Obviously in any new venture there are going to be learning curves. Homesteading is no different. Below are five things that I really wish I had known or had been wiser to before we bought our little place here.
Location- Location is important for anyone contemplating moving, much more so those that are intending on any farming or homesteading venture. I did not bring this up for zoning issues or other such things. I brought it up for those mainly for those that are planning on selling from their homestead as well as for those growing crops, bees, and raising animals. We purchased a place on a main road, which was good because we are pretty rural. The problem with the location is the amount of other properties making their living or a good portion of it from their land and craft goods. I’m smack dab in the middle of Amish country up here. Which we thought was perfect, slow way of living, scenic, good traffic flow. The problem is that we have a lot of competition with people that have been doing this for a very long time. They have customers that often come more than an hour away to purchase their wares. Secondly we are past them, farther on down the road.. While it makes us first in line from one direction, we are losing it from 2 other directions.
This is something that had never once crossed my mind. My thought was “cool they are selling, that means we can too”. Well so far that has not been the case. Granted we are still in the process of getting set up, but for egg sales, it’s awful. When you’re getting at times 2 dozen eggs a day plus that, it tends to hurt. Animal sales have been pretty poor as well, I make the majority of my sales through craigslist.
Another mistake in the location was the land around us.. Yes it’s beautiful farmland, but at the same time that’s part of the problem. It is big farmland, belonging to those that are crop farming, which means chemicals. There are a lot of chemicals that are spread by tractor and airplane. There are those who may argue this and that is fine to each his own I say. For me this means no bees. We tried bees where we were before, we were across from a big crop field and while the chemicals may not have been the cause I don’t think they did me any favors. We lost every single hive we tried. So when we realized what was in the back yard and across the street here dear hubby said no, we’re not doing it again. There went my dreams of golden honey and beeswax candles.
If I were planning on organic farming, I’m pretty sure I could kiss that thought goodbye as well. I don’t use chemicals at all if I can avoid it, but with the chemical drifts I am sure I would run into problems.
So there is some real life food for thought when it comes to finding the right location.
Choosing the right animals – I cannot stress this enough! Seems a rather stupid thing to say right? No it’s not! When I entered this venture it was a family co living situation, not getting into any of that. Other than to say know what others are willing and not willing to eat. I have seven goats does that last year all gave me babies and produced milk. Out of all of them I milked one, and left the rest with their kids. Reason being nobody would touch the milk, stuck their nose up to the cheese and absolutely refused to eat the ice cream. It has been such an utter and complete waste of time, effort and supply, heart breaking really. I run in to the same problem with eggs, not as severe but still a giant pain in the but. The only one who would eat the quail eggs was my granddaughter and myself and husband. If your say duck eggs you might as well toss them in the trash. So I learned to keep my mouth shut. So while the over production of eggs could be greatly reduced by consumption, I can only make them for some and not as much as I would like to. Lesson learned to save you some sorrow, time, effort and cost. If you have not tasted the labor of the fruits you intend to produce, find some somewhere first and try it in all of its forms if you can.
Another thing with livestock, make sure your fencing can hold what you are getting. My son in law brought home a ram and 2 ewes. Awww sweet fluffy cute things! They were, truly they were. I didn’t see a problem with it initially after all I had goats and a buck ran with them. After a while and a great deal of damage done to all my husband’s and my work around and in the barn I threatened to shoot the ram if it wasn’t gone when I got home. Needless to say when I returned all three were gone. That critter was beyond destructive. He cracked the cement block building, ruined fences, busted down the wooden pens in the barn, and I don’t like mutton. So I couldn’t even have the satisfaction of eating him! Serious lesson learned there.
The Cost –
I know this is probably a pretty obvious no brainer. While I was aware of the cost of feed, fencing and all of that I failed to factor in vets and medication. I knew there were things I needed to keep on hand, but when it came to emergency farm calls those quickly brought home the grim reality that depending on the situation, vet and so on, it could really eat up any profit you earned and can cost hundreds of dollars for just one visit. I keep a medical supply cabinet stocked for many situations. However there are those that require more expert help and medications that are prescription only not to mention1 bottle of a top grade antibiotic can be more than 100 dollars. So it was a reality check for me getting hit with some of that. A word of warning, not all vets are created equal. Do your research before an emergency happens. The first vet costed me a small fortune, and then told me after the fact that he really didn’t really know much about goats and I would be better off asking local’s goat owners for advice. Well howdy doodie. The second vet to come out after calling numerous others had a vast amount of knowledge and costed less than half of which the first one that came out charged. That included medication as well.
Predators – I only bring this up because I have run into a situation that has costed me quite a bit of money and a large loss of livestock this past winter. When I think of predators, I think fox, coyote, coon, skunk, weasels, possums, I did not think of rats. Yes rats, barn rats to be exact. First of all I wasn’t even aware we had them in the first place. Secondly they are dangerous and destructive to animals and feed. I lost all of my quail to these creatures as well as 2 hatches of chicks and a feed barrel has a hole chewed right through it. Not only that they have actually bored through the cement in the barn. These beasts are horrible! I had my quail in cages that mysteriously were not damaged, knocked over or anything. I could not for the life of me figure out how they were getting killed. How could anything even reach in to get them? Well now I know. They would eat whatever they could reach and it was gross as well as distressing.
Physical Labor – Now anyone going into homesteading knows there is labor involved. How much labor is determined by how you are set up and what you have to deal with in your situation. Our homestead and its day to day operations and activities fall squarely on my shoulders. While I do have help from my husband if I need it badly, (He already has a more than full time physically laborious occupation) he generally does the mechanical aspects of it, running the hay bailer, tractor and he helps with the vetting a lot. He does help with the fencing when it is needed and my daughter has her chores to do. However it is up to me to do the mucking and majority of feeding and watering, I do a lot of the repairs that I am capable of doing. It is what it is and I am not complaining. However I would have totally set things up differently to reduce some of the physical labor that is needed due to not smart decisions at the onset, labor that could be greatly used elsewhere. Getting a routine for your place is a good way of keeping control of your physical labor efforts. After being laid up almost the entire winter due to illness and injury and totally unable to do the things I usually do I am facing a daunting task to regain control of our place. It is a very slow and painful process. The stupidest injury can really cause serious setbacks and as with all accidents be utterly unexpected. So do yourself a favor and have some type of plan or idea of how you’re going to cope if something does happen.
Well I hope that some of the harsh lessons I have learned in the last two years can help someone else prevent them in there’s.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing comments and feedback from those of you who stop in to visit me here.