Making a Homesteader

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Lately the thought of homesteading and dreams has been on my mind. I’m part of an online group of homesteaders and one of the questions I see asked most often is “how do you get the money to start a homestead?” followed closely by the second most frequent statement of “I’m giving up, because I will never have the money necessary to start a homestead”. These types of questions and the giving up of dreams has really got me stewing. So, I’m going to share my two cents and I won’t even bill you for it.

fresh-baked-breadThere seems to be some misconception that homesteading is defined as having a huge piece of land, going off grid and being totally self sufficient. Let’s just cut the crap out of that myth! Your homestead is whatever you chose to make it. I’ve seen people do remarkably self sufficient things in an apartment and those that have large pieces of land that do very little. How you chose to define your homestead lifestyle is a personal and unique choice. Plus, there is a lot that can be done before you ever get your land. From making your own clothes, buying food in raw, bulk form and preparing it, grinding your wheat for bread, making cheese and canning your fresh bought produce. Also learning to make wine, soap, candles, spin wool, make salves and even identify native plants and herbs. These skills can all be part of the learning process and will serve you well in your journey to becoming more self sufficient. Yes, we would love to start off with a few hundred acres, a solar powered well and all their outbuildings and fences ready to go. However, most of us don’t get that luxury and like almost all things in life you have to walk before you can run. We accept this constraint in other parts of our life but for some reason we refuse to accept it for the dream of homesteading. Most adults have had enough life experience to know that you have to approach any major task with a series of small steps and goals. Yet when it comes to idea of homesteading there is a misconception that you have to go big or give up, and for too many people they chose the latter. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m going to go out on a limb and state the somewhat obvious….. if you can’t make it through this very first (and relatively easy) hurdle of how to begin homesteading maybe this isn’t the life for you. No offense is intend. Let me explain. As I said earlier, homesteading can have a lot of different definitions and if you look at a hundred homesteaders you would see a hundred different ways to do it. However, one thing ties them all together, an attitude of perseverance. Interestingly, you get a bunch of us in a room together and start talking about any farm or homestead topic and you will see arguments break out all over the place about how best to complete the project. This is a group that can’t seem to agree on much of anything.  The one thing I have seen in common in all of these people is that homesteaders don’t quit. They will face incredible challenges and keep going. To me homesteading is less about what your living accommodations look like and more about your spirit, determination, inner grit or whatever you chose to call it. 

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I get the fact it can be incredibly frustrating and emotionally challenging to want something and to feel each set back is a permanent barrier. However, if you can’t get through these road blocks how will you pick yourself back up when you go down to the chicken coop and found a weasel has wiped out most of your flock? Or when you lose your best doe during kidding complications? Or when your entire year’s garden is lost to weather and pests? Or when you are so physically ill you don’t have the energy to make it to the bathroom down the hall, but have to drag yourself outside to care for your animals? Wanting to get started on a big piece of land and jump into whatever you envision the lifestyle to be is just the beginning of many frustrating homestead tests. You see, there will always be challenges on a homestead, it is the one thing you can count on. Yes, you can cry, scream and rail against the injustice and unfairness of it all and then you have to pick yourself back up and do it again. So when I hear people say they are going to quit their homestead dream, I feel a sadness for the death of their dream but I don’t push them to continue because this lifestyle is not for everyone. You have to have the fortitude to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other despite heartbreak, illness and unimaginable trials if you want to live this lifestyle. You see, homesteaders aren’t born, they are made, painstakingly etched from buckets of their own blood, sweat and tears.

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Winter’s hatchet weather

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We’ve had a unusual late fall here in the Pacific NorthWET. We’ve got snow! I’m guessing that someone has been praying just a bit too hard for a white Christmas and overshot their target date. Don’t blame me because 1) my prayers don’t usually have such an immediate and  direct response like this and 2) I hate driving in the slushy, white stuff. We’re not even two weeks into the month of December and we’ve had snow twice already.

The first snow was beautiful…..until it turned to ice. Oddly enough most of the west side of the state didn’t seem to have much snow accumulation or the resulting ice and people thought I was exaggerating until I showed them pictures from our area. While the snow fell for a few hours that day the bone chilling cold lasted for days (*disclaimer: We (meaning, “I”), are total weather wimps out this way and “bone chilling cold” is usually anything in the mid to low 20’s. Yes, I am fully aware this is almost bikini weather for some of our more frozen states……but not for this gal!)

tank-in-snow-120916-editAnyway, I digress, so while I appreciated the beauty of the white stuff, I have to admit I was slightly less than thrilled when it started snowing again late last night. Seriously?! We live in the land of rain and gray skies, this snow stuff doesn’t happen very often and rarely in the fall. More often than not our cold spells result in what I call broomstick weather. I call it that because I can take a broom out to do chores and brush off any frost and then flip over the broom and use the handle to bust up any ice in the water troughs. The last few days we have slipped into hatchet weather. Yup, you guessed it, the ice is so thick in the waterers that it laughs in the face, er….. handle of the broom. No, hardcore weather calls for hardcore tools….time to break out the hatchet! That’s right folks, it’s hatchet weather at the farm. As brutal as that sounds it really just means that I use the hatchet to break up the ice, but it sounds way cooler if I don’t explain it.

Snowy days on the farm can be difficult. It means that chores take a bit longer  to ensure everyone has enough food, that ice is broken up from the troughs and having to run out and check on the animals more frequently. However, it also means roaring fires, baked goods and comfort foods, soap making and maybe even trying my hand at knitting. Stay warm my friends.