hazards that can hinder growing your own food. Also, stay away from any places that are known to have potential health hazards.

As stated earlier, your place should also have hospitals nearby or at least easy access to one. Further, if you have kids, you may also need to look for a place that has some good schools nearby. Of course, homeschooling your children is always an option. But if you want them to experience school life, you may want to keep this point in mind.

Furthermore, for some people, the community they are a part of matters a lot. If this is true for you too, make sure to keep this point in mind before you buy any piece of land. It is especially true if you follow certain religious or political views and find it difficult to fit in with the community that has different views.

5. Come Up With A Budget

Now that you have your ideal place in mind, it is time to come up with a budget. When starting anything new, it is always a good choice to have a thoroughly thought-out budget. Homesteading is nothing different. This step is quite essential for those who are planning to give up their steady job to start a homestead.

Let us say you like any land for starting homesteading. In such a case, you must always make sure never to use all your savings to buy it. It is because you will later need more for equipment, renovations, improvements, and other essential things. These always take 50% more than you expect.

If you go by my suggestion, always have some ideas to generate extra income for you if you are giving up a job for a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Believe it or not, you will at least need to pay for utilities and property taxes. Further, there may be some additional expenses like your phone or internet bill. If you have a family, you will need some savings for them, as well.

Even when you start your homestead, it is wise to have different products or sources of income. For instance, you may sell milk, wool, and eggs along with crops. All in all, whether you are simply starting a homestead or are already into it, it is always wise to have a budget and follow it.

6. You Can Start Small

If you have made up your mind about homesteading, it is not necessary to wait until you have the perfect land to start it. You can even start wherever you live. Yes, starting small is always an option. In fact, it is best for beginners to get the hang of things. 

Even if you live in an apartment, it is possible to move towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle. To begin with, you can grow your own herbs near a sunny window in your apartment. If you have a large backyard, use it to grow your own food. Alongside this, you can continue your search for the perfect land.

Once you find it, move on to a bigger scale. Thus, over time, you can add more and more projects to your homesteading journey. Even on the land, you can initially begin with just farming. Then, once you know you have time for more, start raising chickens, or you can even go for beekeeping.

All in all, do not worry about whether what you are doing is small or large-scale. It should just feel right for you. Always define your priorities as per your own needs. If something does not make the most sense to you, you need not do it. 

7. Continually Move Towards Simplifying Your Life

Do you always need the best and the newest phones or gadgets? Or you love to wear trendy clothing? If yes, you must know that this kind of lifestyle does not go with homesteading. Instead, it requires you to opt for minimalism and live a more frugal lifestyle. As a homesteader, less should be more for you.

Homesteaders believe that there is usually a cheaper and better way to do something. If you have decided to follow this kind of lifestyle, I understand it is not possible to do so within a day. Therefore, move slowly towards simplifying your life.

8. Start A Garden And Learn About Growing Food

This one is much obvious for all homesteaders. If you have still not started gardening, do it now! To start with, you do not have to spend much on it. After all, you are still learning. Simply spend a few dollars on some seeds. If you have the budget, getting fertilizer is a good idea. 

Other than that, the sun, water, and soil are all free to get you started. In case you cannot get fertilizer in the beginning, fret not. While the yield may not be the same in such a case, almost all vegetables grow well without it. 

All you will need is just a bit of love and care. It is always a good idea to start gardening and learn how to grow your own food before you decide to practice it on your land. If you do not have some space at home, it is even possible to sign up for a community garden.

9. Know About Composting

While you learn gardening, do not forget about composting. These both go hand in hand. This point is especially vital for those who cannot afford fertilizer or premium soil initially. With composting, you will be able to make excellent nutrient-rich soil of your own. 

For it, simply throw all extra pant matter and stud like food scraps and chicken manure into the compost. Make sure to turn this in once in a while. Once everything decomposes, put all this material into your garden, and voila! You have your own nutrient-rich soil.

10. Learn How To Preserve Food

Along with growing your own food, another much-needed skill for homesteading is the art of preserving food. There are many ways you can rely on for preserving food. Some of these methods include pickling, freezing, canning, dehydrating, cold storage, smoking, etc. Even if you decide to use any one of these techniques, it can cut down on your food costs to a great extent.

When you grow your own food (vegetables, herbs, pulses, and fruits, etc.), you are likely going to have a lot of food at the end of the season. Instead of not knowing what to do with it, learn to preserve it and use it in the off-season. This way, you can not only save money but also prevent food from going to waste.

Now, if you do not grow your own food, this point is crucial for you as well. Either way, you will still buy food from the market. If you learn how to preserve it, you can buy food in the season when it is the ripest and the cheapest. Once you preserve it, you can enjoy it all year around.

11. Make Sure You Know How To Sew And Mend Clothes

You may know that being a homesteader means being more sustainable. In such a case, when you get a rip in your jeans, throwing them away is not the right thing to do. Instead, learn to repair it and use it again. This way, for the mere cost of some thread, you can save a lot.

Alternatively, you can also learn to sew your own clothes. When you work on your homestead, these clothes can come in handy. Further, since the price of these will be much less than the ones you buy from stores, you will not worry much about spoiling them.

12. Learn To Build And Repair

When you start a homestead, repairing is not just confined to your clothes. You will have to repair and even build a lot on your land, as well. One of these skills that you can learn is carpentry. Of course, you do not have to be an expert carpenter. 

You only need to be decent enough to fix the things around your homestead. However, if you can build things like cabinets and tables on your own, it is a good thing. This way, you can save money as the store-bought products can be rather costly.

13. Raise Animals For A Sustainable Lifestyle

While animals are not necessary for a homestead, they can help you live a sustainable lifestyle. From rabbits and chickens to dwarf goats and honeybees, you can rear plenty of animals in a small backyard farm. Not only will these animals be good sources of meat, dairy, and other products, they also provide tons of rich compost for the crops.

14. Finding Land For A Homestead

Finding a good piece of land is quite essential for those who are serious about homesteading. These days, you can readily find your ideal land to establish your homestead, all thanks to the internet facility. However, the real struggle lies in sorting through all of the real estate listings and then finally finding what you are looking for.

Let me make it a bit simple for you. Here are some of the factors you need to consider in your search for that perfect piece of land. Have a look:

Factor 1: Property Rights

When you decide to invest in some land, do not assume things. Rather, make sure to know if you will own the mineral and water rights for the property. Also, ask out anything that crosses your mind. It is also a wise idea to check the deed properly. Look out for any rights of way, restrictions, or easements. If any of these prevent you from fully using the land, do not invest in it.

Factor 2: Acreage

Most people are of the view that when it comes to homesteading, the more the land, the better it is. However, it is not the case. Always make sure to invest in the land that you can maintain. Even if your income allows, do not go for more.

Factor 3: Water And Other Facilities

As stated earlier, water is important. So, make sure the land has some natural water source nearby. It should not run dry seasonally. Also, make sure to research the underground water level if there is a well on the property. 

Along with this, the place must have easy access to the city and other important facilities. If you decide that you want to live off-grid, the weather conditions must be suitable, as well. Alternatively, for those who decide to live on the grid, the electricity supply must be good enough.

Common Homesteading Activities

As a homesteader, here are some of the homesteading activities you may have to get used to every day:

  • Maintaining tractors 
  • Taking care of all equipment needed for farming
  • Looking after the garden or farm
  • Generating sustainable energy
  • Taking care of livestock, if any
  • Producing products like cheese and butter
  • Chopping firewood and forestry
  • Preserving and canning food
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Working on handmade skills
  • Cleaning and organization

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is The Cost Of Starting A Homestead?

If you are opting for a small homestead that has a home with ample land, farm prep materials, and other equipment, etc., you may have to spend near about USD 250,000 or more for it. Further, the taxes, utilities, healthcare, animal feed, transport, and other things may require about USD 20,000 per year. Then again, you can even start small by simply growing your own food in the backyard.

2. What States Allow Homesteading?

Nearly all states allow homesteading. However, this can be to varying degrees. Some of the US states that allow homesteading include Idaho, Tennessee, West Virginia, Oregon, Missouri, Michigan, Connecticut, and Maine.

3. How Many Acres Do You Need To Be Self-Sufficient For Homesteading?

Even an acre of quality land is enough to be self-sufficient and provide food to a small family. However, if you wish to rear livestock, this much of the land may not be enough. In such a case, you need 5 to 10 acres of land to be completely self-sufficient and comfortable.

4. How Do I Become A Successful Homesteader?

I believe that the only way to be a successful homesteader is by learning something every day – even the people who spend years homesteading need to learn new skills to improve. If you begin to learn at least one new skill every season, you are sure to become an expert within no time.

5. Does Homesteading Save Money?

Yes, homesteading can help you save on a lot of things. For instance, you will be growing your own food. Further, if you have livestock like chicken and cows, dairy, eggs, and meat will never be a problem. Still, you need to remember that you will have to invest in this as homesteading is not free.

6. Can I Get Free Land Through Homesteading?

Yes, you can! There are multiple US states that offer land for free under the Homestead Act or other related programs. However, for this, you may have to move to a small remote town. Also, do not expect to get a huge hundred-acre plot of land for free. Typically, you may receive a lot in part of a subdivision, and there may be provisions on it.

Conclusion

So, this is all you must know about starting a homestead as a beginner. Homesteading is undoubtedly an excellent way of living. However, this kind of lifestyle is not ideal for everyone. Therefore, make sure to start it only if you are willing to put in all the effort and hard work needed for it. 

If you decide to plunge into it, trust me, it can turn out to be the most rewarding way of living for you and your family. I would conclude by saying that I hope you achieve ample success as a homesteader. Good luck!

 

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