Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Buying tools and equipment for the homestead can pretty much break a person – and quick. There is so much to buy and tons of specialized tools and instruments that can’t be made or gleaned or borrowed (for long anyways!). So when I see people spending exorbitant amounts of money on plants and animals for their homestead I have to wonder if they don’t have a hidden gold mine somewhere close by.
Being the extreme tightwad that I am I have found and compiled every single trick, tip, hack and secret that I can for how to save money and spend the least amount on stocking your homestead with livestock and trees and plants that you could ever want.
First of all, don’t be afraid to look at Craigslist. Its not everyday that you’ll find a deal but every once in a while you’ll find someone who is giving away something they don’t want anymore. Just be adaptable! You might have to settle for a goat that goes a little insane around dogs or chickens that look like they might be crosses between a vulture and a buzzard but hey, that’s the tradeoff if you want free animals. Just remember the ugly duckling turned into a swan!
One of the most underutilized sources of free livestock is your local humane society. Many animal shelters take rescues in various forms. Alpacas and Llamas seem to be the animals showing up nowadays the most. Visit www.petfinder.org to search your area.
Don’t overlook trades. It might sound pretty redneck (ok might is too strong a word) but I haggled a pair of ostriches away from a guy for an old shotgun I had no use for. Why I needed ostriches I still may never know but hey they were a lot of fun.
I hate hate hate paying thirty dollars for a tree from the local big box store. And the ones they ship you from mail order nurseries in many cases look worse and cost more. But thankfully there are ways you can avoid these costs and get all the plants you could ever hope to have.
There’s a pretty pervasive myth that in the US if we had to live off of native species we’d succumb. That’s simply not true. Many people are still leery to plant natives because they aren’t exposed to the fruit at the grocery. Things like pawpaw and persimmons are simply not good choices for commercial production but in a backyard or homestead they can make some fine eating.
The best place to get native plants on the extreme cheap is at your local state forestry nursery. Nearly every state has a nursery and the trees they sell are grown in your state and adapted to it. In my state of Kentucky I can find walnut, mulberry, hickory, pawpaw, persimmon, hazelnuts and chestnuts. The best part is the price. In January I bought 100 hazels for $35.00. That’s thirty five cents per plant!
If you want to pay no money at all then you can try propagating your own plants. Grape vine cuttings root easily with almost no effort and can be had for free if you have a neighbor or family member who has grapes that need pruning. You can cut them in late winter, store them in the refrigerator and stick them in the ground in early spring.
You can also try air-layering for fruit trees. You have to do this at various times (mostly late spring) but you can take a limb and shave some bark off, add rooting powder and wrap in moist peat moss. If you are successful the limb will grow its own roots and you can remove it and plant it elsewhere.
Blackberries propagate easily by their tips. Whenever the canes fall over and touch the ground, roots will form. In late winter, snip the tips and carefully dig up the roots and stem and plant elsewhere.
Despite what is said on the internet much too frequently I do not recommend growing apples, pears, peaches or plums from seeds unless you just like to experiment. The truth is that in most cases you won’t get what you want but who knows. In the case of apples the pollen that created your fruit (and seeds) could have been from a crabapple tree!
For tender perennials there is no easier way to pick up tons of free seeds for essentially the cost of postage and a donation of your seed stocks. Seed swaps are awesome ways to diversify your seed collection and make new friends. Check out my forum section dedicated to this fine art here: http://theselfsufficientgardener.com/forums/index.php?board=17.0
Regardless of what method you choose to stock your homestead the important thing is that the journey is half the fun and when you can save money along the way you can enjoy it a little more.
Check out more moneysaving tips at my blog: www.theselfsufficientgardener.com