There’s no doubt that homesteading is becoming more popular (and for good reason). For many families, being cooped up during quarantine had them dreaming of more land and reconnecting with nature.
Here’s the thing… as great as homesteading and having a small farm is, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there. It’s time for some real talk about homesteading.
Myth 1: Homesteading is a quick process.
Homesteading is many things, but “quick” is not usually the adjective we’d pick first unless we’re talking about things like spending money, taking on projects, starting lettuces and radishes…
A homestead is a journey. You won’t be where you want to be in a year, or two. That’s okay. Small steps add up over time. Take your time and remember to enjoy the process.
Myth 2: You have to live in the middle of nowhere.
There’s far more to homesteading than a zip code. While a rural area can be your “right” place, you can implement homesteading practices wherever you are. Read our Country is a Mindset blog post for more ideas on suburban and urban homesteads.
Myth 3: The “Perfect Property”
At first glance, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a standard definition for the perfect property? The reality is that what is perfect for one family may not be right for another. We all have our own tolerances for different types of weather and pests, preferences on topography and access to local infrastructure, and goals for our properties.
I grew up in New England and my husband grew up in Mississippi River country. We both approached our property search with different goals in mind. Over the years we’ve lived on three different small farms and have learned what works best for our family. It’s all about balance. Our current property has more rock than many would prefer, but we’ve embraced the natural diversity of our cedar glade and have learned to love our land.
Myth 4: You have to do it all.
There are plenty of definitions out there for what a homestead should look like. At the end of the day, though, it comes back to what works for your family. Don’t get locked into a narrow vision of what your homestead should be.
Find what works with your land and for your family. If you don’t want to be tied into milking twice a day, don’t. We respect the work that dairy families put in, but it’s not what we want for ourselves at this point in our lives. Partner with a local farm that doesn’t mind the routine. Homesteading can open up a larger community of producers and creators. Tap into it and focus on what brings you joy and is manageable on your property.
Myth 5: It’s easy to live in harmony in nature.
Okay, it can be easy… if you’re willing to accept that your farm will become part of the larger food chain and without a strong predator protection plan you’ll likely be feeding more local wildlife than your family. We’ve lost goat kids and a calf to roaming dogs and have donated more than our fair share to poultry to raccoons, opossums, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and the odd hawk or owl over the years as we learned what we needed to do to keep our livestock safe.
When Robert Frost said “good fences make good neighbors” he wasn’t just talking about the house next door. The reality is that as you create a homestead, there are growing pains that will come with it.
New habitat and food sources for wildlife will encourage pests and predators. Creating sustainable practices and recognizing that while we live alongside nature, she will never truly be tamed is part of stewarding the land. Take advantage of the gifts nature provides, like foraging, but remember that managing predators (both of plants and livestock) is part of the process as well.
Myth 6: You have to be organic.
There is a lot of pressure in homesteading groups to be organic, but there are just as many misconceptions out there. I see folks routinely share that all Amish and Mennonites are organic because they practice more traditional planting methods. This is simply not true.
Explore the options. There are a variety of natural methods out there, but not all will provide quick results… especially if you are dealing with invasive or aggressive species like fire ants.
While we do not encourage indiscriminate use of medicines and chemicals, there are times that they are warranted… just as they can be for your family. I try to avoid antibiotics, but when my foot started to get inflamed a couple days after stepping on a nail (I knew when my last tetanus booster was and wasn’t worried on that end) I went to the doctor. Find what works for you along the continuum and don’t get discouraged if you need to do what is in the best interest of a plant or animal.
7. You will make enough money to quit your job.
Homesteading is rewarding in so many ways, but not often financially. At times it can even seem like a second job, especially when you have gardens to weed and animals to care for. Most homesteading is based upon the older subsistence farming model. While you will have a variety of edible items, transitioning those into income can be difficult at times.
Myth 8: Older is always best, or they don’t make things like they used to.
How many times have you seen someone muse, “they just don’t make things like they used to.” While this may be true for washing machines, it cannot be applied universally.
Keep in mind the availability of finding replacement parts when looking at used equipment. We have couple of my father-in-law’s old chainsaws that are nearly impossible to find parts for. And many items, like glassware, cast iron, and crockery carry an antique, sentimental, or collectible value that inflates their cost. Be sure to thoroughly check vintage and antique items for wear or damage before purchase.
Myth 9: You have to go it alone.
Homesteading doesn’t have to be a lonely journey. Even if you are working your property on your own, there are larger communities of like-minded folks to connect with. Join a local group online, attend local extension service classes and field days, and build your community. It can be a great way to barter and trade skills.
10. When you’re on a budget, free is always best.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of thinking free is best. If something doesn’t cost you time or money, there’s likely a good reason… and you’re setting yourself up to inherit someone else’s problem.
Free animals usually have either temperament (aggression), parasite, or disease issues. Even things like free mulch are often riddled with termites, fire ants, or other undesirable pests. Invest in quality materials and animals whenever you can. It can be far more expensive in both time and resources to replace items versus purchasing quality the first time around.
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