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What (And Who) You Need to Know Before You Start Homesteading

So you’ve decided to homestead. You understand how relying on external forces (doctors, power grids, grocery stores, etc) makes you vulnerable. Great! But where do you start? As a seasoned homesteader, I have the experience of more than a decade researching, reading, studying, experimenting to help guide me. In this post I’ve collected the ultimate list of the things (and people) I wish I had known about BEFORE I started homesteading!

My belief is that a self-sufficient life is a better one. Being in control of your own food, your own water, your own power, your own health is so much better than relying on others for your health and safety. Because at the end of the day, no one is going to care more about you and your family than you are.

My idea in writing this post is that if I could go back and give myself a self-paced Homesteading study guide, this would be it. Knowing what I know now, if I could walk someone through everything they need to know to homestead, this is what I would give them.

So I’ve broken this post up into the various areas of self-sufficiency: 1. Food (including gardening, livestock, and preservation); 2. Electricity or Living Off the Grid; 3. Herbal Medicine; 4. Money; and 5. DIY Skills.

Homesteading Food

Food is a huge part of homesteading. It’s something every member of your family needs, at least three times a day, and it can make the difference between health and disease, or spending $500 a month at the grocery store, or growing/making it yourself and saving $500 a month. “

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Gardening

I first started listening to gardenerd when she was just a podcast. Tons of information about everything – all types of plants, compost, bees, trees, etc.

The Back to Eden documentary was my introduction to permaculture and no-till gardening. This documentary only touches on this deep, vast subject, but it’s a great introduction.

No-till gardening and deeply mulching your garden beds like in the Back to Eden method reduces the amount you need to water, it grows the soil as the woodchips decompose over time and suffocates the weeds. So doing this simple gardening method should reduce your watering and work load immensely!

I’ve converted all of my gardens to no-till Back to Eden gardens and will report back on my success after the next growing season.

After you’ve watched Back to Eden documentary, check out The Soil Will Save Us:

MIgardener is a Michigan-based garden youtube channel run by Luke and his wife Sindy. All about organic, sustainable gardening, they put out new videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. With over 350,000 subscribers you know their videos are informative and entertaining. I love how friendly and accessible their information is.

Justin Rhodes – I love this guy. His back story is that he was diagnosed with chronic Lymes disease, so he began a journey to “hack” every aspect of his homestead. Every step he took was painful, so using permaculture techniques and experimentation he created a system, using chickens and pigs, to do most of his work for him. Below I’ve added his “how to cute your chicken feed costs by 100%” video, but be sure to check out all his videos.

He and his family embarked on a nation-wide tour of American farms called “The Great American Farm Tour” and documented the entire journey. They’ve also done 100 days of real food, and I highly recommend his course Permaculture chickens for anyone who has chickens or are thinking about them. If your budget doesn’t allow it though, definitely check out his blog and youtube channel for TONS of great info!

Which leads me to my next subtopic – livestock:

Homestead Livestock

There is hands-down no better blog for backyard chickens then Lisa Steele’s Fresh Eggs Daily. She’s got lots of great info, including egg-based recipes, but be warned – you will get severe coop-envy.

Homesteady is one of my favorite Youtube channels. They’ve got individual playlists for each type of livestock animals to get you started and make you confident enough to grow your own meat.

Do you want a step-by-step formula for raising livestock for home consumption as well as profit? I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend Joel Salatin. He shows you exactly how to make his chicken tractor, exactly what he feeds his chickens, the workflow and decision making he uses in his operations and shares his mistakes so you can learn from them. I’m lucky enough to have this veteran farmer in my backyard, but his books are the next best thing – and there are tons of them.

Food Preservation

My go-to blog for home canning recipes is SimplyCanning.com. I have been using her recipes for years and have never had a failure. Her newly updated website is so easy to navigate and includes canning recipes, pickling, freezing, etc. 

Townsend and son runs a great youtube channel on food and life in the 18th century, including a lot of great preservation techniques that (obviously) don’t include a refrigerator. Homesteading often mimics the lives of our fore-bearers and we have a lot to learn from life in the 18th century.  

And of course the golden standard for canning is the Ball Book of Canning. A lot of people are nervous about home canning, and doing it correctly. The Ball Book of Canning is the go-to guide for safe, tested canning recipes and instructions.

Fermentation

Fermentation is not only the means by which we create delicious alcoholic home-brews, but was originally a way to preserve foods. Fermentation includes lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut, and kimchi, as well as water kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, mead and beer. Fermented foods are an important part of a healthy diet and can provide the good bacteria in our gut what they need to promote health, improve our mood, and help us fight cancer!

The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course by Herbal Academy

For the beginner fermenter, I highly recommend Herbal Academy’s herbal fermentation course. I had made apple cider vinegar before (hard to screw up) but the idea of making fermented foods or herbal beers or meads was very intimidating. Herbal Academy’s fermentation course is full of instructions, printables and videos that gave me the confidence to try it myself…and that confidence has opened the world of fermentation to me.

If you’re more experienced than a beginner fermenter, I recommend Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation. While it goes into a lot of detail on the science behind fermentation, and gives a ton of AMAZING recipes, it doesn’t exactly walk the beginner through the steps. It’s a great book if you’ve fermented before, or aren’t afraid of failure.

Electricity of Living Off Grid

When talking about living off grid, the people that come to mind are Doug and Stacy. They have a fabulous Youtube channel that covers everything off-grid and homesteading – from livestock, gardening, water catchment, solar panels, etc. They have over 700 videos and I couldn’t pick just one, so check out their intro video and their playlists to find whatever interests you:

Another fantastic couple building their off-grid getaway is Pure Living For Life. This young couple’s personalities and enthusiasm is addictive, but like Doug and Stacy, they cover so much more than just living off-grid. Make sure to check out all of their videos:

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has a huge place in my heart. I (and my family) have been failed by the modern medical industry time and time again. I have found a few (read: less than 5) good doctors. The rest have costed me years of pain, unreasonable medical bills, and a few have done more harm than good. That’s where herbal medicine comes in. While herbal medicine can’t fix a broken bone, it can support the body to heal itself.

My very favorite source for herbal medicine education is the Herbal Academy. I’ve taken all of their short courses, their intro course and am currently in the middle of their intermediate course. They provide so much information, not only about herbs, but about anatomy, wildcrafting, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayruveda, and stress management. And every unit has additional recommended readings if you want to take your herbal education to the next level.

Herbalism Courses for all levels

If Herbal Academy isn’t your cup of tea (get it??) check out Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.  I haven’t taken any courses from them, but I have friends who have and they love them. 

Another hugely popular name is herbal medicine is Rosemary Gladstar. She is the leading author and authority on everything herbal medicine. I have a number of her books and always refer back to them when I’m in need of a remedy.

Homestead Money

The best place to start when it comes to getting a handle on your money and getting out of debt is Dave Ramsey. His baby-steps are so simple-stupid that they seem totally obvious at first, but I still find myself going back to them if I ever wonder what to do.

Early Retirement Extreme is another blog that I love. It’s not for everyone, but the idea of pinching pennies now to never have to work again…that’s an idea I can get behind. Learn from it, or just read for entertainment.

In a similar vein, check out Go Curry Cracker’s Never Pay Taxes Again post. The post is old now, and tax brackets have changed, but the foundational idea is awesome – and one I’m striving towards.

“If you’re looking to make money from your homestead, I recommend Joel Salatin again. His books “You can farm: The entrepreneur’s guide to start and succeed in a farming enterprise” and “Your successful farm business: passion, profit, pleasure” give you unparalleled guidance on making a living off of your homesteading property.

If you want to check out a list of ways to make money on your homestead, take a look at my post 28 Ways to Make Money Homesteading or How I Made $800 a Month on Social Media. But my biggest making money from home secret is my 9-5. I am a SharePoint developer who gets to work from home. That means my commute is .2 seconds long, I can go work on my garden during breaks and lunch, I can throw dinner in the crockpot between answering emails. How did I learn SharePoint? Lynda.com

Lynda.com is amazing. It’s my secret weapon. You don’t have to be techy, you don’t have to learn to be a SharePoint developer to enjoy working from home. Lynda has vidoes on EVERYTHING. Become a photographer, accountant, musician, blogger, social media manager, freelancer, or simply learn life hacks and productivity tips. The traditional membership is $25/mo, but I’ve found that a lot of libraries now have partnerships with Lynda that will give you access for FREE. Simply google “[your library] lynda” and see if your library participates.

Or, if you’re really interested in earning passive income from a blog (like this one!) I cannot recommend Dare to Conquer more. I’ve bought all the bundles, all of the top blogger names’ courses but none of them gave me more advice than “write what you love, and write it often”. Scrivs at Dare to Conquer walks you through building an online business, of which your blog is only a portion. I can tell you that after I started reading/listening to his lessons, I completely re-evaluated my blog, made some minor changes, and am seeing HUGE results. This blog is well on its way to replacing my full time income. And I’m not the only one – hundreds of bloggers (and some pretty big homestead bloggers) have reported the same results. And the most valuable part is the Slack community of like-minded bloggers to lean on. Scrivs can explain it better. Check out Dare to Conquer

Homesteading DIY Skills

Cabin Building

Holy crap. Whether you’re planning on building a log cabin from scratch or not, this kick-ass woman built her own home, from a kit, for next to no money. I adore and admire Becky. Check out her playlist on how to build a cabin and after that check out all of her videos on chickens, homeschooling, money and life. 

Woodworking

Ana-white.com is my favorite site for free wood-working plans. Her plans are downloadable in PDF, offer a cut sheet and recommended tools to use. I’ve built a chicken coop, headboard, and more from her plans and they always come out great.

Knitting/Crocheting/Anything Craftsy

Craftsy.com is my favorite place for learning anything even remotely artistic. I didn’t learn how to sew or crochet or do anything like that growing up, but I had always wanted to. A purchased the crocheting course and the videos were brilliant. They have courses on almost anything, and their prices are very affordable.

That’s all I can think of for right now, and I feel like it’s enough. This list represents 100s of hours of homestead education. If you’re frugal, watch the youtube videos and check the books out of the library. If you have a little money to invest in your education, look into the courses I’ve recommended.

As I come across new resources I’ll be sure to add them. Make sure to bookmark this page or save it as a Pin so you can come back often and check off what you’ve done.

But most of all, leave a comment below. Have I missed anything? Or anyone? What subject do you want to learn more about? 

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Katie

Wednesday 12th of December 2018

I would definitely recommend Journey with Jill (https://journeywithjill.net/gardening/) and her podcast, The Beginner’s Garden. Also Melissa Norris (mellisaknorris.com) and her podcast, Pioneering Today. And Reformation Acres and The Prairie Homestead are great homesteading blogs as well.

Lauren Dibble

Wednesday 12th of December 2018

You’re on to my secret! I’m writing a separate post on homestead blogs I love! I’ll definitely be adding these. Thanks for the suggestions!

Elizabeth Flannery

Wednesday 12th of December 2018

I love this, Lauren! Sharing!