Homesteading on a Shoestring

eggs in nestOne of the first things people often ask us when they meet us is how we managed to save so much money, so that we could “retire” and homestead. The fact is that we didn’t.

It would have been nice if we had gone into this debt free but we didn’t. Jessie had a nice windfall, after waiting nearly 18 years, when the VA and Social Security finally agreed to grant her benefits for disabilities sustained while in the service in 1995. Craig, chose to leave his profession to take care of her, our children, and the new farm soon after purchasing the property from the previous owners.

While quite a bit of our debt was paid off, a great deal of those funds went toward paying for the property. We were lucky to have the luxury of having those funds. Many are not so lucky. Even then, it has required a lot of scrimping, saving, bartering, re-purposing, and making-do to make it work.

Our best advice to those who aren’t capable of funding their dream homestead right out the door, is to work toward paying off your debts first while learning everything you can about your intended plans.

If you simply can’t wait here are some options:

  1. Rent on the outskirts of town where you can keep poultry or maybe even a few livestock animals.
  2. Lease to own your property.
  3. Farm or garden on another person’s property. Family, friends, or neighbors might not have the time or energy for a garden but would love the produce that it provides.
  4. Join a community garden club or co-op.
  5. Become a property caretaker and live on the land in an area you would want to one day live in, with the caveat that you can raise animals and plant a garden while living there.

If none of these options are available, you can certainly begin to learn everything you will one day need to know through books, online research, classes, and workshops. Read blogs, watch youtube videos, ask questions, make friends, and begin to formulate a plan for how to reach your goal.

It takes time to learn what you need to know. You won’t be able to just jump into homesteading and grow a garden from seed, raise chicks from eggs, and birth baby goats without knowing what you are getting into. While you pay off your debts and develop your plan, you can be learning these skills and preparing yourself for your dream.

Decide what is most important to you, raising a garden, having eggs, drinking fresh milk, or raising meat? Start learning about that first. Plenty of mistakes were made by our family when we first began simply because we couldn’t decide on a breed of goat or chicken and we took on too many varieties of plants at once before knowing what we were getting into. This results in unnecessary costs, loss, and a feeling of failure. This can cause many new homesteaders to go running back to the city in less than a year.

Don’t give up! Learn, learn, learn, then learn some more.

If you have debt, develop a plan to get out of debt and stay out of debt. See a debt counselor to help you create a plan and stick to it. Reduce your bills now and you will see real benefits later.

When you are ready to make the leap look at leasing to own property, letting the owner carry the loan, taking over financing for someone who can no longer pay their loan, purchasing repo properties, buying property at tax auctions, and other creative property purchases. If you own an RV, look for property that once had a mobile home but no longer does, and apply for a building permit so you can live in it while building a home. If you can afford a traditional loan or buying the property outright, do that. Whatever works for your family.

Look for properties with infrastructure for animals and mature fruit trees already if possible. Barns, fencing, and orchards are among the most expensive things to add to an existing property.

Keep your eye out on farm auctions, estate sales, and barn sales to purchase used goods and tools for your homestead, don’t forget about the barter system. Making friends BEFORE you make your property move will make this process easier.

Once you have found the land of your dreams or the property you can work with for right now, consider getting hens from local breeders, raising chicks, or adopting from local animal rescues. We adopted 18 battery farm leghorns for $5 each and purchased 5 red laying hens at a poultry auction for less than $15. All of our roosters were donated to us by neighbors and city folk that couldn’t keep them. Our donkeys were adopted for $150 for three of them and several of our goats were free or less than $60 each.

We sourced pallets, 55 gallon barrels, fencing materials, wood, and much more also for free on local media sites and bartered for many other items. While several of our vegetable varieties are from seeds that we saved from foods we purchased at our local farmers market in the year previous to our move. We even grew an avocado tree in our backyard and transplanted it when we moved (it is now 8 years old).

Remember through your planning and preparing process, that good things can take time. Plant the right seeds, work on it consistently, and your dreams can grow.




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