Modern Homesteading: The Happy Rabbit Hole

modern homesteadingThere's no need to be dramatic here. We knew what we were getting into when we decided to change our lives from a consumer-based urban blended family to one of minimalism and off the grid homesteading. Modern homesteading had a certain appeal, with a balance of financial freedom and a reliability on our own creativity for success. 

It took around five years to find the right property. Though our search was spanned from New England to Oklahoma, the land that finally spoke to us was  only a few towns over from where we once participated in the rat race. Northwood, New Hampshire is a oasis and provided everything we were looking for. Good, private land. A top notch school system for the kids. Fantastic neighbors and room to grow.

The only drawback is that we still have to deal with snow and the eventual spring mud season.

Modern Homesteading

modern homesteading
For us, the journey to our modern homesteading experience began through our observations of our previous community. We found a disconnect was normal between all but a few neighbors. The school our children attended was focused on doing as little as possible while still meeting testing standards set forth by the state. That meant teaching to the test, not the child. It was glorified babysitting with sub-par lessons.

We had always gardened, but conditions were challenging and below what we soon realized our needs were. We wanted to become more self-sufficient, providing healthy and good food for the table in order to reduce our massive grocery budget. The more we educated ourselves in the lifestyle, the more it became the obvious answer. Sure, we could have done well by staying in our old urban setting, but the city was slowly eating us alive. Drugs, violence, the lack of community, debt-driven economics... all of it was a struggle we knew we were better off without. Off the grid was quickly becoming the way to go.

Homesteading for Beginners

homesteading skillsEvery homestead has to start somewhere, and most of the time the starting point is simply digging in the dirt. I'm sure you agree with us on this one. Taking a few small steps towards learning how to grow our own food was the greatest place for us, where our homesteading journey truly began. 

Our first garden beds were haphazard, to say the least. We knew about sun requirements, but didn't understand how they actually translated in our backyard. Does full sun mean no shade at all? Does partial shade mean six hours a day or four? How can we grow a vegetable in full shade? We experimented and read. We planted and nurtured. Over the years we had that little backyard laboratory of self-sufficiency we learned a great deal, from adjusting soil pH organically to planting depth. 

We were truly preparing ourselves with a mindful approach to homesteading for beginners. Neither Wendie or myself grew up in families that gardened, and now we were moving with a purpose to better our blended family with better food, self-sufficient values and a life spent debt-free.

Homesteading Skills

homesteading for beginnersFor us, the lessons were gradual and academic. What could we grow to reduce our dependence on the grocery stores. How could we use homesteading skills to remove us from the credit-based economic structure of the modern American family? These homesteading skills were what we saw as critical for teaching our kids to be not only self-sufficient, but also better community members and successful adults.

While increasing our food production with tomatoes, peppers, squashes and poultry, we also worked to remove credit debt from our lives. One by one, the cards fell, snipped in half when payed off to end up in the recycling bin. The trucks were paid off one after the other and the last, lingering annoyance of college loans were done away with. Each step toward a modern homesteading lifestyle was taking us to where we needed to be.

That first garden was a lesson in not only plant biology and food production, but a way to bring the kids into the fold. We could reduce our dependence on the grocery store and fast-food joints by supplementing our own menus. We started with a few plants like tomato and bell pepper. These were simple to grow and observe, even in a container if the need arose. We started small and worked out way to a productive garden that produced enough food to make a serious dent in our grocery bills.

Modern Homesteading: The Happy Rabbit Hole

homesteading skillsWe were hooked. Modern homesteading embraces a lifestyle as well as a state of mind that reduced our stress. We weren't simply looking for an address in the wilderness, but a way to raise happy and healthy kids who could succeed in whatever they put their minds to, who would be kind and thoughtful neighbors. 

Of course, we could have implemented this concept in the city, but as mentioned before, the drugs and violence weren't abating. We were seeking safety and community values as well. Northwood offered this to us and more.

We wanted to create a lifestyle that produced more than it consumed. Our forever homestead has solar panels and a well. Our garden has expanded exponentially as has our chicken flock, with not only egg-laying hens but meat birds as well. We will always promote the benefits of starting small and the potential of homesteading in an urban environment, but it will never compare to the benefits of doing it off the grid and out in the country on your own piece of property.

We still supplement from the grocery store with those things we don't produce ourselves, but our bills are drastically reduced. In season, we forgot the produce section altogether and buy directly from CSAs and farmers markets. We buy from local artisans that create handmade, organically sustained products like chemical-free soaps and lotions. We recognize how these are better for us as well as the environment.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

modern homesteading
We don't view modern homesteading as war against consumerism and blind consumption. It isn't a struggle, but rather a solution to living a life surrounded by debt and waste. Part of our lifestyle includes reducing as much waste as possible through little steps and changes in our behavior.

We use as little plastic as possible, from choosing layer pellet that are packaged in paper bags to not using straws and other single-use plastic products. It seems a small step, but even we are amazed at the reduction in waste this produces.

We have a thousand and one practical resumes for anything we have on hand, starting with our canning jars. From penny jars to flower vases, seed storage to decorative drinking glasses, we are able to use these gems in a seemingly infinite amount of ways. Just as the items that go into our RV must have at least three uses, so must the items we bring into the household.

The kids swear by there reusable water bottles, and each trip to the grocery store or farmer's market is complete with reusable bags. Anything that makes it to the waste stream is separated and brought to our town dump to be recycled accordingly. Food scraps make it into either the chicken coop for supplemental feed, or into the compost bin to produce a better quality of soil.

These are small steps by themselves, but brought together, a huge impact we feel our modern homesteading life calls for.

We love sharing our off the grid modern homesteading life with you and and want to hear your perspectives. Do you live, or dream of, a modern homesteading life? What homesteading for beginners skills would you like to share?

Let us know by joining the conversation below, and don't forget to subscribe for more daily homesteading goodness!