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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


The Homesteader's Journey

In January of 2015, I left a well-paying job as a manager at a nice veterinary clinic in one of Alabama's largest cities and became a work from home homestead wife. For months my husband and I talked about moving to another large city so that he could pursue a law degree, and I would find another job somewhere in that new place. But somehow, another option crossed out minds that ended up being the lifestyle that we chose — be rid of unnecessary material things and start simplifying our lives. We decided to move onto family land and begin building a cabin of our own while increasing the size of our livestock and crops each year.

When you begin to cut back on all of the things you have and limit yourselves to the basics, things change drastically. I would often take a step back and shake my head as I would clean up and sell my old things- why did I ever have a game system or all these clothes? I also noticed that working from home meant there was not much driving- I had been holding down a job just to pay for the gas it took to get there every day and buy lunch all the time!

A few hundred dollars on a paycheck was nothing to me, and it would be gone quickly (I did make a few wise investments along the way, though). Today, a $20 bill in our wallets is a party, and that's no joke! Our bills have been reduced, and we now work from home selling small amounts of lumber, produce, and art. Money isn't everything, but spend it wisely.

My husband and I have been brought much closer together in this adventure by constantly working together and helping one another. It's so nice to be able to do things as a team and then be able to sit back and smile, knowing we have built this dream by the work of our hands. Family time has become precious and joyful, because we aren't always running around and worrying about this and that.

We have been blessed in the fact that we learned to appreciate these moments spent with our loved ones. My dear Grandmother has been gone for 4 years, and not a single day goes by that I don't reflect on the positive influence she had on me and my love for the self sufficient lifestyle. Love and cherish the times you have with family!

We started from scratch with our farm animals, getting young chicks to start with and moving up to ducks and rabbits. We can't wait to bring home our first goat in a few months, and we are preparing a place for this new addition excitedly. Eventually, we want to build a small herd of goats and then move up to a training a working ox to help with plowing and hauling.

It has been a learning experience, even though we have been around poultry and other animals before, but we are working our way up into larger flocks and larger animals. I cannot imagine how overwhelmed we would be if we just had the notion to bring all these animals home at one time! When it comes to getting animals for your homestead, start small and build up your herds and flocks in time.

chicken, photo, homestead

Our first garden was tough, and let's just say I have a black thumb when it comes to plants. Our entire crop of peas was eaten by deer, half of our corn was knocked over in a storm, and late planting resulted in most of our sqaush becoming insect ridden.

Thankfully, we did however have a good surplus of okra and peppers. I learned to can some of the produce, and I am prepared for next year so that we are able to preserve what we have extra of. There were some hard lessons this past Spring, but we are ready to step up this year. It is important to keep your crops protected from pests and attempt to plant in the right time, while also having a way to store the excess produce or sell it.

Working from home for us meant finding something we were good at and marketing it to others locally. As I mentioned, we sell a lot of different things including lumber, art, and produce. In good time, our goal is to be able to sell animals and mill lumber for folks. There are many different products that can come from your homestead though, so get creative.

Raise Angora rabbits for their fiber, raise and sell milk goats, use your blacksmith skills and make custom pieces for people, or make beautiful quilts. Find a hobby or craft that you truly enjoy and earn your living doing it, because when you love your work it means you put all your effort into it!

Making the move to a self-sufficient life is not easy, but it is sincerely rewarding in our opinion. There will be times when you may become frustrated and upset, but the joy you find in completing a project can outweigh it. We hope that this article provides some insight into the things we have experienced and the lessons we have learned. For those of you already on this journey, we wish you the best and encourage you to keep going.

WARNING: Homesteaders may develop calloused hands, sweat on the brow, appreciation for the little things, and a hard work ethic!

Fala Burnette and her husband are learning to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle on their farm, Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building a small cabin using lumber they have milled themselves, along with raising chickens, rabbits, & ducks. In Spring 2016, they will start growing a large crop of heirloom dent corn and watermelons that they will save to sell for seed. Read all of Fala's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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