The Beginner’s Guide to Homesteading While Working Full-Time

Homesteading is a rewarding hobby that brings great tasting and quality food to your family. We began our farm with a small garden and the goal was to produce food that tasted good. For many people seeking a homestead or hobby farm, they are looking for better quality food. Purchasing pasture-raised, organic, grass-fed, non-GMO, etc. can be very expensive at the grocery stores. This is what draws many people to the homesteading lifestyle.

We have been running our homestead operation now for three years while working a full-time job and homeschooling our kids. It requires a lot of planning, patience, goal setting, and hard work. We have developed time-saving techniques for moving animals, sustaining our garden, and raising new animals, all while saving money. Everything on our farm that requires time and care has to have a purpose and give back to our family. That may seem harsh but it’s not as bad as it sounds, we still love on those cute little duckies. In fact, our mission always will be to give our animals the best quality of life, if we cannot do that we do not continue to raise them.

What is Homesteading?

Personally, I can’t stand labels. Homesteading is just a word, a word that can mean whatever you want it to mean. The official definition by Merriam-Webster is a: the home and adjoining land occupied by a family b: an ancestral home c: house. Many say that a “homestead” has to be a fully sustainable off-grid operation. On the same note, offense is taken to the word hobby farm, like it means you aren’t serious about what you do. I say you just do what makes you happy and what feels right. Getting caught up in labels stops you from completing your goals, believe me, I’ve been there, don’t let it happen to you. Some people will agree with your operation and some people will judge. Let’s move on together!

Getting Started

We did not begin with the intention of having a homestead or farm. It all began with a short conversation that went something like this: “You should put cows over there in that pasture,” my husband responded with “I want to get pigs!” A month later we had 6 pigs in “that pasture over there.” That is when the dream began. I was hesitant to get pigs, I had no experience with them, they seemed stinky and gross, and they were a bit intimidating. Once we got them though I instantly fell in love. Just building the fences was a joy. We learned that working together on something like this brought us closer together and we were working together towards a common goal.

So I always tell people just do it! If you know you want to build a farm or even have just a few chickens, just jump in and do it. You will never know what you are missing until you try it. Pigs were not our first part of the operation, we already had quail and a very large garden, but they were a jumping-off point to something so much bigger.

7 Simple Homestead Projects

 

1. Raise Quail

Coturnix or Japanese Quail are easy to grow out for meat and eggs. They are fully grown and laying within 6 weeks of hatching and only take 17 days to hatch. So in a very short amount of time, you can have healthy meat provided to your family. Their eggs are also delicious and carry more nutritional value than chicken eggs.

2. Garden

A garden is imperative to reducing your family’s food costs as well as providing quality fruits and vegetables. Gardens do not have to be complicated, grow bags, raised beds, throw away plastic pots, kiddie pools, a hole in the ground, etc. are all great possibilities for growing a garden. Worry about getting something growing before worrying about production, efficiency, and yields.

3. Herb Garden

I wish I had focused more on creating my perennial herb garden the first year we were here. Now my herbs have to fit into whatever spaces I can find. They can take a year or so to establish and really get a good harvest off of, so don’t wait to get those going.

4. Pastured Pigs

If you have space don’t be afraid of those pigs! They are an easy way to provide a lot of meat for your family. You can also raise an extra to share with a neighbor or friend. We will get more into how to raise pigs, but they are definitely my favorite animal around here.

5. Laying Hens

Chickens are easy!!! Brooding chickens is probably the toughest part of the process, so if you are afraid of that find some that are already raised and close to laying age. Don’t be afraid to brood though that’s not really that hard either. Even the smallest backyard can easily handle 2 or 3 chickens which could provide your family with up to 18 eggs a week!!

6. Meat Chickens

Meat chickens are often the jumping point for new homesteaders. While I love pigs, chickens are a super simple way to also fill your freezer. Cornish cross birds are ready for butchering in 6-8 weeks and grow out to be 4-7 lbs. There are a lot of different factors to their grow-out process which we will get into, but they are probably one of the simplest projects for filling the freezer.

7. Preserving Food

So this one is a bit different than the others. Learning to preserve food whether you grow it or not is highly beneficial to the homestead. It helps save you time, money, and your harvest. There are many different ways to preserve including drying, freezing, canning, and fermenting. Most people already understand the process of freezing most things, but pick one of these methods that you haven’t done before and explore new ways to enjoy food. For example, canning doesn’t have to be just grandma’s old limp green beans, you can create new flavors and culture in your food daily.

FAQs About Homesteading

  • What if I have never raised a farm animal before?
    • Do not be afraid! It sounds so simple, but it really is scary when you aren’t sure what you’re doing. The great news we have resources constantly available at our fingertips. So while that animals’ life should not be taken lightly, know that there are whole communities here to support you from all over the world.
  • How much land do I need?
    • That is never going to be a simple answer. The amount of land you “need” will depend on your goals. I believe anyone can “homestead” (remember a homestead is just a home) with whatever they have, even an apartment in a high-rise building. You need to map out your goals to really determine what you will need if you are purchasing new land.
  • Will homegrown meat cost more than in the store?
    • The short answer is most likely, but there are simple ways to offset those expenses. We will be getting into some of those techniques in later posts.
  • How do you butcher an animal that’s so cute?
    • This is probably the most disliked question homesteaders have to answer. Farm animals are there to provide for your family, we care for them like our own family though. Yes, it is hard to butcher and definitely my least favorite part of the process. The relief is knowing their life was meant for a purpose and nothing from them will go to waste. Many industrial farming operations do not follow these same ethics and that is exactly why I raise my own meat. It is important to us that the animal is treated kindly up until its very last breath. Good animal husbandry never ends.
  • What do I start growing in my garden?
    • Try not to get too hung up on all the “rules,” if it’s your first garden ever. I recommend finding a farmer’s market in your area and purchasing seedlings from a local farmer. They will have planted varieties that grow well in your area and they can give you tips on how to help them succeed. Picking what to grow is as simple as evaluating what you like to eat. Start simple, I cannot stress this enough!
  • Why should I put that much work into raising my own food?
    • Everyone has their own motivation for homesteading. If it’s something you truly want to do you have to find what that is. For us, it’s providing good quality food for our family, that we know exactly where it came from and what is in it. It is also a way for our family to spend more time together while producing something that provides for us. Once I became a stay-at-home mom we had to cut expenses and be extremely frugal. The extra things we wanted to do weren’t possible, so my husband started working more and finding different ways to “provide.” That pulled him away from the family though, which defeated the purpose of the extra income, homesteading brings us together. While we spend most weekends “working” it is something we all do together. I can tell you there is so much joy listening to your kids run around in the woods while building fences on a Saturday.

If you do what you loveyou‘ll never work a day in your life.

-Marc Anthony

The Last Thing You Need to Know About Homesteading and Working Full-Time

It’s not easy! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Once you get an animal you have to see it through until the very end. Homesteading often sounds romantic: “fields of sunflowers, and tall grass with cattle grazing in the summer breeze.” While it is beautiful it is probably more often not beautiful. It means mud in the winter, freezing cold mornings trying to thaw ice, going out on the hottest days of the year doing everything you can to help cool them, everything going wrong as soon as your husband is out of reach and so many things we’ve probably yet to experience.

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