Start Your Own Off-Grid Homestead the Simple, Budget-Friendly Way. If you’ve ever thought about creating your own family homestead but weren’t sure how to get started or if it were even possible, Stewart and Shannon Stonger have been there and can help guide your way. They left their home in the city and moved to an empty plot of land with hopes of building a more sustainable way of life. Their years of research, limited budget, creativity and pursuit of their dream produced effective solutions that have taken them step by step to an independent, debt-free and off-grid homestead. In this book, they share how they did it to help others take the first steps in achieving their simple life dreams.
You’ll learn how to build inexpensive infrastructure, harness energy from the sun, manage an off-grid home, grow vegetables in tough conditions, preserve the harvest, build an earthbag root cellar, raise beginner’s livestock and so much more. These attainable, game-changing tips and projects have allowed Stewart and Shannon to live a simpler, more rewarding life with their children. If they can do it, so can you!
If you were to ask a hundred different people what their definition of “on a budget” or “a simple life” was, you’d probably hear a hundred different answers. One of the things I like about this book is that it’s written by people whose definition of these things is quite close to my own. This book is written by a family, growing and building their homestead as they go, without any debt.
What I like most about this book is that it balances practical projects with small snippets of personal experience of what they have learned in their years homesteading. We learn about how important dairy animals are for them now (and how if they were to do it all again they would have brought them in much sooner), how they grow soil, what foods have found grow best for them. Instructions for building infrastructure and other projects take up most of the book, I think it is balanced really well in this regard.
I like that this book is written by people with family responsibilities, and that they include an estimated time each project will take, along with an estimated budget. It is hard sometimes to know how long a project is going to take, whether it fits our budget, and how it will fit in with cooking food, feeding babies, homeschooling, and so on, and these estimates make the projects seem more achievable, and help with planning ahead.
One example of this is in the section about hiring a backhoe for a week, we are given a list of projects her husband was able to do, working 43 hours with the machine over the course of a week. It doesn’t give us unreal expectations from completing projects with wwoofers and other helpers (as wonderful as they are), but shows how long it will take one person (or one family) to complete things on their own.
A few of the projects are things I’ve thought might be a good idea at some point, but haven’t gotten around to, and the time and budget estimates help me figure out whether to do these things soon or not. Others, such as modifying a tip-shop plastic storage unit to produce sprouted grains for animals, are very unique and sound like achievable projects that will benefit my homestead with very little money or time.
I like that their pallet projects are very simple, using whole pallets, or cutting them in half, to create functional things, rather than dismantling them and doing other fiddly time-consuming tasks to make slightly prettier things that perform the same function as the simpler versions.
In the non-project pages of this book we learn about their chicken-raising system - feeding lots of chickens of different breeds a small amount of simple whole grains, giving them free range over a large area, picking the meatier ones up for meat whenever they want, and butchering them in small amounts, rather than harvesting them in batches. We also learn which annual and perennial plants they recommend for producing lots of calories and nutrition for minimal effort. There are simple guides to lacto-fermenting, pressure canning, and root cellaring.
There are permaculture-inspired projects such as hugelkultur, swales, and lots of water harvesting. Lots of “how do I do x in a simple way, off the grid” questions are answered about laundry, showering, gravity-feed water, solar power and pretty much anything that anyone considering minimalist off-grid living may have wondered about.
This is the first book I would recommend to someone looking to start a homestead on a small budget.