5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

homestead

1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

SAM_0808

2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

k5511046

3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

SAM_0339

4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

SAM_0209

5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.

 

 

 

40 Days (renew, reinspire, recalculate)

IMG_1085

I am truly an optimist.  I love new beginnings and always believe in them.  Comparing photos from our time with friends in November to recent ones (above and below), I see that a tremendous sadness and weight descended on us and was evident through the camera lens.  Downturned faces and hunched shoulders reveal a burdening time.  On March 31st we spent all our money on a lemon of a car off of Craigslist that is still in the shop.  That was the last of our bad luck and April 1st was the beginning of a time of renewal, inspiration, and strength.

elsa on lap

40 Days.  Forty days would be more apt to have started at Lent, but I am a bit behind.  40 days of renewal, a sense of wonder, doing nice things for myself, not caring about rules, and noticing the beautiful things in my life that subtly whisper through the winds of each day.  Why 40 days?  One could pick any number, really.  The beginning of April to Mother’s Day, which represents my most honored description seemed right.  I turn forty on Monday.  New things are surely on the horizon for us.  The last forty years I grew up, raised children, came to this place.  The next forty years will be so delightful, I am sure.  Our own homestead surely awaits us, more grandchildren are surely in our future, our children are getting married, our marriage is getting stronger, we have so much to look forward to.

birds

Choose a number.  I chose 40.  In a book at night, record what you did or what happened that day, what you see your life as.  It is never too late to make small or big life changes.

April 1st- Bought an expensive (for me) bottle of Borolo and opened it for lunch.  Instead of complaining at the bar while Doug played pool, I tried to be present, even played, and had a good time.

April 2nd- Spent time with Maryjane, rocked her to sleep.  Painted two letters at the coffee shop at the spur of the moment.

April 3rd- Played Andrea Bocceli and served lunch while teaching a class.  Prayed for a long time before bed.

Because life is so blaringly short, I want to enjoy people more.  Spend more time with friends and celebrating.  My four day birthday weekend starts today.  A night out with Monte and Erik.  Tomorrow Doug is throwing me a birthday barbeque.  Tomorrow night the Melting Pot with Steve, Nancy’s husband who’s brain tumor may not allow him many more dinners out with us.  Sunday, a bee keeping class, Tapas lunch, and an outing with two new homesteading couples we met.  Monday, my actual birthday, a national newspaper is interviewing me thanks to this blog.  My life is beautiful, and complicated, and full of mystery and joy.  I am blessed beyond belief.

cropped-k5511046.jpg

My mother mentioned that I lead a charmed life.  Any of us can have a charmed life.  All you have to do is put out there what you want and you will get it, like it or not.  Work for it, desire it, pray for it, do everything you can to get it.  Our life looks like what we wanted it to.  We now dream of our own homestead that we can stay at.  We dream of so many things.  Though they feel like a desperation now, they will come to being.  They have to.

Maryjane

The key to our life is instead of making more money, make less.  Every time we think we need more money, we try to sell something, or get rid of a bill, or make do.  My ultimate goal in the next 40 years, or 40 months, or 40 weeks would be better, is to find a place that is even cheaper than what we are paying now so that we can lower the prices of our medicines and our classes so that other folks can make less money and enjoy their lives more too.  When you don’t have to work so hard for what you have, you can enjoy each day more.  You have more freedom.

IMG_1215

Break rules.  My own rules.  I can only eat this and that.  I cannot buy a lotion that smells SO good that my daughters bought because I make my own lotion, and it is fantastic, one of my best sellers.  I went and bought the other lotion.  Gasp.  I eat what I want, and drink when I want, and go to the coffee shop when I want, and still get all my work done.  The only thing that was keeping me imprisoned was myself.

wine

Today is a new day, y’all.  Be inspired today.

tiger