Unplugging to Reconnect: A Journey Toward Full-Time Homesteading — Sacrifices and Challenges, Part 2

Reader Contribution by John Atwell
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Click here to read Part 1of “Sacrifices and Challenges.”

Sacrifices (Some Expected, Some Not)

Moving from a comfortable conventional lifestyle to a more “back to the earth” homestead will require sacrifices, with levels of creature comforts, modern conveniences, and life event predictability being among the most often cited in our research. In our case, due to building permit issues here on the Big Island of Hawaii that defy logic and would warrant a separate blog of their own, our family of six has unexpectedly been in a transitional state for 14 months. We have been living out of a tent on our land, living in a neighbor’s loaned off-grid cabin (no source of water or power), and living out of a vacated — but very livable house — offered to us rent-free by some friends.

From bucket showers to camp toilets to juggling our property and the property of where we were hanging our hats, I cannot in this space begin to enumerate the sacrifices that we have faced in terms of comfort alone. This unexpected twist has also slowed progress on developing our homestead–from what we can reasonably plant to what types of animals we can take care of — setting back our timetable for becoming “established.”

Again looking at our experience, there are other sacrifices that we were more prepared for. Long consumers of organic produce and grass-finished, pastured meats, we have been forced to be more flexible on issues of nutrient density and provenance when it comes to our bodily fuel as we slowly build up our own capacity for producing food on our land and battle the incredibly high cost of comestibles (90-percent imported) on this island in the middle of the Pacific. (Yes, I know…this is a grower’s paradise and high-cost imported food, like fruit, should not be an issue. This is yet another topic worthy of its very own blog post regarding the peculiarities of this place.)

We were also better prepared for the fact that there is no mail delivery in our remote area, that crime is high and police responses can be as long as five hours, that the acid rain, salt-water air, and numerous un-maintained roads would give our vehicles a real beating (we have had seven flat tires on our Jeep in the past year).

Unknown Challenges

Beyond things, like sacrifices, that are anticipated or fully known, a major life shift of the sort that we are discussing is, by its very nature, subject to unknown challenges. Look again at the preceding section about how completely unexpected permitting issues have delayed and complicated our family’s efforts.

We have also experienced theft (we lost the trailer that we need to haul mulch and wood chips and manure to our property, along with materials to build our home), house fire (in one of our loaned dwellings), drought, typhoon, a heat wave (which killed a number of our nursery plants), and fire ants. We have had crops attacked by vermin, chickens plucked off by raptors and neighbor’s dogs, goats poisoned by wild vegetation (only after they themselves took out a number of expensive fruit trees when they escaped their confinement), and significant surprise expenses sprung on us due to, again, building permit issues and the inability of draftsmen to properly coordinate with builders.

4 Lessons Learned from Sacrifice

In closing for this two-part entry, I’ll sum up with a few points of advice for those who would follow this path:

1. Before you leap, do your research and do it well.

2. Understand that your very best research efforts will still leave you unaware of the unknowns regarding just about every facet of your life transition.

3. Expect the unexpected.

4. Fasten your seat belt, keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times, and enjoy the ride!

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