By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
The modern life is filled with wondrous things, but many people prefer a simpler, self-sustaining way of life. The homesteading lifestyle provides people with ways to create their own energy, conserve resources, grow their own food, and raise animals for milk, meat, and honey. A homesteading farm life is a classic example. While this may not be for everyone, some of the simpler practices can be used even in urban settings.
What is homesteading? Starting a homestead is often thought of as a ranch or farm. Usually, we think of someone who lives outside of society’s food and energy chains. A look at homesteading information informs us that the goal is self-sufficiency, which may even go as far as avoiding money and bartering for any necessary goods. Broadly, it means doing what you can for yourself in the space in which you live.
Homesteading used to be a pioneer term that meant you had been deeded government land to use and develop. It is how regions became settled and contributed to much of the spread across North America. During the beatnik and hippy era, the term came back into fashion as disillusioned young people formed their own living situation away from cities.
The homesteading lifestyle is back with a flourish due to conservation concerns, questions about our food supply, the high cost of urban living, and a scarcity of good housing in modern metropolis centers. It is also part of the DIY movement, embraced due to its fun way to fill your own interests.
The most extreme example of starting a homestead is a farm. On a farm you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, raise animals for food, provide your own power with solar panels, and much more.
Such intense homesteading may also include hunting and fishing, foraging, making your own clothing, keeping honeybees, and other methods of providing for the family. It usually also includes sustainable agriculture practices and conservation of resources such as water.
The end goal is to have everything you need available, but you put in the hard work of creating and harvesting.
Even a committed urbanite can enjoy homesteading. Driving out to a U-pick farm in the country or keeping your own chickens are common enough.
You can also plant a small garden, keep bees, encourage beneficial insects, practice composting, pick mushrooms in season, and more. Even a condo dweller can compost their kitchen scraps with small vermicompost on the patio or lanai.
Being mindful of choices and respecting nature are two main practices of homesteading. Doing as much as you can for yourself is key to homesteading in any area.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Gardening Tips & Information
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
Have you ever wanted to begin the homesteading lifestyle but thought, “I don’t have what it takes?”
Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up on your dream because you didn’t come from a self-sustained background.
I didn’t either, and here I am, almost a decade later finding homesteading success because I’ve learned a few basic skills along the way.
I’m going to share specific skills which can make the difference between your homesteading lifestyle succeeding or failing.
Here are the homesteading skills you should focus on to help realize your dream:
When most people consider what they might need for homesteading success, they go straight to growing food and raising animals.
Though these are essential homesteading skills, they aren’t the only ones you’ll need. Knowing how to paint correctly is an important skill set to have. It helps you keep your property well-maintained and can also offer a layer of protection from the elements.
Not to mention, anything you can do yourself saves you money because you won’t have to pay others to do it for you.
Using a nailgun is a skill I was timid about learning. My husband has over 13 years of experience working in construction. He was comfortable from the start using almost any tool.
I was not. Nail guns terrified me, but over time, I’ve learned how to use different styles of nail guns properly.
I still have a healthy respect for them, but I feel more confident in using one. Knowing how to use a nail gun can save you a tremendous amount of time when nailing items into place and building structures is a large part of homesteading.
An impact driver is another tool you must become comfortable with when homesteading. Using an impact can save you enormous amounts of time when screwing items into place.
Again, building structures is a large part of homesteading and tools which make this easier are a necessity.
Learning how to use these tools is a necessary skill you should develop. Using an impact takes time to master, but once you do, you’ll feel confident in your abilities to build or secure any item around your homestead.
I wouldn’t consider myself an artistic person in the slightest, but I’ve learned (through my time homesteading) I’m a creative person.
I can look at plans on the internet or get ideas and bring them to life through my imagination.
You must be able to develop plans in your head and either draw or communicate them in a way you can bring them to life and figure out the measurements to build what you’ve imagined.
Yes, a part of homesteading is definitely knowing how to care for your animals properly. I can’t stress this enough.
Make sure you do your research and are fully prepared before you bring an animal home. Their treatment should be your top priority.
Therefore, do your research, but don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Losing animals is a part of homesteading, unfortunately. You’ll learn some lessons the hard way, but you must have the desire to learn and execute the knowledge you have when caring for livestock.
Gardening is another vital skill when learning how to homestead successfully. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert gardener before launching your homestead dream.
It does mean you must do your research, persevere when you make mistakes, learn how to garden for your particular planting zone, and be prepared to try different styles of gardening.
The more you garden, the more you’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Again, you must be willing to learn and execute the knowledge you gain. Also, consider learning food preservation methods too.
There are a ton of saws to learn how to use when interested in building sound structures and having success around your homestead.
You’ll come across times when Sawzall’s are your best friend. Other times you may use a miter saw, table saw, or a circular saw.
Each of these saws can help you make clean cuts and make building much easier. Be sure to do your research and use caution when working with these types of tools.
Using a chainsaw can be a dangerous process. They’re sharp and powerful which means you should use extreme caution.
As intimidating as a chainsaw can be, they can also be necessary when choosing the homesteading lifestyle.
They make chopping down trees for firewood easier, and they can also help you if a tree falls during a storm. Be sure to do your research on felling trees prior to taking this task on.
Knowing how to use an ax is another vital skill set you should develop when considering the homesteading lifestyle.
Even if you have a chainsaw to cut your firewood, you’ll still need an ax to help make kindling. Using an ax may seem easy, but it’s a great deal of work.
Therefore, take your time and make sure you add this skill set to the list you should learn to become more self-sufficient.
As I mentioned earlier, anything you know how to do to where you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you is putting you one step closer to homesteading success.
The reason being, it not only saves you money, but you’re learning valuable skills which are helping make you more self-sufficient.
Plumbing is one of these skills. If you can fix a leak, run water lines from one place to another, or even fix a clogged sink, you’re giving yourself a greater chance at success with your homesteading venture.
Most homesteads have many types of equipment. This equipment could be a car, truck, tractor, lawn mower, or even a tiller.
It’s important to understand how to do basic mechanic work to keep your equipment in running condition and also to be able to make basic repairs.
This will save you money and give you the knowledge to be more successful in your homesteading efforts.
The last basic skill set you should learn to give yourself the greatest shot at doing well when homesteading is to learn how to cook.
It may sound simple, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t understand the concept of cooking anymore because we’re accustomed to convenience foods.
Teach yourself how to cook by checking out YouTube channels, reading cookbooks, and by browsing the internet for beginner recipes. You can also learn different methods of cooking as well.
You now have 12 basic homesteading skills you should consider learning to give yourself the best chance of success when launching your homesteading dream.
Homesteading goes much deeper than raising food and animals. It consists of being able to do many things on your own or with your family instead of calling someone in to do the work for you.
By teaching yourself a few basic homesteading skills, you’ll be amazed at how far self-sufficiency can carry you.
One of the main reasons we started with the homesteading lifestyle was to provide our family with our own food. This makes us very self-sufficient.
When we are raising our own meats and vegetables, we can preserve food to last us all year. We don’t have to rely on the grocery store to provide the basic needs of our family. When a storm hits or the power goes out, we have the food, supplies, and skills needed to make it through. There’s no need to panic and flood the already crowded and quickly barren grocery shelves to try to get through a storm.
As part of raising our own food, it is very important to us to know how it was raised or grown. We want to feed our family the cleanest and healthiest food possible and growing our own ensures that.
We know exactly what our animals have been fed and that they haven’t had any chemicals used on them. Our garden vegetables are grown in organic soil that is rich in nutrients. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides have been used on them giving us very clean and healthy produce.
The skill set that you acquire as a homesteader is something that will continue to grow and benefit you for life. From animal husbandry, gardening, cutting firewood, building, cooking, preserving, butchering, the list goes on and on. Children are taught so many skills and important life lessons in this homesteading lifestyle. This sets them up to be successful in life no matter what they venture to do.
If you don’t want to work hard and constantly, homesteading may not be the best choice for you. There is no end to chores that need to be done and projects that need working on. It’s a busy lifestyle with plenty of jobs to go around. We definitely know how to work hard but we also know how to play hard. The kind of satisfaction that comes from all of this hard work is like none other.
This is one of the most beautiful and one of the hardest aspects of homesteading. The planting of seeds that brings new life to the garden, a promise of a harvest to come. The birth of a baby animal fills your heart with joy. These moments on the homestead are amongst the best. It’s something that’s so beautiful that words just don’t do it justice.
There’s also loss on the homestead that is always a hard lesson and sometimes heart wrenching. When your garden is growing and an animal gets in and destroys it all it’s beyond frustrating. To see all of your hard work and effort ruined is definitely not a good feeling. Losing a life on the homestead is always hard. Sometimes, it happens from a mistake you’ve made and sometimes there’s just nothing that could have prevented it. No matter how the loss occurs, there are always tears shed and heartbreak involved. As hard as it is, Life and death are all part of living on this earth and is something we all have to learn to deal with.
This is my favorite aspect of homesteading. The connection between me and my family, my friends, my animals, and to nature are all something that I treasure.
When our family works together all of the time and experiences every aspect of homesteading, we grow closer. We are brought together by the good times as well as the bad times.
We’ve also connected with others who have chosen this lifestyle. It’s so wonderful to have a community of people that are like minded and living a similar lifestyle as you. That’s something that is truly a blessing when the rest of the world thinks you’re a bit crazy for living like this.
The connections with the animals on our farm is also something that I enjoy. Sometimes, it’s nice to just sit and watch them all. The chickens are busy scratching the ground looking for tasty treats, the goats are quietly chewing their cud, the cows are grazing on the green grass, the horses switching their tails at flies, all of it reaches to the depths of my soul.
Growing our garden connects me to nature, I love the feel of the dirt between my fingers. When I plant a tiny seed knowing that it has the potential to provide for my family, I’m so excited and grateful.
When that seed begins to emerge and plant starts to grow, it is so satisfying. Once that plant produces fruits and I can harvest them to make a delicious meal for my family, when it comes full circle, I’m so connected with my land and creation.
All of these reason are the anchors in our lives to homesteading.
I’m grateful for having the opportunity to live on a homestead and raise my family here. I don’t know of any other life that allows one to live out their dream daily. Not everyday is easy and full of positive things but the good days always outweigh the bad ones.
Jenna is a busy wife and a mom to eight kids. She’s a homesteader, homemaker, and homeschooler. She’s very passionate about organic gardening, and naturally raising livestock. You can find her on her YouTube channel and her blog, The Flip Flop Barnyard.
Before you get all excited and decide to build a chicken coop on your balcony, you’ll need to check your local bylaws. Each municipality/county will have its own bylaws and regulations relating to micro-farming and raising small livestock in urban areas. You might be surprised what kind of weird local bylaws your county may have in effect, so do a bit of research to start.
Although they rarely have specific laws managing homesteading activities, you should also check any state laws that may affect your specific homesteading activity in a city.
For renters that want to start a small garden, check with your landlord first. They might also have some insight into what grows well in that area, and any past gardening successes or failures they’ve had there.
If you do have access to a small space to start a vegetable garden, get your soil tested first. Due to a few different things (mainly leaded gasoline), much of the soil in urban areas has shockingly high levels of lead. If you do have high levels of lead, hold off on eating produce grown in that soil until you remove the tainted soil.
If you do have high levels of lead in your soil, don’t be discouraged. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers don’t absorb much lead from the soil, so try planting those in high-lead areas. The University of Maryland also suggests adding composted materials and phosphorus to the soil to adjust the PH level and lower the health risks posed by the lead concentration.
To learn more about the levels of lead in urban soil in the United States, check out this paper from the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health.
I learned how hard homesteading is the old fashion way – by doing it.
Homesteading is a choice that each person has to make, then commit to and it is not always an easy choice.
For many they want to be self-sufficient and not rely on anyone else – that was also my reason – but going from point A to point B on your own takes determination.
It is easier to give up than forge ahead.
Growing your own food takes time, patience and then you must have the ability to preserve it for winter use to get the most out of your garden.
For those who choose to raise livestock, it is a learning curve especially if you are doing it for the first time.
Animals get sick and often a vet is not close by or cannot save them.
You must accept sometimes death is inevitable.
Learning how to make things by hand is not so easy either.
I chose to raise fiber animals so I could spin my own yarn, then knit clothing and weave fabric.
Never did I dream the learning curve was going to be so steep.
Each week we take turns choosing three posts to feature. Each post will be shared on all social media platforms by all of the hosts! Here are the features from Last Week's Hop:
2. How to Make and Use Calendula Oil from It's My Sustainable Life
3. Blueberry Breakfast Cheesecake from Scratch Made Food for Hungry People
Congrats! Feel free to grab the featured on button for your post.
Just right click and 'save image as. 'Guidelines for this Get-Together: