In the last few years I’ve spent considerable time reading about homesteading and have come across a point that most articles share: living frugally is a huge part of homesteading. Obviously, living within your means is important whether you’re a homesteader or not, but my impression is that homesteading takes that to the next level. I think it has something to do with the fact that doing things yourself and making things from scratch are highly encouraged. And maybe it’s those factors that seem to confuse our friends about our interest in homesteading. It’s anything but easy, and it’s definitely not cheap. Building things from scratch, with your own two hands saves money, but you still need tools and the basic ingredients upfront. It can be tempting to take shortcuts in an effort to save some money. Chad and I have spent
time many cups of coffee weighing the pros and cons of saving vs. splurging for all of our big projects.
Everyone has a unique situation, but here’s what’s worked for us:
Save: Chicken Coop
There was a playhouse on the property when we moved in. Since our kids already have a house to live in, we decided to convert it to a chicken coop for our chickens. Chad secured the outside with hardware cloth, replaced a few boards around the sides and laid a vinyl remnant down on the floor.
Splurge: Chicken Run
Chad loves to build things. He’s basically like a little boy with lego. He put together a grand plan and built a beautiful run for our chickens. They have plenty of outdoor space in there when they aren’t free-ranging around the yard. I don’t feel like the chickens REALLY appreciate it as much as they should, but maybe my expectations are too high.
Final Verdict: I’m glad we saved the money on the coop. It will need a new roof and door in the near future. The run helps me sleep at night knowing our chickens are safe from predators. And I really like the way it looks. And yes, I once stuck my kids in there to hash out an argument they were having (see: bottom middle).
Save: Free mulch from a friend of our neighbour.
Splurge: Bringing in outside soil from the local nursery. We spent a little extra and brought in triple mix (a special blend of compost, peat and manure).
Save: Starting our own plants from seeds instead of buying seedlings. You can save a bundle of money this way. A packet of seeds ranges from $1.99 – $4.00 for 50-100 seeds, on average. Compare that to one $4.00 tomato seedling. Math isn’t my favourite subject, but this is a big savings.
Splurge: Ordering a whole bunch of seeds from multiple companies. Also spent money on berry plants (although this was also a save because we bought small canes and waited a year for them to start producing instead of buying a more mature plant).
Final Verdict: I think the only way we could have avoided bringing in outside dirt was to wait an entire year to build a garden. We could have used all the compost, cardboard, sticks, leaves and grass clippings to layer on the desired garden spot and waited for it to decompose. I’m glad we didn’t wait. I have zero patience. We did learn that we could save money in the future by purchasing a mixture of half garden soil and half triple mix.
We still start our own plants from seeds and I’m now ordering from less companies to save on shipping. Also, most seeds last a few years so I’m still using seeds purchased in 2015. And the berry bushes? They paid for themselves (and then some) after just one year of fruit production.
Save: We converted an existing lean-to on our shop to a greenhouse for a few days’ work and a $100 roll of plastic.
Final Verdict: We should have put plastic on the inside as well, creating a double wall and a slightly warmer greenhouse. Eventually, the plan is to heat the shop and the greenhouse. It’s great to have a space to work and now I can get those seedlings out of the house a lot earlier in the spring. This summer, we’re planning to plant half of our peppers in there as a fun experiment to see if they grow better with the extra heat.
These are the big projects that we’ve completed so far on our property. We’ve learned a lot through the process of planning, creating and working on these projects. I’m sure we could have saved more money here and there, but in re-purposing a few of the existing spaces, we feel pretty good about the decisions we’ve made so far.
And with that, I encourage you to go forward with your own big plans or small plans. Save where you can, splurge when you have to, but whatever you do, do it with purpose, like this chicken: