As a homesteader, it’s tempting to want to do all the things. How do I know this? Because homesteading is awesome, and I want to do all the things!
But the truth is, there is not one single homesteader out there who does everything that falls under the category of homesteading. I’m not kidding! You simply can’t do everything, nor are you supposed to. Sometimes we get in over our head, but we don’t want to admit it. I’m here to tell you it’s completely and totally okay to scale back.
It’s Okay to Scale Back: Jack of All Trades, Master of None
You’ve all heard of chicken math, right? You start with four chickens and pretty soon you have forty. Well, this so-called chicken math can be expanded to homestead math which is similar in the sense that you start with chickens and then you need goats and then you need a cow and then you need more gardens and then you need bees and then….kind of like Idlewild Alaska talks about in this funny piece. Homesteading can be fun as well as fulfilling, and it’s easy to want to take on more and more. But we have to be careful because there is a big difference between I can do a ton of things on this homestead kinda sorta well and I can do a few things on this homestead really, really well.
One of those things works out. The other often leads to burnout.
Maybe last year you could comfortably handle 12 chickens and then decided you’d do even better with 60. Maybe you were right or maybe you were really wrong. Maybe you discovered you liked goats so much that suddenly your 2 goats became 10. Or 23. Maybe your one small garden turned into two huge gardens. And a corn patch. And a grapevine. And some apple trees…and maybe you’re still wondering why you’re so busy.
Listen. I’m going to give it to you straight. Adding things to your homestead, be it animals or gardens, generally means that you’re asking yourself to do more with the same amount of time and money as when you had less on your homestead. Sometimes, unfortunately, our resources get stretched too thin.
It’s Okay to Scale Back: Re-Evaluate The Purpose of Your Homestead
Sometimes you need to re-evaluate the purpose of your homestead. What were the things you wanted to do when you first started homesteading? What were your dreams and plans for the future? Why did you decide to start homesteading in the first place? And is that what you’re doing now, or did you follow a wayward train track of increasingly out of control plans off a cliff?
One thing new homesteaders commonly get sucked in to is raising animals for other people, or raising things for the purpose of selling. Raising vegetables or meat or eggs or animals for other people is great, but it’s a whole different ball game than having a few for yourself.
“But if I have the space, what’s 50 more chickens?” I will tell you what it is. It’s fifty. more. chickens.
Sit back and take a moment to think about why you’re on the homestead. Why are you doing what you’re doing? If what you’re currently doing doesn’t ring true to the purpose of what you and your family wanted to do, it’s time to gather the troops and re-configure. Homesteading can be challenging; it’s even harder when you’re on a different path than the one you all want to be on.
It’s Okay to Scale Back: It’s Not Necessarily Permanent
Scaling back can be temporary. Take a look at your life. Every year is different and maybe this is a tough year for you. It’s okay if you only plant one of your three gardens. Or raise 1/3 of the chickens you normally do. Or skip a year of having pigs. You are not less of a homesteader. And it doesn’t mean that next year you won’t be back to doing things like you were doing last year. Maybe your twins are graduating this year, or you know you’re going to have to help out with a sick family member. Perhaps there has been a change in employment which has left you with less money or time to work with. Maybe you’re just mentally or physically exhausted and need a break. It happens.
Animals and gardens need to be cared for every single day regardless of what’s going on in your life, so pay careful attention to what’s going on in your life. Do you need to scale back this year?
As homesteaders it’s easy to get in over our head. When this happens, it’s important to know that we might need to scale back—way back—and that it’s perfectly okay to do so. Repeat this until you believe it with your whole heart.