While it’s easy enough to enjoy the thought of one day running your own homestead, pining for that life of self-sufficiency, the truth of the matter is that kind of life can be taxing, and that’s putting it lightly. Things don’t always go the way we planned, and we’re left scratching our heads, wondering what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into.
So, with that being said, I think it’s important to understand a few of the reasons why homesteading might not be right for everyone. It’s often the uncomfortable things that we tend to think won’t happen to us, whether it’s underestimating the tenacity of a predator or the fragility of that which we decide to grow and raise, there’s a lot to consider before diving in. Here are my five top reasons why you shouldn’t get into homesteading.
Spending money to achieve self-sufficiency is just a basic reality that most new homesteaders tend to forget. It’s not so much the things you know you’re going to have to dish out some greenbacks on—it’s the things you don’t see coming.
This is why it’s good to make everything on the homestead pay its share of the rent, whether that means selling eggs, vegetables, timber, or split wood. For example, we sell our duck eggs, and that simple act covers their food costs. Still, as with owning most animals in general, there are always unforeseen vet clinic visits that can really hurt the wallet.
No matter how much we wish that nature lived in a perfect state of contented harmony, the reality is that if you’re raising poultry, most wild things are out to make a meal of it. You’ll have livestock that disappears from the face of the earth, animals that injure each other in the heat of passion or the violence of dominance, and in some cases, you’ll have to do the humane thing and put an animal down.
This is something that a lot of folks don’t take into consideration. Sure, it’s great to have a few chickens around for the sake of fresh eggs every day. But when one of them escapes an attack from a hawk but needs to be put down, that rests on your shoulders.
This goes without saying for life in general, but I’ll tell you right now, it’s never been more truthful than when it comes to running a homestead. There are gardens that need to be weeded, seeds to be sown, summer crops to pull and fall crops to be planted, chickens whose wings need to be clipped, a duck with bumblefoot, bedding that needs to be replaced, a leak in the roof of the coop, a broken gate, and a coyote keeps coming around. There’s feed to be picked up from the mill, compost that needs turning, tomato plants that need trimming, cucumbers that need trellising, and beets, carrots, and green beans that need pickling. Which reminds me, don’t forget to pick up pickling vinegar when you’re in town grabbing that feed.
Oh, and get some nails, screws, and lumber for the new raised beds around the side of the house, and for the trellises for next years cucumbers, and garlic bulbs for the fall, because there are only so many weeks left before the snow flies.
See what I’m saying? In there somewhere, you have to balance a full-time job and probably kids, too.
I’ll be the first person to tell you that this isn’t actually an issue at all. If you’re raising animals on your homestead, no matter what purpose those animals will serve, you should absolutely become attached to them at any emotional level. But if letting go isn’t something you’re particularly keen on becoming intimate with, then I don’t suggest getting into homesteading for the purpose of raising a whole bunch of cute, personable critters.
The fact is that things like chickens and rabbits are vulnerable, no matter how protected you think they are. Things happen, and your favorite hen that was practically your shadow in the yard takes a sudden and fatal turn for the worse. Eggbound chickens might only start to show symptoms a few hours before the ailment kills them, and by then it’s pretty much too late.
In any event, at one point or another, the time comes to say goodbye to the animals we know and love so much, but when it comes to running a homestead, it happens more than you’d ever suspect, let alone be comfortable with.
Take it from someone who’s been doing this a few years—if you’re not good with handling failure, don’t even think of starting a homestead.
Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, nature will come in and prove you more wrong than lab-grown meat. Sometimes it’s a humorous lesson in how not to do something, like using too much nitrogen for a vegetable that doesn’t flourish in that kind of soil conditions, but other times it comes as a slap in the face, like an army of tiny young cottontails laying waste to every single seedling you so painstakingly planted.
There are things you won’t see coming, too. Buying chicks and not realizing cedar wood shavings are fatal to them can really ruin both your day and theirs. Once, the wind blew the lid off my waterer in the pen where I keep my quail. Overnight, eight flew into the open end of the waterer and drowned. Rodents show up and can infest runs and pens, steal eggs, and injure birds. Aphids destroy plants. Domestic ducks destroy, well, everything. Chickens will sometimes poison themselves by eating something that both you and they didn’t realize was poisonous to them.
Things just don’t work out the way we were hoping they would, and so if failure is something that you find really ruffles your feathers, please reconsider becoming a homesteader. Bad things happen to good people.