What are you lacking to really get your homestead going; time, money, land, stuff? In this article and podcast episode, I will discuss how to find free and cheap resources to build your homestead.
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So what resources are you lacking for your homestead?
Is it time? If you had more money could you buy back your time? What I mean by that is that if your lacking time because you are trading your time for dollars would having money allow you to take some of your time back?
If you were able to get your hands on free and cheap resources for your homestead would that allow you to keep more of your money which in turn could allow you to buy back your time?
You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? It’s all linked together. So by taking advantage of the free and cheap resources out there to build or advance your homestead you could potentially work toward solving all of your resource lacking problems.
So what are some of these potentially free or cheap resources?
1. Soil Amendments
Purchasing soil amendments could cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years. The good news is if you know what to look for this can be one of the easiest and most available free or cheap resources to get your hands on.
Finding manure, depending on where you live is very easy to get your hands on, usually free. Horse ranches are a common source of this valuable resource, they usually have mounds of it that they are trying t get rid of. Horse manure isn’t the only kind you can look for however, cow, sheep, chicken, and rabbit manure can also be found in abundance in many places and can be good for soil building.
Many counties have free or cheap compost via yard waste centers where folks bring their leaves, grass clippings, and other organic waste material where it gets put in huge piles, stirred up, and turned into rich compost. These centers usually give the compost away to anyone who wants to come to load it themselves.
Leaves and grass clippings
Especially in the Fall getting your hands on bags of free leaves can be extremely easy. Leaves can make a great garden cover mulch for the winter and can be used as leaf mold as it decomposes and also be turned into finished compost over time. Grass clippings also make great organic material for composting but can also be used as animal fodder for your livestock, just make sure you know who you’re getting it from and that it hasn’t been sprayed with anything.
These make a great mulch for your garden and around trees and shrubs and can be expensive if you are purchasing them by the bag. This is also possibly available for free or cheap from county highway departments and tree trimming companies. County Highway Departments usually require you to come and get it yourself but many tree trimming companies will even drop it off at your homestead if they are working in your area.
If you are gardening using raised beds especially you will discover you need to get your hands on a lot of soil to fill them up and this can get really expensive really quick. Many County Highway Departments also have topsoil available for pickup but another source is excavating companies. Many times when they remove soil from a job site and they will bring it back to their property and pile it up. If soil isn’t available for free from these places in your area just remember that buying it by the cubic yard in bulk is much cheaper than by the bag usually and it’s also usually a more trustworthy source of good soil.
2. Building Materials
Most homesteaders find they become builders of many things on their property. Whether it be a potting bench, raised garden beds, or a chicken coop, most will do these projects themselves or get a family member or friend to help. Doing this work yourself can save you a lot of many but you can save even more by being creative when it comes to getting your hands on some building materials.
These are usually available free or very cheap in many places and depending on what you are building can be a great source of material. Check out the raised beds I build using free pallets.
Three things to remember when using pallets for projects.
- as you are collecting them they will take up a lot of space and can be quite an eyesore on your property.
- Breaking them down into usable lumber can be a lot of work especially if you don’t have the proper tools for the job.
- Some pallets are treated with dangerous chemicals and used to transport toxic products so know where they come from and check the codes on the pallets to find out their treated condition.
Though usually not free unless you can help someone dismantle something in trade for the lumber, used lumber can be purchased at a huge discount. All of the ranch-style fencing around my property was built using used 2×4’s and 2×6’s I purchased from an individual, I saved hundreds of dollars by using this resource I found on Craigslist (which I will talk about later).
Blocks, Bricks, and Rocks
These can be another great resource for your homestead for building raised beds, retaining walls, and walkways and can sometimes be found for free or cheap. Sometimes someone will have something torn down like a chimney and have a pile of bricks or block they need to get rid of and you can be there to help. Many times farmers will clear a field for planting and have a huge pile of field rocks they need to get rid of and once again you can come to the rescue. Even if you can’t get them for free these can often be purchased cheaply from some of the resources I will talk about at the end of the lesson.
Making use of what most people throw away can be a huge money saver and provide you with many resources around your homestead. As a warning I do want to tell you to be aware of what you use for certain things as some products contain toxins or harmful heavy metals that you may not want on your property at all or only being used in certain places, So do your homework when repurposing items on your homestead. One of the great things about this day and age is that finding information has never been easier so in these cases google is your friend for research.
You’ve probably heard the saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, that’s because the one who counts it as treasure can find a way to use it. I have a friend who works as a janitor and all year he saves the empty toilet paper tubes he gets at work and in the spring he uses them to plant seedlings in. Cutting the bottoms out of milk jugs and other plastic bottles to use them as mini-greenhouses for individual small plants is another common practice. The list can go on forever but you can probably imagine the possibilities of using items most people throw away for a special purpose on your homestead.
4. Used Items
I couldn’t possibly mention all the possible things you could get your hands on that could be repurposed and used for something on your homestead but some of the more common things are barrels which can be used for water collection or feed storage or perhaps an aquaponics system, who knows. Old windows that can be used to build cold frames or whole greenhouses. Five-gallon buckets are also a great resource around the homestead that can be used for a great many things. However, nearly anything can be used and repurposed for something if you’re creative enough.
Yes, even some animals can be attained either free or very cheap. Many people will purchase an animal like a rabbit, chicken, or duck on an impulse buy especially around Easter for a child and they don’t realize the work they take or that they don’t have the proper infrastructure for the animal. Although it’s sad that people do this it can be to your benefit. By using some of the resources I will go over at the end of the lesson you can often find livestock in this way.
Just as a warning, many of the people you get these animals from will not want you using them for livestock but for pets only so the ethical thing to do is not deceive someone with these conditions, just don’t take the animal. Also, beware of getting sick animals and bringing them onto your homestead where they can infect other livestock. Have an area where you can quarantine new livestock for a while because you can’t always tell if they have an issue right away.
6. Free Cash (Sort Of)
No Resource will have a bigger impact on your homestead than just cold hard cash. There are two ways to put cash in your hand, you can make more of it or keep it in your hand by spending less of it.
Selling Things You Don’t Use or Need
When I was growing up, every year my family would have a huge rummage sale to get rid of the things we didn’t use anymore and put a little money back in our pockets. These days there are many places you can sell your unwanted items online for free so it’s a good way to get your hands on some extra cash to use on your homestead.
Making From Scratch
Making things from scratch is not only a healthier practice but can be a huge money saver as well. Many of the things you purchase from the store such as prepackaged food items and household cleaners can be made yourself for just pennies on the dollar.
Sell What Your Producing
Even if on a small scale selling some of the things your homestead is producing can go along way to providing some money for your homestead. Selling eggs or setting up a vegetable stand are some simple things you can do but your only limited by your own creativity and the limitations of the demand of your local market, in other words, someone has to want what your producing.
It’s not as common as a practice as it used to be but it’s a skill I think homesteaders should develop as it can do a lot to provide for your homestead especially if you don’t have a lot of cash.
Doing work for others for barter is a great way to acquire resources for your homestead. Many times this can pay better than working for cash, just do the math, what is the value of what your bartering for, and how much would you charge for the labor your doing.
Barter What Your Producing
I recently traded some live rabbit breeding stock for half a freezer full of pastured pork products. You can trade eggs or produce for things you need also. Maybe you can bake bread better than everyone else or have an abundance of apples on your homestead, someone probably wants what you have that has something of value you could use that you could trade for.
Where To Find Free and Cheap Items
It used to be that newspaper classifieds were a great place to find items but now the best use of the newspaper is to locate rummage sales and auctions and as organic material for your compost bin. All of the resources listed below are great places to both find and buy items but also places to sell items.
These are just a few ideas for finding cheap and free resources for your homestead to help you develop the life you want to live as quickly as possible. Homesteading doesn’t have to be expensive when you’re starting up if you make wise decisions and make the best use of the resources available to you.