5 mistakes newbie homesteaders make

5 Mistakes Newbie Homesteaders Make

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 “5 Newbie Homesteading Mistakes”!

5 mistakes newbie homesteaders make

Newbie Homesteader Mistake #1 – Doing Too Much at Once

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!)

Classic. Newbie. Homesteading. Mistakes.

weed free garden

 

How to Have a Weed-Free Garden this Year

 

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.  

 

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.

 

predator fox in the woods

Newbie Homesteader Mistake #2 – Misplacement of Livestock

Yeah, this one is a little embarrassing, but it’s another of very common newbie homesteader mistakes!

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!

Premature decisions like fencing is another classic newbie homesteader mistake.  

 

blueberry plant

Newbie Homesteader Mistake #3 – Plants that Don’t Do Well in my Zone

You’re a newbie and excited homesteader, of course you have lots of hopes and dreams as to what all you can grow!!!

Like grow oranges in Ohio???

This is a very common newbie homesteader mistake.

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 in Ohio.

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.

How to Grow Amazing Blueberries

work along with nature

Newbie Homesteader Mistake #4 – Working Against Nature (You won’t win!)

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.

So many newbie homesteaders (including myself) make the mistake of trying to override nature.

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.

hiring help for homestead

Newbie Homesteader #5 – 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.

This is another classic newbie homesteading mistake!

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.

 

My father used to always say “None of us lives long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves”.  

It’s true.  Learn from the mistakes of others so that you can avoid them in your own life!

 

 

5 Mistakes Newbie Homesteaders Make

 

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Comments (12)

  • Elizabeth Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am a begginer and you mentioned things I hadn’t thought of. Also a couple things I thought of but had tried to ignore. Needed to hear it!

    January 27, 2018 at 3:14 am
    • Kelly Reply

      Hi Elizabeth! Welcome to farm life, it’s a beautiful thing. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      January 27, 2018 at 12:04 pm
  • Sandy Reply

    I enjoyed your post and feel like I’ve lived most of it. The rigors of farm life are under estimated. The first year “on the land”, I’d never been more exhausted! Each year it gets better and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

    February 2, 2018 at 2:52 am
    • Kelly Reply

      Hi Sandy, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, it’s worth it!

      February 2, 2018 at 1:46 pm
  • Beth Reply

    This is great – work with things and not against them being the moral of the story. I’m not a homesteader but I’d like to be. I got a few chickens last year and it took a while for me to work out that they’re really in charge of the whole chickening business. I’m just the caretaker! Now we all get along far better and with less work on my part. My coop and run arrangement is essentially portable (with a bit of effort), and next time I set it up I’ll definitely move it to where I can check on them by just looking out the window. I also had to dig a little trench when they flooded but I’d also put in a gravel floor and a raised coop, so they weren’t too badly off. And I also failed with blueberries! Bloody things!

    February 2, 2018 at 9:56 am
    • Kelly Reply

      Hi Beth! Thanks for reading and commenting! But I LOVE blueberries!!! 🙁

      February 2, 2018 at 1:45 pm
  • Sheena L Reply

    Looking to get chickens on our farm, but notice our neighbors dog runs lose and may lose the chickens to its wandering. Did your Pyrenees stop other dogs from attacking your chickens?

    February 22, 2018 at 3:32 am
    • Kelly Reply

      Hi Sheena, great question. Here’s our situation: We have a number of acres that are pastured, and that’s where the GP lives and guards. HOWEVER, the chickens can, and frequently do, forage outside of that area and are at risk. It’s part of letting them be free-range and I accept that risk. There are stray dogs, from time to time, that kill a chicken or two. When this happens, I locate the dog’s owner and we deal with it. I have far more hawks, coyotes and fox in the area that are after my chickens, and our GP does a great job keeping them at bay. There’s no perfect system, you’re gonna lose chickens sometimes. Do the best you can with what you have on your property and good luck! Thanks for reading!

      February 22, 2018 at 10:39 am
  • Kim Reply

    Thank you for this! I recognise myself in so much of what you wrote. I am homesteading and starting up a farm business on my own (with husband who also occasionally pitches in on weekends) with two young kids in tow. We’re just entering our second season and I too have taken on too much but am so particular in how I want things done that I don’t ask for the help I need. Good to learn from others’ mistakes and glad to know I am not alone in this scenario!

    April 22, 2018 at 6:44 pm
    • Kelly Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Kim!

      April 23, 2018 at 1:47 am
  • Pat Reply

    Kelly,

    I’ve been ready your posts for some time now. I “homestead” in the city on a tiny bit of dirt around a 2-family condo. My youngest daughter challenged me to “do more with the space” so now I have 10 fruit trees, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, asparagus, an herb garden of over 30 herbs, and 150 sq ft of vegetable garden (in Lowell, MA, zone 5). And I raise about 20 tilapia each year as well as keeping bees. People are amazed because I do all this and it still looks like a city garden with a patio and water feature.

    I just purchased a vacation to retirement home. It’s 4 wooded acres with 200 ft of waterfront in Northern Idaho.

    This will be a major change for me. Although I have experience with a 2 acre property in Southern California, the panhandle of Idaho will be a very different challenge. Additionally, I need to develop a sustainable property that can manage my absences while my husband and I travel over the next 5+ years. So, only seasonal animals and making sure I automate anything possible.

    I love your kick ass stories, because, like you, I’m frequently working and building on my own. I’m excited at the prospect of molding my new property and open to any advice.

    August 24, 2019 at 8:00 pm
    • Kelly Reply

      Hi Pat! Wow! You are amazing! That’s totally making the most of an urban property!

      Now, after congratulating you on your new “homestead” in Idaho, I’ll offer a few thoughts. First, learn all you can about the conditions in Idaho. What are the native plants? Who are your predators? What are the winters like? What about the soil? I would really dig in (pun intended) and find the extension office to learn all your can BEFORE you do too much. Let the experts help you to discover new plants to grow and enjoy, as well as incorporate what you already have growing. You may need to make soil amendments along the way to accommodate your existing plants.

      What’s truly exciting is that you have the beautiful privilege of using many of the plants/roots/herbs/fish/bees from your existing property to get yourself started! As well as your experience! You’re past the “infant” stages and much less likely to make the “newbie” mistakes. Read up on propagation so you can get trees and other plants going for your new property! It’s pretty simple.

      I know a couple who did something similar to what you’re doing, living in Ohio with a homestead in Tennessee that they inherited. They worked for about 5 years, spending weekends and holidays at the “farm”, getting it ready for their retirement years. He was also a beekeeper. After their last one graduated, they moved!

      Yes, travel will be easier with automation. We invested in cattle fountains last year and I’m so glad we did. Front end was a little pricey, but let me tell you what, our water bill went down by 80%! No more slipping on ice all winter from frozen water! Can’t put a price on a broken hip or leg! ROI will be about 3 years, but in terms of joy, they’ve already paid for themselves. The chickens use them as well, so when hiring a farm sitter, it’s a lot less to ask of them.

      Keep everything as close to the house as possible, as we age, it’s just easier. Consider small side-hustles in your local community, if desired, but only if you need and/or enjoy it. Selling bees is pretty simple and lucrative, get connected with a bee club in your new area. Over-wintered nucs go for about $175 here in Ohio, that’s pretty good money for a little bit of work. Another thought on animals, and I say this not knowing what the market is in Idaho, but beef/pork/lamb can be brought in during the springtime and sold off by fall, leaving you time to travel in the winter months. Just a thought. Also with woods, I wonder if you could grow gourmet mushrooms??? Sell to local chefs??

      Thanks for your question, I’m very excited for you! Keep me informed of your progress, will you? And if you ever want to write a post about your transition, I would be very happy to work with you. I think it’s something people would be interested in!

      Take care!

      August 25, 2019 at 12:42 am

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