On August 31, 2007, we moved to our homestead permanently. Because our plan for achieving our homesteading goals really has not changed much, I've decided to leave the content of this page as it was written on May 31, 2006, with a few minor edits to bring it up to date. Below is that content, with those edits:
Even though our desire to get back to basic living was strong, we really struggled with the steps we needed to take to get there. We were, after all, accustomed to living a fairly "soft" life for the past many years. Even though we were both born and raised in rural areas of this country, much of what we learned watching our parents and grandparents work the land or provide for us in the true country living sense, has been replaced with an easier life our parents struggled to make for us.
What we have learned is that the "easier life" comes with a price - it comes with dependence on others to provide our most basic needs. The convenience of trading money for skills, services, and products all but eliminates the desire or need to maintain the skills necessary for self reliance.
Below are the steps we're taking to become more self-reliance and self-sufficient:
Eliminate all debt
This is by far the most difficult and most important step. We’re not there yet, but we are working toward it. Homesteading involves a lot of hard work and that can be very time consuming, but we need at least minimal income to pay the electric bill, property taxes, food items we can’t grow or supply on our own, etc. The goal is to work to live, not live to work. Keeping monetary commitments to a minimum is crucial, and doing this involves becoming debt free. This has been our biggest challenge, and we are working on it.
We gave up carrying balances on credit cards a long time ago. We destroyed all but two of our credit cards, use those only as necessary (on-line ordering often requires it), and charge only what we can pay in full when the bill comes due. I would say this is the first step in becoming debt free - eliminate credit card debt.
We also began severely limiting our purchases to those items we feel are necessary when we began our homesteading. These items include tools and equipment that are required, or are very helpful (back hoe, saw mill, variety of hand tools, etc.).
We've also taken small steps to decrease the amount of money we spend each month, which allows us to make extra payments on our mortgage, with the goal of owning our homestead outright as quickly as posssible. These small steps include hanging clothes on the line to dry (rather than using the electric dryer), adding a wood burning stove (rather than heating with electric or oil), growing and canning as many vegetables as possible, hunting for the meat we eat and preserving it, building and using a rain barrel to water gardens, etc.
If you are the "homesteading type", chances are you have skills that may bring in a little extra money to help eliminate as much debt as possible. As an example, I make and sell home made soap and bath products. Bernie can make a little extra money by selling fire wood. There are a variety of options available to industrious and eager homesteaders. Every little bit helps.
Acquire the necessary land
Homesteading requires land. The amount of land necessary depends on your specific desires and needs. We wanted land that would provide enough space for a garden that would sustain us and a small scale live stock operation. We also wanted land that provided an opportunity to hunt and enough space that allowed for as much privacy as possible. We purchased 65 acres a few years ago with the intent to eventually retire there. When we decided to homestead before retirement, we had already acquired the land necessary.
If you have not yet accomplished this crucial step, it is one you will need to tackle. As I said, the amount of land necessary is an individual decision and I have read from some who have started homesteading with as little as 1 acre of land. Whatever you decide is sufficient for your needs, my advice is to make certain that land comes without the restrictions typical with "covenances". You don't want to be limited to building only structures that require pre-approval, prohibited from owning live stock, prohibited from hunting, etc. Find a rural location that comes without restrictions for the type of life you want to live.
What will we call home?
Putting a home on that land involved a couple of choices for us. We could either build it, or we could purchase it. Since we were both working full time when it came time to deciding on a home for the homestead, we could not afford the time necessary to build a home, but we could afford to purchase an inexpensive one. We decided to find the least expensive option for our situation. We purchased a very small, double-wide mobile home, and had a septic system and well installed. This adventure depleted our savings account, but we felt it worth worth doing this to allow us the advantage of beginning our homesteading with a place to live and being able to focus on the out buildings we needed, the chicken coop, the garden, etc.
Your situation may be different. You may decide that building a home is your only option or this is what you choose to do. Many have done this, living in tents as they work to build a home. Everyone's beliefs and situations are different. I can only tell you that choosing this method allowed us to realize our dreams of homesteading as quickly as possible.
If money is an issue for you, compare the cost of building your own home to buying a pre-manufactured home, such as a mobile home. You may be surprised at the quality and inexpensiveness of these homes today. If you live in the mid to south east portion of the country, check out Giles Industries.
This is probably the most exciting question we face! We are working daily to realize our dream of becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant. Check back often to see how we are progressing. And be sure to subscribe to our blog for regular updates on what we're doing on the homestead.