• Blog
    Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash

    The Challenges New Farmers and Homesteaders Face

    Tips and strategies to set yourself up for success
    by Samantha Biggers

    Thursday, August 26, 2021, 8:25 AM

Recently, a reader suggested that I write an article on the challenges for new farmers to help those just getting started. I agree that it is an important topic. There are a lot of things that I wish I had known as my husband and I started clearing our land and farming while building a house at the same time.  Since I can only fit so much in a single article, I hope that fellow members of the PP tribe will chime in with their tips in the comments section.

Money and Budgeting

I am throwing this one out there because it is often the most looming one. Getting started in the country is not cheap. Even if you are like us and had a chunk of overgrown family land, there are still enormous financial hurdles to jump over.

I will use our experience as an example. When we were 24 years old, my husband and I were given 10.75 acres of land. My grandfather originally owned a larger property that was split up between his sons. It was what he had at the end after a life that took him from being dirt poor with no shoes to wear as a child to a farmer with 30 acres and a paid-for house. Of course, he worked himself into the grave for it. Twenty-eight years at a paper mill and farming all the time took its toll. In his younger days, he logged and made liquor.

So here we were with very little money but a chunk of undeveloped, very mountainous land. I had a job as a financial planning assistant that I was doing remotely. That only lasted for a short period. The recession of 2008 resulted in a job loss for me. I started writing, but that was slow going. The camper we lived in cost $300 and had no running water and very little electricity.

When we were broke, we found things to do that required little or no money but improved our property. Clearing land with a brush ax, weedeater, and even handsaws is something we did a lot of. Odd jobs like mowing grass for others or short-term construction jobs helped bring in some income too.

Growing some of our food helped our budget too. We raised pastured pork, a calf for beef, chickens, and grew some vegetables. Sometimes we traded a little of our excess.

As far as the house building went, we literally built it $500 at a time. Did it take us years? Yes! But we built it with very good materials like Hardiplank and real wood walls and floors, and at the end, it was 100% ours. No mortgage and no bank loan. The trade-off was years without running hot water or indoor bathrooms and plumbing. We spent two winters in an 18 ft camper from 1978 that we struggled to keep at 60F. Temps outside sometimes got to -10F in the winter.

So overall, my advice is to go for it when you can but have a list of things that you can do to improve your situation when money is tight, or you have to wait around for some other reason.

Doing work yourself is always cheaper, even if you have to go slower or redo things sometimes when you mess up.

Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

The cost of hiring someone to do many jobs is 3x what it costs to do it yourself. At least that is what we found when building our house. Contractors have to pay for taxes, insurance, and a good enough salary for their workers to make a living. Contractors also have to charge for the time they spend procuring supplies for a project.

At the same time, know your limits. Some projects really are beyond what some people are capable of. Some things may be too dangerous, the tools may be too expensive to make it worthwhile, or the risk of doing a lot of damage is too great.

Avoid taking on too many different projects at once.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Farming and homesteading are both exciting. There are so many things that you could do, but it is important to understand that you cannot do them all. You need to pick and choose a few projects, especially when you are just getting started. A lot of people find getting a few backyard chickens is a good place to start. Grow a reasonably sized garden and if you find that you can handle that and have some success, then grow a larger one next season. My husband and I definitely took on too many different projects at once at times. We still find ourselves in that mode a lot of the time, but we admit that it is not good and leaves one feeling exhausted and stretched too thin.

In the beginning, taking on too many projects can lead to people giving up on farming and homesteading because they feel like they are failing because they cannot do enough or do it well. When you try to take on too many new things at once, it is hard to get very skillful at any of them. 

There is a learning curve to anything. Don’t expect too much of yourself the first few times you have to do something new.

Occasionally, someone wants to come to our farm to learn how to butcher, grow Shiitake mushrooms, etc. We have noticed that people have very high expectations of what their initial skill level should be. This mindset leads to disappointment. The first few times you do something, don’t expect for it to be easy or to be able to do it on the same level as the person showing you how.

I remember what it was like in the beginning. When Matt and I started out on our farm, we had recently stopped working jobs in offices, although I was still working some via telecommuting. I could not even walk up the mountain without huffing and puffing. Over the next year, I lost over 25 lbs.

When we started working on our house, we had to learn as we went. Matt had worked some construction jobs, but I have zero carpentry, masonry, or other building experience.

Farmers may make some tasks look easy at times, but that is only because they have performed the task time and time again. You will get there, too, if you put in the time and effort.

Make sure to allow extra time for tasks to be completed that you have little to no experience doing. You need to take the time to learn. Remember that hastily done work can lead to serious injury when performing many farm tasks. It is not worth it to rush. 

Butchering livestock is harder for some than others. It takes practice even if you are not squeamish or prone to crying.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The first time we butchered chickens, we managed to only do about 6 in an entire day. We did not have a mechanical chicken plucker to do that part for us, so we had to scald the birds and do it by hand. It was really smelly and frustrating, but over time and with better equipment, we got to where we could butcher 42 in a morning.

We raised a lot of pastured pigs and even butchered and processed a cow on the farm. We field-dressed more cows before sending them to the meat locker for further processing.

Taking an animal’s life is not easy or enjoyable, but it is part of the deal if you eat meat. Remember that someone else is doing this for you all the time. Having to kill your own meat makes you think.

It does get easier the more times you participate, but that doesn’t mean you won’t gag at the smells or be emotionally affected sometimes.

I recommend learning how to butcher from someone that has done it plenty of times if you can. If not, then get some books and study them before trying it yourself. 

Most things take a lot longer and cost more than you initially thought. Expect it.

When we started building our house, I had no idea that it would take as long as it did. We were building small, after all. Matt and I did 90% of the labor ourselves.  He had a friend help with some siding, roofing, and a little bit of pulling wires for the electrical system, and that was it. When you have never built a house before, it is easy to do cost estimates and then realize that you left something out or something didn’t go together the way you wanted it to, so you have higher material costs now.

There will be delays that you cannot plan for when farming or homesteading. Weather can play a major role. Money is another factor. It took years to build our house. I didn’t have a working bathroom for years, and it was a full five years from the time we started living in our camper until I had hot running water. I realize my case is a little extreme because we were young, determined, and without the income to move things along at a fast pace.

The lesson we learned about costs is to always plan on things costing 10% more than initial estimates. If you come in under, that is great, but if things go over, you don’t have to struggle so much.

Farming is not for everyone. If your partner or spouse is not into the idea of it, then pushing them into it is probably a mistake. Marriages have ended over this.

Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

Before you take on a lot of farming projects or move out to a rural area to start farming, make sure you and your spouse or partner are both clear on all aspects of making a move. Some people do not like rural life, but they don’t realize that until they experience it.

Couples who have not been together for very long should exercise caution before making any big life-changing decision. Farming requires working together on some level. Figuring out how to divide up the labor takes some teamwork. Not being on the same page or setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or your spouse is a recipe for disaster. 

You will work very long hours during certain times of the year or lose your crops.

You cannot put off some tasks for the next day or next week without dire consequences. You may be tired, but you still have to work. During the growing season and at harvest, the hours will belong. In the Fall and Winter, the workload will lighten.

Good help is hard to find. Friends that “volunteer” are often unreliable or want to get away and party on the farm.

People will offer to come help you, and either they won’t, or they will come out and not help much. Sometimes people treat coming out to a farm to do work as a mini vacation. There will be some that simply want to enjoy the perks of a nice view and being out in the country where they can throw back a few beers and burn a fire. You will find yourself getting even less done with the extra set of hands than if you had just attempted to do a lot of work yourself.

Remember how easily people can get discouraged too. Don’t give volunteers without any real farm experience any of the really grueling tasks. They will give up or do them so slowly that it is not worth it for anyone.

Friends will say they will come to visit you at your new place but then they won’t. Living rural means finding new friends and living a somewhat isolated existence compared to town life.

Get ready for a lot less company from friends and family. Even a 20-30 minute drive to your place is enough to ensure that you don’t get many visits. That is just the way it is. People may have good intentions, but they have busy lives, and it is easy to let a visit out to see someone get put on the backburner indefinitely.

Even if you plan a gathering well in advance, don’t expect most people to come unless you are a really lucky person. Make an effort to get to know those that are geographically closer to you and immerse yourself in your new community. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on your old friends or not invite family up. Do what you can to keep in touch with those you love and care about and make an effort to see them sometimes. 

Organic does not mean crops are not sprayed. New farmers need to realize that it is not realistic to not use sprays or powders to prevent crop damage from disease, insects, and fungi.

Photo by Neonbrand on Unsplash

Organic farms use sprays and powders to control diseases. In fact, organic farms may spray more often and use more gallons of spray than conventional farms. The difference, of course, is that organic sprays are derived from natural ingredients. That doesn’t mean they are not plenty nasty to deal with. You still have to wear a mask and protective gear to spray safely.

Do not make the mistake of thinking you can grow crops without spraying or dusting at times. You may occasionally succeed at growing a little food, but I can guarantee you that your yields will be far less, and the quality of your crops will suffer. You may also get nothing at all.

Be open to using natural sprays, dusts, and other methods for controlling disease, insects, and fungi.

Realize that being 100% self-sufficient is not realistic for most people.

Most people do not have the land they would need even to begin to be 100% self-sufficient. The labor and skills involved with growing and making everything yourself are just too much.  If a large enough group of people worked together on a large enough piece of land, then it might be possible. Communal living does not have a great track record. I am not saying it never works or never could work, just that it is rare for it too. Even The Farm in Summertown, TN, has found that they had to adopt a more individualistic approach to ownership to continue, and they are one of the most successful communes out there.

In the past, people farmed and produced excesses of certain crops and goods that they could sell or barter for the things they could not produce or make themselves. Coffee, tea, sugar, and wheat flour are all good examples of basic items that people consumed but did not produce. Any clothing made from anything besides wool required purchasing cloth even if the clothing was ultimately sewn at home.

There are things that can happen that are beyond your control.

Farming sometimes leaves one thinking that they should have done more or “if I had just done this, then that wouldn’t have happened.” While you can look back in hindsight and see a solution, the truth is that some things are not entirely predictable or in your hands. While there is nothing wrong with learning from experience, you do need to realize that some things are not under your control. Unpleasant things happen. Weather patterns can last for years and impact crops each time. There may be some years where certain crops just fail. This is one argument for growing some variety of crops rather than one or two large monocultures.

Varmints and pests prey on livestock sometimes despite all your defenses. No farmer that has been at it for very long has never lost some chickens or other stock.  You can have a well-defended chicken coop and free-range during the day and lose a few to hawks, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever turn your chickens loose.

Sometimes despite all your care and nights spent doctoring sick animals, they die anyway. It is one of the hardest parts of raising livestock.

New farmers have to learn to take the bad with the good.

You will have to do something about varmints and pest animals.

There is always something that would love to make a meal out of your livestock. You can handle this in a variety of ways. Deterring predators with good fences, cages, dogs, or motion sensor lights are all good first steps. The ugly truth is that at some point, you will have to either use a live trap and relocate pests, or you will have to kill them. You may have to catch them in a live trap and then kill them. While relocating animals sounds like the best thing to do, it can be dangerous or even illegal. Dumping an animal out somewhere else may just be making them someone else’s problem. In some areas, you may be able to call animal control to take them away, but unless it is a cat or dog, there is a good chance they are just going to eliminate them anyway and not tell you anything about it.

Growing plant crops and having no livestock can still mean that animals die as a result of farming. Consider how many animals die due to the use of grain harvesting equipment? There is no 100% cruelty-free agriculture.

Conclusion

Farming and homesteading are well worth it despite the challenges they present. In today’s challenging times, producing food and other consumables is something that a lot more of us are going to have to do. Although it is best to start small, with time and experience, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish and how much you can prosper.

What advice do you have to add? What challenges did you face when starting out?

Related content
» More

34 Comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 8:55am

    #1

    Oliveoilguy

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Jun 29 2012

    Posts: 1242

    5

    Bobcat likes my chickens … concertina wire?

    We have been fighting a bobcat or bobcat family for 3 months now. I have a 6 foot non-climb horse fence  around the 6000 sq foot chicken run that has trees and nice habit for my girls. We put a hot wire around the bottom of the area to no avail and now we put our Labrador out on guard duty. Bear has been a good sport and gets on great with the chickens but I don’t see it as the ultimate solution… so … we are going to put concertina wire (razor wire)  around on the top of the 6 foot fence. We have seen the bobcat jump up to the top of the fence and then jump down so hopefully this will help . Our chicken paddock will soon be more secure than the Southern

    border with Mexico.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 9:31am

    #2
    Dontknownothin

    Dontknownothin

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Mar 14 2020

    Posts: 513

    1

    Think like a guerilla... IEDs

    A friend of mine (who recently passed from cancer) used to get his bikes and bonsai's stolen from his back porch while living in Bulletmore Murderland. Being the crafty DIA and USMC trained IED expert he was, he used passive infrared sensors with noisemakers lights, and a shockingly friendly electrical reminder for the urban pests to kindly f*ck off. It was moderatly effective.

    Barring that, a good .22 will discourage wildcats. And if you are too close to neighbors and need something quieter I recommend the adder or stinger repeating crossbows from this site.

    I used to have a possum problem with my chickens... USED to.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 9:36am

    LBL

    LBL

    Status: Gold Member

    Joined: Apr 11 2020

    Posts: 389

    2

    LBL said:

    A 6 foot wall is not good enough, to keep bobcats away from a big meal like a flock of chickens.

    I had a 1/3 tame Feral cat, that could jump a 10 to 12 foot wall. I always thought that would make an interesting Animal Olympics - well fed versions of our "normal animals", escaping from traps, jumping walls, etc.

    What is the background water & food situation for the predators you are dealing with ?

    i.e., how DESPERATE are they.

     

    I live on the Southwest corner of a forest in Oregon that is about 7 x 11 miles, with very few water sources.  I have a creek on the lowest part of the property - which ran dry about the end of June.

    So it's like living on the edge of a watering hole in Africa.  The animals come for the water - and there is none.  Some of them find buckets & tubs of water around the house.

    And then there are 8 birds who spend their time in the 'night coop'.

     

    The "night coop" is 100% sealed with 1 inch chicken wire.  Floor, walls, and ceiling. And door.

    Mice & Smaller (Grey footed) wood rats can still make it through the chicken wire.  One of them got stuck, and I had to cut the wire mesh to free her, then patch up the hole that was made in the process.

    If I was doing it again, I would use 1/2 inch mesh.

     

    I recently spent a few days cutting down and removing all the things that gave an animal access to the roof of the house, so that the birds can return to their elevated Night Roost, with no walls.

    I had built a ladder to make it easier to get up onto the roof.  That had to be moved.

    Then I cut down a scrub oak that Weasels could also use to climb up to the roof.

    Then I cut down a huge stand of blackberry, same reason.

     

    The night roosts are 10 feet off the ground.  The birds have to fly there.

    The night roost has a 'roof' to make it harder for owls to attack from the air.

    I used the night roost from 2018 to 2021 with no bird deaths. Had 3 visits from a Bobcat or Mountain lion in 2018, that taught the birds (the hard way) to roost HIGH off the ground.

    Then the local weasel family "hacked" the night coop, and learned to attack the birds 10 feet off the ground.

    I had put in 'steps' so that birds that weren't so good at flying, could make it to the night coop.  E.g. Silkies with bigger wings.  OK so that concept worked for 3 years.

     

    The chickens spend their days in a chicken pen that measures about 20x30, with a WHOLE BUNCH of corn growing.

    This area is thoroughly watered. I now have animals entering the day pen, during the night, and they mostly eat the roots, and the dirt the roots are sunk in.

    Since there is almost no water, well-watered dirt is a welcome (?) replacement for many animals. And the chicken pen is a 20x30 area with well watered dirt.

    The corn plants are looking more and more like Mangrove trees.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 9:59am

    #4

    LesPhelps

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 30 2009

    Posts: 708

    1

    Think like a Gorilla

    Gorillas are herbivores.  Homesteading for a plant based lifestyle reduces the cost and complexity by orders of magnitude.  Actually, hominids evolved as herbivores, with wild chimps getting perhaps 1% of their calories from meat.

    Having said that, people are unlikely to give up addictive foods, including meat and dairy, without a compelling reason.  Fortunately, there are four largely independent, overwhelmingly compelling reasons to give up meat and dairy.  The one I stumbled across is nutrition and health.

    I won’t bore you with details.  Just be aware that the food industry is confusing the nutritional health landscape just like the tobacco industry did in the 1950s and 1960s with cigarettes.  They are even hiring one of the same firms, Exponent Inc., to help muddy the waters.  The USDA committee, receives financial encouragement when producing their nutritional guidelines.  If that doesn’t piss you off, you and I are very different.

     

     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 10:04am

    #5
    Dontknownothin

    Dontknownothin

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Mar 14 2020

    Posts: 513

    9

    Great advice! Prudent and practical.

    This article touched on some very important points.

    Farming is hard, grimy, and requires a lot of grit. It is where man meets nature on neutral ground and all of society's notions and philosophies are tested against reality.

    If you want to know how practical a political or social idea is, ask a farmer.

    If you want to know how much effort goes into those organic crops you buy at the farmers market, ask a farmer.

    If you want to know how to fix the economy, ask a farmer.

    Despite the folksy demeanor and the media's belief that rural people are somehow dimwitted, every farmer I have ever met knew more about futures contracts and negotiation than any stock trader or salesman I've met. They knew more about nature than any environmentalist activist. They knew more about veterinary care than most veterinarians. They knew more ways to use an egg than any chef you'll ever meet. And they knew more about hard work than any blue collar union trade than you'll ever meet.

    Best yet, you'll be in more debt than a med student with less respect. In short you will be humble, broke, tired, and if you try to not be one of those things, you'll be hungry too.

    This is a great feature on this site.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 10:24am

    #6

    roosterrancher

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 16 2010

    Posts: 186

    4

    Combat farming!

    Somebody, wants to eat everything we have. Meat, veggies, fruit, all have predators and they change every year, this year it is millions of cutworms and aerial attacks on the hens. We have lost beehives to bears, chicks to coons, calves to lions, even a horse to a bull elk.

    Proud to be out here with great neighbors that end a conversation with "call if you need anything" and really mean it.

    Great article Samantha, thank you.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 10:34am

    Mpup

    Mpup

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Mar 01 2020

    Posts: 287

    1

    Bobcat problems

    We also had a problem with bobcats.  I had converted a chain link dog pen into our girls home, it has a metal roof, I thought secure.    One morning there was a dead chicken in the pen and 1/2 of a chicken outside the pen.  No holes under the fence and it was secure.   The next day another dead chicken in the pen with it's head torn off?  I put a couple inexpensive battery powered motion detectors by the pen.  Next night the alarm went off.  Went outside and saw prox 40lb bobcat bouncing off the pen.  He would scare the girls off their roost and when they tried to get out he would reach thru the chain link and grab them.  Unfortunately didn't have my gun ready.

    The next night I was ready, when the alarms went off, there was a loud pop in the night.  Bobcat jumped about 3 feet in the air and ran off.  Certain I hit him, but not sure if he died?   I put some inexpensive led Christmas lights around the top of the pen on a timer, so far that has kept the bobcats away.  My alarms still go off with possums. coons, and armadillos, but no more problem with bobcats (so far).  I also put an extra layer of chicken wire around the entire pen secured with zip ties.  I keep my dog that barks here and bites over there ready in case a bobcat or other varmint should return.  This is similar to what was happening to my girls.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0TUx_E4Aic

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 11:10am

    #8
    Netlej

    Netlej

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Dec 09 2020

    Posts: 268

    1

    voles and hawks

    Voles are the bain of my existence. They make lots of holes, eat roots and go into beds and nibble. Just when I got a handle on them a neighbor excavated a huge area to build on and we received a massive swarm of "refugees". over the next few months as we are the only ones who water extensively. Just about have those handled but the neighbor on the other side sold a 5 acre parcel right on my fence line and they have started the big machinery up and are leveling.

    Catch them early cause they breed fast. I poison where there is no food or grazing anywhere near. Then I got an old 5hp lawn mower, put a long line of high temp hose on it, stick the hose down the hole and seal it with a rag, then fire it up for a half hour or longer. Works great for gophers too. I call it my carbon sequestration device.

    Yesterday the cock squaked out a warning and the girls all scrambled to get under the modular processing unit. We were all looking up for a raptor when something caught my eye. flying in through the orchard at about 3 feet off the ground was a coopers hawk who snagged the slowest hen.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 11:47am

    #9
    Netlej

    Netlej

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Dec 09 2020

    Posts: 268

    3

    refrigeration

    About 10 years ago I bought an old job site modular unit off craigslist for $1000. It was an empty 16' X 8.5' tiny house like trailer that had some shelves and hooks for gear. It was not pretty.

    I framed in the back 8' and heavily insulated it then installed a 12000 btu window mount air conditioner and hooked it up with a CoolBot controller;

    Home Page

    The rest of the unit I built out for all kinds of processing. I have the panels, controller, and inverter to make it fully solar but have not done it yet.

    The coolbot with ac works like a champ. It will take the room down to 32, I tried, I mostly keep it around 38 to 43 depending on what we have in it. Could not live without it.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 1:47pm

    ao

    ao

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Feb 04 2009

    Posts: 1590

    3

    the incredible bobcat

    OOG,

    The concertina wire sounds like a good idea but you may want that fence a little higher.  I have had experience with two pet bobcats, one living right next door.  This cat could easily jump from the floor of the neighbor's garage up to the 8 foot high rafters.  Quite frankly, I think it was capable of jumping higher as it did this jump in a seemingly effortless fashion.  Had it jump up on my shoulders once as easily as you and I would step up a single step.  It nibbled ever so gently on my eyebrow and immediately drew blood.  This cat was declawed and one with claws would be an even more formidable opponent.  The second bobcat owned by an acquaintance had the same capabilities.

    In terms of dog deterence, we once had a well muscle 65 lb. female Siberian husky, the retired alpha dog of her sled team.  Our neighbor's big 90+ lb. Lab got a bit too forward with her once and she quickly took him down with her jaws on his throat, not to hurt him but just to show him who was boss.  Well that Siberian husky was completely outclassed in terms of combat speed and ability by the neighbor's bobcat.  Frankly, one on one, I don't think many dogs could stand up to a bobcat.  Maybe an Argentinian dogo and a few others but I think a Lab would not fare well in such a match.  I'm pretty sure my 100 lb. German Shepherd would have been outclassed as well.

    Beautiful animal though with silky fur, gorgeous eyes, and a self assurance in its posture and gait that let you know it wasn't afraid of any dog or any human for that matter.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 2:39pm

    Oliveoilguy

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Jun 29 2012

    Posts: 1242

    2

    Concertina Wire and Jumping Bobcats

    1. I may put some extensions on top of my tee posts slightly angled out  and tie the razor wire on that …. Going to all this expense and trouble I sure want it to work . Should be able to get to 8’.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 4:07pm

    #12
    mntnhousepermi

    mntnhousepermi

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Feb 19 2016

    Posts: 324

    2

    organic sprays and such

    I think this is highly variable for where you live and what you are trying to grow.  I would recommend moving to not having to use bought in inputs as they may not be available in the future.

    My growing issues and non-issues will vary from other areas.  I do not have summer humidity, just dry heat.  On the other hand, I dont have nay summer humidity ( no rain for most months of the year and almost all of the entire growing season.

     

    I have ever sprayed or powdered any vegetable and do not see a need to.  SOme insect problems will be solved thru observation, for example, the beatles that eat my young plants ( esp squash and cucurbits of all kinds) best thing to do is to plant after they have peaked and mated.  And, to transplant and not to direct seed.   This also helps with slugs, transplants and pulling all much back from the planting site before hand, maybe the entire bed, then return once the seedling is larger.  Leaf miners on Chard, best is to pick it often, dont leave the harvest just sitting out there in the garden to be a host for them.  Especially once yo see the first signs of them, harvest that leaf and rip off the affected area and add the rest to tonights dinner.  Aphids that get onto brasiccas.  Generally, this will go away as the garden gets more stabilized as a balanced organic system.  Just take the losses at first, harvest frequntley, soak the aphids off for your dinner or feed to your animals.  Encourage the bus that eat them via companion plantings.  Build up your garden soil, when it is healthier and the plants are healthier they will be less likely to get them.  SO my garden no longer has a problem with this, in a rare year I will see some and it resolves itself.  Pick off tomatoe horn worms for the chickens to have a treat.  Blossom end rot on the tomatos, I am having more than usual this year on varieties I have had success, and I know it is because the soil is not up to par because of last years wildfire.  Solution is healthy well balanced soil and then if some varieties are still susceptible, dont grow that variety any more, choose different tomatoes. Powerdery mildew on squash and cukes.  I tend to always have a bit of this by the end of the season, usually not much.  I had some earlier this summer when I was away and the housesitter was watering.  I have less problems with this if I water early in the day and not in the evening.  I do not know what people do that have nightly cool humidity ( like by the coast) or hot humidity.

     

    There are some fruit trees that I do not grow due to not wanting to spray ( peaches and nectarines) The peach leaf curl will kill htem here.  I have heard a seaweed spray at the right times is effective, I was never on top of it.  And, my apples do have coddling moth damage, some trees worse than others

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 5:21pm

    #13
    Samantha Biggers

    Samantha Biggers

    Status: Member

    Joined: Feb 09 2021

    Posts: 35

    13

    Another Challenge Is Jealousy

    When I was writing this article I forgot to touch on a "touchy" subject that is can be a real challenge for farmers and homesteaders. Be ready for jealously. I will not say this happens all the time but it can be real problem for some. It may surprise you how jealous someone can get if you work hard and lead a farming or homesteading lifestyle. People see you leading an enviable life but fail to see the hard work and heartbreak that goes along with it. They just see that you seem to "have it all". It may surprise you who acts this way towards you.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 6:18pm

    CrLaan

    CrLaan

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Sep 05 2010

    Posts: 106

    0

    CrLaan said:

    practice what you preach will not always be appreciated.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Aug 26, 2021 - 6:39pm

    David Allan

    David Allan

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Nov 15 2009

    Posts: 88

    5

    And as the crisis deepens...

    You are quite right Samantha and you ain't seen nothing yet.  As the crisis deepens more people who have enjoyed leading the good city life are going to find they've run themselves out of options.

    We are well established with 10 years on our current property and I can attest to the amount of hard work required. For 3 years we got by on one income and I worked full time developing the property.  That said I would strongly encourage anyone who is contemplating making the move.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 10:17am

    #16

    LesPhelps

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 30 2009

    Posts: 708

    1

    Speaking of bobcats

    I took this video last winter in Green Valley, AZ.  Bobcats, coyotes and javelinas are numerous there.





    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 11:24am

    #17
    LBL

    LBL

    Status: Gold Member

    Joined: Apr 11 2020

    Posts: 389

    0

    LBL said:

    The closest I've been to a large cat, probably, was back in 2018, when I heard something walking on the roof in the middle of the night.

    Then it jumped onto the back porch.

    The sound was very cool, a pleasure to hear.  Side-stepping the fact that it may have been the same predator that ate some of my birds.

     

    No stumbling, totally sure footed, and heavy.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 11:31am

    #18
    BeeFarmer

    BeeFarmer

    Status: Member

    Joined: Mar 14 2020

    Posts: 51

    5

    hit'n the groove

    We've been on our current property 10 years now.  I am just now feeling like we've hit the groove.  it's taken "practice" to get things in balance.  I find that over grazing our five acres was the biggest challenge.  I was such a softie to all those cute little dexters, AGH, and 60 chickens.  I've now learned to just have a handful of animals, and the land much appreciates it.  However, honey bees you can never have too many of ;).  We are chemical and treatment free, so we do not spray for anything (even organically) due to the bees.  This was a challenge some years, but once we created a more "balanced" landscape, things started to really fall into place.  It took many years of just intuitively listening to the land.  We've been able (through long hours and hard work as Samatha points out) to create a small oasis here in our little homestead.  Just don't be tempting me with cute little furry babies and we'll be fine. :0

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 12:37pm

    #19
    smaturin

    smaturin

    Status: Member

    Joined: Mar 18 2017

    Posts: 12

    2

    Community helps

    We've been on our 5 acre homestead a few years now. Built everything on raw land, but I am a construction contractor, so not a problem for me to do and extremely satisfying to start with a blank slate. Construction is a great way to meet locals. We moved from an area with high real estate appreciation to a lower cost area, so had some funds to get started. First thing I did was put in a fruit and nut orchard to be the future home of a chicken and egg operation. I'm a permaculturist and plan to grow most of my own chicken feed. In my experience marketing your farm products is the biggest headache, not growing them, so some day job is necessary at least at first.  My partner works remotely as a journalist, and is discovering to his surprise that he is good at doing the farm stuff! I set things up so that his input is pivotal, which gives him good feelings. We are in a mountain valley with lots of organic farms. There is a very active listserve for buying and selling or trading anything you can think of --or just discussing local issues.  Anything you need, whether advice or equipment or housing is often available locally, usually at low cost. This is a great resource to have.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 12:47pm

    #20
    Netlej

    Netlej

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Dec 09 2020

    Posts: 268

    3

    Flowers and bushes.

    I have mentioned before but I will keep talking about it because it has been a huge factor in bringing the whole farm concept together.

    Plant tons of flowers, flowering bushes and trees, and other plants and bushes that are good "fill" for flower arrangements. Not just a "flower garden" plant them everywhere.

    I had the hardest time in the beginning planting and maintaining anything non-food related but wow!

    There are so many benefits to doing this that I will probably miss some but obviously they will attract pollinators. I have counted at least 20 different kinds of pollinators and thats not counting the birds. The Birds...OMG! I'm not talking about a few cute birdies here and there but whole flocks. Everything from tiny thumb sized birds to 3 or 4 foot tall herons helping me out with vole patrol. A while back I was looking out at a group of 75' rows I planted and I saw little dark things dashing in and out of the growth. I thought it was rodents and was about to get pissed, there were dozens and dozens. Turned out it was some kind of bird flock that was methodically working the rows plant by plant. I walked out there and that scared them off in a cloud of a hundred birds or more. I looked for damage but there was none. There was also not a single bug.

    I have seen this kind of activity over and over all around the farm. I have a dozen citrus that I wheel out of the green house every summer and I once saw a big group of birds dive in to them and work them so much they were slightly shaking. We have 20 or 30 split tail swallows that stick around, hatch chicks, poop all over my shop, and they really work the pond and our back porch to where I have not been bitten by a mosquito once this year.

    Everyone who comes to the farm comments on how many birds there are and we do not put out any bird feed. Some birds will go in and eat from the chicken or duck feeders but not so much that it is a problem.

    Oh and try not to kill off the wasps. I know how scary they can be and how much a sting hurts but they are just about the only natural predator for the white moth aka brassica moth that can destroy a whole field of kale, broccoli, etc. I used to kill them off completely and had tons of white moth. Stopped killing them and I only see the occasional one or two.

    We also sell flowers and even do the occasional wedding flowers, kaching! My wife and a colleague started a flower CSA kind of a thing where everyone gets a fresh bouquet every week...off the hook response. We will probably double subscriptions next year and we always offer what ever food we are harvesting in abundance to come with their delivery if they choose.

    Lots more but back to it!

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 7:36pm

    chloecasey

    chloecasey

    Status: Member

    Joined: Dec 25 2008

    Posts: 28

    5

    Organic Sprays

    I agree with you and thought Samantha's article was wonderful except for the part about organics and spraying.  She is completely correct that most organic food can and does have lots of sprays and powders applied to it.  Not only can the "natural" versions used by the farmers be just as harmful (to the land and the person eating it) but there is a whole list of "exceptions" where the synthetic can be used if there is no natural alternative available.  I am in no way judging farmers who use these sprays since the ability to grow most crops without them is not economically feasible due to decreased yields and the produce not meeting the exact standards that most consumers require.  I don't know of many consumers that will purchase and eat an apple with a coddling moth hole in it.

    Like you said, it is possible to raise crops without sprays and powders but it depends on the crop and the location.  We raise and sell grass-fed beef with "better than organic" standards but we also produce about 85% of our other own food needs (the other 15% being milk products and grain).  Depending on the year, a particular crop (like a particular variety of tomato) can produce an abundant and healthy crop of produce but the next year can completely fail due to any combination of weather and pests.  I do not envy my crop producing farmer peers.  But I do believe you can raise your own food without sprays and powders if you make sure to heavily diversify your crops, stay flexible, make sure you have very healthy soil, and don't mind some "blemishes" on some of your produce.

    My particular pet peeve is the label "organic" because it can end up meaning next to nothing.  That is why it is so important to "know" your farmer if you have the privilege to do so.  Many times people are spending their hard earned money on some product labeled organic when the conventional version might actually be healthier.  I would much rather buy an apple from a local conventional farmer that sprays only once before the fruit sets than an "organic" apple from some far off country where heaven knows what it has really gone through!  In the case of apples, we eat our own coddling moth damaged but still incredibility tasty ones raised on our own farm.  We give away all the extra to our friends and neighbors since there is really no outlet to sell them to.

    That all being said, thanks Samantha for taking the time and energy to write this article for new and potential farmers.

     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 10:11pm

    Netlej

    Netlej

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Dec 09 2020

    Posts: 268

    1

    Sprays and powders

    Disclaimer : I do use some Neem now and then.

    Using sprays and powders, even "organic" will kill off and seriously discourage pollinators and birds. I don't use them.

    But hey the point is not to save the natural world, it's to save our own asses by making money because without it we are toast. And therein lies the dilemma...even for the "organic" folks.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Aug 27, 2021 - 10:21pm

    LesPhelps

    Status: Silver Member

    Joined: Apr 30 2009

    Posts: 708

    0

    Humans and Big Ag Livestock Now Account for 96 Percent of Mammal Biomass

    This is a May 2018 link.

    https://www.ecowatch.com/biomass-humans-animals-2571413930.html

    I'm sure the percentage is larger now.

    If it were my choice, Earth's fauna would have a more diverse makeup.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sat, Aug 28, 2021 - 10:06am

    Resilient in KY

    Resilient in KY

    Status: Member

    Joined: Oct 08 2018

    Posts: 10

    2

    Concur 100 percent!

    We hear that all the time. Our only vacation this year was our trip to Polyface as we have to stay home and tend crops and animals. Its a fulfilling life but people have zero idea of how hard it really is to homestead.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sat, Aug 28, 2021 - 7:36pm

    #25
    permiegirl

    permiegirl

    Status: Member

    Joined: Aug 01 2020

    Posts: 18

    3

    Don't underestimate skill and time for processing the harvest

    Spent yesterday pulling elderberries off their stems for making jelly. I'm trying a couple of tricks to make the job easier.  Because let me tell you, those are some small berries and it takes a lot of them to make anything appreciable!  All parts of the elderberry plant are poisonous except ripe berries which need to be cooked.   I write this as an illustration of the time and effort needed when things get harvested to turn them into a usable form, and preferably a form the keeps well.

    Obviously, late summer through fall is a very busy time for those of us in a 4 season climate.  Even with the best planning, most of us need to find ways to keep food good for an extended time.  Canning, fermenting, drying, storage in a root cellar or some other appropriate place is time consuming and requires equipment, skills and effort.  In my more perfect homesteading dreams I pull off what Eliot Coleman does as explained in his books about using hoop houses to have fresh food all year long in Maine.

    So not only is it important to learn building and farming skills, but cooking and domestic skills that were common in previous centuries, are rare now and take time to learn.  After a hot sweaty day of putting up tomatoes and puree, all I want is a delivery pizza and to put my feet up.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sat, Aug 28, 2021 - 8:24pm

    chloecasey

    chloecasey

    Status: Member

    Joined: Dec 25 2008

    Posts: 28

    1

    Vacation?

    Vacation...I have heard that such a thing exists.  Tell me more!  😉

    Our last family vacation was nine years ago.  But of course we live on land that lots of people would pay good money to go on vacation to.  So no need to feel sorry for us. 🙂 We just have to constantly remind ourselves to look up, slow down, and take in the incredible beauty and peacefulness every once and a while.  The cows do a good job of reminding me to try to just be in the moment - that is the way they live.  You could drive yourself crazy thinking about all the projects that aren't yet done on a farm.

    Though I do find myself daydreaming every once and while about sitting on a beach in Hawaii just drinking a cocktail while watching the waves come in.  Maybe someday when I get my list of 12,487 farm todo's done!

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sun, Aug 29, 2021 - 3:04pm

    TechGuy

    TechGuy

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Oct 13 2008

    Posts: 322

    0

    Bobcat & electric fences

    "Bobcat likes my chickens … concertina wire?"

    Did you try electrifying your fence? You can get solar power electric fencing. I would search on line to find the approaprate jolt needed to address bobcats. I suspect the power level to deter bears would work for bobcats.

    I would avoid using razor wire since it can be dangerous for you, family, or pets.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sun, Aug 29, 2021 - 3:12pm

    TechGuy

    TechGuy

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Oct 13 2008

    Posts: 322

    0

    Voles

    A few things I used to address voles:

    1. You can build walls out of concrete\stone pavers. The voles will only usually dig down a few inches. They usually don't come above ground.

    2. Install broken oyster shells at the bottom of your garden or rasied beds. The don't like digging into the sharp edges of the shells

    3. Install hardware cloth on the bottom of your raised beds. The cannot tunnel through the tight mesh.

    4. If you can find there holes, you can use regular mouse traps to trap them, but you might also catch mice.

    5. Gum may also work as they will eat it and it damage their gut causing them to die. I saw a YT video on this years ago, but never tried it.

    6. You can try planting onions & garlic around the parameter of your garden as rodents don't like them.

     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sun, Aug 29, 2021 - 3:20pm

    TechGuy

    TechGuy

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Oct 13 2008

    Posts: 322

    0

    Vacation?

    I got you beat. 2000 was the last vacation I went on. I almost went on vacation on Sept 12,2001, but I think you know why that didn't happen.

    I have taken some time off, usually a three day weekend for a wedding, or funeral, as well as to find property for a homestead (which I now own). I now have two jobs: a full daytime job, and building up my homestead. I doubt I will ever go on vacation, as I am just too busy & I don't the ccpv restrictions will ever go away.

     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sun, Aug 29, 2021 - 4:20pm

    Oliveoilguy

    Status: Platinum Member

    Joined: Jun 29 2012

    Posts: 1242

    0

    Hot wire to deter bobcats

    We have already put a hot wire around the whole perimeter. Didn’t work. ……Not too worried about the razor wire ….it will be from 6’ to 8’6” off the ground. We will know soon if it works.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Sun, Aug 29, 2021 - 5:19pm

    yogmonster

    yogmonster

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Apr 01 2013

    Posts: 73

    0

    yogmonster said:

    Permigirl,

    Maybe you've tried this already, but what works real well to get elderberry of the stem is to cut of stem that berries are on, put them in large bag, then put them in freezer overnight. Then rub bag vigorously. Berries fall right off, and are left at the bottom of the bag.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Fri, Sep 03, 2021 - 7:38am

    #32
    Norman001

    Norman001

    Status: Member

    Joined: Aug 22 2021

    Posts: 5

    0

    Norman001 said:

    Just a comment that 'the peach leaf curl kills them here' is meaningless unless we know where 'here' is.

    'Here' for me is the western UK. Leaf curl makes it difficult for me too to grow peaches. The easiest are apples, pears, plums, apricots, figs, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants.

    Named varieties of hazel nut do very well, ditto walnuts. But anyone growing nuts here has to control (grey) squirrels, a huge pest which people brought from North America in the 19th.C and kept as pets. (I wish the predators of squirrels had also come here as 'pets' ...)

    I agree about wasps. They even pollinate flowers earlier in the summer.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Sep 09, 2021 - 4:49pm

    #33
    Stph

    Stph

    Status: Bronze Member

    Joined: Jul 01 2021

    Posts: 83

    0

    Great & practical thread. Just wanted to bump it (would like to see it made sticky or otherwise easy to find)

    I thought growing food would be hard and fun.  It turned out to be about 100X harder than anything I imagined - there is always something going wrong or some critter/pest/blight wanting to "eat" the plants and, especially, the food.   I have gradually moved everything into greenhouses -- not to keep things warm but to provide a break against too much sun, too much insect pressure, too many peacocks/squirrels/raccoons/etc.

    Planting fruit trees and perennials which are really hardy and self-sowing (resilient) has turned out to be the only way I could make things worthwhile, given that it is just me and I have other interests.  I really liked that you emphasized how hard and time-consuming it can be - especially at the beginning.  My plan going forward is to focus even more on things which fit *easily* with the land/climate/and various pests; and plan to do more bartering.  There is a vast amount of unappreciated genius in a farmer who can make a farm work both energetically and in terms of time management without massive outside inputs.

    Again, great thread.  It would be nice to see it kept alive.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Thu, Sep 09, 2021 - 5:07pm

    Sharon Coe

    Sharon Coe

    Status: Member

    Joined: Feb 06 2020

    Posts: 10

    0

    Sharon Coe said:

    I completely agree that the squirrels raccoons etc make it hard for me to benefit from my fruit trees etc, on the other side of that though is when I’m relying on the land for most of my needs I’m betting the squirrels will become food too ☺️So I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude. I think working on it now when you can still get supplies is a great way to get our feet wet. I also feel good when I’m outside working in my garden or orchard, it’s a peaceful feeling I don’t get elsewhere.

     

     

     

     

    Login or Register to post comments