Ways to "Live off the land", share your ideas

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

DH and I are trying to figure this good country life out. So far, we have a veggie garden, peach trees, blueberry bushes and chickens. Being raised as city kids, we think that we've come a long ways, but have so much more to learn.
Anyone else want to share their ways that contribute to a self-sufficient lifestyle and how it's working for you ? I'm always looking for more ways (affordable) to make the most of what we have available to us with the small patch of land we have. Thanks in advance for your ideas.

Wareham, MA

Peggie, I'm still trying to figure that out! I think if you look deep down into what you enjoy most - ---follow your passion whatever it is---perhaps the answers will become apparent.

Does your idea of homesteading mean just supplying provisions for you and your family - or do you need to find a little side business or produce goods that you can swap?? If it's the latter - perhaps there is something unique you can do, something almost no one else does.

It's kind of inspiring going to Plymouth Plantation and seeing the tiny little yards and houses the pilgrims had. Yet with herbs and a pig and chickens, community gardens, and cooperation - they made it. I wish that there was more swapping between neighbors again - helping each other survive.

Best of luck in your endeavors.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Just a couple of ideas that have worked for other folks I have known:

If a little extra money would be helpful, consider growing extra vegetables for a farmer's market. There is likely to be one in your area on a seasonal basis. And for charity, local food banks are glad to receive fresh-grown food from farmers. A friend who has a small acreage at the edge of town starts extra seeds each spring and fall. A small nursery supplies her with plastic six packs and then sells the seedlings on consignment.

Many years ago on our family farm, a friend of my parents who lived in town asked them to maintain a beehive for him. His son had terrible allergies, and one doctor recommended giving him honey that had been produced locally. It worked! With nectar from all the wild plants whose pollen was causing the discomfort, the honey gave the youngster a way to resist the irritants. My parents became so interested in beekeeping they acquired a few more hives, and enjoyed the results very much. They also put it in pretty jars for gifts. I don't recall that they ever sold any, but they certainly could have.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Thanks Mayfl and Yuska for your ideas. We really want to be able to supply a good portion of our own needed items now. But later on, we would like to think of something that will provide a little extra income during our retirement years............we have maybe about 10 yrs. (Lord willing) until then.
It would be nice to be able to swap items from a garden and share each others' abundance of eggs, veggies etc. Our neighbor across the road has a huge garden that they harvest and take to the farmer's market. They told me they collected about $ 3,000. last summer from sales of their extra produce from it.
Beekeeping sounds like it could provide significant profit with the honey for allergies. I've heard of that being effective. Since I also have pitiful spring allergies, it sounds like something I might should look into.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Any other ideas how to make your land work for you ?

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

Peggie we raise rabbits & sell to pel-freez in Rogers Ar It is a lot of work but does add income

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I'm lovin' this thread! Hope to be more self sufficient in the next 2 years. Just ordered Eliot Coleman's book, Four Season Harvest.

Wareham, MA

I joined a bee club and bought a hive. I won another hive from the bee club. It was very interesting, but I ended up spending quite a bit on the first hive and had to add a lot to the second one. Right now, there a bees in only 1 hive (the other died out last winter, when winter just lasted too long). The bees have been cross-hybridizing with wild bees and I think it makes them more resistant to the diseases that can be very problematic. Unfortunately, I think the wild bee genes have also made them MEANER. They are always trying to sting me, although the original Italians I bought seemed pretty gentle. I would definitely suggest joining a local bee club and talking to a lot of bee keepers before you invest too much in it. There are some challenges. Didn't end up selling any honey yet, just use it myself and use it for gifts so far. Don't know if I'll continue this hobby.

Dave - do you sell the rabbits live? I could deal with that, but probably have trouble with the other alternative. :(

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

dave, I talked to two people in our area that used to raise the New Zealand Whites and sell them to pel-freez also. They don't have them anymore.
I guess they were more work than they wanted to handle.
Is it profitable enough to justify all the work? I've studied about rabbits lately, wondering about raising them for our own use. Hadn't really considered selling them though. Don't know if it's profitable enough for us, considering the distance we are from Rogers, Ark. It might be something that could help us be more self-sufficient in the future though, if it is.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

mayflwr, beekeeping sounds like fun. I know nothing about it at all, so I would need to get in touch with a club or someone who does it locally so I can learn from them. I don't think I'm smart-nuff to figure it out on my own.
Bees are interesting and good for gardens...........honey is yummy too :))
Sounds like a win win to me.

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

Peggie i have 140 does or there about we sell 160 to 200 fryers every two weeks I just closed another business and came home to the farm full time i hope to get our sales up to 200 plus every two weeks The big draw back for me is we have to meet the truck at 12:30 am and if you sell rabbits to pel-freez it will be a night delivery you just can't move rabbits in the day time because of the heat Rabbits sell for 1.00 a lb live weight

This message was edited Feb 24, 2006 7:16 PM

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Sounds ok if it could be done on a large scale like you do it. I suppose the feed bill runs a few bucks $ $ $. How big do you let them get before selling ? What is the average weight at sale, per rabbit ?
Gotta be a lot of natural fertilizer too. Are you able to sell it ? I heard that someone was selling it by 20 lb. bags on ebay.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Recently some one asked me how to can rabbit. I suggested this article: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can_05/chicken_rabbit.html

Many years ago on the old farm Mother and Grandmother sometimes canned chicken.The place had no electricity so freezing was not an option. They had to kill the chickens first, of course, and I watched with revulsion. I helped scald and pluck them and still remember the smell of pin feathers singeing over a candle. Talk about self sufficiency! Wonderful wintertime meals came out of those jars!

The folks who do the hard work in slaughterhouses and processing plants hold my strong admiration.........unsung heroes, IMO. I'm sure they're not paid enough. I appreciate them anew every time I head to the supermarket or start to cook dinner. If I were absolutely starving, maybe I could kill an animal for food, but I hope I never have to make that decision. Yuska

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

The fryers are 4-3/4 to 5-3/4 pounds when solds10 to 12 weeks yes there is feed we use a ton a week I can sell fertilizer but use most of it ourselfs this old hillside place can use a lot of it 4 inches on this clay does wonders for growing gardens

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Yippee, and it's almost time for those gardens. We can hardly wait. Lucky you, with all that good rabbit fertilizer.

With so much feed usage, are you able to get the feed store to deliver it for you ? A ton is a lot of feed.

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

No I go get feed once a week I just came back from town a few min ago with this weeks feed cost is less haluling ourselfs my old truck can handle two tons yet if we load it right but i only get a ton at a timethe only time it get more than that on it is a load of wood or gravel

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Do you mind me asking how much it costs to buy a weeks feed for that many rabbits? I know it may vary in my area, but I have no idea how much a ton of feed costs. Also, I need to weigh the cost of such an idea before I decide to do it. It all figures in, and I'm serious about trying to find a way to generate income from my small bit of land, but want to be well informed and prepared, so as not to create myself a loss instead of a gain. (done enough of that already) lol.

Humansville, MO(Zone 6a)

Peggie feed is running 210 a ton at this time i use about ton a week if my barns are running right i will have a total 1000 to 1200 from new borns to 12 week old i try to have from 180 to 200 5 lb. fryers every two weeks you will need 50 does to start with to see if you would want to continue as grower Rabbits are hard work to keep every thing clean and running right

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

I can only imagine. It sounds like something you would have to be very determined to work at and be very dedicated to.
I have a grown daughter who is working on opening her own kennel. She raises and breeds the black German Shepherds. It's a lot of work keeping them clean and running right too. (big dog, big mess).
Anything pertaining to raising animals for profit is a lot of hard work. People don't really realize that, do they ? Not something you can leave and just take a weekend trip for fun on the spur of the moment either. I have great admiration for anyone who can do it. Hopefully some day I can. I just want to be sure I'm informed enough to do it right. There are too many people who start things like that, only to abandon the poor animals in the middle of it. Starting small with 50 does sounds like good advice. Maybe even 25 does. Thanks for all your advice and help.

Spencer, TN

education is the key. we've read our way into everything imaginable. the ground floor we wanted knowlege on was basic survival, Tom Browns books were great on that. along with many others. now we have the knowlege to walk off into the woods and survive if needed. Then we work on higher level things. food fuel and income from local sources. I've cut timber and run a sawmill for years, now I'm getting into veggies for sale, i grew 2 acres squash and bought a dozer with the $$ from it. now i can clear land and grow more stuff.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

That's great. I love to see it when people make their land work for them.

That first year with the squash probably wasn't as easy as it will be next time with the new dozer. I think it's really neat that you were able to make such a significant purchase with the proceeds from 2 acres of crop.

That's what I've got in mind. An income (even if small) from my land.

A person could make their land actually pay for itself, and that's smart.

Uh, ........ bring that dozer over here for a minute........... lol

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I'm reading an interesting book called "Making Bentwood" by Jim Long. Using "trash" tree saplings and trimmings, a person can make trellises, gates and arbors with rustic charm. Baskets can be made from willow stems and other pliable materials. I'm planning to use the hackberry and chinaberry sprouts that constantly appear here to build wattle walls for raised beds, but a person could make craft items and offer them at the farmers' market along with the produce. From there a craftsperson could advance to rustic furniture for outdoor seating. The extra income achieved is not likely to increase one's tax bracket, but the items can be created during inclement weather and as "pick-up" work. Yuska

Wareham, MA

Yuska, there are some beautiful examples of that rustic furniture in the Adirondacks. We vacation near Lake Placid every year - check out the shops around there if you get a chance. Used for very decorative fencing and signs also. Some of it sells for big $ but then - it is already popular in the area. Don't know that it would sell as well in areas where people haven't learned to appreciate it yet. Definitely a great "trash to treasure" hobby that I hope we can attempt in small scale if we ever get to retire and have the time.

DFW area, TX(Zone 7b)

Hi - I'm surprised no one has mentioned this
magazine. It is written especially for folks like you,
who want to live "beyond the sidewalks."

I'm not homesteading, but my entire family has
enjoyed their articles and recipes, as well as
homesteaders who write in with questions like yours,
and solutions other homesteaders have come up with.

It's about how to build your own this or that, what to
use salvaged materials for, where and what kind of
small animals are best for different uses, etc...


also check this blog for homesteaders:


This message was edited Jul 15, 2006 6:09 AM

NW Qtr, AR(Zone 6a)

'Howdy' Mahnot ..

There have been several magazines and web sites mentioned .. on some of the other threads in the Homesteading Forum. http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/570922/

I sure appreciate your lookin' out for and posting what ever sites you may find.
We can only benefit from each other.

- Magpye

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

hello everyone and peggiek

When I was going through high school, my friend and I where really looking into a sustainable agriculture system call Permaculture. It was founded by a man in Australia and is still being taught there. my friend went there and took a 2 week course. I am not suggesting you do that, but there is literiture out there that you can get your hands and minds into.

Sustainable agriculture theory and practice is that on a simple 1/2 acre One can provide for a fammily of 4 never needing to go to the grocery store except for cosmetic and hygiene reasons. And on a simple balcony of a apartment one can cut the grocery bill by 1/3. You can also get ideas for land layout and development, water filtration(naturally),rain collection, and livestock and meats, plants, ect. Everything you need to know about self sustaining

It is really easy to understand and very practical. I will be pursuing this ideoligy and passion when I can afford the land and after serving my FATHER above.

Hope you are keeping up with this post. and good luck!


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

calvin, Earthaven teaches a class in Permaculture.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

thanks for the site suggestion. I found many new areas in US soil to check out and follow. I am and have dreamed of over these last 14 years of homesteading myseld and family and using much of the principles of permaculture. It is apparent that it will not happen while my kids are home, but one day after the kiddos leave the roost to make their own life, my wife and I will venture into sustainable living for ourselves.

Also, someone who is interested inhomesteading forselfsuffiency should really take a trip and tour of Amish communities. They are uasually very friendly and wiling to share tips and techniques.


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Two of the kids have left the roost (although one is on the way back with her baby), and one teen left at home. Took us 18 years of planning and scheming, but we made it to a little plot of sand. A few fruit trees in the ground, some garlic planted, the bare beginning of a wind break growing. Keep the dreams alive, folks. We are FAR from self sufficient, but it feels sooo good to be moving in that direction. You can do it!

A small orchard or two or three apple trees can make wonderful pies for people - and yummy feedings for a feeder pig and some chickens. Ditto for peaches or pears. Put your fruit trees in as soon as your feet hit the dirt - for semi-dwarf trees, it'll be 3 to 5 years before you get a full crop. Put your nut trees in at the same time - it'll be 8 to 10 years before you start getting a crop from some, longer than that for others.

Read "Two Acre Eden" by Gene Logsdon... in fact, read everything by him. Some of his "facts and figures" are out of date, but a lot of his stuff is common sense stuff that one raised on the land might "just know" - but one from generations of city people might never think of. And he will make you laugh, too boot (and sometimes just shake your head knowingly).

Take care and many blessings to you.

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Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Great ideas. Yes it takes a while for those fruit and nut trees to make a harvestable fruit.
Same with asparagus, a couple years.

Thanks for the info on the book, I'll look for it. I love to read how others have sucessfully lived from the land . And all the wisdom they share is priceless for us that were raised in the city.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

We have 5 acres of garden, sell at a Farmers Market. Also a couple of greenhouses, but are discontinuing plants sales next year. It isn't cost effective.We were at the Farmers market 3 times a week for 6 months. Our high week was $3054.00. Guess what, all that income & we still have to run the cabinet shop during the winter to pay the bills.
I don't know how you could "live off the land" without being in poverty.
I raised lots of rabbits for a number of years. I also sold live fryers to a slaughter house. About 250 a month. Boy can those rabbits eat! I was at the feed store often. I had trouble getting them bred. I also butchered lots myself & had sausage made. I sold fryers, sausage & rabbit burger at the farmers market. I did fairly well, but I think it would be better now as more people are thinking eating natural & organic foods.

We can & freeze a lot of things from the garden. We have a beef guy & a pork person at the market, so we buy from them. Much cheaper than raising our own. Both are natural, no feed additives, etc. Ever eat pork lately that doesn't taste like the pig waste ? These pigs are pasture raised instead of cramed in the hog barns.

One way I make pretty decent money is my tomatoes grown inside of a greenhouse. They are planted in the ground, not hydroponic. I started picking June 15 & finished by picking all mature green ones Nov 4. I had a fresh sliced tomato last night for supper.
Picture was taken in July.
I sold these tomatoes for $3 per pound all summer


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Social Circle, GA(Zone 8a)

That's beautiful Bernie!

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Is the snow a problem on your green house roof? Great looking plants.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

No, they are all snow arch type houses.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Bernie, that's awesome ! You had all those tomatoes, and are in zone 4 ! Wow. That's pretty impressive.

I agree, living off the land is almost impossible without being at poverty level. That's such a shame isn't it. We still have to work to make it. Don't know that we'll ever be able to be totally self sufficient. But we are working on getting as close as we can.

But then, there's other types of poverty. Like having to live in crowded city conditions right on top of your neighbor. Working long hours to be able to afford it, and having to eat all that nasty fast food because there's no time to cook or even think about eating healthy. It's just a big vicious circle. Work hard to afford extra clothes and eating out, Having to eat out and buy more clothes to be able to go to work. Been there, done that, it was such a rat race. I may have a little less money now, but I've found out there's a whole lot I was working so hard for.... that I really didn't need.

We both still work, but the kids are all grown now and it's a little easier. Things are slowing down a little for us and we are so thankful to be able to live a little more relaxed.

Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

Live to work or work to live? I'd rather work to live.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

To live off the land takes lots of careful planning and preparation. I am certainly no expert but I have given the subject much thought. I think one would have to first learn to live without so many bells and whistles but we also have to be realistic. There are ways to live off grid but they take a big initial investment. You have to have some kind of cash income as it takes cash to live in today's society even if it is on the fringe. You have to have a vehicle and you have to buy gas and maintain the vehicle not to mention insurance premiums. Driving a horse and wagon while peaceful is not practical. You have to be able to get your product to market and simply to get your groceries, ect. I think you would need several projects to make cash money that are not labor intensive. Like berry bushes that people can pick their own fruit from. You would make money but still be free for the most part to work at other money making projects. I will think more on the subject and get back with you.

Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

For the most part "we are trained" media (advertising) has us brain-washed into thinking that we need many things that we do not really need. When you get down to the things you really need, food shelter etc. they are not that hard to come by ..... yet why am I saddled with an eighty thousand (at this point) dollar mortgage? OK I'm an idiot. & let the wife talk me into it.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Yep, I know exactly what you're talking about. We had one too. We got the kids grown, sold the house and took the equity and built us a little tiny house that has no mortgage. It's tiny and modest, but brand new and very comfortable. We did most all of the construction ourselves. Best part is that it's paid for.
Then we got us some chickens, planted a garden, and relaxed a little. We spent a lot of hard years trying to keep up with getting our kids grown and thru college, and now it's our turn to take things a little slower. I didn't mind giving up a few things to be able to slow the pace a little.
Now if I can just figure out a way to keep a few dollars going by using the resources here on our land, that would be the icing on the cake. Otherwise, I'm going to have to keep working a while longer. CajuninKy said it, the cars, insurance, etc. still goes on.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

If you have a nice sized town close to you it widens your options. I used to raise rabbits. I had regular customers I butchered for and we ate rabbits ourselves. But I paid the feed bill for the year at Easter. I bred my does so the babies would be big enough to wean at Easter. I set up on the roadside and sold bunnies. It was very successful without a lot of physical input.

Will fruit of any kind grow in your area? You could have a Upick operation or you could make preserves and sell. Do you have a farmers market in your area? You can grow a lot of herbs in a small green house.

Do you have trees or woods at your disposal? You could collect vines in the spring and make wreaths for holiday decorations. There are lots of easy crafts for using pine cones if you can get them.

Lots of ideas but who has the time, right? LOL

Here is a novel idea for a Christmas tree. I saw it at a western store. It is made from old barbed wire. I would love to make myself one. I think you could use an upturned tomato cage for the skeleton. It would have to be one of the heavier ones to hold the weight of the wire.

This message was edited Jan 15, 2007 11:50 PM

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