Your Guide To Modern Homesteading
When you think of a homestead, you may imagine a glorious farmhouse sitting on acres of land with rolling hills, pigs in a pen, chickens in the backyard and an orchard full of fruit trees. While this fits the definition, you don’t need a huge amount of land to become a homesteader.
Whether you have an urban backyard, a tenth of an acre or one hundred acres, homesteading is for anyone passionate about slow, sustainable and self-sufficient living.
Here’s everything you need to know about homesteading in the twenty-first century.
What is homesteading?
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency – but the definition is broad. Some who live in the middle of a city, grow vegetables and compost their scraps may consider themselves homesteaders. But a homesteader may also live one hundred per cent self-sufficiently – growing their vegetables and even sourcing their energy. They’re at opposite ends of the scale, but they’re both considered homesteaders.
Homesteading is founded on the grounds of subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food and sometimes, the production of textiles, clothing, or crafts to be sold or used in the home. Homesteaders may even choose not to use money, and instead exchange goods or make everything they need. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to homesteading in the twenty-first century – you can take what suits you, and adopt small changes in your lifestyle.
Benefits of homesteading
Start whenever, wherever
Homesteading comes in all shapes and sizes – you don’t need acres of land to get started on the basics. If space is limited, begin with growing herbs on a sunny windowsill, or plant a veggie garden in a corner of your backyard. You can also compost your food scraps to make soil and use it to help grow your veggies. The key is to start small and do what you can with the space you have. Over time, you’ll learn how to adopt more practices into your space, or perhaps you’ll love the idea of self-sufficiency so much, you might trade in your urban pad for a farmhouse and land.
When it comes to homesteading, there’s hardly a limit on how self-sufficient you get. Make your clothing, grow your herbs for medicines and even source your power through solar, wind or water.
Provide for your community
Homesteading can feel like coming back to our roots, when people used to swap apples from their trees for eggs from a neighbour’s hens, and everyone supported each other. Sharing fruit, eggs and other products from your garden can give you a real sense of community involvement.
Save waste and money
There’s no denying that the way we consume is a problem in our society today – vegetables come wrapped in plastic, clothing is made with harmful textiles and food comes not quite as nature intended. Taking matters into your own hands gives you full control – you can pick your vegetables from the garden so they’re plastic-free, chemical-free and fresher than supermarket vegetables. Make your clothing to minimise your personal carbon footprint and generate your power to save on your next bill.
Backyard homesteading for beginners
A beehive is a wonderful addition to any aspiring homestead. You’ll need an appropriate space – somewhere outdoors where your bees can face north, protected from southerly winds and with shade in the summer. In New Zealand and Australia, you’ll also need to register hives with your local authority before you start.
Beekeeping requires a lot of hard work and knowledge, so it’s recommended you educate yourself as much as you can, spend time with experienced beekeepers and consider joining your local beekeeping club before you start.
Chickens are a wonderful addition to any homestead – large or small. They provide free-range eggs, which are tastier, cruelty-free and perhaps more nutritious than store-bought eggs. But beyond that, chicken manure is a wonderful fertiliser to use in your homesteading veggie garden, and chickens are great at keeping unwanted pests away like mosquitos and other insects.
If you want chickens and bees on your homestead, they can coexist together – just don’t place the chickens right in front of the hive entrance, or your bees may feel threatened.
Similar to chickens, ducks will provide your home with nutritious eggs, duck meat if you wish and protection against unwanted insects and pests around your home. Ducks may also eat your weeds, meaning less lawn mowing maintenance for you. Like chickens, duck manure can also be used as a fertiliser for your garden.
- Veggie gardens, herbs and fruit trees
The best thing about growing your own herbs and vegetables is that you don’t need a huge amount of space. You can grow herbs easily, even if you’re confined to a small city apartment – just find a sunny windowsill and some little pots. And there’s no limit with growing veggies – if you have the space, you could plant seasonally every year and never have to go to the supermarket again. Bees are a fantastic addition to the veggie garden, and getting started in beekeeping can certainly help to improve your veggie garden as bees will pollinate your crops and increase your yield! If you're looking to take your veggie garden to the next level then adding bees to your garden is a fantastic way to do that.
- Preserving fruit
If you want to be fully self-sufficient, you can preserve your fruit and vegetables so you have organic healthy produce year-round. Stew soft apples, turn berries into jam or preserve summer fruit in jars to last the winter. You can also try drying, fermenting, pickling or freezing fruits and vegetables so your cupboards are plentiful all year long.
Homesteading for everyone
No matter what your living situation is, with a bit of research and preparation, homesteading is suitable for everyone. Even if you’re not going for full self-sufficiency, you’ll save yourself money, reduce unnecessary waste and contribute to a more regenerative society.
Take a look at our otherblogs for more tips and tricks on beekeeping and self-sufficiency.