For years, I have dreamed of owning land. I wanted a garden, chickens, goats. I wanted my children to grow up knowing the benefits of hard work. That dream is now a reality since we purchased Serenity Acres. I still want all of that, but now it’s a bit overwhelming. My parents even went through the same thing when they started their homestead. So before you get too caught up and get in over your head, please learn from our lessons in homesteading.
Read everything. I mean this in the literal sense. Everyone has their own take on homesteading, but what works for one won’t necessarily work for other. Use the time before buying your land to research EVERYTHING. Know how things work, when things work, and what do do in case of emergencies BEFORE you need to know them. You will need to be very well-versed when you homestead. You often won’t have time to run to a book or Google every time you encounter a problem.
Have a plan. So you’ve read everything there is about homesteading. Now formulate your plan. This is key to keeping you on track. We are still in our first year, so our plan is to plant blackberries and start a small garden. We also ended up with a second flock because the one that came with the house when we bought it were attacked by a fox. In future years, we raise a new flock, get honey bees, expand the garden, and have a flock of meat chickens. Now, if we did all that at once, we’d be broke and stressed, and Serenity Acres wouldn’t be living up to its name.
Start small. I cannot stress this enough. My parents first year, they had a humongous garden. With both of them working full time, it was impossible to keep up. They’ve since scaled it back and discovered new ways to garden that work better for their busy lifestyle. For us, we are just starting out. I, too, fell into the trap of wanting a huge garden, but I learned from my parents’ mistakes. I have decided on 2 4’x8′ raised beds. That gives me an opportunity to grow a few things and get the hang of it, as well as learn what types of veggies we like and what grows well in our area without ruining a whole crop. As we learn, we can always add more beds. Learn one thing, master it, and then move on to adding something else to your skill set.
Find your passion. It’s easy to get sucked into the romanticized version of homesteading. You want to do it all, from raising a year’s worth of your own food to beekeeping to raising cattle to hatching chickens. Look, let’s get real. Even the best person can’t multitask quite that well. It’s great to try new things and to have several things going at once. I adore my chickens, but I’m not planning on having a huge flock or setting up a hatchery. I may have bees, but only to help with my garden, which is my main focus. And I honestly can’t fathom having goats because I don’t want to take time away from my garden (or have the little garbage disposals eat it!). Find that one thing that you truly love, that you’re truly good at, and center your homestead around that.
Get freebies wherever you can. Craigslist and the many yardsale groups that have popped up on Facebook are FULL of free things you can use around the homestead. Even if they aren’t free, they’re a lot cheaper. This includes canning equipment, canning jars, tools, livestock (believe it or not!), incubators, sheds, coops, and dirt. I’ve even see beehives and equipment on there for NOTHING!!
Join a co-op or learn to barter. This will save you tons of money, because homesteading is expensive at first. If you know someone who raises bees and you make the world’s best blackberry jam, trade off. This works great with gardens too. Let’s say you have way too many tomatoes because you underestimated your yield. Try talking to the neighbor down the road who ended up with too many squash and see if he wants to trade off. There are lot of co-ops getting started these days that include crafts, produce, fresh eggs, and homemade yogurt. This means you won’t have to learn everything, and you can spend more time on improving the skills you already have.
Consider your space. We bought our house with 5 acres of land. I always joked about getting a milk cow because of how much milk Mr. Cozy Cottage went through a day. After much consideration, we just honestly don’t have the space. We may have 5 acres, but 2 1/2 of that land is woods. We have no pasture for a cow to graze. Likewise, we don’t have a nice spot for pigs, as they stink to high heaven and I’m sure our neighbors would complain. We do have room for a coupe flocks of chickens and a garden, and even a spot for honeybees in the future. Also, when considering your space, consider your zone. Some residential areas have restrictions on certain animals and livestock. Fortunately, we are zoned agricultural, so if the grade of our land were to support pigs and cows, we could have them.