Homesteaders wear coats of many colors these days. Beyond the traditional land owner working their spread, there are homesteaders that live in cities, suburbia, condos, and apartments. Many rent their homes and do not own them.
In their own way, each homesteader does what he or she can. They “homestead in place” and make the best of it. Their universal goal is to be self-sufficient and to live a simpler life, as difficult as that might be. A simpler life, although not necessarily an easier life. Be aware of that.
Regardless. a simpler, most self-sufficient life is the goal of most homesteaders. This is a goal that is within reach of all of us.
In this, the final article in the “How to Homestead When You Rent” series, you will learn that the basic tenants of homesteading can apply to anyone. Most especially, you will recognize that homesteading is the prepper way of life.
Today I welcome back the Homestead Dreamer, LeAnn Edmondson, for part 5 of 5 in the exclusive Backdoor Survival series on “How to Homestead When You Rent.” If you missed Part 1, click here. Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here and Part 4 can be found here.
How to Homestead When You Rent – Reaping the Rewards
We have been homesteading while renting for three years now. It has been a journey that has brought us more rewards than I could possibly add up. Of course, there have been frustrations and difficult lessons to learn along the way but that is part of the overall process of life itself, isn’t it? Not all of the rewards are tangible but those are the ones I tend to appreciate the most.
In this last part of the series, “How to Homestead When You Rent,” we will take a look at some of the obvious rewards such as new skills learned along with those that I was not expecting.
New Knowledge and Skills. In the last 3 years, I have learned food preservation methods including water bath and pressure canning, smoking and dehydrating, vacuum sealing and have even improved my overall freezing process. I have also learned how to successfully garden as a food source though to be honest, that particular lesson is a never-ending.
I understand some basic carpentry from building a greenhouse and cold frames. I have been exposed to things like reloading ammunition and raising chickens. Through my network of like-minded people, I have been able to get solid answers to questions I didn’t even know I should ask.
One skill leads to another and it all ties together in forming a homesteading cycle that fits.
Money Saved. There were initial investments in equipment and supplies that should be expected when changing your lifestyle! By making sure we bought quality equipment and maintain them as instructed, the few extra dollars spent at the beginning is paying off over time. Our pressure canner, for example, was almost $100 but that was three years ago and there is no reason that it won’t still be working well 5 years from now.
I learned long ago that it is better to buy a quality product first instead of a cheaper model every couple of years.
We have also saved thousands of dollars over the last three years by recycling, upcycling, and doing it ourselves. As I said in Part 3, “Function first, looks second!” That does not mean your home or projects have to look like a patchwork of ‘trash’ put together but neither does it need to look shiny and new to be ‘acceptable.’ Remember, in the homesteading world instead of spending money for what you need, you spend time. That is the tradeoff.
Superior Products. This is especially true when it comes to the food side of homesteading. Store bought carrots compared to the ones pulled from your own garden simply aren’t the same. At the very least, they won’t taste as good. I suppose one of the downsides of all this homesteading stuff is your standards are actually raised in certain areas and store bought just isn’t ‘good enough’ anymore.
A prime example of this for me was peas. I have never cared much for peas, especially store bought canned or even frozen. They were gross! Then I grew some of my own and was blown away by their sweetness, crunch, and flavor. They tasted completely different when I canned my own, too.
The detergent we use doesn’t dry our skin out as much nor does it have too strong a scent. So not only did I save money by buying the raw ingredients and making it myself, I also get to tailor make everything to suit me and my family.
Instead of spending money for what they need, homesteaders trade time to make or do for themselves.
All of the rewards above are well and good but as I said at the beginning, it was the intangible ones that both surprised me and were more satisfying on a ‘soul-ular’ level. Some of them never hit the radar when I would daydream about all the things I would be able to provide for myself.
Regaining Control. So much of our lives are done a certain way due to government regulations, especially when it comes to products we use. While the majority of these regulations are in place for our safety, there are certain areas where we have been removed from the process and have trusted it completely to this agency or that committee.
When you homestead, even if you rent, you take back some of that control. My food has absolutely zero chemicals used on them and my seeds are verified to be heirloom varieties from sources unaffiliated with Monsanto. I know without any doubt whatsoever that the jar of green beans I open in February are safe to eat with nothing added for ‘freshness’ or ‘color’ retention.
I make my own laundry detergent and know exactly what is inside it and why it actually needs to be there to clean my clothes. I save money doing it, too.
Confidence Increases. In our journey to be more self-reliant, one of the goals is to be able to survive should something catastrophic happen. While others may be struggling and scrambling to keep warm or cook food (let alone have any stored), we will make slight adjustments and continue on.
I have more confidence in our ability to survive and even thrive because of all the things I have learned. I know that I can start a fire, build a shelter, cook food, and purify water because I have learned and practiced these activities. It all starts with a few baby steps before you are off and running. After a short amount of time, you can look back and be amazed at all you have accomplished.
For me, it was a real boost to realize that whether I am in the city or the wilds, I could make it for at least 48 hours.
Satisfaction and Contentment. This is one of the big ones I was not expecting. In our world, the ‘prescription for life’ is to grow up, get a college education, get married, have kids, and buy a house. Then, work for 50+ years to pay off the bills and build up a retirement that will hopefully be enough to see you through.
Not necessarily in that order, of course, but from the time we can talk, this is the hamster wheel set out for us to start running on. Many people today suffer from depression and feelings of dissatisfaction or have this nagging feeling like they are not doing what they are supposed to be. I was one of them for a long time.
One thing I noticed as I was harvesting from our first garden was how much happier I was overall. There are, of course, reams of scientific research that shows being outside makes you happier but this was more than that. It was the deep satisfaction of seeing hard work coming to (literal) fruition. It was the realization that I knew how to grow food, which is a powerful thing in itself. It was the creation of a system that would work on a cycle in tune with the seasons.
Most importantly to me, I was an active, conscious participant in that cycle and sourcing my own needs. That year, my lettuce didn’t travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get to my plate; It traveled about 200 feet. I did that. My efforts. It made me feel liberated, like I had been cut away from some invisible chain that I didn’t even realize was there. The epiphany that I could produce food myself, while such a simple concept, is something very few people will experience or have any interest in. Realizing that I don’t really need a store for certain things is very freeing.
I wish I could adequately put the feeling into words but I always find myself falling short. The emotional and mental rewards of homesteading, even though we rent, almost surpass the tangible ones. Almost. The people I have met, conversations I have had, the blog that resulted from those first seeds, along with a book and numerous adventures all wrap up into a wonderful set of memories and life experiences.
No computer or gadget can give you the same thing.
Yes, I get discouraged, frustrated, and think about giving in to the ‘consumer’ way of life again. The problem with that is I have had a taste of what it means to provide my own needs instead of working a job to make money to then buy what I need. I have glimpsed a life where I ‘work to live’ instead of ‘live to work.’
It is our hope to have land someday but even if it never happens, we will always homestead where we rent. We will always grow some kind of edible plants and will continue to DIY as much as we can.
Homesteading isn’t about where you live; it is about how you live.
For more about LeAnn, see About LeAnn Edmondson.
The Final Word
Looking back to when I first conceptualized this series and asked LeAnn to write it, I realize that the “when you rent” part of the title may have been a mistake. That is because, in truth, we all can embrace homesteading regardless of the amount of land or living space we . Renting has nothing to do with it and nor does owning.
Homesteading is a mindset that defines the way we live our lives. I feel very strongly that reaping the rewards of homesteading is an important part of our growth as Preppers. And to that end, we must stay the course and keep on prepping!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.