If you picture homesteading as a log cabin in the remote wilderness, and yourself dressed like Ma Ingalls, stirring a cast iron pot over an open flame while hubby walks in with a deer slung over his shoulder, you could be partially right. And you couldn’t be further from the truth as well.
Modern day homesteading is choosing to live more simply, making the most of what you have, seeking a life of self sufficiency, and a desire to reconnect with your food source. You don’t need to live in the woods or on a farm to do this. You can get started today and you don’t need a prairie dress from Target to do it (I couldn’t load pigs on for the abbatoir in one of those dresses, just sayin’.)
#1. Start looking at the foods/ products you eat/use the most of. Then start trying to make one or two from scratch.
With the World Wide Web at your fingertips, you can research anything. Homemade yogurt? Easy. Bread? Make 2 loaves on Sunday to get you through the week. Cheese? Pick something else. It’s kinda of a big deal to make your own cheese that people can actually eat within a year. Except Mozzarella. That’s a great place to start. Homemade Cleaners? So much better. Laundry Detergent? Done like dinner. Homemade vinegars? Put it all in a jar and forget about it.
You can absolutely do this in an apartment, a house, a mansion, or an RV. Just start today with one thing and don’t try to do everything at once.
#2. Contribute to your food stuffs.
It’s the end of Feb, so realistically you cannot start a garden today. But you can use food scraps to start growing things on your windowsill. You can start herbs inside. You can start onions, leeks, shallots, and some lettuces inside to plant outside mid -late April (zone 6A here). You can buy an organic lemon, use the seeds to start a lemon tree. Order a mushroom kit from Happy Caps and grow your own mushrooms. Make homemade apple scrap vinegar. Make beef jerky. You get the point. Just start doing SOMETHING to contribute to your food stuffs.
You will be inspired and you will keep thinking of ways to do this wherever you are. A great page to follow is Humans Who Grow Things. Yours truly was featured on it here: https://www.facebook.com/392657511080791/posts/meet-jenn-from-nova-scotia-canada-i-am-a-mom-of-four-young-adults-courtney-24-lo/1291766887836511/
#3. Pare back to what serves you.
Look around each room in your house. Do you see things that no longer serve you? I do this one all the time. Otherwise, things have a way of creeping back in to your space, and its really hard to be intentional in your living if you are surrounded by plastic from Walmart.
Example, I just did my pots and pans. I took out a whole bag of cookware and utensils that no longer served me. I have 2 good dutch ovens, 3 good cast iron frying pans, a large stock pot, and 3 good pots of various sizes. Done. Everything else had to go to a new home, it was just noise every time we opened that cupboard. Another example is our clothes. Be intentional in what you buy and buy better, not more. Secondhand clothing is cheap and so it’s easy to pile up without noticing. Just buy good pieces, and make them last. Wear them out until they no longer serve you. Then cut them up for rags.
To be a homesteader doesn’t mean I am home making my own clothes, but we can if that’s our thing. The key is the intention around our belongings and our home. It really is so freeing to pare back to only what is serving us well. If we find ourselves mindlessly filling that amazon cart because we don’t feel like we have enough, we need to peel that feeling back to “Why do I think I need more stuff?’ and ” Is this going to help me be a producer in this world or am I just being a consumer right now?” Explore our intentions. And hey, even Ma Ingalls sent Pa to town for pretty things sometimes. The trouble is today there are pretty things everywhere, and we can become numb to consuming.
#4. Look to preserving.
Look in your grocery store flyer right now. What’s on sale? Broccoli? Buy as much as you can at that fantastic price, cut it up, blanch it and freeze it. 50% off herbs in the produce aisle ? Buy them all, and dehydrate them, or make herb pesto and freeze in ice cubes to use on pasta, and in soups and stews. Steak on sale, shoot a deer or get a deal on a half cow? Make beef jerky. Keep your eyes open this week for ways you can preserve some real food.
Here’s what I have learned about preserving : 90 percent of the time its completely worth it, and 10 percent of the time it’s something I could have done more efficiently another way or not at all. BUT regardless, even if I spent an insane amount of time peeling 2 dozen pears for 1 1/2 jars of pear ginger jam, I still have the jam. It’s not a total waste but I should have pressure canned them and had a lot more to show for it. Live and learn.
Search the library for books on preserving. One of my favourites is Stocking Up by Rodale Press. It covers all the different ways to preserve food, and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Get inspired! Once you start with a few things, it gets addictive to see what you can preserve.
Only put up what you are going to use though, and that comes through trial and error. Hello, I have way too many beets canned as my family likes them roasted more than anything. So that means I need to switch to cold storage to preserve more of them as opposed to canning them. It’s a lot of work to preserve food, and you don’t want your efforts to be wasted. I will however use those beets to make our favourite beet relish, so all is not lost.
#5. Start Talking/Reading/Listening about homesteading.
This sets our intentions. No going back now, because we have said it out loud ” What if we start to live more simply and more intentionally?”. What are your goals? Does your family know? Are they onboard with moving towards a more simpler life? Ask them how they would feel about getting chickens/ raising a pig/ having quail in the garage? No one likes to be surprised by chicks in the bathtub (unless you are a child, then that is gold). I’ve done it but I don’t recommend it.
Homesteading is hard work, and if you don’t have a community around you, be it your family or friends or other like minded people, you won’t make it far. Being self sufficient is not solitary work like some people believe. It’s about learning to rely on your own basic skills while surrounding yourself with others who know things too.
Attend events like the Simple East Coast Living Fair to find a community of people who are dedicated to educating others about learning basic skills for self sufficiency. you can attend virtually or in person. Find out more here. https://www.facebook.com/thesimpleeastcoastlivingfair
The best part of living in 2021 (yes, there is an upside, believe it or not), is the world is at your fingertips. YouTube videos from homesteaders like Justin Rhodes, Melissa K Norris, Jill Winger, Off Grid with Doug and Stacey, A Farm Girl in the Making, The Elliot Homestead, The Seasonal Homestead, Simple Living Alaska, and loads more will be of great help/inspiration on all sorts of topics from home butchering, to fermenting to gardening. Podcasts are another great resource: Old Fashioned on Purpose, Pioneering Today, Homesteaders of America, Mother Earth News, A Simple Homesteading Life, Simple Farmhouse Life, Rural Woman Inspired, Living Free in Tennessee are all great picks as well.
Books are always my love language. The library is amazing, and Margold Bookstore in Annapolis Royal is fantastic for all sorts of homesteading and self sufficiency books. Some of my favourites: Homesteading on 1/4 Acre, The Backyard Homestead, Welcome to the Farm, The FoxFire Series, The Encyclopedia of Country Living, The Family Garden Plan, Stocking Up, River Cottage Guide to Preserving and Attainable Sustainable.
Well, that should be enough for you to chew on to start. Wade into those waters, then you’ll be swimming in no time. COMMIT. Homesteading is hard work. Its not all sunshine and mason jars. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s easy for us to make excuses not to do the hard things or to quit when it’s just easier to give into convenience, but the feeling as we master the skills and learn new things truly inspires us to keep going. And raising kids who show fortitude because they have been exposed to it is just the best.
We can live a simple and intentional life, and it’s a life worth living. At least it is for us. You have to figure out your “why”for yourself. But I promise there are loads of us cheering you on and willing to help.