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He started at the ripe old age of 18.

I started homesteading in 1970 at the ripe old age of 18. I had almost no money. I had a job, a desire to live the homestead lifestyle, and little else. I bought the first five acres the realtor showed me, because I could afford it.

I had never heard the word "home-steading" in the context it is used in Countryside. I didn't know a thing about water rights, easements, property values or much else. (I later found out I paid twice the going rate for the property.) None of that mattered. What mattered was that I was moving in a direction of self sufficiency, which is to me the definition of homesteading.

I feel that this formula, with some refinements, is the basis for beginning homesteaders today.

First, find a job that is within an hour's drive of the area you wish to homestead. Adding to Mr. Belanger's comment that you have to live somewhere, you also have to have a source of income. Some day you might have your own home business, or you might be able to sell the excess from your homestead. But to start you need to have a cash flow so you can invest in the tools needed for a successful homestead. I have seen many homesteads fail because people try to start a business or believe they can derive an income from the homestead, before the homestead is established.

(Note: Starting a business is distinctly different from, and in many cases much harder than, starting a homestead. Doing both at the same time constitutes a death wish!--Ed.)

Beginning homesteaders, and some experienced ones, seem to have an illusion that they are going to compete with modern agribusiness. Although some farmers are homesteaders, farming is a vocation, and homesteading is a lifestyle. I've done a little farming/ranching in my life and can assure you that there are much easier ways to make a living. Most small farmers, and some large one, have off farm jobs just to make ends meet. (The average farm family gets more than 60% of its income off the farm.--Ed.)

Second, buy a small piece of property to live on. An often-asked question by wannabe homesteaders is "How much land do I need?" The answer: Not nearly as much as you think. It depends on what you envision when you think of your homestead. The illusion that a homestead should be "40 acres and a mule" has no basis in reality.

To me homesteading is both a state of mind and a state of physical reality. It is a drive toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This can be obtained on a very small piece of property. The length of the growing season and the livestock you wish to keep will be the determining factors.

About three years ago I had to relocate. I could have chosen many different places but the one I decided on is two acres in a small farming community. I have a 180 day frost-free season, and the winters are mild enough for year around grain crops and hardy vegetables. I have no doubt that, when complete, it will provide all the vegetables, fowl, fish, nuts, fruits and grains for my family of four. There will probably be, in good years, enough excess sold to pay the taxes. Taking care of two acres, once it's established, is a very part-time occupation.

Buy what you can afford. Don't go in debt for anything but the land, water and septic. My wife and I lived in a camper when we first started.

Third, move there, and engage in I the homestead practices you dream about.

Congratulations, you're now a homesteader. The rest is simply a refinement of those dreams.

A brief bit of advice on the above formula. You may want to look a little more than I did before you purchase. Probably wouldn't hurt to learn a little about zoning, easements and all the other issues that grace the pages of Countryside in almost every issue. The price of real estate has risen about twice as fast as wages in this area. That still doesn't make it a bad deal. The five acres I paid $3,000 for in 1970, when the minimum wage was $1.40, would cost you about $20,000 today. There are still plenty of small homesteads out there for under $30,000. Some with houses. These could probably be had for $3,000 down.

You can't afford even that, you say. Try the back tax auctions/department at the county courthouse. I once purchased a one-acre lot for $10. There will be something wrong with the property, m most cases: access, water, zoning, etc. Do your homework! But it would beat living in L.A. with the bullets flying by. Just do it.

Suggested reading (books you should take with you):

By Gene Logsdon

Small Scale Grain Raising

2 Acre Eden

Homesteading

Anything else he ever wrote

By Jd Belanger

Soil Fertility

Country Living

Raising Small Livestock

Anything else he ever wrote

By John Jeavons

How To Grow More Vegetables
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:"How can I get started without a grubstake?"; homesteading
Author:Duff, Al
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Nov 1, 1997
Words:850
Previous Article:First-time saver takes home $20,800, and salts away $12,000 of it.
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