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
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
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
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.