Homesteading for beginners requires creating a homestead based on reasonable goals. Often this means reaching out to the homestead community near you. Fellow farmers and homesteaders will help you to establish homesteading goals and plans for your area based on their experience.
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Creating a Homestead
I talk about this topic a lot on my social media platforms and website, as creating a homestead which is built on solid foundations is essential to the life we live.
How one family views their homesteading plans will be different for another’s. Remember, creating a homestead is based on many factors – property size, skill set, and what already exists on the homestead (barns, orchard, garden, livestock).
In Season 2 Episode 6 of the Simple Homesteading Life podcast I talk about 5 tips for creating a homestead and how to jump start your homesteading plans and dreams. Living on a homestead can bring many challenges and difficulties. With a lot of research, help from your homestead community, and trial and error, you will uncover the self-sufficient homestead that you have longed for.
For your convenience, this episode of a Simple Homesteading Life Podcast has been transcribed. Please note, minor edits made during the transcribing process to allowed for an easier read. Feel free to list to the original episode or other episodes of my podcast by clicking the link above.
Hey you guys! And welcome back to the Simple Homesteading Life podcast, I am Ann and today’s topic is going to cover some of the realities with establishing homesteading dreams.
Homesteading as a whole is very difficult, and sometimes we have dreams that we want to put into place. Many of us feel that it is important to achieve these dreams right now, in this moment in time, in order for us to be successful with the lives we live. However, the dreams that we created have quickly become reality and you are responsible for execute them.
Some of these dreams are flawless. They fall into place immediately and everything works out great. However, about 90 percent of the time, you are going to have to deal with the reality of what is required of the dreams you have.
Homesteading Plans and Reality
So, what prompted this particular podcast was an Instagram post that I had shared a couple of days ago. The post covered a very simple concept yet one that everybody struggles with. However, I’m one of those people that puts my dirty laundry out on the table, and I’m going to tell you about my workaround for various complications when creating a homestead.
You can read the post below. This will give you an idea of what today’s topic is about.
The post was titled – The Reality of a Dream
“You learn quickly in this life that reality is what grounds us, and the dream is what keeps us going. I had big dreams for this property when we first purchased it a little over seven years ago. At that time, I wasn’t sure what was achievable on a two acre mountainside property located in the wettest part of the country. But I was going to test the waters and do exactly what I wanted to do, and then reality hit me like a ton of bricks and dropped me to my knees.
I was pissed, devastated, irritated that I, we, me, was trying to establish a homestead in the mountains. I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult this is. My points for reason: land erosion and natural springs prevent us from keeping pigs year round, disturbing our food source. The cooler temperatures and location on the mountainside hinder our ability to truly test the garden’s potential.
Nine months of rainfall not only creates mud, but it creates a petri dish of bacteria due to the amount of rain and water and warmer temperatures. Point four, underground springs pop up in the oddest locations currently in the middle of our backyard, causing a shallow creek to run through the space.
The predator issue is extremely destructive, and the only solution per game and wildlife is to dispose of the threatening animals. This would include black bears, bobcats, cougars and coyotes.
The last point, keeping bees is not feasible on our property due to the inadequate locations to place the hives. Another fault of the trees and lack of sunlight. Even with these realities, though, dreams continue.
There’s always a solution.
I’ll partner with the neighbor to run pigs, to feed our family and clear the land from spring through fall before the rainy season starts, preventing ground erosion. A new greenhouse will be added to start. Seeds help grow peppers, which we wouldn’t be able to grow otherwise. And as an additional growing space for our fall garden, the poultry flocks to free range dropping feces around the property versus in a run, minimizing the risk of acidosis from occurring.
Trees are dropped to create berms and slow the land erosion process while providing us the necessary sunlight needed for the garden. Predator issues are handled first with our dogs prior to taking matters into our own hands. I asked the neighbor to mentor me on keeping bees. He said yes, but also invited me to place our own hives on his place so I can learn hands on.”
The Reality of It
When reality drops you to your knees, it’s your dreams which keep you going. It’s up to you to find the workaround and how to achieve your dreams. I’m going to tell you, a little post like this resonated so much interest, and the reason why is because everybody goes through it.
This isn’t something new. This isn’t something that only I am going through. Not being able to get my dreams to fruition quickly, promptly, and basically on demand when I want them is frustrating.
I have to be able to discover what the issue is about. So basically, when someone says, “just get up, brush yourself off and move on”, this is exactly what they mean. How you solve the problem is going to depend on your personality type, your property and what you and your partner are willing to compromise in order to find a solution.
Homesteading for Beginners – Find the Workaround
I’m going to give you examples as to how Justin and I go about problem solving “issues” on our homestead. Especially when what we wish to incorporate is difficult for a mountain side property.
Now remember, my homestead is focused on food freedom. We’re focused on being able to live sustainably, but we are not completely out of the market. We still buy produce from the market that is not in season because we love fresh produce and fruits.
This also covers our basic necessities, the flour, the sugars, and other things that we do not grow. Now granted, there are little things that could be eliminated, but our necessities are purchased from the market.
Again, food freedom and sustainability is our main focus. Let me give you examples of some of the problem solving techniques that we have been able to successfully maneuver through. See if these items can work into where you’re at on your homesteading journey and what you’re doing on your property.
The very, very first thing I’m going to start off with is this, everything has a workaround. Every issue can be solved when creating a homestead. Sometimes you’re not going to like how to solve the problem, but maybe this is what you needed to hear.
Example 1 – Keeping Pigs
When you raise pigs, whether they are pasture, forest, or pen raised, it requires land. I thought for years that I couldn’t raise them because of the layout of our land as we live on a mountainside. I needed to come up with a solution as to how to work pigs onto the property in order to sustain us. For this we needed help from my neighbors.
My neighbor and I have gone in together multiple times on a pig share from a local farm. This was an easy solution to consume a clean meat source. It was inevitable that one day pigs would play a part in our lives.
However, both our properties are surrounded by blackberry thickets and invasive plants. So much so that we cannot handle maintaining it on a regular basis. It’s so much work to get in there and try to clear it on our own. The land was unusable and it frustrated both homesteads.
Now, it did take about two years for me to sort things through but first I had to muster up the confidence to ask my neighbor if they were interested. Luckily to my surprise they jumped in without hesitation.
Help Thy Neighbor
Justin and Reid, my neighbor, put up the electric fencing and built a little shelter for the piglets. We used our dogs to work the properties, protecting the pigs as they work the forest ground.
As you can see, we thought we couldn’t run pigs when in all actuality it worked out. At the same time I was able to teach the family how to achieve a sustainable clean food source. Not to mention, we both received something out of the deal – food and cleared land.
Example 2 – The Deck
Sometimes, something as simple as tearing up your deck and putting in a new one should not be complicated. Well, that is unless Covid hits and the cost of lumber skyrockets. Because of the increase in lumber cost we currently do not have a back deck.
What we do have choices, and that is what we’re banking on.
I mean, was it the right time for us to tear down the deck? You know, we didn’t know that Covid was going to hinder lumber costs and our ability to finish our deck. So, we are going to have to bite the bullet, regardless of the cost of lumber and finish our deck.
To compensate the cost the deck will be much smaller than what we intended.
Example 3 – Tapping Trees to Make Syrup
Think about what you want to achieve. Is it tapping tree sap to make syrup in the plans?
Do you truly want to tap for sap, and do you have a set-up that can help you complete the task easily without becoming frustrated and never want to try the process again?
Let me give you an example, we tap our maples for sap and the process is a long one. Extracting the sap can take months, especially if the temperatures do not cooperate. From there it’s boiled down for hours and transformed into syrup. Easy enough, yes?
Unfortunately if you don’t have a good set-up for boiling down the sap into syrup the process will take quite some time, especially if you are using stock pots. Do you realize how long the process will take if you have been blessed with 20 gallons of syrup at any given time? Not to mention, boiling sap is extremely messy and best done outdoors. This means waiting for the weather to cooperate, especially if you do not have an outdoor kitchen.
Turning sap into syrup or sugar is sustainable, however, do you currently have the time to achieve the final product? This is a great example of postponing a project until your homestead is better established.
Example 4 – The Rabbit Barn
One final example is my rabbit barn. It has been up for two year and it’s still not completed. It is so frustrating to look out there and see the potential for what it could be.
Justin and I are trying to find the workaround for it without putting much money into materials. A barn that size is quite costly. Stay tuned, I may have it figured!
Example 5 – Beekeeping
Oh, how I want to keep bees. However, there is not a space on our homestead which would ensure their wellbeing.
If you want to keep bees you must research how to achieve this. Don’t keep bees because –
- They are great for the garden (because they are).
- You want the honey because it’s delicious (because it is).
But how can you keep bees if your property is not set up adequately, are you wasting your money?
Buying the suit, hives, bees, all the things that you need to keep bees is an expense, especially if you cannot keep them alive every single year. Now, there are years where you’ll lose a hive or two. Even the most experienced beekeepers lose hives at times.
These circumstance is much different than an uneducated individual who thinks keeping bees is a simple process and jumps into it. A bees environment must be maintained to ensure that nature is allowed to do its thing.
I was able to find a mentor in our little community. In fact he is allowing us to keep a few hives in his pasture.
The life we live requires research, whether it is for creating a homestead, food preservation, livestock husbandry, keeping bees, or gardening.
Research Makes for a Self-Sufficient Homestead
I can’t say this enough, and I say it all the time, research is essential to establishing and creating a self-sustaining homestead.
In my canning course, I constantly harp on the importance of researching before you do anything. Do not take anybody’s word for anything. It’s up to you to discover how you wish to preserve foods. There are two effective ways to achieve this – take my canning course or study the National Center for Home Food Preservations website.
Let me say that again, research everything thoroughly regardless of the type of project it is. What works for another homestead may not always work for yours. Research it, research it, research it.
Back to food preservation. My canning course, the Sustainable Canning Course talks about the scientific aspect behind preserving foods. The way that the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the USDA, and the FDA teach it.
However, I’m also a sustainable homesteader, which means that science has to meet traditional values somewhere. Why? Well, if an off-grid life suddenly occurs then one needs to know how to be able to preserve the harvest.
How am I able to achieve this when science is telling me that traditional methods do not work and are unsafe? Because there are loopholes in the information that these organizations share. You have to dig and dig and dig and dig to find them.
Also, grab a copy of my book, The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest. The book is a one stop shop for those new to food preservation as it covers canning, drying, curing, fermenting, cold storage ,freezing, and freeze drying.
Utilize your Community
The best research is gleaned from people in your area. Find and follow local and regional farm groups on Facebook. Gosh, these groups are a wealth of knowledge because they are in your area.
If you have not found a Facebook group, then meet the people within your community. Begin by asking questions to the locals, I am willing to bet they will be excited to give you tips and advice.
Again, research, research everything. I cannot tell you enough how important and vital that is in the life that we live. A lot of individuals start creating a homestead because they want to be away from others. We often seek sanctuary on a plot of land doing the things that allow us to achieve freedom.
Homesteaders do not want to be told what they can and cannot do. They wish to succeed and know that they are claiming independence and reclaiming a life which allows them to be reliant on themselves.
Find Your Homestead Community
Every single homestead has a community around it. Every single one. This is regardless if the community is 100 acres, 50 acres, or even 20 feet away.
Whatever the case, it would be foolish to not utilize your community when you start creating a homestead. Now luckily we live in a very tech savvy world, and in this techie world we have social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow us to learn. Online courses can also be used and many classes are now achieved via Zoom.
If you are a true introvert and you really don’t want to be around people (because I’m going to tell you, my husband’s right there), you can learn everything you need to learn online.
I hear all the time to utilize YouTube, you can find everything you need to know, and that makes me cringe. I cringe, but yet I can’t cringe because I do have YouTube channel as well. Use caution when following how to videos, not all are properly researched.
Take Everything With a Grain of Salt
Remember, things which work for one property may not work for yours. It is good to have mentors that you can glean information from, regardless if they are in your community or online. For example, my neighbor will be teaching me how to keep bees and also allowing us to keep hives on his property.
Your community will be a blessing. Pick and choose tasks which you’d like to learn and incorporate them onto your property.
The Online Community
I have been able to establish an online community through my social media platforms. I have been blessed to learn from people around the world. Do I take everything to heart that they share with me? No, but I do take bits and pieces of tips and advice and incorporate it into our lives.
When I launch my online academy, the Sustainable Homestead Academy, the focus and goal is to teach people around the world how to achieve sustainability. I expect the participants to take what they can from the courses offered, but they must execute what is taught based on their vision for what they want for their property.
So yes, your community can be online. However, I would really encourage you to seek a community which is local to you and find out how they’re doing things in their area.
Living on a Homestead Requires Planning Accordingly
The last tip that I have for you is really, really quite important, and sometimes we’re so eager to start creating a homestead that we jump. Often so fast that we begin to fail, and more times than not, those who are new to the lifestyle did not have mentors or family members to guide them along their journey.
And you know, I hear a lot of complaints about there being no seeds, no canning lids and no jars. Whatever the case is, here’s the reality of it. We, along with the world, got shook-up last year, and the need to achieve food ownership suddenly skyrocketed.
A few individuals decided that this was what they wanted to achieve. They wanted to seek sustainable living and wanted to never rely on anybody for food. These individuals wanted to own their food source as many others were already doing.
Roughly 15 percent of the people who were quick to homestead have already quit. It was easier to continue to go back to the market and not have to deal with the garden or why it failed. Raising livestock was also an issue as many individual were too empathetic to butcher their own meat.
I often heard people stating that they couldn’t butcher all these chickens that they brought in, and how they couldn’t consume all the eggs they had. Many did not know how to make bread or wanted to cook from scratch all the time. Before these people knew it everything began to snowball around them and frustration set in, causing them to walk away.
It’s so sad to see, but it’s not as sad as hearing my fellow homesteaders out there complaining that there are not enough seeds or canning jars and lids, or whatever the case is.
My answer to them may not be very kind, but it is basically this, shame on you. Shame on you for disrupting somebody else’s dreams to do exactly what we’re doing, and shame on you for not being organized enough to have all these items in advance.
Now, we should have been buying lids at the end of the canning season. So basically at the end of October, when the stores have restocked. This is the time for restocking our supplies. Using last year’s seed or poultry catalog we should have been buying seeds and ordering poultry in the late fall or early winter months.
If you’re not saving your seed catalogs for the past year, you all need to start. We should never be waiting for seed catalogs to arrive in December and January to order seeds for the year. If you are not organized in this process, you run the risk of not getting the seeds you wish.
Greenhouse and Small Barns
And this is where I encourage you to truly plan accordingly while creating a homestead. If you want to build a greenhouse out of antique windows, you can’t start that greenhouse until you have enough antique windows to do so. If you want to build a barn, you need to make sure funds are available. Because the cost of lumber is astronomical right now, and if you can afford the lumber, are you intending to build your barn out of pallets? Are you going to do the framing of your barn with pallets?
There’s nothing wrong with framing a small barn with pallet. Do you understand what I’m saying?
If you do not plan accordingly, you will never succeed. Every single year, you should set goals. And if you cannot complete those goals and they are still necessary park them until they can be achieved.
Again, we need to replace our deck. It had rotted and people were falling through the boards. It was necessary to take the deck down. Now, should we have taken it all down? Probably not, but it was much easier to take all the materials to the dump at once.
Because the cost of the new deck would basically break the bank, the new greenhouse was put on hold. We had to choose one or the other, as it is with any homesteading project.
The Cost of Homesteading
So now with that said, does it take a lot of money when you start creating a homestead? Yes, it takes money to homestead.
You have to feed your livestock. You still have to pay your mortgage and the utilities. You’ve have to maintain the equipment on the property, especially if you’re not able to do it yourselves.
And then on top of that, are you planning to work your homestead part-time due to having to maintain a job or full-time?
Are you still working full-time and can only homestead before and after work and on the weekends? Pretty much milking in the morning, returning home to milk at night, maintaining your garden on the weekend and things like that?
You cannot do any of this without planning in advance. My biggest tip for you is that at the end of every year, November and December, you recap what happened that year that was successful and what happened that made it unsuccessful. From there, plan next year’s goals based on that.
Did you finish the projects and goals you set for last year? No? Okay, if they’re still important, roll them over to the next calendar year. There are ways to do this, but you cannot do this without planning accordingly.
Creating a Self-Sufficient Homestead
Let’s recap, are you ready?
Everything has a workaround. You can problem solve anything you set your mind to. You simply need to find the workaround. Sometimes this takes a short twenty four hours. Sometimes it takes months and even years. Whatever the case is, find your workaround. If it is achievable and if it’s going to benefit your homestead and your property. Always, always find the workaround.
Maybe right now is not the right time to achieve what you want your dreams to be. Maybe you just need to park it for a little bit and then come back and visit it later when you are financially more stable. Consider postponing a task for when you’re not so busy. Could it possibly be that what you think you need is not actually needed now?
I know that’s a hard pill to swallow. Maybe you just don’t need it right now. How do you not need something that’s going to allow you to be sustainable?
These are things that you’re going to have to face and figure out. I would suggest you think about everything you want to achieve when creating a homestead. Is it the appropriate time to actually do it or can certain tasks be postponed?
Research, research, research. I just can’t say it enough. I think it’s so vital that you find your community and learn from them. Then glean the information and pick and choose what’s going to work for your homestead.
Remember, what works for my homestead may not work for your homestead. You need to research every single aspect of the information you’ve gathered, making sure it’s feasible for your homestead.
Take for example, the argument about raising chickens. Is sand better than straw, or is straw better than sand in your chicken coop? You have two groups that will argue both points with passion. They will tell you the other is incorrect, and this method is the best. However, what works best for you?
Will sand work in my Pacific Northwest weather? Probably not. Will straw? Yes, if the floor of the coop is raised high enough and it’s not getting wet. Absolutely. I could have a deep litter method all winter long and be completely successful with that.
Involve your neighbors and find your community. Is that essential to the lives we live? Yes. I mean, think about it. Pa Ingalls needed help from a neighbor when he couldn’t get things done. That’s basically essentially for the lives we live.
We would not have been able to keep bees if I didn’t ask to my neighbor to teach me and allow me to keep hives on his property. I did not have it in my schedule to sit for hours at a class, and I’m such a hands on learner that I need to be knee deep into something to best learn. I need to be talked through it, visually see it all at the same time. This was essential for my learning. I succeeded because I reached out my community.
Plan accordingly, accordingly and accordingly. I keep repeating these words, and plan accordingly. And the reason why is because you have to think financially first. Next, consider if you have the time to complete the task, or is it something that can get pushed off until the next year?
When I say plan accordingly, it means that you should not bite off more than you can chew when creating a homestead.
That’s a Wrap on this Podcast – Creating a Homestead
Okay, those are the five points. This is how you can take your dreams and actually make them reality. This is how you go about problem solving when you think that things are not going to work.
All right, you guys, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got for this episode. I am thankful for the communication on social media for this topic.
With that said, I’ll see you guys next week and hopefully I can get Justin back then. I’m not quite sure what his schedule is yet, but until then, you’ll probably just get me. Have a great week, you guys. I’ll talk to you later!