How to Start Rural Homesteading Today


Dreaming Isn't Enough

Stop dreaming and start getting ready for rural homestead life.

Folks tell me things like "One day we want to move to a rural area to homestead." or "I want to build our dream off-grid homestead." or "One day we plan to leave the city and move to the country."

One day is today. One day is right now. 

There's plenty to do right now to no only prepare for a rural lifestyle but hit the ground running. 

Research & Study. We spent a countless hours reading and studying about living closer to the earth. I recommend plenty of research. Sure, there will be a mountain of things that you might not be able to do or experiment but you can leverage your knowledge of the options, strategies, techniques when it's problem-solving time. It can also help you recognize what you are looking at even if you have to go back and refer to a book or website. Books like the Solar Living Sourcebook are a terrific resource to browse and read over time, allowing the material to slowly saturate. Check out my list of books if you are looking for more ideas. 

Often we homesteaders are looking for that undervalued, precious gemstone in the rough and recognizing that uncut gem requires knowledge.

Are you are planning or thinking that you will rely on wood heat? Start learning about cutting, seasoning, storing, and burning wood along with understanding wood burning stoves. We limited our property search to include houses between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet, so I was able to select a wood stove before we even laid eyes on the property that we purchased. We were able to find a dealer/installer as soon as we moved in rather than just starting the research on wood stove heating, reviewing the EPA list of certified wood stoves, and reading hundreds of reviews. The end result was wood heat which saved us big bucks on electricity. In fact the wood stove will pay for itself in two winters.

Considering livestock? Research breeds and breeders, visit farms and homesteads, learn what you can now to apply later. Already know where you are going to move? Why not research the plants, trees, wild edibles, weather patterns, and so forth in the new area. Buy a couple field guides. Join local groups, organizations, and connect with people in your new area via online groups and forums.

Considering growing/creating for a niche market? Get started learning that skill or market research. Planning on owning a well? Going to need to install and/or rely on a septic tank? Seriously, one of the most helpful things we did was study and research before we even moved. It has saved us so much time allowing us to focus on the unanticipated and the things unique to our new place. All of your hours of research, reading, watching youtube will come in handy when you are viewing and evaluating properties too. You'll know the questions to ask, the pitfalls to avoid, and recognize the hidden value in a property like say plant diversity or specific land characteristics. Often we homesteaders are looking for that undervalued, precious gemstone in the rough and recognizing that uncut gem requires knowledge.

Conserve & Experiment. Start living with less if that's the long term plan. Living with less now makes the transition less painful and less prone to unnecessary expenses or budget overrun, especially if you are planning to a big lifestyle change such as moving off-grid or to a rural area. Conserve electricity, gas, water, and other resources. Shop less and I don't mean just dollar-wise, I mean getting used to not running to the store all the time. Running to the store in a rural area could mean time and gas. Try different propagation and seed starting techniques. Utilize greywater diversion strategies. Compost. Experiment with humanure or composting toilets. Anything and everything that you can give a try, give a try. Talk to other people and check out youtube if that's your style. Visit homesteads in person whenever you can, there's nothing like seeing something in action. And don't forget to squeeze in questions to the homesteaders about what worked and what didn't work.

Monitor & Track Consumption. If you have to travel a couple of hours for materials or speciality foods or items, it can be helpful to understand how much is typically consumed. For example, how much flour does your family use in a year, that's helpful if you are stocking up the larder. How much electricity does it take to run your house? Helpful to understand and compare cost of energy while providing insight into solar or alternative energy set-ups. How much does your family spend on goods and services? Helpful if you are projecting a budget and planning for a rural life. I marked bulk bottles with the date so I knew exactly when it was opened. It's good to know that we use one gallon of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap annually while it takes us nearly three years to use a roll of foil.

Prepare & Strategize. We wanted to be ready to hit the go button and not have to chase down essentials or figure out things that we could work on in advance. Yes it's true we moved with a full pantry of dry goods and staples. I know that might seem slightly mad. However, the rationale was to save time running around and finding critical items. A rural first aid kit, in my opinion, should be robust, so stock up on first aid supplies ranging from bandages and aspirin to homemade salves and tinctures. We also did things like fixed and repaired items that we were moving as well as put together repair kits for crucial tools and equipment. There were a bunch of other things like I finally found a replacement blade for my food processor, upgraded my steam juice extractor, replaced the container for the vitamix. The idea is to not move anything broken or in need of repair and if there is something you'll be sad or in a bind if it breaks then consider having spare parts or maintenance type things on hand.

Sorting and Tidying. Do you have 25 boxes of stuff that you have moved five times and never opened? Do you have closets that you plan to tidy one day? Do you have files overflowing with old bills, papers, and photos? Even if your move is down the road, tidying can help by getting your items not only pared down but also orderly and ready to pack.

Oddly Useful After the Move. I didn't necessarily do some things with an eye to relocating but in retrospect I would like to toss a few other ideas out there. We moved our outdoor sink and it actually became out kitchen sink after we gutted the kitchen. Lucky. We moved all of the chicken/chick gear which made getting ready for a new flock super easy. I even moved the little pebbles that keep the chicks from drowning in the waterer. I didn't plan to do this but it was really nice to unpack the chicken supplies and all the little bits were included with no additional trips required. Humanure toilet, very useful if you are redoing the bathrooms. I've heard of folks moving all sorts of oddities just to make life a bit easier on the other end so if there are small projects that you can bring with you, why not.

Keep Notes. I tend to harp on this one to myself each and every time I cannot locate a piece of information that I jotted down on some scrap of paper. If you have a master plan for a relocation, keep a notebook with all information in one place. If you are working on building a resource list for your future homestead, keep those notes all in one place. Note to self. I found that many of the places and people that I source from these days do not have a website or a Facebook page so as you gather leads and contact information it's a good thing to compile that information in one tidy place.