Like about half of the people we meet through our homestead and consulting business he has no background in farming. This lady commented that he was working probably harder than he ever had in his life trying to get everything done.
It is something we see a lot of. I wanted to address that age old question of "where do I start?"
Unless you have recently won the lottery, or you are going to gamble your entire life savings on your property, you most likely will not be purchasing the picture perfect homestead featured on the cover of the last country magazine you bought.
Lets face it, homesteads or hobby farms, are about living a lifestyle. People tend to want a connection to the land, to know where their food comes from, and generally a slower pace of life. Although some may argue with me on the slower pace of life after 12 hours of chores and garden weeding when, just at dusk, the neighbour calls to politely inform me that my pigs are digging up her tulip bulbs and could I please come and catch them.
The biggest mistake we see people who are new to this life style making is the idea that everything has to be done NOW. That within a year of purchasing your property everything has to be in place. The gardens have to be immaculate, all the livestock penning and shelter has to be built and looking like something off the cover of chicken home and garden
These are the people who will burn out after year, they're just setting the goals way too high and in the process setting themselves up to fail.
The truth is most of the good homestead are ones that are built slowly. You need to take the time to get to know your land, to see how the sun moves across your land throughout the entire year. Where the prevailing winds originate in summer and winter. Does that bottom land flood every spring or just in very heavy snow years?
You also have to consider how you are going to use your property, are you going to build a 2 acre market garden, or only produce food for yourself? Do you plan to use tractors, draft animals or hand tillers?
When you buy an existing farm or homestead you're probably going to
inherit the concept that the person who had the land before you had. Sometimes
it's a great and sometimes tit's all wrong. Hopefully hopefully whoever built
the farm knew what they were doing. However more and more we are seeing people buying raw land, or a small acreage with just a house and possibly a garage or shed. There are drawbacks and advantages to both but you need to realize that it will take time to build.
You need to have a plan. Not a drawn in stone plan, but before you start throwing time and money at building infrastructure you need a priorities list. You should also have a land use plan in mind, especially if you are planning on making income from your homestead.
Now I realize that if you are bringing animals with you, you need immediate shelter, (been there done that). But that does not mean that you lay out $5000 for lumber and build a barn the first month. You need to see where you are going.
First: What do you want to do? Write it down. Be specific. Be realistic. We have 2 sayings here; they are based on over 25 years of experience.
# 1 is first you get good, then you get big. (# 2 is garbage in - garbage out but we will deal with that another day.)
Start small, figure out the bugs in your systems. For example: you want to raise chickens for your own food, instead of ordering 65 chickens for your first run, order 10 or 15 hopefully on the first order date of the season. You will know within a couple of weeks if there are glaring problems with your set up. You may build a fabulous chicken co-op, but then come home the first day the chickens have been outside to discover a hawk has taken some of your birds. Better to find out you have a weasel or feral mink with 10 birds vs. 60.
The same applies to gardens, test your soil. Even if it is only a basic ph and soil structure test. It is a lot easier to augment your soil before a crop is in the ground than after.
Second: plan it out. Get out the graph paper or software. Note the location of buildings, large trees, the driveway. Mark the compass points. Does the plan work. Make use of the zoning principles in permaculture. Zone one areas are places you utilize everyday, usually more than once a day. Take seasonal differences into consideration. The first big snowfall is not the time to discover that the most logical place to pile snow is now covered by your young fruit orchard. Think about leaf fall, access to buildings and water movement. If you are going to be hauling several hundred kilos of feed a month you probably want fairly convenient access to your feed storage, same with hay. That leisurely stroll up the path to the barn in summer becomes a treacherous ice field trek in January. Talk to your neighbours. They can tell you that the wonderful spot you have for your garden was where the former owner parked the school bus for 20 years.
I'm going to wrap this up for today as I have already blathered on way longer than I had intended. That's what happens when you are passionate about something; and I am very passionate about helping people establish their homesteads. I want every person who dreams of having this lifestyle to be enabled to succeed. I firmly believe that small farms, homesteads, self sufficient suburbanites, what ever you want to call them are imperative to feeding the country. I also know that planning and patience are the best way to make sure that each one is a success. Hopefully I have given you lots to think about, for those of you just starting out don't be discouraged that you are not where you thought you would be. First you get good. Then you get big.