We were newlyweds, staring at our newly purchased home and property. The house was tiny, the outbuildings were trashed, the fence lines were destroyed, and it was miles and miles from the nearest grocery store…
Our property was a disaster when we purchased it– falling down fence, a washing machine in the back pasture, and waist-deep trash piles in the barn and shop. BUT- we knew it just needed some sweat-equity to bring it to life.
We overhauled every single inch of the place (fence lines, gardens, pastures, landscaping, tree rows, siding, roofs, outbuildings, corrals, you name it…), so I feel like we know a thing or two about starting a homestead from scratch.
Many of you are in the spot in life where you are getting ready to start a homestead or you’re looking at that being a possibility a few years down the road.
I love sharing what we have going on here at our homestead right now with you. Sometimes, though, it can be a little bit of a disconnect because we’ve been doing this for 12 years.
If you’re just getting started, trying to compare where you are now to someone that has been at it for a while can be confusing and cause lots of overwhelm.
A little over a year ago, my sister Jenna purchased 10 acres and decided to start homesteading. It made me think all over again about Christian and I’s early adventures on our homestead, and the challenges we faced in those first years. It got me thinking about those initial feelings and thoughts that can occur when you start a new homestead from scratch.
While my goal here is to help you think through some important beginner homestead questions and thought-processes, if there is one major lesson you should get from here, please let it be this: you can’t do it all. So take a deep breath, take a read, and remember to take it all one step at a time. Ready? Let’s get started…
Love listening rather than reading? I cover this topic in-depth in this podcast episode here:
Why Are You Starting a Homestead?
Many people, especially in the last few years, have decided to make a change and start homesteading. Everyone has their various reasons why they have decided to make that change.
If you are reading this, it means that at some point, you probably came to that fork in the road where you want to get intentional about your future.
Start by asking yourself: where would you like to be a year, 5 years, or even 10 years from now? Consider writing down some homestead goals for you and your family for the next year and, while you’re at it, write down your long-term homestead goals, too.
Check out my How to Set Homestead Goals article for some inspiration here (or watch the video below).
Starting a Homestead from Scratch
When making the decision to begin a homestead, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are making the decision to relocate. It has always been my belief that homesteading is a state of mind and there are things that you can do no matter where you live (check out my Modern Homesteading Manifesto for more of my thoughts on that…).
If you are someone that lives in town, there is nothing wrong with doing homesteading stuff right where you are. There are so many things you can do with a small backyard or a limited amount of space. For example, my sister Jenna’s backyard was pretty small at their first house, but we talked about where they could put a garden and what else they could do.
There is a lot of potential for homesteading wherever you are. I’ve made a few videos about this, too. Watch as I show how I would make my parent’s 1/4 acre city lot into a small homestead. You can also watch as I show how I would transform the 100 year old house in our nearby town into a small homestead. Seriously, there are lots of modern homesteading skills and activities you can do, no matter where you live. I am a firm believer in this.
Homesteading in Small Spaces Ideas:
- Square Foot Gardening
- Raised Bed Gardening
- Herb Garden
- Container Gardening
- Laying Hens
- Cooking from Scratch (Check Out the Heritage Cooking Course or My Cookbook)
- Local Food Sourcing
- Join a CSA
- Milk Shares
- Farmers Markets
- Learning about Food Storage
Note: Before buying live animals, check with your homeowner association or township to see what your rules are.
Relocating to Start Your Homestead
I am a really big fan of going with your gut and if it is telling you that you’re made for more, then it is time to take action. You are the only one who will know when/if it’s time to relocate and possibly buy new land for your future homestead (you might want to check out my tips here on 12 Questions to Ask Before Buying Homestead Property).
Relocating and choosing something unfamiliar and different can be a scary hard decision. Take a step back, think about your goals and imagine what your life will look like a few months after taking that leap.
It is important to remember that not all homesteads or properties are going to be the same. Someone else’s dream homestead will look different than your own. You don’t have to have 10 acres or even 5 acres. It will depend on where you live, what your land is like, and lots of other personal factors.
Choosing the right homestead property depends on what your long-term goals are, but also what type of place you see your future self in.
The Feeling of Starting Your Homestead
When we bought our homestead, that was the first time I had ever lived on acreage that was my own. It is such a crazy feeling the first time you realize it’s your land. It might seem surreal at first, like you are just visiting or on vacation.
That idea of “it’s too good to be true” faded maybe a year or two after our initial purchase, but I do remember the very first weeks of living on our homestead it felt like I was floating on a cloud.
Our place was just such an absolute disaster, with all of the trash, overgrowth, and nasty outbuildings. And yet, I would just stand in the barn stare at the land and think with happiness: I can’t believe it…I just can’t believe it. Starting your homestead will probably be a wholehearted experience that you will remember for a long, long time.
Even now, I sometimes get that feeling of awe. Recently, one night at the golden hour where the air was soft, the light was beautiful, the kids were quiet and I just had to stop. I sat on the edge of the chicken tractor, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I got the chills and this feeling encompassed every part of me. At that moment, I knew that I was supposed to be here and this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
I truly want every person to experience that, and that is partly why I’m such a fanatic about what I do. Not everyone is meant to homestead on tons of acres, but it is an amazing feeling when you are fulfilling your specific purpose.
Overcoming Comparisons When Starting a Homestead
Many times when my sister Jenna was buying her property, she would say “It doesn’t look exactly like Jill’s” and didn’t fully realize it. When Jenna verbalized her comparisons unintentionally with me, I simply asked “Do you want exactly what I have? Does my homestead fit your dream?”
Jenna answered these simple questions and realized that even though her 10 acres didn’t look like mine, it fit her dream. When you find yourself comparing your dream homestead to someone else’s, ask yourself these same questions and answer them honestly.
Don’t get caught up in the comparison game; stick to what you know you want. In the long run, only your dream will make you happy. Need more encouragement? Read my thoughts on Homesteading Stereotypes here. Comparison and feeling a need to fit one type of “homesteading” image does more damage than actually being helpful.
Sacrifices and Roadblocks When Starting a Homestead
It is fun to talk about the beginning of things, there is excitement and it’s also fun to talk about the ends/results, because it is about your victorious end of the journey. Oftentimes, though, we don’t talk about the middle of the process.
So many people don’t get to see the roadblocks and no one tells you about the ugly part where you think you’re losing your mind. You are stressed out, not sleeping, and feel like you’re going to war every day for your dreams. Sometimes you’re left wondering if it’s gonna be worth it and you ask yourself if you even want it anymore.
Sometimes, things can get tough and when you’re buying property, there may be times when sacrifices will need to be made for your dream.
Budget-Friendly Sacrifice Ideas:
- Cut Back on Vacations
- Grocery Costs: Don’t Splurge on Things
- Clothing Costs: Buy What You Need
- Less or No Ordering Out
Choosing not to do something to save money for your dream can be uncomfortable and you will be missing out on instant gratification. In the end, though, once you have keys in hand and that feeling of “I can’t believe we did it!” you will know the sacrifices were well worth it.
Check out my article on Money Principles for Homesteaders to get a closer look at how Christian and I personally made our homestead goals work, especially in the early years on a strict budget.
Roadblocks: The Process of Starting a Homestead
The process of buying your house can be as stressful as preparing for one. When things disrupt the buying process or it isn’t going exactly perfect, people tend to get paralysis by analysis.
This can become a roadblock when there is a setback and then you start to think it wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes I think that can be true, but other times, it’s more like a test to see if you have the fortitude to push through it.
Christian and I have had plenty of roadblocks and failures along the way. Take a closer look at our personal homesteading failures here:
- The Biggest Homesteading Mistakes We Have Made (So Far)
- The World’s Worst Homesteader
- Killing My Garden with Bad Compost (AGAIN)
- Why We are Teaching Our Kids to Fail (my philosophical musings on failing)
Things never look how you think they are going to, and keeping that mentality of “I will not throw this away just because things are hard and scary” is a huge life lesson. In the end, if it’s not meant to be, it is important to recognize that there was something to be learned from the process. Nothing is a total loss as long as you realize that you have learned something.
Buying your dream homestead may not have any roadblocks; it might go very smoothly, so please don’t go into this thinking all buying processes are doomed from the start. Your situation can be as simple as an offer was accepted and the keys are yours.
I just really wanted to emphasize that if you do hit some roadblocks, don’t feel like you have to just give up. If it is something that you want and it is meant to be, it will be worth the hard work in the end.
Learning to Manage Your Fear When Starting a Homestead
I have mentioned on social media that we purchased a fixer-upper and more recently the soda fountain in the little rural town north of us. Both need a lot of work, but we had the vision to bring some life into this little town. It is ok to feel a little scared when making those big buys, but I knew it was right and everything went smoothly.
No matter how right or enchanted you feel at the time the keys to your dream are handed to you, there can be an anxiety that rises after. Thoughts like “what have we done?” start to surface. I have now come to recognize that little bit of fear when diving into something new as a good thing. However, there is also that fear based on “I should not be doing this“, which is a bad thing, and there is a difference between the two. Just remember that feeling some of that same weird fear when you first buy your homestead is perfectly normal.
You may find yourself questioning the decisions that you had already thought out, or perhaps you have let other people’s comments get into your head. This is nothing to be ashamed of and this cycle of fear is completely normal.
One of my favorite books, is The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield, describes this type of fear. He says that the amateur feels the fear and expects it will eventually go away, but the professional knows the fear never goes away but they do it anyway.
This is something I think about every time I’m doing something uncomfortable. Buying a fixer-upper, investing in an opportunity, or doing any skill that I’m bad at. The professional knows the fear, has learned how to manage it, and keeps pushing through it. Your fear will eventually blossom into something beautiful but it is a part of the process.
Finding Your Homesteading Community
Another important part of starting a homestead is understanding that you are not an island. Find your people. If you are wanting to homestead, can, or sew, find people who will genuinely cheer you on.
I don’t mean the passive-aggressive friends who tolerate your weirdness but secretly think you’re crazy. Instead, find the people who are going to be your cheerleader, and pick you up when you’re discouraged. Look for those folks who will be excited when you grow your first tomato or knit your first dishrag. This is a really important piece and it doesn’t have to be right next door, it can be an online community of like-minded homesteading people.
Many people think that in order to build a community, it has to fit a certain model and the people that we are supposed to connect with are within arms reach. Communities of support can take all shapes and forms, it doesn’t change the depth of the connection.
Creating of finding a homesteading community can be scary and uncomfortable, and I actually talk in-depth about community in my article How to Cultivate Community While Homesteading. If you are a little nervous or interested in homesteading communities, give it a read.
Are You Ready to Start Your Homestead?
When you are ready to start your homesteading journey, please remember: don’t let others (or yourself!) to cause you confusion and overwhelm. Decide what you want your dream to look like, follow your gut and take action. Starting can be exciting, but it also can be uncomfortable and scary. Push past the fear and I promise you will not regret the end results.
More About Starting a Homestead:
- 7 Reasons to Start Homesteading Today
- 4 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE You Start Your Homestead
- How to Start Homesteading When You Feel Overwhelmed
- Homesteading With Kids: How We Do It
- The Story of Our Prairie House