Balance And Burdens Of Start-Up Homesteading

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by MizJones, May 3, 2017.

  1. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    Hey Friends, First off let me confess I'm tired and struggling. Not every day is like this, but I wanted to start this thread to see where others are at in their journey.

    We're in our 50's and the kids are grown and gone (one's in Heaven). Family relations live far away and neighboring farms are commercial. We love our little 2 acre place here--got it for $35k on auction because it's in a depressed farming community and it was owned by animal/junk hoarders who destroyed it, the land as well as the buildings. But it's got great potential and we're both hard working. Husband put in all the fencing, built a huge chicken yard (fully enclosed from top to bottom), a huge sundial garden with 22 raised beds, hauled 12 large truck loads of manure and 15 of sawdust (free) to put into our raised beds. He also works in a local cabinet shop full time.

    I'm at home with 6 dogs, 2 cats and 24 chickens. I take care of meals, laundry, the sewing, cleaning, work outside on clearing brush, and do the finish work on the furniture. I'm also the secretary (which I totally suck at). I'm constantly experimenting with home remedies, homemade seasonings, healthier ways to eat, cheaper ways to live.

    That's the background. The problem I see every day is this: modern farmers who don't have able bodied help are at a disadvantage. That's us. We can't do all the stuff we want or need to do. But we get up every morning and do the best we can and leave the results up to God.

    We're not "preppers" but we do want to be prepared for basic disasters. I think preppers tend to live in fear and/or have an unrealistic belief in survival against all odds (hey, if the government wants to take you out, one hit by one drone's gonna ruin your day). But food storage, alternative medicines and methods for wound care and disease, basic defense weapons, and viable heat sources for cooking and warmth are important to us. Trusting in the Creator is paramount to us. To us, that's the whole point of Homesteading: becoming self sufficient so we can leave the slavery of modern society and live free. I only wish I could kidnap both grown sons and make them come down here to work with us for a few months. That of course will never happen as they're both married, have oodles of little children and their jobs (dang it).

    Some times I feel like we'll never make it, never achieve our goals of self sufficiency. But we're gonna keep trudging as long as God allows. We love having a place of our own despite the setbacks.

    And now back to work.
     

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  2. Darren

    Darren Still an :censored:

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    Mother Nature can be a big help. Look into fungi to convert the sawdust to nutrients faster.
     
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  3. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    All over that. I can't believe it's not getting more press. The benefits of myccorhizal fungi are permanent and far-reaching!
     
  4. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    It's easier if you scale things back bit: I usually have 4-6 hens instead of 24, and this spring my son and I I put in 2 raised beds not 22. (I also have a smallish garden to go with the raised beds)

    You are off to a great start, but I feel tired just looking at all that you have done! Listen to your body: there is no harm in taking smaller bites when you are homesteading, especially since you will eventually want to try out other homesteading projects to go with what you have already done.

    How to reduce stress so that things are less overwhelming:

    Now that I am older, I have learned the hard way to do vital projects like deciding what is for dinner first, and care for the critters, and THEN work at things that I can put down when I am tired! Because I do not bounce back like I used to. It keeps me from feeing overwhelmed. Because, as much as I love
    homesteading, I am not as young as I used to be.

    So, it is late morning here. There is a pot roast simmering and the critters have been cared for. So, now, if it was not raining, I would go into the garden to work for a bit. But it *IS* raining, and so I will do housework instead. And, I will not feel overwhelmed because I can stop anytime I need to.

    Tomorrow morning I will take care of my chickens AND check my hives, as I have split a hive and so the bees need hovering over. I already know the dinner will be leftovers. Then and only then I will work in the garden and other such things. Since the most urgent things will have been done I can work without feeling pressured.

    Once the full heat of the summer hits, watering the garden will be added to the "most urgent" list and it will be done in the morning along with the critter care. Afternoon work will have food preservation added to it. And, if EVERY green bean does not get frozen before I run out of energy, oh well. If I cannot get to them in a reasonable time I will give them to the chickens.
     
  5. emdeengee

    emdeengee Well-Known Member

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    Our friends (middle 50s) have a large farm and they are very active on the farm and both also work full time. They had trouble getting all the things done that they wanted and also finding someone to take over for them when they wanted a break or vacation. Solved that problem by building a one bedroom cabin and offering it as free accommodation in exchange for work and farm sitting. They had dozens of applicants and settled on a young man who is attending the local college and had been raised on a farm. He was having trouble finding a place because he refused to leave his dog behind. I think they want to adopt him now.
     
  6. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    Terri and Emdee you both sound so wise! Love the guest cabin idea. I'm very inspired by each of your posts. Such a blessing. I think I over-do it because both my husband and I have this sense of urgency, as if time is running out. I think it's because we know that the sooner things are up and running/producing on their own (did I mention we want to put in an aquaponics system too?) the sooner he can quit going to a job.
     
  7. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    D

    If your husband wants to quit his job you folks might want to checkout the potential markets. You area might-or might not- have Farmers Markets, auction houses for livestock, etc. Because I have sold in Farmer's Markets I can tell you that would be a hard way to make a living, as most of the sales are in just a few months time. Where I was selling most of the customers vanished when school started in August. Of course things might be different where you live.

    I have found making a little money to be easy enough, but that is not the same as earning a living. Also, you cannot be in two places at once: the time you spend selling behind a booth is time you are not working in your fields.
     
  8. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    Exactly: the time we're out there we can't be here. The Southern half of the state is pretty depressed. Seems everybody is either on welfare, retired, or has left. Which makes for cheap land (good) but not much of a market. We're gonna do more checking around and keep our eyes open. And if/when we find solutions to these problems you good folks will be the first to hear about it :).
     
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  9. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Recessions happen, but the good thing is, everybody needs to eat. As long as you are not more expensive than the supermarket it is possible that you can find a market for what you can produce. IT will be harder, I is true, but it is still possible.

    Personally I am weak in marketing, so I will say no more about it!
     
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  10. jwal10

    jwal10 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Focus on not spending money rather than making a lot to live on. Live off the land. 2 acres is not a lot to work with but may be enough, spend time on value added instead of production of low value crops. We only have 1 acre, too far out to make any real money, we focus on growing as much as we can. Small 6'x8' greenhouse, hoops over raised beds and heat producing grow boxes to extend the seasons. Focus on not buying anything, barter a little labor for things we do use. Build on the cheap, recycle, repurpose and reuse. We have 3 pygora goats for milk, meat and fiber, 3 rabbits for meat, 3 hens and a rooster for eggs and meat, pigeons for meat. All of them for manure for the gardens, each enterprise feeds the others. Chickens get some dairy by-products. Gardens feed the animals. Everything earns it's keep here, everything has a purpose. We use mostly raised beds for maximum production. We plant oats and peas as a cover crop, cut some green for feed, dry some for hay later. Make some pasture hay by hand. We plant thick, thin for ourselves and the animals. Start picking when young and tender, using waste for animal feed. Lots of compost. Plants can give up a lot of foliage and still mature or fruit, thin and prune for animal feed, keeping the best for ourselves. We are off grid, low inputs, minimal 12v and 24v power, wood cook stove and solar heaters for air and water heating. Use solar gain, wide overhangs and shade to save on heating/cooling. Very small innovative (cheap) ways to move air around where needed. Summer kitchen, outdoor sleeping area for the few hot nights. Both of us have health issues, slow and steady gets it done, I am usually moving, daylight to dusk. We do have a small retirement, retired early at 55 to get away from stress. This is as stress free as it gets. I get a kick out of seeing what I can do with very little, gives me purpose. We don't coupon because we don't buy. We like everything neat and orderly, we don't want or need much. We keep it simple and small....James
     
  11. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    James you sound like where we want to be. Christian plans to heat everything using off grid sources that he knows how to build. Just takes some time but we'll get there. I like all the ideas I've read so far, gonna make sure he sees this, thanks.

    And Terri, I have to smile. I'm the opposite of a marketer: I tend to give everything away. Drives my husband crazy. Just two days ago a prospective customer contacted me with a very moving sob story about how much a special rustic bench (that we make) would mean to her grieving family. By the time she was done specifying what she wanted on it....long story short, I was all excited about the project (which I have no time for) because it was such a moving story. Christian gets home, looks at the elaborate painted, engraved, custom bench and said "hell no" (I had even volunteered to have it delivered). Yeah, that's how stupid I get about marketing.

    We'll know we've arrived if we can someday empower others to grow their own food and take care of there families. Someday. In the mean time, I'm not allowed to negotiate any more sales. Or give anything else away.
     
  12. nehimama

    nehimama An Ozark Engineer Supporter

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    IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU!

    I am 65 years old, and only partially recovered from a stroke that felled me four years ago. I hobble around, as my Left leg won't cooperate any more. I trip over pebbles and blades of grass. I frequently lose my balance.

    My goat keeping conditions are very primitive.My *barn* is an old, re-purposed mobile home set up on blocks. No electricity, and a good hike from my house, tripping all the way. Despite that, the old mobile home has nobly served its purpose for the last two years. My goats normally take shelter under the mobile home (AKA *the barn*), and I keep the *barn* closed to them, unless inclement weather dictates otherwise.

    With the recent unabating rainfall and flooding, the area under their barn has become a mud wallow, so I opened up the barn for the goats to use and vandalize as they see fit. (I just put everything up that I think they will investigate and destroy.) They poop all over the milkroom, and I need to clean it up before milking chores, but better that my precious dairy herd is dry and safe over my convenience!

    I really enjoy my dairy goats; I enjoy milking them, I enjoy kidding season; I enjoy interacting with them, and observing them on a daily basis, and my disabilities do not interfere (much) with my enjoyment.

    My point is this; if you are doing something you truly enjoy, all of the obstacles in the world can not deter you.

    Keep on keeping on!
     
  13. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    Nehi what a blessing you are. And an inspiration. I have to ask, are you living alone or near someone or does anyone check on your well being? We used to live in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Oldest son and 5 kids lives in Bentonville area. Arkansas is a lovely, lovely state (Northern half anyway).
     
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  14. Marinea

    Marinea Well-Known Member

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    We have been in our place for eight years, and I still have to remind my husband to look around and see what all we have done, that he can take a day off and not worry about starting a new project. So many people get so focused on what they feel they don't have or don't have done that they forget to enjoy the blessings they already have.

    Yes, we need to tear out the carpet in our bedroom, but...we already have the new flooring. And look at the garden, everything is planted and growing. Sit for a minute on the porch. Listen to the chicks we hatched peeping away, look at the bees in the apple blossoms.

    We all know there are some things that have to be done when they have to be done. The ripe tomatoes won't wait to be canned. But outside of those times, I look for little things I can cross off the "list", and then take a moment to watch the deer. Or the iris blooming. Re-energize my batteries in this gorgeous place. Send up a little "thank you" to God, and then go clean the rabbit cages.
     
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  15. MizJones

    MizJones Member

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    Great reminder Marinea. Remembering to be grateful and to take time out is critical. Your place sounds awesome.
     
  16. ladytoysdream

    ladytoysdream Expect the unexpected Supporter

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    You need a list of priorities and don't spread yourself too thin.
    I always have too much on my plate and there are days, I think I am on a merry go round.
    I currently am downsizing slowly. I have already sold off all my big rabbits and now I play with small pet rabbits.
    I am not going to add any more standard size chickens to my current flock. I will tweak my numbers more as Fall
    gets closer. I am trying to work with tiny chickens. So good size eggs from a small bird and I have a couple of
    customers who will buy their eggs as well as the standard size ones. I am also increasing my duck numbers.
    I like the khaki campbells because of the number of eggs they lay. I am currently incubating eggs.
    I have tried farmers markets in the past. A lot of work and very seasonal. If you sell eggs at one, then when
    season ends, you will need customers year round.
    I don't plan on getting rich at what I do. I enjoy my animals and they keep me busy. Busy is good :)
     
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  17. mzgarden

    mzgarden Well-Known Member

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    Welcome MizJones - glad you posted. You've gotten really good inputs from folks with lots of experience. DH and I have in our late 50's and moved from city-slickers to rural folks 5 years ago. What worked for us was to have a written plan and to revisit it regularly - both to stay focused and to celebrate our accomplishments. For 35+ years, we sit down every January 1 and write down everything we want to accomplish in the calendar year. Then we prioritize it - Needs, Wants and the 'wouldn't it be loverly's'. From there, we assign budget dollars to the needs and wants and then set the best timeline we can. To do this, we go to a local diner, have breakfast out (a treat for us), laugh and make our plans. We pin the plan to the refrigerator and we change it often, if we need to. Every July 1, we revisit the plan - celebrate our successes and revise our plans for the rest of the year. Every December 31 - we revisit the plan again. Celebrate the closing of a year and remembering everything we accomplished. Next day, new year, new plan.

    You have achieved so much - celebrate each success and take joy from the little things as well as the big things.
     
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  18. GormanFarm

    GormanFarm Well-Known Member

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    We have a similar situation. I retired early due to a health issue, and I am in my late fifties. We bought 3 acres 2 years ago. We have 4 sheep, 20 something chickens, 10 turkeys, 2 dogs, a ringneck parrot, and a cat. I grow a small garden, I have planted some fruit trees for the future, and we have a lovely mature guava tree on the property. We had a pretty big mess on our hands when we moved in, and like you I just felt I had to get everything done & cleaned out. I have slowed down quite a bit. I did get the 2 stall horse bard re-purposed into a barn for my sheep on one side and feed storage on the other, we painted it and had to replace some of the siding. We built a large turkey coop with a run, and used re-purposed stufffound on the property to build a chicken coop with a run. There is still much to do but I have learned the hard way not to be in such a rush and to work at a slow but steady pace. There are still many things we want to accomplish, but with God's help we will get it done one day. My other half works a 6 days week so that leaves to me most of the daily chores and maintenance, but I do enjoy it, even if my body complains a little.
     
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  19. Farmfresh

    Farmfresh Well-Known Member

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    Another of the +50 disabled homesteaders here to voice my support. I have disabling arthritis and peripheral neuropathy. In the fall of 2013 we decided to buy my old family homestead where I first lived when I was 12. My dad was a lazy hillbilly and my mother was a hoarder, so when we got this 3 acre place I can't even begin to describe the mess we acquired. All of the buildings were/are in need of repairs, the fences almost non existant and the trash heaps were tall as were the weeds. My husband works full time and I babysit part time for my pre-schooler grandson, so that limits the amount of work as well as my physical condition on a certain day.

    But we are winning.

    The first thing I would recommend is having vision. You really need to allow yourself that dream time, so that you can have a goal firmly fixed in your brain to aim for.

    My second recommendation is to keep homesteading projects small, tight and cost efficient. Record keeping is ESSENTIAL. Especially since you want your husband to be able to retire. Feed only the number of chickens that you need to stay in the black for example. We found that at first 6 to 8 hens kept us in all the eggs that we needed to eat and some extras to freeze for the lean times during winter. At this point our flock has expanded, but we found a market for the eggs BEFORE we got more hens.

    Run a tight ship and keep your limitations in full view. We live in an area that can experience hard winters. Combining this with the bald faced fact that my arthritis always is more severe during cold wet weather we have taken a two prong attack on the problem. First we really thought out a winter maintenance schedule. How is the fastest, most efficient way to keep our animals housed, fed and especially watered when the temperatures outside plummet and I can barely walk well enough to get to the bathroom at night? We came up with a solution that requires only about 5 to 10 minutes morning and night to get the job done, so that even if I am bed fast my husband can handle it alone and still get to work on time. The second prong to that system is elimination. We plan fall as harvest time. We butcher or sell animals until we are down to a skeleton crew during the winter months. Easier to buy and haul feed for 6 hens than 50 meat birds. Three sheep (even pregnant ones) eat less hay and drink less water than three ewes and 6 lambs will in the spring.

    Finally my best advice ... Every little bit you can accomplish is a little bit! I can't work a full day anymore. A job like stripping a stall now takes me 3 or 4 days to accomplish instead of the hour that it used to and my husband has to move and dump the wheel barrow BUT I get it done.

    By keeping a finish goal in mind and ruthlessly working towards that goal each of the "Little Bits" add up - one on top of the other - and soon you can really start to see amazing results. Take pictures. LOTS of pictures. Take pictures of your worst messes, because someday those "little bits" add up and the mess is suddenly not a problem anymore. By taking pictures along the way you can see the results happening and WOW that is encouraging!

    Here is a little video of how those little bits start to add up for us. I hope that this encourages you as well.

     
  20. MoBookworm1957

    MoBookworm1957 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Looking good!
     
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