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Advice on homesteading? Getting Started


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Ive been looking into homesteading for multiple reasons and I would really love to give it a shot. We may be moving to a more rural area soon. Some questions I have:

 

How do you suggest getting started?

 

Do you find that it saves you money?

 

How much land do you use?

 

(we are reading the Backyard Homesteading claiming a quarter of an acre is enough.. we would possibly have up to 3 or 4 acres, but obviously would want to start small.)

 

Any other thoughts, tips, tidbits you would like to share. What animals do you raise? What fruits, veggies, etc? What is the most challenging? Etc.

 

Any additional information you would like to share would be appreciated.:bigear:

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Thank you for the advice! I will be checking our your blog for sure.

 

I plan on having a garden for sure. I would like to have chickens but after a thread I posted last night, Im not sure.. I think it would be nice dont get me wrong. I was just hoping they would be more cost effective.

 

Im mainly just researching all I can right now on everything from gardening (veggies, herbs, fruit trees) to raising animals (a goat or cow, chickens, rabbits)

 

I would be more than willing to get my hands dirty and put in the work if it would save us money. (There are a ton of other reasons I would like to do this, just at the moment our income is tight so Im looking to cut costs. If dh got a better income rolling in, I would then love to do it for fun and health reasons. :D)

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We have a large garden and chickens. We live on an acre and a half. We started just growing a few veggies and now grow enough to put some up for a good part of the year. I agree that you should start out small and slowly add. We discovered my dh and I are not animal people, but the kids enjoy taking care of the chickens.

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We consider ourselves city homesteaders, but of course the land at our disposal is much less than what you will have in a rural area! We grow all of our own veggies, have a root cellar, and raise ducks for eggs. We want dairy goats, but they are not allowed in city limits at this time (although steps are being taken to change that). We should be self-sufficient in fruit, too, in a couple years when our trees hit full productivity, although we will always have to buy a few favorites that don't grow in our climate (citrus and avocados).

 

How much gardening experience do you have? If it's very little, you definitely want to start small and build up over several years. While you can learn a lot from books, hands-on experience is a must. If you start too large you will become overwhelmed and homesteading won't be fun anymore. If you have gardening/preserving experience, you can start a bit larger but I still wouldn't advise doing it all the first year.

 

Have you raised livestock before? Research, research, research! We went with layer ducks instead of chickens because after the research I just wasn't comfortable with chickens. I like that ducks lay longer, are less prone to disease, and are friendlier/less vicious to each other. On the con side, they are messier and some are quite vocal. We have runners, which don't need water but they appreciate a small pond we put in for them.

 

Define your goals clearly from the start, but be prepared to change them regularly. Why do you want to homestead? To break free of factory farms, save money, be self-sustainable? Do you want to grow meat and produce, or only produce and dairy? Be honest with yourself and your abilities. If you like to travel livestock is not for you, it's hard for me to find someone to sit my ducks. If we add goats it will be even harder to get away. Animals need daily maintenance, can you keep up? Be honest and start slowly so you can back up and reevaluate if something isn't what you though it would be.

 

As for saving money, yes, I would say it can, eventually. If most of the infrastructure is already there, you can save a lot. In the beginning it can be costly. It takes time before you see the profit. You have gardens to put in, seed to procur, tools to buy, animal housing and fences to build. Add to that animal feed and medical care and it adds up. If you do most of it yourself and use scavenged materials, startup is less but it can also take longer. Can you give an animal a shot or carefully coax a bound-up egg out of a bird? Some people don't have it in them and having a vet do it is pricey. If you are raising meat, even chickens, can you slaughter them yourself or will you hire it out? Once again, be honest with yourself and start slow! :001_smile:

 

Backyard Homestead is okay. I prefer Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living. More realistic and really lays down the nitty-grit of the lifestyle. Let me know if you want to chat about homesteading more!

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Joshin, my goodness thank you for the detailed post! I am new to it all:001_smile:

 

I definitely plan on starting small, and researching it to death before we start. Ive also requested The Encyclopedia of Country Living so Im glad to hear you like it!

 

We live in a very small, country town. Im very excited to learn more about all of this! I would love to talk more about it, anytime you would be interested. It seems you know a ton:bigear:

 

Thanks again!

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We have a large garden, berry bushes, and chickens. It's been a lot of fun, but a LOT of work. I'm sure we save some money on our fruit and vegetable budget, but probably not on eggs.

 

There are many, many gardening threads on the WTM board, most of which are tagged. I've tagged this one to make it easier for you to find them. Just click on the tag at the bottom of this thread. There are also many threads on chickens and goats, and I remember at least one family that has a cow, as well as others who run dairies.

 

Homesteading is a vast topic, and it is pretty individual. I suggest checking out gardening and homesteading books and magazines from the library and seeing what appeals to you and your husband. There are a lot of new resources, so you may want to go to a large bookstore to browse as well.

 

Other advice? I recommend growing what you and your family likes. I have grown some really nice fennel bulbs and turnips, but my family doesn't like them! Check out your local agriculture extension office. They can help you with local gardening techniques. We've found the cheapest seeds at our old-timey feed store. They are kept in canning jars and sold by the ounce. And look for cheap local sources of organic material: mulch from tree trimmers, and spoiled hay and manure from farmers.

 

I hope your homesteading works out for you!

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By all means, get yourself over to http://www.homesteadingtoday.com! There are general forums (try "Countryside Families") and many sub-forums on particulars ("Poultry," "Beekeeping," "Real Estate," "Preserving the Harvest," etc.). Folks there are very welcoming and very helpful. Everyone from people just starting out to experienced homesteaders. Enjoy, and best wishes for your plans:)

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I'm reading The Permaculture Handbook right now, and I'd reccomend it to someone looking at homesteading. Or some other permaculture resource, but I think I'm finding this the best I've read. It is a bit of a different perspective in some ways, but a lot of it is about efficiently using your land, creating garden-farms that are as much as possible integrated ecosystems. When I was experimenting with homesteading one of the issues that was hard to manage was how to have enough time and energy for farm work while also doing things like raising kids and holding down cash jobs. A lot of the ideas in permaculture would have been really helpful.

 

In particular, this book gives an estimate of how large an area can be farmed by an individual or couple working full or part time, which I haven't really seen elsewhere. Of course you can have more land than you farm, but people often bite off more than they can chew.

 

They had some interesting perspectives on suburbs too, and their potential as homesteading and farming communities to feed urban areas.

 

The other big issue I found living in quite a rural area was the lack of other people. Rural areas in many places used to have much more vital communities, and that can make it hard to get social interaction, or even someone to watch the livestock while you go to a wedding or something. I would be more thoughtful about how to mitigate those issues if I were to buy rural land again.

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I think for us, gardening is definitely cost effective, but animals are not cheaper, but they are fun, educational and better quality than buying at IGA or Walmart.

Start with a small garden, then add to it. We don't have fruit, I have not had much luck with it-tried strawberries and blueberries, but I do a great veggie garden. Start with tomato and pepper plants (easier that seeds) then zucchini, pumpkins etc from seed is fun. Canning tomatoes is easiest if you just cut out the core or bad spots and throw skin and all in the blender, grind up and waterbath can. Freeze the peppers.

Chickens are easy once you get your setup built. Butchering chickens yourself on a small scale is very doable. We don't pluck ours, my husband skins them, much faster, but you loose the skin if that is important to you.

Hogs are very easy, and can be cost effective if you can find a scrap source to help offset feed costs. If you have a good, hog tight enclosure, I honestly think they are the easiest animals to keep. We have them slaughtered at a slaughterhouse. Our neighbors slaughtered their own one year, and decided they would rather pay to have it done well.

Then we added a milk cow, but fortunately, we have a neighbor that we can trade off with if we want to go away or they need someone to run over and milk. That is essential, because even if you don't travel, there will be times that something happens and you need to call someone in a pinch, like for emergencies.

We have had goats, but I feel that goats are very high maintenance, hogs and cows are easier if you have the room. My husband had sheep growing up, and said they aren't too hard. The key to any stock however is doing up fencing and housing right the first time. We had a learning curve at first, but now feel pretty confident at what we are doing.

 

Oh, and homesteading is a lot of work. I guess when I first started I had a romantic notion of what we were embarking on, while my husband knew a little better. But the combination of eagerness and a willing to try new things with his working knowledge is working out great. Another tip is not to research too much. Some things you can pick up by doing a little reading, then trying it out! Don't be afraid to try something, if you get animals and its not what you think, sell them at market. If you find you don't like gardening, let the weeds grow and mow it down in the fall. THere is very little that has to be permanent.

 

let me know if you have any specific questions, and I hope this wasn't information overload.

 

Oh, and some great books:

Anything by Storey Publishing- Barnyard in our Backyard, Storey's Basic Country Skills,plus books on individual species

The Have More Plan- out of print, but my library had a copy, very old book but hugely informative By Robinson

John Seymoure

Edited by saraha
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Ive been looking into homesteading for multiple reasons and I would really love to give it a shot. We may be moving to a more rural area soon. Some questions I have:

 

How do you suggest getting started?

Start with lots of research and preplanning. Make as many of your mistakes as possible on paper, before committing any real money and effort to them. Contact your local county Extension Service right away. They usually have lots of information and seminars regarding homesteading topics.

 

Do you find that it saves you money?

If you are just getting set up and are not moving onto a family plot that already has equipment and fencing, it will cost you money, not save any. There is an unavoidable learning curve associated with learning to garden and raise livestock. Mistakes can be costly. But after you have been at it a while, you can learn ways to safely cut corners and save a little. It is NOT dirt cheap.

 

How much land do you use?

That will depend on where you live and what you want to accomplish there. For example, in my area of the midwest, a couple of acres are more than adequate for a big garden and perhaps a couple of sheep or goats. In more arid areas of sparce vegetation, it could take 10 times that much acreage to feed the same amount of stock.

 

(we are reading the Backyard Homesteading claiming a quarter of an acre is enough.. we would possibly have up to 3 or 4 acres, but obviously would want to start small.) IMO, a quarter of an acre would be very hard pressed to feed one person for a year. Think about it - could you raise enough vegetables for the table and to preserve for the cold months, plus enough grains and legumes for the whole year, and have enough pasture for stock and enough extra to grow hay/grain for them during the cold months on an area 52 feet square? Now multiply that times the number of people in your entire family...

 

Any other thoughts, tips, tidbits you would like to share. What animals do you raise? What fruits, veggies, etc? What is the most challenging? Etc.

 

Any additional information you would like to share would be appreciated.:bigear:

 

We have 17 acres and my dm has 103 that we manage for her next door to us.

 

IMO, homesteading is an interesting, rewarding way of life, but also a very hard one. Nothing that we have done here was very easy. Gardening can be fun, but it is definitely a huge amount of work. Livestock can be interesting and educational, but again, can be a huge amount of work to do a good job and the potential pitfalls are vast.

 

There are times, especially in the spring and fall that we feel totally overwhelmed with the work of it all. Every where we look, we see yet another big, hard job that needs to be done immediately. Sometimes the workload seems completely relentless. The cyclical nature of homesteading creates a situation where after you finish half a dozen hard projects, it seems you have to redo the first one again.

 

I would suggest first buying as much of the best land that you can afford. Make sure you have ample water resources available that do not involve carrying it by hand over any significant distance. Unless you are going totally offgrid, be sure you have close access to electricity. I have friends who still live without because they can't manage the $20,000 (yes, twenty thousand dollars) per pole to get it in to their place. They would need 16 poles. Review all right of way issues or other restrictions to be sure you can do whatever you want with your land.

 

Start very slowly. Spend a few months just getting used to living there. Then perhaps get a dog or cat. Work your way up to small livestock, such as chickens, ducks, or rabbits. Never bring home any animal that you do not have a good place to keep. I have seen over and over how people will bring home a horse or calf and then have to house it in an outhouse or the garage, hand carry all its drinking water, chase it all over the county when it keeps breaking the makeshift fences, pay damages for the neighbors' crops or plants that it eats, pay vet bills when it gets sick from eating all that junk, start fighting with the kids over whose turn it is to go feed the stock, and then finally have to admit defeat and sell the beast for pennies on the dollars originally spent. They ended up hating the animal, not so much due to the animal, but due to the difficulty getting it before they were properly set up to be able to care for it and enjoy it.

 

Become a homebody. You will probably be a good distance from most things. It is 35 miles one way to our nearest McDonald's. You will either have to learn to love being home or to love being in the car for long periods of time. And if all your spare cash is going to develop the homestead, you won't have money to spend even when you do get to town.

 

I say these things not to scare you, but to prepare you. I love living out here. I love not having a furnace (and heating bills). I love the privacy and peace and quiet. But I would never deny how much work it is and the fact that you do have to make some pretty substantial sacrifices to make this lifestyle work.

Edited by hillfarm
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How do you suggest getting started? Have no debt. Have an income stream. Have a decent place to live. Be realistic about what you can do, afford, have the strength for.

 

Do you find that it saves you money? No. It is not cheap to live simply.

 

How much land do you use? We own 10 acres. We lease 3 to a farmer, just started haying the rest, after 9 years of cleaning up (that sounds so simple- we've spent hours, days, weeks, reclaiming our property) the acerage.

We have a huge garden, and are trying to plant an edible landscape. The drought this year killed several trees, plants, shrubs. I'm curious to see what'll be left next spring.

 

(we are reading the Backyard Homesteading claiming a quarter of an acre is enough.. we would possibly have up to 3 or 4 acres, but obviously would want to start small.) Start small. Set clear goals, read and talk to everyone you know. Gain mastery as you go.

 

Any other thoughts, tips, tidbits you would like to share. What animals do you raise?

We had ducks, geese, sheep, goats and a horse. You NEED proper fencing. Even then, if the goats get out, say good-bye to the hundreds of dollars of trees you just planted (true story). Geese are vile and mean and evidence of the fall, imho.

You need a spigot for water. Hauling water in the winter (esp in the far north) is cruel and unusual punishment.

Right now we have dogs (security), cats (rodent control) and guinea fowl (insect patrol). Have a purpose for the animals.

 

What fruits, veggies, etc? What is the most challenging? Etc. It depends on where you live. We live on the plains, near a river (think gravel). Getting trees to grow here is an act of God. We grow thistles and wormwood very well however. Getting the thistle to die has been no easy task, so it's not just about getting things to grow. Ammending the soil has been on-going.

Every plot of land will be different. Find your land, learn it, learn the area, start small, have an income stream. Did I say that before? know yourself. I love to garden. I'm not so much an animal person. We don't like killing things (a big downfall when homesteading). Don't idealize the amount of work, or aging bodies, or how time consuming it will be, or the fact that if you homeschool, you already have a job. We heated with wood for 2 + yrs in SD. Our lives were consumed with it. My elbow will never be the same from hauling wood. There is a balance between living consciously, intentionally and having an ideal suck your life away.

 

Any additional information you would like to share would be appreciated.

Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book, BackWoods Home, the county extension office.

invest in decent tools- don't skimp. Poor tools make jobs much harder than they need to be.

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You just need the right geese! We have Buff Geese, which are no more aggressive than our chickens. They are so pretty, I just love them! Now, I we haven't had them in the spring when they're protective of their eggs, but for now they're quite fine free-ranging. I don't worry about the kids out there at all, and I would with another breed of geese. In the spring, I plan on penning them up in the blueberry patch to take care of weeds and keep them away in case they do get aggressive.

 

Which leads me to your next point. I have the same philosophy about animals. We use animals to make our lives easier. We have LGDs, so we don't have to worry about the sheep and goats. We have cats, so we don't have mice and rats. We have sheep and cows, so we don't have to mow. We have goats, so we don't have to weed eat. We have pigs, so we don't have to clear the woods of brush ourselves. They also clean the garden up very nicely in the winter. We have guineas to take care of ticks and chiggers and ticks. The chickens eat other bugs that would ruin our garden. My next animal will be ducks to clean the pond of lily pads.

 

I have found that of all our animals the sheep are the easiest to care for. They do need shearing once a year, but I like that part for the wool. DH is building me a spinning wheel at the moment to process our 80 pounds of wool from the last shearing. They don't test fences. They follow a feed bucket anywhere. Their births are pretty easy, and they aren't too noisy. Even our rams are docile and much nicer than our buck and bull.

 

If you can't tell, I love our homestead. Some of the kids like it better than others, but I think its good for all of them.

 

 

 

We had ducks, geese, sheep, goats and a horse. You NEED proper fencing. Even then, if the goats get out, say good-bye to the hundreds of dollars of trees you just planted (true story). Geese are vile and mean and evidence of the fall, imho.

 

Right now we have dogs (security), cats (rodent control) and guinea fowl (insect patrol). Have a purpose for the animals.

 

 

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I don't consider myself a homesteader, but I do have a large garden, chickens, and guineas. I am self-sufficient in tomatoes (fresh and canned), garlic, and have a good supply of sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes. We have five acres, but 4 of it is in woods. I would suggest you start small. Have a small garden, see how you like it. Get a few chickens, see how you like it. Don't make difficult to reverse decisions if you've never done any gardening. Then move onto animal without feathers, which are harder to care for (I have no plans to get any other animals because of the upkeep). Go to the Farmer's Market and talk to the farmers about what they are doing, it's a great way to meet people. Tour farms and things even if you don't have plans to actually farm. An acre of land would be the minimum I'd want to have. You can read more about it on my blog in my signature line. Read some of Gene Logsdon's books. Check out Mother Earth News online too. Have fun!

 

:iagree: we've raised it all at one time including milking goats. Right now we have two dairy steers (for meat) and three lambs that hopefully all will be processed this coming late spring early summer. (and horses but they are pets :tongue_smilie:

 

Also head over to HomesteadingToday.com. Great website for homesteaders. LOTS of info, but well organized.

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I don't have a lot of time to post, but we made the transition from suburban dwellers to 10 acre homesteaders four years ago. We went whole-hog (pun intended) and do it all...huge garden, milk cow, goats, chickens, beef, and yes, hogs.

 

Its been great. A TON of work. My husband is into it 100%, which make it work.

 

You've already been given some great advice. Listen to it. There are a bazillion resources online...blogs, message boards, etc.

 

If I could only have ONE print resource available to me though, it would be The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. I read this book (almost like a catalogue!) cover to cover before we moved to the homestead. It opened my eyes to so many details and possiblities that I had never considered. Ms. Emery lived this lifestyle, and was generous enough to write about it in detail. Go get the book!

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I am not really familiar with the term homesteading. I think it must be an American term. We try to live self sufficiently.at least as much as we can. We have a Veggie garden that is slightly bigger than a tennis court. DH spends greater than 3 hours a day in there. IT looks like Mr McGregor's garden form Peter Rabbit. Not a weed in sight and everything in perfect rows. We have an orchard with over 40 fruit trees, a house-cow for milk, a few cows for beef, Chooks, Ducks Geese, Bees, pigs once a year, etc, etc, etc.

We have a solar electric system that sells surplus power back to the grid, A solar hot water service, collect our own water from the roof (common practice in Australia), have a slow combustion wood stove for cooking (we live in the bush and can sauce wood very easily).

It takes a lot of time, like it is a full time job.

We live on 5 acres and have another 5 acre block across the road. We have no mortgage and as our bills are very low, we don't need much income.

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I'm in training. ;)

I'm hoping for a nice lot of at least 2 acres (hopefully more) within the next 3 years.

 

Right now, I just have about 50sf of gardening going on because my house is on a mound of redrock. :glare: After a few years of that, I estimate I need at least 10x more gardening space to meet my family's produce needs, plus fruit trees. :001_huh:

 

I plan to have laying hens when we are out of the community that bans them, but meat birds will depend on the amount of land we get. (25 birds per two acres allowed.) I also want goats definitely, sheep maybe. Also dependent on amount of land as per zoning.

 

My daughters are in on the planning, with hopes of making cheese, soaps, carding wool, and maybe breeding rare breeds. One dd is more ambitious than the other, lol. They're okay with raising meat birds, but don't think they could eat their own 4-legged animal.

 

 

I don't have the energy to go all self-sufficient, but we'd like to be as close as we can comfortably manage. Right now, it's research, research, research. ESPECIALLY zoning! The wrong township or the wrong lot, and it could all be for naught!

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You just need the right geese! We have Buff Geese, which are no more aggressive than our chickens. . We use animals to make our lives easier. We have LGDs, so we don't have to worry about the sheep and goats. .

 

We definitely had the wrong geese! ;)

Our goats were very particular about what they would eat- they usually left the wormwood and thistles. The sheep did, too- but ate everything else down to the ground. It's not a given that goats will eradicate all all of the weeds- which is what we got them for. We lost a lot of trees to them.

I probably came off sounding old and cranky- which is not too far from the truth. We are still re-building from a house fire almost 3 yrs ago and the jobs/projects are continue depsite our constant work/ money outpour. And our older kids are growing up and moving on- which is great, and what they should be doing, but it also means less help.

Edited by laughing lioness
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WOW:lurk5:

 

This... is... great. SO much information and advice. Thank you all so much.

 

Unfortunately, we are tight on money right now and living with my mother until we can move:glare: So I have some more time to research. Dh is looking into a career change that would better suit our homeschooling lifestyle (=better income.)

 

So I originally became interested thinking it would cut costs. Now, Im interested for about 100 other reasons. I pray the job search turns up something, and we are able to move sooner rather than later. This is all so exciting. I have been a homebody all of my life.. my friends call me a hermit;) I have always told dh I just want to live out by his parents (in the "country") and have a quiet, simple life. I never knew how much this ifestyle fit that until now.

 

Again, I thank all of you for your advice! It has been so fun reading about all of your experiences.

 

P.S. sorry for any typos.. typing one handed while feeding baby:001_smile:

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If you want to pick up some experience, get to know some of the farmers at your local farmers market and volunteer to help them with some of their projects. A lot of the work that has to be done is labor, not skilled labor, and many hands make it go much faster.

 

We raised soay sheep, a more primitive breed that sheds their wool. I think I did that whole process backward. We started with sheep and guard llamas, then had wool. Then I learned how to felt, then someone gave me a couple of spinning wheels and a loom, I eventually learned how to make yarn, and now, at long last, I am finally learning how to knit and crochet!

 

Another good thing about visiting lots of farm markets while you are still in the waiting stage is that you get to see a wide spectrum of farm products and can ask questions about the production of each. For example, you may find that soft fruit products (from strawberries, raspberries, etc.) such as jams, jellies, pies, etc. really interest you much more than producing meat or vegetables to sell. That tiny realization can save you hundreds of dollars in fencing, stock housing, animals, etc. and countless hours of time caring for them.

 

I totally agree with staying out of debt. In my rural area, debt is the kiss of death for homesteaders. One of the reasons land is so cheap out here is that there is not much off-farm work. And what jobs there are tend to be the low paying kind. The recent economic downturn hit this area pretty hard and a lot of jobs were lost. Of course, gas, groceries, utilities and other expenses have gone up dramatically. So anyone with any debt is really struggling right now.

 

A previous poster said to not over research things, just to take that leap of faith. I guess I am on the fence about this. I have seen many homesteader wanabees who jumped in way over their heads and now their weedy, abandoned homesteads sit forlorn behind a For Sale sign and a huge price tag (to cover the big debt they undertook). Certainly you can overthink things. But I would definitely rather be on that side of the equasion than sitting there face to face with a milk goat and her baby, with no idea of how to properly house or care for them, no idea of how to obtain and process her milk in a way that is safe for both the animal and people involved, and no money or resources put aside to feed her this winter.

 

One final word, don't get burdened down with a lot of "pets", which are animals that are not able to contribute to the financial success of the homestead other than through companionship. Unfortunately, unless you are using them to plow, log, or other work, horses fall into this category.

 

Most homesteads do not have the income to be able to afford any pets. When you factor in food costs, vet bills, grooming and other equipment needs, housing needs, etc., you quickly realize that you can get just as much companionship from an animal that contributes than from one that doesn't. So our dogs all have a job (watchdog, guard dog, garden protector, hunting companion), but we still enjoy petting them and having them go on walks in the woods with us.

 

Definitely get out there and meet other homesteaders. Visit their homes. See what this lifestyle is like firsthand before you jump in. It is not for everyone. I have known several who quickly realized they hated it and moved as soon as they got the chance. (I know one lady who moved a month after arriving, leaving her dh and young dc to cope for 8 more long months until they could sell their place. They took a huge financial loss on it.)

 

Good luck!

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I also wanted to recommend the book "Radical Homemakers" by Shannon Hayes. It is a great read, and quite illuminating. "Homesteading", "Back to the Land", "Self-Suffiency" all really much more of a mindset than a specific way of life. Shannon does a brilliant job exposing this, and really offers examples of this lifestyle from the very urban to the very rural,and everything in between.

 

At the heart of "Radical Homemaking" is the goal to produce more than one consumes, and to remake the home into a center for production rather than consumption. She also writes of 4 tenents that should be honored: family, community, planet, adn social justice, and encourages focusing energy towards these things rather than traditional wealth, in order to achieve a more meaningful and satisfying lifestyle.

 

The book is a major expose of the consumer culture than dominates our thinking and our values in so many ways.

 

Its a great read for anyone pondering the idea of being more "self suffient." It really helped me flesh out many of my ideals, and understand where they wre coming from.

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One final word, don't get burdened down with a lot of "pets", which are animals that are not able to contribute to the financial success of the homestead other than through companionship. Unfortunately, unless you are using them to plow, log, or other work, horses fall into this category.

 

Most homesteads do not have the income to be able to afford any pets. When you factor in food costs, vet bills, grooming and other equipment needs, housing needs, etc., you quickly realize that you can get just as much companionship from an animal that contributes than from one that doesn't. So our dogs all have a job (watchdog, guard dog, garden protector, hunting companion), but we still enjoy petting them and having them go on walks in the woods with us.

 

 

Something I don't think I saw addressed is being tied down. We did the back to the land thing (and we have the land) for many years, but then the children got older. They wanted to do sports and 4-H which required them to be driven to town, and with sports, other towns. Can't milk a cow if you're off doing livestock judging 2 hours away. Can't be doing track during lambing season, etc. That's something else to consider. So, we have an unused root cellar and an unused garden and lots of horse and sports ribbons and trophies on the walls. :D

These are two reasons we won't have animals other than dogs and cats. As much as I'd love sheep and fowl I don't know what we would do with them when we travel or when they are done "producing" as we are vegetarians. We won't be eating them and I wouldn't sell them to be slaughters for someone else's food.

 

But I will have a kick butt garden. I hope to be able to trade surplus fruit/veggies for for surplus eggs and milk. :D

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We are moving to about 3/4 acre. Not enough to have a 'homestead' but plenty to have some chickens and a huge garden. We aren't doing it to save money, we are doing it to raise the quality of the food we eat. I know it will cost more that the $1.50 dozen for eggs from the grocery, but I will also know that the nutrition content will be higher and worth the cost.

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... As much as I'd love sheep and fowl I don't know what we would do with them when we travel or when they are done "producing" as we are vegetarians. We won't be eating them and I wouldn't sell them to be slaughters for someone else's food.

 

But I will have a kick butt garden. I hope to be able to trade surplus fruit/veggies for for surplus eggs and milk. :D

 

My dh says it is much easier to be a fleece farmer than a sheep farmer! And there's a lot of truth in that statement. If you buy fleece in the raw form from others, you can focus your efforts on processing it and manipulating it into products. Since most of the wool used for commercial purposes is imported from Australia and NZ, prices for wool produced in America is very low. In many cases, it costs more to have the sheep sheared than you can get for selling the wool.

 

Unfortunately, the fiber industry has had a lot of problems here in America. The big enticement a few years back for getting into the alpaca industry was that you would have all these pricey fleeces to sell. (Not to mention the pyramid scheme thing of selling the offspring...:glare:) Reality? A friend of mine bought a full, very nice yearling alpaca fleece for $40 last spring. That much money doesn't even begin to cover the cost of feeding, vet care, fencing and housing for an alpaca for a year. So $40 income for a whole year's produce would leave you in the hole.

 

IMO, that's why it is important to do your homework and know what your production costs will be and what your markets actually are well before getting the livestock. There is a place a couple of hours from me that actually gives young male alpacas away, free to good homes.

 

Parrothead, don't forget the whole "value adding" thing with your fruits and veggies. Depending on your local health regulations, you can sell the fruit for one price or you can use the fruit to make pies, jams, jellies, etc. and make a larger profit margin relative to the work equity you have to put in. There is also the opportunity to court a niche market. For example, you could identify a nearby ethnic population and focus on growing some of the vegetables from their homeland. People will definitely pay a premium price for a lovely 'taste of home".

 

And now, with the advent of the book, Wheat Belly, there might be a growing market in heirloom wheat or other grain species. It's definitely important to follow consumer trends. I've seen a couple of homesteads fail because they only want to grow what they always had and missed out on changing consumer preferences.

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I need to run so I haven't had time to read your replies yet...but in case you want to get the children interested in homesteading and self sufficiency, you might check out a home-spun curriculum called Prepare and Pray. http://www.prepareandpray.com/ If you click at the bottom for their Amazon lists, you will see a treasure trove of books of all descriptions that would help you learn. :)

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Oh, I didn't mean no research/leap of faith, I just mean don't research too much. Sometimes, at least for us, reasearching, researching, researching, can be paralyzing. Either from intimidation about how many ways there are to doing things and which one is right- or from just wanting to know every single possibility so the research continues and you never get started. Like the difference between reading a couple of books about chickens and talking to someone who has them, and reading 5 books about chickens, following a blog about chickens, join a message board about chickens, look at 10 different coop options, etc. Then trying to decide what breed of chickens and doing more research....

 

I did not mean to imply "Just go ahead, it'll be fine!":lol:

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And now, with the advent of the book, Wheat Belly, there might be a growing market in heirloom wheat or other grain species. It's definitely important to follow consumer trends. I've seen a couple of homesteads fail because they only want to grow what they always had and missed out on changing consumer preferences.

I've thought about that. More toward our own personal use. Who knows. Maybe in 10 years we will be able to sell off the excess.

 

Right now we are heading that direction to:

1) Get out of the town center (which has about 6 subheadings)

2) Grow our own organic food

3) Be self-sufficient before dh retires

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In the beginning it can be costly. It takes time before you see the profit. You have gardens to put in, seed to procur, tools to buy, animal housing and fences to build. Add to that animal feed and medical care and it adds up.

 

Once again, be honest with yourself and start slow! :001_smile:

 

Backyard Homestead is okay. I prefer Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living. More realistic and really lays down the nitty-grit of the lifestyle. Let me know if you want to chat about homesteading more!

 

:iagree::iagree:

 

A year and a half ago we bought a 37 acre farm. Our intention was to build a self-sustaining lifestyle that the whole family could participate in and enjoy. We had no farm experience. My only gardening experience was with container gardens and a small raised bed. The learning curve has been huge. There have been good things and bad things. The farm is so much like the rest of life. You live and learn. Give thanks for the good things and the bad and keep moving forward to what comes next.

 

Right now we have about 90 meat chickens, 20 laying chickens, five turkeys, two cows, 100,000 bees (give or take a few), two dogs, and a cat. We sort of have a garden but I've discovered that I don't really like to garden and no one else is going to do it unless I make them.

 

Just know that in the beginning everything, EVERY LITTLE THING, requires time and twice as much money as you thought it would.

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I would be more than willing to get my hands dirty and put in the work if it would save us money. (There are a ton of other reasons I would like to do this, just at the moment our income is tight so Im looking to cut costs. If dh got a better income rolling in, I would then love to do it for fun and health reasons. :D)

 

Does it save money? Yes and no. When we lived in the Midwest we had dairy goats. Did it save us money? Not when you count feed, electric for the barn, building a milking stand, the cost of the animals, etc. Here goat milk can be $8-$12 per gallon, but since we won't pay that, we spent more on the goats, kwim? But I believe they were absolutely worthwhile.

 

DS has rabbits right now. They are *supposed* to be for meat supplementation. We feed two does, one buck, and babies every few months. He has been selling the babies. Could he profit off them? Yes, but as the venture is right now, it's a break even deal. (We're in town and I believe two more does and/or the willingness to actually butcher them would make it profitable.) Are they cheap? No, but they are worthwhile.

 

We raised pigs and I grew up on a "real" farm. Truth? A hobby farmer gets a lot more wrapped up in his animals, lol. And, more than that, my dad raised his own corn for feed - much less expensive. Purchasing feed vs. growing it can be expensive.

 

Gardening is rarely a break even venture unless you grow a LOT. And then you must commit to it - weeding, planting, saving seed, canning/drying, etc. IF you do all of this, yes, you'll come ahead. But even if you didn't, it's worthwhile.

 

I tell ya what, my kids miss (desperately) living on a farm. They (the collective they) would give just about anything to go back. (We're working on it.) They worked hard, early in the AM to milk, etc., and they had to help with everything. And they LOVED it. Kids intrinsically recognize worthwhile things. They feel USEFUL. They feel PURPOSEFUL. They feel NEEDED. And who doesn't want to feel these things? I couldn't pay someone enough for some kind of class where they learn work ethic and caring for something for the good of the family.

 

So, start small. Do what you can. Chickens, rabbits, and a garden are a small outlay. You can always go bigger, but I suspect you'll be pleasantly surprised how family-centric homesteading is; An incredible blessing!

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Reality? A friend of mine bought a full, very nice yearling alpaca fleece for $40 last spring. That much money doesn't even begin to cover the cost of feeding, vet care, fencing and housing for an alpaca for a year. So $40 income for a whole year's produce would leave you in the hole.

 

 

MMmmm.... But if you knit and spin, it leaves you with free-ish yarn! ;) That's PRICELESS, iMO.

 

You should start with something you have a serious interest in.

 

I have ZERO interest in rabbits, but DS is passionate about it and probably why he takes such great care of them. I love goats. Love 'em. It bothered me FAR less to get involved in the start-up costs because I have two little girls who do so much better on goat milk. You have to really enjoy an animal to be willing to be home to milk it twice a day and one of those in cold, early Iowa mornings during the winter. :D

 

My husband's "thing" is chickens. He loves them. LOVES, like children. Which is good, because it kept him devotedly upgrading their living quarters, experimenting with feed, etc.

 

I suggest starting with something you think you'll enjoy or have a related passion.

 

We spent part of the weekend at the Flock & Fiber Festival in Canby, OR. Oldest DD is researching sheep. She doesn't love sheep, but the pure functionality of an animal that produces is something she loves. She also likes rare heritage breeds so the idea of carrying down a line and genetics is something she can commit herself to doing. (She fell in love with Gotland sheep, btw.) ;)

 

Loving something really helps you continue the commitment once you figure out that your weekends away and summer vacation are now spent milking four legged animals. ;)

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Gotlands would be great! We had Soays. Does your dd know how to felt? Most of the Scandinavian breeds produce great fiber for felting.

 

It's the "free-ish" yarn that bothers me. I think you (or at least I) have to do the full cost analysis. Purchase price, housing, feeding, fencing, vet care (or meds if you do most of it yourself), shearing costs, processing costs... All that for some fleece. Compared to buying a $40 fleece. For me, it has to add up to be cost effective. We don't have the luxury of being able to carry animals or projects "just for fun" or just because they are "worthwhile".

 

It definitely is fun to be able to have animals and I recognize that you can learn a lot from them and get a lot of enjoyment out of them. However, on a working homestead, there usually isn't the option of spending more money just because something produces a worthwhile experience. Because you can learn just as many worthwhile lessons from things that break even or turn a profit as you can from things that don't.

 

My dd's chickens are a good example. She started with one breed of fancy poultry, but has found that they are rather fragile and don't do well in our climate or environment. We call them "hot house chickens". Has it been worthwhile to have them? Sure, but she is not going to keep that breed. She will be selling off the rest of her breeding stock this weekend (hopefully). She will experiment next with another breed that we expect will be much hardier in our climate and circumstances. She will not even try to continue with birds that cost more for breeding stock, have a higher mortality rate, require more care in terms of housing, feeding, and general maintenance, etc. If the second breed turns out the same, then she would probably move on to another species entirely, such as rabbits or turkeys, instead of doing chickens. She has learned that any critters we have around here have to pay their own way.

 

If she were doing chickens for a hobby instead, it would be fine to operate at a slight loss. That would be one of those situations where we could say that the experience was worth the expenditure. Unfortunately that doesn't work for a long-term addition to the homestead. I guess it all comes down to what your goals are, whether you are operating your homestead to sustain your family and make a modest income or whether you are living on a hobby farm, but not really making an effort to homestead it.

 

In my area we have many situations. There are commercial farms, homesteads, hobby farms, private hunting hunting preserves, etc. Each one has different goals and different production requirements.

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We've done all kinds of things. There are some things you can do anywhere, like baking bread or making your own yogurt. Those aren't quite as exciting, but they're fun projects to try.

 

There are other things you can do anywhere, but I'd recommend having your own place instead of living with someone. We used to raise coturnix quail and button quail. The button quail are tiny things that aren't as useful, but you can eat both the coturnix quail and their eggs. The two kinds of quail were actually the most successful things we've ever raised from a financial standpoint. Our sales of hatching eggs and young quail for breeding paid for their feed, plus the feed for our other poultry and rabbits at the time. We raised them in a few old unused aquariums, but most people keep them in cages. For the numbers we had and the small amount of time and space they required, they made a fair amount of money.

 

Rabbits are easy to keep even without property, but they aren't very cost effective unless you're also selling breeding stock. I've done pretty well with feeding them a large percentage of homegrown food, but I've found that I need to include at least some bought food to produce good litters. Growing or collecting feed for more than a couple rabbits takes a bit of time. We were lucky enough to find some cages headed for the dump, but cages can be expensive.

 

We've also done chickens, ducks, and turkeys, plus a lot of vegetables, on a half-acre. Gardening has saved us a lot of money on our own groceries and feed. Buying in all your feed makes it tough to keep animals in a small space, but you can do way more than you would think. I wouldn't expect to get close to self-sufficiency on that amount of space, but I wouldn't set that bar for where we live now either. We had a couple hundred acres where I grew up, but it was just rented out for pasture. It's nice to have more land. You do have a lot more options with more land. But it really comes down to what you do with what is in front of you.

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