How (and a Bit About Why) I Retired Five Years Early So I Could Homestead Full Time
I have been asked by readers HOW I was able to retire early from my full time job so I could homestead full time. It’s a delicate, kind of involved answer. It’s not simple. I think maybe the more important question (along with how) is WHY I decided to retire five years early from a loved, long term career in public school teaching. Then we can discuss the HOW.
I have not written about this before. One: Because I don’t really write about this new “business” I accidentally started, like many other bloggers do. And Two: Because I’m still wrapping my head around it all. I’m writing about this because at this point, I’ve had many people ask me how I was able to take the plunge and retire five full years early.
Making a decision to retire early, take the huge early retirement penalties, and move far away from my home of 55 years was not an easy decision But. It had to be done. THAT’s the WHY.
At the start of this new year of 2019, a full year and a nearly a half into my “retirement,” I think I’m ready to discuss this.
By the way, you may be wondering what this topic is doing on a “self-reliance” blog that focuses on natural health?
Well, this change in our lives has improved our level of self-reliance, the ability to depend on ourselves, to an insane degree. So don’t stop dreaming! You can make changes to your life, and things will fall into place.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Why I Retired Early from My Career
First of all, let me just say that I loved teaching children. It was my LIFE since my early twenties. First preschool, then elementary school, then middle school, then special needs kids….I loved all the kids, and I loved teaching.
I love learning. And it was my objective every single year to teach and show my students how they can love learning too. I loved watching their eyes light up every day. I was successful in this endeavor, and I have the thank you letters from appreciative students and parents and administrators to prove it.
I believe in teaching kids through problem solving applications and hands-on experiences. I believe in LOTS of discourse about content matters and hands-on activities. I believe in integrating writing into ALL areas of education because that’s how kids can really learn to explain things for themselves.
I believe kids should be able to explain their own understandings about how they reached a conclusion (the why of something). I believe a teacher should be a facilitator of knowledge and not a belittler or a “giver” of knowledge to simply be regurgitated. I believe in a lot of other things too. But that’s a whole separate article.
In the last five years I spent in pubic education, now that I am retired from it, I look back, and I realize I was very depressed. My personal pedagogical beliefs about learning and teaching were no longer in alignment with what I was being told to do in the classroom by administrators and those higher up. And I’ll leave that at that.
But I will say this: Whatever you choose to go do every day for eight plus hours needs to match up with your belief system. Otherwise, you face a philosophical and psychological dilemma that’s just plain harmful to your whole spirit, body, & mind.
The climate in public education had changed. The new curriculum adopted by most states and the insane emphasis on testing. Being told by administrators there was no longer any time to teach science (WHAT?) because so many second language students needed to learn to read was more important than science (therefore all kids suffered)….I could go on, and on. I’ll just stop there.
But, I will say these things:
Here are some general issues going on in many fields these days, including public education, therefore I hear all the time—-How did you leave your job to homestead?
Because many people are frustrated with these issues:
1) Government interventions and new laws by people who know little or nothing about the field of interest in question
2) Ridiculous bureaucratic demands
3) Increasing levels of stress on the job
4) Reduced autonomy (trust) in professionals
Also, like most pubic teachers, I felt “chained” by the “Golden Handcuffs.” By this, I mean that once a career professional spends enough time doing something, there is often a large investment of time and/or money in a retirement program of some kind. These are the “Golden Handcuffs.”
If you leave the profession too early, you lose all or at least a significant portion of your potential retirement benefits. You also lose out on insurance and health benefits. These are two really big deals in most people’s lives (including mine).
I know so many school teachers who are just barely hanging in there for their last five or ten years (do you want your kids taught by a person who is just hanging on?) because they need the insurance, or they don’t want to give up that last few years of (significant) retirement income for the rest of their lives. I know a LOT of people like this.
I did NOT want that to be me.
And that’s because……
You see, I feel very strongly about your personal beliefs being in alignment with what you get up every day to go do.
If you’re not aligned, there is NO way you are going to be ok mentally and emotionally. Well, unless you just don’t care (and some people don’t). But I cared very, very deeply.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. That quote comes from Maya Angelou.
And I’m going to add to that: If you don’t want to (or can’t) change the “thing” and your attitude, then change your life.
Have you ever read the old but great book, Who Moved My Cheese? It’s a wonderful allegory about this very thing—about how to deal with (or make) change in your work and your life.
I want to point out that leaving my teaching career so early was SCARY.
It was not an easy thing to do: to leave my beloved students, to leave behind security, to leave health insurance, to leave teaching…and to make a tiny fraction of the income I was used to.
But I did it.
Now on to the HOW.
How I Retired Early from My Career of Decades
The HOW came about quite by accident.
My children grew up, and when my youngest went off to college, I had the famous “Empty Nest Syndrome.” I just felt kind of lost.
At that point, I had been learning about herbal medicine and essential oils for a period of time, and was making our own remedies and body care products at home. So, I decided to open an Etsy shop. That shop did GREAT!
Before long, I was earning over $1,000 a month selling natural homemade products. But I just couldn’t keep that up and teach full time at the same time.
Also, I had become more knowledgeable about what Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) are, and also how difficult it is for the small business owner to be in compliance to rules meant for larger manufacturers.
So. I sadly shut down my Etsy shop.
But I had customers who tracked me down and personally messaged me for the products I made. It was kind of crazy! But it sure made me feel good!
So, a Blog, Healing Harvest Homestead, Was Born
Since I could no longer keep up with as many orders as I had, I decided to start a blog (Healing Harvest Homestead) where I would just write out all my recipes for my products.
This way, I thought, my customers could just go there and learn how to make their own!
Plus, long before this, I had begun my education in herbalism and using essential oils. I thought this blog would be a great way to share that information, our gardening skills, and general homestead and animal husbandry skills we had been learning.
I started my blog for fun, and about six months in I was blessed to be invited into a Mentorship group by my friend, Victoria, over at A Modern Homestead. This amazing group of homestead bloggers changed my whole view about what I was doing with my blog!
She taught me how I could actually make some money with it! One of the best things I did was buy her book: Make Money Blogging at Any Level.
So, I continued teaching full time, and I continued blogging and writing. I discovered I really LOVED to write for people. I found, especially as an extreme introvert, that I loved teaching through writing.
Then Mr. V. left his career of 40 years.
So, there I was….Mr. V. encouraged me to make the leap into full time blogging and retire early. He wanted us to start a new life together, and that was only possible if I retired early.
Despite not having insurance, having our “safe” and comfortable income cut literally in half, and taking some pretty serious financial penalties to my retirement income (as I was not “of age” and I was still five years from 30 years in), I decided he was right (as always).
I felt that a weight was lifted from my shoulders! I began blogging full time in earnest: Teaching the wonderful people who visit my blog every day!
We decided that since we got very few visitors in the little off-grid village where we lived, that it was finally time to go follow our dream of owning a property with land we could steward the way God meant us to. It was time to increase our homestead dream!
That’s when we found our new home here in Idaho. And we moved far away from our old lives. We are now on 26 acres of pasture and pine in the beautiful panhandle.
And that’s how I retired early from my career.
I started making enough money blogging while I was working full time that we could justify taking the leap into a new and better lifestyle for ourselves. Without the income from the blog, I never could have (or would have) retired early.
How to Make Money from a Blog
I get asked all the time, “How do you make money from a blog?”
When I first started blogging, I had no idea you could make money! Then I learned how to monetize my blog, and I’ve never looked back.
Here is how most bloggers earn their incomes writing articles online:
1) Affiliate Income
I earn money by promoting products I use, love, or that are on my wish list. These include Amazon affiliate links, promoting online schools where I have taken courses, and products other bloggers create that are useful and relevant to my website.
The way this happens is that in most article I write, I’ll place text links or picture links to these products. Or I’ll talk about them explicitly in a concentrated promotion.
Then, for every purchase made through my affiliate link, I’ll earn a small commission, usually between 4% and 10%. It’s not a lot, but over time it adds up.
2) Ad Income
I didn’t have ads on my website for a REALLY long time. This is because I don’t like them, and I think they detract from the information.
Ad income, for most bloggers, is the number one way to earn income. It by far provides the highest return on your investment of time and effort. And it’s the most passive of all the ways to earn income on a blog.
I decided that once I hit high enough page views, I would apply with a “good” ad company, one that is careful about the content of the ad and the appearance of the ads in my articles. That was a game changer for Mr. V. and myself. It was around this time that I decided I could retire early.
3) My Own Products
This is my favorite way to make income from the blog, even though it requires the most effort. I love to write eBooks that others can print out and use to learn a new homestead or self-reliance skill.
Writing eBooks, creating courses (I’ve got one in the works right now), and creating other things like planners (I don’t create these because I am terrible at planning anything..lol), and more is an empowering and fulfilling way to earn income from your blog.
Currently, I have four eBooks available in the Shop. I hope to continue writing at least one for every “bucket” of topics I write about. These eBooks include:
For me, these self-reliant topics include using herbs and essential oils for natural health; growing, harvesting, & preserving food for natural health; raising poultry, goats, and other small livestock for healthy meat; and preparing for emergencies in order to survive potential disasters.
I write about all of them on the blog, and I’m writing (or have written) an eBook(s) for all these topics.
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4) Sponsored Posts or Work for Brands
This is my least favorite way to earn money blogging. But I do know several bloggers who make this their most lucrative form of income for their blog. Some even make five figures a month just from working with brands!
A sponsored post is an article you write that is essentially an advertisement for a product. That’s it in a nutshell.
The reason this is my least favorite way to earn income blogging is that you have to pedal your ideas to the brand (once in awhile they will reach out to you, but not most of the time), you then have to negotiate terms and a contract for the piece, and finally you need to complete the project under a deadline.
I am just too spontaneous with my writing, and I find that when I “HAVE” to write something, it’s way more difficult.
I totally have to laugh about this because when I was teaching writing, and I’d give a writing prompt, the kids would tell me they wanted to write about what was important to them. (Little honeys, I totally get it.)
Essentially, I started blogging about my hobbies (developing self-reliance skills & prepping), which are the things I was passionate about in my spare time. And this has grown into a full time small business where I continue to write and teach about the things I do on a day to day basis here on the homestead.
Are you wondering, “How can I start a blog?”
Well, here goes:
How to Start a Blog
OK. I am going to admit: I am no expert. And it’s also a LOT of work. If I had some idea of how much work earning money from a blog entails, I’m not actually sure I would have started. But ignorance is bliss, thank goodness. Since I love to write, blogging came naturally (in that regard, anyway).
And….speaking only for myself of course, the new technology is really hard to learn, especially when you did without calculators in high school, even with high level mathematics (trig, calc, etc.). Computers were NOT a “thing” when I graduated from high school. And even in college, they were not emphasized at all.
At blogging conferences I have attended, there are people of all ages. However, the “youngsters” have us “older” generation far outnumbered in the blogosphere. I believe this is because (speaking for myself), people in the older generation didn’t grow up with technology and just aren’t as comfortable with it.
And, I will say that as an “older” woman with barely any technical or computer experience (pretty much limited to using the word processor and electronic grade book in the classroom), starting the blog was HARD due to the tech aspect.
In fact, I had tried two other times prior to Healing Harvest Homestead. Total fails.
Can anyone say, “Exercise in frustration?” Sorry folks. I’m just too old for that, and I am very protective of my blood pressure these days. lol
But Squarespace does EVERYTHING. They host my domain name, they provide unlimited bandwidth (I think that’s what it’s called) for my website, and if I run into a problem, they have online chat available. I think I drove them crazy the first two weeks. I probaby spent about 40 hours on chat with them getting things set up.
They have beautiful templates to choose from, and even though I chose the EASIEST one they had available, it still has all the features I need for my blog—-like my shop.
Now. I know my website is not the prettiest. But it’s what I am capable of doing, and it has provided an excellent platform for me to write and share.
And I LOVE all the people who come here to learn and enjoy it. I really do. YOU are why I love blogging. I still get to teach! And I get to teach about things I love to do for people who appreciate it most of the time!
Blogging Resources I Used to Help Me Get Started That Really Helped
I will tell you, if you are interested in starting a blog: There is a lot of pretty worthless garbage out there in terms of books and courses. It really makes me mad when I spend my very hard-earned dollars on a “course” only to find it is a bunch of fluff, and of very little use.
These are the courses and eBooks I have personally used that were instrumental in helping this un-techie old lady get going on this blogging endeavor:
1) Victoria Pruett’s book, “How to Make Money Blogging at Any Level”. I have to tell you. If it weren’t for Victoria, I would NOT be in this wonderful state of Idaho, homesteading full time, and earning money from my blog. Get this book NOW if you are interested in learning how to blog.
A caveat: When I met Victoria, I was already with Squarespace, and she does recommend Wordpress, as do most pro bloggers. I was able to use all the parts of her book to help me get growing without needing to be on Wordpress.
2) Ruth Soukup’s book, “How to Blog for Profit Without Losing Your Soul.“ This book, which you can buy on Amazon or Kindle, is an incredible resource. In fact, it’s the foundation for her super course, EBA (Elite Blog Academy).
I’ll be honest. If you do what she says to do in the book, you’re golden. EBA is helpful, but very expensive. And her book does a great job.
3) Anna Merhalski’s book, “0 to 10,000 Page Views in 30 Days.” If you are unfamiliar with the blogging world, then you’ll know that this is a pretty incredible feat. Well, Anna did it.
And in her book she tells you how you can do it too. When I first read her book, I was already beyond 10,000 page views, but I was able to implement many of her strategies anyway. I highly recommend her book.
4) Lena Gott’s course, “Traffic Transformation” was incredibly helpful. You may hear that “traffic doesn’t matter.” Well, I’m sorry. When you are first starting out, it does. And the faster you can get to a certain level (around 100,000 page views a month), the better off you’ll be.
What is traffic? Well it is simply the number of people who visit your website in a given period of time. It’s what the ad companies and brands look at when deciding if your site is good enough for them to invest in you.
Creating Quality Content:
5) Kelly’s course, “Sticky Blogging.”
About content: This is the stuff you write. Your articles. Even your newsletters. Well, I thought I could write well because, after all….I was a teacher, right? Well, I’m here to tell you there is a different kind of writing skillset for writing quality blog posts that people will actually read.
If you lack confidence in your writing skills or just want to learn how to write effectively for the blog world, you NEED this course.
Getting Seen on Pinterest:
Pinterest is a social search engine. In the past year, they are really emphasizing the “search engine” part. And it’s very visual.
This means you need to know how to create a pin for your article that will get attention and hopefully entice a prospective reader to click through to your article or at least to re-pin it to one of their boards for later on.
6) My friend, Sarah, over at The Free Range Life was able to retire her husband from his job with her blog. She is a Pinterest expert. Creating a good pin that people WANT to re-pin is an art all in itself.
She has created Pinterest templates for pins you can easily use to create beautiful pins for your blog! You can find it here: Powerful Pin Design Bundle.
NOTE: Most bloggers get most of their traffic from Pinterest, especially at first. That’s why it’s vital to be on Pinterest and learn how to create quality pins.
Building Your eMail List:
I had no idea about how important (and fun) an email list is when I first started blogging. It took me a whole year into the blog process before I got up the courage to start an email list and start emailing my readers. I wish I had started sooner and understood it better when I first began my blog.
In fact, I took my first email course just last November with Jennifer Maker, another blogger who makes an incredible income blogging.
7) Here is Jennifer Maker-Marx’s course, “List Love.” Not only is her course a step-by-step set of directions for every single aspect you MUST know to create a list, send out wonderful emails, and build it quickly, she also provides an incredible array of general blogging tips too.
You can find out more about the resources for blogging I love here at the page How to Start Your Own Blog.
Final Thoughts on Retiring Early to Homestead (and Blog) Full Time
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a dream. I live in a place with the most beautiful views in the world, with all the outdoor activities I would ever want to participate in. Mr. V. and I are raising goats and planning to start a medicinal herb farm in the spring.
We raise our chickens and turkeys and other poultry for both eggs and meat. We hunt for clean meat, and we have created some wonderful friendships already in this fabulous place.
We have been able to leave the rat race! It’s really a dream come true, and we would not be able to do what we do now if I hadn’t started this blog, Healing Harvest Homestead.
And here is where I want to say: If you are unhappy with your work life right now, please don’t wait! Do some other things. Start learning a new skill. Start learning and doing the “things” NOW so you can make the big changes when the time is right for you. You’ll know when that is.
I wasn’t intentional about my retiring early. In fact, I decided at the very last minute, at the end of a school year, and quietly left the school district where I taught for so many years. It was quite anti-climactic. And this move we made to Idaho has been the next step for us.
I guess what I am saying is, YOU can change what you are doing. You just need to find the way. And the way will come, like it did for me, in perhaps an unexpected way. Maybe blogging may an avenue for you? It may just be worth exploring!
What a blessing.
What about you? Do you want to make a life change that just seems huge and overwhelming? Leave comments! These encourage all of us!
You may also enjoy these related articles:
There are lots more over on the blog, so I hope you’ll go explore!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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