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If you would have told me 10 years ago I was going to have backyard chickens, bake bread from scratch and dream of more land, barns, milk cows, and pastured pigs of my own. I would have laughed hysterically at you.
I never, ever, not in my wildest of dreams imagined I would be a homesteader. Ten years ago I didn’t even know homesteading was a thing. Maybe a little further back than that, but still.
I wasn’t raised on a farm. I didn’t care where the chicken at the store came from, and it certainly didn’t matter to me if my fresh ear of corn was sprayed with some unknown chemical and trucked in from Chile.
But once I had our first daughter. It hit me…
there’s more to life than working at a job I hate, paying bills, and buying near-food at a grocery store.
I wanted more for her, more for myself, more for my husband. I wanted more for all of us.
And what always seems to start as a romanticism of farm life… the roosters crowing, the smell of fresh soil just sprinkled with rain, the feel of dough being kneaded in your hands.
Soon becomes a reality of anything but.
There’s hard work, some blood, lots of sweat, some tears…
Always lots of mud. We’re never in short supply of that.
A lawn full of green grass isn’t really all that conducive to growing food. And honestly, my ducks couldn’t care less if they turn the entire planet into one giant mud hole in the name of finding a bug.
And I give them bugs… even in the winter. They’re not in short supply of insects (even though, the ones I provide them with are typically dead and crispy).
Some would say they’re quite…
But, I digress. This whole homesteading thing, while I find it incredibly worthwhile, is far from romantic.
Sure, I actually enjoy listening to the rooster crow in the morning. I still love the smell of the garden after a fresh, spring rain, and I thoroughly enjoy making food in my kitchen from things I grew. There’s not much better. It’s fulfilling. It’s satisfying.
Homesteading is anything but romantic.
So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m here to share some things I’ve learned since we started this whole homestead thing. Some are good, some… not so much. But, they’re all important.
10 Things You Should Know Before You Start Homesteading
1. Homesteading is Messy
Like I said… mud, blood, sweat… you’ll have it all. Sometimes in abundance. If you like things neat and tidy, you’re going to have to let things go. You will, at some point, have mud all over your laundry room floor from trekking in and out of doors. You’ll have mud caked on your boots. Farm animals are messy… and muddy. Gardening is… playing in dirt, that becomes mud.
You’ll cut yourself or an animal will be injured. Or a goat will kid… and there will be blood.
And sweat. When it’s 90 degrees outside and you are weeding the garden, or cleaning out the chicken coop. It’s a hot, nasty mess.
2. It’s Tiring
You’re going to be tired, so tired you’ll think you could sleep for a month. Sure, there are days, seasons, when you can sit back and rest, but there will be a lot of days when you’re bone tired. Getting up in the morning to care for animals, milk, tend to the garden. There’s always so much to do, especially in the summer. And it’s tiring.
3. You’ll Learn to Appreciate the Winter
And rainy days. Except for… fighting with frozen stock tanks and trudging through the snow to feed, milk, etc. Winter is a time for reflection, rest, and planning. You will soon learn to appreciate the rest after a hard, long, tiring summer.
4. People Will Think You’re Crazy
If you’re in it for a popularity contest, you may want to step away. Modern homesteaders are few and far between. Sure, it seems to be a fad where everyone on the inter webs is interested in self-sufficient living and homesteading. But, they’re not actually going to go out and do it. Not in a true, real, fashion.
Being up to your knees in manure slopping out stalls. Having dirt under your nails. Working so hard you could sleep for a month isn’t for most people. Most people wonder why you don’t just go to the store and buy the tomato or the chicken or the eggs. They don’t fully understand. And they’ll think you’re crazy.
5. Homesteading is… Emotional
I love animals. At one point in my life I wanted to be a veterinarian. Simply because I wanted to care for animals and make their lives better. And in some ways… I actually reached that goal. My animals are well cared for, healthy, and happy. And, it’s difficult when their purpose is fulfilled.
When you put so much hard work and care into an animal, it’s difficult to dispatch them. But, it’s a necessary part of farming. You can’t feed all of the chickens forever and ever until they die of old age. It’s not sustainable. If you bought a hog to grow out and put bacon on the table, there will come a day when it’s time to turn it from that sweet hog you raised and cared for into the bacon.
And… you’ll get emotional. But, you’ll thank them. And you’ll thank God. And you’ll be so glad knowing that they were treated well, cared for deeply, and lived a good life instead of being stuck inside a barn or packed in like sardines on a feed lot.
6. You Will Fail… and It Will Be Your Best Teacher
It will rain too much, the weeds or bugs will overtake the garden. You’ll lose animals due to something as simple as the weather or as complex as disease. You’ll put your garden or barn in the wrong spot. You’re going to mess up, but those mistakes will teach you.
You’ll learn what not to do. You’ll figure out better ways to avoid weeds and bugs. How to utilize drip irrigation for dry months and raised beds for easy drainage. You’ll get the barn warmer or figure out disease preventatives. Those lessons are hard. They can be expensive. But, they’re necessary and they will teach you so much.
7. Homesteading is Rewarding
I don’t think there is a more rewarding lifestyle than this. It’s… beyond words how rewarding it can be. There’s something to be said about the satisfaction you feel when you go to the garden and grab a tomato fresh for dinner. Or go right out into your own back yard to grab a fresh egg straight from the coop.
It makes you have a sense of belonging. A sense of purpose. Knowing the meal on your plate or the food you just put up in your pantry after you canned it came from your own work and two hands. There is no deeper satisfaction.
8. You’ll Change The Way You Eat
You’ll get to the point where your entire diet will change. You’ll only want local food. You’ll question absolutely everything sitting on the grocery store shelves. You will have an appreciation for the animals and plants that you put on your table. You’ll have a deeper understanding about the food that you eat and feed your family.
You’ll understand the differences between the factory farmed foods and the foods grown by yourself or people you know and trust. And you’ll be healthier and happier for it.
9. It Requires Patience
I need to remember this one. Homesteading is not an all or nothing way of life. It takes time… and patience. It’s not a checklist. It’s a way of life. It takes time and patience and if you don’t practice patience… you’ll get burnt out and overwhelmed in no time.
And then… then it’s no fun. You spend all of your time disappointed and overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel. Ask me how I know.
You have to take baby steps when starting your homestead, but you have to continue to take those baby steps for the duration.
10. Homesteading Changes You
Maybe it’s the diet. Or the hard work. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of growing your own food. Or maybe it’s the dirt. But homesteading changes you. And not in a bad way.
It makes you more appreciative of everything around you. It will not only change your diet, but your mindset. It changes the way you view everything. It gives you a deeper understanding of life… and death. It makes you feel more connected. Happier. More fulfilled. Homesteading definitely changes you.