It’s pretty crazy to think that our family has been living on this property and homesteading for over a year now. We have come a long way from the couch potatoes that we used to be and our journey has taken a lot of paths since we decided to change our lifestyle. From eating healthier with Keto to hiking and running and finally to homesteading. We have learned a lot from all of these things and every step we’ve taken has given us the knowledge and confidence to continue searching, learning, and growing as a family. Homesteading for a year has been a journey that I’ve found both challenging and rewarding and it’s one I hope to continue into the foreseeable future.
This year has flown by, and to be fair, part of that could be because it was such an unconventional year in general. The kids stayed home from school for an entire year, most things were closed down so we spent a lot more time at home and we found new ways to entertain ourselves while keeping safe. I’m unsure how much of that will change in the near future but this year of homesteading has been the one wonderful change that we took on and are looking forward to continuing. So, here are some of the lessons we’ve learned so far!
10 Things I Learned After Homesteading For A Year
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Good Boots Are Important
We all know that farms are messy. It seems like common sense but I’m not sure everyone understands the level of ‘messy’ that you can encounter on a farm. When it’s rained for five days straight and animal pens are a muck pit that’s ankle-deep in some spots with not only mud but everything that the animals mix into said mud it’s really not great for your shoes. And it’s not like you can just ‘avoid’ those spots either since they tend to be where the animals congregate the most and those spots tend to be feeding and watering stations. You have to brave those areas at least twice a day for feeding and if you move the stations they’ll just do the same thing to the new spot so you might as well embrace the mud.
Investing in good boots is worth it, especially if they are of the ‘hose them off’ to clean them variety. If you live near the woods in an area with venomous snakes as we do you might also consider looking for a pair that might save you from a snake bite. I have never seen a rattlesnake on our property but if I do I’d much rather run across one while wearing protective boots. A side bonus is that snakebite boots are normally worn by hunters who spend a good bit of time hiking through the woods so they tend to be pretty comfortable to wear for long periods of time which can be important if you spend all afternoon on your feet trying to fix a fence.
There is Always More To Do
As soon as you finish one project I guarantee you there will be another one in the back of your mind. What, you just built three rabbit hutches? Maybe you should consider a few more grow-out pens…or a new chicken coop. A greenhouse might be fun but there is also the back pasture that needs fencing and a shed that needs cleaning out.
If by chance you manage to knock out all the big building projects then there are probably some routine animal duties that need seeing too. Scrubbing water buckets, trimming goat hooves/rabbit nails, fixing that stubborn door latch or that corner of the fence the goats keep trying to push down is just waiting for you to realize that free time is in short supply!
Organizing Is Really Important
Everything on the homestead tends to be seasonal. Gardens of course have to be planned to match the growing season. Chicks should be hatched so that they either line up with the buying season or will start producing eggs when you need them too. Routine care like deworming, hoof & nail trimming also tends to run on schedules, and it’s far easier to keep up with all of those things if you stay organized.
Just like I organize my blog using a daily planner I try to organize the homestead in the same way. I keep track of hatching dates, planting dates, routine care dates, birth dates, breeding dates, and everything else that comes up with the help of a planner and a Trello board. If I forget to write something down it can be a real pain to try and figure it out later on and tends to throw everything out of wack so I try really hard to keep up with this and it makes life so much simpler.
This is also a great way to keep track of production. You can tell if your chickens stop laying consistently and might be in need of some supplements or if a particular rabbit is no longer producing large litters and might need to be retired if you keep good records.
DIY Isn’t Always The Best option
Don’t get me wrong, I love DIY projects and they are typically less expensive than buying something that is premade. But, and this is a big but…sometimes it’s just not worth it. f homesteading for a year has taught me anything it’s that your time is worth something and as we’ve already established, you probably have precious little of it to spare. If you have the funds and the item you need would take far more time to build than the savings are worth…just buy it. You’ll probably get it sooner and you’ll save yourself the time and hassle it would take to figure out how to DIY.
That said DIY can be a lifesaver if you’re short on funds and as long as it’s safe and warm the animals aren’t going to care if their new coop looks like a cobbled together shack so do what needs to be done!
Animals Will Always Find A Way
It doesn’t matter how well you think you’ve enclosed a space, tacked down that fencing or safety proofed their pen somebody will find a way to escape or get hurt. It’s a part of homesteading life and while it can be troublesome you just need to embrace the fact that a small portion of your time will always be devoted to either figuring out how they’ve managed to get out/hurt themselves this time and how you can fix it.
This does lead well into the next lesson because…
There Are Some Things You Should Always Have
Basic first aid items like vet wrap and wound spray can be a lifesaver. You never know when an animal is going to hurt itself and being able to handle a wound without running to the store all stressed out will make your life a lot easier. Likewise, basic tools, a bit of extra wire, fencing, and wood boards might mean you can jury-rig a fence or building patch up on the fly and go back later to do it properly.
It’s Hard Physical Work
I grew up with horses, I was well aware of the work involved in taking care of animals, mucking stalls, lugging water buckets, moving feed bags. The work involved in homesteading for a year was not a surprise. But, many people think this only comes when you homestead with larger animals like cows or horses and it’s just not the case. Goat and chicken feed still come in 50Ib bags. Hay bales are heavy..and scratchy. Chicken coops, rabbit pens, and goat stalls still need to be cleaned out. Even gardening can be challenging if you have to move around a lot of compost and dirt.
And that’s just the cleaning and feeding portion of homesteading. When you start to factor in dealing with fencing (digging fence posts is hardly fun and wire fencing comes in huge very heavy rolls), building coops and pens (even prefabricated stuff comes in heavy boxes) and even wrangling animals for everyday care can be a challenge. The goat doesn’t want its hooves trimmed? Well, it has to be done so someone has to hold it still while it happens. Most days you end up sweaty and filthy, you probably won’t be sharing those pictures on Instagram!
Temperament Is Everything
Given how much work homesteading is already why would you put up with an ugly tempered animal? If you have to prepare for a battle every time you open a cage or enter a pasture – it’s not worth it. I see so many people talk about mean roosters and other aggressive males and they justify keeping those animals around because they ‘protect’ the flock or otherwise have good confirmation and desirable traits.
Okay, those animals might win at a show – if you can get them there without injuring anyone but I truly believe that temperament is hereditary and by breeding those animals we might be getting nicely typed animals but we are also perpetuating dangerous animals. I have five black copper Maran roosters – not a single one has ever shown aggression towards people and so they get to stay.
They have on numerous occasions, driven off hawks and other predators. You don’t have to have mean roosters to have a protective rooster and your life will be far more peaceful and enjoyable if you cull bad-tempered animals right from the start. Focus on good-tempered, easy-to-handle critters and breed for the best quality from there, you’ll thank yourself later!
Sometimes It’s Sad
When you raise animals sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped. Sometimes you lose one, sometimes you lose a couple. Sometimes chicks don’t thrive even after you spend hours trying to help them and once in a while you might go outside and find some freak accident has taken one of your charges away. Sometimes you have to sell your favorite rabbit or chicken because they turned out to be a boy and you just don’t have the room for another male on the property.
It’s hard not to get attached to animals you raised and feed and doctor and love from the time they are little. This is true even for the ones you knowingly raise for the freezer. You tell yourself not to get attached but sometimes you just can’t help it. Homesteading can be rewarding in so many ways but it can also be heartbreaking.
But It’s Worth It
Despite all of the things I have mentioned above… it’s worth it. My kids have learned the responsibility of caring for living creatures. They know where their food comes from and I know that the food we eat was raised lovingly on our farm. Our eggs come from chickens who run happily in a pasture and don’t live their whole lives in battery cages. Our rabbits get to play with toys and make themselves hay tunnels, the goats are spoiled, the turkeys are loved on and everyone is kept as happy and healthy as I can possibly make them.
I get to go outside every day and laugh at the antics of the animals around me, work outside and enjoy nature in a way I wasn’t able to before. While living in a world that’s filled with anxiety and stress homesteading for a year has taught me it’s nice to just watch the wind in the trees and listen to the rooster’s crow.