Getting Ready

Here are a few things that aren’t compatible with self-sufficiency and homesteading:

1. Debt. Student loans, large mortgages, car loans, credit card debt. Pay it down or it will eat up all your financial resources. Don’t borrow beyond a small mortgage. Don’t use consumer loans to buy equipment.

2. Electronics. Wean yourself and your family from television, dvds, and video games. They gobble precious time and you have to get out of the “newest gadget” mindset. Many of us use the internet for communication and business, but take your cue from the Amish – avoid using it for recreation. Set a limit to the time it is used.

3. Gadgetry. Don’t fill the house and barn with stuff bought at big box stores or online. Avoid anything that uses electricity; that especially includes kitchen gadgets.

4. Bargains. If you are not on your homestead, don’t buy stuff for it, even if it is a bargain. First, you may not need it when you get on the land; second, save the money to buy your land, then figure out what you need. Don’t fill your suburban garage with farming tools in anticipation of Some Day. Some day will come faster if you save that money for your land.

5. Hoards. Either before or after moving to the homestead, do not hoard. Keep what you will need only for the immediate future – a year’s worth of food and fodder, fabric and yarn for this year’s clothing, scrap wood and metal that is to be used for the immediate project. Don’t start accumulating just in case of some distant future need. Storage is too expensive, and peace of mind is important. Hoarders do not have peace of mind. They become increasingly anxious that their hoard will be lost or stolen, displaced or disrespected. It is tempting to buy the second and third tractors for parts, or the pile of lumber at a cut rate, but it will only rust, or warp, or rot if you do not have a way to put it to use or store it carefully. Don’t buy extra storage space! The return on the dollar is too low.

6. Collections. See hoarding. Collections of antiques you can’t use, ornaments that require display cabinets, books that require cases, dishes that require cupboards, are all great resource vacuums. They suck up your money and space. Pare down your belongings to what will fit into a reasonably small house that is easy to heat.

7. Nostalgia. Real rural living is not a rosy Currier and Ives scene. There will be some tough times, hard days, really bad weather, disasters and failures. It is modern life in a different context. You have to deal with modern people. Your neighbours will have things your kids will want and you can’t afford; you won’t find many people around who will work with you at harvest or planting, even for pay. Country life is not all oatmeal cookies and cozy fireplaces. My experience is that it is a lot of frostbite, sore muscles, poor pay, and isolation. If any of that scares you too much, you might as well reconsider what you are doing. If you can’t bear to see an animal die or eat beans and potatoes six nights running, then rural life may not be for you.

8. Competitiveness. The competitive spirit is just one of hubris, spiritual pride. The neighbours and the people down the road will have a bigger barn, a newer truck, a better looking husband, and a larger herd. Keep your thoughts in your own yard. It’s not a contest.

9. Laziness. If you are by nature indolent, can’t follow a schedule, or hate to get up off the couch, I’d suggest getting some spiritual healing to deal with this before you need to rise at five a.m. to feed the cows. Humans are not naturally lazy. We are by nature active, curious, happy beings. Indolence indicates poor health, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Expect at least a twelve hour day in the country, working on the farm, earning some money, preparing food and cleaning. You will enjoy times of rest much more if you have been working hard.

10. Worldliness. You won’t be living in the world anymore. Give your heart and life to God, and you will prosper spiritually, which will make the days you don’t seem to be prospering in other ways so much easier.

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5 thoughts on “Getting Ready

  1. Good list. Though I’m not sure a second tractor falls under hoarding. We currently have three. They all have their different uses. We also used to have 2 combines and one for parts. There were many times having the one for parts saved us from wasting days waiting for parts.

    You will definitely have a hard time if you expect the neighbours to jump in and build you a barn or do your cropping. That only happens when there is a life-threatening injury involved. You will be hard pressed to even find neighbour kids willing to work for pay.

    Definitely want to keep your eyes in your own yard if your neighbours are dairy farmers. They are always buying new equipment and a 2 year old truck is shameful (in their eyes).

    • I don’t think you and Colin qualify as small-scale homesteaders! Certainly, on the farm you have, more machines are needed, and considering where you leave, a parts combine or tractor makes sense. I had in mind the guy (always a guy, I think) who starts buying up 1949 Cubs and parking them behind the barn to restore some day. They sit there year after year, rusting, until they look like old whale skeletons on the beach. Most homesteaders can use one tractor for a bit of plowing, hauling and haying, as well as for the power take-off. I covet the fence hole auger myself, having set hundreds of post by hand.

      I was surprised to see migrant work crews in this area, where people don’t seem to have work now that some of the processers have closed. There always seem to be gangs of people loitering in the towns, hanging out at Tim’s. It’s true that you just can’t expect that neighbours are going to help with the usual stuff; North Americans don’t think that way anymore.

  2. I consider this excellent, wise counsel. I would heed it if I were planning to move to a homestead. As we’re already on one I can shake my head at a couple of items and say “I wish I’d thought of that.”

    I truly appreciate that you do not consider a year’s worth of food and supplies to be “hoarding”. Enough food in the larder to get you through to the next year’s harvest, and enough feed to see your livestock through the winter is not hoarding, it is rural common sense.

    Here in our valley we’ve got plenty of food put by. I’d still like to can more applesauce and make a batch or two of jam for those long winter days. I need to lay by some more feed for the hens though, lest we get snowed in, which there is good reason to expect as we always have so far.

    Doesn’t getting ready for winter make you feel like a merry little squirrel?

    • We’ve made some mistakes already ourselves, so it’s counsel from hindsight. I think for those of us who live outside a town with a store in walking distance, a year’s supply of foods is reasonable, especially if you eat things like beans, rice, and winter vegetables most of the year. It saves so much money by buying in bulk and not going to the store every week or so.

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