How to Work a One-Acre Homestead
Our Small Acre Farm Produces Vegetables, Fruit, Eggs, and Medicinal Plants
When we purchased our home in upstate New York, we had no intention to create a one-acre homestead. We were thrilled that we had so much space to put in vegetable and herb gardens, but a farm layout? It was probably the furthest thing from our minds. But the universe (and my husband) work in strange ways, and before long, we found ourselves working toward creating a self-sufficient lifestyle using simple homesteading ideas and projects in our little corner of the Adirondack mountains.
One-Acre Homestead: Gardening
Not realizing that we were setting up a small homesteading layout, we started with the gardens, plotting out four vegetable gardens on the open part of the property, and a dedicated herb garden alongside the house in a sunny, warm spot. Each garden was about 10’ x 10’, which gave us plenty of room to plant enough vegetables to feed ourselves comfortably for most of the season. These gardens took up a small part of our one-acre homestead, and the return in fresh vegetables was well worth the time.
Those first few years, we stuck with our garden staples: assorted varieties of tomatoes, heritage cucumbers like lemon cukes, string beans, radishes, bell peppers, winter squash, zucchini, sugar snap peas, kale, spinach, and leaf lettuce. After we were comfortable with the soil and knew the layout of the land, we experimented with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, corn, onions, and garlic.
Whatever we couldn’t eat quickly was canned and frozen so that we had a freezer full and a pantry full of fresh garden vegetables to get us through the winter until we could plant again in the spring.
Just beyond the vegetable gardens, we let the property grow wild and in the years since we’ve moved in, we’ve learned how to harvest medicinal plants from that “wild” land including red clover, wild carrot, plantain, mullein, milkweed, elderberries, and wild grapes. We were also thrilled to discover a number of patches of wild blackberries growing around the property.
Creating A Small Orchard On Our Little Homestead
The first year we moved in, my husband was offered several apple trees. When they arrived, they were so scrawny and small that we had a hard time imagining that they would ever grow. Now, nearly 14 years after we’ve moved in, our “apple twigs” have grown and blossomed into a mini orchard on our small one-acre homestead. They also provide a bit of a privacy screen between us and our neighbors. While we don’t get more than a bushel of apples from these trees, they’re one of our favorite parts of our simple homesteading layout.
Adding a Mini Vineyard
After our success with the apple trees, my husband, an avid winemaker, decided to plant a small vineyard on the border between the cultivated gardens and the wild growing grass at the back of the property. A little research into some cold-hardy vines from a supplier in Vermont now provides us with enough grapes for a couple of bottles of homegrown wine every season. We use the grape leaves for extra crunch when fermenting vegetables at the end of the season.
Backyard Chickens On the Homestead
Our next big addition to our one-acre homestead was a flock of backyard chickens. We ordered 27 birds from a reputable hatchery, and while the chicks were brooding in our heated garage workshop, my husband and his best friend worked to convert the unused pole barn on our property into a chicken coop mansion. The enclosed chicken run quickly grew from a small 10 x 10 area to a comfortable 20 x 10 vegetated “chicken jungle.” Repurposed cedar poles and some chicken wire helped us create a safe, secure area for our girls. Our flocks have waxed and waned over the years, but we’ve found that a backyard flock of about 20 chickens gives us plenty of eggs for ourselves and our friends throughout the year.
DIY Greenhouse Project For Our One-Acre Homestead
Then last summer, my husband embarked on his latest project in an effort to get more use out of our little 0ne-acre homestead with the addition of a greenhouse built onto our garage. I affectionately refer to it as “the magic greenhouse” because it felt like my husband just sort of miraculously obtained most of the materials we needed to build it in a very short time, and for very little cost. We now have a small 15 X 7 greenhouse tacked on to the garage where we can start seedlings, grow more tomatoes, and extend our growing season.
When we sat down to do the math, we figured out that we’re saving at least $1,000 a year in grocery bills by working on our little one-acre homestead. Between the fresh produce, eggs, apples, blackberries, and wild harvested medicinal plants, we’re working toward becoming more self-sufficient by homesteading today.
Do you homestead on a small plot of land? Let us know your advice for fitting it all together for abundant yields.