Homesteading Where You Are - New Series: Introduction

We get a lot of wonderful comments and emails asking about homesteading.  A lot of the questions/comments start with "someday I want to have land and homestead".  Please know that you can homestead wherever you are.  If this is the lifestyle you're interested in, there's plenty you can do whether you live on acreage in the country, in town, a condo or in an apartment.

What Is Homesteading?
Let's start with what homesteading is.   I like the simple definition given on the cover of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Self-Sufficient Living by Jerome D. Belanger which is "Live a simpler, less dependent lifestyle- without feeling deprived".  We don't, personally, strive to be fully self-sufficient, but for frugal, health, and environmental reasons, we do strive for more self-sufficiency in many areas of our life.  Furthermore, homesteading, or self-sufficient living, goes hand-in-hand with voluntary simplicity because if you eliminate things you don't really need, you'll decrease the list of things you'll need to produce to become self-sufficient.

Our Story
We slowly began venturing into the homesteading lifestyle while we lived in a rented condo.  Because it was rented, we had to be careful with what types of things we did because we didn't own it.  We were able to plant veggies {bush beans, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, herbs, etc.} in the flower beds with existing flowers, as well as fill our patio with containers full of tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, lettuce, and potatoes.  The Condo Association was fine with it because it made for a beautiful, full flower bed.  The only downfall with container gardening is that you do have to water at least once a day, sometimes 2 or 3 times in the high heat and humidity of the Northeast.

We were able to make things from scratch, eat organically and locally when possible, and begin to simplify our lives.  I love what George Nash and Jane Waterman say in their book Homesteading In The 21st Century:  "You don't have to live in the country to homestead - your mindscape is more important that your landscape".  Start thinking about what types of things you would like to do and then look at your surroundings in a different light.  They also say "the goal of homesteading is to live deep, not wide".

When I was 11 or 12 years old my mother remarried and we moved to a small farm. That was the first time I'd ever been around animals other than dogs or cats.  We had cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, horses and a moderately sized garden.  Although I absolutely loved the animals, I wasn't so fond of the sudden responsibility for them.  That's also where I learned the hard life lesson that meat on your plate was once a living breathing animal.  That was so difficult for me to deal with that I became vegetarian {and stayed vegetarian until my late 20's}. When we eventually left the country to move back to town I didn't have dreams of going back to a farm.

As I've written previously about, in 2006, frustrated with constantly feeling we didn't have enough, weren't enough, etc. but not interested in the "keeping up with the Joneses" merry-go-round, I found a magazine that described the homesteading lifestyle and it just clicked.  Between that and the lifestyle known as "Voluntary Simplicity" I knew the direction my life would take me next. 

For us, the decision to move to the country {we aren't really in the country, rather, we are just outside of the city} was simple.  My husband had recently retired from the military and we both decided we no longer wanted to live in town but rather wanted our own land where we could decide the next step for ourselves.  We began talking about animals and gardening, and maybe someday setting up solar panels.  We also began thinking about the challenge of finding more in less.

The first property we attempted to purchase was about 3 acres.  The house, however, had issues and didn't pass inspection.  We had driven past the house we eventually bought I don't know how many times, on the way to the other property, and never paid attention to it.  One day, dejected after our time at the other property where we found out the issues made it a no-go, we began the drive home to our condo. 

We were talking, trying to assure each other that it was for the best {and, looking back, it was} when J said "what about THAT place???" as we zipped by a cute little white farmhouse with a For Sale sign in the front.  I assumed it wasn't in the price range we were looking at because we'd never seen it come up on the listings.  We went home, looked it up online, called our realtor, and had an appointment to view it the next evening.  Now, we had looked at well over 20 houses before we'd found the first property so it was a bit hard to be optimistic about this house.  J, who is typically the pessimist, said "I think this is going to be the one".  The moment we walked into the house, we looked at each other and said "yup, this is the one".

We passed the owner on our way out the door and told him we were headed back to the office to write an offer.  He later told us although he wanted to believe us he didn't because 2 sales had already fallen through.  Long story short, we made the offer, he accepted, the bank rejected the house {again} and this time for a ridiculous reason.  I fought it, {the inspector reported the foundation was falling in because of an opening in the stone - photo above - the opening was there for access underneath the house where there is no basement.........} and we bought the house.

Our homesteading life has changed since we moved to our little farm.  We grow a large majority of our own veggies, have added fruit bushes, plants and trees, make even more from scratch, continue to redefine simplicity for ourselves, raise chickens, tried to add goats {town said "no"} and plan to add bees someday.

The Series
The rest of the topics in this series are:


Sue Frelick said...

Isn't it amazing how you just KNOW when it's the right home for you? That's exactly how Renoman and I felt after looking at this place. You could easily have put our names in place of yours and that was our experience too.

I love what you've done with your property. Before and after photos are so interesting to look at. Looking forward to enjoying the rest of the series with you. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think this is brilliant! Speaking as someone who tumbled rather headlong into the "lifestyle" I really wish someone had told me to homestead where I was first. The first few years on a farm can wear you out, if you don't. You really don't want to try to learn everything all at once!! Two years in and now I feel like there is promise ahead. I will be following this series! We can all learn something from each other. Thank You for this.

Unknown said...

I love your story Staci! And we have similar interests with wanting goats and bees. :) Your pictures are beautiful, and I like seeing the transformation. I can't wait to read more from the series.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Sue - it really is amazing and happens in so many facets of life, doesn't it?

Thanks so much Accidental Homestead Housewife - so very true. :)

Mary - thank you!!

HeatherD76 said...

Thank you for this post. When I tell people I have a homestead, they picture land, chickens, goats, garden and on. When I mention I live in a mobile home park, I get a look and hear that I can't have a homestead there.

I do have a good amount of yard space though. Our park is small with a few mobile homes, so we all have nice yards, mine happens to be the biggest.

I am not allowed to have outdoor animals, so no chickens :(, but I do have a large veggie garden where we grow all our veggies. I also cook from scratch and am very frugal. I would love to have a small farm someday, but I am happy with what I have right now.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Heather I'm so happy you are homesteading where you are! I think most people think of a large farm that's off-grid when they think of homesteading. Tell them you're homesteading 21st Century style. :)

Dani said...

What you've achieved is amazing - I, too, think that it's a very cute homestead that you have. Love the red bsrn :)

Our Neck of the Woods said...

I loved reading this! It's so neat to see how you came to be where you are today. And it's so true that you can homestead anywhere. I love that quote "your mindscape is more important than your landscape." So good! You have really transformed your house and land - it looks awesome!

born imaginative. said...

I loved all of this. My fave part is reading how you ended up with that adorable old house. And my..what you've done to the place! Stunning! I love hearing how you felt defeated losing the other house, but this one ended in your hands. Things do work out, don't they?!

daisy g said...

I love hearing about the transition and how you found your home. It's a very inspiring story and I know it will comfort me when we are looking for our property. Great post, Staci!

September Violets said...

This was such an interesting read to hear how you ended up where you are now. I grew up in the country and moved to town when I got married. I didn't fret about it, but assumed I would move back to the country eventually. Now (25 years later) I'm feeling like it's just not going to happen and it really saddens me. My husband likes the idea, but I'm not sure he's completely on board with things like wells & septic & winter. I'll definitely follow along with you ladies to read more and perhaps become inspired once again. Wendy x

"Alone again.... naturally!" said...

It's just such a lovely story Staci! And I look at your property longingly! But it gives me hope that someday soon, we too will have our little bit of heaven!