Since I was young, I had an interest in all things homesteading… even before I knew there was such a word and what that meant. There has always been a part of me that wanted to learn to live a simpler life. Now, don’t get me wrong… a simpler life is NOT synonymous with an “easy life”. Learning to live of your little postage stamp of land is not easy. It takes work and dedication, but it is completely doable!
A good first step would be to just grow something! When you are first starting I know how tempting it is to get caught up in the idea of this perfect vegetable garden all in rows. I also know that it is a daunting project when you start researching things like garden pH and plantings “zones” and the like. The easiest way to get through some of that is to head down to your local garden store. Any garden store in your area is unlikely to be selling something that will not grow in your area (as they had to grow them in order to sell them, right?? you’re getting it). If you have any questions, they should be able to help you… Just pick one or two plants to start with and see what happens. Learn about yourself and if you are a dedicated plant water-er (I know I am not!! haha!) Learn from your adventure, and make adjustments… if you do not like to, or don’t have the time to water as you should, you can compensate with some type of automatic watering method that works for you. 🙂
Now, part of homesteading is providing a self sustaining food source for your family. Vegetable gardens are great, but we cannot grow everything our bodies need in our gardens locally, such as a viable and reliable protein source. Even if you are against killing animals for food, you can still produce for you family. Chickens are a great source of protein, even if you only harvest the eggs. Chickens can subsist on just about any table scrap, grass and grub around. We supplement our chickens with oyster shell laying crumbles to give them extra calcium, but you can pulverize the egg shells and feed it back to them in their scraps as added calcium as well. The calcium is what helps keep the egg shells nice and hard.
Rabbits are another great meat source, although not very high in much needed fats. Rabbits pretty much fend for themselves, we dug them a warren in the back yard to get them started, and they have created several runs of their own, but they always come back at night and they have yet to leave the chicken/rabbit pen area since we boarded off the bottom of the fence. We feed them alfalfa pellets once per day. Of course you will need to learn to butcher them if you plan to get meat from them. You can check with a local butcher shop, as well. I was just informed the other day, that a local butcher charges $3 per chicken for butchering, so I imagine a rabbit wouldn’t be much more.
If your location allows it, you can always branch out into other larger animals…
After you have successfully grown your own food (or found a great deal at your local farmers market!), it is important to be able to keep those nutritious foods throughout the winter or for when times are tough. Food storage is a very important piece of the homesteading puzzle. I have successfully canned several of our vegetables from our garden (which we have since eaten as well), as well as several of our rabbits. Yes you can and should preserve the meat you produce as refrigeration may not be available to you, depending on just how you plan to run your homestead, or nature gets the better of your electricity for a short time. A disaster like Hurricane Katrina, or an earthquake could have you living off your own home made reserves quicker than you can say “pressure can”.
Another way to preserve food is dehydration. Jerky, both meat and fruit jerky is delicious and can keep for a very long time. Also, apple and other fruits and veggies can be sliced and dried. Zucchini chips are great! They don’t last as long as canned, but they are easily eaten and used up in recipes or alone. So as long as you keep a handy supply there are several ways to keep your stores rotating. We do quite a bit of backpacking so one of the things I like to do, when I have time is to prepare my own backpacking meals. This saves us ALLOT of money as apposed to purchased backpacking foods. Also, I don’t think you can yet purchase Paleo backpacking foods, so it is somewhat of a necessity for those trying to live that lifestyle.
There you have it… Just a few basic skills you can start right now. We love it, and it is great practice until we can get our land.