Interview with Jill Winger of The Prairie Homestead

If you’ve been lurking around the web for homesteading advice, I’m willing to bet you’ve heard about The Prairie Homestead. The blog is run by Jill Winger, who was kind enough to answer my interview questions. 🙂


1. What got you into homesteading, and how long have you been doing it?

We started this lifestyle 10 years ago after we purchased a run-down property. It wasn’t our intention initially, but the idea of homesteading and self-sufficiency quickly captured my imagination.

2. How long does it take to become a succesfull homesteader?

I guess that depends on your definition of success! But with any venture in life, I truly believe it’s a lifelong process. Do I consider myself a ‘successful homesteader’ after ten years? I don’t know… I guess some people might say so, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel like we’ve “arrived”, and I guess I don’t really want to. 🙂

3. What’s the worst homesteading experience you’ve had to go through? What about the best one?

Poisoning my garden with hay mulch tainted with an herbicide was definitely one of my biggest disasters thus far! I have the full story on my blog, but it took a lot of work to recover from that one.

As far as the best experiences, they happen every time we sit down to a meal that is 100% homegrown. It’s a quiet sort of victory that never gets old.

4. What would you do differently if you had to start all over again?

One: not build things so cheaply the first time ago– having to rebuild over the years has cost us a lot of time and money

Two: Think bigger. We thought so small at the beginning, we set up our property inefficiently and have also had to redo that several times…

5. What are the top 3 homesteading skills everyone should know?

Cooking simple meals from scratch with basic ingredients.

How to grow vegetables in their unique climate

How to use basic tools so they can repair buildings and fences on their property

6. Top 3 most important tools in the homesteader’s arsenal?

An insatiable desire to learn, a hefty dose of grit and determination, and cast iron pans. 😉

7. Is homesteading a way of preparing for disasters and emergencies? Why (not)?

It can be– I do feel more prepared for short-term emergencies thanks to our homesteading efforts, and simply being more knowledgable in food production than the general population. However, if you are going to homestead for the main purpose of survival and emergency preparedness, your efforts will have to be much more intense than someone who is just homesteading for the quality of life aspect.

8. How much land should a homestead ideally have? How much is too much?

I firmly believe folks can embrace this lifestyle anywhere they live– so much can be done even in a backyard! However, if someone is wanting to go the full homestead route with cattle, large gardens, etc, I would recommend at LEAST 10 acres. (Although you can absolutely do a lot with much less)

9. What are some of the things you DON’T waste time doing? What are homesteaders doing that is robbing them of their time and resources?

I think it’s easy for folks to sometimes get so caught up in saving a few pennies, they discount how much time they are using to do so. Time is my most valuable resource, so I’m constantly weighing if my current actions are a wise use of time, or if they are just “busy work”

10. Is homesteading running your life? Should it?

I don’t think it runs our life, but it does absolutely shift our priorities during certain seasons, and limits when we can travel. I think that’s just part of the sacrifice of choosing this lifestyle, but for us, it’s worth it.

11. Is homesteading enough to make a living? Should people quit their job to do it full time?

For most folks? No. Homesteading alone generally COSTS money, and does not usually save money, let alone make an income. However, there are definitely creative ventures you can add into your homesteading lifestyle than can supplement income. Or in our case, creating home businesses has been the key to funding our homestead efforts and quitting our jobs in town. However, our home businesses are in the online space and not selling eggs, or veggies, etc.

12. What’s the best way to teach homesteading to your children and/or grandchildren? How do you make sure they won’t start to lose interest as they grow older?

Show them the little joys of each step. Teach them how good it feels to work hard at something. Be open about the hard parts AND the good parts. Give them more responsibility (even if they mess up the planting or break the eggs) and celebrate their confidence and their willingness to try.

13. What are the first steps newbie homesteaders should take?

I see a lot of folks suffering from “paralysis by analysis”, so I always encourage them to pick a skill or project and just dive in! It WILL be imperfect, and they’ll probably mess up and that’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to wait until you have the perfect homestead set-up before you start.

14. What are some of the Amazon books and courses you’ve written that you’d recommend to the community?

My first print cookbook is arriving April 2: The Prairie Homestead Cookbook, available wherever cookbooks are sold.

I also have several ebooks available on the blog: Natural Homestead: 40 Recipes for Natural Critters & Crops and Your Custom Homestead: A guide to creating the homestead of your dreams no matter where you live.

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