Most Useful Tools for a Half-Acre Homestead

DIY veteran Lloyd Kahn shares the tried-and-true tools and techniques that have kept his half-acre homestead humming for 40 years.


| June/July 2015



Kahn Household

Redwood shakes sheathe the exterior of Lloyd’s home, and fiberglass on the roof forms inexpensive skylights.


Photo by Lloyd Kahn

Summon the word “homestead” and you likely think of hardy farmers with 10 or more acres on which they keep livestock, grow and preserve a great deal of their own food, and fell trees to build their homes. But more modest-sized homesteads are more attainable for most people, and these smaller-scale acreages can embody old-school homesteading in principle, if not in scope. Our half-acre homestead is one of those. Following are some of the most useful tools and techniques that have made Lesley’s and my 40-year journey toward greater self-sufficiency possible.

We began our homesteading lifestyle in the ’60s and ’70s, when the countercultural revolution was sweeping across the United States. The ’60s meant many different things to many people, but for me, the focus was on food and shelter. By building our own house, we could escape rent and mortgage payments. In 1971, we bought our half-acre of land (two 100-by-100-foot lots) for $6,500 in a small town in Northern California.

I built our current home with used lumber from torn-down Navy barracks. I salvaged the windows from chicken coops in a nearby town and picked up the doors from debris boxes outside remodeling projects in San Francisco. I covered the exterior walls with shakes I split from redwood logs that had washed up on a nearby beach. Concurrent with the construction, we planted fruit trees and a large vegetable garden, and got chickens, bees and goats.

Between then and now, our half-acre homestead has gone through continuous changes. I learned long ago that you probably can’t become fully self-sufficient, but you can work meaningfully toward greater self-sufficiency. You can grow as much of your own food and do as much of your own building as possible without fixating on doing it all. After four decades of embracing this mindset, I’ve discovered that you’ll certainly get much further down the road to self-reliance if you have the right high-quality tools for the tasks that will arise along the way. Following are some of the tools and techniques that have made Lesley’s and my 40-year journey toward greater self-sufficiency successful. As comic book character Mr. Natural said, “Get the right tool for the job!”

Build Basic Homestead Infrastructure

Chicken coop. I built about five makeshift coops and lost quite a few hens to predators before deciding to construct a proper coop. We poured a concrete slab, put up conventional walls, and protected the yard with aviary wire, which we sank about 18 inches into the ground all the way around. The new coop has successfully kept out hawks, rats and digging critters, such as raccoons. It also has a living roof.

suzy
4/25/2016 10:19:57 AM

I've been thinking about making shakes from the downed cedars on my land. But I'm not sure where to get a froe. That would be a cool article to have in an upcoming issue.


budd
4/22/2016 11:12:39 PM

Livingi in Hawaii 50 or so yrs now got all yr books lov em living da home sted style here lovin life aloha


budd
4/22/2016 11:11:41 PM

Livingi in Hawaii 50 or so yrs now got all yr books lov em living da home sted style here lovin life aloha


budd
4/22/2016 11:06:23 PM

Aloha Llyod Kahn its been a long tym sincethe old General store an the Grain man tyms an Big Sur iwanted to add to yr chain saw trip chaps for anyone using a lot they r a must 80 buck cheaper than a foot or leg aloha


stephanie
5/25/2015 6:33:07 PM

Have there ever been any successful long term homesteading stories that are place in north central climates? Anything can grow in California and most buildings can get by with little no insulation and Solar power is only a problems for a few short weeks. I love articles like this one but frankly,it seems too fairy-tale like because like under hill fairy tales, they have an almost endless summer. That is almost unheard of in the rest of the country.






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