Reality of Homesteading

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As I was milking our Jersey, Spark, the other evening, I was thinking about how this was what I dreamed about for years.  Living off the land, growing our food and getting milk from our own cow.  Life is good!  And then Spark swatted me in the face with her tail.

Everyone glosses over the realities of homesteading/farming.  They show the good, happy parts of farm life and skip over the not so great stuff that nobody really wants to hear about.  We’re shown the end result, the glass of milk or a clean basket of eggs, and all the stuff that happens beforehand isn’t mentioned.  But isn’t the end result, the glass of milk and fresh eggs, the point?   Yes, it is and it’s certainly the reward for a job well done. However, there is a romanticized view of homesteading these days. The white picket fence, well behaved animals, a perfectly weeded garden, cooking from scratch and still have time to sit on the porch with a glass of lemonade is what’s often portrayed on the internet.  Getting swatted in the face by a cow’s tail or cleaning out the chicken coop that will really start to stink to high heaven if you don’t clean it, isn’t what you read about.  While I love this life, there are some realities that are part of it; sweat, dirt, bugs and poop.  Lots of poop.


What goes in, must come out

When you own animals, you will deal with poop.  Chickens will poop in the nesting boxes, goats will poop on the milk stand.  It’s up to you to keep the animal bedding and pens clean. Whether it’s by pitchfork or tractor, shoveling poop will be on your to do list.  It isn’t glamorous or even fun to clean out the chicken coop or goat barn, but it is a necessary chore.   The upside to that, composted manure does wonders in the garden! 


Your animals will not always behave.

Farm animals love routine, and sticking with that routine will keep life simple and easy when dealing with your animals.  That is, until your milk cow decides that they don’t want to go into the milk barn today or the entire flock of sheep decide to go exploring out of their fencing.  Animals can be stubborn and will test to see who is in control. 

It doesn’t matter how good your fence is, those animals will figure out how to get out at one point or another. Sometimes they don’t even mean to get out, they just do!  We use electric fencing for all of our animals, which works well 99% of the time. But things do happen, a deer running through the fence, a post that falling over due to rain, or a short in the fence and suddenly the animals are where you don’t want them to be.  We move most of our animals daily, so they’re used to having us around and are very motivated by treats.  All I need is a bucket and the sheep will follow me to the next county.  Animals that are comfortable around us definitely helps to get them back in where they belong. 

Not all animals are nice either. You can be as kind as can be to your animals, most will be nice and some will get a crazy idea and decide not to be.  We have had everything from a mean rooster to a ram that you can never ever turn your back on.  Thankfully no mean pigs or bulls, yet.  All of our animals are well cared for and treated well.  Some just have a mean streak.


The work is never done

There is always something to do on a farm.  The to do list is longer than the day is long.    We balance our time between building our house, putting up fence, caring for animals, gardening and caring for the orchard.  Throw in homeschooling the kids and you have a very busy schedule.  Our days are full and we collapse into bed at night to get up and do it all over again the next day.  Down time is rare around here, though we do try to schedule in some relaxation and fun every once in a while.  There’s no need to get burned out.  The reality is that the simple life is a busy one!

Another thing about work on the farm, there’s no such thing as fair weather farming.  It all needs to be done regardless of the weather, rain or shine.  You will get soaked with sweat in the summer putting up new fence, moving the sheep & cattle or tending the garden.  It will be cold in the winter and muddy in the spring.  All part of the experience!


Vacation or weekend getaways??

It isn’t easy to slip away for a weekend when you have animals relying on you.  If you have family close by or a hired hand to watch over your farm so you can have a get away, that’s great!  Not everyone is so lucky.  The more animals, gardens, orchards, etc that you have, the harder it will be to leave.  At present, we stick with day trips.  It’s a great way to leave the farm for a few hours to and still be back in time for chores and milking in the evening. 


Creepy Crawlies

You will encounter all sorts of creepy crawlies.  Bugs, spiders, snakes, you’ll see them all!  Animals on the farm attract flies. Keeping the animals moving from pasture to pasture and keeping their bedding clean helps a LOT.  But there still will be flies. Ticks and chiggers will wait for you as you work out in the pastures or garden . Basically, if you’re outside, which you will be, those little buggers will find you.  We take precautions and do nightly tick checks for everyone in the family.  It soon becomes routine, it’s just a part of life in the country.


But it isn’t all bad.

We love our lifestyle and the benefits far outweigh any negatives that come with this life.  Here are some of the benefits that come with homesteading:


Knowing exactly where your food comes from

There’s great peace of mind knowing exactly how your vegetables are grown and how your meat is raised.  Nothing is better than fresh from the garden produce.  All the produce that you can buy in the supermarkets are lackluster in comparison.  Eggs, milk and meat are no exception. Yes, it’s hard to butcher an animal that you have cared for.  Giving your animals a great life and understanding exactly where your meat is coming from is essential.  It’s not just a slab of meat at the supermarket that you forget how it got there in the first place.  There is a life that is taken to feed your family.  If you eat meat, there always is.  But when you raise your own food, you will have the freshest, best tasting food anyone could have.  You will eat like a king.


A peaceful life

We remember the daily commute and the rat race.  Being away from the stress of the city is priceless.  The daily commute down to the barn is so much more relaxing.  We don’t have TV, we do have internet, but it isn’t very fast. Our cell phone service is very patchy.  None of that bothers us much, our focus here is what is going on in our neck of the woods, not what’s the latest big news story.  Don’t worry, we do keep up on the news, we aren’t completely out of the loop.  This all helps us lead a peaceful, low stress life. 


It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding

There is a lot of manual labor, but it’s incredibly rewarding to build a house and  homestead from scratch with your own blood, sweat and tears.  We put our heart into everything that we do, from building our straw bale house, to growing produce in the garden. Building from scratch is a slow process, but we’re making everything exactly how we want it.


Close to nature

We are outside most of our days, which is how we like it.  What better office can you have than the great outdoors?  We never tire of seeing the wildlife as we go about our day.  Finding a fawn hidden in the grass, a turtle by the creek or the wild turkeys in the pasture strutting their stuff always makes us smile.  Of course we also see or hear the less than desirable critters, coyotes howling at night, opossums trying to steal chicken feed, or armadillos trying to break into the garden.  We deal with them as we need to, our dogs help us discourage these unwanted visitors from showing up.

We love to forage as we move the animals.  On our farm, we’ve found morel mushrooms, black raspberries, blackberries, may pops, passion fruit, countless wild flowers and many other plants and trees of interest all while out in the pastures working the cattle and sheep.  Every season we find something different in each of the pastures, you never know what the prize will be.  Our kids have learned a lot about nature in the process, which I love.


New life on the farm

Watching a calf being born on your farm is simply amazing.  The antics of baby animals are heart warming.  Watching moms and babies interact never gets old.  My girls love to handle the babies that are born on the farm, which helps to tame them.  They’ve also learned a lot about the ‘birds and the bees’.  There is a lot to watch and observe on the farm! 

Planting the garden and seeing the seedlings sprout never gets old either.  Seeing those seedlings grow is nearly as satisfying as picking the abundance later in the year.  There’s a reason why gardeners look forward to getting seed catalogs in January and eagerly anticipate planting the garden in the spring.  The circle of life is a miraculous thing to witness, with either plant or animal. 



While living on a farm/homestead is a lot of hard work, it is incredibly rewarding, full of rich life experiences and excellent food.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.




Did you enjoy reading about the realities of farm life?  Here’s another article that you may be interested in.

Reality of bottle babies



15 responses to “Reality of Homesteading

  1. Pingback: 10 Reasons Why New Homesteaders Fail- Plus tips to help you succeed - My Homestead Life

  2. For us the hardest part was culling our chickens and needing to do what was necessary. It’s true that your work is never done on a homestead and it ain’t all that easy but it has brought us as a family closer together and we have found a new appreciation for what it takes to put food on the table.

  3. Hi! I just came across your blog while researching fencing for our farm. I have enjoyed what I’ve read so far– so many of your thoughts and experiences mirror what we’re doing in our small part of Appalachia!

    I couldn’t agree with this post more– homesteading is difficult and never-ending, but I wouldn’t trade my days to working for some else!

  4. Nice article…It’s really good to read and informative. Keep posting.

  5. Lovely post, am so head to start my farm.

  6. Somedays it is one step forward and two steps back. There is always work to be done. Yes we love it.

  7. Very well put. I love the bedazzled and distorted image non-homesteaders have in their heads of this glorious life we homesteaders have! Homesteading is a lot of work, back-breaking, at times, and tiring and stressful. But I absolutely agree with you that I couldn’t imagine a lifestyle I would be as happy with as this one that rewards me every day!

  8. It isn’t all sunshine and flowers on a working homestead. I wouldn’t have it any other way

  9. On my uncle’s farm in Northern Michigan, they always tied (loosely) the cow’s tail to one one of the cow’s legs with a piece of bailing twine, and never got swatted by the tail when milking. I haven’t seen that done in recent videos, and I’ve always wondered why??? Seems like a pretty simple solution to me!

    • That’s a really good and simple solution! We only have one cow that likes to give you an occasional tail swat. She can be stubborn and ornery at times. lol Thanks for sharing!

  10. Pingback: 3 Secrets Legit Homesteaders Might Not Tell You » SoulyRested

  11. There is the thing called overloading your mental capacity, at least for me. My husband works very long hours at his day job and takes care of feeding goats and the cow while i mostly take care of watering, chicken care and milking. Somedays it feels like every single thing I have going is about half cared for. And then I decide that I must make cheese, really must.and I literally burn out trying to figure out cheesemaking in my head on top of all the other daily stuff I really am not keeping up with. And physically I am totally fine, could be doing way more in fact . It’s sort of funny. Probably also a woman thing. Sigh. Somedays I (nearly) envy my friends who live in town on a teeny little lot and I think how easy life would be…and then I think about how boring it would be. How trapped I would feel. I love our little farm, but I think we need to preach the art of not taking on more then our mental capacity can handle.ha.

    • You are spot on! I have found myself in the same situation that you just described. It’s so easy for me to take on more than I can handle, yet there’s no place I’d rather be than here on our farm.

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