We are entering our 3rd season here at the farm and have learned a few things that we will share since a lot of people ask about how/what and why we live like we do.
1. Always think safety. Farming is dangerous and we operate a lot of equipment that can kill or maim you. We have found that a lot of people who have grown up farming or have been homesteading for a long time are a bit more cavalier about safety than we are comfortable with and we try to avoid that complascency. I personally have found that having Holly as the safety Tzar is probably going to keep me around longer...I know I take more risks and get a thrill from doing dangerous things....having someone to keep you in check is a good thing (as Martha would say).
2. You have to be financially sound to live like we do. Our day to day living income isnt dependant on our productivity which for us frees us to be creative and bold in what we do. We make a little money and plan to eventually make a profit but this economy isnt for the faint hearted. We stay debt free and are taking our time with what we do but to be brutally honest, growing your own food isnt really the cheapest way to go...just the most rewarding in our opinion. Living simply is what we were seeking but we have no real interest in living hand to mouth or being so poor we feel we are perpetually underwater. I think lots of folks have some romantic notion that they can move to a rural holding with little money and find happiness as poor dirt farmers living off the land....and some do. For us, we like the satisfaction of growing our own food and doing for ourselves but if we get a craving for a night in the city or a steak and lobster dinner we dont want to have to save up to do it.
3. Compatibility. Sounds like a simple concept but in our case we have the same desires and expectations in how we wish to pursue our lives which makes a huge difference. Many people we have met doing something similar have one partner who is gung ho and one who tolerates it...not always enthusiastically. If you live in an extremely rural area like we do you will spend most of your time together and strains will begin to show if your not on the same page. For us, we work together, we are best friends, and we would rather be doing things together...you need to figure this out before you make the comitment to this way of life. We used to have a large sail boat and at one point we had a dream to cast off and sail the world and live on a boat but we discovered after a couple years that we were not comfortable with that lifestyle...homesteading is no different.
4. Benefits of being retired. This was important to us and kind of melds with the compatibility and financial points. Though we would have loved to have lived like this when we and the kids were younger, we just simply were not financially able and in hindsight our pursuit of our careers which gave both of us good retirements has given us the security and ability to fulfill our simple life lifestyle goals. And for us we have found retirement to be...wonderful. We can pursue hobbies and interests, we are able to volunteer when and where we want, we can take paying jobs to add a little extra income in jobs that interest us or are convenient without really caring about the pay, and without going too far down the TMI trail we are free to enjoy our passion for each other whenever we want and on our terms. If you are employed full time and reading this you understand how tired you get after working a 40 - 60 hour work week in a regimented schedule and then coming home to kids, keeping up the home, worrying about bills, etc. and romance often starts lagging. Since we retired.....lets just say life is good!
5. Family expectations. Our extended family is mostly supportive but we do not come from rural or farming backgrounds and I think we are seen as a bit eccentric. We dont mind that and I grew up being encouraged to explore and find my own way but in some families this can create problems so be aware of it. Neither of us have any real feeling that the world is coming to an end or the country will collapse in our lifetimes and that is not why we have chosen to homestead. We do feel that there will continue to be a gradual decline in standard of living in this country and that being self reliant and financially solvent is increasingly important but if you had to pin us down; we really just have rejected much that is becoming modern society and we like the old (to us) ways. We have been told we are living in a fantasy world....but we like it that way.
6. Picking your place to settle. I have lived all over the US and lived and travelled all over the world and in each place I have enjoyed my stay but i think that vagrant lifestyle gave me a personal perspective when it was time to settle. We were looking for old time values as far as God, Country, Family, we wanted a low cost of living, we wanted a very rural existence outside of areas with mega farms, and due to injuries we needed to be somewhere with mild winters and for us our place was the Ozarks. We like the fact that we know all our neighbors here even if we cant see or hear them from our place, we like the fact that going to the post office is usually going to result in a half hour conversation with several people, we like that they say the Pledge of Alleigance and a prayer at every event around here, and we like the way our little community just the way it is..about 30 or 40 years behind the so called progress of modern times. But it isnt for everyone and you have to do your research and know what you want. The fact that this area is one of the most beautiful of any I have ever lived in anywhere is a pure bonus.
7. Spirituality. We are not particularly religious in the classical sense but we are very spiritual and living here has only increased that spirituality. We all have found great spiritual satisfaction through living this close to the land and we have a very intense yet comfortable relationship with our maker. We live in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt and this is clearly a devout Christian community where Methodists are almost considered semi-radicals ...we like that. We try to lead lives that respect those ideals and we are comfortable here; not everyone would be. Seek a place where your spirituality will be compatibe.
8. Being a landowner. I bring this up only because neither Holly nor I have ever owned more than an acre of land before and I cant express how satisfying it is to own your own piece of land. We treat our land with great respect, we try to devote attention to each aspect (gardens, lawn, wood lots, pasture, ponds etc.) of it, and most important for us we try and create mini habitats for the many animal and plant species we enjoy. There is just nothing more satisfying than watching and studying the diversity of your own personal holdings...nothing. Remember catching frogs or tadpole when you were a kid? We have 2 ponds full of frogs, tadpoles, fish, turtles and snakes and we thoroughly enjoy them. In fact, one of our great enjoyments is the study of our diverse plant and wild life and we are even conducting some semi-scientific research.
9. YouTube. What? Yes YouTube. As much as we like to do things in the old way, and though we do not have cable TV and rely on rabbit ears to pick up the 10 stations we can get (3 PBS stations) we do use the internet a lot and YouTube has been very helpful. I wish I had been born with the knowledge to do evreything but in reality, when we tackle a project it is often YouTube we refer to to give us some intruction or inspiration.
So what are our plans for 2012?
1. Electric to the pole barn shop and dairy barn.
2. Fencing one unfenced pasture, fencing off the shop, and cross fencing the pasture.
3. Getting county sewer or replacing the septic.
4. Renovation of the dairy barn.
5. Finishing of the window replacement on the garages and the well house.
6. Building the chicken house,
7. Windmill aeration of the upper pond.
8. Restoration of the Allis Chalmers WC.
9. Raising feeder hogs.
10. Raising Quail.
11. Going back to college.