Sunday, September 25, 2016

Meat & Eggs For Free ! 😮

As so often happens, I just received an email from a reader lamenting about how much she has to spend on healthy food while I get all my food for free. How's that? What you say? Free? Hardly! Just because I raise, forage, or trade for my food, that doesn't make it free. Possibly it's cheaper than buying the comparable items at the stores, but it still means cash out of my budget. Let me explain. 

I had thought that I'd list all the cash expenses for raising a pig, or getting a dozen eggs, or harvesting a bushel of potatoes. But I realized that it's a tedious list full of little costs along the way and a few big costs at start up. Yes, lots of little outlays along the path to the final product that often go unnoticed. But if you just visualize it for a minute, you'd see all the bits of equipment needed of a homestead farm for food production -- buckets, clips and wire, rope, fencing, trellises, veterinary medicines, livestock shelters, small hand tools, saws, tillers, mowers, pumps, hoses, gasoline, propane........the list goes in and on. Every egg produced required cash beforehand to buy something or other (the hen, the pen, the nestbox, the feeders, etc). Every porkchop represents cash spent for the piglet, fencing, buckets, feed pans, dewormers, etc. A pot of homemade vegetable soup reflects the seed orders, shovels and tillers, trellises, fertilizer, watering hoses, plus a long list of other expenses needed to grow those veggies. Even foraging has its expenses : the need for some sort of vehicle & gasoline to get to the widely spaced fruit trees. And all this time I haven't even considered my personal time spent producing or acquiring the food. I wonder how much an hour I "earn" by producing my own food? 

Sounds like I'm whining. But really, I'm not. I'm learned a lot about homesteading and don't mind one iota about working for my food. But I have seen others believe that they could have free food by doing what I'm doing, and get really upset that they have to shell out so much cash on seed orders, tools, livestock feed, fencing, etc. I've watched some people get so utterly disgusted when their crops or eggs don't turn out to be free that they abandon all hope of producing their food. 

Many old sayings hold in, nothing's free in life. Growing my own vegetables isn't free, nor raising my own eggs. But I'm glad to do it anyway. But anyone planning on to be as self reliant as we are needs to know up front that it's going to cost you a bit before you ever get to eat your first stringbean, scrambled egg, or porkchop.

The reason I'm discussing this topic is that I'm seeing more and more posts to gardening/homesteading forums claiming things like ..... I grow all my own food for free......or......10 hours gardening a week makes me totally food eggs and chickens are labor and expense free....or even no work garden! (The only way I can figure he does this is by making someone else do all the work behind the scenes - his wife & kids?) But there is no discussion about initial set up costs, nor costs to maintain livestock during the winter, nor costs of preserving or buying food to get one through a non-growing season. In my own personal experience on this homestead, I'm seeing things a bit differently from those making those wild claims. 

Free food costs me infrastructure, supplies, gasoline, and my labor. (I've harped on this so many times by now that I guess you've got the idea). Oooo, and I can't forget to mention losses. Livestock sometimes dies, crops sometimes fail. So all that input sometimes results in nothing. Not a break even situation, but instead an actual loss. That's when you wish it really was free because it hurts to lose one's investment. 

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