Homesteading: Living a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle
Many people want to do their best to go as green as they can. Using energy star appliances and renewable energy is a great start, but have you ever thought about doing more? What about living completely off the grid, growing your own food, on your own land. That is what homesteading is. If you have every played the survival mode of the video game Minecraft, it is basically that, but in real life. And if this is something you are considering, you’ll find all the basics and other ideas to get you going.
So, what is homesteading anyway? Well, homesteading is “a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing and craftwork for household use or sale.” An extreme example of this would be the way Amish live. Own their own land and farm crops and livestock for their own use. Most also craft items for sale or personal use. However, in modern times, homesteading can be achieved much simpler. Modern homesteading is basically, living a self-sufficient life. Most homesteaders, have their own personal definition for the term, all centering around self-sufficiency.
If you think about it, homesteading is not a new idea. It is actually a very old practice. Before the advances in technology, people built their own houses, grew their own food, sold handmade items. Think of the pilgrims, they had very little when they first arrived in the New World. They had to work for their own survival. In fact, there are many villages all over the world who do this.
In modern society, our lives are ruled by many factors, job, technology, money, etc. However, you can start homesteading and living sufficiently even in your own NYC apartment.
Types of Homesteading
When it comes to homesteading in modern times, there are several different ways you can go about it. You can homestead in an apartment, an urban homestead, and then small or large scale homesteads. Of course, the traditional homestead is the large scale, with a lot of land, cabins and shacks, space for animals and crop fields. But nowadays, that is fairly difficult to accomplish.
Now it may seem impossible to take the image and ideals of a traditional homestead and translate that to an apartment. However, it is a good idea for those of you who want to be self-sufficient while keeping most of your modern lifestyle intact. It is also a pretty good way to save money on produce and other food items.
First thing is starting a garden. Now even if you have a dinky small apartment, all you need is an open windowsill with access to sunlight. With some tinkering, you can turn it into a small garden where you can grow any number of vegetables, fruits or herbs. You can get a long flower bed container or individual flower pots to grow your crops. If your landlord allows use of the roof, you can even start a slightly bigger garden or greenhouse.
Next thing you can do in your own apartment is raise livestock. Now I know what you are probably thinking, “how can I fit a cow in my apartment?!” Do not worry, you don’t have to get a cow. If your building allows animals, easiest animal you can raise is chickens, hens to be specific. This is because hens, of course, lay eggs, which you can then eat. Only thing you have to worry about is the smell.
Lastly, and probably the easiest thing is preserving food and cooking from scratch. Canning or freezing whatever food you want is a great way to make sure it does not go bad quickly. Even if you do not grow your own crops, you can stock up on whatever you need and preserve it in your home. Cooking from scratch is not just a magical talent that all mothers have. It is simply using the raw ingredients rather than using pre made mixes. For example, making pancakes with flour, eggs, butter and milk instead of the mix in the box. This is also much healthier for you, as well.
Homesteading in an urban or suburban basically uses the practices from apartment homesteading and enlarges them. Whether it is in a studio apartment, or a suburban house, homesteading can be done easily. If your house has a backyard, it will be much easier to create a decently sized garden, able to grow just about anything you want. Also, depending on your local laws, you can also start raising more livestock. Chickens, rabbits, whatever your laws allow. However, of course, it is much harder to have to kill the animals and prepare them yourself than buying the meat from a store. This is why homesteading is much simpler if you are vegetarian or vegan. Surely, no one jumps at the idea of having to kill the animals you raise. Unless you are a seasoned hunter and have done it your whole life.
Urban homesteading, which pretty much includes apartment homesteading, also includes participating in community gardens, or working with a group of people with different talents. In this life, it is much easier to be accomplished in a group than on your own.
Small and Large Scale Homesteading
These types of homesteads are the ideal, picturesque homesteads. Good amount of land, renewable energy, crop fields, livestock, the whole works. On a small scale homestead, you will most likely find an area of two or more acres, large garden, orchard, a greenhouse or two, and an area for livestock such as rabbits, chickens, ducks, goats, even cows.
Most traditional homesteads use solar energy to power their homes. If possible, geothermal heating is a great idea for the winter months. Not only are either of these options a great renewable energy source, they also help reduce the effects of climate change.
No matter what type of homestead you decide to go for, the key feature that binds all of these practices together is self-sustainability. Partial is better than none at all and is a good start to homesteading.
How to Get Started Homesteading
From reading all of the different types of homesteading, you have probably found yourself in one of the categories. The question is now, how can you get this party started? When thinking about how to begin homesteading, you must think outside the box. Be creative. Look around your life and ask yourself the question, “could I save money on food? How?”. Whenever you buy something, think about how you could achieve your goal without it.
From reading the process behind an apartment homestead, you know that you do not need a lot of land to be a basic homesteader. Just some space for a small garden where you can plant general vegetables and herbs to use for yourself. This is a great way to becoming self-sufficient. It is also a good way to save a lot of money on produce.
Another great idea if you really want to get into the world of homesteading, is reading. Check out blogs and articles about homesteading (like this one). See what others are doing and where they are doing it. You may get some ideas from them. Making friends also helps. Starting off on your own can be difficult. Doing it with a group can make the process seem easier and more manageable.
Of course, gardening and raising small animals is a good way to start homesteading, but there is more to it than that. There are some skills that will be extremely helpful to learn and master to make self-sustainability much easier for you.
- Canning to preserve vegetables and fruits. This is a great way to naturally preserve fruits and vegetables so you can eat holistically all year.
- Composting. Instead of throwing out any organic waste, put them in a compost. You can then help your garden a good deal by fertilizing with compost tea. Just do not drink the tea.
- Homemade remedies. Instead of relying on expensive creams and pills, you can find many ailment cures around your kitchen. Egg whites for burns, garlic and lemon to boost immune system and many more.
- Know the seasons. Certain plants will not bloom or produce fruit or veggies unless it is a certain climate outside. Plant smart, depending on the seasons.
- Save your seeds. Most fruits and vegetables will have seeds inside them which you can use to grow more and more. Soon you will have an infinite supply of food.
- If you have a large scale homestead, it will help to learn how to drive a tractor. Farming equipment will be crucial to maintaining and harvesting your crops when it is time.
- Learn how to use your environment to your advantage. There are many wild herbs that can be used in medicine. Just be careful and make sure that you are definitely using the correct plant. You do not want to ingest poison ivy because you mistook it for spearmint.
- If you are not vegetarian, hunting will be valuable for you. Learning how to take down a deer or rabbit and preparing them will be a need to know.
- Learn how to milk a cow or goat. Raising animals can be more than for meat. And most of the time, people rarely kill the animals they raise. Cows and goats can be milked. That milk can be made into cheese or regular milk.
- Learn how to fish. Fish are a great source of nutrients and vitamins. They are also much easier to prepare than deer.
- Washing without a machine. Since power is a fickle thing, learning how to wash your clothes on your own could prove useful.
- DIY cleaning supplies. Instead of using cleaning supplies that are full of chemicals, you can use natural ingredients to clean your world.
- Make your own greenhouse. Since many places experience some kind of winter, a greenhouse will ensure that you are able to grow your food all year long.
- Recycle and repurpose everyday items. Many plastic and paper items that have been used already can instead be turned into something else. Use your creativity! Cardboard is a great start.
- Learn how to use renewable energy. Solar power is a great option for homesteading, compared to water or wind. In fact, many government entities are offering discounts and reimbursement for the installation of solar panels. Also, using geothermal energy to heat your house in the winter is another good idea.
Many other skills and ideas will come to you as you start homesteading. You may also get ideas from other people who are doing the same thing you are.
If you are still on the fence about wanting to start homesteading, it is alright. Plenty of people are right there with you. It is not for everyone and can be difficult at times. However, homesteading is extremely good for the environment. Being self-sufficient is a great way to also cut back on your energy use and reduce your carbon footprint. So if this is something you are interested in, talk to the people around you and others who are in the homesteading community. They may be able to help you get started.