How to make a living homesteading
wife and I have been dreaming about a simpler unplugged lifestyle for a
long time. We are currently saving to buy 20-40 acres in the woods and
to build a simple cabin so we can start on our journey. Our plans are to
transition into it slowly and then sell our house and cut the ties to
"Nevertheless, I have a lot of
questions and concerns about paying the bills without a full time job.
We have 5 kids ranging from 13 to 2 years old so stability and being
able to provide is important. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty and
we plan on raising goats, chickens, rabbits and bees. Plus gardening and
canning as much as possible.
"I just assume that you guys are
full time and if so, how do you do it? The feed for animals, property
taxes, utilities, gas for the car? Any insight is greatly appreciated."
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a good question, and one we touch on here from time to time. First of
all, I don't recommend that anyone try to make a living with farm
products on the modern American homestead. My mother and father did that
back in the seventies and eighties and the stress of raising three kids
while grasping at an unattainable dream eventually drove them apart. If
you want some more data points, check out this book by Eliot Coleman's daughter or this analysis of why the previous round of back-to-the-landers fled their supposedly bucolic lives within a handful of years.
(Although, to be fair, Joel Salatin makes a good living selling pastured
poultry and beef, especially now that he's become so popular. Still, I
suspect his hourly wage from farming is right around minimum wage.)
Luckily, times have
changed since then. If you select an inexpensive property in a
low-income area then leverage the internet to sell your skills to a
world audience, you can do well on a modern homestead. Our book Microbusiness Independence outlines our original method of achieving independence --- making and selling chicken waterers online. I'll admit that the SEO section of that text is now out of date, but the other strategies I recommend remain the same.
Since then, we've expanded our income stream to focus more heavily on writing and becoming our own publishing company. Although geared toward fiction, I highly recommend this forum
for learning about self-publishing the smart way. Using strategies
gleaned there, writing has begun bringing home just as much income as
chicken-waterer sales in recent years. (I do publish a bit through a
traditional publisher, but the vast majority of our sales are from
Next, if you're more extraverted than we are, you might consider offering courses like Milkwood does in Australia or perhaps bringing vacationers to your homestead as a source of income. Finally, if you're having trouble brainstorming an online business model that fits your aspirations, How to Make Money Homesteading is a good place to start since the book offers dozens of ideas (although it paints with a very broad brush).
I hope that helps get you started. Figuring out how to manage a
homestead and a modern life style can be tricky, but the juice is very
much worth the squeeze. Good luck with your cabin in the woods!