Create a situation to succeed
I'm a 30-year-old, female "homesteader" living in barely rural northeast Ohio. I bought my 2 acres of heaven a little over 4 years ago and have been working to turn it into the homestead of my dreams. Well, more like the homestead of my dreams within my budget. Nonetheless, dreams are coming true out here!
I'm fortunate enough to have a partner in crime, my boyfriend, who grew up on an actual farm and has a plethora of knowledge on like subjects. In the past 4 years, we took this dumpster of a house and transformed it into a magazine-worthy rural palace. I believe the nickname we gave it during renovations was "The Taj Ma Hut". In between the never-ending house projects we tried to move forward with some animal and garden endeavors we both had our hearts set on.
My journey began as a kid, yep I'm going all the way back to childhood. To say I was an animal lover was an understatement. I loved anything to do with animals or nature. I spent countless hours watching the discovery channel when other kids were watching Nickelodeon. I proclaimed at a young age that I wanted to be a veterinarian primarily because that seemed to be the only adult profession I knew that involved animals.
For my 11th Christmas, someone gave me a book about becoming a veterinarian. I read it cover to cover and quickly informed my parents that I needed to start doing some volunteer work at a local vet clinic if I wanted to get into vet school (per the book's advice). My mother called around and not surprisingly all the local clinics said I was far too young to volunteer with them. One of the clinics suggested we look into the local FarmPark. Yes, you read that correctly, I lived in an area that had a publicly funded "park" that was essentially a farm which put on educational demonstrations.
I started volunteering in the park's "Dairy Parlor" the following summer. I fed, groomed, milked, and cleaned up after 6 dairy cows, 1-2 occasional calves, and a few goat kids from time to time. I was in absolute heaven. I didn't have an appreciation at the time for the production of milk that was happening before my eyes but I loved taking care of the animals. I loved everything about it. The routine of making sure everyone had what they needed throughout the day and the excitement of new calves born almost monthly became the highlight of my young life. I was hooked on farming at that point. I didn't know how or when but I knew that someday I would end up living on a farm.
A few years into volunteering at the dairy parlor, I secured a real paying job at a local vet clinic and left the cows behind. I went on to work at the clinic for six years but ultimately decided 2 years in that becoming a veterinarian wasn't for me. I found no joy in performing routine vaccinations and spay/neuter operations, which appeared to be most of what veterinarians did. Also, the reality of going to college for 6+ years after high school made me want to vomit.
I started my college career as a zoology major, thinking I might be able to get involved in captive breeding programs at a zoo. At that point, I was grasping at straws to keep animals in my chosen profession. The reality of college costs hit me hard during my freshman year and I elected to change my major to business administration in hopes of securing a job after graduation. To be clear, I did have an interest in business administration, and the decision to change majors was easy when I found out that the likelihood of me getting hired by a zoo as anything other than a zookeeper for 10+ years after college was slim to none. I was in college during the financial crisis and I couldn't stomach graduating with a mountain of student loan debt and no job.
After college, I got a fairly boring project manager job. I always did well at work but I was never passionate about what I was doing. The 2 years following college I dated a man, a much older man, who sold me on an "off-grid" lifestyle. I wasn't sure about the whole "off-grid" thing but raising animals and gardening interested me so I went along with it. I began gardening at my parents' house and started reading up on homesteading. I found myself going down the rabbit hole, if you will, in regards to everything homesteading related. The thought of living off the land started to consume my mind and every aspect of my future plans involved the lifestyle.
A little over 2 years into my relationship with my much older man, it fell apart. I found myself lost not over the loss of the relationship but over the loss of direction. This man already owned land (or so he said, that's a story for another time) and also had blueprint plans for the house we were going to build. I went from talking with builders regarding when the footers of my house were going into sitting at my parents' bungalow with no money and no direction. There I was, 23, still living at my parents, with a mountain of student loan debt, and a boring job.
Ages 23-24 became the "me" years. I decided somehow I was going to accomplish my homesteading dreams on my own but I had no idea how. Instead of wallowing over what I couldn't do I started moving forward on focusing on my hobbies and paying down debt. I took up biking and started to rack up the miles. I also became a moderate hiker and even took a trip over to the hike the Appalachian Trail where I hiked a section with a friend. In the remainder of my spare time, I researched homesteading and tried to improve my skills. I bought a "teach yourself to knit" book and did just that. Knitting blankets and dishcloths in the evenings became my norm. In the summers I tackled gardening. My gardening skills were pathetic. I literally had no idea what I was doing and I don't know if I ate more than a few bell peppers and some lettuce of mine during those years. My parents didn't garden so I wasn't ever exposed to how to grow anything as a child. I was essentially teaching myself. I also only had an 8' X 8' raised bed to work. I was determined to learn though and I think that's what matters most with acquiring any skill.
When I was nearly 25 I met my other half. He is an avid outdoorsman who grew up on a legit farm. We casually dated for the first six months or so by which point I had paid off enough student loan debt that I could start shopping for a house and some property. At age 26 I was able to buy my beautiful 2 acres of heaven and my partner and I started on our homesteading path.
We've been together six years and have accomplished a full remodel of our home. We are now raising chickens, turkeys, and giant angora rabbits. Our garden space has expanded from nothing to over 2,000 square feet this year. In total, we harvest blueberries, apples, pears, sweet corn, popcorn, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, blueberry tomatoes, green beans, carrots, peas, broccoli, and lettuce. I have big plans to transition our front acre, which is essentially a useless yard, into more garden space. I'd also like to add more fruit trees, berry bushes, and a bee hive in the coming years.
This seemly success of homesteading would not have been possible had I not changed my career path. Previously I had resolved that if I made more money I could make my homesteading dreams come true faster. This led me to jump company to company when I saw an opportunity to advance. For a while, I accomplished my goal of making more money, increasing my yearly salary by $20k in less than 2 years but something was missing. My homestead seemed to advance no faster even though I had more money. Why is this you ask? Well, money doesn't buy time and with every career advancement came more responsibilities and in some cases more travel. This issue was exacerbated when my other half took a new job that he absolutely loves but required him to travel the majority of the time spring through fall.
By early 2019 I was living in a homestead that was stuck. There were plenty of things to be done but no one to do them. A higher power stepped in the spring of 2019 to put us back on track. In April of that year, I was laid off. My job performance had been great, but the company overall was struggling and rumor had it they couldn't afford to make payroll anymore. On a Wednesday, I and 20 other employees were walked out of the building with cardboard boxes full of our possessions. I was unemployed with no notice and no severance.
I called my boyfriend who was again out of town and told him the news. He didn't understand and neither did I. When he came back into town a few days later he asked me what I thought I was going to do. I told him I know what I'm about to say isn't even possible, but I don't want to work for anyone else again. I was fed up with giving my everything to a job that didn't repay the favor (i.e. no raise or promotions which is why I jumped company to company every time there was a hint of an opportunity for something better). After a few more days of reflection, I started job hunting and resolved that if I could swing it I would find something close to home, with 0 travel, and hopefully, it paid okay. A few weeks into job searching I secured an interview with a large, well known, international clothing company for a digital marketplace specialist (exactly what I was). I had carefully crafted my cover letter to inform the interviewer that I lived in Ohio and planned to stay there so although this company was based in Seattle I was happy to work productively from home if they agreed. I also went on to eloquently say that I was only interested in this position if I could work remote and had 0 interest in moving. I started fantasizing about making tons of money while also having time to homestead. The interview went fantastic! I was smiling ear to ear, connecting so well with this woman. She repeatedly said, "oh you sound perfect for this, I'm so glad you applied". Then came the phrase I had been dreading but had somehow forgotten could becoming "so when are you planning to move to Seattle?". My heart sank as I tried to, as politely as possible, say "didn't you read my cover letter?". She hadn't, actually, she hadn't even thought to. She quickly wrapped up the call and said if I change my mind about moving to let her know.
I moved on to applying other places and as the weeks went on I became restless. After a few hit or miss type interviews I had narrowed my options down to two jobs. Both companies were in fields I was interested in, one being a mason jar accessory company and the other a large scale greenhouse that sold orchids nationwide. The fact that I was interested in both subjects is where the similarities ended. The mason jar company was based out of state, a bit over an hour away so I had applied with the same cover letter story of "I want this job but need to work remote". Thankfully they were on board with me working remote but the offered salary was over $20k less than I was making previously, ouch! The orchid company was in state but actually a further drive at almost an hour and a half away. I also breached the subject of working remote and was basically ignored each time I brought it up during the 3 interviews with them. The salary with the orchid company was better at only $5k less than I had been making. I would also have a fancier title of "Director of Ecommerce".
This was a turning point for me. The old me would have taken the better paying job with better career trajectory and sucked up the fact that I would be loosing 3+ hours a day in my car. I could always start and then once they saw how good I was, demand to work from home part-time. But what would happen to my homestead? Isn't the whole point of working being able to pursue your passions in your off time? The more I pondered my options the more it made me sick to my stomach to think of wasting so much of my time sitting in my car every day. How much would I hate my life 6 months from now? Would expanding my garden or raising more rabbits need to be put on hold this year while I tried out this job?
It was a freeing decision to take the other job. The lack of money is depressing at times, thinking about walking away from $15k would put anyone in a blue mood. But as I work now I stare out the patio door at my back acre, watching chickens and turkeys free-range. I also have a great view of my garden and how it is progressing. I've been able to save one of my hens from a hawk attack because I was home. I'm also able to start on projects as soon as the clock strikes 5 pm most days, not having to waste time commuting home. Oh, and sleeping! I've never been able to consistently get so much sleep before in my adult life. I get up around 7:45 am, stay in my PJs, and get to work. I use my lunch break time to take a quick shower and maybe run an errand. I'm also able to start dinner so we can eat decent meals and a decent time without feeling rushed.
This summer has been a huge leap forward for our homestead. We've raised 100+ meat chickens, 14 turkeys, our first litter of giant angora rabbits, and we've expanded our garden immensely! Our berry and fruit harvest has been epic for us and I've even been able to dive into my first fermenting and my first canning experiences.
The best part about all of this is there are SO many more things I want to try! I've created a situation for myself where nothing is holding me back from pursuing my dreams and it's only but exciting opportunities and adventures ahead.