There’s a sincere beauty in the variability of every individual homestead. Each one is located in a unique area, and that comes with its own environmental elements and challenges as well. While I don’t have to worry about the threat of a black bear ripping down fences, or a crippling October snowstorm blowing in off the Atlantic coast, this is very much the reality for some, and their needs of what might be considered essential are going to vary compared to mine.
So, with that being said, keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive, and certainly not the end-all when it comes to this sort of thing. With each situation, there will be specific problems that have specific solutions, so if nothing else, take this list and make it your own!
I know, this one seems obvious, but what I think is important to realize is the various uses a homesteader can get out of having a couple rolls of fencing around.
In a single year I might use various lengths of fencing to create makeshift trellises, drying and curing racks for things like onions, squash, and garlic, as well as individual covers for my raised beds to keep the cottontails from chewing up my seedlings.
I’ll go so far as to lump chicken wire and even hardware cloth into this category, as in many ways they’ll all serve similar purposes if I have some on hand.
For me, this is some of the finest hoarding I can do while simultaneously spending a bit of dough at the local nursery. Four-inch pots are extremely handy when starting any kind of vegetable where the seeds might be otherwise dug up by rodents or birds—think sunflowers, peas, and especially pumpkin seeds.
I make a point that if I’m going to buy anything, it’ll be coming in a 4-inch pot because that’s enough room that the seedling can start well, and it also has enough depth to help promote a bit of root growth. You really can’t go wrong.
Gardeners’ Tip: If you’re using these pots, once the seedling has emerged and has at least one true leaf, try only water them from the bottom of the pot. This will make your seedling send its roots to the bottom of the pot searching for water and will help it reach for all the good stuff in the soil once it’s been planted.
“Mike, why on earth would a homesteader need a dehydrator when they can just use their oven?”
That’s a great question, and my answer would be because most people need their oven free to use for things like cooking meals. But also because a dehydrator gives you a real edge to keep up with things that we tend to grow too much of in the first place, like cherry tomatoes. I also use my dehydrator year-round to turn things like canned pineapple, bananas, and strawberries into compact snacks while I’m out on trips.
All those cherry tomatoes that we never know what to do with? Cut them in half, dehydrate them, and put them in a clean mason jar until the next time you make chili, pasta, or stew. A friend of mine calls them “flavor bombs.”
This might come as a surprise to some, and not to others, but hear me out. When I have to quickly dispatch a fatally injured bird, scare off coyotes or foxes, or thin out the local cottontail population when it decides to have multiple litters of young around our homestead, my last but often best resort, is the .22 long rifle.
This won’t be an option for some folks whose by-laws don’t include the use of rimfire rifles within county limits, but if you’re able to, an accurate .22 is, in my opinion, worth its weight in gold when it comes to keeping my flock safe. Click here to check out the MeatEater crew's favorite .22 rifles.
If the beginning of the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that when the unforeseen strikes, people panic buy. In April of 2020, it was all but impossible in my neck of the woods to find any store that had a well-stocked supply of seeds, and I found myself wishing I had the wherewithal to have stocked up like a smart person the year before.
This is a mistake I haven’t made since—so much that learning to properly save seeds from vegetables I’ve raised has become a priority. While it doesn’t seem like there’s much to worry about when it comes to supply chain issues, we can never truly guarantee that something might come up, and folks won’t panic buy again.
Lumber has many practical functions that we often forget about. Whether that ends up being a length of 2x4 used to support melons off the ground or a few pieces of plywood that end up becoming a raised bed, it pays to hold on to those spare cuts that can accumulate after a project is complete. You never know when you might end up needing them.
This wouldn’t have made it on the list if it wasn’t for my good friend, Courtney Peters. She made the argument for the many, and I mean many, uses for the good ol’ five-gallon bucket.
This includes using them for hauling scraps to the compost bin, feeding animals around the homestead, covering plants from frost in the spring, drilling holes in the bottoms and using them to grow tomatoes in, harvesting vegetables, and more. I think this might be the one item that has an endless list of uses, so it pays to have a few kicking around. Or thirty.
Having a few rain barrels around can be a massive asset to a homestead that is prone to experiencing drought-like conditions and can save a lot of hard work and heartbreak from occurring if your main water system falters.
How many you decide to run is entirely up to you, but in this writer’s opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I wouldn’t go with anything less than four around our place. This year, for example, we had seven weeks straight with almost no significant rainfall at all during the summer. Without those barrels, everything in my gardens would have been as good as toast.
Gardeners’ Tip: Commercial rain barrels can get downright expensive, so making your own will save you a good chunk of money. There are a ton of tutorials online about how to do this properly, and it’s worth your time to check a couple of them out.** **
I can’t speak for everyone, but the one thing I can count on during the winter is a series of bad storms knocking down trees and branches, which will lead me to number ten, but we’re not there yet.
A chainsaw is going to allow you to sufficiently take care of damn near any problem that might arise, should trees or branches come crashing down. If you’ve got a long driveway, a good-quality chainsaw might be the only thing to help you clear the driveway and let you get into town again.
Also, I’m of the opinion that it’s handy to have in case neighbors need some help, too. A chainsaw in the right hands is not only a helpful piece of equipment, but in certain situations can become a bartering tool as well.
That freezer full of food that you meticulously grew in the garden, and all those meat birds you took care of until they were ready to be processed need protection. Consider a reliable generator an insurance policy on all that frozen meat, blanched veggies, and whatever else you’ve got in there.
Though it might be last on the list, it certainly is far from least. I can think of a handful of occasions when our generator saved our homestead from flooding, food spoilage, and things like that.
For folks who are prone to far more severe weather than I’ll experience on a year-to-year basis, you probably already know that one of these machines is worth its weight in gold.