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13 Hard Truths about Homesteading [for Beginners]

Let’s get real about what homesteading is really like. 

There are a few hard truths about homesteading you need to accept before you begin – or else you’re in for a rude awakening. 

If you aren’t aware of these hard truths about homesteading beforehand, it’ll be easy for you to give up and quit when the going gets tough.

What you won’t realize when you are battling whatever issue you’re facing that day on the homestead is that it is likely just another hard truth about homesteading.

Knowing what others have experienced and learning the hard truths about homesteading before hand…well, you’ll be more likely to persevere.

Let’s get real about what homesteading is really like. 

A woman gathering her harvest from her homestead garden.

1. It can get hard.

Sometimes I hear people say they want to begin homesteading because they want an easy life, and I have to force myself not to laugh.

Homesteading is not easy.

It is hard, back-breaking work. 

However, ask homesteaders, and they will tell you the hard work is totally worth it. And that the reward far outweighs the downside. 

Just don’t go into it thinking it’ll be easier than your day job. 

2. It’s time-consuming.

Homesteading is extremely time-consuming. Unlike traditional 9-to-5 jobs, you will have to work odd hours if you have any animals.

Even if you don’t have livestock, you will sometimes need to work early in the morning to beat the heat of the day. 

You also can’t rush through the long list of daily tasks because that’s when mistakes happen. You must take your time inspecting your gardens and your animals on a regular basis. 

3. You can’t call in sick.

You can’t call your boss and take a sick day. It doesn’t matter if you are feeling sick. Your homestead still needs tending.

The animals still need to be fed, the eggs still need to be gathered, and the crops still need to be watered.

Unless you have a great family and community support system, you are still the one responsible for homestead chores when you are feeling unwell. 

4. You answer to Mother Nature.

One reason many people begin homesteading is because they like the idea of being their own boss.

This is only sort of the truth.

When it comes to homesteading, Mother Nature is your boss and your day-to-day life depends on what Mother Nature is up to.

Talking of the weather is no longer a boring dinner conversation – it’s serious.

If it’s going to snow, you have to prepare for it. If Mother Nature sends a severe thunderstorm that damages fences, you are going to have to repair them. 

[Related Read: How to Protect Crops from Heavy Rains]

A man milking a cow on the homestead.

5. There is a lot to learn.

It takes a lot of intelligence and know-how to run a homestead successfully. Unless you grew up farming, you will face a huge learning curve.

Learning what to plant, when, and where will take studying. 

Even learning how to milk an animal can be challenging! 

And, if you ask homesteaders, most will tell you that learning never stops.

Homesteaders are always learning new and better ways to make themselves more self-sufficient.

Prepare to read tons of books, watch plenty of videos, and ask veteran homesteaders many questions.

6. You need people.

Some people picture homesteading as going off the grid and living in isolation.

This isn’t the case – at least not if you want to succeed.

Especially starting out, it is practically impossible to homestead everything you need to survive on your own.

You will need people – and not just any people. You need a community of homesteaders.

You should have someone you can call when you have questions about livestock or planting. 

You should know whom you can turn to when you need to borrow farm equipment and who knows how to butcher animals. 

Don’t expect to know how to do everything yourself from the start.

Having a community of like-minded homesteaders will make your journey that much more successful and enjoyable.

7. Animals will die.

Homesteaders grow attached to their animals, but one of the hard truths about homesteading is that animals will die.

Even if you aren’t planning to butcher your own meat, a homestead is a natural environment.

As such, animals will die. That’s nature.

It could be illness, infection, or a fox getting into the chicken coop.

Sadly, death is common on homesteads.

Go ahead and prepare your heart and mind for it. 

A field of dying cornstalks.

8. Crops will fail.

There will also be failures – some worse than others.

You may plant something that doesn’t grow as expected. There may be droughts or pests that cause crops to fail. There will be seasons of plenty and seasons of less. 

Often, much of this is out of your control and up to Mother Nature. 

9. Vacationing is difficult.

Before you jump into homesteading, think about how you travel with your family.

Do you have a dog or cat? Do you have a gerbil?

When you travel, do you take your pets with you? Do you board them at a kennel? Do you hire a pet sitter?

Now, imagine your future homestead.

If you plan to have livestock or farm animals, it’s going to be much more difficult to take a vacation.

It will require significant planning and a lot of help from trusted companions.

Even if you don’t picture a homestead filled with animals, you will still struggle with vacationing unless you plan a vacation during non-growing seasons.

If not, who will plant, sow, water, and harvest your family’s food? 

10. The work never stops.

In traditional work environments, people dream about retirement.

On homesteads, there is no such thing as retirement.

Not even looking that far ahead, it’s important to understand that there will always be something that needs to be done on the homestead.

The work never ends. 

Given the nature of how a homestead functions, things will constantly need to be repaired and replaced.

You’ll always have another project to work on.

An older man checking on his beehive.

11. It requires a lot of patience.

While there are some parts of homesteading that seem to happen quickly, much of homesteading requires a lot of patience.

You have to wait for your bees to start producing honey to sell.

[Related Read: Get a Productive Beehive Going in a Few Short Weeks]

You have to wait years for your fruit trees to bear fruit. 

Don’t expect your first growing season to be perfect. You have to learn through trial and error what grows better in which space. 

It takes time for animals to get acclimated to an environment and one another. 

You aren’t going to be one big, happy homestead family from day one. It takes time.

12. You will spend a lot of time cleaning.

If you think your homestead will look Pinterest-perfect, you’re in for a surprise.

One of the hard truths about homesteading is that you will have to spend a lot of time cleaning.

Since your family will spend a significant amount of time outdoors, you should expect to bring the outdoors inside.

There will be lots of sweeping and mopping and laundry.  

13. You can’t be squeamish. 

I saved the best for last – you can’t be squeamish and homestead.

You will deal with poop daily. 

Whether it is avoiding stepping in it, cleaning it, or using manure for soil, there is a lot of poop.

Additionally, homesteads with animals will get up close and personal with nature. 

You will see births and deaths, injuries and infections. It isn’t for the faint of heart. 

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