12 Realities About Homesteading You Need to Consider Before You Start (It's Not All Fun & Glory)
People have three different reactions when I mention I am a homesteader. The first is, "What is that?" The second is, "You are SO lucky!" The third is, "Why on earth would you want to do that? You need your head examined." (And yes, I've had those exact words tossed at me.)
The thing is, homesteading carries with it a sense of romanticism, or a sense of being close to nature. There's also the belief in being self-sufficient and being able to raise your own food in healthy ways. Indeed those things are true. But there are some not-so-great realities about living the homestead life that non-homesteaders should consider before they begin---especially if they are homestead dreaming.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you. Heidi (Full Disclosure Here)
12 Realities of Homestead Life You May Not Realize
Until you read enough, or are interested enough, or have enough kinds of experiences....the homestead lifestyle can be construed as a strange or even wonderful one. That's surely for sure.
Maybe you are dreaming about having a homestead one day? Well, here are just a few of the realities of living the homestead life----
1) Something's Gotta Give.....You Just Can't Do It All
First of all---let me start out by saying: Oftentimes bloggers who blog about homesteading make their lives seem easy. Or very doable. Super fun. Glossy, even. I especially laugh at the homestead ladies with manicures. Really? The homesteader who makes it sound like they can get ALL the things done ALL the time are fibbing.
I'm here to tell you that one reality of homesteading, even suburban homesteading (which I consider what we do), is that it's dirty. It's busy. It's crazy sometimes. There's always too much to do, and sometimes things just have to be put off. Some things just don't get done sometimes.
There---I said it. Don't believe those beautiful homestead pictures that you see sometimes are always the reality of homesteading. Well, unless there is a maid or something. And then you are probably not really a homesteader. You might be a wealthy person living the fantasy. Maybe. ;-)
There is a LOT of work involved in this homestead lifestyle. A LOT. There is always a project going (usually more than one or three), or something needs to be fixed, or animals that need special care, and the lists go on and on.
All this hard work is just not worth it for most folks. Not to be mean, but it's true. I hear it every day.
Most of the people I know prefer to sit in front of a reality T.V. show in the evening than learn a new skill. Or because it's just "easier" to go get something from the store, they choose this route instead of the more difficult, yet personally fulfilling action of making it yourself (MIY).
The biggest problem I have personally found with having too much to do on the homestead is that you must learn to pick and choose what things are most important at any given time. You don't always get to do the "fun" things. Most often the priority things are the dirty or unpleasant things that need done. Like hauling five gallon buckets of hot water out to your animals on a frosty morning or evening. That's important.
Often, there are dishes in the sink. Sometimes the house is quite dirty, and there is mud on the floor. If there is a choice between feeding animals or us, the animals win every time. We often can't get all the things done. And that's where grace comes in.
There was a time when traditional living like this was the typical way of life, and folks helped each other. Families were larger, and everyone's skills were tapped into and shared. Nowadays, homesteading can feel like something you have to try and do all on your own unless you are fortunate to live in a like-minded community of people or have a lot of children to help you out.
All the so-called fun things "normal" people do on a weekly basis, like seeing movies, going out to eat, shopping at the mall---well, that stuff just doesn't happen around here.
So when I say, "I'm too busy to go to a movie," what I really mean is: I am just too busy to go to a movie. I have more than enough things that REALLY need to be done, and doing that "fun" thing just isn't on the list.
In fact, the last movie I saw was "Hilary's America," and that was because I felt it was completely worth the drive into town and immediately right back home, so I could learn everything I could before placing my vote in the last election.
Anyway, my point is.....A homesteader can't do it all. And that's ok.
2) Our Motive to Homestead is Not to Make Others Feel Guilty or Dumb
We really don't. I know that I personally have a tendency to go on my rants. I have some very strong feelings and opinions about big business, big government, big pharma, commercialism, our toxic world, living green, eating clean, and a lot more.
Sometimes it's all I can do to hold my tongue. Really. But when I do let go with my opinions and beliefs, and the fact that we do our best to "eat clean," or "try to live a green life," and that "our foot print on our mother earth matters," it's truly not because I want people to feel badly about their own choices.
I am not meaning to sound judgmental. I think it's more that I'm sharing a bit about why we are on this particular journey, and I hope others will join us. That's all.
I am very much into "to each his own," and the idea that everyone needs to do their own due diligence and learn about what makes themselves healthy. This homesteading lifestyle we chose is good for us. And that's what matters over here.
Here are a couple of great books that will give you a great understanding of how things are done these days versus how they used to be (and dare I say "should" be) done. They are both by Joel Salatin, and are two of my most prized books: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God's Creation, and Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, a Healthier Life, and a Better World.
3) You Have More Personal Choices with Homestead Living
You really do. I get to choose what herbal immune boosters I want to take for that cold I feel coming on. Because I've learned this stuff.
I get to decide in a much broader way, what kinds of foods I want to put into my body. I decide that my garden has no chemicals, so my food is clean. (If you want to find out what "healthy" foods are really killing you, click here.)
I decide what our chickens are going to eat---and by extension, what we are going to ingest into our own bodies when we eat an egg.
I decide what goes on my skin---because I can make what I need, I can customize my products for us. I am not at the mercy of the stores. You might enjoy this article: 18 Necessities I Never Buy from the Store Anymore and What We Do Instead.
Honestly, it's kind of a relief.
That is, until Mr. V. wonders what happened to the "herbalist" and why we don't have any tooth powder made? Then I have ONE more thing to do (see Number 1).
4) Poop. There's Lots of Poop. And I Happen to Love It. And Talk About It.
Most folks don't like poop. It tends to stink.
And, yes, different poop has different qualities, and it is absolutely true that I prefer to deal with some types of poop over others....but the fact remains, it needs to be dealt with. Unless you want flies. And I would much rather deal with poop than flies.
But. You see----I LOVE poop. Certain kinds, that is. (I do not enjoy dog or cat poop. At all.) Poop from herbivores is incredibly healthy for growing things. It's free fertilizer of a quality you cannot buy.
Even poop from omnivores (like chickens) is pretty great. It's a little stinkier than herbivore poop and takes awhile to break down enough to put directly on plants---but it's still some good stuff.
So when anyone asks me how I can stand to muck out the corral or clean the coop, both pretty nasty dirty jobs, well, I'll just say there is some therapy there. It makes me feel good to provide my animal family a good place to grow and provide us with their healthy goodness.
Find out how to amend the most horrible soil in the world! And here is a book on composting anywhere you may like: Compost: A Family Guide to Making Soil from Scraps and another on vermiculture (that would be worms): Worms Eat My Garbage.
5) Natural Really IS Better
Have you ever watched a person new to reading labels try to read a label? I hate to say this, but it's kind of funny. Usually they are shocked. Or confused. Or so stymied by the unpronounceables on the label they just give up and buy it already, erroneously believing that "surely our government wouldn't allow bad things to be sold to us amazing consumers."
When you pick up a carrot, and you know that, "Gee, it's a carrot and nothing else," well, that's a really great feeling. Especially if it's a non-GMO, organic carrot. Hopefully.
And if you are growing your own heirloom carrots, with chemical free soil and natural pest control methods---you are truly getting a Natural Carrot. If you want to try a great seed company, I recommend White Harvest Seeds. And they even have seed banks!
When you read even a fraction of the literature on GMO foods, and learn that more and more scientists are deciding they are a bad idea for us a human beings....yet in our country consumers have no way of knowing (for sure) what foods have GMO ingredients or not, doesn't it just kind of give you a sad, sick, helpless feeling inside?
There's a great deal of confusion about what is healthy and what is not these days. Sadly, I personally believe that if you are buying it from a store, there is a really good chance it's not good for you. That probably sounds extreme to many of you, but there it is. My opinion.
I prefer the homestead lifestyle idea of growing as much as I can. Of making as much as I can. Because there is safety in the truly natural. And if I MUST buy something? Well, the fewer ingredients on the label the better. And a BIG plus if I know exactly what they are and what they are used for in the product.
Oh, yes, and if you are interested in learning traditional cooking methods, my friend, Wardeh has come excellent courses. You can get some free cooking plans right here.
6) Failures are GOOD Things, and I Welcome Them (Well, Sometimes)
Wow. Mr. V. and I have had some failures, I can tell you. Some of them have made me cry for days or even weeks. For others, we just pick ourselves up by the boot straps and keep on going.
Like when we had to put an animal down because it was sick because of something we didn't do. Or when we realized too late we had invested in the wrong kinds of goats for us (this was a few years ago). Or when we didn't realize until too late we had an egg-bound hen that was too far gone. Or we experienced a fatal case of fly strike that wasn't caught in time.
Or--with plants. How about the year I planted three different invasive herbs and have had heck to pay ever since. (You can read about my adventure with Burdock here.) Or planting too early causing months of seed starts to die in an hour. Yes, that fail happened exactly three times. Really.
There's plenty more failures too.
But we have learned mega-lessons from each and every one. We are still beginning homesteaders. I think we probably always will be. Because I can't foresee a time when we won't fail at something---and therefore learn something new.
7) Homesteaders Keep Learning--Take Classes & Read Books
Some folks don't really understand this need I feel to read all the time. To be enrolled in several different courses at once, and why I am always experimenting with this or that.
Why on earth would a book on raising dairy goats be so fascinating, for Pete's sake? Why do I read everything I can about fiber? (Oh, and that's fiber from animals, as in fur or hair---not Metamucil.)
Anyway, the homestead lifestyle is one of complete NON-stagnation of the mind. In order to grow and become better at this life, you must keep learning. You can learn from your neighbors, online groups and friends, by taking classes, reading good homesteading blogs and books---but you really do need to keep on learning.
8) The Weather is a BIG Deal, and So are the Seasons, for That Matter---They Affect My Life as a Homesteader in a Major Way
Down in Las Vegas, Nevada, where most of the folks in this part of the world live, the weather doesn't matter much. Doesn't matter if it's freezing. Doesn't matter if it's 125.
I remember the first time I told a co-worker that I had to get off a little early from work because of the weather, she thought I was nuts. But when you have to deal with mountain driving in a potential flood (and yes, once I was stuck in Vegas and couldn't get home because of flood waters), then you watch the weather like a hawk.
You can find out why you need a Get Home bag for car emergencies and how to pack it up in that link. Everyone needs a Get Home Bag.
The weather is also important because it impacts the life and death of your plants and animals--often very quickly. It impacts whether or not you will be dealing with broken pipes or frozen water troughs. Is there enough moisture for your plants? You'll need to irrigate if not.
But in city places, normal weather is just normal weather. A rainstorm is just a rainstorm, and a snowstorm is just a snowstorm. It's uncomfortable, for sure, and something to get through----but it's usually not life-threatening.
The seasons matter a great deal, too.
In December, when the days are short, I have to make a point of being home in time to feed everyone before sunset. Therefore, there have been many times I have had to cut outings short because, "You know, I have to get home before 3:45."
9) Some People Think Homesteaders are Weird
As a homesteader, I have discovered that many people think we are weird. Folks who don't know what the homestead life is like and are living a completely modern commercialized life will most likely think you are weird if you are a homesteader of any kind.
I have learned to "suck it up, Buttercup." I no longer care what others think---it's none of my business. Personally, I believe there is probably some hidden admiration there anyway....
There is the open-mouth gaping many homesteaders get from others when they try to explain what they do and why they do it:
Who really makes fermented foods for the probiotics and as a preservation method? Who spends hours a week prepping food or being sure food is preserved in some way? Who goes out and (seriously?) forages for herbs to use to make medicine? Who actually "harvests" their own meat? Who wears Bogs or Muck Boots literally all the time, all seasons of the year? Who bothers to make their own soap and body products? Who REALLY makes their own toothpaste?
Yes, well. You must remember that homesteaders just have a different way of looking at life. A different way of being, believing, and living. And until you've experienced a shift in how you look at the world, you might think homesteaders are a little outside the box, so to speak.
But homesteaders are not weird. To us---it's the rest of the world that's completely bonkers.
10) Most Homesteaders Aren't Into Being Off-Grid, Primitive, or Remote
Some homesteaders (and general folks) think you have to be off grid in a remote place to identify as a homesteader. NOT so. You do not have to live in the wilds of Alaska or the interior of Australia to call yourself a homesteader. And, you don't have to live off grid.
In my experience, most homesteaders live ON the grid. And many of them live in the suburbs or even in cities. You can take this little quiz to see if you have the mindset of a homesteader if you like.
Although I do live off the grid right now, I admit that the community where I live makes it very easy to live a modern life with all the amenities most others have--like running hot water. Personally, I don't do well with great discomfort, and I have no desire to be extreme.
Most homesteaders also live near others, in community. I think it's more unusual for a homesteader to desire to be in a completely remote survival-type property. There is a fine line between a prepper and a homesteader. You can be both, but there are characteristics that differentiate the two.
Although there are those types of homesteaders who desire the complete remote, off-grid do-it-yourself experience, there are many more of us who simply have the mindset and identify as homesteaders.
11) There Will be Death
Death happens. Every thing and every body is going to die. It's just that on a homestead where you are raising your own food, you are going to deal with it far more often than most other people. And death is not necessarily a bad thing, even though sometimes it is.
When we put in our duck pond, we accidentally lost five young laying Rhode Island Red hens to drowning because they thought they could swim like the ducks. Curiously, they were the only breed that drowned like that. The others were smarter, I guess.
But then, there is the death that comes from "harvesting" your own meat.
I think about meat far differently than the typical person.
I happen to love our meat. Our meat sources, no matter what they are, are raised humanely with love and care. Then they do their job (they become food). When we hunt, it's not for sport. It's to put food on the table.
Many folks don't really understand why we needed to kill that rooster that kept attacking us and making the hens bleed (besides the fact he made some pretty delicious bone broth). They won't understand why little bucklings don't really have a place on the farm unless they are for breeding and why they can't just be "forever pets".
Most people can't understand why we keep attempting to raise our own meat with all the pain that comes with it.
I once overheard a lady in the store tell someone she was shopping with, "I could never eat meat from a farm or a freshly killed animal. I only eat meat from the stores where it's clean."
I really had a good laugh at that comment. If she were educated, she would know meat in (most) stores is quite dirty (e-coli anyone?), not to mention plumped up with fillers and salt.
Unfortunately, most people these days are so far removed from the actual sources of their nourishment, they are simply ignorant. I don't know of a better way to say it. Sorry if I offended any----
Anyhow, death is definitely a part of homesteading life if your personal homestead includes raising any kind of meat or animals for produce.
If you want to learn about your food sources in this modern commercial world, I recommend starting with the famous documentary Food, Inc. Then go on to Fed Up and Food Evolution. Oh---and one of my favorites, Frankensteer, is not even available any more.
I'm sure Big Ag and the modern meat industry had something to do with that. I CAN tell you, it was horrifying--and it's why I refuse to eat any beef from stores. Bison is fine. Beef is not. Do some research. (Grass fed beef that is humanely raised is fine too---you just have to know the source.)
12) There Will be Life
New life and the joy that comes with it is also part of living the homestead lifestyle. When your turkey hatches two ducklings, when your goat gives birth, when the new little seeds sprout into life-giving plants, when you can walk out to your yard and gather your harvest to feed your own life----you feel so alive and empowered.
The first time you bring home those baby chicks and get them started growing into beautiful hens that will provide you with fresh eggs, it's a wonderful joy to feel.
Even if you are homesteading in the city and you are just growing herbs in containers or sprouts on the counter. You feel proud. You feel capable. You feel like you could maybe, just maybe, have a chance of surviving a serious calamity.
Life is so beautiful. And there is LOTS of life on a homestead.
Final Thoughts on 12 Realities of Homesteading
There are most likely other things I could add to this homestead reality list. I think this is a pretty good start, though.
You know what? I wish everyone could experience this kind of life. I know some would probably detest it. I know for a fact that folks who actually CHOOSE to live in a big city either have no idea what they are missing OR have no desire whatsoever to experience homesteading.
But if everyone had a chance to experience the seasons (for real) and get a sense of how the weather can seriously impact a life, or just to be a little closer to understanding where our food REALLY comes from, maybe even from growing something themselves.... I think most people would "get" the homestead thing better. And maybe then be open to trying it on some level no matter where they live.
You may also enjoy 70+ Homesteading Essentials by my friend Jessica at the Faithful Farm Wife.
What do you think of this? Are you a homesteader experiencing any of these realities? Please leave comments because it's boring without you! ;-)
Hugs, Natural Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. If you haven't done so yet, I hope you'll sign up for the newsletter! You'll get free eBooks too! One on using essential oils, one about how to use herbs to relax, and finally, one on how to get your homestead going no matter where you live. Enjoy! :-)