The Basics of Homesteading in America

The Basics of Homesteading in America artical featured image of farm at sunset

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The Basics of Homesteading in America? The Homestead Act of 1862 promised 60 acres of land to families who stayed on the property for five years and farmed it for prosperity. Today, cities and towns are once again resurrecting homestead incentives – but for different reasons.

The Basics of Homesteading in America artical cover image with older barn

Instead of populating an area that’s never seen activity before, it’s now because of the need to settle places where homeowners and businesses have gone bankrupt and abandoned the location. 

The Basics of Homesteading in America

In just about every state in America, you can find properties and locations that are being given away for free – as long as a few provisions are met. For example, there might be a requirement that you have a contractor within a certain amount of time to begin building on a lot.

Another incentive is the tax break you get from developing one of these properties. Some cities give a generous 70% tax break for a while. Whether it’s a home or commercial development, you might even get a higher tax break. 

But not all free property is a suitable property for homesteading. As a prepper who wants to be self-reliant, you can’t just go into any area and take land and consider it worthy of raising a family. 

You may want to pay for your property instead – if it has good soil, an ample water supply, and is positioned in a way that enables you to have quick access without being readily found by the masses. 

Homesteading was officially repealed as a law in 1976, but you can still look for opportunities that specific places are offering for future developments. Cheap land is abundant, too – but the price isn’t the only qualifying feature. 

It would be best if you prioritize your needs. If you want to focus on farming, you need to secure land with rich, fertile soil that will yield a high dose of crops to feed your family. If your primary concern is isolation, then you’ll want more land at a cheaper cost. 

Land in the South will typically be less expensive than land up North – and the Southern states will have a longer growing season for those of you who want to farm and grow your crops. 

Make sure you understand the tax issues for the property you’re considering purchasing. Every state has different tax requirements, so while the per-acre price might be attractive, it might end up costing more in taxes than in another area where the initial price is higher, but taxes remain low. 

Homesteading Acreage Options

When you talk about how many acres are needed to get off the grid and become self-sufficient, the battle begins between those who say you only need 1 acre and those who say you need much, much more. 

Both camps are correct. It all depends on how you plan to live and how self-sufficient you truly want to be. You can live on a single acre and raise animals, grow crops, and build a home.

But you have to consider many things – such as raising a dairy cow. If you want to cut costs for hay, it has to graze in a pasture. If that’s the case, then it needs plenty of room, and an acre (that houses your home, garden, and other elements) wouldn’t be quite enough. 

The Basics of Homesteading in America raising with a cow

It’s not impossible, though. If you have the means to buy feed and hay instead of allowing grazing, then you could own a dairy cow on a small property like this – but your costs and inconvenience would increase, as would your reliance on the outside world. 

Raising a Homesteading Dairy Cow

Many homesteading prepper families decide to invest in a dairy cow for their property. This will provide plenty of milk for your family – and possibly extra for your pigs if you’re raising those. 

You can drink the milk or create yogurt, ice cream, and other items from her milk. Each type of cow and size will produce a variable amount of milk, so you may want to find a smaller option (like a goat) if your family doesn’t use much milk.

Or, if you live in a prepper community, you could share the milk with another family – along with the responsibilities of raising it. It would be best if you milked it at the same time every day, so scheduling is essential. 

Some people wonder about the safety of drinking raw milk, but you can also buy a pasteurizer for your family to use. They’re not expensive, and it will provide you with the same safety you get off the grocery shelves. 

It can get expensive to raise a dairy cow if you have to buy all of your hay, but many prepper families grow their own, so that cuts down on the cost of raising your dairy cow enormously. 

You can sometimes go to a dairy farm and ask if they have any lower production cows they want to get rid of. If the volume isn’t enough for a dairy farm, they’ll often sell off the cows to a family that requires a much lower milk volume. 

Most families recommend that you get a Jersey dairy cow, but there are many options. You want a gentle one and won’t be hostile to you or your little ones in a farming situation. 

You have to make sure that your property has room for her to graze and roam around. If you get a Brown Swiss or Dexter cow, you can allow for more grass grazing than hay feed, saving you money in the long run. 

Your dairy cow will provide milk twice a day for almost a year. After about ten months, give her a break for a few months and then let her produce another calf to begin milk production again. 

Keep in mind that your water supply must be significant to provide for a dairy cow’s needs. They can drink anywhere from 25-40 gallons of water each day. Make sure you have enough water for her and your own family’s needs. 

Your dairy cow might produce anywhere from 2-8 gallons of milk per day, so make sure you don’t over-invest in something that’s going to make all of the milk production go to waste. 

It also depends on how large your family is and how many people you have to sustain on your property. It’s going to take more of everything to support a family of five than it would a couple. 

Back to the Property…

Some people want a large piece of property only for the barrier it offers not to have neighbors bumping right up against your property. This could make a difference in civil unrest or crisis when people are fighting for survival supplies. 

You can’t neglect the fact that price will factor into the equation. Unless your pockets have no bottom to them, then you might have to consider how much you’ll be paying per acre – or how much money in taxes the government will require from you each year. 

Some families opt to invest in large plots of land so that when their children are grown, the family can expand and build a second, third or fourth home on the property. This is what families use to do in the old days, but now they’re all spread across the country. 

Some preppers will tell you that your land’s size is nowhere near as important as the quality of it. If it offers more than one entry to the property, rich soil, and a water source – that’s worth more than a larger plot. 

Prepper Homesteading Basics

If you’re going to homestead, you need to know the basics. But the first thing you need to realize about homesteading is that the goal is to become self-reliant. That means you can provide and care for your family entirely with what you can grow or make yourself. 

There are some skills involved with homesteading, but it’s not difficult to learn the skills. You’ll want to be prepared with food. You want to prepare with food supplies that can serve you for repeated cycles. 

Gardening

So you would want to plant a garden that can be replanted again and again. You can do this using heirloom seeds. You’ll want to plant what you’ll consume throughout the year and when the growing season is over, you’ll want to make sure that you preserve some of the garden bounty to use during the months that the garden doesn’t grow. 

You’ll also want to save and store the seeds from the fruits and vegetables for replanting the following gardening season. It’s also smart to learn how to construct chicken coops so that you can have the eggs that are produced. 

RAISING A PIG WHILE HOMESTADING

You can also raise pigs for meat. You’ll want cows for milk (and/or meat) and goats for producing dairy to use for cheese. Some preppers that homestead also prefer to raise honeybees. Not only is the honey usable, but the bees can help pollinate the fruits and vegetables that you grow. 

Water Sourcing

Water needs to be planned for when homesteading. You can’t survive without access to clean water. You need to set up rain barrels for water that your livestock can drink, and the collected rainwater can also be used to irrigate your garden. The fastest way to collect rainwater is to set a barrel up beneath a downspout. 

You should have a way to purify your water and a way that you can store the water. If you bring the water to your homestead site from a creek or pond, then you’ll need a way to transport it. 

Protection

Protection is paramount when you’re homesteading. You’re going to need weapons to protect yourself if someone decides to rob you or commit other crimes against you. You should be armed with both knives as well as guns. Both of these are great for protection and are handy to have around for hunting or food prep. 

If you choose to have firearms, seriously think about storing them safely. I found this $100 off coupon for you though a company I really like:

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Homeschooling

Education for children is a necessity when you’re homesteading. You want to make sure you have educational supplies. You can find educational supplies at homeschool stores if you’re going to stock up in advance. 

You can also order and store homeschooling supplies in advance. But education can also be taught using just the necessary tools like classic pieces of literature. Teaching things like math can be done using real-life concepts such as measuring items in a recipe or measuring wood for cutting when building something.

Studies have shown that children who are educated using real-life ideas often excel in life. 

I know there are a ton of great mini lessons on my kid’s site Sarah Lyn Gay.

Homesteading Must-Haves

When you decide to go off the grid and build a family property that allows you to be self-sufficient and safe in the event of a crisis or disaster, you need to make sure it meets several requirements in addition to food and water. 

A good piece of property is first and foremost on the checklist. It should be away from the city, but not too far that it becomes an inconvenience to access whenever you need to replenish your supplies. 

The Basics of Homesteading in America farm at sunset with horse

It would be best if you had a spot that’s easy to access but is hidden from public view. You want to know where it is but not have it visible from the roadway where others might approach if there’s a disaster and they’re scouting for supplies. 

A good water supply source would be a great addition if you can find one. If it’s a flowing river or stream that would offer you freshwater, you can’t beat that since water is necessary for you to survive. 

Plenty of room for gardening and grazing animals is a perk. You need to figure out what kind of crops and animals you plan to raise since some will require more space than others. 

Good soil goes along with that last perk. If you’re gardening, you don’t want to be reliant on a store to sell you bags of fertilizer to enrich the soil. You want to land that’s already rich in nutrients and will help your plants thrive. How to Make Effective Garden Compost is a good article to read.

A method for generating your own electricity – hydro, solar, or wind would help your family survive. The running water with a drop in elevation would be good for hydroelectricity. Plenty of sun for solar, and winds of at least 9-10 mph for wind-generated electricity. 

Formidable building supplies should be brought onto the property. Concrete is a good building supply for protection from the elements. A safe room built into the property is wise for all kinds of events. You want it to withstand weather and prevent easy entry by unwanted guests.

Ample storage facilities are necessary. You need storage for items that can’t tolerate temperature swings, like your food stores and water supplies. Outdoor storage for tools, equipment, and other items are also needed. 

Protection from harm needs to be on your mind. Gates built around the property will help somewhat. Locks that come with doors and fences are often flimsy, so you may want to shore those up with something stronger. 

Firearms and a security system with rechargeable batteries can help protect you. Fire-resistant roofing material will help prevent your home from burning down if you’re in a wildfire situation. 

Concrete homes built right into the side of a mountain offer the best form of protection for the actual shelter itself. Then the property it overlooks could meet the rest of the requirements. 

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