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Old 04/22/05, 02:25 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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Question Cost to start a homestead

I'm was never meant for City life, but unfortunely I was born in New York City.

I'm 32 years old and trying to live a simple, self reliant lifestyle. I find that it's very expensive to break free from this materialistic lifestyle.

Can help me with information on how to start a homestead with about $5,000. I will be building a small two room earthbag building but the land, solar power/water/sewage. When you add all this up it's very expensive.

I would love to hear from others that started out with little money that would be great.


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Old 04/22/05, 03:05 PM
mamajohnson's Avatar
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: North East Texas
Posts: 5,782

hmmm,,, that is quiet a question. Solar is very expensive to get going, but cheaper in the long run....
Your best bet is to start cutting back now. Light oil lamps, and forgo the lightbulb, see how it feels. turn off the a/c and heat, rough it.....
I am serious, dont laugh! challange yourself to live as cheap as you can. Cut bills, cut credit cards and pay them off quickly.... forage your food (I mean wild stuff, not trash cans) plant a patio garden..... raise a few bunnies and eat them.....
We inherited our land, and my dad had a mobile home and cabin here, so it was a bit easier.... but, things come one at a time. When I had the extra cash I bought the chicks, scrounged wood and built the coop and brooder...
Accidently ran across rabbits for sale, skipped groceries and bought them.
Then took the hand saw, cut the trees to build my pen.
As time rocked on we have added.... each bit of money goes somewhere. No such thing as extra money.... We work hard,and do without,,,, one irs return went for the tiller and building supplies, next year it went for a farm truck, another year it was a water tank and pump...
ya know, it just goes on.
Expect to do without. The first summer we were here the pump to the well ditched on us. So, since dh was still working in another town, I built an A frame, hung a pulley and bucket and bailed. Wanna know how heavy 3 gal of water is at 80 feet????
Point being... I bet no matter how much money you have, it will be hard. Just do what you can and dont sweat the small stuff. If we would have had that much when we started, WOW!
I think I moved here with 5 kids and a couple of hundred dollars. The van died when we pulled into the yard, and I just pushed it out of the way (still there too!) So, I was here 5 days a week, alone, no vehicle, no phone, nadda...
It happens. You cope. You live, and work harder to make it better.
Good Luck!

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Old 04/22/05, 03:13 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: VT
Posts: 988

We work other jobs to make ends meet and the homestead grow. We are looking forward to getting out of everything else and just working the farm. How much money... I could have started with 100,000 and the homestead and probably still would have been looking for change. We have built a barn, fenced the property, bought chargers for the fence and handles and insulators and staples. We bought the lights for the chicks and the grain feeders and waterers. We have a truck so we can move hay and deliver to neighbors to make more money as we go. We have layers and sell eggs, chickens and sell them, turkeys and beef cows - all of this was built from just one thing.

You have to find some cheap land that is workable and cut corners now. Start doing what mamajohnson said. It is amazing that you can live on so little and actually be poor but be so rich!


Its a good day, I woke up on the right side of the grass.

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Old 04/22/05, 03:16 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Michigan's thumb
Posts: 14,538

Are you still in NYC? It's a very expensive place to live. Where would you like to live? If you are interested in any place near NY, it is going to be expensive. $5,000 won't get you a piece of land. Research places and find somewhere you think you would like to live. Find a job in the area and live in a real small town while you save up the money to buy your land. While you are living in town you will get to know people and make a couple of friends.

There are other ways to save on energy without going solar. For instance, our hot water heater not only heats our water, but also our house. Local codes are also a consideration when you want to do something different. In some areas you would not be allowed to build a straw house. Our inspector would not let us use the type of water heater we wanted, or a system that would allow us to use the heating tubes for cooling. You may not be able to burn wood or corn. There may be a minimum square footage for new homes. I didn't get to my place in the country until I was almost fifty. Good luck!

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Old 04/22/05, 03:19 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: TX
Posts: 2,302

5K? WHOAH!! Lol. Ok, so I wasn't flush when I started, but here are some of the things that we did when my then husband and I moved to 20 undeveloped acres.

Housing: At first we had one 15' camper, the kids slept in that and we slept in a tent. This was in Montana in April, it was a bit nippy at times, lol. Later we built a house that was almost finished when we split up. In the interim we had another camper for the grownups, and the main finished room of the house in between them.

We used those Wal-Mart oil lamps for light. Later graduated to Coleman lanterns, those rocked and I got to read something besides the large print books from the library at night, lol. Even later, rigged up 12V lighting and used fixtures meant for a camping trailer. This worked very well, and could probably be implemented with your solar later on?

Heat=woodstoves, cooking=also woodstoves. Later the ex rigged up a regular gas stove to run off of a 5gallone propane tank, but I don't recommend this, it may have been dangerous? It was nice, though, I never did master baking with wood, very well.

Water is paramount. Do you have it on your place? If not, do you have the capability to haul a tank and somewhere to fill it? If you have a well, that is very cool!

We had an outhouse. Nowadays I have regular plumbing, and at times when I have to fix it, I wish I STILL had an outhouse, lol. My kids are pretty relieved that we live on a limestone bluff and can not dig.

Garden and fruit trees should come first. You can make a real nice/cheap/quick greenhouse out of straw bales for the foundation, pvc for the frame and the thickest plastic you can afford for the glazing. I had one for quite a while, and the plastic was from Home Depot and STILL lasted two years, never figured that one out!

Then get some chickens, because if you have eggs and vegies you will not starve!

Other than that, I don't know what your tastes are. We bought land first, and winged the rest. I had garage sale after sale where I sold everything electric, everything frou frou, everything I didn't need. Used the money to buy things I did need.

Learn as much as you can BEFORE you go, that way you aren't trying to figure it out all by yourself on a dark snowy night!

Good luck, any specific questions ask away, this is an excellent place to learn!


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Old 04/22/05, 03:22 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: TX
Posts: 2,302

Oh I almost forgot!! SLABS!!! AKA Mill ends. If you can find these somewhere they are real cheap. I build sheds, for chickens and goats, also fencing, with poles we cut down and slabs. The thick ones can be firewood. They are great!!


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Old 04/22/05, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 528

You probably can't do this on $5K. So, you have to think of ways to get additional $$ as quickly as possible. I don't know your situation or what all you can do, but if you really want to do this then start thinking.

Can you find a part time job to work in addition to the job you have now.

What can you sell? Can you move to some place cheaper? Sometimes I see rooms for rent in someone's home. Not the most ideal thing if you have had your own place, but we are talking about how to reach a higher goal here.

Start living frugally. No eating out. No going to movies. Find someway to cut transportation costs. Live on oatmeal, beans and rice if you have to.

Do everything you can to do this. If you find a piece of land you can't afford, maybe you can find another person that would like to buy half of it.

You also have to think about what you will do for a living once you get the homestead. I don't know anyone that can live the homestead lifestyle without some type of outside income to suppliement.

Remember that Thoreau had a cabin that was 12 X 15 and found it more than enough. I have a story of a famous potter from the 1940's that homesteaded in CA. She slept out on the ground for months while getting a garden going and building a 12 x 20 one room house.

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Old 04/22/05, 05:37 PM
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Where are you living now? Apartments, near parks and trees or,????

I have to go now, but I can get back to you on this.


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Old 04/22/05, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Oklahoma
Posts: 936

I have to ask an important question? Why are most of the posters here females? Why don't we hear from male homesteaders? Are they too busy working off-site at other non-homesteading jobs to support the homesteading lifestyle, Or is it that the men just don't do computers? I have to wonder.


Freedom isn't Free

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Old 04/22/05, 07:18 PM
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I'm back!

OK, I grew up in San Jose, California.

I personally did not begin homesteading until I had left California, but I could have if I had known more. I could have learned a lot of usefull skills before I moved.

To start with, do you live in an area of parks, flowers, and landscaping? Cause, some beekeepers live in the city. In fact, somewhere there is a website just for city beekeepers. Some people even keep them on roof tops!

Common city forage plants for bees include dandylions for pollen, and the clover in peoples lawns for nectar. Those ornamental flowering trees are a good source also. And, bees forage in a 3 mile radius around the hive.

Also, does anyone within commuting distance raise vegetables? They might welcome a hive or two. You can find the metro area farmers in the closest Farmers Markets. Also, if you can find a place that is along your regular commute to work, you could easily check your bees as often as you needed to.

Here is a good place to look for affordable land. At they specialize in inexpensive land. Of course, one inexpensive parcel will be flanked by OTHER inexpensive parcels, so don't linit yourself to this one company. If you can afford one of their parcels, you can afford to buy in that general area. From anybody.

Alas, I cannot give housing advice. DH has no intention of roughing it while a house gets built, so we bought a regular house with a bit of land.

Lastly, the finances. You will probably need a job when you move to a homestead. It would be wise to see how little you can live on for a few months. That way, you will know what you will need to be paid on the job.

So, it would be wise to keep a sharp eye on what you spend. There WILL be expenses that do not occur evey month, and they need to be accounted for. Put away the money you don't need: add it to homesteading money or buy a bee hive (Not a kit: you don't need some of that stuff).

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Old 04/22/05, 07:26 PM
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 3,120

bgak47, I must step forward to uphold the honor of the male contigent in the face of your outrageous representations.

Today I'm trying to deal with this weather that threatens so many things (they are predicting as much as a foot of snow by Sunday here in the Cleveland area). I have my newly installed packages of bees (12 of them) that I am moving into the garage and have to feed and keep warm. I also have 20 fruit trees that are in bloom (which means I can lose the fruit from a freeze) which means tomorrow night after we get home we will be festooning the trees with giant plastic bags in hopes of saving some of it.

And yes, I do work a fulltime job where I am "on call" 7x24x365. That's how I'm paying for our property.

I'm also getting ready to accept delivery of a load of locust posts (373 of them) In Carroll County) which we will be unloading by hand tomorrow morning. I just know I'm going to be sore by tomorrow evening.

Then we have to return the packages the bees came in (Stark County) because we will get back $5 a piece ($60 is incentive enough for me).

Then we have to drive to another county (Summit) to pick up a bunch of tree seedlings my MIL got for us through their SWCD. It's amazing how much the choice varies from county to county.

So I didn't drop everything to jump in with an answer...... I bang my head against the floor in apology. (OUCH!).

So sinjene, my apologies for the digression. On to your question.....

I think it depends on what skills you have and what your specific goals are in life. If I only had $5,000 to start out I might take a couple of routes.

For example, I might use that $5k as the downpayment on a real fixerupper house in a neighborhood that is improving. I'd have a job that would cover the cost of those payments and then some. After two years of fixing it up I would sell that house and not have to pay any taxes on the profit. That $5 could easily end up being $15-20k because of the sweat equity. In the meantime you might be able to save another thousand or so plus accumulated some tools, etc.

As others have indicated, reduce your current expenses. Get a roommate to reduce your rent/mortgage payments. Watch your food spending. How badly do you want your dream?

The biggest threat to you will be not having the money to buy things when you really need them. Things cost..... you can get a lot of things free or cheap but there will always be something you need that you have to buy. People count on their crops and something happens. You fall ill. If you go back and read through the archives you will find all sorts of stories on the perils of homesteading or small farming. You need to find ways to manage those sorts of risks.

You could work on someone elses farm and get a few years of experience. You would then be in a much better position to get loans to buy land. Making a living from the land is not for the faint hearted.

It is possible to find small inexpensive properties for $5k or less. They are likely to be in the middle of nowhere or have some flaw with them that makes them generally undesirable. Would you want to try the subsistance living thing? Some people do but that's not for me personally on an ongoing basis.

Don't be discouraged. Create a plan. You are still young and can afford to detour for a little bit if it helps you reach your endgame. Do reality checks for your plans. Ask yourself where do you want to be in 5 years and then figure out how to get from point A to point B.

My parting comment. I would never buy a place that required me to haul water. It just doesn't make sense.

As usual, just my 2 cents.



Last edited by Mike in Ohio; 04/22/05 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 04/22/05, 08:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 822

Ebay has some cheap places in the desert southwest if you can rough it. One subdivision ranch was being advertised a week or two back. $800 for five acres. 100+ miles east of ElPaso on the RioGrande. No pictures though. I think thats saying something.

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Old 04/22/05, 10:06 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: AR
Posts: 2,259

its been about 5 years for us the first 3 1/2 years all that was done to it was pay on it the last year we have been working on the house finaly in september we will move on it so it has taken us 5 years and a lot of money take your 5 grand put it down on some land tighten up your belt and try to pay more then the note is every month you can do it if you put your mind to it

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Old 04/22/05, 10:46 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: tn
Posts: 503

Got my 22 acres 3000 down, and had a small piece of BLEEP cabin on it to rehab! No electric, no water, so we haul water from the creek. I have 2 solar panels now and a generator so video games etc work. Once you have the land -- then its just building it piece by piece! Maybe start looking for land where you want to be now, in the meantime save more! It costs to start a homestead -- lots of stuff can be scrounged tho! All the other posts have lolts of good ideas -- LEARN LEARN LEARN! The more you know the less you have to pay others to do! I am driving to pay for everything i need to get my place turned into a paying proposition -- make a business plan! Good luck!

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Old 04/22/05, 11:04 PM
mtman's Avatar  
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: AR
Posts: 2,259
Originally Posted by patarini
Got my 22 acres 3000 down, and had a small piece of BLEEP cabin on it to rehab! No electric, no water, so we haul water from the creek. I have 2 solar panels now and a generator so video games etc work. Once you have the land -- then its just building it piece by piece! Maybe start looking for land where you want to be now, in the meantime save more! It costs to start a homestead -- lots of stuff can be scrounged tho! All the other posts have lolts of good ideas -- LEARN LEARN LEARN! The more you know the less you have to pay others to do! I am driving to pay for everything i need to get my place turned into a paying proposition -- make a business plan! Good luck!

were just getting ready to put the well in and the septic talk about a bleep cabin have you see what we had to work with dw called it the posh place posh meaning piece of blank house
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Old 04/23/05, 06:59 AM
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You might look into sharing a homestead or bartering to get your feet wet and possibly a stay at home kind of business.. to raise some ever elusive cash..


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Old 04/23/05, 05:07 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: S Oh.
Posts: 403

You really don't give us much info to go on. Your income, profession and education will determine a lot. In the real world (other than the mega cities of the east and west coast) $1000 - $1500 rents a very nice home. Make a list of needs/wants and goals. Most of have had to take lower paying jobs, but we're happier over all. We are working towards our goals, perhaps a little slower, but we will get there. Solar technology on a large scale is extremely expensive, but it is obtainable over time.
I have had my land for 4yrs now, I am making the jump June 1st. 2 months ago I purchased a 12yr old 3 bed mobile home. I want very much to live on my place now, so I'm giving up air conditioning, indoor toliets (no septic or sewer), highspeed internet access, convenient grocery stores, and inexpensive nat. gas heat (in comparason to propane). I will be commuting 160 miles a day to work, I've sold my city house and most of the things I've worked for the last 35 yrs. I'm also giving up 1/5 of my income. These are the sacrifices I'm making to get where I WANT to be. I am a long way from where I want to be ultimatly, but I'm on the path.
I think the key is research and plan, then research some more. Debt control plays a very large part in your sucess as well as saving money. Ther are many things that you can do to prepare in the mean time, but I'll leave those for another poster. Just my .2 worth.

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Old 04/23/05, 05:55 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Canada
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About 15 years ago was when I bought a first 'homestead' garden property outside of town. It was a narrow lot one acre cleared and behind it was another 25 acres of scrub/wetland. The small house had electicity, no bathroom, and a cistern, 2 small outbuildings. This all cost $10,000 at the time.
The property could have been upgraded to live as the people who bought it for $13K from us a few years later put in a pump out sewage system and had water hauled in by truck when needed. The cistern easily went dry as it only contained about 500 gal. To drill a well is about $50 per foot, and most wells in that area go between 150 to 300 ft.
This is not prime property or near any big city, by the way. So that might give you some idea to start about thinking what a basic homestead might 'cost' roughly. The garden grew plenty of vegetables for storage and some market gardening to sell approx. $2000 annually for revenue off it. This also is enough land and outbuildings to keep a poultry flock. I kept several dozens of layiing hens and muskovy ducks. About 50 broilers raised annually for a couple of years for the freezer and also 2 beehives produced about 100 lb. honey a year.
One could do more or less on something of this size. Keeping livestock animals there was pretty much out of the question, but perhaps goats could be kept on some of the scrub land behind the clear garden, except that predators like black bear and wolves would be a major problem without a Livestock Guardian Dog.


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Old 04/23/05, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Virginia
Posts: 59

One other option you may wish to consider is to check into providing your back labor to someone who is getting up in years who already has an established farm/homestead. You can help them by doing the heavier work and then you can learn alot about homesteading from them. There are always opportunities of this kind in the various magazines like Mother Earth News, Countryside, etc. You may work out an arrangement where you are not paying anything to live with them and still be able to work off the homestead to earn some money to save and still provide your labor to them in the evenings and on weekends. Check around to see what might work for you. This could give you a couple of years of learning as well as an opportunity to save up more money before you make the leap. It is always possible that you will get lucky and be able to buy into their homestead and a reasonable price. Just a thought.


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Old 04/23/05, 07:03 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Kansas
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Here's ANOTHER start-up idea. Are you a gambler?

You COULD sign up to do caretaking in the Caretaker Gazette. Basically, you (probably) live on the property and take care of it, and then you could job hunt while you live in the area.

I expect that the pay would be poor, but your housing and utilities are free.

Hold onto your money, and once you are employed, you can start a leisurely search for a place of your own.

Assuming you like the area, that is! In much of the country, $5000 is a downpayment. You would then have a local job and a place of your own. If you buy bare land, you could use the money from your job to put up a barn or a garage, and live in it until you either modify it to be a small house, or build a house.

You might check out Foliomark's site. HE and his friends have been builing a house on vacations. They started building a little house and just kept adding on rooms.

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