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The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia of Independent Living

The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia of Independent Living

by Nicole Faires


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The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading is a practical guide with nitty-gritty details on everything a homesteader can do, step-by-step with hundreds of color illustrations and pen and ink sketches.

You can do it! This book will show you how to:
  • Make your own bread?
  • Grow a garden all winter
  • Make a solar oven
  • Store food without electricity
  • Raise a water buffalo
  • Make fine linen from stinging nettle
  • Make your own shampoo
  • Deliver a baby

Yes, you, too, can be totally self-sufficient! This massive, full-color book answers all these questions and thousands more and includes checklists, diagrams, and instructions. All the information meets these criteria: It is something that anyone can do, without special training. It can be done with relatively few supplies or with stuff you can make yourself. It has been tried and tested—either by the author, the military, doctors, or other homesteaders.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616081355
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 03/10/2011
Series: Ultimate Guides
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 259,655
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nicole Faires is an adventurer, self-proclaimed eccentric, wife, and mother of three girls. She grew up in a semi-nomadic homeschooling family and spent her early years in rural Montana on a hobby farm where she raised chickens, grew her own food, learned to crochet, read out-of-print books by Masanobu Fukuoka, and dreamed of the Amish. She is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading and The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture and continues to seek new adventures and local food with her family in beautiful British Columbia.

Read an Excerpt


What Is Homesteading?


Man — despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments — owes his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.

Author Unknown

Congress passed the Homestead Act in 1862. It was the height of the Civil War, and the American government had been scooping up as much land as possible all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Previous to that, it had been very difficult and expensive to buy land to the west, and hardly anyone did. But suddenly land became incredibly affordable — free! Any person 21 years or older, male or female, could file a patent for 160 acres, a quarter mile on each side, of unclaimed public land. All you had to do was build a house, dig a well, plow a field, and live there for the next five years and the government would give you the title. As time passed they made it even easier. By 1873 if you planted trees you could have an extra 160 acres of land, because they believed that trees produced rainfall (they don't). If you moved to the desert, you could get 640 acres.

Of course it really wasn't that easy. If you actually made it to your land in a covered wagon without serious injury or death, you still had to survive on it through drought, disease, attacks, and other hazards. The right to call yourself a "homesteader" was earned not by getting the land, but by being tough enough and passionate enough to make your dream successful. There are numerous stories of pioneer women working in the fields nine months pregnant, who after delivering the baby in the middle of cutting down hay, just proceeded to wipe the newborn off and strap it to her back so she could keep on working. Fathers worked sunup to sundown, their young sons right alongside them. Their only pleasures were the odd fishing trip, evening singing around the stove, or a potluck dinner.

People continued to get free land up into the 1900s, mostly in Alaska, until 1973 when the Act was repealed and the government stopped accepting applications. Many of the people today who want to be homesteaders feel a bit jealous that they missed out by only one generation. We idealize the homestead, the art of selfsufficiency. Do homesteaders exist today? I believe they do, and you can call yourself a homesteader if some of the following applies to you:

1. You have invested all your time and money into a piece of property that most people wouldn't want.

2. You don't care about a career or success, and are mostly interested in the size of your tomatoes or the health of your baby goats.

3. You want your kids to learn to feed chickens and feel that it is an important life skill that teaches them to appreciate hard work and the value of their food.

4. You sometimes feel that your animals do things to annoy you and then laugh about it behind your back.

5. You manage to grow so much food in a small area that you have trouble canning it and giving it away to neighbors.

6. You have very little money but you know if you had it you would only be spending it on your homestead.

7. You purposely try to do things in a less convenient way because you feel that doing things yourself makes you a better person.

8. When you talk about your "family," it means your animals, children, birds in your backyard, the worms you raise, and the bees you are trying to take care of.

9. You have really tried to check off everything on the list of skills at the back of Carla Emery's book.

10. You feel out of place in this time period — you sometimes feel as if you should have been born a century ago.

11. You appreciate natural beauty a thousand times more than anything that could be printed in a fashion magazine. Not to mention you haven't looked at one of those in a long time.

12. You can't wait to retire so you can work even harder on your homestead.

13. You feel so passionate about a dream that you can't really explain that you are willing to sell everything you have to make it happen.

Today a homestead is a place that grows all the essentials of life, food and heat and water, and teaches the basic skills of living to the inhabitants. Here is the quote that inspired me, written by the great Thoreau. It is the ultimate summary of what homesteading really is:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to 'glorify God and enjoy him forever.'"

LEARNING FROM THE PAST The great eventful Present hides the Past; but through the din of its loud life hints and echoes from the life behind steal in.

~John Greenleaf Whittier

The Viking Farm

Vikings generally grew flax for making their clothes, as well as barley, rye, and wheat for bread. Their green vegetables were turnips, beans, cabbage, and other staples. They used horses and wooden plows for breaking the earth. They had a live storage in a storage house near to the garden. They also kept cows, sheep, and pigs in barns and fenced enclosures, and hunted whale, deer, moose, seals, rabbits, walrus, polar bear, wild boar, geese, and seagulls. Their houses had thatched roofs, and they were also good blacksmiths. They used slaves to supplement their work force.

The Medieval European Farm

Medieval farmers were serfs who worked for a lord, and so farming was basically communal. An acre was the amount of land that a peasant could plow during one day's work, and they used three or four crop rotations; for example: wheat the first year, barley the second year, and then the third year it would rest (or lie fallow). Cattle and other animals such as sheep were grazed in separate fields, and kept in the barn or sometimes kept in the house. These animals usually did not last through winter, however. They also had thatched roofs.

The 1800s European Farm

Because farmers now had their own small individual farms, conditions were somewhat improved. They continued crop rotation but added in complimentary plants; for example: wheat the first year, turnips the second, barley the third year and clover the fourth year. This eliminated the fallow year. They gathered the manure from cattle and horses and spread it over the fields, which increased food production enough to keep the cattle all year round.

1800s North American Farm

After the Civil War agriculture could no longer depend on slave labor. Pioneering families moved farther and farther westward and had many children to supplement their work force. Trees had to be cleared and so fields were often planted around tree stumps, and sometimes they did not plant any grain, focusing only on vegetables in order to get the highest yield possible. Horses or oxen were used to do this heavy labor. Main crops were potatoes, turnips, and if they grew grain it was limited to corn, wheat, and barley. Cattle became a major necessity not only for milk and meat but also for their draft ability. The common housing was cabins with wood shingles.

Not much has changed through time but you can learn a few things from the early homesteader's mistakes. Knowing your soil and using plants wisely can mean the difference between life and death. Working smart is much better than owning slaves or having fifty children, so planning ahead can save you time and effort. These people spent every daylight hour working for their survival, but with some ingenuity you can be self-sufficient and have an evening to relax now and then. They also had severe health problems and short life spans. Take care of yourself and your family, and find balance.


I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.

~George Bernard Shaw

What is an intentional community?

Spontaneous communities are those that just happen, usually because of a geographic resource. An intentional community is planned out by a group of people who decide they want to live together for a common goal or purpose. People have been doing this for a long time, ranging from communities in which personal property doesn't exist, to modern cohousing where people buy shares just like a corporation.

What is the benefit of community?

Community is a support system. In an emergency people will come together for a common goal — to survive. If your community already exists, you are more likely to succeed because you are organized. Community provides emotional support as well as financial support and resources. People are a valuable commodity.

What types of communities are there?

Neighborhood: Some neighborhoods have a good sense of community, others don't. They are not intentional. A neighborhood can develop community by making a community garden, removing fences, and having neighborhood activities.

Commune: Communes are groups of people who have no individual ownership of property. For thousands of years, idealistic people in search of a life without greed have started this type of community. But, it is the natural instinct of people to have ownership, and these have always failed — they are not long-lived, although many have been temporarily beneficial to those who started them.

Eco-village: A community united with the goal of living a sustainable lifestyle by pooling resources and studying alternative, ecological methods of living.

Cohousing: Cohousing is usually started in an urban area in order to lower housing costs, or at least it used to be. You buy a unit in a carefully designed living space just like you would a townhouse. However, modern cohousing actually usually costs more than a regular house because they often use sophisticated ecological building techniques and materials.

Other intentional communities: In other communities the people live separately or in a group house, and have a religious or political reason for living together. Each community is different.

What are the rules of starting a successful community?

Write down the common goal of the community, and make sure everyone agrees with it.

Recognize the different personalities and individuals in the group and respect opinions.

Have a set way to conduct your meetings, so that everyone presents concerns in a calm manner.

If you will be purchasing land or other legal actions, consult a lawyer to prevent problems.

When you choose a leader, uphold that leader, and make sure the leader upholds the group.

Have rituals and celebrations to bring the group together.


There is just one life for each of us: our own.


What things do I need before moving to a primitive homestead?

The following items are for those making the big move to the land and who plan to live simply, with wood heat, using hand tools, etc. To buy all of this equipment new would cost you somewhere around $40,000, so please start collecting these things early from garage sales and secondhand stores. Also, you may not want everything on this list depending on what you are doing and what kind of house you will live in. Some questions to ask yourself are:

If you have no animals and do not plan to hunt, do you still want to have the rifle for protection? Are you going to need a rifle to butcher cows or goats?

What kind of heat are you going to cook over and heat your house with?

What kind of house are you building? How will you get water to your garden? Can you use a garden hose?

Are you going to use a tractor or horse or manpower to turn the soil?

What animals do you want to keep and what is their purpose?

How much food storage do you really need? (The food storage is vital ... that first year will be the toughest and knowing you've got some put away already is a lifesaver.) What climate are you going to?

What safety equipment will you need? Are you going to be chopping down trees?

For the house:

Battery-powered smoke alarm and batteries Wood cookstove Wood stove for heat Galvanized wash tub and scrub board Clothesline Clothespins Dustpans Straw broom Flat iron and trivet Wood ironing board Treadle sewing machine Baskets

Building equipment:

12-inch hammer Large ax Hatchet with steel head and sheath 2" × 8" clamps
4" × 16" clamps Assorted chisels of forged steel 5-pound wood splitting wedge Low angle hand plane Sledgehammer
24" level Brass plumb bob [chapter1–10]
Chalk line Bottle of blue chalk Pick
100-foot tape measure Supply of nails of different sizes
45-pound anvil Blacksmithing kit Crosscut saw Carpenter saw Keyhole saw Saw sharpening kit Sandpapers and sanding block Linseed oil Emery paper Phillips and Robertson's screwdrivers Ratchet set Sawhorse Square Pipe wrench

Hunting/fishing equipment:

.22 rifle Gun license Rifle ammunition Fishing reel and rod Fishing line Assorted lures and hooks Large hunting knife Fishing knife

Farm equipment:

Pots for plants Spade shovels Dung shovels Snow shovels Leather and cotton gloves Pitchforks Posthole digger Garden hoses Disc plow Cultivator Plow Spring-tooth harrow Mower Tether Lots of seeds Rope Several sizes of pulleys Chains and padlocks Fence stretcher Scythe and sharpening stone Machete Push lawn mower Garden hoe Dutch flat hoe Yard rake Garden rake Tote baskets Wheelbarrow Dung forks Hay rake


Team of draft horses Chickens Rooster Adopted dog Assorted chicken feeders Chicken water dishes Chicken feed Hay for horses Dog food Chicken wire Sheep fencing Barbed wire Iodine Lamb's nipples and bottles Old blankets Vapor rub Worming medicine Stainless steel milking container Horse harness Horse cart Farrier tools Horseshoes Grooming tools Horse blanket Leadropes, halters, and bridles Chisel, file, and hoof pick Dustpans Straw broom

Energy and water:

Hand water pump Pipes

Cooking equipment:

Cooking thermometer Ceramic crocks Hand grain mill Butcher knife Steel bowls Unbleached muslin Dutch oven Enamel canner Pressure canner Pressure gage Jar rack Canning jars Canning lids Hydrometer (for water content)
Metal ice chest Large iron frying pan
1-and 2-quart iron pots Roasting pan Bread pans Muffin pans Pizza pans Steel brush Scouring pads Steel wool Cutting board Rolling pin Wire racks Dishpan Wash pan Drain rack Large bowls Stainless steel teakettle Teapot Cooling rack Breadboard Whisk Pie and cookie tins Wood mixing spoons Pot holders and dish cloths Strainers Butter churn and paddle

Food storage for 2 adults and 3 kids for one year:

25 lbs — Wheat
60 lbs — Enriched white flour
109 lbs — Cornmeal
150 lbs — Rolled oats
260 lbs — Enriched white rice
13 lbs — Pearled barley
150 lbs — Pasta
180 lbs — Dry beans
8 lbs — Dry lima beans
8 lbs — Dry soybeans
8 lbs — Dry split peas
8 lbs — Dry lentils
28 lbs — Dry soup mix
19 qt — Cooking oil
10 qt — Shortening
4 qt — Mayonnaise
4 qt — Salad dressing
15 qt — Peanut butter
56 lbs — Nonfat dry milk
50(12 oz) cans — Evaporated milk
160 lbs — Granulated sugar
12 lbs — Brown sugar
4 lbs — Molasses
20 lbs — Honey
12 lbs — Corn syrup
25 lbs — Jam
24 lbs — Powdered fruit drink
4 lbs — Jell-O
24 lbs — Salt
2 lbs — Dry yeast
10 lbs — Baking soda
7 lbs — Baking powder
56 gal — Water Supply of canned fruits and vegetables

Personal items:

Supply of toilet paper Personal hygiene items First aid kit

Miscellaneous items:

Board games Flashlights and a battery supply Pocketknives Rope Weather thermometer Humidity gage Assorted storage bins and buckets Kerosene/oil lamps and kerosene/oil supply Supply of gasoline Sleeping bags Pillows Long underwear Socks Steel-toed boots Tents Supply of tarps Hard hats and safety glasses Vaseline Books for home schooling Sewing kit Candles and candleholders Waterproof matches Wind-up and solar radio Wool blankets Epsom salts

Money: It is a good idea to have a year of savings in the bank to pay your bills, plus some for an emergency.


Excerpted from "The Ultimate Guide To Homesteading"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Nicole Faires.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

What This Book Is About xi

1 What Is Homesteading? 1

The History of Homesteading 3

Learning From the Past 5

A Few Notes on Intentional Community 8

Homesteading Equipment You Will Need 9

Emergency Kit 15

Food Storage 17

Buying Land and Evaluating Your Location 20

Designing an Efficient Homestead 24

The Cycles of Work 28

Important Info on Chemicals and Toxins 34

2 The Basics 37

Math and Money 39

Tractors and Trucks 42

Automotive Maintenance 44

Getting Water in the Wilderness or at Home 48

Disposing of Your Waste 61

Primitive Heat and Light 61

Modern Convenience and Electricity 77

3 Building Shelter for Man and Animal 99

Temporary and Nomadic Shelter 101

Construction Skills and Making Lumber 108

Building a House From Available Materials 117

Building a Safe Barn and Fence 146

4 Horses and Other Animals 153

Animal Basics and Health 155

Butchering and Animal Burial 160

Draft Horse Care 170

Horse Training and Handling 190

Oxen, Cattle, and Water Buffalo 203

Bees 212

Chickens, Ducks, and Geese 220

Dogs 234

Goats 239

Sheep 247

Rabbits 256

Raising Worms 257

5 The Comforts of Life 259

Making Tools and Farm Equipment 261

Simple Home Forging 263

Making Things From Wood 270

Making Home Necessities 277

Fiber Arts and Clothing 300

Doing Odd Jobs at Home 341

6 Health and Family 365

Beauty and Health 367

Herbal Remedies 374

Illness and Third-World Diseases 397

First Aid 407

Babies and Children on the Homestead 417

Home Education 429

7 Food, Field, and Garden 443

Garden Planning 445

Cultivation 453

Soil Care 457

Growing Environments 468

Basic Plant Care 472

Cultivating Wild Edible Foods 486

Growing and Harvesting Grain 491

Food Preservation 498

Homestead Dictionary 511

Bibliography 547

Index 565

About the Author 585

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