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Introduction to Homesteading

Written by Daleen Cowgar

When people hear the word homesteading, sometimes their minds take them to Pa Ingalls and the Little House series as the family tries to survive on a parcel of land for a year to make it their own. While that was once the case, homesteading has changed since then. It’s no longer about land and is instead about being self-sufficient and supporting yourself in an environmentally friendly and healthy way.

So give it to me straight: what is homesteading?

The official definition is that homesteading is “a lifestyle with a commitment to self-sufficiency.” People who consider themselves homesteaders are people who seek to support themselves in a variety of ways, including growing a garden, raising animals, using renewable energy sources, and more.

The definition of homesteading is very broad because how people homestead is very broad. No one does it in quite the same way. Some people have a lot of property where they can raise everything they need to support themselves as well as have the desire and ability to do that. Other people live in urban areas and have a garden in the backyard and maybe a couple of chickens. Some people just want to grow healthy food and so they only have a garden. Some people hate gardening and so only raise animals. Some communities do it together, with different people working to their strengths and then they trade their skills or products for what they don’t have themselves. Some people go off the grid with their own solar panels or other methods of renewable energy. People use their homesteading to support just their family, and other people turn it into a small business.

There is no wrong way to do homesteading. Wherever you are or whatever you want to do to become more self-sufficient counts!

Why do people homestead?

Each person comes into homesteading for a different reason. For my family and me, we love working with our animals, being outside, and having an opportunity to be a family with a project that supports us.

One of the biggest reasons people begin to homestead is because it allows you to call the shots! Are you less than satisfied with the amount of pesticides that end up on our food before we eat it or the number of times that different veggies are recalled because they are making people sick? Not a problem--grow your own food. Are you disgruntled with the way that animals are treated or the food they are given before we eat them? Raise them yourself and allow them to eat natural food and live an ethical life.

It also saves a lot of money. Think of how much money you could save in eggs alone. If you’re a family of four and you eat eggs for breakfast twice a week, that’s at least eight eggs a week if you don’t use them for anything else (bye-bye brownies!). A dozen eggs currently cost $1.49, though if you wanted organic eggs (chickens that have been fed healthier food and haven’t been restricted in cages) it goes up to $3.49. That means that in one year, you’re paying $77.48 to $181.48. Remember that number.

Chickens, of course, take a little bit of money to get started. You’ll have to buy a chicken pen (which can range from $100-$2,000 bought ready-made from the store), feeders, waters, and a heat lamp for your chicks. After you get that setup, you only have to worry about bedding and food, which can cost about $7.69 a week if they spend all their time in the coop and don’t eat anything outside.

Let’s say you buy four chicks (which cost $2-$5 a chick). When they start laying, you’ll be getting 4 eggs a day! By the end of the week, that’s 28 eggs total or 20 after you eat your normal 8 eggs for breakfast. But wait, organic eggs sell for $3.49 a dozen remember? You can stick a sign in your yard with “eggs for sale” and sell the extra eggs to get about $6.98. Wow, they’ve almost completely paid for themselves! Now if you add just two more chickens for a total of six chickens and sell the extra eggs, you will have earned $114.31 by the end of the year.

Remember the last number? Where you were paying money for your eggs? By raising your own chickens, you have sustainably produced, ethically raised, organic eggs that are paying you. Even better, if you let your chickens range around your property, they will clean up the bugs and ticks and save you even more money on food. It’s a win-win for such an easy animal to take care of.

There are so many more reasons why people begin homesteading, but whatever reason they have brings them satisfaction, pleasure, and a new lifestyle.

Can I homestead too?

The answer to that question is absolutely. By desiring to support yourself on your own property, you can begin homesteading. Another myth that people have is that homesteading means that you have to completely flip your life around in a go big or go home manner. That is not the case.

If you plant some herbs on your apartment porch, you are becoming a homesteader. If you plant a garden in your back yard, you’re a homesteader. If you buy some chickens, you are homesteading. If you go completely off the grid and can support yourself off of your property, you are a homesteader.

By starting small, you can get to where you want to be and how you want to support yourself. We know that can take a lot of information to know where or how to start. That’s why there are more articles on this topic coming. We’ll talk about how to begin homesteading, how to make your first garden, how to pick what (if any) animals you want to raise, and how to involve your community in the homesteading.

Homesteading is not just about being able to support yourself only if the government fails or our supply system fails (though we have been shown that it’s frail in the midst of this COVID pandemic), but it’s about creating a lifestyle that supports you wherever you are.

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