Once you’ve decided to start your homestead and found your land, it’s time to start planning what sort of crops and animals you are going to raise. You might have a broad range of animals and plants you could raise, or the region and restrictions could make it a bit narrower. For us, the Midwest is fertile soil for just about any crop and the land we’ve purchased has no zoning restrictions whatsoever on animals so long as they are fenced appropriately and treated humanely.

After you’ve researched your land’s viability and zoning laws, it’s important to consider what you want your homestead to do. If you want to sell produce at a local farmer’s market or create a breeding program from the animals you raise, you will probably want a larger diversity in the type of each that you have. If your homestead is only intended to support your family, that makes a difference.

For us, it has come down to self-sustainability. The point of self-sustainability to us is to eliminate the use of cash as much as possible. This means we will only be raising animals that can give back to our little eco-system, so that we are not losing money. Because of that, we have to decide which animals are the most economical. For instance, my children would dearly love a horse or two, and while I’ve not said no, there would not be much use for a horse. We have ten acres but we don’t plan on planting huge fields of crops or anything like that, and there is nothing to clear. There just wouldn’t be much work for a horse to do, if any. We certainly wouldn’t eat him, so he would be an 800lb pet that we have to pay to feed and care for. I love horses; he would be loads of fun and wonderful to have, but he would also be expensive to keep and that needs to be kept in mind at all times.

We have decided for sure on chickens and ducks, both for laying and eating. We’ve decided to keep goats as well; goats give milk (which can be consumed but can also be used to make all manner of wonderful natural beauty products) and they can also be eaten if need be. We have discussed having one cow, but thinking economically, there is just no need for a cow if we have goats. We could not butcher a cow ourselves and I would never send an animal off to strangers to be slaughtered, so her contribution would be milk only. Goats make this not necessary. We have decided against pigs for the same reason: too difficult to butcher alone. Plus, for me personally… I have seen too many factory farm videos involving pigs to ever be able to kill one, even though on my homestead they’d live like kings. I don’t eat pork very often at all; pigs are too intelligent and I just don’t have the stomach for it. If we are not going to eat them, they just become pets we have to feed. Big pets.

The subject of rabbits has also come up a few times. Rabbit poop is excellent fertilizer and – while my family probably would not eat a rabbit in a regular situation – they can be sold for meat or eaten if necessary. We will probably end up keeping a few for the valuable fertilizer these little guys produce. It can be added to the compost pile or just put directly into the garden.

Don't let him fool you. He is a rodent assassin.

Don’t let him fool you. He is a rodent assassin.

We do have a few pets, but even they have jobs. Our two dogs, Sage and Char are excellent guard dogs and they will earn their keep by protecting our homestead. Our cat Jake is a terrific mouser and he will keep the pest and rodent population down – and be happy to do it, by the way.

Everybody has their job on the homestead, even the animals. If we look at it like that, planning becomes much easier.