basic homesteading 101

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by country_wife, Sep 23, 2004.

  1. country_wife

    country_wife Evil Poptart

    Sep 23, 2004
    I'm looking for advice on homesteading from scratch. Anyone here done it? Reading suggestions? I've not had much luck with homesteading books: they all involve friends helping out, big machinery, etc. We are looking for total off the grid (no public utilities whatsoever), doing it all ourselves. And another question: I know many people use generators to run the pc, but how do you connect to the 'net? So much to learn...
  2. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2004
    Totally off the grid is doable, though the cost will vary depending on the amenities you plan to power. But doing everything totally yourself without any help from friends and family, while possible, will take an awful lot longer and won't build the community we all need to survive. Do you have family and friends in the area? Or, if you've just moved there and don't know anyone nearby, do you attend church or any other gatherings where you can meet people and make friends? Even if your family or friends don't physically help you build your farm, they may have knowledge that will spare you from expensive mistakes, you might be able to borrow equipment that would be too expensive to justify buying it for one project, and they will be able to offer moral support when you get tired, sick, and discouraged -- which will happen. Homesteaders are people, just like everyone else. We have disasters, make mistakes, take on too much at a time (with the result that none of the projects gets done well or on time), have family issues, and so on. This forum is a great community for advice and encouragement, but when it comes to physical help you really are going to want some live bodies! ;)

    I wish you well with your endeavors.

    Kathleen in Oregon

  3. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

    Aug 25, 2002
    Southern Ontario CANADA
    You'll be too busy to connect to the net... so no worries there. :)

    On a more serious note: you may be able to connect to the net via cell phone (depending on your location) or satellite internet service.

  4. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    Net via cell phone, have a friend doing it right now, powered off his truck battery (which recharges the laptop and cell phone when he drives to work).

    Now, I'm going to stick my neck out here and say it can be done "by yourself" if:

    You have very modest housing requirements.

    For the first couple of years at least most of your food requirements come from outside sources.

    I'm looking at my ancestors who hauled their lives up to Vermont on sledges during the winter, put up a cabin which, judging from the footprint of the foundation was all of 12 x 14 (maybe, if that), using the timber they were clearing for their fields.

    But.. my ancestors used primitive slash and burn to clear land, they had access to game year around, and they ate a lot of mush. Oh.. and their wives and kids joined them 2 years after the move.

    Under modern conditions there are taxes, and there is no game.
  5. country_wife

    country_wife Evil Poptart

    Sep 23, 2004
    No we don't have family in the area that we are thinking of buying land. We don't spend a lot of time socializing now, I doubt we'll have a lot of time to meet new people once we move. I'm really not looking for a community environment. We did live in the city and had some great neighbors, and some not so great neighbors, and privacy is something we are striving for at this time. Our housing needs will be minimal..I'm thinking maybe a camper till we get a cabin built. Game is available where we live now, and it's only 6 acres, but that will be something we check into before buying. Does anyone here grow/harvest all their own food? That is something I look forward to most of all, and will hopefully be doing that here within a year. At least we'll get some practice before going in head first!
  6. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2002
    Why isolate yourself? There are some tasks that it really helps having extra hands, even if that means city water or being on grid. Run the numbers. For instance, I found that it was cheaper and more cost effective for me to stay on grid than to go off it.

    I recommend you start out expecting to provide, say, 25% of what you need. Then you can expand as you learn. I can't imagine learning everything at once.

    Can you grind and mill wheat, then make the bread? Do you know how to make pasta from scratch? Have you ever grown more than 20 plants of anything? Can you can or pressure can any/all foods? Ever have a dog or livestock?

    See, the learning curve is pretty great at the beginning. Hang in there. Check out Carla Emery's books. Also, consider making friends with those who know nearby and learn from them.
  7. tsdave

    tsdave Grand Marshal

    Nov 3, 2002
    Living 'off the grid' is not that hard if you have a couple of things. First you will need transportation. Second is money or a job to make a little. If you have both you can just go to town for what you need, buy canned foods and foods that dont require refrigeration. If you make a list of what you actually need to 'survive' a day you will see you need very little. Example:

    You Wakeup,
    Fix breakfast - requires: fire (propane cookstove/campstove), skillet, table to set it on, plates and silverware, and the food to cook, say eggs(from chickens), bread for toast, salt & pepper, maybe cured/canned meat.

    Suppose you need to use the 'bathroom' you will need either a hole in the ground (outhouse) or a bucket with a seat & sawdust (burn it later).

    Want to take a 'shower' before you get to work in the morning ? Get a BIG 'tub' and some water (carried from stream?) and get to washing. Perhaps a bar of soap and toothpaste.

    Work until lunch.

    Perhaps maccaroni and cheese, or potted meat sandwich, or spam, or even those fancy chicken salad/tuna/ham and cracker lunches. Or anything that doesnt require refrigeration , like peanut butter, jelly, butter etc.

    carry on work with hand tools.

    Supper time, you know the drill, lots of stuff comes in cans boxes.

    And when it gets dark, go to sleep ! Perhaps keep a few flashlights for emergencies.

    Some of your general items will be :
    Assortment of buckets, bins, barrels, and a few large tubs.
    Handsaw, cordless drill (preferably with car charger), square, chisels, (assorted hand tools) and perhaps a chainsaw, or a rechargable reciprocating saw, all depending on what work your doing.
    [harborfreight has a circularsaw/recrip saw/drill and light plus two batteries and charger for less than $100, pick up a inverter $30 to recharge from car]
    A cookstove, probably propane or wood. Some source of instant easy cooking heat.
    A heat stove in winter, and wood to fire it.
    A car to get you to work/store/the library to use the Internet.
    A job or money to get you gas and food.
    Assorted knives/axes

    If you want to plant some food you will need :
    A hoe : $5
    A shovel: $5
    A rake: $5
    Work gloves:$5
    Seed 10pks / $1
    A whole lot of time !!!
    My suggestion: Think POTATOES & ONIONS ! mmmmm taters.
    Perhaps a fence if required.
    BTW dont think you can tend an acre garden by hand !!! Basically when you have worn yourself out from diggin it up with a shove for a few days, youll know when to stop !!!

    Now if you have a disability young kids, are a woman, have crushing debt, you will have special considerations. :)

    Once you have been 'camping' for a week, you will know what you need.
    Perhaps a cellphone, prepaid ofcourse with a card that doesnt expire for a year.

    Oh and of course some land to do it all on !!! with trees !!!!!!!!!!!
  8. joan from zone six

    joan from zone six Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    successful homesteading is not rocket science - it DOES take a lot of perseverence -
    if you take on the entire range of tasks it will take with an attitude of a big job facing you, you will fail - if you're looking at the big picture as well as the daily routine as an adventure, you will have a hell of a good time -
    many excellent authors who will give you a realistic picture - try the used book outlets and look for carla emery, ken kern, gene logsdon - there are many others -
    good luck and God love ya-
  9. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    I have the experiences of 2 people that I have read about.

    One couple bought the land and built a cabin on it on weekends. It was a very nice cabin, too. It took them a year of weekends to get it up, then they moved in one spring and started a garden. I don't remember how big it was.

    The second people set out in the spring with several months worth of beans, flour, bacon and other such food. They threw up a cabin QUICKLY, and then set in fencing an area for the horses, cutting hay, and everything else that needed doing (it was 150 years or so ago). The nearest store was a days drive away, they had a nest egg to buy what they needed, and the gent was an experienced hunter. The garden had to wait for the second summer as there was too much to be done to get one in that first summer.

    In Ohio, cold weather will set in soon. That means that you will have the winter to plan the cabin and check out land. Remember that zoning laws may restrict what you can build. Also, you will need SOME income for taxes, doctors, and unexpected expenses.

    From the accounts of cabin-building that I have read, it takes two INEXPERIENCED people 3-5 months full-time to put up a good cabin. By a good cabin I mean something larger than the 12' by 12' cabins that our homesteading ancestors put up to satisfy the government when they were "proving up" on their claims.

    Mind, there is nothing WRONG with a 12' by 12' cabin, but my great-great-great Aunt added on to hers when she could. I suspect that she found it rather small to live in.

    Good luck!
  10. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    May 9, 2002
    If you want to learn to live off the grid, just do it. Now that you have access to electicity, it's a perfect time to check out what it's like and how to do without.

    Go to your electic panel and pull the main switch. If things go bad, you always have the option to turn it back on.
  11. dscott7972

    dscott7972 Well-Known Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    Southern Indiana
    One way one couple survived on winter on a $10 a week/month food budget was living mostly on corn. They have a child training web site called "No Greater Joy Ministries" seem sort of Primative Baptist but you might look up the article on their website to understand further on the concept.
    I bet you can do it, but I don't know anyone who has ever done it modern times.
  12. vegascowgirl

    vegascowgirl Try Me

    Sep 19, 2004
    somewhere, and No where
    I agree with BCR who stated in general that you shouldn't just jump into being off grid if you've never done it. I am moving from Las Vegas,NV to Missouri in less than two months, and though being off grid appeals to me , I'm going to wait for at least five years for many reasons. First of all because my elderly parents are moving with us, and I don't want to go off grid then find out in a few years that my parents need special equipment (my father has parkinsons and degenerative arthritis in his spine, My mother has heart disease)
    Secondly, I have never used a wood stove, (I can emagine alot of burned bread in the beginning :eek: ) and wouldn't know how to take proper care of one right away.
    plus I have a daughter who is just about to turn three, and I can envision at least one or two broken lamps (unless I use a generater, that would mean having to use flame lamps such as kerosene and oil) and I just don't want to risk the fire hazard. Also I'm not sure I would want the sounds of a generator droning over the nice quiet of my country land.

    If you are like me, you are just plain sick to death of the city and are anxious to get away. However, if you just jump into something that you are not experienced with, the frustrations (that all homesteaders deal with) just may be so over bearing at first that you won't even enjoy the land that you purchased to be your little peice of serenity.

    IMHO you should gradually go off grid. There's not a book in this world that is going to prepare you for your life in your very own situation. take time to learn from life experiences.

    No matter what you decide, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you will enjoy your land and your life. :)
  13. momof2

    momof2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2003
    Bama Girl
    dscott7972... where did you find that on the No Greater Joy website. I have been there bizillions of times and have never seen that. I love those people and would love to learn from them personally. I would like to read that article.
  14. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

    May 2, 2003
    Washington State
    County Wife has a point. . . I've found that the "bread and butter" books on homesteading tend to assume a fair amount about the availability of modern conveniences. Take Storey's book, "Basic County Skills." The four-page run-down on building a house tells you little more than what to expect from your various professional sub-contractors. The section on fencing provides a run-down of the various options but is certainly no help in terms of turning a tree into a fencepost. Maybe there are some more basic "how to" books out there that I'm not aware of.
  15. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jun 6, 2004
    Michigan's thumb
    Study the Amish. Most of them use no electricity or limited electricity. You seem to be assuming that you will live off grid, but with some sort of electrical source. Start thinking about candles (hurricane lamp) and cooking with wood. I have met people off grid, those with generators and those without. One cool set up is to have a battery pack and recharge it with a bicycle. When you are going to use extra electricity, you send one of the kids to the bicycle to generate additional power. Such a device would make you more self reliant than a generator that uses gasoline or kerosene. You used to be able to get used huge batteries from the telephone company, but I don't think you can anymore.

    In studying the local building codes, you will probably find that you need to have a well and septic. Even the Amish (at least around here) have a septic and flush system, but they put it in a seperate little building so it's like an outhouse, but up to code.

    If you use on demand hot water (like they do in Europe), you will save a bundle on energy. If you use in floor heating (warm water) you will also save not only in installation if you do it yourself, but in energy. We had to fight with the plumbing inspector over putting in warm water heat using a domestic hot water heater, but it can be done. Obviously, using propane for hot water, oven, and cooktop will keep you off grid for those items and make it easier to use unconventional methods for electric stuff, such as the pump for the well, washing machine (front loaders use less electricity), lights, computer, etc.

    As for hunting for your food, you will be limited not only by available game, but also by law. Of course, you will need a freezer to keep the meat in whether by your gun or the 1/2 steer you purchase from your neighbor. I prefer an upright, but others prefer a chest.

    When we built our house we pitched a tent. I looked at buying a camper, but realized that I would feel real cramped after a couple of days. There also may be rules against "living" in a camper in the area you are looking at. You could get away with it for a while if you are far enough from the road. We were going to put up a cheap mobile home while building, but local code would not allow us to build on a lot that also had a mobile home or other dwelling on it. This is to stop slum landlords from setting up rentals. There is so much that you never think about until somebody tells you that you can't do it.

    My advice would be to become knowledgeable in local building codes, and then get your driveway put in right away. If you wait until spring, you will have to wait until the property dries up. Our building was put back two months because we had a wet spring and early summer. If you can, have the driveway and well and septic put in this year. You might want to consider having a contractor put up the shell. If you do this, you will need to start looking at contractors and making a start up date. From my own experience, I would go with a sober builder who only runs one crew, rather than someone who runs several crews. Our builder worked on one house at a time, not several that he was juggling. The only days they weren't working were because of weather or needing supply.

    I hope you enjoy your adventure
  16. vegascowgirl

    vegascowgirl Try Me

    Sep 19, 2004
    somewhere, and No where
    You may already know of this website, but here is a homesteading site that has many helpfull articles
  17. simpleman

    simpleman Well-Known Member

    Jun 5, 2002
    Orlando the friendliest place on Earth
    My wife and I did what you are wanting to do yourself. We left the city and presued country living with just a dab of personal experience and a lot of advise from writers like Scott Nearing, Backwoods Home, Countryside Magazine, Henry David Thoreau, and the fine folks here!

    We bought some acreage. Hand bulit an a-frame including a cellar. Raised vegetables, foraged in the wild for game and foodstuffs, raised goats, chickens, a pig and two children. All is doable but, at a cost.

    We lived in a run down camper I bought here in Florida for a year and a half while we built our home. Getting on the land was our first priority. Next was preparing the garden areas and places for the livestock to live. That took six months of clearing trees, brush, digging, putting up fences, building an outhouse, etc. We bathed and washed our clothes in our creek and made much of the things that we needed for homesteading.

    We spend the winter of 2000 in our little camper snowed in for three weeks of it.

    Spring came and we dug out our cellar. Built our cellar using the Nearing slip form method. Poured all our concrete by hand using a wheelbarrow and a borrowed hoe. Just my wife and I working the whole project. It took about one and a half months to complete the cellar.

    We bought $1500.00 worth of lumber and built the deck ontop of our cellar and the six piers that we poured. The deck took about one month.

    We built our trusses and with the help of neighbors raised them all ourselves and secured them in place. In less that two months we had a aluminum sheeted roof on, closed in the ends of the building and installed a woodstove.

    By October we moved from our camper to the house. It was without electricity, water and insulation. We worked on those things during our second winter there. Just moving our stuff around (we had put our furniture in storage for a year and a half) as we went.

    By next spring we had running water, electricity, insulation and most of the paneling and sheet rock installed.

    All during this period we canned, raised livestock, took care of babies, hunted, fished, gardened and also I worked....when there was work available.

    We did not make or have much money and learned to live without the comforts of city life. My wife (Melitza) learned to make soap, quilts, cook from scratch, butcher game and chickens, milk goats and other general necessities required for such a simple lifestyle. We had not tv and terrible radio reception but, relied on the internet or books for our entertainment.

    I built and sold furniture on the internet. Learned to make tools, hunt, fish and identify edible wild stuff. I built fences and stockcades with salvaged materials like an old bed spring for a gate or corral fence for my outhouse construction.

    We recycled everything, selling aluminum and other metals to salvage yards. Using scrap wood for either saleable projects or firewood. Breaking up glass jars for mixing with concrete to strengthen it in our construction of our home's foundation. Repairing the vehicles and machinery with nothing more than baling wire, duck tape and a few pieces of "this and that" laying around my tool shed. Stuff like that.

    Melitza cooked and canned outside on an open hearth and we heated our water and home with wood. We cut five to six cords of wood a year for these reasons. We bathed and washed our clothes in our creek.

    Life is hard for a new homesteader but, it can be done with perserverance and patience, both are obtained with time.

    Due to personal reasons we gave up after three and a half years, sold our homestead (with a profit) and return to our present urban lifestyle. But, if these reasons had been resolved I am sure that we would have eventually settled in on our homestead with much comfort and security.

    You can do anything that your mind concieves but, the cost sometimes outweighs the effort. We suffered much. Illness, poverty, floods, a fire, prejudice from locals, danger, etc. Most of which we never dealt with in the past.

    Several times I was confronted by hunters illegally hunting on my land. With my own weapons I easily convinced them to leave. Illegal drug manufacturing also kept me on alert many times as there was much of it in the woods around me.

    After I moved there I was confronted with loggers from other property owners clear cutting the forest. Leaving what would appear like a tornado had hit the several hundred acres around my land. Some illegally crossing back and forth over the creek and damaging the land.

    For example. I was clearing our bridge of debri from a flood and I fell into the creek and nearly drown. Had it not been for a down telephone line, I might have been washed down the creek and killed or seriously injured.

    Another example. We got snowed in for three weeks and I took sick. We could not go to the doctor and when I finally got there the doctor told me that I not only had high blood pressure but, also diabetes! I was lucky as my sugar jumped to over 800 points (normal is 120) and my blood pressure was about 147 over a 100! He wanted to put me in the hospital but, since I had to take care of my wife and kids and could not leave them in the woods safely, he reconsidered and made be stay in bed until both illness were under control.

    Another example. My wife was pregnant and we had no money for the delivery. We drove nearly two hours to the nearest hospital to deliver. We had thought about home delivery but, feared the safety of her and our daughter and chose to get in debt than to save a buck or two in that direction.

    Another example. The last winter we were there my truck was burned to the ground. Being low on firewood a neighbor came to our aid and delivered us enough to get us through the remainder of the winter.

    Another example. Dogs killed some of our livestock which set us back a bit as we had plan to breed the ones that died for sale of their offspring. Without money we eventually had to sell off all our livestock as we could no longer afford to feed and take care of them properly.

    Another example. Chiggers, loscust, and Asia beetles devastated our gardens one year. We were barely able to can a fifth of what we normally produced and chiggers ate our legs up so bad that even now after several years the scars remained.

    I can say that if I could do it all over again, I WOULD! But, I always want new people to realize that it is not the utopian view that has been painted by some such as Henry David Thoreau and other writers that is reality in homesteading. Its hard, expecially if you go at it with plans of doing everything yourself.

    Many folks here on this forum have known me prior to our homesteading experience and rermember some of the struggles my family and I had encountered. Some will say that I gave up but, whatever they say, I know it has been hard on them too at times and they will all agree that it is not for everyone.

    I hope that you have better fortune than I did and I hope that the knowledge you gain will bring you to a successful homestead. But, remember with all my successes and failures, I believed in PLANNING, PLANNING and more PLANNING. Do not make any changes too extreme and gradually work yourself into self sufficiency. After all the father and mother of homesteading Scott and Helen Nearing whom built two homesteads in their lifetime spanning sixty years were only able to become about 65 percent self sufficient. Note: My wife and I felt we were only about half of Scott and Helen's percentage.

    They did all their work themselves without power tools, telephones, tvs, or even radio. Hand building stone buildings and even a swimming pool. Growing organic vegetables, no indoor plumbing, etc. They are icons now and set the movement for back to the landers since the seventies. He only stopped at the age of 99 when he could no long help Helen bring in the firewood.

  18. country_wife

    country_wife Evil Poptart

    Sep 23, 2004
  19. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

    Sep 16, 2005
    AR (ozarks)
  20. Abouttime

    Abouttime Well-Known Member

    Oct 17, 2005
    Central Florida
    You asked for suggested reading material-I have found that none of the homesteading books give all the answers, but I get something out of each one I read. Have you read "How to Survive Without a Salary", by Charles Long? It's not a book about "not having a job, so much as an attitude toward "not needing currency", which leads to more self-sufficiency.