If you been wondering where to start on your homesteading journey, this 30 day activity challenge will let you dip your toe into becoming more self sufficient without being too overwhelmed. Like any habit or lifestyle change, 30 days is generally a good way to at least get started (and find out if you want to keep it up!). Become a homesteader today!
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Becoming a homesteader
There are many meanings of what exactly a homesteader is. In generally, at least in recent usage, homesteading means anyone who is striving to become more self sufficient, especially in terms of food production and preservation.
Modern homesteaders generally include people who have basic do-it-yourself skills as well as resourcefulness. For example, this can include, growing, canning, fermenting, etc. your own food, doing your own home and car repairs, raising livestock, craft works and clothing production such as crocheting, sewing, knitting, etc. I have a list of over 100 skills homesteaders should know, to give you an idea.
Without further ado, here is the 30 day beginner homesteader challenge to help you start your journey. If one appeals to you more than another, pick that to focus and learn over the next few months.
Day 1 – Replace one meal
Although you can start anywhere in a given month, choosing the first day of the month is mentally easier. In this case, pick the first day you want to begin and replace one meal. I mean make your meal as from scratch as you can. Want something easy to start, choose easy ingredients to acquire but are in the their raw form.
In this case, pick out the veggies you are willing to eat and will go well together. Buy them whole, such as an entire butternut squash. You’ll need oils and spices and that is just fine to start this challenge to use what’s in your cupboard. Its simple, buy a butternut, an onion, a package of mushrooms (or get in bulk if your lucky), a zucchini, head of garlic and a head of cauliflower. Chop, mix with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for an hour (or longer) and boom! One meal, nothing processed, made entirely by your hands.
Day 2 – Repair one hole
In our society, we often just toss any piece of clothing that has been torn and cheaply replace it the next time we’re at the store. In this case, we’re trying to learn to be resourceful as well as basics of darning or sewing.
Sit down with your phone or laptop and watch a decent YouTube video on how to darn a hole. Get the necessary kit (usually easy to find at a local grocery store in that random isle) and give it a go. It might not be pretty, but that pair of jeans can live to see another day.
Day 3 – Plant an edible
Even if all you have is an apartment and the sunlight into your tiny apartment is spotty at best, you can plant one small edible. Many herbs can handle less light than other, more robust foods such as tomatoes and squash. All you need is a little potting soil, a pot, and a seedling.
No need to be too picky at first, this is a beginner challenge and you just want to dip your toe in. Even some grocery stores carry small, rooted herbs in the produce section. Just try to find a good windowsill or even better a balcony to give the little plant light and air. However, if you’re starting this in the dead of winter and you live in the Alaska, just do something small. If all you can get is herb seeds in the mail, start with that.
Day 4 – Identify an edible
In the winter, this will be harder, but not impossible. Use any plant identification app you choose, your local ag extension office or a foraging friend and go for a stroll. If you’re like me and if even you’ve identified a plant as edible but you’re too scared to try to consume it, that’s ok. We’re just starting with the basics of foraging.
All you are practicing right now is learning a little about leaf shapes, stems, bark, regional variations, etc. You just need to find one with relative confidence. Want an easy win? If you’re lucky and its not the dead of winter with a foot of snow and ice on the ground, you can almost certainly find out how to identify a dandelion, which is in fact edible. Also, its a common weed, so most people know it and will try to kill it. You’ve got this!
Day 5 – Replace one pantry item
Cooking from scratch is a skill. It is easier to accomplish than most people think but nonetheless there is a learning curve. Luckily, you’ve already made one meal from scratch. Now you are going to replace an ingredient you use frequently but buy from the store by learning how to make it from scratch.
Some good examples including making your own chicken stock, butter and jam. Just pick one. You probably need a few items to do this, but try to get them in the most local, wholesome form you can. For example, all you need for chicken stock is a rotisserie chicken, onions, celery, a bay leaf, other seasonings, salt (preferably not iodized), water and maybe a carrot. There are many recipes but the basics is pretty simply. You need a big pot or slow cooker, throw all ingredients together, cook low FOREVER (ok anywhere from an hour to 24 hours in the slow cooker). Let it cool.
Freeze it or can it if you want. There ya go, now when any recipe, from chicken noodle soup to casseroles calls for a little stock, you already have some on hand.
Day 6 – Begin a ferment
Surprisingly, fermenting food is even safer than canning. Unlike botulism, any spoilage for any ferment is extremely easy to identify (just like when you find rotten food). You may not even know that some common items are actually ferments. These include coffee, chocolate, pickles and sauerkraut.
All you need to do is pick one you can get easily. A good start is sauerkraut because all you need is a head of cabbage, filtered water and non-iodized salt. You’ll need a jar, weight and knife and you are good to go.
There are lots of benefits to your guts with fermented foods and is so much better for you than store bought items like pickles which are made with vinegar. If you’re feeling adventurous, kombucha is a refreshingly easy ferment, you’ll just need to grow or buy your own SCOBY.
Day 7 – Bake bread
For over a year, I have not bought any store bread. I was so intimidated at first. I have a great list of easy bread recipes to try. My favorite as of late is an artisan recipe that is only four ingredients! All you need is flour, salt, water and yeast.
It really is that simple. Your final ingredient is time. Rise time is lengthy for this particular recipe but there are others that are under an hour or two. There really is nothing as refreshing as fresh baked bread. Its just delicious!
Day 8 – Research livestock
Or even rabbits. You can reasonably keep a small number of rabbits, even if you’re vegetarian, for their fur in an apartment. Chickens are an easy animal to start with. I have just four for their eggs and that is plenty for my family of four.
Storey’s guides are the best for almost all livestock you may be interested in. The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals is another good option. While you may have pets, that live in the home and bring comfort and companionship, many homesteaders strive to keep animals that have utility.
Day 9 – Practice one kitchen skill
Poach an egg. Julienne a carrot. Pick one skill and try to master it. You don’t have do all of these things at once but learning to be proficient in the kitchen is a skill and many of us were not lucky enough to learn these growing up.
While you may think you need fancy kitchen equipment, I am here to tell you that you do not. I do rely on my Kitchenaid Mixer A LOT and advocate for using it, you do not need these to be able to make baked goods. Most kitchen skills require a pot, knife, spoon, bowl and then ingredients.
Day 10 – Save kitchen scraps
Any produce you cut up for anything can be saved for either compost or making stock. Save the bottoms of celery, the ends of onions and carrots, add water, salt, and bay leaves and you have delicious veggie stock to use for all sorts of soups. See Day 5 for replacing this common cooking item.
If you have chickens and/or a compost bin, save all your vegetable scraps for one or the other. Chickens make quick work of almost all approved kitchen scraps and you get good eggs out of the deal. A win win!
Day 11 – Start a compost bin
Even if you live in an apartment, you can keep a small vermicompost bin to process kitchen scraps. It only takes one bin to start collecting the scraps from you kitchen. There are some good ones that block the smell, in case you let it pile up a bit. That is all you need to get started.
After that, either build or buy a larger one to put the scraps and plus all your “browns” into. This process is the actual break down of organic matter into the compost your plants will love. You can definitely build your own and have great compost in just a few months. Just check out how to compost 101.
Day 12 – Build one thing
If you do have a yard, of any size, you can probably fit in one raised bed. And really they are very simple to build. The only tool you need is a power drill. Otherwise, just a few decking screws, some lumbar and some soil. You can make your own mix or buy premixed soil.
Want something different? Build a chicken tractor (or begin, as this will take more than one day, if you have to paint it). Or a simple bench for sitting or working on. All you need is a simple plan, a few materials and you’ll be building your own things in no time. You can build this simple bench in just 2 hours.
Day 13 – Sew something small
In a world where plastics are rampant and ruining the earth, learning to hand sew, or with a machine, something small to help would be awesome. A good one can be unpaper towels. Also, there are some good tutorials on everything from simple hand bags to pillow cases.
All you really need to get started is some fabric (which can be just scraps of things if you want), a needle and thread. I prefer a sewing machine as it makes this task more likely to be done in one day. Either way, make something you will use and give it a go.
Day 14 – DIY cleaner
Vinegar has amazing antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It is not hard to grab a gallon jug of distilled white vinegar and whip up your own all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, dishwashing rinse, clothing rinse and many other cleaning agents.
Want other alternatives? Many homesteaders work on producing their own soaps and detergents. You may need a few basic items such as baking soda, borax, lye, etc. to produce these things. But at their base level, you will know for sure what is in all of your cleaning materials and hopefully limit harmful products in your home. Brendid.com has some great recipes for making your own cleaning products from home as well as some helpful tips on what to and not to mix together.
Day 15 – Reuse trash
Ok, I do not mean go dumpster diving. Simply find something you were planning to throw away and see if you can reuse it. A good example of this is to cut up a milk jug into small pieces and use a permanent marker to make plant markers.
Have kids or pets? You can definitely reuse SO MUCH trash with them. Create a stash of cleaned but reusable items like boxes, old papers, leftover crayons from the restaurant, squishy water bottles and use in so many ways. A popular one I’ve seen is putting a destuffed animal around a plastic water bottle for a crunchy and soft baby or dog toy.
Day 16 – Relax and enjoy
Into any plan, challenge or life change, a little down time should be scheduled. If you are like me and constantly on the move, you might feel your mind is spread thin and your tasks become overwhelming.
Even if it is just a few minutes everyday or a big, no worries vacation, you may need to make sure you fit in a good bit of mindful appreciation for the greatness you’ve accomplished thus far and the benefits you are currently reaping (even if small). Learn a little about how to schedule relaxation into your life.
Day 17 – Dehydrate
Chances are if you are just starting out, you don’t have a dehydrator on hand. But that’s ok. You can easily dry out many different foods with an oven or even the sun. Luckily, this method is usually pretty easy.
If you are starting with vegetables, you will likely need to blanch them. However, an easy food to start with is herbs as they are easy to grow or obtain from the grocery store fresh, and then dehydrating at home. National Center for Home Food Preservation has good information on dehydrating.
Day 18 – Line dry
Many homesteaders turn to this lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint. One simple way to do this is to dry their clothes on a line or rack. You only need heavy wire or rope and clothes pins to get started. Try to find a spot at least 5 feet off the ground. Between two trees will work.
If you are really into this, definitely put in good, sturdy T-posts to hang all those heavy wet clothes and linens. If you do not have space outside to line dry, you can always get a little rack and dry your clothes inside your home. It usually takes a little longer if you aren’t relying on the sun to help you.
Day 19 – Shop local
Start with the farmer’s market or find a CSA to get you going. Nothing says resourceful homesteader like trying to make the best of what is available near by. Depending on where you live, you can likely get access to fresh, organic, local produce, meat and dairy, especially if you are willing to travel a little.
There are two pasture-based local meat farmers near me that have delivery systems to help me out. Instead of making another trip to a different store or out to a farm, I can get high quality meat delivered to me or near me. However, in my area, CSA’s for produce are much harder to come by. There are a few local blueberry farms but not many larger scale (though not industrial) options near me. It all depends on what you can find. Look into it!
Day 20 – Find a class
Pick one of the topics you’d like to explore and look into online options, including YouTube. Skillshare has some great options but you have to pay for them. You can often look into local sources of classes. Different groups such as Master Gardener programs have guest speakers and presentations you can attend and learn more about gardening.
You can also look into local community colleges. They usually have options for continuing education such as learning to sew and photography. Sometimes these classes are available online as well. You can also look into learning through known universities that offer online courses. Oregon State University offers some great permaculture classes you can take.
Day 21 – Write down a goal
You’ve tried a few tasks out, now pick one you want to try out. If you liked baking, pick another staple to make from scratch and attempt different recipes. Stretch your limits and try something more technical. I really enjoyed learning to make macarons. Just for fun!
Now I no longer buy any box mixes. All of those fun desserts like brownies, cakes, cookies and cupcakes are all from scratch. Once you have the staples, its easy to go into your pantry and just while up your baked goodies.
Day 22 – Get a library card
Seriously, lots of free knowledge. It is easy to get and most places even now have a digital app you can download to your device to read or even listen to many free books. I especially appreciate learning on my commute.
Also, check out what your local library has to offer in terms of community outreach and free classes. You can probably get an intro into a specific part of homesteading from one of the resources, all for free!
Day 23 – Buy a fruit tree
One of the best ways to grow food, is with a sturdy perennial like a fruit tree. Many of them can do well in containers even and some are self pollinating like fig trees. The only downside is they usually take a few years to start producing.
Which is why you should go ahead and get one now. Definitely try to go to a local nursery as they will be the knowledgeable about what works in your area. If you need pollinators, be sure to invest in a few at once, if you can afford it. The sooner the better.
Day 24 – Buy in bulk
As you progress to a more from scratch lifestyle, it behooves you to start buying your main ingredients, if you aren’t growing them, in bulk where possible. Start with just one staple, like flour. Remember to consider storage and pests.
You can get flour, rice, sugar and beans pretty easy and cheap in large quantities such as 25 pound and 50 pound bags. That way, you are not constantly paying for packaging, marketing and needing to run to the store all the time for staples you need to keep on cooking. You can even buy oils and juices in bulk as well.
Day 25 – Plan your meals
Ok, this may not seem much like homesteading per se, but I am a huge fan of time management and prioritization. Even if you are a single adult with no creatures, meal planning and prepping can help save you time while also letting you enjoy the benefits of trying to cook from scratch.
Set a time on this day, maybe an hour or two, to plan out the next weeks meals. If you can, do some of the prep in advance so it’s ready for you to just go. One of the biggest time wastes in cooking is checking and rechecking the recipe as well as taking time to figuring out what you’re going to make. Do all that research in advance and save the time later in the week.
Day 26 – Connect with another homesteader
Thank goodness for the internet. It can be a wonderful thing. If you are like me and do not personally know anyone in the homesteading world, find a way to muck up the courage and reach out. Including to me! Think of a question you saw or a good post you read and go ahead and reach out.
If you’re a little introverted and somewhat wary of people, just start by posting a question on their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This community is filled with great bloggers, homesteaders and teachers willing and able to share the love (and information). A journey like this is much easier when it is not alone.
Day 27 – Plan a seasonal garden
No matter what season it is right now where you live, you can plan out a garden for the next season. If you are just starting out you will need a few things and a plan is critical to your success.
You need to plan out what you want to plant and where. Definitely take the time to research a little about companion planting and USDA hardiness zones. You will need to know your frost dates in order to count back to when you should plant seeds or transplant outdoors.
Day 28 – Budget for the garden
Because you do need a plan, you may also need money to get a garden off the ground. To do this, you need a budget. Unless you have unlimited income, keeping control of your finances is crucial. Build it into your budget now and you will have an easier time getting a project going.
You may only be able to save a little bit right now but just a few dollars per month will help. You definitely need a little to get a garden going. You’ll need pots, soil, seeds and maybe transplants.
Day 29 – Watch a documentary
Remind yourself why you want to do this. A decent documentary can refine and define how and where you want to spend your time and energy on. If avoiding pesticides and herbicides in your food is important to you, than watching Cooked on Netflix, is a great miniseries on the reality of choice in the food industry and where you fit in.
Day 30 – Reflect and take notes
You’ve done A LOT in just one month! Congratulations. Use a little time today to take notes and reflect on what you’ve done and how much you’ve accomplished. If there is a particular aspect of homesteading you enjoyed the most or is the most feasible to achieve, write down what you did and what you hope to do with this in the future.
Definitely take time to decompress and think about your goals and priorities before taking on anything too big. Many, many of the reasons people fail is they take on more than they can handle. They become overwhelmed and give up. While lofty goals are a good way to keep your directions, small ways to get started are going to help put your best foot forward. Great job!
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