Making the decision to get back to the land can be a big one, and overwhelming when you start to work out the details.
Sure, homesteading may sound simple and peaceful, but there is a lot you need to know to get started.
If you are out shopping for that perfect homestead location, don’t rush into the first property you see. Unless you are inheriting an existing family farm, this is going to be your first and most important decision, so make it carefully.
First of all, how much space? To really have a thriving homestead, you’ll need a bare minimum of 5 acres.
Anything smaller than that won’t allow you the space you need for gardens, outbuildings or animals.
Granted, if the budget is tight, you can definitely enjoy a smaller parcel – but it may not be as productive as you’d like given the lack of space.
A property between 10 and 25 acres is a good homestead size. Blowing the budget so you can buy a huge 100+ acre spread may be tempting but you will need those extra funds to get things up and running.
Don’t waste your money on more land that you can effectively use.
Next, you’ll need to consider the state of the property and its location.
What’s the condition of the house (is there a house?), what kind of soil does it have, are there open areas for fields, and take a look at water sources too.
To be fair though, it’s unlikely you’ll find a truly perfect place for your homestead. Be prepared to compromise in some areas.
Animals or Not?
A traditional homestead would have some collection of livestock, such as a small flock of chickens along with a few pigs, goats, or even a cow.
It goes without saying that animals can add a great deal of charm and value to your homestead, providing eggs, milk, meat and even just manure for the gardens.
They also add a whole new level of work and expense.
Cats and dogs may be part of a good homesteading plan too, as guardians and rodent control.
Even if you have the space for pasture, there will still need to be some supplementing with grains or other feeds, not to mention barn maintenance costs and vet fees.
You may want to consider holding off on animal additions until you are somewhat established and ready for the additional work.
Business or Pleasure?
Are you looking to homestead as a change of lifestyle, or are you hoping to turn it into a business that earns its keep?
It may not matter right at first, and you can approach this to various degrees as your farm operations develop. But you will want to make a decision at some point.
A personal goal will mean you should choose crops and animals based on your own family needs, whereas a business approach means you should make these choices more based on what you can sell for a profit.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
As tempting as it may be to ditch the 9-5 grind and start your idyllic new life, you shouldn’t immediately quit your job in order to be a homesteader.
Or if you do quit, you should find another form of employment to keep the funds coming in as you work on your new farm.
People often feel that it costs next to nothing to homestead because you can grow your own food, and your simpler life has fewer expenses.
This may be slightly true in some ways, but you will not be able to survive financially on your new homestead as you are getting established.
There can be a lot of expenses, such as seeds, animal feed, tools and equipment, and a range of miscellaneous supplies you probably won’t even know about until you need them. Insurance and taxes will be a regular expense as well.
A steady income can make a big difference in keeping your fledgling homestead growing.
Better be Flexible
Nothing ever goes to plan, and that is what you need to be ready for.
It will rain when you need it to be dry, and be dry when you need rain.
Animals get themselves injured, and buildings somehow need unexpected repairs when you can least afford it.
It can be quite a roller-coaster, and being able to go with the flow of things is vital.
Not only the problems, but the good things of homesteading can also come unexpectedly. Plan on being ready to handle a few bushels of tomatoes when you think you may only get a quart.
Abandoning plans and taking a new direction is not a sign of failure, just a smart way of handling homestead quirks.
Though you most definitely should do some reading on gardening, home renovations, and animal care before you begin, you should realize that the best training will come as you get things accomplished and as you make mistakes.
Don’t expect to have everything mastered through research alone, and don’t be intimidated by the idea of going into some projects without any experience.
The first year or two is likely to leave you feeling quite lost but after you’ve lived through a few seasonal cycles, you’ll have a better handle on what’s going on, and hopefully, have learned through doing.
Even with all these serious decisions and potential sacrifices, there is no denying that there is a deep satisfaction that comes with working with your hands and producing your own healthy, natural food.
The sense of independence, self-reliance, and pride can’t be measured and can change your life.