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8 Dreadful Mistakes I Made When Creating My Dream Homestead (and How to Avoid Them)

A little over 5 years ago my husband and I branched out into this lifestyle called homesteading. It was in the middle of winter of all times but something within us just clicked.

Oddly enough, the whole idea came while I was fretting over not being able to afford to feed our three children as healthy of a diet as I wanted to because of our meager grocery budget. Then, while watching an episode of Alaska: The Last Frontier, it clicked.

I saw Eve planting in her high tunnel, and I thought, “I need one of those.” Then my husband saw the chickens and said, “You know we could raise our own food instead of buying it.”

Just like that, the dream was born.

But looking back, we made a lot of mistakes. Some because of poor planning. Some because we had no idea what we were doing, and some because we had limited funds and had to do with what we had.

Today, I want to share a few of these mistakes with you. Hopefully, it can keep you from making the same ones.

1. We Failed To Plan

I know, that is literally one of the most foolish things you can do. But we literally had no game plan.

Honestly, I think it’s because we never really dreamed we’d make it this far.

Looking back, I think we literally thought we’ll only raise chickens for eggs, and a garden plus a greenhouse to extend our growing season. The thought of raising animals for meat hadn’t even entered our minds at this point.

I thought that would be it. But it wasn’t.

Had we taken the time to really think about what we were doing, our life could’ve been much easier. And we probably could have avoided a few of the catastrophes that we faced.

So if you can, look before you leap. Think long-term.

Give yourself some kind of direction so you can avoid some of the mistakes I’m going to talk about below.

2. We Took On Too Much At Once

Rooster

As I said, we hit the ground running when we decided to homestead. A week after we watched the TV show that inspired it all, our greenhouse was up. Less than a week after that, we had a chicken coop and our first 5 birds.

We did not mess around. But unfortunately, we just kept doing the same thing over and over. We would have an idea and jump into it head first.

But this became a problem.

For instance, I got the idea that I wanted to raise small stature pigs just to feed our family, and I thought they’d be easier to contain instead of taking on a full-size hog. Well, before we did any research, my husband had already bid on a pig through an auction site and brought home our first pig for $7.

Granted it was a great deal, but I had nowhere to put the pig nor did I have a clue what I was getting into.

Now, guess who had a pig in her fenced in the backyard until my husband and oldest son could get a proper pig pen built? Guess who had a pig escaping every other day because the ‘proper pig pen’ still wasn’t strong enough to keep him inside?

Then we bought a mama pig and her baby.

Then the mama had babies.

And before I knew it, I had a full blown pig family and was completely exasperated because we had literally done very little right.

Then we did the same thing with bees. The idea came to mind, the opportunity presented itself, and we jumped in.

Yet again, we failed miserably our first year of beekeeping.

Thankfully, over the years we have learned but not without some hard knocks. So be sure you can chew the mouthful you are planning to bite off when it comes to your homestead.

3. I Put Livestock In The Wrong Spot

nanny goat

Our first investment in livestock and poultry was our chickens. So we built their chicken coop in our backyard so they would be easily accessible.

There have been some perks to the location of our chickens. I think they are better protected being that close to our house. They actually have two fences around them because of our backyard fence plus the fence in their chicken yard.

But there are some downsides.

We literally have no shade in our backyard. So now, I plant sunflowers around their coop each year to provide proper shade during our hot southern summers.

Learning from that mistake, I placed my goats in a very shaded spot that was farther off from the house. But then my goats would cry and cry because they wanted to see us and the other livestock we had.

So what I ended up having to do was to extend my goat area on around our property so they could come to a certain spot and see the backside of our house. That way when I’m out in the yard or on the back porch they can still see me, and I can talk to them.

(Yes, I talk to my goats like they are toddlers. I do the same to my chickens. But that’s a different story.)

Looking back, had I moved my goat lot over and put my chickens where my goats originally started everyone would’ve been happy, and I would have had to do a ton less work.

But you live and learn right? So when deciding where to put your animals think it all the way through so you can hopefully have to make fewer ‘adjustments’ than we’ve had to make.

4. We Went From Zero To Sixty With Our Garden

When we got the idea to begin growing our own food, we had gardened a couple of years prior to that. We would grow a few green beans or some tomato plants in a small above ground bed.

It was just enough for us to make a meal or a sandwich out of.

We had never dreamed of canning or preserving our own food.

But that didn’t deter us from thinking we would grow this ginormous garden. And we did just that.

However, we learned the hard way that the larger the garden the larger amount of work that comes with it. I spent a lot of summers chasing my tail trying to keep this garden weeded and thriving.

Then we didn’t fully think through where we would like to place the garden. It is currently (and probably will always be) in the half of our backyard that isn’t fenced.

And it takes up a huge portion.

Looking back, I could’ve made it smaller and put it right out in my front yard. I live out in the middle of nowhere so I don’t have any strict regulations I have to follow.

Being in my front yard would have given my kids a lot more room to play in the backyard. Now, I have the swing set in our side yard along with a trampoline because our garden took up needed backyard play space. And we are getting a pool next year so who knows where I’ll end up putting it.

My advice is to really think about the placement of your garden. Make sure it isn’t so big that you can’t handle it. Because you can always go back and increase it later if needed.

Make sure it isn’t so big that you can’t handle it. Because you can always go back and increase it later if needed.

But you don’t want to forget that you need space for fun and living too. Otherwise, you’ll end up being like me and trying to figure out where to shove the play equipment without making your house look like a theme park.

5. I Had To Redo Things…A Lot

Fence

I catch myself saying things like ‘I wish’ a lot.

The reason is because anything you do with homesteading takes so much effort you rarely want to have to take it down and do it over again.

For instance, our perimeter fence.

It will have to be redone, no doubt. But I wish we had made it a larger priority. A perimeter fence not only keeps your animals home but it also keeps predators out.

Because we were short on funds when we started, we took the ‘free’ route. Granted something was better than nothing. But what we have really doesn’t function all that well.

We actually created our own perimeter fence out of pine slabs. We have a sawmill down the road that gives them away for free, and we utilized them. We hauled them for days but eventually got them all home, hammered them into stakes and trees. They completely surrounded our home.

But they didn’t last.

Between storms and children, some have collapsed. We keep repairing but it is something we put a lot of work into that will have to be taken down and replaced with a more sturdy option.

Realize that if you have livestock, you’ll need a perimeter fence. Find a way to create one that is the sturdiest option for your budget. Hopefully, you won’t have to constantly maintain or eventually redo something that you worked so hard on.

Just understand that no matter what you do you are probably going to look back on it and wish you had done it differently. I could tell you that I wish I had cleared certain trees at one time instead of going back and having to clear trees over and over.

The list goes on.

So pay attention to small details as you go so you won’t have the ‘I wish’ syndrome quite as badly as I tend to have some days.

6. I Developed The ‘Stress Yourself Out’ Syndrome

I’m going to be blunt. When you are building a homestead there are days your house and land will look like a junk yard.

That is just something that happens.

When you have 18 million projects going on at one time, don’t be surprised by this.

But I was. I had always lived in the suburbs with the manicured yard and it flat out freaked me out! So I stressed. And some days, I even cried because I wanted my house to look pretty and be a functional homestead. I wanted it all at once.

Well, the reality was, unless I wanted to go into major debt I was going to have to be patient. When I finally came to that reality, I let this syndrome go.

But the days I wasted stressing myself out instead of working on making our homestead our dream.

So if you are feeling the stress of your homestead, take a deep breath and realize it will all come together. It all just takes time.

7. I Failed To Locate Livestock Conveniently

Our chickens were the only animals we bought that we actually placed near our home for their convenience, and ours.

But after that, we kind of stuck the animals where we thought they’d fit. So the goats were off by themselves (until we made the extension.) Our pigs were down in the woods by themselves. And our rabbits were in two different locations because they ballooned faster than we had prepared for.

So, on winter days when I had to thaw and bring fresh water multiple times, I was hiking all over the place.

It was a mess. So needless to say, that had to be fixed. Yet again, we found ourselves redoing something we had put so much effort into.

So really consider yourselves when placing your animals. Obviously, you won’t want your pigs really close to your house.

But if you can place them even where it isn’t such a terrible hike on a cold, icy day then it will be worth it.

8. We Didn’t Create Proper Storage As We Expanded

We completely did not do this. And this is why our property stayed so messy for so long. As we built and added, we didn’t stop to think that we’d need additional space for the extra tools each addition required.

So for example, as the garden grew I had more tools I needed beyond what I used in my tiny above ground garden. And that equated to needing more space.

And I needed a garden shed.

Then we got a woodstove and needed a place to store wood.

But we are just now catching up to all of the storage we needed. We had to build a pole barn in addition to a few other storage spaces as well.

So when you are building your homestead, always think about storing anything you buy. You don’t want anything to get ruined and having proper storage will help with that and keeping your place neat and tidy.

Well, there are the top 8 mistakes I made as far as functionality on my homestead when I was just starting out. I hope these points will help you to rethink a few things so you don’t have to have as many hard knocks and redo’s as we had.

What were some of your biggest mistakes made when building your homestead?

We’d love to hear from you guys. Please leave your comments in the designated space below.

Comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I too am in the process of homesteading and made some of the same mistakes. Gardening a space that was way overwhelming (I had planned to sell veggies), but with a full-time job; did not work that in. I’ve only got chickens now and I put them near the garden where the poop will be utilized as fertilizer (going totally organic too).

    Storage is already a large problem for me and I’m working on building more this winter.

  2. Found a lot of what you say true as I made many of these mistakes. If I had to do over again, I’d build the barn before anything else.

  3. Like you, we kind of jumped in with both feet. We ordered our chicks before we had anywhere to put them. We bought a tractor without a place to store it. I tilled my garden…twice…on the off chance that I would find time to plant it.

    We bought our property just about a year ago. The house needed repairs, the sheds needed to be torn down, and the seller left piles of trash EVERYWHERE.

    Our biggest mistake was not realizing that holding down a full time job is not really compatible with getting a homestead up and running quickly. When we are working sixty hours a week or more, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for working on our farm or anything else.

    That being said, we are getting it done. We have built a large coop full of chickens that are laying well. Does the siding still need to go on and the run still need a bit more work? Yup, but we will get there. Most of the trash has been removed now and we are in the planning stages of building a barn. We will repair the fences, clear a lot of the undergrowth, and slowly make this a place we can be proud to call our own.

  4. Do not fail to prepare BUT be prepared to fail sometimes. We had the house, land, chickens, coop and no idea how impossible it was to actually get water and electricity to that location. When November and sub-zero temps came and we still had no utilities (we drove to the city to shower and get water once a week), we butchered the flock and moved back to the city to re-group.

    When I moaned about all this, a friend told me how she was having troubles getting started for fear of making mistakes. “Sometimes,” she said, “you HAVE to just jump in.” Six of one opinion and half a dozen of another. : /

  5. Oh my gosh thank you so much for sharing. Planning planning planning. We have a bowl shaped 5 acre plot and built our shop at the bottom of the bowl. We thought we had built up enough of a foundation, but after 20 years we have a dirt shop floor over some of the prettiest white concrete you ever saw. We failed to account for the downhill wash after we took out trees for the driveway. Yep, there’s always going to be an I wish.

  6. Great post – ¡todos verdad!

    I would like to add a few things:

    1. yes, you absolutely need to plan for housing, watering and feeding animals, but also FOOTING! Depending on your climate, the health of your animals may depend greatly on the surface they live/eat on, ease of clean-up, and manageability in all seasons.

    2. yes, you need a water source for your animals, but also near your garden plot!

    3. don’t get stuck on having a single garden spot – if you have the room, fencing and access to water, consider planning for at least two garden spots: one in full sun, one shaded from afternoon sun. There are veggies that don’t love/need hot sun to thrive. It takes some experimentation to figure out what will work in your area, but I find that greens and herbs, universally, are happiest without hot afternoon sun, need A LOT less water, have fewer weeds and almost never bolt unless totally neglected. So, in the summertime I pound some t-posts and wire up a stretch of deer fence for a patch that gets no direct sun after 2pm (western Oregon), and I get a huge variety of things that are tender and prolific. In the winter time, I plant my greens in the summer patch (where I plant my summer tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc.) to take advantage of winter sun. The result is a year ’round supply of greens, potatoes and root veggies. My friends laugh at my long term planning, but they don’t laugh when I deliver bountiful baskets of garden goodies to them, year ’round. 🙂

    And, p.s. – don’t believe ANYONE if they tell you that a deer won’t eat it, unless it’s an herb or a squash variety (cucs, zukes, pumpkins, etc) – they won’t touch an an aromatic or a fuzzy (or a marigold). Results with your particular plant-predators may vary, but, you can greatly expand your garden space by using herbs as border plants and fuzzy vines (that take up a lot of garden space) along the outside border of your summer garden fence. Also, if you plant potatoes in your shady spot in Spring, when you plant your summer garden, the deer will decimate them in August when it’s hot and dry and everything is dead, but the potatoes will already be the size of baseballs and you don’t care if they eat the green parts!

  7. I’ve really enjoyed reading the blog and the comments. I’ve had the blessing of failure early on in my quest to live independent of the Walmart. When my now grown children were small I tried to raise chickens and a pig on five acres of the most unforgiving sand in Northwest Florida. Total failure.

    Fast forward and my children are grown into adults. There’s nothing better than the laughter at my failing to be a “farmer” when they were little. Now I’ve recently bought five acres in Central Washington in the late fall with plenty of time to plot and plan my homestead.

    We’ve tilled up a small garlic patch for now, started renovations on the hundred year old house on the property and there’s a mutual agreement on where the animal housing will be since my husband is installing a auto shop on the other side of the lot.

    I still have nightmares about my past experiences but, in the cool foggy morning light I see a better opportunity in this piece of mountain living. I won’t be ordering my chickens until the beginning of the year and the bees will wait until our second year. The livestock auctions won’t be happening until Spring so that’s good. Besides, we’ve agreed to not keep large livestock over winter to keep the feed costs lower and to outsource to a neighbor for milk since we like to go on road trips. The overgrown grape vine has provided a terrific late crop and is being carefully de-caned as its over taken the fence.

    My kids all have a small growing areas for herbs and tomatoes in their apartments. One of them is a chef and he’s moved into a house with room to really put in a garden. We’ve been planning his planting areas and maintenance schedule before he puts in one seed.

    The homesteading way of life is a terrific thing to pass along to our children and the independence it provides in priceless. One lesson learned: lay in a supply of frozen veggies and tuna for the times failure makes the appearance and don’t forget to take those moments of pleasure at your self sufficiency.

  8. I feel like it was fate that I stumbled upon your article! My boyfriend and I have been watching all seasons of Alaska: The Last Frontier as well and although we live in a beautiful somewhat remote canyon in Southern California, it’s not the prime homestead destination of our dreams.

    We’ve been scouring the internet for land, cabins or any property for sale in the PNW and have dreams of children, chickens, goats and sustaining our lives with a bountiful garden. I love a challenge and failure helps us learn and grow, so I look forward to potentially making a few mistakes 🙂

    Your words were so honest and helpful and will definitely be bookmarking this page to return to as we begin this journey!

  9. I grew up on a homestead with my grandparents. So when I bought my seven acres I felt READY. LOL Well as a kid I didn’t take into account all the stuff you brought up in your article. I DID put up a great pig pen using cattle panels, which as you probably already guessed, the lil pigs went right through the panels. Hmmm Fortunately the pigs hung around because we were in severe drought and the only place they could find water was in the middle of the barnyard. What I have found after 12 years is that a farm/homestead evolves. There is no way to build fences or anything that will not need ongoing repairs. Equipment breaks down at critical times because that’s usually the only time we use it. Last time I used the tractor it was fine. I check the oil, tires, winterize, summerize etc. It’s always the LITTLE things that mess up a whole day. A mouse in the muffler or breather will shut you down until you find it. Working with animals/nature there is no way to predict how productive your day will be. Everyday is an adventure so get off the merry-go-round n just enjoy the freedom and benefits of the Homestead experience. Thanks so much for your article. It does put life in perspective.

  10. My family has been semi-homesteading for nearly 20 years. I say semi because we have never gone completely independent of the outside world but always maintained some sort of homesteading practice like gardens, chickens, rabbits, hunting for our meat, making our own household items, etc., but we also work full-time. So our light-weight dabbling has helped us learn some difficult lessons along the way. For instance, I’m a veteran chicken farmer, but I just recently discovered that raccoons can quickly decimate a flock! Or that aging game isn’t easy, but it’s worth it of done right. But I can say that homesteading never becomes easy and there really is no end in sight for the work and modifications you’ll have to make. So it has to be an understanding when you jump in….very little physical rest is involved! But I find that the emotional and mental rest and satisfaction it can bring at times is worth the blood, sweat and even tears!

  11. Thanks so much this! I’m in the process of planning my rural escape – obviously I’ve not made the mistake of not planning, but I don’t do ANYTHING without planning. 😋 However, this was eye opening in other ways and is definitely going into my planning! I hadn’t really considered livestock placement concerning the temperament of the animals, but I’m sure I’m going to baby my goats too, and so it seems like I should plan where I put them with that in mind! Thanks again for the informative post!

  12. We are just beginning the planning stage and found this very helpful. We never thought about extra storage. Mainly just a barn for the heavy equipment but extra storage sheds would be a great help and the placement of the animals. That will definitely need to be planned out. We do have one goat (a pet) and realize they are very social creatures. Thank you for sharing this. You are extremely helpful and I hope things are less stressful for you now.

  13. This is SO true you have to be prepared for the mess before the beauty and then each project brings its own mess and sometimes that mess doesn’t get dealt with for a while. We had our chickens in the shed and my husband built an enclosure out of lattice well lattice is no good, squirrels got in ate all their food then a hawk was coming into the shed!!!! So we got a puppy a Pyrenees we knew we wanted her to be an outside dog but did not plan for it so when it came time we had to build a new coup off the shed with no money and take down all the ugly lattice and clean the entire shed to spotless and make a cozy home for pup then we got another pup! Those two pups would torture the chickens until they would jump out (mind you they were clipped so the torturing must’ve been intense) then I’d find half chewed up barely alive chickens ugh so then go out just a week ago in the freezing cold and make a wire roof over the entire coup we have a little more money now then when we started which helps so much! But you have to save ALL your left overs so my pretty gazebo is a storage unit until hubby builds another shed this spring 😢 Thankfully we just got all the big black bags of non usable scraps FINALLY gone to hubbys work to be burned! Sometimes you see perfectly kept homesteads and wonder is there something wrong with me? This post helps to know it really is stressful but worth it. Last year we started a garden did something other then tomatoes and peppers and FAILED so much hard work 0 results ugh this year I will plan!!!!

  14. We also got hooked on Homesteading years ago. We live in a small city but bought an old dilapidated house and large garage with 3/4 acres of land. The house had to be completely (and i mean totally) gutted (removal of an old 70’s trailer INSIDE). 6 years later its still gutted due to costs and limited time as we also manage our Urban Homestead while trying to expand. I recall having large garden spots at the In-laws, the community garden had 4 plots all of which where around 20×20. We had 13 chickens in a home made coop and fenced/covered runs. Our backyard and frontyard being converted to garden space of every design imaginable from square foot gardening to vertical to rows. All the while trying to get the Rural Homestead prepared just for rebuild. My wife and I along with our then very young children worked very very hard. The lot was a wreck and honestly still is currently due to debris from demo’s over the years. Trees have been taken down and some fallen without warning (one HUGE Pecan we cried over) added to the costs. Currently we are barely into the rebuild with some major work ahead of us BUT we do this from our working homestead over time. We realized that no matter how we handle it this won’t get done in one week due too costs, man power for much of the projects and limited time (we both work full time). HOWEVER we wont give up. The chickens have been replaced with rabbits in the city due to hidden Ordinances. The gardens outside of our immediate local are given up for others to have as there simply isn’t enough time in ones life for that kind of running and still take care of the kids right. Our most recent addition is another half an acre next to our rural homestead which will now ease spacing up immensely and make it a real usable workable local for near retirement when the kids are grown and away. It will be a wonderland for the Grand kids and heaven for us with a big splash of hard work. Sometimes the visions over the years change but the end result should be your own happiness and sustainability.

    Happy Homesteading at all levels

  15. reading this after agreeing to buy a pig today!! Hilarious! Great tips- got my perimeter fencing installed last week- driveway gate is a big change- now no coyotes will decimate my flock!

  16. I 100% agree with your lessons learned advise…we have a 7 acre farmette, large existing barn, one smaller barn…and an old farmhouse…the property was a forclosure and needed a major overhaul…its been 6 years now and have made many simular mistakes…my top headache saver is animal placement!! Like you mentioned..we put animals in different locations…making chore time a pain…consider what can live together..plan close to water!! There is nothing worse than hauling hoses around…consider cleaning plan for coups and pens! You dont want to haul poo across acres to your dump site or garden. Also, if you live in a cold climate, imagine doing chores/cleaning in winter? Managing poo and water can be a challenge if your not prepared…finally, while your starting out, DON’T grow food you dont eat regularly…start with your most used vegis…get good at preserving those items then move on to trial stuff…start fruit trees/shrubs early…they take a while…chickens lay an egg a day…if you dont eat a dozen eggs a day…you dont need 12+ chickens (: rabbits are an awesome meat option! We get the most cost efficient food from our rabbits and chickens…2 meats plus eggs…can be done very small scale with limited investment (: good luck all!!

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