“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it” (Goethe)
One of my joys these last few years has been watching people move forward with a new aspect of homesteading that happened because they visited our farm, and at some point it dawned on them, “Hey, I might just be able to do this as well.” We had a couple visiting the area from Arizona last week (we are in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) and at the end of their stay, the woman told me in excitement, “I convinced my husband to get chickens.” Whether it’s starting to grow their own tomatoes or hopping into poultry, it’s a delight for me to see individuals discovering the same satisfaction in this lifestyle that I have.
I’ve rubbed shoulders with all ends of the spectrum the last few years, from lifelong farmers to some cityfolk who’d never seen a cow before coming to our county. (Not even joking). And whether you fit either of those descriptions or you are somewhere in between, I want to encourage you to take a step – TODAY – in your journey toward increasing self-sufficiency.
People get into homesteading for all different reasons. Maybe you were raised with a background in it, or maybe you fell into almost by accident as you became aware of how your health and well-being might improve with raising your own food. Whatever category you identify with, I just want to encourage you to take a step forward in realizing some homesteading dreams.
1. Set goals and write them down
Forbes did a study some time ago with Harvard MBA graduates*. They found that only 3% of the student body wrote down goals. 13% had goals in mind but did not write them down. The remaining 84% had no goals at all. When they followed up with the students later, the 3% that had written down their goals were earning ten times more money on average than their fellow grads who’d not set or recorded goals.
Now that is strictly a monetary measurement. It doesn’t measure the value the written goal-setters found in time management, or life satisfaction, or the residual impact that must have had on their overall health and well being. I don’t know about you, but I get a sense of satisfaction just from writing down and fulfilling daily cleaning tasks that I need to do. How much more joy is there in realizing a long-term goal?
Many years ago I worked for a company and they were big into goal setting. Our team managers would have us write down our goals not just for work, but for where we wanted to live, what we hoped to accomplish, how much we wanted to have invested in retirement funds, and so on. They had us write down our goals for one year out, five years out, and then ten years down the road. I was in my twenties at the time and I just remember how a decade seemed so long at the time.
So, write down your homesteading goals. What do you want to be doing a year from now? Three years? Five years? Maybe you have a goal to incrementally start growing more of your own food. What does that look like for your family? Perhaps your goals center around land ownership. Maybe you have a goal to have more acreage or go from renting to owning. Maybe you are looking to increase profitability on your homestead and just need to get into the details of what that looks like. Maybe your dream is to quit your job and do homesteading full time. Perhaps your goal is to add some self-reliance skill to your knowledge that you don’t yet have, like making your own yogurt and cheese. Maybe you’ve thought about beekeeping and just never got around to beginning an apiary.
Record some very specific goals, and then write out the next few steps from where you are now, to seeing that goal realized. I would suggest giving yourself a timeline for each step in the process of realizing that goal.
2. Listen to other gardeners and homesteaders
I encourage you to listen to a lot of different homesteaders and gardeners out there. You’ll start to realize after a while who resonates with you and where you want to spend your listening time. I love the fact that with podcasts, I can listen in my car or while I garden or as I cook. Listening and learning about all these fascinating ventures with farm and animal husbandry is what motivates me to clean some days!
You might love tomatoes or the idea of making your own spaghetti and pizza sauce, so you tune into the finite details of growing superb varieties of Roma and paste tomatoes. Or perhaps you’re not at all into tomatoes, but finding out how to amend the soil properly to manipulate the color of hydrangea may fascinate you.
If your family hardly eats any pork, following a pig farmer might not be as meaningful to you personally (unless you want a pig purely for a pet, Wilbur style). But maybe you’re thinking that one day you’d really love to raise your own turkeys, and so you start learning about the different breeds and following the wisdom of people already raising turkeys.
Videos, podcasts, web sites, and good old-fashioned library books are all sources from which you can begin your education – and also your sense of enterprise in whatever venture you’re considering.
3. Get smart about your money
So, personal story, in the beginning of 2019, I sensed very strongly the Lord telling me to start getting knowlegable about our money and also tightening the purse strings. Now, I am not a big spender. I passionately hate clothing shopping of any kind. And I never blow money on magazines or movies. In fact, I think I’ve been to a theater twice in the last fifteen years. Any blockbuster film of the last decade- I’ve missed it. But I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Vacation is not a financial trap because my homestead is my joy and my rest (although I’d love to do a road trip involving some historical and geographical sites). My husband practically has to drag me any place that involves more than an overnight stay.
Takeout is where we probably blow most of our spending money. Also where we blow our healthy eating habits. But I digress.
So, I had this urgency in my spirit about getting serious and responsible about our money, but I had no idea where to begin. So, I asked the Lord. Show me. Help me here. The internet is one giant quagmire of conflicting and confusing advice. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon the program Moneywise on local radio. Moneywise was a huge step in the right direction, and from there, I got Dave Ramsey’s book Babysteps from the local library on audio. And that was a game changer.
The bottom line with getting smart about your money is to start building an emergency savings fund and wipe out debt. If we had no credit card, student loan, car loan, medical, even mortgage debt, many of us would be millionaires in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, Americans love to throw their money away, and allow themselves to become the slaves of lenders. Now is the time to start getting inspired and educated on how to do what might seem almost impossible for some of you. It’s not. It’s entirely doable.
4. Step out into one new thing
I know what it’s like to feel constrained by location, by funds, by how much space you have; maybe you’re just overwhelmed at even where to begin. Maybe you’re renting and your landlord has put restrictions on what you do with the property. But there’s always something you can do right now. Homesteading, in my philosophy, is more about mindset than acreage. I’ve grown cabbage and arugula and herbs in window boxes when I didn’t have adequate means in place to keep rabbits away from my garden. If you live in a place where there are restrictions on having chickens and you long to have fresh, organic eggs, think about raising quail (and I’m going to do a separate segment just on quail).
I have a friend who put a hydroponic tower in the sunniest room of the house she was renting and was able to grow salads and greens. I know of someone else who wanted to start growing and it was the middle of winter, so she bought grow lights and started a garden in her basement with container potatoes. (And they turned out very well!)
Maybe you stepping out into homesteading involves adding a new skill to your tool belt. That could be making your own soap or your own laundry detergent for the first time, but it could also be learning how to use a drill, or teaching yourself how to do some basic home repairs.
5. Visit other homesteaders, farms, and gardens
Not only are field trips to other farms and orchards and homesteads, and public and private garden tours educational, but they are eye-opening and a ton of fun. You will come away with more creative ideas from people who are in your specific grow zone and who might have either a setup similar to yours, or give you something altogether different to which you can aspire. I jump on any opportunity to do a farm tour, whether it’s visiting Pennwood Dairy in Western Pennsylvania and hearing about how they’re recycling thousands of pounds of cow manure daily to generate power for their entire farm, or visiting an urban rain garden in the middle of the nearest city. All of it is inspiring and a marvel. Iron sharpens iron, and you’ll start giving and getting ideas as you venture out into all kinds of settings in which people are nurturing sustainability and self-sufficiency.
So what are your next steps in homesteading? Comment below because we’d love to hear!