Homesteading might be all the rage these days, but it’s certainly nothing new. Up until the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, it was just the way people lived. In the 1960s, it was called “getting back to the land.” Most recently, DIY homesteading has become known as “going off the grid.”
Whatever you call it, this lifestyle is appealing to an increasing number of people. You can live more fully when you are less reliant on modern conveniences and treat technology as a tool rather than as a crutch. Of course, it’s also a wonderful way to make sure your carbon footprint is as small as possible, too.
One of the challenges for homesteaders is outfitting their home and garden with items that will help them achieve their lifestyle goals without breaking the bank or handing over money to large corporations.
If living frugally is important to you, you probably already abide by the motto “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Did you know that this little ditty dates back to the Depression era? It’s as relevant today as ever, although maybe for a different reason.
By recycling what would otherwise be fodder for the landfill, you can unleash your creativity and resourcefulness. That’s in addition to the knowledge that you’ve built something useful that will serve you and your household well for years to come.
DIY Homesteading Projects to Help You Live a Simpler Life
Before we get started, a note on sourcing supplies. It’s likely that if you are living off the grid, stretching your budget and saving the planet are important to you. That means you will want to reduce the number of items you purchase outright.
As you begin your homesteading adventure, get into the habit of saving household items you no longer use. You never know when a part will come in handy. Developing a network of off-the-grid friends is good, too, since you might find that your neighbor or buddy has exactly the thing you need to complete a project.
Freecycle and Craigslist are great resources for cheap or free stuff. Don’t forget to check local thrift and junk stores, or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
Now, on to the projects!
1. Chicken Coop
Chickens are a wonderful animal to have around. They are low maintenance and entertaining to watch. Not only do they provide the freshest, best eggs you’ll ever taste, but they also eat table scraps. That makes them very economical and environmentally friendly!
A DIY chicken set-up is also an accessible project for a new homesteader. There are loads of plans, tips, and tricks online. Consider starting out with a tractor coop, which can be moved from place to place to avoid excess wear-and-tear on any one section of your lawn. It’s like an RV for your poultry!
2. Compost Bin
A compost bin is a no-brainer for any self-respecting homesteading family. While you can buy compost bins with all kinds of bells and whistles, they are a cinch to make. You can use an old pallet, a sturdy plastic bin, or a trash barrel.
As with chickens, composting is a great way to transform something that doesn’t have much value—food scraps—into something that does; in this case, rich fertilizer for your garden.
3. Burn Barrel
Between your chickens, your compost bin, and your collection of cast-offs to be upcycled down the line, you’re not going to create much in the way of trash. However, a burn barrel is a good way to take care of almost anything else that you want to discard.
With the right raw materials and some common sense, you can minimize both the smoke and ash from anything you burn. It’s nevertheless a smart idea to check with your local ordinances and be respectful of your neighbors before you light that match.
4. Rain Barrel
From fire to water, next up on our list of DIY homesteading projects is a rain barrel. Collecting rainwater is another satisfying way to conserve resources.
What are the benefits of harvesting rainwater? It’s a clean, non-chlorinated, and absolutely free source of water. In areas where water use is restricted, it’s an essential way to ensure that your garden receives all the water it needs. And it can help solve drainage issues, too.
5. Thermal Blackout Curtains
Speaking of energy conservation, here’s a project that can lower your electricity usage when it comes to heating and cooling your home. Thermal blackout curtains help block cold or hot air from entering a structure through leaky or thin windows. That will greatly cut down on the amount of heat you need, whether that heat is generated by a furnace, a gas stove, or a wood stove.
6. Solar Food Dehydrator
At some point, you will probably want to switch over to an all-solar setup. That might be biting off more than you can chew at the beginning of your off-the-grid adventure, however. One small step you can take is to build a solar food dehydrator.
There are many methods of preserving food, but dehydrating it is one of the absolute easiest. In addition, it doesn’t rely on the grid, like freezing or canning do. Dehydrated food also takes up much less space, if food storage capacity is a concern.
7. Wood-Fired Outdoor Oven
These are sometimes referred to as pizza ovens, but they are good for so much more than just pizza! Once you have begun baking and cooking meals in an outdoor wood-fired oven, it’s going to be hard to go back to regular methods!
It might take a little experimentation, but remember that our ancestors cooked like this morning, noon, and night—so you can too!
A simple hoop-style greenhouse is easy and inexpensive to build. If you’ve got rudimentary carpentry skills, you can knock one together in a weekend for less than a couple hundred bucks.
Just like its glass counterparts, a hoop house will extend your growing season, making it possible to eat fresh, homegrown vegetables for a longer period each year (and to grow more that you can preserve!).
9. Wind-Powered Water Pump
You’ve got portable generators for emergencies. You’re already harnessing the power of the sun. Might as well put the wind to work, too.
This is another project that isn’t too difficult for even newbie DIYers to tackle. Use recycled bike tires and other materials that are easy to scrounge, and you can do it on the cheap, as well.
Lots of homesteaders get into beekeeping. It’s an enjoyable hobby, and of course, the honey can’t be beat! Reduce your reliance on processed sugar —not to mention the expenditure at the supermarket—by setting up a hive or two.
As with chicken coops, there’s a big variety of beehive plans available online. You can even start out simply by using glass mason jars for your bees, believe it or not!
11. Living Wall
When you think about it, it’s pretty silly that humans cut down trees to make planks to build fences with. Why not just plant something that can grow into a fence? That’s just what a living wall does.
There are several different options when it comes to your living wall. It can serve double duty by providing herbs or vegetables, or it can be ornamental. Either way, it can give you privacy, reduce ambient noise, maximize garden space, and be a beautiful outdoor focal point.
12. Cinder Block Furniture
When you were younger, did you ever make bookshelves out of plastic milk crates? The same principle—using easy-to-source materials and dead-simple construction—is behind our last DIY home project.
All you need to create benches, chairs, tables, or even an outdoor bed is some cinder blocks, some 4×4 posts, construction adhesive, and then pillows or cushions. You can furnish an entire outdoor living room for very little money, and unlike store-bought outdoor furniture, these pieces will last a lifetime and require minimal maintenance.
Ready to Get Started?
By now, you’re probably itching to gather up some recycled materials and get started on one or more of these fantastic DIY homesteading projects. Turning your own trash into an earth-friendly, money-saving treasure is one of the most satisfying ways to spend your time.
These are also great projects for the family to tackle together; it’s never too early to teach your children the value of self-reliance, conserving resources, and being kind to Mother Earth.
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