10 Ways to Homestead on a Small Property

The condition of our food supply and the state of our economy have created a situation where people are looking back to the land to supply them with sustenance once again. No longer do people trust companies implicitly to supply them with all their needs—they are learning to grow their own, becoming experts in DIY, and raising their own animals for meat, milk, and fiber. They are learning to supply their own healthy products to replace their overly processed, and sometimes unsafe chemical-laden counterparts. They are longing for something more.

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The one problem that many, including myself, are facing is that that we live on small properties, often in tract homes, because that’s where the American dream has told us we ought to be. The clash of the American dream with the glaring issues of our failing food sources, personal and national health, and hurting economy have brought us to a place where we must creatively find ways to meet our family’s needs without having to pick up and move, because frankly, many of us just can’t afford to do that.

Enter the modern homesteading movement.

The modern homesteading movement has done wonders to teach us how to homestead on a small property. Modern homesteaders are the pioneers of today, becoming experts in living on much less than a sprawling bunch of acres, as homesteaders of old did. We are becoming experts on how to effectively homestead right where we live. We are empowered when we learn how others are bringing their homesteading dreams to life in frugal, practical, doable-for-us ways.

Over the past month, I have had the privilege of interviewing 6 modern small property homesteaders who have shared how they keep bees, raise meat, garden and grow herbs, and practice many other homesteading ‘virtues’ on their small properties. It has been immensely educational for me to hear of the marvelous things that can and are being done on properties smaller than my own .18 of an acre. To see that some creative homesteaders are able to raise quite a bit of their family’s food needs on properties even smaller than mine has been enlightening for me, to say the least.

It takes a special kind of homesteading ingenuity to do these things, and this type of ingenuity abounds in the modern homesteading community. In hopes of lending you some of the excitement and encouragement that I have experienced in talking with other modern homesteaders, I’d like to share some things that I do myself, and some things that I’ve learned that others are doing to turn their small properties into working homesteads.

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Grow Small and Grow Up

#1 – Container Garden.

      This is a fantastic way to grow some of your food if you are on a very small or particularly shady property, or if you live in an apartment. It’s not going to provide all of your family’s produce needs, but any little bit helps when we are talking about eating better produce and learning to master homesteading skills that work for us. Use this for

invasive plants

      as every square foot of space that you have in your garden is precious. You don’t want mint to take over your whole garden (ask me how I know this!).

#2 – Square Foot Garden.

      For those of us with a shortage of gardening space, this method is a worthy choice. Square foot gardening makes it possible to harvest a large amount of vegetables from a very small space. There are helpful charts all over the internet that teach us how many of each vegetable plant can thrive and produce well inside of one square foot. Through the magic of the internet, you can

plan your garden right online today

      even if you’re new to this method.

#3 – Vertical Garden.

      While it is true that we have limited space on our small properties, we can capitalize on the space directly above each square foot. I like to string twine from my raised bed sides to the top of my fence using a heavy duty stapler to fasten the ends of the twine for vining peas, green beans, or cucumbers to climb up. I also make “teepees” from thin bamboo stalks and twine and set those over my plants, making a structure for my vines to climb, as well as support my tomato plants. The possibilities are endless for vertical gardening if you have some good old homestead ingenuity and a few branches and twine.

#4 – Plant Semi-Dwarf Fruit and Nut Trees.

    Usually semi-dwarfs will grow up to about 10-15 feet tall. They are small enough not to shade a large amount of your small property and large enough to supply your family with plenty of fruit. Planting fruit trees that produce in different months will lighten your canning/preserving load, as well as give your family variety throughout the year.
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Raise Dual Purpose Animals

#5 – Raise rabbits for meat and wool.

      Being a comparatively smaller animal than other meat and wool animals, rabbits are a great addition to the small property homestead. Rabbits can be raised quickly for meat—about 12 weeks can yield a good fryer of 5 pounds (live weight) if the breed is large. Ideal meat breeds include Californian, Champagne D’Argent, New Zealand, Palomino, and Florida Whites. The Palomino grows slower than other breeds and the Florida White is the smallest of the meat breeds so you will need to consider that they will take a couple of weeks longer before you can process them. This will make the cost more per pound of meat than the other breeds because you will be using more feed per rabbit. If you are planning to raise rabbits for wool, the Angora breeds are best, and yield quite a bit of wool that can be spun directly from the animal, unlike larger animals’ wool. A bonus is that angora rabbits can also be used for meat, which makes them the best choice for the homesteader interested in both meat and wool.

#6 – Choose highly productive, dual-purpose chicken breeds.

      Raising a small flock of chickens can get you a decent amount of eggs for your family. Depending on the breed you choose, you can get 5-6 eggs from each chicken per week, and when they are finished laying (after approximately two years), they can be processed for meat. Granted, your dual purpose breeds may not be the highest producers of either meat or eggs, but they do pretty well on both fronts. Some dual-purpose breeds to look into are New Hampshire, Plymouth Rock, and Rhode Island Red. If you are looking to hatch your chickens for sustainability, you will want to make sure you choose a breed that goes broody. Red and Black Sex Link hens are great layers and fine to eat, but will not produce true because they are hybrid breeds.

#7 – Raise your own pollinators.

    Since our fruits and vegetables need pollination to produce, it stands to reason that having bees on our properties would up our produce numbers considerably. In addition to the benefit of more produce, your bees will provide your family with the most fabulous sweetener ever to come out of nature. It is possible to keep a small hive in the corner of your small property, even if you live in an urban area. Check your city’s ordinances for details before you get started.
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Master ‘Anywhere’ Skills

#8 – Learn to Eat Seasonally.

      Learning to eat seasonally is one of the best homesteading skills you can develop. As you hone your gardening skills, the array of fruits and vegetables you harvest from your land will grow each year, offering a plentiful choice of foods for your table. However, if your family’s tastes are still dictated by what is available at the grocery store, you will find yourself continuing to purchase much of what your family eats, leaving your home-grown food to go to waste. Instead, learn to enjoy your in-season produce in various dishes and in various ways, saving other fruits and vegetables for their proper seasons—when they are the most ripe and flavorful.

#9 – Learn to Preserve Food.

      Regardless of what size your homestead is, you can learn to preserve your food through canning and dehydrating your produce. Whether you grow or buy your produce, you’ll want to get this skill under your belt for when you are able to grow all your own produce. Water bath canning is suitable for jams, jellies, fruits, and some tomato products. It is the easiest form of canning to learn and yields delicious results. It is a wonderful place to start for the beginning home preserver. For those who are ready to take their canning to the next level, give pressure canning a try. This method is for preserving meats, vegetables, meals-in-a-jar, and the like for your shelf. It is somewhat intimidating at first, but once you have done it a few times, it becomes second nature. Lots of practice and

the correct equipment

      are key to putting fantastic, nutritious food on the table throughout the year.

#10 – Learn to Store your food properly.

      Learning how to store your newly canned goods, herbs, and vegetables will go a long way in helping to you save money on groceries and over-the-counter medications. Your canned goods should be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a basement or other room that offers consistent temperatures with little to no humidity. Your

root vegetables store best at optimum conditions

    and temperatures, and can keep for months, depending upon how well you store them. Storing herbs is as simple as putting your herbs in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keeping them in a dark cupboard. Most herbs will store this way for up to a year, but if you’d like to get a few more months out of your stored herbs, you can vacuum seal your dried herbs in mason jars and add a 100cc oxygen absorber to each pint or quart jar.

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About Kristi Stone

Kristi is a homeschooling mom of three and a native Californian and lives in Riverside County, Southern California where she and her husband garden and care for their 7 fruit trees, 2 chickens, 3 rabbits, 2 dogs, and 3 cats – all on .18 of an acre. Eventually Kristi’s family would love to move to a larger parcel of land, but for now, they are contented to learn all about homesteading right where they are at, as Kristi ekes out every bit of knowledge she can and blogs about much of it at here at her website, The Mind to Homestead.

View all posts by Kristi Stone

15 Responses to “10 Ways to Homestead on a Small Property”

  1. The Naked Gardener Says:

    Something I have been sorta studying about the “homestead movement” is its historical relevancy to the Industrial Revolution.

    The Industrial Revolution changed our view of the economy and social life, especially taking root around the mid-19th Century and coinciding with the explosive growth of urban living, as we specialized our work skills to suit the new economy. No longer were people “just farmers” who knew how to do a bit of everything, like simple blacksmithing – instead we left the farm and specialized our skills – by becoming say an accountant, while leaving other tasks to other specialists. We now think this is normal, but for most of the history of our civilization, this was not the case.

    Before the Industrial Revolution, the home was the major place of economic production for the vast majority of people. The father was in the field with the sons producing crops while the mother was in the house with the daughters churning butter, preparing food and sewing their own clothes. A seamstress would come to the house once or twice a year, and would help to make clothes for the whole family for the next year – they didn’t go to town and “buy” them, but rather “produced” them themselves, right from the home.

    In other words, before the IR, the home was the major place of economic production, rather than the marketplace in the town or village. We abandoned this system with the growth of industry that occurred over the past 200 years, and flocked to the city where everyone is a specialist in something.

    Today, however, industry is abandoning the people in favour of cheap foreign labour or for robots replacing people.

    It seems to me that the “smart money” would abandon the specialized marketplace and return to making the home a place of economic production as much as possible. It’s a philosophical change as much as physical way of doing things. Not only that, but everything you produce yourself can be “value added” because it removes taxes and other expenses. What I mean is, if I grow $100 worth of vegetables in my garden, I have actually created around $150 worth of “labour value,” because I didn’t have to pay tax on earning the money I use to spend in the marketplace – I would have had to earn $150 in the marketplace, then pay $50 in tax to the government, in order to have $100 for groceries. Thus, the $100 worth of groceries is actually worth $150 in labour. Everything you produce yourself is “removed” from the system, and worth around 50% more than the actual dollar value it represents.

    Heh, anyway, I see the homesteading movement as a much more significant social change taking place. It is responding to a marketplace turned hostile to the average person, and people are returning more to the economic system that was universal before the Industrial Revolution.

    Reply

    • Kristi Stone Says:

      Fantastic information, Naked Gardener—and it happens to be completely in line with what I have believed since I started homesteading, though I’ve never described it as well as you have here. Excellent points made about products being ‘value added’–that was something I hadn’t thought of–and another reason to grow/make/produce your own right in the comfort of your own home. It even adds more value, albeit indirectly, by saving gas that we’d have used to drive to the store, and time that it would have taken to do it. With gardening, we are tending various vegetables/fruits within the span of a certain short amount of time every day (depending on how large a garden or farm we’ve got), where it might take us that same span of time to just head to store and pick up a bunch of carrots. It’s win/win in my book.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing–your comment made my morning. :)

      Reply

    • kim Says:

      Thanks so much for sharing. You give me another reason helping to make my decision to start a homestead.

      Reply

  2. Dennis Says:

    I have started on several of these items. I do have one question that I never really see explained very well. I like pickled veggies and I have started Lacto fermenting some myself. At the end of every recipe it always says to move to cold storage without ever saying what this means. I live in Florida and the only cold storage that I have is the refrigerator. If I start stuffing the fridge with pickles I am going to get some pushback from my spouse.

    I am sure that people in hot climates fermented and stored food before refrigerators. I am just not sure how they did it. I would be willing to buy an old fridge for the garage and keep it at cold storage temps if that would work.

    Reply

    • Kristi Stone Says:

      Yes, Dennis, cold storage means refrigerator–at least that’s what it means for me when I ferment my foods! I don’t know how people of old kept their fermented veggies cold, but it seemed that some might have used local streams to keep foods cold, but honestly I don’t know much about that. A refrigerator would do just fine for your needs, I’m sure.

      Reply

    • Lynn Says:

      I have wondered the same thing. When we lived in colder climates, a basement or unused/unheated room of the house worked well for fermented storage, but most places I must use the refrigerator. A second refrigerator is a MUST, IMO. I currently only have 1 1/2, and half of my full-size fridge is used for various ferments and raw dairy stuff.
      I’d love to know how to keep things cold without refrigeration living in the southwest.

      Reply

    • Sarah Says:

      I always wondered the same about cold storage. I read an article about barrels of sauerkraut being carried on ships to prevent scurvy. I don’t think they had much for cold storage back then. They probably just kept it in the barrels.

      Reply

  3. Kim Says:

    Since I’m a certified Square Foot Gardening instructor I wholeheartedly recommend learning a small-space, high-intensive method such SFG. We do a LOT of vertical gardening ins SFG. I grow dwarf fruit trees in “containers” (plastic totes) including columnar apples which will only grow about 2′ in diameter and about 6-8′ tall.

    Last season I added three Squash Arches – each is made from four fence posts and a 16′ cattle panel. This allowed me to grow LOTS of small pumpkins, watermelons and squash in a VERY small footprint (about 6′ x 12.5′).

    Great article! Thanks.

    Reply

    • Chet Says:

      Great suggestions Kim.

      Since you’re a Suare Foot Gardening instructor, if you ever feel like writing up an article that might help folks who read this blog, feel free to contact us.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

  4. Cheryl Says:

    I’ve only begun homesteading. 2 years ago I started with some chickens, an experiment that went really well. Last year, gardening, not so much – wild critters! But trying again this year with some new ideas. This year I will be adding bees to the mix. Maybe a couple of fruit trees. My problem is I live in zone 4 with very granitey soil. I’m having to use raised beds. Reading your posts keep me moving forward in my pursuit to be more independent. Keep up the great work!!

    Reply

    • Chet Says:

      Keep at it Cheryl. I think the name of the game is to experiment. Try ten totally new things this year and see if one or two can be home runs for you.

      It helps me prove that certain things aren’t going to work for me faster, and allows me to then rollout those WINS into the next year. Keep us updated!

      Reply

  5. Becca Says:

    Great article! And great comments!

    I recently won the battle with mint in my yard, so I feel ‘ya on that one :) Space is certainly at a premium in my garden so it’s good to have it back.

    Another thing people could look into is espaliering their fruit trees. You get more fruit in a smaller space and you don’t have to worry about big trees creating too much shade. I’ve found a lot of good info on the subject all over the web but an especially useful article on Mother Earth News. I’m gonna try it this year; just bought an apple and a pear tree. Wish me luck!

    Reply

  6. Angela Says:

    you can also freeze your fresh herbs in oil using ice trays,once they are frozen you can put them in ziplocks bags with the lables of what it is,or vaccum seal them also with lables.

    Reply

  7. Dottie Says:

    We live on just under an acre outside the city limits. We have a garden that is slowly taking over our back yard. We container and square foot garden. We have bees, quail, 14 hens and right now 6 rabbits. We grow year round and eat seasonally. We planted apple trees but are going to have to replant.. I pressure can and dehydrate food we produce.Two things you could add to your list are growing mushrooms and growing sprouts in the house. We are trying to utilize as much of our property to produce as much QUALITY food as humanely, cleanly and economically as possible. I guess that would be our mission statement if we had one. Planting in the earth is a spiritual experience for me. Watching corn grow puts a smile on my face.

    Reply

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