What exactly is homesteading? It is not to be confused with claiming a homestead exemption if you are a homeowner in some states, which protects the value of your principal home from creditors and property taxes. If you are thinking of Ma and Pa Ingalls and a little house somewhere, you aren’t far from the truth.
Originally, the term was used to encourage young families to settle in new towns that were being built in the West following the end of the Civil War. Later, it was used to refer to disillusioned urbanites who were fleeing corporate jobs and crowded cities in search of an authentic, self-sufficient life on the land.
Homesteading is not only being able to provide for yourself and your family by living off the land, it can also be providing a living for yourself off the land. While that sounds like circle thinking, it is basically being able to grow enough food for your family, and then some. It can provide an income from selling canned foods, excess vegetables, fresh eggs and meat from chickens, goats or rabbits. You can also make money from textiles such as knitted items, home-sewn quilts, wool yarn, or just about anything you can imagine or create.
To Quit Your Job or Not, That Is the Question
Before you say something you regret in a two-week notice to your boss, first consider why you want to. While it is possible do full-time homesteading, doing your homework first will make your transition smoother if you do decide to make the leap from corporate board meetings to chicken coop hen meetings. Many families who make the choice to start homesteading full time have been growing small gardens for many years, or have even been considering homeschooling their children.
When doing your homework and considering whether to stay in your existing home or move to the country, first decide how it will impact your budget. You may decide to take baby steps with only one wage-earner leaving their job if both of you work. Weigh the advantages of not just cutting your income in half, but also if cutting your expenses in half will be beneficial. If you will be making and selling food items, especially meat or milk, be sure to investigate food safety laws in your state or community, including whether or not your small neighborhood home is zoned for livestock.
A Penny Saved
In addition to cutting your expenses in half by limiting mileage on your car and spending less money on gas, lunches out, and other work-related expenses, you may be able to save even more by reducing your carbon footprint. If you can go off-grid as much as possible, your savings can multiply to the point where you could be making money selling energy to your electric company rather than paying them. Solar panels are no longer an idea for the future, and you’ve probably seen them already, as well as wind turbines.
Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?
Apart from gardening, growing and canning food for yourself and family, chickens are an easy step into homesteading with just a rooster, one or two laying hens and without a lot of land necessary to raise them. They may also begin to earn their keep if you occasionally let them loose in your garden, where they will quickly eliminate any bugs or other pests threatening your crops, as well as providing natural fertilizer to compost into your soil. You will find that as you learn more about your pets with benefits, you may want to also begin raising ducks, quail, turkeys and other birds.
I’m Ready to Make the Jump, Now What?
The obvious answer would be to grow wings and fly, and that is exactly what most new homesteaders do. Find resources for learning from other homesteaders, farmers and blogs. Ask questions, and be open to accepting constructive advice from more experienced homesteaders, as well as feed and seed stores. Most of all, make it fun. You won’t win at leaving the rat race behind if you don’t slow down enough to watch the snail races.