I can’t and won’t tell you how to start a homestead. Each homesteader is going to have different ideas, wants, desires, goals, etc. So to give you a step by step guide is pretty pointless. But what I am going to do, is tell you how I would have done it when we started. I am going to give you the tips and tricks I wish I had known prior to starting out. Because to tell you how to start a homestead would be amazing, it’s not going to work for everyone.
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Before You Start A Homestead
Before you start looking for properties, you need to set your homesteading goals. Do you want to raise or grow all your own food? Are you looking to make money? Is this a retirement plan? You really need to dig deep about why you want to start your homestead and start journaling everything.
The reason this comes first is because you are going to need to know what kind of land you need for the goals you have. When we started looking at properties, we found one that we absolutely fell in love with. It was at the top of a mountain with 15 acres and a ton of boulders. As you can imagine, living on a mountain would have a lot of challenge like, steep cliffs, rocky soil, and outbuilding issues.
Because we knew what we wanted to do on the property, we knew that doing those things on a mountain would be extremely difficult.
After Setting Your Goals
You should consider your goals with every single property that you look at. Is there enough land for your goals? Can you work the land without a lot of initial investment? Is the layout of the land going to work with your principles, goals and ideals?
If you find a property that has a ton of pasture, fencing, and outbuildings, only to find out that the land was used to grow GMO corn? That may not line up with your ideals of organic farming. While that land is already set up to farm, it’s going to take years to repair that soil.
If your property is completely raw, you are going to put a TON of work into it to get it where you want it. Our property was almost completely raw. No outbuildings, no gardens, and minimal pastures. So we have spent a lot of time and money getting everything set up. And we aren’t even close to being done.
Researching Laws On Your Homestead
If you are planning on homesteading, but your county or state laws require all sorts of regulations, make sure you know what they are before you buy that property. The sale of raw milk recently became legal in the state of Georgia. But there are a lot of regulations to go with it. Same with cow sharing and meat purchases. Don’t sink all your money into a property only to find out later that you can’t do the things you want to do.
If we had just started selling raw milk when we first started, we would have ended up in law suits with possible jail time. It’s better to know what you’re getting into before your hip deep in problems.
Start an LLC, S Corp or Similar
Research which of these business options make the most sense to you, your property and your goals. But whatever it is, get it started before you buy the first fence post, animal, bag of feed, you name it. If possible get an EIN number or other tax applications done. You want to make sure you are tracking every purchase.
This will lower your tax burden and allow you to *hopefully* get some money back at the end of the year.
I use this tracker to make sure that I am getting as much back on my taxes as possible.
After Buying Your Property
Once you’ve committed, or purchased a property, I want you to sit with it for a minute. Especially if you are a brand new homesteader! Don’t start digging a garden, building a barn, or anything else until you know what you’re land is capable of.
We knew we wanted animals, but weren’t in a hurry to get them. Until the goats. While I’m glad we got the goats, I really wish we would have waited.
Waiting On Gardens
No matter how much you know you need to wait, you want to plant more. My biggest reason for waiting was just wanting to make sure that before we started clearing huge areas for a garden, we knew what it would look like in all four seasons. I wanted to make sure that I knew where water run off would be, sunlight, and where the good soil already was.
Because we waited, we saved ourselves a ton of physical labor as well as time and money.
Waiting On Animals
This is by far the hardest thing for any new homesteader. It’s usually the first thing that we think of when we think about farming or homesteading. But trust me when I say, if you get animals before your infrastructure is set up, you will be chasing your tail for the next decade.
We brought two goats onto the property without fencing put up, shelter in place or any idea what to feed them. After we lost V, we had to scramble to buy more goats. Then more shelters, fencing, etc. That first year should have been figuring out what we wanted to do. Instead, it was a year of figuring out what we were doing.
Waiting On Major Purchases
When we first bought the property, we were going to build Jared’s shop, get a tractor, a side by side, and huge barn. Man, I am SO glad we waited. We had all these ideas and plans, that I am beyond grateful didn’t work out. That first year would have cost us several thousand dollars. But you know what we learned? We don’t need a tractor, a side by side, a huge barn, or Jared’s shop.
Would those things have made our lives easier? Abso-freaking-loutely! But it would have stretched us so thin that we wouldn’t have been able to do the other things that we wanted to do.
Because we waited, we learned that manual power is the advantage. We don’t need a tractor to haul the dead trees anywhere. We cut them into smaller chunks and rolled them where they needed to be.
Because we waited on the huge barn, we realized that smaller shacks for the animals are easier to move and easier for them to keep themselves warm.
Because we waited on the side by side, we found a great deal on a pair of four wheelers that don’t require payments.
We did realize that a barn, shop, tractor, side by side would make things easier but we could do more manually.
Getting To Work
Once you have sat on your property for a minute, and learned what you and that property were capable of, get to work.
Start Your Garden First
I will say it again and again, wait on livestock till you have your gardens in! Yes, this is a do as I say not as I DID. I say this with the experience of someone who DIDN’T start with gardens. I wish we would have waited on livestock but we didn’t.
When you are setting up your gardens, think about your goals for the garden. Are you planning on a fresh eating garden? Or are you looking to put up food for the off season? How big is your family? All of these questions are important to answer before you start your gardens.
I suggest starting with a larger space than you think you need. Without fail, and every year, we end up having to expand our gardens. Which is great, but does lead to issues with fencing, beds and having to change stuff around constantly.
Start On Your Animals
If you listened, which I doubt because I wouldn’t either, you have waited on getting animals till after you’ve gotten your gardens dialed in. Now, we get animals.
Unlike the garden, where you give yourself more space than you need, start small with your livestock. Start with ONLY the amount of chickens you need. Only get a couple of goats or cows. Start small and learn the animal before you get an entire herd.
I know you’re not going to and I’m wasting my time, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Revisit Those Major Purchases
After you have learned how to do things manually, start thinking about those bigger purchases. We thought we would need that tractor? Turns out, we don’t even want a tractor. It doesn’t fit with our land philosophies.
Jared’s shop? Yes, we will be building it. But it doesn’t have to be any time soon. There are more important things to build. Like the barn.
One of the big things that we have noticed is that we need more space in the barn. We have 9 permanent does and space during kidding season is at a premium. In fact, the shuffle of trying to figure out who goes where is kind of intense. Especially, since the girls don’t like the other does near their babies. So it can get pretty hairy.
But if we had just built the barn, we wouldn’t know exactly what we wanted.
How To Start A Homestead
I can’t tell you how to start a homestead. I can only tell you the things that we have discovered since starting our own homestead. Things I wish we would have done differently but also things I’m REALLY glad we waited on.
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