Saturday, May 9, 2015

Woman Homesteaders

I've seen the questions asked and responses given. "Can I homestead as a single woman?" , "Can I actually do this as a single mother with small children?" or "Is this a possibility for me since my husband is disabled or otherwise unable to help me?". My answer to you is simple. YES YOU CAN!

The responses to these are always varied from those who are supportive down to those who say "just don't try it, your not capable".  There is seldom much discussion beyond a point blank opinion, so I'm going to discuss with you my opinions on the question.

Dream your goal

What is it that you daydream about that has you considering this as an option for you.
Is your dream a cabin the woods and 3 trips a year to town? or maybe wide open pasture with cattle grazing? maybe your dream life is just a little outside of town with a handful of chickens and a big ol' garden. Now make it real. Sketch it on paper, print a picture that inspires you, take a picture of a painting. 

Start a notebook

Place your picture on the front of a notebook, file, folder or whatever works for you. I suggest actually going paper for this. This will be where you brainstorm, save articles out of magazines, tuck recipes and go back and scratch things out, that as you learn more about them, you decide are not in your dream. 

What is your skill level

On a scale of 1-5 how confident are you? Be overly realistic with yourself here. If you have a dog and 6 houseplants (like I did when I started) expect your scores to be low and be fine with that. This is only a way to focus your attention on where to put your energy. 

example, your list will be based on your goal (this was me)

Animals: 2 I had pet rabbits and other small animals as a child and spent my whole life around       horses. I had a working knowledge and  was comfortable handling them.
Plants: 1 I grew up in the 'country' and a rural town so I could recognize poison ivy and dandelions   and always had good luck with house plants. I had no gardening skills.
Strength: 5 I had always worked outside and had recently gone through basic training for the                                 military. I was physically very confident that I could handle any reasonable task, including fencing and hauling hay.
Food: 2 I was a good cook and comfortable cutting up a whole chicken and cooking fresh vegetables                but had never butchered a live animal (aside from fish) and had only just started to learn                      about canning. Preserving what you grow and raise is as or more important than what you                     grow or raise. 

Start small and build up

Pick a few things that you want to start with. In almost every situation it is easier to add then to take it back. Too many animals on a pasture can leave you with a field of dust and an extreme feed bill. A garden too big can become too much to handle and leave you with rotting veggies, thigh high weeds and that over whelmed feeling. Even if your confident in your skill, anytime you start in a new place there are going to be little (or large) things that you will have to deal with. 

Educate yourself

Start researching and start from the bottom up. If your gardening experience consists of house plants, look into container gardening, maybe start with your favorite herbs. Work with your strengths. If you have a dog and a gerbil, look into rabbits and other small animals. If you've gardened all you life pick the best producing for the least effort. Gather new ideas of how to preserve and use these. That way if an experiment with something new doesn't produce you shrug it off and say "that's why we have plenty of....not a big deal".  Research land prices in the area you would like to set your dream up on. If it's in a different planting zone you'll want to reference that against what you want to grow. Don't plan to plant a Lemon orchard in Michigan...

Determine your financial situation

Set a goal financially. Again, be overly realistic here too. As you set your mind to what you want and start practicing skills some of the cost of saving will actually become less of an issue. Put as much as you can into paying off things like credit cards and loans. Be hard on yourself here. So you really need the name brand.. whatever...or is there a generic brand that is perfectly fine. Try things out, look for sales. I'm not a motivated couponer but some people are. As you practice your skills you will be able to decide what is necessity and what is not. A 6 slice toaster may not be a have to have, your absolute favorite brand of hair conditioner may be on the never give up list. Let it float around in your mind as you do/use things, Do I really need to turn the light on to.....or since the sun is shining can I do without. While cooking make little notes of what you are using. Herbs grow fairly easily, some mixes (like taco seasoning or even ranch powder) can be made for pennies. Every little step that reduces your intake adds to your dream.

Have backup plans

Don't let anyone tell you that you are not a homesteader if you have a box of mac and cheese in the cabinet! Despite our best efforts, all the research in the world and access to all the answers you could ever ask for ( and some that you don't), sometimes it just doesn't work out. Sometimes the wood stove fills the house with smoke for some unknown reason in the middle of a snow storm. The power goes out, for who knows why, (solar or public utilities) just before dark and you really can't see to fix it. A sudden cold rain or lack of rain and your garden just does not produce like you planned. I don't say any of this to be discouraging, quit the opposite. It will happen. If you already have a plan in place to deal with it you can save yourself all the immediate stress, light a lamp, a kerosene heater or open a can of beef stew and shrug it off. "I'll deal with it in the daylight", the best phrase you can learn to say. If you have small children practice a "camp in" trip for the weekend. Turn everything off (light switches, tv, etc.) and pretend. Kids love pretend anyway, show them adults do to. This also goes with the section practice your skills. Pick an especially hot/cold weekend. You have the option of turning something on and fixing any issue that you did not think of in your original plan. 

Practice the skills that you will need

As you research ideas that you think will fit what you need to learn to be successful, practice what you can. A Farmers Market or even a sale at local grocery can be the perfect place to pick some veggies and get going! If your just learning to cook, cook them. If your just learning to can, can them. If you can can (hehe) and cook, maybe dehydrating or fermenting. Start a notebook for how you did it and what worked and didn't. Then add recipes that you like that uses what you did. Things like dehydrated vegetables take a little different cooking. All the dried zucchini in the world is useless if you don't have a way to make it into a meal. And days of drying (anything) is a waste of your time and energy if you try to use and find that you REALLY don't like it. Buy a whole chicken from the store and break it down yourself if you have never done this. Catch up with a friend that deer hunts and participate in processing it if you have never (and intend to) handled a full animal. 

Don't expect to make money

"If I buy 20 hens to raise I can sell the eggs". It takes more than you might expect to get to that point. Study up on local laws about selling eggs, meat, animals food products, etc. And then look into the area you are trying to sell to. I live in a rural community. Although are eggs are from pasture raise natural (organic certification is a whole other can of worms) no antibiotic chickens....this area is not good for  half what others pay for this kind of eggs. After investing in the egg soap, oils, washers and cartons, we came out on the negative side for a dozen eggs. There are special laws that affect animal, meat sales directly from the farm. Every state and county has their own. Take the time to see what you can and can't do. Animal testing, proper processing and even live sales. Again, this is not meant to be discouraging. You can do it. But you have to be realistic and not count points (ducks) that you can't use. If you just expect a loss and then are able to gain you are two steps ahead!

Train them, teach them and then let them lead you in the right direction!

Create your own social network

Anytime you start out on an adventure you should have the backup plan of the knowledge that someone has your back. Take this as a push to go meet your neighbors that are doing any part of what you want to learn. Borrow great-grandmas cook book. If it's an option go meet the people that you plan to live near. they will have the best information on what to expect.
They can give you an idea of weather pattern and predators.  Join fb groups, or whatever suits you. I am on Pinterest, Google+ and a member of several groups. There are so many ideas out there, and some of them are even good ones. Once you have built your own personal knowledge base

If you read my other blogs you can see what I'm doing and how I have made it work for.

Meet me on Facebook
Ask me questions, discuss or even criticize, I'm ok with that. I don't want to share anything that I'm not confident in because I have been there and if I can share better info that's what it's all about!