homesteading projects rule of three

One of the greatest things about homesteading is the opportunity it gives to try new things.  These opportunities, however, are also one of the reasons homesteaders become overwhelmed and discouraged.  To prevent burnout and disappointment, while at the same time exponentially increasing the chance of success for your homestead projects, follow the rule of three.  When planning your homestead, require any new project you undertake to provide a minimum of three benefits.

Following the rule of three keeps the homestead both practical and manageable.  It prevents you from falling into the failure trap of comparing yourself with other homesteaders.  Yes, a big red barn would be lovely, but if you don’t need it, it is a waste of time and resources.  Time and resources are finite, but you would be surprised at how they stretch when you don’t throw them away.

The benefits of every project you undertake should align with the values that brought you to homesteading in the first place, and those are different for everyone.  For example, if you are vegan, a mobile butchering business would not be a good fit, regardless of the income potential.  If the project is not a reflection of your values, it may be successful in the short run but you will not be able to maintain that success for long.

All benefits should be applicable to your land and the environment in general.  It wouldn’t make sense for a back-to-the-land homesteader to use their property to burn tires or bury chemicals.  The things you do each day to protect your land and the land around you ensure a long and productive homestead.

At least one benefit of each project should be financial.  If it doesn’t make money, it should help you save money.  If you grow a garden but do not sell any of the produce, you are still enjoying a financial benefit as you do not have to buy what you grow.

The last requirement for the rule of three is that the project does not exceed what you can reasonably handle.  An apartment homesteader will never keep cattle at her homestead.  If keeping cattle is the project she is determined to do, she will need to find a workaround.

Homestead Projects: Benefits, and Workarounds

The dream of growing and selling fresh produce you have grown yourself is where many homesteads begin.  A garden easily satisfies the rule of three.  Not only have you averted food insecurity, but fresh produce will also improve your health, as will working in a garden.  A garden, when free of chemicals and heavy machinery, improves the land and provides food and habitat for pollinators.  And, of course, a garden provides income.

Sadly, many people believe you must begin on 100 acres, have a state-of-the-art greenhouse and irrigation system, and the newest farm equipment to make this dream a reality when, in fact, starting so big and with so much debt is a fast track to failure.

Garden Workarounds: With planning and a large backyard, you can grow a garden that is productive enough to feed your family and make money.  Make use of every bit of space with techniques such as succession and companion planting, vertical gardening, and year-round gardening.  Planned correctly, a large backyard can even support an orchard of miniature fruit trees.  You’re your own soil and aeration system with a wormery.  Not only does this benefit your garden, but it also disposes of kitchen and yard waste and provides worms for fishing or selling.  Instead of dropping a large amount of cash on a large greenhouse, build a smaller version with the materials you have on hand.  A well-planned garden doesn’t need an irrigation system and, anything you can do with heavy machinery, you can do by hand.  Starting small and working your way up is much better than starting big and working yourself into the ground.

Animals are another common homesteading project.  Animals require constant care and are not for the part-time homesteader, but they are an addition that provides at least three benefits, and often many more.  Goats and sheep provide milk, meat, and fiber.  Not only can you personally use these products, but you can sell them as-is or with higher-value products such as goat cheese, soap, or handmade weavings.  Rabbits, for the smaller homestead, don’t provide milk but they do provide meat and/or fiber.  Rabbit droppings can also be used as a natural fertilizer.

Chickens and ducks offer the same benefits as rabbits, sheep, and goats, on a smaller scale.  Eggs, meat, and feathers can be used on the homestead or sold at the market.  Baby chicks can also be sold.

Animal Workarounds: Animals do need proper shelter, but “proper shelter” does not mean you need to build a structure worthy of Architectural Digest.  Enough space per animal, shelter from the elements and predators, and proper ventilation are the requirements.  Anything above and beyond that is a choice you make based on other factors.

If you do not have the land to support larger animals such as goats or sheep, you can rent a pasture.  If you choose to do this, make sure the financial returns outweigh the extra cost.  For those with little to no land, bees are an excellent husbandry project.  There are even indoor hives that allow even apartment dwellers to keep bees.

These are just two examples, but you can run any idea, large or small, by the rule of three to see if it is a viable option.  Don’t limit this rule to homestead projects.  Using it for every decision can save time, money, and effort in the long run.  Any new item you bring into the house, as well as any commitment you consider undertaking, should benefit you times three.

Remember, a project can have many benefits on paper, but if it is not going to benefit your unique situation, you should pass.  The rule of three is a self-imposed parameter that helps you avoid the hype, save money, and be more productive with less while allowing you to stay true to your values and your original homesteading purpose.

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