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Backyard Homesteading in the Age of Social Distancing

Published May 14, 2020

Homes for Backyard Homesteading – Today and in the Future

 

Social distancing may be the new normal for a while.

Its hard to say just how long these new Coronavirus requirements will last, but they seem to have made a lasting impact to some degree on nearly every aspect of our daily life.

With social distancing in mind, many homeowners have started to look toward the future with ideas about becoming more self-reliant for their daily needs in order to look out for themselves and save a bit of money as well.

One of the best ways to improve self-sufficiency for your household is through backyard homesteading, a term that has become popular in the last decade or so.

Garden featuring tomato plants in a greenhouse at the back of a home

Growing your own produce is a key aspect of backyard homesteading, and a greenhouse is a great way to help ensure that you’ll have the means to do just that, not matter how much or how little property you have (photo credit: www.zanda. photography on Unsplash).

 

What is Backyard Homesteading?

Backyard homesteaders – or urban homesteaders or hobby farmers – are those who want to be as self-sufficient as possible given their living circumstances, whether that’s on a quarter-acre suburban lot or a more rural spot of one, two, or more acres. That means producing

   •  As much of the food the family eats as possible, including produce and animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat.

•  Many of the goods the family uses.

•  As much of the energy the family uses as possible.

Homesteading also entails reducing, reusing, and recycling to conserve as many resources as possible.

 

Some practices of backyard homesteading include

•  Using alternative energy sources, especially solar

•  Gardening and growing fruit trees

•  Composting

•  Preserving produce, including canning, cheese making, etc.

•  Sewing, knitting, and other home crafts

•  Raising chickens, goats, rabbits, bees, and other animals

•  Using rainwater and re-using gray water

Solar panels on part of the roof of a home

Even a small 6-panel array like this solar installation on the roof of a first-floor bump out on a 2-story home can offset the cost of energy for a homestead looking to be as self-reliant as possible (photo by Brian Toolan, TPC).

 

While homesteaders are often thought of as those who are – or want to be – completely off the grid” folks, that is generating their own electricity, water, etc., in completely remote locations, it’s possible to incorporate the basic principles of the lifestyle into only an acre or so, or even a more urban backyard, and not go to extremes.

You can take self-reliance as far as you want to, but you should pay attention to what you need in a home if the lifestyle – in whole or in part – appeals to you.

 

Backyard Homestead-Friendly House Features 

Whether you are looking for a project to complete in quarantine or simply need ideas for things to include in your home to be more sustainable in the future, here are a few of the most common elements that you should look out for:

 

Large Kitchen

The reason that your kitchen needs to be one of the largest elements of your new urban homestead is because you need plenty of space for food preparation, namely canning.

Canning is nearly synonymous with homesteading. While the process takes a bit of time and requires a lot of room, its benefits to the goal of sustainability are endless.

To be a good homestead kitchen, counter space should be your first priority. This is because you need plenty of room to spread out so you can cut up and prepare your foods for canning, as well as a spot for the main canning supplies, like a brew kettle, pressure canner, and food mill. If you’re remodeling your existing kitchen to fit the homestead lifestyle, storage and space should be at the top of your list.

large kitchen with lots of counter space and storage

A kitchen like this is great for homesteading: plenty of counter space for food prep, canning, and putting up preserves and the like as well as lots of storage space. This kitchen also has a massive walk-in pantry around the corner to the left of the wall with the copper vent hood (Plan #202-1016).

 

Walk-in Pantry

Backyard homesteading is all about being prepared.

 In the age of social distancing, having the space to store your food preserves is essential.

 These preserves are one of the main perks of homesteading, too. Not only do you have plenty of food for the coming months, but you dont have to fight the general public for it at the local grocery stores.

 Your homesteading stockpile is the opposite of hoarding because as you continue to prepare for your future, you are doing so without taking supplies away from your community.

Main level layout of plan #198-1134 showing walk-in kitchen pantry

A large walk-in kitchen pantry like this (oval) is essential for storing canned goods and preserved food that you prepare from your harvests. Having floor-to-ceiling shelves around the perimeter of the room makes for ample storage and easy retrieval (Plan #198-1134).

 

Sunroom / Greenhouse

Growing your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables is a big part of backyard homesteading. If you have the land, and the weather permits, then its always nice to cultivate a bit of a backyard garden.

However, if you are short on space or live in a colder climate, then your next best option is to invest in a sunroom or greenhouse. Both of these buildings would be made of glass panels. They can also be adjusted for climate control if needed.

 

Large Garage

Backyard homesteading is all about space! The more space, the better. However, the more urban your area, the harder it can be to find the space that you need.

A large garage (or other storage space) is important in homesteading because you ideally would have room for a workshop to build and repair household necessities, as well as store seasonal items.

If you're building or purchasing a place with homesteading in mind, this is something to look out for. If you would simply like to get started, however, consider cleaning out your garage to convert into a workshop or storage space and parking in the driveway.

 

Mud Room

Homesteaders tend to spend a lot of their time outdoors. Because of this, it's a great idea to have a transition room between inside and outside.

A mud room is the perfect solution. It usually has a nice bench and a few hooks to store outdoor gear and maybe even a deep industrial sink to rinse things off as needed.

Mud room with bench, cubbies, hooks, and a large storage drawer

This mudroom is a great transition space, with cubbies and a long bench. It connects to the laundry room just beyond the sliding barn door, where there’s access to a sink for rinsing off mud and the like (Plan #161-1127).

 

Outdoor Space

If you live in a more urban area, the local homeowner’s association (HOA) might place restrictions on the kinds of things you are allowed to do in your backyard, regardless of your preferences – even if you live on a few acres. For example, you might not be allowed to construct a storage shed in certain parts of your property (if it is visible to the road, too close to the property line, etc.) or keep sustainable pets, like goats or chickens, on the property.

Because of this, it’s always a good idea to check local HOA regulations for any required permits or exclusions. One thing that is normally always safe, however, is a garden.And in the age of social distancing, having your own produce readily available in your backyard can significantly reduce the number of trips to the grocery (and the amount of time inside), thus reducing the chance of infection. It’s cheaper, too.

 

Strategic Window Placement

Homesteading is often about going off the grid.” Even if you live in a rural area with an acre or two, however, it’s likely that you will still have electricity from the grid” running through your home. But its presence doesn’t mean you have to use it. In fact, many homesteaders prefer to wean themselves off of public electricity for two reasons:

  • The first is to reduce costs, as we all know those bills can really add up.
  • The second is to prepare for a time when the flow of energy might become unavailable. If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.

A great first step to turn any home into a homestead is to increase its reliance on natural light. You can do this by focusing on south-facing and east-facing windows in the important-during-the-day” rooms of the home, like the kitchen, office, and the like. This way, you will have the most natural light when you need it.

 

Solar Panels

Solar panels are a must for any homestead doing its best to go off the grid – or at least to be self-reliant. Just as you might grow your own vegetables or raise your own chickens, you can also make your own electricity.

It’s a good idea to place solar panels on your roof, especially if you have limited yard space and need it for other homesteading projects like a garden or chicken coop; however, panels can also be mounted on the ground.

Colonial style home with an array of solar panels on the roof

Photovoltaic solar panels on a roof are a great way to generate your own electricity and be at least somewhat self-sufficient. In most systems you stay connected to the grid, which supplies electricity at night “buys back” excess energy on sunny days. But if you have a bank of storage batteries, you might be able to go off-grid completely (photo credit: Solar Panels on a House Roof by Gray Watson under license CC BY-SA 3.0).

 

Great House Plans for Backyard Homesteading

Of course, you can pursue a homesteading lifestyle in just about any home. But the types of homes that do best for backyard homesteading – which are likely to contain a few or more of the features mentioned above – would be one of the following:

•  Barn Style

•  Rustic

•  Cabin

•  Farmhouse

Here are our favorites:

 

Stylish Farmhouse Homestead

White contemporary Farmhouse style home with wrap-around front porch

This Contemporary Farmhouse home has plenty of extra storage space in the 3-car garage (perhaps for staging the canning process or as a workshop). The kitchen is large enough for plenty of food prep space with a good-size corner walk-in pantry. The back roof’s size makes it ideal for solar panels.

As a bonus, enjoy the outdoors with the sizable wrap-around porch and with a grilling porch off the kitchen and dining room for alfresco meals of your prepared foods.

 

Classic Country Farmhouse

Charming country style Farmhouse with yellow siding and large dormers

 

With a study that could be a craft room or flex space instead for a homesteading family, this home also has plenty of windows for natural light.

The classic Farmhouse has nine-foot-tall ceilings for a feeling of roominess and an open plan kitchen with an eight-foot-long island and a spacious walk-in pantry with three walls of shelving. With two bedrooms, including the master suite, downstairs and two upstairs, the house have plenty of room for a growing family, especially considering added bonus and attic space alongside the upstairs bedrooms.

 

One-Story Rustic Grange

Beautiful contemporary Ranch style home with steep roof and timber accents

Right from the roomy L-shape front porch with rustic timber valued ceiling, this impressive Ranch style home lets you know it’s something special.

The four-bedroom home has many desirable features for a homestead, starting with a large kitchen with an oversize walk-pantry area that has a nine-foot-tall ceiling. Add to that a generous mudroom with lockers for changing from outside to inside gear, a huge laundry room with sink and counters, front and rear porches, an outdoor kitchen, and an oversize two-car garage with extra closed-off storage, and you’ve got the makings of a modest self-sufficient estate.

 

Charming Farmhouse with Breezeway Garage

Farmhouse style home with breezeway-connected garage

This contemporary Farmhouse style home has a great interior layout  – with its two-story Great Room, nice kitchen with large walk-in pantry, mud area with closet off the breezeway, and stacked bedrooms at the back of the house – as well as a huge wrap-around porch and roof that works for solar panels. The upstairs loft provides a great alternative for ”getaway” relaxation during the day or for overflow guest space.

 

Country Cape with High Ceilings

Ranch style home with decorative dormers for a Cape Cod appearance

With a timeless style that is very appealing, this Country Ranch home with Cape Cod appearance has a simple outline that is cost effective to build. The large kitchen has lots of food-prep space, cabinetry, and storage, including a wide reach-in pantry, and a wonderful catty-corner sink that has a window on each side. The garage is roomy with plenty of space for two cars plus a workbench and storage. The standard basement has a suggested three-bedroom layout with an abundance of regular storage in addition to a generous bank of cold storage under the wraparound front porch – perfect for a homesteading-oriented family. Lastly, the back roof is a perfect place for solar panels.

 

Self-Reliant "Estate"

Large Farmhouse style homestead with oversize garage and huge front and rear porches

Talk about a homestead, this house not only delivers in practice but actually LOOKS like what you might think of as a quintessential homestead. The Country Farmhouse style home has many of the requisite features you’d be looking for:

•  Large, practical L-shape kitchen

•  Huge island eating and extra prep space

•  Massive walk-in pantry with three walls of floor-to-ceiling shelves for storage

•  Mud room with lockers off the garage and with its own porch

•  Super-size two-car garage with extra space for equipment and staging beyond the cars and lots of natural light

•  Huge front and rear covered porches for pursuing outdoor activities even in poor weather

•  An outdoor "summer kitchen" out back

•  Fireplace in the family room with wide extended hearth/bench

In addition, there’s plenty of room to install solar panels if desired.

 

Homesteading Barn

Barn style home features that would appeal to self-reliant homesteaders

Does anything say “homesteading” more than a barn? Not likely, and this home with the look of a classic red barn delivers on more than just looks. The kitchen has a good-size island, is open to the dining area and Great Room so you don’t feel cramped, and has a roomy walk-in corner pantry for storing all of the food you put up and preserve. With four spacious bedrooms and three full bathrooms, the house will easily accommodate a growing family.

The mud room for transitioning from outside to inside (shedding dirty boots, gloves, etc.) is large – almost 12 feet long – and has cubbies and a bench and hooks, and the garage is generously way oversize, so there’s plenty of room for storage, staging, and workshopping. Speaking of storage, there’s a huge attic over the garage and knee-wall storage in each of the upstairs bedrooms if desired.

Lastly, you’ll find an office that could easily be a craft room or flex room for accommodating various homesteading-related activities out of site, a fireplace for heating with your own chopped wood, a side covered porch to enjoy the outdoors even in rainy weather, and plenty of unencumbered roof area for installing solar panels.

So as we live through these “new normal” days and self-sufficiency becomes more of a reality on some level for all of us, looking at the homesteading ethic and thinking of ways our next home or dream home can help us toward a more independent lifestyle – by examining floor plans with a critical eye – may be a good idea!

 

Footnote: The lead image for this article is of a 4-bedroom, 4-bath rustic cabin style home with luxury appointments. For more details, check out Plan #205-1021.

 

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