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How to Homestead When You Rent: Part One

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
How to Homestead When You Rent: Part One

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Homesteading is the buzz word of the year within the preparedness community, and rightfully so. The desire to be self-sufficient and self-reliant has never been stronger.  Folks of all ages and all walks of life are beginning to look back to pioneer days as they seek skills to learn how to grow food, cook from scratch, raise farm animals, and repair and repurpose what is old and tired into something that is new and useful.

How to Homestead When You Rent: Part One - Backdoor Survival

Although I have written about homesteading, and especially how to homestead in place, there is so much more to write about.  To that end, I have asked my friend LeAnn Edmondson aka the Homestead Dreamer, to create a brand new, exclusive series for Backdoor Survival readers.  The focus of this series is how to homestead when you rent.

In this series you will learn how to define homesteading using your own criteria and your own rules.  You will learn to plan, assess your resources however meager, jump start implementation and the best part of all, how to reap the rewards!

Enjoy the series and of course, be sure to leave a comment to share your own experience or to ask a question.

How to Homestead When Rent – Set Your Mind

It seems that just about every time you turn around, someone is talking about homesteading, or there are posts about it all over your social media feeds, and your friends who own their homes and property all seem like they are getting chickens and constructing gardens to grow food.

Maybe you have always wanted to homestead as well and dream (Iike me) of having a large spread of land out of the city filled with livestock and gardens. The problem is, you rent. Because of that, you may write off homesteading as something that is ‘impossible’ or ‘it will happen someday.’ This is the first fatal step people make in realizing their dream. If you are serious about it, you have to decide that you are going to homestead, no matter where you are.

You have to change the way you approach homesteading.

We live in an apartment – and we homestead. Ironically enough, we live in an old dairy barn that was converted. Perhaps it was living here that made me finally say to my husband, “I want to homestead, I want to be more self-reliant, and I want to be more prepared for natural disasters.”

Growing up in rural Alaska, we are very used to having extra bags of rice and pasta around ‘just in case.’ Since all of our supplies come up on the barge, there were times when they would be delayed due to weather or have to skip a week altogether. So, that aspect for us wasn’t such a stretch. We just upped what we had set back ‘just in case.’

The homesteading side was more of a challenge. We discussed the fact that we rented and would be limited on just how much we could do. We knew it would be a challenge. I was absolutely determined though. I had made up my mind and nothing was going to stop me.

I began researching, but will go more into that in a future article. It is what the researching did to my mental state that I want to stress here. Homesteaders didn’t just head to the local trading post and buy whatever they needed. They created, adapted, and overcame. The more I looked into homesteading, the more I realized that there is no ‘one size fits all’ definition for exactly what it is to homestead. Just look at the differences between online dictionaries! defines homestead as:

  1. any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.
  2. a tract of land acquired under the Homestead Act.

Whereas defines homestead as:

  1. a house and the farmland it is on
  2. the home and adjoining land occupied by a family

So basically, what the word means is: “home!”  The definition of ‘homestead’ back when the Western United States was being settled does not ring as true now. Ask 5 people what homesteading means to them and while there will be some similarities, none will be the same.

My personal definition? Homesteading is using as much of what you have to provide for your needs on your own. Even that doesn’t quite cover it all! You have to make some investment, of course. It is not what you have or can buy that makes you a homesteader. It is more of how you look at the world around you, the tools and resources you have available and thinking outside the box to adapt your resources with your needs. There is an incredible satisfaction that is derived from turning something that others may have discarded into something that helps you be more self-reliant.

The most significant change I have noticed in how we look at the world around us and approach projects was the idea that we can do it ourselves.

Need a post for a greenhouse? Head into the forest and find a fallen tree or standing dead tree and utilize it! I know what you’re saying, “I don’t live in a forest and have no space to put a greenhouse, this does not apply to me!”  Well, you are correct. The situation applies to me because those are the resources I have available. I live in a rural area. There is no plethora of people who have lots of junk lying around that you can get off Craigslist for free (or barter). We also do not have reclamation sites where people can go and buy building materials that have been reclaimed from demolition sites on the super cheap. Heck, we don’t even have access to a Lowe’s or Home Depot for reasonably priced building materials in the first place!

The point is, you have to break the idea that to do something, you need to get your supplies new, from the store, every time.

If you live in a large city, you have access to more of those kinds of places. If you have a balcony, you could build a little greenhouse of sorts or container garden on it. It is all about the mindset. You have to stop the “I can’t do that because…” and challenge your imagination to come up with ways you “Could do it this way…” Chances are pretty darn high that someone else has already done it and talked about it on the Internet.

Of course, sometimes you simply can’t do a project you want to because of the rules of where you live or physical limitations, not to mention financial ones. So, shift your focus. Can you do it on a smaller scale and build up? Do you know someone who would let you do the project on their property and everyone benefits?

The Other Side

Another important part of the homesteading mentality is the acceptance of failures and limitations overall.

Even if you had the 50 acres of pristine land and all the livestock you dream of now, you can’t do it all! Not everyone can grow everything they want to. Not without help anyway! Networking and bartering are integrated into the lifestyle of homesteading. Maybe you are able to grow some fantastic cherry tomatoes on your balcony or in your window and end up with an abundance. That person you met at the farmer’s market last week who also grows food on their balcony has an abundance of peppers. Trading with them makes sure nothing goes to waste, not to mention now you have more variety!

It’s the network you create with others that helps you get over the disappointing times of homesteading when you rent. Sometimes those limitations seem to creep in on you and you just want to kick them down! You may feel the urge to scream for wanting the full scale homestead so badly and being unable to get it. I’ve been there many times over the last couple of years. My friends both off and online help me get over it. They inspire me and remind me that even though I rent, I now have a whole new set of skills I have learned that will allow me to hit the ground running when the land does come through. They also usually have some great suggestions on how I can overcome the challenges.

Changing your lifestyle starts with changing your mentality.

Some challenges will be greater than others and your determination will play a key role in your success. Keeping the balance between thinking outside the box to work around restrictions and knowing when to focus your efforts elsewhere can be one of the greatest challenges of all. If you really want to homestead, it does not matter where you live. What matters is how you think, how you use your resources, and learning the skills to provide more of what you need for yourself.

Once you have made the choice that you want to pursue a homesteading life, the next step is to Make the Plan which will be part two in this series, How to Homestead When You Rent.

The Final Word

As much as I dream of homesteading with acres of land and unlimited vistas of fruit trees and garden beds, that is simply not in the cards given my age and personal situation.  That said, I am happy to grow herbs and tomatoes, bake my own bread, and craft soaps and personal products for my own use.  That is how I homestead.

Remember that homesteading is not a one size fits all.  My challenge to you is to move beyond your dream and get started.  Let us grow not only as preppers, but as homesteaders, too.  We all can do it!

Note: This is Part One of the series “How to Homestead When Your Rent”.  Click here for Part Two.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for me daily at Top Prepper Websites!  In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

 Here are some homesteading resources everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether they rent or own!

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 on my shelf, waiting to be read.  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.

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.

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 much cash.

Gerber Gator Combo Axe II: This Gerber axe and saw combo is useful around the yard (or the farm or the ranch) 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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11 Responses to “How to Homestead When You Rent: Part One”

  1. Loved this article and looking forward to more. I live in a house and although my landlords are my sister and her husband there are restrictions, especially inside the house. They the house for their eventual retirement home and it is top of the line with hardwood floors, air conditioning, etc., you get it. So anything growing inside is verbatim.

    Reading the first article got me to thinking about what I can do about growing items on the patio. Plus I am learning about creating bug out bags, everyday carrying bags, auto kits, etc. May leave some comments on what I plan to do in a later post.

    Please keep up your good posts for us novices. I’ve even gone back through the Archives and started reading the old posts. Will take a while, but well worth it.

    Yippee — we are finally getting some nice weather here in Western Washington.

    Good luck to everyone in their prepping endeavors. Peggy.

  2. Excellent post!!!! I, too, am renting a house, and last year began my “homesteading” journey any way that I could. This was a great post and it motivated me to keep going.

    Thank you!!

  3. thank you so much for addressing this problem that so many of us have to live with. I live in a small restricted apartment in a large urban area and don’t even have a patio for my garden. this group has never been adequately addressed and I am looking forward for the next article.

    • I am thrilled that you enjoyed this article. I have always felt that renters were being ignored by the preparedness community. You might also want to check out this blog: //

    • If you have a south facing window and space in front of it. You can grow a few edible plants and you’d be amazed at the nutrition in the herbs you can grow there. I took one of those shelf things which fit over the toilet, put it in front of a south window and it’s growing greens nicely. 🙂 Haven’t tried radishes but I understand both root and leaves are edible.

  4. I’m a scavenger from way back, I currently help a gentleman that does Estate Sales. Whatever is leftover after the sales, I haul away to my garage. These are the things I use to trade for things I want and need for prepping.
    Ask friends and family if they are throwing anything out or have items they don’t need. Most people are thrilled to get rid of stuff for free.
    Network anywhere you can, place an add at the library on the bulletin board or the local grocery store, you would be surprised at the free stuff you can get.
    I just acquired all the items I need to make a greenhouse, cold house for FREE.

  5. There are some places which won’t allow the ‘mentality’ it takes for homesteading. So ask when you’re looking to rent, how much alteration you are allowed. Better to ask before putting the effort and $$$, then being told it’s not allowed.
    Off topic but this link may help those who, can’t/won’t or don’t have the means to buy weapons, have a means of obtaining small animals if ever the time is needed. It’s also a ‘mentality’ thing. I’ve adapted what I have already and am buying some nails as ammo for these.

  6. Gaye,

    Thanks soooo much for addressing this topic. I have been very discouraged because I rent a condo and have quite a few restrictions on what I would like to do. I appreciate LeAnn’s perspective and am looking forward to the next post. I feel re-energized. Thanks!

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