With summer coming to a close (we sort of hope!) the food garden has been turned over, the dirt has been harrowed, the chickens are at peak production, the dog is tired of mosquitos, the Purple Martins have headed out, and we are thinking about all the fall projects that need to take place including preparing the autumn garden, prepping the chicken coop, goat barn, and greenhouse, for colder weather, and making sure our food provisions have been sealed, jarred, frozen, and stored. It seems like a lot and I am not even sharing the tip of the iceberg. But no matter how much work it is, part of our small home lifestyle is the ability to spend more time outside and live a more sustainable and purposeful life. In fact, when shopping for homes we chose land over square feet just so we could homestead. It can be frustrating though. I won’t argue there.
Having been a homesteader for several years I often talk to people considering the lifestyle or even in the early stages of it. They seem to be more discouraged now than I remember though. Perhaps they have reason to be though. Some of them don’t have any land. Some don’t have a steady income. But for most of them, they lack confidence. Believe it or not , these were roadblocks for us as well at one time. We got through it though…sort of.
We still lose crops each year. In fact, this year we weren’t able to produce a stitch of okra and our tomatoes looked pathetic. 3 years ago our chicken flock developed some sort of crud and had to be culled prematurely. And about 4 years ago our hog pen was destroyed in a hurricane and our hogs got out! We are still learning too and so with that said I thought these few tips and points of encouragement could help anyone get started living the neo-homestead life!
DO WHAT YOU CAN WITH WHAT YOU HAVE AND WHERE YOU ARE
When we first started homesteading we had a mere speck of land to use. We were living with my folks to save money to build our tiny house. My momma allowed us to take over just a small patch of her yard so that we could try our hand at gardening. It was barely enough to really cultivate rows so we had to think a bit more outside the box. In our case that meant scrapping a big garden and learning how to grow food in pots.
Salvaging things to grow plants in (including a cast iron cauldron, a wheelbarrow, and even the bed of a broken down Studebaker truck) was a challenge but an enjoyable one. We found ways to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupe, lettuce, and even okra. It wasn’t quite the picturesque victory garden we had seen in our heads, but it worked and it produced quite a bit of food. In that experience we were able to learn more about gardening, pest control, weather, and a host of other topics we never considered needing to know.
EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER
My daddy grew up on a farm. My father-in-law farmed most of his life. My mother-in-law has been processing her own meat since she was a teenager. When we started homesteading I hadn’t done any of these things. But I trusted them. I asked questions. I listened to their stories. You could say I “did the homework.” And while I was grateful for their sharing, I didn’t really learn anything until I did it myself.
In 2011 we processed our first hogs; two of them. I had no idea what the process was like. I had read about it. I had watched a few YouTube videos on it. But that early summer day, we did it. We invited over some family members, turned the tunes up, and got to processing. I learned first hand how to ground and case sausage. I learned about ribs and how to cut them. I found out how many hams a hog can have. I even found out that head cheese is a real thing and people still enjoy it!
Maybe you can’t raise hogs yourself. But may you can find a farm that has a co-op day you can register for and go learn the process for yourself. It is worth it and will teach you lessons you never thought you would need to learn.
LEARN TO CHILL
The first season we were on this land I wanted it all. I wanted our greenhouse done. I wanted our gardens laid out. I wanted our chicken coop and run to be built and operational. I wanted a hog pen laid out. I wanted bee hives. I even wanted a dairy cow. And while I have always been a “jump right in” sort of person it was my wife that reminded me Rome wasn’t built in a day. We couldn’t just have it all. We had to learn things, master things, expand things, but do it all at a slow pace so as not to get overwhelmed and causing stress and chaos.
Each day we are faced with new victories and new failures. Some projects get funded and others go on the back burner. We are able to do this or that but only if we stop doing this or that. A lot of times we have to sacrifice our homestead time and energy in order to keep our actual home running. Just because you want to add a nice, more energy-efficient solar system to your house doesn’t mean that your daughter doesn’t all of the sudden need major dental surgery. Decisions have to be made. But they can’t be made unless you stop, breathe, and act rationally. You have to chill.
Remember that with a smaller home you have to less to worry about in that department and with a small homestead you have more ways to expand your skill-set and learn about a more rich and sustainable life. Just chill and keep moving ahead!