Homesteading

Does Homesteading Have To Be All-or-Nothing?

The term “homesteading” conjures up a lot of images in the minds of those who have never done it. It probably even conjures up many of the same images in the minds of those who have thought about it πŸ™‚

They might think of a rustic-looking cabin, situated back in the hills so far you have to fly supplies in. (This is my preference, by the way!)

There’s the idea that homesteading means living with “no electricity” and “no water” and all the horrors that come with it. All your food comes from the garden and the animals you kill, while you make your own clothes and laundry soap to boot.

homesteading

These are just a few of the ideas that go along with the homesteading mentality for a lot of people. Of course, there are those that can make such a drastic change and can actually pull it off! For some, this isn’t the death sentence it would be to a lot of “city folk”, so let’s not be too quick to decide it’s downright abusive.

How Do You Live Without Electricity?

When our family lived on our homestead, a lot of people wondered how we could “live that way”. First of all, there was the “having no electricity” ordeal. This is a common misconception that people have about homesteaders, but let me be clear: we HAD electricity.

The idea that you must connect to the official grid and pay a monthly fee for service in order toΒ have electricity is ludicrous. We made use of generators, inverters and battery packs while we were homesteading and we had everything we needed.

There were times we even used a vacuum, skill saw and hot plate when needed. We allowed for a certain number of hours in the evening for the children to watch television for the first few weeks. But after a while, the joys of living on the homestead overtook them, and they didn’t even make use of that. None of us did! In fact, I often had to track my son down and bring him back from the fishing hole just to go to school πŸ™‚

We had our laptop, cell phones and other gadgets that needed to be charged and we only used them until they ran down. The rule was that they got one charge a day, so we were much more careful about how we used them. It wasn’t the all-consuming thing it had been, and much like television, they were soon done away with for other adventures.

By the way, that’s one of the best things about homesteading. Since you don’t have the constant eye candy to lure you away from real life, you can actually LIVE!

And let me tell you, it feels great!

How Do You Live Without Running Water?

Having no water was viewed in much the same as having no electricity. It’s not that we didn’tΒ have it, it’s just that we didn’t have it the same way everyone else did. We weren’t formally attached to the water company’s lines, and believe me, I didn’t miss it.

Funny how that seems to offend so many!

We had special water containers, large ones, that we filled with water. We never went without. Sure, there’s a little extra effort in hauling it, but it’s worth not having the bill! We were able to drink, cook, wash dishes, do laundry and more, just like normal folks! πŸ˜‰

You can even store water outdoors, in black or dark containers, and the sun will do the work of heating it for some of those jobs I mentioned. No water heater – or electricity – needed! We were in the process of mounting that on top of our home, so we would have a warm water gravity feed inside the house.

How Can You Cook?

For us, there was never a boring moment when it came to preparing meals! When we first moved onto the property, we dug a fire pit. My husband made it up very nice, and we even had a sort of oven on either side of the pit. You could use them to keep food warm, and to warm up bread and tortillas as well, which we did often.

Not long after we moved out there, my husband roasted a chicken in a dutch oven over the fire. To this day, I’ve never tasted better! I don’t know whether it was really that much better or if it was just in my mind. Whatever it was, I sure wish I could recreate it πŸ™‚

fire pit
The earliest version of “the pit”, before the ovens were added.
fire pit
The fire pit, with the ovens on either side.
fire pit
This chili, cooked entirely over the pit, won second place in a chili cook-off!

We also used an antique Coleman camp stove, for when the weather outside was too bad for a fire. I can’t count the meals I cooked on that stove. It did a really great job! I’ve always preferred gas stoves over electric ones anyway, and that was a great choice.

You can adjust the heat during cooking without having to wait for a burner to heat up or cool down. And once you turn it off, it’s off! It doesn’t stay hot forever, like some stoves, especially the glass top versions.

coleman
Our vintage Coleman gas camp stove.

Of course, we also had a regular propane grill. Two of them, actually. One was huge, with six burners and a side burner as well. We didn’t use it much, but it was great for roasting meat and smoking. Propane is so easy to store that we tried to save it for emergencies or for when we wanted bigger cuts of meat that took longer to prepare.

And of course, I couldn’t leave off the cooking section without speaking of my 1930’s antique wood cookstove. The cast iron top featured six burners and my husband even made a “puller” to lift the lids with since it didn’t officially come with one. We only got to use it once. I always hated that.

What If You Can’t Make The Jump All At Once?

The great thing about homesteading is that you don’t have to dive in headfirst all at once. Some people do, and if that works, that’s awesome! If you CAN do it that way, by all means, DO! However, not everyone can do it that way. And that’s okay too.

If you can’t make your dream of homesteading come true the way you’d like, there are still some things you can do in the meantime. We had to come back to the grid, but as much as I hate it, I still implement aspects of homesteading into everyday life.

You can too!

Learn How To Can Foods

Learning how to can is one of the greatest things you can do for a homesteading mentality. Once you’re off-grid, you’ll need to find ways to store food that do not require electricity.

I use to freeze everything I could get my hands on before we started homesteading. Then there was the two-week power outage caused by an ice storm that did away with all of that. Even taking the food outside and attempting to make use of the snow and ice didn’t help. I lost enough food to feed our family for at least a couple of months with that one storm!

Canning, on the other hand, is easy to do once you get the hang of it. You can use an outdoor fire pit to heat and cook everything. Or you can make use of any of the alternate means of cooking. If you can cook on it, canning on it won’t be a problem either.

For canning references, there is a plethora of information out there. I have learned SO MUCH from YouTube videos, I simply can’t say enough good things about it. And of course, you should definitely check out the Ball Canning website.

Become Frugal Minded

I keep just about everything, whether it’s actually recyclable or not. Bread bags, along with their ties, plastic jugs, glass jars, plastic lunch meat containers and so much more get washed and reused in my house. I even wash and reuse my Ziploc baggies! Talk about saving some money!

The fact is, just about everything has more than one use in it. I even save vegetable and meat scraps to make stock. Have you priced vegetable, beef or chicken stock lately? We use a lot of it because we love gravies and soups, so the savings really add up over time.

You can also save a few vegetable cans, as they come in handy from time to time as well. For instance, I save them to pour grease into when I drain my hamburger. Of course, I save all my pork grease, so hamburger is about the only thing I drain. Even then, I save it to add to our dog’s food, so it doesn’t completely go to waste. I do the same thing with water or oil drained from cans of tuna or mackerel. The dog loves it and it’s got a great number of healthy fats in it that make her coat shiny!

Get Rid of Your Microwave!

Did I just really say that? Why yes, yes I did.

I really got turned off on using a microwave several years ago when the one we had quit. I did some research to see if there was any way we could fix it ourselves. My hubby has always been a do it yourself kind of guy and I knew if it could be fixed, he could do it.

What I found was that it is incredibly dangerous to attempt to take a microwave apart. Apparently, if you do it wrong, radiation can begin to leak out of the thing. Do I really have to explain how dangerous that is? It’s bad! Hubby and I talked it over and decided we didn’t even want another one in our house. We threw that one away and never looked back.

Another thing about a microwave that I don’t like is the amount of pull it has on electricity. It pulls nearly as much as your clothes dryer! If you use it very often, or to cook certain foods for longer periods of time, you can really add a lot to your electric bill.

Toasters and toaster ovens are as bad, if not worse, for the amount of electricity usage. Why does this matter to a would-be homesteader? Because if you’re going to make use of solar energy, you do NOT want things like this in your home. Just using one, all by itself, could drain a fully charged system in a VERY short period of time.

It’s best to learn to cook and reheat foods in your oven. Yes, it can sometimes be a hassle, and we missed it for a while. But you won’t believe the difference it makes. Not only on your electric bill but your cooking mentality as well.

Turn The Water Off When…

This is a big one for me, and I’m not even an environmentalist. Running the water while you brush your teeth, wash your hair in the shower, or any other time for that matter, is too much. If you aren’t actively using the water stream, it simply shouldn’t be on. It’s that simple.

Again, the savings you see might not be exponential in the short term, but over the course of a year, it adds up more than you think. If you add this to the savings from doing away with your microwave, toaster oven and recycling household items, it really makes a difference!

In Closing

There are lots of things you can do to have the homesteading mentality wherever you are. Even if you are in an urban area, you can do something to work towards your goal.

Knowledge is power, don’t forget that. So even if the only thing you can do right now is learn, then learn everything you can. Read books, search the web, make contacts with people who are already homesteading, and that’s a great start.

But most of all, don’t give up!

Chime In!

Is there a tip you’d be willing to share on the homestead mentality? If so, please leave it in the comment section for all to benefit from! Thank you!

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