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Your homestead dream finally comes true! Dreams of livestock and gardens fill your head – the sky’s the limit! I’ve been there, and it’s wonderful. But, in my “homesteading bliss”, we made some critical errors that cost us a lot of time and money. It’s never flattering to expose our mistakes in life, but hopefully we can learn from each other. Take my advice as I expose “My 5 Biggest Homesteading Mistakes”!
Doing too much that first year
When we first purchased our 10 acre farm, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do anything, like garden or buy animals, for at least one year.
This would give me time to observe the property and get to know the lay of the land. There are about 3 acres of woods on our property, so I wanted to spend time identifying trees and see what was there. I went so far as to tell my closest friends that if I even looked like I was thinking about gardening, to just slap me silly.
We were new to the country life. Although I was a very experienced gardener, I didn’t know much about this “hard as a rock” clay soil that I now owned. It would take years of amendment to get that soil to the point it is today.
Well, needless to say, I didn’t listen to my own advice, and planted a garden anyway…(and no, my friends didn’t hit me!)
I was just FAR too excited to be living in the country, that I couldn’t wait a year. I jumped right in and although the world didn’t come to an end, I learned something new about injuries that year. Stressing my body and trying to do everything, like I was in my 20’s again, was giving me aches and pains like I had never felt! One particular injury that I’m still paying for in terms of pain is when I was building a raised bed (by myself) and dropped the frame on my right wrist. I thought it was broken.
Let it be known that I am in good shape for my age, and stronger than most women. But since we didn’t really own any equipment yet, I did everything by hand and it kicked my butt.
Today, I pace myself better. I don’t try to work myself to the point of exhaustion anymore. This is supposed to be fun and fulfilling, not miserable. (You might enjoy “How to Homestead ALONE and Not DIE in the Process”!)
Yes, there are times, like Spring, when everything is happening at the same time and I am exhausted. But I don’t live that way all of the time, and have learned to listen to my body. Most things can wait a day….or two. That said, weather does play a huge part in farm life. Sometimes things have to be done today, because it’s going to rain tomorrow. I’m always looking for balance, however.
Putting animals where I wanted them to be rather than where they should go
Yeah, this one is a little embarrassing.
Our first animals were three little goats. We had bought in a little shelter, with a milking room and 2 stalls and placed it near the back of our property in a low lying area.
That year, we got 12″ more rain that our normal Spring brings and you guessed it….the shelter flooded. It wasn’t like we could move it, we didn’t have the equipment to do that. The little goats had to stand on the sides of their stalls to keep from getting wet. It was pitiful and I felt like a complete failure for not anticipating this.
Trying to make the best of the situation, I went out (with a shovel) and dug trenches around and away from the perimeter of the shed so that the water would drain away. It worked, but having a back-hoe would have been nice.
Thankfully, we haven’t had a Spring like that since, but I sure learned a valuable lesson about the “lay of the land”, which just takes time to recognize.
When we first got our chickens, we were continually losing them to coyotes and foxes, and were clueless about how to stop it. Everyone we asked told us that they had some sort of livestock dog, who guarded all of their pastures. I felt stupid, however, we soon invested in a Great Pyrenees and the problem stopped…immediately.
I wish I could go back to our first year on this farm, because I would place everything closer to our house. The idea was to keep odor and flies away from our home, but the down side is that everything is “way out yonder”. There’s no changing it now, because fencing has been placed. Really think this through before you put permanent fencing in!
Planting things that don’t do well in my area
Case in point: blueberries.
I love blueberries. We use them for jam, smoothies and just munching so I really wanted to grow my own!
Sadly, blueberries simply do not do well in my area. It’s the soil, and believe me, I have tried to amend! I’ve thrown everything at it, but blueberries just don’t do well. Yes, they will grow but will not produce large crops. Even my local extension office concurred. I have killed far too many blueberry plants, all different kinds, because I just refused to believe that there wasn’t some type of blueberry that would grow well here.
Every area has plenty of crops that will grow well, so can I encourage you to choose the “low hanging fruit”? (Pun intended) Go with the easy stuff and even use native plants that grow easily in your neck of the woods.
Don’t make life harder than it has to be.
Fighting nature rather than working along side of it
I’ll let you in on a little secret….nature will win. You might as well work along side it.
Some things just can’t be changed and we should stop trying.
Wind blows when and where it wants to blow. Water will flow where it wants to flow. Weather will come and do damage. These are acts of nature that we can’t control.
Living in the country brings these sorts of issues. Stray animals will come on your property…so will unwelcome human trespassers. The larger your property is, the more difficult it becomes to monitor everything that’s going on.
Occasionally, we have stray dogs come through our property, I’m sure you do as well. I don’t mind as long as they move along, but if they hurt another animal, then we have a problem and may need to track down their owners. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with an apathetic owner, who doesn’t give a hoot what your problem is. I’ve dealt with this many times, and you’ve got to be diplomatic if you hope to accomplish anything. A few years ago, we had a neighbor dog who loved chicken, and killed 4-5 of our layers. When we confronted the owner, he really didn’t care. It wasn’t until after another incident, I took the dead hens to his front door with me. His wife saw the hens (I left them on his porch) and we gave him bill for the loss of our layers. Let me tell you, we never saw that dog again.
We deal with things like hawks at every corner of our property, and these hawks like to eat chickens. Hawks are protected, so what can be done? Our Great Pyrenees spends much of her day chasing hawks away, bless her heart. A livestock guard dog is almost a necessity if you plan to have livestock of any kind, as they consider those animals to be “their herd”. They are “one” with the herd and will go to any lengths to protect them. Our Great Pyrenees is a wonderful and protective dog, can’t imagine this place without her.
Depending upon where you live, you might deal with bears, bobcats or other aggressive predators on a regular basis. Living out in the country, or even wilderness, brings these issues. Do your research before moving to an area, find out what predators are in the area and plan accordingly.
Not enlisting enough help
Ok, I’m stubborn and I’m cheap. I can do it myself, thank you very much.
I can work circles around most teenagers, and so I get frustrated quickly when the work isn’t being done to my specifications. With unrealistic expectations like this, no one would want to work for me, and that doesn’t accomplish anything.
So, I’m cheap and difficult to work for. Not a good combination.
The proper way to go about hiring help is to have your workers do work that you can settle for a “less than perfect” job, like cleaning stalls, moving things, picking up branches, etc. These things need to be done and will free up your time to concentrate on areas that you are particular about. This way, people will want to work for you and they will feel as though you are pleased with them.
For “Farm Sitting“, I suggest writing out an itinerary with clear instructions for your Farm Sitter to avoid misunderstanding and unmet expectations, including rate of pay. This doesn’t always work (I have experience with that too) but at least you have your expectations documented, in case you need to renegotiate pay.
I would love to hear what issues you have dealt with on your farm or homestead? How did you handle the situation?