How many acres do I need to homestead? How do I start homesteading? What does homestead mean? Can I make money off my homestead?
These are all excellent questions and something we are asked often. We have just shy of 3 acres, which as homesteads go is probably small to average. It’s not large, but it does what we need for now. We would love to find 10 or so acres at some point and expand, but we are content.
There is a misconception that “homesteading” means you must be self sufficient. That you must have x amount of animals. That you must use solar power. That you must have a 2 acre garden. And so forth.
I’m here to tell you: that. is. not. true.
A homestead is YOUR HOME. It’s what you make it. If you live in an apartment, and you grow herbs in the winter in your kitchen window, you have some buckets on the balcony with tomatoes and peppers, you buy produce from a local farmer and preserve to store under your bed for winter because that’s the space you have – you are building a homestead.
Dictionary.com defines homestead as “any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.”
^hello, friends. That’s you. You are making a home.
So, onto the title of this blog, “Can I make a homestead on a 1/4 acre?” Absolutely!
Step 1: Homestead Mindset
I talked with my friend Becky. She also lives in south eastern Pennsylvania, loves building a life with her husband and toddler and is over the moon about homesteading. When I asked her to talk to me about her homestead, she said “Sure! It’s not much.” I know this mindset is popular.
“I don’t have enough land to homestead.” or “How can I build a homestead with such a small property?”
Make your mindset: my homestead is my home. No matter the size, no matter the number of buildings, no matter the number of acres, no matter the number of animals, no matter the size of the garden.
Step 2: Sharing Land with Family
Find a friend, a family member or a co-op where you can collectively raise animals. I’ve found the best way to start this conversation is to #askfacebook. There are tons of homesteading groups, and you never know who is looking to do the same thing as you!
Also, sharing knowledge and experience with others helps open up conversations about lifestyles, dreams and so much more.
Becky and her family live on a 1/4 acre property that borders her parents. They take advantage of her husband’s parents’ property to raise meat animals, and they are on the search for a larger piece of property. They’d love to have at least 1 acre but are hoping for 2-3 acres.
She said that she’s always grown up being somewhat self sufficient. She lived on a pig farm, her dad hunted for meat and her mom had a garden. Her husband grew up in a family that hunted and gardened, as well. As a couple, they decided to seriously start pursuing homesteading because they wanted to be less dependent on the supply chain and have more control over where their food came from.
Their biggest reason for homesteading? To give their son and other future kids a life away from the mainstream. <— #goals
Their biggest dream is to have a family milking cow. They also want to grow cutting flowers on a larger scale and sell them as a way to produce income from their property. They would also love to have a small butcher shop where people can purchase meat that they’ve raised and butchered.
They currently have 3 dogs and a cat. Their 40 meat chickens and 2 pigs were butchered earlier this year and put in the freezer. They are planning to add laying hens to their bunch this spring.
Step 3: Garden Where You Are
I often hear people tell me that they don’t have room for gardening. I’m not here to tell you that every single occupancy on earth is setup for gardening, but there are a lot of creative ways to garden. You can search for shared gardening area, maybe rooftops garden, if you’re in an urban area, or ask a neighbor.
Also, think outside the box: herbs are so easy to grow indoors and outdoors, and they take up almost no room. You can dry them and store them in jars or in the freezer for preservation. You can setup a small space with a heated light or mat to grow some veggies indoors all year. You can make a small greenhouse with old windows or other recycled materials.
Seriously, check out Pinterest on this one. You’ll feel inspired for days.
For gardening, Becky has two separate beds. One is entirely sweet corn that she shares with her parents and her sister’s family, and the second garden is for everything else.
This year, she did a summer and fall garden. In the summer, she grew onions, tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, spaghetti squash and zucchini.
Once those were all done, she had space for fall crops, like peas, green beans, broccoli, carrots, kale and spinach.
Swapping your gardens based on the seasons is an excellent way to make the best use of your 1/4 acre space. Research what crops do well in your area at certain times of the year.
She said she’s had her most productive year ever. Her spring beans didn’t do well, but her fall ones are doing excellently. Another tip: if you don’t succeed the first time with a crop, try again! So many factors play into gardening, including weather, watering, sun, etc.
They also have a peach tree that they harvested peaches from for canning. (I think growing your own fruit is top notch homesteading. Such a great goal.)
Preserving food is super important to Becky. She canned tomatoes, salsa, jalapeños, jalapeño jelly, lots of jams and jellies, several pints of cream corn and applesauce. They froze corn, green beans, berries and zucchini.
She also dried herbs, tomatoes turned to powder (which she’ll mix with water to make tomato paste), and hot peppers also crushed into powder for seasoning. She attempted to dry blueberries, but that didn’t work out. (Listen, sometimes you have #homesteadfails.) She also made fridge pickles.
She started experimenting with fermentation as another way to preserve food. She fermented salsa and is currently fermenting hot peppers to turn into hot sauce.
Get creative with your space. Yes, mason jars take up space. Have some extra space in your closet? Under your bed? Maybe you have a camper sitting dormant in the winter? Canning food is labor intensive, but the taste of deliciously preserved fruits and vegetables all winter is worth it. Also, if we have supply shortages, like this past winter, you’ll be thankful you’ve stocked up.
Step 4: Relax, and have fun.
Homesteading, regardless of the size of your homestead or who you share it with, should be fun! You will have stumbling blocks, like anything else, but you can try again. If it’s not your speed, try another route. For instance, I would love a Dexter cow, but we aren’t at that point yet. We buy our milk from our local dairy. It’s delicious, I know where it comes from and it supports our immediate economy.
Follow Becky’s journey here: