Nostalgia runs thick around here this time of year.
Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of us purchasing our sad little Wyoming property and transforming it into the homestead life of our dreams.
It’s also 10th anniversary of two twenty-something city kids pushing back against the typical suburban existence we were supposed to fall into, and instead setting out on a wild adventure of renovation, homegrown food, and life lessons.
Not that we had the slightest clue that would end up happening, of course.
As the days grow hotter and the grass grows high like it was the day we signed the papers on this land, the memories suddenly feel more tangible. The emotions and excitement are easier to recall as I traipse across this land that ignited some of our biggest dreams ten years ago, and continues to drive us forward today.
The Day We Closed On Our House
This homestead life started off as a faint whisper in my mind. A whisper that was triggered by us buying a dejected, forgotten little house on 67 acres of neglected pastureland.
Oftentimes, old farmsteads are rich with “good bones” and old-fashioned charm.
This wasn’t one of them.
The house was ridiculously small, the outbuildings were trashed and painted the WORST shade of yellow, and the property was at least 35 minutes from our jobs and grocery stores. And we were head-over-heels for the place.
I remember quickly walking through the 100-year old house during our first visit with the realtor and offhandedly asking where the living room was. He pointed to a front room smaller than most modern master bedrooms. I glanced at it for a moment, and then headed back outside. “It’ll do,” I thought.
The land was the only thing we cared about. We were bound and determined to end up with more than just a handful of acres, even with our small budget, and this property fit the bill. (Mostly because no one in their right mind would want to live so far from town and jobs in that ugly, shoebox-sized house.)
I guess it was a good thing I was so clueless back then.
We closed on the property on July 15th, 2008. The keys burned hot in my hand as we made the first drive to our house. Our land. Our barn.
It was surreal.
I’ll never forget the first few weeks after we moved in. By all outward appearances, the place was a depressing hodgepodge of damaged outbuildings, broken fence, dead trees, and piles of trash, but I felt electrified by the possibilities. I spend hours gathering up the the junk that littered the buildings and seemed to grow from the soil, and my heart would pound with excitement as I imagined what the place would become.
I knew it would be something special, someday.
And ten years later? It is.
“The Harder I Work, the Luckier I Get”
Every once in a while, someone says something to us along the lines of “Oh man, you guys are so lucky!”
I get what they are saying, but I still can’t help but laugh hysterically.
We had every reason in the book this shouldn’t have worked. And the excuses were always there under the surface waiting to be pulled out, especially those first few years.
We both worked in town and didn’t have enough time.
We had good jobs, but not super high-paying ones. Money was tight, especially with a new mortgage.
We had zero clue what we were doing (hello, city kids!)
And yet, we plowed ahead. One step, one project, one obstacle at a time.
We guarded our time like crazy and worked from sun up til sundown on the weekends when we were both home from our jobs. (Christian was an electrician, I was a Vet Tech.)
We took on all sorts of random jobs (even casting bullets!) so we could afford fencing supplies and rent skid loaders and other equipment for our projects. I picked tens of thousands of tiny staples out of some log fencing that was left on the property so we could save money by re-using the logs for other fence. And then once I quit my job to stay home with our first baby, I trudged along into the world blogging and working my doTERRA business, even though I had no babysitters, no business experience, and very minimal results at first.
We assumed the role of beginners (which is really humbling sometimes…) and learned from everyone we could in order to master the skills we needed: knowledgeable neighbors, library books, videos, Google, you name it.
As I really think back to our transition from clueless city kids to sorta-kinda savvy homesteaders, it strikes me that we never went into it screaming, “WE SHALL BE HOMESTEADERS!”
(Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that– I adore people who have a clear purpose.)
But for us, it was more of a gradual unwrapping of the various layers of “conventional” we had allowed ourselves to be encased in over the years.
It was less of a battle cry, and more of an awakening. A blossoming. A falling in love with the notion of a hybrid lifestyle that combined the best of the old ways with a sprinkle of modern convenience.
It felt like coming home. Like it was what we were meant to be doing from the very beginning.
Hard, but Good
Let me assure you there was no magic bullet. No secret streamlined path to success. No 1-2-3 system we used to make it work.
God simply gave us a deep desire, and we have followed it. Hard.
Even when it took us out of our comfort zone. Even when the path wasn’t clear. Even when we had to get REALLY creative with finances. Even when people thought we were stupid. Even when the whole thing felt horribly uncomfortable, and sweaty, and stressful. Even when we had EVERY REASON POSSIBLE to just stop and find something easier to do with our lives.
We didn’t quit. Moving to town wasn’t an option. We knew this was our path and we would see it til the end, come hell or high water.
Sometimes I feel like a broken record, because when people ask me about the “secret” to success in homesteading, blogging, or building a doTERRA business, all I can say is: don’t quit, don’t quit, don’t quit. Everyone around you will quit, but not you. YOU must not quit.
I suppose if there is secret sauce, that’d be it.
But We’re Not Done Yet
Homesteading has taught me to dream big and to hunt the hard things; the things that stir my soul.
Will I ever feel like we’ve ever completely arrived in this homesteading journey?
No. And I don’t want to. As one of my mentors used to say, “If you’re done learning, you might as well be dead.”
And we have lots of learning left to do. LOTS.
But you know what I love so very much? Homesteading has continually shown me how to pursue the unknown (and sometimes scary) and how to push the boundaries of what we are “supposed” to do.
Because of this, Christian and I continue to lean into our most audacious dreams. Dreams like having a real herd of cattle and a legit ranch someday. And because homesteading has taught us sometimes you have to start before you’re fully ready, we purchased a starter herd of Hereford heifers last fall. It felt like jumping off a cliff, but here we are.
Do we know what we are doing? Not really. But we’re leaning on some good friends of ours who are showing us the ropes, and we’re following the same path we did for homesteading– one step at a time and learning a little more each day.
It’s the only way I know how to tackle something new, but that method has yet to let me down.
Here’s the thing about busting through comfort zones– once you break out of one, it becomes easier to break out of the next. And pretty soon, you’ll doing things you never thought possible. And therein lies the magic of a life well lived. At least in my humble opinion.
Avoiding the Path of Least Resistance
There have been LOTS of lessons along this path, but the one that has stuck out to me time and time again is that easy isn’t always better.
Our culture is obsessed with easy.
Push the button. Zap the food. Stay in the job you hate because it’s safe. Don’t chase that dream, it’ll take too much effort. Don’t start the business, you might fail.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times I do choose easy. (P.S. I heart my washing machine.)
Easy isn’t *always* better.
These ten years of homesteading have taught me to lean into the hard things. To seek out what scares you. To jump in headfirst sometimes just to see what happens. Sometimes you fall flat on your face, but other times, well, life-changing stuff happens.
Only ever choosing easy leaves us as a a shell of who we are suppose to be. Society’s obsession with the path of least resistance has left so many people depressed, aimless, and purposeless. It’s almost as if we think we’ll be getting another shot. Another try. Another life. Or that someone, someday, will magically step into our path and give us permission to start living our dreams and finding our purpose.
But it doesn’t work like that. We’re the only ones who can give ourselves permission and we’re the only ones who know the talents, and dreams, and passions that lay dormant inside us. It’s up to us to let them all out.
We only get one life, my friends. Don’t wait. It’s time to awaken. You have far more choices in life than you think. Take the risk. Chase the dream. Develop your God-given purpose. Squash the excuses. Start the business. Begin the homestead (if that’s indeed your thing). What are we waiting for?
The time will pass anyway, and how good will it feel to be able to say, “I did it!” instead of, “What if I had?”
Listen to the Old Fashioned On Purpose podcast episode #1 on this topic HERE.
Liz (Eight Acres) says
Beautiful post! I’ve been on a similar journey. The hardest part for me was family and friends doubting that we would stick with it and always commenting that we would give up. 10 years later and we haven’t quit either 🙂
Jill Winger says
The doubters can be unnerving sometimes, huh? Congrats on your 10 years of perseverance as well! <3
Melody Anderson says
Congratulations!! on 10 years and going forward with your dreams, sticking together and still being happy about the decisions you have made! I admire you and yours very much! Take care from Iowa
Jill Winger says
Thanks for the comment and for reading along, Melody!
Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily says
I’ve been following your journey for years now and had no idea that you’ve “only” been at it for ten years. You are the real deal. Your advice is always spot on and your site is beautiful – I’ve enjoyed watching the metamorphosis of that as well as your home and property. You don’t just talk the talk, or can a batch of beans for a blog post. You’re really living the life and I admire you so much for that. As a fellow rural living gal, I can relate to so much of this. Congrats Jill and here’s to another ten (20…30…40?) years of growing and learning!
Similar story for us. My husband grew up in a trendy area of the city before it became trendy. I came from the ‘burbs. We bought a very neglected 97 acre farm. The owner had alzheimers and she lived in the farmhouse while we stayed in the city. We used the weekends to clean up the farm. We took over 50 trips to the dump with our pickup truck. When the owner died, we moved to the farm. Today, we are into our 5th year of building our new house (by ourselves), we’ve almost restored the big barn back to its glory, I painted the old metal barn a beautiful red with white trim (looks brand new!), I painted the silo, and we will begin restoring the old farmhouse for my parents who will move in next year. Fortunately, my husband can build and fix anything and I am willing to try. No project is too big. People ask us when we are going on vacation or something. Why would I want to leave here? This is my vacation.
Love the post! About to hit the year mark and I’m hoping for many more!
Jason Ambeau says
That’s beautiful Jill. We haven’t met, but I’ve bled with Christian on the mountains and in the ocean at Laguna during Warrior Week. He’s an inspiration and apparently his wife is as well. Great story… really well written and interesting. I wish you both continued success in reaching your dreams just in time to discover the next!
Thank you Jill! This so encouraged my heart! My husband and I are in the midst of trying to buy a bit of raw land for starting a small farm. We’re young and first time buyers, but know how to budget and save. The hardest thing so far has been having friends ‘laugh’ at the intensity with which we puruse our goals. After a while, you almost start to doubt yourself. Thank you for sharing your story. Very encouraging! And you’re right: we won’t give up!
Keep following your Dreamsand keep up the great exploring and God Bless you both and your family.
I’ve already agreed.
Jim Schultz says
What a sweet, inspiring, motivating blog post! I’ve been following for a few years but I didn’t know you were self-proclaimed city kids just 10 years ago! Beautiful pictures and story. <3
Erin Wilcox says
I needed to read that. Great post.
What kind of siding did you put on your house?
Stephy Jo says
Beautifully written! My husband, kids and I are embarking on the same journey in a short few weeks. We are trading in our 3,500 square foot surburban dream home for a 2,000 square foot home on 10 acres located in an equine community. It has always been our dream to have a farmette and learn to homestead. Your blog and social media has been such an inspiration to me and I can’t wait for our next chapter. Thanks for always inspiring!
Carole West says
This was beautiful Jill – following a call and getting back to the land is one amazing journey after the next. What an inspiration and fantastic example you and Christian are setting for your children. Enjoyed!
I so agree about our culture being obsessed with “easy!” Unfortunately it has made for some very lazy folks who miss a lot of blessings in life. There is a lot of satisfaction in a job done well and just being good n tired at the end of the day cause ya worked hard all day!
I love your story. Your family is inspiring to many I think. We kinda did what you did but did it at mid-life. Moved from Ohio to rural Missouri and experienced much of what you describe in cleaning up an making a place your own.
Thank you for sharing and all of the work you put into your blog. I look forward to the weekly updates.
God Bless you all.
Lisa S says
This reminds me of when my husband and I purchased 15 acres with a very very run down house. I had never lived in the country before and I loved it instantly !! I hope to never live in a town again, though we did downsize to 3 acres, at our age, we are where we need to be.
Your post brought back memories of the little 15 acres that I loved and being younger !!
Elizabeth L. Johnson says
You’re so right in your opening comments: “But. . .every year when I’m out there planting and weeding and primping, I feel so deeply grounded. The stress melts away as I weed and my brain becomes quiet and I’m left with the conclusion that humans were simply meant to grow things.” I believe the Lord always had in mind we humans are to continually be connected to the earth, the soil. Look at His mandate in the Garden to till the earth. Years later those who disobeyed became city dwellers and got into a lot of trouble at the Tower of Babel. You said you feel deeply grounded, the stress melts away, my brain becomes quiet, and in conclusion: humans were simply meant to grow things. Wow. So simple a solution.
This brings back such memories! As a fellow Wyoming gal, we bought a chunk of land with a small house 28 years ago, before I’d even heard the term “homesteader”. We worked and improved it, as we could afford it, little by little. Agreed, what a wonderful feeling to be tired at the end of the day, with a before and after picture of “mess” being converted to “beauty”. Thanks for your inspiration, and for hanging in there when the times were tough…and then sharing your heart. May God continue to bless you richly!
Shelly Gardner says
Congratulations, Jill on your 10 years! Your place is breath taking. Love your posts. Best wishes for your next endeavor!
Elizabeth L. Johnson says
Fantastic article! I couldn’t wait to rush through it to ‘share’ it with my daughters who have the same dream.
Hi Jill, it’s me again, your friend in suburbia! I love your posts. You look so incredibly healthy and beautiful! This way of living certainly agrees with you. While I don’t live your lifestyle I enjoy peeking in on your life.
I am a quilter and make soap so I have a tiny bit of the old ways in me 🙂
Thanks for sharing your amazing journey.
Thank you for such good advice and encouragement! My husband and I are only a year into homesteading and are working our tails off so he can quit his job. Sometimes it’s through grit teeth that we keep telling ourselves, “Don’t quit. Don’t quit!”
We’ve had people tell us how lucky we are, too. If they only knew the hard choices and sacrifices! Thank you for sharing your journey!
Beautiful and inspiring post, Jill!
I’m fortunate enough to be the third generation of my family to live on the family farm. It’s my dream life and wouldn’t have it any other way though my grandmother died not too long ago, and since then the future of said farm looks a bit rocky.
Bookmarking this post to reread when I need to re-up the determination to hold things together!
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early says
As time goes on my husband and I talk more and more of dreams of a larger space with more garden and more breathing room. Not there yet, but perhaps someday.
Hi Jill. Thank you for sharing your story. We’re trying to find land to live on and wondered how you went about finding acreage with or without a home.
Hope to hear back. Congrats on chasing your dreams!
I have been following your journey for quite a few years now and love coming back to read your articles whether it be something food related or this post right here. And they are all so comforting and encouraging! Several years back we bought property about 12 hours away from where we lived at the time. We live in the North and bought property in the South. In our attempt to get power and other things on our eventual (what we thought) would be our 10-acre homestead, our dreams were crushed. We loaded up our 10-month old and dog, drove 12 hours to get power to our property. Only to realize that we were not welcome where our property is because we are from the North. We spent countless hours planning and organizing everything from farm animals to a garden to the house we would build so this was truly devastating to us. Ever since then, we lost sight of our dreams and we just focused on what we COULD do which was to keep going with the only life we knew. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching recently (feeling like something is missing) and just realized all of this. That we were so hurt by what happened, that we lost sight of our dreams. Unfortunately we can’t afford land where we are but I KNOW that GOD has a plan for us and I will not give up on our dreams. So thank you for creating a article to bring back the motivation and inspiration we needed 🙂
Lisa Bass says
I absolutely love this story, Jill! We want to do something similar, but would probably have to move an hour away to make it happen. Scary, but you’re inspiring!
Elisa Neufeld says
Hi Jill. I have just started watching your videos, so far I have enjoyed everyone of them. My husband and I bought a property with 6 acres. We both work but my dream is to quit my job and go into homesteading. So I’m trying to learn as much as possible. Your very inspiring. Thanks
Hi Jill, this is such an inspiring post. Thank you for the encouragement and motivation. My husband and I have recently embarked on 7.5 acres including a very large (mostly renovated) 17th century house in the UK but we have just turned 60 and 50 respectively! We are hoping this lifestyle will keep us young, fit, positive and goal oriented. Our gardens are in much need of work and we are about to order a new greenhouse and make veggie beds in the old walled garden. It’s all such a huge learning process and I have to get out of the mentality of wanting to click my fingers so I can have it all done NOW. Learning to enjoy the process along the way is a big thing for me.
Loving your updated website. Please know I don’t think I could do this without all your invaluable information and advice. I appreciate your work so much.
carol donahue says
No matter how many times I see/read this I enjoy it. Good for you, for following your dream.
carol donahue says
No matter how many times I watch this I enjoy it more each time. Good for you for following your dream.
My family is moving to Wyoming to buy land in the next year. We are saving up the money now. What area do you live. We are thinking Casper looks nice.
Julie M says
Me and my ex wanted to move to his Grandpa’s farm back in 1975. We were only 17 and dating. His bachelor uncle was living and farming on it. My ex knew farming only from staying there through summer vacation. We talked about it and decided that it would be a lot of work. If we would have…..maybe he wouldn’t have become an alcoholic and die when he was 56. You just never know.
Babygirl, I am more than twice your age, but you are my hero. Don’t you ever give up! What wisdom and grit in one so young. Everyone needs to read your Homestead Manifesto. Here is a very long distance electronic hug and I wish I could come sit in your back pasture and stare at that sky!
Meg McGinnis says
I love your article. Boy you hit the nail on the head. I hope it reaches many, many people and inspires.
I will be 63 this August! Alone! But my heart has such a painful longing to homestead. To farm, garden, have chickens, I want have started learning how to do “homesteading ways” from watching youtube homesteading videos. Kefir, fermented foods, Kombucha, so so many wonderful things I knew nothing about until about four years ago. I want to make goats soap, breads, holistic health for the body and to wake up before the sun comes up and wait on the front porch to hear the rooster crowing, the freshness of homestead living away form all the pollution of living in a city or a town. I live in a railroad town and with a huge paper mill. I want so to be free to be held a prisoner of love to homesteading. As I have journeyed through your blog, tears comes to my eyes with joy for you and your family that you have the awesome opportunity. I know it was not without sacrifice and extremely hard work. I have always been a tomboy and at almost 63 years of age I am still a tomboy. (One with a heart that ceases to dream of my own homestead) Thank you for all that you have shared, the pictures which I love photography, my camera has died so I am working on getting a new one, loved your photography….You and your family are such inspirations of hope even to a 63 single lady living in Arkansas.
So good! Thank you for sharing this truth and encouragement!
Thank you for sharing all your knowledge and bringing us alone on the adventure. These last few months the world has become a different place. And those of us who valued the old ways are living a better life and I believe mentally a better life. Those who forgot or turned away from or never were taught you are inspiring.
Congratulations and may God continue to bless you!
Welp. I wasn’t expecting to cry before 9am on a random Tuesday, but here we are. Just a few months ago I moved to Vermont to live in a tiny cabin on some very neglected 8 acres of woods. After a suburban upbringing and another 13 years living in Chicago and New York, it’s been a hell of a learning curve. But I’ve so vividly experienced many of the same things you’ve described — that feeling of shaking off the conventions and expectations that weigh us down. Of coming back to something that in its own way is so much richer and more elemental. I have a LOT of work ahead of me but I’m excited for the journey. Also, thanks for the woodstove DIY (which is how I found your lovely blog in the first place!) and please wish us luck with the installation that’s about to happen! ?