Jones Family Homestead

Back to Basics

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Back to Basics
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It seems that each time there is an economic hardship happening in the country, a resurgence of the desire to get "back to the basics" occurs.  For each family or individual, the question becomes one of just how "basic" they want to be?
We have wanted to live a self-reliant style life for quite some time.  When Joe and I were early in our relationship, it was a goal that we shared with each other.  Our dream is to be able to sustain our family with the resources we have here on the homestead.  Ever since starting this website and my blog, I have often received email asking where to start? 
Gardening is one area where many can begin.  Each year, we try to increase the garden size to best accomidate our family.  The first vegetables that we decided to plant were the ones that we enjoy the most, but find to be pricey in the store's produce area.  A salad garden area is a wonderful place to start.  Growing your own tomatoes, leafy lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and such make a small, but very welcoming garden.  If you enjoy salads as often as we do, it can also help to cut down on your produce costs at the store.  Another consideration that we made was the prices of our favorite vegetables.  A favorite squash that I plant is the acorn variety.  I determined to grow it after paying $1.50 a pound for the acorn squash at the discount grocery store.  When I bought enough squash for our holiday meal, I paid more than 2 packets of acorn squash seeds would have cost.  The following season, I planted open pollinated acorn squash seeds and have not had to buy acorn squash from a produce dept. since.  Butternut squash is another squash that is easy to grow and very prolific in the garden.  Once harvested, I bake the squash and freeze the pulp.  This squash can be eaten baked or added to your recipes.  One favorite way to use it is as a substitute for pumpkin in your pies, breads, and cookies.
Along with the gardening comes the storing of the produce either through drying, canning, or freezing.  I home can as much of our harvest as possible.  The few items that are not well suited for home canning are stored in the freezer.  This allows us to enjoy the garden's bounty throughout the winter months. Through gardening and food preservation, you can save enough money on your monthly grocery bill to allow you to stock up on those items that you cannot grow yourself. 
For those who are considering a move to a rural setting and homesteading I would offer the following advice.  Make a list of the skills that you would most likely need to become self-reliant.  Gardening & food preservation are a good place to begin, but what other skillls would help you reach your goals? 
Learn a skill that can become a source of income.  Selling surplus produce can help to earn a bit of extra money each year, but it is seasonal work.  Do you have a skill or trade that you could do from a homestead to earn a year round income?  Some ideas for homestead based incomes include: welding, mechanic, carpentry, free lance writing, sewing/seamstress, and child care.
Homesteaders have to be creative in finding ways to make an income.  Some have online businesses or sales through the auction websites such as Ebay.  Many women who do crafting or sewing sell their handmade items through Etsy.  If you have a talent in writing, you could write ebooks or other materials.  The main challenge is finding your niche. 
Most homesteading families have a single income.  While one person is off the homestead working at a job, the other is at the homestead tending the gardens, animals, etc.  Because of the single income status, it is important to learn the basic skills needed to be frugal. A common attitude among homesteaders is taken from an old phrase made popular about the time of the Great Depression.
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."   I remember seeing a plaque with that phrase on it and it has stayed in my mind ever since.  Homemaking skills that were common place a couple of generations ago are almost essential to a single income homesteading family or a family who is earnign their entire income from the homestead itself.  Knowing how to cook from scratch, sew your own clothing, mend or make alterations to clothing, food preservation, and most especially living below your financial means are vital.  These skills were one commonly taught in the homes, but sadly they are rarely taught today.  If you want to be able to live below your means however, you must learn these skills.  They will save you a great deal of stress and problems later on if you take the time to learn them.  I often advise women to learn these skills while they are still in a city and able to find classes through the sewing centers or community colleges.
When making the change to a back to basics lifestyle, there is always a learning curve somewhere.  If you find yourself in a situation where the skills are needed now, but you are unable to find a class don't lose faith.  Talk to those around you and see if there is any who have the skills you need and are willing to teach you.  Many would be willing to do so.  Search online.  Sites like YouTube have free videos tutorials of many of the skills that homesteaders find invaluable.  Check your local library and read as much as possible.  There are many skills that can be self-taught.
However you choose to gain the knowledge, learn all that you can.  Each new skill will benefit your family both in saving money and possibly in becoming a way to earn a little extra income for the family.