Basics in Homesteading: Where Do You Start?
When the computer crashed it was several months before we could get in fixed and the only connection we were able to get is a very slow dialup speed. It has become hard for us to get back on, so Mark and Erin Harrison have asked to put up a page for us so that we could still help on the post. They are running our page completely but will be something that we personally will write. We send the Harrison's articles that we write and they will type it out and post it for us.
Several years ago I wrote an article about some of the things we learned about living a simple lifestyle. It never got sent to a magazine so I'll use it now. It is primarily to help those just starting out but it should help a lot of people.
First, it takes time. You are not going to be self-reliant in a week or a month. We have been doing it for the 32 years we've been married and seven before, and we are still learning. Think of it as a life-time adventure and it will never grow old or stale.
Every paycheck try to buy one or two items that you will need. Hunt flea markets, yard sales, second hand stores, and even go to auction. You don't need to buy new. Learn how to replace handles on shovels, hammers, etc. and you can save a lot of money. Buy quality-made, they are cheaper in the long run. Most tool that were made 50 or more years ago are better quality then new stuff today. Learn how to use non-electric tools and how to care for them. The satisfaction you will get from using them to make or repair thing does not have a monetary value.
Also, try to buy books that can give you the knowledge and skills you will need. It will be more important than a truck load of food. Learn how to operate a woodstove. Every stove is different, with it's own idiosyncrasies. When you buy, ask whose who already have one to find out which brands to stay away from. A good cookstove or heater is not cheap, you don't want any regrets. The right one will be a life time investment, not an expense.
Learn how to hunt and fish if you don't already. Learn how to cut it up and can or cure it. Learn how to tan the hide. We've had people give us deer, hogs, even a beef. Knowing how to process it can save you big bucks.
Learn what wild plants are edible. Every year Evie cans and dries lambs quarter, purselane, black berries, elderberries, and gathers a sack of black walnuts. We've also learned how to identify mushrooms such as oyster, chicken-of-the-woods, wood ear, and others which are dried. She picks chamomile, and peppermint for tea. We've picked some medicinal plants and dried them also. There's a lot out there just waiting to be used, and it's free!
Get rid of your T.V. unless you are going to buy DVD's that teach you skills like the Harrison's Homesteading ones. You will be having so much fun you won't have time for it anymore, besides, it ruins your incentive and robs you of the ability to think for yourself. Include the children. By making this an adventure, you will be surprised at how fast they will learn. Actually, they will learn faster than you. Look at Mark and Erin's tribe, they're having the time of their lives. Their kids are practically running the homestead.
Encourage each other, everybody likes their moral boosted. Learn to laugh at your mistakes. If you don't have a sense of humor, develop one. It will get you over the rough spots. Expect flak from family and friends. My family has all but pruned me from the family tree. In 31 years not a one has come to see us. Right now your family will think you're a nut case but when the economy goes South, they will be the first ones at our door. Count on it!!
I wrote up a list of rules for a farm. They are basic for a self-reliant lifestyle.
- Do not buy what you can grow or make yourself.
- Do not buy brand names or packaging if you can help it. Buy in bulk and buy scratch ingredients where ever possible. Do not buy on impulse, always ask yourself "Is this a need or a want?"
- Get as much data into your brain as possible. Line your library shelves with books on things mechanical, biological, horticultural, financial, horse farming, seasonal. Be weather wise and market wise. Use as many of the old ways as possible.
- Treat your wife as an equal partner.
- Don't make pets of your farm animals! They are your partners, treat them as such.
- Buy good, used, older machinery and learn how to rebuild and repair it.
- Put back all you take out of the soil and build it up with natural fertilizers, and in abundance.
- The best fertilizer is the seat of the farmer. Every part of your land should have your footprints on it.
- Learn from the Amish-dedication, frugality, self-discipline, and obedience to what they understand as natural law.
- Above all, seek and trust God daily. © 1999 Owen Newman
You will come to the place (sooner or later) where you suddenly realize that you are no longer dependent on the "system" for all your needs. The freedom that this will bring will empower you in ways you cannot imagine.
Here is a quote from a book I more recently read and thought I would share it with you all hoping you can understand that in it's time the book was written, homesteading was more of a standard way of living in the 1890s...
"No farmer or his wife need fear any king (or government) when on every home farm was found food, drink, medicine, fuel, lighting, clothing, shelter." ~Alice Morse Earle Home Life in Colonial Times 1898