Homesteading has been quite an experience for me over the last couple of years. There were lessons I learned that I would have otherwise never have been enlightened with. So I went into this lifestyle gungho, I went in head first, no plan, no goals, just jumped in and started doing whatever I felt like doing, whenever I felt like doing it. This dream was just that…a dream.
I had a list of what I wanted to do and have:
- a lot of property
- every animal I could find
- huge gardens everywhere
- grow all of my own food
- raise my own beef, pork, and chicken
- have fresh herbs available at all times
- milk cows and goats every morning
- collect eggs from the hen house daily
- gather the abundance of food from the gardens to cook each evening
- bake bread every afternoon
Planning matters! The first of many lessons learned.
My dream and my visions were well thought out I felt, there was no plan, at all. I dove right in and just went at it. I had no idea what to do each day or month. When I woke up in the morning I decided right then what I would do for the day and I would head outside. However, once outside, I would see something I remembered that I would want to do and head that direction instead. At the end of the first few months, I had unfinished projects everywhere. There was no organization, I was stressed, and my yard, well, it was a disaster!
What I learned from this experience…
What did I learn? You have to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or very specific, but it has to be there. I sat down and made a list of everything I had going on that was unfinished. Wow did I have a list! It seemed as though it would never get done. Everything was numbered according to priority and tried to group together the things that I could combine to make the tasks easier. A timeline was set and I actually wrote them in planner with due dates. I went out each day with my plan, and slowly, one thing at a time I completed my list.
Now I plan everything I need to do. I have a yearly plan, a seasonal plan, a monthly plan, a weekly plan and a daily plan. Sometimes, I don’t always accomplish everything I had planned but at least now I have a course or a path to follow, I am less stressed now, lessons learned I guess.
There are 24 hours per day and you must sleep at least 8 of them!
So I had a plan, a great plan, with milestones and deadlines, what could go wrong? I got up and started on my plans and goals. There were days I woke up at 7 and was working by 8am. I would plow away at my list, missing lunch and sometimes dinner, and work until dark when I would head in for the night, shower, and crash in my bed, sometimes it was 10 pm by that time. I would repeat this process day after day. Even though my list of projects was finally dwindling, my unfinished chores everywhere else were growing. I tried to do everything and I just needed more hours in the day. I was becoming overwhelmed, stressed, and physically tired. And then I got sick. I developed pneumonia and strep throat, my planning didn’t matter anymore.
The doctor asked what was going on, I was pale, miserable and sick. I told him I was very busy and that I had a lot of things to do. He asked if I was sleeping. It was when I answered that yes I was when I had time, that the lecture started. He told me that having a plan and working hard is fine, however, without enough rest, your body doesn’t get a chance to recuperate and you end up sick. I told him I had so much to do and felt like I didn’t have enough time to do it in. His answer was stunning to me…he said, “Well write your will and tell everyone your plans so they can finish where you left off.”
Okay, I got it. What lessons I learned…there are 24 hours in a day, 8 of those hours should be reserved for sleep. I also realized that what does not get done today, will be there waiting for me tomorrow.
I am not Hercules and it’s okay to ask for help!
Okay, I was sleeping about 8 hours every night, I was working on my plans, and I wasn’t sick. I thought I had it figured out for sure this time. Nope. Surely I did not. One of the projects on my list was to clear a bigger spot in the woods that surrounded my house. Sounds simple enough, right?
I got the chainsaw out and started cutting limb after limb, tree after tree, for 3 days. I would fill the trailer, haul it to the front of the property, unload it in the fire pit and repeat the process. On the morning of the fourth day, I woke up and I hurt. My back ached, my arms ached, my but ached. I couldn’t move. Great, just great. Now, what was I going to do? Stubborn me got dressed, put on my gloves, went outside and tried to continue with my plan. I couldn’t do it, I was frustrated, I had a huge mess of tree branches and leaves everywhere and I couldn’t even pick them up.
A friend of mine and her husband came over, I was sitting on a huge recently cut tree stump, balling my eyes out. They asked what was wrong and what they could do to help. I just looked at the huge undertaking that I had started and said, “Do you have a match and some gas?” They laughed at me.
I was not amused, but my friend told me that all I had to do was call and they would come help me. She informed me that I am not Hercules, even though I know I am, and that it is okay to ask for help. I didn’t want to admit it, but she was right! Heck, I surely wasn’t Hercules that day, I’m probably lucky if I could have compared to Peewee Herman at that point. I took the help, swallowed my pride and the job got done. I have called them many times since then. Oh, and I don’t think I’m Hercules anymore, I have settled for Wonder Woman now.
Your friends think you lost it and your family knows you have!
I am social, very social, I love people. However, while venturing forward in my homesteading dream, I have kind of neglected my social side. Now I am not saying I don’t want to see and spend time with my friends, I’m simply saying we don’t exactly share a lot of common ground anymore. You see, when people get together and start chit chatting they talk about the things that are involved in their personal lives, family, careers, social life. Their job takes place in an office building, mine takes place in the woods or in the barn. My friends work with different races and personalities, I work with breeds. They work 9 to 5, I work 7 to 7. My girlfriends buy new shoes to go out in, I buy horseshoes. Needless to say, there isn’t much in common.
When my friends see me they think I live the easy life, no job, home all day, all the freedom in the world. I actually think they picture me as watching tv all say and eating bonbons! But when I tell them what I do all day, all week, all month, their facial expressions change and generally the comment I hear at that point, “Girl, you’re crazy!”
They are horrified that I barely ever turn the television on, that I don’t have or need cable, or that my water comes from a well outside my kitchen window. The idea of milking a cow, much less a goat is completely primitive to them. When they see my family members the general conversation about me is wondering where all this came from. And of course, my family usually answers, “I have no idea!” I’m okay with it. I am who I am and I love what I do.
It is hard work, and no it doesn’t ever end!
Homesteading is hard work, especially for a single woman who does it all herself. No matter how hard I work and how much I get done, there is always something else to do. There are animals that need fed and cared for, gardens that need to be weeded, harvested or replanted, wood that needs split, compost that needs to be turned, meals that need to be cooked, food prepping and preserving that needs to be done, house cleaning, maintenance on vehicles or equipment, and a myriad of other tasks that await you every day. Just when you clear your list of things to do, you become aware of 10 more things that need to be done.
It takes a very dedicated person to live this lifestyle, especially alone. It takes perseverance and determination. You can’t get discouraged, you have to see the brighter side. It takes energy, a lot of energy, even when you think you have none. This lifestyle doesn’t wait for you to wake up at noon, it doesn’t stop happening because you stop moving, and it doesn’t wait for you to catch up before it throws more your way. I homestead on 15 acres and it is a lot of work. I love it. I’m living the dream, my dream.
Blisters become callouses and Epsom salt fixes everything!
I have never understood how one’s hands can develop callouses so easily. I get them from raking, shoveling, brushing, you name it. Yes, the secret is out, I have manly hands. My nails stay short and to be honest, they are usually dirty most of the day. I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t recommend a gift certificate to a nail salon, just in case I am on your holiday shopping list.
No, I use my hands every day and all day, and it shows. Even when I am writing for my blog I use my hands, actually I haven’t developed any callouses from typing, not yet anyways. The point is, callouses are normal for me. I used to get terrible blisters, especially on my thumbs and pointer fingers. I would keep working and they would break open, burn like hell for a while, then kind of heal until a new one formed a day or two later. Eventually, I am assuming the skin toughens up and they become callouses.
All that wear and tear on my hands also shows in my legs and my back. Sometimes I come in at night and I can feel the aching from working that day. My answer to every ache and pain…Epsom salts. I never even knew what Epsom salt was until I decided to start living the homesteading lifestyle that I chose. Now, Epsom salt and I are best friends. I dump a cup of them in the tub when I’m sore, I add them to a bucket of warm water when I soak my sore feet. I even use Epsom salt in the garden, they are great for tomatoes, but that is a whole nother post.
Chickens will make your house smell like a chicken coop!
By now my organizational skills were absolutely awesome, I was sleeping great, I had a routine, and I was getting things done. I was a happy woman. So, bring on the animals. I did, chickens first. I went to the local Tractor Supply to “look”, after all, I didn’t have a concrete plan yet. Now you need to understand that when my kids were growing up, we took on every animal that was offered to us, every stray we found, and every critter that my children felt the need to rescue.
For me, going to “look” is not even in my nature, I don’t know what I was thinking. Needless to say, I came home with a box and 22 baby chicks. Well, I did buy some poultry fencing and cedar chips, and I was smart enough to buy feed. And since I already had the feeders from when my ducks were smaller, I figured I was good to go. Then, I also bought a big metal water trough, two feet high and wide by four feet long, which was going to be their brooder.
I brought the chickens home, and guess what? I had no place to put the brooder. So, as creative as I am, I rearranged my living room to fit this huge metal trough, which became the first home to my chickens. I’m a little embarrassed to say they lived in my living room for almost 12 weeks. Between money issues and various other things that popped up after I got my chickens, the coop being built got pushed aside. It wasn’t until the chickens were hopping out of the trough and running my living room that the coop got built. Lesson learned: Always have all the necessities in place before bringing home ANY animals.
Homesteading is my dream, it’s the lifestyle I chose and I am loving it. I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons on the way and I am sure I will learn plenty more in the years to follow. Now I have become, wiser, stronger, more confident and more independent, every step of the way. I work hard, sleep good, eat healthier and stay active. I wouldn’t change a thing. You can read about the 5 Skills You Should Learn before Homesteading for more valuable information.
What lessons have you learned? Share your stories below.