Vital Tips for Starting Your Own Homestead
Living on a homestead is liberating and rewarding, but it’s also a huge responsibility. You have to produce your own food, fight against the elements and largely disconnect yourself from the outside world. This commitment involves many practical skills and physical abilities but also requires some key character traits, or “soft skills.”
Developing these seven skills will help you become more well-rounded and gain the confidence to manage your homestead.
Balancing Leadership and Management
Running a homestead requires strong leadership and management skills. You’ll essentially be running a small independent kingdom, so there will be many daily tasks on your plate. You can’t stay inside all day giving orders, but you also can’t do everything yourself. Running a homestead is a constant balancing act between leadership and management.
While leaders provide direction and inspiration to their followers, managers deal with the administrative side of things. You must learn to fill both roles depending on the circumstances. Here are some of the main differences between the responsibilities of a leader and a manager:
Leaders: Leaders motivate, develop skills, focus on people’s emotions, challenge the status quo and have a long-term perspective.
Managers: Managers delegate, facilitate, focus on the organization’s structure, go by the book and have a short-term perspective.
For example, you must lead your family members by teaching them how to create food and motivating them to power through manual labor. At the same time, you must manage the food production and keep everyone on a consistent schedule so the homestead can feed everyone from day to day. You need to be a charismatic leader and an effective manager all at once.
Although leadership and management often look quite different, they share one important quality — assertiveness. You cannot be an effective leader or manager without asserting your authority. Living on a homestead is hard work. This style of living environment needs an “alpha” to keep things running.
Being assertive doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be hostile or unsympathetic. On the contrary — true assertiveness means that you know how to get your point across without upsetting people or causing dissent. You need to be direct and make everyone’s responsibilities clear in order for the homestead to function properly.
Some days on the homestead will be better than others. Your kids won’t always feel like doing their daily chores. Bad weather will put everyone in a bad mood. However, work still needs to be done. To be cliche, there are no days off on the homestead. It’s going to take some assertiveness to keep people on task.
Living on a homestead benefits your mental and physical health in many ways. You spend all day outside, have an organic diet and get plenty of exercise. However, you still have to deal with your fair share of stress. What happens if a drought or flood ruins your crops? What if all of your hunting excursions come up empty? There are many “what ifs” when living on a homestead.
Stress management will be one of the biggest learning curves during the first few months. The key is to stay active and keep your mind occupied so your irrational feelings don’t spill over. Maintaining a daily routine keeps you grounded and calm. You might also find it helpful to apply various relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, music therapy or aromatherapy.
Handling the logistics of your homestead will be one of the main sources of stress. On top of raising a family, you have to gather clean water, grow crops, tend to the livestock, repair the house and make preparations for the next season. To keep up with these responsibilities, you need to acquire all kinds of tools and machinery, including these essentials:
- Cooking supplies
- Safety gear
- Landscaping tools
- Farming equipment
- Solar power equipment
- Construction materials for future expansion
Finding all of the equipment you need is just the first step. You also need to transport them to your homestead and find storage locations for them. You might have to utilize multiple vehicle solutions, including ranch trucks, equipment haulers and heavy-duty trailers. It takes impressive mental fortitude to handle these responsibilities.
You’re going to make many mistakes while adjusting to the homestead lifestyle. It might take a few growing seasons before you figure out the best crops for your climate and soil type. Hunting and gathering food is a constant process of trial and error. You must be willing to accept your mistakes and move on from them.
Most homesteaders have families with similar arrangements living nearby. Your neighbors are your allies. They can help you avoid beginner’s mistakes and make substantial improvements to your property in the first few years. Don’t hesitate to ask them for advice and feedback. The more relationships you have with your neighbors, the stronger your homestead will be.
Living on a homestead can feel overwhelming at times. That’s why you need to keep things simple with goal-oriented planning. Don’t get caught up in all of the aforementioned “what ifs.” Many things in life are out of your control, so there’s no point in dwelling on them. Instead, you need to set manageable goals as the foundation for your long-term plans.
For example, in your first year, you can set the goal of growing X crops or getting X livestock. The target number should be realistic, given your skills and experience. Start small and be content with incremental progress. It might take several years for your dream homestead to become a reality, so you can’t look too far ahead.
Getting in Touch with Nature
This final tip often gets overlooked when people decide to start a homestead. Living in a scenic natural environment certainly sounds appealing, but nature is a cruel place. The elements are constantly fighting against you. Every season brings unexpected challenges that can completely derail your homestead’s operations.
“Getting in touch with nature” doesn’t simply mean spending more time outdoors. It means understanding and reacting to your surroundings. You have to learn your local climate’s behavior. You have to observe the activity of different animal species, from the top predators to the bottom of the food chain.
Make a goal to learn something new about your environment every day. The better you understand your surroundings, the more successful your homestead will be.
Commit to the Homestead Way of Life
Homesteading is an admirable lifestyle choice, but it comes with challenges, so you must be 100% committed to this way of life. If you’re ready, you can begin by embracing these seven steps. They will strengthen your resolve and prepare you for all of the challenges that come your way.
About the Author
Jack Shaw is a freelance writer who has spent the last five years writing about improving health and connecting to the outdoors. He's served as senior writer for Modded, and since then has contributed to OffRoad Xtreme, Better Triathlete, and HellaLife among many other publications. When not writing, he can often be found maintaining his own home, hiking or running with his dog.