Homestead From Scratch When You’re Limited
Today I want to talk to you about dreams. All the magnificent things you plan in your head and how we can make them a reality if only in a small way right now. Financial, city ordinances where you live, lack of land, and even lack of a supportive community can feel so limiting. So, let’s discuss how we can start to build a homestead from scratch.
I grew up in Hawaii. A metropolis full of people and very little open land. When I moved here to Missouri at 16 I had no idea I would someday want to live on an acreage of my own.
Then I got married and we purchased a house in a subdivision. Suddenly I realized I had to ask a city for permission to own backyard chickens on my own land, and found out it was illegal in my small rural town. I also learned I had neighbors that had their own ideas about what I should and shouldn’t do with my yard. Eight years in and I’m ready for acreage, space, and ultimately freedom.
After 2020 I think we all realized just how direly important it can be to be self-sufficient, on even a small scale. Having the ability to choose what’s best for you, to make decisions that limit the impact your family feels when food isn’t on the shelves in the grocery stores anymore.
How Do You Homestead When You Can’t Homestead? How Do You Build A Homestead From Scratch?
This is the question I’ve been asking myself since I moved in and realized just how limited we were. And the answer is one small step at a time. You literally have to make a list of what you can do and do that until you can do more. Until you can do better.
When I moved in we had three giant bushes of Boxwood in the front of our home. And while those plants aren’t ugly, they aren’t really useful either. Things need a purpose to take up space when you’re on a .25 acre plot in the middle of a city. So, I quickly cut them down and decided on step #1 for our family.
Step #1 Every Plant Must Serve A Useful Purpose
Of my three criteria towards a sustainable future even on a small plot of land, the first one is Edible. If they take up space they need to serve a useful purpose for my family. If I can eat it or its fruit, it’s helping reduce our dependence on outside food sources. Plus, have you seen the price of blackberries?!
The first plants I put in were 6 Blackberry, Triple Crown Thornless which are native to my area and work well in my gardening zone (6). I purchased them from my favorite plant and seed nursery of all time, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It’s local to me, but they also have incredible variety, native options, and free shipping!
This year I’m planting Fall Golden Raspberries, Strawberries (Old North Sea & Scarlet), Muscadine Grape, Carlos & Muscadine Grape Delicious, Aronia Berry, and Blueberries & Pink Lemonade Blueberries. I’m feeling like I can work miracles since all 6 of my blackberry plants are alive and ready to produce this year! I had incredible success last year and it was my first serious year gardening. So I have great hope for the future of my plants! Knock on wood.
The second of my three criteria is just as important as the first and most of the herbal & medicinal plants are also edible, but probably not all would fit into the same category. As long as I have small children I will stick to only ones that are safe for ingestion, however.
Last year was my first year being truly successful in my herb garden as well. The few main ones I chose were Dill, Yarrow, Rosemary, Oregano, Lavender, English Lavender, Peppermint, Basil, Echinacea, Zinnia, Citronella, and Thyme.
I am very passionate about helping the bee population grow and flourish. But not only the bees. Did you know there are actually many types of pollinators that visit your garden? Butterflies, Moths, & Wasps are also important pollinators. So I chose to focus on those three. I also do not use any chemicals or pesticides that would harm any pollinators. Just because they help get rid of pests doesn’t mean they’re worth the damage that is done to the beneficial bugs at the same time.
A few of the plants I chose for my pollinator garden consisted of Roses (multiple varieties), Zinnia, Lavender (which is also an herb), Echinacea (also an herb), Mexican Blanket Flower, Russian Sage, Milkweed & Butterfly Bush.
Flowers are very important for nectar for many pollinators, but did you know they also have host plants they need for their caterpillars and larvae to produce on? Dill is a host plant for Black Swallowtail Butterflies (as well as Parsley, Fennel & Queen Anne’s Lace). Milkweed is the only host plant for Monarch Butterflies, which makes it very important. I planted a big dill bush just to be annihilated by Swallowtails and I wasn’t sorry at all to see them munching happily.
Step #2 To Build a Homestead From Scratch You Need A “Heritage Mentality”.
You have to think of where you want to be and figure out what steps you can take right where you are today to get there or at least prepare yourself. Maybe you can only garden in pots right now, at least that’s experience.
“Experience is your most valuable asset.” – Joe Salatin
Experience isn’t something you can fake or buy. It’s something you have to earn. But experience isn’t just for me. I have 5 kids, so my experience is for my children and my grandchildren. Years pass by and we don’t realize it, I have to think ahead. These skills I want for myself, I want for them too. I want to raise them with the life of working with your hands and seeing the fruit of your labor. I want to give them the pride of knowing all of this is within reach.
So, to me, a Heritage Mentality is to think of every step as an investment in the future. Even if it’s small, tuppence (or a penny) adds up in the bank over time. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. The question I had to ask myself was, What do you want to do? and then How can I do that in a small form now? And I came up with a huge list.
- Have a huge dream cottage-style potager garden. I am limited to 1/4 acre of land. But I can have a small one!
- Own any livestock of any kind within city limits (chicks, ducks, geese, rabbits, etc.). This means I can’t even have a few hens for eggs, no backyard chickens allowed. No goats, no ponies, and no little baby piggies. No fresh raw milk from our cow and no raising and processing our own meat.
- Have my front lawn become a huge garden due to city regulations. I’m limited to planting things that “appear” like landscaping. But I suppose I could sneak a few cabbages, etc in no problem!
- Grow a large garden in several ways in my back yard: raised beds, no-till, hay bale, etc.
- Expand my backyard growing space by moving my fencing to the front of my home, therefore increasing my garden options that way. It will also help with unwanted garden pests like deer and rabbits eating my prized possessions.
- Any foliage I plant in the front of my home can be edible, herbal/medicinal, and pollinator-friendly. I am choosing to stick to those groups so that my time, effort, and money aren’t going towards something that won’t give many benefits in the long run. Although my daughters will likely have their own little cut flower garden because beauty is definitely beneficial.
- Learn how to use organic gardening practices to be friendly to beneficial insects. So, no use of products that would harm bugs at the expense of beneficial ones. I can choose to create a pollinator habitat, which would in the long run actually benefit my garden spaces greatly as they support good plant growth. For example, I can use Beneficial Nematodes or Milky Spore to rid my garden of excessive grubs instead of pesticides that will also harm bees, butterflies, etc.
- Continue to read, research, and watch homesteaders and gain wisdom. Let others do much of the trial and error for you! It can save me time, effort, and money which are all valuable.
- Learn how to use sustainable practices in my kitchen to save food for off-season use: canning, fermenting, and cold storage. All great options and are something any of us can do in any kitchen right now.
- Hone skills that are often needed in homesteading like seed saving, working with tools, & learning how to build. Even skills like sewing, baking, & cooking are valuable tools you can use to continue towards self sustainability.
- Visit local farms or homesteaders and ask questions, get a tour, and take note of how they have succeeded in the area you’re in. Having someone local is so valuable because there is a lot that goes into gardening particular to your zone. They may have already figured out ways around pests, weather, and soil problems that are prevalent.
I could probably go on and on. The list is wide and long of things you can do today even if you deal with limitations. Everyone has limitations. These are just some of the ways we can learn to Homestead from Scratch.
I hope this helped encourage you and gave you some ideas of what you can do to get you working towards that goal. Even if it feels far off, the time will pass anyway. You may as well be in preparation mode.
Thanks for stopping by!
Great information and very helpful tips! Thank you!
Thank you so much!
I’m in the suburbs if St. Louis… another MO girl! Woohoo Also on a 1/4 acre plot in a subdivision with a ton of restrictions. We can have backyard chickens in the COUNTY but my subdivision indentures say NO. Booo. However, I am working around that. My daughter and sister-in-law do not have restrictions in their subdivisions and both raise chickens. I help them with the cost of their feed and extra kitchen scraps in exchange for fresh eggs. I am also the baker and seamstress in the family. So cakes, breads, pies and mending go out my front door. 3 years ago we had a huge retaining wall replaced. During that replacement, I lost almost everything I had growing in my yard. We tried to save things in pots … established plants did not fair well and then when we were able to get them back in the ground…it rained for 2 months. The composition of our dirt was changed so much with all the bulldozing that my good dirt was virtually non-existent and predominantly clay, thus drowning most everything we were trying to save. Needless to say, I have been given a clean slate. A blessing and a curse. A curse in that it looks like an old hermit man lives here with virtually no plants. The blessing: I now have a clean slate to restart my edible yard adventure. We still haven’t planted very much because we have had very poor luck with the clay and amending it without going broke. This year we decided on doing raised beds, I’m getting old… 50 this year… and I want them high for the future old arthritic me lol. I don’t want to have to rebuild them again. So we are still in the planning stage of how the grounds will look. I just completed my 2nd year of sun mapping our yard to make sure I have good accurate information about daylight and sunlight hours in every area of my future garden.
I feel you! I live in a subdivision, but it never actually had rules established so there’s that, thankfully! But I hope to have land someday. That sounds like quite an adventure you’ve been on with your yard! Our yard does not drain at all, so I suspect we deal with a lot of fungus issues. I can smell it when I water. So, I’ll be on a long journey to try to remedy it as well. I love the idea of raised beds so much! I have never even considered “sun mapping”, but that is a great idea!