The whole idea of building a self-sufficient homestead can seem really appealing, but it can also quickly become overwhelming. The list of potential homestead projects is endless: grow your food, raise animals, build your home, preserve your food, build off grid systems, switch heat sources, cut your own rags, etc., etc., etc. Does anyone really do it all???
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I usually get the bug to take on a few projects–generally, those that are food-related. I like cooking good food, canning what my hubby grows, helping to process maple syrup… But even those few things can feel like too much when I’m also trying to wrangle three kids, homeschool, and keep up with daily responsibilities.
I’ve been burnt out many times. I’m coming to realize how important it is to keep our project lists manageable.
(A porch rebuild project that my husband completed in under 3 weeks.)
In our house, we each generally have responsibility for certain projects. I tend to do food preservation and general animal care; my husband tends to do food growing, butchering, and building/renovation projects. Of course, there are many jobs that wouldn’t get done without each other’s help. There are jobs at which we fail miserably. And of course, there are many projects that we don’t take on at all!
So how do you choose which projects you should take on?
- Research before you begin. Do a lot of reading/video watching/pro-con weighing before you bring home an animal or rent an excavator. It’s good to know what you’re getting into before you start.
- Think about your skill sets. Say you’ve always really wanted to make your own clothes out of scrap material but every sewing project you’ve ever taken on comes out looking like a 3rd grader made it. (No, I’m not talking about me at all. Why do you ask?) Let’s put it this way: you can take advantage of the skills you already have (like cooking or gardening) while responsibly outsourcing the ones you have yet to learn (like sewing or woodworking).
- Be willing to learn new skills. The above being said, it’s totally great to work on learning new skills for a project, and there are some that nearly anyone could tackle successfully. Water bath canning, for instance, is pretty simple, and can be learned in an afternoon. My husband learned a lot of new things when he essentially rebuilt our porch and garage. Don’t be afraid to try something new– just don’t feel like you have to learn every new skill under the sun.
- Consider time restraints. I don’t care how many blogs you read– you have to realize that in real life, these people are not doing everything all the time. Consider your priorities, and make time only for what’s really important to you. When you are able, you can still enjoy trying something new without the pressure of making it a regular commitment.
- Budget your resources. How much money does a project require? Which materials do you have on hand and which will you have to purchase? Do you need a certain amount of land? Think through your needs before you get in over your head.
- Be realistic. I struggle with this. I want to it all, then I get burnt out while trying to do it all. There’s an ebb and flow to life, and you must remember that it’s totally okay– and even very good– to not bite off more than you can chew.
- Remember that it’s not a competition. Maybe this is silly, but sometimes I experience Little House on the Prairie Jealousy Syndrome (LHPJS). For some reason I want to be off in an off-grid cabin in the woods somewhere, and I can’t help but feeling a little bit of longing when I see someone else already there. But there are no awards for how homesteady you are, and everyone’s story is different.
(Our goat was quite the learning curve!)
It can be wholesome, invigorating, and- yes- very beneficial to pursue projects in the name of self-sufficiency! But remember, you don’t have to do everything. Start small, try one new thing at a time, and go from there.
Just a note: You can actually learn a lot by getting into an overwhelming homestead venture. So if you find yourself in that position, take heart and don’t give up too quickly! You might just end up really proud of what you’ve accomplished.
Have you ever gotten in over your head? Have you had a proud new project moment? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.