Are you looking to take the next step towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle? If so, there are some steps you need to (or at least, should) take before you jump in. Granted, you do not HAVE to do these things, but hindsight 20/20, trust us, you want to prepare yourself.
I have heard of those homesteaders that just decided to quit their jobs, sell their house, buy a few acres, and move out to the country with absolutely no knowledge of animals, gardening, building, or maintaining anything. I’ve also heard of those that regretted it. There are some that were very successful, but they did their research first and with no ‘hands on’ knowledge, they were able to bring it all together. However, for the majority of the ‘jump all in’ types, they end up resenting the lifestyle. In many cases, they blame everything around them for their failure. “It was a bad weather year(s).” “The economy was simply to bad.” “My partner wasn’t into it.” “The realtor didn’t tell us the land wasn’t good for gardening.” “Homesteading is just stupid.”
I’ve heard it all, but only a handful of times did any of them say “We weren’t ready.”
The points below are in no way FACT, we are no experts (if you watch our YouTube channel, you would know this), but we are hard workers, and determined to live the lifestyle we have been dreaming about. We are one of those couples that did our research or had prior knowledge of many items before taking the leap. However, after doing this for several years now, let me tell you – we could have done more.
So, here are 10 things I thing everyone thinking about taking this leap should consider first:
1) Understand, it is a job.
First of all, working solely on the homestead without someone in the household working an outside “9-5” job is rare for a great number of homesteaders, but it can be, and has been, done.
Just because you don’t punch the preverbal time clock, does not mean you don’t have to work… Feeding animals, cleaning outbuildings, fence repair, vet visits, breeding, processing, tilling soil, planting, weeding, harvesting… and that’s just one week! There are no days off and no vacation.
2) Pay off your debt.
The best start to homesteading, is to start off without a ton of baggage already holding you back. We know – you want to leave the grind… that daily commute of fumes and exhaust; the world of cubicle mazes. You want to run as fast as you can to the serenity of the country. It will work out much better for you though in the long run if you check your finances first. Resist that urge and focus on getting out of debt as much as you can. Just because you can get some veggies from your garden and eggs from your chickens, does not mean that homesteading is free. FAR from it actually – running a farm, even a small one, can cost big dollars very quickly.
3) Save up a nest egg.
As stated above, it can get expensive to have a homestead. Have you priced lumber lately? It’s insane!! Just to build a small chicken coop, can cost you in upwards of $1000 depending on materials and size (we actually made ours for $480, but we used mostly recycled items). Can you imagine what it will cost if you want to build a big barn?! Save-Save-Save
4) Learn to garden & preserve food.
One of the main factors in becoming a homesteader is to become more self-sufficient. Easier said than done. Just because you can currently go to the grocery store to get tomatoes year round, does not mean they grow year round (you would be surprised how many people don’t realize this). Yes, they do grow all year… In greenhouses, commercially, in well controlled environments, at a cost. For the typical gardener though, you get a good season and preserve all you can. This is super easy to prepare for ahead of your homesteading leap of faith.
Plant some veggies at your current home, apartment, window seal box, wherever. Learn what it takes to plant and care for. Once you harvest, or even if you just buy some from the store (do this when their on sale to save), learn some preserving methods. Can your own pasta sauce; can some beans; make jellies… you can do all of this while you are paying off debt and saving up. You don’t have to have a huge garden to be able to learn to garden.
5) Learn building skills and general repair maintenance.
You will be building and repairing consistently on a homestead. Even if you have an urban homestead, you will find that a little fence repair knowledge can go a long way. Small engine repair is a great skill to have as well. Lawn mowers, chain saws, riding lawn mowers, small cultivators – these do break down and learning to make those repairs yourself can save a ton of time and money.
6) Understand what equipment you may need and how to maintain it.
This of course goes with the above. Want to get a tractor, Great! Know how to maintain it to save on costs, time, and headaches. If you have to haul equipment to a shop each time it needs work, you are spending money in the form of time as well as the service of the machine, the fuel spent to transport it, etc. Depending on your age and where you live, check with your local community colleges. Some offer free classes for these items if you meet certain criteria.
7) Research the animals you plan to get.
If the pandemic taught us anything, its that American’s will panic buy everything! Toilet paper, cleaning supplies, CHICKENS and GOATS! By April of this year, the waiting time for chickens from the hatcheries more than tripled and the cost of goats skyrocketed. I belong to a number of FaceBook groups for homesteaders, and there was a huge influx of people that all of the sudden were snatching up chickens and goats in order to feed their families “just in case”. I know, goats are cute… but the shear number of people that never researched them at all just blew me away. Actually, they didn’t research much of anything from what I could see. Now, some did – Kudos to them. However, some did not. Know what your getting into, what it takes, and what changes those animals will have on your life.
As an example, one person asked how to tell if a chicken is pregnant. Another wanted to know why she couldn’t liter box train her baby goat. Many didn’t realize that having two goats is better than only one (it is preferred to have two since they are herd animals). One guy cut the wings of his baby chicks so short they blead to death simply because he thought he knew what he was doing. And MANY couldn’t understand why their chickens were laying eggs when they had not yet purchased a rooster. My apologies ahead of time if you are one of these; I will be happy to discuss any questions you have – just shoot me an email 😊
8) Visit farms, take classes, ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – no question is a dumb question if you are asking to learn. PLEASE though, if you are trying to learn about animals… learn first; purchase later. Nothing worse than having a sick animal on the homestead that you will have to dispatch simply because you didn’t understand how to raise said animal. You can visit farms, join FaceBook groups, join MeetUp groups, talk to the locals, Google, YouTube, visit the library… there are so many resources available to help anyone interested in homesteading to uncover all sorts of valuable information.
9) Find the perfect land.
Easier said than done, I know. How much land? What does the land need? This all depends on you and how you want to homestead. Some, it’s as simple as only growing their own food but continuing to live in suburbia. For others, it’s a 100 acre established farm. Some buy 5 acres of raw land and make it their own (this is us), and others buy a ¼ acre and make it work. Again, it’s all up to you. With that being said – there are some things you need to know…
- Land needs to have water! Make sure the land you get has access to city water, a well, or the ability to dig a well.
- Land needs to perc. If you plan on having a home, you will need to have septic – be careful when buying land that does not have a recent perc (percolation) test on file. Many people will try to sell you land for cheap – cheap enough that you won’t need to finance it only to find out it cannot support a septic system.
There are many other points to purchasing land, and many realtors will be happy to help. Too much to dive into here, but those two are SO important!
10) Don’t stress & relax.
You will get there. We are in our late 40’s and it has taken us years to get to where we are now. Don’t stress over it. If you start to stress, you will hate it before you even start.
Once you have everything you think you need and you are ready to start a homestead, don’t be shocked when you realize you were wrong. You will never be as prepared as you want, and that is completely normal.
Again, we are not experts and these items are not set in stone. Depending on how deep you want to get into homesteading will determine how much you need to learn. Not sure? You can read our blog [here] that explains different ideas of homesteading. In a nut shell though, if you just want to grow your own food in a garden and animals don’t interest you… then you certainly don’t need to research animals.
Figure out what it is you truly want and make a plan for it. Planning is key, and we wish we would have planned a bit smarter. What is done, is done though – all we can do is pass this bit of knowledge on and hope that it helps your journey not be as stressful as ours started out.