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Many people embark on a homesteading lifestyle as a personal choice after conducting much research to answer questions such as “How will I take care of my basic needs,” “How will I maintain a successful homestead” and, most importantly, “How will I be able to make the transition to a life of homesteading?”

Making the transition alone is one thing, but making the transition with a family only magnifies the challenges.

With a model like the family of Abe and Josie Connally, owners and operators of VelaCreations, a homesteading how-to blog, the goal of making your family homestead happen can certainly be achieved. Read on for insider tips on how to get started today.

A NOTEBOOK (OR 10)

One thing that is continuous with the Connally family is organization. Nothing can be achieved without some sort of framework for ideas and concepts that are waiting to be implemented. Maintaining a successful homestead cannot be achieved without some method of organization.

Homesteaders Abe and Josie Connally hard at work on their current family homestead, which they began cultivating back in 2007.

Homesteaders Abe and Josie Connally hard at work on their current family homestead, which they began cultivating back in 2007.

One way to maintain this organization is the use of notebooks and seeing ideas on paper. “One of the best organizational tools that you can buy is a notebook (or 10),” the Connallys explain from one of their blog posts on organization. “Make lists of things you need to buy and do, plans, research, cost analyses, comparisons. It really helps to write things down and see them on paper. Plus, there’s the added advantage of being able to look back and see something that you thought you had forgotten about. We have spent almost as much time scribbling things down in our notebooks as we have in actual execution.”

Keeping a notebook or journal is the easiest way to not only maintain organization, but to ensure a successful homestead. Notebooks are easy to carry and offer endless opportunities for ideas to be planned out and executed later on.

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The use of notebooks is certainly not for everyone—not everyone likes to scribble or jot ideas down—and that’s perfectly OK; however, in maintaining a homestead, it is highly suggested to have some sort of organized plan in order to ensure success. Abe Connally emphasizes that organization is key to making a homestead happen.

MOTHER NATURE

The chief needs of humans are, simply put, food and water. With homesteads maintaining a sustainable lifestyle of producing your own food, it may be tricky, at first, if you have little to no experience; however, nothing is ever impossible. The means of producing your own food and collecting water can easily be achieved with some helpful advice from the Connally family.

The family’s favorite source of water is its rain catchment. In short, a rain catchment is a way of collecting rainwater to put to use for other things. “A rain catchment system consists of a collection area or roof, gutter and piping, a storage tank and a delivery system,” according the Connally family. A rain catchment system is one of the easiest ways to gain access to an efficient water source.

As for food, when people think of a homestead, they think of planting and farming. Homesteading is all about subsistence and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle. Producing your own food helps to achieve that. One of the tools that the Connally family uses to produce its own food is a wicking bed. The Connallys explain on their blog that “a wicking bed consists of a basin of gravel with rich soil on top of it. There is a pipe set into the gravel, which bends and rises to the surface for watering. This is how you water your plants. The water settles in the gravel and is wicked up by the soil to the plants’ roots. It is very conservative with water, as it doesn’t lose as much to evaporation as surface watering.” They further explain that a wicking bed is perfect, as it does not take up much space and is very flexible in constructing it.

Gardens and small farms are integral parts of homesteading that allow a homesteader to produce and cultivate his or her own organic food.

Gardens and small farms are integral parts of homesteading that allow a homesteader to produce and cultivate his or her own organic food.

In regards to both water and food, Abe Connally explains that, as a homesteader, you must “get used to living at the whim of mother nature, out in the elements. Get to know and love hardships and appreciate the finer points of life that money can’t buy.” Producing the basic necessities of life is difficult but certainly rewarding in the end.

GREEN POWER

Through the complex web of questions people have before they embark on the journey of homesteading, there is almost always the question of power: How do homesteaders produce their own energy source? The answer is simple and efficient: green power.

Green power can be defined as renewable energy that provides little to no detriments to nature. Some forms of green power that the Connallys use include solar power, wind power, biofuels and hydropower. All of these sources are powered solely by forces of nature and can be used for various needs, such as electrical and heating.

Solar power involves transforming the sun’s rays into a power source via the use of solar panels. While these panels often need to be purchased, they offer an efficient way to collect energy daily.

Wind power involves transforming the force of wind into a power source via the use of wind turbines or generators. These generators can typically be purchased or constructed and are often inexpensive to implement. If a homestead is in a particularly windy part of the country or world, wind power could be the perfect alternative to typical power sources.

Biofuels involve the organic waste of living organisms and using that to produce heat, combustible gas and even a fuel for electricity-producing generators, according to the Connallys.

Finally, hydropower is the most-known form of renewable energy. Hydropower is extremely reliable and can be used to generate many forms of electricity. Water is powerful, and to harness this source of energy is to have a stable form of power.

The Connally family utilizes all four of these green sources of energy. In doing so, they maintain a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of fulfilling their power needs.

 

THE FAMILY

Abe and Josie Connally are a couple who have been together for the past 11 years and have young two children. As two people unafraid of taking on new challenges, they were intrigued by the homesteading lifestyle and took it on in a steadfast way.

They began their journey living in a bus and have evolved to having built two homes for themselves throughout the years. They adore the off-grid life in addition to what nature has to offer. With the unique challenge of raising two children while maintaining a homesteading life, they have accomplished it and continue to be successful in their homesteading endeavors.

For more information on the Connally family, visit their website.

 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2014 print issue of American Survival Guide.