A few readers have remarked that I make homesteading sound easy, and that I don't make mistakes. Oh brother, that's far from the truth. I've always said that farming isn't easy. It's work. And I make lots of mistakes, but maybe not the most common ones.
Over the years I've talked with many a wannabe small farmer or homesteader. I'm often asked for advice. So here's a list of some of the things I mention in order to avoid having to deal with common mistakes people make.....
... Wrong location. Choose your location wisely. Consider the weather, climate, government restrictions and taxes, the area's future planning, your neighbors and neighborhood, availability of shopping and health care. There are a lot of things to consider, and each person has there own priorities. But I've heard of people buying without regard to land restrictions and are frustrated that they can't have a flock of chickens, or don't they have water rights, or they find out an interstate highway is planned to run adjacent to their land, or oil wells are planned the the land across the street, or their land isn't accessible by vehicle during the rainy season.
... No cash or a job to bankroll your start. Too many newbies can't survive the first year because of lack on funds. It takes a while to learn how to produce your own food, and survive using less resources. If starting ftom scratch, it takes a while to build something to live in. It takes money to buy the tools and supplies you need.
... Not everyone in the family be on board with the idea. Not everybody needs to be an active participant, but they can't be against it.
... The First Year Syndrome : trying too many things at once. Most people fall victim to this. They try to get everything done at once.
... Constantly looking for the perfect or best way to do things before acting. Some people get paralyzed trying to decide what is the best way. They want to do it right the first time. As a result, they never get started. It's called analysis paralysis. Other people go ahead a do something, but then re-do it over and over again, looking for the ideal ultimate way. Every year they tear down what they did the year before and rebuild it, or sell last year's "the ultimate goat breed" and buy a different one.
... Over estimating your ability. With the advent of easy access to information via the Internet, newbees tend to over estimate their knowledge and skill to farm, have livestock, build a house, maintain farm equipment, grow a garden, etc. They figure that they saw it on YouTube or read someone's blog and that they can do the same thing successfully right away. They don't realize that experience has a lot to do with success. It takes hands on work and time to be successful at just about any and all aspects of homesteading and farming. Believe me, if you've never gardened before, plowing up two acres and buying a couple hundred dollars of seeds is a big mistake.
...Growing too big too fast. Expanding sounds like a good idea. But if the foundation isn't there to support the growth, you get over extended in a hurry. What too often follows? A big crash.
... Not knowing about the livestock before you buy. I've seen people buy a type of livestock that appealed to them without learning anything about them first. Emus. Alpacas. Potbellied pigs. Scottish Highland Cattle. Buffalo. This even includes the more common goats, sheep, rabbits, etc. And I've watched too many of those animals die, or worse yet, the new owners getting badly hurt by them.
... Not having infrastructure in place before buying livestock. This is far too common a mistake. A person visits a livestock auction (by the way, that's a terrible place for a newbee to buy an animal). They come home with 6 diary goats and tie them out on ropes because they don't have any fencing in place yet. Nor do they have the equipment or skill to milk them. Nor the feed on hand to go feed them correctly. Nor a water trough. Nor a shelter. Believe me, I've seen this happen! For real! My advice is to have everything in place before the first animal arrives.
...Not having livestock evaluated before purchasing. When buying animals, one needs to be able to evaluate their health, temperament, confirmation, and suitability for the reason they are being acquired. If you can't do it yourself, then get help from someone that can. I've seen people buy scouring calves, not knowing what was going on. Other times it's been piglets loaded with lice, sheep too aged to be of much use, goats too anemic to survive, hens past egg laying age. As a teenager I got stung buying what I thought was a gelded pony, only to find out later that it was a cryptorchid stallion. Yikes!
...Trying to home slaughter and not knowing how to do it. Gee, I've gotten nightmares over this common mistake. I've heard grewsome tales.
...Raising animals for food only to find out that you can't bring yourself to kill them, or eat them. Wow is this common! Once you've looked into an animal's eyes, given it a name, tenderly cared for it, it gets difficult or impossible for some people to keep in mind that this is food. It gets killed, cut up into pieces, and served for dinner. And it gets worse when the kids can't bring themselves to eat Bossy, Elsie, Little Red, Thumper, etc. I've seen these type homesteaders drowning in livestock that they can't bring themselves to eat, kill, sell, or give away.
...The family is glued to supermarket food. I've seen families where they don't eat what the grow, and I'm not referring to animals. To them, real food comes from a store, and most is prepackaged commercially prepared meals.
...Not understanding that farming goes on regardless of the weather. Rain. Freezing cold. Broiling summer days. Storms. Mud season. Snow. There are jobs that need taking care of regardless of the weather, especially when there's livestock. No livestock? You're not off the hook. Got tomato seedlings out in the coldframe and there's a snowstorm scheduled for tonight? Well you gotta go out in the cold and dark to cover that coldframe with straw and tarps, or piles of wet blankets.
I'm sure there's plenty more common mistakes that beginners make, but these are what came to mind ..........because either I made them myself or watched others who did.