Now don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of fantastic perks about homesteading and I talk a lot about them. I base my whole life on being on my homestead. But often the pictures we’re presented on Pinterest and blogs and Instagram don’t always show some of the things that happen in everyday life, or, you might even say, behind the scenes of a homestead. If you’re going to have success as a homesteader, especially if you’re one of those people who runs a pros and cons list all the time, then we need to talk about these dirty little secrets so there is no misconception about what you’re getting into.
You’re going to feel alone sometimes.
Even those of us that are deeply introverted, like me, occasionally need other company. Not often, but every once in a while. Unless you live in a rural area or come from a family of homesteaders; you’re going to feel alone in your new lifestyle from time to time especially if you’re new to homesteading. The cure is getting connected with others that have chosen to homestead whether in their backyards or on acres of land. You can find them in local gardening groups, your towns produce store, on Facebook and other online forums.
You’re not always going to save money.
In fact when you start out homesteading you may find you’re spending more money. Seeds, soil or soil amendments, garden boxes, animals, animal pens, animal feed, better work clothing and shoes, tree lopping or fencing, tools, ladders, trailers, electrical tape…
The start-up and maintenance costs can be a bit overwhelming at first. But you’ll get into a groove eventually and as you’re making less mistakes your bills will be less. As you practice more culling and purging and selling off of things you don’t need, you’ll recoup some money back. Facebook marketplace, gumtree and op-shops should be your go to when getting anything. Look there first before looking elsewhere.
Point is, there will be a period where you’ll feel you’re not really “living in alignment” with the typical homesteading values, but trust me, you are. Even the simple fact you feel that way shows you’re on the right path.
You’re going to make mistakes…lots of them.
Speaking of mistakes…expect to make them. Canning jars will break, garden veggies will die, seeds will rot or wilt, your 1 day old hens will get trampled by your Clydesdale. There will be mistakes and going in with that truth about homesteading will save you a lot of heartache. From every mistake is a lesson learnt. Ask questions at your garden and produce store, ask your older neighbour when he brings a stray package over. Don’t be afraid to find a mentor or confidante, even online, to help guide you through how to improve.
It can be dirty, hard work.
Everything poops and YOU are going to have to clean it up. The horse, the chickens, the geese, the ducks, the dogs, the llamas, the alpacas…..even the cows but if your property is big enough you could even leave it in the paddock.
You’re going to battle flies while you do it; they want you to lose. You’ll eat and swallow them, then start screaming as you try and spit it out, but it’s too late – it’s already in your stomach. Then you’ll cuss as loudly as you can and throw your poo glove and shovel and walk away. And that’s ok too.
Am I speaking from experience? Yes, lots and lots of experience. I can’t give you any more advice than to handle it daily…I mean clean it up daily. It is a lot less work done as a daily chore than putting it off. Your animals will be healthier and happier in clean living quarters too. And hey, it is all good for the compost!
Sometimes, things die.
When you’re a homesteader and even when you’re not, plants and animals die. You’re going to have some trial and error with your garden and sometimes it will feel like more dies than you get to eat. But don’t give up. If you’re raising animals, some will sadly not live as long as you had thought. Some will die at your hand for meat. If you’re not comfortable with that you need to have a back-up plan.
You are not less of a homesteader if you don’t kill your animals. But if you are going to grow your own food for meat, find a good butcher and consider being off the property when that day comes. Reconsider naming your livestock because that personalisation is what makes the circle of life part difficult to achieve. I still do it but I always regret naming chicks that turn out to be roosters.
The homestead commitment is everyday.
Your homestead doesn’t care if its your birthday, a holiday, if you’re sick or whatever else has you wanting to be somewhere else. Gardens and animals need to be tending 365 days a year…often more than once a day.
Raining? Still need to collect the poo. Hailing? Still need to feed the farm animals, collect eggs, and make sure there’s no fallen branches on the electrical tape. Freak flood event? You’ll probably be out there sand bagging, moving animals to higher ground, and making sure their food doesn’t spoil.
If this is a reality you won’t be able to live with, then seriously reconsider your transition to homesteading. It’s the most idyllic, and hard work you’ll ever do. And you can’t just take a break from it as easy as you think.
Did someone say holiday? Ha, you’re funny.
Even if you’re backyard homesteader with a small garden and 4 laying hens, it may be difficult for you to get away. The average person isn’t comfortable with tending either of those things, much less a full-fledged working farm. Get to know other homesteaders, ask for farm sitter recommendations and/or be willing to train someone. Getting away from the homestead isn’t easy my friend. Especially if you have eggs that need to be collected everyday, or a horse to be tended to. Animals have needs and if you are going to bring animal into your life in any capacity then you have a responsibility to manage their care.
Hens are like potato chips.
Chickens are like potato chips and it is hard to think you have enough. Not only are chickens a lot of fun, but they’re also the target for foxes and wedge tailed eagles. You could lose an entire flock to an attack, which I have experienced.
You’ll also really wish you had more in the winter months when egg production all but stops. Nothing sadder than a homesteader buying eggs at the store, but it happens.
If you’re out of shape, it is going to hurt you.
Coming from one who knows all too well my friends. If you are out of shape it is going to be harder, take more time and keep you sore. But hey, if you do it right you’ll probably get in better shape without even going to the gym!
Take it easy when you first start working outside on your homestead. You may think you’re being more productive by powering through as many projects as quickly as you can, but here’s a secret – projects and lists are never ending on a farm. You’ll always have another new thing to add to the bottom of your list. So take it easy, and take your time. Soon enough you’ll feel yourself getting fitter and healthier and your natural fitness for working on your homestead will improve.
You may want to quit.
It may not take long for you to feel frustrated, overwhelmed and exhausted; and you just may want to quit. But, I say this with all confidence, DO NOT DO IT! Give yourself a chance to be mad, have a good cry even; but then dust yourself off and get back to work. Take a day or two off – It may help to write down your reasons for pursuing this homestead life, at the start, so you can look back on them in your moments of doubt. But realistically, this isn’t a lifestyle everyone can commit to; anyone CAN do it but not everyone WILL.
Once you fall in love with it, you’ll want it for life.
Once you really fall in love with this homesteading life you’ll always want it. Yeah, I still wish I had more space for everything I want to do. I have canning jars break from time to time and mold grow on fermented veggies. Sometimes it’s too muddy to go for a ride or even lunge my horse, and sometimes the fence I envision can’t be done as quickly as I want for any number of reasons.
But I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I have a dream, a legacy mapped out in my heart for this life; and nothing is going to take my eyes of the prize! So what are the real homesteading secrets, the crap that no one seems to talk about? Well my friends, it is that we are human and we fail. We will work hard and still come up shorter than we thought we would. We are going to have to keep learning, trying and failing as we continue down the homestead road less traveled.
But the biggest homestead secret of them all? I wouldn’t have it any other way….