I have a wonderful friend who constantly tells me, “I can’t wait until we can do what you are doing.”. Meaning, she wants to be an urban homesteader.
Sure, it’s all cute to have a small flock of chickens or a tomato plant growing in a bucket, but I often wonder if she truly understands what happens on our homestead, each and every single day. Season to season, year to year. If she truly understood what I have to do on a daily basis, would this life still be as appealing? What if she really knew that I don’t live a “simple life”? Would she still want to live my day to day life? Maybe not.
Each season on the homestead is full of it’s own challenges.
The joys of Spring homesteading?
The snow is gone, or fading fast, and the weather is warming. You come out of the cold Winter with your plan for the garden and it’s going to be a good year, you can just “feel” it. It’s the excitement you feel when the seedlings emerge, either in the greenhouse or in the ground and plants begin to thrive. The thrill of pulling all the weeds out of the bed and stepping back and knowing you made a difference. The “awwwwww” feeling of those fluffy chicks that you hatch, or bring home. The happiness you get from holding a fluffy chick and having it fall asleep in your hands. It’s the thrill when you pick that first pea or salad greens to bring into the house for a meal.
In the Spring, we fight against time and late frosts to get our garden prepped, tilled, and planted.
It’s a daily routine of watering seedlings, pulling weeds and praying that the birds don’t outsmart the pinwheels and eat the plants before they get established. It’s dealing with 40-60 “newborns” in the form of new layer chicks, turkey poults, and meat chicks. It’s having a heat lamp (or two, or three) on in the home or barn, 24 hours a day, with no breaks until feathers are grown. The electric bill can be monstrous. It’s the watering and feeding of those babies, daily, even when you want to stay in bed. The feed bill is second only to the electric bill.
Summer on the homestead brings new joys.
The fresh eggs from happy hens are now abundant, and they are scratching all around finding bugs, slugs, and worms to munch on. It’s so relaxing to watch them peck the ground. And you are benefiting from the lower feed bill as well. The garden is teeming with produce, and your grocery bill can be slashed easily. The sun becomes a constant friend, and the laundry is fresh smelling, drying in the summer breeze. Having your kids come into the house, berry juice dripping down their chins and declaring, “I’m not hungry for lunch, mom.” is one of the best reasons for growing your own berries, really. And, is there anything quite like the smell of the air after a summer thunderstorm?
Of course, Summer on the homestead has it’s drawbacks as well.
Those chicks are now nearly full grown, and the meat birds will require butchering. You look at your busy schedule and find that the only free days you have are supposed to be rainy. So, it’s off to butcher in the rain, which makes a sloshy, muddy, chicken goo mess. Since the rain goes on for days at a time, your boots are nearly gone under the chicken goo mixed with mud, but you have to feed the chickens and turkeys and collect the eggs. Speaking of rain, all that rain is making the garden plants grow. Including all the weeds. Keeping up with the weeding becomes a full time battle that you aren’t really sure you are winning. The joy of that first tomato quickly fades as you realize there about a 1,000 tomatoes to deal with all of the sudden. While other families are off to the beach for a vacation, or trips to the zoo, you are harvesting and preserving. The kitchen becomes a perpetual sauna with the constant canning. The canner actually lives on the stove top now, and jars are constantly being washed. Oh, great, you ran out of lids AGAIN, so another trip to the store for more. Where ARE those bands? Yeah, the sun came out…and now, you are dealing with your own personal black fly plague. There is so much to do, that you never seem to have time to rest. Which is about right, since it’s hard to sleep in an oven.
Fall on the homestead is one of my favorite times of year.
The weather becomes bearable again, after a sticky, humid summer. All the butchering is over and you can reclaim your yard again. Lawn mowers get put away, and the garden beds get tilled and “put to bed” for the winter. Weeds? Go ahead and grow, baby! I’ll just till you under as green compost! The pantry is overflowing with all the garden goodness you worked so hard on all summer, and the freezer is bursting at the seams with homegrown meats, fruits and veggies. Let’s not forget that honey harvest! The golden liquid will flow and flow! The cool breezes at night are perfect for roasting marshmallows and campfires.
Of course, there is still work to do, it’s not time to rest yet.
There is more firewood to cut and stack for the coming winter. Is there really ever enough? That garden bed isn’t going to put itself to bed, so you need to pull the plants, till it up and add compost and fallen leaves, after you rake all those leaves up. The hens are not happy that the bugs and worms are not as abundant and will complain loudly. Very loudly. Like you had anything to do with it. The bees need to be tucked in for the winter, and your kitchen will become a sticky mess as you harvest the honey from the summer. You still need to keep the garden beds with the frost hardy plants going, and there is still weeding to do in those beds. And watching the weather daily for that first frost warning so that you know to cover the beds completely. And uncover the next day. And cover back up. And then uncover again. The greenhouse becomes a sanctuary once again as the air gets cooler and cooler, but at least the flies are gone. Finally.
With the first flurries, comes a new season on the homestead.
See what I did there? Winter starts setting in. For us, this means that most of our gardening work is over. Sure, our greenhouse goes all winter long, but the majority of our meals come from the jars and jars that were canned over the Summer and Fall. It’s the season for reading a good book, curled up by the roaring fire. Hot tea and hot chocolate are made in large quantities and lingering with that movie and bowl of popcorn no longer seems to take too much time. The hens stay mostly in the barn now, warm and cozy. Outside chores are done more quickly, as there isn’t as much to do. It’s truly a season of rest for us. And a season of looking over what went right, what went wrong and planning for next year. It’s a time of hope, a time of looking forward to new things.
Of course, the wood pile needs to be stocked all the time, and in driving wind, it truly sucks the life out of you.
The hens may be all cozy and warm in the barn, but they still need food and water. Speaking of water, the ducks are NOT happy that their pool is gone, and their water is down to a heated bucket. Surrounded by ice from the water they spilled, of course. The laundry now freeze dries on the line, and it’s better to hang it up inside. At least you’ll get some humidity back into the air. The wood stove goes all the time now, and it’s a chore to feed it and care for it. And a messy one at that. There’s ash, wood chips and kindling all over the place, and the dog seems to enjoy helping to spread it out. NO amount of sweeping, dusting or vacuuming seems to take care of it completely either. And, you don’t really mind the fingerprints or initials in the dust, but do they really need to write the date on it? The kids are “tired” of all the food you are eating, and really want some fresh berries right off the vine, or something other than canned green beans. At least you have your garden seed catalogs to look at, and chicks to plan for. After all, Spring is just around the corner.
As you can see, homesteading has a lot of challenges.
But, it’s truly a life I wouldn’t trade for anything. All the hard work, the sacrifice and the sore achy muscles make it not a “simple life”, nor a “fun and cute” life, but a chosen life. One I choose again and again.