Andy Fleming writing on homesteading

Homesteaders makes full use of the natural resources at their disposal in order to grow their own food…harvest their own water and power…and properly dispose of waste in a sustainable manner. It’s a life of simplicity, hard work, and great independence. Plus, you escape many of the burdens and stresses of modern life.

The most efficient homesteader is one who combines tried-and-true traditional techniques with new ideas and emerging technology. Here’s some ideas that will go a long way in helping you save and make money, produce goods and food, and generally thrive as a homesteader.

1. Get free or cheap land

Land Century

The Homestead Act of 1862, one of the greatest pieces of egalitarian legislature ever written, set aside 270 million acres of public land for settlers. Any adult who had never taken up arms against the U.S. could stake a claim and build a homestead for free. Although the original acts no longer exist, a few state legislations have set up programs to give away free land to interested homesteaders. Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa will allow you to apply for a plot of free land provided you meet certain requirements around building a home of a certain size within two years of staking your claim. If you don’t want to deal with restrictions, consider looking for lots to buy online. Websites like LandCentury and LandWatch allow you to search thousands of listings for ones that suit your specific needs. It’s not uncommon to find small lots for under $1,000, and even 100-acre farmland for under $50,000.

2. Learn to keep bees

beethinking bee hive

Beekeeping is often overlooked as a homesteading skill. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s too difficult or that the potential benefits aren’t worth the trouble. Bees pollinate flowers and produce, naturally increasing their yield, and provide the opportunity to produce multiple homemade goods. Real, organic honey is in high demand and can be sold for a premium at farmers markets. It can even be used to brew mead if you’re so inclined. Honey isn’t the only useful bee-byproduct either. Beeswax has a multitude of uses, not the least of which is making candles, which you can sell or use in your home. Beehives can be purchased for a few hundred dollars or built from recycled materials like old rain barrels, mason jars, or used tires. Beekeeping may also allow you to qualify for an agricultural tax cut. Find your state in this list for more details.

3. Get maximum yield in a small space

How to grow mushrooms

You can grow a lot of food without the need for acres of farmland. There’s a variety of techniques for vertical gardening which are cheap and easy to set up. In fact, many make use of recycled materials and can be built at practically no cost. Another option for growing a lot of food in a small space is mushroom farming. Mushrooms grow explosively, more so than any plant, and gourmet varieties are very popular with foodies. Mushrooms require no sunlight and can comfortably grow in the space of a closet or under logs in your yard. You can build a terrarium out of an old bucket and some coffee grounds and purchase plugs or spores (the “seeds” of the mushroom) for around $10.

4. Raise small livestock

The poultry guide

It’s easy to raise smaller varieties of livestock like chickens and goats and they synergize well with other parts of the homestead. Chickens keep pests off plants and their manure can be used as fertilizer. Fresh, organic eggs and milk are a treat any time of the day and can easily be sold or traded to other homesteaders for a profit. Chicken coops can be constructed from recycled materials or very cheap ones, like pvc piping and wire mesh.

5. Bond with the community

LocalHarvest

There’s a multitude of online communities full of homesteaders trading tips, tricks, and stories. Joining and interacting with these communities is a sure way to gain insider knowledge on what to expect and avoid during your journey. You may even make lifelong friends who share your values and will help you down the road. You can also ask questions and discuss topics on forums like HomesteadingToday. Don’t forget to bond with the local community either. Farmers markets are a good place to start, you can find maps and lists of many local markets on LocalHarvest.

6. Share your experience

Lulu

Homesteading and living off the land is a fast growing trend these days. People are clamoring to know what the experience is like and how to achieve it themselves. If you decide to make the plunge, consider sharing your experience with the online community. If websites aren’t your thing, you can always write a book about your homesteading life and self-publish it through a service like Createspace or Lulu. Another option is to simply teach classes locally on skills you pick up during your homesteading adventures. Again, your local farmers market is a great place to inquire about this.

Image: ©iStock.com/George Clerk

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