Consider This Before Deciding On Homesteading
In today's world, there are more skyscrapers than trees, more stress than relaxation, and a very limited understanding of anything other than concrete and money. Civilization seems to be moving on up with so many advancements in technology, medicine, and science as a whole, so what need do we as humans have for learning how to survive off the land as our ancestors did before us?
Living off the land has become as outdated as black and white televisions and landline telephones, though ironically farmers are the backbone of society considering they grow the food consumed by those who can't or won't. While many in the south still live on farms and milk cows or goats, much of the rest of America doesn't realize there's a whole other world outside of the city limits.
In fact, many students don't realize where milk, cheese, butter, and other items in the kitchen come from, something that used to be a staple in the education system.
Thanks to, ironically enough, television programs such as Alaska: The Last Frontier, more and more people have come to realize living off the land isn't necessarily as hard as first thought, and that it is something that benefits all people (even if only done for a temporary amount of time).
Homesteading is not something to take lightly, however, so below are a few considerations to take before deciding whether going back to your ancestors roots and escaping the drilling drain of city life is the right choice for you and your family.
What Is Homesteading?
According to Dictionary.com, Homesteading is: an act or instance of establishing a homestead
A homestead is: any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.
Generally speaking, homesteading is like farming.
Consideration #1: Can We Build A Home Here?
One of the very first things one should look for when searching for land to call home is: Can you actually build a house there? After that initial thought, start considering other things you might want to add as time goes on; will you be able to fit a garden to grow food and/or cash crops (social studies vocabulary anyone?)? Having a homestead isn't easy if you don't have a way to make money and eat without driving into town every single day.
Also, is there room for raising up livestock? Having the goats and chickens right by the house might seem like a great idea, but get a little time going and the stench will be unbearable.
Other Questions About the Land:
- Can you set up a compost area?
- Is it too big to fence in?
- Is it an open area or does it have woods?
- Is the land cleared out or does it need work?
You don’t want to drive all the way out to your new homestead, ready to set up camp, only to discover you’ll have to clear out all the tress, rocks, brush, and vines. That takes precious time and money that could be put into making the home or readying the land for cultivating.
Make sure to do your research!
Consideration #2: What is the Climate Like?
Another huge factor in choosing a place to live is what the climate will be like. This applies to simply moving as well because even states right near each other can experience seasons differently.
Factors to Consider:
- How hot/cold it is each month (on average)
- How often it rains in said area
- How extreme the winters/summers are
These factors are extremely important, especially to prospective homesteaders. No one wants to be out chopping wood or feeding the animals when it’s 100 degrees outside, or on the flip side, -37 degrees. Also, growing crops can be pretty hard if the soil is mostly sand or clay and the rainfall is low. It is always good to track the temperature, humidity, and precipitation for a period of time in order to get a sense of what the place will be like.
Precipitation is especially key because, unless you have indoor pluming, rainwater will become your best friend. Whether it be washing dishes, showering, or watering crops, collecting rain will be imperative to life on the homestead. As for drinking water, most landowners you buy land off of say it is required to dig a well on the land, though there is always the option of water gallons if this is not doable..
Consideration #3: Neighbors
As great as it is that homesteading is becoming ever more popular, there isn't all that much land available that is suitable for raising a family and running a farm. Not only is there more competition in getting the land, but just like moving into a new neighborhood, you need an idea of what kind of neighbors there will be, if any.
There are many pros and cons to having neighbors, because while they are great to have around if you get in a sticky situation or have an emergency, being too close to others when you are trying to mind your own business can be aggravating. Decide before going whether or not neighbors being near is an issue for you and your plans, and check out the land surrounding the place you chose.
Don't forget that most times in homesteading situations, people own farm/guard dogs and guns, so be wary when driving through, and always keep an eye on your children and pets.
Consideration #4: Where is the Nearest Town?
This one may seem a little odd considering many people are trying to get away from city life and annoying neighbors, but a where a nearby town is should actually be a huge factor in where one might settle down.
Stores that supply materials needed to build fences and insulate a home as well as hospitals that can save a life if an emergency happens are extremely valuable. Otherwise, you'll be doing it all from scratch, and someone could become seriously ill or even die if not treated by a professional.
Make sure in your planning and searching that there is a town nearby. You can still live on the perfect farm and have a small town a few minutes away.
Consideration #5: Woods vs Open Area
Something to consider when choosing a place to live is whether or not you want to live in the woods or on an open plain.
Woods offer shade and logs for burning, as well as game for hunting, but clearing it in order to expand can be expensive and cumbersome. Plus, the woods house dangerous creatures, such as coyotes, snakes, bears, wild boars, and other animals that can kill your livestock, and injure a human.
An open clearing leaves a lot of room for development and cultivating, but offers little to no shade for animals and people alike, which can be detrimental when the sun is high in the sky. Also, trees help block wind and keep erosion from happening as fast, so mud slicks and strong winds can be an issue on the land.
Research the options and read up on what each offers before diving into unfamiliar territory.
Consideration #6: Energy and Effort
No matter what someone wants to accomplish in life, it takes effort. Such is the case for homesteading, only people tend to underestimate the amount of effort, time, and energy it will take to actually get anything back in return. Whether that be daily chores that have to be done no matter the time, weather, and motivation, laborious tasks such as digging a hole for the compost and turning it, or building the buildings and yards that house the animals, everyone has to pitch in so that progress can be made.
Homesteading is not easy. It is tiresome, taxing work that will have some members revolting in their beds at having to spend another day digging, cleaning, or hammering.
This lifestyle is not for everyone, but the reward is great.
Consideration #7: Flora And Fauna
The final major consideration is what kind of world are you walking into? Nature doesn't revolve around us humans, but rather it works the exact opposite. Since you will most likely be growing food, raising animals, and exploring the terrain, it is imperative that you research what species of plants and animals make your future home theirs.
Knowing what kinds of plants can grow there can be beneficial when making a list of plants you want to grow. Soil is made up of many varying components, anything between silt, sand, and clay, and therefore will support only certain kinds of plants. Some require rich soil to be able to survive, while other plants can grow on very little.
There are also dangerous plants that can harm your animals and family.
The types of animals that live in your area, as mentioned briefly above, will be extremely important information to know. Wild animals are dangerous, and should be treated as such. Having large dogs in case a bear wanders on you land is highly recommended. Dogs also keep deer away because of their poop.
Knowing what game lives in the area can also be beneficial for anyone looking to hunt for their meat (rabbit, squirrel, and deer are popular choices). If you're eager to hunt, and then move to somewhere deer don't live, you'll be not only disappointed, but a new plan for meat will have to be made.
Homesteading can be an exciting and fun experience for the whole family. It can bring each member closer together and create memories that last for a lifetime. Homesteading is not all fun and games, though, and should be thought through and discussed with members of the family. Teamwork and effort will be required or nothing will ever get done, and the tasks that will need to be done won't always be fun.
The reward is not always worth the effort, so take the time to think things through!
© 2017 Caitlyn Booth