When Jared and I sat down to go over our infrastructure for 2023; the projects, plans, and goals, we really wanted to get us to a place were the projects were done. That way we could focus our finances in other areas. Now, we all know that projects on the homestead are never truly done. But if we can get some of these bigger projects out of the way? We will be well on our way to self reliance and that is huge.
What Does Self Reliance Look Like To Us
The best way to set up goals is to ask yourself some questions. Like WHY do you want to be self reliant? What does self reliance look like to you? How are you going to become self reliant? These questions will have answers, but more often than not, they lead to more questions. But to give you our starting off point, we see self reliance as a way to decrease spending, reduce off farm hours, and create a eco-system here on the farm.
The more we become self reliant, the less we will spend at the feed and grocery store. The less money we spend at the grocery and feed store, the quicker we can pay off the farm and any debt we have. The quicker we pay off our debts, the more we can reduce off farm hours. If we can create an eco-system where our garden and land feed our livestock, and we can harvest our garden and livestock. Then we will be back to reducing our need for the feed and grocery store.
This symbiotic relationship with our land and livestock are paramount in not only becoming self reliant, but being good stewards to our land and shepherds to our herds.
Setting Up Our Infrastructure
As I’m sure you can tell, Self Reliance is the keyword for our lives for the next few years. It is the cornerstone of every single thing we are doing and planning. So we are starting the first year with infrastructure. I talked in depth about what infrastructure is in this blog post. But the point of that post was to get you to think about your own infrastructure and what that means for your homestead.
When it comes to our homestead, we are really trying to focus on self reliance. Keeping in mind that the 3 big dreams are spending less money, reducing off farm hours, and creating an eco-system are the most important things. We created our infrastructure list and plans around that.
The goal of 2023 is to set up the homestead with those three big dreams in mind. For example: we have made the hard decision that if we can’t sell our bucklings, they will become meat goats. We’ve also made the decision that we will no longer buy chickens because we like the way they look, or how many eggs they lay. All chickens will be a meat variety instead of dual purpose. The gardens are going to go be overhauled into a “bulk garden” and a “kitchen” garden. We are going to start working on water movement so that we are no longer laying hoses throughout the property to get water to animals and gardens.
Then there’s closing the holes in our food security. One of the things we decided was to focus on heritage breeds. While they take more time to mature, they are more efficient with what they eat. We recently purchased 2 American Guinea Hogs so that we can stop relying on other farms for our pork. We are also going to be purchasing several Bourbon Red turkeys to further reduce our dependance on the grocery store or other farms.
The caveat to these animals is that we are also only going to buy animals that can work as well. One of the things that we learned at the HOA conference in Virginia, was that the animals should work for you too. Pasture rotation is a thing we knew about, but when listening to the lectures, we learned about what pigs can do for revitalizing the soil.
Our gardens are going to look very different then they did last year. We are going to bring the pigs and chickens into our side yard and allow them to root, scratch and poop on that area and will turn it into another garden. That garden will hold all of our squash, cucumber, melon, herbs, etc. Then we will turn our old garden into the “bulk” garden for corn, tomatoes, peppers and food for the animals.
We are making lists of what we buy at the grocery store and of that, what can we grow? One of the things we can grow to spend less money growing cumin. We use a TON of cumin and at $20 a container, that’s a lot of money every year. It’s the same thing with lettuces. We feed our bearded dragons mustard, turnip, collard greens. At $4 a bag, and we by 4 bags a month? That’s a huge savings if we grow those things ourselves. Not to mention, that the pigs will eat the excess turnips.
We already discussed the hogs, turkeys and chickens. But to go a little more in depth, every single animal on our homestead is going to have a purpose. And if they require additional feed that the farm can’t produce? That is something we need to look at or they aren’t going to stay long. This has led to some hard decisions when it comes to our personal animals.
We aren’t going to just get rid of them. But this thought process has shown us the amount of money spent on the dogs, cats, dragons and snakes for pleasure, hurts our bottom line of spending less. That means 1) no new animal will be brought to the homestead unless it serves a purpose and the farm can sustain it. And 2) has made us really look into how we can feed animals alternatively without affecting their health.
Another point with the animals is keeping around animals that are not producing. The animal lover in me struggles with the idea of just butchering an animal because it is no longer useful. But the homesteader in me says, but that’s their job. It’s very conflicting and confusing.
Permaculture And Self Reliance
This word has been rattling around my head for the better part of a month. One of the things we have been talking about pre-conference was that while we could afford our $600/mo feed bill, we didn’t want to. After the conference, we realized that we could grow most of the food our animals need without having to use as much feed. This lead us to the idea of permaculture.
The plan, and resulting infrastructure, is that we are going to use electric netting to rotate the pigs and chickens throughout the property. We’ve had a lot of predator problems with our chickens and we are hoping that by giving them a safe space, with electrified netting, this will keep the predators down. For the pigs, we are planning on giving them a large space to root and poop in hopes that they will break the soil and allow the good things to get into the soil. After they have worked the soil in that area, we will move them to the next area and let them continue through the property.
While I love my compost, and we will always have and use it, the idea of schlepping wheelbarrows up hill and all over the property is not my idea of a good time. BUT I can take bedding waste, wasted hay, and other compostables and just put it in where the chickens are. They can spread it around and the soil can break it down there.
Another part of permaculture is instead of ripping out gardens when they are done, we can put the pigs, chickens or goats in there and let them “rip out” the garden. This will reduce our work load, feed them, and put them to work. That seems like a win to me.
Bringing Self Reliance Into The House
While at the HOA conference, we were told that the house is not as important as the land. I, wholeheartedly, disagree. While the personal how’s and why’s of that is not important, what is important is that having a safe, secure, and comfortable home, is just as important as the land. And yes, part of it is vanity on my end. While I don’t want the best of the best and need designer things. I do need my home to be safe, secure, and comfortable.
We have to update our electrical panel, breakers, and some wiring. We need to take down some trees that would absolutely demolish our home if they fell. Then there’s the fire safety aspect of putting in tile accents in front of the fire place. We have to paint the exterior of our home because cedar siding will be damaged if it is not taken care of property. Oh, and our back deck is about to fall of the house. So while yes, the land is important so is the house.
I understand what these other homesteaders were talking about in regards to making sure that the land is the priority. But at the same time, so is the home. I know that they don’t mean, “Don’t worry about the electrical panel! You need to put pasture rotation into effect first.” But at the same time, me being comfortable in my home is equally as important as the land. And to be honest, we can do both.
The Food Storage Room
One of the other ways we are going to work on our self reliance is to finish up our food storage room. While most will call this a pantry, it’s going to be much more than that. In this storage room, we will have all of our canned goods, garden harvests, coffees, etc. It will also have a dehumidifier and vents on a thermometer to help control the temperatures. It will be insulated and have a door to keep animals out. We will also be storing our crockpots, stock pots, and other larger kitchen appliances in there so that we can reduce the amount of space they take up in the kitchen.
So I will be working on making the house comfortable for my family, while Jared is out there cutting down trees and replacing the electrical panel. I may even help him paint the house.
What Is Your Self Reliance Infrastructure
At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for your family, your land and your animals. It’s not about them or me. It’s about you and what you are trying to accomplish with your life. I hope this post has opened your eyes to what you want to do with your homestead.