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How to Homestead

By Ready Expert
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Homesteading has a rich history in the United States. The idea was used to populate and explore the wild frontiers of our country. However, in recent decades, the idea has transformed into something new. Below, we explain a little about what homesteading is and how you can do it. While you might not be able to apply all aspects of homesteading, there are many activities involved in it that will make you and our family more self-reliant and self-sufficient.


What is Homesteading

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency that typically involves subsistence agriculture, food preservation, creating your own clothing and textiles, and maintaining your own house and property. In history, philosophers like John Locke, wrote about a homesteading principle. The idea was that someone could gain ownership of something solely on the principle that they had labored to make it:

Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person. This[,] nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.- John Locke

In other words, if a farmer used unowned land to plant crops, he owned that food and could sell it as such. Other philosophers have also debated that the farmer would henceforth own that property. This idea crystallized into many capitalist ideas that our society has been based on. Homesteading houseYou may remember reading about the Homestead Act (1862) in history class. The government used the idea to populate new areas of the U.S. The idea that a person could own their own property and become independent from any entity or person struck a chord with Americans. Thousands of Americans pushed forward to settle the frontier and make it habitable for others that would follow. The back-to-the-earth ideals made a comeback in the 1960s and applied these self-sufficient principles to an urban and suburban setting, also known as urban homesteading. Instead of moving to an isolated location, urban homesteaders focus on self-sufficiency while still maintaining their relationship with the community. In recent years, the idea has resonated with people who worry about their dependence on the economy. Instead of putting their trust in a government or entity, they have moved to a more independent economic situation.


How to Begin Homesteading

Gather Supplies. Homesteading is about being self-sufficient, that means being able to have all the tools, home-space, clothes or materials that you’ll need. Don’t think that you have to have everything in storage that you’ll ever need for the rest of your life. You’ll be able to use items to barter or trade. Many items will be self-sustaining and be able to be sold later on down the road.

Plant a Garden. The garden is a perfect example of an income. With a permaculture attitude towards gardening, you’ll be able to plant once and sow for years to come. Be sure to have land and space to store your food once you’ve harvested.

Have Food Storage. The trick to homesteading is to be able to have food when you need it. Growing your own food in the garden That could mean canning your foods out of the garden or using freeze-dried foods that last for 30 years.

Reuse Items. One of the easiest ways to be self-sufficient is to save money by reusing items. It could be as simple as making old clothes into blankets or using baking soda for other uses besides cooking. Most of the time, it comes down to creativity and how you imagine things being used. Feel free to peruse our DIY section of the blog to see if you can find any ideas that will save you money.

Raise Animals. One popular activity in homesteading is to raise animals that will provide you and your family with food. Chickens and rabbits are a common animal that are easy to care for and provide eggs and meat to your family. Many animals, like llamas or sheep, can also be used for their wool and be used to make different items. Others even produce herds of livestock enough to sustain their family.

Alternative Energy. Homesteaders often refer to using alternative energy as “living off the grid.” It’s a great way to be self-reliant and not have to depend on power companies or others for electricity to your home. You can purchase solar panels and generators to power your home. That way, if there’s ever a power outage in your town, you’re already set.


Where to Homestead

Previously, homesteading was all about the location - far and away. However, homesteading has morphed into the idea of being self-reliant and sustainable. Therefore, you can really be a homesteader anywhere that you want. You probably will need a larger supply of land if you plan on raising animals and gardening. But to be able to reuse items or live off the grid, you just need the right supplies. While the government no longer sponsors any homesteading initiatives, you always have the option to purchase that is far and away. Many people are setting up makeshift homesteads in lightly-populated areas of Alaska and the Midwest.


To Be Continued... We’ll continue to post articles on how to improve your homesteading efforts, including how to use alternative energy, multiple uses of items, food storage, raising animals and more! What would you like to hear about first? Comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d also love to hear your stories about homesteading? Are you a homesteader? What difficulties have you found? Comment below!

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1 year ago
11 years ago at 4:09 AM
With 3 acres, in zone 7, would goats be a good idea? Have no zoning restrictions.
Deborah Eastin
11 years ago at 4:27 AM
Alternative energy is a great idea. It could easily become a real need for everyone.
11 years ago at 5:07 AM
As a clarification, The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 ended the "homestead" in the lower 48 states and in all states in 1986. The occupation of lands not personally owned, without permission, is illegal in all states. A very few states offer the sale of remote, state owned land during public and sealed bid auctions.
11 years ago at 5:33 AM
I'm interested in living off the grid (or at least be able to lower my electric bills significantly). A bad ice storm a few years ago left our entire county of Missouri without power for 1-3 weeks depending on where you lived. It's the event that got us started prepping seriously. We've been talking about putting in a wind turbine of some kind, but I really need more information about how to get started.
Andrew Moore
11 years ago at 7:11 AM
Something for folks to research is when a property is abandoned in some states and if someone pays the taxes on it for seven years (maybe more in some states)...they can become the legal owner. Might not be a true example homesteading but an interesting fact for folks to look into.
11 years ago at 7:43 AM
Thank you for the really great information, and ideas! Keep more re-purposing ideas coming, as well as suburban "homesteading" information and how-to's coming. We will, of necessity, be "homesteading" in our suburban home, so keep sharing all the help you can give us.
11 years ago at 8:46 AM
Homesteading is such a new concept. 200 years ago it was called, "Home". We need to get back to the basics. After all, what's more important: the latest toys or family?
11 years ago at 9:29 AM
don't look at Tourist destinations . The Cool places are so expensive and regulated that it's hard to make them livable . Look at places in SE Kansas, NE Oklahoma where the ground will grow something , winters aren't bitter . People escaping from California and the east coast haven't contaminated the places with their ridiculous ideas.Firewood is plentiful as well as water. Land prices are reasonable.
11 years ago at 9:50 AM
Cheryl What animal species would you choose if you could have only one form of livestock? @Ready Store re:topics...preserving and storing meat for long term storage.
Cheryl O.
11 years ago at 10:09 AM
I think I would take chickens if only one animal was possible to keep, though I have to say dairy goats are a mighty close second. You can eat chickens as meat and the eggs are valuable, plus a broody hen or two and a rooster can perpetuate the flock forever if predators or disease doesn't get them. They can forage for food most of the year keeping feed costs at a minimum. Same with goats; instead of eggs obviously, the milk is useful in many ways but not as plentiful as you would want for several months of the year. I guess I'd go with chickens.
Cheryl O.
11 years ago at 10:14 AM
I would probably keep chickens. The dairy goat would be a mighty close second though. But looking at overall cost of feeding and maintaining, as well as usefulness, chickens are a really good investment.
11 years ago at 10:18 AM
Reid, About your comment "People escaping from California and the east coast haven’t contaminated the places with their ridiculous ideas." Some of us are now "from" California because we're tired of those "ridiculous ideas". Please don't lump all of us refugees in with those who have ruined California with their "ridiculous ideas". Thanks.
11 years ago at 10:31 AM
I too have raised everything from goats to cattle and homestead for years. The easiest to raise for meat is a chicken. The chicken will graze on it's own, find the minerals it needs and will eat just plain wheat berries. I buy wheat berries by the ton at around 200 dollars per ton right out of the combine for winter feed. I raise a buff Orphington which roosters weigh in at 8 to 10 pounds and hen 6 to 8 pounds not to mention fresh eggs. If I wish for meat then deer or elks! People need to learn how to grow and can their foods as he old ways have been too long gone and many have no clue how to survive.
11 years ago at 10:50 AM
I think the place to start is with the land. 1. Where does one find suitable, available, affordable land? 2. What should one look for in a piece of property? 3. How much land is enough? 4. What are hidden title, code or other legal issues to lookout for? These questions are close to home for my wife and me because we are in the middle of our own search for a homestead. Thank you.
11 years ago at 11:14 AM
Readers Digest published a "Back to Basics" book that is fasinating to read...and relatively simple instructions for all sorts of things. Used book stores, library used book nooks, and ebay may have copies. Heck, it may still be in print and easily ordered from RD. It's not the encyclopedia of rural living but it's a great way to get motivated / started for those who have never been exposed to such things.
11 years ago at 11:50 AM
I would be interested in some info on raising chickens and rabbits in Alaska i.e. types of shelters and feed for them. By 'feed', I mean if you couldn't go to the feed store and buy it. Thank you.
11 years ago at 3:55 PM
Living on a boat could be a form of "homesteading" as well. It offers the opportunity to move to a better climate when the need dictates. Fish are a good source of food that require no feeding, only finding and catching. Anchoring out instead of living in a marina, is a way of living aboard inexpensively. There are communities of live-aboards in both the sail and power catagories. They are usually very helpful in sharing information with those interested in that lifestyle.
11 years ago at 6:03 AM
We moved to a 35 acre farm a year ago. We are only renting so that we could find out if we wanted to homestead. We started with a garden and chopping wood. It was a lot more work than we ever envisioned to keep the wood stove going. We survived our first MN winter and it was a rough one. We learned that manure is our friend when it comes to gardening. Our garden this year is doing far better and is lush and green. We have worked up to living here. For 20 years we gardened and honed our skills and our knowledge. We can make our own soaps, bottle anything we grow including meats. Our animal husbandry skills developed over time with chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and now we own milking goats. All of these animals you can eat. We have traded work for beef from a neighbor. This summer we are raising free range broiler hens. 100 is our max. We are kind of burned out on that one ha ha! Yes, know your limits! We love this life and will begin looking for our own property to homestead. This was the best way to know for sure that we are meant for this life. It is the most fulfilling happy life. Our faces hurt from smiling some days. It's been a joy to live here. Dream big but be practical and don't give up on the toughest days. Your gonna love it!
David March
11 years ago at 11:00 PM
Everyone needs to be ready for those interruptions to service. Seems they are a CERTAINTY for a number of reasons, and it's not clear just how long they might last, depending on the proximate cause.
Don Ira
11 years ago at 6:56 AM
I took out a homestead on my home and lot. It is only 137' x 50' with a 24' x 70' 3 bedroom 2 bath double wide mobile home. I didn't quit understand the gross amount I could claim in the homestead,it was less than the value of the house and lot. Can anyone explain the formula for declaring homestead values?
Name Withheld
11 years ago at 12:35 PM
A scientist on the George Noory show said how extremely fragile our modern world is. It does not take a rocket scientist to see what he means by that as many of us have experienced even a simple breakdown of something modern can make it worthless in an instance. So yeah, "homesteading" sees to me a SOLID alternative as well as way of life. Afterall, it was the ancients way of life and had they not survived no one would be here, right? An idea whose time has come - again!