Homesteading is a very simple process if you are willing to put in the work, yet more than half of all new homesteads fail in the first year. While there are many reasons why a homestead can fail, I have created this list of the 6 most common pitfalls to look out for when you get started.
I am always the first to preach that you should get up and get started right now if you are interested. I stand by that theory still, but you need to realize that it won’t be easy. It requires a lot of work to run a successful homestead and you need to realize that from the start.
There is a lot that can go wrong when you embark on your homesteading journey, so make sure that you are prepared. This list includes 6 of the most common pitfalls that can really decimate a young homestead. If you think that I should add something to this list, feel free to let me know in the comment section below!
Socialize With Your Neighbors
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting a homestead is to become a hermit. Most homesteads are removed from heavily populated areas so knowing the neighbors you do have is an absolute must. I can’t tell you how many times my neighbors have saved my rear-end in a pinch and I am quick to return the favor
Make sure that your neighbors know what animals you have and what you are doing on a broad sense. Our alpacas have only ever escaped once, when a tree took down a section of fencing we didn’t know about, and our neighbor was the first to respond. He was taking care of his garden when one of our friendliest females walked up to him and started eating his bean plants.
Luckily, out neighbor was quick to respond and herded the animals back through the fence and lets us know what happened. Had the neighbor not known we had alpacas, he could have shot the animal or called animal control and caused all sorts of issues. Almost worse would be if he didn’t know that we separate our farm into males and females. Had he just put the escapees back into the first pen he found, and they were males, we would have had a situation on our hands!
I’m not saying that you need to be “besties” and have barbecues on the weekends, but you should be civil. This is especially true if you are just starting out. Experienced local farmers can give you some amazing tips to give your homestead a jump start!
Secure Your Animals
As I mentioned above, we have had incidents where out animals escaped in the past. We were lucky enough that the girls went and visited a friendly neighbor who just happened to be outside at the right time. Had they visited a neighbor that didn’t want them there or ended up in the street, it could have really derailed everything that we had done. Not everyone is as understanding as Joe, so do your best to make sure they don’t get out.
Since that incident, we spent the money to build one long perimeter fence that surrounds the entire livestock part of the homestead. This way, they are just stuck in another pen if they get out of the first one! No animals have escaped since we put up the perimeter fence, so it was well worth the expense.
Besides putting up a perimeter fence, I also suggest that you make sure that you are using the right fence for whatever you are trying to home back. A fence built from sticks might work well for the alpacas but don’t expect to keep the cattle in with the same design. Makes sure you fence is strong and tall enough, then check its viability often.
Remember Fire Safety
A fire can really put a damper on your homesteading plans if you aren’t prepared. Make sure that you are insured in the event of a fire, but do your best to avoid them at the same time.
The first step in fire safety is to do your best to ensure that a fire will never occur. Make sure that you remove any cob webs, sawdust, hay, and other highly flammable substances from your barn often. You should also ensure that there aren’t any open electrical wires or light sockets that could start a fire.
On top of preventing fires, you need to make sure that you are prepared to react to one a well. Make sure each barn has at least one fire extinguisher readily available at all times. It is also important to make sure your barns have two points of exit should a disaster after occur.
Fires are one of the most common killers of a homesteaders dream. Losing your barn or house to a fire will set you back very quickly. You will have a hard time digging yourself out of that hole if you aren’t prepared from the start.
Dress For The Job – Not For The Shirtless Farmer Next Door
Working on a homestead is like no other job in the world and therefore requires different clothes. If you are expecting to wear high heels to the barn so you can scoop the alpaca poop, you will quickly be reminded why that is a terrible idea.
I suggest that you dress in layers when you are working on a homestead. Layers will let you adjust to the change in temperatures throughout the day and keep you more comfortable.
Another important thing to consider is footwear! Buy a good pair of boots that can keep your feet warm and safe from the hazards of the job. Otherwise, you are going to experience a nail through the foot and wish you had listened to my advice.
Become A Master Canner
Canning is an essential skill when it comes to homesteading. This is what allows you to eat your own organic vegetables throughout the winter so that you don’t have to buy them from the grocery store. Being a master canner is really the only way to remove the grocery store from your life!
You will need to learn what should be canned immediately and what will be fine sitting in the fridge for a week. The harvest season is a crazy time of the year, so make sure that you have your priorities straight going in.
Master The Art Of Up-Cycling But Don’t Become A Hoarder
Successful homesteading is all about saving money where you can. The less money you need to spend, the less money you will need to earn (the hard part).
You will need to become the master of up-cycling, recycling, and re-purposing if you want to be successful. My husband has a small fenced in “junk yard” full of anything that he thinks he might be able to use one day. These items are saved, collected, or purchased for cheap when they are available. Whenever he has a problem, he heads to the yard to see what solutions he can find.
He almost always has something in that yard to do whatever needs to be done on the homestead. I am still amazed when he pulls an entire chicken coop out of the yard that be built from spare parts. It saves us thousands of dollars a year in hardware alone!
We also save all of the feed bags we go through on the farm. Then we take those large bags and fill them with alpaca poop and sell it on the road as fertilizer. We literally turn these bags, which most people would throw away, into money by adding poop to the equation.
You will also need to learn to save your own seeds at the end of the year. This saves you from needing to purchase hundreds of dollars in seeds every year. I wrote an article on long term seed storage that I highly suggest that you check out.
One the flip side of saving everything, make sure that you don’t become a hoarder. Every once and a while, you will need to go through what you have and discard things to make room for new. Being a hoarder is unhealthy and can be dangerous if it gets out of control.