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Starting a homestead with a strong foundation

 
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You Have the Homestead But How do You Get Started?

So you have finally gotten some land or decided to become a backyard homesteader. You have visions of raising your own animals, growing your own food, and if you are drawn to the wild like I'am you also want to support all the wildlife that you can.

But how do you get started?

Starting a homestead can be daunting. In my blog post What You Need to Know Before You Start a Homestead I cover 4 things that you need to know to build a strong foundation for your homestead.

4 Things to Know Before You Start a Homestead

- Know Your Land
- Know Your Climate
- Know Yourself
- Know Your Priorities

There is no way 1 blog post could cover everything that would help you build a strong foundation - but I have given it my best shot

Please leave a comment with what you think a new homesteader should think about before getting started.

I'm going to focus this post on knowing your priorities but don't forget to check out my blog post to make sure your homestead gets off to a great start.

Know Your Priorities



Take a moment and picture your ideal homestead. Think about the food you want to grow. Do you have animals on your homestead? Are you planning on preserving the extra food you grow?

What else comes to mind when you think about your homestead?

If you are like me you might have dozens of possible projects coming to mind. There is just so much to-do!

But if you jump around from one thing to the next you can get overwhelmed or have a bunch of half done projects and not a lot to show from it. This is why identifying your priorities is so important - it lets you focus your time and energy on one thing at a time so you can get the most out of your homestead.

In the blog post I focused on growing food, raising animals, and what to do with all the extra harvests! I have had friends and family jump right into raising animals when they did not have a good setup for them. It also turned out that while they had a romantic image of chickens running around - it was not really a priority for them.

It just seemed like a thing to do.

I recommend taking a moment to think about what you want to get out of your homestead. For myself I want to grow my own food - with a focus on perennials - and create a sanctuary for my wife, son and new baby who will be born in May.

This means that I'm focusing on projects that give us privacy (hedgerows along the edge of my homestead), projects that keep deer out (deer fencing so I can actually grow food!), and of course planting edible plants. Underlying all of this is a desire to support as much wildlife as possible - not counting the pesky deer!

I'm also creating lovely spaces for my family to enjoy our homestead such as a play area for my kids and soon an outdoor gathering area / kitchen. I have also started putting in benches and trails to make it easy to get around on the homestead and just stop and enjoy it all.

I would love to get chickens and I'm considering other smallish animals such as rabbits and small pig breeds but at this point doing so would distract from what are truly my top priorities and keep me from having the homestead I really want.

But in a couple years once my first projects are completed... then I can start getting animals for my homestead if I decide at that point that raising animals is one of my priorities.

Knowing what my priorities are for my homestead has helped me to make these choices and not dive into something that would not help me in my homesteading journey. Each of us will have a different set of priorities - for you animals might be the number 1 thing which is awesome.

There is always too much to do on a homestead but at least if you know your priorities you can better decide where to put your time and energy and not get distracted by the new shiny idea you see here on permies or my site

So what are your priorities? Please leave a comment with your top homesteading priority.

What Do You Think?


I may not have animals yet but a neighbor does! It has been fun introducing my son to the neighbor's goats, chickens, and turkeys

I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment in this thread and don't forget to check out my blog post that this thread was based on. If you are one of the first to leave a comment you might even get a surprise in the form of pie or apples

I did my best to make sure the blog post would cover everything you need to know to build a strong foundation for your homestead. My wife and I also made a companion worksheet that you can fill out as you read along to make it easy for you to keep track of everything. You can signup on the blog to get your copy of the worksheet.

Thank you!
 
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Hi Daron.

I am currently working on a downpayment to get out of the city with my much better half. She already has a job out where we wish to relocate, and she's spending weekends working there to help us get out.

I want to homestead in the country so that we can grow our own food. I want to keep bees, raise chickens for eggs and maybe meat, and perhaps have a couple of pigs, for a start. In addition to this, I will want to have kitchen and market gardens, probably have paddocked pasture on which to rotate my livestock, and probably have on-contour rows of food forest with my gardens and pastures in alleys in-between.

Kids are a focus, eventually. I don't see how I could envision a homestead without.

Oh, and LGDs. I can't wait to get a couple of large guardian dogs.

I am currently investigating job opportunities in the area, but would be totally prepared to rent land, maybe with a house on it, and commute out for the weekends to be with my better half, crashing in my parents' basement, who happen to live close to my current workplace.

We also want to work towards a four-season greenhouse, as we start avocado seedlings in our living room. Our oldest is four, and taller than I am.

But in terms of priority, getting out there is tops. If I am commuting out on weekends, the only livestock that I can imagine looking after are bees and soil critters, and chickens, with some help from my better half. Kitchen and market gardens would take precedence, and perennials would take a backseat if we were renting.

If I can guarantee a source of income out there while I get farm operations, even on rented land, up and running enough to qualify for government grants, that's my path to accelerated progress.

It's nice sometimes to see the workings of others' gears and springs as they think out these things. Really very instructive for the rest of us. Thanks, good luck, and keep it up.

-CK
 
Daron Williams
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Chris Kott wrote:Hi Daron.

I am currently working on a downpayment to get out of the city with my much better half. She already has a job out where we wish to relocate, and she's spending weekends working there to help us get out.

I want to homestead in the country so that we can grow our own food. I want to keep bees, raise chickens for eggs and maybe meat, and perhaps have a couple of pigs, for a start. In addition to this, I will want to have kitchen and market gardens, probably have paddocked pasture on which to rotate my livestock, and probably have on-contour rows of food forest with my gardens and pastures in alleys in-between.

Kids are a focus, eventually. I don't see how I could envision a homestead without.

Oh, and LGDs. I can't wait to get a couple of large guardian dogs.

I am currently investigating job opportunities in the area, but would be totally prepared to rent land, maybe with a house on it, and commute out for the weekends to be with my better half, crashing in my parents' basement, who happen to live close to my current workplace.

We also want to work towards a four-season greenhouse, as we start avocado seedlings in our living room. Our oldest is four, and taller than I am.

But in terms of priority, getting out there is tops. If I am commuting out on weekends, the only livestock that I can imagine looking after are bees and soil critters, and chickens, with some help from my better half. Kitchen and market gardens would take precedence, and perennials would take a backseat if we were renting.

If I can guarantee a source of income out there while I get farm operations, even on rented land, up and running enough to qualify for government grants, that's my path to accelerated progress.

It's nice sometimes to see the workings of others' gears and springs as they think out these things. Really very instructive for the rest of us. Thanks, good luck, and keep it up.

-CK



You are welcome and thank you for your comment!

I get that desire to get out of the city - that was my wife and my focus since the start of our marriage. It took us years to get there but we finally did - you will too!

Sounds like you have lots of plans for your future homestead. Renting works but as you mentioned with the perennials there are disadvantages - do you think you could find a rent to own situation?

Have you ever raised bees before? I have not but I'm interested in doing that in the future. So many possible options

Thanks again for your comment and good luck with getting your homestead!
 
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One of my top priorities when we move is to get a dairy animal. My diet is high in dairy products and it would go a long way to providing food for myself. I have been growing fruit and vegetables for years, so I know how to do that, and how to preserve the harvest. Thankfully, I have become quite adept at managing my health limitations, but we will see how well I manage things once we move.

By the way, we had an apricot tree as a child in zone 9b and it did fine, maybe some varieties work better than others.
 
Chris Kott
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Dairy is definitely on my list as soon as I am living out there. I will probably have to make due with dairy goats, but I  would love a couple of small jersey cows. I have already started some preliminary cheesemaking.

-CK
 
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Something I've noticed is that when many people start homesteading, they immediately go right into livestock, often on a pretty daunting scale. My advice, at least for people in the Pacific Northwest (a region I can speak to) is to focus more on establishing your garden and perennials (food forest/orchard included). You may have to have manure/compost brought in in order to get these started, and that's ok. I feel that this is a good strategy because a) the financial return seems to be higher and b) your garden and perennials can form the foundation not only of your diet, but also your livestock down the line. I found that I was putting a lot of money into my animals--their feed, housing, equipment, etc. and that the return on that amount of money would be better as fruit and nut trees.


For those of us concerned about things like decline, collapse, and/or transition this approach makes sense. Lots of people feel themselves and their communities to be self sufficient or self reliant, when in reality they are relying on fossil fuel powered tilled agriculture and transportation to feed their livestock, and in turn they rely on their livestock for manure for their garden and orchard. Last year we had a hiccup in the transportation system and a lot of Tractor Supply feedstores had shortages of certain kinds of feeds. It's easy to see how that could bring down someone's entire operation if it lasted longer than a few days.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't get animals at all, of course, especially if they can make an important contribution to your diet, as in Stacy's case. I just caution not to go overboard, especially at the expense of long term investments like trees. There's only so much money, time, and energy in any of our budgets.

Daron, I live less than an hour away from you and raise bees, if you're interested in learning more. There are some people I hold in high regard in that field (including Jacqueline Freeman) who live just a few hours south of us, near Portland.
 
Daron Williams
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Stacy Witscher wrote:One of my top priorities when we move is to get a dairy animal. My diet is high in dairy products and it would go a long way to providing food for myself. I have been growing fruit and vegetables for years, so I know how to do that, and how to preserve the harvest. Thankfully, I have become quite adept at managing my health limitations, but we will see how well I manage things once we move.

By the way, we had an apricot tree as a child in zone 9b and it did fine, maybe some varieties work better than others.



Thanks for the comment Stacy. What type of dairy animal are you thinking about?

That is great to hear about the apricot tree - I have 2 on order for my place (zone 8b) so I hope they do well!
 
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James Landreth wrote:Something I've noticed is that when many people start homesteading, they immediately go right into livestock, often on a pretty daunting scale. My advice, at least for people in the Pacific Northwest (a region I can speak to) is to focus more on establishing your garden and perennials (food forest/orchard included). You may have to have manure/compost brought in in order to get these started, and that's ok. I feel that this is a good strategy because a) the financial return seems to be higher and b) your garden and perennials can form the foundation not only of your diet, but also your livestock down the line. I found that I was putting a lot of money into my animals--their feed, housing, equipment, etc. and that the return on that amount of money would be better as fruit and nut trees.


For those of us concerned about things like decline, collapse, and/or transition this approach makes sense. Lots of people feel themselves and their communities to be self sufficient or self reliant, when in reality they are relying on fossil fuel powered tilled agriculture and transportation to feed their livestock, and in turn they rely on their livestock for manure for their garden and orchard. Last year we had a hiccup in the transportation system and a lot of Tractor Supply feedstores had shortages of certain kinds of feeds. It's easy to see how that could bring down someone's entire operation if it lasted longer than a few days.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't get animals at all, of course, especially if they can make an important contribution to your diet, as in Stacy's case. I just caution not to go overboard, especially at the expense of long term investments like trees. There's only so much money, time, and energy in any of our budgets.

Daron, I live less than an hour away from you and raise bees, if you're interested in learning more. There are some people I hold in high regard in that field (including Jacqueline Freeman) who live just a few hours south of us, near Portland.



Thanks for your comment James!

Really good point about potential issues with feed for animals. I know when I do get chickens I'm hoping to not need to bring in food for them - but that is also one reason why I'm waiting to get them. I don't have the setup yet to let them get all their own food.

Thanks for the offer! I'm interested but won't be getting bees for a while - I'm going to get a native wildflower meadow established first and some more plants and then get my first hive. But I would be interested in learning more some point in the future. I will keep you in mind when I get ready to get bees.
 
Stacy Witscher
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I want a jersey cow, or at least something crossed with a jersey. I've seen some jersey/dexter crosses for sale, that might be doable. I'm also interested in dwarf nigerian goats, but we will have to see about fencing first. I'm aware that goats test fences. I eat a high fat diet, so I would like a high fat dairy animal for cream, cheeses, creme fraiche, butter etc. I'm looking forward to having enough milk to not worry about some messed up cheeses. I like to play around and try new things, but it can get expensive. While most of the properties we are looking at have at least some established pasture, I don't mind providing some off-property inputs.
 
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Chris Kott mentioned jobs a couple times in his post.  Yes indeed.  As to a strong foundation, I also willcomment about very basic stuff.

Before I left the city and my employment there, I remember doing a lot of reading about homesteading.  One or two of the things I read advised that you should know where your money will come from for a couple years after you relocate.  I’ve got to admit I took that a little lightly, assuming that things would work out, fall into place.  It’s true that I was able to find employment — unloading trucks at a feed store, teaching acoustic guitar lessons, occasional carpenter, assistant mason.  I sold surplus eggs.  But paid-work-wise, things were often a little too slack.

A certain proportion of people can, from the start, finance the whole new homestead project out of pocket.   Or completely by self-employment — I applaud them, though I've met few.  There's initial cost for land, there's the skills-learning curve, there are generally ongoing cash needs.  The needs in the first years are to establish the basic homestead infrastructure, and to become efficient at doing things you’ve probably not done much before, if at all.  Besides acquiring land, by "basic infrastructure" I mean water system, adequate access road(s), possibly tree clearing, adequate shelter for all seasons, basic (at least) tools, fencing, and similar aspects.  If you're going to go for P.V. solar, wind-power electric, or micro-hydro, then add that in.

Still, it’s very true that you can reduce needs and wants for all sorts of things, and yes you can provide much for yourself by learning skills and by effort.

And there are many home-based businesses that can be run on a homestead, however the number will be drastically reduced if the things I’ve mentioned aren't in place.

Few people start homesteading with a loose $250k in their pocket, rather few seem to start with even $100 or $50k.  Many wind up with something worth that much (in "market value") over time and largely through their own efforts, but this fact won’t help at the start  To develop a homestead or re-develop one along permaculture lines requires attention & work.  Effective use of money-earning time for many people, along the way, is likely to be an off-site job.

Hoping these few thoughts from my experience aren't off the subject of what the O.P. intended.
 
Daron Williams
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Thank you for your comment Joel. You are right that there are some big financial barriers to starting a homestead depending on what your goals are.

When you all think about homesteading do you picture selling some product grown or produced on the homestead to help pay the expenses or do you picture getting income from outside of the homestead? Which do you think is more commonly done?
 
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Daron Williams wrote:When you all think about homesteading do you picture selling some product grown or produced on the homestead to help pay the expenses or do you picture getting income from outside of the homestead? Which do you think is more commonly done?



We personally do the latter. We grow food to eat. Sometimes we sell some eggs, but it doesn't even bring in enough to cover feed costs, and frankly I'd rather eat our eggs than sell them unless we have excess.

Growing our food saves on grocery bills and ensures we have healthy food. We learn a lot in the process, too. I'm 99.9% positive we'll never make a living off of our land, but hopefully we'll be able to retire a bit earlier because we won't have to pay for as much gas or food.
 
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Daron,
I like your blog post. Thanks for getting this discussion up and running!

My family and I are starting out with our homestead right now, and we are finding just how expensive it can be to start.

Most people might think, "Oh, I'll buy a piece of raw land and save some money and then I can have my Permaculture farm and all of my dreams will come true!"...that might be true if you have $100-300k to burn (in cash)! A piece of raw land has no electricity, no running water, no FENCING, etc.

We have discovered that to fence a large part of our land (to keep bears out), it will cost about $15k to do ourselves (that's just the material costs: posts, electric fencing, little bits and bobs). That's being very optimistic and not accounting for the cost of a tractor or skidsteer to dig holes. We've found that if you want to buy a used tractor, it's about $15k for a good brand, less than 8,000hrs, in good condition and newer than 2000. Then, that tractor will most likely need repairs right away, to the tune of about $5k. This is all before getting a loader bucket put on, which is about $7k. Any attachments? $5k each. You can see how this all adds up! For a skidsteer (which is arguably a lot better for clearing brush and putting in a fence), the price starts at about $20-30k. Then attachments are a minimum of $7k and usually about $10k each. An excavator is our ultimate dream, but that's waaay out in the expensive spectrum.

So, our solution (we'll see how it goes!) is to build our own tractor. We found a man named Marchin who started something called Open Source Ecology. Marchin has published all of the plans for how to build your own tractor with a loader bucket. Pretty amazing! Has anyone on here done this yet? We figured out that the material costs to build it are about $10k still, so it's not a huge savings. But, if we build it ourselves, then we can easily fix it ourselves and even build 2 of them if we want! My husband is really the mastermind behind all of this...but you won't find him on this forum, he's too busy trying to get this up and running. If anyone has questions you can ask me and I'll see if I can get an answer from him. He's super smart and understands all about mechanics, hydraulic pumps, welding, etc, etc. I'm just doing my best to understand the basic idea. Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there for people who might be struggling to figure out how to afford all of these crazy expensive farm tools and want a better DIY answer.
 
Joel Bercardin
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Daron Williams wrote:When you all think about homesteading do you picture selling some product grown or produced on the homestead to help pay the expenses or do you picture getting income from outside of the homestead? Which do you think is more commonly done?


We personally do the latter. We grow food to eat. Sometimes we sell some eggs, but it doesn't even bring in enough to cover feed costs, and frankly I'd rather eat our eggs than sell them unless we have excess.

Growing our food saves on grocery bills and ensures we have healthy food. We learn a lot in the process, too. I'm 99.9% positive we'll never make a living off of our land, but hopefully we'll be able to retire a bit earlier because we won't have to pay for as much gas or food.


Yes, good question, Daron.  So I suppose my answer is pretty much like Nicole's.

When my wife and I moved to the property we're on now, it was twice the size (17 acres) that it is now.  Friends of our bought the other 8.5 acres.  We planned to do more agriculturally — by which I mean commercial ag — as we would capitalize the operation together and share chores, help each other with construction projects, etc.  That didn't work out, because within a year our friends decided they wanted to move out to the big city, for easier high-earning employment and to educate their kids in urban schools.

So our household's process of working toward basic goals was different from what we'd envisioned.  Just building buildings, maintaining things, and providing good food and preparing for a four-month winter (yes, while living in a beautiful environment and knowing some very fine people) was all we could handle.  There were many ups and downs financially, but we've made a life of it. It is very difficult in our part of the world for anyone to earn a living from small-scale dairy, veggie growing, or meat selling.  Few do that here, and the couple (with two kids) that we know best who are giving it a go are only able to do it by renting the land they live and raise food on.

Selling stuff off our acreage would have yielded too little for the amount of extra time that would have been required.  The fork in the road was obvious... cash-wise, we'd make a living by doing things other than what we'd envisioned

As it is, trading some of our extra food with neighbors & friends is a way we handle any actual surpluses.
 
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Rosemary, have you considered just renting equipment when you need it? A tractor is a huge investment, and maintaining & repairing it expensive when you can't do it yourself. One of my dreams was to have my own tractor. But realistically it didn't make sense. I don't have the skills, knowledge, or tools to fix a tractor. And it's not something that I would be using every week. So I have opted to hire a neighbor when I have a heavy equipment job. He has not only a tractor but a skid steer, a backhoe, and all sorts of accessories for them.
 
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I don't have any plans on selling things. I have a small income and I just want to try to make that work. My daughter works a corporate job, at least for now. So she'll have income if I need anything. I'll be watching my grandchild and homesteading. Thankfully, I will have some money for upfront costs, and we aren't buying raw land, so a lot will have already been done. It's one of the things we have been discussing when looking at properties, as prices are all over the place, and sometimes it doesn't make sense to me.
 
Rosemary Hansen
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Su, we can't rent, we're too remote. But good suggestion for others who have good neighbors or are close to a city! I agree, renting is definitely the smartest financial option. You're right that you wouldn't use the equipment as much as you think + you don't need to worry about repairs. Cheers!
 
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Rosemary Hansen wrote:
We've found that if you want to buy a used tractor, it's about $15k for a good brand, less than 8,000hrs, in good condition and newer than 2000. Then, that tractor will most likely need repairs right away, to the tune of about $5k. This is all before getting a loader bucket put on, which is about $7k. Any attachments? $5k each. You can see how this all adds up! For a skidsteer (which is arguably a lot better for clearing brush and putting in a fence), the price starts at about $20-30k. Then attachments are a minimum of $7k and usually about $10k each. An excavator is our ultimate dream, but that's waaay out in the expensive spectrum.

So, our solution (we'll see how it goes!) is to build our own tractor. We found a man named Marchin who started something called Open Source Ecology. Marchin has published all of the plans for how to build your own tractor with a loader bucket. Pretty amazing! Has anyone on here done this yet? We figured out that the material costs to build it are about $10k still, so it's not a huge savings. But, if we build it ourselves, then we can easily fix it ourselves and even build 2 of them if we want! My husband is really the mastermind behind all of this...but you won't find him on this forum, he's too busy trying to get this up and running. If anyone has questions you can ask me and I'll see if I can get an answer from him. He's super smart and understands all about mechanics, hydraulic pumps, welding, etc, etc. I'm just doing my best to understand the basic idea. Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there for people who might be struggling to figure out how to afford all of these crazy expensive farm tools and want a better DIY answer.



Fencing is very expensive. I'm spending a bunch of time eying treelines for potential straightish runs of living posts. Doesn't help with the wire though; a completely living fence seems far too time consuming on the scale I am hoping to put in.


I went through the tractor dilemma this spring. Your numbers are pretty close to what I found, assuming that you're talking something around 50hp, for the tractor itself.. but I restricted my search to units with loader already in place, as the pricing made much more sense. I also found that while used tractors hold their value well, there were real bargains to be sniffed out when it came to attachments, especially those needing a basic repair.

I've seen the open ecology stuff, but I needed my equipment to put in infrastructure/fix the crumbling buildings asap, on order to have somewhere to work on a project like that..  I bet a lot of people on here would be keen to hear details of the build.

The ability to know the whole machine is very appealing. The repair and parts manuals for my tractor total at least 10lbs, and the three binders fill a 55l tote... they're about as clear as mud, especially given the absurd number of variants they're trying to cover.
 
Daron Williams
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Great discussion all and thank you all for the comments!

For myself I work a full-time day job that pays the bills - my wife works a part-time job to help with all the costs. We got lucky and found land with a small house just outside a city which helps with getting supplies and such. At the moment we are not selling anything from the homestead and I can't see that changing anytime soon.

Rosemary - that is hard with the tractor... I would love to have one but just can't afford it. You and others have all made very good points about how expensive it is to be a homesteader on any significant acreage. But thank you for sharing the Open Source Ecology site. I was not aware of it and I will have to take a look at it. Building your own tractor sounds very ambitious to me but I guess doing things like that yourself is a big part of what it means to be a homesteader!

Fencing is challenge - I have been trying to do my own fencing to keep deer out for over a year now. For the most part that work is done and doing it all myself saved a lot of money but parts are a little funky and it was still expensive. Though today 2 bucks got in through an area I have yet to fully fence because I thought a thick blackberry hedge would keep the deer out. Spent most of the day today working on a temp fence using supplies I had on hand until I can build a permanent fence.

Been checking for deer multiple times already tonight (headlamp + deer = glowing eyes in the dark) and so far no deer so I think the fence is working. But this task has delayed a lot of other projects and really set my homesteading goals back. Even delayed the launch of my blog by a few months at least.

We have been talking a lot about rural homesteading with some land - what about suburban homesteading? Do you all think that is easier for people to jump into without the financial struggles? Or are there just other expenses/challenges?
 
James Landreth
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I think it depends on your goals. A big challenge is having enough productive space. In my opinion, you could grow a lot of your own food on a suburban plot, but you will probably not be able to grow your own animal feed or a lot of your own staples. It would be hard to grow a surplus of something that you could sell or trade on a large enough scale to pay for things you can't produce. But it suits some people's goals, in particular if their goal is just growing some of their own food, learning, and/or other constraints keep them in the suburbs
 
Dillon Nichols
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The departments of sadness are often excessively nearby, if one tries to do homesteads things in town. Some places things have improved a bit, others not so much... Out in the sticks, there may still be some dumbass laws, but there is often a tradition of paying no mind to interfering assholes in distant offices. I'm sure this will get harder as time passes, satellites are not the countryman's friend.

Best part about cities imo is the ridiculous amount of useful stuff being thrown out. So much scrounging potential. Worst part is.. well. Long list, and it would spoil the festive atmosphere!

Trying to squeeze everything into tiny spaces is an interesting, even fun, challenge... but they'll only take me back to the city in a box or chains.
 
Daron Williams
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I think one thing that appeals to me about urban homesteading is that it can be easier to get the property into full production since it is smaller.

I have just under 3 acres and it will take a lot of time and work to get it up and running the way I want. Plus it will likely be more expensive.

Though the rules/regulations are much more lax here and the neighbors don't expect a perfectly manicured lawn.

Plus, I would get board if I only had a small backyard to play in...

Though sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to transform 3 acres of land with just my own labor and very limited access to mechanized equipment.

But every year I make more progress and in 10 years I won't even recognize the place
 
Stacy Witscher
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Daron - I'm currently in the suburbs, on a 1/10 acre lot. How one manages a lot this size seems completely different from having acreage. Many of our friends think we are crazy to want at least 15 acres, but they don't understand that it won't be an intensively managed. They think we are going to be spending our days mowing and weeding. I'm not sure why because we don't have anything to mow here, and that's more typical. This area is becoming more rigid with rules, they have just changed the CC&R's to prohibit fruit trees in the front yard.

If you need to stay close to a job, the suburbs are fine, but it's so expensive here.
 
Joel Bercardin
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Best part about cities imo is the ridiculous amount of useful stuff being thrown out. So much scrounging potential. Worst part is.. well. Long list, and it would spoil the festive atmosphere!.


There are differences of opinion about this.  I agree with you, but some don't.  Second page of this thread, for example https://www.permies.com/t/40/55800/Downsides-Living-Rural  Maybe it depends on what region you live in.  I've found that in my valley, there are many people with an eye for generally the same sorts of things I value... so without really trying to, we're all competing for the same sorts of second- or third-hand items.  On the other hand, people in the cities and suburbs have often spent money on (or been gifted) reasonably well-made shop tools, kitchen tools, and so on that they've found they don't really use — so these wind up on tables at yard sales.  Or then there are pawn ships where somehow professional quality tools wind up for sale.  Recently I bought a pair of like-new quality blue jeans (workwear type for $6 that sell retail for about $30... got them at a thrift store.

I like living where I do, but have to admit that these sorts of are great to go after in the city once in a while.
 
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top priorities on my homestead

my momma and marty :)
my animals
cause they cant take care of themselves...i just get up early and stay up late to steal a little time

keeping things tidy so i can think straight
less is best...trying to remember that
keeping out of debt...no matter how hard...
remembering to stop and smell the roses
work hard to play hard

somewhere in all of this...is to always remember the One who gave it all to me...and to keep Him at the forefront of all i do...

i suppose then my number one priority would have to be to take care of me so that i can take care of everything else :)
 
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This is the greatest adventure of my life.  Never thought I would enjoy the gifts we have worked so hard for.

My husband retired from the Dept of Corrections early after I almost lost my battle with my demons.  I was injured so many times, I never thought I could be happy, or help others with their own.  He helps me everyday to join the experience of life.  Its not always about survival, it's time to live.

Both of us worked very hard to get our little piece of heaven in Maine.  Just 5 acres, him and I and my therapy companion in a little single wide with a dream. Our own homestead.  A fresh start.

I guess my priorities are a little different, but similar to some.  I always, every day, remember to start simple.

Start simple, start small...
This first spring, this year, we dug and planted a kitchen garden, four tiny apple sapplings, a sad looking peach tree and a few small plants from my in-law's garden.  We started late this spring, so some things didn't take, but we carved a little plot next to our stairs, planted some veggies and herbs and did our best to help them grow.  Fresh herbs (for a city girl), and amazing little tomatoes were harvested.  My husband was overjoyed about watching the corn grow, and now we are waiting to harvest those.  

We still have a lot of land clearing and cleaning to get a real garden for growing all our own food next spring, but we've started.  A lot of old trash to be cleared from the previous owners, a challenge, but its our own adventure. So we recycle what we can, dump for the rest, and the things that we can, donated to the town charity.

We know it will continue to be a lot of hard work, and our health, especially my mental health, needs time to heal.  As we clear the ground, brush, tend trees and grow food we are taking small steps as well to better ourselves and feel the analogy of our land to our lives.

Next spring, we'll plant, starting simple, and tend to it, and ourselves, as we can.  So I guess number one was getting our land started and finding out what our soil needs and wants, along with tending to us.

Then more clearing, trimming and helping our land prosper, supporting the local ecosystem as well.  Long term will be bees, turkeys and ducks.  Eventually, a few years from now, chickens, rabbits, pigs and we'll be able to harvest our fruit.

Third will be fixing our home so it stays comfortable for the three of us in the future.  Luckily my husband is an incredibly hard worker, not afraid to dive right in and learn as we go.

Plumbing is our first, since we are lucky to have our own well.  

Fixing the windows and try building a solar air heating/cooling system next.

Then on to fixing and re-enforcing the floor so we can try our hand at a simple rocket mass heater with local granite aggregate and whatever field stones and cob we can hobble together.  

We will look to salvage what materials we need, make what we can't get from our own things and take time for each other.

We are incredibly blessed and are thankful for what gifts of knowledge this new community online has guided us towards, the hope its given us.  The internet is an incredible tool that has allowed us to connect with all of you and obtain new skills to guide us, even support us, through in this new adventure.  We hope someday, to be able to help and support others as this community does.

I'm sorry for this ramble, but I thank you, we thank you, for your generosity of spirit and knowledge.
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Three little peas - from our first garden
 
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Great thread!

I will jump in here with an observation that I would have done differently if I were buying my land and building my house all over again.

This might sound heretical on a site like this, but I would have purchased my first tractor sooner, preferably even before I started construction on my house.  I say this because there are just so many early building and initial land setup tasks that would have been made much easier with even a subcompact tractor and impractical/impossible without one.

Things like landscaping around my house, grading and prepping my driveway, mowing trails and establishing gardens, and using the loader/bucket to move (really heavy) things is just so much easier with the tractor than by hand.

I get that these are expensive and budgets tight and that tractors are not for everyone, but for me, owning one earlier would have made a lot of tasks easier and I would have done more tasks myself as opposed to hiring them out.  Basically, my reasoning dovetails with Daron’s points 3&4.

Eric



 
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I think the Blog Spot did okay, but kind of fluff-fluffed the nuts and bolts of homesteading, and kind of skirted the main foundation no one seems to build upon.

It really is the soil.

In homesteading, there is a lot of competition for good soil, and these people come armed with soil maps, know where the best soil is in the state, and have the money to back up what they want. That means for most homesteaders, they are going to have to compromise on soil quality.

That is okay, but homesteaders need to know that if they try to grow what they want, they are going to often be pouring tons of money and resources into making something grow where it really does not want to. And articles in magazines do not often tell the downsides of some of these animals, vegetables, or fruits, so Homesteaders think a animal or crop is what they should have, when they lack the growing conditions to allow it to naturally thrive. (Commercial farmers do this as well).

I did not pick raising sheep 11 years ago just because I liked sheep. I wrote out an entire matrix of everything I even considered doing, then graded it by my soil type, what I had for equipment, buildings, storage, desire to grow that product, and a few other things. As I went through the matrix and scored the products honestly, sheep won out. It has to do with having excellent pastures here, a livestock that did not require a barn, history of raising them on this farm, predicted markets, and a strong desire to raise sheep. I really wanted to raise broccoli commercially, but even though I had the right soil, I lacked the equipment and storage facilities. I REALLY wanted to do it, but it just did not make sense too.

And I think it worked out well for me. Because I was not fighting my own farm, I was able to meet my predicted expectations that I laid out in a well thought out, 10 year farm plan. In the 8th year of operations I was able to take my farm from Hobby Farm Status (Homesteading if you prefer) and went to full-time farming, just as I predicted.

The foundation of Homesteading is to match what you grow with the conditions of the farm, and then map out a long term plan for those commodities.
 
Ruth Stout was famous for gardening naked. Just like this tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater is the most sustainable way to heat a conventional home
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