Home is where the great change will begin. It is not where it ends.
~Shannon Hayes, Radical Homemakers
Do you hold a dream to live off of the land and experience the joy of sustainable living?
Living a sustainable lifestyle does not mean you have to have acres of land somewhere in the middle of nowhere!
Sustainable living can happen no matter where we are.
Small Urban Lot.
In fact, I believe that sustainable living has more to do with our mind-set rather than our surroundings.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking to a group of Urban Farming and Conscious Living students at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts here in Tempe, AZ.
- my story
- my business model
- obstacles to sustainable living
There’s no way I could share all the details of that wonderful evening in one post — but I’d like to write some of it here…hoping that it will inspire you along your journey.
Things to Consider When Living Off the Land
There really are countless things to consider when living off the land.
However, these 10 things are on my priority list and I think they should be on yours.
- Quality and Quantity of Land
- Natural Fresh Water Source
- Food Growing Ability
- Medical Skills
- Methods of Communications
- Disposal of Waste
- Positive Mental Attitude
Read more about things to consider when living off the land by clicking this link…
More than any of the above…living sustainably, off the land comes from learning to be content and using what you have.
Obstacles. Successes. Failures. And Earning a Sustainable Income.
Here’s a good dose of honesty…
…the greatest obstacle our family has to being sustainable is money.
Like many others, we have made mistakes financially.
- bills to pay
- a house payment to make
- property taxes
- utility bills
Granted…the whole idea of sustainability has to do with a reduction in consumption, reality is we’ll always need some type of income.
So how does one make money living a sustainable life?
Begin immediately by:
- Reducing living expenses
- Consume less commercially-prepared products
- Minimize possessions
- Reduce your living space
This can be accomplished through a variety of means. Perhaps by turning off the TV, rethinking those items that you now consider “necessities,” sell everything that you haven’t used in a year or more, and/or by downsizing your living space.
By doing these few things, you will save yourself a ton of money in multiple areas (i.e. utility costs, heating, cleaning, cooling).
Then begin generating income by:
- Following your passions and interests by doing what you love – Before you do anything else, do what you love and the provision will follow. Steve Jobs said that he would look in the mirror every morning and ask, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
- Eat from your garden and sell the rest – Utilize every square inch of your property for production. Focus on planting perennials that come back year after year and require little care (i.e. nuts, fruits, berries, etc.). Gather provisions for your family and sell the rest for profit. Consider joining a CSA as a producer or selling at a farmer’s market.
- Grow or Wild-Harvest Herbs and Flowers — And make your own herbal teas, salves, lotions, tinctures, etc. You are only limited to your imagination!
- Raise and sell animals – This can look very different for everyone based on location and government laws. Currently, we are preparing to raise heritage breed and meat rabbits. They will be sold on craigslist.org and/or to local farm supply stores. We have also purchased dairy goats for milking…and with that comes options of milk sales, soaps, and lotions.
- Sell pastured eggs from your backyard hens – A super easy way to profit big time. There are farmers that are making thousands of dollars raising and selling pastured eggs.
- Start a Farm School – This you can do with acreage or even in an urban/suburban setting. Open your home to teaching people the old ways of doing things. There has been a huge gap in knowledge. Wisdom that was once commonly passed down from generation to generation has in many ways been lost. People are eager for a rebirth of traditional know-how. Check this site for an example of what I’m talking about here.
- Farm Vacation Destination – If you are one of the fortunate ones to own a small or large farm, consider opening a portion of it up as a vacation destination! See this article in Urban Farm Magazine.
- Turn your crafty skills into a profitable business – Make candles, soaps, lotions, homemade/repurposed clothing. This list is endless and has everything to do with #1…doing what you love. Etsy is a great way to get your stuff out there to a wide range of folks.
- Blog Your Journey – Begin chronicling your interests. Use social media to your advantage! Create a blog (Blogger, WordPress, Medium, Tumblr, etc.) I promise, someone will find your thoughts valuable. Note: I highly recommend using Siteground for all of your web-hosting needs. They power millions of websites and make your online experience enjoyable!
- Keep an Open Hand — Keep your hand open to the world and you will find it full. Be generous with your wisdom. Share it! Always seek to help others…and watch your dreams soar!
Creating ways to decrease our consumption and increase production is the only method useful in moving toward independence.
Sustainable living is all about reducing our dependence on someone else (i.e. big business) to supply our needs.
Consider what it is that makes you come alive.
Stop limiting yourself.
Go for it!
Now it’s your turn! What questions do you have for me? Share how you/your family is living a sustainable lifestyle. See ya in the comments 🙂
Thank you for inspiring me!
My dream one day!! Thank you.
This is also my dream one day! Thank you for sharing.
That is my dream too!
Thanks for all your posts. My next project is to learn
to make soap!
My husband and I moved to a rural acreage last fall and have been working to become full time market growers. We currently sell wholesale and to the farmer’s market and we plan to eventually include livestock, eggs, baked goods, and a teaching center.
There are a few things though that we didn’t anticipate that need to be considered if one wants to do this full time. One is the weather. We started out in a year where we had the coldest spring on record. Many of the crops that we counted on as bringing steady income were lost. We had hoped to rebound with our warm season crops such as tomatoes and peppers but the weather is still very cool, and last night we had heavy winds and hail. You need to have enough space for additional crops, or other income streams to compensate for loss. You also need time to build a healthy soil, and in our case time to develop an effective windbreak to protect your crops from harsh elements.
The other is sales. You can grow it, you can form a CSA plan ~ but will people actually buy it? And then will enough people buy it to generate enough money to pay the bills?
We have found that in our area most people unfortunately are not interested in naturally grown heirloom vegetables. They don’t care about the health benefits of locally grown, they’re really not interested in putting a face with the product. They want round, red tomatoes out of season and honkin’ big zucchini.
We’ve also found that the prices at the farmers market are much cheaper than we had planned. They are, sadly, comparable to the local Wal-Mart super center. If you want to move your product, it has to be priced comparatively and the going rate here is very cheap.
Living off the land is doable but it doesn’t and won’t happen within a year (or even two) especially if one is starting completely from scratch like we did. We didn’t inherit a working farm from the family, we’ve started with just a few acres that had nothing on it but hay. It will take many, many years to accomplish our vision. Much of what we’re doing now, has come to be a labor of love.
Sheryl Jewett says
please do not give up. each thing that seems like failure is just testing the market. You cannot build a dream in a day and as corny as it sounds the joy is in the journey. Have a back up plan, several backup plans. some things will work others will not in your area. adjust your expectations without losing sight of your ultimate goal. Your needs will change over time just as your Homestead and things will meld together. As you make improvements new and different ideas will occur to you that will be beneficial to your goal and the moment. Good for you now. not everyone gets as far as you and your family have come to today. Life is Good
I think what you are doing is just fantastic – would love that life BUT and it is a big BUT my husband does not share my passion for farming (he was brought up on a small holding and got fedup doing all the work when he was small) he now would rather pay someone to grow it for him.
My daughter and I started a business making handmade soaps and creams – and there are a lot of people who seem to want that sort of thing instead of the commercial stuff on the market.
I wish you all the best with your venture.
Thank you Mary! Learning how to do that is on my agenda. I have all the books and materials in fact to get started. I just need to find the time away from the garden now to practice. We’d love to have goats someday so I can offer goat milk soap.
Our soaps are goats milk and shea butter with olive oil, sunflower oil and caster oil.
hope you get time to practice as it is a great way to use your goats milk – also goats milk and shea butter creams for those who have dry problem skin – the only down side is that it is very addictive but also lots of fun.
Jenny K says
My husband and I are working toward off grid (as much as possible) self sustainable living but boy is ittotally and completely exhausting. We have 5 acres, goats, hens, broilers, pigs, pasture( in the making and fencing is expensive and time consuming), a LARGE garden, flowers beds being converted to flower/edible landscaping, on going planting of fruit and nut trees, many berry beds, 2 outside the home jobs, me studying skin care development and master herbalism, making soap and skin care products that I hope to start selling on a moderate scale (small scale right now), plus I am severely gluten intolerant so I cook 99% if our food. We do this willingly and on purpose but I agree with Jenny above. People for the most part want cheap not real, tasty, organic, non toxic. And I have also run into the “The only tomato is a red round tomato!!!!” Including from my own mother!!!! It gets discouraging and extremely frustrating sometimes but ultimately so very, very worth it. I keep repeating that and walking out my back door and seeing amazing food in front of me makes everything ok in life. Personally it is constant proof that God is good.
Shelly Nielsen says
It’s a slow process but little by little we become more self sustaining. I am in the process of starting a business from home that utilizes my passion and where I can grow many of my ingredients myself, increasing over time. We are on less then an acre but we make it work for us. At some point we hope to own our own house where we can raise our own meat and that means eggs, milk, soap and so much more! I strive to be more organic so that self sustaining will be healthier for us and the land.
Rebecca Scheiderer Davis says
I’m new at this game, and your blog has been both helpful and inspiring. My biggest two problems are (1) learning how to blog and manage a website, and (2) finding the time to do all of the things I want to do…and to post them on my website with beautiful color pictures and step-by-step instructions.
I’m a computer doofus, and my friends are astounded that I would even consider my own website. I admit, I’m having a lot of trouble with things that others would consider easy. I’m actually pretty pleased with myself for doing as well as I have. But my skills are seriously lacking and I need a more organized approach to learning what I need to know. So, I’m going to invest in a class at the local community college.
The other problem is time. I have a thousand ideas whirling around in my head…garden, cold frame, greenhouse, root cellar, canning and dehydrating, bees, chickens, pigs, cows, alpacas, spinning and weaving, butchering, baking, crafts, herbs, homemade cleaning products, winemaking…and of course, the website. And these are just a few of the things I have in the works right now. There’s also my future list…raising fish, aquaponics, an orchard and berry patches, maybe nut trees, teaching, gift shop, pick-your-own, sewing, adult daycare (in a setting that will be comfortably familiar to a lot of farm-raised elders) and summer day care for kids can’t be alone all day while their parents are at work.
Obviously, I need to pare down the list a bit. We all need to remember that we can’t do everything. Baby steps. It won’t all happen in a single year. I know I will do all of those things…I just won’t do them all at the same time!
The most important thing I’ve learned so far is how important it is to connect with people who are like me. Frugally Sustainable and several other favorites have helped me retain my sanity.
I love your blog and website – very informative! We are slowly getting our land (5 acres) ready to become our homestead – when I can get my hubby to retire! Soon. Maybe at the end of this year! So far, in the last 7 years, we have planted a small (12 trees) fruit and nut orchard, build a 10 x 12 tool shed, developed a gravity flow watering system with rainwater from the shed roof into water storage tanks, delivered by drip line powered by gravity and a battery zero pressure timers; a permanent place for our travel trailer for work weekends; a well; a septic tank and pad for our future ICF built home. We are in the process of cutting in a new road right now that will loop through our property and will soon be developing a permanent raised bed vegetable and herb garden. So far our plan is working. I started blogging about the whole thing because I had a lot of friends, family and co-workers wanting to know what in the world we were doing on our weekends and this has actually been a lot of fun! No income from it yet, but I’m not really in a hurry because hubby is still working and paying the bills! I can’t wait to see what comes next!
MARITZA MAYETA says
I FUND THIS INFORMATION TO BE VERY HELPFUL AND INSPIRING. THANK YOU, VERY MUCH.
I live in an apartment and I have just started making my own washing detergent, fabreze and body wash…. I love the results that we have been getting and the money we are saving… thank you for the inspiration
Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their living by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking, and live an easy, comfortable live with plenty of free time. I think that the way the animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful way of life.
For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.
Masanobu Fukuoka – The One-Straw Revolution, 1978
Beth V. says
I LOVE YOUR WISDOM…YOUR BLOG…YOUR ETSY STORE…You are sooooo truly inspiring…
Elizabeth Gilhuly says
Thank you! Great advice! And I’m sharing it with the group I created, called the Washington DC Hobbit House Village Project. We want to create a low-impact woodland home village like Lammas EcoVillage in Wales, somewhere outside the Washington DC area. A local company, Build Naturally, operated by Sigi Koko, shows how easy it is to build your own homes! Mark my words, I will be running my Virtual Assistant and Holistic Health Coach businesses out of my hobbit house in the future! And I am fed so much wonderful information to keep me on track by writers such as yourself. Thank you!!
Thank you Elizabeth!
As an older disabled but still moving pretty well suburban city dweller do you have suggestions on becoming more self sufficient and income producing ideas?? Thanks
Mary Beth says
My husband, oldest son and his wife and I have recently moved to Missouri. We purchesed 60 acres with a large barn and house that we are gutting and rebuilding. Our intentions are to be as self-sustainable as possible. We have a good mix of garden/pasture area and timber. We want to plant an orchard, raise chickens, and a few cows etc. We wil also be able to harvest deer and turkey from our land. There are so many things to prepare, but with our house as our first priority, they will have to wait. I do find it a little overwhelming at times. I would like to correspond with others who are living a frugal, sustainable life. Feel free to reply.
If I could tell everything the most important thing for land skills, home building, ect… It would be visit an Amish Community!!! We have many anabaptists friends and their knowledge has helped a lot. Consider hiring them to build a home. The average Amish home in Tn cost about 30k and they usually use gravity flow water, solar powered lights, built in cellar, and huge porch. The economics of it are essential, but the sustainability are also equally rewarding. You can change up details, but the basics are they have kept up a life style many of us English cultured folks find difficult. It’s amazing how willing they are to be of help. If you are within traveling distance to a community visit, ask questions, swap seeds, buy animals, and so on. They can be very helpful.
Angela Gonzalez says
I happened upon this website while looking for herbal remedies for insomnia. What a great site. It’s been on my mind a lot lately on transitioning into a more simpler lifestyle and I’m so glad the universe sent me this site. Thank you for inspiring me. Look forward to reading more about homesteading and living simply.
Phil Pogson says
We have only just started our journey.
We now make all our own cleaning products (inclusing soap) from basic whole ingreients, stopped using the clothes dryer, threw out 6 cubit meters of household stuff, got rid on a car, cook from scratch……it feels good. Plenty more to do though.
Sharon Barr says
I make my own soap. I also hang my clothes up. In the house or outside. I buy all whole foods because
of a gluten free diet. I do buy Bobs red mill products. I make everything from scratch. I own goats and its been a big adventure. I am still waiting for milk though. Its hard to find a milker and I researched for threeyears before breeding now I am paying for that. I would tell everyone buy nubians because they are both meat and milk breed. I bought my first nubian registered this year. I only wish I would have done it sooner. I dont run air. I live in michigan. I know nothing about gardening. I do know a little about canning. I only eat about four can goods. soups are from scratch.
Its crazy. Now I homeschool too. My son has agrred to help with the homestead process. He is sixteen and this is huge. I think we will start workshops next. I still am fearful taking care of goats is really easy.