January 4, 2017

Homesteading: Where on Earth Do You Start?


The turning of a new year is when many of us feel the urge to make resolutions or set goals. Whether or not you're a new homesteader, you might be wondering "where do I begin" or "where do I go from here?"

Homesteading: Where on Earth Do You Start?

There are so many directions you could go, and it's easy to get in over your head!

If you jump in with both feet, starting a one-acre garden, getting chickens and other livestock, and deciding that everything you cook for your family will be from scratch, you'll find yourself overwhelmed in double-quick time. So how do you know where to start?

Even if you've been homesteading for awhile, this is a good time to sit down and analyze what's working, what isn't, and where you want to go from here.

Define Your Purpose


Start by defining your purpose. Dig deep to discover the prime reason you want to homestead. It might be:

  • to be as self-sufficient as possible in all areas
  • to supply the healthiest meat possible for your family
  • to grow as much of your family's produce as possible
  • to produce your family's milk and eggs
  • to produce an expensive item you use often
  • to grow the best tomatoes
  • to live a healthy lifestyle
  • to live off-grid
  • or maybe you have another reason

By discovering and defining your purpose you'll know which direction you need to go.

Do You Have Room?


Also take into consideration the amount of space you have. If you have acreage, for instance, you can raise larger animals or have a larger garden than if you live on a suburban lot. Be sure to check your local ordinances too: you won't be able to have bees or raise rabbits if your town or homeowners' association doesn't allow it.

What Is Your Passion?


You probably know the answer to this question without thinking too hard. Do you enjoy having livestock more than gardening, do you prefer working with soil and plants, or is your interest inside your home?

Dairy goats

Perhaps your children are in 4-H or FFA and your passion is breeding registered dairy goats or showing rabbits.

Or maybe your passion is to remove toxins and chemicals from your home and replace purchased products with healthy alternatives that you've learned to produce yourself, or to learn to cook most foods from scratch.

Dig Deeper


Next, narrow down that focus and be more specific in what you want to do.

If your purpose is to raise all of your family's meat, where will you begin? A steer is an 18-month commitment, a hog is about ten months, broiler chickens take just eight to ten weeks. (But don't start them all at the same time! You'll definitely be in over your head and ready to throw in the towel in record time.)

Choose just one species at first and move on from there. Chickens are probably the easiest and definitely the quickest to raise, and are a good place to begin. If your goal is to have home-raised chicken on the table once a week, you'll need to raise 52 chickens. If your space is limited, you might want to raise two batches of 26 broiler chickens during the year.

Laying hens

If one of your goals is to have laying hens, you can base the number of chicks you get on how many eggs you'll use per week. If you want to sell excess eggs and raise a little cash as well, you would add more chicks. Just remember that hens need at least four square feet per bird and consider the amount of space you have.

Start small. You can add more chickens plus ducks and geese and guineas and a turkey for your Thanksgiving meal in the future, little by little.

Grow lettuce in your garden

If gardening is your focus, decide what kinds of vegetables you want to grow, beginning with what your family likes to eat and what is easy to grow. Your available space will also have a bearing on how much you'll want to grow. If you're a beginning gardener, start small and concentrate on keeping your plants alive; next year you can add more plants.

If you're short on space, devote the space you do have to your highest priority. If you love tomatoes, grow tomatoes. If you love salad and eat it a lot, grow salad greens and additions. If your family enjoys something that's normally out of your budget, such as fresh blackberries or asparagus, grow that.

There are ways to get around the problem of limited space, at least to a point. Grow your plants vertically. Your garden beds don't all have to be in one place. Containers are another way to add more garden space. Check out my post on "what to grow in a small garden" for some ideas.

Fruit trees don't take much work, but they do take time to reach maturity. You might want to plant a few early in your homesteading career so they will be producing as soon as possible.

Most berries will take a year to begin producing, and asparagus will take 2-3 years.

Make A Plan


Now that you know what your passion and purpose are, you are ready to make a plan. Remember to start small, learn all you can about what you're doing, and add things as you feel more confident.

Write down "all the things." Go ahead and make a long list of all the things you want to do. Dream big, but then narrow down your focus until you are thinking small. Decide which items you want to work on, then prioritize them, break them down into projects, and decide where you want to begin.

Add the others to a five-year or longer plan. Start small so you don't get overwhelmed. Sometimes it's easier to keep yourself on the plan if you know that next year you'll be expanding and adding more.

For instance, if your focus is gardening, you might have a five-year plan that looks sort of like this:
Year One: Start your garden, plant a fruit tree or two, begin composting. You'll work on keeping your plants alive, learning about the soil and weather in your area, and how to deal with local pests and problems.
Year Two: Add asparagus and another fruit tree, add herbs in pots. Continue composting and gardening.
Year Three: Add berry plants, build a cold frame or greenhouse, try extending your growing season.
Year Four: Add more planting beds, plant another fruit or nut tree or two.
Year Five: Get a beehive to pollinate your garden and fruit trees. Learn which plants on your property are edible or medicinal and how to utilize them.

Bee on plum blossoms

Sometimes Change is Necessary


Once you form plans and start to work your way through them, don't be afraid to change your plans as your life changes.

You might find that you can't free range or pasture your chickens because of predator problems. You may need to find a different way to confine your pigs. You might need to completely change your goat fencing, or you're tired of the goats eating your garden. Your LGD might like the taste of chicken. Your children might be afraid of chickens or the mean goose. Or you find out you're allergic to bee stings. Any of these reasons and more might cause you to change your plans.

Two years ago we downsized our livestock and increased the size of our garden. Our children have all left home which means our need for milk, eggs and meat has decreased. I also had more time to devote to weeding and watering since I was no longer homeschooling and doing the planning and recordkeeping that requires. We have a simpler routine that works for us for now, but I'm sure there will be more changes in the future.

There is no shame in changing your plans. The point is, don't be a slave to something that isn't working for you. Refine your plans and your goals until you find just the right fit for you.

Do you have questions? I'm always happy to help if I can. You can contact me here.



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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18 comments:

  1. Excellent, excellent posting! Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge. MB from UT

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    1. You're welcome, MB. I hope it was helpful.

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  2. I'm kind of chuckling to myself as I read this. Sure, it starts small, but it kind of snowballs. You have great ideas of where to start. It takes me back to when homesteading was a dream and I was taking baby steps towards it, such as the ones you've described. Every year we've added another garden bed, or a few fruit trees, or bought way too many chicks, LOL! It's habit-forming!

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    1. It certainly does snowball, Michelle! There is SO much you can do on a homestead, and there's even an expectation of what we "should" be doing. Having that five-year plan on paper helps to a point.

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  3. This post fits so perfect with my thoughts over the past few days! I'm on a planning and organizing mission! Reassessing garden layout and what plants worked, and weren't worth the time. And whether or not our plan for goats this spring is feasible (I'm crossing my fingers that it is!). Thank you so much for sharing on the Homesteader Hop!

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    1. Even when we've been doing this for several years, it's a good idea to reassess like you are, Staci. I hope the post was helpful.

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  4. Anonymous6:30 PM

    I can tell you from experience that this is excellent advice. I didn't actually put my plan to paper but when I moved in 3.5 yrs ago I had been an urban gardener & canner for over 20 yrs. I put in 10 fruit trees and bushes, not counting the elderberries or grapes. This year I had finally had enough of everything to actually preserve my own stuff! I'd love to have the bigger animals (fresh milk...and CHEESE!) but Mr. Arthur Itus has come to stay and I can't afford to get knocked over, lol. I had a small garden the 1st yr because I knew the chickens were coming & I needed to focus on learning that new skill. The next year I tripled both the garden and the chickens and oh Lord, STOP ME. It's all so addicting. I still learn from you more experienced folks, at least now I know enough to actually understand what y'all are talking about, lol! Thank you for being there. Jan in NWGA (who is actually drooling about the possibility of snow this weekend!)

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    1. Jan, you were so smart to keep your efforts small at first. I've been in the same boat, taking on too much. It IS addicting and I want to be doing "all the things." I really have to hold myself back. I hope you get your snow... and that we don't!

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  5. Such sensible advice. I see so many people jump in and try to do everything all at once then burn out quickly. Slow and steady wins the race in the homesteading life :)

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    1. That's for sure, Kirstee!

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  6. This is great. I appreciate you encouraging the though about what our goals (and passions) are and to make a plan. We have not been as structured about things, but I could see how some things would be easier if we had. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Hop!

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    1. We didn't do it that way at first either, Katy, and we should have!

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  7. I'm not a homesteader myself, but I enjoyed reading this post nonetheless, Kathi. You raise some great points and some of the tips are good for home gardeners as well. I've pinned it to my sustainable living board on Pinterest as I know many of my readers would find it very helpful! Thank you so much for being a part of Hearth and Soul.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing it so even more can read it, April. I hope it helps them.

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  8. What a great post! People can get so overwhelmed when they start homesteading.

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    1. There is SO much you can do, and so many different directions you can go, that it really can be overwhelming. Thank you, Julie.

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  9. This is a great post! My husband and I are planning on moving to some land and will begin our homesteading way of life officially in about 18 months after our daughter graduates. That's quite a ways out, so right now, we are just doing a lot of research and dreaming and are so excited to get started that, no doubt, we'll want to do it all at once when we finally get there! I'll be sharing this post with him so that we can start to think through how we will time things to pace ourselves so as not to get overwhelmed as soon as we move!

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    1. Congratulations! I know you're really excited about the move. You are right to make a plan first so you won't be overwhelmed. There is so much you can do that it's easy to bite off more than you can chew. Good luck!

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