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“You spent HOW MUCH at the feed store?!!! The electric bill is due and we’re behind on other bills!” Ever have this conversation with your partner? That is if you choose to call it a “conversation”….it’s more of a confrontation. So, how do you homestead when your partner just isn’t into it?
I have a lot to say on this topic. I am this person.
I’m married to a wonderful man, and he’s a wonderful father to our children. My husband of almost 28 years works hard and provides very well for this large family. He spends time with our children and is fully engaged with the family. But guess what?
He’s not really into this homesteading gig.
For the record, being the wonderful friend that he is to me, he has been very supportive of my
obsession interest in homesteading. Albeit, he doesn’t understand why I can’t just go to the grocery store for produce. I’m sure he still wonders why “plastic” is a bad word in this home. And just where are those paper towels???!!! Oh yeah, Mom outlawed them. Here’s a dishcloth.
Sometimes it feels like my husband and I are of different religions. Of course, we aren’t, but still.
I squeal when the seed catalogs come in the mail right after Christmas…he rolls his eyes and sighs.
I bug my husband about seeing the electric bill so I can check how many kilowatts we used this month!
I forage for “wild edibles” while we argue about why he can’t put “weed and feed” on the lawn.
“Mom, why can’t we just BUY deodorant like all the other kids at school instead of making it ?”
And on it goes.
How does one pursue a sustainable lifestyle and still keep peace in their homes?
I have some thoughts that I would like to share in hopes that they will bring a balance of ideas to your partnership and family.
Money is the first thing that married folk argue about. But what they may not realize is that they aren’t really arguing about money as much as they are arguing about priorities.
Homesteading brings it’s own set of priorities. Being sustainable and less dependent upon the grocery store system makes us want to spend less money at Walmart and more money investing in our own backyards. We homesteaders look for ways to bring more value to the bottom line by growing and preserving food, making our own personal products, raising our own meat and maybe even beekeeping!
But when money is tight, how can you find money to spend on the things that are important to YOU?
My first suggestion is to sit down with your spouse and talk. Discuss WHY homesteading is important to you and how you think it will benefit the entire family. Explain why it gives you such satisfaction, and what you hope to accomplish from it. Years ago, my husband and I had this exact talk. He listened intently and patiently. After I had finished, I waited. (long silence)
My sweet husband said that he appreciated my interests and ambition, and that he was really proud of me and all that I’ve learned and read. However, at the end of the day, with raising this big family of ours (at the time, everyone was small), the extra money just wasn’t there.
Here are some tips and tricks for finding money in your budget:
- Cut back on groceries and extra runs to the store – This can be accomplished by some basic meal planning. I have a set amount that I can spend at the grocery without throwing the budget out of whack. But if I can cut that back by $10 or $20 per week, then there’s my homesteading money. You can take the “cash back” right there at the store and sock it away for farmy purchases or just keep it in the account, if you think it will stay there. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve purchased for cash over 28 years just by cutting back on other expenses! Seriously, I patiently saved and bought a carpet cleaner, a nice camera and even a refrigerator…for cash. When my husband asked me where the money came from, I told him. He doesn’t mind at all when I do this, as long as the family’s needs are being met first. Actually, this kind of blows his mind! I call this “finding my money”!
Small purchases are easy to accomplish with this method. With $20 extra dollars, I can buy 4 chicks and a #40 bag of chick starter at the feed store. Boom. Or, for $20, I can buy some starter plants for the garden. You might be able to score a used canner at a garage sale with this amount. See what I mean? Be creative and patient, you’ll accomplish a lot.
2. Learn to borrow and barter – When I started my first garden on the farm, I didn’t have a tiller. I barely owned a shovel. I knew that someone must have a tiller that they would loan me! Sure enough, after some asking around, a neighbor did just that! After I used it, I cleaned it up thoroughly – it looked a lot better than when she loaned it to me! Hopefully, she would loan it to me again if needed!
I’ve borrowed everything you can imagine over the years! (Heck, I even rented a couple of alpaca for a year, read about that here!) I always give it back when I say I will and in better condition than when I got it. Another essential to borrowing is to be a good lender! Be willing to offer what you own to trustworthy people. This builds relationships and community! When I get something new that I’ve saved up for, I make sure my close homestead buddies know about it and that they’re welcome to use it too!
3. Cut out unnecessary expenses – We all have places where we can cut back, and this may well be how you find some homesteading money. Do you eat out too often? Do you get magazines and newspapers? Do you find yourself stopping for coffee or soft drinks during the day? Are you an Amazon addict? Give some thought to where your money is going and see if you can cut back and “find your money”!
4. Let your needs be known – Homesteaders are a generous folk. I’ve found that most of them truly want others to have success! Get involved in your local 4H club, take classes at the extension office and get to know people who are doing what you want to do. Let people know that you’re interested in livestock that they might want to part with (make sure they’re healthy), this happens ALL THE TIME! People need to get rid of roosters, or they might want to reduce their flock of chickens before the winter sets in. Put the word out and scoop up those freebies! Offer to help them out with extra chores they might have as added incentive!
5. Craigslist and Buy Nothing Pages – These are great places to find free or nearly free farmish things!
Where Will We Live?
Everyone who is aspiring to homestead thinks they need a lot of acreage. This isn’t true at all. You can do a lot of homesteading regardless of where you live.
I wanted the “big farm” in order to complete my homestead dreams, but coming from a small suburban lot, I can now tell you that 1/2 acre would completely do it (even 1/4 acre if it were laid out correctly). The only issues might be ordinances against animals, but you would have to check that out beforehand.
Nonetheless, even if you live in an apartment, you can still homestead. Community gardens are everywhere now! You can even grow on a balcony or rooftop! Urban homesteading is all the rage.
What I’m saying is that it’s not necessary to nag your spouse about moving to the country. If you’re both into it, then sure, go ahead. It’s a wonderful life in the country. But if it only creates a hostile environment, stay wherever brings peace….and homestead other ways. Your partner will likely give you more leeway (support and money!) on other aspirations!
What do we talk about?
My husband and I work hard to have a good marriage. It takes time and commitment to keep a healthy relationship. So, we talk a couple of times through the day, and then after our evening meal.
During our conversation, we cover all the “kid” stuff, but then we talk about what happened during our day and how we felt about it. You know, the REAL sharing part. Much of what my husband’s business is can be pretty technical, and I sort of get lost sometimes. But, I love him and listen, trying to understand it all. I’m quite sure he feels the same way when I’m telling him about when I got in my hives. “I couldn’t find the queen and the brood pattern was inconsistent!”. He has no idea what I’m talking about.
So, there’s a balance here. To maintain a loving relationship, the persons involved need to feel heard and validated. So, while I don’t need to fully understand every part of my husband’s business, I take the time to learn what I can and ask good questions. He does the same for me. Deep down, he doesn’t really care that much about my bees, but he loves ME. So he listens, and tries to ask good questions as well.
The balance comes when we can accept that our partner may not be interested in every single detail of our homesteading world! Be ok with it, and find friends who “get it” to fill in the relational gaps. Save those “in depth” conversations about soil microbial for your gardening friends.
How our time is spent can be a point of contention among married people.
MY idea of a good time is sitting by the fire pit with a cup of coffee, talking. My husband’s idea of a good time is watching the game on TV and munching on chips.
I enjoy gardening and working around the farm, and find it to be relaxing. My husband would prefer to go to a movie.
Working on projects is exciting to me, but to my husband, they look like more work.
Again, the key is balance. Any healthy relationship requires “give and take”.
Communication is paramount. Around here, I put it out there that I’m working on a project and that at some point, I would appreciate his help with it. That doesn’t mean today, or this second. More than likely, I won’t get the cooperation I need if I demand help now. However, if I give him a “heads up”, then he is much more likely to find time to help me.
What’s Your Idea of a Vacation?
MY idea of a fabulous vacation would be visit Monticello. My husband’s idea of a fabulous vacation is a cruise.
I would love to go to the Mother Earth News symposiums. My husband would rather go to a resort.
So, how do you vacation? Besides, if you have a small farm, it’s really hard to get away!
Patience and planning. My husband knows that I won’t be going anywhere during gardening season….period. Don’t ask, not happening. However, ask me in February and I’m your girl.
Explain to your spouse why spring and summer aren’t good vacation times for you and what you love to do. Look for ways to compliment each other’s interests. Compromise and find some middle ground. Cruises are great in February.
I could write a book on this topic alone.
Things that we (70’s kids) grew up using, like Raid and Round-up are not allowed in this home. I must say that this has been a point of contention for us over the years.
I’ve turned blue in the face explaining to him why herbicides and pesticides are not only toxic to us, but bad for the environment. He hears me and kind of gets it, but when push comes to shove, he wants to reach for them.
This hasn’t been easy. You may find yourself having to compromise to get along. Perhaps you allow your partner, who needs the front yard to be weedless, to use an environmentally safer “weed and feed”, while keeping the backyard and garden area toxin free.
Showing your spouse “alternatives” to their old ways can be helpful as well, but old habits are hard to break.
Homesteading when your spouse just isn’t into it can be done. A friend told me years ago that the secret to a good marriage is “to dream each other’s dreams”. I take this to mean that we should want the other to fulfill their purpose in life and to be able to grow their interests and talents.
That doesn’t mean that our talents and desires are identical, no one’s are. But I want my husband to be all that he can be, while sharing his life with me.
So, while I understand that homesteading isn’t his gig, I can rest in the fact that he wants me to be all I can be as well.
Want to learn more about “How to Homestead Alone and Not DIE In the Process“?