The New Homesteader

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by C and P, Dec 11, 2003.

  1. C and P

    C and P Member

    Dec 11, 2003
    My husband and I are looking to pursue homesteading in the future as we find it is most in line with our goals and philosophies. We realize that it is not something to be entered into lightly and we want to succeed at it when the time comes (hopefully sooner than later).

    Us city kids, would like as much advice is possible concerning resources, classes, immersion experiences etc that would help prepare us for the rigors of of the pursuit of becoming successful homesteaders.

    If you know of any particularly helpful books, websites, classes, or anything else, please advise.

    Thank you,
    C and P
  2. Sharon in NY

    Sharon in NY Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    Actually, I think it is something to be entered into lightly - in the sense of having a lot of fun. There are lots of good books and classes out there, of course, but none of that is substitute for hands-on experience. So the best thing is to buy a book and start homesteading where you are - put in a garden, whether in your yard, containers or a community garden spot. Buy some produce at a farmer's market and can it. Bake your own bread. Order whole wheat and corn and grind them. Dehydrate some tomatoes or make jam. Buy a used sewing machine and start sewing. Make a quilt, some candles, soap. Get some cream and make butter. Some goat's milk and make yogurt and cheese. Order a raw fleece and a drop spindle and learn to spin. Raise a rabbit or two and consider butchering them. Buy some worms and compost. Get some wood and build a rabbit hutch, a doghouse, some windowboxes, a new storage shed. Learn to change your own oil and fix your lawnmower. All of these things can be done in the city, no problem.

    Livestock and large-scale gardening are a bit harder, but ultimately those are things you are going to learn about from experience when you have them. That's not to say you shouldn't offer to help plant, glean fields, milk cows, shear sheep from local farmers or take classes on those things, but there's so much you can do without those things, that I wouldn't worry if you'd never touched a sheep - by the time you get them, you will have.

    Definitely take classes, but be realistic about how much money you can and should spend on this. I'd put most of my funds into acquiring homesteading tools - good garden tools, a grain grinder, a well stocked kitchen, woodworking materials, a sewing machine, rather than coursework of any kind. Most of these things can be learned from friends and neighbors for free, or by trial and error with the help of a book.

    Books to buy - of course, you should read everything in sight in your library, but there are some books I'd want to own.

    #1 The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery. She's the goddess of homesteading and this is the most comprehensive book on the planet. Definitely buy it ASAP.

    #2 As many of Gene Logsdon's books as possible - most are available used. 2 Acre Eden and The Contrary Farmer are good places to start, but you want and need all the ones that pertain to your interests.

    _The Ball Blue Book_ for canning, and a good, basic cookbook, like _Fanny Farmer_. A few gardening books - the Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is great, as are Rosalind Creasy's Edible Landscaping books. Read but don't buy (until you formulate an alliegence to one style or another) _Lasagna Gardening_, _Square Foot Gardening_, _How to Grow More Vegetables_ (John Jeavons - the title goes on for another week) and _How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back_ (Ruth Stout). Buy the one or ones you like best, but try some of the techniques from them all.

    I'd want at least one more homesteading book, probably either _Homesteading Adventures_ by Sue Robishaw or _Husbandry_ by Nathan Griffith, but that's my taste. You might find others you like better. I would also recommend buying _An Introduction to Permaculture_ by Bill Mollison. It isn't quite a homesteading book, but it will give you tons of design ideas.

    Good basic books on any skills you want to acquire - root cellaring, sewing, knitting, spinning, woodworking, baking, auto repair, straw bale building, solar system design, canning.... Frequent yard sales and library sales, or and pick them up as you go. Also, old magazines - Countryside, Mother Earth News, Back Home, Backwoods Home, Popular Mechanics, Fine Woodworking, Kitchen Gardener, whatever...

    I'd subscribe to _Countryside_ magazine as well, if money isn't too tight.


  3. rio002

    rio002 Well-Known Member

    Jul 29, 2002
    There's also the option if you find it tough to meet farmers/homesteaders in your area you could always place an ad in your local paper offering farm help for experience, most of them I know love to teach others the how to's--I know I do :) Anytime we have taken anyone in who needed room and board they are always integrated into our routine as a helper and often do quite well-- not saying I haven't had a few leave the coop door open (resulting in hours of chicken round up) or feed the wrong to food to the wrong animal here and there but they always leave here knowing a bit more and appreciating the hard work. The last two that stayed with us were quite proud of helping to install wood flooring in the tv room (took 3 of us 13 hours straight) and are still excited for spring to come to see all the Iris flowerbeds they helped move and plant. Often each person who has stayed with us comes back to visit each year to see how well the project they helped with is working or tell us about their own projects. It amazes me how often I have heard people say it's like time stands still here unless your busy. They often find what I found when we started our homestead that hardwork and sweat can bring some of the greatest joys and accomplishments. LOL I was going to add that just as some farmers love to teach others are just long winded..guess I'm both :) Good Luck!
  4. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Apr 30, 2002
    North Alabama
    Enter lightly, have fun, tackle small goals first, succeed, always moving forward with a wide perspective view. I began my travel to the end i am at today in 1995 and now have comfortably replaced a $40,000 plus a year ratrace existance. This site is a good place to start your text education. The "labs" can be tackled anywhere you have at least 16 sq feet of soil and sun :)
  5. kidsnchix

    kidsnchix Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2003
    the Natural State
    Sharon in NY,
    Do you like the book "Husbandry" by Nathan Griffith? I've been considering buying one, and would like to know what you think of ot.
  6. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Start NOW, and have fun with it.

    Do you have room for a few plants? Potted plants on the balcony? Can you cook from scratch? Sew something? Decide what sounds like fun and just get started.

    You can learn more from DOING than from classes, though you DO need to learn from someone either from books, or classes, or friends.
  7. Dawndra

    Dawndra I'm back

    Feb 27, 2003
    Spoon River Country Illinois
    On the barter board there is a sticky from Carla Emery. She will be traveling all throughout the united states this spring/summer/fall.... she may be coming to your area... I'd really plan to go to listen to her... that will get you introduced to the homesteading lifestyle AND you can get books at a better rate... and meet a heck of a nice lady to boot!
  8. Homesteader

    Homesteader Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2002
    Desert of So. NV
    I would add The Havemore Plan to the list of books - it's so simple and so inspirational.

    I would also recommend you define "homesteaders" for yourself, because that will greatly determine what goals you'll set. We all see ourselves so differently in that regard, if we learned nothing from JD we learned that! :)

    I totally agree that you can start now and get that hands on experience right where you are. Before we had made the actual move here, we/I had pretty much mastered the following:

    raised bed gardening
    cheesemaking (some simple ones)
    butter making
    water bath canning
    pressure canning
    soap making
    basic sewing
    herb growing
    solar cooking
    raising rabbits, quail,
    chickens, both meat
    and for eggs

    DH already had the skills tools and knowledge to build just about anything and so that's something we lucked out in.

    The difference now is simply the size of everything and the addition of goats, which we could not do in the city. And we will add pigs too. The garden is bigger, there are more chickens, a small barn. Lots more trees and bushes planted. Also of course much more wildlife which I love beyond measure.

    Also, doing these things ahead will satisfy that craving you have, that feeling that you can't get enough of this stuff.

    Set goals - really important!!
  9. I agree that is the place to start. There are homesteaders that are completely off grid and there are those who just want to be a little more self-sufficient. I personally think a person with no back ground in any area of homesteading, should take their time trying one thing or two at a time. I've read articles about people who jump in over their heads and expected way to much from themselves to fast and became discouraged and got burn out. I have farmed all my life and I love it. But it is a very special life style that not all people are cut out for. For example, my mother-in-law and her husband just bought 14 acres of cleared, some wooded with pond. Property included older but nice house with basement. Good well with freezerless faucets every where, atleast 10 nice raised beds, a good green house (just needs plastic), and three barns (one huge rabbit barn) and a hen house. I could go on. How many of you people out there that are wanting to homestead would love this place? Well guess what? They don't know what to do with it. They will probably tear down the barns and land scape. Through all that just don't over whelm yourself. Enjoy the adventure, learn from mistakes and go to be the person God wants you to be. His very best.
  10. C and P

    C and P Member

    Dec 11, 2003
    Thank you to everyone for the prompt replies!

    We are anxious to start even the littlest tasks. Living in downtown San Francisco at the moment, makes things more challenging but there are definately some things we can get started on here and now. I am particularly interested in working on a farm/homestead for a while after graduation and hopefully the hubby will be able to get the time off work.

    Will contact Carla Emery ASAP. Once again, thank you all so much for the helpful insight and advice.
  11. William

    William Member

    May 26, 2003
    I just searched for The Contrary Farmer in this forum to see if it had been discussed on this site. I'm loving the book so far, though I only want a healthy veg garden, and to apply building skills. I was profoundly affected by the Nearing's work many years ago (The Good Life, etc.), and glad to see that Logsdon acknowledges them.
    Happy Homesteading!
  12. Hank - Narita

    Hank - Narita Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2002
    We would add the book Country Women. Where are you in CA? We used to have a ten acre farm in Los Osos. Now we are in AZ near Carla Emery and love our place. Neighbors are very helpful and you can learn from each other. Attend farmers markets and find out about organic gardening. Attend the local county fairs and talk to the exhibitors.
  13. C and P

    C and P Member

    Dec 11, 2003
    this is really funny that this thread got bumped up today. we just got our computer back up and running after quite some time.

    my wife started this thread just looking for some general info, and we have picked up many of the books mentioned. thanks!

    anyway, we're currently living in San Francisco, while the wife finishes up college. one more semester (thank God). i grew up out in the sierra-nevada mountains, and am looking forward to getting back out of the city.

    thanks again for the info. we'll at least be trolling around here picking up all the wisdom y'all are spewing!
  14. joan from zone six

    joan from zone six Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    i think dawndra and sharon covered the bases quite well - only addition i would make as far as books are any written by ken kern

    my only advice - successful homesteading is 1 percent rocket science and 99 percent persistence - and it will be as much fun as you make it
  15. Marcee

    Marcee Active Member

    May 13, 2003
    have fun, and don't have expectations, or you may be disappointed.

    meaning, i have learned the most from ALL of my many failures and mess ups. this is our 5th summer here, and i have as of yet and three seasons to be milking any goats, for example. i have lowered my expectations, and it helps a lot.

    FLEXIBILITY and the ability to change your mind for example. and if it isn't fun, don't do it.

    last year i got a concussion and got a migraine every time i tried to work in the garden, etc. this meant we basically had nothing and everything went to weeds. also, the yearling didn't get worked with. it was a blessing we didn't have milking to do. no canning got done, because of my head. i DID do lots and lots of painting (i study egg tempera iconography) so it did have some lovely benefits without guilt.

    then, i also raised chickens to butche, and had butchered a number of times, something my husband will have no part of. helping a friend to butcher hers, i had a horrible allergic reaction with throat closing and everything, and landed in the ER. apparently, chicken allergies run in my family. luckily, just raising them for eggs doesn't mess me up so i still have them for that. maybe next year i will raise them again, and have the amish butcher them for me, but i don't have to worry about it.

    successes: we little by little are getting more fencing done, and i have an adorable, though small, greenhouse. my garden has more weeds than it should, but i did get some in this year. i didn't get any fruit up, but got some fruit trees in, and am going to move my strawberries this year to a new quack grass free spot.

    point being: you'll fail at some things, succeed at others, and try some again, and decide some just AREN'T for you. remember the word? FLEXIBILITY. i was pretty much a homesteader type living in town, and haven't changed much here. for me, though, i don't feel like i HAVE to grow all my own food, etc. my husband is a self-employed carpenter, a partner in a small business, and does quite well for this area. we are still quite poor, but get along fine and feel like we have lots of disposable income. hardly any debt (new septic and well, and soon a new roof) and can afford it no matter what. we can afford to NOT have a garden, etc. so anything i do on this lines is just extra.

    the goats have cost us and cost us, with no financial return (in terms of milk) but we have sucked that up so far due to the fact that we just love them. i got my first fleece from our sheep, and have started to spin it. it might be cheaper to just buy the fleece, but it wouldn't be worth the same to me. i love knowing it came from janusz! we homeschool, and are happy, and know that failures and successes balance themselves out.

    whatever you do, don't get in over your head.

    one more piece of advice: DON'T GET ANIMALS UNTIL YOU HAVE A SPACE SET UP FOR THEM. i have never actually done this, so it has been a true pain in the butt.

    there is a comfort, though, in knowing that you CAN take care of yourself and get by, no matter what. i love it. i always have enough seeds on hand to plant a garden that i COULD live on if i had to. we have enough fruit here growing everywhere that we COULD put up enough for the year if we had nothing else we needed do with our time, which isn't the case with homeschooling, and we would get sick of berries, berries, berries. we have bees, but mostly i let the bees be, if you know what i mean, because this summer i am trying to catch up from last, and so we do have honey if we want is here. and we WILL have milk this year. we have just had a string of bad luck there.

    being able to change your mind and directions in your life is good.