Homesteading in Arizona

Homesteading in Arizona

Homesteading is fast becoming the thing to do. Many people see how the world is getting and realize that something needs to change. Homesteading is a way of making sure that a person and/or a family has what he or she needs to survive if infrastructure breaks down. Simply put, homesteading is making one more self-reliant so that one can provide more for their family within their own home. Homesteading can be done from anywhere and each place will have its own challenges and its areas that are better. Arizona is no different. Arizona’s main challenge is the summer heat. Arizona’s temperatures in the summertime can reach up to 120 degrees depending on what part of the state you are in. In this area, we have been as high as 109 degrees. Most of the time this is a dry heat except from July to September when the monsoons hit.
There are so many different books and websites that have information on homesteading. It can be a daunting task to find information specifically about where you live. Many of the books can provide good information on how to start, but living in Southern Arizona, some of the information just does not fit with the timelines that are given. For example, planting times in Arizona are different because our last frost is earlier than many other places and our first frost is generally later than most other places too. Arizona’s growing season is longer than many other places because of this. However, in the heat of the summer, certain things need to occur to keep plants growing strong.
Shade is the number one thing that a person needs to ensure plants grow well in the Arizona heat. Even plants that do well in other places in full sun will wither and die if left in full sun here. It is possible to grow just about anything here, but one has to make sure the plants get plenty of shade during to middle part of the day when the sun at its hottest. Water is the other thing the plants must have to survive. Plenty of water to keep the soil moist during the hottest time of the day. One book says to start planting fruit trees right after the first frost. Here we have found that late fall or early spring is actually a better time to put fruit trees in the ground.
Animals are another integral part of homesteading. Having animals in Arizona requires more attention in the hot summer months. One has to make sure the animals, whether free range or in pens, have plenty of shade and cool water. In the hottest part of the day, animals must be able to get to shade so they can cool down. Water temperatures rise quickly here so making sure the animals have cool water is a must. This can be accomplished though adding ice to the water troughs. Usually in some container that is frozen and then placed in the animal’s water trough. Some people use misters to help keep penned animals cooler. All of this amounts to more work and more chores but it must occur to keep your animals healthy through the summer heat. It is not uncommon to lose an animal to the heat. This is never nice, its heartbreaking actually, but it does happen. Any animal that will be used for food should be culled in the early morning hours when it is cooler to help fight contamination. Later in the day, when its hotter, allows for bacteria to grow. When its cooler in the morning, this is less of a chance.
The positives of homesteading in Arizona though are there too. The growing season is longer here than most places because the last frost date is in the beginning of March and the first frost date is around the middle of November. That gives Arizona a fairly long growing season. It is also easier to plan butchering in the winter months so that it does not get extremely hot while trying to cut down meat portions. If you know how to can meat, fruit, and vegetables, you have plenty of time to ensure that you can feed your family though the winter simply from what you planted in the summer. Since Southern Arizona seldom gets snow, planting into the winter just makes sense here too. While there will be some nights that one would need to prepare for freezing temperature, this is not an every night thing. If one is wanting to raise broiler chickens, the wintertime is the best time to do this. Because this type of chicken is bred to grow very fast, the summers are brutal for this bird.
Homesteading in Arizona can definitely be a challenge in the summertime but also easier the rest of the year. While many people can have plentiful gardens, it does take time and a lot of patience. Some animals do better than others in Arizona. However, even the animals used to a cooler climate can do alright here with some accommodations for them during the summer. No matter what chores you decide to do or skills you decide to use, a little preparation goes a long way here in the desert. The main things to remember if one decides to start a homestead in Arizona is that no matter what you decide to raise, plants or animals or both, a lot of shade and a lot of water will be needed. Especially in the summer. The payoff is when you look at your homestead and see all that you have done with your own hands. Knowing that you have the ability to feed and shelter your family is a thing to be proud of. Knowing that no matter what happens outside of your fence line, your family will be taken care of is a thing to be proud of. Knowing that you built all this is something that will make you proud. It is a feeling like no other, when you get it right. Of course even mistakes will help you to learn and do it better the next time.


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