Homesteading for Beginners

dad and children looking at growing tomatoes in vegetable garden

Homesteading often brings to mind sprawling properties in rugged terrain, surrounded by wilderness and completely off-grid. It harkens back to a simpler time, but simpler doesn’t necessarily mean easier. Before abandoning that cushy apartment in town, order from Grub Hub or Uber Eats and take a peek at Homesteading for Beginners while you get dinner delivered to you.

What Type of Homesteader are You?

When American pioneers were scrambling to stake a claim to parcels of land, sustainable living wasn’t a trendy option. Homesteading in the traditional sense involves caring for livestock and growing crops, both of which are backbreaking jobs in itself.

Getting yourself out there means you’ll have to throw in other essential responsibilities like building maintenance, machine repair, critter control, processing your harvests, stocking your larder, etc. All of this translates into an alarmingly minimal amount of time to binge-watch Schitt’s Creek on Netflix.

Don't panic. These days, homesteading doesn’t have to be such a hardscrabble life—unless that’s exactly what you’re after, in which case, we are in awe of you. Many of us are not ready to abandon everything for an off-grid lifestyle but would like to find a way to be less dependent on others for our needs. We like your style, you urban homesteader.

tomatoes growing in a balcony container in a city

Start by getting your garden growing. Invest in some backyard chickens if you've got the room. Set up an apiary and preserve your harvests. Live frugally, sew your own clothes, and find ways to sell your homemade crafts. You're looking for ways to reduce your reliance on outside sources of food and supplies.

Just a few baby steps toward an increasingly self-sufficient lifestyle, possibly leading to that ultimate goal of working your own land.

Where Do You Want to Live?

This is a critical decision if you’re committing yourself to living off the land. You’ll need access to water, space for livestock and/or crops, a location with safety in mind e.g. not where yearly floods will decimate all your hard work, or a contaminated site that poses health risks.

Finding a piece of property in your desired location may prove difficult, but the good news is that you don’t need to own hundreds of acres to achieve your goals. A one acre property is enough for a few goats and a large garden, while something a bit larger can sustain cows and an orchard. It all depends on how you work the land.

cows near a tree

While you’re on the search for your homesteading heaven, there's still work for you to do. Start by reducing your carbon footprint, supporting local growers, and joining a CSA. And of course, now's a good time to:

Simplify Your Lifestyle

Homesteading is a mindset, so don’t be discouraged if you’re living in an apartment while your heart is set on a secluded, wide open space. Live like you’re already there, because it’s likely you’ll be too busy tending to your daily chores to be thinking of the newest electronic gadgets.

Take an audit of the things in your life that are non-essentials and evaluate whether or not to keep them. A homesteader doesn’t have much time to worry about trends. There's more value in daily accomplishments and seeing the results of all that hard work. If ever the saying applied, it's here: less is more.

Befriend Those with a Similar Mindset

two men working in a garden

Once you’re out on the land, getting to know your neighboring homesteaders is a must. They can assist you with firsthand knowledge of the area, become bartering buddies, and provide the support you need when the rest of your circle was trying to talk you out of this idea.

Not on the homestead yet? Same networking applies so you can share your backyard harvests, get suggestions and learn skills, and benefit from the community of others with similar desires.

Hone Your Skills

Still looking for that perfect location? Now’s a good time to hone your skills. Start canning and cheese-making. Learn about permaculture. Make soap. Discover how to use medicinal plants. Learn to build.

Practice machine repair. Make your own compost. Brew beer. There are so many valuable activities you could use as a homesteader, and the more knowledge you have, the more prepared you’ll be. Get these skills under your belt and make mistakes now before you set foot on your new property.

With some creative finagling, a bit of knowledge, and some hard work, we all have the capacity to live more sustainably even without a huge homestead at our fingertips.