Sometimes I brood. Having any background with chickens will probably make you laugh at that sentence. But, of course, I mean it in a human sense: pining, wishing, wanting, not having. I want some land, but wantin’ ain’t gettin’. So, I make do in my 900 sq ft home surrounded by about an acre of LAWN that I can barely touch.
One of the reasons I started this blog is because as a young renter who is just getting started in life I was becoming frustrated with the lack of knowledge to be had on people beginning their homesteading careers pre-property-purchase. Like, y’all, I know you didn’t just decided that your next home would be a homestead so then you saved up a bunch of money the next month and dove head first.
There are so many articles out there about how someone began their homestead from scratch . . . once they got their land. But did you know that a ton of the skills you will need to be self-sufficient you can get started on wherever you are? Yea. Right. Flippin’. Now. You can even start to make money right now, if you’re into that sort of thing.
“How do I get started?” you may ask. Or perhaps you’re over there, sitting in your nesting box, brooding about getting your own land, too. You have some skills, like the homestead-y idea, and want to feel like you’re at least moving toward your goals. I’m here to tell you, you can get started / progress your knowledge and lifestyle in SO many ways. Below you will find a few that I’m really excited about. This is not an all-inclusive list, so any well-seasoned homesteaders reading this, please share your knowledge with us hopeful starters.
Purge the Plastics
Here is one that me and my house are working on currently. And. It’s hard. Currently we are focused on recycling as much as we can and not purchasing any more plastic. The biggest reason you should care about getting plastic out of your life is that it’s bad bad news for our environment. We all already know that already, but how many of us take action to rid our lives of the see-through dead-dinosaur-oils stuff? Also, plastic isn’t good for your body. Yes, there are BPA-free versions of everything these days, but that doesn’t mean plastic isn’t still seeping into your foods and drinks. It’s BPA today, but what will they find tomorrow that’s been slowly poisoning us?
How To: Replace your food containers with glass. Replace your non-stick pans with cast iron. Cut out buying bottled water AND using plastic water bottles (though glass bottles may seem a hazard and non-existent, they are usually covered in some kind of bouncy material that won’t leave you crunching around on shards of glass … and they’re super prevalent in pretty much every store). Quit the plastic wrap and baggy habit (check out Food52’s selection of reusables and beeswax-coated stuff). Opt for wooden toys for kids. Recycle as much plastic as you can! (though some people pay to have their recycling picked up, we actually take ours to free bins behind a local Kroger)
Check out this article for more ideas and thoughts: How to Rid Your House of Plastic – The Plastic Purge
Start Fruit Trees
You know what’s expensive? Paying other people to grow plants for you. If you already buy fruit, then save those seeds! Yes, it can be a lot more work to grow a plant from seed, kind of, but when it finally comes time to purchase that perfect plot of land for your homestead will you want to go blow another couple hundred (at least) to get your orchard started? No! Even if it’s easier, the whole point of this endeavor is to be self-sufficient, to be frugal, and to be resourceful.
Other reasons to get your trees started now: 1. It’s fun. If you don’t think slowly watching plants erupt from a tiny packaging and brown stuff (also known as dirt) then you and I are just different kinds of weird. 2. The first thing you should get going on your land are fruiting trees. Why? Because it will take a little bit for them to get established and start producing fruit. Better to do it now.
Another thought: you could sell your seedlings. Or, better yet, you get your tree into a large enough container that you can begin taking cuttings, rooting them, and selling them for even more. You can also start your fruit trees from cuttings if you know anyone with established plants. Ask first, of course. No one likes to walk outside to find their neighbor with a pair of loppers sawing at their favorite apple tree. Not very neighborly.
If you don’t know how to cook, learn. If you know how, but don’t really do it from scratch, learn. If you make from scratch but you don’t do it that often because life is crazy, just hang in there.
Learn how to ferment foods. Here are some easy ones to get started with: pickles, things that are pickled but aren’t called pickles, kombucha, sourdough. As intimidating as setting out food for a week or two and somehow not ruining it may sound, remember that we humans have been doing it for centuries.
Grow some plants. Even if you don’t have any ground to put them in, you can still use planters and pots. Last year I just used a bunch of old wooden wine crates to grow peppers.
Use all that woodworking equipment you inherited. Yea, you’ll mess up some wood. You’ll build wobbly things. You probably shouldn’t invest in stains or finishers for a while. But how will you learn if you don’t start somewhere?
If you can keep pets, start experimenting with keeping them alive. There are certain animals that are easier than others, like cats and dogs that have evolved to persevere through human stupidity. Fish, not so much. Chickens, I hear it can be tough. Read up as much as you can, and then go get some chicks. They may all get eaten by Rocky Racoon, but I guarantee that the next time you get chicks, you’ll be thinking about how to prevent that from happening again.
Didn’t actually inherit a bunch of woodworking equipment? Go get a circular saw. They’re inexpensive and good for starting out.
Find some books on the subjects that interest you. I thought the internet was all I ever needed, too. Until I started to look through the books at my local book resell store. It turns out, having a physical object which was thought out in an orderly manner and seeks to include all of the information you will need … is pretty handy. I mean, who wants to jump from website to website trying to find out how to make a tincture from your freshly chopped herbs when you could just turn a couple of pages and know exactly where to look? Just saying.
Gardening tools are an easy one. Hit up your mom. Or go to Dollar Tree. Yard sales. Whatever. They don’t really go bad, ya know. Plus, use this stage to get a feel for which tools are easy to use. I borrowed my mom’s hand-tiller for my garden this spring. As tough as I thought it would be, it was actually super easy! I laid down cardboard for a couple of days to trap moisture, didn’t dig down very deep so as not to disturb the sub-soil ecosystem, and was very pleased with the results.
Canning jars, fermenting jars, stock pots, the jar tong things that you need so you don’t burn your fingers when removing your jars from boiling water, functional furniture such as something to be used as a pantry. The list goes on. Find your interests, buy some equipment.
Make Your Own Products
I come from a long family history of intolerance to most fragrances. Making my own salves, lotions, candles, and soaps seemed like a logical remedy to this. But making your own stuff can also be beneficial to your skin and lungs. Not to mention your demeanor. I never used to apply anything to my skin; it was all either too slippery or too stinky. When I made my first batch of udder balm (for my cut-up-hay-arms, not my udders) I was pretty skeptical when I first put it on. Yea, it smelled divine, but ugh, so oily! Then, a magically occurrence befell me: my skin soaked it in! What!? Make your own stuff. You’ll love it.
And this doesn’t just pertain to “beauty” supplies. You could also learn to knit or sew and make some blankets or mittens or shawls. You could also make your own cleaning supplies and garden sprays. Whatever floats your boat.
Reduce Your Footprint
No, I’m not an advocate of foot binding. I meet your carbon footprint! Every day we drive our cars, we turn on our air-conditioning, we purchase plastic products, we turn on our washers and dryers, we turn on our heating, we run hot water, we leave our cell phone chargers plugged into the wall even though our phones even remind us to unplug them. We burn a lot of carbon to do these things, and we get very disconnected from the reality of it because it’s as simple as pushing a button or pressing a pedal. Choose one item from the list above to reduce this month. There are millions of articles out there on reducing your carbon footprint. It only takes a moment to make a change for the better. “Ugh,” you say, “I only will make a tiny difference, who cares?” Well imagine that all but 5 people in your city think the same thing. If all we peons banded together to hold ourselves accountable, wow! What a change we could make. Convince one other person to change their ways, and you won’t feel like you’re not making a difference.
Become A Frugal Buyer / Financially Sustainable
Another thing we all know is bad? Debt and credit cards. And. Clutter. Do you really need another black dress? Do you even wear the other 5 you own? Do you really need a brand new car? Or could you be just fine with a used one? (Side benefit: low insurance!!!) If you have to use a credit card or get out a loan, it’s worth considering whether or not you can really afford said thing. Here’s another thought I just came across a couple of days ago: every now and then (once a month, perhaps) instead of buying tons of groceries, use up everything you can from your pantry. How many cans of diced tomatoes have you acquired simply because you forget while you’re at the store that you already have some? I have several. For those of you interested in preparedness, this would be an excellent exercise in seeing just how well you could cope with the grocery store not being an option.
Alright, this was a long one, but hopefully a good one. Just remember: you already have everything you need to get started on living more sustainably. Good luck, and please share any additions you have to this list in the comments below!