12 Ways to Homestead in Place

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
12 Ways to Homestead in Place

If you read between the many lines here on Backdoor Survival, you will know that I daydream about becoming a homesteader.  I have collected books and eBooks on the topic and I am constantly talking to anyone who will listen about raising chickens for eggs and goats for milk.  Sadly, most of this dreaming is just that, a dream.

Like many, my living arrangements do not allow for raising animals, a humongous garden, a workshop to build stuff or any of the other trappings normally associated with a traditional homestead.  On the other hand, there are things I do have, most notably the will and the desire to homestead in place.

12 Ways to Homestead in Place | Backdoor Survival

Homestead in Place?  What is That?

By my own definition, to “homestead in place” means to take what you have – be it a downtown condo, an urban apartment, a suburban tract home or a cottage home in a seaside community – and pluck an assortment of traditional homesteading activities and apply them to your unique environment.

In order to fulfill our mutual desire to become homesteaders, I have compiled a dozen things you can do to homestead in place, regardless of where you live.

12 Ways to Homestead in Place

1.  Create a porch garden using pots, buckets and that little patch of land that barely qualifies as a yard.  While a true homesteader will start their garden from seed, if space is sparse, purchase veggie starts instead.  You will still be gardening and you will still be growing food.

2.  Forage for food in unlikely places.  You may not be able to pluck apples from your own tree but you might be able to pick blackberries that grow wild along the roadside or take some tomatoes and zucchini from a co-worker or friend whose own garden went wild.

3.  Build a food storage pantry.  If you are a Prepper, this is a no-brainer and surely you have already started.  Since space may be at a premium, seek out hidden hidey holes such as the top of a closet or under the bed.  Find more ideas see 16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper.

4.  Cook your own food from scratch.  Cooking and eating your own food will ensure that your meals will be fresh and nourishing.  There will be no more junk food and no more fast food – just good, healthy food that is kind to your body as well as your pocketbook.

5.  Do chores.  Just because there are no eggs to gather or cows to milk does not mean you should avoid a daily routine that includes chores.  The problem with smallish living spaces is that they clutter easily and get dirty fast.  Come up with a daily chore list that includes such routine tasks as cleaning sinks, picking up clutter and sweeping the porch.  There is a reason there are so many books on managing clutter and efficient housecleaning.  Messy, dirty living spaces are stressful.  And that is all that I will say about that.

6.  Use herbal remedies and essential oils to relieve common ailments.  When you live 20 miles from the nearest store, you think twice before jumping in the car to head to the drugstore.  At Backdoor Survival I have only touched the very tip of usefulness of herbal remedies and essential oils.  Start with the basics, lavender, melaleuca (tea tree), peppermint, lemon and rosemary and expand from there.  Over the counter remedies will soon become a thing of the past.

7.  Make your own  cleaning products.  The same applies to cleaning products with the added advantage of removing toxic chemicals from the home you live in.  Start with simple all-purpose cleaners and laundry soap and expand from there.  To get started, see Prepper Checklist: DIY Cleaning Supplies.

8.  Air dry your bedding outdoors.  You may not have the space for a clothesline but surely you can find space for a drying rack or perhaps a porch or deck railing that can be used for drying your bedding.  If you have the space, also dry your clothing outdoors.  They will last longer and nothing beats the smell of fresh air to make you feel like a homesteader!

9.  Make your own personal care products.  For many, making their own personal products (lotions, potions, soaps, salves and balms) has become a hobby in and of itself.  It does not take a lot of room and the money saved can be significant.  My favorite, of course, is my Miracle Healing Salve which has replaced an entire drawer full of personal products.

10.  Use cloth instead of paper.  This runs the gamut from shopping bags to napkins to cleaning rags to diapers.  Creating waste when you don’t have to is just plain stupid.  Sorry, but I just had to say that.

11.  Use it up and make it last.  Actually, the saying is Use It Up, Wear It Out and Make It Do but making things last is important too.  Out on the homestead, everything is re-purposed over and over again until finally, it ends up in the rag bag or the spare part bin.  This is a timeless strategy born out of the Great Depression and embraced by homesteaders regardless of their acres and their circumstance.

12.  Save for a rainy day.  Stuff happens. The kids need new shoes, a machine breaks, or urgent medical care (beyond the scope of home remedies) is required.  I don’t recommend storing cash in a cookie jar but please, keep funds available for a rainy day.  As difficult as it may be to shave some savings from your monthly budget, having a rainy day fund will save the day when an unexpected expense occurs.

The Final Word

At some point, we each need to face the reality of our situation and accept it.  As difficult as that is, to stay stuck in wannabee mode is going to make you miserable.  Been there done that.  In my case, I have Shelly (known as the Survival Husband around here) to remind me of the many blessings in my life and not to dwell on those things (and they are just things) that will likely never happen.

I share this with you today as a reminder that none of us are immune to wanting a farm, with acreage, animals, a well, and the ability to be 100% self sufficient.  If it is simply not going to happen at this point in time, so be it.  Homestead in place, instead.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bargain Bin: For your discernment, here are of some items mentioned today as well as some personal and BDS reader favorites and items from the current Amazon Top 10.

BaoFeng UV-5R  Dual-Band Ham Radio:  The Baofeng UV-5R is a compact hand held transceiver providing 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz. It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65 – 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual watch and dual reception is supported.  Here is the antenna I ordered:  NAGOYA Antenna for BAOFENG UV-5R (thanks to a recommendation from my pal, George Ure).

Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: I now own six of these little gems. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. These little flashlights just go and go, plus, they make good use of those re-purposed 9V alkaline batteries that you have recharged with your Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger.

FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp:  Here we go with another flashlight.    It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof.  Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery.

Morakniv Craftline Q Allround Fixed Blade Utility Knife: Also known as the Mora 511, this is now my favorite knife.  It is made of Swedish steel and is super sharp.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.


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28 Responses to “12 Ways to Homestead in Place”

    • re: WVA water problem

      If this doesn’t wake up the sheep, they are not worth saving. People think they have to run to a store and fight over bottled water. First think I would do is put a barrel (at least a bucket) under my downspouts. Costs only as much as the bucket (Homer buckets at Home Despot are less than $3).

  1. It makes me mad when people spin horrible phrases that the govt uses while trying to be clever. ‘Shelter in place’ – ‘homestead in place’…. when the former is the govt’s pretty way of calling marshall law in areas now, such as the marathon in Boston. You also put your own spin on ‘shock and awe’ or something similar once before and I thought I was going to be sick. Please try to be creative without parroting constitution-killing, murderous war phrases that the govt would love becoming acceptable ‘normal’ household terms. Thank you.

    • Mark – actually I think those phrases were in use by the prepper community long before the government twisted them to mean something else. So, if you want to get upset, do so at the government for twisting the meaning of popular phrases.

    • I think it is a great idea to “homestead in place” if one cannot afford to purchase a piece of property to move to, to homestead in place. I have never heard the government use that phrase.

    • If you don’t like the phrases that are common to us all….Then you need to come up with some new ones, then let us know what they are…..maybe we will use those!

  2. I would like to suggest that if you harvest alongside the road that you look to see if someone lives close by. Even though it may be growing on the roads right away, be courtious, make new friends by asking if you can pick the fruit. Even offer to do so on the halves, where you give the people half of what you pick. You come out ahead and make an appreciative friend.
    As for saving back an “emergency fund” , I use one of the fireproof lock boxes and put back what I can, even if it is only a few dollars.

    • Jim – Great idea about looking around for someone close by before helping yourself to the bounty.

      Here in my community, neighbors will often put a sign up next to an abundantly fruiting tree that says “take some”. Some will even put out sacks although I always have one of those pocket-sized reusable sacks in my coat or jacket pocket.

  3. Good post. We pick loquats from the apt complex behind us – they use them as ornamentals. They freeze well so we have enough for several months. Our neighbor walks and has made friends along the way – he offers to pick/clean up any citrus he sees along his route & has never been turned down – he shares with us.

    Routine chores is a great way to make sure your residence always stays in good shape – whether it’s an apartment where you want to get the security deposit back or a home you eventually want to sell, taking good care will benefit you greatly.

    Use it up, make it do or do without – by not having to go out and buy new stuff you will free up money to put aside for other uses including stocking up or a down payment on the new homestead. Same goes for making your own, using cloth instead of paper. Some places pay for garbage pick-up by the bag – less garbage, fewer bags, less money spent.

  4. Great article. Just what I needed today. I won’t be able to leave so I need to find ways to make do with what I have and can get,

  5. Good article to think outside the norm. Also you can compost in a 5 gal. bucket. I know one lady who did. You can also make other things yourself. candles, tinctures, reloading ammo, brew beer, hand wash laundry. Take first aid and CERT classes, Take ham class and practice with a radio. learn to shoot and practice, practice dry firing. One advantage of keeping everything clean and tidy during normal times, you have a margin of time if the power goes out before you need to do laundry or dishes etc by hand. No excuse of being in a small place. How about organizing your condo or apartment dwellers and start a community garden in an open lot nearby. Just ask the land owner if it is ok.

  6. I too have those real homestead dreams about keeping backyard chickens, bee-keeping and an acre garden, but that is just not happening right now. So we make do with what’s possible right now. Great article, it made me feel better.

  7. Never give up on your dreams. Ive ‘wanted a few acres of my own since I was a teenager.Three years agfo my wife and I found fourteen acres with a house, barn, chicken coop and a workshop within 40 miles of our hometown. We now have 3 cows, 5 llamas, 5 goats, 40 guineas and 6 chickens as well as a large garden. I have to tell you it’s a huge amount of work but it makes you feel complete.
    So I repeat, never give up on your dreams.

    • That sounds like the goal my girlfriend and I have. We are soon to be starting out on our adventure together, both starting anew with our 50th birthdays looming. Your place sounds like exactly what we are looking for. Keep living the dream and enjoy every minute of it.

  8. Be imaginative, the complex where I work used to be small 5-10 acre holdings and has remaining fruit and nut trees. A group of us at work started pruning the apple trees last year to improve production and we share in the harvest, this year we are planning a cider pressing party.

  9. I’ve started getting into learning how to do things from scratch. I didn’t like the lye making process, so I bought gallons of soap, but for many other things, I have enjoyed. For years, I’ve walked along and have noticed acorns laying on the ground and have often thought about how the native Indians used to eat them. I finally gathered up several bags and leached a portion of them last week. They are very good and The method I did was to make a veggie burger or timbales. Had 6 for dinner and they loved them. BTW, we are all meat eaters. I am drying some now to make flour. All acorns are eatable, unlike mushrooms and such. You just have to make sure you leach them completely. If anyone does this, I recommend chopping the raw acorns to average & consistent size (About 1/4″) so the leaching process is faster and all the same. Leaving them in larger chunks makes the leaching longer and you’re going to make them smaller later anyway. I used Live Oak acorns, which have more tannins in them than the White Oak, but they were free. This is the article that got me going.
    My next tasks is to make Apple Cider Vinegar.

    • I am amazed that you got a good result using live oak acorns – we have a lot of those trees on our property, but the acorns are so bitter I couldn’t get an edible product out of them. We did find a source of burr acorns, which are huge, and I am going to try again. Thanks for the referenced article.

      Gaye, very encouraging article. I really like the way you ease people into the prepper lifestyle.

    • I have an oak tree growing in my back yard and I believe I will try the method shown in the link you provided to see if I can get anything of use from all the acorns it produces. I always knew they could be processed but never took the time to research how to do it. Thanks for the link.

    • FYI. An easier way to do a cold water leach of shelled acorns (either whole or ground up) is to place them in a mason jar with cold, clean water. Cap the jar and put it in the fridge. After a day or two the water will turn brown with the tannin leaching out. Dump the water and replace with fresh and put back in the fridge. Repeat until the water doesn’t turn any more.

      You can use acorns in most recipes that call for chestnuts and you can roast them just like any other nut.

  10. My place is pretty small, living on 1/2 of a duplex leaves me very little yard. The front has to be kept to a certain standard, so no growing corn or wheat there. I am fortunate that my side gets lots of sun and will be my new garden spot. But with little room I am incorporating “vertical gardening” as well as some traditional, container gardening. I have a small back yard where I want to place a small green house and heated chest to allow me a head start on some crops that I want to stagger the harvest over the growing season. Next year I want to start bee husbandry, but we need to find out where the Japanese Hornets are coming from that we have seen over the last two summers. At least learn what can be done about relocating them or discourage them from killing my honey bees.
    Making all my own soaps, cleaning supplies and candles has freed up some spaces under the sink and in the laundry room for my coming harvested jewels to be canned and saved for a “rainy” day (read prepper day) and next year honey.
    I do not have a crawl space or any logical place to try and dig a root cellar and there is very little room in the back as it abuts a forested park area. If anyone has ideas to help this one, please let me know. All reasonable answers will be appreciated.
    So all in all, not bad for a city girl turned prepper, huh!?!
    Good luck to all for the growing season,

    • Dana, since my daughter and son-in-law live in a duplex, I understand the conditions you’re having to meet in order to be considered a “desirable” tenant lol. That said, my ears perked up over your root cellar problem…
      I was reading on another blog (I frequent about five or six different ones for different takes on subjects), but unfortunately I can’t remember the exact posting in order to give you a link, BUT it was about storing food without refrigeration.
      A commenter said that he had buried two food grade 55 gallon drums under his porch, leaving a couple inches above ground to allow keeping rain runoff out. He found lids that cap down over the barrels (I took them to be like garbage can lids), and insulated the lids. He said that food placed in those barrels in the ground under the shade of the porch stayed very much cooler than outside, like a root cellar.
      That may be a good experiment for you to try. Good luck!

  11. Gaye, found my way here from the underground medic, great post!
    we found 40 acres and built a home from the ground up S.E. Michigan, totally off grid and under the radar lol.
    Raising chickens is easy but goats on the other hand is a challenge we just lost 3 kids during the last cold snap arghh very depressing! but we saved 2 that we are bottle feeding in the bathroom/nursery!
    Let it be said now that building from the ground up EVERYTHING IS A CHALLENGE and I/we have to build it or buy it. again great post, Drew

  12. Great article. I used to dream of homesteading from the confines of my small apartment. Then one day the factory where my husband worked closed down and within months my family and I where homeless. We ended up staying with a relative for quite some time. After a while we were able to save up enough cash to purchase one acre of cheap land in a remote wooded area of Maine. We built a very small cabin and we began to homestead with very little resources. No running water. No electricity. That was over 10 years ago. We now have a bigger house, chickens, running water, garden space, and more land. We are living our dream. The one thing that helped the most (besides Jesus) was all the knowledge that we soaked up from books and online during our “dreaming” years. You never know what will happen tomorrow, so learn all you can today, practice homesteading skills as much as you can where ever you are, and keep dreaming.

  13. I’ve been there and feel your pain! I did as much as I could in my suburban yard, growing a garden and fruit trees, even raising and butchering my own rabbits! We were very fortunate to be able to move to a 1 acre property in 2010. Now I’m raising and butchering my own chickens, ducks, and turkeys. The garden gets bigger every year. I keep plugging away at becoming a little bit more self reliant every year and I write about it on my blog to share with folks who want to do the same.

    Chin up! Things can change, and even if you don’t move to a homestead, you’re doing a lot with what you’ve got!

  14. Hi, I love this article, I have been thinking of prepping for about a year (yep a year) I was so depressed thinking of all I needed and where I live it was just hard to get motivated. I am in an apartment outside of town and I have a small yard with a privacy fence. I have been wanting to get a house in the woods! I just can not do that now. Your article on working with what you have has really helped me (just get over it)! I will prep and not worry about my living conditions, I really am lucky to have a small yard with a privacy fence. this is such a wonderful prepping blog, Thank you so much!!!!!

  15. Great article!
    My grandpa grew up during the Depression, and his saying was, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!”

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