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  • Starting Your Skillset for Your Homestead Without Land

    February 06, 2024 9 min read 0 Comments

    Grow bags planted with tomatoes near raised beds and tall container wooden beds in a garden

    You Can Start Learning Homesteading Without Land

    Homesteading skills are traditionally associated with living off the land and being self-sufficient. Although having a piece of land is ideal for self-sufficiency, there are several homesteading skills you can learn without owning or renting property.

    Homesteading requires a wide range of skills, which means learning what you can now will help you be better prepared if you ever have the desire or opportunity to expand your idea of homesteading to a plot of land. Being a homesteader is more about state of mind than owning the perfect acreage. 

    Benefits of Homestead Living

    Homesteading looks different for everyone, and the skill sets each person chooses to learn typically align with their personal interests.

    Homestead living allows you to be more self-sufficient and promotes sustainable living. In addition, homesteading connects you with the land and instills a sense of purpose to care for the natural world. 

    When learning these skills, you gain an appreciation for slow living and create freedom to live more independently. You learn more about the natural world, including plants, animals, insects, and the cycles of nature.

    All of these skills and knowledge help you grow as an individual and become less reliant on external resources.

    Homesteading Skills

    Below are homesteading skills you can learn while living in an apartment or a smaller space. Focus on the skills you are most interested in first! In urban areas, it is likely there are in-person classes to help you learn each of these skills.

    1. Container Gardening
    2. Sprouting Seeds and Microgreens
    3. Food Preservation
    4. Cooking from Scratch
    5. Eating Seasonally
    6. Supporting local farms
    7. Carpentry
    8. DIY Repairs
    9. Starting Seeds Indoors
    10. Growing Mushrooms Indoors 
    11. Composting

    Red grow bag with small sunflowers growing in it sitting on a windowsill with a woman tending the flowers.

    Container Gardening

    If you live in an apartment or a home with a small yard, you may be limited on gardening space. Container gardening is a great way to grow vegetables, herbs, or flowers in smaller spaces.

    The options for containers are endless. Select a container that provides the plant room to grow and adequate drainage. Grow bags are made of breathable material, easy to move, and are offered in a variety of sizes, making them a great option!

    You can grow a variety of plants in containers, including flowers, leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, herbs, and much more. Add a trellis to your container to grow vertically and save on space. Cucumbers and beans are a popular choice for trellis growing. Patio tomatoes can be grown on a trellis as well but you will need to tie the vines to the support structure. 

    The amount of space each plant needs depends on the type and variety. You can find this information on the back of a seed packet or on the seedling tag. Growing herb planters outdoors in patio garden containers is a great place to start. Herbs don’t mind being crowded and are more forgiving than most vegetables if you forget to water of feed them. 

    Use high-quality soil and place the plants where they will have access to plenty of sunlight. Water them regularly, feed as needed, and monitor for pests.

    Container gardening will help you learn basic gardening skills while living in a smaller space. If you want to learn more about container gardening in an urban setting check out this article. 

    Sprouting Seeds and Growing Microgreens

    Sprouting seeds and growing microgreens requires no outdoor space – you can do it on your countertop! Both sprouting seeds and microgreens have short grow durations and are easy to grow.

    Sprouting seeds require the least amount of space and can be grown in a mason jar. The only equipment you need is a jar and a lid with drain holes. Purchase sprouting seeds from a reputable seed company online or from a health food store. The process of growing sprouts includes soaking the seeds for about 8 hours, then rinsing and draining the seeds over about 5-7 days until they are ready for consumption.

    Microgreens require a small startup investment, but once you have the equipment, you can grow them for years to come! They are great for salads, soups, smoothies, sandwiches, and garnishes. The Microgreen Tray Hobby Starter Bundle includes everything you need to get started. Professional microgreen growers designed these trays. They are durable and make harvesting microgreens quick and efficient.

    Check out the Top Ten Microgreens To Grow to learn more about getting started growing microgreens.

    Methods of Preserving Food

    Jar of canned tomatoes held in a hand with garden in the background

    Food preservation is an essential skill for any homesteader looking to preserve their beautiful harvest. There are many ways of preserving food including: water bath canning, pressure canning, freezing, dehydrating, fermentation, freeze drying, and pickling. 

    If you don’t have a garden of your own to harvest produce from, purchase from a local farmers’ market or farm stand. Locally grown fresh produce is the next best option to growing it yourself! 

    Take advantage of “Pick Your Own” days at local orchards, where you can pick the fruit yourself for a discounted rate. Use the bulk fruit to make jams, jellies, and fruit preserves, or freeze the fruit for later use.

    Water bath canning and pressure canning require an initial equipment investment, but the tools are simple and will last a lifetime. Water bath canning can be used for high-acid foods such as tomatoes, but if you’re interested in canning low-acid vegetables such as beans or carrots, you’ll need a pressure canner to prevent food spoilage and botulism.

    Cooking from Scratch

    Learning the basic skills of cooking and baking from scratch is essential for homesteading. Backyard gardens produce abundant fresh vegetables, and knowing how to cook nutritious meals using these fresh ingredients is a precious skill (for both your health and wallet).

    Use cookbooks that teach you the basics. Take this time to sharpen these foundational cooking skills such as cutting vegetables, baking bread, roasting vegetables, and making homemade condiments.

    Cook each vegetable in multiple ways to determine what you love eating and what you’re not as fond of. Knowing this before you start gardening will help with planning your garden!

    Eating Seasonally

    Beans, potatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant in small baskets.

    Learning to eat seasonally is critical to being self-sufficient. The fresh vegetables and fruit available for eating vary throughout the year. If you’re new to eating seasonally, visit local farmer markets to observe and note what they are selling each season. Purchase the in-season goodies and learn to cook with them!

    Sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture Organization) to receive fresh produce throughout the season. A CSA allows homesteaders and farmers to sell a “membership” or “subscription” to their produce. Typically, payment is required upfront, but some farmers may offer a payment plan. Each week, you’ll receive a variety of in-season crops to enjoy.

    Learning to eat seasonally will help prepare you for when you grow your garden! You’ll enjoy the freshest vegetables and learn to cook using the ingredients that you have available.

    Supporting local farms

    Choosing the homesteading lifestyle does not mean you have to do it all! If you are primarily interested in growing and preserving vegetables or fruit, support local farms when purchasing your dairy, eggs, and meat products.

    Find local farms by searching online or asking other local homesteaders for recommendations. Entering “pasture-raised beef near me” in a search engine is a good start! The results should give you an initial list of farms selling meat from animals raised on pasture. Some farms may have information online, but it’s best to visit each farm to learn more about their farming practices and their products. 

    Buying locally can be more expensive than buying from the grocery store, but most farms offer several ways to save money. One option is to purchase the meat in bulk. Farms typically allow consumers to purchase ⅛, ¼, or ½ a cow. ⅛ cow can fit in a standard refrigerator freezer but if you’d like to purchase larger quantities, you’ll need additional freezer space. 

    Another option is to purchase the meat in a larger quantity to split between friends, coworkers, or family members. When purchasing in bulk, you will receive a variety of meat cuts, and you typically cannot choose the exact quantities of each cut. This will also help as you learn to cook with ingredients that may be unfamiliar to you. If you plan to raise your own meat animals, learn how to cook those unfamiliar and often choice cuts so that none goes to waste. 

    Finding local farms that sell dairy products can be a bit more challenging, but a simple online search may lead you to the right place! You can also check with local food hubs to find providers nearby. 

    Carpentry

    Carpenter Cutting Wood with a router

    Carpentry skills are needed to build homesteading infrastructure. Whether you plan to build raised garden beds or a chicken tractor, these skills can save you a lot of money in the long run.

    Learning carpentry and woodworking on your own can be intimidating. Start with an online search to familiarize yourself with the terminology and tools such as level/plumb/square, methods of fastening wood, types of saws for various tasks, or anything else you are curious about. If you prefer hands-on learning, check out local colleges to see if they have a beginner's carpentry course. 

    Start with small projects that use common tools such as a miter saw and drill. Pick practical projects such as a shelf, shoe rack, or end table. You can purchase plans online or subscribe to a woodworking magazine that includes plans. 

    DIY Repairs

    The ability to perform DIY repairs is invaluable not only on a homestead but in general life! Next time something needs to be repaired on your house or car, you are all but guaranteed to find the solution online in the form of a how-to video, blog article, or forum posting. If you are willing to dedicate some time to learning and performing the task, you will save a huge amount of money in the long run.

    If the project is obviously too big to complete on your own, don’t hesitate to hire a professional. However, you can certainly ask if you can help with the project or at least carefully observe the finished repair in case something similar arises. 

    Another great way to learn is by tagging along with a friend who is a few steps ahead in their DIY learning journey to help with their projects. Offering to be free labor allows you to pick up new skills and maybe get some free pizza in the process!

    Starting Seeds Indoors

    Seedlings of different vegetable varieties in black 2.5 inch pots

    To plant a garden outdoors, you can either start seeds indoors or purchase seedlings. Starting seeds indoors is more economical and allows you to choose a wider variety of plants. 

    You can start learning how to grow seedlings indoors even if you don’t have the space to plant them outdoors! Gift or sell your seedlings to friends, coworkers, or family members. 

    To start growing indoors, you’ll need some basic equipment, including grow lights and a variety of seed-starting pots and trays. The Ultimate Backyard Gardener Bundle includes all of the seed starting pots and trays you need to get started. The 6-cells are great for sowing seeds and fit perfectly in the 1020 trays. Use the humidity dome to regulate temperature and moisture during germination. Be sure to remove the dome at the first sign of germination! Once the plants outgrow the 6-cell trays, transplant them to the 3.3” seed starting pots.

    There might be a small learning curve when starting seeds indoors – how much to feed and water and at what frequency, optimum temperature, lighting requirements, and more. For more support in this learning process refer to our Seed Starting 101 Guide, which walks you through every step. Learning this skill now will save you time and energy when you have the space to grow a large outdoor garden! 

    Growing Mushrooms Indoors 

    Oyster mushrooms growing in a black 1020 tray.

    Specialty mushrooms have increased in popularity over the years and are now commonly grown at home. Mushrooms can grow in a variety of environments, including your kitchen table.

    Mushrooms require a few additional steps to ensure a successful harvest, but with the right attention to detail, you can grow and preserve an abundance of specialty mushrooms such as oysters or lion’s mane.

    Each mushroom variety requires specific growing conditions, so do plenty of research before settling on the variety.

    The Mushroom Kit includes the equipment you need to get started, including a blackout dome, clear humidity dome, mesh flat and deep 1020 tray. Procure mushroom spawn from a reputable mushroom supplier and source the substrate locally if possible!

    To learn more about growing mushrooms using our Mushroom Kit, read this article. 

    Composting

    The biggest myth about composting is that you need a large outdoor space. There are actually several space-efficient options! The optimal choice depends on your composting goals and available space. 

    If you have a small patio or backyard, consider purchasing a compost tumbler or an in-ground compost bin. Compost tumblers are completely enclosed, keeping unwanted visitors out of the bin. They are also easy to turn and visually appealing compared to other options.

    In-ground bins work well for existing gardens or landscaping. You can purchase one pre-made or make your own! In-ground compost bins typically have large holes around the sides, small holes towards the top, and a lid. The bin is “planted” in the garden bed with the large holes below the surface and small holes above the surface for venting. 

    For those without an outdoor space, try vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is the process of using earthworms to convert food waste into compost!  Build your own bin or purchase a premade bin online. 

    Start Homesteading 

    After reading this list, two things should be clear: homesteading doesn’t require land to get started, and the journey looks different for everyone. Hopefully, this article outlining 11 homesteading skills will help you begin your homesteading journey. Remember, your homesteading journey starts with your state of mind, not a piece of land.

    Written by:  Elaina and Alex of Mason Dixon Acres