One of the most common questions we receive from new forum members is; how do I start my homesteading journey? In my opinion setting goals is an important step in trying to live a self-sufficient lifestyle; they give a person direction, motivation and a sense of accomplishment.
My first recommendation though would be to not try and do everything at once; very often people get overwhelmed and frozen into indecision. I would start by writing down a list of personal strengths and weaknesses and utilize that as a guide to create a long and short term plan.
When creating personal goals; pick three skills or projects yearly and prioritize them A, B and C. A is a must, B is preferred and C would be nice. For example; raise chickens, build a fire-pit, and plant a fruit tree.
I would then try and learn everything I could about chickens, I would visit farms and talk to people raising them, and I would drive my wife crazy to the point where she would say, “Go get the damn chickens!”
It has worked well so far with pigs, ducks, turkeys and mini-cattle; but has not worked for goats yet. 🙁
Once goal A is accomplished, goal B becomes the new A priority and you can then add a new goal to your yearly plan. Assess your list and decide which of the two lower goals will take over the B position; the current C or the recent addition.
For instance; if you are strong on gardening but weak on food preservation, maybe your goals are to learn a new food production method, learn how to make bacon, and learn how to can tomato sauce.
Even though you are strong on gardening, it is still a skill to improve on and it will help establish other goals later in the year and should be relatively easy to accomplish. Such as experimenting with no dig potatoes, straw-bale, or square foot gardening.
Once you have accomplished this; then making bacon becomes your A priority; You have to find a local butcher shop, buy a pork belly and try different recipes.
That simple bacon project then opens you up to two more future projects; learning how to raise a pig and building a smoker. Which then leads to building a proper pig shelter, experimenting with solar electric fencing, planting a food plot for your pig, learn how to set up a rain water catchment system so your pigs can self water, build a proper feeder so that the pigs minimize waste, etc.
Which one is less daunting? Learning how to make bacon or that whole last paragraph?
Be careful of trying to turn what should be a 5 or 10 year goal into a yearly goal though; I made that mistake with our goal of building our earth sheltered home and it consumed me for over a decade. I was constantly planning, sketching, reading, and looking for the “perfect” piece of land. I battled insomnia for years because I would lay in bed working out little details in my mind; how would I do this, how would I do that; to the point where I could probably have built my house with my eyes closed. I lost a lot of time that could have been spent on other skill building projects because I was so focused on that one goal.
Over-thinking the process froze me into doing nothing at all; so we just kept pushing it off year after year; until the day my father almost died. Watching what he went through was a slap of reality and a kick in the ass for me. It made me realize that I didn’t want to keep pushing this goal off to the point where I would be too old to be able to enjoy the homestead we wanted to create. The day after he was released from the hospital; we broke ground and finished the house three months later.
I have since learned from my mistake and set my goals a lot different now. For example; our off grid cabin. My wife and I bought 20 acres of remote land three years ago that we want to build a cabin on. We set that as a five year goal; but we established other yearly goals around that.
- Year one was to get it surveyed; which we did; we then found out our 20 acres was actually 15 acres and the spot where we wanted to build the cabin was on the 5 acres that was lost.
- That winter the lot next to us went on the market; it was 10 acres and we believed it had picked up the missing acreage; so we focused on buying it.
- After purchasing the land we then shifted our goal to having the wood harvested and clearing out a building spot; which we did two years ago.
We haven’t done a thing to it since and the only goal left for the land is to build the cabin and honestly I really haven’t thought about it or lost a minute of sleep over it. It resides firmly in my C position and will eventually move into our A priority in the next couple years, and I am fine with that.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Good luck with your future plans.