25 Must Have Items for Building A Homestead
By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost
When starting a self sufficient homestead, there are many things to consider. It’s not an easy thing to do especially if you are starting from scratch with few resources. The fewer resources you have the more basic your approach will have to be. You may have to start out simple such as building a home from cob, logs or rammed earth. Everything you do may end up being labor intensive but inexpensive which is the way you want it starting out. Your sweat equity will replace a big bank roll. Keeping out of debt and building up slowly will help you get ahead much faster and give you a sense of pride in what you have accomplished. To start out in the most basic way will require certain items to allow you to care for yourself. This is a list for someone starting from scratch. Your location and abilities will dictate the items that will work best for you and some substitutions may be necessary but most of these things will be required at a minimum.
1) Weapon for hunting and self defense – This is a multipurpose item that no one should be without. It can put food on the table and save your life in extreme circumstances. Several types of weapons for different circumstances would be very useful.
2) Land – In order to be self sufficient you must have land to produce the things you need. Depending on the amount and types of items you wish to produce, your acreage may be as small as ½ an acre or as large as several dozen acres with a wood lot.
3) Open pollinated seeds for vegetables and grain – In a truly self sufficient situation, the ability to produce crops year after year is essential. This will also provide you with a product you can sell or trade in the form of food or seeds. The addition of flax and cotton seed will allow you to produce raw materials for clothing as well.
4) Basic gardening tools – Items such as a shovel, hoe, rake, pick and broad fork can allow a person to plant small plots with a minimal amount of tools and expense.
5) Water filter – A good water filter will help keep your family healthy especially if your water source is above ground.
6) Hand operated grain mill – This will allow you to process your own grains into a more edible form. A good mill that can process herbs, grains and nuts will provide you with food staples and possibly even a product to sell.
7) Wood cook stove – This will provide cooking and heating capability and the ability to provide your own fuel from local sources.
8) Oil Lamps – These are the most basic lighting source you can have and the ability to make your own lamp fuel will make you truly independent.
9) Quality knives for butchering – An inexpensive set of knives may work just fine for normal kitchen preparation but for processing homegrown meat you need durable knives that can handle the stress and maintain a sharp edge.
10) Cast iron cookware – This is something that can last you a lifetime and provide you with tasty meals. It can be more cost effective over a long period compared to the lightweight cookware many now buy, especially the kind with non-stick coatings.
11) Pressure cookers for canning and cooking – Pressure cookers are necessary to can some items and also enable you to cook some meals much faster helping you to conserve fuel. It can also make some cuts of meat much more tender such as older chickens.
12) Canning jars – These would allow you to preserve some of the harvest for later use and provide you with a reusable storage medium that can last for decades. A supply of at least 10 cases of quart jars per person is a good average to start with but individual needs may vary from person to person.
13) Reusable canning lids – In a situation where it is difficult to buy replacement lids, reusable lids can provide you with the ability to can fresh foods every year for 30 or more years with a small initial purchase of lids and extra gaskets. These would also make good trading items in a serious long term situation.
14) Ethanol still – This can provide you with alcohol to drink, use as an antiseptic or as a fuel for lamps or internal combustion engines. It provides an excellent product to sell or trade.
15) Charcoal foundry – This is a useful item on a homestead and can be nothing more than a metal 5 gallon bucket with fireclay lining and a crucible that can melt a few pounds of scrap metal. It can provide you with the means to make simple tools and hardware items such as nails and hinges. This can provide you with a good product to sell or trade.
16) Sewing kit – This should include supplies to repair or construct clothing and may include a manual sewing machine and tools to sew canvas and leather. The more supplies you have the better. This can be a useful skill to sell or trade.
17) Wood cutting tools – A good ax, wood cutting saw, wedges and a splitting maul are essential for building a homestead from scratch and for providing fuel for cooking and heating. If you plan to move logs, a good chain and skidder tongs would also be very useful.
18) Basic carpenters tool kit – A good set of carpentry tools will allow you to build just about anything out of wood that you might need. A kit containing a saw, claw hammer, half hatchet, coping saw, wood chisels, tin snips, chalk line, 25’ tape measure, 300’ tape measure, level, manual drill and set of bits, brace and bits, block plane, draw plane, tri-square, miter box and saw, staple gun, utility knife and extra blades, plumb bob and string and a set of wood files will give you good capabilities.
19) Salt – This is an item that many may forget. The human body needs salt to function properly. Many of the canned foods we now buy contain lots of salt but when you process your own foods it is something you will need to add. You will need salt for cooking and preserving meats. How much you need will depend on how much preserving you do but if you are storing salt for future use you can never have too much meaning hundreds of pounds would not be overdoing it.
20) Bee hives – This is an item many may not think about but it offers many advantages to a storage plan. Honey is a good substitute for sugar and you can make it in your own back yard. It can be used for cooking recipes, as a syrup and is a good antibacterial when used on wounds. Bees wax will also provide you with material for candles.
21) Fire starting capability – Fire is something that would be difficult to do without. We use it for cooking, light and heating. Having a supply of butane lighters, matches or flint and steel would give you the ability to create fire when you need it.
22) Medical supplies – On a self sufficient homestead you may be in a location or in a situation where you don’t have access to a doctor or professional help. In the event you have a mishap you will need the ability to care for yourself or a family member. Your medical supplies will reflect your ability and will increase over time with your knowledge but there are some basic items you should start with. Iodine, band aids, roll gauze, gauze pads, tape, trauma pads, blood stopper, antibiotic ointment, ace bandage, burn cream, splint, tourniquet, aspirin, calamine lotion, butterfly closures, cotton balls, oil of cloves, emergency dental kit, EMT shears, thermometer, razor blades, alcohol pads, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Epson salts. Honey, apple cider vinegar and garlic provide healing capabilities for many illnesses and are good to keep around the house also.
23) Aluminum screen wire – This is an item that is difficult if not impossible for a homesteader to make himself. It can be used primarily for screens in the home to allow for airflow while keeping out bugs. It can also be used for sifting and constructing faraday cages.
24) Good reference library – This is something everyone should have regardless of where they live. Knowledge is the first step to doing anything. Books that detail emergency medical procedures, growing plants, veterinary skills, cooking, herbal remedies, construction techniques using locally available materials, making cloth and clothing, butchering and preserving meat and dozens of other titles you may determine useful give you a distinct edge when you are thrown back on your own resources.
25) A good attitude and lots of determination – No matter how well you are prepared, things don’t always go as planned. During a long term situation you will be faced with many obstacles on a daily basis. The only way to prevail is to maintain a positive attitude and never give up. When something doesn’t work don’t get upset and quit, you must be able to take a deep breath and try something else.