Farmgirl School

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -Tolkien

It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.

J.R.R. Tolkien

We moved into an apartment four years ago between homesteads. It was a beautiful, top floor, one bedroom with views of the mountains and a fireplace with a light switch. Lush carpet, a large bathtub, and walking trails everywhere. We had just come off the worst year of our life and we seriously considered giving up homesteading and farming and just living like this. Not a bad life. We’d peruse the stalls of the farmer’s market (our first year not being a vendor in a long time), then after bringing our bounty home, we would dip into the swimming pool. But something was missing. We could both feel it. I rented three large garden plots at the community garden. I canned peaches from the farmer’s markets. I looked out across the sea of cement and knew what we were missing. Doug knew it too. Once you begin to homestead, it entwines itself into the fibers of your being, it cushions your heart, drives your decisions, and makes you feel at home. There are no U-turns. Once a homesteader, always a homesteader.

As we drove through the parking lot of the beautiful apartments, we could not help but notice the overflowing dumpsters and sea of trash. The lack of recycling. No place to compost. No food gardens. Non-stop electric use.

There are many reasons people choose to homestead. One of them is a desire to walk softer on the land. To leave less footprint. To attempt, however feebly, to lesson our damage to the earth. Another reason folks turn to homesteading is to feel something real. Homesteading life is real life. It is doing things with your own hands, creating, growing, watching Mother Nature work, feeling truly alive. Another big reason is that people want to work less. Homesteading can be expensive. It depends on how much you need, what you want to do, and how cheaply you can come across instruments for your farm. But the more you do yourself, the less you rely on others. If your grocery store is in your root cellar, you don’t need to give so much money to all the middle men from farmer to store. If you grow your own food, you really save money. If you sew your own clothes, or shop second hand, you save money. If you buy bulk, hand make meals, use wood to heat your house, or find entertainment at home (nothing like a glass of homemade wine and a lawn chair to watch chicken antics), you can save money. A penny saved is a penny earned. The less you spend, the less hours you put into an office job. The less hours at an office job, the more time in real life. On the homestead. There is great joy in homesteading. Maybe that is why more and more young people are seeking this lifestyle. I read a blog recently where a young housewife was wondering how to begin homesteading. So much to learn, so much to do. Baby steps, y’all. One thing at a time!

When something breaks, begin replacing it with a non-electric counterpart. Or sell the electric version and purchase the hand cranked model.

Here are some non-electric alternatives that are great on a homestead:

  • Hand cranked coffee grinder
  • French press or percolator
  • Kettle
  • Tea strainer
  • Hand cranked food processor
  • Cast iron Dutch oven
  • Cast iron pans
  • Wooden spoons
  • Good mixing bowls
  • Canning jars
  • Clothes line
  • Hand washer and clothes plunger
  • Wood stove
  • Grandfather or cuckoo clock
  • Oil lamps
  • Candles
  • Water bath and Pressure canners
  • Grain grinder

Pretty soon the power will go out and you won’t even know it!

Electric items that really help get the root cellar filled and dinner on the table:

  • Vitamix
  • Excalibur dehydrator
  • Pressure cooker
  • Crockpot

Basic homesteading skills to learn:

  • Gardening
  • Canning
  • Preserving the harvest
  • Sewing
  • Fiber arts
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Herbalism
  • Animal care (a new term I learned is, veganic homesteading. We aren’t using animals for food on our homestead, but we do have a menagerie of pets!)
  • A skill that can bring in some income.
My friend shared this funny photo with me from the internet. Hilarious!

Good homesteading habits:

  • Do you need that? Only purchase what you need.
  • Try to purchase things second hand first.
  • Borrow reading materials and movies from the library.
  • A deck of cards and a couple of board games are a lot of fun!
  • When making your grocery list, look at the items and see what you can learn to make. Ketchup? Granola bars? Cereal? Crackers? Bread?
  • The only gardening tools one really needs is a good hoe, rake, pitch fork, shovel, and hand trowel.

Just start:

  • Start a farm in pots in the south window, or the balcony, or a community garden, or in the front yard.
  • Start a compost pile under the sink with worms, or with pallets in the garden.
  • Check out library books (or read my blog!) and learn how to start a garden, harvest, prepare, cook, can, dehydrate, freeze produce. How to sew, crochet, play musical instruments, make candles, soap, herbal medicines, and cleaning products.
  • Let go of vanity. You look fine. You don’t need makeup, fancy clothes, or high heels. Old clothes, a good apron, and galoshes will do.

My go-to books (and my own books!):

Growing 101 Herbs that Heal by Tammi Hartung

The Homesteader’s Pharmacy and The Herbalist Will See You Now by (yours truly) Katie Lynn Sanders (http://authorkatiesanders.com)

Little House Living by Merissa A. Alink

Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 again by moi, Katie Lynn Sanders

Preserving the Fruits of the Earth by Stanley and Elizabeth Schuler

Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own by Bob Flowerdew

Plus myriads of great cookbooks and homesteading memoirs. The best thing to do is to start somewhere, anywhere, and the more you do yourself, or without electricity, or simply, the more it becomes second nature.

I’d rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.

George Washington

16 thoughts on “Baby Steps; How to Begin Homesteading

  1. Brilliant article. I like your note that soon the electricity could go out and you wouldn’t notice. We lost water supply the other week and realised how utterly dependant we are!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      Oh water is a big thing! We are not on a well. I try to save water in empty juice jars but yesterday when I had no water for awhile, I, too, realized how inept my water saving is!

  2. Fantastic article. ♥ I’ve always desired moving towards this direction. It’s in my blood. A few months back I was subjected to a week long power outage in Northern California. We had water, but nothing else. No heat, no ability to prepare food, plus we lost ALL of our food. Being this dependent is a terrible way to live. My husband and I are moving back East to New Hampshire this spring where we can buy land and start living closer to the land and work less. I’m already a housewife with canning skills and fiber arts. The transition on my part will be fun. I’ll follow your blog more carefully!!! Thank you for sharing yur experience.

    1. Farmgirl says:

      Good luck to you! Keep us posted as to your progress finding a homestead!

  3. Featherlight Homestead says:

    Really useful article! Thank you! I’m also inbetween homesteads and I found myself in an apartment, in a big city, slipping back into a wasteful kind of life. I’m slowly working my way back out and I’m glad to see there are resources available to do that!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      And on each successive homestead, we are smarter and more efficient. I think this homestead may be our best yet! Best wishes to you for a fast transition to a beautiful place with lots of views!

      1. Featherlight Homestead says:

        Thank you!

    1. Farmgirl says:

      Good luck and have fun! Thanks for reading.

  4. I love the combination of writing and photos. Wish I had some of your beautiful yarn!

    1. Katie Lynn says:

      Ha! Me too! That is yarn displayed at the museum, Los Galandrinas outside of Santa Fe! It is a great place to visit!

  5. ♡ 𝔧 𝔢 𝔫 𝔫 𝔦 ♡ says:

    Thank you for this WEALTH of tips and knowledge!! I’m starting my homesteading journey now, well before I’ll have my own, physical homestead. I’ve just begun seeking out decent reading material, so again thank you, thank you, thank you! This came at the perfect time for me.

    Also I love your pictures!! That white dress is amazing. I aspire to look that bomb while taking my veggie trophy grown photos in the future lol! ♡

    1. Katie Lynn says:

      Thank you for reading! You can enter just about any topic into the search on my site and find what you need. I like to do things the hard way, so I have learned a lot! ha!

  6. RainbowVHS says:

    Amazing article, will really help out with my family and I really getting deep into homesteading. We started with a garden last year and have just been growing since slowly but surely.

    1. Katie Lynn says:

      That’s how to do it! Garden, maybe chickens, learn to can tomatoes…pretty soon you look around, and you’re a full blown homesteader!

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