Small property homesteading

Posted by in Blog | 0 comments

Small property homesteading

You may feel that there is no way to enjoy the farm life on a small property, but with the rise of the urban homesteading movement, there are more ideas than ever for how to turn your small property into a working farm.

I have loved the idea of farming since I was that little girl in the 4th grade, listening to my teacher read Charlotte’s Web to the class. The idea of raising animals for companionship and food, gardening and living off the land, and entering all manner of animal and wares into the local fair—I loved the thought of all of it. As I grew up and entered the workforce, family and my adult life, it looked like we wouldn’t be going that direction, but rather we would be swimming in the direction of the popular current. Away from self-sufficiency, living off the land, and my dream of having a spider friend who would watch over my prize porker.


Instead the parade of homes we had occupied over the years are as follows: first, with Todd’s parents until we could secure our own apartment, which would be the first of three; after the third, we bought a mobile home in a park around the corner from Disneyland; and lastly, we moved our mobile home to a property we purchased a what used to be sort of a ‘podunk’ town in Riverside County, where we reside now. Our mobile home is on .18 of an acre, and while this property is by far the largest we’ve ever lived on, it’s still a far cry from the kind of acreage that is needed for a ‘real’ farm. Because this is where we are at, and because Todd and I believe firmly in ‘blooming where you are planted’ (so to speak), we have sought to find creative ways to ‘farm our backyard’. We are hoping to purchase a larger property sometime in the future, but for now, I’ll describe how we do things here on our little postage stamp that we are so thankful to God for.

Small Livestock

For our two chickens and three rabbits, we have them located in an area I call ‘the barn’ (Sky thinks the name is dorky, but it works for me). Back there, they keep each other company and me sane because I can care for them quickly each day if needed, and all that’s needed to care for them is close by (pictured below, right side). For the record, I do prefer to spend at the very least an hour outdoors were they can see me and feel my touch each day, but not all days permit that.

You will notice that our chicken coop (left side) is tall, rather than sprawled out the way many chicken coops are laid out. Ever aware of how much space we (don’t) have, Todd designed Lucy and Ethel’s coop to have plenty of stretching out room with 3 floors and a long ladder. It’s really plenty of room for two, but for more, the structure would need to be longer or wider to provide adequate square footage for each feathered friend.


To break up the monotony for the rabbits and chickens, we have a run out in the yard that I call ‘the box’. Usually Lucy and Ethel are in there with one of the rabbits, which works best–otherwise we might have hurt or pregnant bunnies and that won’t do. The girls are pretty good with the rabbits as long as the rabbits stay a safe distance, don’t startle them, or Allons-y isn’t trying to mate with them. (Yep, that happens–not the mating, the trying. Welcome to farming.) The cool thing about the box is that it’s not permanent–we can move it to another location quite easily. We keep it in this location for now, but if we ever needed to rearrange anything, or we didn’t need it anymore, it would only take a few minutes to take down and store away. Todd built it this way just in case that little nectarine tree in front of it needs to stretch out more sooner than later.

rabbit and chicken run
For your chickens, consider using a chicken tractor that can be moved around the yard. Your chickens will keep the weeds down, and they will get plenty of different nutrients as long as there are greens and bugs to snack on. Another option is to use a dog run that you can move around, however, if you have frequent predators in your yard, you won’t want to leave them unattended if there is a way for them to get in. Both options will work fine for rabbits or chickens, and if your chickens like your rabbits, you can put them together for short periods of time, but again, do not leave them unattended. (I also like to periodically rake any chicken poop to the side of the structure as well, so bunnies don’t get soiled.)


Vertical Gardening

Once all of the linear footage of your small property is taken up with projects and gardens and things, going up is the next logical step, especially if you customarily grow sprawling vegetable plants that want to hog up precious footage that other plants can be using during any given growing season.

vertical gardening: peas and grapes
Todd and I use vertical gardening in a few places in our yard like the ones pictured above. The photo on the right is of our pea plants that are growing up twine leads that will guide them to the top of the fence; the second photo is of one of our grapevines that is growing up our metal gazebo. The hope is that this and another grapevine will cover the whole gazebo to replace the former canvas, creating cool shade and refreshing grapes over the summer.


While vertical gardening isn’t really a new idea, there are lots of creative new ways to join in the fun and grow plenty of food for your family. Here are some more really cool ideas by some really creative gardeners:

My Repurposed Spice Rack Kitchen Garden by Chris McLaughlin
Photo by Craigsypoo under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0. Using Your Fence for Growing Vertical Vegetables by Chris McLaughlin 

tomato trellis Building A Trellis for Tomato Plants by Susan of Learning and Yearning

Container Gardening

At our homestead, we garden four small plots totally about 300 square feet. This presents problems when we want to allow certain plants to go to seed, or when we want to grow large sprawling plants like zucchini or even tomatoes. One thing I do is to dig up plants that I would like to allow to go to seed and transplant them in a large container using a half peat/half compost mixture, and water. They do pretty well this way as long as I watch them, as transplanted plants commonly go into shock and wilt for a few days. This year I have chosen to grow my tomatoes in pots, which has saved us some space to grow a few rows of corn this year. The grapes that are growing on the gazebo are also grown in large pots.

Consider sprucing up an unpleasant but sunny corner area of your yard, or against a wall or fence with your array of pretty potted plants. Or perhaps place them along the outside of your raised garden beds, so they can benefit from your current watering system, or be watered by hand when you water the rest of your garden.


container garden along my raised bed
Our methods that we use on our property are pretty standard, but I’d like to share a few of really creative ideas for container gardening from some pretty creative homesteading friends:


Container Gardening in a Repurposed Feed Bag by Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily 

Container Gardening for Northern Cities by Chris at Joybilee Farms

This idea is a double bonus in that it combines vertical and container gardening. Sweet! DIY Tiered Whiskey Barrel Strawberry Planter by Angela England

Front Yard Gardening

You might find that your grass is costing an awful lot to keep green in the summer, and that it’s not worth the cost of the water you are paying for. Why not try farming your front yard? Colleen of Five Little Homesteaders is doing just that. They farm .15 of an acre in Phoenix, AZ. Talk about working miracles!

As you can tell, they are also using vertical gardening for their tomato plants, as well as container gardening in the front of their home, just below their porch.