How to Homestead Alone and Not Die in the ProcessKelly
Today, more and more women are running their own homesteads and decreasing their dependence on the grid. But, just how do you go about homesteading alone and not die in the process?
Exactly how is that done in your 50’s? 60’s? 70’s? Or if you’re a single homesteader? Or disabled?
To homestead alone, successfully, there are things that you need to consider. You’ll also need to set firm priorities to stay focused.
- Consolidate and Set Goals
- Reconsider the Livestock You Keep
- Calculate Your Exact Needs
- Make the Farm Work for You
- Maintain the Right Equipment
- Learn to Barter
- Reduce Outside Chores
- Keep Routines Simple
- Get and Stay Strong
- Manage Finances
There are times when I feel as though I just don’t have the endless energy that I once had, even just 5 years ago.
At 57, I have to pace myself to get everything I want to get done in a day. Yet, in the spring and summer, which is “high gear” time on a homestead, there are many things that I just can’t get to by myself. Gardens get overgrown quickly, stalls aren’t as clean as I would like and soon, I feel overwhelmed and defeated.
Not a good way to live.
This was supposed to be fun.
After a couple years of thinking about this and homesteading alone, I’ve come to the conclusion that my success on this homestead is in my hands. My daily decisions will determine how effective I am at sustaining myself and not wearing my body down.
Consolidate and Set Goals
The number one thing homesteaders who are alone need to do is to consolidate and set goals!
This means reducing the workload so that the homestead can be more effective overall.
Amazing things can be done with a small plot of land so don’t make it harder than it has to be.
What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Take some time to sit down and think about this. Consider what is most important to you and prioritize.
Because, here’s the thing: no one can do it all. No one. But you can do a lot if you work smart!
Most homesteaders have similar goals, but number them in terms of priority for YOU.
- Do you want to grow all or most of your own food?
- Do you want to be off-grid and create your own energy?
- Do you want your own milk source?
- Do you want eggs and meat from chickens?
- Do you want to grow your own herbs?
- Do you want to collect water?
- Do you want your own edible perennials?
Each of these items encompass lots of work behind them, so choose carefully so that you’re putting your energy towards what you need the most.
My goals today are different than they were when we first moved here.
Today, my homestead goals are:
- Lessen my dependence on the grid and produce some renewable energy.
- Produce my own meat and eggs.
- Raise honeybees.
- Keep a small orchard and plenty of edible perennials.
- Harvest rainwater.
Everything I do today revolves around these goals. Because I can’t do everything, these 5 goals keep me focused on what’s important to ME!
Resist the urge to spend time on things that don’t help you get closer to meeting the goals you set for yourself!
Re-Consider the Number of Animals You Own and Manage
This is a tough one for women because we are nurturers! We want to take care of every little animal that comes our way!
But it’s not feasible to do that when you are alone and homesteading.
Yes, the animals are cute and precious, but they can also drive you to the poor house if not managed properly!
Avoid Collecting Animals
Remember, for every animal you keep, you must buy feed, spend energy feeding and watering every day, clean waste, worm and deal with illness (which could require vet bills).
Your homestead is NOT an animal rescue facility. Don’t allow people to dump their unwanted animals on you!
Also, you’ll need to be very careful to keep only the animals that “earn their keep”.
Sell the rest.
The expense and workload is what you’re trying to get away from.
Only Buy the Livestock You Need
At one point, I had a real problem controlling my urge to buy chickens. They are so beautiful and lay so many different colors of eggs! It just fascinated me!
But pretty soon, I had about 60 chickens and far more eggs than I knew what to do with.
I sold the eggs and gave a lot of them to the food bank. However, my goals did not include having an egg business.
Remember, whenever you leave the homestead, you lose valuable time. I didn’t need to be out delivering eggs!
Today, I keep far fewer chickens. I have less clean-up and lower feed bills.
This is how you need to think when you’re alone.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 24/7 energy like I used to. My energy and time is finite. I must reserve the stamina I have for my priorities!
Calculate Your Exact Needs
Modern homesteaders tend to be enthusiastic. We over-commit, or at least I do. Over-doing things will create more work and expense for you, so let’s pare things down a bit.
If you are homesteading alone, you’ve got to keep your homestead “lean and mean”.
If you are growing a homestead garden, you will only want to grow what you can reasonably deal with and preserve.
Here is a sweet little calculator that will help you decide how many plants you really need for your size family. Avoid the temptation to grow too much and create more work for yourself.
Container gardening is a wonderful option for small families. Containers take away the chore of weeding and are much more manageable when you’re by yourself. Watering is simplified and you’ll use a lot less water as well.
I used to keep over a dozen bee hives! I struggle to say “no” to a swarm that needs to be rescued!
Once again, beekeeping takes time, a lot of time in the warm months. That’s something that needs to be considered, especially when the summer needs my attention in the garden and canning food.
However, beekeeping falls within the homestead goals I’ve set for myself. I just need to manage my time and energy accordingly and limit the number of hives I keep.
This is an important point, because if you’re trying to manage a property that is way too big for you, your chances of success greatly drop.
Ask yourself if you can truly manage the property you own. You may need to think about moving to a smaller homestead.
How big are your gardens? Gardening is a lot of work! Don’t overwork yourself by growing enough food for the entire neighborhood!
Grow and preserve enough food to feed yourself until the following year.
Utilize different ways of growing!
You can grow a lot of vegetables in containers or old feed bags and limit a lot of work!
Grow vegetables and small fruit bushes in your landscaping! Make it easy for you to go out and pick some things for a meal!
Bring the everything closer to the house.
This allows you to take breaks and get some water while you’re working.
My herb garden, vegetable garden, strawberry patch, blueberry bushes, blackberry trellis and clothesline are all just a few steps from my backdoor.
I can get a lot more work done this way.
I would like to bring my chickens and bees closer, but that hasn’t been possible up to this point. Neighbors are afraid of the bees.
Make the Farm Work for You
If getting on your hands and knees in the garden just isn’t in the cards for you right now, consider building/purchasing tall raised-beds.
There are several designs that could work for even the disabled person in a wheelchair or just someone who has a bad back.
Do what you need to do to make the farm work for and with you. You might need to hire someone to build what you need.
This “keyhole” design allows you to work both sides while sitting. You could obviously adjust the measurements to fit your needs, but this is a game changer!
Buy and Maintain the Right Equipment
The right equipment is so important, you can’t do everything by hand, especially as a middle-aged woman.
We own a used John Deere front-loader and it’s does everything I need it to do. Remember, the more equipment you own, the more it owns you! There’s maintenance on everything you own, so buy good quality and take care of it!
Invest in good quality tools that are easy on your joints and back, including a 2-tire wheelbarrow and a large easy to pull wagon. These tools will go a long way to keep your pain down.
All of what we’ve discussed takes time and planning. But if you find yourself homesteading alone, take the time to structure your property to serve you, not the other way around!
Learn to Barter and Exchange Your Skills for What You Need
Hard labor is the most difficult part of homesteading alone.
Trees fall and need to be chainsawed and hauled away. Fences need repair and roofs leak. You simply cannot do it all.
Bartering, or exchanging good and services in lieu of cash, is a practice as old as time.
However, bartering is making a HUGE comeback among modern homesteaders!
Use what you can do or grow without much effort to trade for labor and other materials you need.
You might feel tempted to short change your talents, but you have more to offer than you realize!
Are you a math whiz?
Can you sew?
Do you like to bake?
Do you enjoy babysitting?
These are all things that can be bartered!
Tutor kids who need help at your local school by posting an ad on Facebook.
Offer to babysit or do a few hours of after-school care to earn some money or barter for what they can offer.
Many times, older single men are pretty darned handy around the house and would love to come fix your “whatever” for a home-cooked meal and some fresh-washed laundry!
See where I’m going with this?
You can’t do it all yourself, but you can create a community for yourself to get the help you need.
Of course, you’re going to want to be very careful who you let in your home, referrals are always best. Use your best judgment, but don’t let it stop you from looking for the right people. Churches are another good place to find bartering opportunities.
Reduce Outside Chores
How much time in the summer do you spend mowing?
Can you reduce that time by planting wild flowers, hay or just letting it grow up? I’ve seen people mow paths instead of mowing all of the grass. If you have a large parcel, could you rent the land out to a farmer to plant? This would earn a little money for property taxes.
If you have trees and bushes that create extra work for you, consider having them removed. Minimize your outside workload as much as possible. If it creates unnecessary work, get rid of it.
Consider using landscape beds for gardening, “edible landscaping” is all the rage anyway. You’ll be hip right along with the millennials!
Keep Routines Simple
Morning chores should be a simple as possible. Pay attention to your “work triangle” as you work, can you reduce steps?
With your critters close to the house, their feed and supplies should be in good order and nearby as well.
Use airtight trash cans to store feed and reduce pests.
Keep waterers clean and located close to water source.
Letting chickens free-range keeps down coop cleanings in the summer. I would recommend the “deep litter method” in the winter to keep work load down.
Get and Stay Strong
Strong muscles are less likely to get injured.
Having good functional strength will make a lot of difference when you’re lifting #50 bags of feed. A strong core will also make a lot of difference in your ability and stamina.
What this looks like for you, I don’t know. Everyone is different.
I’ve been active my whole life and don’t really have any conditions that challenge me. I lift weights a couple times a week in the basement with an old set of weights we picked up at a garage sale. Nothing fancy at all!
I suggest you chat with your family Dr. and talk about what’s right for you.
Manage Your Finances Carefully
Finances will make or break your homestead lifestyle.
Being debt-free is the goal, but if you only have mortgage debt, that could work.
If you carry any consumer debt like a car payment or credit cards that don’t get paid off every month, you need to stop. Get those bills paid off before embarking on the homestead journey!
It’s just too difficult to pay off debt and work on your homestead at the same time. You need to be home and available, debt keeps you from that.
Can you homestead alone? Yep, let’s get it done ladies!