Homesteading Without a Homestead

Reader Contribution by Lanette Lepper
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In her book by the same name, Jenna Woginrich defined the term “Barnheart” as ‘an uncurable longing for a farm of one’s own,’ and, in doing so, named the phenomenon which so many of us find ourselves experiencing. As a military spouse who still has many years left before we are able to settle into our ‘forever home(stead)’, I still suffer from occasional bouts of Barnheart, even though a couple of bee hives and five chickens have helped tremendously.

If you suffer from Barnheart and would like to homestead but are unable to do so right now for whatever reasons (there are many), do not despair. There are still steps you can take in order to move yourself towards the goal of being more self-sufficient. Happily, most of them don’t involve much money! Here’s a list of my top 10:

1. Save more, spend less. The sad fact is that most people cannot afford to buy the homestead of their dreams … or any homestead, for that matter. In many places, acreage is expensive. In order to make your dream a reality, you may need to make some drastic changes. Thankfully, most of those changes have positive outcomes …  stop eating out and instead, learn to cook the kinds of dishes you’ll be making when you can have your own garden. Cancel cable and instead, read books and magazines that will teach you about living self-sufficiently. Make time work for you, and contribute annually to your IRA. Your 70-year old self will thank you for it. Your co-workers and friends won’t understand why you want to live so simply … but they don’t have Barnheart.

2. Seek to become debt-free. Once you have begun spending less, and saving more, consider paying off those loans. No homesteader I know has ever said “I wish I owed more money.” Every dollar in interest you are paying on your home, car, or credit cards is one less dollar you have when at last you are able to purchase your homestead.

3. Learn a new skill. You may not be able to milk your own cow, but you can learn how to make your own yogurt and cheese. You may not be able to spin your own wool, but you can learn how to knit or crochet. You may not be able to build your own farmhouse, but you can learn how to do smaller woodworking projects. Sign up for a class, have a friend teach you, or watch you-tube.

4. Learn to preserve food. Anyone can learn how to can and dehydrate, and it doesn’t take a lot of money to get started. Someday you’ll have a huge garden and bumper crops of produce, but for now you can support your local farmer by buying in season and preserving the taste of summer all year round.

5. Become a producer, not a consumer. Bake your own bread. Crochet your own dishcloths. Make your own laundry detergent, soap, lotions, and medicinal salves. Give homemade gifts. Every time you choose to be a producer instead of a consumer, you are putting money in your own pocket and you are helping to inspire others to do the same.

6. Educate yourself. Get your hands on any homesteading book that interests you. If your library doesn’t have it, ask them to order it. Subscribe to magazines that consistently have helpful and informative articles. Take classes from local Guilds. Become a Master Gardener. The more you learn now, the less you’ll have to learn later.

7. Grow something. You may not be able to garden, but chances are you can grow pots of herbs or vegetables in containers. You may not be successful, but even growing failures can serve as valuable lessons.

8. Meet like-minded people. Volunteer at a community garden or join the local Beekeepers Guild (no, you don’t need to have your own bees!). Get to know your local farmers. Start a homesteaders group. You will be amazed by how much you can learn from other people, and how much fun it is to talk all things self-sufficiency.

9. Invest in tools you can use both now and in the future. Cast iron pans, a pressure canner, a powerful drill … there are lots of things that you can start acquiring now that will help you on your homestead. I know, the very first thing I said was to “spend less”… but in certain instances, it makes sense to spend extra on good quality items that will last a lifetime.

10. Have a plan. While there are no animals to feed, buildings to maintain, or crops to plant, take the time to write out a plan for your homestead and do some research. What kinds of fruit trees do you want to plant? What varieties/breeds do best in the area you hope to settle? How many chickens will you need? How many acres will you need to hay? Set annual homesteading goals and take action to achieve them.  

What steps have you taken to treat Barnheart?

Lanette Lepper is a beekeeper, chicken keeper, gardener, food preserver, and proud Navy spouse who blogs