What do you need to start a homestead?
Some folks think that all you need to start homesteading is a piece of land. Yes, but no. There’s a lot more to homesteading. A lot.
In its purest definition, a homestead is a small farm on which you become self-sufficient. In order to do this, you need to have a plan, a detailed one.
You also need to have skills and knowledge—some you may already possess; some you’ll need to learn and practice. In the rest of this series, I’ll cover many, many things in this area, as well as how to make a detailed plan. Some of your planning will depends on the reason for your homestead.
Yes, you need some land. How much? It depends on how much you can afford. Ideally, you purchase as many acres as you can, paying cash. No, not everyone can do this, so you need to find the financing you’re most comfortable with; you also need to consider how you’re going to pay for it, assuming you want to homestead full-time, or you need to be able to commute to your job. The only thing I’d caution against are those ads for “this much down, this much per month.” Too many of those are scams that involve crappy land and/or HOAs.
Consider carefully what you’re going to do with this land—if you’re going to raise livestock, you don’t want a fully wooded parcel. Clearing all those trees for pasture is a lot harder than you think. Ditto for clearing land to grow crops.
But there are two things you MUST have to start a homestead: cash and physical health/strength.
Many people have thoughts of leaving it all behind, moving out to the middle of nowhere, and becoming self-sufficient. They’ll downsize, build a small cabin or tiny house, and live off the land. You cannot do this if you’re broke; this is not the 1880s. You need money to purchase land; you need money to buy or build a cabin; you need tools, seeds, water, power. And you need money to live on until your homestead is producing.
Yes, there is the barter system, and being completely off-grid, using solar power or whatnot. But you have to find people to trade with and you can’t wave a magic wand and install solar panels—it takes money, and it takes work.
If you have a full-time job, 8-5 or whatever, then you’ll be building up your place either before you leave for work, or after you get home, and on the weekends. You won’t be watching TV, playing on social media, relaxing, or whatever. You need to watch the weather too—bright sunny day? No, you don’t get to run errands or take a day trip, you have to build your cabin or barn or put up fences or plant the garden. This is all the time, not sometimes, not when you “feel” like it.
One of the most important things you need is your health—and a lot of muscle. You cannot become self-sufficient if you are disabled. There, I said it.
First, the average disability payment per month in Missouri is $1200. If you’re single, every penny of that is going for your land, your cabin, your food. Can you budget this to live on? Yes. Can you also pay for improvements to your property, such as solar, tools, garden supplies, livestock, feed, fencing? Probably not.
Even if you could, here’s the question: if you are disabled, HOW are you going to do all the work required? If you are able to do this work, why are you considered disabled? Question number two, if you’re disabled, you’re likely also spending money on medication and supplies to assist with your disability. There goes the budget.
For only two people, you’ll spend hours each day doing garden work; animals have to be fed twice a day. You also have to feed yourself and keep warm during the winter. And you’ll have to be prepared for emergencies—financially and otherwise.
You can’t just buy some land, move there, and have a successful life on your homestead. Too many people try that, and they fail. Even back in the 1880s, homesteading wasn’t for the weak or the unprepared, even if was simpler than today. Half of the homesteaders back then gave up and went home.
Over the next month or so, I’ll be going into more detail on how to be successful, how to plan and prepare, and some basics of what you need to know, as well as the dos and don’ts and certain expectations. I’ll cover some potential scenarios too, that may or may not apply to you. As always, I welcome questions and comments.