Homesteading Myths & Misconceptions

There’s a lot of talk these days about getting “back to the land” and learning old timey skills is becoming somewhat trendy. In many ways, homesteading is a balm for the deeply disconnected modern human’s soul so it makes sense that it’s becoming ever more popular. Here’s a few of my favorite things about homesteading. 

There’s nothing like starting a homestead to get you out of your comfort zone. Yet, it will teach you that you’re more capable than you ever realized. You’ll do many hard things. Some of them will work out and some won’t. But, you’ll be reminded often how resilient you are to life’s challenges as you keep on rolling with the punches. 

There’s also something deeply satisfying about honing practical life skills and being able to meet (some of) your own basic needs. We live in a time where modern conveniences abound. We don’t truly need to grow or butcher our food, make or mend clothing, chop firewood, bake bread, and so on. Yet, reclaiming some of these ancestral skills is emotionally and physically rewarding.

Homesteading will not make you healthier, by default, but the lifestyle you’ll adopt is more conducive to health than that of many modern folks. You’ll be outside more, which has numerous benefits. You will quite possibly be eating better, more wholesome food. Working hard on the homestead means you won’t have to go to the gym.  As an added bonus, instead of just doing repetitive motions on exercise equipment, you’ll have actually made tangible progress on a project or will have at least tended to the animals and gardens. 

Producing even a small fraction of the food that nourishes you and your family feels really good! Whether it’s fresh fruit or veggies, eggs, milk, or meat, it tastes better when you’ve raised it yourself. Growing your own food also gives you complete control over the type of feed, fertilizers, etc. that you’re using. So, you can choose the quality of these inputs. 

If you have children, the homestead is a wonderful place for them to grow up.They learn where their food comes from at an early age, so they appreciate it more. They master practical life skills. They’re exposed to a whole array of micro-organisms, which translates into a more robust gut flora. There’s so many benefits to raising kids in this environment! 

While there’s a lot to appreciate about homesteading, it’s important to know what you’re getting into as you dream of beginning your own. In the following article, I will unpack some common myths and misconceptions and set a few things straight.

MYTH: You Need to be an Expert to Start a Homestead

It’s true that there is a steep learning curve for homesteading. You can read all the books and feel super prepared, but it’s just never going to be simple or perfect. This will always be true: what works for one person will not always be helpful for someone in a different place and situation, so knowledge gleaned from seasoned homesteaders (yes, even me) may not be fully applicable.

In general, I find that no matter how experienced or prepared you are, life has a way of surprising you with challenging situations whether it be related to homesteading or not. It’s kind of like having kids; you can read all the parenting books and ask other parents for tips, but nothing will ever fully prepare you to parent your children. There are a lot of things you have to figure out for yourself along the way. Eventually, you just have to take the plunge! Just go for it and do the best you can. You will certainly make mistakes, but you will also learn a lot as you go.

MYTH: You’ll Grow All Your Own Food

When I tell people that I homestead, one of the first things they usually say is, “oh, so you grow all of your own food then?” They are often shocked when I tell them that it is not something we are striving for.

Growing and producing all of your own food is a huge feat, especially for us modern folk who are accustomed to just popping into the grocery store to pick up a few things whenever we need to. Think about life in pre-industrial times. People didn’t produce everything they ate; they foraged, bartered, or traded, and worked together to tend to and harvest crops. No one was growing or processing every single thing that ended up on their family’s plates.

Modern technology saves us incredible amounts of time, so we’ve largely forgotten the effort it takes to produce all the ingredients we commonly use when putting together a meal. Producing all of your own food is not often doable for most of us, especially for single families.

Our family is always striving to produce some of our food, but we focus on things that are nice to have fresh, would be expensive, hard (or impossible) to find, or would be low-quality bought from a store. For us, this includes things like eggs, goat milk, culinary and tea herbs, sourdough bread, kombucha, sauerkraut, greens, and fruits.

MYTH: It Would Be So Cute to Have That Animal

I’m guilty of believing this one. I have held this misconception almost every time I wanted to get a new animal although it is truthfully rarely as easy as we think it will be to attend to the needs of living, breathing creatures who require regular care and attention to thrive.

Each animal you bring to the homestead adds another chore to the list of that which you’ll have to do every single day, rain or shine. They still have to eat in bad weather! Some animals are lower maintenance, like chickens and rabbits, but will still require food and fresh water daily; if something comes up, their care can quickly become much more difficult and time-consuming. I’ve had many days derailed by urgent and unexpected situations that arise with our animals.

When I imagine raising an animal, I picture everything going right. However, experience has shown me that animals can have a whole host of problems – everything from parasites to illness to injury. Some things are fairly straightforward, but other issues are much more difficult. Our homestead is very remote, so we handle a lot of things ourselves. It’s been a baptism by fire. While I have learned many things over the years, there is still so much to know, and I am still humbled often.

Unfortunately, if you raise animals, death is an inevitable part of the process too. I have seen many animals die over the years. Some from attack by predators, accidents, or illness, and some butchered intentionally to nourish our family. Death in any form is such a visceral reminder of the fleeting and precious nature of our own existence. Believe me when I say it never is easy to end an animal’s life, nor is it something I take lightly, yet I am so incredibly grateful for the sustenance provided by our chickens, rabbits, and pig.

Despite all of this, I would still say that having certain animals is worth it. Some of them are very cute, yes! But be forewarned – it may not be as uncomplicated as it can seem in the moments of hope and excitement we share for new members of the homestead.

MYTH: You’ll Save So Much Money

When I started, I thought raising chickens, rabbits, and goats would be like having free eggs, meat, cheese, and milk. I didn’t consider all the costs involved! You have to think about the initial cost of the animal(s) and the costs of housing and regularly feeding them. I certainly didn’t factor in the cost of medications and vet care, etc. when something goes wrong, which is always smart to plan for.

I thought growing my own fruits and veggies would save me tons of money on food. I didn’t think about how incredibly cheap lots of vegetables are, despite the crazy amount of effort it takes to grow them in your own garden. I didn’t realize the time and energy it takes to have a productive garden, which is time that you can devote to other things like working to make money.

When you consider how much organic raspberries or blueberries cost at a store versus the amount you can get off a well-established, prolific bush in your backyard for only the price of a berry bush, of course, it’s saving you money. Things get more tricky when you think about the cumulative costs of buying a meat animal, building it a shelter and sturdy fencing, and feeding it for months. Then, add in butchering costs (if you don’t do it yourself) and unexpected costs like vet care and medications.

Both the cost and quality of meat vary greatly depending on the place you purchase from, which makes calculating the cost-benefit of raising cattle and meat animals more difficult. Make sure you start by factoring in initial start-up costs, which are almost always high. Decide what source you’re using for your comparison. If you are wanting to raise a pig, determine whether you’re using the price and quality of packaged grocery store bacon or that of pasture- raised, higher-quality bacon at the farmer’s market or local butcher in your cost-comparison. You can even break it down cost-wise by the pound.

Ultimately, tracking all your costs is the only way to calculate the money you save, if any. Even then, it can be hard to figure out.

For example, if you have a goat, you will not have to buy milk when she is producing, but will still need to purchase feed when she isn’t. You will also need to continue buying feed for her once she has dried up and is no longer producing milk. Is she saving you money long-term, even when you are not receiving any milk from her? Does the money you save in store-bought milk or cheese during her producing times make up for all the feed you have to buy when she’s not producing a drop? This doesn’t even account for the money you spent to buy her and the money that you invested in her shelter, fencing, and so on.

While it is possible that homesteading can save you money, there are a lot of factors and unexpected expenses to take into account to fully determine if it will or not.

MYTH: You’ll Have Lots of Spare Time

This is another big misconception I had before becoming a homesteader. I imagined frolicking in the garden. I certainly didn’t anticipate the never-ending to-do list that comes with the homestead. Things are always breaking or needing some sort of modification to better suit our needs. I never guessed how long things take to accomplish. It seems like all of our big projects are so much more time-consuming than we expect!

I also didn’t think to calculate the days lost to dealing with animal shenanigans. Granted, our situation is a little bit special. Because of where we live and homestead, our neighbor’s animals are also often in the mix. We have spent entire afternoons chasing the neighbor’s pigs, cows, and donkeys out of our pastures and back into their own. Of course, there are much worse ways to spend your time, but some days it sure does feel annoying.

MYTH: Starting a Homestead Will Make Life Easier

At this point, I’m sure you’re realizing that starting a homestead is not going to make your life any simpler. It may certainly bring a lot of joy and meaning to your life as it does to mine, but it is (as you might be starting to understand) not going to be effortless. Popping by the grocery store is, without a doubt, easier than growing your own food and raising your own meat animals. Is the quality of what you can produce for yourself better than that which you can find in the store? Absolutely. Is a full-scale homestead feasible and satisfying enough to pursue? Only you and your family can make that decision.

MYTH: Homesteading Isn’t Worth It

While I’m certainly not sugar-coating things, I truly love my life and find homesteading to be rewarding and meaningful in so many ways. Regardless, there are still times when I wonder why I am sliding face-first in the mud bringing the goats back from their pasture in the torrential rain instead of going to the grocery store for milk like a normal person. It may not be for the faint of heart, but for us it’s worth it at the end of the day. You’ll have to decide for yourself if, despite everything, you’re crazy enough to enjoy life on a homestead too.