Maintaining A Healthy Balance While Homesteading
We were recently asked how we maintaining a healthy balance while homesteading, and I actually had to stop and think about it for a moment. What is second nature to us may seem overwhelming to those looking to begin this life, and to boot we are modern day homesteaders – we both have jobs, we have two young children who have activities of their own, animals that need our care, we grow our own food and preserve it, and a 2 acre property that needs to be established and maintained. Life is busy for us; somehow we have managed to make it work….it took some time getting to this point, but it works.
We currently raise goats, chicken, ducks, guineas and this year we will add meat animals such as quail, turkeys, and rabbits. Practicing healthy animal husbandry while working can be a challenge, but it can be done. My farm guy and I have learned to work together as a team, splitting the chores and responsibilities in caring for the all animals – pets and livestock. I design the structures and plan for any remodels that need to be completed, while he does all of the constructing (it helps when you are a carpenter by trade). We have become quite a team, and I couldn’t imagine this journey without him!
As a family we split the responsibility of caring for the animals based on a schedule that works well for us. Every evening he brings in the animals and fills all the waterers, I let them out in the morning and feed them. I will often perform a quick assessment checking to see if there are any pressing issues that need to be addressed prior to heading off to work.
Every afternoon the little farm kids collect the eggs and recheck the waterers while I clean the drop pans, prepare their feed for the next day, open a new location for them to free range, and prep the coop and goats pen for the evening.
The weekends are reserved for wellness checks on all the animals, picking up feed and necessities, make any necessary repairs to the coop, goat housing or other structures, and cleaning of Poultry Land. We both have demanding jobs so rest is important, we take turns with who get’s to sleep-in on the weekends – I generally take Saturdays and he takes Sundays…I won’t lie, I need my sleep or I tend to be a slightly grumpy farm girl!
In my circle of homesteading and farming friends our main concern is for our livestock, be it if they are pets or meant for food. We treat them humanely and with love and respect; this is what separates us from factory farms. We invest a lot of time and money, often shedding a tear when we process them, but we thank them for providing our family with food to eat – a cleaner food source, one that you will not find at any grocery store.
Canning and Preserving
We can throughout the year with a majority of it occurring throughout the summer and fall months. I have been blessed to have most of the summer months off and during this time I focus on putting up roughly 80 percent of our canned goods for the year. The items we put up will come from our garden, local farmers, and orchards close to us. During the winter months we tend to put up quite a bit of soups and a variety of meat; a majority of our winter canning occurs on the weekends and I try to put up something every weekend, generally taking about 2 hours of my time.
Additional to canning we love to dehydrate fruits that are in season. I like to start the dehydrator first thing in the morning prior to starting our day and this tasks only takes about 20 minutes of prep time. There is really nothing to working the dehydrator, simply add your item and let it do its thing, bagging it up once it’s done.
Canning is an addiction…yes, those of you who can will completely relate to this! We do it to preserve fresh foods that are in season, for emergency reasons, and to simply provide our families with foods that are healthy with only ingredients that NEED to be in it.
Maintaining The Property
Oh goodness, where do I start? There is an ongoing list of what needs to be done and when it should be completed by, everything is important, but the question is what’s more pressing? After our first year on the property we quickly learned that converting a single family home on acreage into a fully functioning self sustaining homestead was going to take time.
Setting weekly, monthly, and yearly goals have really kept us on task for what we wish to achieve. If a task doesn’t get done one week, we roll it to the next – WITHOUT guilt. We have come to realize that we did not purchase a ready to go homestead, we couldn’t just jump in and GO, GO, GO! We are starting from scratch, building it from bottom up and that takes time, LOTS of time. Accepting this concept allowed us to forgive ourselves if it was not completed by the scheduled day.
Most of the work around the homestead occurs between the seasons of early spring to fall when we have more daylight hours. If the children are not working with us they are often running around watching everything we are doing. Are we tired? I would say, heck yes! But its not a level of tiredness that we ever tire of, we enjoy being exhausted from a good build or if a tree that was blocking the garden finally came down. The fulfilment of walking the property and seeing what we have completed keeps us going.
Work Smart & Build Frugally
For our first year on the property we had a list that was a mile long of tasks that needed to be done in order to convert the home and land into a homestead. Garden beds needed to be put in, a large garden shed needed to be converted into a coop, the greenhouse needed to go up, and protective covers needed to be built for the animals. With all this going on it meant that we would not be able to work on clearing the lower lot. YEAH, we really weren’t going to let that happen! So, how do homesteaders get brush cleared, shrubs out, and unwanted trees gone? Why, by bringing in a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats of course! Our small herd has worked hard to clear the land and rid it of blackberry vines and salmonberry canes, they continue to be the best demolition crew around. This has freed us from having to do the job our selves, and it feeds the herd at the same time. When we are ready to begin the barn construction this will be one heavy task, and countless of hours worth of work, that we will not have to worry about!
In deciding the garden layout we had two things to consider, the hard pan and rocks in the ground and how to minimize our time weeding the garden beds. We decided that raised beds would be the best option for us, so Farm Guy took to finding free material on Craigslist and at his job site to get the job. We have committed that each year a few beds will be added based on our needs; this year a hugelkultur garden bed will be constructed with the branches of the trees we dropped, as well as a bed dedicated for russet potatoes.
Once we are ready to drop the gardens for the season we do not have to worry about spend hours watering it, especially when we are exhausted (or just waking up). By putting in soaker hoses and a timer it has really freed up our time and allows us to focus on other tasks at hand.
If you haven’t notice by now we try to maximize free items as much as we can, and this includes fertilizer from the waste of the small livestock on the homestead. The water from the duck’s pond is our main source of fertilizer once the plants have been established and it’s used in the garden every other week. Duck manure is not considered a hot fertilizer, which means it can be applied directly to a garden bed and doesn’t have to ‘sit’ for a period of time. By using the water from the duck’s pond it eliminates us from having to draw from our well twice, and we are grateful we can recycle the water! Once the rabbits arrive we will be able to add their waste as another form of instant fertilizer. We also use chicken and goat manure around the property, and have yet to find the need to purchase it.
In true homesteading fashion a majority of our builds are done with recycled and repurposed material. Our goal is to build with only a 20% out of pocket expense and all other materials should be recycled.
Natural Remedies, Crafts & Research
We use as many natural homemade items as we can, and luckily many of these items only take minutes to make. What I have learned about making your own natural remedies is to never allow it to run out. You may often need to order ingredients and waiting for them to be shipped can be frustrating, so keeping a steady supply of the items you use on a regular basis is important; additionally, it is often cheaper to purchase in bulk. Making items such as toothpaste, laundry soap, hand soap, disinfecting wipes or eczema cream really only takes minutes, so realistically you are not spending hours getting this task done and you are rarely making more than one item at a time.
I love to craft (and as soon as I get knitting down I will love that too!), but it is reserved to what we call down time projects. Crafting is generally done after dinner or on the weekend when the chores are done; I often blog and work on our social media sites once everyone has gone to bed and the house is quite . Most of our crafting and remodeling of the house occurs during the winter months when we can’t work outside….for example the bathroom remodel that occurred in 2015.
I’m not going to lie, any research I do is often on the go and I have become an amazing multi-tasker! Prior to purchasing the property I spent countless of hours researching how to maintain a bountiful garden, animal husbandry, and the type of structures we wish to build. I will often end my night researching one thing or another and have gotten really good at storing the info on Pinterest!
Family Time & Me Time
Outside of everything that needs to be accomplished, family comes first. Our children are only young once and we can never get that time back, for this reason including them in every aspect of homesteading is important. There are times that romping around the property with us is sometimes considered an annoying chore to them, but we try to make it as fun as possible. These are memories that they will have forever and we want to make it a positive time for them, hoping that one day they may want the same life.
They help us split wood, build structures, clear the land, work the garden and we maximize this time together. As we are sowing seeds or harvesting from the garden, you will find us talking, joking, or planning what we’re gonna do for the rest of the day – the river often call us for a quick dip on a warm summer day (BEST. REWARD. EVER for completing a task). Every Sunday is reserved as family day – it could be an all day affair or a few hours, we spend this time together. If the weather holds we like to explore our state, or make time to visit with family and friends, sometimes it means playing board games until we parents can’t take it any longer!
Our lives are not perfect, nor are they mapped out. With the desire to run a homestead or farm comes the simple fact that everything works itself out. Somehow, 24 hours in a day is enough, though in that moment we would NEVER admit that! We have learned through trial and error how to work smarter, to use the resources around us in order to homestead efficiently and to save time….freeing us up to enjoy other activities.
In all honesty those of us who have chosen this lifestyle seek a simpler life. We don’t desire evening outs or parties (not saying that on occasional both could be a very nice break), but what we really seek is to be on our little piece of heaven enjoying what we do. And no matter how hard it can be at times, it’s something we love, we make time for the things we love, and everything else seems to fall into place. It’s been said a million times with homesteading and farming, the highs are high and the lows are lows…but it’s all part of the life.
Everything get’s done, all of the chores and every responsibility we have, and the word tired takes on a new meaning. If you ask us the definition of tired we would say it’s about fulfilment, happiness, appreciation, and a love for the life we have chosen. Maintaining a healthy balance while homesteading happened the moment we chose this life, everyone achieves it in their own way, within their own family, but we each find it.
Ann – A Farm Girl In The Making