So you want to be a homesteader. You want to get back to the land, grow more of your own food, can and preserve like grandma did, and maybe even go off grid. Those are all lofty goals and homesteading is kind of a buzzword these days. Rural folks and even people in the suburbs and inner city apartments might find it appealing to take back some of their freedoms by being more self sufficient and learning the time honored skills that seemed to have past the newest generations right by.
Before you jump into homesteading though you need to be aware of some of the common pitfalls and reasons why you could end up being a homesteading failure. Be forewarned and prepared going in what you are up against.
5 Reasons Why You Might Fail as a Homesteader
1. You Bit Off More Than You Could Chew – After you made the decision to jump into homesteading you went whole hog. You tilled a great big area for your garden, you planted trees, you bought some chickens, rabbits, and goats, you built a greenhouse, you built animal enclosures, and you even started raising bees. You did way too much, too fast. After a few months you realized that you don’t have the time or the energy to maintain and care for all that you started and you start to feel helpless.
The Fix: Start slowly! Your first year perhaps you should be content with a couple small raised beds, a worm bin, and taking a few local classes on beekeeping and raising chickens. Ease into the homestead life and you will not have to fear burnout.
2. You Didn’t Do Your Research – Reading a couple books on keeping chickens or slaughtering pigs does not make you ready to go out and buy them. Reading about a half acre garden does not prepare you for exactly how much work is required to maintain that. After a lot of expense, effort, and time you are thrown for a loop by animal injuries, disease, crop loss, pests, etc.
You may also not have been prepared for the tragedy and death that goes along with homesteading. You will experience losses due to injury, animal attacks, disease, or a rookie mistake. There is also the guilt and sadness that comes with dispatching animals for food.
The Fix: I do encourage you to be a voracious reader but you must go beyond that. Take local classes that teach homesteading skills, do volunteer work on a homestead, farm, or community garden. Join facebook groups for gardeners, homesteaders, and livestock growers and read and observe for a few months before you jump into these activities yourself. Seeing common themes and remedies…such as bumblefoot in chickens, bot flies in rabbits, or the devastation caused by squash vine borers will only make you a more prepared homesteader in the end.
3. You Don’t Have Enough Time – Many people grossly underestimate the amount of time it takes to run a homestead and care for gardens, crops, and livestock. This is especially true if you work full time. Sure, you may have time to feed your animals every day in the warmer months but you never anticipated having to attend to them 3-4 times a day in the winter to make sure they have enough bedding for warmth and that their water has not frozen over.
The Fix: Start small, start slow, and only add new projects as you have time for them. Don’t be afraid to admit that keeping rabbits AND chickens it too much for you right now. Do what is right for you and any animals you are caring for and sometimes that means making some hard decisions.
4. You Did Not Plan for Harvest Time – You are going to have more food than you can eat many times throughout the year. You will be overrun with tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers. You may have had more rabbit litters than you expected and now you have three litters that need to be culled before they get too big. Perhaps your hens are laying three dozen eggs a week and you are getting sick of trying to incorporate eggs into every meal.
The Fix: Make a plan for excess food. If you are planting ten tomato plants then you will have a lot of tomatoes come harvest time! Make sure you are prepared to can them with all the equipment, supplies, and knowledge you need to can, ferment, or otherwise preserve your bounty. Make sure you have ample freezer space for extra food/meat and also make arrangements to barter or donate extra livestock, food, or eggs when you have too much.
5. You Took On Debt – Ouch. You took on a bunch of debt to buy your dream property because you had to have lots of acreage. Or perhaps you put expensive equipment such as tractors, greenhouses, solar systems, etc on credit cards. It is a big mistake to go into debt because you “think” that homesteading will save you tons of money. Often times this is simply not true or the savings will not be seen for many years.
The Fix: Save up for big purchases and do not rationalize debt. There is more freedom in saving and being frugal. Debt might be required for the purchase of land or a home but you may have to start small and work towards where you want to be. You can afford anything you want, but not everything you want.
I hope this helps you begin your your homesteading journey on the right foot. The more prepared we are, the more successful we will be!