Sometimes all you need is a bit of motivation….and a lot of accountability. This guest post comes from Kimberlee at Old Walsh Farm. Her family committed to learning 52 homestead skills in one year, and here’s how they did it!
Psssst…Do you want to know the secret to becoming an accomplished homesteader in one year? It’s actually very simple.
You confidently announce to every single one of your friends and family members as well as everyone you know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and anyone else you happen to bump into who will listen to your story that you are going to learn 52 homesteading skills in one year.
How do I know this works? Because that’s exactly what I did.
Two years ago our family of four decided to sell the house we spent five years building with our own hands and use the proceeds to buy a fixer-upper farm in Upper Coverdale, New Brunswick where we would have the necessary land and infrastructure to live out our homesteading dreams.
There was just one problem. The only homesteading we had ever done was to keep chickens (all of whom died courtesy of a ferret who bit their necks, sucked their blood and left them for us to find in the morning) and plant a small garden where we successfully learned how to kill all kinds of plants.
So how were we going to accomplish our goal? At the time we had no clue. Neither one of us had grown up on farms or had any real farming experience. But we were motivated by the fact that we wanted to become more self-sufficient, eat better food than what we could buy in the store and live a more meaningful life.
So we packed up all our things and moved to a 200 year old farm on the outskirts of town which, by the way, was a steal of a deal, but required many renovations. Let’s just say the roof leaked, the electrical was outdated and when you turned on the tap in the upstairs bathroom, water leaked from the ceiling in the downstairs kitchen. The 200 foot barn that came with the 12 acre property wasn’t in much better condition. (Maybe it wasn’t such a good deal after all.)
So with my husband working a full-time job in IT in the city, two young kids (ages 2 and 6 at the time) to take care of and a long list of home renovations to complete, it was very easy not to homestead. In fact, months went by and we still hadn’t done any farming.
Frustrated with our situation, I decided on a whim that I would start a blog to motivate and challenge myself to homestead as well as share our anticipated adventures. It was a great idea, but 52 homesteading skills in one year was a bit ambitious considering our circumstances. But a more realistic goal…say 20 homesteading skills in one year just didn’t sound as impressive.
So despite my better judgment I wrote the post announcing our over-ambitious goal and shared it with EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, I knew. It was so exciting and I was so pleased with myself…until it actually came time to learn these skills.
A few weeks into the challenge and I was already panicking. Not only had I no idea how long some of these skills would take to learn, but I had never blogged before. I think blogging may have been harder than homesteading. Not because of the writing, but due to the pictures, dealing with technical issues, posting to different sources, sending out emails, responding to comments and questions….It is time consuming.
In the end I may have learned 52 homesteading skills in one year, but I actually only wrote 20 posts. My last one was a compilation of the remaining skills we learned.
However, if I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would have never tried and learned so many skills in one year if it wasn’t for the blog and all the people who followed and shared and liked and encouraged. I didn’t want to let them down or look like a fool so night after night after putting the kids to bed I stayed up and made candles or tried to knit or simply cried over failed projects like when I forgot to water my microgreens and they all withered and died.
I can’t say any of it was easy but it was rewarding.
Over the course of the year we acquired our first farm animals – ducks, chickens and bees, learned to make cheese and butter and how to milk a goat. We preserved food, made hand salve, and soap, spun wool and practiced chopping our hay with a scythe.
There were also surprise skills we were NOT supposed to learn like catching our honeybees when one day they decided the hive was too crowded.
The challenge was so successful we are now wondering if it is possible to turn our homestead into a farmstead and earn enough income for my husband to stay at home and farm with me. Over the next year, I will be interviewing farmers in our area who started as homesteaders and blogging about how they eventually began earning an income. I hope to find out what kinds of farming activities they tried, what worked and what didn’t, how they save money and how to get started.
Although we’ve taken a break over the past couple months to map out where we want to go from here and how best to grow our homestead, we’re now ready to continue adding to our ever-growing list of skills. This spring we will be fencing 5 acres, adding Babydoll sheep to the farm and growing table grapes or other small fruit. We are also planning on raising meat chickens and expanding the garden.
All of this because of a simple challenge. So if you’re frustrated with your homesteading progress or perhaps need some extra motivation to build on the skills you already have, why not challenge yourself?
If you need some inspiration on what skills to learn, head on over to the Old Walsh Farm and subscribe to my blog. I’ll send you a list of 52 homesteading skills conveniently organized by month so you can get started right away. Just beware. As you cross one skill after another off your list, you may become addicted and you could end up with much more than a homestead. You may finish your year-long challenge with a whole farm.