I like to pretend the family and I live on a farm, especially when I get to writing. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the clothesline and vegetable garden, we are rocking a quarter acre plot in the middle of suburbia.
There are a handful of times when I can close my eyes, breathe in fresh cut grass and convince myself we live somewhere else. But then I open my eyes to see my neighbor’s porch covered in weeds and hear the screech of tires when the drivers decide to actually stop at the stop sign adjacent to our house.
Sigh. One day.
For now, the hubs and I are adding to our list of our homesteading skills and making grand plans for what we want to grow and raise when we finally get a real plot of land.
Real meaning larger than our current yard. Large meaning big enough that we don’t feel like we’re sharing a backyard with our neighbors if we’re outside at the same time.
The struggle is real sometimes.
But we do our best to keep our heads held high and our spirits light. Whenever we feel bogged down by our suburb life, we pick a new skill to try out or topic to research.
Which brings us to today’s post: how to be a homesteader at heart.
We can’t all afford to care for acres of land, but there are simple things you can do to bring the homestead to your home – no matter the size.
Cook real food.
What initially drew me into wanting to run a homestead was the food. Real food. Food grown from my garden and meat raised on my land. That, however, can be difficult to achieve when you’re living in a small space. So even though my milk and pork come from the grocery store, instead of my backyard, I still make the most of how I cook. Skip on the pre-packaged foods and, instead, pick out raw ingredients. This allows you to be creative with your meal planning and limits your body’s exposure to processed ingredients or artificial preservatives. Food is meant to be enjoyed – not inhaled.
Buy raw. Create in the kitchen. Enjoy as a family.
Plant a garden.
Gardening can be done almost anywhere. When we were first married, my husband and I rented a small apartment. We planted herbs in small pots that we placed in front of the window. Not the extensive gardens you see in magazines, but it gave a hint of freshness to our meals. Now that we have our own house and yard, we’ve started a vegetable garden and have potted berries, vegetables, and herbs lining our deck. We know that we are not living in our “forever home”, so we are still cautious with how much backyard we convert into garden. Unfortunately, not everyone looking to buy a house wants half their backyard dug out into raised garden beds, so we improvise with vertical gardening and large pots.
Very few things smell or taste better than homemade bread. Experiment with different recipes until you find one your family likes best. And bake it each week. You will appreciate your meals so much more knowing your hands kneaded the bread that your family enjoys each meal.
Preserve, Can, Dehydrate
There are many ways to preserve your food and it doesn’t require any extra equipment. Learn what can be kept frozen. Use a large stockpot to water bath can fruits, jams, and butters. Use the oven to dehydrate orange rinds to make zest or dry out the heels of your bread loaf to have fresh bread crumbs for recipes. Preserving your produce is the best way to eat in season and the enjoy the taste of summer in the dead of winter (here’s looking at you, peach butter)!
Eat fresh eggs
If you live in a place where you can keep your own chickens, get a coop and get to living that farm life (as Chris Pratt would say). If you’re like us and live in a municipality that doesn’t understand or appreciate backyard chickens, you can source fresh eggs through local farmers markets.
Declutter your home
This is the most difficult. Especially with two babies, we are so bad at decluttering our home. I try to make a conscious effort as I’m walking through the house to identify items we rarely use or things that take up unnecessary space. Those items get added to our donation box (which I’ll eventually take out of my bedroom). I think decluttering your home leads to decluttered minds, and ultimately, it will encourage us to better focus on the people in our homes, not the things.
Make your own cleaners
Laundry detergent is easy to make, more cost effective than store bought varieties, and has no “unknowns”. Use baking soda and vinegar to disinfect and clean your counters, bathrooms, and stovetop. Freshen up your homemade cleaners with drops of lemongrass or orange essential oils. Cleaning doesn’t have to be costly or difficult. Most people already have everything they need to make natural cleaners in their pantries. Plus, not only will you feel productive for actually cleaning your home, but it’s a double bonus knowing you made the cleaning agents as well!
Americans waste so much food. Myself included. The amount of produce that gets disposed of because it goes bad before being eaten is crazy! Instead of adding food to a landfill, start a compost to make organic fertilizer for your gardens! Add produce scraps to grass clippings, leaves, or coffee grounds. These items naturally decompose and the result is a rich nutrient for your soil.
At the heart of homesteading is the longing to be good stewards of the earth. Look at your daily life and try to identify areas that may generate excess waste – and then, try to find alternatives. We try to reduce our waste by buying food in bulk to eliminate excess packaging. Cloth diapering your children is an easy and cost effective way to lessen trash dumped in landfills. Instead of buying plastic baggies, we use glass containers or compostable wax paper when packing lunches for the day.
Play in the dirt
Take advantage of the great outdoors! It’s amazing how much time we can spend sitting inside, scrolling through the internet. There is a world outside waiting for us to discover it! Unless it’s raining, I make sure the littles and I get some time outside to soak up some vitamin D. My son has a blast digging in potting soil and scooping up rocks. I love seeing how content he is simply by running across the backyard. All he needs is to be outside to be joyful, so why would I hinder that with unnecessary screen time? Take a walk, play in the dirt, and get messy! Enjoy spending time with your family outdoors and allow nature to be your entertainment.
Make a list of everything you dream your homestead will have: chickens, bees, goats, pigs, specific flowers or fruit trees. This is the easiest way to stay motivated! We have a list of everything we hope our homestead will have one day and like to revisit the list periodically to see if we’ve changed our mind or to add new ideas. It also gives us direction when we’re looking for our next research project or book from library. Budgets may be tight but that doesn’t mean your dreams have to be!
No matter where we are – a hundred acre farm, a tiny apartment, or in between – we can all hone our homesteading skills.
May your homesteading dreams be big and your heart be full!