Rural Homesteading: Four Things I Wish I Had Known

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This month marks the one-year anniversary of having lived at Black Fox Homestead. It has been a momentous year for us, one we will never forget. It has also been a year of great change and transition. Before this year, I wish someone would have sat down with me over a cup of tea, someone who had been there and done that, someone who had faced what we were preparing to take on. I wish someone had told me something along these lines... GNOWFGLINS.com

Our desire to homestead stemmed largely from our love of real food and simple living.

I can recall the day the idea first took hold in my mind. I was in bed with a cold, propped up on pillows reading about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Bon Appetit magazine. I remember thinking “What an amazing concept. I want to do this.”

At that time we had just moved to an older home with a smaller yard, a far cry from the large acreage one would need to in order to pull off something akin to Fearnley’s River Cottage.  But the idea continued to grow, and we spent many evenings on our back porch looking out over our tiny vegetable and herb garden thinking: “Wouldn’t it be cool if… ?”

Then, almost overnight, our older neighborhood began to change for the worse. Although we loved the home and had just restored the kitchen, we realized sadly we could not stay there. We’ve never fit well in the typical suburban neighborhood and in wondering where we should go, our farm daydreams resurfaced once again. We began to do a little research and saw that making that dream a reality was within reach. We located some land in a small rural town we loved, had a small pole barn built and finished out as a home, and made the transition from city life to country living.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of having lived at Black Fox Homestead. It has been a momentous year for us, one we will never forget. It has also been a year of great change and transition. Before this year, I wish someone would have sat down with me over a cup of tea, someone who had been there and done that, someone who had faced what we were preparing to take on. I wish someone had told me something along these lines... GNOWFGLINS.com

We plunged into country living with all the enthusiasm of a new Labrador puppy. Before we had fully moved in — even before our home was fully finished — we had begun the makings of what would eventually become a 3,000 square foot garden. We made plans to sell our produce at the local market. We rebuilt the pond at the front of our property and began work on a chicken coop. We placed an order for eight Rhode Island Red chicks to be picked up the following spring.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of having lived at what we now call Black Fox Homestead. You can read in more in detail about what brought us to the country here, and more about the ups and downs of that first year here. It has been a momentous year for us, one we will never forget, and the most rewarding year of our nearly ten years together. It has also been a year of great change and transition — some changes and transitions smoother than others.

In those months before the move, I wish I could have had someone sit down with me over a cup of tea, someone who had been there and done that, someone who had faced what we were preparing to take on. I wish someone had told me something along these lines… I don’t know how closely I would have listened, but some of this advice might have made those changes and transitions a little bit easier.

1. You don’t have to do it all at once.

I started our homestead with great plans and ambitions.

I wanted my home functional and organized within weeks of moving in. I wanted to start a small business. I wanted to make a quilt. I wanted to start an award winning blog. I wanted a pretty garden. I wanted to can all our own vegetables and sit down every evening to healthy, home cooked comfort food. I wanted to landscape our front yard. I wanted a clothes line. I wanted chickens, I wanted a mini cow, I wanted goats, I wanted a barn cat, I wanted a livestock guardian dog. And I wanted all of that…. yesterday.

With all the opportunities that life in the country offered, I quickly began to feel overwhelmed and teetered on the edge of a burnout.

I wish someone had told me:

Start small. Pace yourself. As you gain knowledge and skill, add a few things at a time. Choose one area, such as canning or chickens, and focus on that. Make long term goals for your homestead. Owning a herd of mini cattle may not be realistic right now — but what is? How can you break that goal down into smaller, achievable steps?

2. Cut yourself a lot of slack.

Homemaking skills were not new to me. We had a nice little potager in our urban backyard that had supplied our kitchen pretty regularly with seasonal herbs and produce.

Homemaking and gardening in the country, however, are quite different.  For one thing, our gardening zone changed. Even though we only moved about 40 miles east, the cold seemed colder and the hot seemed hotter. Things that had grown beautifully for me before now seemed to struggle along. I did not anticipate the learning curve; and it was a steep one, one that will take a few seasons to master.

The other thing was the dirt and critters. We seem to deal with a lot of spiders and insects in ways that I hadn’t before. I felt that I would dust and clean one day, only to discover that the spiders had set up housekeeping overnight. With much work to do outside, dirt and debris are frequently tracked into the house.

My stress levels decreased considerably when I finally gave myself permission to cut myself a lot of slack. If worms got to the lettuce (and they did), I’d feed the wormy remains to the chickens and make a note to use floating row covers as protection next time. If the beans didn’t get harvested and frozen (and they didn’t), I’d leave them on the vine to dry and we’d use them for seed. If produce that was harvested went soft before we could eat it, into the compost bin it went. It isn’t the ideal situation that I had in mind, but it works for now — and nothing is wasted.

As far as the house goes,  ::sigh::  we  just learn to live with a certain amount of dust and cobwebs. There are seasons where I can maintain a routine and keep everything clean and sparkling the way I like it. There are seasons that I can’t. I have to prioritize. When the tomatoes are ripe and needing to be picked and preserved, a clean floor isn’t at the top of my agenda.

3. Life is just different. Give yourself time to get used to it.

Having spent five years in foreign missions, I often experienced culture shock going back and forth between a third world country and the United States. I did not expect this to happen moving just forty miles east from the city in which I had been born — but it did.

Life in the country is different. It just is. People relate differently, things move at a slower pace, the scenery (while charming) is not what you are used to.

Our home in the city was close to downtown. It was not unusual to sip our morning tea watching emergency vehicles and city buses pass by the kitchen window. Now we view the neighbor’s cows and struggle to identify the heavy machinery that slooooooowly travels down the road during harvest season.

Before, the local grocery was within a simple five minute drive (if that) and the shelves were stocked with the kinds of organic, natural brands I liked to use. Here, we have no local grocery. None. The grocery store closest to us is about a twenty minute drive and the organic, natural brands… well, there aren’t many.

The local newspaper is tiny, about the same size as the classified ads section of the larger city paper, and the front page news this past week featured the winners of the annual hay bale decorating competition.

None of this is bad. Simplicity was the goal we were after. We absolutely love our small town without a grocery that decorates hay bales. But all this transition did create a sense of dissonance for which I was not prepared. It took time to adjust.

4. Slow down and take the time to revel in your successes.

I am a doer. There is definitely more Martha in me than Mary. I want to plow though breakfast and laundry so I can get to the garden, and then I want to plow through that. It took me some time to realize that I had forgotten the whole point of us moving to the county in the first place. I had simply brought the rush, rush, hurry, get it done attitude from our city life with me. In my rush and hurry, in my discouragement over a garden that wasn’t growing the way I thought it should, or a house that was more often dirty than clean, I was overlooking some really beautiful things that were happening.

Yes, there were certain things that just weren’t growing as well in the country. But the flip side of that was also true. There were a lot of things we were starting to enjoy from our country garden that I could never get to grow in the city: carrots, cucumbers, zucchini. Each time I was in the garden and harvested something — anything — I would force myself to look at it and take it in. “We planted these seeds, and look what happened!”

This month marks the one-year anniversary of having lived at Black Fox Homestead. It has been a momentous year for us, one we will never forget. It has also been a year of great change and transition. Before this year, I wish someone would have sat down with me over a cup of tea, someone who had been there and done that, someone who had faced what we were preparing to take on. I wish someone had told me something along these lines... GNOWFGLINS.com

My husband took the time to install a clothes line off the back porch. On warm, sunny days I make myself slow down and take out a wicker basket of fresh, damp laundry where I hang it to dry. I try not to see it as a chore but instead take the time to pin each item while watching the scissortail fly catchers, the turtles on the pond, and the wind through the tall grass.

I take pride that here we’ve established our home. A year ago this was nothing but an empty field.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of having lived at Black Fox Homestead. It has been a momentous year for us, one we will never forget. It has also been a year of great change and transition. Before this year, I wish someone would have sat down with me over a cup of tea, someone who had been there and done that, someone who had faced what we were preparing to take on. I wish someone had told me something along these lines... GNOWFGLINS.com

What about you? What obstacles did you face when establishing your homestead? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

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Comments

  1. says

    Jenny! I loved this, love you, and appreciate every. single. sentiment. I experience a similar uprooting, moving from southern California to the southern Piedmont of North Carolina and wow, what a striking difference. You’ve hit all the points and I just have this gentle reminder: what you might consider ‘sitting’ with is that all of these last 12 months have molded you into what you have become: a woman of the beautiful and sometimes-harsh Oklahoma Prairie. Without the challenges, flat-out horrible days and failures you would not be what you are and know what you know! You ARE DOING THIS!
    Had someone sat you down to tea you would have nodded and thought, “whatever,” and went ahead and did it your way anyways. I love that about you.

  2. says

    Oh Jenny, this is a fabulous post, full of advice for anyone wanting to enjoy life more. I love reading about your love of wholesome food, wholesome living, filtered through your smart and honest brain and your eager hands.

  3. says

    We have tried to share those types of things with people starting out. Most don’t listen. :) They are so excited to get going and they just KNOW they can do it and we don’t understand…..

    I am not saying that is how you were, but of all the people we talked to about this, very few actually took our advice.

    • says

      Oh I’ll admit that I was very naive. However, there were some things that I thought would really be a challenge: such as distance. I thought it would be a pain traveling back and forth. In reality, distance has reduced the number of trips made into town giving us more time on our homestead. As introverted homebodies :P this is something we really like.

      The change in climate though: that one knocked me off my feet. We planted our fall garden that first year before we had moved in. I covered it the way I always had but we still lost pretty much everything. We were graciously given a mild summer to get on our feet, but it will take a little while for us to figure things out.

  4. says

    Great article Jenny. You hit all the high points. I’ll have to visit your blog and read about your journey. Many blessings as you continue to move forward.

  5. says

    This is so on target! The best advice I was given was to just add one new thing each year. Now, 5 years on, I have a large raise bed garden (years 2&3), green house (year 5), chickens (year 2), apple orchard (started year 1, but we add trees every year), and vineyard (year 4). This year we are adding bees. Eventually I’d like to have sheep, but that is at least 3 years away.

    There’s a great proverb I learned in Africa: Little by little, the chicken drinks the water.

    While I can look at my land now and see a great farm, it was all done little by little (and with lots of mistakes!).

    • says

      That is great advice and what we have pretty much come to realize: one new thing per year is a good speed for us.

      We have our chickens and are enjoying them (although they are very persnickety right now) so I’m thinking next year we might increase our flock a little (if need be) and take a look at either ducks or meat birds. Maybe. :)

      I would absolutely love to have an orchard but our weather here is not friendly to fruit trees. We have a quick warm up in the spring followed by an Easter frost. It isn’t unusual for a grower to lose many of their blossoms. We still want to try though and have thought of using espaliered trees somewhere in our garden.

      • Sylvia Hall says

        If you make a south facing board or stacked stone fence, the espaliered trees will have something to soak up the heat with and protect them a bit better when the weather gets cold..saw a lot of these in England where winters are cold and deep.

  6. Lisa Cox says

    I really enjoyed this post. I’ve been slowly reading through your journey.
    When we decided we were going to move to the country, we found 3 lovely acres in a
    very rural area of Missouri. We lived in Fort Worth, Tx, LOL.
    Everyone thought we were crazy. They couldn’t figure out why we would want to move away
    from suburbia.
    We found out that none of the moving services would move us because of the gravel roads and so we had to make many, many 14 hour trips hauling trailers to get everything moved.
    But I love it here !

    • says

      Yeah, yesterday I thought I should have added a fifth thing to this post: “Know that not many people will understand what you are doing including your family and friends.” ;) We’re only about forty minutes away from the big city but most people treat it as though it is the end of the world.

      We have paved roads in our neck of the woods, but my husband and I sort of envy those like you who are that remote. I bet the switch from TX to MO was quite a change for you!

  7. Sarah says

    Jenny,

    Great Post! It really does hit on a lot of things that we encountered this year. We have been working on things here for 3 years – larger garden, chickens, trees, etc. However this year we took on a large high tunnel which expanded our garden space 1,400+ square feet and to add to learning how to plant in it, ducks, more chickens, etc. This year was probably my hardest year yet.

    Taking it slow, making long term plans, and taking time to breathe it all in is vital. It is hard to pace yourself when you are excited to get things going & established. However if you take too much on – burnout will set in and then where are you. My biggest challenge is to break things into bite size pieces and be patient.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom! Continued Blessings!

    • says

      That is a lot of gardening space! But yes, it is hard to pace yourself. You get a taste of how great this could be and want to really charge ahead. Patience is hard for me too. I wasn’t joking really about the mini cow. How hard can it be? :P I was all set this past year and my wise husband was the one who held me back.

      • Vicky Spackman says

        Great post! I have lived on an acre and a half in southern Idaho for 21 years now; we moved into a 100 year old house with our 2 children in diapers, it was springtime,and the weather was cool and beautiful. I had one horse at the time and he was my sticking point. I started the vegetable garden in the back yard and realized as I dug, by hand (I had a lot of energy in those days) that the spot had been used for chickens. The soil was fertile and all my crops did very well! We raised chickens too, did very well when there were 6 in the yard, where I could toss them kitchen scraps and the kids could gather eggs. As the herd grew, we moved them back to the old barn, and lost them all- twice- in midwinter when raccoons and foxes got very hungry. Rabbits did great, we had lots, but again, they did best when we kept just a few. Cows- I love them best of all- but you HAVE to keep 2, or they will go looking for a friend!

        • says

          We would have loved to have had a 100 year old house! I really have a love for older homes. Glad to hear your input on the rabbits and cows. We’ve talked about both. We have about five acres out back where I think we could raise a pair of cows and my husband really enjoys rabbit. His Italian grandmother used to make a nice fricassee. I can see us adding those at some point. Thanks for sharing.

          • Jessica says

            OOOOOOOO oooooooooo! Can you post the rabbit fricassee recipe? I have one good rabbit recipe, but need more!

          • Vicky Spackman says

            We nearly always did bunny barbeque, simple and tender, or stew, I would like to see your recipe too!
            The price of cattle and hay has gone up so much! I am paying $8 a bale and our cow could eat a bale a day by herself if we had let her. She was a huge Brahma/Holstein cross we named Lucy. Smaller/younger cows eat less, but your goal with beef cattle is for them to gain 2.5-3 pounds a day, so you really do have to keep them eating. Homestead varieties are hard to find. Cows can clean up somewhat moldy hay that horse owners can’t use, but they won’t thrive on it. If you do consider keeping cows, consider carefully how long your winters are, and plan for hay storage with a roof over it; weathered hay or tarped hay can lose all its food value and become a soggy, moldy mess. Most people that keep cattle specialize; they run adult groups for dairy, large pastures for beef, feedlot for finishing, small acres for getting the babies up to 500 pounds to sell for grass calves. We bred our cow every year and a half and she was a wonderful nurse cow and always raised an extra (bummer) calf or two. We only milked her ourselves in emergencies, and sold the calves at about a year old and they weighed nearly 1300 pounds apiece!

          • says

            Thanks for the info/advice on the cattle. We’d like to do beef (I think) but then we also like our dairy. However, we have access to both locally raised beef and raw dairy so I think this will be a few years off yet. There are several around here who raise cattle so I’m hoping to have some resources when/if we decide to do that.

            Rabbit fricassee: I asked my husband last night and he doesn’t recall a recipe. :/ *However* he said that it was something like a sauce (tomato based?) with veg (carrots, onion, celery) and he recalls the sauce was thickened. She cooked it all day. So I would assume she browned the meat, added the sauce and cooked until moist. Myself, I’d add a little bacon, then thicken and serve. I think he said she served it with polenta.

  8. Tracey Vierra says

    Great article, Jenny! I love the pics of your pole barn and your obvious convictions being followed through. I pray that God might bless you and your work. I needed to hear some of these things as we prepare for our, hopefully, final move with kids, dog, chickens, cats. guineas, and goats in tow. : )))

  9. says

    Yes, yes, yes, and YES! All of those things. I too am naturally a go getter. I tackle a dozen things at once and get those babies DONE! I can’t do that anymore. Can’t. I love my life here in Australia more than I can say, but it is very, very hard. There is never a break. Animals must always be fed and watered, gardens – especially in our piping hot Spring/Summer/Autumn – must be watered daily. And my dreams of a pristine little farm?? Oh, make me laugh. :-) I have come to peace with dirty floors and dusty windows, cob-webbed corners and innumerable projects constantly in progress. But I love it. Learning these lessons on the farm has sunk them down into my heart as well. I’m so much more peaceful and laid back, I’m so much more patient with myself and others, I can’t even think about judging myself or others for I know that each clean room, each thriving plant, each project completed is a downright miracle. :-)

  10. Jennifer says

    I’m teary. :) I just could not add “just one thing” :) and now I need to trim. A LOT! I didn’t really need sheep. I really only need 2 or 3 milk goats. The pigs are amazing (American Guinea Hogs…) does it really matter if I have too many?? had a baby instead of a garden last year. (my 5th) and I felt so guilty! and when I wasn’t looking the chickens multiplied by 4x… time to get out the stew pot! I need to learn to garden again – just one row at a time. sometimes, its better and cheaper than the water spent to just buy from a local farm. you don’t have to do everything yourself!! (but why do I try??) great post!

    • says

      You’re right. There is nothing wrong with utilizing other local resources when you need to. One of our neighbors raises bees and sells the honey, we know folks who raise and sell local beef, I have easy access to a local dairy that provides raw milk from grass fed cows. While it would be wonderful to be doing all of those things ourselves, at this point it is much more resourceful and efficient to purchase it from them.

  11. Alyssa says

    I saw this on pinterest. I was intrigued because I am dying to get into a house in the country. I live in 900 sq. ft. with a 1/5 acre lot and 3 boys 4yrs and under. But this weekend I cidered 1500lbs of apples (canning, brewing, saucing) and have lots of gardens. I garden at other people’s homes. I pulled up all my potatoes from my in-laws garden we planted because we have no space. We’ve raised lambs and goats for eating at other’s houses. And I knock on neighbor’s doors for extra apples, rhubarb, and quince. I also keep a small honey bee business. All this to say, I live in this extremely small space like I’m already living on a farm. Having said that, I so appreciated your advice. I feel those same thoughts already and I’m not even on a piece of land yet. I want it all now. Just like my self-sustainability pinterest board. But what about the adventure of it all? And the fun? It was a very pertinent post for me. Thank you.

    • says

      Wow!!! I am amazed at what you have accomplished, Alyssa. 1500 pounds of apples!! You’ve proven that anyone who has a home, regardless of location or the size of the land it sits on can homestead. I think homesteading is more a state of mind and attitude of self-sufficiency than anything else. I can empathize though with your desire for a home in the country and sincerely hope that works out for you someday. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  12. Jessica says

    I think set priorities, like first and foremost we have to get things going enough to get our agricultural exemption on our property tax here in TX! We have to get a high enough number of animals on the property first. Super important. Then, you can work from there. Also, finish projects as you go. I have a tendency to start a project and move on. I have half-finished baseboards, half the garden put in, and a half-drywalled upstairs, but we had to move to the fences for the aforementioned animals

    • says

      I hear ya about finishing as you go. Those things just tend to mount up and can be absolutely overwhelming. Jackie Clay mentioned once that part of homesteading was just living in a general state of having things half done but that just doesn’t work for me. Not that I’ve completed everything I’ve started here however; that is where the priorities come in and sometimes you just have to set things aside when other things (like your animals) can’t wait.

  13. Lynne says

    It’s not a lifestyle for people who can’t stand to be alone or like a lot of entertainment. Personally, I love the solitude and my main form of entertainment is reading. I hope to be able to move out in the county within the next couple of years. But if I can’t, oh well. I like following your stories and have learned a lot. Good luck!

    • says

      You are right about that Lynne. We are both classic introverts and don’t mind all the time at home or being alone. In this day and age, much “entertainment” can be found online but people need to know that even that can be a challenge. Another surprise for me was the difficulty we’ve had in getting decent internet connection. We use satellite but it isn’t nearly as fast as cable and watching movies at home is a challenge. We just learn to do other things in what little down time we have. :)

  14. Swamp Donkey Acres says

    Ahh, A well timed and much needed reminder. Thank you.

    Looking at pictures is a perfect way to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. In a few years time, you’ll look back and the transformation will AMAZE you. Take lots of them.

    Cheers,
    Sarah

  15. Liz Wolf says

    Thank you for the beautiful post. It made me cry. Two months ago (due to hubby’s job change) we moved from a 1/3 acre house near a major city to 36 acres out in the country – 375 miles away from “home”. It’s been a huge adjustment and I also tried to do everything at once. It’s still taking some getting used to, but your experience is good advice for me.

    • says

      Thank you LIz, 375 miles *is* a long way from home. That must have been quite an adjustment for you as well as gaining 36 acres. I wish you the best, and hope you and your family have a wonderful experience.

  16. says

    wow.. thank you for sharing your insight. We will be embarking on a similar journey in about 2wks. I Have a feeling I will be referring to this post often. I enjoyed the comments as well.

  17. says

    Hello Jenny, I loved your blog post. I don’t know where you are in NE Ok but I’m in SW Missouri. Just started a local WAPF chapter and always have my eyes peeled for WAPF minded folks in the area. Since its a “four state” area I’m looking at reaching out to, I’d love to connect with you. Maybe you could come talk at a chapter meeting on your adventures in homesteading. We have a small acreage that we plan on (slowly) turning into a homestead. I’ve got some ideas for “homesteading” events next spring. Just an idea. Like I said, I’m not sure exactly where you love so it might not work but I thought I’d try :))
    Good luck on your continuing adventure and I’ll follow along to learn from you!!!

  18. Melissa says

    Hi Jenny! I love reading about your experiences in your first twelve months. I have been on my homestead for about three years now and have had similar struggles. It’s nice to see that other people share the same kind of vision as you do. I found that when we moved and started our farm that many friends and family just don’t understand why you do what you do. So I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your journey!

    • says

      You’re welcome Melissa. I have found too, that not many people understand why we did what we did ~ until they come out here and see a sunset. Everyone just sort of has to make their own path. :) Thanks for your kind words and have a great weekend.

  19. Laura Medill says

    Such timely advice as we have just purchased 1/4 acre in northern Arizona. Thankfully the former owner put in 4 large raised gardening beds, 3 apple trees, a peach & an apricot as well. Raspberry bush is established & all are on emitters for watering. I have “played” at gardening without much success here in the valley & I am so excited to prepare for spring planting &getting the root cellar ready all set up. Every night I go to bed with thoughts racing through my mind after ordering heirloom seed packets & a pressure canner, I so needed to read your post. Everyone is telling me how much work this will be & I need to keep in mind that it’s the journey we need to enjoy & not just the destination. If people want advice, they ask for it & listen, otherwise there is just a lot of wasted breathe. Thanks again for sharing, I will return often for the reminder!

    • says

      Hi Laura, Congratulations on your new Arizona homestead! It sounds like you are off to a good start. I so know that feeling of going to bed at night but you’re mind won’t quit for all that you want to do/need to do. I wish you many blessings and a happy harvest this next growing season. Good luck!

  20. says

    We are on just over a year, about 15 months on our farm/homestead. The 4 things you listed above I could have written myself. Thanks for helping me not feel like the only one.

    • says

      Sounds like you moved out just about the same time that we did. It did get easier. Right around last August we hit our stride and began to feel much more at home. Best wishes!

  21. Judi Snyder via Facebook says

    Read this most excellent article, came back to FB to share your link, it was gone… If I could add one thing to this, it would be to pick your season to move. We moved in late summer without time to really prep for winter. I’d choose early spring, as the weather warms and the soil can be worked for the garden… as it was, we had to rush to bring in firewood and winterize the house.

    • says

      Judi I had not thought of that but that is great advice! We moved in the fall and didn’t really get to do much by way of gardening. We tried putting in a fall harvest but it froze before we got much of anything. I agree, spring would be a great time to move and get started. Thanks for sharing that.

  22. says

    OExcellent post…My feeling on what I read on this post was that If you move to a farm..You are going to flat work your butt off ..Very few people have that got that kind of energy….I must be honest…Just keeping My house half way clean is to much work …Working in My yard is flat bull work …You get a farm and your going to spend Long hours outside in the heat a.d cold..

  23. Julian A. Gonzalez via Facebook says

    Quite a difference in lifestyle, although you moved a few miles out of town. Sounds like I could live there. LOL.

  24. Julie Sizemore via Facebook says

    A couple things I would add is 1. There are no failures, only lessons. Living closer to the land means not being afraid to try new things and if something doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up about it. Either try it again at another time or move on to something else. 2. Roll with the seasons. Save crafts like rug making, basket weaving, quilting, or spinning for wintertime when there is less to do outdoors. 3. Try something new every year whether it is a new type of plant for the garden, or a new craft. This past year for me was the year of the pickle, trying new recipes for all sorts of pickled items and I found that my absolute favorite is watermelon rind pickles. Next year I will add my favorites to my must haves for the pantry and many more will certainly be made. Homesteading is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride and quit asking yourself, “Are we there yet?”

    • says

      Oh Julie! What you said is so, soo good and what I needed to hear tonight: especially #1. Thank you so much for taking the time to share that. I really appreciate your thoughts.

  25. says

    i grew up really poor and when the house my parents bought when we were young burned the day before we moved in we had to really be creative about how we lived until they could replace it with a trailor. I can say that going through that young and learning how to live without most modern conviences for a lil while taught us how to care for ourselves and live off the land. Rather it was getting water in five gallon buckets to cook or take bathes in or cutting wood for a fire pit, those where things that i look back on and say I’M THANKFUL FOR THAT EXPERIENCE most ppl think living off the grid is gonna be easy and some think that its too hard. Personally i think its a life lesson that needs to be passed down to everyone. Because of that i know that no matter what, my family will not just survive but thrive.

    • says

      This a great insight in to what you Can do. My house burned while I did not have to live off the land. I had to rebuild with very little money. BUT I lived in the country. I built a cord wood house that is using wood cut like fire wood and morter inbetween. My walls are 18 inches thick I’ve been in it for 19 years and still love it.

  26. says

    Rural doesn’t always mean a empty field, for us it was a Pinyon Pine forest and we became the caretakers of a forest. We had no idea how this would change our life. We moved into the animals home and this would change us forever. Water wasn’t irrigation, it was a well, conserve, conserve. Gardens were fodder for the wildlife and building gardens that were protected and learning how was and is our biggest problem. We bulldozed out a section in the middle of our 40 acres. We are off grid and totally sustainable on our own. Proud of that. We collect rain water off the cabin and enjoy the becoming a working part of our forest. This is one of 3 planned garden houses, we learned a lot on this on, we will dig down and put screen under the edges and there will be sealed doors and a complete screen, animals are crafty, we need to be craftier. LOL

    • says

      Vickie it sounds beautiful and like you have done an incredible amount of work. The first piece of property we looked at was in a forest type setting. It didn’t work out for us and we ended up out here. Best wishes on your garden next growing season!

  27. Jamie Williams via Facebook says

    Can we stop building more houses please ? Even sustainable ones. We nned to build on brownfield sites or get extremely creative. No more green space should be taken

  28. Julie says

    This post just made my day. I’ve recently (2 days ago) moved into my first house in the Seattle area from Montreal, Canada, and was feeling exactly what you described. We don’t even have furniture yet, and I’m already stressing about how to compost in the winter, building a chicken coop, buying everything… It’s a bit more intense than I thought! I’ve never even gardened before, but want to start digging, NOW! And paint, and workout, and build a kitchen table, and a bed. Haha

    But thank you so much for writing this, I felt immediately relieved after reading your post. :)

  29. Dee says

    Really enjoyed that read, you write well. A year ago we moved into an already established home on 25 acres. Land divided into 5 paddocks all 7 wired. We started off with 29 hoggets, 4 Bee hives and 12 chooks. We now have 47 sheep, 3 Bee hives with the 4th starting up again, 60 chickens a tunnel house and a healthy small garden. Its been fun, tempers have flared, (some family are good at herding some aren’t lol) but we to keep trying to remember to smell the hay. I plan this year to keep a land diary so we can view each previous month and know what’s coming up each year. Its helped to get to know neighbours and always listen to them. Our kids are adults and have been a great help. Its good to share.

    • says

      I do love the smell of hay :) We have ours cut every summer. I also keep a diary and plan to do a more detailed garden journal this next year. You think you will remember everything but you don’t. It’s amazing how quickly one forgets.

  30. Kessa says

    Dec 1st I moved nearly 500 miles from a city near D.C. to the western mountains of North Carolina. My goal is to, in a year or two, own a few acres and have a home here – so, I’m starting with renting a small cottage and seeing if the adjustment is a good fit before I buy. It also allows me to ‘shop around’ and find out where the best land to buy -is- , based on the weather, travel to stores and so on.

    Already, I’m remembering how it was to spend 2 mos a year in the back woods of Maine with my grandparents and how ‘down the road a piece’ can be anything from 10 minutes to 45 minutes away. It is much the same here! Once I made the mental adjustment to “They’re on Maine time…” it made the pace a lot easier to understand.

    From a polished steel and granite city condo to a rustic cottage with wooden plank doors, windows that latch with a hook and eye and the warning to ‘shut your trunk’ between trips with groceries or you might find a bear cub helping himself – has been a much welcome ‘culture shock’. I have the seeds ready for my spring garden (mostly containers since it’s a rental – but I did my research on the grow zone changes) and what can only be an instant love for the amazing views with my morning coffee.

    Your advice is very welcomed – and much appreciated. When I think about all of the things I want to achieve, pacing myself is probably the best advice. Thanks!

    • says

      Best wishes on your upcoming venture! Renting first is definitely wise. Your cottage sounds lovely :) We reluctantly left behind an older place when we built our new one ~ I love vintage homes.

  31. Dana Leach via Facebook says

    I did something similar and loved it — then a few years went by and I didn’t have the energy to do all the work– trying to sell the property now. Great experience though. I wouldn’t change a thing– except the aging part.

    • says

      Dana, I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out for you and you are having to sell. I hope that whomever purchases it from you will appreciate what you have done and carry on with what you started.

  32. says

    Great advice for anyone starting out. We’ve been on our 15 acres about an hour from Dallas for 5 years now. I have definitely learned how to let things go. I used to freak out when I couldn’t use or sell everything but I’ve come to realize that there will always be more. And like you said, nothing is wasted. It goes to the chickens, the dogs or the compost pile. We love our lifestyle even though sometimes it seems like we never get a break. But the scenery, the orchard (and being able to pick fresh, organically grown fruit), the garden, the lake – everything about our place, we just love. I started my garden with one bed that first year. Now we have many, many beds (but still never enough to suit me) and a greenhouse is under construction.

    • says

      Thank you Sharon! I was talking with someone last week who has lived out here for forty years. She said it takes about five years to really settle in and adjust ~ I’m really encouraged by what you’ve shared.

  33. says

    Great writing:

    1. Start small. But start; and buy the best equipment and boots you can afford. Do without or delay – but don’t buy cheap tools or boots.
    2. Cut yourself a lot of slack.
    Ask for advice, not help. Listen with open ears and heart and a closed mouth. Accept help if offered. Laugh…a lot.3. Life is just different. Give yourself time to get used to it.
    And you will be different: better!
    4. Slow down and take the time to revel in your successes.
    Psalm 37:3,4.

  34. Randy & Nanci B says

    Thank you for this post! We just moved to a century farmhouse on land in a town of 51 people, such a change from our urban upbringing. I see a lot of myself in your post, the excitement and urgency to try and do and be everything right at the start, and how tiring that can be until you find a way to find balance.

    We are now in year 2 and are giving ourselves the gift of time. I learned to can this year, and harvest figs and pomegranates and olives as we discovered what was here. Our garden is only 750 sq ft but it was gratifying to plant it and harvest it all season long. .

    One of the most important lessons we learned in year 1 was to have the right tools for the job. Finding a second hand riding mower and a tractor, and budgeting for a proper workshop that was easy to use were key to the Hubs having enthusiasm for the work ahead.

    • says

      I bet your farmhouse is lovely! I love older homes and was so sad to have to leave ours; and canning is a lot of fun ~ so rewarding. :) We have yet to get a tractor. Still trying to decide what to do about that…

  35. Tammie says

    Articles like this should be mandatory for anyone thinking about making the change. I thought that since I grew up out in the sticks across the street from a farm, quitting my job, selling our 1/4 acre and moving 750 miles to the south would be easily doable. Hard to find time now between mixing batches of my home made spider spray and keeping the pipes from freezing. All the while the cows at the fence look like I’m entertaining them just adequately. This article’s point about bringing the rush, rush along is well taken. Thanks

    • says

      Yes, I totally hear you about the homemade spray (no frozen pipes here though. yet. ) It is hard when you are trying to do everything yourself. I think we’re finally starting to settle in and figure things out. Blessings on your homesteading experience!

  36. says

    Jaime Williams the property was not subdivided by me, but if we had not bought it, it would of been broken down smaller. We intend to keep it whole. Being caretakers of this forest has saved it. I agree that green spaces need saving but when one is being torn apart those of us that can should try and save it. One sustainable housing compared to a subdivision is really no comparison for the trees and animals that live here. So I feel that larger acreages that can be bought whole and kept whole is the only way these spots of green spaces can be saved. If responsible people don’t buy, someone less responsible will.

  37. Patty Pittser-Nickolaus via Facebook says

    Millie Emmons – This blog and many of the comments are great and wonderful. Hope you get encouraged as you read the experiences of others walking, or that have walked, in your shoes. I love you, Mom

  38. Eli Gonsalves via Facebook says

    This had good timing for me.. I am always wanting things done yesterday, but I moved out here to not be in a rush. Well I’m having fun and trying to pace myself

  39. Roseli says

    Lovely material, very good hints. I´m here in Brazil and a have a place in the country where I can plant and this article was a God given advice. Thank You!
    Blessings.

    Rosie

  40. Mary Foerster says

    Just the type of information & food for thought I needed. Your plans & dreams are so close to my own, and I appreciate the concerns shared as well as the tips. Best of all I have found a wonderful new blog to pour over while I dream & plan my own country homestead!

  41. Pat says

    I wish I had known about homesteading when I was young enough to try. So now I’m turning my small urban backyard into a raised bed paradise. :-) I’m too old to move and definitely too old for chickens, cows and such. But I have been learning to can, grow my own food and I’m hoping this year to have a clothes line. I just do what I can fit into my space and I’m loving every minute of it. Good luck to you and thank you for the advice.

    • says

      A friend of mine has said that if you have a home, you have a homestead. It sounds to me like you are doing a great job! Best wishes for a bountiful harvest this growing season!

  42. Debora says

    Just found this blog & “Sooo absolutely true!”…last year I made a ridiculous offer on a 10 acre RANCH, ( no out buildings, seasonal pond) & they accepted. I sat in car, cried said a prayer & said “ok, now what?” I’m a heavy commuter for work (2 1/2 hrs total) plus long workdays with average 13hr days. Trying desperately to come up with a “RANCH job”so I can quit secular job. Your sharing the trials /tribulations along with other’s comments are a huge encouragement ….”thank you”..any advice is totally welcomed ..thanks again ..”Happy Farming! “..Debora

  43. says

    I can SO relate. My husband and I were age 45 and 50 when we married, both working in telecommunications and wanted to move to the country, to work with our hands (get out from behind computers) and to have control over our own food. We envisioned a “simpler life.” Of course this meant a vegetable and flower garden, old house (1950’s ranch that needed tremendous remodeling) and lots of hard work. Oh and did I mention I planned on starting a rural based business too? What we did not count on was a an entire septic system failing within three months of our moving in, 911 hitting after we had taken out a bank loan to build my art studio/gallery business and the 2009-2012 high ground water flooding that caused us thousands of dollars of losses, none covered by insurance. The final straw was when we had to come up with $9,000 for our share of the drain extension to stop the flooding on our property and save our home. Today we are 63 and 69 and working to rebuild our garden, chicken coop and run. It’s been a lot of hard physical labor, some days are good one and some days are bad. We’ve learned no matter how much we humans think we are in control of Mother Earth and the weather….we are not. I’m not sure how long we can continued this kind of hard labor but we are taking it a day at a time and use a lot of Sore No More on our backs! Our blessing are small; decent health, grand children and sunshine. We recommend homestead when you are young! You can follow our journey at http://thesmallhouseunderabigsky.wordpress.com

    • says

      Donna thank you for sharing your experiences. I totally agree with what you have said about Mother Earth and the weather. There is only so much that we can do. I plant the seeds, say a little prayer, then let the chips fall where they may and try to just roll with the punches. ;)

  44. Cheryl Dwyer says

    I love this! I can so identify! We bought ten acres, with an old, leaky, drafty farmhouse, two barns & three outbuildings in 2000. Then my husbands health went south on a very big way, meaning a triple bypass & heart valve replacements. I was working full time at a maximum security prison. He had surgery in December, and any help I had hoped for from his family did not come, so it was just my children who were grown, and I. Christmas was miserable, I worked as much overtime as was possible just to pay for the extras insurance didnt cover. Then in January, I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Yeah, it just kept getting better. In February, we build good fires in both woodburners, and three hours later had a roaring chimney fire going. Fire department ‘red tagged’ our chimney. Thankfully the house didn’t burn down. That was the end of wood burners. For the next five years we struggled through a terribly leaky roof, freezing winters & roasting summers. Remember husbands family? They didn’t speak to us for five years. The area we lived in, Northwestern lower Michigan, is not known for being friendly to ‘outsiders’, so we literally had no friends close by. The closest grocery was in Benzonia, 20 minutes away on good roads. The one thing I learned was to depend only on ourselves, no one else. I had gardens, and what I grew I canned. I built my own potato bin and carrot bin. I raised chickens & sold eggs, raised turkeys & our own beef. It takes time, patience & more than one set of very good gloves, but as women, we can and have done it before. The one piece of advice I wish someone had given me was to be gentle on myself…body, heart and soul. Rome wasn’t built in a week, take your time & wear gloves any time you step out the door. My hands took a hard beating because I didn’t think of them. I cried at night when my hands were torn up and hurting so bad I couldn’t bend them.
    My husband passed in 2006, and I’ve remarried. I swore I’d never live out in the country again… and I live out in potato country, lol. We raise chickens, gardens, sheep, goats, grapes & grandkids. And I still have really good gloves right by the door.

    • says

      Cheryl I am so sorry that you first years of homesteading were so difficult for you! I can’t imagine. I did have to smile at what you have said about gloves. I forget to wear mine and my husband is always gently reminding me that it might be a good idea to put them on. I hope you and your family have a blessed summer.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Our desire to homestead stemmed largely from our love of real food and simple living. I can recall the day the idea first took hold in my mind. I was in bed with a cold, propped up on pillows reading about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Bon Appetit magazine. I remember thinking “What an amazing concept. I want to do this.” (read the rest of the article here) […]

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