Realistic Goals You Can Make
as a Homesteading Beginner
You’ve heard it your whole life, I’m sure: “Make realistic goals”. I think we’ve experienced, at one point or another, that it’s often easier said than done. We often want it all and we want it all right now. That was me when Emerson and I bought our homestead. I thought it would take us just a year to be self-sufficient, and that’s an unrealistic goal because neither of us had the slightest idea what we were doing. Actually, I hadn’t even ever worked with tools before!
We had goals for flourishing gardens and stocked freezer of my own, local-raised meat, right from The Green Acre Homestead. Well, my friends, two and a half years later and I am simply laughing at it all. To be honest, I still have 100% hit that goal. Yes, we’ve grown a fair amount of our food and we’ve eaten multiple animals but we’ve also been hit with a few setbacks. I’m here to help you, as a beginner, make some realistic goals so you don’t almost burn out like I did from doubt of being able to do it. Here we go!
GOAL #1 – Gardening
Your first goal for your first year on the homestead is to just grow one successful garden.
My biggest mistake with having the goals I did was that I moved to a different area with a slightly different climate and I had no idea what the weather and seasons would hold. Plant the easy crops for your first season of gardening. If it’s taking place in the hotter months then put some squash, cucumbers, or beans in the ground. A little more chilly than expected? Try some kale or arugula. Also, meet your neighbors if you have them. Reach out to your county extension office and network with some fellow gardeners. The advice I’ve received from the folks who’ve been in this area their whole lives has often been better advice than what I can find on the internet. Take their advice, write it down, and apply it every year forward if the advice deemed itself successful. Also, Goal #1.5 is to start composting! It is never the wrong time to start a compost pile and learn to successfully produce your own soil. If you need a little guidance, I wrote about my easy composting method. It could be a great place to start. It’s called “Composting Made Easy” and you can read it here.
GOAL #2 – Animal Husbandry
Your second goal for your first year is to get to know about your animals and learn to properly raise and cull them.
I had goals to have goats in my first year, and many people do get goats their first year. My husband and I had no experience with any of it, though. Chickens were a foreign animal to us and I was quite scared of them at first. We had 10 too many chickens, bought 10 more ducks, and 5 rabbits within our first 3 months on the homestead. This was a problem because we had never raised any of the animals so we had no idea what we were in for. We had never culled an animal, either. It’s pretty intimidating, as a beginner, when you order 10 ducks and in 3-4 months half of those cute little ducks are supposed to be dinner. It was a little discouraging.
My suggestion to you, and what I’m planning to do myself even 2.5 years in, is to find someone who’s raised and culled animals. I’ve culled a decent amount of animals but I still have so many questions and I’m convinced watching some in person will answer 99% of them. I’ve found many great videos but sometimes you just need an up close and personal swing at it. Also, it’s always okay to have “beginner” type goals, so keep that in mind.
GOAL #3 – Fruit Trees
Your third goal is to not go broke buying fruit trees. This one is not the easiest!
Oh man, we thought we’d have an orchard in full-throttle by the end of the first year, no doubt! We did get a head start as far as fruit trees go since we bought the land with fruit trees. Many of those trees didn’t produce out the first year because the past owner didn’t keep up the maintenance very well and, you’ll never guess, we had no idea what we were doing. Let me tell you, you can break the bank trying to start an orchard. Good quality fruit trees aren’t cheap.
So my advice to you for the fruit trees is to get to know your local nurseries and, when they have sales, take advantage of them. Emerson and I are kicking ourselves because Tractor Supply recently had their fruit trees on sale for $14 dollars each. We waited 4 days and that price just right back up to $35 a piece. Slow and steady grow your orchard, but don’t have it in your mind that you’ll have it together by the first year unless you are financially able to do so.
GOAL #4 – A beautiful yard
Your fourth goal is to understand that it’s okay for your yard to not be as groomed as it was when you bought it.
When we viewed our house and property is was stunning. The yard was professionally groomed, the trees were blooming, the lots had animals in them and it looked like a dream. I still dream about the way the yard looked when we bought it! Two years is how long it took for me to feel comfortable enough inviting people over for cookouts in our outdoor kitchen and fires in the ginormous fire pit. I’d started and stopped so many projects within the first year that the yard just constantly looked like a construction site! The picnic table was and still is I’ll add, my workspace and it had empty pots and materials all over the place. We have 1.25 acres and that’s a large amount of space when you don’t know what to do with it. It’s okay for your yard to be a little messy at first.
You’re not going to immediately know where you want this and that and that’s totally fine. If you’re anything like myself, you won’t really know how to take care of a yard because it’s your first house and there was no yard maintenance course in school. You’ll learn soon enough, as with everything else.
GOAL #5 – Documentation
Maybe the most important goal you should have for your first year is to get in the habit of documenting everything.
I should probably switch this with goal #1 because it really is important. I didn’t document a single, darn thing my first year. Year number two just felt like I was starting all over again! I couldn’t remember what the weather was like and what sprouted when or how long it took the chicks to get to culling size. My second year I documented every single thing. Now, going into the Fall gardening season, I have a much tighter grasp on what I should plant and when. It feels good to understand the animals and have a set schedule for their upbringing and what date they’ll be sent off to freezer camp, etc.
Take notes, write in a diary, whatever you have to do in that first year. I wish somebody would’ve hammered this into my head when we began back in February 2016 but I learned the hard way and hope you don’t follow in my footsteps.
GOAL #6 – Patience
I’m adding this as a goal because it’s a goal I did not have, also a characteristic I couldn’t say I owned, but something I developed and learned.
It’s so very easy to feel impatient when you’re beginning. The animals aren’t growing quick enough, the trees aren’t producing enough fruit, the gardens haven’t yet sprouted. Be patient and know that, in time, all of these little things will fall into place. You’ll find your groove, you’ll doubt yourself less, and you’ll become a little more connected with every day that passes. I’ve had may low ruts during my journey where quitting seemed so easy, so convenient, and so right. For example, my 14 bird meat flock was massacred. I invested 3 months into those beautiful birds and half of them were going to be dinner for the months to come.
I can confidently promise that there are 1,000 wonderful, invigorating experiences to come for each one terrible one you’ll encounter. At the top of my site, you’ll see my motto “Living simply isn’t always simple, but it’s always worth it.”. Adopt that motto and just remember that it’s true. It is totally worth it.
Next, read about the “It’s Okay List” for Homesteading Beginners (and beyond)!