You have that itch. Not THAT itch, the other one. You want to be more sustainable. You want to grow your own food or reduce your carbon footprint or just stop having to buy that same stuff over and over and over again at the grocery store. Maybe the idea of dragging your kids to the Food Lion another time is enough to make you want to never ever leave the house again. Regardless of your reasons, you’re interested in making a more sustainable home.
Today I’m going to go over FIVE fantastic ways to start your homestead.
Managing your homestead, especially on a suburban scale, is really about reducing your input and your output. How can you eliminate unneeded things on both ends? I prefer to begin at the beginning.
1. Use reusable items whenever possible.
This is paramount in controlling out input and output.The less you bring in means the less you send out and the more independent your home can be. From diapers to napkins to toilet paper – if it’s reusable it comes in and doesn’t go anywhere. In my home the disposable items we use are paper towels and toilet paper. Paper towels are strictly for cat puke and turkey bacon (how do you make turkey bacon without paper towels?!).
2. Food sources
Being able to produce your own food is huge towards being self reliant. The key thing is to ask yourself what you eat and if you can produce it yourself in the room that you have. Beets are fairly easy to grow but if no one in your house will eat them I wouldn’t suggest putting them in. If you’re an omnivore, producing your own food can involve gardening, chickens and meat production.
There is always room to grow something. My love of growing my own food started with two herb pots in my kitchen window. Putting small seeds into dirt and producing something tasty ignited a drive in me. No matter what your space is – whether it be a window or a fire escape or a corner of your yard – you can grow something.
Do you have room for chickens? I love my chickens so much I recommend everyone that can have them run out and get them right now. They’re pets that make you breakfast. Reliable, low maintenance, relatively quiet and incredibly entertaining. While helpful, a rooster is not necessary for egg production and has many drawbacks in a suburban setting. They’re incredibly loud and don’t just crow in the morning. They crow ALL THE TIME. I just rehomed one because he was so loud. He would also walk along my fence line pestering people as they walked past my house. As keeping chickens regains popularity, it’s becoming more common for them to be allowed in suburban settings. Check with your locality to see if they’re allowed where you are.
Raising your own meat in your backyard is not as crazy as it sounds. The chickens we use for eggs can also be eventually processed for meat and rabbits are a solid option to also.
According to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey done by the US Energy Information Administration, 48% of energy consumer by homes in the US in 2009 was for heating or cooling. You can make huge cuts in your home’s energy consumption by taking small steps like adjusting your thermostat either higher or lower as the season allows, applying extra insulation to your windows or doors, and changing your air filters regularly. Appliances, lights, and water heating make up the rest of your energy usage. Making sure the lights get turned off and unplugging unused appliances may seem small but can add up big.
In addition to the simple steps, alternative forms of energy are becoming more available. There are now solar companies that will lease your roof. While you don’t own your panels (at least initially) you may have the option to purchase them later and it still reduces your dependence on the grid. We have panels installed through Solar City and are planning to purchase our panels (at whatever their current market value is) in five years. There are also likely local companies that specialize in alternative energy or solar panels. Most states even offer tax breaks or grants to establish alterntive energy or heating/cooling systems residentially. For more information about Solar City and to find out if you qualify, click here. (this links to my referral page with Solar City. If you sign up from there I may receive a credit)
4. Find your people
You can’t produce everything. You just can’t. But you can produce some things and your neighbor can produce some things and yall can trade. Or you can find an awesome local farm that grows and mills wheat (because you sure can’t grow that in your yard) and either buy it to support your local economy or barter some volunteer hours. Chances are there are people local to you that are also interested in living more independently and, as the saying goes, many hands make light the work.
5. Find your Mister
I hate to use gendered pronouns but honestly, it’s what I call him. He’s my partner and my cheerleader. He’s my, “Sure. Why not, babe?’ Most importantly, he can build stuff. A partner, whether it be your significant other or just a friend that’s also into this kind of crazy stuff, is so important. He’s my sounding board and his skills complement mine so much. While us homesteader types tend to want to do everything ourselves (that’s why we’re here to begin with, right?) it’s incredibly sanity saving to have someone to be in this with.
These are my five steps towards starting your homestead. These can be daunting but think of it as baby steps. This year you plant a few things in pots and cut out most paper products. Next year you look into solar panels. Start small so as not to get overwhelmed and once one thing is habit add something else on. Where are you in your journey towards self reliance? What are your next steps? This year we got back into the chicken game with a new flock of laying hens. Next year we hope to branch into meat production with a few meat birds and maybe a rabbitry.