For as long as I can remember, I've been drawn to a lifestyle closer to nature, without ever realizing it was actually possible (and that people were living like this).
A place where I can grow my own food, raise a family, and just live a simpler, more self-sufficient life close to nature.
In recent years, this dream has been shared more and more by individuals and families who long for the same thing.
The yearning for a life less cluttered by the noise of modern living, a life where self-sufficiency isn't just a dream, but a reality waiting to be created.
When I talk to aspiring homesteaders (through our weekly newsletter and YouTube comments), I hear a lot of reasons why getting started with homesteading is so difficult.
I don’t know how to find the right property…
I don’t know how to plan and design my homestead…
I don’t know how to finance it…
And the list goes on.
The amount of information and choices you need to make can be overwhelming.
That's where this guide comes in.
I hope it can function as a ‘roadmap’ that helps direct you in the right direction to the beautiful and rewarding, yet challenging world of homesteading.
You see, homesteading isn't about going off the grid entirely (though some do).
It’s not about becoming 100% self-sufficient in food (though it’s possible).
It's about reclaiming a sense of autonomy.
It's about understanding where your food comes from and knowing that you had a hand in producing it.
It's about creating a life that aligns with your values and brings fulfillment in ways you might not have imagined.
You'll know what I mean the first time you harvest a basket of fresh, homegrown vegetables.
But you don't need a large amount of land to get started, nor years of experience.
You need a desire to learn, a willingness to try, and a community to support you along the way.
Homesteading is a journey, and every step you take is a step toward a more self-sufficient, connected, and meaningful life.
So, let's take that first step.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: What is homesteading?
- Chapter 2: Self-assessment: Is homesteading for you?
- Chapter 3: Define your homesteading vision
- Chapter 4: How to finance your homestead (lifestyle)?
- Chapter 5: How to find the “perfect” homestead land?
- Chapter 6: How to plan and design your homestead?
- Chapter 7: How (& where) to start implementing your homestead design?
- Chapter 8: Learn crucial homesteading skills for a self-sufficient lifestyle
- Chapter 9: Learn, try, fail, and adapt
Homesteading means different things to different people.
Some people want total independence from the rest of society and live completely off-grid.
Some people just want to start their own gardens to grow some of their family's food.
That's the beauty and one of the many advantages of homesteading today.
There's something you can do to live a 'homesteading lifestyle' in any unique situation.
In the busy world we live in now, it's simple to forget where our food (and our roots) really comes from.
I'm sure you've heard it before: "You are what you eat". In this sense, as I'm writing this I suppose I am a broccoli right now ;)
Kidding aside, it's important to know what goes into your body, just like it's important to know yourself.
Yet, in this day of instant gratification, it's easy to lose sight of the source of our food.
Most of us just go to the store, grab what we need, and never give a second thought to how it got there.
But there's something deeply satisfying about growing your own food, caring for animals, and living on and from the land.
Same for our source of income.
Many of us have day jobs that aren't particularly fulfilling (and that's kindly expressed), but we rarely consider the possibility of making a living doing what we truly enjoy or are really good at.
This doesn’t mean that you have to quit your job and become a full-time farmer!
You might have a talent for carpentry… You can build chicken coop kits for fellow aspiring homesteaders.
Or maybe you enjoy hosting and want to offer people a unique taste of the homestead life by providing cozy bed & breakfast experiences in charming tiny houses on your land.
The possibilities are endless (once you start looking).
Homesteading is a decision to lead a simpler life on your own terms.
It's about taking charge of what you put into your body and reducing reliance on a system that often (always?) prioritizes profit over health.
For many, including ourselves, homesteading is a return to our roots (hence our name: Roots Reconnected). To a time when self-sufficiency wasn’t a choice, but a necessity.
Like our ancestors, who knew how to thrive off the land with minimal resources.
They were mostly self-reliant and understood the natural cycles, from planting a seed to reaping a harvest.
Unlike today, where many of us have, unfortunately, lost touch with a sense of appreciation for the abundance provided by the earth.
In a world flooded with information and endless choices, this lifestyle offers a return to simplicity.
It’s an opportunity to design and create a balanced ecosystem where each element supports and sustains the others.
Whether you have acres of land or just a small backyard, the journey of homesteading can start anywhere.
But it mostly starts in the mind. With a commitment to purposeful living and to making the most of what you have.
It's not just the end goal that makes homesteading interesting (and hard); it's the journey itself.
It's a never-ending path of continuous learning.
Of putting into practice what we learn, making mistakes, adjusting, and doing better next time.
It's about a deepening connection with the world around us.
If you can remember this whilst walking the path, you will find this to be a really satisfying way of living.
Starting a homestead is no small decision.
It's a lifestyle choice that'll change everything.
So, before going 'all-in', consider if homesteading is really for you.
For me, homesteading was a calling for a simpler, more connected way of life.
It meant growing my own food, providing for my family, reducing my reliance on the system, and living like every day is my last.
These values are what keep me going on this life-long journey.
What's driving you toward homesteading?
Is it that same yearning for a closer connection with the land and becoming more self-sufficient, or do you have your own unique reasons?
Maybe it's the idea of reducing your footprint on this beautiful planet, or the dream of having a pantry filled with homegrown goodness.
Understanding these personal motivations are the things that are going to keep you going when things get though (and they will).
A successful homestead requires dedication, a lot of sweat-equity, and hard effort on your part.
It's not just about planting seeds, raising animals, or enjoying the sun while it's shining.
It's about doing this consistently through all the ups and downs and, of course, celebrating the bounty when it arrives.
How committed are you?
Do you have the will to get things done even when the weather is unfavorable or the amount of work seems never-ending?
Homesteading is all about welcoming change and occasionally saying goodbye to some modern conveniences.
Have you thought about the adjustments in your lifestyle that might be needed?
Are you willing to trade certain comforts for the deep satisfaction of a self-reliant life?
It's a decision worth considering.
Then there is time and resources.
Are you willing to spend the hours you have available to build out your homestead, bit by bit?
What tools and resources do you have access to?
Be honest and realistic with yourself about your motivation to homestead.
Too many people fail simply because they haven't considered what it means to start a homestead successfully.
Or haven't asked themselves the right questions before going all in.
A solid foundation of awareness is a must for any successful homesteading project.
It's a way to align the goals you have in mind, with the practicalities of developing a self-sufficient lifestyle that is completely your own.
Since the homesteading journey is as personal as our favorite foods, it all comes down to identifying what we truly enjoy doing and working hard to realize the things that make us happy.
Ah... Visions... Exciting!
The perfect opportunity to let your imagination run wild (for a little bit).
Having a vision is great.
But a vision without goals, broken down into an actual achievable plan means nothing.
This is often where analysis paralysis happens.
You have the ideas in mind, the vision, but you stay stuck in that mindset thinking how the heck you can actually do it?
And then eventually, you end up never doing anything.
Creating your homesteading vision is like drawing a map for your dream life.
For me, it felt like creating a story - a story of building the most abundant lifestyle within my means.
To help with this, we set those homesteading goals and ask ourselves some questions.
What's the dream you're chasing through this lifestyle?
Is it a garden full of fresh veggies, or maybe an abundant food forest that provides food year-round?
These goals are like the puzzle pieces of your vision, each one fitting into your overall picture.
Ever since I got introduced to Permaculture, I've been dreaming about all the possibilities of building an abundant homestead.
10 years after that introduction, I still do this every morning and every night.
I wake up before my wife and kids, make myself a nice cup of coffee, and take a stroll on the homestead.
I visualize what we can create, and what we would love to have.
Then I make a list of all the things that need to get done and start doing them.
Some are far-fetched and financially not feasible, others can be done over the weekend.
Bringing your vision into your everyday routine is the bridge between dreams and reality.
It's about those intentional steps you take daily, getting you closer to your ultimate goal.
It can be as simple as spending quality time tending your garden or setting up a composting system.
Every move, no matter how large or small, counts towards the bigger picture.
But here's the thing, a vision isn't set in stone.
Just like the seasons change, our dreams and goals do too. Adapting your vision is a natural part of the ride.
It's about realizing when a goal isn't quite hitting the mark anymore, and having the room to change course to reach new ones.
About imagining the life you want to live, and then taking those purposeful steps towards making it real.
This process isn't about getting everything just right. It's about making progress.
It's about taking one step forward each day bringing you closer to the abundant lifestyle you've got in mind.
This is a question I get all the time: Moreno, how are you able to finance your homestead?
Figuring out how to finance your homestead is probably one of the most important considerations.
How do you find the resources you need to make your dream a reality?
That's what I struggled with a lot.
I've always been told to study, get good grades, and find a well-paying job.
Yet, I wasn't exactly made for school.
Nor the 3 jobs I did when I dropped out of college.
It wasn't until I left everything behind and traveled to the other side of the world that I finally found my purpose.
I mean, seriously, from all things, I had to fall in love with the lifestyle of farming.
Farmers are known to be working 16-hour days and get low wages.
Yet, there was something about the lifestyle that drew me in.
Waking up early, getting out there, doing the chores of the day.
It just felt right. Like I was in my element.
So, naturally, I had to figure out how I could live this lifestyle every single day for the rest of my life.
Long story short, after working on several farms it was time for my wife and I to start our own farm.
We went back to France, started a market garden and we kept going from there.
We started a YouTube channel to share what we were doing and got a lot of response from the community.
It even led to our first paycheck from online revenue.
A whopping 10 euro from YouTube ad revenue.
This might not seem much, but it was a lot to us.
In fact, it opened our eyes to an entirely opportunity.
By that time we had over 5 years farming experience, and we had optimized our operation to a highly productive small farm.
Ultimately, as people kept asking for help, this evolved into a consulting business where I helped people start their own farms, increase their production and revenue, and streamline their operations.
During that time, we had saved up enough funds to purchase a small piece of raw land in Portugal.
As we made the move, we made sure to have several stable income sources to kickstart our new journey, whilst we build out new income sources to fund this lifestyle.
Think of agrotourism, workshops, farm visits, self-picking… I mean, the ideas are endless.
It’s finding the ones worth doing that’s the hard part.
And for that, you need to learn how to find opportunities.
If it wasn’t for leaving my home country to explore the world, I would still be stuck doing the same mindless work over and over again.
But it wasn’t until my mindset shifted from being an employee to working for myself, that everything started to change.
In reality, our understanding of business was born out of necessity.
You see, with Permaculture and all these beautiful videos from people that are doing amazing projects, like food forests, gardens, animals… These things make you dream
As it did for us.
Unfortunately, I had zero understanding of business, and have never been taught money management.
So, our first ‘project’ failed miserably.
We were lucky enough to be able to ‘borrow’ a piece of land from my wife’s grandmother to experiment with everything we had learned through working on other farms.
We planted trees, started a veggie garden, and we even built a pond!
Unfortunately, the money we had saved over the years of farming abroad, was being spent quickly without any money coming in.
We had the belief that we would somehow become more self-sufficient and sell any surplus we would get and everything would be fine.
Yeah… Things don’t work like that.
But it taught us some extremely important lessons.
We learned how not to do it and were forced back to the drawing board.
That’s when we realized we had to learn how to create value and learn the right skills, that eventually pay the bills.
This journey led us to where we are today.
And I’m highly convinced that anyone can do it.
If you just put in enough time to learn, to try, to fail, and adapt, you can do anything you put your mind to.
So, how to finance this lifestyle?
Identify your passions, your skills.
And think of the things you want to learn that can pay you down the road.
Farming, natural building, hand-crafted items, farm stay, homestead tours, online business...
There are successful examples in any industry or niche.
The question is, can you identify the opportunities that align with the lifestyle you have in mind?
That's something you need to figure out.
This is like brainstorming side gigs that align with your homesteading goals, which eventually can replace your current income.
Maybe you're great at making homemade soaps or crafting artisanal goods.
Maybe you want to start a farm or create a plant nursery.
Maybe you want to start a YouTube channel yourself and go into the online space.
Or maybe you love your job and it pays great.
It all comes down to what you can see yourself doing day in and day out, yet has enough potential to sustain your lifestyle in the most meaningful way to you.
Be smart with the resources you have.
With some careful planning and a bit of creativity, you can make your homesteading dream come true and build a self-funded homestead over time.
It's a pretty common misconception that there exists a flawless plot of land that ticks every box on our wish list.
We often get caught up in the idea of an idyllic paradise, complete with picturesque landscapes and perfect conditions to build our homestead on.
A little river, rolling hills, a mature and healthy forest...
Most of the time, this is simply not within our means or a very realistic option.
Yet, if you learn how to read landscapes, you can identify hidden gems others don't see the potential of.
Each plot of land comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges.
But expecting everything to align perfectly with our vision is setting ourselves up for disappointment.
That's why we need to come up with a list of negotiables and non-negotiables.
Or in other words, the things we must have on the land and the things that aren't as high of a priority.
For example, in our personal situation, water was a non-negotiable.
We purchased our property in Central Portugal, in a somewhat semi-arid Mediterranean-type climate.
If we don't have water here, well, let's just say that we wouldn't get far.
On the other hand, soil quality and type were much more of a negotiable for us.
The soil on our land is really poor, and we realized this before we purchased it.
But soil is easily fixed (just as it is easily destroyed).
So, in that regard, it wasn't a must for us to have good soil.
Another important consideration to us was the orientation and landform of the land.
Being in the Northern Hemisphere, we didn't want to have a north-facing slopy land. This was non-negotiable.
In the end, we decided to purchase a land which has a variety of different slopes. Facing south, west, and in some parts a bit north.
This creates lots of different useful (and challenging) microclimates, allowing us to experiment with different plant species and systems all over the land.
And like that, there are tons of considerations to think about before purchasing a property.
No matter how exciting it can be to start searching for your dream property, for most people it's simply still a far-fetched dream.
Something that seems impossible to obtain in our lifetimes.
This was the case for us when we started.
We didn't have the financial means to buy our dream property (not even a small piece of land), so we decided to get started with farming and homesteading on rented land first.
This allowed us to get started within our financial means and get our feet wet while living a lifestyle closer to what we had in mind.
In turn, it allowed us to save up enough money to purchase our own property down the road.
So even though it seems an impossible task for you right now to purchase your own land, try to think outside of the box, be willing to make sacrifices, and understand that this is a long-term journey.
Things don't happen overnight but by a compounded effect of putting in the hours to make it a reality.
Start with what you have (whether that's a balcony, a community garden, or a small urban plot), and get going.
Even with a small space, you'll be surprised at what you can start doing.
For a full breakdown of considerations for buying homestead land, consider reading this post or watching the video below.
Once you have the property to start your homesteading journey, it's time to create an efficient design for it.
This is our chance to place all the elements we want to have on our homestead in such a way, that they harmonize with one another creating a sustainable and functional whole.
This phase is both exciting and challenging, as it means turning our vision into a tangible overview of how we want our homestead to be.
And that's easier said than done.
You've got all the ideas in your head, all the elements you want to include on your homestead, but how do we place all of them in the most efficient layout?
To help us with this design process, we use the knowledge and power of nothing other than: Permaculture.
In its simplest explanation relating to homesteading, Permaculture is essentially a harmonious integration of landscape and people to help us become more self-sufficient in the most beneficial and regenerative way.
It allows us to design landscapes, homes, gardens, and pretty much anything while considering the benefit to the whole.
We use nature as our teacher, and apply the lessons we learn to our own context.
Within Permaculture, there are many different methods of design.
In fact, it's so dense (and complex at times) I'm working on creating a complete workshop on the topic of homestead design, that breaks the entire process down into a simple step-by-step framework to follow. You can learn more about that here.
One question I always get is where to start when it comes to designing a homestead.
And for this I mostly refer to the design method called W.A.S.P.A.
It stands for Water, Access, Structures, Plants, and Animals – the essential elements that form the backbone of a thriving homestead.
Water: The Keystone Element
Water, often termed as the keystone element, is the lifeblood of any homestead. Its significance is enormous. Adequate and efficient water management forms the foundation of a successful homestead. From nurturing plants to providing for livestock, water is the foundation that ensures life flourishes.
Access: Navigating Your Homestead
Paths and access points may seem like mere logistics, but they play a pivotal role in the functionality and even the aesthetics of a homestead. Thoughtfully planned access enhances not only the practicality of movement but can become valuable water harvesting systems.
Structures: Building a Functional Foundation
The key structures on a homestead form the framework upon which everything else is built. Housing, barns, workspaces, but also chicken coops, greenhouses, and a post-harvest station - these are the functional elements that sustain daily life. However, in a sustainable homestead, the approach to construction goes beyond mere utility.
Plants: Cultivating a Diverse Ecosystem
Plants form the heart of any thriving homestead. Each plant has a role to play - from providing food to creating habitats, windbreaks, and even helping improve the soil. Choosing and placing plants strategically based on their functions is a skill that helps you transform a patch of land into a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Animals: Integrating Livestock
Animals are the co-workers of a holistic homestead. They contribute in many ways, from pest control to soil fertilization. Following the right practices are crucial in creating a harmonious relationship between humans and animals. By integrating livestock thoughtfully into your homestead, you not only enhance its productivity but also nurture a thriving ecosystem.
These 5 points are a helpful framework guiding us through the design process of our homestead.
But how do you put this into practice?
It starts by creating a base and sector analysis map of your property.
Then, we layer in each element, keeping the WASPA framework in mind. This iterative process allows for adjustments and fine-tuning until we're satisfied with the results.
You can see the process in more detail in the video below, or join Abundance by Design for a full workshop on the topic.
Now that you have your design in hand, how do we put this design into practice?
When it comes to putting your homestead design into action, it's important to prioritize your projects.
Identify immediate needs and long-term goals.
Consider what elements are crucial for the functionality and sustainability of your homestead.
Balancing urgency and importance will guide you in making informed decisions.
For example, if you're starting from scratch, installing a reliable water system might be more important than building additional structures.
That's what we did. We prioritized installing water over doing anything else, simply because we need it for our daily use, our gardens, food forests, and animals.
On the other hand, if you already have a functional garden, you might focus on expanding your livestock facilities.
One strategy I like a lot, which is applicable to most that already have a home and water systems on their property, is to start at the area you visit most frequently (your home, kitchen garden, etc.) and work your way outwards from here.
This will allow you to start small, get the systems closest to you going and in control, and you can gradually move further into your property.
To help decide where to start, you need to set realistic timelines so you can manage your projects effectively.
Consider the complexity of each task and give it the necessary time.
Be adaptable and ready to adjust your schedule as circumstances change.
For example, a project that involves construction might take several weeks, while planting a new crop might be a weekend task.
Keep in mind that unexpected events or weather conditions might alter your original plan.
The order in which you tackle your projects can greatly impact their success.
Some elements of your design might be interdependent (as most are), meaning they rely on each other for optimal functionality.
For instance, if you're planning to incorporate chickens into your homestead, building their coop should precede getting the birds.
You don't start a garden before you have a reliable water source.
You don't build a home before having an access road.
Look at your budget, put your to-do list projects in order of importance (to help you meet your goals), and then work your way down the list.
Homesteading was a tradition that got passed down through generations.
Unfortunately, many of us drawn to this lifestyle, haven't had the upbringing learning all the skills this lifestyle requires.
But it's not completely lost.
It's important to honor that heritage.
Many of the practices used by our ancestors are still relevant and effective today.
For example, techniques like crop rotation and companion planting have stood the test of time.
However, it's also essential to embrace modern innovations that can enhance your homesteading efforts.
This might involve incorporating technology for efficient water management or utilizing new methods for food preservation.
The trick is to figure out how to combine old ways with new ideas in a way that benefits you and your homestead.
To thrive as a homesteader, you'll need to get good at a diverse set of skills.
Think of things like gardening, animal husbandry, food preservation, water management, and more.
Each of these skills plays a vital role in creating a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
No two homesteads are exactly alike, and what works for one may not work for another.
Same goes for the skills required.
It's important to customize your skill set to fit the specific conditions of your homestead.
For example, we're in a semi-arid climate, so learning how to conserve and use water efficiently is crucial.
Knowing what types of vegetation we can plant and how to make them thrive in our specific context, is essential.
But also, If you have limited space, vertical gardening, and intensive planting methods may be necessary.
On this homesteading journey, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of skills to learn.
That's why it's essential to prioritize.
Start with the basics that are most relevant to your immediate goals.
Want to start growing vegetables? Learn everything you need to get your garden started.
Want to preserve food for the winter months? Explore the different food preservation options and try some of them out.
As you gain proficiency, you can gradually expand your skill set to tackle more advanced techniques.
When it comes to homesteading, nothing beats getting your hands dirty.
Reading about gardening or watching videos on animal husbandry can only take you so far.
It's when you get your hands in the soil and work directly with plants and animals that you truly start to internalize the skills.
But don't feel pressured to do everything at once. You'll drive yourself crazy if you do.
Start with small, manageable projects that align with your current level of expertise.
This could be a small vegetable garden or a couple of backyard chickens.
As you gain confidence and experience, you can gradually take on more and more skills you're interested in.
As you set out on your homesteading journey, you'll very quickly realize that it's filled with valuable lessons, and it's important to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
As rewarding as it may be, homesteading comes with a lot of challenges.
From unpredictable weather patterns to unexpected pest invasions, it's essential to recognize and prepare for these hurdles.
By acknowledging them upfront, you can better equip yourself to face them head-on.
Having said that, homesteading is known for its unpredictability.
Nature simply operates on its own timeline, and at times things just don't want to go according to plan.
Especially at the beginning of the establishment of your homestead ecosystem.
This unpredictability is not a sign of failure, but rather an opportunity for learning.
You'll need to get creative and have a problem-solving mindset.
Whether it's finding a solution for a crop that isn't thriving or addressing a sudden issue with livestock, irrigation systems, or the roof of your house, developing this skill is crucial.
Learn what you're interested in, try it out, fail, adapt, and succeed.
Find innovative ways to make the most of what's at hand.
This might involve repurposing materials, implementing regenerative practices, or finding alternative solutions to everyday challenges.
Being open to change and willing to adjust plans in response to unexpected situations is essential.
This might mean shifting planting schedules due to unexpected frosts or adjusting practices based on changing conditions.
When faced with a challenge, take a step back, assess the situation, and brainstorm potential solutions.
This adaptive mindset will serve you well in the dynamic world of homesteading.
It's a lifestyle that's physically and emotionally demanding.
While it's important to stay committed to your goals, it's equally crucial to recognize when a shift in approach is necessary.
This balance will help you face difficulties with confidence and peace of mind.
As we wrap up this guide, it's important to remember that homesteading is an ever-evolving journey.
It's a lifestyle that encourages self-reliance, creativity, and a deep connection with the land.
Along the way, you'll have successes and failures, each contributing to your growth as a homesteader.
From the first seed planted to the last harvest, every experience on your homestead is a lesson.
Embrace the learning curve with an open mind.
Don't be afraid to try new methods, to adapt, and to learn from your successes and failures.
This is where true mastery and self-sufficiency are cultivated.
Your homestead is an extension of you, reflecting your unique values, goals, and aspirations.
Trust your instincts, follow your intuition, and let your homestead evolve in a way that feels authentic to you.
If you liked this guide and you want to design your own homestead, check out this workshop: Abundance by Design.