4 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Homesteading

homesteading

We’ve met so many people through the years who’ve told us that we’re living their dream. We totally understand. We dreamed about homesteading for about a decade before we dove in and did it. But we’ve learned a lot in the last 15 years. Sometimes I feel like the crash test dummy of homesteading. So, before you quit your job and head off to the middle of nowhere to live off the land, here’s a list of questions that you need to ask yourself.

If you have a spouse or significant other, is he or she on board 100%?

I’ve met a lot of people over the years who said they wanted to do this, but their loved one did not. I have to say that I feel for them. My husband and I met and married when he was in the Navy, and we were traveling all over the globe from city to city. Luckily we both changed in the same direction. Although I was the one who suggested homesteading, my husband was totally on board. He wasn’t interested in actually doing anything with livestock like I was, but he thought that living in the country and having a big garden sounded great. We complement each other well because I’m into greener food, and he’s into green energy.

Do you like learning and reading?

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I thought all of this was going to be really easy. After all, people had been doing this since the beginning of time. It couldn’t be that hard — right? Uh, wrong! People used to learn these skills from their parents, who learned them from their parents, and so on. Apparently many people know this. I’ve been asked lots of times through the years if my husband or I grew up on a farm. The answer is no. But luckily, there are lots of books, and we have the Internet. So, even if you did not grow up on a farm, you can learn. But that usually requires a lot of reading and/or attending a lot of conferences. I do sometimes meet people who think this is brain dead simple, but that simply is not the case. Finding a mentor is a great idea to help you navigate the abundance of information out there.

Who will take care of things if I get sick or go on vacation?

It is possible to start homesteading without having the answers to this question. But you need to figure out the answer ASAP. Even if you decide to never go on vacation again (because isn’t it like being on vacation when you’re homesteading), you will probably get sick at some point. If you have friends or relatives nearby, it’s a good idea to be sure they know how to do all of your chores in case of emergency. Regardless of how sick you feel, the animals still need to be fed and watered, and dairy animals have to be milked. Initially this is fairly easy to do. Many of your city friends will initially think this is really cool. But don’t count on them forever. They may eventually decide that it’s not that much fun, and you live too far away.

Although taking a vacation from the homestead is more challenging, it is not impossible. With a little planning, you can have your fresh eggs, homegrown produce, and vacations too.

How do you feel about getting dirty?

This was not immediately obvious to me. We are not talking about a little dirt under the fingernails here. We are talking about birth goo, blood, poop, pee, and yes, lots of dirt. I don’t think I knew the meaning of dirty before we moved out here. If you have a germ phobia, this is definitely not for you. You don’t buy clothes for homesteading unless you’re shopping at garage sales or second-hand stores. Homesteading clothes are those that have been demoted from “town clothes” because you happened to be wearing them at the wrong time. Back when my daughters were still at home, someone came to pick up some goats one day, and I had just come home from a trip to town. I asked my daughters to please catch the goats for me because “this is my only pair of jeans that don’t have poop stains on them!” Bonus tip: Do not ever wear good clothes outside, thinking that it’ll be fine because you’re doing something that will only take a couple of minutes, and there’s no way you could dirty. That’s how most of my clothes become farm clothes. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve relearned that!

If you are just starting out and wondering which animals to add to your homestead, here are some tips for getting started with livestock.

Raising livestock is a big responsibility, and it’s different from having pets in several ways. Here’s a list of six questions you must ask yourself before buying livestock.

If you’ve been thinking about diving into homesteading, you may have a few questions. Check out this post — Answers to 7 questions about modern homesteading

If you’re already homesteading, can you think of any other questions people need to ask themselves before they start a homesteading lifestyle? Is there anything you didn’t think about before you got started?

 

4 Questions to ask before homesteading

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8 thoughts on “4 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Homesteading”

  1. When we moved to the wilds of NW Montana, it never occurred to me to wonder about how I might get off our mountain in the winter time, because I worked from home. Gosh, I did not even drive the first winter we were here- I left that to my husband! Fast forward several years and I am now working in town year round. Let’s just say that I can get the chains on and off my tires quicker than my husband can, thanks to LOTS of practice!
    And don’t EVER think “Well, that won’t happen to me…” because it WILL!

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  2. My husband and I took over tenancy at a small hobby farm when he was unemployed 4 years ago. I worked full time and it was his job to mow the lawn, till the garden, feed and care for the chickens, feed and care for the 2 horses we boarded in the winter etc etc etc. We did it for 4 years and I learned to do canning, I helped move hay, clean stalls, bring water to the chickens, carry 50lb bags of feed, drive up an icy driveway, call my neighbors when we needed help and that often people will come to you for help in the winter because they are stuck in a snow drift in the middle of the night. IT’S A LOT OF WORK. And just when you think you are done there is a garden to weed, a chicken dies, you need to clean the chicken coop, go buy more feed and your septic tank freezes over. You need a thick skin and boundless passion and energy. We decided it wasn’t for us after 4 years but I will always cherish the memories and the sunsets in the country.

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  3. The part about clothes and dirt is SO true! Clean clothes get dirty by magic when worn around around animals or during “just a moment” in the garden. And the dirt is often permanent. The upside is wearing already dirty jeans when going to do a guaranteed “get ’em dirty” chore.

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  4. Yep. Entire wardrobes have to change. Gear you didn’t know you needed has to change (snake shin guards, anyone), and owning livestock is NOT the same as owning dogs or cats. With housepets you are around all the time, you are much more in tune to subtle things and can, for example, know they ate something weird in the kitchen, or were up all night having a problem. Much different when it’s livestock that are outside somewhere where you aren’t with them as much.

    Plus, medical care for beast (and humans) becomes a LOT more diy. Due to expense and/or distance from services, and/or an animal you can’t just wrap in a blanket, pop in your car and head for care, many times, you ARE the vet. Be prepared to do more intensive and messy procedures yourself that require wrangling a beast not so docile/easy to control, and/or sometimes manyfold heavier than your housepet. Drenching, giving shots, trimming poop caked hooves and animal undercarriages…

    Be in touch with your local FFA and/or 4H group, even if you don’t have kids yourself. They will have leaders or kids who can often help with basic animal or farmchores or projects as part of their community service. It helps them learn the ropes and get credit, and they may have generational know how that you might lack. Eg – a local high school FFA student just sheared our angora goat, and two nearby FFA sisters farm sat for us.

    If you do have kids – get them in FFA or 4H. They learn important homesteading skills, get tips from experienced elders (who are then a resource for you as well) get credit for doing things they need to do around the homestead anyway, and there are great scholarships.

    Generally, you have to be a LOT more willing to get into the nitty gritty of life and death. Even if you don’t plan on raising animals for food, there are eg rodents, snakes, and other wild animals that will love your garden or water source too. Sometimes that wild critter/human or housepet interface means tough choices. Or at minimum, more gear and/or infrastructure to keep healthy boundaries between the two than you might need in a more urban or suburban situation.

    Not about the fear, as there are huge rewards, but there are just some down to earth realities that are definitely not for the squeamish or the unwilling to move through some occasionally steep self- learning curves, as you note!

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  5. I grew up on a farm, but got married and moved away. I spent 20 years in the corporate world hating it all the time and longing to get back to the farm. After my father passed, Mom asked us to move back into my childhood home and manage things. Needless to say, I was excited! However, even with all that experience in my past, there was still a huge adjustment and learning curve. Skills that are 20 years old get rusty, memories become sketchy and you have to refresh all that. Add to that, Mom and Dad managed in a very conventional way (herbicides, fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, etc.) and I knew I wanted to go the regenerative agricultural route and bring back our pitifully degraded soils. I also wanted to transition from beef cattle to dairy and add dairy goats to the mix as well. Cows I knew, but goats were something I had much less experience with.
    I also had to reaquaint my body with really physically demanding work. After spending years behind a desk or living the sedentary life of an urbanite/suburbanite (it doesn’t matter that you went to the gym every day) even a fit urbanite, be prepared to be exhausted, sore, and desperately want to go to bed at 8PM! This will be especially true if you have already passed the age of 35.
    I am constantly amazed at the number of people who think farm life is some idyllic utopian vacation life! If you don’t enjoy really hard work, really physically demanding work and very long work days, stay behind the desk! Seriously, you need lots of grit and physical and emotional stamina or you will just end up tired and miserable! Maybe that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. Farming is something that requires passion, a deep love for what you’re doing or it simply won’t be worth it.

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    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Whenever I hear people say that they’re going to do this when they retire or “someday,” I suggest that they really try to get started sooner rather than later. I was 39 when we got started, and my abilities have definitely decreased in the last 19 years. It really is a lot more physically demanding than most people imagine.

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