Have you ever felt really excited about something, only to have your hopes dashed? We are really excited about our adventures in modern day homesteading, but I have to tell you that it is not easy. I think there are a lot of folks out there with an idealistic view of what modern day homesteading is like. A lot of folks dream of living off the land and being self-sufficient. These are wonderful dreams, but unfortunately to make them happen it takes a lot of money. We’re quickly learning about the financial challenges of homesteading.
You want to start beekeeping? Great! But it will cost you at least $100 for one package of honey bees, at least $100 in other equipment like gloves, suit, smoker, etc. Then you need bee hives and frames which can cost well over $100. Even building your own hives like we did will cost you the expense of your materials.
You want to raise chickens? Wonderful! But you will need to build or buy a chicken coop. You can buy a brand new one at Murdoch’s in town for $200 or buy a used one on Craigslist for $100 or more depending on the quality. Then there is the expense of feeders, waterers, bedding, feed, and don’t forget the chicks themselves!
You want to grow your own food in a large garden? Excellent! But you will need to fence it in so your dogs, the neighbor dogs, and the deer don’t get in and destroy it. A roll of fencing will cost anywhere from $50-$300 depending on how much you need. Plus there’s the cost of fence posts. Then once you have it fenced you need to till up the ground somehow since the new garden area is a former pasture and a major weed patch. Rototillers, tractors and plows are expensive, even used on Craigslist. So you either save your pennies and invest or go to the equipment rental store in town and rent one for a day. Either way, it’s expensive. We haven’t even gotten to the part of buying seeds, soil amendments, natural fertilizers or gardening tools! If you live in an area with a short growing season like we do, might as well throw in the expense of a green house, hoop house or cold frames to extend your growing season.
These are only a few of the common modern day homesteading projects we’re tackling this spring. And let me tell you, it is overwhelming! After I wrote our Homestead Goals for the New Year this winter, I felt a bit overwhelmed with that long list of projects. But I figured we had a few months before spring and we could parcel our time and get things done. What I didn’t realize is just how expensive this all would be!
Facing the Financial Challenges
I read an article last year (unfortunately I can’t find it to share with you all) but the gist of it was that modern day homesteading is expensive and only accessible to those with money. At the time I was a bit skeptical since there were a lot of things we we did at our old, smaller property that were homesteading: gardening, canning/preserving our own food, hunting for wild game, wild harvesting. The difference now is that we are homesteading on a much larger scale than what we were at our old, smaller property.
I admit when we bought our new homestead last summer, we were quite idealistic. We knew there would be a lot of expenses involved seeing as how we bought a bank owned fixer upper. What we didn’t realize was just how expensive all of our plans and dreams would be. A good portion of our savings were poured into fixing up the house just so we could live in it. That left minimal funds to pour into our homesteading projects.
My husband is a Craigslist junkie and checks it multiple times per day. I sometimes give him a hard time about his Craigslist addiction, but I admit that it does pay off. Sourcing building and homesteading items off Craigslist for a lower cost than brand new at the store is saving us a lot of money. Even still, we don’t have all the money right now to tackle all the projects we want to.
We recently went to a moving sale at a ranch with high hopes of finding a bunch of homestead items we need. We found some fencing but were pretty disappointed they didn’t have the fence posts we needed for our garden. As I was thinking of how we’d squeeze our budget this month and maybe have to go buy brand new fence posts, I heard some loud noises out by my husband’s shop. Alas, our riding mower’s engine blew up so there goes another big expense to get a new one.
This is another unexpected financial set back for us. It is disheartening. I have so much passion about homesteading and finally living on more land so we can expand our gardens, raise chickens, become beekeepers and eventually get a goat or cow one day. But I feel like a deflated balloon some days. It feels like our homesteading dreams are so far out of reach because of money.
Working Through the Challenges
When I get really overwhelmed with our lack of progress on our list of homestead projects, I have to step back and tell myself that all these projects don’t have to happen right now. Yes, I would love for that to happen but it is not the end of the world if they don’t. There is always next month, six months from now or a year from now. While I don’t like hearing that, I have learned that I need to let go of my expectations and embrace what we can do now.
We prioritized our projects to help guide us in figuring out where to focus our energies and finances first. Here’s a quick run down of our spring list in order of priority. Some of these projects we already completed, some are in progress, and some we haven’t even touched yet!
- Fence and till/plow the garden area since we need to get our seeds and seedlings in the ground ASAP due to our short growing season.
- Build the new greenhouse.
- Finish building bee boxes and purchase the rest of the necessary equipment.
- Finish remodeling the bathroom in the house since we gutted it a few weeks ago. We have family coming to stay with us in a few weeks and need this to be usable.
- Buy a new lawn mower/tractor OR get a goat to keep the grass and pasture on our property trimmed. (I will note that the only problem with getting a goat is that a lot of our fencing was knocked down by the former owner’s horses which means yet another big project of fixing fence that we just don’t have time for right now!)
- Plant a few more fruit trees in our orchard.
- Fix the irrigation well and install a pressure tank so we can use it to water the orchard and garden.
- Build a chicken tractor and coop. We debated about letting our chickens free range all the time, but in the last week we’ve seen bald eagles, red tailed hawks and several other raptors hunting the fields around our house. We figure it would be best to have a chicken tractor and only let them free range when we’re outside with them.
So there you have it. My two cents on the financial challenges of homesteading. There are so many more things we want to do that aren’t on that list. But we had to narrow it down to a few priorities that we are focusing our time and energy on right now. We regularly check in about our budget and I get so excited when we have a little extra money to throw towards one of these big projects. I have to keep reminding myself that in due time we will be doing all the homesteading projects we dreamed of. But right now we have to take one small step at a time to fulfill that dream!
What about you, have you faced any financial challenges to homesteading? How did you cope with this?