Friday, January 6, 2012

So You Want to Homestead? ( Part 1)

Good Morning!  It's another frosty morning on the farm, though not quite as frozen as yesterday.  The fire is keeping everyone toasty this morning.  Turns out my problem yesterday stemmed not so much from the small fireplace as from the fact that I was using a greener wood than I had been.  Take it from me:  green wood does not burn very well.  Hopefully, today we will be able to let the fire go out and get the fireplace cleaned out.  The next few days we should only need one at night.  Then, in typical southeastern NC fashion, we can have the windows open during the day.

I have a lot of people these days wanting to come by the farm to see our "operation".  It seems self-sustenance has become the "in" thing.  Sort of reminds me of that old country song "I was country, when country wasn't cool".  That seems to be the story of my life, doing things everyone else thinks is kooky, until everyone else starts doing it.  We've been raising animals of one type or other for almost 12 years now and I've learned a lot.  So I thought I would share some of what I've learned about homesteading with those of you who may be interested.

Let's begin with what homesteading is not.  First of all, this is NOT the simple life.
  • The simple life is running by the restaurant and getting take out for everyone, not making sure you know what you are going to eat at least 1-2 days in advance so you can make the mozzarella or slaughter the bird.
  • The simple life is getting your milk off the shelf in the grocery store, not milking the cow in 12 degree weather with a -5 degree windchill.
  • The simple life is jacking your thermostat up a few degrees when you get cold, not chopping more firewood.
  • The simple life is living in town, where the grocery store is close by should you run out of something, not having to completely change your menu because you didn't have an ingredient.  Or tripping over buckets of wheat, etc. because you have learned the value of stocking up.
  • The simple life is having a yard that is mowed in 20 minutes or no yard at all, not cleaning up the manure left by your "lawn mowers".
Now, what IS homesteading?  The definitions for homesteading are as varied as the people involved.  For some it is simply raising their own produce.  For some it means raising all of their food: meat, dairy, etc.  And for still other it means being off grid and total self-dependence.  There are also hundreds of meanings in between.  But all of them involve time, hard work, and  a certain amount of money.

The decision to homestead, whatever your definition, should be a joint one.  I have known several couples who have embarked on this journey without the support of one of the spouses, usually because of the lifestyle preferences of one.  The minute the animals or farm begins to interfere with traveling or whatever recreational pursuits the other enjoys trouble follows.  I have seen huge arguments and even divorces over this.  Either the one who wants it  becomes frustrated and angry with having to do all of the work themselves or the other becomes frustrated and angry over the amount of time, money, and attention the project consumes.   If both of you are not in total agreement....Don't do it.  Very seldom is anyone "won over" to this type of lifestyle.    This will inevitably lead to trouble.  Once again, don't do it.

Once you establish that this is something both of you want and exactly what you want, then it's time to start learning about first steps.  Your first step will depend on where you are starting from.  If you live in the city, you may want to move to the country.  No matter where you live, your first step could be gardening.  If you are already in the country, your first step could be acquiring some animals.  Whatever it is, begin reading up on everything you can find and making whatever preparations you need.  This will save you a lot of wasted time, effort, and money.  There is absolutely no substitute for researching beforehand.  And in today's world there is no excuse.  The internet, your library, and bookstores are full of books on homesteading, no matter what your definition.  Just google "homesteading" and you can spend the foreseeable future researching it.  When we first began pursuing this lifestyle, we were totally unaware that it even had a name, much less books written about it, so I have not read many of the actual homesteading books.  However, some of the magazines which are great for the beginners are:

Mother Earth News
Countryside Magazine and Small Stock Journal
Backwoods Home

Have a great time searching and reading all of the information out there.

May Yahweh bless you in this new day!


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