I often think back to when we first started our homesteading lifestyle, which was only two years ago! There are so many things we have learned along the way, many of them unexpected. Today I’m going to share with you a few things to consider before you jump into this lifestyle. You can read the post below and you can watch our YouTube video to hear our five things to consider before starting a farm or homestead.
Considering your goals will help you decide first, if this life is for you, and second, what you’re going to do once you get there. Set your goals ahead of time so you can decide what to prioritize first. This will help you plan out your property, decide which animals you want to add and why, and ensure your decisions line up with your expectations and hopes. Our two main goals are 1) having animals for companionship, and 2) sustainability. We just love having animals around, they make us happy, and bring us a lot of joy. Happiness is a blessing, and we enjoy having animals at the farm for that reason alone. Our second goal, sustainability, is met through growing our own food and reducing waste. How great would it be to produce most of the things you consume? This year we made big steps towards that goal, jumping into our first major garden, and into the world of canning and preserving. We also started composting, which we quickly have become very passionate about.
As we make decisions on the homestead, it is important for us to look to these two goals and determine if they line up. Goals can, and will change over time, so re-evaluate! Look at it like mission/vision statements for your own little farm.
It’s important to be aware of changes to your budget before you get into this lifestyle. For some people the costs may decrease, maybe you are selling a big house in the suburbs and moving to a small homestead to reduce costs. For others the costs may quickly get out of control as you need to pay for equipment, vehicles, animal feed, vet bills, fencing, renovation projects, the lists goes on… There are always projects that can be done on a farm, and it is easy to lose sight of a budget, wanting to get everything done. Considering this beforehand will help you and your family set some expectations for where the money is going to go. We’ve had lots of projects on the farm in the past few years including two chicken runs, a goat pen, a kitchen remodel, shelter build, and so on.
It is also helpful to think about the budget and the goals together. When you consider your budget in light of your goals, it will help you determine where your money is going to be spent, and in what order. For us, we continue to talk about how we can create lists to streamline projects on our farm. What can be done over the next few months, in the next year, or maybe 5 years down the road? We continue to have conversations around our budget so we can stay on the same page, and ensure we have a handle on our finances.
3. Handling Loss
The third thing to consider, may not be something that readily comes to mind when you consider the homesteading lifestyle. This really pertains to owning and caring for animals, but in some sense it can also relate to caring for a garden. At times this lifestyle can be very discouraging. Animals get sick, and eventually you will have to face death on the farm.
Some years your garden might thrive, and other year’s it is possible that entire crops will get wiped out. It’s not all animal snuggles, delicious food, and beautiful landscape, although those are some of the awesome perks of having a farm. There are hard days, and scary times, that may make you question it all, so it is important to go into it having that perspective so you’re not hit as hard when it does come. For us, life involves highs and lows, happiness and sadness, so homesteading just fits in with the roller coaster of life itself. When the hard days come, we hope we can rely on our support systems and the other homesteaders and hobby farmers out there, that have also walked through the tough times.
Number four is all about your community. For many people that are starting a farm or homestead, it means moving miles outside of a town or city, possibly leaving states, and having fewer friends and neighbors nearby. For us, even though we are only a few minutes from the grocery store and a large town, we were suddenly 30 minutes away from friends and family, which changed things drastically. Our evening chores and caring for the farm suddenly made week night outings very difficult. On the weekends we often dedicate our time to farm improvement projects or simply maintenance projects, which can be hard for friends and family to understand. This all has an effect on the community you may have been a part of, and it’s important to keep in mind. For many people, starting a new community is a great option when jumping into this lifestyle. Recently, I have started to find a community online, through Instagram, Facebook, and now YouTube. Additionally, Chris and I recently started going to a new church nearby, which will hopefully help us re-engage in Christian community, so we have friends to walk through life with. We also have relied on friends, family, and neighbors to help us around the farm, or loan us equipment we don’t yet have.
Community is so valuable, and it can be found wherever you live, but it may look very different once you live a homesteading lifestyle. Hopefully knowing this in advance will help prepare you for the change. Maybe you can even get a jump start on engaging a new community when you do make the transition to your farm property.
5. Being Open
The last thing to consider is something I wish I would have known before moving to our farm, and it’s all about being open to new adventures, passions, and interests that you may explore as you enter into your homesteading lifestyle. We originally moved to the Sunshine Farm because I had dreamt of having horses my whole life. Horses were added within the first year of moving to our property, but once we moved to the farm we decided we would add a few chickens, because why not? Well, chickens are addicting, and I quickly became obsessed with them, all the different breeds, their personalities, etc. Then, I visited a friend who had a few goats, including baby goats! Of course I fell I love with them and wanted to add some goats to the farm as well. So a few months later we adopted a few goats from the humane society. The second year we lived on the farm a friend of mine came to visit. She and I started talking about gardening, and I jumped into that hobby as well. Gardening very quickly became a huge passion, and I now consider it probably my biggest and most favorite hobby, but also a really awesome and healthy way to feed our family.
We are also interested in possibly adding a few ducks, building a greenhouse, tapping our maple trees, adding a honey bees, and maybe an alpaca or two. As you can see, there are endless interests, hobbies, and adventures that you can embark on when you live on a farm, and it’s good to allow yourself to be open to those unexpected things. Although I still love my two horses, I have fallen in love with new and exciting passions that have enriched my life in ways I never could have expected. I wish I would have expected this going into homesteading as I was a bit discouraged when my passions and interests took me in new directions. I felt guilty for not riding my horse, and for my ever changing interests. Now I’m learning to embrace where this life takes me and to enjoy the whole process.
Well friends, those are our five things, what are yours? Do you have any additional thoughts, questions, or experiences you would like to share? Please share in the comments below or connect with us on our social media networks! We would love to hear from you.
When sharing this post with the community of farmers and homesteaders through social media, they provided these additional things to consider:
1. Know Your Limits to Avoid Overdoing it
“If the family gets stretched too thin, it is difficult and nowhere near as much fun. When we were starting out many, many years ago, we learned of a suggestion of no more than one new project per year per adult. This worked very well for us, and we tried to do it that way so that we could learn what we needed for each new project.” -from Upstate NY Homestead Facebook group
2. Be Prepared for Bad Weather and No “Off” Days
“Work rain snow ice no days off it’s a hard life that you must love” -from Upstate NY Homestead Facebook group
3. Patience (this one I REALLY relate to!)
“What I mean is that one can have this vision of what they see as homesteading and it could take a long time to achieve it if ever. Patience for the garden to become what you want it to be, patience for the things that need to be done get done. Patience for an animal to heal or for your heart to stop aching when they die. Patience for this life when you have a number of setbacks. And you will. patience to do this day in day out even when you are sick or hurt or broke because others depend on you. The patience to know you cannot do it all. The patience and honesty to know when this is Not the lifestyle for you. This is not playing house and when bored or in over your head etc you can just walk away. Come back in 5 years and do a self check on how you are doing. I am a long time farm owner-we own a large horse farm. We also have some hens and two silly goats and 2 dogs currently. We’ve had more. We have been here going on 15 years and things are still not finished. But that’s okay because my animals are healthy/happy. I personally have sacrificed a lot for all this including my shoulder which both now require surgery. I put my family which includes my animals first. Yet even when I am physically or mentally exhausted from the work the teaching, we do training lessons and a therapy program, I never tire of it. That is passion with patience.” -from Upstate NY Homestead Facebook group
Guys, how beautiful is that last post?!