Humans have impacted the Earth’s climate in unbelievable ways. Species extinction, powerful weather events, and rising sea levels have become the norm. And how people use and abuse the planet’s resources is primarily to blame.
The only solution to this climate problem is reducing carbon emissions, but with nearly 8 billion people on Earth, working together to reverse the effects of climate change is far easier said than done. Lowering your carbon footprint is the key to weathering the climate storm, but how? For some people, the answer is homesteading.
This lifestyle of self-sufficiency uses subsistence agriculture, small-scale livestock rearing, renewable power sources, and food preservation to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and minimize carbon footprints. Anyone can become a homesteader with these seven beginner tips.
1. Make a plan
There are many ways to homestead. Some people give up their jobs, homes, and everything they know to pursue homesteading full-time. Others simply homestead on the side while working from home or even traveling into a city to make their primary living.
There’s no wrong way to homestead, but every great homestead starts with a plan. First, you need to determine just how reliant you want to be on your land. Some homesteaders are ok with supplementing their food with the grocery store or local market, while others prefer to be entirely sustained by their property alone.
What crops do you want to grow? Will you have animals? If so, where will you house them? For example, many homesteaders have chickens. Instead of putting them in a fixed coop, they use a mobile range coop to move the flock regularly. This allows the chickens to freely eat the pests from your garden while fertilizing the crops with their waste.
2. Start small
You should ease into completely upending your life and becoming totally self-sufficient. Homesteading isn’t easy, and by starting small, you’ll give yourself the grace and space to change your lifestyle successfully.
Instead of becoming a homesteader overnight, take it one step at a time. Start by getting your family members on board. Getting their buy-in is critical; if your partner or children aren’t interested in homesteading, you’ll have difficulty adapting to this way of life.
When you make your plan, set some realistic goals. Think about how long you want to live this way. Are you planning to homestead for a season or the rest of your life? Do you want to go completely off-grid or just homestead part-time?
3. Consider your property
Your property is another critical consideration. If you live in a densely populated area, you’ll probably need to move to accommodate the homesteading lifestyle. Typically, you’ll need about one acre per family member to grow and raise enough food to live.
The land you live should have plenty of room for a multi-season garden, some livestock, and the home you’ll reside in. You may also need a shed or additional storage space to keep equipment and other necessities.
When you look at a property, don’t just see it as space. See it as a provider of life-sustaining resources. Homesteaders need to be able to live off the land, and the land must have clean, well-drained soil, open fields, and a water source (more on that later).
4. Identify utilities
The property you select may or may not have access to utilities. Most homesteaders don’t want to be connected to public utilities, so living in an area with luxuries like gas, electric, and water service is unimportant.
Groundwater wells are the ideal water source for most homesteaders. Wells provides free access to fresh drinking water, requiring little maintenance once drilled. In fact, more than 100 million Americans already rely on groundwater wells, making it a popular choice for people who don’t homestead, too. If you opt for a well, be sure to test it every year to make sure it meets drinking water standards.
Solar panels are a popular choice for electricity. And in the right climate, solar panels even produce excess power you can sell back to the grid. Geothermal HVAC systems are also very popular among homesteaders, although they come at a considerable upfront cost.
5. Plant a garden
Homesteaders simply can only survive with a garden. But there’s a lot more to gardening than spreading a few seeds and watering. The most successful gardens are well-planned and diligently tended to maximize their production.
Before you plant your garden, make a plan. Select a spot with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Supplement your soil with fertilizer and compost to make it nutrient-rich. Finally, consider building a raised bed to prevent rabbits and other pests from eating your food.
Check out the USDA’s hardiness zone map to determine what you can plant and when. This will help you thoughtfully select plants so you have several varieties of fruits and veggies growing throughout spring, summer, and fall.
6. Harvest and preserve
Your garden will produce an incredible amount of food. But who can consume 20 pounds of tomatoes in a single week? The solution to this problem is preservation.
Canning and pickling your excess fruits and vegetables allows you to save your food well past harvest time. This will sustain you through the winter months when conditions don’t allow you to grow. You can learn preservation techniques by consulting a book or working with another experienced homesteader.
Food preservation is a critical part of homesteading that every homesteader needs to master. This skill helps you maximize your yield and enjoy nutritious, home-grown produce all year.
7. Find a community
If you want to become a homesteader, the best thing you can do is learn from others. Experienced homesteaders understand how to transition to this lifestyle, have first-hand knowledge about gardening and raising livestock, and know what it takes to survive sustainably.
Becoming a homesteader is far from easy, and there will be challenging moments as you acclimate to a new way of life. Who better to see you through those challenges than people who’ve already been there? Find a community of other homesteaders to help you successfully navigate this transition.