I have worked on farms and homesteads for many years now, and I’ve seen the success and failings for many people who are just trying to make there way. Nowadays I spend my time, educating myself, researching, and helping others achieve their homestead and farming and permaculture goals while also getting my own homestead up and running!
So I want to take some time to highlight one of my favorite youtube channels. If you aren’t already following dirtpatchheaven on youtube, you absolutely should. This is one of my favorite channels, as I just really love her perspective on homesteading.
This is one of my favorite videos of hers because she brings up a lot of really great points. Most of the things in this video are things that I reiterate to my clients. Even if you have been, a homesteader for a long time, you should never stop learning and trying new things if your system may not be really efficient. So here is DPH’s youtube video for her Top 5 Tips for Beginning Homesteaders.
So here is my top 5 list for homesteading, (I’m really going to do my best to keep it at just five!)
Number one! Write everything down. Get a homesteading journal. A notebook, or my personal preference, a three ring binder so that you are able to add or take out pages. There is so much to say about writing stuff down. Things you’ll want to keep track of, and will NEED to keep track of to minimize making mistakes, because honestly, a homesteader has to wear many hats, and do many jobs, and it is VERY difficult to remember everything.
I could write a small book about what you need to write down and why and I will likely be making a youtube video regarding what you want to keep track of. But I’ll list some things here: A map of your homestead, diagrams of your garden and property, your short and long term goals and a realistic timeline for their completion, instructions for building projects like fencing, small buildings, & water systems. Seeds & plants; where and who you purchased them from, seed varieties, when & where in your yard you planted them, your yield at harvest times, (you can keep track of them on excel sheets and I’ll be talking about that process at a later date) any and all animals you have on your homestead or farm, where and who you purchased them from and how much you paid as well as the date you bought them. An estimation of the animals age, the breeds you are keeping, their health records, husbandry/breeding records, as well as the amount of product an animal might provide while on the homestead; milk, wool, eggs, meat, pelts. Save receipts and keep track of what you spend and earn. Journal daily happenings around the homestead, make sure you put the date on everything you write down.
That’s my short list on what you need to write down, lol. I am really happy to elaborate on any of these things if you guys have questions just ask in the comments.
Number two! Research everything. I know doing something you’ve always wanted to do or something new can be really exciting. But don’t put the horse before the cart. Research everything! Research will save you so much TIME and money. But the number one thing you’ll always wish you had more of when you are working on your homestead, is time. Invest your time in doing your homework before you put your time and energy into something.
For example, if buy a $300 bread machine if you’ve never made a loaf of bread before, you might find that you don’t like to make bread, that for the amount of bread you’re going to be making, a $100 bread machine is more than enough, or that the type of bread you like to eat or make doesn’t even require a bread machine.
If you are just starting homesteading, and getting out of the consumer rat race, you may still be in the mind frame, that bigger and more expensive is better. That you HAVE to have the top of the line, brand name item. And sometimes, that might be true. But, what homesteading should be teaching you is how to spend conservatively and how to be resourceful and patient for the things you need.
Another example; Someone is selling a goat on say, Craigslist, and you’ve always wanted a goat, and this goat is really affordable. And you go and buy this $50 goat. And now you have it, and now what? A lot of homesteaders jump the gun on acquiring animals quickly, like, as soon as you get your land. And sometimes its great to be able to get your animals on the property since that is a big deal for a homestead, like getting the animals makes you self sufficient and all the other homesteaders will take you seriously now, lol. BUT this is a huge red flag. First of all. Don’t buy just any old goat, or any old farm animal off of craigslist or hoobly. I wrote a paper on that for school and will post it in a few days detailing when and how to effectively purchase animals on Craigslist. This is a newbie mistake to make, if you know what you’re looking for, and what to ask, this could be a huge benefit to score a cheap animal. But you could end up with an expensive mouth to feed with very little or no benefit if you were trying to buy a milk goat and it doesn’t provide milk. Sometimes, a low price tag can be a red flag for many reasons. But I digress, I’m getting sidetracked.
Lastly, research your construction projects. If there is something you want to build or make, and you aren’t sure how, before you guess your way through it and wind up spending an extra $80 in materials and the gas to drive to the store two or three times, and the TIME you invested in a project. If you had spent an hour looking into it, asking others for help or even recognizing that the project is too big for you and seeing that you either need to find another solution or pay/barter for someone to come do it for you. There is no right answer per say as to how you complete the project, but doing some research first will undoubtedly save you from your eager self.
Number Three! Infrastructure on the homestead. What am I talking about indeed… So what I mean is first and foremost that you have planned out the space you need, the number of paddocks and buildings and storage and planned ahead to leave space for these things that you might need in the future.
If you already have a homestead with a garden and some outbuildings and some things already fenced in, you may feel a bit limited on what you are able to do if you are trying to add animals and aren’t sure how to proceed. But if this is a roadblock for you, then surely there is in fact a solution. You might feel like you are taking a few steps backwards if you have to pull out fencing that you just put in, or something of that nature, but truly you could benefit from this. But every situation is different and with experience you will start to see what needs to change.
Now not every homesteader gets to start with a blank slate. You might have the amazing privilege to decide where ALL of your fencing is going to go, where you are going to put your garden, how many paddocks you need for the amount of animals you are going to want. This route may be a lot more work, but there are many benefits as well.
Now here is an example, a real life example of one of the homesteaders that I occasionally do work for. They recently moved from one property to another property. They brought some of their animals and essentially downsized. Now. They have plenty of space for the animals that they have, but when the added an extra paddock, they added it on a low point, on a slope that leads to a creak. They only have one other paddock to move animals to and that paddock also has animals. So truly they don’t have any other paddocks to rotate animals to. Not only that, but in just 3 months, that paddock’s grass is gone. It is a mud slick and nothing grows there and paddock number two isn’t in much better shape.
Because this paddock that was added is on a slope and near the bottom of the slope, all the water, settles there. And the two paddocks they do have, do not connect at all. Leaving them with little options and the stress of not being able to rotate to keep the property alive.
This person is an experienced homesteader, and I would hope that they will be proactive in the future about correcting the infrastructure on the property so they have space for all of their animals and get a quarantine pen of some kind. Really basic and important stuff.
That being said, you on your homestead will need to make good decisions, that you have thoroughly researched and planned for.
If you have the option, when you first move on your homestead, before you start planting and tearing up the place, observe. Figure out the places that the sunlight hits the most, where water pools on the property if it rains, or floods and then once you know these things, you can start putting in permanent structures. But if you’re determined to get started, try a cattle panel green house or cheap greenhouse to grow, something you can relocate. If you want large animals, consider portable electric fencing, a chicken or rabbit tractor or a mobile hutch or coop.
Number Four! Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose. This seems a little silly, like maybe it doesn’t belong on a top five list of most important things a beginning homesteader should know, but this is and should be a fundamental practice of any efficient homestead, something many homesteads practice. Not only will this save you money but it helps the environment by not being wasteful.
This means, being frugal, like shopping at the thrift stores for some things that you need, taking some beat up old shirts and turning them into dust and cleaning rags, or a reusable bag to carry your groceries home. Taking the plastic bags that are used at the grocery store and turning them into plarn to make a more sturdy plastic tote, or a sleeping mat for the homeless, or use them and animal feed bags to insulate a barn or shed.
Oh, and my personal favorite, pallets. I love pallets. I love them. But. When I suggest to other people, that they should try pallets to build something, to make something on the cheap, I have had people laugh at me and ask me if I’m seriously suggesting that. Buuut pallets, old wooden fence panels, old unrotted boards are a great idea and a great way to salvage and build structures, and fencing or buildings, on your property.
There are ways that you can get plants, mulch, stone, firewood, and building materials all for free. A lot of the times people are just throwing these things away. A lot of coffee shops give away coffee grounds that you can add to your compost or give to acid loving plants. If you also keep an eye out on Craigslist, and talk to your neighbors and others in your community, then you will find that they are a lot more inclined to check with you first to see if you want something.
Don’t let anything go to waste, even kitchen scraps. Turn extra fruit into jelly or fruit leather , save onion peels and ends, and other veggie bits to add to bone broth, save mushroom stems for mushroom powder to add to beef stock and other soups, and feed scraps to your chickens and pigs to save on animal feeds.
There are HUNDREDS of ways to save money by repurposing items you have on hand or can get free or cheap. There is absolutely no reason why any homesteader should be going out getting everything brand new. I mean, hey, wouldn’t that be great to have money to do just that, but the truth is very few homesteaders are set up to do that.
Well, here we are, at number five already. There are still so many things I want to tell you about what is important! I wish I could go into every single detail about every single thing. Gosh, I should have done a top ten. Alas, I think that I’m getting a little long winded and I don’t want to lose whatever attention I do have. I hope that the topic that I picked stands on it’s own and isn’t a sub category for say, research or infrastructure. If it feels that way, let me know, I’ll change it. Its not as though I can’t think of other things to stress the importance of.
And lastly Number five! Set up labor free, low maintenance systems that will run themselves so you can invest your time elsewhere. Some examples of this would be permaculture gardens and food forests that mostly maintain themselves, building gravity fed animal watering systems that don’t need to be refilled daily by harnessing rainwater collection, investing in solar power to maintain your electric fence, and lights on your barns, sheds and walkways. If you live in area where water and pipes freeze easily, you may want to invest the extra money in water bins that heat up and keep the water from freezing. The less time you have to spend on chores that have a simple solution that handles itself, the more time you will have to focus on other projects.
Bonus Tip!!!!!! Do not EVER devalue your time. There is nothing more important than your time. Time is the most scarce commodity that you have, it disappears the fastest, and seemingly faster in cold winter months. Just because you think you are saving a few dollars, by wasting hours or days on a project, you are forgetting that your time should be considered the most expensive part of any project that you are doing. Make sure that the money that you are saving or the projects that you are working on are worth your time. All of the things you are creating on your homesteads should be an investment in your future. As yourself: Will this save me time? Will this save me money? Will/Does this make me happy?
These three things are so important. If you are doing a project on the homestead, most projects should hit at least two of these three categories. So just be smart about the investments that you make.
Thank you so much for reading! As always I am here to help so please don’t hesitate to ask me questions!
What are your best homestead tips? Comment below! I’d love to hear what you’re thinking!