When it comes to homesteading, a lot of people know it’s not about living a convenient life. It’s about embracing a simpler way of living and being self-sustainable, which means you have to do a lot of hard work to sustain the needs of your household. The idea of growing your own produce to eat, taking care of your own cattle for meat, building your own furniture – it’s all very appealing, but only for those who are ready to take on the task.
But even with the idea of the truth that homesteading can be challenging, there are still some who experience unexpected issues that make homesteading even harder. Even during these modern times, homesteaders can still face the same tests of endurance and patience that the old pioneering homesteaders have to deal with.
Here are some common issues to expect if you want to make a big leap to a homesteading lifestyle:
Location and community issues
Location is not only a consideration for city dwellers – it matters a lot to homesteaders and homesteading off-gridders, too. You have to consider how much land you will need to sustain your lifestyle. If you plan to raise livestock, you need to have enough land to shelter them, let them graze, and store their feed. You also need to gain access to a reliable water source and enough space to set up your garden and have a waste management system.
Many of the issues homesteaders face are due to their location. The nearest community, no matter how independent you may feel in your homestead, will be a big part of your living experience. Entering a new community to homestead must be done with open-mindedness and respect for everyone. Understand the culture of the new community before putting forward any constructive criticisms. Don’t hurry to bring change and to influence others to homestead in an established community.
If you want to live off the grid and sustain yourself, think more than twice if you’re willing to live without utilities – electricity, plumbing, cell signal, and an Internet connection. Doing so can make homesteading a lot more challenging. For instance, instead of simply using a sprinkler hose attached to an outdoor faucet to water your plants in the yard, you need to gather your own water from a source and secure a water supply first before you can start watering your crops.
You would need to set up an alternative power source, not just for your lights and home appliances but also for the equipment you will use for homesteading. This is also a significant consideration when looking for a new home site. Does the garden have enough south-facing exposure for a solar power array? Is there a steady and constant path of wind for a wind generator or a creek that can supply a micro-hydro system?
Many suburban areas won’t allow you to live in a house without utilities, so you will need to find rural enough land to avoid these legal limitations. And when you find one that’s rural enough, has good ground, and strategic enough for your energy and water needs – the remoteness is another concern.
Is the place too remote that potential visitors may dread the long drive on the way to your home? This will matter if you have friends and extended family you care about and want to stay in contact with. It will matter if you have young kids who would like to have their friends visit your home easily from time to time. Is the access suitable for you as you get older? Some homesteading sites with older residents prefer to change their lifestyles due to access limitations and because they cannot keep homesteading since they don’t have the energy of their youth.
The type of climate and weather of a homesteading site must also be a significant consideration. Homesteaders usually think about this, so they plan their plants and livestock along with climate considerations. However, many forget about year-round eventualities and overlook the potential long-term consequences of living in an area they chose because of the excitement of finding a great piece of land on which to start a homestead.
Building too large of a home
The freedom of designing and building your own house without local building restrictions is one of the many great appeals to living in remote and rural areas. This freedom, excitement to take on new projects, combined with the energy of youth, can lead to visions of a place where a thicket may stand today. But sometimes, if you build too large of a home can become more of a burden than comfort to homeowners.
Also, the time and cost associated with building come at the expense of spending time with your children. You can become a slave to your building project. Without the help and expertise of a professional builder, you may end up spending a lot of time in maintenance, buying extra materials, heating unnecessary spaces in the winter. All these can bring the unexpected cost in terms of energy and money, which can build over time. Not to mention the expenses you would have if you plan to build a barn, a coop, a greenhouse, a farm, or a garden for your homesteading needs.
Over-ambitious food sourcing and livestock plans
Eating is one of the most fundamental pleasures for man, but eating on the homestead is even more enjoyable. Imagine having to pick an apple outside to eat with your oats at breakfast, growing your own turkey to serve at Thanksgiving, and harvesting your own lettuce and other veggies for your garden salad. It’s idyllic – it’s the dream of organic food lovers. But if you do plan to grow your own plants and livestock for food, do not give in to the temptation to start big.
Resist the urge to plant every vegetable and fruit you want to eat, and buy every animal you ever want to own. Starting big will make you overlook some more basic gardening or livestock raising basics because many issues may arise and might need your immediate attention. If you purchase all animals and all plants at once, they wouldn’t have survived, or they would not thrive.
In gardening, you have to develop the fertility of the soil first before you can expect a fruitful harvest. Investing in too many seeds, plants, and fertilizers – only to end up wilting or eaten by pests – would cost you a lot more. And when you do get to have a fruitful harvest, make sure you have enough pantry capacity to store your harvest adequately. For some, they tend to have too much harvest that the produce went bad and ended up in the compost.
In livestock farming, you need to teach the livestock how to free-range, herd, teach them to avoid predators, identify predator tracks and signs, and much other training. You need to provide adequate fencing, quality barns or coops, and learn the right kind of feed for every kind of animal. You need to stock up on homestead tools, supplies, and medical gear you will need to keep them healthy and safe to eat. Taking care of livestock is a massive responsibility, so it’s best to start small and build up your barnyard slowly.
You may have a big vision, but it’s better to start a small, well-fenced garden or a couple of livestock animals with proper fencing and shelter. When you have somehow gained a certain level of mastery on taking care of them well, you can expand your garden or farm.
There is no shame in having empty garden beds or allowing pens and stalls to remain either empty or half full during your first few years of homesteading. It’s better to have space than it is to lose animals or crops, causing you to waste a considerable sum of money.
Setting a budget and sticking to it
Sticking to a budget is the biggest challenge to overcome. In this day and age that demands money to afford instant gratification, learning to slow down and make money stretch as far as possible is a skill that takes a lot of time to learn. In homesteading, it is a must to get creative in solving problems that pop up. Sometimes, you need to take some time to do repair projects to avoid buying a new one that is not included in your budget.
Also, simpler living isn’t cheap. Homesteading and living off the grid is often romanticized, and newcomers may forget the big upfront investments and ongoing maintenance costs, growing crops, and raising livestock.
If you need to set up your own power source, it would be the highest upfront cost that you’ll incur. Depending on the size of your house, family, land, and energy needs, you may need anywhere between 15 to 30 large solar panels to provide enough power to run your homestead.
If you can’t make a significant upfront investment, starting small is the key. Start by growing and cooking your own food to reduce your carbon footprint and live with a zero-waste policy. Then, you can adjust to be more committed to a full homesteading lifestyle. By starting small, you can save money to put for your next projects.
Set a budget and make every effort to stick to it no matter what. Sit down, plan your entire year on the homestead – both with a time, money, and season perspective – so you can save large amounts of future headache and stress.
It may be hard to turn down a great deal on a horse or a super handy 4-wheeler trailer, but you can live without it. What you cannot live without is the money you need to pay your bills and your children’s schooling expenses.
Set a budget that can allow for discretionary spending so you can get great deals whenever possible, but only does it without sacrificing another, more necessary item or whipping out your credit card.
If your good pump breaks, or when you need a vet for your cows, or if a tractor malfunctions, you would need that credit card to have as much of an available credit line as much as possible.
Don’t bank on the money you expect to earn from your homesteading business down the line. This might be the year Japanese beetles would attack and destroy the crop you were going to sell to replenish the funds you’ve spent months before.
Also, do not launch into your first year of homesteading into a money-making endeavor. Even if you have a perfectly functional and perfectly situated homestead, you must first learn how to work it and know how much time and money you need to maintain and grow your homestead before making money off it. Give yourself at least a year to get settled in, so you would know the extent of the upfront cost you need to spend before you can start a business. You may invest too much at first only to have your livestock getting diseases or your crops getting infested or getting destroyed by a storm.
Once you have gained enough knowledge and experience homesteading, you can launch it into a home-based business, so you can at least get back what you’ve spent or even earn more.
Even the best, most carefully considered plans can (and often will) fail, so you have to be flexible. When homesteading, you are not bound by time and schedules like you would if you live in a city. Instead, you are bound to your budget, weather, seasons – which can take a bit to get used to.
You may wake up one morning ready to start a relatively inexpensive and quick project, but Mother Nature had other plans. If you fail not only to be updated on the weather and how to interpret the sounds, sights, smells, and feelings of storms, you could end up being in the middle of your project and be forced to abandon it for days. A sudden need for a vet visit to save an animal and her young can make a supposedly inexpensive chicken coop expansion very ill-timed.
The weather, livestock diseases, and pests not only would take a toll on your budget but also cause an increase in your homestead workload.
These possibilities can anger and frustrate a homesteader but expect that these may happen. Instead of getting pissed off over something you can’t control, be flexible enough to change plans. Being flexible is a must-have trait for a homesteader. Otherwise, you’d get frustrated often.
Setbacks and failures are your way to learn as a homesteader. Don’t let it get you down and make you want to give up.
When homesteading, you’ll find out that you never have enough time to get everything done the way you want to. In this lifestyle, you’ll never have an empty to-do list. So, time management is the key.
The amount of work you’ll put in to live a homesteader life, especially if you choose a lace off-grid, is equivalent to multiple full-time jobs. Procrastination has no place in homesteading – seeds must be sown in the right season, animals must be fed and milked on a regular schedule, plants must be watered early in the morning before the sun gets too hot, the overflow of harvest must be preserved for colder months, and shelter and fences must be maintained to keep out predators.
Doing these means, you need to be an early riser and a consistent planner so you can make the most out of your homestead.