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How to Take a Vacation When You Have a Homestead

how to take a vacation when you have a homestead

“I’d like to homestead like you, but then I could neeeeeever go anywhere…”

It’s a phrase I hear quite a bit, and yeah, I totally get it.

In a day and age where the extent of most folks’ home responsibilities end at keeping the goldfish fed, the mere thought of being responsible for a milk cow, and a garden, and a flock of chickens sounds daunting.

And crazy.

And it kinda is.

I’ll be honest: I don’t love traveling. I’m happy-as-can-be to just stay at home most of the time…

I’ve heard it said you should create a life you don’t need a vacation from, and I’m totally there.

I love our land, our animals, our routine, and our projects.

vacationing with a homestead
The Prairie Husband and I on a rare tropical vacation to Jamaica earlier this year.

But as my home business has grown, I’ve had the need to travel more lately in the past year than ever before. In the last 6 months, I’ve been to Jamaica, California, Oklahoma, and Idaho, and I have to admit– it’s been good for this homebody to get out and see the world a little bit more.

And I did it all without selling the milk cow or giving up the garden.

Here are a few of my best tips:

How to Take a Vacation When You’re a Homesteader

1. Be selective about what times of year you travel

This is the most important one. There are certain times of year (like summertime) when it’s really, really hard to convince me to go anywhere.

vacation with a homestead
Winter on our homestead

When the garden is in full swing and the heat complicates the watering chores, I am much more comfortable staying home to make sure everything runs smoothly. Therefore, I try to do the bulk of my traveling in the late fall/winter/early spring when my plants are dormant and there isn’t as much to do.

2. Find a trusted caretaker

I know… This is easier said than done. We happen to have a wonderful neighbor who comes up to our place and checks things when we leave. We try to have things set up so he only has to come once per day. However, depending on the season and how extensive your homestead is, it may make more sense to hire a “homestead-sitter” to stay at your house while you’re gone.

Although it’s not as fun, if you are married, sometimes it works best to just leave one spouse at home. As I write this post, I am up in Idaho with the kids visiting my parents, and my husband is home working on projects and watching the homestead. This won’t work in every situation (because dang it… sometimes you want to vacation together!), but there have been times one of us has made the choice to stay home to keep a handle on the chores.

3. Minimize chores as much as possible

There are two versions of my chore list: the detailed, intensive version, and the “just get ‘er done” version. Whenever I leave, I do as much as possible beforehand to keep the list to a minimum (more on that below). When things are running smoothly, and it’s not the dead of summer when everything needs to be watered, our chores can be completed in 15-20 minutes. That makes me feel a bit better about leaving.

Specific Strategies for Taking a Vacation from Your Homestead

The Chickens

I feed our chickens free-choice, so as long as I fill their feeder up completely before I leave, it can go for 5-7 days without needing to be refilled. Their waterer can go for 2-3 days before refilling as well.

how to keep wild birds out of a chicken coop

The hardest part about chickens is keeping them safe from predators while we’re gone, especially when I try to have our neighbor only come up once per day… So sometimes, I just leave them locked in their run the whole time. They don’t love it, since they usually get to free-range, but better safe than sorry.

The Large Animals

We have a float attached to our very large water tank which does a wonderful job of keeping the tank full at all times with minimal fuss. (The only catch is that you can’t use it during the winter when it freezes…) Our animals graze during the summer, which greatly simplifies the feeding routine, as long as there is green grass.

vacation while homesteading

When winter rolls around, we feed large, round hay bales, which only need to be put out every 7-10 days (depending on how many animals we have at the time). So if we put out a bale out right before we leave, sometimes it doesn’t even need to be replenished until we get back (depending on the length of our trip).

The Milk Cow

A milk cow is the part of homesteading that strikes fear into the heart of every wanna-be traveler, and I won’t lie– it’s a challenge. However, my once a day milking routine has greatly simplified things.

Because I leave the calf on the cow and just pull it off for a twelve-hour period before I want to milk, I have the option of leaving the calf on steady for several days at a time if I need to travel somewhere. (This works for goats as well).

16 reasons for off-flavors in fresh milk

I have done this countless times and it works beautifully. The cow doesn’t get mastitis, the calf doesn’t need to be bottle fed, and I don’t have to find someone to milk for me (which is NOT easy…)

The only time this doesn’t work is if you have weaned the calf and you are milking twice daily. If you are in this stage of lactation, you must keep the cow milked out every day, otherwise, you’ll run into big problems. Therefore, I just don’t travel much during this brief period of twice a day milking. Thankfully, it’s usually a fairly short amount of time, as I often wean my calves, milk for a couple months, and then end up drying up the cow to prepare for the next calving season.

The Garden

Call me crazy, but I have an easier time leaving my animals than I do my garden, which is why I really try to avoid traveling in June, July, or August, which are my peak gardening months.

Thankfully, if I *do* have to leave for whatever reason, my deep mulching technique drastically simplifies things, as it keeps the weeds from going crazy while I’m gone and reduces the need for constant water.

The potatoes are much happier now that I've stopped trying to smother them...

I also have my garden sprinkler set up to hit all the areas of the garden without having to drag it all over the place, so if I did need someone to water it for me, it would be fairly simple.

That being said, I’d rather stay close to home in the summer months.

So is vacationing while homesteading the easiest thing I’ve ever done? No, but it can be done. The slight hassle of coordinating chores while you’re away is no reason to put off your homesteading dreams.

And one thing is for sure: the very best part of vacationing as a homesteader, is coming home to the land, critters, and plants you love. :)

how to take a vacation when you have a homestead

10 Things Your Non-Homesteading Friends Just Don’t Understand

non-homesteading-friends-2

Have you ever noticed kind of a gap?

Sometimes it feels like there’s a bit of a disconnect between me and my non-homesteading friends. Ever been there?

Thankfully, considering I’ve been chasing this homesteading dream for about 7 years now, most of my friends/family now understand that Jill is just weird. And they’re used to it.

No one even raises their eyebrows anymore when we bring home a new farm animal or start building a new structure/fence/tractor/whatever.

So it’s all good.

But then there are those other times when I happily run to town in my muck boots, hair adorned with bits of hay, and manure-smudged jeans, and I see someone who doesn’t know me very well… And I suspect they think I’m a bit of an alien. Or just a slob. Or maybe a little bit of both.

Sometimes I wish I could just send them a post like this before we get to know each other, so they have a better understanding of my crazy lifestyle. Because, ya know, us homesteader folk are kind of our own breed of weird.

10 Things Your Non-Homesteading Friends Just Don’t Understand

1. We’re rather proud of the dirt under our fingernails

The short, chipped, grimy nails adorning my battered, prematurely-wrinkled hands would be a laughingstock in some circles of women. But you know what?

deep mulch garden method

I love my hands. 

These hands can quickly squeeze gallons of milk from an udder, nurture growing vegetables, convince a stubborn heifer to load in the trailer, build fence, hold the reins of my favorite horse, and knead the best bread you’ve ever put in your mouth.

I’m so used to my plain, grubby fingernails, whenever I do try to paint them, the flashes of color startle me all day long because I’m not used to it. And then I end up nervously picking all the polish off… So yeah, it’s safe to say this girl is perfectly happy without a manicure.

 2. We really, truly like having a lot of projects going at once.

Oh honey… You’re so busy…” They say it with a look of pity in their eyes.

I’ve really started to dislike the term “busy”, because I think it carries a such a negative connotation, and people have drastically different definitions of what busy really is…

I prefer my schedule to be “pleasantly full,” and I keep it that way on purpose. I am not a victim of my homesteading schedule. (And if you’re wondering how I get (most) things done, here are my best homestead time management tips)

Those days where I milk the cow, then make bread, then write a blog post, then help hubby with a fencing project, then jump on a quick phone call, then experiment with a new DIY recipe, then do a bit of garden work, then linger outside at dusk while doing evening chores, then check email before rolling into bed?

Those are are my favorite days. I love every bit of them.

If I ever get to the point where I feel the need to stroll the mall to fill my hours, please put me out of my misery. 😉

3. Food you grow yourself really does taste better.

No doubt about it, a vegetable picked 30 steps from your front door will always, always have better flavor than a veggie that’s been shipped half-way around the country.

radish

Once you have the experience of looking down at your plate and knowing where each and every component came from, you’ll be hooked. It’s the best seasoning there is.

4. We don’t do what we do to make anyone else feel inferior.

Comparison is rampant in our culture. Some people blame the prevalence of social media, but I think it’s a problem as old as time. Every once in a while, I get the vibe that someone suspects I’m attempting to be a Super Mom with all my homesteading efforts. Let me just say this: I am as far from Super Mom as a person can get.

Like anyone else, we homesteading-folk prioritize what is important to us. So while you might think we are Super Human as we milk our cow, grow our own salads (AND make the dressing…), and whip up batches of homemade mozzarella, know this is simply where we’ve chosen to spend our time.

Case in point? While I may have a few homesteading skills, I am horrifically awful at doing laundry, my children have boring birthday parties, and I don’t sew or knit. See? No Super Mom here.

We’re just doing what makes us happy, and we aren’t trying to make anyone who isn’t into our lifestyle feel poorly about themselves. We’ll still be your friend, and you don’t even have to can your own applesauce.

5. Getting the first egg from your first chicken is a thrill like no other.

Or when the first tomato appears on the plant. Or you put your first packages of home-raised meat into the freezer.

eggs-home

Growing your own food is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done, and the first time experiencing the fruits of your labor is magical. It makes all the tough times, hard work, and disappointments worth it.

So, to all the non-homesteaders out there, please bear with us while we gush about our eggs and tomatoes. We’ll stop… eventually. Maybe.

6. We know it’s easier and faster to buy _____ at the store. But we still want to make it ourselves.

If there is one thing to know modern homesteaders, it’s that we hardly ever choose the “easy” route.

This homesteading-gig is empowering. And fulfilling. And an adventure. But easy? Definitely not.

But for some reason, that doesn’t bother us. We’re just weird like that.

7. We’re not trying to reenact Little House on the Prairie

I’ve received some criticism because some of my recipes or tutorials use purchased ingredients. (For example: my homemade crockpot soap recipe uses store-bought lye instead of lye made from wood ashes.)

My response?

You’re missing the point.

The way I see it, modern homesteading is all about mixing the best of the old with the best of the new.

To be perfectly honest? I don’t want to take a bath in a small tub while someone pours hot water over my head. I rather like my shower, thankyouverymuch.

homemade hot process soap recipe

I also very much appreciate my dishwasher and washing machine. Can I live without those things? Yup. Do I think it’s wise to be prepared in case there is ever an event that takes down the grid? Sure!

But in the meantime, I’m thankful to have electricity in my homesteading efforts.

The old-fashioned homesteading lifestyle is one we heavily romanticize. And while there are definitely romantic parts to it, I’m careful to recognize that our homesteading ancestors lived the way they did out of necessity, and simple survival consumed a huge part of their day.

And yes, if Ma Ingalls could have had a washing machine, I’m willing to bet she would have loved it.

8. We actually like living a bazillion miles away from town.

I always giggle when I read the headlines of the listings in the local real estate magazines…

“Only 10 minutes from downtown!”

“Only 5 minutes away from Wal-Mart!”

Um, if you’re trying to convince me to buy a house, that’s not the way to do it.

Quick Side Note: if you *do* live in town, know that it’s still very possible to still homestead. You absolutely can live 5 minutes from Wal-Mart and still have a blossoming garden or even chickens. I’m a firm believer in that!

But for those of us who do live far from the grocery store, know that we prefer it that way, so you don’t have to feel sorry for us.

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I sure can’t order in pizza, or swing by the store when I’m missing an ingredient for a recipe, but I’m cool with that. The peace and quiet and wide open spaces make it worth it. (And as a result, I’ve learned how to make darn good pizza from scratch.)

I know living this far out isn’t for everyone, and some people really, truly want to be within walking distance of the grocery, but my 40 mile drive doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

9. Scooping poop is better than therapy.

Or any type of manual labor, actually. (I can mow the lawn really fast when I’m mad.)

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When I’m feeling stressed or angry, I stomp down to the barn, grab my pitchfork, and get to work. The negative feelings melt away with each scoop I toss into the wheelbarrow.

Side-Note: When you’re a homesteader, poop isn’t gross– it’s beautiful. Poop turns into compost which magically nurtures the soil and your plants. Embrace the poop.

10. If we don’t answer our phone, we’re not ignoring you on purpose.

Especially during the summer.

Sometimes we get so absorbed in the latest project, our social life goes out the window. Not always, but sometimes… At least for me.

I’m pretty horrible about meeting friends in town for lunch or play dates… It’s not that I don’t want to see them, it’s just that my brain is usually preoccupied with my latest homesteading mission.

For the non-homesteaders reading this, if you want to see more of your homesteading friends, may I suggest offering to help them put up tomatoes? Or pick apples? Or butcher chickens? They’ll love the extra set of hands and companionship, and it’s rewarding to accomplish stuff as you catch up.

So… can you relate at all? Leave a comment? 

non-homesteading-friends-3

Planning an Orchard for Your Homestead

planning an orchard for your homestead

I must confess… Just saying the word “orchard” makes me green with envy… Fruit trees do NOT thrive here in Wyoming, therefore, my dreams of a homestead orchard probably aren’t going to happen as long as we live here. So, I’ve invited Angi Schneider, author of The Gardening Notebook, to share her best tips for planning an orchard with us today…

Fruit trees and bushes are important on the homestead, with minimal effort they can supply your family with many pounds of produce every year.

Unfortunately, growing fruit is often one of the most neglected things on a homestead, especially on a small homestead.

Growing fruit takes time. Sometimes there will be years between planting and harvest. So, the sooner you get those fruit trees and bushes in the ground the sooner you’ll have a fruit harvest.

While fruit trees truly do take minimal effort, it’s not as easy as digging a hole, planting a tree and calling it good. There is some planning that needs to happen before you buy and plant your first fruit tree.

SchneiderPeeps - Mulberries ripening

 Planning an Orchard for Your Homestead

1. Make a list of all the fruits your family likes.

This is the time to dream. Even if you think something won’t grow in your climate, but your family likes it, write it down.

2. Do a little research to find out what varieties will actually grow in your climate.

You can search fruit trees for your gardening zone on the internet. If you don’t know what gardening zones you are in, you can find your cold hardiness zone by entering your zipcode in the USDA’s interactive map and you can find your heat zone on the American Horticulture Society’s website.  Talk with local gardening friends to find out what varieties grow well in your area. Also, don’t overlook your local nurseries. They have a vested interest in you being successful, so they are usually super helpful. Master Gardeners clubs can also be a helpful resource. One last thing to consider is chill hours, some fruits need a certain number of hours per year below 45°F to produce fruit. County Extension Co-operatives keep these records so if you cannot find your hours online you can always call your local office.
But don’t cross a fruit off your list just because you’re told it won’t grow in your climate. Some fruit trees grow very well in pots. Meyer lemon and Satsuma oranges are two citrus trees that can be grown in colder climates inside in a pot.

SchneiderPeeps - bee on citrus bloom
3. Learn what trees are self fertile and which ones are not.

Self fertile trees are exactly what they sound like – the flowers from this kind of tree will pollinate themselves. Here’s a list of most self fertile fruits: apricot, pomegranate, citrus, fig, grape, persimmon, most peaches, most berries, and European plums (although they do better with two varieties).
Some trees are not self fertile and need two trees to produce fruit. You need to make sure that the two trees are different varieties that bloom at the same time. Two trees of the same variety won’t work as pollinators and neither will two different varieties that don’t bloom at the same time. Now, that does not necessarily mean you have to have two trees on your property. If your neighbor has fruit trees, find out what kind he has, get a different variety and they can cross pollinate. This is a great way to get fruit in an urban yard, since the trees need to be within 50 feet of each other. Apples, pears, Japanese plums, cherries and nuts trees are not self-fertile and require a pollinator.

4. Determine how much space you have available to plant fruit trees and bushes.

If you live on an acre or less, you can still have an amazing orchard but you might have it spread out in different areas of your property instead of one large orchard area. Consider using any walls or fences and espaliering some of the fruit trees. An espaliered tree is a tree that you will prune in such a way that it fans out over the wall or fence. This is a great space saver and yet you’ll still get a lot of fruit. If you live on an urban or small homestead you will also want to consider planting dwarf trees. Dwarf trees are trees that are grafted onto a root stock that will not allow the tree to grow large so you get the same great fruit in less space. Standard size trees have about a 20 feet spread, semi-dwarf trees have about 12-15 feet spread and dwarf trees have about a 10 feet spread.
SchneiderPeeps - apple blossoms
5. Put your plans on paper.

This is the fun part! Get out some paper and colored pencils and map out your yard or acreage. Take your list of varieties and start putting them on your map.  Go outside and walk the map and make sure your plans will work. Is there enough space for a full size tree of the variety you have listed? Is there enough sun? Is there an adequate water source? When the tree is full size will it cast a shadow on an area that you don’t want shaded, your vegetable garden for instance?  When planning your spacing you can stagger your trees to get more in less space. Make sure you keep this map in a safe place, like your gardening notebook, so you can refer back to it when it’s time to plant your trees.
6. Don’t think you have to plant the entire plan this season.

An orchard is a long term relationship, so you have time. Try to add just a few new trees or bushes each year and before you know it you will have a full orchard. It’s a good idea to start with either the fruits that your family loves the most or the most expensive ones to buy.
Schneiderpeeps - full Meyer lemon tree

How Much Fruit Can a Home Orchard Produce?

Just to give you an idea of just how much fruit these trees can add to your homestead, a mature lemon tree can give you over 200 pounds of lemons, a mature peach tree can give you well over 75 pounds, so can a mature plum tree. That is a lot of fruit!
So, unless you plan on selling your fruit or have a lot of friends who you love to have freshly picked fruit, you don’t need more than one or two trees of each fruit. Diversity is key in the home orchard.

planning an orchard for your homestead
About Angi

Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschooling mom.  She is passionate about growing food for her family and living a simple life. She blogs their homesteading and homeschooling adventures at SchneiderPeeps.com and is the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help other gardeners remember all the great information they are learning.

39 Ways to Make Money Homesteading

how to make money while homesteading

“Eh… So where does your money come from?”

Hands down, this is the question I get the most often…  And if people aren’t asking it, I can tell they are thinking it. 😉

First off, let’s clarify a few things:

Like I mentioned in my homestead myth-busting post, becoming a modern homesteader doesn’t necessarily mean you head for the hills, go completely off-grid, and live off the land entirely. (Although I suppose you could go that route if you wanted…)

how to make money from homesteading

For me, modern homesteading is a magical concoction of old-fashioned skills mixed with our modern-day conveniences. Although we raise a lot of food on our property, are obsessive DIYers, and try to be as self-sufficient as possible, my husband has always had a “job in town” and there are times when I’m quite thankful for the local grocery store. It’s a balance.

That said, I think most of us homestead-folks would agree: the sign you’ve officially “arrived” as a modern homesteader is the day you create an income exclusively from your land. It’s something definitely on our list of goals, and we are achieving it in our own way (more on that later). However, we didn’t start out this way, and we pursued our homesteading dreams on one-income for several years before my business took off.

Thankfully, the ways of making money while homesteading are endless. Here is a list to jump-start your entrepreneur juices—>

(this post contains affiliate links)

39 Ways to Make Money Homesteading

should you wash eggs?

Selling Food Products

The downside to selling food you’ve grown or made, is dealing with restrictive food safety laws (especially in regards to meat and milk). Do your homework first and looked into your state’s regulations extensively before proceeding. One strategy to help avoid red tape is to sell the animals themselves, rather than the food product. For example: if you are raising meat chickens for profit, you can often sell the bird without as many hoops to jump through, as compared to selling cut and wrapped chicken breasts.

1. Sell eggs — someone is ALWAYS wanting farm-fresh eggs!

2. Sell extra milk from your goats or cow.

3. Start a cowshare or goatshare program — This is one way to work around raw milk laws– just do your homework first.

4. Sell cheeses or other homemade dairy products.

5. Sell broilers or meat birds (Joel Salatin’s book, Pastured Poultry Profits, will give you the scoop on this.)

6. Raise and sell grassfed steers for beef

7. Raise and sell heritage turkeys, ducks, or geese.

8. Raise and sell tilapia or other farmed fish (This is actually something we’ve looked into extensively, believe it or not! It’s my husband’s dream to own a fish farm.)

9. Grow extra vegetables and herbs to sell at your local farmer’s market

10. If you have an orchard, berry bushes, or fruit trees, sell fresh fruit

11. Make homemade baked goods and sell them at your local farmers market. Homemade french bread, buns, or cinnamon rolls are always a hit!

12. Make and sell homemade jams, jellies, and preserves

13. Keep bees and sell local honey and beeswax

14. Become a mushroom farmer, and delight the ‘shroom lovers in your area.

Animal Husbandry

vegetarian eggs and chickens

As interest in modern homesteading increase, more and more people are on the lookout for dairy animals, heritage-breed chickens, and other options for increasing their self-sufficiency. If you plan to breed animals, please become knowledgeable in the bloodlines, breeding practices, and desired characteristic of that breed. Do not breed just anything that comes along–know your stuff and strive to create the best progeny possible.

15. Incubate eggs and sell day-old chicks to other homesteaders

16. Raise worms — either for fishing purposes, or raise red wigglers to sell to other people interested in compost worms

17. Breed, raise, and train family milk cows or dairy goats to sell to other homesteaders

18. Breed sheep or meat goats

19. Keep a ram, buck, or bull and charge for stud services.

20. Start a dog boarding service or pet-sitting business.

21. Raise bottle calves, sheep, or goats.

22. Keep fiber animals and sell wool

Homemade Products & Services

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Have skills?  Put ’em to use!

23. Make and sell homemade soaps, lotions, and balms

24. Make and sell homemade candles

25. Put your knitting or sewing skills to work and create homemade hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, and more

26. Use your carpentry skills to create rustic handmade furniture or other wooden items

27. Use metal-working skills to create personalized signs or horseshoe creations

28. Have land that needs clearing? Cut and sell firewood.

29. Rent out your pasture or land for others to graze their livestock on

30. Become a compost-master and sell the best garden fertilizer for miles around

31. Use your greenhouse to grow and sell bedding plants and seedlings

Create an Experience

how to can pumpkin

People are enchanted with the idea of farming and homesteading right now. Share your unique lifestyle with them!

32. Create a U-Pick Farm and allow others to harvest their own fruit, veggies, or berries for a fee

33. Turn your house into a Bed & Breakfast and give your guests a first-hand taste of homestead life

34. Grow a pumpkin patch, and create the ultimate fall farm experience in October.

35. If you live in an especially picturesque location, rent out your pasture, barn, or land for weddings, parties, photo shoots, or other events.

36. Start a Community-Supported-Agriculture program (CSA).

Teach Others

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Many aspects of homesteading are not second-nature to most people, and they’ll happily pay you to show them the ropes.

37. Start a blog or website — This is near and dear to my heart, as it is the income stream which has allowed us to create a full-time income while I stay at home to raise the kids. Blogging is HARD work and takes a lot of time, but it’s also very fulfilling. This post explains how I’ve created my blogging income, and I also have an online course where I’ll teach you my “secrets”, if blogging appeals to you.

38. Teach classes — Cheesemaking, fiber arts, meat processing, soap making, candle making, beekeeping… If you have mastered an aspect of homesteading, there’s a good chance others will pay to learn from you!

39. Write and publish a book — Self-publishing makes becoming an author easier than ever. I personally have published through Amazon Createspace, and you can also publish via Kindle, too.

The main thing all of these ideas have in common? They all take time and effort. Starting your own business or becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll have to make a plan, overcome obstacles, and push through the times you want to give up.

The reward for the blood, sweat, and tears? Massive satisfaction, and a well-deserved income. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy, but it’s absolutely and totally worth it. :)

My Favorite Homestead Income Resources:

39 ways to make money while living the modern homesteading lifestyle