Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

Self Sufficient Homesteading: A Beginner’s Guide

By: Zac Friedman

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Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is about producing as much food and other necessities as possible on your own land, and being prepared for anything that comes your way. Homesteaders often work toward the goal of living sustainably and being as self-sufficient as possible. This guide outlines self sufficient homesteading with a focus on small acreage farms. We’ll cover how to become self-sufficient, how much land you need, which types of crops and livestock to raise, and much more.

Self Sufficient living pin

What is Self Sufficient Homesteading?

A farmer who is self-sufficient produces most or all of their food on their own land with very few, if any, external inputs. They don’t need help from other people. A self-sufficient farmer hardly trades with the world outside of their farm. They have everything they need. They rarely have to leave their land and go into town.

Achieving this level of independence takes a great deal of knowledge, practice, and planning. For example, a self-sufficient homesteader will need to grow enough food during the warmer months so that they will have access to an adequate supply throughout winter. They will need to know how to raise livestock, preserve food, and maintain their equipment.

Self-sufficiency and sustainable living are two terms that go hand-in-hand. The vast majority of self-sufficient farmers focus on producing as little waste as possible by repurposing or reusing products in other ways. Almost nothing is consumed from outside of the farm – only what is produced there. Concepts like permaculture and renewable energy are also essential to have a completely self-sufficient farm.

In short: Self-sufficiency farming means learning how to grow, make and sell everything you need – independently.

A small homestead

What is self-sufficiency?

Self-sufficiency is the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction for sustenance. It is often used in reference to food and water, but it can also refer to other needs like shelter and clothing. Some homesteaders go as far as to build their own homes and sew their own clothing.

Self-sufficient living is a lifestyle that anyone can achieve with practice, planning, and a bit of land. With enough land, you can become self-sufficient in food, water, energy, and other necessities.

Homesteading is a great way to live sustainably and be prepared for anything that comes your way.

raised beds with lettuce growing

Can we be completely self-sufficient?

The answer to this question depends on what you mean by “self-sufficient.” If you’re asking if it’s possible to live off the land entirely and never have to buy or trade for anything, then the answer is probably no. Even the most self-sufficient homesteaders out there likely rely on outside resources from time to time.

However, if you’re asking if it’s possible to be mostly self-sufficient and produce most of what you need on your homestead, then the answer is a resounding yes!

Homesteading is all about being self-reliant and sustainable, and there are many ways to do that. From growing food to generating power, there are plenty of ways to make yourself more self-sufficient.

How self-sufficient you can be depends on many factors, such as the climate, the type of homesteading you want to do, and the amount of food you need to produce, and your level of knowledge and skill.

With enough land and practice, you can become self-sufficient in food, water, and most other necessities. You may need to head into town for certain supplies from time to time.

How Many Acres of Land do You Need for a Self-Sufficient Farm?

How big a farm do you need to be self-sufficient? It depends on who you ask. The kinds of tasks that take place on your farm, as well as your objectives, will influence how many acres are required. The average size of a homestead is 1-2 acres. To be totally self-sufficient, the average person would need 5-10 acres.

Is it possible to be self-sufficient on a one acre homestead? The answer will vary depending on the situation. You may make it work if you utilize every inch of space and are willing to live with some limitations on what you can produce. For example, if you’re willing to live a vegan lifestyle, it may very well be possible to become self-sufficient with as little as one acre. Generally, you will need at least 5 acres to be self sufficient.

How Many Acres for Vegetables?

A woman holding vegetables from her garden

How much land do you really need to grow enough vegetables to become self-sufficient? The answer may surprise you.

While the amount of land needed will vary depending on factors such as climate, rainfall, and the type of crops grown, it is possible to be self-sufficient on as little as 1/4 acre (10,000 square feet).

Even if you’re the most efficient farmer, 1/4 acre only grows enough food to feed a small family. For example, you may be able to grow vegetables to feed two or three people in that amount of space.

However, it is unlikely that will be able to use all of your land optimally. Some parts of your farm may have large trees shading it. It could be covered in forest. Additionally, spots on your soil might be rocky, hilly, or swampy. Some of your soil could be of poor quality.

It’s nice to have a bit of extra land. With your extra land, you could grow a few fruit trees and nut trees, make a compost pile, or dig a root cellar.

How Many Acres do You Need to Raise Farm Animals?

cows grazing in a field

How many animals you can keep on your homestead depends on the size of your property and the resources you have available. If you want to be self-sufficient, you’ll need to raise enough animals to provide for your and your family’s needs in terms of food.

For raising livestock, you’ll need a lot of land – up to 50 acres or more. This is especially true if you’re raising large farm animals such as cattle. Each adult cow needs approximately 4 acres per month according to this guide from the United States Department of Agriculture.

As your herd grows, so will the amount of land required. When calculating how much property you’ll need, don’t forget that your animals will require grazing areas outside of their housing structures. You’ll need land for your animals to forage.

You’ll also need a lot of additional pasture to move them around while grass and weeds develop after one space is cleared.

You’ll also need to take into account the amount of land required to grow crops for your animals to eat. You’ll need enough pasturage to grow enough feed to sustain your livestock through the winter months.

You’ll need to consider things like the climate in your area and whether or not you’re prepared to deal with the paperwork and regulations that come along with owning animals. But if you’re up for the challenge, raising livestock can be a rewarding experience.

Is your farm only a few acres in size, and do you want to be self-sustaining? On a one acre homestead, you’re probably going to have to give up red meat or depend on chicken alone. On a small property with 2-5 acres, you could also raise a couple of pigs or goats here and there.

Other uses of land on a Homestead

Homesteads are not just for growing crops and raising livestock. You’ll need to use your land to produce energy, store your belongings, and space to simply live. You can’t use every bit of your land for producing food.

One way to produce energy on a homestead is through solar panels. Solar panels can be used to generate electricity which can be used to heat water, power lights, and run appliances. The excess energy can be stored in batteries for future use.

solar panels next to a garden
solar energy is a great way to increase your self-sufficience

If you want to use solar panels, you’ll need to reserve at least a few hundred square feet of space for them. According to this guide, a modest home will require approximately 200 square feet or 18 square meters of solar panels. A larger home may require 1,000 square feet or 90 square meters.

Firewood is another great way to produce energy on a homestead. Homesteaders can cut down trees and use the wood to heat their homes in the winter. Firewood can also be used to cook food and boil water on an off-grid homestead. If you’re relying on firewood to heat your home and live in a region with colder temperatures, anticipate needing anywhere from 3-12 acres of forest per year.

Lastly, you’ll need to take into account the amount of space you’ll need for living and storing your belongings. Your home will most likely be at least 1,000 square feet (90 meters).

You’ll also need a driveway to access the property as well as a few sheds or barns to store all of your tools and equipment. There may be easements on your property that can’t be used.

Can you be self-sufficient on One acre?

A small farm house

While it is possible to be self-sufficient on a one acre homestead, it is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, knowledge, skill, and lots of planning.

There are many factors to consider when homesteading, including climate, location, soil type, water availability, the amount of food you need, and more.

One acre of land is a small space, and you will need to carefully plan and manage your resources in order to be successful.

With careful planning and management, it is possible to be self-sufficient on one acre of land. However, it is not easy.

For more info, check out my guide to homesteading on one acre.

Types of Crops You Can Grow

a large cabbage growing

A key component of homesteading is growing food. While you can grow just about anything on a homestead, some crops are more well-suited to this lifestyle than others.

If you’re interested in becoming more self-sufficient through homesteading, consider growing some of the following crops:

Vegetables:

  • potatoes

  • carrots

  • kale

  • cabbage

  • tomatoes

  • peppers

  • green beans
  • onions

  • garlic
  • squash

  • pumpkins

Herbs and spices:

  • basil

  • oregano

  • thyme

  • mint

  • rosemary

  • sage

  • cilantro

  • parsley

Fruits:

  • apples

  • pears

  • plums

  • cherries

  • strawberries

  • grapes
  • berry bushes- raspberry and blueberry bushes

  • watermelon

Grains:

  • oats

  • wheat

  • barley

  • rye

  • rice

Legumes:

  • peas

  • lentils

  • soybeans

Trees:

  • fruit trees such as apples or pears

  • nut trees such as almonds or walnuts

  • timber trees such as oak or maple

  • tap trees such as maple for making syrup

Apple trees
Fruit trees are a great addition to any homestead

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the many different crops that can be grown on a homestead. The best way to figure out what will work best for you is to experiment and see what does well in your particular climate and soil conditions. With a little trial and error, you’re sure to find the perfect crops for your homestead.

Types of Livestock You can Raise on a Homestead

There are many benefits to keeping livestock on a homestead. Homesteaders can enjoy fresh, wholesome milk, eggs, and meat as well as the companionship of animals. Livestock also provides a natural source of fertilizer and can be used for draft power.

chickens

A few common types of livestock to keep on a homestead include:

  • Chickens- For eggs and meat

  • Cattle- Dairy cow and beef cow

  • Sheep

  • Pigs

  • Goats

  • Horses

  • Rabbits

  • Ducks

  • Geese

  • Turkeys

  • Bees

  • Quail

  • Pheasants

  • Guineafowl

  • Fish- with aquaponics

Pets to Keep on a Homestead

Some good options for homestead pets include dogs and barn cats. Dogs can provide security and companionship. Barn cats can help keep rodents and other pests under control.

When choosing a pet for your homestead, be sure to consider how it will fit into your lifestyle and whether it will be a good fit for your family. Some pets require more care than others.

Pets can be a great addition to a homestead, but you need to make sure you are prepared to take on the extra work that comes with them. Consider your options carefully and do your research before bringing a new pet home to your homestead.

How to start a self-sustaining homestead?

A small homestead in the mountains

There are many ways to become self-sufficient, but it takes careful planning and a lot of hard work. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey to homesteading:

1. Get your finances in order

One of the biggest hurdles to starting a homestead is the upfront cost. Starting a homestead can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on your location.

Plan carefully and be realistic about what you can afford. Consider your debt and income. You’ll need to watch your bank account. Starting a homestead gets really expensive really quickly.

There are many ways to save money when setting up your homestead, from bartering to scavenging to recycling.

2. Build up your knowledge and skills

Learning how to grow food and care for animals is essential for any homesteader. There are many resources available online and in libraries that can teach you the basics of homesteading.

You can also join a homesteading group, take classes in agriculture and farming, or talk to experienced homesteaders who live in your region. This can help you dial in your homesteading plans.

3. Obtain land

One of the biggest challenges for homesteaders is finding land that is affordable and suitable for their needs.

There are many ways to find land, from purchasing it outright to leasing it from a farmer. For most, it’s a great idea to start with a small homestead where you can grow only for personal use.

4. Setup your homestead

Once you have the finances and knowledge in place, it’s time to start setting up your homestead. This includes building shelter and creating systems to collect water and power. You’ll also need to plan for food production.

5. Plant your garden

Once you have your land, it’s time to start planting. Growing food is one of the most rewarding aspects of homesteading. Start with a small garden or some raised beds and expand from there.

The type of plants you grow will depend on your climate and soil conditions. Homesteaders often grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

There are many resources available to help you get started in choosing the best plants for your region. You can read books, online forums, and seed catalogs.

6. Animals

Many homesteaders choose to raise animals for food. Chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, and bees are common choices for smaller properties. On larger homesteads, you can also raise cattle, goats, and sheep.

Each type of animal has different needs in terms of housing, animal feed, and care. Be sure to do your research before bringing any animals onto your property.

7. Maintenance and upkeep

Homesteading is a lot of work! Be prepared to put in long hours caring for your plants and animals. You will also need to regularly repair and maintain your buildings and equipment and home.

8. Join the Community

One of the best things about homesteading is the community that comes with it. There are many ways to connect with other homesteaders, including online forums, homesteading groups, and events. Becoming part of your local community is a great way to learn and make friends.

9. Marketing

If you want to sell your products or extra food, you will need to learn about marketing and business. There are many ways to market your homestead products, from farmer’s markets to online sales, to selling directly from your property. Selling the products that you produce is a great way to supplement your income.

How to start a more self-sufficient homestead, regardless of where you live

seedlings growing

Homesteading can be achieved no matter where in the world you live. Whether you have a large piece of land or a small urban lot, there are ways to make your homestead more self-sufficient. Here are some tips on how to get started:

  • If you have the space, grow some food. This can be done on a small scale with a garden, or on an even smaller scale with potted plants and container gardening. Alternatively, you could set up a hydroponic system, or even just grow herbs on your windowsill. You can grow a surprising amount of food in a bedroom or on the balcony of an apartment or condo. Even if you don’t have land of your own, many community gardens lease out plots of land to residents. Not only will you save money by growing food, but you will also know that it is fresh, healthy, and of better quality than what you would get in the supermarket.

  • Raise your own animals for food. This includes chickens for eggs and meat, goats for milk, and pigs for pork. Raising your own animals can be a lot of work, but it is very rewarding and will save you money in the long run. Animals are great food sources. If you live in an urban area, it’s important to check your local ordinances to see what kind of animals are allowed. For example, some cities don’t allow you to build a chicken coop.

  • Collect rainwater. You can this to water your garden or wash your car. This can be done with simple rain barrels, or on a larger scale with a rainwater catchment system.

  • Use sustainable energy such as solar power to run some or all of your home’s electricity. This can be as simple as using solar-powered outdoor lights, or as complex as installing solar panels on your roof.

  • Generate your own heat with a wood-burning stove or fireplace. This is a great way to save money on your heating bill, and it can also be used for cooking and hot water.

  • If you live in an urban area, start a community garden. This is a great way to meet your neighbors and help the environment at the same time. A community compost pile another great idea.

  • Line dry your clothes instead of using a clothes dryer. This will save you money on your energy bill and extend the life of your clothing.

  • Use a composting toilet. This can save water. You can also use the waste as fertilizer for your plants.

  • Build a greenhouse. This is a great option if you’re homesteading in a cold climate. A greenhouse greatly extends your growing season.
  • Use natural cleaners. You can make your own household items like laundry detergent and shampoo. Using these can save you money. They can also reduce your impact on the environment. There are many recipes online for DIY green cleaning products or you can purchase them from a local store.

  • There are many other ways to be more self-sufficient. For example, making your own soap, canning and preserving food, and using alternative transportation. The options are endless! The best way to get started is to pick one or two that interest you and give them a try. Homesteading is a journey, not a destination, so take your time and enjoy the ride.

Homesteading is a lifestyle that can be adapted to any location, whether you live in the city or the country or in a cold climate or a hot climate.

By taking steps to become more self-sufficient, you can save money, reduce your environmental impact, and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

By following these tips, you can become less reliant on others. This will not only save you money, but it will also make you more prepared for emergencies.

Tips for Becoming More Self-Sufficient

Self-sufficiency is always a work in progress. There are always ways to improve. You can:

Learn old-fashioned skills

Old fashioned skills such as canning foods, drying foods, or making fermented foods can come in handy on a homestead. These skills are useful when you need to store food for the winter or for emergencies. Sewing, kniting, and crocheting can come in handy for making or mending clothes.

canning tomatoes
Canning is a great way to preserve the food you produce

Learn how to do things yourself

Instead of buying bread from the store, you could learn how to bake it yourself. Not only is homemade bread tastier, but you will also save money in the long run. Instead of calling a plumber, you can learn how to fix a leaky pipe yourself. There are many online tutorials and books that can teach you how to do things yourself. Youtube is also an excellent resource.

Live a more simple lifestyle

This means learning to live without all the modern conveniences we have come to rely on. It can be a challenge at first, but it is definitely possible. Learning how to make do without will make you more prepared for any situation.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Self-Sufficient Farming

The off-grid lifestyle isn’t for everyone. In this section, I’ll outline a few benefits and drawbacks to consider before you jump in.

What are the benefits of self-sufficiency?

Self-sufficiency is the key to a sustainable lifestyle. When you are able to produce your own food, energy, and water, you are not reliant on external factors beyond your control.

This means that you can weather economic downturns, disruptions in supply chains, and even political instability. This is more important than ever in the uncertain times that we’re living through.

There are many benefits to living a self-sufficient lifestyle on a farm. Here are just a few:

  1. You become more self-reliant and independent.

  2. You develop a stronger connection to the land and nature.

  3. You produce healthy, organic food for yourself and your family.

  4. You save money by not having to buy food or other products from outside sources.

  5. You reduce your carbon footprint.

  6. You can live on a small amount of money.

What are the Drawbacks of self-sufficiency?

Homesteading is a great way to be more self-sufficient, but there are certainly some drawbacks.

For one, it can be a lot of work. You have to grow food, care for your animals, and do all of the maintenance on your property. This can be overwhelming at times, especially if you’re doing it all by yourself.

Another drawback is that you may not have access to the same amenities that you’re used to. This includes things like running water, electricity, and the internet. If you live in a rural area, you may have to drive into town for these things.

There is also a large upfront cost to starting a homestead. Acreage and a home costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The equipment cost is substantial as well.

Finally, self-sufficiency can be isolating. If you’re not used to being by yourself, it can be lonely. You may also miss the social interaction that you’re used to.

Despite these drawbacks, self-sufficiency is a rewarding lifestyle. If you’re up for the challenge, it can be a great way to live.

A small cottage homestead

Some Common Problems You Might Run Into When Starting a Self-Reliant Life

When you’re just starting out, you’re likely to experience some setbacks. A few issues you may encounter include:

1. Not having enough experience or knowledge: There is a lot of information out there, and it can be overwhelming to try and figure out where to start. It is important to do your research and make sure you are prepared before taking the plunge into homesteading.

2. Not having enough land: Another common problem faced by homesteaders is not having enough land to support their lifestyle. This can be a big issue if you are trying to grow all of your own food or raise animals. Make sure you have enough land to support your lifestyle before getting started.

3. Not having enough money: This can be a big issue if you are trying to live off the grid or pay for all of your own utilities. Make sure you have a plan in place for how you will finance your self-reliant lifestyle before getting started.

4. Dealing with bad weather: This can be a big problem if you are trying to grow your own food or raise animals. Make sure you have a plan in place for how you will deal with cold weather and drought before getting started.

5. Dealing with pests and diseases: This can be a big problem when you are trying to grow food or raise animals. Make sure you have a plan in place for how you will deal with pests and diseases before getting started.

6. Dealing with isolation and loneliness: This can be a big problem if you are trying to live off the grid or in a remote location. Make sure you have a plan in place for how you will deal with isolation and loneliness before getting started. Having a friend, family, or significant other to work with helps tremendously.

7. Dealing with boredom: This can be a big problem if you are trying to live off-grid far outside of the city far away from other people. There isn’t much to do in many rural areas. This can be a problem for those who are used to living in the city.

8. Dealing with stress: Another challenge faced by homesteaders is dealing with stress. This can be a big problem if you are reliant on the food you’re growing. If you can’t grow enough, you could find yourself in trouble. This can be a major source of stress. Your finances can also cause a lot of stress. Homesteading is expensive.

9. Dealing with unexpected problems: When you’re a homesteader, there is always something that needs to be repaired. There is always a job to do. Problems are constantly popping up.

The Homesteader Lifestyle Philosophy

Homesteading is not just about living off the land, it’s about creating a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature. There are many ways to homestead, but there are some key principles that all homesteads have in common:

  1. They are based on a deep respect for the natural world.

  2. They are designed to be as self-reliant as possible.

  3. They strive to produce food, energy, and other necessities of life in an environmentally sustainable way.

  4. They seek to create a sense of community and build strong relationships with their neighbors.

  5. They value simplicity, hard work, and self-sufficiency.

a sack of potatoes

Final Thoughts About Creating a More Self-Sufficient Life on a Homestead

Homesteading is not only a way to be more independent, but it can also be a very rewarding lifestyle. It takes hard work and dedication, but the rewards are well worth it.

If you are thinking about creating a more self-sufficient lifestyle, I encourage you to do some research and give it a try. You may just find that it is the best decision you ever made.

Do you live on a self-sufficient homestead? Share your experience in the comments below!

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