Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders

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I’ll be the first to admit that when we first started our homesteading journey, we made a lot of rookie mistakes. We spent to much on things we didn’t need. Then we turned around and didn’t buy things we really should have. We skipped around when adding animals, buildings and tools. That is, until we learned to prioritize better. We have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Starting a homestead from scratch, and building all our own infrastructure, is much harder than I had ever imagined it could be. Hopefully writing this all down will help you avoid a few of the mistakes we made!

Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders - Sled Dog Slow

Our biggest rookie mistake was not planning anything.

Sure we had ideas for what we wanted to do, and we wrote things down, but we never really had a set plan. There was no “house goes here, chickens go here, garden goes here” kind of plan. Not until we had already put the chickens too close to the house. So as we expanded we just threw things where it was convenient right then, rather than were we knew we wanted them permanently. If we had planned better we could have saved ourselves from a lot of the other mistakes. A homestead planning binder is necessary to keep everything organized.

Another mistake we made was jumping in to new things without preparing.

We’d get an idea and go for it. More chickens? Heck yeah. Pigs? Lets do it! Greenhouse and garden? Check! And then the inevitable fail. We wanted everything to work and be productive right away. Kyle was so disappointed to find out our chickens wouldn’t lay until the spring after we purchased them. At least we were able to push our pig order back to this summer, and have learned enough to hold off on beehives and other animals until next year.

We didn’t understand the weather in our new area well either.

Personally, coming from a desert area, I didn’t truly understand what living in a rainforest meant until we were hit by our first rainy season here. A little drowned garden and a lot of mud later, know I know how wet it can be! It also helps to know where the low spots collect so we can avoid building there. We also thought we were prepared for long winters, but they are much longer and darker than I could have imagined!

Also, we made the mistake of not budgeting from the beginning.

We have spent so much money on materials for our homestead, when we should have just invested in a saw mill from the beginning. Small purchases can add up really quickly. We should have figured out sooner that just because something is new doesn’t make it better. At least we have a few places we know to go for cheap homestead goods now!

The biggest lesson we’ve learned in starting our homestead from scratch is that it’s okay to go slow.

There is no reason to push to the point of injury to get everything done in one day. Pacing yourself in the endless work (it is endless) of beginning a homestead is extremely important. There should always be a realistic timeline for goals to be completed. This will save so much frustration down the line.

All things aside, we are still learning on our homestead journey. I’m sure there will be many more mistakes and lessons for us in the future!

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Three Surprising Places To Find Cheap Homestead Goods

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Homesteading is not cheap. From animal feed to fencing to the animals themselves, there are quite a few things a beginning homestead will need. When we first started out we made the mistake of purchasing everything from a big box store. We spend thousands of dollars before we realized we could buy things way cheaper, we just needed to know where to go.

Second Hand Stores

One thing we’ve figured out is that second hand stores are often full of tools. Shovels, picks, drills, chainsaws. You name it, a second store probably has it. I’ve even seen a few bigger ticket items at the second hand stores around here, like tractors. Second hand stores are also great places to purchase homestead goods because you can usually haggle the price.

Peoples Yards

If there is something in the neighbors yard they don’t use that you could, why not ask to buy it? While this may seem somewhat odd, anyone who’s seen the show Pickers knows that its worth it to ask. We’ve gotten old trampolines, building materials and even a saw mill this way. It’s also possible to get plant cuttings or seeds and bulbs like this. Even if the person says no, you didn’t loose anything by asking. Just make sure to have cash in hand for an offer!

 

Facebook

It seems like Facebook is taking over the world (or at least the internet) these days. We’ve purchased second hand cars, goats and chickens this way. Facebook is also a great way to get information. Our peninsula has Facebook groups just for animal and garden advice. Take a look around, maybe there is a group in your area that will be useful. I also find Facebook especially helpful when I have something in mind that I need. It’s easy for responders to tag friends who might know something in the comments. Even if the person reading my question doesn’t have what I need, they usually know someone who knows someone, and I end up getting the things I need.

I’m sure there are a lot of other great places to find cheap homestead items, but these are the main three that we use here. Where do you find your homestead deals?

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Behind The Scenes: Homesteading With Chronic Illness

Behind The Scenes: Homesteading With Chronic Illness
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Homesteading With Chronic Illness

Homesteading as a healthy person is a task. Homesteading with chronic illness is hard to the nth degree. It’s not impossible, but it does create some interesting problems. I personally have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome type 3. This means I have hyper-mobility in my joints, which cause a lot of issues. The picture to the left shows my thumb folded to my wrist, which is the most obvious and least painful example of hyper-mobility for me. I have regular dislocations, subluxations, scoliosis, and chronic joint pain, among other things. I’ve even dislocated joints in my sleep before! As you can imagine, this causes some serious issues with homesteading. There’s a limit to how much weight I can lift and what tasks I can do. And I can forget about any tasks that require odd positions or contortions. There are so many homestead chores that I just can’t take on, or can only do in a limited capacity. Even things like holding my daughter too long or wearing a heavy back pack can pull my shoulders painfully. Added to all that is the fatigue brought on by chronic pain. I manage, but only with a lot of help and support from my husband!

Read on for more stories from homesteaders with chronic illness who are still living their dreams:

Autumn Rose at Hope For Better Living: Chronic illness complicates every aspect of living, and particularly, my homesteading activities! Since battling Lyme disease I’ve had to relearn HOW to do life as a fatigued individual. In order to accomplish tasks, I must plan far in advance, gauge energy levels (when it runs out, its OUT), and be sure to organize my day, beginning with the important things first. Though it isn’t easy, it isn’t all bad! In fact, because of limitations, I have found more efficient ways to do things. Number one on the list is asking for help, whether a spouse, friend or family member, life is easier when working together! I’ve also come to recognize there’s no shame in using a timer on the garden sprinkler, that mulching methods are awesome and a few weeds don’t hurt, that its ok to have our birds on a system where they are set up for 2 weeks+ and need checking only every couple days. Though it isn’t the ideal, it makes it all possible! The key is in letting go of expectations you put on or allow others to put on yourself. Do what you can and be proud of it!

https://www.reddit.com/r/bipolar/comments/3x5i91/this_a_normal_brain_and_a_bipolar_brain_its_real/Anonymous on homesteading with Bipolar Disorder:

Having Bipolar Disorder changes everything about homesteading. From finding things joyful one day to being completely apathetic about them the next, the emotional roller coaster finds ways to upset everyday tasks. Right now I’m not on any medication due to some awful side effects, so I am learning to manage on my own. This means pushing through debilitating depression to make sure animals are fed and watered, even if I can’t manage finding the energy to brush my own teeth. It also means fighting to finish a single project during manic stages, rather than starting 15 things and not completing any. I am constantly at war with myself, either feeling over or under whelmed with my daily life. That said, I love the life I live and I will always find a way to make it work, no matter how I’m feeling!

Homesteading with chronic illness’s is a challenge, but it is not impossible!

Have your own story about homesteading with a chronic illness? Add it in the comments, or email me at katie@sleddogslow.com to have it added here!

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5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides

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5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides - Sled Dog Slow

One of the biggest challenges of where we live is our access. We live off road, and how we get to our home changes by the season. During the fall freeze and spring break up we are stuck on our property. During winter there is a 4 wheeler trail that, depending on the weather, can be driven on with a truck, wheeler, or snow machine. And during the summer, well, during the summer we live life by the tides.

Living life by the tides brings with it certain risks, and a lot of adventure!

Risk Number One: The possibility of getting stuck mid-beach with tide coming in.

We live about 15 miles from the end of the road. This means 15 miles of beach driving that has to be timed just right. The tide also goes right up to the cliff face, and there only two spots between our place and the road that you can get off the beach. There have been several times where we have left our wheeler on the beach and walked home. Either due to break downs or not being able to drive around a rocky point without flooding the engine, missing tide is never fun. There is even the possibility of sitting as far up the cliff as is manageable for several hours to wait out tide if the timing is wrong.

Risk Number Two: Getting Out In Case Of A Medical Emergency

On our beach there are two high tides and two low tides each day. During high tide there is no land access to our property, which means for roughly 8-10 hours a day there is no way to go anywhere. I’ve had one major accident out here already, when I fractured my teeth on the wheeler. Luckily that happened at low tide so I was able to drive right to the hospital. By the time the three hour drive to get there was over, my adrenaline was gone and I was starting to hurt. Having to wait for tide before leaving would have been even worse. Any serious emergency during high tide would require being medevaced out via helicopter. That’s not something I ever want to experience!

Risk Number Three: Damage To Vehicles

Ever seen a completely rusted out vehicle in a junkyard? Salt water does that, and really fast. Driving a car, truck or wheeler on the beach means rinsing it every trip (if possible). Even if the vehicle is rinsed, driving on the beach does serious damage to electrical and metal frames. Beach rigs don’t last half as long as road rigs, but this is the only way to get to our place for half the year!

life by the tides

Risk Number Four: Beach Changes

The beach changes every tide, and I really mean every tide. Rocks are moved, driftwood gets pushed around, and the occasional net (or whale) shows up.  The places that were solid last tide are suddenly soft now. Driving on the beach requires 110% concentration, or you end up with risk number five.

Risk Number Five: Loosing A Vehicle Entirely

We got to experience this one yesterday. There is an interesting combination of water/mud/clay on this beach that basically makes quick sand. There are several trashed vehicles on the beach from people getting stuck in this stuff. We got our new (to us) vehicle stuck, and where unable to pull it out with our come along, winch, and two wheelers. At this point we have to leave it until someone else risks a vehicle on the beach, then we will ask for some help getting it towed back to the road. I don’t have my fingers crossed or anything, but there is always the slight possibility that it may run after having all the fluids flushed. Provided the ocean doesn’t take it completely first.

Even with all the risks that our beach brings, and the heartache it’s caused, we are still enjoying every minute of living out here!

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9 Rules For Prioritizing On The Homestead

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Let me tell you, when it comes to creating a daily To Do list on the homestead, well…. Don’t. Personally, I’m a list maker. I make them for everything. Chores, books to read, groceries, ideas for blog posts. Even on down to things that made me happy that day. But when it comes to prioritizing on a homestead, keeping to a list is like trying to get ice water in Hell.

A working homestead is like a living, breathing entity. Weekly goals change daily, and daily goals change by the minute. I might get up in the morning thinking I’ll spend sometime chopping wood, only to find that the rabbits poo needs scooped and the compost needs turned and the chickens need watered and a water run needs made and… To survive on a homestead requires a lot flexibility in the day to day. Because of this, prioritizing tasks means a lot of shuffling things around as the day goes on!

Here are 9 rules to help decide what takes priority on the homestead today:

1. If there is any likelihood you could die because this chore isn’t done today, do it!

We just came across an issue that fits into this category today. Went to go outside to do morning rounds, as per usual. Then the door knob fell off! It’s bear season, and they are curious so having a door that shuts and locks is a must, especially when you need a little time to get to a gun.  These are things that need to happen N-O-W.

2. If there is a good possibility of being hurt by putting off a task, don’t put that task off.

If there is a tree leaning towards your house and a windstorm blowing in tomorrow, the tree better come down today for everyone’s safety. Also, sharp points on a gate? Don’t wait until you (or your wife) get cut on it to file them down. We need to be healthy to keep up with all this work!

3. If animals might die if the chore isn’t done asap, do the damn chore.

Making sure everyone has food and water is an every day, if not twice (or thrice), a day chore. Same goes for checking in on sick critters. Another chore that keeps animals alive is cleaning up anything they could seriously harm themselves with. For example, things like spilled chemicals or left out project tools could easily turn into a tragedy.

4. Will animals be hurt if the project isn’t completed right away? Better do it.

It doesn’t matter how much you hate fixing fencing, protecting animals that provide for you should be pretty high up on on that non-existent To Do list.

5. If your future food security will be effected by not completing a chore quickly, then it better get done.

If the garden will die because the irrigation didn’t get fixed today, then the irrigation had better get fixed!

6. If the food security of your livestock could be at risk, do a rain check on another task and hop to.

Because we have a very short window for growing crops here in Alaska, we need to make sure pastures and animal gardens get planted in time. We want those fat, happy animals (and fat, happy wallets from not purchasing our feed).

7. Is your quality of life affected by not completing the task? Just do it.

Sure, water pooled around the front door isn’t going to kill you, but wet feet and muddy floors are a nuisance. Better find that leaky pipe or dig a new drainage ditch or haul in gravel for a porch pad.

8. Will your livestock’s quality of life be affected by putting off this chore? Don’t put it off!

This falls under “Is there poop right next to the food dish, or in the water bucket?” a lot here. Especially with chickens. In fact, part of homesteading for us is knowing our food comes from happy, healthy animals. Making sure they have clean pens is a must for that.

9. If you’ll be in a bad mood for the rest of the day because you didn’t get to this project, make sure you have time for it!

Yes, homesteading is hard work, but we are out here because we love it. Kyle and I are pretty good at accepting when tasks don’t get finished the day we plan on it. At the same time, there are only so many times a chore can be pushed before I’m grumpy about it! Luckily our project season has 20 hours of sunlight a day, which makes for plenty of time to get things done.

I hope this list is as helpful to you as it is to me! (See, what’d I tell you about my penchant for list making?!)

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