First, what is a homesteader?
The term means different things to different people. Most folks agree with the basic premise that it means living off the land, but the amount of “land” and the amount of “living” varies. Some think it means going completely off grid, while others think it means having just a garden and a few chickens. (Personally, I like the occasional lunch out or the summer evening driving into town to get an ice cream cone, so I find myself living with traditional dreams in a modern world. That works for me.)
So, if your desire is to be a homesteader, how do you know when you’ve made it?
The bottom line is – that is a personal achievement of your personal goals, and no matter what, don’t ever let anyone tell you how to live your life!! There. I said it. So, when you reach your personal goals, have you then “made it?” Hmmm. I hope not, because my goals are still a long way off. Does that mean I’m not yet a homesteader?
We began our homesteading journey with a garden, a compost pile, and a few chickens on 1.5 acres. It was a big decision to move an hour away and purchase 10.5 acres. We could have easily stayed where we were and simply increased our garden size, purchased more chickens, and added a second freezer. But we wanted more. We don’t like the way the mass-food industry operates. We don’t like pesticides on our fruit and veggies, which not only hurts us, but also hurts/kills the pollinators and the environment. We certainly don’t like mass-production feed lots where cattle live their entire lives sloshing around in their own excrement, and then are pushed, terrified, into slaughter houses. The thought makes me physically ill. We want a large garden. We want an orchard. We want to raise our own meat birds, our own pork, our own milk and cheese, our own honey and berries and corn and sheep and guardian dogs and barns, and so on and so forth. We couldn’t do that on 1.5 acres. So, we bit the bullet and moved. We currently have a decrepit barn, but other than that, we’re starting from scratch. Does that mean we’re not yet homesteaders?
Our goals haven’t changed since we moved in. What has changed, though, is our time-frame. The orchard is planted. As of last weekend, it’s also fenced! As with any new fruit trees, they will take a few years to begin producing. Our garden is ready to go – beds are prepped, seeds are started in the kitchen – not the greenhouse – as we don’t have one of those yet. The time-frame problem here is that we have to wait for the harvest to decide what we will do next year. We’re already expecting to expand the garden by 6-8 more beds, but we won’t know for sure until the fall. Once we get our back fencing up, we plan on getting a few babydoll sheep to keep the orchard cleared in the summer months. That won’t happen until next spring, or if all goes really poorly, the following spring. (Note: If you don’t know “babydoll sheep,” do yourself a favor and Google that!! OMG!)
In general, we’re wrapping our heads around the fact that everything doesn’t happen at once on the homestead. The homestead will change every year, and we will NEVER have everything done. So, are we homesteaders?
Well, we’ve come to the conclusion that, in fact, HOMESTEADING IS NOT A DESTINATION – IT’S A JOURNEY.
Our homestead will not look next spring like it looks this spring. We simply need to keep our eyes on the ultimate goal, which for us is to be 75-80% self-sufficient. We only want to purchase what we can’t grow, raise, or make. I’m talking… salt, aluminum foil, oil for the truck. Stuff like that. I don’t keep very good records of our grocery bills now, so I’m not sure if our goal is measurable. For now, if I can just get enough food planted, harvested, and stored for the winter, I will call that successful homesteading! And if we don’t run out of food before next spring, I will consider that we’ve “made it!”