Author Topic: Has anyone transitioned from city dweller to homesteader? Tell me your story!  (Read 7843 times)

newgirl

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As I learn more about consumption reduction, local food, DIY, and energy self sufficiency, I am becoming more interested in what a life away from the city would look like. I have always had small gardens, but being an apartment dweller I've not really experimented with growing food on any sort of scale.

I'm just interested in hearing different stories and perspectives from homesteaders. How far away from a city or town are you? How long have you been homesteading? How long did it take you to get up and running? If you lived and worked in a city and chose to make a change, why? And has it been worth it? Are you happy? If you have children, are they happy as homesteaders?

ender

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When you say "homestead" to what level are you thinking?

Off the grid entirely? X% self-sufficient food wise?

Or do you mean "someone who lives on enough land to have a garden?"

Freedomin5

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You might enjoy the Frugalwoods' story. I believe they were also citydwellers who purchased a property out in the country and now live there full-time.

newgirl

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When you say "homestead" to what level are you thinking?

Off the grid entirely? X% self-sufficient food wise?

Or do you mean "someone who lives on enough land to have a garden?"

I'm honestly not sure. If we purchased an average sized single family home in our suburb with an average sized yard we could certainly grow enough food for our small family in a backyard/kitchen garden. But I think I'm dreaming a bit bigger than that (and right now, it is dreaming)...

I suppose what I'm thinking of is - what if we purchased land that was in a reasonable driving distance from our current location, and spend weekends and vacations over the course of several years preparing the land - leveling, installing infrastructure, planting an orchard, etc - while still living and working in the city. Then, when we were ready, we would have a place ready for us to live full time. I would like to be able to install solar panels, or possibly tap geothermal sources for power and have that ability to be off grid. I don't see us giving up internet, though.

Is that something that could even be done? Or is it unrealistic?

newgirl

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You might enjoy the Frugalwoods' story. I believe they were also citydwellers who purchased a property out in the country and now live there full-time.

I am anxiously awaiting her book! I discovered them a few months ago and their story and young family is so similar to ours, it started changing my thinking about what was possible for our family.

Syonyk

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I suppose what I'm thinking of is - what if we purchased land that was in a reasonable driving distance from our current location, and spend weekends and vacations over the course of several years preparing the land - leveling, installing infrastructure, planting an orchard, etc - while still living and working in the city. Then, when we were ready, we would have a place ready for us to live full time. I would like to be able to install solar panels, or possibly tap geothermal sources for power and have that ability to be off grid. I don't see us giving up internet, though.

Is that something that could even be done? Or is it unrealistic?

I don't think you have a good clue as to just how much time unimproved land takes to get anything done. :)

I was in the Seattle metro area with my wife, and we pretty much hated it.  Coming up on 2 years ago, we moved out to rural Idaho (actually, a corner of the property where she grew up - her parents gave us 2 acres that various people had lived on, so there was a power drop and a well).  It's been wonderful, especially with grandparents a few minute walk away (we have a toddler who thinks this is just about the best thing ever, and I think the grandparents agree).

But the property is a LOT of work.  I live on the property, I work from home, and I'm still not able to get nearly what I want to get done, done.  This year's priority is things like "cutting better fire breaks" (I hate cheatgrass and will use an antique tractor to plow it under with glee), putting in better compost bins, and a few raised bed gardens.  Plus some drip irrigation.  Trenching water around the property might happen, but it depends on how long it takes me to remove the 10-15 tons of basalt I estimate I need to remove for the firebreaks and such.  That's a quirk of our property (being on a hill that's basically a thin layer of cheatgrass on top of a basalt pile), but it's the sort of thing you deal with.  I consider any hunk of basalt I can lift to be light... probably 100lb is where I start to consider breaking it up in place.

I figure in a decade or so, I'll have the property more or less where I want it, which would probably qualify as "homestead" - I intend to generate a lot of our own energy and food (probably some aquaponics greenhouses and such along with more normal gardens, though I plan to build some sheltered space to deal with birds/critters/random windstorms/random hailstorms).

Doing that sort of thing remotely?  Forget it.  I don't think that's remotely feasible.

Also, off grid power is it's own unique form of pain.  Check the Welcome forum for an awful lot of words I've written on off grid power (my office is solar powered).

ender

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Doing that sort of thing remotely?  Forget it.  I don't think that's remotely feasible.

Nice :-)

newgirl

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I suppose what I'm thinking of is - what if we purchased land that was in a reasonable driving distance from our current location, and spend weekends and vacations over the course of several years preparing the land - leveling, installing infrastructure, planting an orchard, etc - while still living and working in the city. Then, when we were ready, we would have a place ready for us to live full time. I would like to be able to install solar panels, or possibly tap geothermal sources for power and have that ability to be off grid. I don't see us giving up internet, though.

Is that something that could even be done? Or is it unrealistic?

I don't think you have a good clue as to just how much time unimproved land takes to get anything done. :)

I was in the Seattle metro area with my wife, and we pretty much hated it.  Coming up on 2 years ago, we moved out to rural Idaho (actually, a corner of the property where she grew up - her parents gave us 2 acres that various people had lived on, so there was a power drop and a well).  It's been wonderful, especially with grandparents a few minute walk away (we have a toddler who thinks this is just about the best thing ever, and I think the grandparents agree).

But the property is a LOT of work.  I live on the property, I work from home, and I'm still not able to get nearly what I want to get done, done.  This year's priority is things like "cutting better fire breaks" (I hate cheatgrass and will use an antique tractor to plow it under with glee), putting in better compost bins, and a few raised bed gardens.  Plus some drip irrigation.  Trenching water around the property might happen, but it depends on how long it takes me to remove the 10-15 tons of basalt I estimate I need to remove for the firebreaks and such.  That's a quirk of our property (being on a hill that's basically a thin layer of cheatgrass on top of a basalt pile), but it's the sort of thing you deal with.  I consider any hunk of basalt I can lift to be light... probably 100lb is where I start to consider breaking it up in place.

I figure in a decade or so, I'll have the property more or less where I want it, which would probably qualify as "homestead" - I intend to generate a lot of our own energy and food (probably some aquaponics greenhouses and such along with more normal gardens, though I plan to build some sheltered space to deal with birds/critters/random windstorms/random hailstorms).

Doing that sort of thing remotely?  Forget it.  I don't think that's remotely feasible.

Also, off grid power is it's own unique form of pain.  Check the Welcome forum for an awful lot of words I've written on off grid power (my office is solar powered).

This is exactly why I was fishing for other people's stories instead of trying to detail my own (non-existant, really) plans. I know next to nothing about it, which is why I'm hoping to hear a few different experiences :) Thanks for sharing your story!

Syonyk

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One other point: This forum won't get you many answers on the "move to rural/homestead" topic.  The realities of rural/homestead life are somewhat substantially at odds with some of the groupthink here.

If you're doing anything resembling rural farmsteading, you pretty much need a good t****.  You know with 4** and a big bed.  The irrational anti-truck hatred here is... entertaining, mostly, because I'm quite happy with mine, and I use it quite regularly as a truck (crew cab, long bed, 4WD, diesel, as Jesus would have driven - can't get a work crew and a day's worth of building supplies around in a Prius).  I'm also on the trailer rotation for our church (we've got a mobile church and a ~10k lb trailer that has to get hauled every Sunday).  And, at least last winter, it was one of two vehicles that could get off the property towards the end of the winter (the other, oddly, being a motorcycle - sidecar rig with 2WD).  I don't consider it optional, but I've heard all sorts of silly ways I could get rid of it (I think the "drive to town, rent a truck, haul stuff to my property, take the truck back into town, drive back home" option is the silliest).  Even for stuff I could haul on a trailer, getting around my hillside to haul material often is better done with the truck (it's rocky, sometimes muddy, and, well, a hill).

I spent a couple hundred dollars last year on my tractor, in addition to purchasing it, and I'll spend probably another grand on it this year because it could use some new tires (which requires new wheels, because the calcium chloride in the wheels is rotting out the rims).  Stuff like that just doesn't make sense to suburban dwellers.  Plus driving places.  I try to batch trips into town, but we put a good number of miles on vehicles.

On the other hand, you get entertaining stories like having to draw a quick floorplan for a shipping container.  So you can get a building permit.  For a shipping container.  A pair of 20' units?  No problem.  Single 40' unit?  Oh, that needs a permit and inspection...

So... maybe ask on Permies? :)  All roads lead to Permies.

Teachstache

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It all depends on the life you want.

I grew up in the country and would never go back to living on a fucking farm, not with a gun to my head, but that’s just me.
Personally, the only way I would go off-grid and “live off the land” is as part of a communal living situation where tons of people work together to carry the enormous load of work that it involves.

A friend lives in one of these communities in India, and I could see doing that. I’m a dentist and an ex vegetarian chef, so I could offer enough useful services to not have to do back breaking labour into my dying days.

Do your research.
Rural living can come with some astronomical additional costs.
I’m not trying to discourage you at all, Frugal Woods is an amazing example of people making it work for them, but they did A LOT of research and were well prepared to follow the life they wanted *for the sake of that life*.

My silly mother when she was a silly 24 year old moved our family rural because it was pretty and she fell in love with a gorgeous house on a river. She also had the horrifically erroneous notion that because rural real estate was cheaper, that rural life would be cheaper.
Umm...
No.

Likewise, my brother has been trying to do this for years, and is now having to live with his wife’s parents because he can’t manage to get an off-grid life off the ground.

Research research research.

I agree with PP that there probably aren’t a lot of homesteaders on this forum, so you will probably want to look elsewhere for more actionable advice. But there might be some around who can weigh in on the real costs (both in terms of finances and energy)

Similar to spouse & myself. Living in Nebraska, you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least one or two friends who are or were farm kids. Either they love it & want the same thing for their kids, or they can't stand it & want to GTFO ASAP.

Spouse & his 3 brothers all grew up on various small farms. Spouse didn't care for it, but one of his younger brothers loved it. Brother-in-law & his wife live rurally on 8 acres. They have a couple of pigs, a pair of sheep, a large garden & plans for beekeeping & a bottle calf in the future. They love their life & want their kids to enjoy living away from the city.

In talking to them, their big expenses are for land maintenance and livestock care. If you don't care to, or can't afford to, properly care for your land & animals, they'll stop producing for you. They also can't just go on vacation whenever, because their animals need looking after.

Spouse and I are interested in self sufficiency, just not living rurally. We're city people, specifically medium sized city people of between 200,000 & 300,000. Big enough for universities, small enough to avoid high housing costs. We live on 1/5 of an acre in the middle of town in an older neighborhood without HOAs or super restrictive covenants. Our self sufficiency includes having a 200 square foot vegetable garden in our backyard, line drying our clothes, having an herb garden in our side yard. We plan to plant a dwarf fruit tree orchard along the street sided of our corner lot (apples, plums, pears & cherries). We also plan to add 3 raised beds for additional vegetable gardening. In terms of transportation, we can be reasonably self sufficient by biking or walking. We do have a Nissan Leaf as well.

We've toyed with the idea of a solar pergola on our back patio (it would cover 350 square feet) & a solar carport covering on our driveway (adding another 350 square feet). We couldn't ever be totally off grid, though, or take care of all of our electricity needs through solar (we have a well insulated 1,400 square foot 3 bedroom home).

For income self sufficiency, spouse has begun mining crypto currency at our home. Profits right now are quite good, enough to cover our property taxes & home owners insurance each month.

For food self sufficiency, we grow & preserve tomatoes, zucchini, peas, and herbs. We plan on adding more veggie varieties with raised beds. Planting fruit trees this year will mean additional homegrown fruit in 2-4 years. We also plan to buy a pig from aforementioned brother in law for $500 total (185 lbs of heritage pork come November 2018). We purchase a quarter of a cow usually every year for around $350, depending on the price of beef. We buy produce on sale & in season. If it's an especially good deal, we'll buy extra & preserve it.

For future livestock, we'd like to buy 2 laying hens for backyard egg production in another 2 years.

So, our homestead (if you think it qualifies) is right where we are in the city. We have a small lot, but we currently have a backyard garden that gains us enough peas, tomatoes, zucchini & herbs to last the whole winter (these are a large part of our diet). We plan to add fruit production & egg production in the next 2 years. We locally source our meat & buy in bulk when possible. We have plans for supplemental solar in our current home. Income will hopefully continue to be generated by crypto currency mining. Transportation is mostly self sufficient in the warm months (biking & walking).

Many of the homesteading podcasts that I listen to advocate learning homesteading skills right where you are. Have you learned how to garden & preserve food? Have you learned how to make income independent of a traditional employer, or conversely, how to cover your expenses as frugally as possible?

« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 06:44:39 AM by Teachstache »

chaskavitch

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I suppose what I'm thinking of is - what if we purchased land that was in a reasonable driving distance from our current location, and spend weekends and vacations over the course of several years preparing the land - leveling, installing infrastructure, planting an orchard, etc - while still living and working in the city. Then, when we were ready, we would have a place ready for us to live full time. I would like to be able to install solar panels, or possibly tap geothermal sources for power and have that ability to be off grid. I don't see us giving up internet, though.

Is that something that could even be done? Or is it unrealistic?

I don't think you have a good clue as to just how much time unimproved land takes to get anything done. :)

I was in the Seattle metro area with my wife, and we pretty much hated it.  Coming up on 2 years ago, we moved out to rural Idaho (actually, a corner of the property where she grew up - her parents gave us 2 acres that various people had lived on, so there was a power drop and a well).  It's been wonderful, especially with grandparents a few minute walk away (we have a toddler who thinks this is just about the best thing ever, and I think the grandparents agree).

But the property is a LOT of work.  I live on the property, I work from home, and I'm still not able to get nearly what I want to get done, done.  This year's priority is things like "cutting better fire breaks" (I hate cheatgrass and will use an antique tractor to plow it under with glee), putting in better compost bins, and a few raised bed gardens.  Plus some drip irrigation.  Trenching water around the property might happen, but it depends on how long it takes me to remove the 10-15 tons of basalt I estimate I need to remove for the firebreaks and such.  That's a quirk of our property (being on a hill that's basically a thin layer of cheatgrass on top of a basalt pile), but it's the sort of thing you deal with.  I consider any hunk of basalt I can lift to be light... probably 100lb is where I start to consider breaking it up in place.

I figure in a decade or so, I'll have the property more or less where I want it, which would probably qualify as "homestead" - I intend to generate a lot of our own energy and food (probably some aquaponics greenhouses and such along with more normal gardens, though I plan to build some sheltered space to deal with birds/critters/random windstorms/random hailstorms).

Doing that sort of thing remotely?  Forget it.  I don't think that's remotely feasible.

Also, off grid power is it's own unique form of pain.  Check the Welcome forum for an awful lot of words I've written on off grid power (my office is solar powered).

Your land sounds like a lot of work, for sure, but your final product dream sounds more or less like what DH really wants out of life.  I'm not completely sure it will work out with his desire to travel (he says he'll be ok not traveling, so I guess we'll see).  It's good to see a little bit of what it will really take to get there.

Also, DH installed drip irrigation zoned on our sprinkler system in our raised beds last year, and it is AMAZING.  We have four 4x8' beds and three 4x4' beds, and it saves us a ridiculous amount of time.  We also had the best garden we've managed in the 5 years we've lived in this house, because we didn't ever forget to water it :)

ender

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I second the importance of an irrigation system.

I put in a drip system for our ~50 tomato/pepper plants and everything else too and it saved an insane amount of time, not to mention the increase in yields from things being watered.

I think our garden space was around 700 square feet. I watered it... never.

MrsDinero

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It depends on what you mean by homesteader?  Mr. D and I are former Urbanites/Suburbanites.  We moved to NH and bought a house with several acres.  Over the course of living here we have become what I call "accidental homesteaders".  We do not have a wood furnace and rely on oil and gas deliveries, but we are looking at the pros/cons of installing an external wood furnace.

We did not decide to become homesteaders, it was just part of a natural evolution of living here.  It JUST makes sense to live like this.
 
We have 8 chickens for eggs.  I plan to add some more egg layers and some meat birds this year.  We have not gotten into other animals but those may come as the years pass. We planted our first garden last year, learned from a LOT of mistakes and plan to double or triple the garden this year. 

One thing I have learned is it is lot of hard work.  Not just the "yeah I can imagine it is hard work" but real and true hard physical work.  One thing I have learned it is very much community living. It is great meeting people you can share and trade "goods" with.

I also recommend The Frugalwoods.  I totally fan-girled when I realized they are only about an hour from me.  I find their blog so inspiring and full of practical tips.  Oh yeah and did I mention it is hard work?

LifeHappens

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I'm another country kid who GTFO as soon as I could. My parents moved from a large city to the Middle of Nowhere the year before I was born. They still own 60 acres, but only use about 1/2 acre of it for a vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens. Their "lawn" is about 4 or 5 acres. The rest of the land is fallow. Their house is over 100 years old and is in constant need of work. It was nearly a tear down when they bought it and they've put incredible amounts of labor and money into it over the last 40 years.

Rural life can be quite hard. There are nice parts about it, but don't romanticize how "peaceful" and "tranquil" that life is. There is nothing tranquil about having to take shifts all night to keep a horse walking around so it doesn't lay down and die, or birthing goats at 2am on an icy cold April morning.

If you are seriously interested in a homesteading lifestyle, I suggest you try it out first. Volunteer as a WOOF-er, get involved in a CSA, take a permaculture course. Know what you're getting into.

Cromacster

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Check out  The Survival Podcast

The guy that puts on the podcast has setup his own homestead in texas over the last 5 years or so.  He covers much of the challengs during his discussions.  His podcasts focuses on permaculture and homesteading with some libertarian and anti government talk thrown in.  He brings on a lot of interesting guests too.

Some of them are hit or miss, depending on where your politics lie, but if you have an open mind there is wealth of information when it comes to homesteading.

Teachstache

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I'm another country kid who GTFO as soon as I could. My parents moved from a large city to the Middle of Nowhere the year before I was born. They still own 60 acres, but only use about 1/2 acre of it for a vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens. Their "lawn" is about 4 or 5 acres. The rest of the land is fallow. Their house is over 100 years old and is in constant need of work. It was nearly a tear down when they bought it and they've put incredible amounts of labor and money into it over the last 40 years.

Rural life can be quite hard. There are nice parts about it, but don't romanticize how "peaceful" and "tranquil" that life is. There is nothing tranquil about having to take shifts all night to keep a horse walking around so it doesn't lay down and die, or birthing goats at 2am on an icy cold April morning.

If you are seriously interested in a homesteading lifestyle, I suggest you try it out first. Volunteer as a WOOF-er, get involved in a CSA, take a permaculture course. Know what you're getting into.

This. As a lifelong city girl, who never had any grandparents, aunts or uncles who owned farms (really weird for Nebraska), I thought that it would be fun to help slaughter pigs, sheep & chickens with the in laws. After the first all weekend slaughtering with 16 hours of hard physical labor, I thanked my spouse for not insisting on that lifestyle for us. It's just not my thing. We can still get the farm experience whenever we want, just 45 minutes away in our Nissan Leaf.

And I'll second The Survival Podcast. It's a good resource, even if you don't always agree with the host's views.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 09:20:32 AM by Teachstache »

Fishindude

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We live pretty rural on 230 acres in IN.  Certainly not homesteaders by any stretch but we do enjoy the rural lifestyle.   Have spent the last 27 years working on this place but it is the work that I enjoy.   We raise a nice garden and preserve some vegetables (but mostly eat when fresh), hunt and harvest deer every year which we butcher ourselves, have a fish pond out back where we can almost always catch a fish dinner on pretty short notice.   Also pick berries, mushrooms, hunt some small game, etc.    Our supplemental heat is wood, so I cut a lot of firewood every year and keep the woodstove going anytime it's cold out.

I wouldn't want to go off grid and be a total homesteader.   We still have TV, internet, electric, natural gas, etc.  Also have a big heated shop, a couple machinery sheds, tractors, and bunches of tools and equipment to help with the work.   Always have mowing to do, drainage issues to fix, buildings to keep up and maintain, firewood needs cut, gardening, snow plowing, etc, etc.   

We do get some side income from the farm which is nice, but could have never bought the place without good jobs and strong income. 

mbl

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We have also lived on our 5 acres(surrounded by 1000 acres of farm fields) for 28 years.
Same here, we're certainly not total homesteaders.
But, we picked those things that we wanted to do that made sense and worked for us and our family.

1. We heat exclusively with wood.  DH has had knee surgery so two years ago he gave in and bought a splitter(the kind with the engine as opposed to a maul and our son :)).  It has varied from gleaning downed trees out back to actually negotiating log loads.

2. DH has  been brewing his own beer for over 30 years and planted hops about 10 years ago(English and Cascade) which he harvests and uses each year.  He had tamarack poles and strings them along there.  This is placed on the edge of our "ice skating rink".

3. We've had cherry and apple trees since the first year we moved out here.

4. I plant a few things(tomatoes, peppers, herbs) but I can walk across the road or out back and pick whatever is growing there as the neighbor grows hundreds of acres of various vegetables.  They're very kind and generous with us.

5.  It took us 2-3 years to level our back acres as that had been a corn field the previous year to our moving in.  DH did it all with a small York rake and blade on our old John Deere.    He created as  best he could, grassland as well as tree plantings

6.  We have a Christmas tree farm/forest out back.  The whole family cuts their trees down each Christmas.  DH buys seedlings from the Cornell Cooperative Extension every year.

7.  I do have a horse but board her at a friend's farm.   There she has great, skilled care.  A herd to be with.  A large pasture to be on during the warm months.  And a huge outdoor riding ring for us to enjoy and great trails to ride on as well.

It can be a lot of work.  We have to be prepared to lose power occasionally.  Heating with wood and having a propane fueled kitchen stove helps.
We used to be on a well but a few years ago public water was brought down our road.  DH and DS had a trench dug and did the connection and meter installation themselves which put the cost pretty low.

We don't have internet out here but use our phones and manage when we have to going where there is wifi.

We love our small ranch and it's quiet and pretty location.
I hope we can stay there indefinitely as it is truly what we consider a privlege to be able to live as we do.

 
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 12:37:54 PM by mbl »

newgirl

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I love hearing all of these stories - it's wonderful to see the variety of choices, problems, and solutions people have faced in making these decisions.

I'm thinking more that what might suit us best is only a few acres of truly "improved" land - enough to have a garden, an orchard, a home, an outbuilding. I don't have interest in raising large livestock but I could definitely see the value of chickens and maybe goats to a small homestead. I also love the idea of being surrounded by forest and trees where we could build and maintain trails for hiking, but that might be overly ambitious :)

I'm looking at Whole Systems Design - permaculture in Vermont. Permaculture is fascinating, and as I do have concerns about how to be resilient in the face of climate change and possibly peak oil. Our local arboretum offers many classes and lectures in permaculture design, which I think I will explore more.

One thing that I probably didn't really say is that this particular idea would be 5-10 years down the road. We have student loans to pay, daycare costs to survive, and lots of money to save and consumption to reduce in the meantime. So lots of time to learn and brainstorm.

Thank you again for your stories! Keep them coming, I love reading everything



little_brown_dog

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Can it be done…the whole “city slicker moves to the country and becomes a mini farmer/homesteader” thing? Yes. Is the farm type life really a good fit for most of the modern day people who like shopping at farmers markets and growing herbs in their window gardens? Nope.

I don’t homestead in the hardcore way, but I raise backyard poultry for eggs and maintain a summer kitchen garden. Even just these smaller size commitments are very labor and time intensive, not to mention surprisingly expensive and yes, flat out not-fun, tedious, and downright gross sometimes.  In my area there are lots of people who randomly decide they want backyard chickens for eggs…that is why we have so many chickens, and particularly roosters, in our animal shelters now. Apparently, chickens aren’t nearly as fun as most locavore types think they are. They stop laying after a couple years and then you have chickens that are just pets. Roosters can be mean, and loud, and generally obnoxious anywhere except on a real farm where they have plenty of space to do their thing. They get sick, injured, and killed by wildlife pretty frequently - no matter how well you protect them.  We lost our entire flock to one particularly sadistic mystery predator…I was picking up my beloved birds’ body parts on a routine basis all summer long - while pregnant. I highly recommend that if you want to start down the homesteading path, you start with gardening first and only jump into animals if you are really ready for it.

A few questions to help you decide if you are really into homesteading for real, or if you just like the idea of homesteading:
1.   How are you with never-ending, sometimes backbreaking work? Like….shoveling 20lb shovelfuls of garden manure, chicken poop, weeding, etc?
2.   How are you with death/disease/icky stuff? Can you pick up a dead animal without freaking out? Can you handle the fact that if you maintain livestock, some pretty ugly things will likely happen to them? Are you able to emotionally set yourself apart from your livestock enough to not be traumatized when one of your chicken’s has her head eaten off?
3.   How are you with injuries and hard decisions? Can you administer injections or make the difficult decision to put an animal down? Can you do the job yourself?
4.   Are you okay with expensive hobbies and sunk costs? Farming, no matter the scale, is very expensive. Yes you can make it cheaper, but ultimately you will likely end up spending more than you get out of your garden and livestock – at least until you become an expert at it (which takes years).
5.   Is your family/partner okay with all of the above too? Homesteading is a family affair – there is just too much work going on for only 1 person to be doing it all. If your partner finds the idea of weeding in the hot summer sun to be a complete and utter nightmare, then you have a problem.

Of course – there are major upsides too….like super fresh foods that you can take pride in, and knowing that the animals that feed you are respected and treated right. But the logistics of homesteading are hard. I don't think most people who are into the local/farm fresh food movements nowadays are really prepared for how hard of a life it can be...even just doing the small stuff like we do.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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We had a nice conversation going for a bit on rural mustaches that you might like:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/how-many-other-rural-andor-off-grid-folks-here/

We made the move from Seattle to the hinterlands almost 7 years ago (!). We started imagining life in the woods back when we met in college but it took us nearly 20 years to actually do it. We had visions of homesteading with animals and the like, but right now it makes a lot more sense for us to support our local farmers and ranchers than to do it ourselves. We are still working, but our expenses are low enough now that we've gone to 32 hour weeks and still keeping a 50%+ savings rate. We will be buying a tractor this summer, so that will make a dent in the savings account.

kimmarg

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I grew up in a town of 1,000. I now live in a suburb of what I feel is a big city (75,000) on about 1 acre. Couple thoughts:
1. Space. Do you want space? or do you just think you need it for a rural life? We're not using even close to 1/4 of our acre and I have 10 raised beds, 2 berry patches and 6 beehives. www.nwedible.com (@Nwedible on the boards) is awesome for what you can do with just 1/4 acre.  Also the living homegrown podcast (www.livinghomegrown.com) is good for the 'farm fresh lifestyle"

2. Time. In the country you're on the country's time. Yes that means the lazy beautiful afternoon swimming at the river you're lusting after. It also means not leaving town in winter because you have to keep the home fires burning (literally, or the pipes will freeze). It means you have to do your outside chores TODAY because snow is coming, and that you're going to be late for work at your day job because you're chasing bees out of trees again (or is that just me?)  In the city you control the time. The grocery store is open 24hrs, you can get anything you want when you want it.

3. transportation. You drive a lot in the country. I love my yard but so wish I could take a bus everywhere. I moved to a city of 2 million for college just because I didn't want to have to ask my parents to borrow a car to be able to go anywhere.

There is good and bad to both things. Personally I'm trending more and more towards homesteading and away from city as I age. We'll see where I end up.

Thegoblinchief

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+1 to a lot of the stuff people have said. Personally I think urban or peri-urban (larger lot, no HOA, outskirts of a city) homesteading is the sweet spot. You can even do it while working as an intermediate step to see if you want to tackle a bigger property. My wife works full time and I was part time for several years before being at home full time (I homeschool, which is a job in and of itself!)

Homesteading does not need to be remote, off grid, 100% self reliance shit. In fact, some of the happiest homesteaders I know live in a community with others and barter and trade chores, etc. No one tries to do it all alone.

Erica at NWEdible has a great example of an urban homestead. I have written a few pieces for her and talk about my own even smaller urban homestead (5,300 sqft lot) quite a bit in my own journal here and on my Facebook page “Buntastic Gardens”. We raise over half of our protein needs (and we eat a lot of meat) and a large chunk of our produce on that size lot.

Jack at TSP is part homesteader, part hobby farmer, and a great educator. Ben Falk is a great person for cold temperate climates. Lots of neat people out there.

In my own experience, a remote property is doomed to fail. Even professional farmers I know struggle to be fully productive with rented fields where things just aren’t in front of your attention daily. I had a second garden plot a way out from the city and it was a massive time sink for very little return. Things work so much better if you see them daily, think zones 1 and 2 in permaculture design.

Raenia

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I'm looking forward to going semi-homesteader after we FIRE.  I grew up in the suburbs, but my dad was a big gardener, so we had a handful of fruit trees and a giant veggie garden (for the neighborhood, at least).  I want something more rural than that, where I can keep chickens, maybe goats, an orchard, and grow most of our food ourselves.  In the meantime, I'm testing out pieces of the plan as I have the ability.  For instance, when I lived with a few friends in a row home with a yard, I kept meat rabbits.  That let me test out having to take care of livestock every day in all weather, made sure I could manage at slaughter time, and so on.  I had to stop keeping them when I moved to a smaller apartment, but I'm learning about keeping chickens so that can be my next project once I have space again.

I recommend trying out parts of what you think you want out of homesteading now, before you're committed to a lot of land out in the countryside.  But as others said, don't expect to be able to live that life on the weekends while coming back to your jobs in the city.  Serious homesteading is a full-time endeavor.

Thegoblinchief

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I'm looking forward to going semi-homesteader after we FIRE.  I grew up in the suburbs, but my dad was a big gardener, so we had a handful of fruit trees and a giant veggie garden (for the neighborhood, at least).  I want something more rural than that, where I can keep chickens, maybe goats, an orchard, and grow most of our food ourselves.  In the meantime, I'm testing out pieces of the plan as I have the ability.  For instance, when I lived with a few friends in a row home with a yard, I kept meat rabbits.  That let me test out having to take care of livestock every day in all weather, made sure I could manage at slaughter time, and so on.  I had to stop keeping them when I moved to a smaller apartment, but I'm learning about keeping chickens so that can be my next project once I have space again.

I recommend trying out parts of what you think you want out of homesteading now, before you're committed to a lot of land out in the countryside.  But as others said, don't expect to be able to live that life on the weekends while coming back to your jobs in the city.  Serious homesteading is a full-time endeavor.

Nice! Meat rabbits are a big part of my homestead. We also have laying hens, which are allowed in my city and a small flock are quieter than even a single large dog so I wish they were much less regulated than they are. Managed well there’s basically no smell either except during very, very wet periods

Duchess of Stratosphear

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This guy does several podcasts that are sometimes interesting about permaculture and small-scale farming: https://www.permaculturevoices.com/

I have three acres on a rocky hill, and it's hard work to fight the grass and establish beds for vegetables. Choose your land carefully if you do this!

lthenderson

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I've never been a city dweller but don't really consider myself a homesteader either. We live on several acres and raise a large garden every year along with an orchard. We don't raise meat/egg animals because of the time commitments and not having anyone reliable to look after them when on vacation. Instead, we buy our chickens, eggs, meats, etc. from others who live out here and raise animals. Like someone mentioned above, we also do some fishing, deer hunting, etc. to supplement our diet. We preserve some food just because it tastes much better but in large part, it would be more cost efficient to just buy it from the grocery store, especially if you consider the labor involved. Mostly we eat fresh/seasonal things during the spring, summer and fall, and eat those canned goods and other things during the winter.

The nice thing about living in a rural location, is you can make things as easy or complex as you want too. There aren't a lot of restrictions or close neighbors to offend. You can make the land do just about anything or just sit back and enjoy the view. The choice is yours which is why I choose to live outside a city.

FINate

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I'll venture a guess that introverts have a higher probability of enjoying the rural homestead life.  We currently live in a subdivision with very small lots, and even though I like our neighbors and people in general, my introversion occasionally kicks into high gear and I start dreaming about a homestead away from it all.

However, having grown up rural, I know it would be a shit-ton of work that would tie me down to the land. There's always something to fix, never enough hours in the day. No thanks, I didn't FIRE just to become a slave to hard manual labor on a farm.

Also, it would be hard on my marriage because my extroverted wife would hate it. I love my wife dearly, but she's not the country type. And I must admit, I would miss the day-to-day community we have in town, and the ease of access to parks, groceries, and restaurants (though rarely eat out anymore). Rural life can feel like everything is an hour away, gets old fast.

What seems to work for us: We have a very small but productive garden in raised beds. We are in zone 9 so we can grow stuff year-round. Small means easy and cheap, yet amazing how much it can produce. We bike/walk to a farmer's market for much of our other produce, which for us it really about supporting sustainable farming. When I feel the need to get away from it all I head to the mountains: camping, fishing, backpacking, hunting, hiking, mountain biking. A multi-day solo bow hunting trip at treeline satisfies my need for nature and solitude, then I'm ready to get back to town and enjoy a pint at the local micropub.

So I guess my suggestion is to dig deeper, really explore why you dream of homesteading. If doing manual labor sunrise to sunset appeals to you, and doesn't bother you that you can't easily get away from the farm, then I think homesteading may be for you. On the other hand, you may just need to get out into nature and/or solitude more often...many cheap and easy ways to do this.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 10:51:50 AM by FINate »

Lucky Penny Acres

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I moved from the NYC-area to a rural area in the central New York finger lakes region just over 2.5 years ago.

We went from a small rented apartment to a big farm house and almost 40 acres.  Mortgage, insurance +property tax is still cheaper than rent in NYC. My employer let me transfer to a full time remote work position so I have been effectively earning NYC money in a cheaper area which was good for the wallet.

It is not really a true homestead - we have grid-connected power and while we have a garden in the summer, we mostly shop at grocery stores in the city (approximately 20ish miles away to the closest big city) and local farm stands within a few miles. We did install a geothermal heat pump to replace the fuel oil boiler and installed additional solar panels to cover the additional electric use from the heat pump - we hope to improve insulation further and other conservation measures over the next few years to get the property (other than transportation) to net zero for electric (including all heating) on an annual basis.  We also have high speed cable internet and all of the normal comforts.

Our move was prompted by a relocation for my wife's job. However, when we were looking for housing options in the region, we both shared a dream of having some land and a small hobby farm. It was previously always a sort of post-retirement dream that we hoped to try one day but it all fell into place and we decided to take the risk while still working.

The place we purchased was all set up when we bought it - a new barn with solar panels and livestock fencing and a second well at the barn for the animals already in place. We kept some of the goats and chickens from the prior owners and have slowly added to the flocks over time. We rent part of our pastures to a neighbor for cows over the summers.

It was absolutely worth it! It was a real life-changing decision. Being closer to nature and with the quiet and clean air was a huge help. Being more active with the mandatory daily farm chores (like bringing hay and water to the goats during the winter months) helped me lose almost 20 pounds of fat. Being out in the country with less day to day stress also helped me rediscover the happiness that 14+ hour days in the office sapped out of me over the prior several years. I am happier, healthier and wealthier than I ever was in the big city. When I visit my main office, I often get comments about how much happier I look than before I moved.

There are always endless chores and improvement projects - so many that you can never have enough time to get them all, whether or not retired early. However, I find the hours of hard, physical labor to be a good contrast to my day job of staring at a computer screen. Also, as a small hobby farm, if a project doesn't get finished (except for basic animal care), it can always wait for another day so there is no real urgency.

It does tie you down to the house somewhat, especially having animals. However, if you find a local farm sitter, it isn't so bad. A neighbor just out of college watches our animals and house for us for fairly cheap rates. We travel several times per year and have never had an issue with it.

Misstachian

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I'd like a good-sized garden and to get into permaculture when we get our own place. I know I don't want to work as hard as farmers do! It's nice to see everyone's stories and how different people make various lifestyles work.

Finances_With_Purpose

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It depends on what you mean by homesteader?  Mr. D and I are former Urbanites/Suburbanites.  We moved to NH and bought a house with several acres.  Over the course of living here we have become what I call "accidental homesteaders".  We do not have a wood furnace and rely on oil and gas deliveries, but we are looking at the pros/cons of installing an external wood furnace.

We did not decide to become homesteaders, it was just part of a natural evolution of living here.  It JUST makes sense to live like this.
 
We have 8 chickens for eggs.  I plan to add some more egg layers and some meat birds this year.  We have not gotten into other animals but those may come as the years pass. We planted our first garden last year, learned from a LOT of mistakes and plan to double or triple the garden this year. 

One thing I have learned is it is lot of hard work.  Not just the "yeah I can imagine it is hard work" but real and true hard physical work.  One thing I have learned it is very much community living. It is great meeting people you can share and trade "goods" with.

I also recommend The Frugalwoods.  I totally fan-girled when I realized they are only about an hour from me.  I find their blog so inspiring and full of practical tips.  Oh yeah and did I mention it is hard work?

I'll second this.  I grew up in a rural place as well and farmed a couple of acres constantly when growing up. 

It's a different life - although I also love things about it.  As others said, it's not nearly as simple as it sounds, even though it's possible and rewarding.

I quoted the person above b/c that's the way to do it: incrementally, taking on as much or as little as you can manage, then adding on, or subtracting, and seeing how it goes.  That's the only way if you've never done it.

All these things have their own work + challenges.  E.g.: chickens require feed.  Someone to kill their predators (foxes, owls, bobcats, other cats, dogs, snakes, raccoons, etc.).  We had tons of laughs as a city friend bought chickens...they were wiped out...and he improved his pen.  Eventually he built a "Chicken WAR WAGON" that was a mini-fortress so that the raccoons that he could never fully eliminate (because who can?!?!  and...depends on neighbors) would quit grabbing their legs through the pen or digging in or opening the door or ripping the roof off, etc. 

The story above is illustrative. 

If you farm, the animals and rodents and all will come - and you'll have to fight them off, fence them out, or whatever. 

I love the outdoors and love being out in the fresh air and beautiful paths with perfect country air, so I would enjoy it more than most, but even I have limited ambitions when it comes to how much I would take on, especially starting off.  (Thankfully, I am able to frequently get away to the country, so while I might homestead some day, it scratches the itch for now.) 

Anyway, keep the dream.  Look for real-life experiences out there.  See if there's any urban farming near you to try out, maybe?  Visit some rural homesteads.  That's more valuable than all the input anyone here will give, I think. 

Finances_With_Purpose

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@Lucky Penny Acres - that's outstanding.  I wish someone would offer me that kind of lifestyle.  I'm not a huge animals person, but the rest of it sounds idyllic. 

MrsDinero

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Today I have been having a reality that could not have foreseen.  My husband is on business travel this week.  In the past 24 hours myself, my 2 kids, and the nanny have been hit with some sort of bug.  I've been running a fever most of the day wrangling 1 sick kid and 1 kid pretty much recovered.  The last couple of days has been nothing but ice.  The snow melting then freezing add in some "wintery mix".  This morning when I went to check the chickens, because even with a fever they have to be cared for, I found the coop door iced shut.


Talking about what someone else said about fending off animals, we started with 10 chickens and were free ranging them, but cooping them at night.  within 3 week a coyote got 1.   So we built what was supposed to be temporary run for them.  On New Years day, I walked into the coop and found 1 dead on the floor, so now we are down to 8.  I'm told that can happen to some chickens in the first winter.

Civex

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I'm another country kid who GTFO as soon as I could. My parents moved from a large city to the Middle of Nowhere the year before I was born. They still own 60 acres, but only use about 1/2 acre of it for a vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens. Their "lawn" is about 4 or 5 acres. The rest of the land is fallow. Their house is over 100 years old and is in constant need of work. It was nearly a tear down when they bought it and they've put incredible amounts of labor and money into it over the last 40 years.

Rural life can be quite hard. There are nice parts about it, but don't romanticize how "peaceful" and "tranquil" that life is. There is nothing tranquil about having to take shifts all night to keep a horse walking around so it doesn't lay down and die, or birthing goats at 2am on an icy cold April morning.

If you are seriously interested in a homesteading lifestyle, I suggest you try it out first. Volunteer as a WOOF-er, get involved in a CSA, take a permaculture course. Know what you're getting into.

So much this. Grew up on, what in comparison to many people here, a large farm/ranch. 100+ cattle, 500+ acres, and it was a ton of work. I quickly realized that becoming some type of professional, working Mon-Fri was a sweet deal and pursued that quickly. You can't leave, you are at the mercy of weather, and it is very difficult to sell your, "investment" when you are elderly and wish to retire.

It was a regular occurrence to find half frozen baby calves in the bath tub when I went to get ready for elementary school because a cow calved early in the middle of a blizzard. If you have dairy cattle you literally have to be home twice a day forever to milk. IMO, work hard, buy a few acres outside of a town, and work a bit at whatever profession you enjoy.

**Edited due to too many beers/grammar
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 10:05:23 PM by Civex »

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Oh Gawd, are you sure that's what you want?? I'm a city dweller with just two chickens and they run me ragged. They constantly need something, or just want to chicken chat. They were also a BIG learning curve (ie, I had to learn that they make the rules) and they're not that cheap to run. Having livestock is like having children - you get up at odd hours to deal with their needs, your day becomes limited by their needs, and they're expensive. And it's seriously not all cute - the other day I had to turn a pissed off chicken upside down and cut a giant poo ball off her vent feathers and then trim those feathers so she doesn't get another poo ball and get flyblown. I thought I wanted a flock of 10 of the wee feathery horrors... but do I really want 10 poo balls??? And I wanted goats. Do I want goat poo balls???

Blackeagle

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So much this. Grew up on, what in comparison to many people here, a large farm/ranch. 100+ cattle, 500+ acres, and it was a ton of work. I quickly realized that becoming some type of professional, working Mon-Fri was a sweet deal and pursued that quickly. You can't leave, you are at the mercy of weather, and it is very difficult to sell your, "investment" when you are elderly and wish to retire.

It was a regular occurrence to find half frozen baby calves in the bath tub when I went to get ready for elementary school because a cow calved early in the middle of a blizzard. If you have dairy cattle you literally half to be home twice a day forever to milk. IMO, work hard, buy a few acres outside of a town, and work a bit at whatever profession you enjoy.

Or FIRE and buy the place out in the country, but skip the farming and livestock and get your food from the grocery store.  Still probably more expense and maintenance than living in a tract home in the suburbs, but a lot more flexibility than the full homesteading gig.

Cadman

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Blackeagle took the words right out of my mouth. OP, are you a DIYer? Do you like a good challenge? Do you enjoy the satisfaction of hard work and knowing a job was done right? If so, homesteading can be very enjoyable, even frugal, but don't make work for yourself with trying to raise and butcher animals. You can plant gardens, grow veggies and put up stock for the winter. No reason you can't get a deep freeze and go in with someone on a side of beef, and no doubt there'll be neighbors "down the road" where you can buy farm fresh eggs while helping to support them. Same with 'organic' honey.

We've been living on 50 acres for almost 10 years now. Built the house, the shop and the outbuildings ourselves. No grid connection for the first couple of years during construction (no heat, either). You just keep at it. With each passing year we make improvements to the land as time and money allows. We finally have a gravel lane now, and a newer tractor with a snow thrower so we can get out in the winter. The Farmall C keeps the grass cut, a couple of old trucks haul lumber, scrap, firewood and pull trailers. When something breaks, you fix it yourself. If you do all this right, the land will continue to appreciate. If it's tillable, rent it out for cash. If not, investigate CRP 'rent' so it pays you.

The beauty is we're only 10 minutes from civilization, but from the blacktop all you can see is prairie. Keeping things running can be a full time job (but enjoyable). After FIRE it should be downright fun.

Gone Fishing

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I didn't read all the previous post thoroughly, be here is what we did/do;

Two city kids that longed for the country.
Did as much as we could on our 1/2 acre suburban lot, but quickly maxed out.
Bought a "turn key" 12 year old house on 6 acres, 5-10 miles from either side of a 15,000 population manufacturing town.
Shifted my good paying city job to a city of 50,000, 35 miles from the property.
Struggled to find decent local work for my wife.
Commuted 70 miles per day for 8 years.
Installed a woodstove and use it to provide 98% or our heat.
Installed fences, established a modest kitchen garden, planted perennial food crops (I still can't say the perennials were a huge success, 10 years later, with the exception of blueberries)
Raise sheep, goats, hogs, and a steer for meat.
Keep chickens for eggs.
Hunted a friend's farm, as there are no deer on mine.
Butchered our own meat, made bacon, chops, roasts, etc.
Built and maintain everything with a mini-van, 4x8 trailer, a garden tractor, a chainsaw, and a push mower. Then sold the mini-van.
Semi-retired and travel 3-4-5 weeks at a time, thanks to several great neighbors that tend our farm, which was designed to be low maintance in the summer.
Enjoy abundant day trips to nearby national and state forests.
Burn a bit of propane in the winter, without remorse, to keep the house from freezing while we travel.
Despite the kids riding the bus, we still drive an obnoxious number of miles for part time work and school activities.
Deal with a pretty severely undereducated local population.
Travel to larger cities (where our parents live) for cultural events and ethnic foods.

All said and done, I am pretty happy with the way things turned out, my wife probably a little less so (chief complaint being the local culture).  We live an amazing life filled with homegrown heating fuel (98%), homegrown food (20-30%?) and free flowing road traffic.  I love the freedom to shoot firearms, build bonfires, and ride around on non-street legal vehicles. But, if I was striving for pure efficiency, I'd probably live on the largest lot, with the smallest house (with an attached retail unit If possible!) I could find in a densely populated area.  My ability to grow things would be limited, but the financial and time benefits of shorter, potentially walkable/bikeable travel are huge.  Add that to the cast offs (including free firewood for the taking) of an affluent society, any you have the recipe for some seriously cheap living!  As others have said, homesteading is seriously hard work compared to city living, both in terms of physical output and the unforgiving time demands that come with many homesteading ventures. 

« Last Edit: January 28, 2018, 03:08:25 AM by Gone Fishing »

less4success

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What about a hobby farm on a couple acres within walking/biking distance of a small city?

Pros: you can grow all your vegetables, have fruit trees, enjoy nature in peace, but still get toothpaste, etc. in a reasonable amount of time.

Cons: not as cheap or as quiet (or spacious) as rural living.

I'd be curious to hear others' thoughts on this since I'm on the cusp of implementing this plan...

Thegoblinchief

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What about a hobby farm on a couple acres within walking/biking distance of a small city?

Pros: you can grow all your vegetables, have fruit trees, enjoy nature in peace, but still get toothpaste, etc. in a reasonable amount of time.

Cons: not as cheap or as quiet (or spacious) as rural living.

I'd be curious to hear others' thoughts on this since I'm on the cusp of implementing this plan...

It’s a nice sweet spot if you can find a property in your area that doesn’t have any zoning or deed restrictions prohibiting that stuff. Make sure to research zoning and any covenenant type deed restrictions of any prospective property thoroughly.

Another advantage of being close to population is if you want to sell stuff to make extra money, you’re right near a market.

Oh Gawd, are you sure that's what you want?? I'm a city dweller with just two chickens and they run me ragged. They constantly need something, or just want to chicken chat. They were also a BIG learning curve (ie, I had to learn that they make the rules) and they're not that cheap to run. Having livestock is like having children - you get up at odd hours to deal with their needs, your day becomes limited by their needs, and they're expensive. And it's seriously not all cute - the other day I had to turn a pissed off chicken upside down and cut a giant poo ball off her vent feathers and then trim those feathers so she doesn't get another poo ball and get flyblown. I thought I wanted a flock of 10 of the wee feathery horrors... but do I really want 10 poo balls??? And I wanted goats. Do I want goat poo balls???

You’re doing something wrong if chickens are “running you ragged”. Chickens are so easy. 2 minutes a day unless water is frozen. It could be only having two. Flock dynamics are best with at least 3-4 or more.

They aren’t cheap compared to bottom shelf grocery store eggs, though, that I agree. But they also don’t taste like those eggs either :)

Now, goats, goats are hard. Don’t get goats unless you or someone you hire can build kickass fences.

happy

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Enjoying this thread.
Here's my story:
In the couple of years prior to finding ERE and MMM (late 2011) I got interested in simple living. I'm a city girl (Sydney, Australia), born and bred, but I always wanted to live in the country. I moved to the outskirts of a regional centre nearby (near enough to access Sydney if I really need to but far enough to be out of the madding crowd).

I started growing vege/making bread/home cooking/preserving/woodfire heating/making my own cleaning products/bokashi/wormfarm/composting etc etc. I got as far as solar hot water but the house I was living in was not suited to furthering my homesteading/sustainability desires.  I did all this working part-time in my 50s as a single mum with kids, and I agree its a lot of work, but so rewarding. I was considering moving to the mountains onto an acreage, but recently happened to recently score a few acres down the road. 

I'm just getting started here, but I already have water tanks, solar hot water, netted off vege gardens/compost pills etc. I'm approaching 60 and still work 3 days a week. I'm about to do a permaculture course. I'm planning: fruit/veges, chooks, and a couple of mini goats to keep the weeds down. Solar and tankwater is half ways there and will come. I'd like a couple of horses. The goats will come once I retire in the next 1-2 years.

Just how will I do this as a nearly 60 year old single woman already with a few health issues? By subdividing off some land I will have a bank of capital that should enable me to pay for physical labour if required intermittently. Having talked to a number of other women farmers this seems to be the way to go - do what you can and are good at and pay someone else if you really need to, to do things you can't.

My brother did do some things on his land whilst working 6 hours drive away in the city - he set up a lot of infrastructure and build a big shed that could be lived in. He ran about 15 head of beef cattle, but had a local mate that checked on them and fed them hay in the winter snows. He set up solar powered self watering systems on a paddock of new fruit trees, but most of them perished when it failed and he wasn't there to know/respond. He didn't make any significant progress til he moved in.  My ex-F-I-L an experienced farmer, in his 50s lived and worked in a big city and had a few hundred acres a couple of hours drive away where he ran sheep for wool and lambs. He and his wife would visit every weekend, and stay in a caravan on the land. Lambing, crutching and shearing  times they were there all week long or more. They made it work because they loved it, and really knew what they were doing. They couldn't take holidays though.

My advice would be not to wait til you have land, start urban homesteading whilst you are working, learn some skills: see what you enjoy. Expand if and when you can and as you like it. You can't really have stock remotely unless you can find someone to manage them for you.

Rachel_the_Lark

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have a fish pond out back where we can almost always catch a fish dinner on pretty short notice.   

Do you mind sharing a bit more about the pond?  I wouldn't expect you be able to keep fish alive year round in IN.

Thegoblinchief

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have a fish pond out back where we can almost always catch a fish dinner on pretty short notice.   

Do you mind sharing a bit more about the pond?  I wouldn't expect you be able to keep fish alive year round in IN.

If it’s deep enough, there are a number of fish that overwinter just fine, just like in native lakes and ponds all over the north.

MrsDinero

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Oh Gawd, are you sure that's what you want?? I'm a city dweller with just two chickens and they run me ragged. They constantly need something, or just want to chicken chat. They were also a BIG learning curve (ie, I had to learn that they make the rules) and they're not that cheap to run. Having livestock is like having children - you get up at odd hours to deal with their needs, your day becomes limited by their needs, and they're expensive. And it's seriously not all cute - the other day I had to turn a pissed off chicken upside down and cut a giant poo ball off her vent feathers and then trim those feathers so she doesn't get another poo ball and get flyblown. I thought I wanted a flock of 10 of the wee feathery horrors... but do I really want 10 poo balls??? And I wanted goats. Do I want goat poo balls???

It might be because you only have 2 chickens.  Chickens are highly social creatures, but are pretty easy to keep and should not be running you ragged.  Do you want to share your chicken setup?  Maybe there is something we can help make it less stressful. 

For example, I have 8 chickens and it takes about 5-10 minutes for daily upkeep (refresh water, check or fill their food, collect eggs, and quickly turn the litter).  One day a week I spend about 15-20 minutes in the coop cleaning the roost, changing out the nesting box litter (sprinkled with lavender), adding more coop litter, changing out their toys (winter boredom busters).

I will say they aren't exactly cheap.  We bought ours, already laying, for $10-$12/bird.  We go through a 30lbs non-organic feed bag every 3-4 weeks ($15-20/bag) Corrected:
  $15.49 for a 50lbs bag.
.  The cracked corn bag lasts a lot longer because you don't give them as much. 

We can eat about 18-24 eggs a week, either as a meal or as an ingredient in other dishes.  That said we were buying top shelf organic eggs, then we were buying eggs from a local farm before getting them.  The organic eggs were expensive ($4.89/dozen).  The local farm charged $2.50/dozen, but if you got there after 11am they were sold out.  Sometimes they were sold out immediately after opening their door.  We got chickens as a learning experience but also as a reliable source of eggs.  This week I have collected about 15 eggs.  I haven't calculated the break even point for us, but it doesn't really matter, we are doing it from a "knowing where our food comes from" point of view, not a MMM point of view.



« Last Edit: January 26, 2018, 07:12:12 AM by MrsDinero »

less4success

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What about a hobby farm on a couple acres within walking/biking distance of a small city?

It’s a nice sweet spot if you can find a property in your area that doesn’t have any zoning or deed restrictions prohibiting that stuff. Make sure to research zoning and any covenenant type deed restrictions of any prospective property thoroughly.


Yes, good point. We had to spend quite a bit of time talking to various county representatives to make sure 1+ acres of vegetables (and potentially chickens) were fine. A full blown farm with larger animals would have required a lot more research (and paperwork).

Imma

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Can it be done…the whole “city slicker moves to the country and becomes a mini farmer/homesteader” thing? Yes. Is the farm type life really a good fit for most of the modern day people who like shopping at farmers markets and growing herbs in their window gardens? Nope.

I don’t homestead in the hardcore way, but I raise backyard poultry for eggs and maintain a summer kitchen garden. Even just these smaller size commitments are very labor and time intensive, not to mention surprisingly expensive and yes, flat out not-fun, tedious, and downright gross sometimes.  In my area there are lots of people who randomly decide they want backyard chickens for eggs…that is why we have so many chickens, and particularly roosters, in our animal shelters now. Apparently, chickens aren’t nearly as fun as most locavore types think they are. They stop laying after a couple years and then you have chickens that are just pets. Roosters can be mean, and loud, and generally obnoxious anywhere except on a real farm where they have plenty of space to do their thing. They get sick, injured, and killed by wildlife pretty frequently - no matter how well you protect them.  We lost our entire flock to one particularly sadistic mystery predator…I was picking up my beloved birds’ body parts on a routine basis all summer long - while pregnant. I highly recommend that if you want to start down the homesteading path, you start with gardening first and only jump into animals if you are really ready for it.

A few questions to help you decide if you are really into homesteading for real, or if you just like the idea of homesteading:
1.   How are you with never-ending, sometimes backbreaking work? Like….shoveling 20lb shovelfuls of garden manure, chicken poop, weeding, etc?
2.   How are you with death/disease/icky stuff? Can you pick up a dead animal without freaking out? Can you handle the fact that if you maintain livestock, some pretty ugly things will likely happen to them? Are you able to emotionally set yourself apart from your livestock enough to not be traumatized when one of your chicken’s has her head eaten off?
3.   How are you with injuries and hard decisions? Can you administer injections or make the difficult decision to put an animal down? Can you do the job yourself?
4.   Are you okay with expensive hobbies and sunk costs? Farming, no matter the scale, is very expensive. Yes you can make it cheaper, but ultimately you will likely end up spending more than you get out of your garden and livestock – at least until you become an expert at it (which takes years).
5.   Is your family/partner okay with all of the above too? Homesteading is a family affair – there is just too much work going on for only 1 person to be doing it all. If your partner finds the idea of weeding in the hot summer sun to be a complete and utter nightmare, then you have a problem.

Of course – there are major upsides too….like super fresh foods that you can take pride in, and knowing that the animals that feed you are respected and treated right. But the logistics of homesteading are hard. I don't think most people who are into the local/farm fresh food movements nowadays are really prepared for how hard of a life it can be...even just doing the small stuff like we do.

Those are good questions. I too am one of those people living in the city longing for a life in the country. I grew up a farmer's daughter, but my family doesn't farm anymore. My fiance is from the inner city and through me he's learned to love the simple life with lots of DIY and food from scratch, but he's never going to be a true farmer. So, while questions 1-4 are not a problem for me (I have butchered animals, I have made the difficult decisions, I know what it's like when a fox gets into your hen house, I had to help kill our rabbits when we had a myxo infection) I know I'm never going to have more than a hobby farm because nr 5 is an issue. I can't do it all on my own.

We are planning to move to a more rural location in maybe 10 years (when I'll be in my late 30s). We know the area we want to move to - it's fairly close to cities and towns so we're close to civilisation. My partner will be able to continue in his dayjob, I hope to be able to stay home. If that's not possible, I'll try to work from home. Even a small hobby farm takes up a lot of time.

We haven't started gardening yet (it's not really possible where we are now, we're looking for an allotment) but we get a lot of cheap veggies from other people in the summer and I can those. Canning season was always my favourite time of the year as a kid. I have many fond memories of cleaning and cutting up all the fruits and vegetables with a lot of relatives and the hot kitchen where my mum would do the actual canning in large kettles. I also make our clothes from scratch and do a lot of DIY in the house. The most important thing to succeed with a (small or large) farm to be is to be able to improvise, to fix things any way you can without spending a lot of money. You need to be creative and versatile.

We are planning on a few chickens next year. I don't think having around 10 chickens is going to be a lot of work, even when you live in the city and have regular jobs. When I was a teenager, we didn't have a working farm anymore, but we still had a large hobby farm with around 250 chickens, 100 rabbits and a large garden. When my parents were on holiday in the summer I took care of this before and after work. If that's possible, although not enjoyable for the longer term, then 10 chickens aren't going to be a problem. They need to be let out of the coop in the morning, need fresh water and feed and in the evening you do it again and collect the eggs. I'm not planning on a lot of livestock on my future hobby farm. I would like to have chickens, rabbits and a few goats. Maybe, if that works out, I will add some beef cattle, but even beef cattle is a lot of work (we had dairy cattle when I grew up).

Thegoblinchief

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I will say they aren't exactly cheap.  We bought ours, already laying, for $10-$12/bird.  We go through a 30lbs non-organic feed bag every 3-4 weeks ($15-20/bag).  The cracked corn bag lasts a lot longer because you don't give them as much. 

We can eat about 18-24 eggs a week, either as a meal or as an ingredient in other dishes.  That said we were buying top shelf organic eggs, then we were buying eggs from a local farm before getting them.  The organic eggs were expensive ($4.89/dozen).  The local farm charged $2.50/dozen, but if you got there after 11am they were sold out.  Sometimes they were sold out immediately after opening their door.  We got chickens as a learning experience but also as a reliable source of eggs.  This week I have collected about 15 eggs.  I haven't calculated the break even point for us, but it doesn't really matter, we are doing it from a "knowing where our food comes from" point of view, not a MMM point of view.

Wow, that's really expensive for conventional feed! I pay $9.50 for a 50lb bag. My cost per dozen is currently $2.50 after 18 months, but that's with some of the birds only laying for a bit and of course the coop needs to amortize, so the numbers are going down even with them in heavy molt after the cold spell we had here.

Had a similar experience with a few of the local farms selling out super fast.


Thegoblinchief

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... I had to help kill our rabbits when we had a myxo infection)

Oof, that must have sucked. That disease scares me, and there's engineering stronger forms of it in AUS/NZ to try and fix the feral rabbit problem. I hope they realize how dangerous that is for the rest of the world if they do release it. It's showed up on the west coast of the US in isolated spots. Sincerely hope it never gets closer.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Oh Gawd, are you sure that's what you want?? I'm a city dweller with just two chickens and they run me ragged. They constantly need something, or just want to chicken chat. They were also a BIG learning curve (ie, I had to learn that they make the rules) and they're not that cheap to run. Having livestock is like having children - you get up at odd hours to deal with their needs, your day becomes limited by their needs, and they're expensive. And it's seriously not all cute - the other day I had to turn a pissed off chicken upside down and cut a giant poo ball off her vent feathers and then trim those feathers so she doesn't get another poo ball and get flyblown. I thought I wanted a flock of 10 of the wee feathery horrors... but do I really want 10 poo balls??? And I wanted goats. Do I want goat poo balls???

It might be because you only have 2 chickens.  Chickens are highly social creatures, but are pretty easy to keep and should not be running you ragged.  Do you want to share your chicken setup?  Maybe there is something we can help make it less stressful. 

For example, I have 8 chickens and it takes about 5-10 minutes for daily upkeep (refresh water, check or fill their food, collect eggs, and quickly turn the litter).  One day a week I spend about 15-20 minutes in the coop cleaning the roost, changing out the nesting box litter (sprinkled with lavender), adding more coop litter, changing out their toys (winter boredom busters).

I will say they aren't exactly cheap.  We bought ours, already laying, for $10-$12/bird.  We go through a 30lbs non-organic feed bag every 3-4 weeks ($15-20/bag).  The cracked corn bag lasts a lot longer because you don't give them as much. 

We can eat about 18-24 eggs a week, either as a meal or as an ingredient in other dishes.  That said we were buying top shelf organic eggs, then we were buying eggs from a local farm before getting them.  The organic eggs were expensive ($4.89/dozen).  The local farm charged $2.50/dozen, but if you got there after 11am they were sold out.  Sometimes they were sold out immediately after opening their door.  We got chickens as a learning experience but also as a reliable source of eggs.  This week I have collected about 15 eggs.  I haven't calculated the break even point for us, but it doesn't really matter, we are doing it from a "knowing where our food comes from" point of view, not a MMM point of view.

Erm.... it could possibly be because they're a bit spoiled.....
I leave work and can't go anywhere else because I've got to go home and let them out of their (large) fully enclosed run so they can freerange in the garden in the evening. And then of course they need their big tray of greenery and sprouted grain before I go to work (and constant grain sprouting in kitchen), not to mention their treat ball full of dried mealworms hidden somewhere in their run. Then there's the pecking at the front door for company if they get bored free ranging in the evening, and the setting up of the sprinkler for them if it's a bit warm.

Still, they like their old cat, and the old cat likes his chickens, and they all entertain each other a fair bit. Pretty sure he taught them to knock on the door, though.

Finances_With_Purpose

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What about a hobby farm on a couple acres within walking/biking distance of a small city?

It’s a nice sweet spot if you can find a property in your area that doesn’t have any zoning or deed restrictions prohibiting that stuff. Make sure to research zoning and any covenenant type deed restrictions of any prospective property thoroughly.


Yes, good point. We had to spend quite a bit of time talking to various county representatives to make sure 1+ acres of vegetables (and potentially chickens) were fine. A full blown farm with larger animals would have required a lot more research (and paperwork).

Consider how soon or how easily you may be annexed.  In five or ten years, that small town may decide to put its new high school right next to you and annex you.  Then your taxes may go up, your services may go down, and you can't do a lot of the things you used to do on the property.  Happens all the time.