When my husband wasn’t my husband and we found a mini-farm to buy, I was pretty darn nervous about it all. A farm was a big commitment! How was this going to work? WAS it going to work? I was only 22 years old! We’d talked about living a life of simplicity and working towards producing our own food; developing a sense of “self-sustainability”. A homestead.
Emerson found an acre and a quarter of land in Homosassa, FL. It was equipped with 10 fruit trees, grape vines, one large hen house, two smaller hen house, two goat shelters, a well, water lines to all 8 fenced lots, two sheds, and an outside kitchen on Craigslist at a price that we just couldn’t pass up.
3 years later we now have 17 fruit trees, 12 fruit producing bushes, 3 50 ft grape vines, 16 raised beds, 25 laying hens, 16 meat hens, 8 ducks, 7 rabbits, and one happy pig. It’s been a wild ride. So here’s how I suggest you get started and what to consider.
So, You Want to Homestead? How to Get Started
One is the loneliest number…maybe.
I’ve felt both sides of this stick. When Emerson and I closed on the house our income was completely from playing music. Well, with a house comes bills and with a farm comes a little less time to travel for music. Eventually, we realized we needed to get actual jobs for the first time in years.
Fast forward and here we are: Emerson has a full-time job and I’m full-time on the homestead. We went from homesteading completely together, to both having jobs (and hardly homesteading at all), and now we’ve divided the responsibilities completely. He’ll take on more of the farming chores once we lower our overhead, but for now, I’m a one-woman-show. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. Homesteading has its ups and downs and it can be taxing to do it alone. (But understand that it is SO worth it!)
So before you decide to homestead, understand that you can absolutely do it alone, but you’ll need a backbone. That’s a little harsh, but when Emerson and I decided I would be at home doing all the farming/homesteading without him, I did not have a backbone. I gained 35 lbs before I knew it and was so overwhelmed. But I persevered, and now I’m running this farm as I’ve always known what to do! You can, too.
The other side of that is if you’re going in with a partner, make sure your goals are similar to avoid any fall-out type of arguments. Understand what you want and the measures you’re willing to take to get there.
Read, read, read!
This might be obvious, but I feel it’s really important to say. You really can’t ever read too much. Also, keep in mind that even though you’re reading more than you’d think humanly possible…a lot of it will be totally irrelevant. That’s right folks, irrelevant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something, applied that something to my homestead, and it didn’t turn out anyway the book said it would. Here’s a great example:
After we got our first pig my mother-in-law started reading. She read they loved bananas. She tried feeding Carnitas, (our pig) bananas while we were out of town. Carnitas didn’t want anything to do with it. She almost seemed concerned that our pig wouldn’t eat bananas. Honestly, I’m pretty sure we have the pickiest pig out there. Because she also doesn’t care for strawberries. But the point of the story is my mother-in-law read that pigs loved bananas. Our pig does not love bananas.
Remember when I said you needed a backbone? It applies here, too. Not all you read about having a homestead will be wrong or irrelevant. A lot of it will be wonderful information and you’ll be able to apply it easily and with success, but you have to stay strong when your attempts fail over and over again. It’s how we learn.
In size and number! Coming from someone who was terrified of their chickens when they started, take it from me. We were gifted a few ducks and chickens when we moved in. I was so scared of the chickens. I was sure they would attack me at any minute. But they didn’t. Now there’s not a frightful bone in my body when it comes to them.
I’m not saying you’ll fail if you decided to get goats or cows first. If you have experience with farm animals at all, you have a head start! But for myself, the largest animal we had for 2.5 years was a big rooster. Then we got a pig and it was so different. Since it was a large animal, and an animal I had zero experience with or around, it was nerve-wracking. I couldn’t have imagined getting a pig within the first few months of homesteading.
Again, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or it’s wrong. But my advice to a complete “newbie” like I was is to just start small on your homestead. It’ll cut down on burn-out and becoming more overwhelmed than you really need, or want, to be.
Last, Ask Questions
This is the most important point by far. Ask questions, Y’all. There really is no “stupid” question and if there is, I’ve already asked them all so you’re safe. Ask Google questions, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, real people (but not fake people), and really anyone any question you need or want to. One of my favorite outlets for asking questions is Facebook Groups.
I’m part of multiple Homesteading Groups, Gardening Groups, Rabbit Groups, etc. You’ll get bad answers to your questions sometimes but often you’ll get an answer better than anyone you’ll find on Google search. Have conversations with fellow homesteaders and pick their brains, listen to podcasts and email the host with any thoughts you have, and just start a dialogue. If you’re homesteading alone, this is a great way to not feel that you are.
Lastly, make realistic goals. I wrote a bit about this in a post called “Realistic Goals You Can Make as a Beginning Homesteader“. By making realistic goals, you can avoid homestead burnout which is definitely a real thing. Keep your head on straight and don’t overwhelm yourself with too many little things, or too many big things. And remember, there are hundreds of people out there just waiting to teach you about this lifestyle, and I’m one of them! I can’t wait to hear about your journey.
Fussy pig? I reckon that prize goes to our boar, Boris Johnson. He doesn’t like anything at all cabbage related and will pick a single brussel sprout leaf out of his dinner, refuses most stalks of most things and isn’t overly keen on bananas either!
Seems as though pigs can be quite the test of patience huh!?