Our Fair Field

Homesteading: Hard and Rewarding

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"I love to garden." "I would like to build my own house." "I want to be my own boss." "I want to be self-reliant."  "I want some peace and quiet." "I love animals." "I think chickens are neat." "I would love to have milk from my own cow or goat." "I want to live far away from the city." " I'd love to have a home heated by a wood stove." "I want to get healthy and have more fresh air and exercise."

If you've made any of these statements or given any of these as reasons, you would be very much like me. These are all reasons for why I wanted to have my own place.

Now that I am two years into it I say,  "Be careful what you ask for!"

Before you take the plunge perhaps it might be wise to talk to some honest homesteaders who will tell you what it really takes to have your own place. Make sure they are honest with you!

The number one thing I was shocked over was how much work goes into your own place. If you owned your own home in the city with an average-size lot you would know a little bit about maintenance. Now take that and multiply it exponentially. Unless you're just out of your teens I would counsel you to not even think about taking on an acreage unless you had the means to purchase or rent mechanical assistance!

We came here with a push mower, a pile of hand tools, a truck, and a horse trailer. Now we have a self-propelled walk-behind mower and a riding mower,  a tractor and a back hoe, a flat bed trailer, a log splitter, three chainsaws and all manner of smaller mechanical devices. I'll probably think of some more while I'm writing this. We are both 66 years old and it's hard on a body without mechanical assistance!

If you think you will get more exercise it won't be the kind you expected. On a homestead you will be required to do heavy lifting (hay bales, feed sacks and digging). You won't be getting much aerobic exercise unless you're running away from the bull and then it will only last until you get to the fence! Out in the country every time you need something or go somewhere you get in the truck. I actually got more exercise when I lived in the city. It just wasn't the peaceful and quiet kind.

Here are a few things we've had to deal with over the last few weeks:

Repairing the barn roof. We had a big wind storm that knocked some tin off the hay barn. We probably should tear the barn down and sell it for recycled barn wood and build a smaller, more efficient but less picturesque barn.

fix roof

Painting the house inside and out.  We finally broke down and bought an airless sprayer for under the eaves. It was simply taking too long and was too hard on our poor bones to do it manually.

Learning how to tile the bathroom floor and then doing it. Fifty square feet of floor took us three weeks to accomplish. We might have been able to do it faster but other projects came up and got in the way.

Repairing a stretch of rotted fencing posts.  A hot wire kept it going long enough so we could finally get to it and kept the horses from breaking it down.

The truck started acting up. Thank God for the dash board plug in computer diagnostic tool and for Marty's skill with fixing mechanical things!

Getting my onion seedlings in the mail. That created a rush to prepare the garden beds, including a last-minute decision to buy 1 1/2 yards of garden soil. I was tired beyond belief of trying to amend the clay/sand soil so anything would grow bigger than a golf ball. This required a road trip to get said soil and take a half day to unload and spread it.

Since it's been cold at night, down in the low 50s, we are still processing wood for the wood stove. Thankfully we were ahead of the game with lots of stockpiled firewood. We just didn't foresee how much we'd use. That meant a trip out to the orchard to get a half cord to make sure we make it through.

Then there's the daily stuff. Laundry, food preparation, and feeding the animals. This brings me to the subject of house cleaning.  I once heard an old friend say "It's a ranch house. Don't worry about it." She was letting someone off the hook for walking into the house with their dirty barn shoes on. House cleaning will be the last thing on your to do-list. You will find that the minute you finish cleaning, someone will track more dirt in. The house stays clean for about 15 minutes. Tops. I say: Only clean when you absolutely can't stand it anymore.

There are other things that can be a big shock. It's one thing to have your own place in the city with your water delivered to you with a turn of the faucet. Your heating and cooling, too. All courtesy of the public utilities company. You might have an old boiler in your basement or a rusty old air conditioner/furnace unit out back or on top, but if you rely on wood heat you'll be sourcing or processing a lot of wood. This is where a skilled ability to handle a chainsaw and log splitter will come in handy. Otherwise you're dependent on buying it all. And if you don't have a registered permit to burn you might not be allowed to burn except on certain days. Just sayin'.

Do I have any regrets? Maybe a couple. Overall it has been worth it. If you ask me would I do it again, knowing what I've learned? Absolutely, yes. And I would certainly do it much better if I had a do-over. Here's the main take-away: it's work! And time! Homesteading is not for the lazy. If you're industrious I say go for it! 

There’s No Need for Language!

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Marty and I were making the bed the other day. Some people say that people who make their bed right when they get up are more likely to be successful. I don’t know about that but in the middle of making it here comes, completely out of nowhere, a word from my childhood on the Iowa farm. I said “Oh, the sheets are all whopperjawed. Let me fix ‘em right.”

That got me obsessing about all the weird words from my childhood. It all began with my German gramma who would exclaim “immer etwas!” (always something!) every once in a while when things were getting out of control. Here are a few words that I could remember.

Hornswoggle — bamboozle, as in “I think we was hornswoggled by the Fuller Brush man.”

Cattywampus or catty-corner, or kitty-corner — opposite each other on a diagonal. Research has revealed that this is the mispronunciation of the French word “quatre” (caught-tra) to indicate the four dots on a dice that suggests two diagonal lines.  As in, “Jack’s grocery is catty corner to the bank.”

Bumfuzzle — confuse; perplex; fluster, as in "Billy Joe can bumfuzzle anyone."

Clod-hoppers — large, heavy shoes worn by farmers

Dern tootin’ — an expression of agreement, as in, Sam and Opie are at the café counter. To the cook Sam says “Louella, you make the finest biscuits this side of the Mississippi.” Opie agrees, “Dern tootin’!”

Fixin’ to — getting ready to, as in, “I’m fixin’ to go to the Fairway meat counter. Y’all need anything?”

Granny-slappin’ good — very good, usually delicious, as in “Her apple pie is granny-slappin’ good!”

Gussied up — cleaned up and dressed very nicely, as in “Yore all gussied up. Where ya goin’?”

Hankerin’ — a craving for, as in “I have a hankerin’ for chicken fried steak.”

Hit with the ugly stick, drive a fly off a gut wagon, fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down — what you say if someone is unattractive to you.

Druthers — preference, as in “What’s yer druthers?”

Knee-high to a grasshopper — very small, as in, “The last time I saw you, you was knee-high to a grasshopper!”

Lick — no amount at all, as in “Billy Joe didn’t have a lick of sense.”

Mash — to press, as in “Mash that green button and turn on the TV.”

On-ry — difficult to deal with, as in “My horse gets on-ry sometimes.”

Piddlin’ — a small amount, as in “He jist has a piddlin’ amount of intelligence.”

Reckon — suppose, guess, as in, “I reckon we’ll see you at church.”

Language — to swear, as in “there ain’t no need for language.”

Skedaddle — to leave in a hurry, as in “Let’s skedaddle.”

Stove-up — broken/destroyed, as in, “I’m all stove up from workin’ in the field.”

Tore up — broken/destroyed, as in, “That orange flower smell ‘bout tore me up.”

Usedta could — used to be able to, as in, “I can’t touch my toes any more, but I usedta could.”

 “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” — an expression of surprise or disbelief

Pie hole — mouth, as in “Shut yer pie hole!”

Whopperjawed — out of place/crooked, “The sheets is all whopperjawed. Lemme fix ‘em”

What are your unique country sayings?

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Photo by Getty Images/jandrielombard