Judy’s Question: “I would like to know if you have any ideas or pointers on how a single mother could get a start on getting a homestead. Right now I’m a full time student and have a least three more years left till I will be done with school. Any help or ideas would be a great help.”
Robbyn’s Answer: Are you speaking of purchasing land? We’re still in the process ourselves, and it’s been slow. We scour ads and areas for bargains, plain and simple, and make researching this an ongoing process (helps keep the stress down to keep it relaxed). We’re “country folk” at heart in most ways, so finding a rural property makes sense. But we’ll bloom where we’re planted, as they say, till that door opens up. We’ve had a lot of near misses in land purchase, and they’ve felt like sucker-punches at the time, but in retrospect we’re glad we didn’t force any of them or gone into debt.
For us, our Homestead is our forward vision of our ideal life (which for us means becoming as self-sufficient as possible), and it is also our life Now. Homestead has had to begin right where we are, with its limitations, and now we see this as an unending process which, for us, may include getting a bigger and less-city-ordinance d property (as in allowing animals), but is overall a lifestyle shift in every area. We’re students of that change, and the learning will never end (we’ve learned to laugh at the moments we totally flop as simply being an opportunity to find a better way to do it next time…and o to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously!) ;-)
To anyone, Jack and I would say build/acquire/ create your homestead (whatever that vision entails in your plan) without getting into debt, and if you have debts in the meantime, pay them off. I know it’s easier said than done, but this society seems to be credit-driven and it’s so easy to think “just this time” when it comes to short-term purchases, etc. In terms of choosing land, research your possibilities and don’t do an impulse buy. Know any restrictions (codes, etc) and if it will actually meet your needs. Are there adjacent properties that regularly and heavily use chemicals? is it accessible, how’s the land zoned, does it have water, etc etc. And always go and see your land before making any decisions. Even a topical map doesn’t always show that huge sinkhole, the landfill next door, flooding, etc. Researching prospective properties at the county building can be vital. No matter the laws, always be “Buyer Beware.” Make sure you CAN build on it, or use it for animals, if that’s your plan…and if it comes with water rights. We had some unwelcome surprises here inof every sort that can ONLY be discovered by going to the county building and researching it there…even online property tax site maps and county maps are NOT always accurate and can unintentionally misleading.
It helps not to spend too much time getting frustrated with your limitations, and give yourself credit for the things you’re doing and learning that may not yet be expressed in terms of dozens of fresh eggs, milk, or garden produce. As a student, you’re doing a job, and “homestead” encompasses all the skills you need within your vision of your ideal life. I never think limitations fully eliminate us from the desires of our heart that are in our best interests… we just have to innovate. I was a single mom for several years and was tied to many things by shared parenting agreement, job location, and finances.
Both Jack’s and my advice is to get the word out and start now, in ways that are manageable, doing and learning towards your vision (that process won’t end, by the way…it’s the fun part!) It will be characterized by change and not be static. No matter if you decide to purchase your own place, relocate, stay where you are, rent/lease, live with parents, etc., finding people of like interest will fuel your momentum, help open doors, and keep you encouraged. Including your children in the process and engaging their own creativity and ideas can also be fun and interesting. ..I think it’s vital. Children’s roles are often underestimated, but they are integral to the big picture. Sharing with them and incorporating their innate curiosity, talents, and ideas and concerns will make this a family journey that’s so rich!
If you don’t currently live where you can have a garden, or goats, or whatever is in your current ideal of what you want from homesteading that you don’t have right now, you can focus on making some homemade foods from scratch, maybe canning, growing things in pots or sharing garden space with someone whose garden could use some extra pairs of hands.
I have a friend who currently is a single mom living in a rental house and has her own chickens (less than ten), makes compost and has a worm bin, etc in a very tiny backyard. She knows a man who does yard work, and asked him for any unsprayed grass clippings which she uses as bedding for the chickens and in the compost. He, in turn, cares for many properties (his clients’) whose absentee landlords (and no renters) are only too glad for their backyard fruit and nut trees to stay picked rather than all fall to the ground. He doesn’t do that as part of his job, but he got her permission to go there and pick fruit…and she does by the sackful! There is such an abundance of unsprayed and neglected trees bearing fruit in those yards that she has extra and donates them all to the food bank. And her time spent picking, pruning, and cleaning around the trees qualify to fulfill master gardener volunteer hours. (Her five year old helps with everything, thinking it’s fun!) And the fallen fruit? She cleans it up from the ground by raking it into trash bags and takes it home for the chickens. So far this year she’s had all she and her child…and chickens…can eat of figs, apricots, oranges (citrus don’t go to the chickens), grapefruit, lemons, peaches, limes and so on. And all because she got to know the neighborhood yard guy…who by the way benefits from her fresh eggs and things she makes from some of the fruit.
When the word gets out and you share your dreams with others, unexpected doors open up! If you’re able to have land, you’ll have to find what suits your situation (proximity to work, suitability, affordability, etc). Three years goes by quickly, and in other ways can be a long time. It’ll be exciting seeing how things progress in the meantime. Never underestimate the skills you’re learning as you’re economizing and innovating now within your limitations. They are all contributing to your homestead invaluably!
Alan’s Answer: For me “homesteading” is a philosophy. It doesn’t take vast tracts of land or obscure skills. It takes a commitment to be responsible for the production of the things one need to meet the basics (food, water, energy, shelter, health.) You can to this anywhere. I’m not saying you can produce everything anywhere, but you can take responsibility for it. You can find things that meet thosethat are produced in a sane way in your local area…etc. I am always philosophy driven. Decide what you want as your life. Write your vision/governing philosophy. Build a plan to achieve it. Test everything to make sure it moves you toward your vision.
I like the book AT HOME WITH HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT by Ann Adams as a guide for this process. I’d also recomend a good Permaculture course and a whole (very long list of books). To start with perhaps you should find a local CSA and become a member. Do your work share and learn the gardening skills they can teach you. Learn how to cook, eat, and enjoy what is locally and seasonally available. Stay involved in conversations like this one. Blog about your experiances as a single mom student trying to homestead in the burbs or where ever you live. It will connect you to a larger community of people having the same or similar adventures. Share what you know and what your learn. Baby Steps. Good Luck!
Kristeva’s Answer: I don’t have any direct answers about where you could get funding for such a purchase, but I would start by reading Joel Salatin’s “You Can Farm”. He’s got many great suggestions and brainstorming how to make money from farming; some of them start before you even have a farm! He gives examples of people who started
and I agree with is to start ‘practicing’ farming before you actually get the farm. For example, you could start buying fruit in season and in bulk and teach yourself the arts of canning, dehydrating, and other general food preservation techniques. Grow some of your own food in a small patch of ground if you have it and/or find access to it through neighbours or
community plots. Again, you can use this time to learn a lot about growing food, preserving it, and/or begin to sell it thereby starting a business that can move with you when you do get your land. In general, make connections and get known as someone who is a ‘homesteader’ at heart and in practice, and that will get the ball rolling and begin to open doors to
your future! Good luck!
Cassandra’s Answer: Start right now! Begin to experiment with simplifying your life. Teach yourself what you need to feel content with your life and what you can live without. Know, as closely as possible, what you are looking for. But be flexible. Homesteading is a way of doing things much more than it is a place. Even in the tiniest apartment, you can grow edibles, make soap, mend clothes, avoid harsh chemicals, and conserve energy. You can start doing all those things no matter where you are.
Homesteading means doing a lot of things for yourself, rather than depending on someone else to do them for you. Start with one small change at a time and work your way onto bigger changes. I’m sure you have considered that, as a single parent, you may have to work outside the home. Being in college, you seem to be planning for that. Never forget that, along with your “day job,” raising children, fruits & vegetables, and animals will be another full time job plus some! Try to be realistic about what you are capable of doing on your own. I think many of us would do well to take that advice (and don’t.) I bet most of us have asked ourselves what we thought we were doing when we decided we were going to do this for ourselves. I do, at least several times a month.
If you already have these things settled in your mind and are just looking for your location, I can only suggest that you start saving now. This will be easier to do if you start to simplify your life. Write down, very specifically, what you want your homestead location to be like and start looking for it. Don’t be surprised if the perfect place almost seems to find you.
Stuart’s Answer: I’m with everyone that said “homesteading is about your whole life, a way of mind first before it’s about acquiring land, etc.” or some such. For getting starting in farming and smallholding, have a look at the Land Stewardship Project website, specifically for their “Farm Beginnings” course. Their podcasts are great too.