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Preparing to Go Back to the Land

Homestead Path 

Our Firsthand Report, Off the Grid and Thriving, prompted several readers to ask how much money it takes to go "back to the land" and start up a homestead. The answer, of course, depends on many variables, but there are several steps anyone can take to keep the upfront cash requirements, or mortgage payments, to a minimum. We're working on an article for our August/September 2010 issue that will explore debt-free living and ways to "live on less," and we invite those of you who have already established homesteads to post reports about steps you took to save money, as well as share advice for beginners on ways they can keep their building and start-up costs to a minimum.

Post your advice as a comment below. We'll send a free copy of Lloyd Kahn's Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter to everyone whose reports we use in the August article.

Post a comment below.


3/26/2011 6:05:46 AM
When buying home, carefully consider the location to main roads and the possibility of career changes. A primary road next to you is very convenient during winter weather but the noise from traffic can be annoying. You may move to a place due to convenience of your career, but will that change in a few years. An older home is fine - ours was built in the 1800's - but it needs to be structurally sound. The previous owner did a good job at insulating this old farmhouse so our heating oil bill is offset well by that and the firewood we burn. The biggest factor I've found in saving money is not to buy on impulse. Buy used whenever possible but purchase quality when you do. Be smart with road trips even if looking for yard sales - what's the point of saving $5 if you burn $20 driving around aimlessly.

3/22/2011 8:13:56 AM
For those of you that think getting involved in this type of lifestyle is daunting, you may find that looking in to caretaker opportunities a real blessing. My girlfriend and I used the Caretaker Gazette site and found several such opportunities within weeks. We now are living the farm life on a 35 acre spread with chickens, cattle and sheep, soon to be adding pigs and turkeys. Of course, we grow all our veggies, etc, too. The owners are GREAT elderly folks who just need help. We've partnered with them and they even provide free housing and small salaries, plus are open to our expanding the marketing of all we produce. Don't think that buying your own farm is the ONLY way.

3/18/2011 10:07:22 PM
My husband and I bought our almost dream property about a year ago. 2.5 acres outside the city limits of a small town. Last year was getting settled in and used to the long commute to the big city. Now I've started a garden trying to grow as much as I can. I try to use as little plastic and generate as little waste as possible. Everything possible is recycled or composted or burned, and anything that can't be recycled I take to work. I take scrap clothes that can't be donated to make quilts, menstrual pads, door sweeps, and meditation pillows. I get pallets free from work and bring them home to make compost bins, and now working on building a mobile chicken coop. We're trying now to get all debt paid off, and after that purchase the neighbor's property, which has a farm, to be more self sufficient. You can check out my learning curve at

Shirley Jean Coker
3/17/2011 1:22:46 AM
In 1970, divorced with 7 children, we moved to the country for the 'good life'. 2 milk cows, chickens, pigs, a huge garden, & acres of 'u-pick' potatoes.(which we put in with a horse and plow!) Also traded potatoes for piano & ballet lessons. We canned, & dehydrated everything. I made bread from scratch and ground my own flour. We collected produce(thrown out)from grocery stores for pig feed, and cut our own hay for the cows. We also sold eggs, milk, and cream. I had a job outside the home. After an accident in 1975, we had to sell the farm and move back to town. Time passed, kids grew, had kids of their own and their kids had kids. 24 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren later, the time has come to move back to the country. Am in the process of purchasing my dream farm. Kids and grandkids navigating homeward. Always wanted acreage with a creek, pond, fruit trees, and space enough for at least four homes for returning's happening. (The happiest time of my life was on the farm with my head in the flank of a cow in early morning, milking....chickens bustling about, the smell of homemade bread, & hungry kids getting off the bus to hugs,fresh milk and cookies.) The pond is stocked with fish, the chicken house and barn awaiting their new occupants and I can hardly wait myself. Farm life truly is the BEST......

Jeff Nelson
3/16/2011 3:59:23 PM
My family built a Log cabin in the mountains of Montana out of pocket and with fairly empty pockets. My wife and three kids were up for the adventure and every body pitched in to make our dream a reality. The key for me was the desire to build was greater than the reality check that my bank was willing to cash. I would contemplate each and every purchase and building requirement to see if I couldn't do it cheaper or in a different fashion or possibly eliminate it all together. Out of pocket means we’d have to prioritize, metal roof over siding, that’s easy, next. Since it was a team effort and everyone had a say in most decisions, it helped to make the tough jobs just part of the adventure. Instead of renting a house to live in while we worked on our property we bought a cheap camper to use as a chuck wagon and summer sleeping quarters. We decided we could pack water, generate electricity, and use an out house so that more money would go to building shelter first. Living out side of the box is hard work but it’s much harder to live stuck inside the box! We eventually replaced the visqueen for windows, rented a backhoe and put in the power, drilled a well, and added more rooms. In the end we spent less money on our home than it costs to buy a new car and have made family memories that will go on for generations. It is wise to count the cost and plan accordingly but the desire to fulfill a dream can prevail against all of the best advice and the biggest obstacles.

Phyllis Lewis
3/16/2011 9:47:43 AM
Sometimes self-sufficient is a need, not a want.We had children come back home with children and spouses in tow. I won't turn a grandchild out no matter what the issue is. We raise out own food, geese and chickens for meat, and hunt. We can food and dehydrate alot.It LASTS if power stops. You lose everything in a freezer. We dug a root cellar around the base of the well pipe. The cooler temps of the pipe help keep the cellar cooler. We planted returning cottage fruits, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. There are hazelnut trees which grow quickly. Apples went in this year. Anything that is perennial and comes back, get it in the ground. Trade what you have, for what you don't, veggies for part of a beef. Buy only needs, salt, sugar, coffee, tea. Live in the sun and sleep when it goes down, lights off. Use a clothesline to dry. It makes a difference. Use graywater for irrigation. Don't waste. Scraps to chickens. Plant up/down. Potatoes in, lettuce above. Use all your space, go vertical when you can, cucumbers/beans. THINK, don't waste what you can use somewhere else, or waste space you can put something in. That's how you do it.

7/28/2010 6:47:37 AM
Homesteading Revisited Today we call it organic, back then it was farming. Today we call it homesteading, back then they called it living. We have become very detached from what was a simple life and more and more people today want to get back to roots and live life simply. Although it maybe simple, in reality we all know it is hard work. Those with financial resources have the luxury of claiming a green lifestyle quickly, but for most to go off the grid with bills to pay, it can be a daunting challenge. I had depression-era parents, and with this comes the influence of their experiences. My dad spoke of making Christmas ornaments for the tree from tin foil. My mom wore fabric from a potato sack for a slip. They wanted the America dream. By the time I came a long they had a more comfortable life. However, that life came from my mom clipping out coupons for groceries, shopping bargains, re-using all glass container food jars for canning, and most importantly buying at yard sales. The yard sale became a huge part of their life. In fact, they began selling, too. It was not long before it became a business for them. Buying and selling used products is by far the largest form of recycling that I have seen in my lifetime. My parents were pioneers to the recycling industry and often stopped at a house to pick up and item someone left in the trash. They repaired and cleaned up all items for re-sale. This had an impact on my life today. Most all the items in my home are from a yard sale. With the exception of my mattress and couch. I live simply and basically am not a spender. I own my own property which includes a garden and chickens. I am not self-sustaining nor off the grid. It takes money to participate there, and I am not sure geothermal and solar fit my budget. Although I would prefer to be off the grid, I do not want to get caught up with romantic ideas that do not make practical sense. I still drive a gas-powered car, but certainly would go electric there. Sel

Kay Flowers
7/19/2010 7:08:21 PM
We were able to buy our homestead mortgage free because my husband had bought homes that needed some TLC, fixed them up and later sold them at a profit. We have a big garden and solar greenhouse, with enough organic produce to share. I dry or can food and our shelves were well stocked as I make most meals from scratch, including yogurt, sauerkraut, granola, bread, and baked goods. We shop at thrift stores, auctions, scratch-and-dent sales, and buy most of our food from salvage groceries. We also believe in that wonderful barter system so common among good neighbors. Our place is nestled on the edge of an Amish community with a terrific bulk food store where we can even get wheatberries or spelt to grind into flour. We have made good friends here, since their sustainable living values reflect our own. Except that I really do enjoy electricity! But even when the electricity is down (once for three days), we are not too concerned. A hand pump supplies buckets of clean water, the root cellar and pantry are lined with good food, the wood burner gives plenty of heat in the winter, the gas stove is ready for cooking, and the backup generator is handy. Also, instead of mainstream medicine, we use homeopathic remedies, essential oils, home-grown herbs, and reflexology. We are both in our sixties and on no medication. Real food, hard work, and honest sweat keep us healthy.

Michelle C._4
7/8/2010 11:04:44 AM
Two years ago, my husband and I purchased a historic farmstead in Northern Minnesota, which at the time was in need of more than just a little work to say the least. To help offset the 20% of our portion of the construction and remodeling costs, we used sweat equity whenever possible. This was a great way for us to help control some of the costs associated with the project without compromising our must haves like geothermal heating and energy efficient doors and windows. Today we are fortunate to have a beautifully remodeled and energy efficient farmhouse, along with the pride and sense of accomplishment for our efforts.

Eugene McLean
7/5/2010 1:01:21 PM
To follow up on my previous post: Can we say "Networking"? Several of the people I work with are, like myself, organic gardeners. We started "The Old Hippie Gardening Club". So named since most of us grew up and came of age in the 60's. We not only share produce from our gardens, (which saves everyone's food bill) but also found that some members of our extended commune had life skills very much in demand. Mechanics, carpenters, electricians, etc..., that help wherever they can. The only currency exchanged is good will and friendship.

Eugene McLean
6/29/2010 1:20:58 PM
Location, location, and location. My house is located in an older part of town on a quarter acre. Errol Flynn built the "cottage" next to mine back in the 1930's. The house is surrounded with big trees of oak, camphor, and palm thus keeping it shaded and lowering AC bills. I have organic gardens in the unshaded portions. I am also within walking or biking distance of grocery stores, post office and bank. I have installed insulation, rain barrels with a drip irrigation system, and even use cold water runoff and gray water from the shower to flush my toilet. The savings that I would otherwise have were negated by the 50 mile distance to the hospital where I work. Even with "hypermiling". My solution was to negotiate a three day WOW (Work On Weekends) schedule. I work three, twelve hour days, and with the shift differential, I get paid like 40. This has been a great plan!

ed Haffmans_2
6/20/2010 2:41:34 AM
Second attempt to send a blurb about job free living that just vanished in a click-over an hour wasted it is almost 4 a.m. i give up

ed Haffmans_2
6/20/2010 2:18:34 AM
Spent 1/2 hr writing a blurb about Job Free Living, only to have it vanish in a click.

Christopher Wright
6/13/2010 11:48:17 PM
If I could guarantee it would taken with good humor, I would have to go with having been seriously poor as a great resource for the future homesteader. I have been living back-to-the-land lifestyles since I got out of the service in 1966. How I ended up with my final, beautiful piece of land, debt free was mostly luck of the draw so I can’t really help there. The fact that it is in a region with no property taxes and few pieces of government certainly isn’t harming things. But having land and being able to keep it in good repair and production are very different stories. Despite having a M.A., I always gravitated to the wondrous peace of rural worlds where such things counted little and paid even less. Never had much money but never had much debt either. This kind of life created many challenges I never dreamed of and developed skills that serve me well. Paid work is scarce in most rural places – it’s mostly about taking what you can find and trading for the rest. I’ve worked on farms, fixed septics, learned to install and maintain all kinds of stoves and furnaces, worked in orchards, did lots of unusual bare-bones carpentry, copper/plastic/pex kinds of plumbing, worked in the woods and too many more to mention. This is not about bragging but every single difficult thing that I have done in my life sure has come in handy now living in the wilderness on minimum social security. I probably wouldn’t have done many of these things had I a choice. I really have to disagree strongly with the folks who say that you should have everything completely planned out in advance. How does one plan for what he doesn’t know will be happening? It will never happen the way you expect and being able to creatively face unfamiliar challenges is the key to a successful enterprise. Have an open mind – learn patience – sleep well. Probably the best advice is a very tried and true old saw: Use it up, fix it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without.

Mike Gray
6/10/2010 12:15:11 PM
I live on five acres near the little village of Milford, Michigan. The house and property were out of reach for me as a young man, but I found a process to acquire what I wanted without working excessively. I've been debt free and living a semi self-reliant lifestyle for twenty years, since age 36. I had to purchase and improve three homes (successively) before I could afford the type I wanted, in the location I wanted. The profits from those three nearly paid for my present home. All the properties were purchased on land contract because there are no closing costs or escrow fees as with a mortgage. I recommend purchasing an existing home rather than building. You will pay sales tax on all the materials for a new home. The materials purchased to remodel an older home are far less costly, and you can usually live in the home even while remodeling. If it requires extensive renovation, it might be better to either build, or find something that doesn't need as much work. Especially if you have children. I remodeled my '70s ranch with stone and logs. It was fun too! Most ranch houses built since 1974 are pretty well designed and have plumbing and electrical subsystems that meet code today. All they require are ground fault interrupters, which are now inexpensive and easily installed. Remodeling can be done one room at a time, and as money permits. Look first along east-west roads because the houses probably face the road which means that they are likely to be well oriented for passive solar heat. If you find a house on the south side of the road, your garden will be in the sunny back yard! Two steps out the back door gets me lettuce, peppers, and strawberries. is a great place to start looking. Don't buy cheap tools. It's false economy. I've had to discard cheap tools while the older, high quality tools just keep going. I once had several older tractors which kept me busy with maintenance. Their functionality was quite limited t

Meridith Dufresne_2
6/8/2010 11:56:38 PM
I am unable to offer any sage advice about how to purchase a homestead, debt free, as the sale of our city house allowed us to purchase free and clear our five acre country dream. For this I feel truly blessed. However, there's a lot more to creating a homestead than just the house and land ... like all that 'steading'! My homesteading goals were very simple: an organic veggie garden that could feed us for a year - or pretty close to it and chickens. Well, beginning a garden with poor soil does not a great veggie grow. Not wanting to spend 'city-girl' prices on soil amendments I found a local farmer who had cow manure to give away. So I got my amendments country style. I got the wood for my permanent beds (cut and bucked lodge pole pine) from a forest restoration project. Next I acquired free wood chips for the garden walkways by chatting with the local electrical company's line clearing crew. I found myself with a dump truck full of wood chips (yes, that's a lot) just for asking if they had any plans for them. I asked neighbors for raspberry starts and now have more plants than I know what to do with. As far as chickens go I have bought some but have been given many more - hens as well as a rooster. My point with all of this is that asking around, really pays off and helps keep our dollars for other things. Getting gardening goods for free and growing beautiful organic veggies with it all is, to me, evidence of an abundant universe. Happy Scrounging!

6/1/2010 10:48:56 PM
Our concept of "Dream Homestead" is probably different than many of your readers but we needed the same goals to accomplish it. My husband and I always dreamed of owning a 2nd home in the mountains and 6 months ago finally finished the project. We now have a beautiful home in the cascade foothills of Washington near Mt. Rainier, debt free and currently valued at $260,000. When we look through the large front windows at the elk and deer grazing in the front yard, the trees and the mountain vistas with our coffee in the morning we are proud of what we have done. If you were to ask me how a suburban couple on an average income already owning a fairly expensive primary residence were able to do that I would say "small savings matter" in huge ways, treat saving money as a game to the goal instead of deprivation, stay organized and have patience. Not to mention being open to learning skills you never thought you'd need and doing the research if you need to understand something better. You would be surprised how much you can save, even if your goal is very very expensive. The progress was slow. We purchased the land in 1995, we had a contractor build the shell of the house and enclose it with roughed in utilities in 2005 and spent the next 4-5 years finishing the rest of the house ourselves. Many weekends hanging drywall, building decks, etc. plus collecting things like doors and fixtures a few at a time as we could afford them. It took patience but good memories too.

Molly Norton
6/1/2010 4:40:48 AM
I am an American living in Rwanda and my husband and I are about to move from the capital city of Kigali out to the rural Eastern Province. Of course real estate costs here are very different than in the US, but there are many new and different challenges as well. We are trying to build a small, earth block house using the soil from our own land, which is a huge cost savings. But because we live in Rwanda, we have to import the earth block machine, and any other tools we might need, which makes it more expensive. We are just starting to work with a man who is designing composting toilets for us as we will be living in a very dry area. And we are looking at ways of doing massive rainwater collection to get us through the dry seasons. The most interesting lesson to me in this is that going "back to the land" is challenging anywhere - EVEN in a country where 90% of the population is subsistence farming (as extreme as you can get for back to the landers!) and you would think it would be easier to live off the land than not! It is always good to remember, I think, that going back should be just that - going back. I think we tend to get so caught up in all the "modern" amenities that are supposed to make going back easier. But why reinvent the wheel. We don't need fancy compost bins to compost, we don't need fancy tanks to store rainwater. People were doing these things thousands of years ago, and those are probably the people we should be learning from!

5/31/2010 4:38:40 PM
Being fully, permanently disabled makes it a necessity and a difficulty to getting off the grid. But, as hard as it is, I like it! My father and I have an acre in suburban Broome County, NY, and with the help of previous experience, the Foxfire books, MEN and knowing how to research, I've come a long way in 7 years. I've reduced our energy needs by 40% with both simple/cheap and difficult/expensive upgrades to the house. This is an ongoing process with many more of both types planned. I'm converting more land from lawn and scrub to a workable soil for fruits, veggies and soon - turkeys and chickens. I make most of my clothes, have made cloth napkins and quilts, rather than buying. I bought a splitter I can use so we can make better use of our ill-placed wood stove, with hopes of venting it to higher need areas. I mostly make soups to take advantage of little meat and many veggies. I do a great deal of trade work in order to get projects done that I can't do alone. It's hard work, but it gives me a purpose and a chance to be self-sufficient as well as balancing our little bit of Earth.

Tammy Gary_4
5/20/2010 3:16:29 PM
Research!! Research on were you would like to settle. Homesteading or living for less in some areas my be more difficult due to the cold winters, high taxes, short growing season. I moved over a year ago, to down size and live simpler. I sold my home, had yard sales to eliminate the cludder and packed 4 horses,5 dogs, 8 cats, a rabbit as well as a friend who decided to come along for the adventure in my horse trailer and here we are. I bought 6.5 acres of land that was fenced and we lived in the horse trailer for 6 mths. I now have a 700sq ft, 1 bedroom cabin with a loft, built a barn for the animals (all from sale of my home). I have a medium sized garden, I hunt and fish for meat. Everything in the house is propane. I have solar lights (just the inexpensive ones)and a small 2000w generator that I run at night if I want to watch a movie. You can go with big solar panels and batteries that can get expense. Why so you can run more things. No electric bill, no cable tv. You learn to live with less, but you have to have the mind set and be willing to give things up. TV is a time stealer.I look out the window for entertainment, watch the birds, take my dogs for a walk or ride my horses. It cost me about $1500. A YEAR to live this way. I don't feel I lack for anything or at least anything I can't live without. Our grandparents did it; the Amish do it. Its liberating and I love it!!

Angie Labbee_2
5/10/2010 3:26:57 PM
We have already been hit really hard by the economy so any savings we had is now gone. There is no way to afford any acreage even as little as 5 acres. We do live near a lake and found a couple of lake lots for $1500. We were able to pay for this without a loan. We saved for the next year to add water and septic. It is now complete and we have a very nice piece of property that is small but is ours. We found an old, one-story house on a farm and spoke with the owner who allowed us to tear it down for the materials. It was built out of solid oak that is as strong today as it was then. We are in the process of building our small house on the lake property. We will not have room for a cow or any other large animals but we have the lake at our back door and can walk down to fish anytime. I don't think people think about other ways to provide meat other than cows and pigs but there are many other options out there. We aren't out any cost on worms to fish with and we don't even need a boat. There is never a time that we can't catch perch enough to make a fine meal. We have no cost for feed or worries about our animals getting sick or dying. We do have room for chickens which provide eggs and meat. We grow a garden and dry/can for the winter. We need very little money (and sometimes just barter items) to buy milk from a local farmer. Don't think you need lots of land to live - you don't. We have spend about $7000 spread out over 2 years. We owe nothing.

5/9/2010 10:42:33 AM
How much money does it take to get back to the land? Only a little, when you think and start small. I live cash-only and debt free. Its a really great way to go. A few years ago I set out to acquire a homestead of my own, a place for a large garden and room for animals. In order to achieve this lofty goal. I began living in a van and working 2 jobs, 7 days a week for $10 an hour. I would shower at the gym, store my food in a cooler and slept in places I thought I would find a restful nights sleep. The money surely added up and a couple years later I had bought myself an RV and my first small piece of land. Its a little over and acre and inexpensive, I raise rabbits and chickens, and have a good sized green house. Things grow so well in it that I am planning a second much larger green house. I am also saving money to buy a my next, larger piece of property further out in the country. It would be wonderful to live near a lake. I would love to own a large farm one day. Although, I'm plenty happy on my little acre, ambition is a little more difficult to come by these days. ;-) Start small, work your way up, and pay as you go and watch it all come together perfectly. Here is a link to a really good article I wrote and it has some pictures. Your welcome to take a look if you like.

Caroline Halliwill
5/7/2010 10:08:03 AM
Allison, co-op options are available. Ask everyone you know to keep their eyes open for them. My husband and I have lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for over 20 years. We recently bought 20 acres of land for our retirement. We bought it because it had at least 3-4 acres without trees and we knew we could easily put in a garden without having to remove trees and then take out the trunks and we are a mile off the main road on a private road. We also knew that our health was going to factor into the running of our farm and knew that we would eventually have to hire help, which would have been costly. However, we met a young couple who were struggling to start and maintain a small farm on two acres of rented land and approached them with the idea of coming out to our property and running their farm from there. They will rent acreage from us for a nominal rent and build their home and farm with us. We will maintain separate homes but the farm will be a cooperative. They accepted our offer and we are in the process of writing up a contract. We will get our farm, sharing the costs of maintaining it with the couple and they will get their home and in about 10 years will own at least 10 of the acres we purchased. We were worried about how our children were going to react to this proposition. They were rather relieved when they found out that we would not be out in the middle of nowhere without someone else keeping an eye on us. I think we have a win-win situation.

5/4/2010 5:14:56 AM
I could write the article myself. IF I ever get time, will start a blog. What do you want the most? Debt free? Land? simpler lifestyle? Energy savings? garden? Animals? List goes on and of course we want it all! We were lucky to find a very abused little house on 8.4 acres- half of which we leave to nature. Some fruit trees had been started and animals were pastured on it. I wanted the huge garden, hubby wanted the woods- we were sold. But the price in money and sweat keeps growing, so we have had to be resourceful and patient. Helps that we have a house in the city that is not selling. My standards of what is priority has to keep shifting (no 2nd bath this year, garden half the size I need to sell some). We made lists, only half knowing what we were doing. What I now know about wells being installed! The bugs I am learning to accept. Which is important- as an organic gardener, I knew bugs but wow- we have more bugs than I knew existed around here! AND they get into the house! I can not afford a dog or chickens yet since I want new siding to keep the critters out. We still have broken windows to replace on the rather unsightly garage. But we are putting the money into energy star windows on the house, new siding and insulation and hopefully a woodstove by fall. My garden cost more than I could have imagined. I have had to work extra as a substitute teacher for now. We borrowed the bulk of this from hubby's 401k- good way to go if you can since this is for our retirement!

Stephan Pawloski
4/30/2010 2:26:12 PM
Generally speaking, I believe most people who are considering 'returning back to the land' and are coming from a city or sub-urban lifestyle will find that they are ready and able for the change. However, perhaps the largest psychological barrier for people is whether they are honestly willing to give up some luxuries and trade an economically driven lifestyle for one built of hard work and personal gratification. My recommendation would be to take your two weeks vacation and volunteer or hire yourself out as general labour to a working farm. Explain to the farm owners your intentions and that you are looking for a wide variety of 'country living' experience. Get a taste of a number of things, such as cooking using alternative methods, splitting firewood, caring for livestock, and maintaining crops. In two weeks time you will likely know whether it is the right decision for you. And, for those of us who have been fortunate to grow up on a farm, well we already know the benefits and rewards of living a self-sufficient lifestyle.

4/29/2010 7:22:22 AM
I kept stressing about not having a small farm (1-3 acre). I almost bought one but the house inspector found too much disrepair. I'd sold my house in the city, so I settled for a small house in a town nearby. Best thing that could have happened. I found that 1/3 acre goes a very long way even with a 400sf detached 'garage' (now cottage) and a small attached garage. My minivan has an inch per side getting in the door but inside I have enough space for storage and my many tools. The yard is mostly fenced and the basement is a walk out. In four years, I've planted 17 fruit trees, 20 large fruit shrubs, close to 100 raspberries plants, grapes, a few hundred strawberries, plus herbs and enough vegetables, including potatoes to can, freeze, dry and store to get me through most of the year. I've double the vegetable beds for this year. Plus, I grow many native and perennial flowering plants. I still have space to expand. My neighbors were not too happy at the beginning because they worship the lawn, but now they like what I've done. Removing the lawn has been hard since I'm an organic gardener but worth it. I have a micro farm, plus the essentials of city life all in small scale and I'm happy. I started early Social Security which covers all my expenses and allows me to help my son with college. I had a free energy audit and the person told me I was one of the most energy efficient people he had met, still he gave me some new pointers.

4/28/2010 9:38:31 PM
We live in the country with neighbors an acre away and have a 300 square foot vegetable garden and will soon have finished building a chicken coop for which we are being donated 5 laying hens. We plan on planting fruit trees and 75 blueberry bushes next year.We have acquired rainbarrels and 2 compost barrels and are gardening "organically"--We built a passive rainwater drip irrigation system for the rosebeds out of hose we scavenged at the dump-same for the chicken wire and most of the chicken coop. We have added another layer of insulation and ceiling fans all over the house-wwe can and dehydrate . I make quilts,and bedspreds and curtains and hhand knitted blankets-he makes rustic furniture from what ever trees we or a neighbor cut down.Probably the most important thing we have done is get to know our neighbors and trade with them-we have acquired most of our tools that way. I get Social Security and also work part time. He gets social security too. We have never been happier or healthier. Sometimes it is hard to do all of the physical work that is required for maintenaince -we always take off on Sunday- but one gets used to it, a little at a time and when you see the beautiful results, it just inspires you to do more.

4/28/2010 6:26:20 PM
I have moved as far as i can go for now .I replaced my heater with a wood burning stove and I cut my own firewood. I have found that a lot of people need their trees trimmed or removed. I have saved about a thousand dollars a year and get paid to cut the tree's. I also have a 2600 sq ft garden and taught myself to can my own food. Next I started raising my own animals for food such as pigs, meat chickens and egg chickens. I have found that I can buy grain from a co-op in bulk with a minimum of 2000 lbs. I store the feed in clean 55 gallon drums.Its a start but it dose take a lot of time but so far I manage to keep a full time job.I have looked into the solar panels and found that it would take me 20 years for the system to pay for it self.

4/28/2010 5:16:34 PM
Nikki-little steps DO rock! 2 years ago, I moved from Milwaukee to a small house in my hometown. There's less to maintain & heat/cool plus got rid of items not used which makes organizing easier. I've invested in new furnace, A/C & insulation/venting in the attic and my bills have already improved. (Thanks TMEN for the tips!) Last year, I purchased veggies from the local farmer's market to freeze for winter. This year, I've rented a garden plot & am looking forward to seeing what I can do. I'm learning to cook from scratch (baking bread & cookies, no boxes/frozen), too. I'm hanging laundry to dry on racks outside when I can. Baby steps help me to keep from over-extending myself, too. I'm reading lots to explore what I want to try next. I watch my current expenses carefully. Suze Orman's website has some useful tools & ideas ( Having a home budget and writing down my goals clarified what I'm working towards and help keep me on track. Meal planning and grocery lists are a must to avoid impulse shopping & waste. I also want to say thank you to everyone who has commented on this website! I've learned so much from reading about your experiences (good and bad).

William Brown_3
4/28/2010 2:28:54 PM
Hi everybody! Here's what my wife and i did. First we came to the realization that the city was making us imbalanced and unhappy and that we needed to make a change in order to live a happy life. Next we bougt a cheap car and traveled all across Canada to see where we would like to live. During this time, we volunteered and WWOOFed; Camped and slept in our car; we also livind and worked in small towns and intentional communities. Through this we not only gained experience and skills, but we also found the area we wanted to put our roots down into. We did this with not knowing a soul and only a couple of thousand in the bank. By setting clear intentions and letting people we came into contact with, know exactly what we were looking for, we went from sleeping in our car that first night, to finally meeting a family that was willing to landshare with us. Through the help of family and what little money we had we purchased a used yurt. The total cost of yurt, platform, woodstove and simple furnishings came to under $20,000 cdn. We harvested the wood for our woodstove ourselves, built gardenbeds out of scrapwood, built our own funiture, created a natural fence out of dead fall in the forest, used gutters to catch rainfall in our rainbarrel, read books, used candles, etc. We are living out our dreams in reality, with very little money and with very little experience in "country living". So, if we can do it, anyone can do it. You just have to be clear on what you want.

arnie cherubino
4/28/2010 11:34:02 AM

Allison Fine_1
4/28/2010 10:33:13 AM
I would love to go back to the land--for me the West is my dream. I lived out west for 8 years--Utah, Montana and Arizona. To have a bit of land in Arizona would be heaven. However there are no jobs out there and I have no savings or retirement fund or credit! I live paycheck to paycheck as a college teaching of writing. In addition, I am alone, over 60 with no partner! I would need a co-op kind of option where I could work with others to build a homestead. Is this even an option these days?

4/28/2010 10:24:12 AM
My husband, 2 boys and I live on 20 acres where we have started a diverse farm of raising herbs, plants, producing jellies and salves for a local farmer's market. Along with that I have located my wholesale hand dyed yarn business on the property. And with that we are beginning to raise sheep on a large scale for local spinners and to add another base yarn to my hand dyed yarn business. While my husband and I are not debt free-we make what money we have coming in work for us. We found this property 2 1/2 years ago in an area that had a flat market-prices remained low even during the housing boom and hence held it's value. The county has low taxes and low population growth. We were able to use equity on the older home that had built up over 13 years and we chose a property that even though had a larger house and out buildings and much more property and on a huge pond-cost less than what our previous house sold for. So we did not increase what we owed on a mortgage. The house is a century old and did need work. We have done much of it ourselves, learning new skills, adding sweat equity. When I started my business years ago as a means to provide income by the time we "retire", we reduced all needless spending and began to live on my husbands salary only and financed the business with my retirement from previous jobs. Now I run the business on the new property-little overhead and no commuting. It is growing and now providing additional income and several tax deductions.

4/28/2010 10:01:17 AM
Hold on just a minute, all the suggestions are helpful but you need some self evaluation before taking on more work than you have ever done. like 24/7!! First of all your physical strength, then your do it yourself ability and knowledge of plumbing, electric, carpentry,masonry engineering etc.. Tools,Tools,Tools can't have enough!#$ Taxes and Health Insurance can break the bank. Help/partner someone that has the same passion and endurance for the mental and physical requirements. I could go on and on about the perils of farming but all this has been leading up to this major consideration. Take a look at your existing domicile, is it kept pristine, average or in disarray. If you are comfortable with average or disarray you can probably handle farm life, but if you require that pristine environment for piece of mind. Then you will kill yourself trying to make your acreage look like your yard at the house.

Nikki Jackson_2
4/28/2010 8:53:42 AM
Along with the "big" things, like exploring solar, and learning homesteading skills, there are also everyday baby steps that can easily be incorporated into our lives before we move to the perfect homestead ... if we ever do. One of the simplest is to explore homemade cleaning products like laundry soap, dishwasher soap, and shampoo alternatives. I am amazed how much cash got trimmed from the weekly budget and diverted into paying down my mortgage, simply because I don't have to buy those chemically scented bad-for-the-environment products. Add to that a couple of simple recipes for homemade bread and yoghurt for instance, and suddenly the weekly slog through the grocery store becomes short, smooth and a heck of a lot cheaper, (not to mention the smug feeling of satisfaction I experience from doing it for myself!). I also scaled up the principles of self-feeding, self-watering, no-weeding-needed home-made "earth boxes", using re-cycled rubber cattle waterering tanks, and now I have a wonderfully productive kitchen garden despite having some of the poorest quality 'soil' possible. Baby steps rock!

4/28/2010 8:50:06 AM
Fist take a course in debt-free living. Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is a great one. Get used to applying the principles before you jump in, so that you know how to negotiate, save, and find the best prices, and you become and remain debt-free.

3/30/2010 3:25:10 PM
I know my earlier e-mail to TMEN touted our less than $20 electric bills. So in all fairness, I thought I would send along how we reach this number and still have a life. Since all homes use some kind of power source to operate this was a good place to start on our energy saving quest. Even the simplest, humblest, home uses some method of cooking their food and lighting their homes after nightfall. So how to save on these energy sources? Granted some go without the luxury of electricity by choice or scarcity, but we have found propane gas and electricity to be beneficial in our home. When we were switched to a Smart Meter here in central California there were many horror stories about people's electric bills doubling. I asked the fellow installing our new meter why and he explained that as the meters age they slow down. So new meters not only eliminated the meter reader getting to have a job, they also upped many people's electric bills into the stratosphere. I was greatly concerned this would happen to us. He explained since our house is 7 years old the meter hadn't had time to wear down and he was right. No change! It is possible to keep electrical expenses to an absolute minimum and still enjoy life. Below are the methods we use to keep our electric bill consistently below $20 a month: 1.We took a serious look at all the things that used to be “plugged in” and began considering alternatives or even eliminating them. 2.All electronic equipment is plugged into a surge protector power bar, and switched on only as needed. 3.The refrigerator is an energy star model 4.The range is propane 5.The house is well insulated, including the garage ceiling 6.Windows are double pane with homemade tab curtains 7.Ceiling fans are run in place of air conditioning in the summer. In the summer we do the “window thing.” Open them early in the morning and close them up by nine AM. Curtains are drawn if that window gets direct sun. 8.Deciduous trees are planted to the

3/29/2010 10:40:29 PM
For the last 41 years of our marriage, we have applied the principles of self-sufficiency and frugal living. Fortunately TMEN came along in 1970 and encouraged us to continue in our endeavor. In 1978 we pulled the plug on careers in So. Cal. and relocated to the Sierra Mountains, where we built our first owner-built house. Granted it was small 900 square feet but it was mortgage free. Next came the garden and greenhouse, heating with firewood, and bringing in some regular cash with odd jobs. We never got into farm animals, which was fine since we followed the precepts of Helen and Scott Nearing. We also chose to not have children, which saved a lot on the need for money. What happened along the was a wonderful, simple, life. Here we are 64 and 65 and still enjoying the lifestyle. However, seven years ago we sold our mountain home and relocated on one half acre of rich land in the San Joaquin Valley. The new house was designed especially for "getting ready for old" as we say. One story, rich level land, ample sunlight, and moderate weather. Many features were incorporated for energy conservation enabling us to have a consistent electric bill of under $20 a month. Permanent, raised garden beds, fruit orchard, and a grape vineyard provide all the fruit and produce we can consume, can, dry, and give to friends. We have remained debt free all these years by practicing self control. This has enabled us to maintain a pleasant life.

Scot Morgan, goinghomestead.wordpress.com_1
3/19/2010 12:05:03 PM
If you plan on going homestead, first take an inventory of how you currently live. What are your total expenses? Then decide what you still will want to have once you make the move. Figure out that cost. Pay off your debt as much as possible first. Go down the list and note what items you can do on your own or do without. You can cut your monthly bills by growing your own food, keeping chickens or rabbits for food, goats or cows for milk, and preserving food to last through the winter. What's the climate where you will be homesteading? Do you have long growing seasons? Plant more than you need, then store as much as possible, sell off the rest to neighbors or at farmers' markets. Consider building or improving your dwelling with good thermal mass walls to cut down on heating/cooling needs. Consider home/web-based businesses for additional income. Read blogs from people who have made the move. Learn about solar, wind, geothermal, and other energy systems. Get a support network behind you, whether friends, family, or bloggers. Plan for the unexpected, then go for it. -Scot from

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