Why homestead. This is the eternal question every homesteader must answer.
Why do we do it? Why reinvent the wheel of sorts, why put out the effort?
If you ask different homesteaders, “Why Homestead?” their answers are as varied as they are thematic. Usually, it’s something to do with getting back to a simpler life, reducing a carbon foot print, etc.
For me, the moment came when we suddenly were charged more for hay when a seller learned we moved here from an affluent part of the country and have horses.
In the horse world, people are decidedly more consumers than producers. Therefore, it must stand, we can afford to pay higher prices. That incident was the fundamental shift in my thinking. In short, I started homesteading because I was tired of getting ripped off.
The answer to “Why Homestead” became clear. I wanted to become more of a producer, and less of a consumer.
It hurts now to go to the grocery for meat because now I know sausage is usually the tougher parts of the pig and also the scraps left from the other cuts. Yet it still sells for $4/pound.
I can’t stand the cost of beef. We are on our way to producing our own pork. That’s some solace. We are further away from producing beef, mostly because of the cost.
I am working on the aquaponic system, which is slowly coming together. (Planning for 3 different types of fish and fresh water prawns eventually).
One thing I wasn’t prepared for, aside from the slow pace of things, was the financial side, which absolutely effects pace. I was prepared to build everything in a month, but that was just unrealistic. I also wasn’t prepared for the immense learning curve.
Things like plumbing to build my methane digester (I’m all about this methane digester, manure management is pretty much my life, and a part of homesteading I don’t see frequently addressed) and the aquaponic system.
Guess how much I knew about plumbing? It’s only slightly better now. 😉
The second reason I ventured into homesteading is after moving to rural America, after years of suburban/urban life, we couldn’t find any gourmet type food. Cheese especially. Our choices are cheap cheddars, or Swiss, made from who knows what additives. I’ve been dying for goats and sheep to start our own artisan cheeses.
Pretty much the only food you can get around here is super fried. And forget any Indian cuisine! (One of our staple cuisines. My husband had never even tried it before he met me, and neither had anyone in his family).
We decided to start our own chickens for meat, and not just eggs, when I read the USDA will allow chicken from China to be sold in the US. Now that I’ve studied butchering and taken apart whole chickens (we are still building our flock), I’m looking forward to harvesting from our own well-treated and well-cared for flock.
In addition to culling our excess roosters, we will add Cornish Crosses to our flock. While there might be more ethical or sustainable choices than that breed, I feel I will have an easier time emotionally butchering them since, if you let them live to long, it negatively effects the quality of their lives.
The two pigs we have here are for breeding, but their babies will be for butchering, or if they don’t breed, then they will be butchered, but it will be hard to do it.
I also like the whole idea of a closed-loop system, from everything from cooking to manure management. I like that after we fry chicken (I do like the occasional fried food!), we make gravy from the left over oil and chicken bits in the pan to make gravy (my husband likes biscuits and gravy for breakfast), and broth from the left over chicken and bones, which we use in rice, savory pancakes, etc in place of water to add extra flavor and protein.
Nothing goes to waste. Any leftovers go to the dog or the pigs.
We will install an orchard in the spring, and I’m looking at spots in the property for perennial beds (herbs, sunchokes and daikon radishes for livestock feed).
We are working on producing our own energy. We are actively looking at wind power, which seems an easier option for us than solar power, and at natural gas. With the wind we get and the animals, both are renewable sources of energy.
Since we have forested parts of our property, we are also looking at wood heating, which is a sustainable resource for us. I don’t mind staying tied to the grid for electric for now, but anything we can do to reduce our outputs, right?
We are looking at more sustainable heating options for next winter because of the cost of propane.
So, that’s why I homestead! Why do you homestead?
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.