Oh, the things I wish I knew. “They” say that hindsight is 20/20 and they are absolutely right. There are so many challenges that we have faced over the years. If someone would have told me, before starting a homestead, that it would have been this hard? Well, I still would have done it….. and I probably wouldn’t have listened. But if I can help you avoid some pitfalls, I’m going to do it, even if I’m wasting my time.
If you are just starting in your homestead journey, I have the deal for you! In The Homestead Bundle you will receive our Hay Calculator, Profit Calculator, Digital and Printable Garden Journal, The Backyard Homestead eBook, the Simple Budget, Schedule F worksheet, and Herd Health Sheets. That’s a $55 value for $39.99!
What I wish I would have known before starting a homestead
Set Goals, Make A Plan, And Stick To It
This seems to be the hardest thing for people to do. There is so much excitement in buying a piece of property and you have all these ideas of how you want to do things. Only to realize half way through a project that it’s not working or you don’t need it. But if you can spend some time thinking about all the things you want, how you’re going to accomplish it and putting it in play? You will be ahead of the game.
Paralysis By Analysis
This is the next part of the planning process and it happens to EVERYONE. Don’t get so caught up in making plans, that you don’t execute them. Yes, there are a million ways to do something. But don’t get so tangled up in the best way, that you don’t do anything. Sometimes jumping in with both feet is the best way to learn. Sure, it can be an expensive lesson. But imagine the pride that comes with learning how to build a coop, a garden bed, or canning? Imagine if you were to put aside the “best” way to do something and just did it? Those lessons are far more valuable than the loss of a couple dollars.
To give you an example, if we had waited to build our goat barn, they would have died that first winter. If we had waited until we knew exactly how to build it, proper plans, location, materials, etc, it wouldn’t have gotten done that first year. We would have had to bring them into the house when we got 4″ of snow and ice. Sure, it’s in a bad spot and doesn’t look pretty but my goats are happy.
Garden Before Livestock
This idea tends to be a forgotten thought on most influencer’s platform. Every single one of us know that you are going to get chickens before you have a way to feed them. Or goats before you have the best practices in hand. It’s just the way this lifestyle works. Sure, you’ll have a few people that will learn everything possible before taking the leap. But a lot of us don’t.
It’s easy to have the mindset of just going to the feed store for food. A bag of non gmo, corn or soy free feed is about $15 for a 50# bag by me. That doesn’t seem like a lot, right? But it is when you buy 6 bags (or more) of chicken feed, goat feed, pig feed, and alfalfa pellets per month …. Then you have to buy hay, supplements, and medications. The feed alone is $360+ a month.
OR you can learn how to grow their food.
Live There For A Season
So many times, new homesteaders want to get straight to work. While that is an amazing attitude to have, sometimes living in the space for a season will give you the best possible look at what is going to happen. For example, we waited a whole year before we put in gardens. Why? Because I didn’t want to waste a ton of time, money, resources, etc on putting a garden in, only to have it be in the wrong spot.
Another example is the goat barn. If we had waited a season before putting that in, we would have seen that the water runs right into the barn after a big storm. Now it’s a constant battle to keep them and their bedding dry.
If You Want It, Get It
Not everything needs to be so utilitarian that you can’t have pretty things. But you will realize very soon that utility and practicality are far more valuable than a pretty face. My gardens are a prime example of wanting something pretty vs totally utilitarian.
My kitchen garden has raised beds in rows, with arched trellises, decorations on the fence, and figurines tucked throughout. Yes, it is pretty and fussy. Yes, we sank over a thousand dollars into it. And by the time it’s finished, we will dump another couple thousand. But it is hands down my most favorite spot on the homestead. I’m in there for hours every single day I’m home. That means it gets weeded and watered regularly. The bugs get picked off more often. It’s better taken care of.
Before we get too far into this post, I wanted to give a suggestion about keeping a garden journal. A digital garden journal is a fantastic way to keep track of past, present and future gardens. Our Digital Garden Journal is a great way to keep up with everything without getting too overwhelmed.
My big garden? I walk through it to check on things. I’ll weed occasionally. But I’m not hanging out in there. Why? Mainly, because there is just so much more work that needs to be done in there. Also, because my kitchen garden brings me indescribable joy.
Just Because It’s Cute, Doesn’t Mean You Need It
The flip side of idea above is: you don’t need to waste money on garden statues if it takes away from your seed budget. Just because you love llamas, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get one. Unless you plan on selling fiber. But the point is that whatever it is you want, it needs to fit in with your budget, plan, and goals.
Before Starting A Homestead Define What Success Is
This is really hard for those that aren’t goal orientated or those who don’t really have a goal in mind. But for some of us, we want to have this successful homestead. But what does that actually look like? I ask myself a lot, “At what point will I consider this (whatever it is) done and a success?”
To give you an example, my gardens will be a success when they provide 75% of the food needs of the entire farm. This includes livestock and humans. My homestead will be successful then.
Infrastructure Is Not Build In A Day
So many times we want everything done right now. But it’s important to realize that unless you have a TON of capital, you won’t get all of your infrastructure built right now. Not only does it take time, your plans change! Initially, we didn’t want a greenhouse. Our spring/summer growing season is about 200 days and usually we can grow frost hardy crops straight through winter. In theory, we can grow year round. But we realized after the second failed attempt at starting seeds inside, we need a greenhouse. Blu loves to look out the windows and she doesn’t care if the seedlings are in her way. To protect our seeds, we need to get the away from the 110# fur missile.
Invest In Good Tools An Equipment
This is probably the most important thing you could possible do. Do not waste your money on tools or equipment that aren’t worth anything. I’ll be posting a garden guide (coming soon) of the tools that we have bought and love, and those that I wouldn’t waste your money on. But at the end of the day, spend the few more dollars for tools that work well and will last you a long time. A lot of influencers have a list a mile long of tools that are amazing, and tools that we will tell you to stay away from. Obviously, it’s biased, but walk into large purchases with your eyes wide open.
In that same category, don’t waste money on courses that you don’t need. YouTube, Instagram, and blogs like this one are all great resources of information that is FREE!
Before Starting A Homestead: Grace
The absolutely most important thing that you should keep in mind when starting a homestead, is grace. Grace for yourself when you screw up. Understanding when your spouse screws up. Joy when there is success. All of these things are so important. You won’t be successful every time, with everything. And that’s okay. It’s the best part of learning.