Greetings friends & readers! This is our 100th blog post here on Homestead Chronicles! We think that is pretty special and so today, we would would like to reflect a bit and share with you some thoughts we have had over the last few months . . . maybe even some stuff that we never thought we would share here on the blog — some truthful reflections on homesteading. Other hopeful homesteader wannabes & newbie homesteaders might want to perk up their ears a bit for this one — the hard truth is about to come out. And please know, this is not an easy post for Eddie & me to write, but it is necessary. We are doing a reality check.
Eddie & I met almost exactly seven years ago (on March 18, 2008) and married not long after we met. At that time, we were both clueless. We knew what we wanted and how we wanted to live but we didn’t even know there was a word for it — let alone, just what it meant. Nope, we were clueless. We made some BIG … no, really BIG mistakes!
We thought, “We love each other, we want out of the rat race, into the country and away from it all.” So we (with little research) hurried to find some land to go settle on before we got married. Eddie closed the deal on our 110 acres of land in July of 2008 and I was right there with him. (You can find that whole story here.) Nope, we still had no idea what homesteading was, what it would mean, what was involved, and how much it would cost. We were a couple of city kids in for a rude awakening!
Even after closing on the land deal, we still had no true conception of what our needs would be once we were there. For example, we thought, “Okay, no water. We will just drill a well.” Um, no — we wouldn’t. First, our road was in bad, bad, bad shape. There was no chance that we would ever get the needed equipment up that hill to drill us a well.
So we thought, “Well, we will just have to find some other way onto the property.” Unbeknownst to us at the time, that road was the ONLY way in. We thought surely we would find another way onto to property but we never did. It is land locked. Second, we got hold of the geological background history and had our water tested only to find out that our water is tainted with mine runoff. It was not potable in the first place and would have to be treated. So even if we could drill a well, it presented us with a whole other set of problems to solve.
And that was just the beginning of our nightmares. Yes, our beautiful dream had become a nightmare and we were just waking up.
About a year later, we began to realize what we had done. It was not as simple as just clearing a spot, throwing up a cabin, slapping some solar panels on it, drilling a well, and getting some chickens. Silly city slickers.
Did we bite off more than we can chew? Um, yes. Without question. Will we continue to beat this dead horse? Maybe — for a while. But, that does not mean we have given up. Not a chance. In fact, it has made us all the more determined to do it. But this time, with six years worth of research and some good hard knocks, we will be taking a completely different approach — the one we should have taken from the beginning but didn’t know how to. Will we hold on to this land OR will we sell it and find a place with some infrastructure built in (like water, power, a house, a barn, etc.)? We don’t know yet.
But what we do know is this: Watch your step. Do your homework. Plan it out. Don’t go look at a piece of property, fall in love with the solitude, the peacefulness of it, the fresh air, and scenic beauty that tends to heighten all your senses. When your senses are heightened in that way, sensibilities tend to go right out the window. Scenic beauty is for state parks, not chicken coops and pig pens and vegetable gardens.
Make a list of all the non-negotiable requirements that a property must meet for you to even consider making a bid. And if the seller jumps on your bid immediately, something is likely wrong, but by then it is too late. Make a list of the things on which you will not compromise BEFORE you make an offer, and if it is not there, walk away.
As pretty and peaceful as it is, a waterfall should not be on that list.
The next post in this series is going be about what should be on that list. Don’t learn the way we did and then have to face the possibility some day of having to start all over again. Think. Don’t rethink.
So that is my big revelation from my perspective, my Truthful Reflections On Homesteading. Eddie would now like to share a few thoughts of his own. Eddie?
Hey everybody! Eddie here.
Seven years ago, we found our dream property. We took three weekends to walk the borders and we both fell in love with it. So we put in an offer and it was accepted. At the time, Jo was not working and had few prospects of finding work. I was assuming my normal annual raises (which came at regular intervals) would continue. Due to budget cuts, they did not. Jo did eventually find work as a technical writer and it helped to pay down some of the bills, but I have not seen a pay raise in nine years. The cost of living and the drastic increase in gas prices have kept us from our land.
We have supplemented our food supply with what we can grow. Our plans are in a holding pattern while we figure this out. The house needs continuous attention, and at times, the needed repairs are overwhelming. There are days when I just look around here and see all that needs done, and just grow frustrated — because there are no means to fix it. At the same time, I see what needs done on the land — things like road repairs, clearing areas for future gardens, controlling water runoff, planting fruit & nut trees to help support us when we move there — the list goes on and on.
We would love to get to the point where we can go down to the land just to camp and spend time with our friends, ride the trails, eat good home cooking, fellowship, and maybe gather firewood for the winter. Instead, we constantly have to do heavy labor for big projects with little more than a shovel, a chainsaw, and a picnic lunch. I don’t know if we will be able to just go down there and relax anytime soon.
We have continued to look at financial options, and while many are slow going to generate any serious revenue, most are hopeless pipe dreams. We dredge on day after day doing what we can to get by — expanding the current garden to supply more fresh produce, my lathe turning, pepper blend sales, possible herbs sales, but what else?
While we have less than six years until my retirement (and I have built a good bit for that), we can’t get to that cash flow yet. We struggle with how to maintain our lifestyle and still get our land ready to homestead. One day at a time. But there are times when I think, “Enough is enough. We need to live, we need to feed ourselves, we need to heat our house and repair what is damaged.” What we need here (at the house) many times overshadows what we need to do on our land. Thus, my dilemma, “Did we bite off more than we can chew?”
We are torn; the land needs more attention than the house does in order for us to get ready for the transition, but in the meantime, we need to actually LIVE in this house. The land is where we want to be, so the juggling begins. We do a little here and a little there, but it doesn’t seem to really affect either. What now? Many know what I am thinking and going through, others just starting out themselves might not have any ideas and that is okay.
Our journey is one that we will share at every stage of the way — lessons learned, tips in solving problems without creating new ones, and learning from our mistakes. This is why we started to “chronicle” our journey to homesteading and a more self-reliant lifestyle. Enjoy the adventure with us, endure our setbacks and celebrate our successes, but hopefully you will learn something along the way.
So, in a nutshell, Eddie & I are doing some serious soul searching but it is not about our commitment to homesteading — not at all. It is about our commitment to this particular piece of land and the insanely high hurdles it presents to us. It is about the juggling of priorities. It is about taking responsibility, backing up, regrouping, rethinking, cleaning up our mess, and trying again . . . the right way this time. It is about doing a reality check — painful as it might be. Don’t get me wrong, we will NEVER give up. But we may have no choice but to find some other way. Yes, this hurts us both, but it is necessary. Who would want to give this up? For anything?
If you are a hopeful homesteader wannabe or a newbie homesteader, first read this inspiring article from my friend, Chris at Joybilee Farm: Don’t Wait Till You Retire Before You Begin to Homestead (and be sure to read all three parts in the series). Also, here are some great books that we highly recommend before you get yourself in too deep. We really wish we had read them BEFORE we took the leap. They should be on every homesteader’s bookshelf.
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This post was shared at the Simple Saturday Blog Hop.