Growing Home Again


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Lesson Learned 3: There is no safety net!

We moved into our homestead in April. By early May, I ordered chicks and by the end of the month I had a half acre garden tilled and was working on fencing. I was winging it and occasionally consulting my parents for advice. It’s amazing I did not kill any of my chickens. I did kill most of my garden. You cannot just stick a plant in the ground and expect to grow well. It may very well grow; but not well.

Remember what I said about know what your resources were? What do you know? What do you not know? It’s the second that will get you…the first will too!

Start reasonable. What’s reasonable? Well that depends on your circumstances. We were two city kids, one with some very basic farm knowledge, a new baby and a lot of dreams and ideas. Did I tackle too much my first season – ABSOLUTELY! In retrospect, I might have scaled back that garden a bit – 2, 20×20 plots. The chickens were on the right track, though. They are the gateway farm animal. Chickens don’t need a lot of your time or attention. Give them food, water, and a safe place and they give you eggs! Too many roosterscountryside-house-farm-fence.jpg and you get meat! Win-Win!

In homesteading, there is no safety net….but there are a lot of fences. And that’s kind of the same thing!

Those are my 3 lessons learned. Did I learn others? Of course! Will there be more? You betcha!

Next Post: There’s always tomorrow…

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Lesson Learned 2: Be prepared to hunt for your homestead

So you know what you want for a homestead. Hopefully, you have lists and lists and lists. Did you prioritize the lists? What are your needs versus your wants? Whatever that list is, scale it down to the basics.

Those needs that you will NOT compromise on.

That’s where you start hunting for your perfect homestead and what a hunt it will be!

Be prepared to hunt for your homestead. My family had uprooted ourselves, drove 600 miles and moved into a hotel with a baby and three dogs while we were looking for a new place to live.

The first home we looked at was perfect – it was a secluded log cabin off a country dirt road. Ten beautiful acres, a good sized barn, a garage, and paddocks ready to go. It even had a generator already! We were outbid.

The second house we found was almost as good and guess what happened – we lost it again.

Finally, we found a perfect 18th century home. It had land and a HUGE barn. We placed a bid and we won. Third times a charm right! Except the barn roof was a mess and the bank would not approve the loan until the roof was fixed. Neither the current owner nor we had the funds – bye bye house.

By this time, we had moved from the hotel to a microscopic rental. It took us nearly four months to find our current homestead. Out of the blue, a newish home popped up with 26 acres. By all appearances, it was turn-key and the only issue was it didn’t have a barn, and the land had some challenges (there’s not much flat land in New England). It was ours!

Don’t be discouraged. Keep looking. Find the place that is meant to be yours and after a few years, it’ll start to be the dream you imagined.

Next Lessons Learned Post: Lesson Learned 3: There is no safety net!


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Are you and your family capable of living up to your plan?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve discussed some of the ins and outs of planning a homestead. Very few of us have unlimited time and money and knowledge to throw at our projects and even if we did, how many of those throws would make it across home plate?

This is where your family comes into play. More than any government, neighbor, animal, vegetable, or mineral resource, your family will make or break your homestead. Your family-hand-1636615_960_720family may be your spouse, aunt, children, great uncle or a cousin three times removed. Don’t forget the family you aren’t related to either – the family you choose.

Sit down with a good cup of tea, coffee, rum, whatever your poison is and consider what your family means to you. Are they committed to the homestead? Are all vested members of the family, blood or not, ready to commit?

Are you and your family capable of living up to your plan? Did you take your family into account when developing your plan?

Do they have the physical ability to contribute? It is hard work and taxing on the body. At any given time I have a dozen cuts, scrapes, sore muscles or bruises from something or another. When we started down this path, hefting a 50lb bag of feed seemed like quite the accomplishment. Now I just need a bit of help getting the second bag on my shoulder. Homesteading is a workout. You and your family don’t need to be in top condition, but you need to be in good enough condition as a unit to get the job done. I’m a capable woman but I do need help from my husband and sons – little hands are great for planting potatoes and their knees don’t hurt yet!

What about mental abilities? Can they make quick decisions? Are you all on the same proverbial page? Who’s going to keep the books? Plan out the garden months in advance and remember (or better yet – document!) where the corn was planted last year?

Where does your family stand emotionally? Running a homestead is not for the weak. Hard decisions are the norm. Homesteading requires a solid constitution resting on all three – physical, mental, and emotional. Don’t believe me – I balled my eyes out the night before we butchered our first group of broiler chickens. The next morning, I put on my big girl undies and got the job done. There are mornings where you will have to pull yourself up by your boot straps, drink a cup of grit and get moving – because you won’t want to.
Homesteading is a rewarding life. There’s nothing easy or simple about it. Planning, hard work, dedication and you can make this work.

Not every person on your homestead must be fully able to contribute in each capacity but as a unit, a family, you have to be able to come together to get the job done. Leverage your family’s strengths and take account for weaknesses.

Next Lessons Learned post: Lesson Learned 2: Be prepared to hunt for your homestead.


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What’s your living situation going to be?

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…

You can’t live in a shoe and whatever housing you choose have constraints, pros, cons, whatever you want to call it. Will your homestead already have a home built? Are you going to build your home after purchasing your homestead? Who’s going to live in your home? What are the laws cabin-1081847_1920surrounding habitation on the land you hope to purchase? Will your home be on the grid or off the grid? Are utilities already in place?

Before proceeding, remember the grid on experience?  Your options here are going to be limited or enhanced by your personal knowledge. Building a log home from scratch is a very good idea, but are you capable of doing it in a reasonable amount of time? A ready built house is convenient but will it meet all of your needs?

Also, make sure you consider local laws, zoning and miscellaneous ordinances. You may very well have the ability to build a home from the ground up, but where are you going to live while building that home? Is a tent acceptable? An RV? Are you legally required to be grid tied?

Next Lessons Learned series post: Are you and your family capable of living up to your plan?


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Can you harvest natural resources?

Running a homestead is an expensive hobby. I get it, it’s not really a hobby, it’s a way of life. Farming, homesteading, whatever you want to call it comes with awful hours, no days off, no medical or dental and the money isn’t that great either. One thing to consider when purchasing a homestead or spinning one up – how are you going to pay the bills? Will you have an off-farm/homestead job? (Probably) If you’re lucky though, you’ll have enough natural resource on your land to sustainably and ethically harvest and sell.

What resources are available to you? piggy-bank

  • Hay fields
  • Woodlots for timber
  • Wind and solar power
  • Hiking or Biking Trails
  • Land clear via goats

Get creative! Check out what the USDA has to offer or call your extension and see how they can help you build up your resource to make more money and pay those pesky bills while your homestead is growing into self-sufficiency!

Next Lessons Learned series post: What’s your living situation going to be?


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Will you raise livestock?

You will probably raise livestock – unless you are a vegetarian or vegan. Why? It’s food! Where else can you get some delicious bacon then from your own pig? Eggs with bright yellow yolks! Fresh honey! Milk from your goat or cow.

Some months back, we had our first dairy goat in milk. That night, I sat at dinner and watched my children drink that fresh, nourishing liquid and could not have been happier. I know what BB-8 (We’re a Star Wars house) ate, I know what she drank and now – I had complete confidence in the healthful food my boys were drinking. Parenting win!!!

Raising animals for food is no small matter of logistics.  They need adequate space, the right healthful foods, strong and safe shelter, illness prevention and treatment. The list goes on and on. What you will raise highly depends on what you will eat and what your environment is or is not. Our area is very cold in the winter and fairly warm in the winter. There’s about 100 square feet of flat ground and everything else is either a rock or some degree of a hill. I recommend sitting down and making another grid again with your homestead team.

  • What do you like to eat?
  • What do you not like to eat?
  • Will you butcher your own livestock?
  • Do you know how to butcher and process livestock?
  • What kind of land do you need?
  • How much land do you need?
  • Will your livestock perform double duty (i.e. goats love poison ivy and give milk)?
  • Are there any medical concerns for your livestock?
  • Where is the closest large animal vet?
  • How and where will you house your animals?
  • Where will you get their food?
  • Will you pasture or confine or a combination?

That’s not even a full list! Each question is going to lead to more questions and more. Whatever you do – start reading now! Start asking questions from your great uncle that’s been farming since 1902. Search the internet – just make sure you do your due diligence on your sources. Join a few Facebook groups and start reading. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great uncle who’s been farming since 1902 but I do have a computer and a love of reading. I highly recommend investing on “Storey’s Guide to…..” nearly everything raised on a homestead series.

There’s also a new book that’s on my short list to acquire: The Independent Farmstead: Growing Soil, Biodiversity, and Nutrient-Dense Food with Grassfed Animals and Intensive Pasture Management

Facebook groups are also a wealth of knowledge that should be leveraged. Other folks have already made the same mistake you’re about to make. Speaking of mistakes – one new addition to this blog will be “Smart Bumps”. I’ll explain more about that later!

What other groups, dear reader, have you found helpful? Any books that are a must read?

Next Lessons Learned series post: Can you harvest natural resources?


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Do you want to garden?

If your answer is no – you probably don’t belong a homestead. Growing your own food  – mobile food or not is the center of a homestead. Do you have experience raising food? If not, you should get started BEFORE you buy your homestead.

Wait…what?

Unless you live in a hole in the ground with zero access to sunlight, you read that right. Start growing your food now. Why? Because it’s hard! Really, really hard. Very rarely can you just toss a seed in the ground, walk away, and a few months later have something edible. You might luck out, but your chances are pretty slim. Just some herbs in the window will teach you so very much, and you are growing something yourself!

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… ” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Do you want to garden?

Yes. You want to garden. You need to garden. Planting a garden is growing your own money; however, as I pointed out before, it isn’t always easy. There argardene a lot of factors to consider when thinking about what you will grow one day. I recommend referencing my earlier post on what experience you have. It plays a huge part in what your first year, second year and tenth-year garden will look like. Sit down with your team and ask and answer questions honestly. These questions are just the jumping off point. Write down your answers in your notebook. A notebook? Did you start one yet? Might be a good idea. Homesteading is about learning and improving from year to year, and unfortunately, our memories rarely improve year to year.

  • Have you ever planted a garden before?
  • How big of a garden did you plant?
  • What have you planted before?
  • What do you like to eat?
  • What do you hate to eat?
  • What’s the soil like where you live or will live?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • How will you protect your food?
  • What will you do with your food after you harvest it?

New to gardening?

Plan to start small and work your way up. There’s nothing more tempting once you sign the deed to your homestead then to start tilling up land to garden. We did that. Nearly half weareinthegardenan acre and our first garden and second were gigantic failures, and I wasn’t a complete novice at gardening. Going in, the best I had managed was a 20×20 community garden plot and helped my parents in their small garden in our back yard growing up. So we had to shrink back and build up – slowly. We spent a lot of time in the garden.

If you haven’t already bought your homestead, invest in some books and spend a lot of time on the internet searching. If you already have your homestead – winter is around the corner. I highly suggest you start reading up on gardens. There are a lot of schools of thought when it comes to gardening – read a few and see what resonates most with you. Below are the three I use that have yielded quite a bit of success

Also, consider where you live or will be living. I live in Northern New England and without a lot of input and infrastructure, I’m not going to grow pineapple anytime soon outdoors. Look at the USDA hardiness zones and determine the length of your growing season.

Next Lessons Learned series post: Will you raise livestock?