The idea of starting your very first homestead is crazy exciting, but do you know how to start a homestead? Do you know what things to consider when planning your homestead? If not, no worries! I have put together a list of things for you to consider and work through to make sure you set up your homestead in a way that works best for you!
This list contains things I wish I would have thought about before starting, as well as some things I actually did do! Hopefully, this will simplify your mind, create some peace of mind, and get you started on the right path for your homestead. Let’s get to it!
Homesteading for Beginners: How to Start a Homestead
1// Picking your location
The first thing to consider when wanting to start a homestead is where you are going to live and on how big of a property. If you read my previous post about homesteading on a small property, you will see that you do not have to have several acres to be successful at homesteading. If you plan to have a lot of farm animals that need a good amount of space, you may, but note that it is not always necessary.
I imagine you have an idea of how much you want to care for, but be sure to consider WHERE you want to live. You must pay attention to the zoning laws for that area. If you are in the city limits, odds are your ordinances are going to be different that being in the county. Also, property spaces tend to be larger in the county versus in the city limits – not always, but sometimes.
2// Modern Homestead or Living off the Grid
Do you want to live with modern amenities, or do you want to be completely independent of them? Do you want running water or electricity by way of what your county/city has to offer, or do you want to generate those things yourself?
Water and electricity are two very important components to how “on the grid” you live. It is completely possible to produce these amenities independently if you have a well and solar panels, which means you do not have to pay for city water or electricity that is on the grid.
You may decide that you only need water, but not electricity. Whatever your comfort level is with how modern you live is completely up to you UNLESS your city/county ordinance states otherwise. Again, you need to be sure you check into the laws for where you want to establish your homestead.
3// Choosing which animals you will raise
When thinking of all the animals you can raise, the list can get pretty long! There are rabbits, chickens, quail, cows, pigs, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, alpacas, and the list goes on forever. However, when getting started, it is better to start slowly then add to what you have.
One way to prioritize what you want to grow is prioritizing the animal’s use and expenses. What do you want first? Do you want eggs, meat, milk? Can you afford to feed and care for X amount of animals?
Defining these things will help you get started to see how big of a responsibility each animal is and how much it costs to keep them.
Also consider if they can help create a good you can sell. For instance, selling eggs can help repay the feed bill, while selling a cow or two can help you store one away in the freezer for little or no cost. Do not think of this as a way to “get rich”, but rather as a way to ease the cost of each animal.
My husband and I already had our fur babies for a few years. So to really get started, we got a few chickens, then pigs. Once we butchered our first round of chickens and pigs, we decided to try cows. We still have chickens [currently for eggs only] and cows, but are looking into getting pigs again and possibly some meat chickens. Any other animals seem a bit overwhelming currently, so we are taking our time expanding.
4// Choosing what food you will grow
Now this may seem a bit obvious, but when making a list of the foods you want to grow, be sure to only list things your family actually eats. So often, we get excited about growing things that we just get a little of everything, and we end up growing something we don’t like to eat. Crazy right?
After you make a list of the things you eat, do some research about what it takes to grow these foods, such as space, season of growth, production per plant, companion planting, etc. With all of these details, it is much easier to plan your garden, because you will either have plenty of space to pick a location on the property or you will have to be selective due to not a lot of room.
Having a plan and mapping it out helps you be as successful as possible. Of course, simply planting something does not mean it will grow, so be sure to also think about fertilizers, plant feed, composting, and how exactly you are going to set up your garden.
I may have just given you a WHOLE LOT to work on, but it will be okay. Just take things slow and work your way through it. Starting off small is the best way to ensure that you do not become overwhelmed with gardening, too.
If you have 10 vegetables you would like to grow, try starting with 3 of them for the first year and see how it goes. You may find that you love growing one thing and not the other. But experimenting with it is a big part of the fun of homesteading.
5// Write out a priority list
So far, I bet I have given you a lot to think about. Well this is when you need to prioritize these thoughts. What do you want to accomplish in your first year of homesteading? Do you want to have a successful garden, put meat in the freezer, learn to cook from scratch, or all of the above?
For me, it was all of the above, and it got to be completely overwhelming! There was way too much to do my first year of homesteading, so here is what I suggest. Take this advice with a grain of salt, but it will help you not make the mistakes I did.
- Spend time looking for the perfect property. You may already be on it, or you may have to search for a while to find it. Regardless, do not sacrifice your dream property for something that could work for now. It takes a lot of work to set up a homestead, so try to get it right the first time. 🙂
- Take 3-6 months to evaluate your property. Where do you see having animals, a garden, a project area, etc.? Really get to know your property before establishing any fences. If you put them up too soon, you may find yourself moving them later.
- Prioritize the things you want to do, have time to do, and can afford. You do not want to do all the things all at once. Decide where you want to start, and get to work on one thing at a time.
- Before you establish fences or structures onto your property, mark it off. Use a string line or some type of marking system to be able to see what you think will work. You can only tell so much on paper. Actually measuring it off and seeing it marked on your property will help you decide if your original plan will work or if something needs to be adjusted. I cannot stress this step one enough! We moved our chicken fence THREE times, because it never seemed like they were in the best spot.
- Once you have marked things off, you may decide to go back to the drawing board with your design or to rearrange your priority list a little. This is completely okay! The more time you take in the planning process, the happier you will be with the results.
6// Remember it is okay to move slowly
The hardest lesson for many people to learn is that it is okay to not do all the things all at once. You are not starting a homestead to go broke, become completely overwhelmed with the responsibilities, or to decide this is not for you.
Take your time, conquer one thing at a time, and enjoy the slower pace of things. After all, many people start homesteading to enjoy a simpler lifestyle. Homesteading is not always slow moving, so enjoy getting things set up and established.
7// Connect with other local homesteaders
The internet is a wonderful way to connect us all together, but there is nothing like learning from other local homesteaders. They know what grows best in your area, how to extend your specific growing seasons, and can give you hands on experience by simply offering to help them on their homestead.
Investing in people who have done this for years in your area is priceless, so take advantage of the knowledge they are willing to share.
You can find these people at your local farmers markets, through your local CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), or if they advertise their farm, even better! Sitting behind a computer screen only helps you learn so much, so get out there and experience homesteading from established homesteaders.
So now that you have an action plan on how to start a homestead, I want you to start writing out your plan. Where are you going to establish your homestead? What does your dream homestead look like? What animals and food do you want to grow? etc. etc.
When you get it all written out, please share it with me! I love sharing ideas about homesteading, because you never know when you will find a new idea to try or a simpler way of doing things.
And I realize this may not be exactly what advice you were expecting to hear, but the truth is that starting with a well thought out plan will allow you to enjoy your homestead much more than no planning at all. [Speaking from experience…]
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