When I say the word homestead, what pops into your mind? Is it a vision of vast land, large gardens, and critters everywhere? For some, that is what homesteading is, but I want to let you in on a little secret….
Now this is just my opinion of course, but homesteading is a lifestyle, that can be practiced anywhere. *gasp* Yes I did just say that. My motto is “It’s not the amount of land you live on, but what you do on that land that makes you a homesteader.”
Many times people assume I live on a big old farm. Trust me, I would love to! But sadly, right now I am stuck in a tiny little rural village. People ask, but how can you homestead on ¼ of an acre in a small town!?!?
Some people look at me like I am nuts! And you know what, maybe I am! But I do more on my little plot of land then most folks who have more. We have learned how to cook more from scratch. We have tapped our maple trees to make our own syrup. We have learned how to repair and reuse things. We think long term before we act. Because you see, to me, homesteading is doing more for yourself no matter where you are. It doesn’t need to include livestock, but it can. It is about TRYING to do more for yourself and a better way of life. And I know that might upset someone who says we are just “playing.” But I don’t care what anyone else says as I look at my mason jars of food, collect my eggs every day, peek in the fridge at the bacon we made, or the country ham hanging in my kitchen curing. I love cuddling under the blankets I make and eating the baked good that come from my kitchen. Heck, my Hubby butchered a turkey for Thanksgiving. I guess someone needed to tell that turkey we were just “playing!”
So how can you homestead where you already live?
Learn a Skill
One of the great things about homesteading, is learning new skills. Our grandparents knew so many useful things that, sadly, have been forget in these modern days of technology. But thanks to technology, it is easier than ever to find this information and put it to work in your own life! Whether you are in an apartment or a 100 acre chunk of land, learning new skills can be done anywhere!
Pick something that peeks your interest or appeals to you wild side! We have tried our hands at everything from making cheese to tapping maple trees. No trees you say? Why not try baking or sewing? Heck, I spent months with a ham hanging in pantyhose from my kitchen ceiling because hubby wanted to try his hand at curing meat!
Make it Yourself
One of the most satisfying things about homesteading is making things yourself, taking those skills you learn and putting them into practice! I love making pillow cases, while hubby enjoys making homemade bacon. So what if you first attempt isn’t perfect. Who says what you make needs to look like it came from a store?!? The more you do, the better your projects will turn out. Let me tell you, our first attempt at making cheese bordered on disaster and a possible trip to the urgent care! Our first batch of bacon was a little salty. My first pillow case was a little crocked. A lot of first are a little off, but if you keep trying, you might just impress yourself with what you can do, right where you are!
Get the Right Tools
As with anything you do, it is always advisable to have the right tools for the job. Want to garden? Invest in good tools. Want to sew? Get a decent machine. Like to bake your own breads? Invest in good pans. Nothing spells disaster faster than trying to do a project with the wrong tools. Oh sure, homesteading has a lot of improvising in it, but when it comes to the basics, save up and get quality. You will thank yourself later on. Things like cast iron pans may cost more, but are worth every dime!
Cook From Scratch
I know, life can get hectic, fast. I have the luxury (note sarcasm) of being a stay at home mom. But I also homeschool, which takes a lot of my time. Then there are the critters to care for, the house to keep, and the daily emergencies (I don’t know why we have so many, oh yeah, the country kids) and there goes any extra time to prep for dinner, right? Or you work a long day on your job and when you get home there is no time to make dinner, right? Wrong!
Cooking from scratch, while slightly more labor intensive, with the mixing and the chopping, takes about the same amount of time as preheating an oven and popping in a frozen mystery box of food. And there are benefits to cooking from scratch! Not just dietary benefits, by eliminating a lot of chemicals and preservatives, but developing quality time with your family as they help in the kitchen. Seriously, give your kid a knife and have them help chop. You get quality time, a sou chef and they are learning skills that will benefit them later in life.
But cooking from scratch can be expensive! Yes, a trip to your standard grocery store could end up with a high bill, but think outside of the box, or shopping bag. *wink* If you eat what is in season, you can grow your own food. Not all of it of course. I mean how many people can really keep a cow these days or have the climate for banana trees, but you can grow some of your food no matter where you live.
Just because you live in an apartment, doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own food. Balconies and windowsills are amazing gardening spots. Your backyard is small? Grow food vertically! Who says a garden HAS to be a patch of dirt on the ground!! Have fun with you food….. Try growing something you have never tired. We grew kale one year and it only cost us the price of a package of seeds. I learned two things from that little packet of seeds…. Kale grows great in our climate, and I hate the taste of kale. Blach!
Find what grows well for you, be creative in the space you do have, and enjoy the benefits of cooking with fresh ingredients!
Learn to Preserve Food
Weather you grow your own food or not, learning to preserve your own food is a great way to save money and provide quality food for yourself and your family. But what do I mean by preserving food? Of course there is canning. It is fun, relatively easy to do, and makes you smile all winter long when you see those beautiful jars full of yumminess on your shelf. But there are so many other options beyond canning that can fit your lifestyle. Be it freezing, drying, vacuum seal or fermenting. There are many ways to preserve food.
The wonderful thing about preserving food is you DON’T have to grow it all yourself. If you can grow it, great, but for many of us, there is never a bumper crop. You could buy in bulk at the grocery store, but that can get pricey! Look for locally grown items when they are in season. That is when the stores usually have the best sales. Or better yet, get to know a local farmer! Farmers’ Markets are great places to get bulk, in season food items that you can preserve.
Livestock!?!?! *Gulp* Now I am not saying go buy a cow! Many of us live in areas where it is not feasible to have “livestock” as people think of in the traditional sense. Of course if you live in an apartment, this aspect of homesteading may not be possible. But did you know many folks now have house chickens? Seriously! They even make diapers for chickens. While we tried a diaper for watching cartoons with the country kids, our girls live outside.
Chickens are a realistic means of owning livestock. Backyard chickens provide not only eggs for your table, but bug control and entertainment. Just make sure you check your local laws before picking up some cute chicks.
While livestock may not be for everyone, raising your own meat sources can be rewarding and not just on the dinner table. Knowing that your chicken, turkey, pig or cow has had the best life possible is a very satisfying feeling. And knowing that your meat source isn’t pumped full of hormones and what not is not only good for them, but good for you!
I think what is even more satisfy then doing or living this homestead “lifestyle” is that my children get to grow up learning these “lost” arts. Our oldest loves making maple syrup every year. He enjoys reading seed catalogs and planning for spring. He is learning, hands on, everyday….. important life lessons you just don’t get in a classroom. Our youngest loves to garden and care for our critters and both enjoy helping in the kitchen!
This year, why not try a little homesteading in your life? Don’t be scared, just try and who knows, you might just impress yourself! And don’t worry, I’ll be here to “play” with you, share ideas and we will try new things together!
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