Homesteading and self-sufficiency go hand in hand and you don’t have to live on a farm to be more self-sufficient. There are several things you can do right now, even if you don’t have a coop full of chickens or a herd of goats. Apartment dwellers can get in on the process too. It isn’t so much about where you live, it’s the how you live that makes you a homesteader. The more you can rely on yourself and less on big business, will change how you go about your life. Even city dwellers can be homesteaders.
Choose locally grown produce, if you can't grow your own
Think local. That’s one of the most important lessons a potential homesteader needs to learn. Even if you don’t have a huge property to grow a vast garden, you can support your neighbors who do. Why buy out of season fruits and vegetables shipped from other countries, when the local farmer’s market offers nutritious and freshly picked produce harvested from nearby farms? You may have a choice of blackberries as opposed to pineapples, but learn to use what you find. Seasonal, local offerings are better for your health and the food hasn’t used up hundreds of food miles just to get to you. Talk to the vendors. They are a wealth of information and can possibly offer suggestions on how you can become more self-sufficient. Many of them are happy to explain how to cook or prepare their offerings.
Develop your cooking skills with fresh produce
Don’t rely on packaged and processed foods. Learn to cook instead of popping something in the microwave. It isn’t that hard to cook from scratch. I could put a whole meal on the table for a family of five (including hot bread and dessert) by the time I was 12, so young people with their first apartments should definitely get in the habit of cooking. And kids old enough to understand that a stove can burn are old enough to learn. Make an omelet with farm-fresh eggs and local vegetables. It is probably the easiest meal anyone can cook. Add your own touches with herbs you’ve grown yourself. Herbs are easy, forgiving, useful and especially tasty. Getting started could be as simple and frugal as a couple pots on the windowsill or a lighted, indoor garden unit.
Leafy greens are easy for beginners
Start small. After you’ve mastered herbs, other leafy greens shouldn’t be that hard to grow either. Fresh lettuce and kale you’ve grown yourself adds so much to any meal and you know exactly what has or hasn’t been sprayed on the plants. You pick them at their peak, when they are the most nutritious instead of picking over supermarket offerings that have been trucked in. Greens grow well in containers and hydroponically too, so even if you are short of space or garden area, you can be more self sufficient with fresh greens. Be a homesteader with extra greens and trade them for things your neighbors are growing or making. Fresh kale for a loaf of sourdough bread or home made sauerkraut is an excellent trade and both parties win. Learn to make sourdough and sauerkraut yourself, neither are hard to do. Until you learn, trade. You don’t have to buy bread or sauerkraut and they don’t have to buy kale. Once you master growing greens and herbs, try tomatoes or peppers. Both are happy to live and produce in containers.
Preserve seasonal foods for winter
Add to your skills a little at a time and trade or preserve the extras for later. That’s right, you can make salsa or pickles yourself. Enjoy your harvest in the dead of winter or give as gifts during the holidays. Even if you don’t have a huge harvest, your friends at the farmer’s market can supply you with all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Learn to preserve them while they are fresh and plentiful and you’ll have pickles, jams and jellies for yourself or friends and relatives all through the winter. Water bath canning is easy and safe, not to mention saving you money. This is another homesteading or self-sufficiency skill that we should master. If you are unsure as how to proceed, your local County Extension Office can help. Every county in the U.S. has an Extension Office, even the counties in the big cities. They can help you with anything to do with plants, pests or preserving food. If you have the space, a freezer would be a good investment. Some are quite small and while they take up very little room, can hold a winter’s worth of frozen fruits and vegetables. If there is a suitable spot where you live, it would be a smart choice toward sustainability.
Eliminate waste by composting
Composting your kitchen waste is another thing you can do as a homesteader. Bokashi composting transforms all kitchen waste into useful nutrients. You can’t put dairy, meat, citrus or onions in a regular compost pile, however bokashi’s fermentation process takes everything. Building healthy, living soil is the key to good gardens, whether they are in the ground or on your windowsill. The microbes in compost are the key to great plants. While the bokashi isn’t actually broken down like regular compost, the liquid you drain off is high in microbes and other organisims that create a living soil. You bury the fermented scraps with your vegetable or ornamental plants, or incorporate it into a regular compost area for further breakdown. If you have an outdoor area, conventional composting is another homesteading activity that everyone should know.
If you have property, make it work for you
The more you can do to reduce your dependence on others eases you into the world of homesteading. All the suggestions above can be done whether you have any property or not. If you happen to be lucky enough to have a little property of your own, there are other things you can do to make your life more self sufficient. Replace your boring shrubs with fruit bearing bushes. Make your landscaping work for you. Keep a few chickens, if your zoning laws permit it. Three or four hens will easily supply a family of four with all the eggs they need and they are good at removing insect pests as well. If your yard is big enough, a few fruit trees will supply your family and friends with all they can use and more. Instead of containers, plant a small in ground garden or have a couple of raised beds. Choose varieties that your family already enjoys and start small. Add one new vegetable each year until they look forward to the new taste adventure. If you have enough extra of anything, you might enjoy joining a farmer’s market group. If you don’t want to go that route, donating extra to the local soup kitchen or food pantry is always welcomed. Share with friends and relatives or other members at your house of worship.
Take care of the Earth by homesteading
Homesteading is also about taking care of the Earth. Reduce, or eliminate single-use plastics from your life. Upcycle things you would have once thrown away. Plan your errands so that you do multiple things at one time and plan your route so that it is the most economical and fuel-saving. Don't use chemical pesticides or herbicides, search for natural methods. If you can, harvest rainwater and use it in your garden. Water your container plants with water left over after cooking vegetables. It is free fertilizer and the water isn't just poured down the drain. When you get in the homesteading frame of mind, you'll be surprised at all of the things that come naturally.
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