Posts Tagged Life Style

5 Things Most People Get Wrong About Being A Homesteader

You envision this perfect homestead, chock full of adorable animals, lush gardens and delicious meals at the end of a long day on the farmstead.  It’s human to think the grass is greener on the other side, to think that the simple way of life is the ticket to a happy life, but experience has shown that people get many things wrong about homesteading.  Here is my list of 5 things most people get wrong:

Growing all your own food

garden beds

You hear this time and time again, “I’m going to grow all my own food!”  The tough pill to swallow for many first time homesteaders is that you simply can’t do it all.  Talk to any seasoned homesteader and they’ll tell you they can meet many of their needs, but not all of them.  Common things are items that can’t be grown in your climate, or that require special equipment to process or things that aren’t cost effective.

cost to grow wheat flourSome examples:  For me in my climate, North Carolina, its very difficult to grow good citrus without a lot of headache. Another example, is flour. Flour is possible for you to grow and process with about 2,000 square feet per person for a year’s worth of flour. But, I can buy the same amount of flour for much less.  I took a look at my local big box, and a name brand organic flour costs $1.22 a pound!

The truth is you will never be able to learn the intricacies of every plant, animal and farm. Good, and even great, farmers have bad crop years.  You can grow a sense of community by growing and trading a crop that you’re good at.

Homesteading isn’t an inexpensive way of living

While some cost savings can be had, I attribute most of the cost savings to a mental shift in how you use money.  A lot of homesteaders keep deep pantries to take advantage of sales when they buy. Most homesteaders are DIYers when it comes to fixing things, they buy used, and other cost-saving behaviors.  The truth is, you can adopt these habits now, in the city, and save big.  When it comes to homesteading, the cost savings is negligible because you need land, equipment, materials and feed.

An example:  University of Wyoming did a study on raising your own beef vs buying retail. The difference?  You save $235 dollars on that meat per cow.  But if you factor in time and say you, on average, spent 5 minutes tending that cow per day (very low if we are realistic), average time to butchering is around 2 years, that’s 60.8 hours of time ($3.86 per hour). The average hourly wage in the US is around $24 per hour, that means I could work a side gig for a week and eclipse that: 10 hours vs 2 years of work and not able to take a vacation.

It’s a lot harder than you think

You may have dabbled with things here and there, but until you take the leap you don’t understand what its truly like.  I remember the first year I went from two 4×8 beds to 1/3 acre; from 64 square feet to 14,500 square feet.  With the growth I added a few labor saving items: timer drip irrigation, a standup broad fork and push precision seeder.

That summer was one of the hardest gardening years of my life.  Everything was brought to another level of labor and when something went wrong, it went wrong in a big way.  Even the good things were tough.  I remember one day harvesting 350 lbs of produce in July. It was 95 degrees and so humid the air felt thick.  I got it all harvested, washed, processed and stored, then collapsed on my couch and didn’t wake up until the next morning.

You’ll probably still need a job off the homestead

There are a lot of costs that you can offset by running a homestead. You can barter, trade, and earn money from your wares, but its very difficult to go cold turkey from a steady paycheck.  This isn’t to say it’s not possible, but its very, very difficult.  Take it from me, someone who made the leap from full time traditional to self employment, it’s hard. It took me about 5 years to fully make the leap.

One of the biggest advantages to homesteading with a job is health insurance and a retirement plan.  I’m going to avoid the politics on this, but right now for just me at the cheapest health plan available ($7,500 deductible), I pay $5,400 a year as a young healthy guy with no medications.   My self-employed friends with families are paying around $23,000 a year for the same plan that I have.

So, if you have two adults in your household, there are advantages to having at least one of them working a traditional job.

You think independence will be great – you’re wrong, it’s awesome!

I have had conversations with friends who live what most would call a “typical” life, and they try to understand what it’s like to live outside the norm.  You try to explain it and you try to share what it’s really like and how clear it has become to you. The movie The Matrix tries to explain it with the blue pill or red pill metaphor, but until you actually take that blue pill and your eyes are opened, you cannot possibly grasp the gravity of your old life.  It’s absolutely true.

desing your life

I don’t even know how to put it into words, how profoundly different my life is now that I’ve taken that leap. I’ve become self-employed, live in a tiny house and living a life on my terms!

 

Your Turn!

  • What surprises have you found in your own journey?
  • What appeals to you about homesteading?

10 Reasons to Live Off-Grid

The security of self-sufficiency and the freedom that comes

wood heat

from being a producer rather than just a consumer is what our family is working toward. We have found it on so many levels here on our suburban homestead and look forward to increasing that as we eventually transition to our off-grid homestead.

We have started taking steps in the direction of an off-grid lifestyle by heating our house with wood and growing and preserving a lot of our own food.

On the coldest night of this winter, our county lost power, thankfully only for a few hours. There were stories of families huddled together to keep warm as the temperature plummeted outside.

It took as much as a full day to heat their house back up to a comfortable temperature. We have been heating with wood so we stayed cozy and warm. The only worry we had, was for the neighbors.

As we work toward our off-grid dreams we have put pen to paper and compiled our top ten reasons for wanting to live off-grid.

1. Freedom from utility bills

Likely the first advantage that comes to mind when considering an off-grid lifestyle is eliminating utility expenses. Exploring alternatives for power, water, and sewer is a great way to reduce the cost of living.

2. Good stewards of the Earth’s resources

When we are responsible for our own resources we are more aware of where they come from and how much we are using. Eyes-wide-open awareness is the most effective way to bring true change in any area of life.

3. Security

When tied to the grid we are tied to more than just the electric company. There are so many variables that could cause us to be without power. We want to eliminate that risk as much as possible. Not just by creating our own electricity but learning to live without it too.

4. Freedom to choose your lifestyle

Living off grid gives you options. Maybe you want to live in a yurt with no amenities. How about an RV? A tiny house? You might want a big house with every convenience but on a property that is too far from the electric grid. These are all possibilities off grid.

5. Location, location, location

Being free from the electric grid means that you can position your house in the best or most beautiful place on your land no matter how far it is from the electric lines.

6. Living as producers instead of consumers

orchard-fresh apples

Our family has really enjoyed our garden and livestock so much! Learning how to grow, harvest and preserve our food feels incredible. We are looking to expand that into so many other aspects of our off-grid life.

7. Environmentally responsible

Learning how to use much less electricity, recycling gray water and having a composting toilet are great ways to reduce your carbon footprint and make off-grid living work.

8. Learn new skills

I am excited to learn more about solar, harvesting water, building from the ground up and living more in touch with our land.

9. The sense of accomplishment

This might be the thing we are most excited about, building our homestead from the ground up. To be able to really express who we are in every aspect of our lives then look back and see all that we have learned and accomplished.

10. Encourages a life unplugged

Living off-grid is a chosen departure from everyday modern life in some form or another. That departure causes change, even if it is as simple as hanging the laundry to dry instead of throwing it in the dryer. Many off-grid tasks connect us to nature and life outside of a screen. We plan on embracing that with open arms.

Going off grid is not the wonder-drug that will solve all of your troubles. There are many choices that can be made, no matter where you live, to reduce your carbon footprint. For our family, it is the combination of all of these reasons that inspire and compels us to work toward our dreams of building our off grid homestead.

Your Turn!

  • What does off-grid living mean to you?
  • What reasons for living off-grid would you add to this list.

What is Minimalist Living?

Minimalist living is an all inclusive lifestyle – having a minimal, clutter-free environment is a large part of it, but it’s so much more than that. The minimalist lifestyle includes looking at the way you spend your time, your money, and even the way you think.

minimalism nature quality time

1. Owning less stuff is a large part of it…

Keeping your environment as minimal as possible will ensure a less cluttered mind. I’ve noticed that I tend to focus better in a clean space, with just a few necessary items. Even when I’m not working, I feel more calm in a minimalist environment. When I am in a cluttered or crowded environment, I tend to feel anxious and unproductive. When you don’t have a lot of clutter, your mind is freed up for other, more important things to think about.

2. …But minimalist living doesn’t just apply to your house

minimalist homeI’ve started taking a more minimal approach to the way I structure the desktop on my computer, to the way I plan my days and even the foods that I eat. With less clutter on my desktop, I can look at my computer and focus on what I need to do, instead of getting distracted by photos and documents that are scattered around. With a more simple diet, my body functions at a more optimum level, and I have to think less about what I’m going to eat that day. Life becomes more simple, easier, and much more intentional.

3. Mindfulness and minimalism

Minimalist living can have a wonderful effect on the mind. When you are living a less cluttered life, you will have much more focus and intentionality in everything you do. Instead of seeing clutter and thinking about how you need to clean it up, you’ll have a clean environment, a clear head, and the ability to focus more clearly. Instead of living reactively, you’ll have the opportunity to think about what you want to do, and focus completely on that.

4. Freedom

Minimalist living has given me something that I will be forever grateful for: freedom. Through living simply, I’ve been able to create a life in which I feel completely free. I’m free to spend my time how I’d like, I’m free to pursue passions that I want to explore, I’m free to go to a cafe in the middle of the day on a Tuesday.

Before I took the journey to minimalism, I was working in a 9-5 job. I was making a salary, but I still was required to be there from 9-5 PM, whether I had already finished my work for the day or not. It started to feel like I wasn’t in control of my life anymore. I was looking for meaning in a career, but I found meaning in minimalism and pursuing my passions.

minimalism time

5. Quality Relationships

Minimalism has led me to create even stronger friendships and relationships than I had before. Because I spend my time in a more intentional way, I am able to connect with people on a deeper level. Instead of just “hanging out,” I now only spend time with people who inspire and motivate me, which brings great value to my life.

Minimalist living has changed my life and helped me accomplish so many goals. I’m now focused on actually living instead of just keeping up with the Jones’. To learn more about minimalism, see my post on what defines a minimalist (link to post when published).

Your Turn!

  • What does simple living mean to you?

 

Setting Goals As A Minimalist

Setting a few simple goals throughout the year and working toward them can create some amazing life changes and give you a more pleasurable daily routine.  However, my approach to goal setting has changed over time. I used to love sitting down with my calendar and colorful pens and stickers, planning out my month and week and days, making my life look beautiful and glamorous.

goals as a minimalist

Now I keep it simple and from a minimalist approach.  Here are my favorite tips for:

1. Give yourself enough time

One of my worst traits is that I can be extremely impatient. Because of my impatience, I tend to give myself nowhere near enough time to accomplish my goals. By thinking out a proper amount of time to accomplish a goal (for example, give yourself a couple of weeks to declutter the kitchen, instead of a couple of weeks to declutter the whole house), you’ll ensure that you don’t feel overly stressed or worried about your goal.

Your goal should bring you happiness and excitement, not stress! I did two to three sweeps of decluttering over six months. That worked well for me, but I was also a single person living in a one bedroom apartment with someone else, and the other person owned a lot of the stuff in our place, so not a lot of it was mine. It was still helpful to give myself time. Minimalism is a journey which can turn into a lifestyle. Enjoy the journey.

2. Set goals that are complimentary to your lifestyle

Another mistake that I very often make is looking at someone else’s life and thinking that if I want to achieve what they have, I should just do what they do. If I follow the same journey that they took, I should end up at the same spot, right? Wrong.

Your journey is unique to you, and your lifestyle will have different needs than anyone else’s. For example, I really enjoy scrubbing my face. It sounds weird, but call it a guilty pleasure. I love using my Clarisonic. Most minimalists do not own a Clarisonic, but it is something that I have been obsessed with for years. I carry it around the world with me, so that when I have a bad day, I can go home and scrub my face. It’s a necessity to me to have my Clarisonic, where most people I know would definitely not carry a Clarisonic around the world.

If you love something, don’t let it go for minimalism. I believe that the most common misconception about minimalism is that you need to get rid of all of your stuff, when in reality that is not true. Minimalism is about getting rid of stuff that doesn’t serve you anymore. Keep the things that are valuable to you and get rid of the things that aren’t.

3. Have a “Why”

Why is it that people always intend to start a new diet on Monday but never do? It’s because they know that along with that diet comes restriction and discontent. And that sounds terrible. Understanding WHY you are doing something can be the key to long term motivation. Many people hold back on the minimalist journey because they consider minimalism as lacking. You don’t have enough stuff, you can’t spend money, why would you want to do that?

Once you take a hard look at WHY you want to do something, you’ll realize the benefits you’ll gain. A minimalist lifestyle has less stuff because you don’t have unnecessary, stressful clutter. A minimalist lifestyle needs less money because you are spending your time focusing on your passions instead of material possessions.

Focus on the downsides of not achieving your goals as well. This can help clarify why you are making the goal, and also give you motivation to keep working toward your ultimate goal.

photo credit

4. Focus on the Process

My favorite part of living minimally is my new attention to everyday moments. The journey to your goal is the most fun part – make sure to enjoy it and savor the feeling of working toward something. Focusing on the journey, even more than the outcome, can ensure that your daily life is enjoyable and less stressful.

Your Turn!

  • Are you a goal setter?
  • What are your current goals?

 

 

How to Start Homesteading Today with Baby Steps

Many homestead beginners jump the gun and take on more than they can handle, leading to burn out and sometimes failure. If you want to meet your goal of self-sufficiency it is important to take things one step at a time.

One of my strengths, and often one of my weaknesses, is jumping headlong into a new project. When my husband and I first started to dabble in the world of homesteading I was so excited about all of the possibilities our acre and a half afforded us.

Egg laying hens

When I first started, I talked to farmers in the area about goats, dreamed about what chicken breeds I would get first (you know buying chickens is a lot like buying pretty shoes, right?). Wait, there are ducks in the chicken catalog too; and it is even cheaper if you buy some geese to go with the ducks.

Can you see the snowball happening here?

Not only had I never raised any kind of bird, we didn’t have even one coop or fenced in yard to keep them in. Let alone places for three different kinds of birds. We ended up with birds in the garage and birds in the bath tub. It was crazy! We muddled through it all but it caused a lot of unnecessary work and stress for both my husband and myself.

We operate a lot different now. As much as I want to charge ahead and have all of the animals and every color of bean and tomato in my garden, I know that I can’t learn everything at once. Being able to devote your full attention to one skill at a time gives you a much greater margin of success and will save you from burn out. Not to mention, time to really enjoy each new skill.

There are so many skills and activities that fall under the title of homesteading. How do you know where to start?


Step 1: Know your goals

Do you want to be a homesteader in the country with acreage or are you an urban homesteader? Will you focus on fruits and vegetables or meat production? Knowing what the end goal is, will determine what skills you need to hone in on.

Step 2: Start today

There is no reason to delay your homestead journey. Learn to can, start a backyard flock of chickens, grow a container garden. There are so many things you can do in the place you live right now. Some of the most amazing homesteads have grown out of what appeared to be an impossible location. Once you get started you will see all of the possibilities.

 

Step 3: Do what you love

I love chickens! I love the eggs, their ability to turn organic matter into compost, and the way they can clear the weeds and get rid of bugs. Even more than that, I love watching them and interacting with them. Bringing them kitchen scraps and taking care of the mundane chores is so much easier when you are taking care of something that you love. Wanna learn more about chickens? I will help you pick out the right breed in this post.

Step 4: Pause

Don’t add anything new until you are comfortable with the skills you have already taken on. It is so easy to get excited and expand the garden beyond what you can take care of or add another animal before you truly understand and appreciate the daily commitment it takes to keep it up.

Step 5: Add a complimentary skill

Let’s say you started with a small garden. A natural progression would be composting. Maybe you grew a bumper crop of apples. Learn to can or dehydrate! Complimentary skills are like bunny trails – there are almost limitless possibilities. Allow yourself time to learn these skills one at a time. Biting off more than you can chew quickly leads to burnout.

By tempering my stride I have gained new skills every year. Remember the building blocks we played with as kids? Lay down one block at a time and soon you have built a homestead.

Your Turn!

  • Are you a feet first, all-in starter, or a baby-stepper?
  • Have you ever bit off more than you can chew?