Like many others, my husband and I are homesteaders who are learning to be more self-sufficient, but, because we have a lot to learn yet, we need money coming in from outside sources. This means we must find a balance between our homesteading work and work outside the home.
I’m so fortunate in that my “outside” work happens at home. I’m an online professor working several part-time jobs, but taken together, I have about 40 hours of week I have to work “outside” the home. Some weeks, finding balance is really tough, and this week was one of those weeks.
The green beans are ready, and once they go, as you may well know, they go. You have to pick constantly, and, of course, you want to because those little plants are miracle food producers. But you can definitely end up with your whole week focused on picking and putting up beans, which can be a strain on your outside work. For example, it just so happened to work out that the same week our beans are going crazy is the same week I had a couple of courses end, which means tons of grading.
There was one day this week that I just really needed to grade all day, but when I looked at the beans, I realized the beans had to come first. So I picked the beans, and my husband and I put them up, and I had a really long night of grading.
And I feel like I’m fortunate. At least my work happens at home, and I’m able to choose order. I know it might be particularly difficult for homesteaders who work outside the home and maybe have to come home after a long day and pick beans.
These are some strategies that are working for us so far:
- Set clear goals that are reasonable given your situation. Know this whole thing is a process.
We really want goats, but, realistically, we just aren’t there yet. I think understanding that, for most of us, there’s a process to learning to become more self-sufficient is important. I’m coming at this with no training and a lot of YouTube help, so learning new skills takes me time. In the meantime, we have to pay the mortgage, the taxes, and buy new shoes for our growing kiddo every time we turn around.
This means we have to plan well and really think about what we can handle. So far, we have a giant organic garden, chickens, and are constantly learning strategies for frugality and self sufficiency. But the process definitely takes time, and we try to keep that in mind when we set our goals.
- Make sure your animals are always a top priority.
If you have animals, then there’s your priority every day. I know this kind of goes without saying, but I think it’s good to think about it because it helps you plan your day. Fresh food and water every day for our chickens is our top priority. Chickens come first as soon as we get up in the morning, much to the chagrin of the cats, who have to wait to be fed.
If you are thinking about homesteading and haven’t gotten into animals yet, you should also be aware that, sometimes, animals emergencies will come up that will just take priority over everything, and you won’t get anything else done. If you don’t have work outside the home that can give you flexibility, make sure you have people who can support and help you on tough days like these.
- Start early and make lists of your priorities each day.
I’m sure it seems cliché to write that farming of any kind is going to start early, but it does. Starting early helps, and on my busiest days, I have to make a to-do list. My list for today involves making one more chicken saddle, helping my husband move our Freedom Rangers to the outside home he built for them, baking zucchini bread from our giant zucchinis, and grading some projects from one of my online classes. If I can manage it, I’m hoping to start a quilt, but I think that last one might be a little ambitious given the rest of the day.
- Find creative ways to increase efficiency.
Last week, we learned that our garden is big and sturdy enough now to let the chickens in to eat the bugs. Thankfully, our hens seem to love beetles, which makes it a little easier to have an organic garden. We can’t let the hens into the garden when the plants are small because, well, as much as I love chickens, I have to admit that they love to destroy things. But, right now, our chickens are a big help.
Anything you can do to find strategies like this will help so much. When your days are packed, efficiency strategies make a big difference.
- Connect to resources that can help save you time.
Because my husband and I come to this homesteading thing as relative newbies, we’ve found that we spend a lot of time researching. My husband grew up on a small farm, but, by the time he was older, his parents quit keeping animals and growing as much food. So, while he has some background, even he has to research a lot sometimes. We’ve found a gardening mentor who helps us more than I can say, but we’ve yet to find an animal mentor. If you can find a mentor who holds many of the same beliefs about farming and animal husbandry, hang onto them.
If you’re unable to find a mentor, connecting to support via online groups and Facebook communities can really be a help.
If you’re like us and are working to balance homesteading and work outside the home, what are your strategies you can share? I know I’m open to additional ideas, and it would be great to get a list going for all of us! Please leave your strategies in the comments below.
Crystal Sands is the co-founder of Blue Moose Publishing. The company’s first children’s book, Why the Moon Tumbled Out of the Sky, is available for purchase at several Maine bookstores and online at Blue Moose Publishing.