You might think you can resist it. You might think it could never happen to you. You might even think it’s a good thing.
But it’s not. Most definitely not.
What am I talking about?
New homesteader enthusiasm.
Oh sure, it’s normal to get excited when you first decide to start taking steps to become more self-sufficient. You are embarking on a new adventure, after all. And it is fun to grow fruits and veggies, or raise chickens or goats, or can your own homemade jams and jellies. It’s easy to get excited about your plans.
So that’s why today’s article is about how to reign in that new homesteader enthusiasm. Or, to be more precise, it’s about what not to do when first starting out, based on my own personal (bad) example as an overexcited new homesteader.
Most homesteading experts will tell you that the first step to take towards living the homesteading lifestyle is to get a good book or two about homesteading. They’ll tell you to read up on it to see if it’s something you might find doable, before committing your time and resources to any projects.
What do I say about this advice? Run. Run very fast, and very far.
Have you seen homesteading books these days? Sure, there are still a few around from the 70s with intimidating black and white charts detailing plans for chicken coops or vegetable garden rotations. But those are few and far between, and they are not the kind of book that you’ll be confronted with at the feed store or the book store.
No, the books you’ll see there are gorgeous, coffee table-type books, with incredible close-up photography showcasing the sensual beauty of a ripe peach hanging from a tree in the warm sunshine…or the simple appeal of making soap by hand at a rough wooden table in a small country kitchen, with bunches of dried lavender hanging by the window…or the heartbreaking sweetness of a toddler bottle-feeding a tiny baby goat on a verdant meadow…
Do you really think you’ll be able to resist images like these? Let me tell you now – you won’t be. You’ll get to page 75 and suddenly, like a person in a dream, you’ll be at your computer ordering hundreds of dollars’ worth of raised bed kits for gardening, or bee hives, or adorable Victorian-style chicken coops. I’m telling you, it will happen.
This is exactly what happened to me when I first got interested in homesteading. One book was all it took – one book! – and I was suddenly scouring Craigslist for dairy goats, planting fruit tree saplings and huge gardens full of veggie seeds, and trying to braid rag rugs in my spare time.
The goats instantly escaped the enclosure we built for them and ate not just the leaves, but also the branches, from all the fruit trees, as well as all the roses and the pretty ivy growing up the back of our house. The tomato plants grew huge and leafy and impressive, but not a single tomato ever showed its face. And the rag rugs were, to put it kindly, pathetic.
It was a classic case of new homesteader enthusiasm.
Here’s what I recommend doing instead:
Take baby steps.
Learn from my expensive mistakes.
Choose one project – just one – to begin with. And not the most expensive one, either. Maybe choose one vegetable to grow in a small garden plot, or even in a pot. Then research how to grow that particular vegetable successfully. Once you’ve managed that project, start on a slightly more ambitious one. And go from there. Taking your entry into the world of homesteading step by step is a much more financially prudent way of approaching it.
However, if you disregard my advice, and start reading homesteading books anyway… And if you are seduced by the gorgeous pictures in them, and spend an entire month’s salary on canning supplies or cheese making kits…
Don’t worry. It’ll all turn out okay.
We eventually built an enclosure the goats couldn’t escape from, after several months of trying different variations. We learned how to grow tomatoes the right way, so that those huge leafy plants actually produced something. And our fruit trees, roses, and ivy finally started to grow back, once the goat attacks had subsided.
Homesteading is one of those wonderful, messy lifestyles that is always offering a new learning experience, and that is deeply rewarding, no matter how many times things go wrong. So whether you jump into it whole-heartedly with everything you’ve got, or carefully approach it step by step, you’re sure to love it, either way.
Even if you never learn how to make a decent rag rug.