Making a Homesteader

 2012-harvest

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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8 thoughts on “Making a Homesteader

  1. This is a great perspective and I really enjoyed reading it. Foxpineshomestead has it right, and I really could not of said it any better. I really look forward to following your blog. I would like to be able to visit your homestead group if it would be alright. I’m somewhat the fish out of water in my own world and would love to be able to speak with others that are like minded.

  2. Great points! We are just starting on this journey and we are taking it one small step at a time. By the time we get a large piece of land, we will already be master farmers, and experts on solar energy. LOL or so we hope. For now We have a garden planned for this spring, and we will play with ways to preserve that. The freezer will be our last choice, but when you have 20 squash a week from 4 plants you do whatever you have to in order to save that food.

  3. Beautifully said. Having grown up on a dairy farm, I know you are right. The animals always get cared for before the humans. I now have only a few acres, I make bread, cook all our meals, can & freeze garden food, hang my wash on a clothesline, and do some of the other things you mention. Living simply is so gratifying, but much more work than many people can conceive of.

  4. Interesting article. We started with an allotment, catching fish, and no clue. We got into some land and now have goats, chickens, a horse, oh and some bloke just brought around two geese that we couldn’t refuse. Each new thing we have no clue about and have to get our heads down and work at it and work it out, from milking goats that haven’t watched little house on the prairie to training a horse, oh and now how to handle geese. We definitely need to learn more skills you mentioned, like making soap, and making all our baked goods at home even if we have to buy the flour for now.

  5. Wonderful article. I often thought of homesteading and rual farm life like ‘Little House on the Prairie’, hard and sometimes life threatening, lol. But this puts it onto perspective. Although it’s not for everyone, it is achievable despite your circumstances.
    Beautifully put.

  6. Excellent post! We live in such an instant gratification world, too many people do not know how to work hard to achieve their dreams. We’ve been on this farm for 12 years, and we still fail sometimes. We just pick ourselves back up, learn from what didn’t work, and keep going until it finally does. The Country Boy will tell you, “If you aren’t learning, you aren’t living,” and has a wealth of variations on the same theme. Now, if I can just get him to understand how valuable wool sheep are (complete with the air conditioned barn we would have to have in order to raise them in this Southern heat/humidity), I might just be able to take my next step! 🙂

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