Small Homesteading: The Beginner’s Guide
Small homesteading is a great place to begin the homesteading experience. With all the concerns regarding food quality, it is important to know where your food comes from.
My husband and I both grew up growing, preserving, and enjoying our own food. We now have a small homestead of around five acres.
Since we’ve been married (almost 20 years now!), we consistently have a garden, raise some animals, and attempt to learn from the older generation. Homesteading comes with a lot of trial and error, and I hope to share some tips we’ve learned along the way.
One property we had was just a very small yard but were able to raise enough to feed our family pretty well for an entire year! It requires some hard work and dedication, but the joys of knowing that you have contributed to caring for your own family in such a personal way make it all worth it.
What is homesteading?
Homesteading nowadays is not the traditional definition of the government giving away land in exchange for people working the land to earn it.
Homesteading means many different things to different people. In my mind, small homesteading is making a home while trying to be more self-sufficient.
Some common misconceptions people have about homesteading are that you need a large acreage to be successful. While that can be true if you are planning to raise large animals and you want to feed your animals with your own land, it is not necessary.
If you have a windowsill that you can place a planter on, you can get started!
How to get started
Start SMALL! I can’t stress this enough. If you are brand new and have never grown anything, start with one thing in a container.
Herbs in containers are a fantastic way to get started. They take up a small space and can be placed on a balcony or just outside somewhere. You’ll be surprised that even one herb plant can produce more than you can use. Learn about herb container gardening here.
As far as starting a backyard garden, use a tiller to break up the ground and amend your soil if needed for your garden spot or build raised beds and fill with good soil. My hubby is a stickler for straight rows so he uses a string attached to two stakes at the end of the rows and uses a hoe to make the line to plant seeds or his pepper plants. (If you’re trying to decide whether to use plants or seeds in your garden, check out this post)
If you have space for animals, again start with just one or two to learn how to care for them before branching out. I highly recommend beginning with plants and produce before branching out to animals. You can have animals even on a small homestead. We only have chickens, cats, and dogs right now but would love to get started with goats one day.
Tips for Success in Homesteading
- Start small. Pick your favorite herb and learn how to grow, care for, harvest, use, and preserve.
- Be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes along the way. Some years are just better for some crops than others. It’s all part of the process.
- Don’t give up! the crop that didn’t do well this time may be your best one next time.
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What is the first thing I should do?
- The first thing you should do is plan. Plan the size of your project and research what you want to begin with. Whether it’s conatiner gardening, starting a backyard garden, canning your food, raising animals, or just baking your own bread, these homesteading skills can all be learned over time. Pick your number one thing to focus on and master before moving to the next thing.
Do I have to have a large acreage?
- It depends is the most concise answer. You can homestead anywhere! An apartment, balcony, small yard, five acres or less, or hundreds of acres can all be the right size for homesteading.
What are the best animals to have?
- The first animals I would try would be chickens. Depending on the breed, chickens can be very docile and good layers. If you are looking just to have eggs for your own family and are not looking to sell them, three or four would be plenty.
What do I need to do to prepare the ground?
- Preparing the ground needs to start in the fall. If you till ,that is the time to do it and add any natural fertilizer. If you apply natural fertilizer (aka manure) in the spring, you could burn up your crops.
What is the easiest thing to grow?
- I find the easiest things to grow in our area are peppers of all kinds. Although, my sister said she always has difficulty with peppers. But we’ve grown and sold bell peppers, banana, peppers, cayennes, habaneros, and Carolina Reapers. My hubby makes a fantastic hot sauce that everyone pretty well loves.
What is the easiest thing to preserve?
- Preserving onions, garlic, and potatoes are pretty straightforward and don’t require canning, blanching and freezing ro dehydrating unless you just want to.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Homesteading
- The main thing to know about small homesteading is that it can be accomplished in a very small space, even a windowsill can get you started. You decide what works for you. Starting small and being patient are key when beginning.
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