We've all had that feeling, sitting at a desk wondering if there's more to life. To return to a simpler time, living off the land with a fully self-sustainable lifestyle. But after finally pulling the trigger just over 2 years ago, I'd like to shine a little light on the homesteading life.
I'm proud that our garden is generating more than enough fresh produce for my family, and we've got a stockpile of supplies and sustainable practices in place that could see us last for years without having to leave our property. There's a certain feeling of satisfaction in mastering skills that so many people have forgotten, and I'm proud of my ability to solve problems in unconventional ways.
But it's not all sunshine and roses.
Living on a homestead is tough. Today I'd like to share the biggest challenges you'll need to overcome if you've a hope to follow a similar lifestyle yourself.
Be prepared for a big financial hit
Living off the land requires an investment. You'll need to buy a property of course. Maybe even build a house. And that's what most people budget for. But there's a thousand other things you've failed to consider. Every piece of tech you get installed to help you live off the grid requires a large upfront investment. Solar panels. Wind turbines. Even digging a well requires specialist equipment you need to hire. The first few years, you're going to be headed backwards financially, so make sure you're in a position that this isn't going to leave you eating endless cups of ramen. Otherwise keep saving.
Be prepared to fight loneliness
When you're living off the grid it's usually in an area that's pretty remote. And that means fewer people. I'm definitely not a people-person, but I can tell you homesteading does get lonely. I'm lucky I've got my wife and kids to support me, but even then, it's a struggle. You need a support network in place, who can help you out when you need a friend to bounce ideas off, to help level you out, or someone you can invite round for a few beers to shoot the shit. You will get lonely, and that's OK, but don't let it get you down.
Be prepared to make many mistakes
I can't tell you the number of things I've done wrong on our property. Most of the time I'm figuring it out as I go, and I'm not ashamed to admit I've made mistakes. Like forgetting to connect the ventilation in our greenhouse so we cooked a crop of seedlings. Not having a portable solar charger so all my gadgets died when the grid went down. Or the quick-fix I did on our chicken coop that obviously wasn't secure enough to keep the foxes out and they enjoyed an all-they-could eat buffet. Mistakes happen, and you can't let them get you down. Use it as a learning experience, and don't make the same mistakes twice.
Be prepared for the aches and pains
The first few months I was in a constant state of pain. Transitioning from a life behind a desk tapping away at a computer to an off-the-grid lifestyle where I work outside all day was a shock to my system. It's like a gym membership that will get you healthy again, because there's always something to do. Putting up a fence. Fixing a roof. Even just carrying the feed for your animals is a workout, and my advice is to start slow. Plan for time to adjust to the new lifestyle, and enjoy the perks. For me, the pounds melted off and I almost didn't recognize myself in the mirror just a few months later, in the best possible way.
Be prepared to get your hands dirty
And I mean, real dirty. Things on a farm get disgusting quick, and you're the only one who can keep it at bay. The chicken coop will need to be cleaned out. The dead rats in your stores will need to be removed. There's always a dark and dirty job that needs to be done. I've got certain sets of clothes I wear when I'm working to keep our home as clean as we can, and I'd like to reassure you that no matter how dirty you get, a good shower and a soapy scrub does wonders at the end of a day.
Be prepared for a never-ending to-do list
Once you've got animals in your keep, you're tied to the land. They will need to be cared for, every day, rain, hail or shine. You've got a never-ending to-do list that resets each morning as you need to feed, water and keep them healthy, along with everything else that needs to be built, upgraded, and fixed on your property. We make a strict rule to work only during sunrise to sunset, otherwise we'd never be able to stop. You just get as much done as you can, and the rest can wait till tomorrow. Oh, and forget vacations. If you're looking at this for a lifestyle shift, don't get livestock.
Be prepared for the unknown
Finally, comes the actual prepping. Many things we do have an immediate payoff, like our solar system that means we've not connected to mains power going on 8+ months now, but there's plenty of preparations we've made that haven't. Like our two years of tinned food, that we steadily rotate through, or the water that we diligently change out every two to three months. It's more work, and is a part of this process many blogger's don't really talk about. It's not fun. To me though, it's practical. It's my insurance policy. Against the unknown, especially on a homestead where so many things can go wrong. You need to be prepared for the unknown, even if it means munching through a ton of tinned spam every week.
This whole survival lifestyle gets glorified online. But for those people actually intending to go through with it, to make the changes and apply it to their daily life, it can be a grind. And that's the dark side to homesteading. It's not all glory days. It's hard work, day-in, day-out, that will leave you financially and emotionally drained. But it's also so very much worth it. I'd not trade my life for anything. And should the SHTF, I know me and my family would be one of the ones successfully riding it out.