If we quit our jobs can we make enough money homesteading to pay the bills and send our kids to college?
The real answer is NO! (At least not right away).
Setting up a new homestead is very expensive so don’t go about quitting your job right away, Unless you have already reached financial success and don’t need a monthly income, it just won’t work or go as you plan, you’ll be flat out busted, financially, physically and mentally and even worse in some serious debt!
That’s if you do every thing right the first time (next to impossible).
If you want to pay all your bills and send the kids to college and put away some money for retirement, you will absolutely have to run the homestead as a proper business. What this means as a self-employed person is you will be working from sun up to sun down, when the work outside is finished for the day then you start the paperwork for that day, some time between supper and bed time, When the weather is bad then you will still have to tend to the animals if you have any and the gardens will have to be put off for a day or two, other wise you’ll just make a mess of the garden with all the mud you collect on your boots. You’ll likely need to do some in shop work anyway like fixing and repairing things that break.
First figure out what kind of homestead you really want, most homesteads have adjustments made to them after you get something established, then you can add things as needed. Your best bet is to start out small and grow with the homestead, and gradually turn it into a homestead business.
How often does a budget really work out? While most folks try to recall where all that money went each month, we’ve all been there and done that at some point, especially when we were young but those of us that are really budget minded and frugal can account for every penny spent and exactly what it was spent on and why. So I would recommend if you don’t already have a budget balance book or database then start one right now, find out where every penny you bring in each month goes to be exact, then you can setup a budget for your new homestead adventure. There is some great free open source software you can use on your computer to keep track of things or there’s the old school ledger book, I know there are a few different styles still in use today.
How much land do you need:
This all depends on what you intend to do.
Like most things in life there is no one size fits all needs when it comes to the size of your homestead. Typically for a small family homestead, something between 2 and 5 acres should be more than enough to provide everything you need. Anything bigger might suggest you need a pasture for large animals or a hay field, and could be more trouble to maintain than it’s worth to you.
If you are young and just starting out with small children or planning to have some then you might want a little more land then mentioned above, some folks now days plan ahead for after the kids are grown but still need a home, They build what most are calling tiny homes, and place them around the property in a small community style layout where everyone has their own home but are still out of everyone else’s way, of course you don’t have to build a tiny home community for them you could just give each of them a set amount of the land to live on as they choose.
If you’re older and just want out of the big city or suburbs then you should take that into consideration as well, homesteading is not any easier for someone that’s a bit older since they still have to do the same work as a younger person or couple but an older couple likely wont be trying to do something on a large scale. Personally I think this is a great setup for spending ones retirement, you can do as much or as little as you like and enjoy it, plus you don’t have to worry so much about an income if your already retired, and at the same time still have something to do besides just sit around the house and get older.
Learn the difference between a self-sufficient homestead and a market garden homestead.
Self-sufficient: Means needing no outside help in satisfying one’s basic needs, especially food production.
Market gardening is a relatively small-scale production of fruits, vegetables, flowers and sometimes farm animals as cash crops, usually sold directly to consumers, at farm and art markets and restaurants, Typically your market garden homestead provides a wide range and a steady supply of fresh produce through the local growing season.
Gardens of all kinds are a big part of homesteading and most homesteads also include animals of all shapes and sizes, farm / homestead critters can be and usually are expensive to get and maintain.
A lot of the following depends on your location or the location you want to be in, the growing conditions and the climate, not all places are created equal.
In case you’re just moving from the city to the rural area in the same location / state or county, then the growing strategy will be pretty close to the same, if you’re planning to move to a new state then a whole new strategy and plan come into play. Do your homework before you dive in.
Homesteading is very expensive to start up:
New homestead property:
This is always a big decision and depending on where you want your new homestead this can be and often is a big investment depending on what you want to do.
Is there an existing home on the land or is it just a field or a wooded lot or a mixed bag of all the above on some acreage?
If the new homestead already has a home on it, will it work well for the entire family?
You need a building or shelter to keep your things in so they don’t rust out as quickly or get worse than they are, you also need buildings to keep other things in such as feed for the critters, fuel for the tractor, mowers and tools.
You don’t have to have a building to start with necessarily but you will need one sooner than later so plan for it in the budget at some point.
You need lots of water, just as water is the lifeblood for us humans it is also the lifeblood of the homestead or farm. If you don’t have a well or irrigation pond, then you will have to use your rural water and that’s when it gets expensive and quickly. Putting in a well or irrigation pond is very expensive also. Do your home work and average it out for the area your in or want to be in.
Is there any existing fence, does it need repaired?
If not you’ll need to get that built, if you plan to have farm critters.
Driveway or Access Road
Is the driveway or access road in good condition or does it need repaired?
The driveway or access road needs to be in good working order to get the daily drivers in and out along with trailers and probably a dump truck and or concrete truck or maybe even some heavy equipment, you’ll need them from time to time no doubt.
Are there any existing animal houses like chicken coops, rabbit hutches, cattle pens or something that could be used as housing?
If there is existing housing for the critters are they in good enough shape to use right away or do they need repairs or torn down to make room for new ones? If you’re going to have animals you’ll have to house them.
Are there any existing garden plots?
If not you will need to plan out where you will put it or in most cases them.
Plan and layout the size for what you think you’ll need to get started.
Raised Beds or Containers:
Growing in raised beds and containers are very common now days for various reasons, while you don’t need to grow in smaller raised beds or containers they can aide you in your time and effort if you are just growing enough for the family or if you just want to grow something new to try out before you spend time, money and effort to put it in the main garden.
Considering it’s difficult for some folks to get up and down from the ground or be on their knees for any length of time pulling weeds and things raised beds and containers work well, they can also do well for getting your garden up off the ground if your soil tends to pond after heavy rain fall.
There are quite a few good reasons to grow in raised beds and containers but they will cost you extra to buy the materials to build them, then you will have to fill them with what ever growing medium you plan to use in them, this is a lot of extra work and expense but if that’s what you want or need to do then do it.
Is there an existing greenhouse?
If not you will likely need or want one at least. Plan the size for what you think you’ll need to get started. Some folks go all out on the first one and build a 40 foot by 60 foot high tunnel while others might build the same thing like you would a pole barn then use the corrugated greenhouse panels, either of them are fine if you need that much.
If a full size greenhouse doesn’t fit the bill right now that’s okay you can use what’s called a low tunnel, sometimes referred to as a caterpillar tunnel, these are often less expensive but they do come in a variety of sizes.
A low tunnel works pretty much like a greenhouse or a high tunnel and great for garden rows if you already have them in place for the season, you can go ahead and plant your seeds right in the ground then place the low tunnel right over the top of the row or rows how ever many you have in your garden spot, be sure not to plant to early though.
Every early spring I start my seeds in a 16 foot by 20 foot pole barn style greenhouse that uses a proper greenhouse 6 mil plastic, I have had up to 400 plants growing easily in that amount space, keep in mind these are only being raised in the greenhouse till their size and weather permits them to go out into the main garden or in containers, also keep in mind how many plants you think you need and how big your garden is or will be.
If you have kids still in school are there enough schools in the area for the rest of the kids schooling needs or at some point will they need to be transported to a different location? Is there a bus stop? If there is how far away is it, is it close enough they can walk or will you have to take them to it? If not then you might consider home schooling.
Often the community you’re a part of is just as important as the land or homestead you buy, new friends and networking in your area are important, if they have different religious or political views than you do, it might be more difficult to fit in with that community, especially in a smaller community. Maybe look elsewhere.
Hand tiller or walk behind tiller:
There are only two kinds I am aware of and they are a front tine tiller and a rear tine tiller, most people don’t like the front tine tillers as well as they do the rear tine tillers, I’ve had both and I think they each have a purpose in life.
A tiller is a must have, especially when you’re just starting out due to the cost of a tractor and tiller setup, plus the fact you’ll need to get in and around some tight turns after the season has started, you can also use it to help keep the weeds down, you can run the hand tiller between the row of plantings and on the paths between if necessary.
A lot of people use a material ground cover or some kind of mulch for the paths as well as a ground cover for the entire garden then just cut x’s or holes in the ground cover for the plants, this method is not horrible but it does make it a lot harder to keep up with your hilling.
A hand tiller is also budget friendly where a good tractor setup is not always so budget friendly.
A tractor with bucket is the best but you can do well with an older tractor that doesn’t have a bucket, but that bucket is often worth its weight in gold, you’ll also need some attachments.
You’ll probably need a bush hog to clear some areas, try to get one with a stump jumper! “Not all bush hogs are created equal”, you’ll thank me later for that bit of info, maybe a plow and disc or a good tiller.
Depending on the size of your tractor, a good two bottom plow and a tiller would do nicely without a disc but a lot of old school boys prefer just the plow and disc and forgo the tiller while others prefer just the tiller and forgo the plow and disc, that choice is up to you and your budget.
The tractor and attachments don’t have to be new.
It’s up to you how you want to do it but the least expensive to get going would be just use the hand tiller.
Yep hang on to that city yard push mower you’ll need it around the house and buildings on the homestead as well, if you have a riding mower keep a hold of that too, you’ll need them both or you’ll be buying another one or two before it’s all said and done. If your push mower or rider is in good shape you might consider trading up for a bigger or better version of each.
You might also trade the used mowers for a finish mower to go along with the bush hog, however even a finish mower is often a pain around the house and buildings enter the weed eater here.
You need tools and more tools, because you will break a lot of them.
Besides needing them, what good is a shop with out any tools to work on stuff? Some of the tools you will need, shovels, rakes, hoes, garden hoses and all kinds of other hand tools including mechanical tools for working on tractor, tiller, trucks, car and all that fun stuff.
Be sure to check your State, County and or Township rules and regulations to find out what you can and can’t do, what permits you might need and so on.
A homestead is what you make of it. What you want it to be, not what someone else has done or is doing, not everything works the same for everyone else. So enjoy your homestead life and be happy.