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According to my research, the term “Homestead” was first used in the United States in the 1860’s. More specifically, in 1862 a law was passed that offered for free up to 160 acres to any family who paid a registration fee, lived on the land for five years, and cultivated it as a farm. A similar act was passed in Canada in 1872.
Almost free land from the government is no longer a reality but the concept of homesteading is still very much alive. The context these days has more to do with self-sufficiency, regardless if where you live. I have frequently addressed the topic of how to homestead in place and, from my own perspective, have embraced that concept as best I can with a tiny piece of property and a cottage home.
If you own your property, adapting to the tenets of traditional homesteading is not difficult although HOAs often have restrictions regarding the the placement of garden areas as well as ownership of small farm animals. On the other hand, renters face a unique dilemma: they do not own the property or the land.
LeAnn Edmondson aka the Homestead Dreamer, is a renter that is doing an admirable job homesteading in Ketchikan, Alaska. In this article, she is back with part 2 of a 5 part series on “How to Homestead When You Rent.” If you missed part 1, click here.
How to Homestead When You Rent: Part Two
How to Homestead When You Rent – Make the Plan
In Part 1 of the series, we discussed the definition and mindset of homesteading.
The definition of the word “homesteading” is not the same as it used to be. Being successful is not determined by how much land you have, how big your garden is, or how much livestock you own. Homesteading is a mentality, a special way of looking at the world and resources around you. It’s providing your needs by your own means instead of buying everything, to the best of your ability. It is adaptation and acceptance of limitations. It is not just for people with a farm in the country.
If you want to homestead where you are, especially if you rent, you can, but you have to change how you look at the situation you’re in. This is where planning and determination comes into play. This is also where the fun really starts! Sit down at your computer or go old school and grab a piece of paper and pencil. Some people buy journals and take notes constantly to help them remember all of the ideas they have in a day. Like I said, this is where the fun really starts!
Hopefully at this point you have decided and defined what ‘homesteading’ means to you in your life. You have at least a vague idea of what you want to accomplish but writing it down makes a big difference. Since we were children, writing something down or seeing it printed seems to make ideas, stories, and even laws more ‘real,’ more plausible, and tangible.
This is no different!
It can be very exciting to really imagine each thing you want to accomplish, writing it down and watch it all click together like puzzle pieces into your picture of a homestead given your situation. Even if it is not the ‘ultimate dream,’ there has to be a starting point somewhere!
For us, it was a garden. The cost of vegetables is very high where we live and I wanted to have the skill and experience of growing food. I wanted more control and the savings on having truly non GMO and chemical free food. Our first year yielded at least 20 pounds of carrots, 10-15 pounds of green beans, and enough onion and garlic to last until the beginning to middle of February. Given the space we have to work with (about 200 square feet), that is pretty impressive! We also had pickles and dehydrated herbs and spices to supplement.
Even if you are limited to the windows of your high rise condo, there are solutions. Say you want to grow onions but only have one window to work with. I have seen articles about growing onions in clear plastic juice bottles that have holes cut out for the greens to grow out of, leaving plenty of space inside for the onion itself to grow. In the end, they had over a dozen white onions to harvest, not to mention all the green onion leaves while they were growing! Worst case scenario (or best, depending how you look at it) would be to get an aero garden that makes countertop gardening easier to do, even for incredibly busy people.
It can be hard to even know the right questions to ask when you are just starting out. You have this desire to take charge, get busy, and make some changes! Hold on to your enthusiasm and set your mind to accept that your journey is just starting and will be built on over time. So often, people rush in and want to do it all – right now – and when they don’t see the results they wanted just give up.
The very idea of homesteading is to build something sustainable from the ground up and that takes a plan that is built on over time.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Even Start
The following questions may help you to create a clearer picture of what exactly you want. First comes the desire, the resources come later. Don’t let money (or a lack of) or other constraints interfere with your answers.
What kinds of things do I want to provide for myself?
Do I want to grow food? Herbs? Spices?
Do I want to raise animals?
What end goal am I really seeking?
Saving money by making common supplies yourself
Learning new skills
A healthier lifestyle, a more simple lifestyle
Do I want to own land?
Do I want to go off grid? Partially off grid?
These are some excellent questions that will undoubtedly lead you to more questions. There are no “right or wrong” answers to any of them. This step will go a long way to your overall success. You may not be able to do something you really want to right now so you focus on the things you can do now while working toward the other ones. No one expects you to learn how to make your own crackers, laundry soap, and grow fifty pounds of potatoes in a day!
As you go through your answers, there may be some things you know you won’t be able to do without some divine intervention. Instead of beating yourself up over it, accept it as a normal thing! No one person can do everything and that is why you work with other people who also prefer a homesteading lifestyle.
Networking helps to fill in the areas where you are limited. Perhaps you are able to grow some really fantastic hot peppers in your apartment window and have a bumper crop. There is someone out there who will happily trade some of their extra for yours! Limitations are opportunities to figure out different ways of getting what you want. There are numerous ways to achieve your goals and I am learning every day.
There is a truth to this lifestyle that I have learned: a homesteader trades time and labor for convenience and expense.
What this means is instead of working overtime at your job to afford a chicken coop or gardening supplies, you put the time into looking on Craigslist or checking secondhand/thrift stores like the Salvation Army. You would be amazed at how many people just want to get their clutter cleared out and are willing to part with it for free or for pennies on the dollar. In my three years of gardening, I have only purchased all of 4 pots. All the rest were given to me and now we have a surplus.
Not only did I get all of that for free, I met people who were into the same things as I am. My network has grown because of putting in the legwork myself. Because of getting out there and meeting people, I was invited to a seed-exchange! I learned some great tricks on dealing with gardening in our really wet climate and traded some herbs for fresh eggs to boot!
Once you have the plan of what it is you really want to accomplish, the next step is to assess your resources. This part can be challenging to start but gets easier quickly. Seeing that milk crate in your closet as something other than just a milk crate for storing and carrying items may be hard at first. Once you open your mind to the possibilities, a whole new world opens up!
We will get into resources in part 3 of “How to Homestead When You Rent.”
For more about LeAnn, see About LeAnn Edmondson.
The Final Word
Wherever you live, homesteading is about growing a garden and eating fresh, local food. It is about getting involved in the local community and bartering goods and skills to fulfill your needs and the needs of your neighbors.
The end result of homesteading, even in a limited fashion, is that you will decrease your reliance on others. And isn’t that what prepping is all about?
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Spotlight: If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also enjoy reading LeAnn’s first novel, Aftermath: A Story of Survival.
This was a fun and fantastic read! A refreshing voice in the world of dystopian fiction, this story focuses more on what happens after the big disaster instead of all the events leading up to it. It follows the character Jimmy Walker in a series of challenges he must overcome to survive the world that has been turned on its side that are not only plausible, they are easy to relate to and make you think about what you might do in the same situation.
Unlike other novels in this genre, there is no fine detail on the violence and gore that would be normal in a post-disaster scenario but neither does the author shy away from the ugly side of chaos. The approach to how it was written (as a weekly serial where the readers vote on what happens next) was a neat idea, too!
I loved this one and you will too!
Here are some homesteading resources everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether you rent or own!
Living on the Edge: A Family’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency: When it comes to survival, one size definitely does not fit all. That’s exactly what author F. J. Bohan discovered when he and his family set out on a quest for self-sufficiency, a journey that has lasted more than 17 years. Be sure to read 9 Tips for Buying Property With Little or No Money.
How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew: You are going to love this book. It is charming and and timely and filled with good-natured humor and the loving spirits of grandmothers everywhere.
How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew: From the same author and another good one. The book offers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of grandfathers near and far by sharing their practical skills and sweet stories on how to be stronger, smarter, richer, and happier.
Miracle-Gro AeroGarden 7-Pod Indoor Garden: With an Aero Garden, you can grow herbs, vegetables and flowers indoors year round. I know people who have on and this is something on my personal bucket list!
5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead: Another great book on how to get started homesteading when you have a lot of will but not so homestead for all sorts or medium to light duty tasks. The rigid part of the axe handle is glass-filled nylon for a rugged construction and light weight.
US Forge 400 Welding Gloves Lined Leather: These well-priced gloves provide complete heat and burn protection. They are perfect for keeping your hands and arms safe while working outdoors or cooking outdoors over an open fire.
Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge: Accidents around the homestead do happen. As much as we practice safety, it is a fact of life that stuff happens. Quickclot is a must for any first aid or emergency kit; it stops moderate to severe bleeding until further medical help is available.
Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage: This is another inexpensive, yet critical item for your first aid kit. Combat medics, trauma doctors, and emergency responders all recommend this Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD) for the treatment of gunshot wounds, puncture wounds, deep cuts, and other traumatic hemorrhagic injuries.
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This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub.
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