I, understandably, have read a lot of homesteader blogs. Pinterest is a gift from the heavens and I honestly love loosing myself there for several hours at a time. However, there’s a lot of, shall we say junk, floating around on there. Homesteading blogs in particular are riddled with vague, clickbait-type articles that provide aspiring homesteaders with little more substance than a ritz cracker. So let’s talk about how you can cancel out the noise of useless articles and blogs and focus on information you can actually use. Go through your pinterest board and re-consider any articles like the ones below.
#1. Anything that mentions making money on a homestead- especially if they say something stupid like “in the first year”.
First of all let me say that you CAN make money on a homestead but to truly do it takes an immense amount of time and dedication. Most money making activities on a farm require upfront investments. A great example is our meat chickens. This year, on paper, we made a few hundred dollars profit raises meat chickens. I kept a spreadsheet of all costs (chicks, feed, the shrink wrap bags we package them in, etc) and was happy to report to my other half that we essentially had “free” chicken in the freezer because by selling some of them we had recouped enough money to cover our costs of raising them. As much as I would love to think we made money on our chickens in reality we didn’t. We didn’t because there are many other costs I didn’t consider. We raised those chicks for the first 3 weeks in a brooder box that we made 2 years ago. Then we moved them out to a tractor we re-vamped last year. Then we plucked them in a chicken plucker we bought last spring. I didn’t take into consideration any of the costs associated with building or buying those things. Even though we will continue to use all of them, hopefully for years to come, I should still be figuring that in. So yes while I did put cash in my pocket this year, I would be a liar to tell you that you also could make a few hundred dollars next year chicken farming. Any other homestead source of income will also include an investment of some sort making it nearly impossible to make a dime for the first several years.
Another great example of this is a Pinterst article/blog I came across talking about buying $12 worth of fodder to grow 250lbs of feed. I read the article, it was well written, it has gorgeous photography, but you know what it didn’t have? All the facts. The article detailed that you’d need to buy $12 worth of barley seed, okay fair enough, but then it went on to say you needed 27 seed trays and 3 shelving units. Now, giving the writer the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you, the reader, have those things just lying around to use but more likely than not you’re going to have to go buy them. Oh yea and there was this little detail about light. The writer admitted at the end of the post that she grows her fodder in a room with a window and alternates the trays so they all get a turn at grabbing some sunlight. What if you only have a basement to work with? Now you’re buying grow lights. Where I buy my feed, it is a little less than $12 per 50lb bag, meaning 250lbs of feed costs me about $60. So if I had to buy even half the stuff I listed would it be worth it, probably not. Also, a good quality feed doesn’t contain just one ingredient so you really can’t equate growing fodder in your basement as equivalent to providing your animals with nutritious food.
I’ve also seen this subject in regards to saving a ton of money by free ranging your animals and not feeding them actual feed. This is an outright lie. It has been reported by multiple agricultural agencies that chickens can only get 0-10% of their nutritional needs from free ranging. Even if you have the lushest pasture around, they are going to be malnourished chickens. Now to be fair, I do free range my birds as well as offer them fresh feed everyday and notice that they consume less feed when they are free ranging in the summer. So if you were looking at whether you could save money on feed by free ranging I’d venture that’s an accurate statement but you can’t eliminate a balanced feed from the equation.
#2 Going along with the “money” theme, beware of anything about frugal homesteading
Frugal homesteading is one of the top subjects on pinterest in regards to homesteading. It’s not that researching ways to save money is a bad thing, it just shouldn’t be your main object. I know what you’re thinking, “why is it wrong if I want to be savvy with my money on my homestead?”. There’s nothing wrong with it but it’s like saying I want to build me dream house but I want to be $100k under budget. If you’re going to do something do it right and doing something right usually doesn’t mean doing it cheap. Everything on your homestead should be viewed as an investment and pinching pennies every step of the way is going to leave you with a lot of broken down junk that needs replaced often. Take the time necessary to identify what you need, whether it’s a tool or the proper building plans for a coop, and then build or buy something you can rely on and be proud of. On the flip side, if you can find the rare unicorn of a situation in which you save money and reliably solve a homesteading problem, good for you! I’m just saying you’re not going to build a homestead on the principle of being frugal. I believe these posts are popular because people start researching homesteading and get intimidated but the upfront costs (this is a totally legitimate concern by the way), so they turn to catchy titled articles like “the frugal homesteaders guild to living a sustainable lifestyle today”.
#3 Pay attention to who the author is and where they live
I try to be as upfront as possible in my posts regarding my experience level. I will not claim to be an expert in much of anything but I will share my experiences and found knowledge with you. Some homestead bloggers are doing the same thing, sharing their successes and failures with readers to help them navigate homesteading, but unfortunately some are not. Much too often I catch myself reading an article and taking the information to heart, only to realize halfway through the post that the individual has no first hand experience with the subject they are writing about. Using terms like “most farms do …” followed by details on how other people do things is not helpful. There is a TON of noise out there on the subject of homesteading and I know I don’t need to be wasting time getting useless advice.
If the writer does have first hand experience look for clues regarding on what level. I have 12 laying hens right now and I’m comfortable giving others some advice on how to raise a small flock of backyard hens for eggs. I’m not going to write about how to quit your job and live off the profits from selling eggs, but other people do. If the writer admits to homesteading on less than an acre of land but then writes about how to raise a herd of beef cattle, it’s best to delete that pin.
Lastly, if you a read a post about growing something and it sounds informative, double check where the reader lives. Their advice might be fantastic in the climate in which they live but it may be a total bust where you are. One good example is a post I came across about the top 10 fruit trees you need to plant on your homestead. I found myself questioning “will these trees grow here”, “do they grow here but not well”, “are they crazy expensive”, and most importantly “do I even like these fruits”. Trying to primarily “follow” or “pin” homestead bloggers that live near you will help you immensely down the line.
#4 Use extreme caution around “top # ways to…..” type posts
I used to be overwhelming guilty of this. That is, pinning posts with titles like “the top 5 animals to have on your homestead”, “the top 50 things to make a profit on your homestead”, “the top 10 vegetables to plant in your garden”. These, sadly, are primarily garbage. Sorry other bloggers who love using these titles, it’s true. First of all, saying the “top” whatever of anything doesn’t hold any weight. “Top” according to who? The writer, a survey of homesteaders, maybe an actual credible source? Even if you trust who is rating said subjects as “top”, these posts usually consist of vague talking points quickly summarized before moving on to the next numbered topic. Also, I’ve found that the higher that number of subjects, the more useless the post is overall. My example of “Top 50 things that make a profit on your homestead” is a real post and it literally is a paragraph or two followed by a 1-50 list of one-liner ideas of how to make money on your homestead. Not one thing on the list is described in any sort of detail. The reason these posts are so dangerous to homesteaders is because they are easy. Some homesteaders jump into the lifestyle with both feet and LOVE to be able to print off a list and get to shopping (see here “top 5 animals to have on your homestead”). If they run out and buy those animals they will probably end up failing spectacularly. Don’t shortcut your research with a vague list.
So where can you get your advice?
There are still a lot of good sources of information out there so don’t get discouraged after you look at your trimmed down Pinterest Homesteading board. Articles and blogs are still a fantastic source of information, just be sure to familiarize yourself with the author and watch out for clues they may not know what they are talking about. Outside of the internet are the best resources you can find, other homesteaders. I’m attending a homesteader themed convention this weekend and there are a ton of homesteading rockstars here that are both teaching seminars and selling their products. The same parameters apply to in person homesteaders as with online ones, make sure you hear about their background which I’m sure they’d love to tell you. If you can make friends with another, more experienced, homesteader their advice will be worth their weight in gold.