5 Easy Ways To Make Modern Homesteading Work If You're Super Busy

You don't have to quit your day job to live a more self-sufficient life.

May 3, 2016
plants hanging on a balconyPhotograph by Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

These days, bartering with your neighbors is the new coupon clipping and homemade salsa using simple backyard ingredients is the new gourmet cooking. But if you're a busy person who juggles a full-time job, taking care of the kids and pets, and just about everything else around the house, the concept of homesteading can seem nearly impossible, until now. The good news is that in modern homesteading, you don't have to go it alone. Just find a few people in your neighborhood with different skill sets, and you can save time and money while becoming more self-sufficient as a neighborhood.

Related: Grow Your Own Farm On Less Than An Acre

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1. Size It Right

If you decide to start living a more self-sufficient lifestyle, know that it's easy to fail if you try to do it all at once. Urban homesteaders and authors Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, coauthors of Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, say it took them years of gradually transitioning into the urban homesteading lifestyle and caution against doing too much too soon. "Planting a small vegetable garden—no more than 4 feet by 8 feet—in a raised bed is a great way for beginners to start," says Knutzen. "Don't try to grow all your own food in the first year! Start small, add compost each season, and pay attention to the quality of your soil. Use a drip [watering] system on a timer. As you gain experience, expand." If you're new to urban homesteading, try the 6 Strategies For Urban Vegetable Gardening to help get you started.

2. Form Alliances

Even if you grow a considerable amount of what you need in your own vegetable garden, finding time to preserve the extras to last into the winter months can be a challenge at times. So if canning tomatoes doesn't qualify for a spot on your packed Outlook calendar, try this—find someone in your community who prepares food and offer half of your bounty in exchange for half of the prepped product. For instance, Patricia Foreman, author of Backyard Market Gardening, hands over her garden tomatoes to a local chef friend, who turns it into a tasty salsa supply they share. Excess fruit? Find someone in your neighborhood who makes wine or jelly, and supply her with your fruit in exchange for some of the finished product.

Related: 3 Super Simple Ways To Preserve Garden Tomatoes

3. Give Lacto-Fermentation A Try

Here's an easy way to preserve foods without putting in a lot of time. You do, however, need some patience while the food ferments—this process actually increases the amount of immune system boosters and healthy bacteria in the food. "Lacto-fermentation is using a brine to pickle vegetables. Sauerkraut is easy, as are one of our favorites, daikon radish pickles," says Knutzen. Popular and easy fermented dishes include sauerkraut and pickles.

4. Raise A Micro-Flock

The perks of raising backyard chickens reach far beyond delicious, fresh eggs. Raising three to eight laying hens means you're also employing compact living machines that turn food scraps into a nitrogen-rich soil amendment for your garden. Foreman explains that in addition to being local protein producers, they also act as biomass recyclers, compost pile turners, entertainers, fuel-free garden tillers, and pest eliminators, as well as backyard flea and tick annihilators. Her book serves as a bible for raising chickens, in both urban and suburban settings. But before you decide to bring these feathered beauties into your life, make sure you have what it takes to raise chickens because there are 5 Crazy Things That Occur When You Raise Backyard Chickens. "Chickens are relatively easy—harder than keeping a cat, easier than a dog," says Knutzen. "The main labor is building a predator-proof coop."

Related: How To Take Care Of Baby Chicks

5. Concoct Your Own Cleaners

The concept of modern homesteading doesn't just deal with freeing yourself from the food aisles of the supermarket but also other everyday products, particularly cleaners. The good news is that by making DIY Household Cleaners—using ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide—you can clean your house without poisoning everyone in it. When you find some formulas you especially like, try mixing up extra batches and bartering them with friends and neighbors.

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