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Living on a Homestead

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A gate on a homestead, at sunrise.
This is a guide about living on a homestead. Starting a home from scratch and living off the land can be a meaningful challenge. It is satisfying to grow a garden and raise livestock for most of your food.
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July 26, 2006

When my husband and I married, we each brought children to the union. Within a year, we had added the two little boys from across the street. In an 800 square foot house with two bedrooms, this did not work. We found some land a few miles out of town, where we could all indulge our love for raising animals and gardening.

My Frugal Life

We had to do without electricity and running water because we put all our money into the land. We paid for it in three years, as well as having a 170 foot well dug and some irrigation ditches put in. With kerosene lamps, a generator to run the pump; and a wood stove, we were fine. We have never had to buy firewood, because people know to call us when they want to give away a tree or some scrap wood.

We bought a cow and watched her having her calf; the first one on our land. The little fellow's front hooves emerged, and then his face. He gave his head a big shake to get rid of the fluids, looked all around, nodded as if to say this looks okay, and then put his new front legs on Mama Judy's back legs and pushed. Out he flew! He was a big boy!

We put two old trailer houses on the land, about 12 feet apart. One was for the kitchen, living room, and our bedroom. The other had three bedrooms for the kids. A third one is for Jim's tools and the books we don't have room for in the house. In between trailers, I planted flowers. A lady was thinning her irises and gave me one of each color. The kids threw out fruit pits. We now have an apple, cherry, and apricot tree to shade the trailers and give us fruit. They cool us down by about 20 degrees in summer.

My husband, Jim, plowed up a quarter-acre garden. He and the kids planted fruit trees, elderberries and raspberries. We put in some tiny pine seedlings from the soil concervation district and they took hold almost like magic. We built a chicken coop from scrap wood that we salvaged from a proving up shack.

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Later, when we had cleared away enough sagebrush and lava rock, we fenced in a pasture for the cow. There were a few adventures before that fence got finished -- it's a wonder no one was hurt! I say that because we had to picket our cow and calf before the fences. Sometimes they didn't want to let us lead them. When a 1200 pound animal wants to go left, she goes left.

There is no heat bill. Just gas and oil for the generator and chain saw. Jim was working full-time during this period, and I stayed home with the six teenagers. We no longer work for other people. Jim raises baby calves with the help of our cow, Maggie. She was named for Maggie Smith, one of my favorite actresses!

I write for a local newspaper and an in-house magazine for the local utility. We also operate a mobile food concession during the summer, as a team! We don't have a lot of money, but we don't need a lot. Because we grow so much food, I spend only $25.00 per month on our grocery bill. Most of that is non-foods. We eat very well. Today's lunch was T-bones and corn with salsa. Yum!

We began all of this 23 years ago, and the kids have grown up and started their own families. They have turned out fine, thank the Lord! They bring us such happiness! My brother has not visited us until this week. He lives in California in the middle of millions of people in a lovely home. I think he thought we were poor and primitive, so he put it off. We had a wonderful visit! He plays saxophone, and so does our granddaughter, Aime. He's a pro and she's a high school senior this fall. He taught her several techniques like growling, vibrato, and some other terms I had never heard before. She was so psyched up! We caught up on family stories and went through old albums, and I wish he could have stayed longer. But I think he'll be back. Like most people who come for a chat or dinner, he wound up telling us we live in Paradise. We never argue that one.

Coreenhart from Rupert, ID

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Questions

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By 0 found this helpful
May 22, 2012

If I wanted to buy land what government office do I go to? Is there an 800# I can call for information? I'm thinking of homesteading and need to know what steps I need to take for buying land. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

By me

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June 13, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

Try the courthouse in your county they have a list of what town's in your county are offering land free or for sale, and don't forget the tax liens ask for them too. I called and found out there were 11 lots in my county area on tax lien. This is property that you only have to pay the taxes on and it is yours. Amazingly people new to this country never payed taxes on their lot purchase, or they didn't know because the country they come from doesn't have property tax. Taxes on these tax lien properties can be as low as $500.00. depending on location!

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By 0 found this helpful
June 27, 2016

We are just in the planning stages. We live in Georgia and aren't sure what's legal as far as going off the grid. Do we just need to get land way far out in the middle of nowhere? We are preparing the current place for sale, there are too many peeps and traffic. I can't raise the animals I want so it's not worth the effort to do raised garden beds. We are also coming into some money for the homestead which will help. It's only for the 2 of us so not many animals. We are thinking 5 acres. No pond! We will drill a well or 2. We want to have a house on a basement or partial basement.

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July 3, 20160 found this helpful

My son and his wife are working toward living off-grid up here in Canada. You need to find out what the planning restrictions are in the areas you might plan to build. Even land "in the middle of nowhere" likely has some regulations you must conform to. Much depends on what you are going to do. If you are simply building a regular dwelling with septic tank and using solar power or wind power, there is likely not much you have to worry about. If you plan on some sort of alternate building style (underground home with living roof, for example, which is what my son is building) -- straw bale home, converted grain bin, etc. -- you might have to search for a place where this sort of thing is allowed. If you plan to live off the land -- grow all your own food and raise animals for food, you might have to do more research regarding this. I do not think 5 acres is enough land to raise anything but a few chickens and maybe one cow. How are you going to support yourselves on this land? Are you maintaining regular jobs, which will assure a money supply to live on, or will you expect the land to support you? My son and daughter in law are having problems with cash flow to complete their home, as they are not working off farm. They have some land rent from (250 acres of land) raise their own vegetables, and sell pottery part time. They are trying market gardening and selling at the farmers' market this year. This is a very difficult thing to do and you need to be prepared. It is not an easy lifestyle. Please do lots of research, and try to find people who are living off-grid in your area so you have some practical advice.

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