How to Make a Homestead Plan

If you are a new or a hope-to-be homesteader, you may be wondering what your first homesteading projects should be. With so many homestead activities and livestock to choose from, where on earth do you start? Learn how to make a short-term and long-term plan for your homestead.

How to make a homestead plan

Whether or not you're a new homesteader, you might be wondering "where do I begin" or "where do I go from here?"

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

The thing is, "homesteading" has so many directions and you probably feel as if you should be an expert in all of them: livestock, gardening, preserving, and even more.

But 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 where do you 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 one of these, or it might something completely different.

  • to be as self-sufficient as possible
  • 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 or consume often
  • to grow the best tomatoes or peaches or [insert your "favorite" here]
  • to live a healthy lifestyle
  • to live off-grid
  • or some other reason - this is your reason to homestead so figure out your own purpose

By discovering and defining your own purpose you'll know which direction you need to go. Write it down, and don't lose sight of your primary goal.

Do you have enough land

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. 

But you can live a simple, self-reliant life no matter where you live. Don't let your lack of space hold you back!

Be sure to check your local ordinances too: you won't be able to have bees or raise chickens if your town or homeowners' association doesn't allow it.

What is your passion

Don't confuse this with defining your purpose. They are not the same, although your passion is probably closely related to your purpose.. 

Your purpose is the reason behind what you're doing. Your passion is what you love doing.

You probably know the answer to this question without thinking too hard. 

Do you enjoy caring for animals more than gardening, or do you prefer working with soil and plants? Perhaps your interests lie inside your home, creating a simple and fulfilling life for your family?

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 by replacing purchased products with healthy alternatives that you've learned to make yourself, or you want learn to cook more foods from scratch.

Dig deeper

Next, let's narrow down what you want to focus on, and be more specific about what you want to do.

Raising meat

If your goal 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, while 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 each year. If your space is limited, you might want to raise two batches of 26 broiler chickens instead of doing it all at once.

Here are the ten things you should consider and decide before raising meat chickens 

Laying hens

A laying flock

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. Hens lay an average of one egg per day. 

While they usually continue to lay during their first winter, older hens usually take a break until spring. You can get around this "dry spell" by adding a few new chicks to your laying flock each year.

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.

Again, 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.

Here's how to order chicks from a hatchery and how to start your chicks off right so you'll have healthy, happy hens

You'll find all my chicken-raising posts here.

Grow lettuce in your garden

Starting a homestead garden

If you want to focus on gardening, start by deciding what kinds of vegetables you want to grow. Consider what your family likes to eat and what is easy to grow. 

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 such as radishes and green onions. 

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 on trellises. 

Your garden beds don't all have to be in one place. Half of your plants can be in one place while the rest are in another.

Containers are another way to add more garden space. Check out what to grow in a small garden for some ideas.

If you're a beginning gardener, start small and concentrate on keeping your plants alive. You can add more garden space and more plants next year.

Learn how to start a raised bed garden here.

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

Let's make a homestead plan 

Now that you know what your purpose and your passion are, you are ready to make a plan and start (or restart) your homestead journey. 

Remember to start small, learn all you can about what you're doing, and add things as you feel more confident.

But go ahead and start by writing down all of your homestead dreams. Go ahead and make a long list of all the things you want to do in the future. 

Dream big, but then narrow down your focus until you are thinking small. Decide which projects you want to work on first, then prioritize them, break them down into projects, and decide where you want to begin. 

Add the rest of your ideas to a five-year or longer plan. Starting small will help prevent your being overwhelmed. 

Sometimes it's easier to keep yourself on this start-slow plan if you know that next year you'll be expanding and adding more.

A sample homestead plan

If your dreams include a garden and livestock and learning to preserve food and - oh, all the homestead activities you can imagine - you might want to choose one small project from each of those areas in the beginning. 

You might start with a small garden, half a dozen chickens, and learning how to preserve fruit with a water bath canner in your first year.

In the future you can enlarge your garden, add goats or pigs, and learn how to use a pressure canner.

Break down your long list of "homestead wants" into a five-year plan - and stick to it.

Because raising chickens involves a lot more than just buying chickens, for example. You must build a coop, buy the equipment your chickens need, learn about chickens, feed the chickens, clean the chicken coop, protect them from predators, teach your dog not to chase chickens...

In addition, a long-term plan will help you make a budget for your homestead and spread out major costs over several years. Fencing and barns and the animals themselves are expensive.

Give yourself time to learn and be at ease before you take on another project.

A five-year-garden plan

For instance, if you want to start a garden, you might have a five-year plan that looks something like this:

Year One: Decide on a garden location and whether you will use raised beds or plant in the ground, plant a fruit tree or two, and 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, strawberries and another fruit tree or two, and add herbs in pots. Continue composting. Plant a pollinator garden.

Year Three: Add berry plants, build a cold frame or small greenhouse, experiment with extending your growing season.

Year Four: Add more planting beds, plant a nut tree or two. Learn how to ferment and pickle your harvest.

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've formed your plans and start to work your way through them, you might realize that you need to tweak those plans so they suit you better. 

Don't be afraid to change your plans as your life changes. For instance,

  • 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 because you're tired of the goats eating your garden, or you decide that goats aren't for you after all!
  • Your LGD (livestock guardian dog) might like the taste of chicken. 
  • Your children might be afraid of chickens or a mean goose. 
  • Or you find out that you're allergic to bee stings. 

Any of these reasons and more might cause you to change your plans.

There is no shame in changing your mind, changing your way of doing something, changing your focus, or deciding that raising a particular species of animal isn't making you happy. 

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.

Related posts:
5 Homestead Skills You Need (they're not what you think)

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Homesteading: how on earth do you decide where to start when you're a beginning homesteader?


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