This homesteading 101 is a guest post from Angela England, our content director and author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) and Gardening Like a Ninja guide to edible landscaping. Perhaps it’s only logical then that our Natural Living Family would attract some incredible people who have valued self-sufficiency skills to teach the community, and Angela will introduce you to a mindset of self-sufficiency, frugality, earth-friendliness, and natural wellness. Hope you enjoy!
Table of Contents
What is Homesteading?
I like to think about homesteading as a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. And the truth is, you do not have to have a huge acre spread in order to begin growing your own food and doing your own household DIYs. You can do a lot for your family on your own, even in just a small space.
In my book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) I share, “I’ve found that I’m able to enjoy many of the benefits of small-scale farming right in my own backyard—even in a small town. Being a small-scale farmer has huge advantages for those who only work their farm on a part-time basis. Starting small is also a benefit for those who are testing the waters to see what level of this lifestyle they want to adopt. Our family has been slowly adding new elements to our backyard farm each year to see what steps we are comfortable with.”
When you look at what Mama Z has done in her own organic, backyard garden you’ll see how much she’s able to produce in even small spaces. Not to mention the health benefits of growing your own herbs, organic vegetables, and more.
Because that homesteading mindset doesn’t have to be just about gardening. It can include things like:
- Earth-friendly principles – Striving to be a good steward of the earth is a common homesteading principle and something God calls us to.
- Food preservation – This includes canning, dehydrating, and freezing food while it is available to store for a later time.
- Self-Sufficiency – Making things for yourself helps you ensure quality, control cost, and prevent outages during emergencies.
- Frugal Living – DIYing and saving to purchase wisely all fall under Homesteading 101 financial skills.
- High-Quality – The homestead mindset means recognizing good quality and striving to get the best whenever possible.
- Local or Small Business – There’s a reason we love farmer’s markets, you-pick farms, or homemade items from friends. When you can deal with a producer or teacher directly, you know you’re supporting an actual person.
The awesome thing about incorporating homesteading 101 principles into your daily life is that you can enjoy many of the benefits of homesteading even without a farm. And you can start right away with our Natural Living Family community!
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Importance of Family Preparedness
If there’s one thing we’ve learned during recent uncertainties, it’s that being prepared as a family, and having the skills needed to take care of yourself, can be so important. There are a lot of reasons to consider being prepared as a family, as this article in The New York Times reminded us.
Budgeting. Food preservation skills like dehydrating, freezing, and canning, can help you save money by saving when you have a bountiful harvest or find a good sale and pick up extra produce. Buying on sale to set aside for when things aren’t available or aren’t available inexpensively, is a great way to maximize your grocery budgets.
This is also true when it comes to herbal remedies. Herbal infused oils, for example, can be as much as $10-20 or more per ounce if you buy them commercially (and that’s without knowing the quality of the base oil or herbal material that was used.) However I can make an infused oil with my own homegrown rosemary, a plant I bought four years ago, for pennies on the dollar, and choose a high-quality carrier oil that I know will yield good results.
Health. One of the first things you learn as a member of the Natural Living Family is how much healthier it is to make many of your own cleaning products, body care products, and especially meals. When you control the ingredients you can ensure that you eliminate toxic and unhealthy options from your life.
Stability. It’s no surprise to anyone anymore that our supply chain is more global than it used to be. Preparedness means having some items on hand in case of emergencies and disruptions. It also means knowing certain skills that will allow you to do for yourself.
For example, my husband still uses the homemade hand sanitizer I make him for his retail job. Not only am I able to power it with essential oils, but I never had to worry about running out because I had the ingredients on hand. (Bonus points for the effectiveness too – he was the only member of the management team who didn’t take any sick days last year!)
Quality Control. I speak from experience when I say there’s nothing better than homemade food and herbal preparations. It puts me in control of everything. The freshness of the ingredients, the quality of the blends I choose, the customization of the formulas for me and my family…from the very beginning. Not only can I grow or buy the best ingredients out there, but then I can assemble them in a way that doesn’t overprocess, destroying bioactive compounds that help to heal and nourish.
Peace of Mind. Do not underestimate how valuable this can be. With five kids I always keep extra on hand. When things got crazy I not only had peace of mind for my family, but I was able to bless those around me with a dozen eggs here and some freshly harvested herb there. We didn’t depend on being able to find a specific item at the grocery store on a specific day because I knew I had some items prepared ahead of time. As Mama Z says, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. And allows peace of mind too!
Urban Homesteading 101 Tips
Now I realize not everyone lives in the country or has lots of acreage. I grew up in a big city in California so I know the limitations that can come from being in a big city. But one thing I learned researching edible landscaping is that you can easily embrace lots of homesteading skills no matter what size home you live in.
1. Grow a Container Garden – One of the simplest ways to grow a garden in a limited space is by far a container garden. You can use a sunny patio, apartment balcony, or bright windowsill if needed and enjoy delicious, green growing things. The biggest thing to remember with a potted plant is that the root system is smaller than plants in an outdoor garden area, so be mindful to water regularly, as needed.
2. Make a Medicinal Herb Garden – Growing an herb garden is one of the best returns on your time and money in my opinion. For the price of one tiny stem of fresh basil from the grocery store, you can buy a full packet of seeds that will produce dozens of basil plants – enough for the whole year! Whether you’re growing herbs to infuse carrier oils for your essential oil DIYs, to boost the taste (and health) of your kitchen recipes, or to enjoy homegrown herbal tea, there’s a bounty of fragrance and flavor awaiting you.
3. Begin a Compost Bin – Earth-friendly and repurposing what you would otherwise throw away are central to Homesteading 101! You can keep your compost bin in a self-contained Garden Tower, a yard-tumbler, or even a simple and homemade wire bin style compost set up. Regardless of what you use to hold your compost, turning your kitchen and garden waste into nutritious, healthy soil is just plain smart. (See below for more tips on composting!)
4. Learn Food Preservation Skills – Saving food during times of plenty, so it’s available during lean times is not only part of a wise emergency plan…it is one of the skills many homesteaders learn. It will save you money too because you preserve food you won’t use right away instead of letting it spoil or be wasted! Canning, freezing, and dehydrating to preserve food for later is a win/win when it comes to Homesteading 101 skills to learn.
5. Create Kitchen Staples Yourself – Learning how to make your own kitchen staple items may seem like a daunting tasks, but start small with simple recipes and try trickier things as your skill and confidence levels increase. Start with simple herb blends such as a taco seasoning mix. Then graduate to homemade condiments like homemade ketchup or spaghetti sauce. Before you know it you’ll be making your own bread or homemade cheese like Little House on the Prairie!
6. DIY Wellness & Household Products – It’s no secret that many homesteaders become very proficient at DIYing items the average person would run to the grocery store or Amazon to pick up. Mama Z has an entire newsletter dedicated to DIY Tips, in fact, if you’re looking for a good place to start! Making your own household cleaners and body care products is a great way to improve your homesteading skills.
Please do not think for one moment that being in an urban environment can stop you from learning some basic homesteading skills. Homesteading 101 means getting creative with your skills and leveling up as you learn and try new things! Here are three tips and how-to’s that will help you get started.
Composting requires organic materials such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps, animal manure, and so on. To make beneficial compost is really a matter of following a simple recipe.
How to Make Compost
- 1 part green matter (Nitrogens)
- 1 part brown matter (Carbons)
- Combine these ingredients together and add air, water, and heat. Combine and let “cook” until the compost pile has a soil-like appearance.
- Greens (High Nitrogen) Include = grass clippings, vegetable scraps from the kitchen, manure, etc.
- Browns (Low Nitrogen) Include = hay, wood chips or shavings, leaves, pine needles, etc.
You want roughly equal parts of greens and browns so if you use a bucket full of cut grass, you should use a bucket full of pine needles or fallen leaves.
- Alternate your carbons (browns) and your nitrogens (greens).
- Use roughly 1 part carbon to 1 part nitrogen by volume.
- Browns include: leaves, straw, paper shreds, cardboard
- Greens include: manure, food waste, coffee grounds
There are many composting systems and most gardeners use a compost bin of some kind, although in its simplest form a large pile in a corner of the yard doesn’t require any extra equipment.
Carrier oils are so beneficial and used to dilute essential oils in many topical applications. If you want to increase the therapeutic properties of the carrier oils learn to make herbal infused oils.
Some popular herbs to infuse into oil include:
How to Infuse Carrier Oils
- 30 grams (1 oz) of dried herb matter
- 355 mL (12 fl oz) of your carrier oil
- Put the herbal material into the jar and pour your carrier oil of choice inside.
- Place the jar into crockpot filled with warm water set on low heat. I like to use repurposed canning rings or a small trivet to set inside the crockpot so the jar doesn’t sit directly on the heating element at the bottom.
- Let the herbal oil heat up in the crockpot for 4-8 hours, stirring occasionally throughout the day.
- Strain through a cheesecloth, sieve, herb press, or coffee filter, reserving the infused oil. (Discard the leftover herbal matter in your compost bin.)
- Bottle your infused oil and use it in whatever medicinal or body care DIYs seem appropriate for the oil you made.
You can double, triple, or quadruple this recipe as needed but you can just keep the same ratio.
You can personalize your essential oil DIYs by creating carrier oil infusions that work synergistically with your intended outcome. For example, a chamomile-infused carrier oil would be perfect in a stomach ache relief roll-on while a eucalyptus-infused carrier oil could be used to enhance the benefits of the muscle rub.
This simple skill can greatly enhance how you customize your essential oil-powered cleaners, body care products, and remedies.
Making your own nut butter can be so simple and enable you to eliminate harmful chemicals and vegetable oils that you want to avoid. Plus. you can use your favorite nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, or pecans) or you can try seeds like sunflower to make healthy, allergy-friendly nut butter for your family.
The recipe is really simple – nuts and oil. Nuts like almonds will require more oil, while cashews are pretty oily on their own and may not need any additional oil at all.
You can use a blender or a food processor, but if you’re using a blender you’re going to need to make sure that it is a high-powered blender, preferably one that advertises it can make nut butters.
There are several stages to nut butter and it is good to let the machine rest a little between each one. You do not want to risk burning out the motor. If you notice the machine starting to overheat, let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes before resuming your blending.
Nut butter is simple to make but you should plan on your nut butter taking a little bit of time to make.
Homemade Nut Butter
- Put your nuts and about half of the oil into your blender/processer and blend 1-2 minutes. Your nuts will become a fine ground powder at this point.
- After another 5 minutes or more, the nuts powder will begin to clump up, and shortly after that, the oils in the nuts will begin to release so the mixture will begin to resemble a paste.
- Your blender will work easier now as the oils warm up and continue to release. Add more oil as needed to get a smooth consistency.
- Salt to taste.
Now, these three quick-tips are just the very beginning of the possibilities that await you when you put on a homesteading mindset. This way of looking at the world doesn’t depend on whether you have a lot of land or live in the country. It’s all about taking control of your health, your food, and more. Join the All Access Membership and unlock the Homestead Corner to see all the videos and lessons and let us walk you through each step as you recapture these lost arts.
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What is Homesteader’s Corner?
Erica, Elizabeth, and I got together with the Natural Living Family video director, Chris, to film a series of videos exclusively for the All Access Membership – The Homesteader’s Corner series.
Chris setting up professional equipment right in Erica’s kitchen. We were so grateful for his direction to make the class videos clear and informative.
Erica Mueller takes us to the kitchen for a series of cooking tips and tricks to develop self-sufficiency and skills in the kitchen. In the image above, Erica and her son Luke are ready to demonstrate how to make nut butter!
Elizabeth Bond shows us how to preserve food so you can save garden harvests and you-pick bulk buys with ease. Freezing, canning, and dehydrating are all beneficial ways to set food aside for later.
And I highlight the healing power of herbal remedies to help you and your family with natural wellness. From herbal oil infusions to therapeutic herbal tinctures made right in your own home, there’s a lot we covered.
Video class segments in the Homesteader’s Corner include:
- Fermenting Veggies
- Make Homemade Kombucha
- Cheese Making Tutorials
- Homemade Butter & Ghee
- Making Your Own Yogurt
- Freezing Garden Produce
- Canning Tips & Tricks
- Water Bath Canning Recipes
- Preparing Food for Canning
- Herbal Tinctures & Glycerites
- Herbal Vinegar Infusions
- Wellness Preparations & Remedies
- Salve & Balm Making Walkthrough
- Food Drying & Dehydration Techniques
- Milk Bath & Sugar Scrub DIYs
- …and more!
This little corner of the All-Access Library helps bridge the gaps between Organic Gardening and the Bible Health information so you are empowered to transform your wellness efforts, your kitchen skills, and your food management to take your health to the next level.
Enjoy three quick-tips below, and then be sure to join the All Access Membership so you can access all our class videos and PDF recipe guides today!
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