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How to Become Self-Sufficient: A Checklist for Beginner Homesteaders
Self-sufficiency is an admirable goal to work toward. The benefits of self-sufficiency are many; however, the journey involves many steps and may discourage beginner homesteaders. However, if you list out the actual steps, it becomes much less daunting. To help you get started, we’ve organized a checklist for you to follow.
We will cover learning useful skills, finding land, transitioning off-grid, building a home, and finding a power supply to teach you how to become self-sufficient. Read on to learn more.
What Does It Mean to Be a Self-Sufficient Homesteader?
Being a self-sufficient homesteader typically involves planting a large survival garden and raising animals to produce meat and grow food for their own consumption. Often, self-reliant homesteaders sell their extra produce. Essentially, these people are independent and rely on themselves to meet their basic needs.
People opt into the modern homestead movement for different reasons. Some have decided they would like to become self-sufficient to ensure they can provide for their family without the help of the government or other people. Others choose self-sufficiency to escape the superficial lifestyle of the suburbs and cities. And some simply find fulfillment in tending to crops, animals, and their property like our ancestors did. Regardless of your goals, choosing to become more self-sufficient is going against mainstream beliefs of where and how you should live. But that should not stop you from pursuing this lifestyle as so many other homesteaders have already.
There are many things you’ll need to consider and learn how to do if you’re pursuing a self-sufficient lifestyle. Depending on your needs and your situation, you may have to take more or fewer steps than usual; however, to give you an idea of how to start, we’re going to discuss some of the most important things to keep in mind when working towards self-reliance.
Learn Useful Skills
When you live off the grid on a homestead, you will need to learn useful skills to ensure all your basic needs are met. The skills and knowledge may seem overwhelming at first, but with time, you can learn all of them. These skills will range from preserving food to raising livestock to washing and drying clothes.
To become self-sufficient, you will need to produce more food than you can eat at once. Your rate of food production will likely land you with excess food – and the need to store the excess. The most common methods of preserving food include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating, and canning.
Learning how to preserve excess food isn’t difficult; however, it takes time and practice. If you know someone who can teach you, it’s best to ask them.
Otherwise, refer to the other articles on our website for more detailed guides on food preservation. If you are an aspiring homesteader, we suggest you learn about traditional food preservation methods.
Grow a Survival Garden
You’ll need to learn how to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Aside from not relying on other people for your vegetables, you also ensure that your produce is organically grown. In an SHTF scenario, food may not be conveniently available at a supermarket. So having a survival garden will ensure you have the most important crops for survival at home. Additionally, any excess crops can be used to feed livestock or be sold in a local market for profit.
If you are going to build a survival garden, you are going to need seeds. Learning how to properly store seeds long-term is a great way to become more self-reliant on your own food source. This way if there is any disruption to the food supply chain, you can continue to grow your own crops at home. Not all seeds are the same, and there is a lot of variety in storing them as well as planting them.
Aside from growing your own fruits and veggies, you’ll also need to take care of your own protein sources.
The types of livestock that you may choose to take care of are usually determined by your climate, the size of your farm, and the food sources available for your livestock. Aside from these factors, it would be best to consider what end products you want when choosing your livestock. Do you want meat? Dairy products? Eggs?
By raising your own animals, you’ll control how your meat is raised and processed. What’s more, in case of emergencies, you’ll be in control of a precious food source.
Some animals popular for homesteaders are:
- Chickens and Roosters
However, you should keep in mind some states may have laws on the type and amount of animals you can keep on your property. Become familiar with the local laws as well as consider going to a community that is accommodating to homesteaders.
Hunt and Fish
Aside from raising livestock, you can opt to go hunting and fishing. It’s important, however, to hunt and fish sustainably. This ensures you aren’t putting any animal population at risk.
The first thing to do when hunting or fishing is to find out what the animal population is like in your area. You can do so by contacting your local Department of Natural Resources and speaking with your neighbors. Next, you’ll want to go out and scout your hunting grounds to see what animals are present and in what numbers. Once you have a general idea of the animals in your area and their abundance, you can make informed decisions about best hunting practices.
Aside from food, you’ll also want to handle your water situation. Rainwater is versatile, and you can use it for various activities. You can use it for drinking, gardening, laundry, and the like. However, rainwater for drinking should be used within a week of rainfall. To learn more about how you can safely and effectively collect rainwater, check out our dedicated guide on the topic.
Wash and Air Dry Clothes
You don’t need to visit a laundromat to get your laundry done. With some detergent, you’ll be able to handwash almost all your articles of clothing. You can then hang them out in the sunlight to dry. Drying clothes in sunlight offers lots of benefits, like making clothes last longer, reducing odors, and brightening whites.
Cook From Scratch
For those who enjoy eating out, cooking from scratch may sound difficult. But there are many dishes that any beginner cook can handle. What’s more, the benefits of cooking from scratch outweigh the learning curve. Cooking from scratch is healthy, although more involved than heating packaged and boxed foods. Fortunately, there are lots of examples of cooking from scratch on YouTube or in cookbooks.
Composting is the process of using biodegradable materials to make mulch. The mulch is a top-level soil amendment that enriches the soil with more nutrients that encourage plant growth. Composting is similar to fertilizer, but the difference is composting is only organic materials, and fertilizer can be a mix of organic and inorganic materials.
Still, composting when done correctly, can be extremely beneficial to your homestead. It can enrich the soil on your property, making the crops grow faster, as well as provide you with an environmentally friendly way to dispose of waste. For awareness, the process of making compost is a long one, taking anywhere between a couple of weeks to a year. This depends on the amount of compost and the organic material that is being decomposed.
There are many different approaches to making compost, but fortunately, there are many tutorials online for making compost.
If you intend to be raising a family on a homestead, you may be considering homeschooling. This is probably the hardest, yet most rewarding skill to learn on this list. You will take the responsibility of teaching your children sciences, mathematics, humanities, and probably most importantly, how to think. Also if you are living consider adding survival skills into the curriculum, as these are important for ensuring kids can become self-reliant but are skills not often taught in school.
There are people who try to stigmatize homeschooling but ignore them. There are many recorded benefits of homeschooling, like raising kids to become more independent and happier as adults. Additionally, the modern school system is a century outdated, and conditions children to take instructions, not to make decisions.
Become Debt Free
You won’t truly be independent unless you let go of your debt. It may take more time if you’re deeper in debt, but it’s doable. Here are the steps you should take to pay off your debt completely:
Write Out Income and Expenses
The first and most important thing you should do is set aside time to sit down and write how much you make, how much you spend, and how much you have saved. By taking note of these important figures, you get a better idea of how quickly you’ll be able to reach a debt-free life.
If you don’t have ample time to create a detailed spreadsheet, you can write down a monthly total of what you make and your spending by category – utilities, food, housing, transportation, etc. Add everything up and see if you’re saving money per month, losing money per month, or if your net worth is staying the same.
Develop a Budget
The next step is to come up with a personal budget. To create your budget, set your income as your starting figure, and carve out a considerable amount to pay yourself. This large chunk should go toward paying off your debts.
Downsize to Cut Expenses
If you don’t have enough money each month to pay off your debts, you should aim to downsize your life. This may mean sharing cars, cutting sources of entertainment, and other changes.
Find Off-Grid Land
Finding land is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face when transitioning to an off-grid lifestyle.
Review Your Budget
One of your primary deciding factors for finding off-grid land will be how much you can spend or how big of a down payment you can make. Given the amount you’re willing to spend to buy land, determine if you’re ready to buy land or if you’re willing to save up a bit longer.
Decide Where to Live
Aside from your available money, you’ll also want to consider which area or state you want to move to. Some areas are more accommodating to homesteaders than others, so picking the right place will make your experience on your land less stressful. Some of the important considerations for deciding where to live long-term are:
- Cost of land
- Cost of living
- Cost of labor (for when you need help)
- Local wildlife
- Location (and proximity to a hospital, emergency services, and community)
- Soil Quality
Search for Affordable Land
Now that you know how much you’re willing to spend and in which area you want to buy land, you can start your search for affordable land. Most of the time, the most affordable land isn’t publicly advertised. Take time to ask around and look for the piece of land that best suits your needs. This is an important decision as it is where you intend to establish yourself and build a life; there is no need to rush it.
Make an Offer and Close
Once you’ve selected the right parcel of land for your homesteading needs and are ready to send the seller an offer, it’s time to close the deal. If you’re working with a real estate agent, they can handle most of the work for you. Either way, you may wish to consult with a real estate lawyer to double-check the contents of any contract you’ll be signing.
Build or Buy a House
If your land comes with a house, that’s great! If not, you will want to build a house that meets your specific needs.
Develop a Waste Management System
A big part of becoming self-sufficient is developing your own waste management system. This system will handle your sewage and wastewater flow.
Depending on whether you’ve already constructed a home, are planning on moving, and a whole host of other factors, you may have to plan out your waste management in advance. Aside from planning, you’ll need to get any necessary permits.
A large part of human waste is created in the bathroom. For this reason, you may consider off-grid toilets, but more specifically, composting toilets. These types of toilets allow you to safely manage your waste and even repurpose your own waste into manure for (non-edible) plants.
Install an Energy Source
If you’re going off-grid, electricity isn’t always necessary; however, it does make life much more convenient.
The first thing you’ll need to do is find out how much power you’ll need. You can do this with the help of specialized tools. Next, you’ll have to find out what your best source of energy is. You may consider hydropower if you’re in an area with flowing water. If you’re in a windy area, wind power will work. When in doubt, solar power works for most areas.
Note that you don’t have to pick only one energy source. You can mix and match energy sources depending on your situation and energy needs.
Find a Community
Whether it’s online or in-person, it would be best to find a community of like-minded homesteaders. By finding and interacting with a community, you can trade tips that will help you optimize your self-sufficient lifestyle.
Is It Possible to Go Entirely off the Grid?
Due to the way modern society works, it’s nearly impossible to go entirely off the grid. You’ll need your own land, and there are all kinds of grid attachments that come with property ownership, such as property taxes. To buy your own land, you’ll need money. If you’re going to earn money by selling your products at a market, you’ll need a truck. A truck requires a license plate, safety inspections, and the like.
In terms of education, you can teach your kids on your own. But the state will check and ensure that your kids are getting a proper education; thus, you’ll need to be on the grid to some extent to handle all the paperwork of your kids’ education.
As you can see, because of the above issues – and dozens more like them – it’s nearly impossible to go off the grid completely. But that shouldn’t stop you from aiming to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Although you may not go off the grid completely, you can get pretty close.
To recap, living a self-sufficient life off-grid has a wealth of benefits. Although it can be difficult to transition to homestead life, the transformation is worth it.
Remember not to be pressured to become self-sufficient in one day. Please go through the steps we’ve listed in this article and slowly work your way down the list. Additionally, there are many people in the modern homestead movement going through a similar transition, and they have and are more than willing to share their experiences. There are many online communities dedicated to homesteading to learn all sorts of knowledge.
For more articles on homesteading and embracing a natural lifestyle, check out the other articles on our website.
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