I grew up in your typical sidewalk lined residential neighborhood. It had shortcuts through peoples backyards and a small store on the corner. My best childhood pal didn’t have a phone, so to see if she was home I had to walk down the block and knock on her door. (This was the early 90’s guys, there were no cell phones). We, like most families there, lived in a two family house. There was nothing homestead-y about my upbringing at all. We never even had pets until I was in 7th grade and we got our first cat. Even so, I always loved being outdoors. My dad taught me how to fish when I was five years old. He took me and my brother to fishing rodeos and small rivers and streams throughout the state. I loved hanging out with him and going on adventures through the woods to find the perfect fishing spot. In the winter he took us sledding and ice skating. On weekends both my mom and dad would take my brother and I on various outings. Whether it was hiking and checking out a new state park, checking out flea markets and antiquing, or just hanging out at home and romping around the neighborhood, my brother and I were always outside.
When I was about 14 my dad’s sister offered to take me on a trip to see Vermont. We had such a fun weekend and for me it was love at first sight. We drove through the Green Mountains, took pit stops at King Arthur Flour, Ben and Jerry’s, and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory among others. That weekend on I have always said one day I was going to live in Vermont in the woods with a few dogs and a bunch of kids 😉 .
Life went on. I focused on getting through nursing school and starting my career. I met a friend as a new nurse who raised goats and chickens and was (and still) is into DIY and homesteading. (Hi Em!) Watching her and her husband on their journey to self sufficiency started planting a seed in my mind of the lifestyle I always wanted to have.
Fast forward a bit to December of 2010 when my husband and I met and started dating. We quickly realized we both had the same interests and wanted the same things in life. It’s been just over six years since we started dating, and this April we will be married for four. It didn’t happen overnight but within the last few years we really got serious about paying down our debt and following our dream to have a small farm and homestead. Two years ago I convinced him to get egg laying chickens (the gateway animal into homesteading) and we’ve been full steam ahead on this homesteading train since. We are both the kind of people that would rather work 100 hours a week for ourselves, than 40 or 60 (as he usually does in the military) for someone else. We love doing things ourselves.
I think I must have been a pioneer in a past life because there’s something about living off the land that speaks deeply to my soul. I often get asked why we want to live the way we do. Here are a few of my answers as to why we are on quest to have our own homestead.
We like the feeling of being self sufficient
There’s something to be said about being able to sustain yourself without help from others. Whether it’s doing home renos, maintenance on the car or house, or just being able to make something by hand, it feels pretty darn good to be able to say “yup I did that.” It also saves us a lot of money. If something breaks, instead of hiring someone and paying for labor (which is crazy expensive) you can do most things for half the cost (or more) if you learn to do it yourself. My husband is pretty handy which helps a lot but there are a lot of things that he figured out just by watching you tube. I try to buy minimally at the grocery store. If we can live off of what we grew/hunted/killed/sourced locally, we do.
We like to learn new skills
Being self sufficient ties right into learning new skills. I don’t know how to do a lot of things, but we both love to learn and are not scared to take on a challenge. My husband loves to do woodworking. He has not had any formal training in it but is never afraid to attempt to build things. He gets better with every project he creates. So far I’ve gotten two nightstands, a jelly cabinet, two Adirondack chairs, and two small tables out of the deal. It’s honestly awesome to show him something on pinterest and voila! He makes my vision come to life. Last year I learned to sew, crochet, and make my own soap. I am no expert but I keep getting better each time I make something. We also tried our hand at raising meat hens and turkeys. Neither of us had any experience doing it before. We bought a book and read a lot of articles online. We butchered the animals ourselves. Did we make mistakes? Of course. But now we have experience under our belts and are not afraid to take on tasks like that. The best part of learning new skills is the feeling of capability you get by accomplishing something you weren’t sure that you could actually do.
We like to know where our meat/food comes from
Even if you buy organic in the store you still have to be careful about where things come from. Labels can be misleading and sometimes even if something says organic or natural it still can be from a factory farm. I feel so much better about raising our own meat because I know exactly how it was treated, what it was fed, and how it died. Raising animals for meat has given me a whole new respect for animals. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved and respected animals. Killing animals for meat is HARD. I get very attached although I try not to and I feel very grateful for the meal they provide to my family. It has actually made me eat less meat, and become more mindful of the meat we do eat because we have a limited supply. I also waste less because it’s not as easy as going to the store, buying a package of chicken, forgetting it’s in the fridge, and then throwing it away when it goes bad and just buying more. We really respect the value of the animal by understanding the life it lived, it’s death, and the process of preparing the animal for consumption.
For the things we can’t raise right now we buy from local farms or use meat that my husband hunts. We eat venison on a regular basis. My husband buys half a pig each year from his friend who has a pig farm. I buy grass fed beef from a local farm down the road. We grow things in our garden. Nothing tastes better than the fruit and veggies you grow yourself. Plus I don’t have to worry about pesticide contamination.
I want my kids to know where food comes from
I want to raise my kids to have a deep respect for animals lives and a gratefulness for the meals they provide. They will understand that meat isn’t some packaged product you just buy at the grocery store with no real meaning or feelings behind it. I want them to see the difference between fresh and processed food. I want them to see how crops are grown and know the effects of using chemicals on the environment. We have bees so I only use natural things such as neem oil if I need to spray my garden for some reason. I want to make sure my children are mindful of their actions on the ecosystem around them.
We are more thrifty[Click here to learn how to make your own baby wipes!]
When I think of a true homesteader, I think of someone who never has to go to the store for anything and lives completely off the land. While there are people like that out there, and I give them a boatload of credit, that is just not our lifestyle. I like to think of us as “modern homesteaders”. We try to be as self sufficient as possible but still have modern conveniences. Yes I go grocery shopping. We have a TV. Obviously I’m typing this on a laptop, we have cell phones, and high speed internet. Umm hello? I’m obsessed with amazon and pinterest! I like technology and I like modern amenities BUT I also like to do things the “old school” way and I like to be outdoors. There’s a quote I love that goes “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and we are really trying to live more like that. We try to re-purpose and repair things. We live with what we have and when it comes to buying new things we ask ourselves if we really need it. If we do, we try to buy a used version. One of my goals this year is to get rid of “stuff” that doesn’t serve us and try to be more of a minimalist. It’s a constant work in progress. In the past few years of dabbling into this lifestyle my thriftiness has gone up to a whole new level.
It feels so fulfilling
Almost nothing brings me more joy than to check my garden in the summer and see the first tomatoes growing on a plant I started from seed. Or I’ll move a squash leaf and wow, there’s a huge zucchini ready to be picked. It’s such a fun and rewarding thing to harvest food that you grew yourself. The tiny seeds you germinated under a grow light back in March are now all the ingredients to make a delicious and fresh salad. Amazing! Raising animals makes me happy. We have a flock of egg laying hens and we absolutely love them. If you don’t think chickens have a personality think again. It makes me happy to see how happy they are when we let them out to free range and forage. Plus all the fresh eggs are pretty nice. I get the “but it’s so much work” comments all the time. Yes it’s a lot of work. So is having children. My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. Some days I am pulling my hair out BUT that doesn’t mean I wish I wasn’t a parent. Homesteading brings joy to my family. Yes our hands are full. It is a lot of work. But it is extremely rewarding and it makes me happy.
We spend less money
Ok, ok, we don’t spend less money yet. Spending less money is a goal we’d like to achieve by having a homestead. If we can get to the point of raising all our own animals, growing and preserving all of our own food, and selling some of the things we raise and goods we make we’d be doing pretty well. The reality is we just bought a house that needs a lot of money in renovations. Animals cost money to raise and unless you have a commercial farm you aren’t going to make a lot of money off of them. We have a mortgage and bills to pay just like everyone else. However getting serious about having a homestead has helped us to pay off all of our debt except for my student loans (oh how I loathe thee) and the mortgage we just acquired. In this journey we have become passionate about 1. Not buying things if we can’t afford them. 2. Not financing anything (expect the house we just bought). 3. Not using credit cards to pay for anything which goes with the ‘if you can’t afford it you shouldn’t be buying it’ mindset. The cars we drive are paid off and we do not plan on getting new ones until we are forced to. When the time comes we will buy something used so we either a. Don’t have a payment or b. Have a relatively small payment.
You can potentially make money
One of our goals is to have a farm stand and sell goods at farm markets. Like I said previously unless you are doing commercial farming, there is not a ton of profit in being a homesteader besides just covering your own expenses. I am starting to see a movement where people want to know where their food is coming from and how it is being raised, making it more appealing to buy locally. My dream is to have a CSA for fruits and vegetables and also sell meat that we’ve raised and processed. I don’t think we are ever going to be rich but if I could do that kind of work full time instead of nursing I would happily oblige.
I hope this answers some of the questions as to why we would want to do homesteading. Homesteading can really be anything you want it to be. Even if you only have one acre you can utilize the land to live off of it easily, zoning laws providing. You don’t have to go back to an 1800s lifestyle to consider yourself a homesteader either. Lots of people are doing modern homesteading as they are looking to be more self sufficient and more self sustainable. You can do a little or you can do a lot. You can have less than one acre or 100 acres. That is what’s so great about homesteading- you can do it to suit your needs. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and try it, you might be surprised at how much fun it can be.
Have you ever thought about becoming a homesteader?
Let me know in the comments!