Daniel: I’d like to generate income by running courses – bee-keeping, cabin building, cheese making, general handy-man stuff, etc. Do you think this can work or am I just being hopeful?
Steve: Yes, this definitely can work, but it will work much, much better if you have some refined digital skills. You’ll need them to build a website and make videos promoting what you do. You can also turn your expertise into digital products you can sell online.
When settlers in my area of Manitoulin Island, Canada, got going with farming in the late 1890s and early 1900s, almost all of them separated cream from milk with a hand-crank cream separator, then sold the cream via a truck that would drive from farm to farm to pick it up each week. They called the cream business the “mortgage lifter” because it provide regular income that was much needed. Today, the “mortgage lifter” isn’t cream, but the digital economy. And the cream separator is the laptop computer with an internet connection.
Daniel: I’d also like to erect a smaller cabin where paying guests could come and stay during the year.
Steve: Building a cabin is a great idea, both as accommodation for yourself, and additional cabins as a place where guests can stay. I’ve built cabins over the years too, and had many chances to refine the design of a particular kind of cabin.
You might like to check out the cabin plan and video construction guide I put together at www.cozycabinplans.com It’s the next best thing to having me guide you as you build your own cabin.
Daniel: I feel that my ideas are very similar to your 23-year-old self that camped on your land when you first started. I just want to learn and get advice from someone who has done it before me. Do you have any tips of advice or lessons that you wish you had known back then that you know now?
Steve: Yes, I agree. We’re on the same wavelength. As for advice, over the years I’ve noticed several things that I think you’ll find useful, both from my own experience and the experience of other homesteaders who’ve succeeded and failed. Here are a few big ones:
- Money is more important to homesteading success that most novice homesteaders realize. Homesteading is not about a life that needs no money, but about a life lived by your own hands in a beautiful rural location, with the freedom to choose the work you do.
- The opportunity to have a digital source of income (or digital promotion of a physical business) is the best thing that has even happened for people like us who want to live a free life in a rural setting. You write very well (Readers: I haven’t edited any of Daniel’s writing, so you can see what I mean) and this is a great start. Become proficient with a laptop, a DSLR camera, video editing software and WordPress, and you can monetize any of your skills online.
- Lack of productivity is the biggest single reason why I see homesteaders fail. They’ll usually camouflage their failure in the form of homesteading “not being for them” or “changing priorities” or “it just didn’t work out”, but the reality is usually that they simply didn’t get enough done each week, or that they didn’t really like a physically active and demanding life as much as they thought they would.
So, what should you do next? Here are my recommendations:
- Save enough money to buy your land outright, without debt. This is going to take time and patience, but it’s an important start.
- Building your digital skills and start earning money now that’s independent of your day job. Grow this business to the point where you can see it working well enough to support you on the land.
- Choose a piece of land that’s large enough and fertile enough to provide trees for building and fuel, and good soil for growing crops. You’ll also need water, ideally a good well and, perhaps, lake or river frontage for irrigation. I’d aim for at least 10 acres of good land. Our land is 90 acres.
Got any questions of your own about modern homestead living? Send them to me at [email protected]