Mistakes We've Madegreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I was thinking that probably one of the most helpful things we could do with this forum is let others know about the MISTAKES we've made, so hopefully people could learn from them and not repeat them. I would guess that the most common mistakes are the kind my husband and I have made (even WITH good advice -- some of us just don't listen!) Probably the two most common mistakes are to bite off more than you can chew, and not make the proper preparations for a new project (in other words, do it RIGHT!!!). It is so much wiser to start any new project on a small scale and grow into it. Also, in order to have the time necessary for 'homesteading' activities, you've got to get out of debt and reduce your expenses. Otherwise you'll be in the same boat a lot of us are in right now, working too many hours away from home to ever get things going at home so you could have sufficient income to stay home (did you ever read Catch-22?!?). So, is anyone game to own up to their mistakes?
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000
Kathleen, there isn't enough room on this forum to list all the mistakes I have made! I agree that the biggest one was and still is biting off more than I can chew. the things on my need to do asap include roofing the barn, repairing the porch, cleaning out the back porch so I can move the baby chicks out there[their next to me in a box]. Getting livestock before you have pens and shelter is a big one. And I need to cut down on just about everything now that the boys are all gone, but soo stubborn, and still think I can have my cake and eat it too. I was pretty hot when #3 son told me I had no business with a chainsaw! I refuse to just grow some flowers and go to work, that may be a mistake too[ha] thats all I am willing to fess up to right now. karen
-- Karen Mauk (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
I have made so many mistakes that it would hog all the internet bandwidth to tell you about them, but I will say the the one that always comes back to haunt us here is to start another project before finishing the one we have been working on. I admit that sometimes because of weather, season, illness, etc., some things just need to be moved up on the priority list (y2k was a good one!)but we get things about 90% done and then get excited about the next project and start it. I then get exasperated looking at all the work that still needs to be done! It's been like this for the 18 years we have been married so it will probably stay that way for a while longer! But if you have the discipline to manage better than we do, you are blessed!!
-- sheepish (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
Twenty two years ago, we raised our first fifty cornish rocks to sell. Sold them for $3.75 at four pounds. That was quick money in 8 weeks, so we thought - if 50 is good, - 400 would be better. Hatchery's bargain of the week was a black version of the cornish cross.
Twenty two years later, it still remains one of our best remembered mistakes. Never mind the black pin feathers, that weren't quite pin feathers yet (just a kind of mush down in the pore that had to be worked up out), - we were plucking chickens at midnight under the pole light, in the rain, in the snow (both working jobs off the farm). Plenty of buyers, but not enough time to butcher 400 of them in a timely manner.
Some got bigger than twelve pounds before we finally got them all butchered (no profit there). We thought that project would never end. Best lesson we ever got. (Any lessons you learn after high school, - you pay for.) More is not necessarily better, and ten times more is almost never better. Today, we butcher 25 to 50 chickens a year, - for ourselves.
Second, related mistake, - kept back some of the cornish crossed females for hens. When each one of them laid their first egg, all their insides came out. Was not pretty. Maybe too much interior fat. Doesn't matter why, the heartbreak was the same.
-- homestead2 (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
I think starting too big is one mistake that is pretty universal judging from the previous posts...and one that anyone starting should take heed too. I had grandios-idealistic-unrealistic ideas when I first started. Nothing sours the experience more than getting overwelmed and stressed. Practice KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid is the best way to start. It is easier to sample keeping 6 chickens than investing in a 100 hen egg farm. Or sample keeping 2 goats rather than starting a 10-20 goat dairy. Or sample organic gardening for yourself before planting 5 acres of sweet corn to "sell at the farmers market." After sampling for a year or two, then decide what suits you best and concentrate on that area of farming or just keep sampling! The neat thing is that you can sample all those at the same time if you KEEP IT SMALL. I would also add to make some arrangements for some type of health insurance or emergency nestegg for medical purposes only; nothing busts the bank quicker than an injury or unexpected illness...
-- Jim Roberts (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
One more thing: Buy as much frontage and land as you can possibly afford!!
-- Jim Roberts (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
Whether you have a homestead or not I think the problem of not finishing what we start is probably the most common mistake! I do it all the time. It works directly against trying to declutter and simplify because everything you need to finish the project is still laying around. You don't want to put it away because it will take longer to find it when you're ready to finish it....I've been working for two years to complete projects that I've strted around the house. I refuse to start anything new until I do. I am getting there and it looks like this year I might actually have my house in order. What a relief that will be! Two years is a long time!
-- Jennifer (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
I've had to think a bit to only limit this to just three errors that I've made. These are the three that have turned out to be my greatest "learning experiences."
#1 - Never spend major money (this is different for everyone but I now define it as $50 or more) on anything without thinking about whether you really need it or not for three days. That time is important to let the initial excitement of the idea wear off and the practicality to creep in. It took me a looong time to learn this one.
#2- Unless it just can't be done that way start SMALL and as you gain experience and understanding expand your operation until you reach the size you want to be. If you've never gardened before don't plow up a 100'x100' foot plot for your first time.
#3 - Like Jennifer said, if you start a project - finish it! If you discover that the project is no longer worthwhile before it's finished take it apart to salvage what you can and put the recovered material away. Don't just leave it half done. Don't start new projects if you still have several already started projects yet to finish.
Numbers one and two I've finally gotten more or less a grasp of. I still struggle with number three but at least I recognize it for what it is.
I reckon we all really could fill up the Internet if we really tried to list all of our mistakes!
The Prudent Food Storage FAQ, v3.5
-- A.T. Hagan (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
I truely believe that I am not happy unless I bite off more than I can chew ! Why else would I do it all the time .This drives hubby nuts " maybe thats the answer" .I feel better knowing I'm not alone.
-- Patty Gamble (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
Mistakes I have made in homesteading or seen others make include: 1) Too many dogs and cats. Dogs and cats, unless they're purebred and can sell the puppies, or herding dogs that really work, just eat up a lot of food and money, take extra time to care for, and sometimes, start chasing stock and or deer. And if they start killing chickens, kill the dog. It's only a matter of time before they start in on the goats, sheep, or calves. I learned that the hard, heartbreaking way. There are so many hungry people and children in the world, why throw away perfectly good food grains on animals that are not going to earn their keep? 2) Marriage troubles. I have seen a lot of idyllic homesteads go down because two people couldn't get along. Seems like the children and animals usually get the worst end of the deal.Ladies, a bummy, lazy guy isn't going to improve by taking him to the country. Guys, the ladies will be a whole lot more tractable and happier if you give them a few amenities, like, running water,even if it's only cold running water, food to eat ( I know that seems obvious, but it didn't seem to occur to some guys I've known),a house that is fairly dry,firewood, and help with the hard work. Women who have to do without these things get burned out pretty quickly, unless they are pretty rugged, determined types and only have to do without foor a short time. If you ask them to bear oodles of children under those circumstances, a divorce is almost a certainty. 3) Getting caught up with novelties. Such as,pygmy goats,radish sized carrots,edible flowers when the food crops need attention,llamas(I've never seen anybody eat one,milk one,and haven't even seen much use of the packing ability or wool.)Even horses can fall into this category if they are not actually being used for something, such as skidding logs for your log home and firewood. Focus on the practical, reliable things.If it doesn't pay for it's keep,get something that does. I'm not saying not to plant any flowers or purple asparagus, just don't get so distracted and carried away that you have a large portion of the garden in crops that aren't going to feed you, and feed you well. If you want to try a white tomato, put one plant out, and the rest in a proven variety,for example. 4)Getting animals and then not taking adequate care of them.A goat isn't going to produce a gallon of milk a day tied to a tree all day in the brush without water, and not eating any grain. She'll be doing well if she can keep her kids and herself alive like that. Dogs that have to hunt for their food are evntually going to start in on youur chickens,just a matter of time. Cats can often hunt for a good part of their diet, but make sure they are really getting enough to eat.Decide ahead of time what animals you are going to have, and resist the impulse to get anything you haven't thought about and decided you need. Then when you get the animals, have the pens made ahead of time,and make a commitment to take good care of them so that they can return the favor.It doesn't usually work out to get animals on the spur of the momment. 5)Getting poor quality livestock. Livestock is an investment.You don't have to pay $2,000.00 for a top quality purebred milking goat, but on the other hand,don't buy a scrubby doe from the auction for $15.00, either. A scrub eats as much feed as a good goat, and gives less in milk and saleable kids. The papers may not seem important, but the kids will be worth a lot more if the mother and sire both have them.The sale of two registered kids easily covers what it would cost to feed the doe for a year. Scrubby kids can be hard to give away. It pays to find out ahead of time what diseases afflict the species and get animals that are disease free, and to recognize quality and buy that. Otherwise you are likely to waste money on a dieased, 2 quart a day milker that gets mastitis all the time because her udder gets hit by her hocky legs. 6) No job skills for the area where you live,a long distance from work, and a car that breaks down all the time. This is a recipe for disaster. I've lived it and it's no fun. If you're a rocket scientist but there's no rocket building going on in the area,resign yourself to the fact that you might have to sell firewood, pump gas, or bag groceries. 7) Moving to the country with no money and no job or real way to get money.It's tempting to think that something will turn up,but homesteading is a job all in itself sometimes, and it's very easy to get caught in a vicious circle of,I need gas money to go to town, and I could get a job to earn gas money if only I could drive to town.Try to have a plan worked out or some money saved up to get you through the first year, and be generous enough to allow for enexpected expenses that will turn up. I don't think having a lot of projects going at once is bad as long as you are going to finish them. Some things are an ongoing project,such as the garden, and some houses I have seen. It's easier to plant two or three fruit trees a year while doing everything else, than it is to plant twenty all in one year and then be over whelmed by the pruning the orchard requires.We always have many projects going at once, and try to chip away at them steadily rather than work on only one at a time. Sometimes we will focus more on one project if needed, until it is to a certain stage. For example, we are building a house while we live in it, it's been under construction for 10 years now. We try to set goals of not,say,finish the entire house, but finish the kitchen this year, or seal in the greenhouse this year. Otherwise, when would we have time to dig two more garden beds, spread manure on the north east pasture,dig a new outhouse hole,plant the asparagus bad, and build a better pen for the buck? Jugggling multiple projects is part of homesteading.
-- Rebekah (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
Wow! You've all done the same dumb things we've done!! It makes me feel a little better to realize we aren't the only dumb ones in the world:) Rebekah, you have a lot of good points -- I finally came to the same conclusion about the superfluous dogs, etc. several years ago, and now we only have one cat. My husband has been very upset that I made him get rid of various animals that weren't being properly taken care of -- and I couldn't do it for him, for various reasons. Some no longer apply, and when we get squared around, hopefully by selling out here and finding someplace less expensive to live, I'd like to get a few animals again, but this time only what I can take care of myself. He does fine with his beehives and the garden, though. (If he can keep the bears out of the beehives!) And I've suffered through some of the problems you describe other wives going through -- after he got out of the Air Force in 1987 we went back to Alaska and my brother let us live in his old cabin. No running water, no electricity, a wood stove that had a long loose stove-pipe and was always separating near the ceiling. Now, I was raised on a homestead in Alaska, and can live without the amenities. But we had some hard times there because we weren't set up properly to do daily chores like laundry, etc., without a great deal of unnecessary work. We had lived for several years already in unfinished houses that never got finished, so I was about at the end of my rope. Yes, we are still married (24 years), sometimes by the skin of our teeth, but I don't trust him to finish anything, so future projects have to be something I can do myself, and that limits us. Anyone out there in similar situations can write to me, and I will be glad to tell you how I've managed to hang in there -- it's by the grace of God, not by my own strength. And for anyone who is questioning, is it worth it, well, we've come to take divorce a little too lightly, especially when there are children involved. The advice I've been given, and I believe it is right, is to stay, as long as there isn't any actual abuse involved. So what does this have to do with country living? Well, the one thing my husband and I have always had in common, and just about the only thing we still have, is the desire to raise our own food, to do things outdoors, to "homestead". So there is still that line of communication, and that work to do together -- and the strongest part of a relationship is the work you do together, not the "fun" times (though those are nice, too).
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
Kathleen, I think it's great that you've stuck with it. Jennifer
-- Jennifer (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
What a great thread we have been back 3 times to catch up thank you all i am starting small in the suburbs still working. We have a five year plan (that is when the house is paid for) looking for land now 5 maybe 10 acres honing our skills and looking foward to making all your mitakes ps and the thread how you got there great reading thank you all so verry much Shaun
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
I already replied to Shaun via e-mail, then decided I'd better post it. I had to laugh when I read his desire to "make all our mistakes", but as I pointed out to him, while they may make good anecdotes years later, they weren't funny at the time, and often cost us time, money, and stress that we could ill-afford. A mistake we've made, and I'm sure others have, too, is to read a good book on how to do (whatever), then figure we can do it cheaper, quicker, easier, or just "our own way", instead of following the good advice in the book - - or from the experienced farmer or homesteader. It is much wiser, and will save a lot of grief in the long run, if we follow the advice, and save the experiments for when we have enough experience of our own to really know what we are doing!! Especially when other lives are involved (livestock, or our children, or our spouse). I must add, whether anyone will heed or not I don't know, that the best book, with the best directions, the most tried-and-found-100%-true book in the whole world is God's Word, the Bible. It has instruction to make us wise in marriage, in raising our children, in our relations with our fellow man, and even in farming and in business. All of man's work on these subjects are experiments, people trying to do it 'better', quicker, cheaper, "my own way" -- and you'll get the same results by ignoring God's Word as when you ignore the feeding instructions in Raising Sheep the Modern Way (to give an example). So I've said my piece and am going to shut up and go to bed!
-- Kathleen Sanderson (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
For my opinion you can go back up and re-read Rebecca's, what a great post! Also the cats can give the goats disease also! Vicki
-- Vicki McGaugh (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
Some ( do nots}. Don't buy property on northern slopes! Looks great in summer but brrrrr in winter. Don't build to close to a dirt road! DUST and FIGHTS over speeding cars. Don't offer to collect money and take charge of fixing your private roads!! If 25 people live on a dirt road maybe 5 will give you a little money, then you get blamed for the entire fiasco!! NEVER tell someone you had to shoot their dog!! The 150 pound monster NEVER leaves their porch! Just some stuff to think about. I've personaly never made those mistakes. I'm way to smart. Yea right!!........Kirk
-- Kirk Davis (email@example.com), April 12, 2000.
I have been thinking about this question and have decided the only mistakes I have ever made have been when I've dissapointed God. Everything else has been learning experiences. We all have to learn lessons somehow. I am not sure there is any way but the hard way. I wish I could tell every new homesteader all the things they could do to make it easier, but I'm not sure that doing so is any favor. Ultimately the new things I have learned Came because I ignored all the advice anyway. I think homesteading is a process and that if you expect to do everything right the first time then that might be what some would call a mistake. I think it is a learning experience. Boy, will you learn. I say stick you head out and grab ahold and go for it. Don't worry about making mistakes. At least if you do that you won't be hiding behind a wall of fear. We all build our own walls in our lives. Tear some down.
Little bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 13, 2000.
Since there are some good posts up there already, I am going to try to be specific.
1) I bought a goat because she wasn't being well cared for and needed a home, just to loose the $100 plus vet fees because she was CAE+ and her doe kid died. Thank God she stayed in quarantine.
2) I built something shabbily and it didn't last. I did that one a few times. Didn't save me any time at all in the long run.
3) I thought the dog had learned to stop eating birds. I was wrong, he was smarter than me on that issue, and was waiting for me to run to town one day. He's now cabled from dawn to dusk. I trained the other dog as a puppy, and sternly.
4) Choosing to homestead is a way-of-life committment, not unlike following the dogma of religion, or following the guidelines of marriage. Some spouses won't care about any of those committments, and staying would be damaging, a poor example for kids, and an excellent example of low self-esteem. Those who choose to homestead should expect hard work, hidden rewards, and a bumpy road. It's a beautiful road, but it is bumpy. (like the one by my house!)
5) Goats kick backwards and to the sides. Their feet are magnetically drawn to the milking pail.
6) Hay is deceptively heavy and will reproduce on the barn floor over Winter. To assist Spring cleaning, I should have fed hay in the pasture.
7) Chickens will hide their eggs from you. If you keep taking them all away, they will hide them somewhere else. Leave something that resembles eggs (white rocks, pingpong balls, or a couple of eggs with pencil marks) behind in the nest and then they will keep laying there.
8) Cash is cash, but swapping is neighborly and free.
9) I tried to re-wire electical in our old house, blew one of the main house fuses, couldn't buy a replacement and had to call an electrician on Christmas Eve. Now, I only work on household projects during business hours, so I can get emergency parts if I need to.
10) Don't rinse grout tools in the bathtub. It looks like it's washing down, but it is really setting up on the first horizontal run in your plumbing.
I think I should stop at ten!
-- Rachel (email@example.com), April 13, 2000.
LOL on #10, Rachel! Wish my husband would remember that kind of thing! We've made ALL of the above mistakes, but we are learning. Sort of off the subject, but...it occurred to me yesterday that I'm beginning to get the hang of coordinating homestead life and homeschooling. By the time I get good at it I'll wish I had more children to keep on going! Then again, it's all in the Lord's hands.
-- Jean (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 13, 2000.
I love all the previous posts here! And I can sure relate to the majority of them!! I have been keeping a journal of sorts titled "Things NOT to do when homesteading!" a few of these are: never, ever thwack a bull with a lenght of rubber hose on a icy morning to get him to back up! the hose is frozen, and upon the initial thwack across the head, it breaks causing the bull to get cross and you get the "butt" of the situation!! Also, never ever leave the rooster roosting on the (metal) fence on a night predicting ice. Rooster freezes to fence. You find him the next morning, hanging upside down on fence, one foot frozen to said fence. You then end up with a rooster in the kitchen recouping for many days and have to feel guilt everytime you see him limp around the yard! (I learned this one from a fellow homesteader) and one more. If said bull is on one side of the gate, and you want him to move back...do not put your leg through gate to shove him...almost broke my leg that way after he shoved back before I could get my leg out of the way!!
-- sissy sylvester (email@example.com), April 15, 2000.
I just had to post about the garden. I get through the garden okay, my dad plants at his house, and we all help, BUT.. When harvest time comes its all mine. There are Tomatoes, Little White Half Runner Green beans (the kind that makes a million pounds and runs on the ground so your back is broke by the time you pick them kind)Corn, peppers,and on and on. They all come in at the same time and no way on God's little green earth can one person can all this.
What do I do but talk to a neighbor, and they have Grapes and would I like 2 or 3 bushles for free, just to pick. Weeeellllll of course I would.
This is the mind speaking here, and as you all know the mind and the body do not get along.
The body is saying if I do one more thing it will give up and shut down.
Now how many of you turn down the grapes--Right and one way or another this seems to happen every year.
Oh well live and learn (NOT)
Maybe one of these years I will get past this mistake.
-- Beth (NC) (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 18, 2000.
Sissy, similarly, don't paint the garage with the rams penned in next to you. They think the ladder is a new toy, and they can do interesting things using the laws of Newtonian Physics while you try to figure out how to get down and past them!
-- sheepish (email@example.com), April 18, 2000.