These are a few of my favorite things, many of which I just wouldn’t be without on our homestead.
I’m constantly asked, “where’s the best place to by X,” where “X” is anything from pressure canners, to grass-fed meat, to specific varieties of hard-to-find plants.
Sourcing the best tools, equipment, plants, books, and more can be tricky, especially when a lot of the knowledge around self-reliance has been lost.
Why on earth do you need a high-quality pressure canner? Can’t you just buy canned food at the grocery store like a normal person?
You want to brew your own beer, make your own cheese or cure your own meat? Good luck finding the supplies and equipment. You won’t find any of it at your average grocery store.
A lot of the DIY projects we do here require not only specialized knowledge, which I try to explain in detail my DIY articles, but they also often require specialized equipment and ingredients that can be hard to find in our modern society.
The same goes for detailed DIY Books, Preparedness Gear, Permaculture Plants, and honestly, just about anything high quality and long-lasting in a world that promotes disposable everything.
It’s taken me a long time to track down the best books, tools, and equipment, and I’m happy to share that with you all in one place.
Many of these links are affiliate links, which means if you purchase through the link, I get a small commission at no cost or inconvenience to you. I’m only recommending tools, books, courses, and supplies that we have on our homestead, but also that treasure and use on a regular basis.
I’ve worked with a number of these places to get coupon codes to help you save a bit of money as well. Getting custom coupon codes is one of the nice perks of being a writer on the internet these days.
Many companies are willing to give me discount codes just for asking, so if there is something you’re saving for and would like to save a few pennies, let me know in the comments, I’ll ask them.
The worst they can say is no, and more often than not, they say yes, and you get 10% off for no reason. Sweet deal, and I’m happy to help if I can…inflation is eating us all!
Books & Courses
The most important “tool” on your homestead is your own brain, and feeding it is by far the best way to prosper. I’m a voracious reader, and I consume books at an incredible rate. I’ve already written a separate article that breaks down all my favorite homesteading books by topic, with everything from food preservation to gardening and more.
Beyond those specific recommendations by topic, these are also great options for learning homesteading skills:
- Chelsea Green Publishing ~ If you look closely at my book recommendation list, you’ll notice that most of them come from a single small publishing house right here in Vermont. Chelsea Green really works hard to seek out authors in homesteading, foraging, permaculture, and sustainable living niches. They do sell direct, and they have multiple “warehouse sales” each year where titles are 30 to 50% off.
- The Book Depository ~ If you’re not in the US, this is the best place to order books online. Shipping costs can be prohibitive from other retailers, but Book Depository warehouses books in countries all over the world to eliminate those international postage charges.
- Bookshop.org ~ A way to buy online from local independent bookstores in your area.
- Books A Million (BAM!) ~ Another online retailer that carries most titles.
- The Herbal Academy ~ I love the herbal academy, and at this point, I’ve taken just about every one of their courses, and I have all of their course textbooks.
- If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of their courses. A good place to start would be their introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses. They also have a mushroom course, covering both medicinal and edible mushrooms, and a Botany and Wildcrafting Course. I’ve taken both, and they’re informative, inspiring, and artfully presented.
- Masterclass ~ One of the best online course academies anywhere, masterclass has quite a few courses that are really spectacular for homesteaders. I’ve taken their Wilderness Survival Course taught by Air Force SERE instructor Jessie Krebs, and I really loved how she broke everything down into short, manageable lessons. I learned emergency signaling and practical applications for basic survival knots… along with countless other things. Her lessons gave me hours of quality time with my husband last winter, and plenty to think about. I’m currently taking their Bread Baking course with Apollonia Poilâne, and watching the lessons with my daughter. They’re engaging enough for me as an adult, and experienced bread baker, but accessible enough that my 7-year-old loves them too.
Most of our tasks here on the homestead revolve around food production and preservation. Honestly, it’s easier to grow the food than it is to preserve it, but it becomes quite a bit easier if you have the right tools.
- Pleasant Hill Grain ~ They sell just about everything you need to put up food on your homestead, and they only carry the highest quality equipment. We’ve bought dozens of pieces of equipment there, including our All-American Pressure Canner, hand crank grain mill, cheese press, cider press, and so much more.
- Harvest Right Freeze Dryers ~ Home freeze drying is becoming more popular every year, as it’s a great way to preserve food without added sugar. You can freeze dry almost anything, and the food is just like fresh made when rehydrated.
- Yeti Coolers ~ These really are magic, and I know they’re expensive, but they’re worth every penny if you hunt, fish, or process your own meat on farm. They’ll keep food cold for a full week if left closed, so you can work through a full batch of homemade sausage, getting it all packaged and put up without stressing about refrigerator space. (You will, of course, need lots of freezer space too, these aren’t meant for storing food forever, but they’re a great stopgap. We run three big chest freezers.)
Hunting, Camping, and Outdoors
One thing about “life out here” in the sticks is that you really need to be prepared for outdoor living. Even if you’re not a hunter, basic camping and outdoor equipment is essential.
- REI ~ The best place I’ve found to get just about everything for camping and outdoor living. My one criticism is they don’t really cover hunting, but that type of stuff can be found at Cabelas.
- Cabellas ~ A one-stop shop for everything hunting and fishing, they also have quite a few options for food preservation (dehydrating, etc). Their focus is hunters, primarily.
Farm & Garden
While just about every seed catalog sells tomatoes, many of the permaculture plants and medicinal herbs we grow are incredibly difficult to find. These suppliers are your best bet:
- Earthbeat Seeds ~ A small medicinal herb seed supplier based right here in Vermont. She has many hard-to-find medicinal herb seeds, including things like Jewelweed and Marshmallows. This is also the best place to buy Ramp Seeds (wild leeks), as she’s all about sustainable harvesting and natural practices.
- High Mowing Organic Seeds ~ One of the few sources for 100% organic seeds and growing supplies anywhere. They only sell organic seed, and they’re right here in Vermont.
- Fedco Seeds ~ This is where we buy the bulk of our garden seeds each year. They’re based in Maine, and most of the varieties are perfect for our short-season climate here in Vermont. They also have a catalog called “Fedco trees,” where we get many of our unique permaculture plants.
- Nature Hills Nursery ~ They carry many of the hard-to-find plants that you just can’t get anywhere, like barberry and hardy kiwi.
- Garden Tower Project ~ We use their really innovative grow tower to garden year-round in a very small footprint. It works indoors or outside, and can be used with lights or without.
- North Spore ~ This is where we get our mushroom cultivation supplies. Based out of Portland Maine, they’re one of the best sources anywhere. They sell easy tabletop mushroom kits for beginners (great for gifts), outdoor log kits for intermediate growers, and both sawdust spawn and plug spawn (which are what we use to grow wine cap mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms). Use coupon code “SELFRELIANCE” for 10% off your order.
Most grocery stores sell basic spices, but herbalists need a bit more on their shelves. Here’s where I buy my herbs:
- Starwest Botanicals ~ A good source for both bulk culinary and medicinal herbs.
- Mountain Rose Herbs ~ They focus mostly on medicinals, and they also offer herbal medicine-making things like tincture bottles, infusion kits, and more.
- The Herbal Academy ~ I talked about them above in the books and courses section, but they also sell herbal medicine-making kits that accompany their classes.
Tools aren’t made like they used to be, and there are few places where equipment is more disposable than in the kitchen. Even “nice” pots and pans seem made to last just a year or two, and you’ll rarely find heirloom quality kitchen tools made these days.
There’s a reason most modern cast iron pans are incredibly cheap, while the a well-tended cast iron pan from Grandma’s kitchen is worth a fortune. Sure, they’re “antiques,” but they’re also well-made, functional pieces of kitchen equipment made to last a lifetime.
There are a few notable exceptions, places where you can still get high-quality tools (namely, cast iron):
- Field Company ~ By far the nicest modern cast iron I’ve come across to date. These are high quality, and live up to old-time standards.
- Etsy ~ Believe it or not, most of my best-cast iron came from collectors on etsy. When modern manufacturers disappoint, you can always just buy dependable antique cast iron that was made to last millennia.
Pasture Raised Meat
Not everyone can raise a whole menagerie of meat in their backyard, and often times local pickings are slim. We’ve bought high quality meat online from all of these sources:
- D’artagnan ~ We used to raise ducks and geese commercially, but not any more. Since we stopped, the best source for these hard-to-find pastured meats is at D’artagnan. I used their duck meat to make this duck breast prosciutto and this duck confit. They’re the only place I’ve found anywhere that sells goose, if you’re planning on roasting a goose for the holidays.They also sell Berkshire pork, which I used to make pancetta and lonzino (cured pork loin).Lastly, they have hard-to-find cuts of lamb and beef, and I’m currently using their lamb belly to make homemade lamb bacon.
- Porter Road ~ Another great place to buy high-quality meat online, they are one of the few places you can buy beef bacon (assuming you’re not planning on making your own beef bacon).
- The Honest Bison ~ We get wild meats like bison and elk here, and they’re amazing.
The topic of emergency preparedness is multi-facited and overlaps pretty heavily with homesteading. I’ve broken it down into multiple sections here, including emergency food, water filtration, first aid, and other gear:
Emergency Food Supplies
Valley Food Storage and Nutrient Survival are my very favorite freeze-dried emergency food companies, and they both make truly spectacular products with a 25+ year shelf life. Use the code “SelfReliance” at either company, and you’ll get 10% off.
You can read my reviews of other providers too, including:
- My Patriot Supply Review (Great Economy Option)
- ReadyWise Review (Fine, but not the best option)
- 4Patriots Review (Not Recommended)
- Legacy Food Storage (Review coming soon, but not recommended)
I also have a Guide to the Best MREs, which will keep you fed, but they are expensive and not usually the best option unless you need portable food and won’t have access to much clean water.
In terms of water preparedness, there’s no better option than a Berkey Water Filter. I take you through all the options, big and small, in my article on emergency water preparedness…but spoiler alert, there’s nothing that really compares to a Berkey.
They’re wicked expensive, I know, but they last a lifetime, and a single filter is rated for multiple years of daily use. You can actually filter pond water through one of these in an emergency, and it’ll come out crystal clear, though really, most people use them for just day-to-day clean water (like filtering all the nasties out of city tap water).
We have well water, but we still filter everything through ours. Water is life y’all, and clean water is incredibly important. Even small amounts of contaminants add up over time in the water you’re drinking and cooking with daily.
They were kind enough to give me a coupon code to share with y’all as well, and if you use the code “SelfReliance” you’ll get 10% off of your order.
First Aid and Beyond
Small emergencies can turn into big emergencies if someone gets hurt. Be prepared for first aid and beyond.
- MyMedic ~ There are a lot of first aid kits out there, but these are well thought out and packaged to help you find what you need in an emergency. They have specific kits for home, car, backpacking, and longer-term emergencies.
- Jase Medical ~ The leading causes of death 100 years ago are all now easily prevented with modern antibiotics. They’re hard to come by short of a trip to the emergency room, but there is one company that prescribes emergency antibiotics for anyone hoping to prepare in advance. A single kit comes with a full course of the five most common types of antibiotics, as well as a book explaining their use, all prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacy. Things like animal bites, bladder and kidney infections, diarrhea (from contaminated water), pneumonia, and tetanus can all be fatal, but they’re easily treated with simple antibiotics. Use coupon code “SELFRELIANCE10” for $10 off.
Most “emergency gear” is just plain horrible, and I don’t have all that many recommendations here. I do absolutely love portable power banks, and they’re a great option for just about anyone trying to make it through power interruptions.
If you have recommendations for other items here, I’d love to hear it. Leave me a note in the comments.
- Jackery ~ Portable power banks and solar generators. We have one, and it works great as a backup power system to charge devices and run small appliances when the power’s out.
Wine & Gifts
We make most of our own wine and gifts right at home, but sometimes it’s nice to have other options.
As a home winemaker, I found tasting other varieties especially helpful in determining what varieties I’d like to try to craft at home. Naked Wines has a great “wine genie” tool that helps you find styles you’ll like based on your ratings of wines you’ve tried. They have a great selection and a 100% guarantee that they’ll refund any bottle you try and don’t like.
Generally, I like to make my own gift baskets, but a few years back, my mom sent me a Harry and David gift basket, which was spectacular. The pears were perfectly ripe, and of higher quality than anything you can find locally in January. The cheese was equally good, and I ended up making some copycat cheesemaking recipes out of that box too.
Anyhow, I’m sold. While it’s nice to make your own, sometimes it’s nice to have a quick out-of-the-box option too.
What are Your Favorite Things?
What have I missed? What are some of your favorite tools, books, resources, and supplies for all things homesteading, gardening, and DIY?
Leave me a note in the comments.