If you ask any homesteader that is still working full time, or that has just moved on to a homestead, all of them will have an ultimate dream – to homestead full time, earn some money doing so, so they can quit their full time jobs. In some instances, some of our homesteading friends have achieved this through any number of ways. Some follow FIRE financial ideologies, some get inheritances, some sell everything they own and move onto something that needs a total development, or some sell big in a good area and buy somewhat established in the country. Regardless of the hows, this is the reality for many homesteaders.
So often times what happens in the transition period is that homesteaders, at least one of the two in a pair, needs to still work full time or offsite. Sometimes one of the pair can work from home or finds work locally, and the other may need to commute. Though less and less due to covid, as people are being given more options to work from home and the culture around working from home is slowly changing.
So being a homesteader with a full time job means there are a few things you really need to understand and come to terms with, that will make you well prepared in the middle of this transition period. Here are some tips and ideas to get you started:
Simple is the goal, but it can’t always be achieved
When you get home, there is not a whole lot of opportunity to sit in front of the television and eat microwavable dinners with little to no chores. There are animals to feed and water, gardens to check on and food to prepare. It comes with the territory.
The goal of many homesteaders is to go back to a way of life that revolves around less social media, and more with connecting to the earth and enjoying the simpler things in life. Or at least finding a balance between internet time, and time spent outdoors learning about the land. Sometimes in order to achieve the simple, you have to do the not so simple first.
Homesteading is an ideology and has a spectrum
A person with a garden, a lake with freshwater fish, and animals that provide multiple benefits yet have cable and electricity at their house is just as much a homesteader as the one who has the mentioned aspects of homesteading, and chooses to live in a yurt with no electricity or running water.
Likewise, the person who lives on ten acres in the bush, as well as the person who lives in an apartment can both be homesteaders. The apartment dweller cans their own food and has a garden with two chickens for eggs on the rooftop.
Homesteading is an ideology with many interconnected and interrelated facets including, self reliance, self sustainability, simplicity – to name a few. I’ve said it many times – but think of it more as a spectrum and people can chose how much or how little they do.
My family are not traditionally “homesteaders” – as in – we didn’t grow up on a huge farm running livestock. But my parents are of Eastern European heritage and canning food, making fermented foods, making your own sausages and bacon, having layer hens or a milk goat, was all totally normal, and that was in the suburbs, too!
Basically, homesteaders have no stereotype and we recognise that everyone’s story is different.
There will be people who don’t agree with the way you choose to live your life
If you are an urban or suburban homesteader, there is a good chance that your neighbours or even your spouse will not fully understand this lifestyle. For your spouse, do not make them join you in the work but let them enjoy the rewards and there is a good chance they will come around. For your neighbours, share some of the produce you’ve made or a wonderful dish based on your garden’s harvest, and they will soon learn to appreciate the simpler ways.
At the end of the day though, your choice to live your life in a homesteading ideology is nobody’s business.
Have big dreams, but start small
If you decide you want to take on the task, start with what you know. If you don’t know a lot, I recommend checking out a few books and doing some research. These days Youtube has become the biggest library of content. It’s not just sill social media, but a library of ways on how to do every single thing you could think of. Once you have the basics down, get your hands dirty. After you’ve managed to successfully maneuver those aspects, then go for the next thing on your homestead to do list!
There are many aspects of planning I could go into here. To start with it is important to have a calendar available to write down any important events coming up both in and outside of the homestead. This way you know when you will need a house sitter or when the new equipment will be at the farm and you have time to plan ahead.
Another great planner to have is a garden notebook. This notebook will help you to know what you dealt with the year before. For example, you begin to plant your tomatoes but before you do, you refer back to last year’s notebook and remember that you need to pick up some diatomaceous earth before you get started in order to help with critter control.
We deal with a wet season in Queensland, so it’s fundamentally important to make sure certain chores are done prior to the wet season. Having a calendar and a good plan is invaluable here.
This goes hand in hand with planning but knowing where your things are will be helpful in saving time. We all know that feeling of having lost our keys on a day when we are already running late, imagine losing a tool when working on a big project or having a customer come by with everything strung out.
When introducing livestock, start with an easier animal
It’s best to not get discouraged when trying this homesteading gig. Finding the animal that is best for you is a good idea. Chickens and ducks are perfect beginner livestock. These animals are easy to take care of and make pretty great pets – they also provide eggs if you get layers, or meat if you go down that route.
Use Your Time in the Kitchen Wisely
Meal prep and plan all your meals. I’ve written about this in the post, “20 recipe staples for meal planning”. Make a list of your family’s fave meals, and meals that are multipurpose. Savoury mince for example can be used as is, turned into a Bolognese or chili con carne, or even used in pie or sausage rolls. That’s 5 separate meals just from making a basic savoury mince. Be clever your cooking time and make sure you have the tools necessary to make cooking time seamless. I also wrote about my fave kitchen tools in “5 of the best kitchen tools for homesteaders”.
Build raised beds for your garden
Raised garden beds help make life a little bit easier by keeping pathway weeds out of your soil, providing good drainage, and are a barrier to plant pests such as snails. It’s also way easier to spend a few hours gardening when the bed is raised, and is much easier on the back! This means that once the beds are up and the soil is in, you can plant, nurture and pick without having to worry about the hassle that regular gardens might deal with.
Create your own watering system
My husband did this for me last year and it was very beneficial. In Queensland, we have really dry times during the winter and a wet season in the Spring/Summer. It was nice when I came home from work to be able to turn on the watering system for the garden and go check on the animals, come back and turn the water off.
Ours is an overhead watering system using splits at a few joint spaces so we can have hoses in a few directions. The total cost of the project was about thirty dollars.
Use technology to your advantage
Is one of your goats an escape artist? Purchase a camera system and check on them throughout the day to see just how that animal is getting out. This could save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
Once that problem is solved you could always move it to another area to fix another issue that is happening while you are not around. It could also help you find that predator getting your chickens!
Maybe you make a fantastic loaf of bread but need help putting fence panel up. Offer to make a loaf or two in exchange for someone coming over to help you get the tasks done that are too daunting or just not your area of expertise. In Australia, we usually ‘buy a slab’ or alcohol and you have a friend for life who has also done a big chore at your property!
I wrote about bartering in “The lost art of bartering” where I wish we bartered more and used physical money less.
Decide what works for you
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to know what works for you and what doesn’t. This will come with time, practice and knowledge. Deciding to start a homestead, for whatever reason, while working full-time means getting to see the fruits of your labor in more ways than one! Things will only change when you make many small steps toward activating the change you are after. But be persistent – because life on a homestead is the most magical life around.
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