If you love country living, you probably enjoy reading websites and magazines that regularly feed your interest and give you new ideas of things to try out. After all, there are always new skills to be learned, and you never know what will become your next favorite project, hobby, or venture!
While your homesteading bucket list can (and should) be unique, you may find that the following suggestions spark an interest that you didn’t even know you had. You’ll also find helpful resources for jumping into many of the projects. The projects are roughly organized with the idea that the skills will complement and build upon one another.
We will feature 25 projects this week and 25 more next week for an even 50.
1. Start a Country Living Library
The perfect starting point! Reading broadly is the key to knowledgeable country living, and therefore the key to success. Want to get the most bang for your book-buying buck? Start with a few classics with philosophies that appeal to you—those that provide inspiration and a broad feel of what you are aiming for in your country living adventure, whether that is a slower lifestyle, a farm that pays the bills, or just a source of healthier food. Also pick up a few beginner-friendly how-to books on projects that you intend to pursue in the near future, such as gardening, cooking, or chicken-keeping.
Top 10 Books for Beginning Farmers
This list includes titles on gardening, field crops, livestock, food preservation, starting a farm business, and more.
The Homestead Bookshelf
Our steadily growing selection of the best books on country living out there!
2. Learn About Five Alternative Agriculture Concepts, Practices, or Systems
Once you have a library, you’ll be ready to explore the many options available for those looking to farm a little differently. You will likely want to mix and match to adapt to your unique circumstances. However, each of the different systems has much to offer. Topics you might research include:
- Community-supported agriculture.
- Food forests.
- Holistic resource management.
- Integrated pest management.
- Keyline design.
- Management-intensive grazing.
- Organic farming.
- Urban agriculture.
3. Create a Budget
Living within your means is a huge part of country living. Take some time to plan how you will pay off any and all debt, and then start saving!
4. Start a Vegetable Garden
No matter how little land you have, you almost certainly have enough room for a vegetable garden, even if it consists solely of a few pots on a porch. This is probably the most rewarding country living project you can tackle.
How to Plan a Garden
A step-by-step guide to mapping out a successful first garden.
5. Plant an Herb Garden
And while you are working on your vegetable garden, be sure to make room for a few herbs! Your herb garden does not have to be a separate feature of your property. Many herbs can protect your vegetables from insect pests if grown as companion plants.
6. Plant an Apple Tree
A dwarf apple tree is fairly easy to care for compared to other fruits, and it will reward you for years to come.
Planning Your Fruit Garden
Just the basics from K-State.
7. Build a Small Shed, Coop, or Other Shelter for Livestock
Livestock require shelter, and many country handymen enjoy building their own. What you build will obviously depend on what you intend to raise. Just keep in mind that simple is often best.
Free LSU Building Plans
These structures tend to be larger and more involved, but there is still plenty of useful material here.
8. Start a Flock of Laying Hens
What homestead would be complete without laying hens? This rewarding project is truly a must—homegrown eggs are infinitely superior to commercial in appearance and peace of mind, not to mention nutritional value.
Choosing a Breed of Chicken
Tried-and-true tips for selecting breeds that will meet your needs.
How to Welcome Your Mail-Order Chicks
A step-by-step procedure for getting your baby chicks off to a good start.
9. Build a Birdhouse
A backyard full of birds is a place of beauty. Furthermore, these delightful creatures will do their part in keeping insect pests under control. Have a little extra time on your hands? Make a few more birdhouses than you need and give them away as Christmas gifts to those nature lovers on your list!
Complete Book of Birdhouse Construction
Very concise illustrated guide with detailed plans for homes for house finches, great crested flycatchers, purple martins, phoebes, downy woodpeckers, wood ducks, and bluebirds, as well as specifications for many more. Read our full review.
10. Use Native Plants for Landscaping
Native plants have a tremendous advantage when it comes to landscaping—they are exceptionally well adapted to your area! When setting about beautifying your place in the country, consider some of the hardy plants that are native to your soil and climate.
11. Make Compost
Composting is not as difficult or mysterious as many books would lead you to believe. While there are many advantages to a precisely controlled hot compost pile, cold composting is a forgiving method that can have you looking like a pro in no time!
12. Raise Earthworms
Earthworms are a gardener’s best friend! If you just want to introduce the children to these fun and fascinating animals, keep it simple and house some worms from your backyard in a clear jar with some garden soil and kitchen scraps for a while. Serious about raising earthworms? Try vermicomposting!
13. Identify the Plants in Your Pasture
What’s the best pasture grass to start with? Often it’s whatever is already occupying the place! Learn what plants, useful and toxic, are on your land, and use that information to find out how to manage your native pastures to advantage.
Grasses of Kansas
Our own guide to Kansas grasses, their characteristics, life cycles, ecology, uses, and hazards.
Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses
A very useful website with concise information and photos galore!
14. Press Flowers
While you’re in the pasture, collect some plants to press and store in a nature journal. Not only is this a fun craft, it will help you master plant identification over time.
15. Dry Herbs
Many gardeners believe that the flavor of homegrown herbs dried in small batches and stored for short periods of time is far superior to that of dried herbs that have sat on the grocery store shelf for a while. Fortunately, the skill of drying herbs is not a difficult one to acquire, and these days there are many methods, ranging from hanging up bundles of herbs in an airy place to using sophisticated solar dehydrators.
16. Save Heirloom Seeds
The practice of saving seeds to plant and to share is a time-honored one. Some old vegetable varieties are only around today because one dedicated gardener thought they were worth preserving. Make sure your favorite heirloom plants are still around for future generations by saving the seeds!
Our guide to growing vegetables includes step-by-step instructions for saving seeds.
Basic Principles of Breeding Heirloom Vegetables
Information on ensuring a healthy gene pool when saving heirloom plants, for the truly dedicated seed-saver.
17. Start an Indoor Container Garden
Even if you have space for a large outdoor garden, there are still advantages to growing a few plants in pots indoors. Herbs are often more convenient when placed within arm’s reach of the cook. Indoor container gardening can be a simple way to extend the growing season. Also, container gardening makes growing some plants, such as citrus trees, possible regardless of your climate.
18. Make Your Own Mulch
There are many types of mulch that can easily be made at home. Shredding discarded newspapers and collecting lawn clippings are two options within reach of nearly every homesteader. With the right equipment, you may also be able to cut your own straw or chip your own wood mulch.
A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden Mulches
Learn about the pros, cons, and best applications of over a dozen mulches, some of which are easy to make yourself.
19. Build a Cold Frame
There’s a reason homesteaders love cold frames—they are easy to build and highly effective at extending the growing season. Don’t neglect this valuable addition to your country lifestyle!
20. Put Up a Bird Feeder
Bring some cheer to your place during those cold winter months (and enjoy the satisfaction of doing a good deed while you’re at it!). Bird feeders can be surprisingly easy to make.
The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible
This fun and friendly book includes numerous do-it-yourself bird feeder projects, and it will even tell you what your favorite birds prefer to eat! Read our full review.
21. Cut and Use Firewood from Your Own Property
Many find cutting firewood to be a very satisfying way to heat their own homes. Keep in mind that not all firewoods are created equal. Hardwoods are much more efficient than softwoods, and seasoned wood is highly recommended for a nice, clean burn.
22. Mend a Garment
Clothing mishaps are inevitable on a small farm, so it’s best to be prepared. Learning these simple skills can extend the life of your clothes considerably:
- Sewing on a button.
- Stitching a tear in fabric.
- Patching blue jeans.
- Darning socks.
23. Make a Piece of Furniture
Here’s a winter project that can quickly make you very popular with your relatives! Furthermore, making your own furniture can provide you with the satisfaction of owning one-of-a-kind pieces that fit perfectly into your home.
24. Learn to Tie Basic Knots
Knot-tying is a very useful skill for those who spend time working outdoors. Even if gardening is your only country living project, you would be amazed at how useful a good knot can be.
25. Prune Cane Fruits
To maximize the health and productivity of your cane fruits, such as blackberries and raspberries, regular pruning is recommended. Fortunately, it is also quite an easy skill to learn.
How to Prune Blackberries
Step-by-step instructions for both winter and post-harvest pruning.