Sustainable survival homesteading is possible on less than an acre. While you can’t raise a herd of beef cattle in your backyard, you can still raise your own meat and eggs and grow your own groceries. The space you have to work with of course matters, but how you use that space matters more.
The first thing you have to do is set priorities. Differentiating between wants and needs and creating a list of priorities is a vital part of the homestead planning process, regardless of your budget or number of acres – but it is especially more important when you live on a small plot.
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While your priorities will basically be the same as a prepper living on 50 acres, you will have to scale down your projects and use your space very wisely to accomplish your sustainable survival homesteading goals.
Top 10 Small Homestead Priorities
- Food – garden, livestock, and preservation
- Alternative Energy
- Medical – including growing an apothecary
- Tribe – going it alone is not a realistic long-term survival option
- Maneuvering around legal obstacles
- Storage Space
Where you live matters. Preppers living under stringent homeowners association rules will find it more difficult, but still not impossible, to homestead. The rural county where I live doesn’t have a zoning office or any type of permits required to do anything but put in a septic system or well. If you live in a small town with similar county laws, backyard homesteading will be far easier process from a legal standpoint.
Although living in a “Right to Farm” state offers some benefit and protection of your rights to grow your own food and keep small survival livestock, some restrictions almost always still apply. Before rushing off to Tractor Supply or Rural King to buy chicks and seeds, make sure you review local laws that pertain to anything homesteading related.
Once you know what you can and cannot do legally on your small homestead, it is time to consider how your self-reliance efforts will look to neighbors and road traffic. If you don’t care if your set up effectively shouts, “A Prepper Lives Here”, feel free to skip this section. But if you are a wise prepper, please read on.
If you don’t have a privacy fence and can install one around all but the front of your yard, that should be your first step. A commonplace wood privacy fence should not raise any eyebrows or alert neighbors and strangers that your home is the one they should raid for food when the SHTF.
Stockpiling additional fencing in ready-to-install sections, preferably with barbed wire attached to put across the front of the house during a long-term disaster, is highly recommended.
Creating a secondary water source so you aren’t relying on a public utility can be accomplished on a small amount of land with operational security protocols followed as well. Digging decorative garden ponds in both your front and backyard or on a small parcel of land should give you a decent amount of emergency water.
Rainwater collection barrels creatively disguised as typical lawn decorations should also be attached to your home, garage, and any outbuilding on your property.
LP/OP (Listening Post/Observation Post)
If you live in the suburbs or even in some small towns, you will be limited in the types of outdoor construction and landscaping projects you can do by law – limiting but not eliminating – your ability to create listening and observation posts.
Building a tower that can double as a deer tree stand and an LP/OP will only be an option if you live in a rural area and on enough land that a passerby could reasonably think you are using it for hunting. Otherwise, you will lose your covert prepper status.
If you live in a two-story home, consider adding an upstairs porch or balcony to use as both an observation post and a vertical growing space.
Adding on a half or second story to a garage or storage shed can also open up opportunities to create a disguised, but not hidden, LP/OP. You can build the railings on the observation decks out of typical wood materials, but you should back them with concrete-filled cinder blocks and/or thick metal to help defray at least small caliber bullets and increase protection from the elements.
Use metal roofing on any new addition and when feasible, replace existing roofing with the same material to increase longevity and decrease vulnerability to fire.
An even better option is a hidden earth-berm LP/OP, but only if you have the terrain for it. If such a secluded spot is not an option, put in a root cellar with an entrance as obscure as possible by landscaping, after adding some viewing portals on the walls, roof, and door.
Growing Your Own Groceries And Medicine
Depending upon the amount of land you own, putting in a traditional gardening plot may be possible. But a small plot will not be enough to create a steady flow of produce during a long-term disaster.
It is possible to grow enough food and natural remedy ingredients to feed a family of four on only a quarter acre (or even less) if you use your space wisely. Remember, calling 911 will not be an option during an SHTF scenario, so learn how to grow, identify, and use medicinal herbs, roots, bark, and weeds as part of your backyard apothecary survival plan.
Best Ways To Grow Food In Small Spaces
- Containers – Growing fruits and vegetables on decks, porches, and along the sidewalk as edible landscaping, in conventional hanging planters and baskets, will substantially increase how much food you can produce.
- Barrels – Purchase some food grade plastic barrels (that can be decoratively covered) to grow potatoes, onions, carrots, strawberries, through holes drilled in the sides.
- Water Crop – Grow rice on a small scale in planters nestled in with your decorative garden ponds.
- Vertical Gardening – Buy or build vertical gardening containers and attach them to the house, garage, outbuildings, and privacy fence to cultivate shallow root and flowering crops. You can also grow vertically inside your home near windows with quality light or by purchasing hanging grow lights.
- Raise Beds – Turn your raised beds into edible landscaping areas and build additional growing beds (that can have glass frames placed over them to use for seed cultivation – mini greenhouses) in an open space on your property.
- Enclosed Porch – Enclose a porch and use it as a greenhouse as Rick Austin, the Survivalist Gardener, promotes. You can also grow both native and non-native dwarf fruit trees inside the covert survival greenhouse.
Raising Your Own Groceries
Depending upon laws, you can cultivate a sustainable chicken flock and rabbit colony in a small space. Rabbits are far quieter than chickens (alright, than roosters) so you can likely get by with keeping even large amounts of rabbits without attracting unwanted attention or neighbor complaints.
In many small towns and suburbs where keeping chickens is allowed, there are often limits on how many can be kept, and sometimes having even a single rooster is prohibited. Without a rooster, your flock will eventually die off, taking your meat and egg supply with it. Keep as many chickens as allowed by law and preserve the meat and eggs they provide to grow your shelf-stable stockpile of long-term storage food.
Realistically, a typical suburban or small town backyard could house ten chicken and rabbit hutches with three breeding pairs. Because it takes little space and only manual tools to slaughter and butcher either of these types of small survival livestock, you could learn how to do it yourself and process your own meat without attracting unwanted attention.
To keep chicken and rabbits you must have storage space to stockpile a large amount of feed and straw. Consider putting a storage loft in the garage to avoid taking up any ground real estate. Make sure your fencing will keep the small livestock in so they can free range during the SHTF disaster to reduce reliance on your stockpiled grain.
Pygmy goats and Dwarf goats can also be maintained on only a couple of acres or in a well-situated backyard. The goat can be a used for their meat but are best kept, from a survival standpoint, for the milk. They are about as big as a German shepherd and are a lot quieter than a dog.
The goats can eat the grass in your yard to supplement their grain and hay intake. They are browsers and can even find their own food in the winter on low-quality brushland. The goats WILL get into every growing plot accessible to them. Typically both goat breeds are very docile and can even be worked by young children.
A single pair of breeding goats is all you could logically keep in a backyard. You must have a plan for the kids that will be produced, either to butcher them or barter them – unless you can afford to stockpile a tractor-trailer load of hay and grain…and have space to store it.
You should also invest in a quality home electrical dehydrator, make or buy a solar dehydrator, and stockpile both water bath and pressure canning supplies to ensure you can preserve all the produce, eggs, and meat you are producing.
The power grid cannot be counted upon during a long-term disaster of any type. Invest in solar gadgets camping gear to help power your SHTF existence. If you live on rural small acreage, investigate the feasibility of harnessing hydropower from a flowing creek and small-scale wind turbine use, as well.
You can hide many of your solar preps in plain sight. Solar landscaping lights and solar camping fans attach to your porch and will not look out of place even in an upscale suburban environment.
Fireplaces can provide warmth, but not as efficiently as a woodstove. A cast iron wood stove top surface can be used for cooking and can also be retrofitted with a copper coil system that connects to a hot water tank to warm water. This is helpful if you have a well that is not powered by electricity.
An old-fashioned wood cook stove can look attractive in any kitchen and provide not only additional warmth and a top cook surface, but baking and warming space as well.
A compact wood burning stove and oven combo like this one allows you to cook indoors, a huge plus from an OPSEC point of view to help you maintain smell discipline and prevent the smell of a yummy meal from wafting out onto the street.
Purchase a whole-house generator that is multi-fuel based so it can run on diesel and propane in addition to gasoline to enhance fuel stability and longevity. Consider investing in at least one solar generator because they never run out of fuel and run silently. Remember to stockpile repair and replacement parts for the generators and solar panels and consider storing them in a Faraday cage to protect them from an EMP.
Invest in an inexpensive and portable camping style composting commode or convert your existing toilets into residential composting commode systems to create a sanitary way to dispose of disease-spreading human waste.
Developing some prepping friends in your neighborhood will help keep your family safe. The fewer people you have to defend your survival homestead against, the better. If you do not live in a rural area, the percentage of neighbors who own guns, hunt, fish, and garden, is likely low.
Begin networking with the folks around you to encourage them to garden, show off your cute goats so maybe they will fall in love with them and begin raising their own milk, too. If there is not a neighborhood watch, start one. Connecting with people around you who are also motivated to protect the area could lead to the development of a civil defense emergency plan.
Finding space to store livestock feed, gardening supplies, and all of your preps can be tough in a municipal setting or even on small acreage. Putting in a basement under both the house and garage, building loft storage in garages and sheds, and using floor-to-ceiling wall cabinets will help you take advantage of every possible inch of usable space on your small scale survival homestead.
Homesteading in a small space has its challenges, but the rewards make all the work worth the effort. Getting started can feel overwhelming, but take the time to develop a solid plan that works within your budget and set short-term goals that are feasible to accomplish – starting with water and food security.
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