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Dreaming Big Living Small

Our top seven tips for families wanting to start a homestead

When the homesteading bug hits you, it can hit pretty darn hard. This intense desire to make it all happen today. Like right now. But homesteading is not an instant fix. It’s a journey.

And this journey can be rather bumpy at times. Not every day will be a good day. Not every day will move you toward your goals. In this article, I will share with you seven tips that I recommend for you to consider as your family begins their homesteading journey. So, let’s jump into the tips and get your journey started right.

Have a plan or vision

There is no defined end state to homesteading. It’s a journey that goes on forever. But my end goal might be totally different than yours. Maybe I want pigs and you want goats. Or I want to grow every bit of my food and never shop again.

The point is your family needs to come up with their plan. Sit down together and decide what animals your family wants to have. Our kids each want a different animal to call their own. Decide based on your needs what plants you want to grow. There is no point growing red peppers if everyone in your family hates them.

Our Vision Board
Our Vision Board

Our family has two ways we have done this. First is a document that focuses on our vision one year, three years, and 10 years from now. It is a more generic plan but gives us a direction to point towards. For example, one of our long-term goals is to be healthy with no major health challenges. This in turn makes a short-term goal of taking family walks.

Our second way to plan is a vision board. Our vision board currently consists of a magnetic whiteboard which we add printed pictures and sayings on. Or to simply write down ideas and thoughts about what our life should be like in the future. While I expect our life will look different than the pictures, they give a visual way to see our life. It’s always easier to see an end goal when you can put yourself in in the photo. When you can pretend in your head that you already have the shelf full of canning jars or the goat out back.

Start small and work into it

They say chickens are the gateway animal to homesteading. And for many, it’s totally true. A homesteading life is not what you see on Instagram, full of pictures of cute animals and huge garden harvests. Sure, those moments happen. But they are mixed in with tons of behind-the-scenes. Mixed with mud and animal poop and broken tools.

Start small with a few small animals
Start small with a few small animals

The point is, while you might have the homesteading bug, that bug is often brought on by the fluffy photos and not the backwork. So, when you are first starting on your journey, start small.

Don’t sell your home in the city on a ¼ acre in exchange for 20 acres of raw land and a cow. Instead, turn your ¼ acre into a successful garden. Start with chickens to offset your egg requirements in your backyard and see how you like getting up every day to take care of animals.

As you become more successful and enjoy the small start, you can continue to expand. Not only is this more budget-friendly (you don’t need a tractor to till a ¼ acre backyard garden) it will give you a chance to get a feel for the life you are dreaming of. A chance to feel the hard work and decide if you really want to continue with this life.

I assure you that no matter where you live, including an apartment, you can begin a homesteading and prepared life. You can change your circumstances to incorporate aspects of homestead such as canning food even if it’s store-bought food. Or growing a garden when all you can do is have a few five-gallon buckets.

Start small and grow bigger as your life allows and ensure you and your family enjoy this life before you go all in and hate every single day.

Don’t beat yourself up

Some years ago, as we were just starting, we lost our first chicken. Despite knowing that death is a part of life, it was still hard. Why did that bird die? What did we do wrong? Obviously, we moved on and the kids learned a lesson on life and death. But the time wasted was not worth it.

And it’s not the only mishap our journey has had. One year we lost close to half our garden because we left the water running for close to 24 hours and flooded it out.

Life will never be perfect. We all make mistakes. Animals die when it’s their time. And it’s super easy to blame yourself and spiral into depression. While it’s hard at the moment to let it go, try not to dwell on it.

When things go sideways, that is where your vision can often come back into play. Go back and look at where you want to go. Imagine yourself that much closer to your dreams. Let go of this mistake and see how you can move past it. Yes, it comes out easy as written words but do your best.

Everyone will have a bad day. You wake up on the wrong side of the proverbial bed and everything goes wrong. An animal dies, you slip and fall, and some of the food you want to preserve spoils before you can get to it. Things happen to all of us. But how we react is 100% inside our control.

As we say in the military, suck it up and drive on.

Be mindful of your budget

Last time I checked, there was no money tree growing on our property. So, everything that we want to purchase or work on needs to be planned out. We can’t just go to the store and pick up some random thing.

And because we own our businesses, our income is very dependent on us. When we spend time working on the businesses, we have income. Spend too much time doing everything else and our income stumbles.

Instead of running to the store at every turn, we plan menus for our food. Our average is two weeks, our goal is a month. This gives us time to plan and watch for sales of the food we will need to fill in the menu we planned.

We are also mindful of extra spending. It goes without saying that there will always be certain essential items that we need. Core essentials like toilet paper, and clothing. But wandering through the isles at the local home goods store or thrift shop buying random things probably won’t help with your budget.

Look through books to decide what directions to take
Look through books to help decide what direction to take and stay in budget

Our family sets goals for the extra items and a specific budget. For example, we have been collecting fabric for sewing projects recently. With a set budget of $20, we know that we can purchase only specific things. And with a hard budget in mind, we don’t go on a spending spree just because something looks good.

One of our goals is to become more self-sufficient. We have planned out items that will help us achieve that goal, and budget for them over time.

Large ticket items often require us to save up before we can get them. Sure, we could probably get a loan for some things. Or even use a credit card. But when we are mindful of our budget, we keep ourselves from paying interest on the items we want or need and save from paying more.

Don’t sweat the big purchases, but rather save up and grow over time. Remember a journey does not need everything at once.

Find something everyone wants to do

As part of our journey into homesteading, we wanted it to be something everyone would enjoy. Something our kids could learn from and about. To achieve this, each person had to get some say in what we do and have.

The easiest way we could make this happen was to sit down and ask the kids what they would like. We borrowed and purchased a few books and the kids got to look them over and see what they thought would be fun.

Involve the whole family
Involve the whole family

For example, while we knew that we wanted to raise meat rabbits as a goal, Kaylee found a really fluffy bunny that she wanted to try raising for their fir. This gave her something to look forward to as we continued along.

Each person gets a say in how things progress. And the kids feel more involved rather than being told what to do. It helps them do their homestead chores easier as well because they feel like they personally have ownership over that animal.

Homesteading is a family affair. Get everyone involved and make sure everyone is on the same page. Not just kids, but spouses too. Don’t forget about your significant other. They need to be on board with the plans you make, and they might even want some things of their own.

Take it to the Lord

A part of involving everyone is stepping back and taking your plans to Heavenly Father. Spend some time praying about the life you are dreaming of. You might be amazed at the guidance you receive when you take the problem to Him.

The guidance that our family receives when we take the time to pray is extremely valuable. It helps steer us in the directions that keep us on the path closest to Him. As we are planning our adventures, we each separately pray over the things we want and the path to take. Then we discuss what we felt together as a couple.

And not just homesteading. We bring each decision forward and ask if this is the right direction. A key factor is to listen to the impressions. But never to stand still. Heavenly Father expects us to continue to do work, not to wait for Him to tell us everything to do. As you press forward, feel for those impressions and act on them to adjust your course as needed.

When we first got married, we learned that our relationship should be less of a duo and more of a triad. We need to keep Heavenly Father a key part of our relationship. It’s kept us closer as a couple and helped us to plan the best life we can have.

Enjoy the journey

Enjoy the journey
Enjoy the journey

Homesteading is not just a one-and-done, it’s a journey of learning and exploration. It’s about being closer to the land, slowing our lives back down, and enjoying yourself.

Find the parts of homesteading that you enjoy the most and incorporate those into your everyday tasks. By doing so, even your worst days will be just a little bit better, because you will always find something to enjoy.

Part of homesteading is a slower life. It will take your body time to adjust and slow down. There are days I am going absolutely crazy because I want to be out doing things. I want to work on a project. But I am slowly learning that down days are just as important as the busy ones.

They are the days that we can sit down as a family and enjoy each other’s company.

It’s not a race to see who the better homesteader can be. There is no one to compare with. Your journey is its own and you are your only benchmark. Don’t get wrapped up in feeling like you need to be where others are or have what they have. Be grateful for where you are and what you accomplished today. Enjoy the blessings the Lord has provided you.

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Alex
Husband to Ashley & father to our four children. I love hiking, camping, and working on small hobby projects. I also spend my days running our web design business.

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