Common Ground Fair for the beginning homesteader

On my first trip to the Common Ground Fair, which was exactly 10 years ago this fall, I fell in love with that fair and fell in love with Maine. But I was also overwhelmed, and I would continue to be overwhelmed for many more of my visits to the Common Ground Fair.

image of baby goat

Photo credit: Hannah Markley, Unsplash

I knew I wanted to learn to homestead a little and be much more self sufficient, but I didn’t know what I needed to know and in what order. Mostly, it just seemed like everyone at the Common Ground Fair knew what they were doing, and I didn’t.

Thankfully, we dug in, read a lot, and worked really hard to get where we are now. Of course, the more I know about homesteading the more I realize how much I don’t know. But we’ve taken some big strides this year, and I’m excited about our progress. I’m also more excited than ever to go to the Common Ground Fair.

Being somewhat of an advanced beginner, I feel like I may now be able to offer some advice about easy and effective way to get started and transition to a more self-sufficient lifestyle—hence this blog, I suppose.

So I focused my post this week on the Common Ground Fair for those homesteading beginners like myself—those who are just digging in and need to think about what they can handle as a beginner backyard homesteader. I wish someone would have made this list for me when I was getting started. I hope you find it helpful, and I hope to see you at the fair!


9:30 Goat Milking Demonstration: Because we all want goats, right?

10:00 Answers to Your Organic Gardening Questions: There are some other really great activities in this time slot, but this would have been so helpful to me in the beginning. Thankfully, if you’re going to be at the fair for more than one day, you can sometimes catch the same presentation or activity on a different day.  

11:00 Sara Sing a Long: If you have kids, this is one act to go see. Sara’s talent as a singer and songwriter for children just shines through. She will have your kiddos dancing! 

11:00 How to Get It All Done: This talk and discussion will focus on managing the work and making key changes in your lifestyle. Led by JJ Starwalker, her expertise will make this talk worth your while.

12:00 Deciphering Food Labels: Because once you do this, you will be trying to grow anything and everything you can.

1:00 Farm and Homestead Design for a Changing Climate: This is more of an issue than you might think if you are just starting out. We’ve seen changes in just the five years since we’ve started gardening. Getting some advice on planning for climate change will be so helpful to anyone just starting out.

2:00 Canning Basics: You’re really going to need to know how to put up all of that food you grow in your garden.

3:00 Q & A Meetup for Beginning Farmers: Because you’ll definitely want to make connections and meet other beginning farmers.

5:00 Cover Crops: Growing Soil Health and Fertility: It’s amazing how much you have to take care of your soil. This information will help with that.


9:00 Getting Started with Bees: Bees are awesome, and any intro discussions you can find are going to be super helpful.

10:00 Beginning Seed Saving for the Home Gardener: Because saving your seeds is going to save you money and make you happy.

11:00 Animal Communication: I promise. You’re going to wish so badly to be able to communicate with your animals. The more you know about how your animals communicate, the easier it will be to care for them.

12:00 Basic Homesteading: I mean, enough said.

1:00 Backyard Grain Growing: Anything focused on what you can do in your backyard is going to be worth your time.  

2:00 Less Is More: Raising Children on a Tight Budget: I’ve learned so much about budgeting since I quit my full-time job to homestead, but anything you can find out along these lines has to be helpful.

4:00 Home Composting: Because you’ll really need that compost for your garden.

5:00 Growing Grapes in Maine: Because grapes are yummy and grow here, so why not? 


10:00 The Reality of Raising Your Own Meat: There are some tough realities to raising animals for meat, and it’s good to be aware of them going in.

11:00 The Importance of Bees: They’re so important and something many backyard homesteaders can get into.

12:00 Sheep 101: Beginner’s Guide to Raising Sheep: Again, anything beginner level is going to be helpful and help you know if you’re interested.

1:00 Radical Simplicity: Because you will need to be radically simplistic in many ways to make it as a homesteader. I’m learning still.

2:00 Sheep Dog Demo: Because you can’t go to the Common Ground Fair and not see these amazing dogs!

3:00 Resistance and Resilience: Homesteading DIY: So much of what I do comes out of trying to find my own way to be resistant. This talk and discussion seems like it would be a good fit for many like-minded homesteaders.












Crystal Sands

About Crystal Sands

I am a former academic and award winning writing teacher turned hobby farmer/homeschooling mom/freelancer. In 2015, after too many years of working too many hours, I decided to change my life. This blog shares my stories related to making the change and simplifying my life–a process that began when we finally got our first chickens. In this blog, I will share my experiences learning how to hobby farm on a small place in Maine, become more self-sufficient, live frugally, live peacefully, and have more time for love. I hope you will join me on this journey by following my blog and following me on Twitter @CrystalDSands.