Homesteading has been romanticized in recent years, and it’s no wonder why. Many people are stressed, burned out and unhappy with their modern-day lives, and they’re looking for an escape. Naturally, moving out to the country to live a quieter, simpler, healthier, more affordable life away from the rat race is about as appealing as it gets. I know, because that was what started me on my own homestead journey!
But is homesteading really as romantic as it all seems when we’re stuck in traffic, dreaming of chickens and gardens and the smell of homemade pies baking in our kitchens? Well, yes, and no.
Having made the move out to the country a couple years ago, I can attest to the fact that my overall stress levels have gone way down. I don’t miss urban living one bit. I love providing for myself and my family as much as I can. And we definitely live a much more frugal lifestyle, which means we are able to spend less and save more. Both my husband and I agree that our life here is better by far than it was running the rat race in the city. But it doesn’t come without its challenges, disappointments, worries, fears and even a few tears.
You’ve gotta be tough to be a homesteader. You’ve gotta be determined to make it no matter what. You could be the most skilled builder, gardener and homemaker there is, but if you crack under a little pressure or approach tasks with anything less than a positive, “can-do” attitude, you could still fail as a homesteader. On the other hand, you could start out with none of these skills, but with the right attitude you can absolutely learn and grow and make your homesteading journey a success story.
So what do I mean by “the right attitude”? Well, I like to break it down into five traits that I believe make a successful homesteader. I like to call these The 5 ‘R’s of Homesteading, and they are as follows: Resolve, resilience, resourcefulness, respect and responsibility.
The 5 ‘R’s of Homesteading
First thing’s first: if you are really serious about homesteading (or about achieving any goal for that matter) you need to resolve to follow this crazy dream of yours no matter what. When it comes to homesteading, if you are just starting out, you will most likely have to deal with other people who try to talk you out of it, tell you you’re crazy, look at you like you have a second head or just generally don’t support you and your dream.
I still don’t talk about my passion for homesteading with some of my closest family and friends because they just don’t understand it and even brush it off as “just a phase.” But I know in my heart that I am determined to live this lifestyle regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Only I know what’s best for me, and only you know what’s best for you. This definitely applies to more than homesteading: you need to follow your own dream and resolve to reach your goals regardless of what others think. This is your life, not theirs. Don’t have regrets just to appease other people. Easier said than done, but that’s why resolve is so important.
You also need to resolve to work at achieving your homestead dream no matter how long it takes, how difficult it can be at times or how many setbacks you face along the way. Because let me tell you something: you will not be self-sufficient overnight!
Homesteading is a lot of hard work, full of challenges and never-ending learning. If you expect to pack up, move to the country and live the simple life while lazing on your back porch all day, you probably won’t be successful as a homesteader. If you think you know everything already and are unwilling to keep learning or accept help from others, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But if you resolve to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to get to where you want to be, you will succeed at whatever goal you set your sights on.
Too many people expect that once they resolve to do something, they will get results quickly. When they start working hard at their goal and don’t see immediate results, they give up. (This is a huge reason why people fail at things like losing weight or saving money). These are long-term goals (or should be) and homesteading is no different. Remember that saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and resolve to commit to this lifestyle for the long-haul.
The longer you work at it, the more you will learn and grow and create the life you want. The results will come, but you need to resolve to keep going even when you feel like giving up. Because at times, you will. Which brings me to the next “R”…
Homesteading and living a self-reliant lifestyle comes with soooo many challenges. Crops fail, animals die, jars don’t seal, equipment breaks down and costs more money than you save by doing things yourself… It can get a bit disheartening to say the least, and if you’re not resilient, it can break you down.
Homesteading can be a costly, time-consuming, thankless way of life at times. You can muster up every bit of resolve in your body and work so hard to be successful, but you will still make disappointing, costly mistakes from time to time. And there will always be factors out of your control that you will have to accept and deal with. The more resilient you are, the easier and quicker you will bounce back from adversity and keep going.
Resolve and resilience are really two sides to the same coin. Without the resolve to keep going, there’s not much point in being resilient. And without resilience, your resolve will only keep you going for so long.
I was watching an episode of Homestead Rescue the other day (if you haven’t seen this show, I highly recommend it: It follows a long-time homesteader and his two adult children while they travel the country helping new homesteaders overcome all sorts of major challenges). Anyway, Marty Raney (the father) said something that stuck with me and inspired me to write this post. He said “the heart and soul of the homestead is the homesteader. They meet every challenge aggressively, and when they get knocked down, they just keep getting back up. THAT’S a homesteader.”
Indeed, he was talking about the that resolve and resilience necessary to live this lifestyle. Together they are a recipe for success, not just for a homesteader, but for anyone trying to achieve anything of importance in life.
I’m sure most people would expect this one to make the list. Homesteaders are known for their resourcefulness. They live by the mantra “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” But in addition to simply making the most out of the things they have and making them last as long as possible, homesteaders are also all about finding frugal, creative and innovative ways to repurpose items they have on hand.
Another one of my favourite homestead shows on TV is Alaska: The Last Frontier, (again, I highly recommend checking it out if you’ve never seen it! It’s probably my favourite show of all). Otto Kilcher (one of the homesteaders the show follows) is known for his resourcefulness. He is also known for being a bit of a junk collector, or some might even say a “hoarder.” Now, we can discuss hoarding vs. homesteading in another article, but suffice it to say that he holds onto all sort of pieces of old equipment and scrap items so that he always has a stockpile of materials he can use when he is building something new or trying to get a job done.
Instead of spending money and buying new, he fixes broken tools and equipment, uses old motors and parts from old cars and machines to build new ones, and builds new structures with scrap pieces of wood, metal, plastic and other basic materials. He is the epitome of a resourceful homesteader, and he proves that we don’t need to buy and consume and spend all of our money on things we don’t need just to trash them at some point anyway. Instead, we can appreciate the things we do have and use them to their full potential before we resort to throwing them away.
I think this is the reason that many homesteaders also have a slight case of hoarding; They like to have materials on hand to use and repurpose instead of buying new, and they respect the time, money, effort, and materials that go into creating and acquiring things too much to throw anything useful away.
And it’s not just building materials and machinery: homesteaders might keep old buttons, scraps of fabric, elastic bands, bags, glass jars… basically anything that could be recycled, reused or repurposed. But they don’t hang on to things just for the sake of hanging on to them. They save things with a purpose in mind. They hang on to things they know they can use, and when they need something, they look to their own stockpile before buying new. The goal is not to acquire more, it’s to spend less, use less and stretch each and every item as far as it can go.
In fact, I only mention holding onto useful things because this is how most homesteaders build up a supply of items they may need. But it is also very possible to live a minimalist lifestyle or even live in a tiny home with no more than 50 items to your name. You can absolutely still be resourceful, and in fact you will have to be.
Regardless of how much or how little you have, resourcefulness is about making do with whatever you do have. If you choose to live a very minimalist lifestyle and be a homesteader, you will need to make every single item count, which means that just about everything you own should be able to serve more than one purpose. At the end of the day, resourcefulness is an approach and a mentality, and can be applied in just about any circumstance.
Of course, resourcefulness also means that you must work on learning some basic homesteading skills like building, cooking from scratch, sewing, etc. so that you are able to construct, create or mend things out of the materials you have. But don’t worry. If you don’t have the skills yet, your resolve and resilience will help get you there, and resourcefulness will follow:)
As a homesteader, you’re responsible for A LOT. After all, if you are aiming to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, you and you alone are responsible for providing for yourself, and that entails a lot of responsibility in other areas.
First of all, you need to step up and take responsibility for running a functioning homestead every day. This is not a 9-5 job, and in many cases it’s much more than just a hobby: it’s a lifestyle, and the deeper you get into it, the more responsibility you will have. You rarely (if ever) get a day off.
There could be a blizzard outside, but you still need to go out and tend to your livestock. You could want to sleep in, but animals need to be fed and gardens need to be watered before the sun gets too hot (man we need an automatic watering system!) You could be tired and want to go to bed or just relax and read a book, but it’s green bean season and those beans aren’t gonna snap and can themselves!
Honestly, there are days when you simply just won’t feel like doing the tasks and chores that you have to do as a homesteader. But you need to step up each and every day to do what needs being done.
You are, of course, responsible for yourself and your family above all else. You need to make sure your family is taken care of, which means you are responsible for providing for them in many ways. This includes cooking, preserving food, keeping them healthy (or nursing them back to health) and making sure everybody has a warm, safe place to lay their heads at night.
If you have livestock, they depend on you as much as your family does. You need to make sure they are fed, watered and protected every day. If you grow a garden, you need to make sure it’s weeded and watered and fed and sheltered and planted and transplanted and harvested and pruned all season long. Waiting too long to do any of these things could negatively affect your food supply, and that will, in turn, affect how much you can provide for your family.
You need to be responsible every single day. And while that doesn’t mean you can never take a vacation again, it does mean that you need to take responsibility and provide for yourself and your dependents without relying on outside help to take care of things when you don’t feel like it.
If you truly want to be self-reliant, then you need to be able to rely on yourself! That’s hard to do if you’re not in the habit of taking responsibility for things. After all, you wouldn’t rely on someone else who you deemed to be irresponsible, would you? Relying on yourself is no different.You need to be able to count on yourself no matter what, and that means taking responsibility for the care and wellbeing of yourself, your family and your own house and homestead.
Any good homesteader has a healthy amount of respect for the world around them. They respect all life forms and also respect the reality of death as part of the lifestyle they have chosen. They respect the land that provides for them and work hard to be good stewards of that land. They respect others who they can learn from and/or build community with. They respect material things and the value of a dollar and do their best to stretch every item and every penny as far as it will go. They respect nature, God and other powers that are higher than us and out of our control, and they respect the fact that these higher powers can both giveth and taketh away.
Homesteaders also respect themselves, their families and their way of life, which means living true to their beliefs and their morals regardless of what modern society thinks. Of course, they also refrain from telling others what to believe or how to live, because they have respect for other people as well, even if those other people are different in some way from themselves.
When you live close to the land and depend on what that land provides for your very survival, you quickly learn how connected all life is on earth, and you develop respect for that life and how fragile and unpredictable it can be. This also reminds you of your own mortality, which can be very humbling indeed.
No one is completely self-reliant. That’s an impossible feat, actually. We all depend on all sorts of other lifeforms and factors, many of which are out of our control. The quicker we develop respect for those things that we depend on or which determine our fate, the better off we’ll be.
Of course, just because you respect something doesn’t mean you will be spared hardship. However, respect helps you overcome many hardships you might face by helping you to see beyond yourself and reminding you that you only have so much control over your fate. We can only do the best we can with what we’ve got. Of course, as we’ve already talked about, we need to take personal responsibility for ourselves and our actions, but we also need to understand that we can’t control everything, and that’s okay.
In the end, a good homesteader has a healthy respect for both the things she can control as well as the things she cannot. Respect the power that you have over others and over the land by not abusing it, and respect the powers that are higher than you by accepting that which you cannot control.
Adopt the traits of a good homesteader and the skills will follow
Having the skills you need to be self-reliant is important, no question. But the skills can be learned. Don’t worry if you don’t know the first thing about growing vegetables from seed, raising livestock or even cooking from scratch. You can learn all of those things. You can start your homestead journey at any time and place in your life, and you can learn and grow and be successful no matter how few skills you begin with.
Traits are more important than skills in determining success. You could begin homesteading with all sorts of useful skills up your sleeve, but if you don’t have the tough-as-nails traits to help you succeed, your homestead journey might be short-lived.
If you have the resolve to learn and grow, the resilience to bounce back when your best laid plans fail, the resourcefulness and willingness to work with what you have, are responsible enough to step up and do what’s needed when it needs being done and respectful of both the things you can and cannot control in life, you will surely succeed as a homesteader. And even if you decide that homesteading is not for you, having these traits that make a good homesteader will only serve you well in life, however you choose to live it.
Got the 5 ‘R’s already? Then check out these 5 Homesteading Skills you can start practicing now!