136: My biggest fear as a homesteader content creator
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Back when I first started the Farmish Kind of Life website, it seemed like a pretty stress free gig to take on. Do things on my homestead, tell people how I did it. Do more things, write more stuff.
What I didn’t realize though was how some people can make that a little bit difficult.
Shortly after starting my website, I realized what my biggest fear was as a content creator in the homesteading niche: people were going to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. And then they were going to tell other people that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
In other words, “People will say I’m doing stuff wrong.”
Which turned into, “I don’t know everything about how to do this. So I don’t know if I should give any advice at all.”
And you know what? You don’t write a lot of articles when you’ve got that fear hanging over your head.
As time went on, though, I worked through that. I mean, it’s been 12 years. I should be over it, right?
What happens when your biggest fear comes true
My fear is still getting poked every once in a while, even all these years later.
Last week, I had someone who is quite well-known in a certain sector of the homesteading community find my Three Reasons We Don’t Use Chick Starter article, and she vehemently disagreed with it. She left comments (as well as responses to other comments that had already been made) and stated my article was horrible advice and she would never do what I did.
(No need to go looking for her comments, they are currently hidden. Not because she disagreed, but simply because of who she is and my assumption it would incite drama.)
Years ago, these comments would have made me stop writing for a couple months. The comments would have really bothered me, and I would have questioned myself as a blogger, a homesteader, and a person who raises chickens. I would have thought, oh great, these people who are way bigger than me and way more importanter than me think I’m a hack.
And I’ll be honest, to read these comments on my chick starter article did poke me a bit… but in a different way than it would have when I first started. Let’s talk about my original fear, how it’s morphed, and what can be done about it.
People are always trying to poke at my fear
The fear of people telling me I’m a hack, I don’t know what I’m doing, or I’m wrong, etc. used to stem from an “I’m not good enough” thing. It used to feed into my worries about imposter syndrome and being labeled a fake, when I was really just trying hard to share what I knew based on what I had experienced.
This is why I’ve held back on writing certain how-to articles. I’ve had a gazillion people ask me to write a how-to article on building an incubator. But all I can think about is if someone builds this and it doesn’t turn out, think of all the hate mail I’m going to get when someone’s hatch fails.
Because snarky emails and hate mail totally happen. For instance…
I have a popular article How to Brine/Wet Cure a Fresh Ham and sometimes I get emails about the amount of pink curing salt in the recipe. And that’s fine, because questioning is good! But the emails that say I shouldn’t be in the kitchen because I’m going to kill someone based on the amount of pink curing salt I use? Y’all, I’m just going on the recipe that I’ve been using forever. There are many articles out there debating the safety regarding certain amounts of pink curing salt and there are also several articles that claim you get more nitrites from vegetables than you ever will from cured meats, or that nitrites are only an issue when heated to super high temps.
Do your own research. Make your own decisions.
I have people who use my One Banana Banana Bread recipe and then email me that the cook time was obviously wrong because it took them 15 minutes longer to bake it in their oven. Telling me your bake time was different is one thing. Telling me I don’t know how to write a recipe because your bread took longer to bake? No. I mean, I’m not using your oven. Maybe mine runs warmer than yours. Maybe your bananas were more liquidy than mine. I don’t know.
But here’s the cool thing: the fact that mine bakes in 45 minutes and yours took an hour doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. Does it?
The bigger problem
While the “fear” that someone is going to call me a hack or accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about still resides somewhere in my gut, I find the reason it frustrates me now is different than before. When I first started out as a homestead blogger, I was afraid of how people’s criticism would affect me. Nowadays, I’m more frustrated with how it affects us as a community.
A few years back, I remember a gal with a homesteading Facebook page who posted about the “salt water in a pop bottle to keep your water unfrozen in the winter” trick, and how it had worked for her. And she was completely pummeled by a certain sector of the homesteading community for daring to suggest that it would work. I remember chatting with her on messenger about it, and she was so frustrated about how people had attacked her. But the thing I remember most was her saying, “It worked here at my farm. Do they think I’m lying? Why would I say it worked if it didn’t work?” Now, I haven’t had any luck with the salt water in the pop bottle trick here, but does that mean it didn’t work for her? Does it mean either of us are wrong? Does it mean that half the homesteading community should go after her with pitchforks because she suggested something that worked on her farm?
This is something that happens in the homesteader community. This is something that happens in any community. And really, this ends up being a continuation of last Wednesday’s episode/post, Teach What you Know Without Being a Jerk. There are people in the homesteading community—any community, really—who bring their ego along with whatever information they’re going to give. Sometimes that information is simply their declaration of what you don’t know and how wrong you are. Like, you must have written your recipe wrong because you said this would be done baking in about 45 minutes and it took an hour and now I’m going to tell everyone you don’t know your way around a kitchen.
This is part of a larger issue. In a video that was sent to me recently (Most Controversial Permaculture Speech Ever Given) Permaculture guru Paul Wheaton actually talks about this exact thing. In one section (minute marker 50:28 to approximately minute marker 60) he talks about our homesteading and permaculture communities eating each other alive from within because we’re a bunch of judgmental trolly jerks to each other. Which is sort of like, “wait, what? people are actually doing this?” But I’ve also seen it. And you guys have, too. I can’t tell you the messages/comments I got after my Teach People What You Know Without Being a Jerk episode where people said something to the effect of “do you know how many homesteading groups I’ve left because of how the people in the group act?” or “it’s just easier for me to do this solo because I can’t deal with the ego and attitude and drama in the community.”
This is a problem. This is a big problem. How many awesome people have we lost in a community because they decided, “peace out, I’ve got better things to do than watch the drama unfold over how Suzie Q is canning her carrots”. How many people have wanted to talk about awesome stuff they’ve done on their homestead because they think other people might benefit from the idea, but they’re more afraid that Homesteader Chad or Homesteader Karen is going to point out what might be wrong with them and tell them they’re just a hack who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?
So what is the solution? What do I do with the fear?
I bring this all up because a) some of you might be dealing with this in your own life and b) sometimes it’s comforting to know that other people are dealing with it too, even if that drama never makes it to the forefront of the website or book or podcast or video.
If I’m going to be a voice in the homesteading community, I’ve realized I need to accept three things:
- I can only give advice based on what we do here and what works for us.
- I can put that disclaimer on an article and most people will ignore it.
- There are people that are going to tell me I’m wrong, and make it a really big deal to the people they know.
Regarding the chick starter article that I published years ago, in the article I state in two different places: I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t feed chick starter. I’m telling you that we don’t feed chick starter. Take that as you wish.
Now, the fact that I stopped feeding chick starter years ago and I haven’t had any issues… that’s my position. This other person’s position is that you have to feed a perfectly balanced diet to your chickens. We’re both speaking about what has worked for us in our experience on our farms. As it should be.
But I’ve realized something in my time as a homestead blogger/podcaster/YouTuber, etc.: there’s an underground to homesteading.
There’s mainstream homesteading (how ironic is that?) and then there’s the behind the scenes, non-Instagram friendly, okay, but what would you do if kind of homesteading. Are there people who want perfectly balanced meals for their little chickens? Yes. And that’s fine. That’s wonderful. Are there also people that were freaking out last year when their feed stores were OUT of chick starter and wondered OMG WHAT DO I FEED MY CHICKS SO I DON’T KILL THEM, and found a lot of comfort in knowing some gal from some website called A Farmish Kind of Life wrote an article that said “hey, we stopped feeding chick starter several years back and our chickens didn’t die...”? Yup.
And side note: anyone who is savagely strict about their animal’s nutrition and isn’t savagely strict about their own… that’s hypocrisy and I have no time for that. Just sayin’.
The thing that’s great about homesteading and sharing experiences (the community) is also the thing that’s really hard about homesteading and sharing experiences.
So what do we do? It really comes down to two options: you shut up or you keep talking. And what happens if we shut up? If all the voices like me that say, “I mean, I don’t know, this is what worked for me, you can try it…” go away, what are we left with?
The mainstream voices.
The sponsored voices.
The Instagramish voices.
And those voices are fine, if those are the voices you want. But what if it’s not?
I don’t know everything about homesteading. I would argue that no one does. But I have decided that I will put myself out there with confidence, sharing the experiences we have on the farm (with a disclaimer that many people will ignore), because we need all the voices sharing all the homesteading experiences—even the ones that might go against what most people think and do.
— Amy Dingmann, 4-19-21
Links mentioned in podcast episode:
Holler Roast Coffee: https://hollerroast.com/
My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/FarmishKindofLife
My Odysee channel: https://odysee.com/@AFarmishKindofLife:8
My TikTok account: https://www.tiktok.com/@farmishlife
My new book! Make Friends with a Dog: 18 Tips to Live a Good Life
“Daily” posts here at the website: https://afarmishkindoflife.com/category/itty-bitty-thoughts
Farmish Kind of Life MeWe group: https://mewe.com/join/afarmishkindoflifehomesteaders
Email me: amy[email protected]