We Made Some Mistakes Along The Way Series: Leaving The Nest, Part 2

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Dickinson
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Photo creditcheezburger.com

This is the third installment of the We Some Mistakes Along the Way homesteading blog series. Find all installments here.

Ever wonder what homesteaders mean when they throw that phrase out there? I do. And it always seems so neat and tidy when they say it. “We made some mistakes along the way” – “but everything is great now, and we’re in a happy place of realized dreams, unquestionable skill and that stuff doesn’t happen anymore.” Okay, I don’t think anyone has ever meant it that way, but that’s how I read it. I always wanted – needed to know more about those mistakes.

What were they? How did they feel about them? And were they really mistakes or decisions based on unknowable circumstances that changed down the road? Like when we moved our front door over four feet, then years and multiple changes later, decided to move it over another four feet? Were they big mistakes, like pouring concrete over their septic tank or little things like ordering the wrong paint color? Did those mistakes make them feel like a total failure, or did they go on unfazed? Did they re-make the same mistake because they were unfazed, and did feeling like a total failure help them to double down and do better next time? Would they change anything, or did they look at all mistakes as pavers on the road to their goals?

Maybe all of those things. Maybe none, I don’t know. But that’s what I always wanted to know. Homesteading life is hard. Fixer uppers are hard, and family life – no matter what the situation – is hard. Life is never short on challenges, hardships, and of course, mistakes. There is so much packed into those seven little words, “we made some mistakes along the way.” But that is where the humanity is, I think. That is where the stories are.

So, would I change anything? Everything? Maybe.


Sometimes I want nothing more than to sell everything, pack up only the essentials and move into a townhome – a fully finished townhome with trim, beautiful trim. Have a patio garden. Or maybe no garden at all and support my local farmers. I think about packing only what we need into our RV and traveling full-time. Never mowing a lawn again, never milling up another tree, and never spending another 7+ years renovating a home while struggling to make it feel like a home.

Would I call that a mistake? That’s where it gets complicated.


Definitely not for my husband. This is his dream, and he gets to make things happen every day to realize that dream. It is hard work, but it is his work and it is what he wants. If he didn’t have this place as an outlet he may have turned to a life of crime, drinking and mayhem.

The Kids

And definitely not for our kids, who tell me often “I love our house.” And they really do. They love everything that comes with it. The weird little peepholes in my ceiling. Seeing first-hand how things are built, torn down and restored. And nothing beats the excitement of yelling “timber” as a tree falls in the woods. It is a powerful thing, all the experiences these kids get to have. All while catching crayfish in our little creek and racing dirt bikes around the yard. They couldn’t do this in a town home.

Me. Lordy, here we go…

For me is really where it gets complicated. Me, who can’t stand an open project. Me, who needs a safe, predictable place to roost where everything has its place and everything is in its place so that I can relax and be productive. Me who identifies, maybe a little too much, with my chickens. Poor girls will stop laying for weeks if you mess with their coop. I hear you girls, I hear you.

I always felt like I wasn’t being the best wife and mom I could be because of the constant stress of making this a home. I wanted it to just be a home. Like the one I used to have. The one I had time to build before I had to share that attention with babies. I wanted to just focus on my kids. And ditch this third child with a 30-year mortgage. And be happy. But what I have come to realize is that being the best mom and wife means supporting your family’s needs and dreams as equal to your own, and making it all work so that everyone feels valued. Doing this has made my husband the best father he could be, even if I struggled. It has been, as we used to say in the Army, a gut check. Not my favorite time, but who actually likes painful periods of personal growth??

It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere

Sure, we could have done this somewhere else and the road may have been easier. But would it? There would have been other struggles. There always are. So, mistake in moving here? No. Paver in the road to our goals? Yes. Have I felt like a complete failure and then picked myself back up again? Yes. A thousand times, yes. Do I sit on the couch, eat too many chips, binge watch a show and feel sorry for myself for a couple days first? Yes. Sadly, yes.

We made big mistakes, like not closing up the soffits in our chicken coop, allowing a raccoon to get in. That cost us half our flock, as well as months of nightmares of dismembered chickens we were responsible for keeping safe. We made small mistakes, like we should have made our driveway “loop” bigger so that it was easier to turn around, and maybe omitted the center island all together because then it would be easier to maneuver cars, trucks, trailers and equipment around.

We have learned that it is okay to keep moving and adjusting the plan. What is right now, may not be right five years from now and it is not “giving up” if you don’t stay locked in. There is no shame in saying “been there, done that” and moving on. The goals those pavers are leading to may not be the place you thought it was. It may be entirely different. No one gets the blueprint for life, though Lord knows, we try our mightiest to figure it out.

For us, I have made peace that our goals as a family will never lead us to a townhome. But they may lead us in an RV full time. Ever see an RV towing a chicken coop? Maybe you will someday…. ?

Jennifer Dickinson is a nurse, gardener and chicken-keeping Mom who was inspired to try homesteading life in her late 20s after reading an issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. You can now find her weeding her gardens, tending chickens on her homestead in the rolling hills of the Garden State and planning her great RV escape. Connect with Jennifer on Instagram and Facebook, read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here, and camp with her on Hipcamp here. 

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