Homesteading with no outside income? Yes, it’s possible. It may be hard..but it’s possible.
It’s only been a few years since we left our “Corporate America” jobs and decided to jump head first into farming, dairying and self-sufficiency. We are still learning and changing but we wish we would have done it sooner. The most common question we get is “how do you do it?”. Well, here are 11 tips to help you along on your journey.
- Purge. If you really think about being self-sufficient, there is a lot more in your house then you really need. You probably don’t use a lot of things, and when you are self sufficient most everything needs to be usable. With that being said, purging can also go into other things such as cable TV, fancy phones or that Netflix subscription (sorry, guys). You really don’t need that $80/month cable plan just so you can watch a few shows, do you? It may hurt at first, but cut off your unnecessary expenses. (hint: check your local library for free DVD rentals or join a movie rental text club to get free movie codes! shop around- there are cheaper cell phone plans available, who run off the same towers as the “big guys”, and don’t have contracts!)
- Be Intentional. You’re living off your farm now…it’s time to really think about where you want to go from here. Do you want to raise sheep? Or maybe goats? How about starting a dairy (hey- we did it!)? Will you sell what you are raising, make homemade goods to sell, or just live for self sufficiency and survival? Take the time to really think about where your passion lies, pray on it for guidance and discernment, then make a plan and focus in on your goal.
- Accept that your plan will probably change…it just will. There will be bumps in the road, or you may decide that pig farming just isn’t for you and that you like cows better…whatever the case, just accept it (and listen to your gut and God!). Change is not a bad thing- it generally means that something much better is on the way- so embrace the change and move forward without looking back! Remember, this entirely new lifestyle is all about change and making a better life for you and your family.
- Get Rid Of The Animals That Don’t Make You Money. I know, that may a bit harsh. But, this has become more of a “business” now…you can’t be spending money to feed animals that do nothing for you. That cute rabbit with floppy ears may not be the best to keep. Maybe you should generously offer it to a young person just getting started with animals? Your giving spirit will be rewarded! If you still want rabbits, why not try meat rabbits so you can grow your own food?
- Grow your Own Vegetables and Fruit. This one really is a basic if you are going to live off your Homestead. Your garden is more important than ever- you will want to make sure you are growing it in well fertilized soil (your animal manure helps out here!), and grow only things you know your family will eat. There is a great book called Country Garden Wisdom and Know-How to serve as a resource!
- Raise Your Own Meat. This is a good learning for the entire family- no, chicken tenders do not come from the Walmart stock room. A farmer actually raises the chickens, so why not you? When you raise your own there is no doubt about what they have been fed and what you are eating. If you aren’t so sure about butchering, start reading one of the many books that are available through sites like Amazon. I particularly like The Ethical Meat Handbook.
- Learn to Preserve Food. Once you get the hang of growing what you are going to eat, you will be faced with preserving it for future use. These are skills that can be passed down through generations. I learned to can from my grandmother when I was a teen, and even though I didn’t use or need that skill for over 20 years, it is something I use regularly now! So learn it, teach it, and share it! Books that have really helped us are the Country Living Encyclopedia books and Country Wisdom. But there are so many more!
- Don’t Overwhelm Yourself. Okay, easier said than done when you start thinking of living a self sufficient life. What I mean here is simple…..don’t take on more than is feasible for the size of your “work force”. When we first started there were three of us. We took on every animal, task, homemade good, and farmers market we could find. It was great to work together, but it was tough and all we did was work. So eventually we had to figure out how to balance work with leisure.
- Have Some Fun. This is so hard when you are working together, at home. Someone is always coming up with a new idea, a new chore, a new focus to think about. It is imperative that you set aside time each day for everyone to have some quiet time. We also try our best to set aside one day each week that we can take a short road trip (in between milking times) or do something just for fun. We don’t always succeed, but it’s important to know we have intentionally specified that time.
- Persevere. This may be the most difficult of all. There are definitely days that you are going to want to throw in the towel. Homesteading is a challenge in itself, but homesteading with no other income hits you with additional burdens and stresses. How do you cope? Follow our steps above for starters, and then just listen to your gut, pray a lot, and lean on your community for support! This is a chapter in your life- it most likely won’t last forever, so focus on and enjoy each and every moment.
- Create a Community. This is so important! You will need others who are doing the same thing to learn from, share experiences with, cry with and laugh with. Seek out folks in your nearby area that you can meet up with in person. Use the internet and social media– a lot! When you have your down time, hook up with Facebook groups and blogs (like this one!) that will help support and educate you. And if you can’t find one, create your own group on Facebook like we did with Southeast Dairy Cattle Exchange. We also created a Facebook page for our farm. It’s a great way to get to know people and share your story!
So where are we on our journey? Now that we are down to just hubby and myself (do our kids really have to grow up and get married?!), we are back to step #3- accepting that our plans are changing. There is just no way the two of us can do everything, so we are revisiting our basic philosophy and goals for the homestead. Our homestead is not going away, and the basics will stay the same, they just need some adjustment! And those cute little rabbits we had…..well, a young man at church sure was happy to receive those floppy ears to love and care for!
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