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Homesteading

Homesteading is living sustainably at home by being self-sufficient.  We can do this by growing our own food, preserving what we grow, reusing and saving what we can for future use.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in climate change or not.  By living our lives in this way, we will help to save our precious resources and save money in the process which means we will have more for those little luxuries in life.

Table of Contents
Growing Your Own Food
Freezing, Canning and Drying Food
Adapting Recipes
Using Natural Products for Cleaning and Pests
Homesteading and Sustainable Living
Reducing Energy Costs
Christmas and Homesteading

Growing Your Own Food

Growing your own food means you have control over the quality of the food you eat which will improve your family’s health and wellbeing.

Gardening is wonderful for improving mental health and an important skill for children to learn.  Growing vegetables can be done in any size garden and even in pots in apartments.

To get the most out of your vegetable garden you will need to improve your soil structure, fertilise and water regularly.

Preparing the soil for tomato seedlings.
Preparing the soil for tomato seedlings.

Strong plants will be resistant to pests and diseases.  If pests do become a problem try natural sprays and traps before going for the chemical alternative.  They are better for your environment and on your back pocket.

Improving Soil Structure

The most important step is preparing your soil.  If you are using pots it is as easy as buying good quality potting mix but even if you have poor soils they can be easily improved.

To improve your soil structure, add compost or manure.  If you have heavy clay soils try adding cheap potting mix with the compost or manure to increase drainage or consider creating raised garden beds.

Always mulch well with preferably an inch of mulch.  It will break down then add to the soil structure and improve the soil health.

Lastly have patience.  Every year that you add more compost, manure and mulch the soil will continue to improve over time.

Fertilisers

Without fertilisers your garden won’t grow, it is as simple as that.  There are 16 essential chemical elements needed for plant growth with the most important being phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium (potash).

The purpose of fertilisers is to supplement the soil of any deficient elements.  For the home vegetable gardener this doesn’t need to be complicated.

Add manure or compost to the soil prior to planting then apply liquid fertiliser to your plants every two weeks.  If you forget to fertilise you will notice the difference in the growth rates of the plants.

How to grow raspberrries at home

Seaweed concentrate is a great option for the organic garden as it not only nourishes your plants but will improve the health of your soil as well.

Growing Vegetables from Seed

Growing vegetables from seed is rewarding and is the ultimate in sustainable gardening.  Complete the growing circle by saving seeds from this year’s plants for the next season.  Remember that collecting the seeds from hybrids will result in different plants.

Always save seeds from the strongest disease-free plants.  The fruit should be full of flavour and have a good yield.  Towards the end of the season is a good time to collect seeds. 

You will need to let vegetables grow as large as they can and ripen on the plant.  Some vegetables such as lettuce and spinach you will need to let flower then collect the seeds once the flowers and seed pods have dried.  Most seeds will keep for several years if stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

Cutting jalapenos for their seeds
Jalapeno pepper seeds.

Always use seed raising mix for the best results and keep the seeds moist.  If starting in the winter find a warm windowsill for your seed trays then cover with plastic wrap to create a humid environment.  Wait until all threat of frosts is over before setting out.

Try our Gardening Tips which includes sections on berries, fruit and nut trees, compost and water, vegetables, herbs, roses and Australian natives.

Picking Fruit and Vegetables

I love taking a basket outside in the warm evening and checking my plants for anything ripe and ready to be picked.  What we have for dinner will depend on our garden.

Deciding when to pick a certain fruit and vegetable will depend on your situation.  If fruit fly is a problem you may want to pick tomatoes and affected fruit early then let them ripen inside.

How to Grow Capsicums

Otherwise, remember that produce always tastes better when it is vine ripened and eaten soon after it is picked.  If you are eating the food in the next three days then refrigerate immediately.  To use at a later date you can freeze, can or dry your produce.

For more information on vegetable gardening try this guide.

Freezing, Canning and Drying Food

All vegetable gardeners will have excess produce at some point.  I always try to plant enough so there is excess as my goal is to have enough food preserved to last through to the next season.

Freezing Food

Freezing food is the easiest way to preserve our produce.  Berries can be washed and put directly in the freezer while vegetables can be blanched by dunking in boiling water for a minute then freezing.

Freezer bags are cheap to purchase or use reusable plastic containers which are handy as most can be reheated in the microwave and will cut down on your plastic waste.

Canning

Canning food is a fun weekend chore.  Try different recipes for preserves and relishes or just can your fruit and vegetables in water or brine. 

Jams, preserves and relishes can be processed in a boiling water bath which is simply setting the jars on a rack in a saucepan then covering with water.  Most will need to boil for 10 minutes for a seal to form.

Old Fashioned Tomato Relish

Vegetables in water or brine will need to be processed in a pressure canner which is different from a pressure cooker as you will need to be able to control the amount of pressure.  If you are serious about homesteading then a pressure canner is a good investment.

Always can fruits and vegetables as soon as you can after picking and remember to sterilise all equipment by boiling for 10 minutes.  Most canned fruit and vegetables will last up to two years if stored in a cool dark place.

Drying

Herbs are the easiest to dry.  Either bundle together with kitchen string then hang or dry on racks.  You can buy stackable drying racks or just use trays lined with paper towels.

For more information on preserving different types of food try our category on Preserving Food.

how to dry oregano on racks
Drying oregano on racks.

Adapting Recipes

When you are homesteading you will need to adapt recipes to what you have on hand or to what is in season which will save you money in the long run.  Here are a few ideas:

Stir Fry’s – They are perfect for throwing in whatever vegetable you have on hand.

Casseroles – A one dish meal that are usually tomato or dairy based.  They can be spiced up with chillies and most vegetables can be added.

Quiches, Frittatas and Slices – These are great with vegetables such as spinach, leeks, onions, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms.

Zucchini and Carrot Slice
Zucchini and Carrot Slice

Do you have a sweet tooth?  It is easy to bake cookies and cakes at home and it tastes better and costs a fraction of the price of store bought.  Berries are wonderful added to desserts and can be interchangeable in recipes.

It is important to keep a few basic foods in your pantry such as flour, sugar, salt, pepper, baking powder, yeast, rice, pasta, olive oil, butter or margarine, milk (UHT comes in handy and is good to cook with), eggs and cheese.

Take inspiration from these Recipes which include sections on Beef and Lamb, Bread, Breakfast, Cakes, Chicken and Pork, Cookies, Fish, Pizza and Pasta, Rice and Stir Fry’s, Salad, Soup and Vegetables.

Using Natural Products for Cleaning and Pests

Using natural products is important for homesteading. Store bought cleaning products can be expensive and harmful to our environment.  If you have your own septic system, they can also be disruptive to the natural organisms that break down your waste so it is important to look for natural alternatives.

Vinegar is great for cleaning windows and surfaces while baking soda is good for more heavy-duty cleaning such as pots, pans and bathtubs.  Chillies and garlic will make a good bug spray deterrent while a stinging nettle spray will kill aphids.

Grasshoppers drowned in trap.
Grasshoppers drowned in a home made trap.

Sometimes it is trial and error to find what combination will work for you and your situation.  Some bugs will be more resistant to some sprays than others so you may need to increase the strength of the spray.

Try these Natural Remedies for your home and garden.

Homesteading and Sustainable Living

Homesteading and sustainable living is about reusing whatever we can to reduce our waste and save money.  Creating things from scrap is enjoyable and rewarding.  Before you throw anything out just ask yourself if there is any way it can be reused.

Try making your own heat or freezer pack by using brown rice and scrap material or reuse egg cartons in the garden as a weed barrier.  Green waste and kitchen scraps can be made into compost improving the health of your garden and cutting down on the fertilisers needed.

Jars make wonderful containers for storing dried food.  If their lids are in good condition with an intact seal and no rust they can be reused for canning produce.  Interesting looking jars also make good vases.

Second hand stores are great places for inspiration and a bargain.  Why buy a new piece of furniture when you can buy something well made that just needs some love and attention.

Restoring a rusty old gate or wooden table is not difficult and will not only save you money but will give you something interesting and unique.  It can be as simple as sanding back the wood, staining and applying varnish.

Take inspiration from these DIY Projects.

Reducing Energy Costs

Reducing the energy we need for our day to day living doesn’t mean outlaying a substantial amount for the latest solar system.  There are a few things we can all do to help reduce these costs.

Cooking every other day and reheating food either in a microwave or if you have a wood heater and a grate you can reheat food on a stoneware plate by placing foil over the top then placing the plate on the grate which is elevated above the fire.

How to reheat food

Turn lights and appliances off when you don’t need them.

Change lightbulbs to the most energy efficient bulbs you can afford.

Use the washing machine and dishwasher during off peak times.

Use fans as long as you can before turning on the air conditioner.  Turning the temperature of the air conditioner up higher will mean it will work less to cool your home.

Planting shrubs around the home will also help to keep your home shaded and cool.

Try these Money Saving Ideas for more ways to save around your home.

Christmas and Homesteading

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for a homesteader.  Planning ahead is essential as you will be making presents yourself.  In this age of gift cards there is nothing that will impress more than receiving a jar of homemade preserves, sweets or a handmade Christmas decoration.

Christmas decorations can be made from the natural world around you from pinecones, berries or even native seed pods for something unusual.  Scrap materials can be made into stars, birds or baubles for an heirloom look.

Patchwork Christmas Star Free Pattern

A home decorated with homemade decorations just feels homelier and more welcoming.  Party guests will feel at home and treasured when you send them off with a homemade present.

Feeling Creative? Try these Christmas Decorations or Craft Projects.

Becoming a Homesteader

Instinctively we are all homesteaders in our own way but some make a conscious effort to live more sustainably than others.

Homesteading isn’t without its challenges especially when the unpredictable weather throws its worst at you.  It is important to stay positive, take a step back and think if there is any way to reduce the loss and protect your garden for the future.

Each season why not try growing a little more, improving your soil, creating more systems around your home to save water and reuse waste.  Above all, make your home a retreat that is warm and full of life.

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