Eating clean, minimalism and sustainable living have caused an influx of families to ditch the mainstream life, buy chickens, and start their own farms. Maybe you’ve watched The Biggest Little Farm or have been following some picture-perfect homesteader Instagram feeds and are wondering, “should I homestead?”
In my most recent Project Simplicity post, I shared the big news that we’ve officially decided to walk away from the homesteading dream after 10+ years of playing tug-of-war with the picturesque lifestyle.
I always wanted to know if other homesteaders were as burdened as I was on the homestead. I found many blog posts and videos about the great challenges and difficulties of homesteading. However, in the end of every such post, the authors always share their renewed love for their lifestyle and encourage readers to consider homesteading for themselves. They promise a satisfaction in life that can only be found in the daily grind of life off the grid.
This is not that kind of post.
This is a very pessimistic post about the harsh realities of homesteading. For my family, the emotional, physical and spiritual struggles outweighed the “rewards”. I’m enthralled with the captivating lifestyles of my favorite homesteading bloggers, *but* we have chosen to move on from this lifestyle and follow our family’s unique purpose and path in life…with a “normal” life.
I’m not trying to smack-talk homesteading. Obviously, based on our “chasing the dream” for the last decade, I believe homesteading is a glorious way of life and important for humanity. I LOVE that people are waking up and recognizing where we’ve seriously gone wrong with consumerism and wasteful modern consumption. I LOVE that families are choosing to live a life that honors the earth and do what it takes to live sustainably. I’m incredibly grateful for homesteaders and organic farmers. Keep going! I am your devoted customer.
I hope this post serves as a helpful and “are you really up for the challenge” guide. Perhaps this post can prepare future homesteaders for success or serve as a confirmation to wanna-be-homesteaders that this may or may not be the right path to take.
I wrote this post because I wish I could have found more people online to connect with as I struggled with the decision to finally walk away from our homestead dream. Maybe this post can serve as support for someone else who is struggling with the same difficult decision. While we cherish the beautiful memories we created as homesteaders, it’s important to add our story of homesteading failure to the blogosphere.
1. Homesteading is Expensive
There is always something. Always. Something.
On top of our regular family budget, we had to allow for animal food, unexpected vet bills, meat locker fees, licenses, permits, fencing, contractor labor, tools, added utility bills, purchase or rental of supplies of all kinds, crisis money…
Many of my readers likely follow some of my top 3 favorite, and very popular, homesteading bloggers. What many people likely don’t realize is all three of these ladies make a high 6-figure or even 7-figure income every year as a doTERRA leader (which I am totally amazed and inspired by as a doTERRA leader myself).
I don’t know any of these ladies’ actual personal details, but based on site traffic and followers, they also likely make large incomes from blog ads, affiliate links, e-books, print books and product sales. Though all three of these homesteading rockstars started with very low incomes, their full time homestead lifestyles are now sustained by a significant stream of outside income. I get caught comparing myself to these people I admire so much, but the reality is they have a LOT of money!
There are plenty of homesteaders on a very low budget who blog specifically about low-budget homesteading. Man, these people are dedicated to their farms, as well as pinching and designating every last penny! I’ve found many low-income homesteaders sharing the line by line details of their homestead budget and these folks have mastered frugality to a point I frankly am not interested in experiencing.
For me, this extreme level of frugality is an extremely difficult way to live. I’d seriously rather live as a missionary. Budget homesteading usually means trading modern pleasures and luxuries for livestock, animal feed and poop scooping devices. Many incredible folks are happy with this exchange.
I’ve come to the point of wanting to buy a nice facial serum instead of a stockpile of alfalfa. I’d like to save money for a trip to Italy, not a tractor.
2. Homesteading is Dirty. Relentlessly Dirty.
Oh. My. Goodness. The dirt, hair, poop, mud, dust, rodents, flies, dead bug parts…
Despite having four children and pets, I’ve become a bit obsessive about cleaning. Add a homestead and my obsession turns to psychosis.
The constant battle with messes and dirt absolutely contributed to my emotional struggle while homesteading. I was almost always unhappy in my home because I could not manage the constant upkeep and cleaning projects- inside and out.
Some people choose to live with a little bit of mess because it’s not worth taking away from family and important things just to clean. This is admirable. In fact, for many of my first years of parenting I let piles of toys, laundry and dishes pile up. I was surviving. I would repeat to myself Dr. Laura’s idea that “dust bunnies mean you’re a good mom”.
This philosophy didn’t last for me. I am absolutely a better mom when things are clean. Keeping a clean and tidy home, and teaching my children to be clean and tidy, is very important to me. Clean space produces balance, peace and creativity.
Keeping a consistently clean home while homesteading is an almost impossible task.
3. Homesteading is Lonely.
You aren’t going to find many acreage properties on cul de sacs that allow cows, chickens and nocturnal livestock guardian dogs that bark at the wind all night. (Actually its “culs de sac” #grammarnerd.) It’s also unlikely to find homestead properties close to a community populated with a wide selection of likeminded and like-aged families you and your children can befriend.
I’ve always wanted to be isolated and enjoy my own expanse of private space. While living on the homestead there were many days I reveled in the peaceful isolation, with nature’s symphony of sounds and colors wrapping around us. My bedroom window offered views of gorgeous sunrises over a partly wooded pasture often painted with deer, Duke (the horse), colorful songbirds and bald eagles.
After some time, the isolation was painful. We eventually made friends with some of our neighbors, which was a blessing. However while living a full-time homestead life, we realized how much we truly enjoyed and needed the social life we had when we lived in town.
Before the homestead, we were involved in daily activities with church, homeschool classes, park and beach dates with other families, fitness classes, dance, gymnastics, etc.
On the homestead, the hassle of the long commute and seasonal weather, or the need to take care of a project or crisis on the property, resulted in a severe deficit of these types of social activities. We made a concerted effort, still going to church, dance and gymnastics. But it was always a struggle to do more than what was required.
Some homesteaders enjoy the isolated lifestyle and are close with their local community, even if they rarely interact. Many modern homesteaders make up for the lack of social engagement with online communities.
The online option doesn’t cut it for me. I need fellowship, daily interaction with adults, and a reason to get up in the morning and put some makeup on, do my hair, and engage more actively with other people- in person.
Homesteading stole my social life and a big chunk of my soul. I’m excited to get that back.
4. Homesteading May Destroy Your Family.
To piggy-back on the last point, the lack of daily social interactions with other families significantly affected our family…especially my children. (This point is long, but tied with point #10 as the main reason we decided to quit homesteading.)
Just in case you thought it was so, your life won’t become a modern Little House on the Prairie if you become homesteaders.
Since my oldest was chasing chickens and tarantulas at 4 years old, I figured my children would thrive on the homestead. Heck, my kids are enthralled when watching Little House, of course they’d love the real thing. They were going to thrive in the real thing!
Unfortunately I was wrong. Very wrong.
My childrens’ hatred of going outside on the property began the month we moved in…with the wasps that would appear out of nowhere. Then an evil rooster started viciously attacking every moving thing that dared to step outside. Even the livestock guardian dogs gave this rooster his space. Though this rooster met his end when he decided to attack me, the kids’ hatred of the outdoors continued to grow with the general discomfort of overgrown plants, mean animals and overabundance of biting and stinging bugs.
There were some days of perfect weather where I would force the kids outside. On these occasions they would have a nice time exploring and discovering, but this joy was never long-lived and they were rarely inspired to go outside without being told to go.
But it’s much more than kids hating the homestead life…
As our children get older develop their own life path, we want to be as involved as possible. Our children are developing their own passions in life that keep moving farther away from the homestead life. For instance, competitive gymnastics requires countless hours in the gym and traveling many weekends of the year. A love of performing onstage and dressing up with the latest fashions doesn’t fit with point #2 above.
As we isolated ourselves on the homestead, my children started craving time with friends and doing “normal” family things like riding bikes with neighbors, shopping at the mall and having friends over. The fight over rarely being able to do these things because of homestead responsibilities became more than exhausting.
Even though our childrens’ desires shouldn’t drive our life decisions, we began to realize that our children may desire to get away from the homestead as often as possible in their teen and adult years, and this changed our entire perspective.
Now that our oldest daughter entered middle school and the pre-teen age, I realize that the years truly are fleeting. I only have a limited amount of precious time before she enters teenage independence and adulthood, trailed by each subsequent child.
My home growing up was a safe and open house to all- a refuge and ministry to many of my friends and my brother’s friends. My husband and I would love to continue that legacy with our home.
It became very clear that our homestead would never be “the place” our kids and friends would want to hang out as they got older. There’s no way parents would drive, or allow their teenagers to drive, all the way out to the country on a regular basis, especially with the extreme weather we have. I tried to convince myself that if we made our house cool enough- maybe a zip line across the property, a pool, or a half dozen ATV’s- it would be the house everyone wanted to come to. But it just wasn’t going to happen.
My husband and I decided the type of parenting we want to pursue as our children enter teen and adult years does not match the homestead lifestyle. We had a choice to make, and the choice was our children, not the homestead.
I have been blessed with a beautiful and anchored marriage to my husband, so I wouldn’t say the homestead damaged our marriage in any way. Surely we grew in many ways. However, the strain on life that all the points in this post explain definitely made it difficult to keep good life balance and health, which impacts the marriage relationship. I’m assuming the dark cloud that homesteading cast over so many areas of our life would have likely caused marital problems as time went on.
“Happy wife, happy life” is cheeky and cliche, but true. The state of a marriage impacts the family more than anything else. My husband absolutely adored the homestead life. He felt like he was able to live out the “Mountain Men” or “Bush People” lifestyle he admires and loves to watch. For me, though I was the one obsessed with this dream from the beginning, homesteading resulted in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strain.
While homesteading, it was difficult to nurture our marriage the way we are committed to doing. In many ways my husband and I became closer. Our years of pursuing a homestead has been an incredibly important chapter in our life as we do life together. But we both agreed, our future looked better without the homestead.
We are excited to let go of the burdens homesteading brought into our lives. Instead of investing in our land, we are planning to invest more in our marriage and family.
5. Homesteading is Very Difficult…Like, It’ll Break You.
When I think of how difficult homesteading is, I think of memories like these:
- Trying to pull a stubborn, motionless, cud-chewing mother cow through an uphill field covered in 5-foot weeds during a scorching and humid 95-degree heat wave with mosquitos buzzing in my ears and eating me alive, screaming at the cow and battling with her for 2 hours- making no progress- and finally giving up, secretly wishing she would run away for good
- Trying to milk said cow as she kicked and whipped me with her tail full of burs, then stuck her poopy hoof into the half-full bucket of milk I managed to get out of her
- Chasing said cow’s calves for an hour just to get them in a pen for the vet (who was very frustrated with us for not doing this before he got there, and basically said he wouldn’t do house calls for us anymore)
- Walking a couple miles to retrieve the runaway cow and her calves from the neighboring bovine vaccine research property (aaggh!)
- Waking up on a freezing morning to discover mama cow is dead from eating a poisonous plant, then deciding to drag her body to the back corner of the property to let nature take its corps (Get it?). We saw a lot of bald eagles that year.
- Chasing and corralling the completely untrained grown calves into a trailer in 4 feet of snow during a “polar vortex” with 40-below-zero temperatures and getting the early stages of frostbite on my legs
- Catching rogue chickens from trees with a fishing net during this “polar vortex” so they didn’t freeze to death…butchering the rooster of these “tree chickens” so we could assimilate them into the coop with the other rooster…the dead rooster’s blood freezing as it pours to the ground…the white livestock dog eating up the blood and getting covered in the blood as it pours to the ground and freezes on her fur…plucking and gutting the dead rooster then making stock (after corralling calves, fishnet chicken catching, frostbite…and keeping the rest of the animals and children cared for)…then making dinner and scraping ice and snow off the driveway and cars to get to our evening activities
- Searching for runaway cows, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, etc., during freezing or scorching weather…then spending the day fixing the fence they destroyed to get out instead of doing what we had planned (or in addition to)
- Lassoing a 2,000-pound cow or horse out of absolute necessity, even though we never lassoed any sort of animal before (If you’re imagining my husband being dragged across a rugged overgrown pasture on his belly, you’re spot on.)
- Cleaning up animal poop
- Cleaning up more animal poop
- And if we continue to feed the animals, there’s more poop
- Spending hours pulling gigantic burs out of horse and cow tails as the spikes stick into my skin, clothes and hair like needles
- Sick, injured or dead animals even though we did everything right
- Building shelters, cleaning out shelters, insulating shelters, getting stung by wasps and spiders that have infested the shelters
- Countless falls, wounds and blows to the head or other body parts with tree branches, tools or heavy farm equipment
- Bug stings, severe poison ivy infections
- One insect infestation after another inside and outside of the house
- Rotten eggs exploding on me (worst. smell. ever.)
- Trying to candle and organize countless eggs hoarded and exchanged by multiple broody hens
- More rotten eggs…
- Picking up trash that the earth seems to regularly spit up from nowhere
- More poop
- Hauling rocks, tilling soil, growing seeds, preparing and planting beautiful gardens then losing most of our crop to weeds, wild animals and chickens that get into the vegetable garden and decimate it in less than 10 minutes
Seriously, this list could go on and on and on. This is a fun “crazy memories” list for me to record here, but the work is NO JOKE. I’m done.
When you’re trying to manage motherhood, homeschooling, a business, a second business, side hustle work, and the goal of doing a decent job at all of it, adding a homestead to the list doesn’t make sense at all. Like parenting, there are no breaks or vacations. Which brings us to the next point…
6. Homesteading is Full Time…Like, Life-Consuming
Let’s call it what it is: bondage.
The work alone makes the homestead life a 24/7 job, 365 days per year. Every season, every day. Some days are easier than others, but you can’t skip a day.
If you’re trying to keep a full time job, such as our business that takes my husband out town for many days of the year, the job is darn-near impossible. Or, as we discovered, entirely impossible.
Some homesteaders have friends that will take care of things for a couple days so you can get away every once in a while. However, even if you’re lucky enough to have friends like that in your life, you’ll probably still feel like a total burden asking such a big favor of people. Your trips can’t be very long and you’ll be concerned about your farm the entire time you’re gone.
I’m excited to now make friends with homesteaders and farmers- purchasing their food and possibly doing some of their chores on a visiting day. I’m more excited about driving away from their homesteads and coming back to my “normal” life. Having just moved away from it all I’m still a little nervous every day, worrying that there’s some farm animal outside that needs to be fed and cared for. It’s such a wonderful feeling to have a “normal” life again, which comes with enough work of its own.
7. Homesteading is Ugly
Oh how I love the Instagram and Pinterest feeds with chicken coops decorated with twinkle lights and chandeliers. Heck, most of my saved homestead pins look better than my actual house! The reality is that most projects on a homestead get done out of necessity. Looking “pretty” or “Pin-able” is not the priority or the reality.
If you happen to have a couple free hours with decent weather, you tackle projects quickly and efficiently. The coop needs to be better insulated for the coming storm, the pen needs to be bigger, the cow keeps tearing down that part of the fence…
Even if things start off pretty, it’s unlikely to stay that way without large chunks of money and labor to help you. Homesteading often means using recycled materials (what most people consider trash) and makeshift ideas to keep everything alive and running smoothly. Extreme seasonal weather and actual use of things takes a toll on the “pretty-ness” of your land, fencing, plants and outbuildings.
Unless you can afford hire labor and fancy materials, it’s likely you will have to trade in picture-perfect ideals for the survival of your animals and crops.
8. Homesteading Includes a Lot of Death
Death on the farm is inevitable and unavoidable, no matter how “good” you are at it. It just happens and you deal with it. I’ve written about our sweet Mayzie dying unexpectedly. I’ve also written about losing chicks when the hens got crazy on us.
Sadly, there are quite a few other death stories I haven’t shared here, such as our adorable cat getting hit by a car driving ridiculously fast down our dirt road, or losing one of our precious livestock dogs in a car accident- only days after she ran away and almost drowned in a rushing river. (My husband rescued her by putting himself in a very dangerous situation, then broke out the next day in one of the most severe cases of poison ivy we’ve ever seen. Losing her after all we had been through was a extra blow.)
There’s an old saying about farming: livestock is deadstock. If you can’t handle dealing with animals dying (who are sometimes more like beloved pets), then don’t homestead. Even if you aren’t raising animals to be butchered, you will still deal with death.
Death is part of life and we are grateful that our family experienced the difficult reality of raising and caring for animals, including the intentional and accidental deaths. Through homesteading we’ve learned to fully appreciate all that goes into producing food. We honor and respect the entirety of an animal that gave its life to provide for us, as well as the work the farmer put into raising the animal.
9. Homesteading Reward is Costly
The rewards of homesteading can be incredible: raising and growing all or most of your food, reconnecting with nature, experiencing the fruits of your labor, accomplishing sustainability, contributing to the conservation of the earth, raising children to understand where food comes from and what hard work really is.
For these reasons, and many others, the last ten years of my life have been consumed with the dream and goal of living off our own land. We’ve had such beautiful moments during our homestead life, creating meaningful memories to keep forever. I’m so grateful to have photos, videos and documented stories to look back on.
As you can see from the points listed in this post so far, there is tremendous cost for the potential rewards of homesteading. The cost may be financial or it could be a significant physical and emotional impact on your body and life. The costs may even include your relationships: your family, your friendships, your community life, your spiritual life.
If you’re considering homesteading, there are many potential rewards but there are serious, life-altering costs to consider before you jump in. If you think you know what it will be like, multiply that by 100!
10. Homesteading May Be Holding You Back from GOD’s Plan For You
Our faith is more important to us than anything else. My husband and I have both been serving in some form of ministry since we were teenagers…even before that. We believe firmly that as we grow in our faith and biblical knowledge, we should be growing in ministry and service.
We believe that in our present stage of life, our children are our main ministry. When we jumped into the homestead life, we figured we would be pouring into our children and fulfilling our call to this ministry. The opposite was true.
In the point above about “Homesteading May Destroy Your Family”, I explained how our children did not thrive in the lifestyle. Not only was our family life struggling, but we were not engaging in our church, in missions, or in any form of ministry service. We were not moving forward in our spiritual walk. We weren’t necessarily moving backward spiritually, but we were standing dead still.
Throughout our marriage, my husband and I have discussed our mutual desire and goal to always be moving forward in ministry together. We love leading bible studies, leading home fellowship studies, mentoring youth, participating in worship ministry, volunteering, service projects, etc. We’ve even considered full-time international mission work.
Even though we thought we could grow in ministry while living a homestead life, we were actually cutting ourselves off from ministry completely. There are plenty of Christian homesteaders who are following God’s call on their lives by committing wholeheartedly to the lifestyle. But God calls us all in different ways to fulfill His unique plans and purposes for our lives.
We believe the LORD did not call our family to be full-time homesteaders.
For the believer, when you’re acting “in the flesh” and not fully submitting to God’s call for your life, you know. You can’t get away from it. The hardest part in following God’s call is usually making the decision to change, make sacrifices, and just DO the hard work it takes to get on track. Once you’re on the right path, you experience joy, peace and hope that surpasses earthly understanding…you know, the things the whole world seems to be searching for that we have the answer to!
Why We Quit Homesteading
By now it’s probably abundantly clear WHY we quit homesteading. Even if the reasons I’ve listed weren’t enough, there were many more personal reasons we walked away from homesteading.
I wanted to be a happier and better mom- present for my children instead of stressed out about the endless work to be done. I wanted to get in shape and easily drive to the gym and back without messing up the entire daily plan. I wanted to have friends come over for coffee without them planning a half-day trip just to come to my house.
I wanted to live in a modern, upgraded house. My husband and I have only ever lived in old, fixer-upper homes (besides temporary apartments). I’m done trying to be a house flipper. Trading our fixer house on the acreage for a gorgeous new and modern home was totally worth it!
I wanted to simplify and get control of our finances. I wanted to feel able to take dance and voice teaching jobs, which I’m often asked to do but have to turn down because the homestead life doesn’t give me the freedom to do anything extra.
I wanted to be closer to church so we would attend more services and activities that we would normally decline because of the homestead responsibilities. I wanted to use my home as a ministry- a place of refuge and comfort for others when a need arises.
Leaving the homestead life after dreaming of it for 10+ years was a surprising decision, but the right one for my family. Despite our decision to leave, homesteading may still be right for you. Good luck with that!
I’m curious…what do you think about homesteading now that you’ve read this? Do you homestead, or are you dreaming about it? Are you totally discouraged by this post? Are you glad I wrote it or totally bummed out now? Do you think I’m crazy? Don’t answer that.