When I first set out on my homesteading adventures my friends and even a few in my family gave me more than a few sideways glances. Some of them, I’m sure, thought I really needed some mental help while others secretly thought “Good for you!”. Personally, I embraced homesteading with all my heart. I’m just not a city girl and I love the country life.
I have learned a lot on my journey of homesteading. Much of what I’ve learned wasn’t learned in a book or online. It was learned through trial and error. Regardless of the reactions of my friends and family, this is a journey I chose to take and embrace. However, there are some serious considerations about homesteading that no one talks about or tells you when you first embark on your journey into homesteading. Whether you’re homesteading to enjoy your own food, or you’re a doomsday prepper, there are simply some things about homesteading that no one will tell you that you should know. So I’ve decided it’s time to talk about them.
1. You Don’t Have To Be A Doomsday Prepper
Many thought that I’d joined the doomsday prepper crowd. Just because you’ve decided to homestead doesn’t mean that you’re a doomsday prepper. However, you should always be prepared for the unexpected. Power outages, inclement weather, loss of a job, and more. It may carry a stigma with it, but it’s worth it to me to have plenty of food, alternate heat sources and cooking means and warmth.
2. No One Really Knows What They’re Doing
When I first began homesteading I had no clue what I was doing. I knew the lifestyle that I wanted and was determined, but I had no idea what I was getting into.
There are so many different reasons to homestead. The truth of the matter is that there is no right or wrong way to homestead. Even someone who lives in a residential area with close neighbors can have a nice garden and consider it their homestead.
I’ve learned that it’s okay. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. All you have to do is have a determination that you’re going to build your own homestead and go with it.
3. You’ll Have Endless Projects
Many have left the corporate rat race thinking that homesteading would have fewer projects. Guess what, regardless of where your homestead is located there will be endless projects. Don’t let the fact that there are endless projects discourage you.
Keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your homestead be built in a day. Strive for functional, not perfection. From fence mending to learning how to tend my chickens I had to learn. I have endless projects so I’m never bored. I just list them out and prioritize them so that one day I might be done.
While greener living may be trendy, homesteaders know that everything they own will eventually be upcycled. It’s not for greener living, it’s simply for frugality and functionality. Everything in and around the homestead will eventually be repurposed and upcycled.
Another idea and great way to upcycle is that many businesses leave pallets out in back for people to pick up or simply to be rid of them. Pick these up when you can, when you have enough, you can use these for a variety of projects in and around your homestead.
Just make sure that they are serviceable and sturdy. Not all pallets are made the same but many are great and will work well to upcycle for various projects in and around your homestead.
While you can listen to the weather report or read it, the truth of the matter is that weather is going to do what it wants to whether you’re ready or not. No matter how well you’re prepared, inclement weather can wreck havoc on your homestead.
From winds knocking down the chicken coop to storms preventing you from accomplishing a task that you had planned on doing today, you’re going to have to roll with the flow of weather. Sometimes, you’re going to have to be out in that weather to secure a metal roof or something else. Sometimes there will be torrential downpours that you’re not prepared for.
6. Get Fruit Trees Immediately
Dreaming of lots of fruit trees? Many of us have had this dream. However, fruit trees can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to produce so be sure to get those started immediately. That way, when you’re ready to start turning a profit you’ll have some fruit to sell. Section off an area for fruit trees and get those planted yesterday! You’ll really appreciate this in a few years.
Believe it or not, chickens are one of the easiest farm animals to raise. They forage for food (supplement with some chicken scratch) and they like to catch mice (no more mice problems) plus, they lay eggs and are excellent in a stew pot when they’re done laying.
Truthfully, they require minimal care other than a safe coop (make it mobile so that you can move it around to different areas or allow them to be free range).
Rabbit manure is ideal as compost. They are also good to eat. You can set them up in an area where their poop will fall through small grids and collect it for fertilizer. Many people think that rabbits are a lot of trouble, but I have found that they are very quiet and gentle and have plenty of babies for future meals. I know that may gross many out, but it’s a fact of life on a homestead.
Your fence is as good as you build it. Take the time to build a good solid fence and you’ll thank yourself later. Don’t go with that cheap piece of metal you found lying on the side of the road, you want a secure fence. This will help keep your animals and pets in and help you to define specific areas of your homestead.
10. Raise Your Own Meat
Many are squeamish about this. Don’t be, if you can’t handle the butchering, you can call a company to come and do it for you. You don’t even have to watch if you don’t want to.
Raising your own meat is far superior to what you buy in the store that has fillers, additives, and other things that aren’t healthy. It’s also less expensive in the long run.
I personally don’t care for goat meat, however, many do. Thankfully, there are other great reasons to have goats on the homestead. They eat the weeds (I hate weeding so any help in this department is much appreciated). They also can be milked.
Goat milk is sweet and delicious and also makes a wonderful soap. Yes, they can be messy, but it’s well worth it when you consider the benefits. No one ever told me all of the benefits about goats, I learned these all on my own when someone brought me a goat as a gift. I didn’t appreciate the gift at first, now, I’m ever so grateful!
12. Hard Work
Homesteading requires a lot of hard work. You may be up as early as 4:00 am and not get to bed until late at night some nights. You’ll find that you have less free time and you may feel overwhelmed at times.
The older you get, the harder the work may seem. If you’re not an early riser, you’re going to have to learn to get up early anyway. Don’t sorry, you can take a nap midday if you’re done with your chores.
12. It’s Therapeutic
Homesteading can be very healing. If you’ve had a rough life, if you’re going through a rough time, there is just something about nature and the fresh air that are healing. Working with the animals and weeding the garden are all great forms of therapy.
Even if you’re just having a bad day homesteading can be so very healing. Just the act of getting out and doing something can make a huge difference in how you’re feeling emotionally and physically.
13. There Is Death
This is perhaps one of the most harsh things to learn about homesteading. No one really talks about it but it’s always there just underneath of the surface. It’s not the butchering, this is different. This is death due to injury, illness, or even predators. It’s unexpected.
There will be predators. I recently glanced out a window and saw a fawn. As I was admiring the fawn, a cougar came right up behind it in broad daylight! Keep this in mind.
There was a fresh kill (the fawns mother) in the back yard and it was gruesome! In some cases, you’ll find the animal still alive and suffering and have to dispatch it yourself or call someone to help you dispatch it.
14. There Will Be Life
Along with death is life. There will be unexpected litters of puppies or kittens (if anyone needs a free kitten, please let us know, we have 10). There will be babies born in and around the homestead.
Some of this makes up for the death. Some of it is quite unexpected like the free range chicken that laid her eggs and a wandering rooster fertilized them. Life can be beautiful and the new life will help to keep you going.
Use your space wisely. It may never seem like you have enough space. Learn to go up and vertical in your garden and other areas in and around your homestead to maximize what space you do have.
There will be lots of poop. You’re going to have to have a plan to deal with the poop. Much of it can be composted and turned into organic fertilizer for your homestead. Scooping poop can also be therapeutic.
If you’re having a bad day and mad, try scooping some poop for 30 minutes, it’s amazing what each shovelful of poop can do to your demeanor. Poop will nourish your plants and help them to grow better.
There is no right or wrong way to homestead. You’re simply going to make lots of mistakes and have to deal with the consequences and move on. Expect the unexpected and plan for a contingency plan.
Animals will die, blight may hit a garden, corn smut will grow on the corn stalks and stunt their growth (by the way, corn smut is great in scrambled eggs-yes, I speak from experience).
18. It’s A Daily Commitment
Your life is going to revolve around the homestead. It may be a holiday but the cows still need fed. It may be your birthday, but the goats just got into the garden. You’re going to have to be on your toes and busy, even if you don’t want to be. Homesteading will require your daily commitment, even if you’re sick!
You’re going to want to have some system of organization. If you’re not normally an organized person this may be a bit of a challenge for you until you become accustomed to finding ways of organization. You’ll want areas to store things and you’ll want to have a system for your homestead.
Homesteading can be quite unpredictable. You’re going to have to learn to roll with it and expect the unexpected. The goats may get out, the pigs may go to the neighbors, the chickens may be on the roof, the pump may break, the washer may flood the laundry room.
The car may break down when you’re at the feed store. Learn to just accept the variances of the day and move on. Don’t stress over it, just make plans to remedy it and move on.
You may feel lonely at times. You may feel that all you do is work. If your not from a homesteading family you may often feel isolated and alone. Stay connected with like minded friends and family to avoid this feeling. Join community groups or online groups to stay connected.
22. You’ll Be Tempted To Quit, Often
There are going to be days that you’re literally tempted to give up and move back to town. You may even break down and cry. Hang in there, it gets better, I promise!
You’re never going to feel like you have enough money. Take your time, don’t try and build your homestead up all in one year. Set goals and cross them off your list.
Set a budget and revisit it monthly as required. Factor in the garden costs, the barn, animals, and everything else that you’re going to need. Have an emergency fund for when things break down (like the washer and the car). Set a little bit of money aside each pay period so that you can have your emergency fund.
Many beginning homesteaders think that they need to be self-sufficient, NOW. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that true self-sufficiency will take time to build up.
Let go of this pre-conceived notion and remember that it’s just going to take time, as in several years, before you are fully self-sufficient.
25. You’ll Have A Few Failures
That crop that looked great at the homestead down the road may fail on your homestead due to a different soil. Your pigs may get a disease. Pick yourself up and keep going.
Don’t allow your failures to define you or your homestead. You’re going to learn as you go. You’ll learn to identify potential issues as you go. You’ll learn how to watch your animals for diseases and your garden for pests.
26. It’s Addicting
You’re going to fall in love with the homesteading lifestyle. The more you do it, the more you’re going to love it. Even if you’re having a bad day.
27. You Can Give Up Your Gym Membership
Here’s a great way to save money for your homestead! Forget the gym, not only will you not have the time, you’re also not going to need it. You’re going to be busy every day and get plenty of exercise and a workout. If you’re not in shape, you will be within a very short time.
28. Get Used to Dirt
Your car, your house, and your barn are going to have a lot of dirt. Get used to it. You’ll have to let go of the idea of a pristine life. You’ll be getting down and dirty, a lot. From mucking the stalls to working in the garden to cleaning out the chicken coop you’re going to be dealing with lots of dirt and manure. Get a good pair of rubber boots and leave them at the back door, you’ll be glad you did.
29. Gardening Isn’t Always Easy
It’s easy to anticipate that your garden is going to look like it should be on the cover of a magazine. It’s important to understand that those gardens took years to design, maintain and develop. It’s going to take time.
Focus on only a few vegetables at a time until you get your garden built up. Take your time, learn all about a few crops at a time and you’ll feel and be far more successful. You’ll also look at your lovely garden and feel good about it.
30. Organic Gardening Is Pricey
It would seem like organic should be less expensive if you’re not putting expensive chemicals on your garden, however, it’s actually more expensive to purchase organic and chemical free seeds and components for your garden. Start small and work your way up. It’s worth it to avoid those heavy duty chemicals.
31. Food Preservation
You need to learn to preserve your food via canning, dehydrating, and freezing. You may even wish to learn to smoke your own foods. It’s not always as easy as you may think.
You’ll have to learn how to properly can things. You’ll have to learn how long to leave foods in the dehydrator. Plan to preserve what you can so that you will have plenty of food all year long. If you’ve never preserved food before read how to preserve your food or ask someone who had done it before.
32. You’re Never Going To Be Done
A homestead is always evolving. You’re never going to be done. Just when you finish a project, another one is going to be required. Just when you think you have all of the animals you want one will either die, or someone will bring you another.
It’s never ending. Hang in there, learn to list your projects by priority and focus on what must be done urgently before you move to the next project on the list. Don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed, just learn to roll with it.
33. You’ll Never Keep Up With The Neighbors
Don’t compare your homestead to anyone else’s homestead. This is your homestead and your dream, not someone else’s. Focus on simplicity and ease of your homestead.
You’re not the neighbors, while they may have some great ideas, you should never try to keep up with them, or compare your homestead to theirs, it simply won’t work. You’ll always feel envious and like you can’t measure up.
Ready to Become a Homesteader?
The bottom line, homesteading is an art form, a lifestyle, and it’s going to take a lot of trial and error to build your own homestead. There is no right or wrong way to do it and what works well for one friend may not work at all for you. Homesteading is a journey in and of itself.
In the end, you’re going to love it. You’re going to love the freedom that it affords you of doing your own thing. You’re going to love the challenges in spite of the stress that they may put on you. Homesteading is a way of life.