21 Homesteading Resources (PDFs, Books, and More) (2024)

The very best thing about living in our era is that the sum total of the world’s knowledge is at our fingertips, very literally! With an internet connection, you can soon have all the info you need to take a real master class on any subject.

21 Homesteading Resources (PDFs, Books, and More) (1)

And while it is true that nothing beats actual lived experience and guided instruction, for go-getters having a detailed plan and answers to any puzzling questions at the ready can make all the difference. This certainly applies to homesteading.

You don’t need to have grown up in the country to make a go of it, and you don’t have to blunder your way through with the expert guidance and info contained in the following homesteading resources.

Crops and Gardens

1. Master Gardener Program Handbook, University of Idaho

If you don’t know a thing about growing any kind of plants, and especially fruits and vegetables, this is where you should start.

This huge book, developed and put out by the University of Idaho, covers absolutely everything you need to know to start growing your own food.

Growing zones, techniques, best practices, tips and tricks and adaptations for every sort of fruit and veggie you can imagine are all contained within.

It’s a lot to take in, but what you learn in this download will take you far beyond your first starter garden. Download here.

2. Planning a Garden, Clemson University

Believe it or not, the very first thing you’ll need to do when starting a garden is sit down and start planning.

Sure, anybody can till the soil a little bit, throw down some seeds, grab the water hose, and hope for the best but that sort of method is not a recipe for success.

If you want anything you plan to prosper, you’ll need to plan out your garden. You’ll need to account for things like shade and irrigation, room to work, and of course leaving plenty of room for the plants themselves to grow properly.

It’s more complicated than you might think if you’ve never done it before, but easy enough to learn but this helpful guide from Clemson University.

No matter how much room you have, or how little, there is bound to be a solution that will work for you. Link.

3. Permaculture: Organic Gardening

Permaculture is a concept that is increasingly popular for homesteaders. It means different things to different people, but typically the concept is one of growing and harvesting your fruits and vegetables in a way that is compatible with nature and the local ecosystem.

When you have specific goals in mind, it can definitely seem counterintuitive to be constrained by such concerns, but the benefits are bigger and healthier plants, and ultimately a lot less work because you are acting in harmony with nature, rather than trying to bend it to your will.

It makes things a little bit more challenging to get started, but the results are so worth it. Download here.

4. The Drip Irrigation Handbook

Everybody knows that plants need water to survive, even the most water miserly plants like cacti.

But, if you want a large scale garden or you genuinely want to grow crops on your homestead, you have to start thinking about watering differently.

We’re talking about proper irrigation here, and setting up a functional, sustainable and effective irrigation system is a skill in itself, and there’s a lot to know.

Luckily, this is another subject that people have pretty much figured out, and you can benefit from all this accumulated wisdom using this handbook.

It covers all facets of setting up and maintaining an irrigation system for various purposes and in various kinds of terrain and biomes. Link.


5. How to Do Square Foot Gardening

If you don’t have a lot of land, or even very much room you can make use of on your property, it’s easy to think that growing a highly productive garden is simply an impossibility.

That’s not true! You just need a different approach. And that approach is square foot gardening.

Square foot gardening is exactly what it sounds like, a space efficient method that breaks up your usable planting area into one foot by one foot tiles.

It will tell you what primary and secondary plants you can grow within that tile and next to adjacent tiles for minimum work and maximum return on investment.

Trust me, once you give this a try, you’ll find it hard to go back to the old way! A great approach, and not just for homesteaders pressed for space.


6. The Best and Worst Livestock for Beginners.

Maybe it’s just me projecting, because I know taking care of animals is my favorite part of living on a homestead, but it sure seems like this is the number one activity blossoming homesteaders want to get into.

But, if you weren’t privileged to grow up on a farm or benefit from any other specialist training in animal husbandry, it can be truly bewildering.

BEST AND WORST Livestock for Beginners

I know more than a few homesteaders who’ve picked animals on the basis of personality or simple favoritism, and I watched their life slowly devolve into total chaos…

Picking the livestock species that is right for you based on your property, your aptitudes, and your objectives is essential.

Just because you know their names doesn’t mean you know anything meaningful about them, and this helpful video will tell you what you need to know to make an informed decision for your homestead.

How to Milk a Cow By Hand (or goat)

7. How to Milk a Cow or Goat

So, let’s say you settled on the ever popular cattle for your homestead. Or perhaps, for whatever reason, you have chosen whichever species you chose, it is milk that you are after. It’s perennially useful, nutritious, and valuable, so it makes perfect sense.

However, as simple as it is in theory this is one of those things that is not as easy as it looks, that’s for sure.

Especially if you plan on getting milk from your animals the old fashioned way you are probably going to get frustrated if you don’t have any experience, and that’s going to make your animals agitated!

It sounds funny, but your animals must be milked effectively and in a timely fashion in order to stay healthy.

It’s hard to get the hang of it, but with this instructional video you’ll have it down in no time.

8. Cattle Care and Handling Guidelines from Beef Quality Assurance

If you want to raise cattle for beef, taking good care of them is even more important than usual if you want to ensure you get safe and high quality products for them.

Dairy cows are usually said to be more complicated to raise overall compared to cows intended for slaughter.

But, I don’t think that’s true when you consider just how much goes into every phase of raising, slaughtering and processing beef cattle.

There’s an awful lot to learn, and it’s easy to mess up at any given phase of the process if you don’t know what you’re doing.

This guide from Beef Quality Assurance will tell you everything you need to know about proper care and handling of beef cattle. Download.


9. The Homesteading Handbook

I know a lot of folks who dream of having their own honest to goodness homestead.

The yearn for a lifestyle there’s much closer to the way we all used to live, that is closer to the land and filled with plenty of exertion and sometimes difficult work, but work that is far more meaningful than being trapped in the concrete and glass termite mounds we call society today.

But, having known nothing else, they might see it as a dream they’ll never achieve.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s hardly impossible to learn the lifestyle and the requisite skills. As always, there’s a book for that!

When you visit a link in this article that takes you to a different website where you can purchase something, I may earn a commission. Read my full disclosure for more details.

The Homesteading Handbook is on Amazon. If you don’t know a thing about it, but you know you want it, get this book and start here.

10. Off-the-Grid Water Harvesting

Water is among the very most precious resources on Earth. Everyone knows you can only live a couple of days without water, but if you live on a working homestead you’ll have a whole lot more depending on water than just yourself and your family: you’ll have plenty of crops and animals depending on it too!

If you’re very fortunate, you might have dedicated public water supplies on your property, but otherwise you’ll need a well.

Wells are the standard, but they are hardly infallible, so to provide a backup you’re going to need to learn all about off the grid water harvesting.

This will serve you well in times of trouble and also work as a reliable backup when your usual water sources go down or get compromised.

This is a great book for any homestead that wants to be truly self-sufficient. On Amazon, and free in digital format.

11. Mistakes to Avoid when Buying Land

Unless you’re lucky enough to already own land that is suitable for homesteading, the purchase of your new parcel is often the first step on the journey.

It has been said that even the longest journey begins with a single step, and that’s true, but this is one step that can do you if you get it wrong.

6 Mistakes to AVOID when Buying Raw Land {for a HOMESTEAD}

Buying land that is improperly zoned, unsuitable for crops or animals, can’t pass a perc test, or has clouded water, rights issues and other problems can turn your foray into homesteading into a living nightmare.

Luckily, seasoned homesteaders and land experts can teach you all about the most common mistakes when buying land and how to avoid them, and they can do it for free. You probably cannot afford to mess this up!

Food Preservation and Storage

12. Principles of Home Canning, USDA

I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying than growing your own food, prepping it, and then preserving it before putting it in your pantry for later consumption.

Just the notion that you can make your own shelf stable, safe and nutritious food that literally started from a single seed is a pretty heady feeling, I’m not going to lie!

Canning is the technology that homesteaders have relied on for ages now, but it’s a lot more complicated and far more exacting than you might think.

Getting this wrong can lead to spoilage and that can lead to severe illness aside from loss of the food you work so hard for.

The good news is that the USDA knows literally everything there is to know on the process, and has put together a truly complete and easy to understand guide for beginners. Complete guide here.

13. Tips for Dehydrating Food You’ll Want to Know

Another ancient practice for preserving food is it dehydration, and whether or not you do it with the power of the sun or an electrically powered dehydrator, or maybe even your oven, there is a lot to know.

Dehydration is a little bit funny because it is so simple in theory, but it really is tiny little mistakes that can lead to total loss.

You might not even know you’ve made a mistake until you see your fruits, vegetables or meats spoiling on the rack, and that can be seriously disheartening.

But as always, there are many homesteaders that have gone before you and struggled through these problems so you don’t have to.

This nice lady will tell you about several issues that you’ll want to know as a beginner before you start dehydrating:

7 BEGINNER TIPS FOR FOOD DEHYDRATING | What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Dehydrating

14. Vegetable Storage in Root Cellars, University of Alaska

Long before electrically-powered refrigeration was ever a thing, people and cultures around the world relied on root cellars to help keep their produce pressure for longer, and to help greatly extend shelf life generally.

With the rise and interest of getting back to basics here in the US, root cellar storage of food is once again a popular topic.

But a root cellar is a lot more than a basem*nt, and it isn’t just some dank hole in the ground you dig beside your house. The principles are simple, but the execution is surprisingly sophisticated.

However, it’s not too hard to learn with a little bit of study and depending on your needs it could be really easy to put in your own functional root cellar.

The University of Alaska is here to help with an excellent guide. Learn how.

15. Food Storage in the Home, Utah State University

So much of being a happy and prosperous homesteader is it simply in eliminating waste wherever possible.

This is especially important when it comes to food and absolutely critical if you are growing or raising most of the food that you and your family eat.

And whatever you think you know about food storage and the best practices, there’s probably a lot you don’t know, especially as it concerns storing food in bulk for a long period of time without it spoiling.

The best thing you can do is to make no assumptions whatsoever when putting together your new food storage plan.

Utah State University has assembled a truly comprehensive guide on the subject for your review, and you’d be wise to heed their advice. See it here.

16. Water Storage

Even more important than properly and it safely storing food on your homestead is the storage of water.

We’ve already touched on how important it is for people, of course, and also your plants and animals, but you’ll need water for a whole lot more than just drinking and irrigation.

If you are wise, you’ll learn how to use and reuse gray water for various purposes, and also how to store any captured or reclaimed water without it going bad.

The trick with water is that it’s extremely heavy and highly destructive, meaning that even small leaks or mistakes made when it comes to storage can turn into huge headaches and sometimes major repair bills.

Anybody can fill up a water barrel in and out of the way place, but maximizing your efficiency with water and keeping a large stockpile both safe and easily usable is a serious challenge.

You’ll have some homework to do if you want to get this right, and this water storage primer will show you how. Download here.

Calculators and Utilities

17. USDA Tools and Resources for Producers of Small and Midsize Poultry and Livestock

Whew! What a mouthful! If you are living on a homestead that is going to provide more resources than just farm-to-table meats and vegetables for your family, meaning you’re going to make your homestead a business, keeping costs under control is paramount.

Chances are good you’ll be forced to put up with USDA guidelines on a whole bunch of things.

To help take the sting out of that they’ve produced a great directory for lots of things that can help you save money and improve efficiency if you want to sell the products you raise. Link.

18-21. Livestock Calculators from Big Pond Farm Livestock Mgmt

So, you want livestock. Super. Do you know how to increase the size of your herd or flock? How long does it take for a baby cow to be born? How many males should you have to females for various species?

How long does it take for a chicken to hatch? How long does it take for a chicken to hatch under a chicken or in an incubator?

Just how much food do these animals need anyway, and under what conditions? How much room do my animals need to thrive?

All these questions are only scratching the surface, and they all need answers if your critters are going to thrive.

Luckily, you won’t have to bust out the legal pad and try to figure all this out the old-fashioned way since we have various accurate calculators that can tell you all the above precisely, quickly, and easily.

These are provided by Big Pond Farm Livestock Management. Four special calculators at the links here.

21 Homesteading Resources (PDFs, Books, and More) (2)

Tom Marlowe

Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.

Find out more about the team here.

21 Homesteading Resources (PDFs, Books, and More) (2024)


What were the problems with homesteading? ›

The rigors of this new way of life presented many challenges and difficulties to homesteaders. The land was dry and barren, and homesteaders lost crops to hail, droughts, insect swarms, and more. There were few materials with which to build, and early homes were made of mud, which did not stand up to the elements.

How much land do you need for a successful homestead? ›

For the average family of four, you can expect to grow a year's worth of food on three to five acres. We really do think that five acres is the sweet spot because it allows you to stack your animals and really utilize permaculture practices. One acre for gardens, perennials and fruit trees.

Who is excluded from the Homestead Act? ›

Homesteaders included citizens, immigrants seeking naturalization, women, men, African Americans, and whites. American Indians, who were not recognized as U.S. citizens, were excluded.

Why is homesteading trending? ›

"A lot of young people are interested in starting homesteads because I think people are waking up to the food system," Christina Heinritz, a millennial raising her two children on a homestead in California, told BI in September. "There's a lot of stuff that everyone thinks is healthy and it's not."

When did homesteading become illegal? ›

A smaller number even used the law in the years after World War II. In the lower forty-eight states, the settlement practice did not officially end until 1976, and in Alaska not until 1986.

Why did Southerners oppose homesteading? ›

Until the Civil War, opposition from Southern legislators, who feared homesteaders would work to prevent slavery in new territories, and some Northern legislators, who feared the cheap land would lower property values and lure laborers west, prevented passage of the legislation.

Where is the best place to start a homestead? ›

10 Best States For Homesteading 2023
  • Oregon.
  • Maine. ...
  • Michigan. ...
  • Connecticut. ...
  • Montana. ...
  • Alaska. ...
  • Wyoming. ...
  • Arizona. A desert climate will be a challenge, but not an impossibility, for growing your own crops and farming the land. ...
Feb 9, 2024

How do you turn your home into a homestead? ›

Filing a homestead declaration typically requires three steps.
  1. Complete a homestead declaration form.
  2. Sign your declaration in front of a notary.
  3. Record the homestead declaration form with your county recorder's office. County Recorders' offices will typically charge a per sheet recording fee.

Is 1 acre enough for a homestead? ›

The truth is you can be self-sustaining on a 1-acre property but it takes work, education, dedication, and time. So, if you have an oversized lot or small acreage and want to be as sustainable as possible, here are some ideas and suggestions on how to get started creating a self-sufficient homestead.

Did anyone get 40 acres and a mule? ›

By June, the land had been allocated to 40,000 of a total of 4 million freed slaves. (Mules were not included in the order, but the Union army did give some away as part of the effort.) But the order was short-lived.

Did black Americans benefit from the Homestead Act? ›

Black Homesteading

The Homestead Act opened land ownership to male citizens, widows, single women, and immigrants pledging to become citizens. The 1866 Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed that African Americans were eligible as well.

Why did the Homestead Act end? ›

The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 substantially decreased the amount of land available to homesteaders in the West. Because much of the prime land had been homesteaded decades earlier, successful Homestead claims dropped sharply after this time.

Why did most homesteaders fail? ›

As settlers and homesteaders moved westward to improve the land given to them through the Homestead Act, they faced a difficult and often insurmountable challenge. The land was difficult to farm, there were few building materials, and harsh weather, insects, and inexperience led to frequent setbacks.

How do you make the most money on a homestead? ›

Easy strategies for earning income on your homestead
  1. Selling Plant Starts.
  2. Market Gardening.
  3. Specialty Produce.
  4. Host Events.
  5. Rent Out Space.
  6. Educational Workshops.
  7. Farm Fresh Eggs.
  8. Logging, Firewood, and Woodworking.
Apr 3, 2024

Is there any homesteading left in the United States? ›

The Homestead Act was repealed in the 48 contiguous states in 1976 and in Alaska 10 years later. But you can still find towns offering free land to would-be residents who want to relocate on a shoestring budget and can meet homebuilding and other requirements.

What was the negative impact of the Homestead Act? ›

In conclusion, while the Homestead Act was successful in promoting the settlement of the American West, it also had significant negative consequences. The environmental damage and displacement of Native Americans are lasting legacies of the Act that continue to be felt today.

What was negative about the Homestead Act? ›

Living on a homestead proved difficult for newcomers with no farming experience. Settlers often suffered the fierce Prairie winds and fires, as well as swarms of grasshoppers and devastating droughts that could destroy an entire crop field.

What negative effects did the Homestead Act have? ›

It is worth noting that the Homestead Act, although influential, also had some negative consequences. For example, the rapid westward expansion led to the displacement of Native American tribes, a deepening divide between the North and the South, and ecological issues tied to over-farming and improper land management.

Why was the Homestead Act problematic? ›

Not everyone was happy with the Homestead Act. It was not a perfect piece of legislation and several problems developed. In much of the west, 160 acres was just not enough land to sustain a viable farm. Just because it was a "free farm" did not guarantee that the farmer would be successful.


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