Three Things I have learned in the First Six Months of “Really” Homesteading

Plans Change – plans change a lot!

The first lesson is one I have known for a long time, but it is so important we’re going to treat it like a new lesson: No matter what you have planned, something is going to change. Every single time you have a day planned out so you can accomplish tons, something is going to come up that takes immediate precedence and you will work on that for the majority of your time and energy and only accomplish a bare minimum of your other plan.

For example, today, I had a full day of school work, cleaning, baking, dehydrating, gardening, and sewing planned. Instead, I cooked and cleaned only the minimum of cooking and cleaning, and instead focused on resumes and job applications for my son and husband as their intention for the summer changed. Also, energy was put into changing out, cleaning up, and reorganizing barnyard fowl for the about to arrive ducklings. And then, suddenly I had to transport them, too. There was no real cleaning, no blankets washed, no baking, no dehydrating, and no sewing. Not even reading happened and I sometimes get paid for that.

We don’t even need to talk about Covid-19 – that changed all the plans.

Gardens do not care about your plans

The second lesson is the garden will not do as you plan. I bought a greenhouse this year and started a bunch of seedlings in the basement. I hoped to grow a bunch of herbs and get a jumpstart on the veggies. The greenhouse was easy to put up and stayed warm and moist, which was fantastic. Until, we stopped heating the basement because it was warm enough to not need the wood stove. The light in the greenhouse was not warm enough on its own. Eventually the seedlings got mildew-y and sickly. Very few of them successfully transplanted. I shall try again next spring, but with more wood to keep a steady temp in the basement until I can plant outdoors. Meanwhile, the weather has been a bit uncooperative, but it always is. I ended up being given some tomato starts and those are fantastic. We bought some cucumber and squash starts and those are great too. The directly sewn cucumber, peas, beans, lettuces, spinach, carrots, and beats are slow, but good. The sunflowers are hit or miss, but I’m pretty sure I was battling chipmunks and some stray chickens in the beginning which ravaged my seeds. This was the first year planting morning glories and they seem to be doing well.

A Rhode Island Red (red colored laying hen) hiding amid the day lillies.
Meet Red. She’s quite good at escaping their pen, but she also goes back in every night to sleep in the coop.

So, I had hoped to have lots of veggies for eating fresh and freezing. We’ll have the fresh, but I’m not sure about preserving it.

I hoped to have herbs to use fresh, to dry, and to attempt making teas with. Only the parsley seems to be doing well, most dies in the greenhouse.

Sunflowers are for us to eat and for the chickens. Also I had hoped to have a wall of them by the driveway. I think the small creatures stole most of the seeds by the driveway. We’ll see how the seed harvest goes.

Morning glories were for prettiness by the stone wall, which looks promising, and for an attempt at resined jewellery. We’ll see. The plants seem to be doing well, but it’s too early for blooms yet. Meanwhile I’ve been practicing on pansies, and soon we’ll try daylilies.

Money is fickle

The third is that if you have any savings, there will be an unexpected expense whether it is the car, the washing machine, the fridge…

Selling a product from your homestead is a great idea. Consider your realistic timeframes and don’t overextend yourself. 

I sell these fantastic, reusable market totes, made from empty feedbags (I had a bunch of empty chicken ones and hated throwing them away…). I decided to reach out to several local stores all in the same evening to see if they would carry our bags. I have spent the last week sewing A LOT of bags. 

8 market totes in tthe process of being sewn. The bags stand up, but do not have the top hem or handles attached yet. There are several designs from horses to chickens.
In progress, market totes…

See above for my hopes to begin making our own teas – that will be next year instead. Likewise I had hoped to make some sage bundles, and body products, but that will be pushed off a year too, unless I decide to buy some herbs at farm stands. Instead, we’ll focus on sewn products and flower jewelry. My daughter found a dead butterfly too, that we’ll try making into a piece of jewelry. I would never kill one for this purpose, but to resin it and enjoy it long term after it’s natural death, seems just fine. I’m always open to new ideas and I save tons of photographs/screenshots. It is completely easy to be scattered and lose focus and never finish any projects. While there are so many crafts I would like to do, I have spent the summer focusing on tote sales and learning to resin.

Lastly, we all know that the work is never done, but it’s never done.

As summer winds down and I’m going back to working in school full time I have had to prioritize what canning and preserving needs to be done vs what I want to do. Likewise, the freezer breaking down with none available for less than the price of a cheap car, I have had to reconsider my food preservation and foraging. I need to prepare the chicken coop for winter, decide whether there is time to plant flower bulbs to cheer me in the summer, and clean up the yards for winter. Moving firewood to stacks near the stove really needs to be a priority… Sometimes I just need to breathe, too.

So how does this help us prepare for the next six months? Well the prep now, like firewood, has obvious benefits to the next 6 months, most of which are freezing cold. But also, it helps us to plan for the six months following the next sixth months. Where do I expect to be, projectwise at this time next year? What was too ambitious? What was easy? What can we prepare for better? None of us expected a worldwide pandemic, but lets have two sets of plans for next Spring – still shut down, and not shut down. Because we have absolutely no idea.
Meanwhile, check out these bags. We have so many cool patterns, now! And hopefully we’ll soon have expanded our products!

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