Homesteading is becoming more and more popular.
It’s the new “buzzword” on social media. Many people, captivated by the idea that living off the land and being self sufficient is far better, are clamoring toward this lifestyle. There is a move toward owning 3-100 acres, several goats, a cow, and a few dozen chickens.
You may dream of reaching out your back door to find a delicious, ripe, red tomato to slice for dinner. Or, you may want fresh, cage free eggs for breakfast. That’s the dream, right? A breakfast fit for a king, straight from your yard and produced by your own hands.
What if you can’t move to the country?
Can you still homestead? Oh, yes! You can be a homesteader on less than 3 acres! Here’s how to start a small homestead:
First, you need to let go of the manicured lawn idea. You would rather get fresh tomatoes than spend an entire Sunday afternoon mowing anyway, right? Having a source of fresh, organic food will be more important to you than having a blanket of green, luscious grass.
Before you dig up your lawn, throw up a chicken coop, add a few fruit trees, and lay out a plan. Using graph paper is the easiest. You know, that stuff we hated in high school with the itty bitty squares? Grab a pad of this at the store next time you go. It’s perfect for laying out proper dimensions, so you can get a true feel for the space you have. No sense planning a 500 square foot garden when you only have 300 square feet to work with. (not that I have ever done that or anything…at least not that I’d care to admit)
Measure out your yard. All of it. Then grab that graph paper. Each of the squares should count for 1 square foot of yard space. Add in where your house, deck, and swing set are. Add in the fence if you have one. Do you have trees already? Make sure to mark those as well!
NOW, you are ready to lay out your homestead plan.
I would consider a garden to be top priority. Then fruit trees. THEN adding animals like rabbits or chickens. This is due to possible conflicts with local laws or neighbors. It would be an unfortunate thing to spend time and money building a chicken coop, adding chicks, and buying equipment only to have your neighbors complain and be forced to remove them.
Start with your garden area. You need to consider whether or not you want to till the ground and plant directly, have raised beds, or containers. Knowing which you’d like to use will give you an idea of how much space you need to save for the garden. You’ll also have a better idea of how much you can plant and where you should plant. Don’t forget things like flowers and herbs. Plan to plant fruit bushes that will not need to be moved each year.
Next, lay out your fruit trees. You want them away from the garden area, so they don’t block the sun. Keep in mind tree roots can damage sewer and water lines. Be sure to get your property marked for water, sewer, gas, and cable lines before you dig!
If you can have them, now is the time to lay out space for any animals you want to add. Both chickens and rabbits need a safe home, away from predators. They also need to be in the shade in summer and have protection from the cold, wind, and snow in winter. Our favorite place for our rabbits in the summer is underneath our apple trees. They are safe from predators in their outdoor hutches, and they have shade. There is also plenty of pruned apple wood for them to have as a treat. The extra rabbit manure by the apple trees also helps the trees to grow! Win-Win!
Our chickens get a prominent place away from our garden.
As far away as possible. Trust me on this. If a chicken escapes their area, your garden could pay the price. Our chickens can still get into the garden faster than a bolt of lightening, but there is an extra nanosecond for us to get out there and stop them. (for this reason, we add a fence around our garden as a “just in case” measure.)
According to local laws, chickens may also need to be placed a certain distance from your neighbor’s property. Ours say that they have to be at least 100 feet from a neighbor’s dwelling. If you have a smaller yard, that could be a problem. One possible solution (and the one we use) is to bribe your neighbor all year long with fresh veggies and eggs. They love it, and we get to keep our chickens!
And finally, start small.
You don’t need to add a huge garden, chickens, rabbits, goats, bees, and a greenhouse with aquaponics all in one season. As a matter of fact, DON’T. Take a year for each if you can before adding another. This will give you time to learn and make mistakes. It’s frustrating enough for a beginner to try and figure out how to grow tomatoes without having to worry about cleaning out a chicken coop or clipping a rabbit’s nails. Adding a goat to milk or bees, to harvest honey, can send you into overload. Take it one year at a time.
What are some ways you would start a small homestead? What was YOUR first homestead addition to your property? Be sure to pin this for later!