Learn about the three most common mistakes when embarking on your homesteading journey, even if you are a first-time homesteader. And learn a few tips to keep your focus where it will have the best impact.
I'm talking with Jessica Sowards, author of The First Time Homesteader, about the homesteading mistakes we've both made over the years. We also discuss the lessons we've learned from homesteading for the first time.
Welcome to the Pioneering Today Podcast episode #362 with Jessica Sowards (aka Jess) from Roots & Refuge as we discuss the homesteading mistakes we've made over the years. We'll also discuss the huge lessons learned from those mistakes and Jess will share her experience as an experienced homesteader starting from scratch on a brand new homestead with bare land.
This is an addition to the podcast series I've been doing on the essential skillsets homesteaders need. You may also want to listen to my Homesteading Myths and Tips for Success podcast. But today's episode lends a different perspective on common mistakes to avoid.
Jess is an avid homesteader and mother, and her husband, Jeremiah (or Miah), is her homesteading partner.
She and her family recently moved from their small homestead in Arkansas to a large plot of bare land in South Carolina. On their YouTube channel and website (links below), they share their new homesteading journey of turning their bare land into a functioning and productive homestead.
For those who don't already know, September has been deemed national preparedness month. Check out my 30-day Preparedness Resource Page for more helpful resources.
This podcast is sponsored by Azure Standard, a great place to build up your bulk supplies and long-term food storage.
Azure has a special promotion for first-time customers through October 30th, 2022. When you purchase $50 or more, you can get 10% off your order with my coupon code “MKN10”.
I have been shopping at Azure for over three years, and I love the variety of items they offer. You can buy items in the same quantity or size as you find at the grocery store, or they also offer items in bulk and by the case.
What I love about Azure Standard is that they partner with small farms across the US that adhere to the same strict standards that I am looking for in my food.
Three Common Homesteading Mistakes to Avoid
Below, you'll find some of Jess's best tips on the first-hand homesteading mistakes she has learned. Things like moving too quickly, not investing in good infrastructure in the beginning, and not having a five and ten-year plan.
Don't Get in a Rush – Go Slow
- Learn one skill at a time – plant a garden, start a dairy farm, raise some backyard chickens, etc. Just don't do them all at the same time.
- Sometimes expensive initial investments can be cheaper than initial shortcuts.
- Don't let your spending and growth get ahead of your experience. (More on this below.)
Good Fences are Expensive But Worth It
- Good fences also make great insurance policies.
- Learn the pros and cons of electric fences, electric fence netting, solid perimeter fences, and goat & sheep fences.
- Having good fences eliminates the potential problems of loose animals which might cause accidental breeding or the animals bothering neighbors.
- Learn the different types of fencing. There's a big difference in fences used for cattle versus horses.
Have a Five & Ten Year Plan
- When you move onto a new homestead property, wait several months before creating a concrete plan. After you've lived there for a while, it will be easier to map out a five and ten-year plan.
- Make your plans without basing them foremost on what you can afford – plan beyond your budget.
- Base your homesteading on your plan first, not on what you can do next.
- Learn about the soil on your property. Know the ideal places for a garden, fruit trees, animals, etc. You don't want to build a barn on your best garden plot.
I always say, hold onto the excitement, but don't let it override wisdom in your actions. This is what I call vision versus practicality.
Where to Find Jess
Jess has a lot of exciting new projects coming up!
- Be sure to go order her new book, The First Time Homesteader.
- Carolina Homestead Exchange – This is a new storefront that will be opening in South Carolina soon in collaboration with McMurray Hatchery.
- Next to the Caroline Homestead Exchange will be a coffee shop with roasted coffee for sale (coffee will be available online as well!).
- Roots & Refuge Website
More Posts You May Enjoy
- Unplugging for One Year with Rory Feek
- 17 Self Sufficiency Tips from the Great Depression
- 10 Things Our Grandparents Reused During the Great Depression
- 6 Things Our Great-Grandparents Did Better Than Us
- Time & Budget Saving Tips from the Great Depression
- 5 Life Lessons from the Great-Depression
- How to Find & Buy Land Beyond the Usual Routes
- Great Depression Era Money Saving Tips w/ Potatoes
- 7 Depression Era Tips to Stretch Your Food Budget
- 8 Depression Era Tips to Save Money Now
- Time Management Skills for the Homestead
Melissa: Hey, Pioneers. Welcome to Episode 362.
Today's episode, we are talking about homestead mistakes and what I would do differently knowing what I know now. While I share a little bit of my homestead mistakes in this episode, mainly we are sharing the wisdom gleaned from Jessica Sowards. Many of you know Jessica from her popular YouTube channel, Roots and Refuge. This is the second time that I have had Jessica on the podcast, and I always enjoy time spent with her and come away richer from the experience. I know that as you listen in on today's episode that you will feel the very same way.
For things that we talk about in today's episode, and we always have a blog post that accompanies every episode, so for my longtime listeners you know this very well, thank you, as well as a welcome if you are a new listener to the podcast. But, you can find all of that at MelissaKNorris.com/362, just the number 362, because this is Episode 362. So, MelissaKNorris.com/362. I think you'll really enjoy this episode. We dive into a lot of different things.
There're tons of nuggets and wisdom, but we also get to share, which we hadn't planned on doing, it was just the way that the interview ended up going, and I kind of love it when that happens, but we also share some really exciting things that Jessica, and not just her but who she is partnering with, and some things that they are doing where they have moved to, to their new homestead in their town that I think is fabulous and may get to be a part of it sometime in the future.
I hope that you enjoy that. I know that this will give you inspiration, and as I said, lots of different little nuggets there of wisdom that you will be able to glean from. Today's podcast is sponsored by Azure Standard. Azure is a company I have been with for a number of years and I'm thrilled that they have come on to sponsor the podcast. One of the reasons I'm excited for you to get to know more about them, if they're not something that you're familiar with, is because they are a company who stands behind the movement of doing things the right way. Yes, I understand by saying that statement, that is a bit about perspective as to who is saying that something is right.
Maybe a more aft way to say that would be they are a company who do things the way most homesteaders want to, growing crops in a way that is beneficial to the earth that is not dousing it with a ton of synthetic fertilizers and then using synthetic pesticides and herbicides, but are growing things and only bringing items in that they're not growing themselves from other farms and companies who have those same type of stewardship standards for their crops.
One of my favorite things to get from them is actually organic chocolate chips, as well as their organic cocoa powder. My family adores chocolate. It is my husband's number one favorite food. I happen to like chocolate as well. We go through a lot of chocolate chips and a lot of cocoa powder and various things.
In fact, at the time of this recording I have been making a ton of double chocolate chip zucchini muffins, which we'll have the link to that recipe in the show notes that goes with today's episode. The zucchini is coming on strong, so I've been making it a practice to make a batch of the muffins every Sunday so that then we have them for breakfast and snacks quickly throughout the week. I am also then shredding up and freezing the other half of the zucchini.
You know when you get those zucchinis that they're a little on the big side, so they're perfect for grating up for bread and that type of thing, but no so much where you really want them for grilling because they can have a little bit of the seeds inside and they're bigger. If I've got one of those, half of it will give me the two cups of shredded zucchini I need to make the recipe, and then usually the other half will be about the same, two cups of shredded zucchini.
That, I will just freeze and throw that in a freezer bag, and put that in the freezer so then I have it in the middle of winter. I have found a lot vegetables you need to blanch before you freeze them. But I found with shredded zucchini, there's no need to blanch it beforehand. I can freeze it as is, and then just thaw it and bake it into bread.
Now if I'm doing in rounds or chunks for casseroles or sauces, or other things like that, I do blanch it, but not for the shredding. If you like to have on hand good chocolate, and one of the reasons I like to go organic with my chocolate especially when it comes to chocolate chips, is because a lot of chocolate chips will have soy in there. There's a lot of differing thoughts and information on the consumption of soy because it can have some issues with estrogen, et cetera. However, soy is one of our largest genetically modified crops. So, if we are eating anything that does have soy in it, I want to make sure that we are getting non-GMO soy, and I know that that's the case when I am purchasing the organic chocolate chips.
I also have a great coupon code. This runs through October 30, 2022, and it's only available for first time Azure customer orders with a minimum of a $50.00 order or more, and a one time use for customer. You can use code MKN10, that's MKN10, and go to MelissaKNorris.com/Azure, which is A as in apple, Z as in zebra, U-R-E, and apply that coupon code.
Well Jessica, welcome back to The Pioneering Today Podcast.
Jessica: Thank you so much for having me.
Melissa: I'm really looking forward to our chat. I know since the last time you came on the podcast, which we will link to in the show notes, I actually don't remember how long ago that was, but we've actually had the opportunity to meet in person now. I have to say, you are just delightful in person as you are on video, and really have enjoyed the chance to get to know you better.
Jessica: Whenever we got to sit out there on those steps at Rory's Festival and talk, I don't know how long we sat out there that evening, but wild. That was definitely one of the greatest parts of that weekend, and it was a great weekend so that's really saying something.
Melissa: I feel very honored because it was for me too. My daughter, Maddy, she got to go with me to that festival and she was sitting there with us. It's kind of funny, because I think she actually enjoyed listening to it because normally at 13 if mom's talking too long, I get that where... It's almost like she's two again and she starts tugging on my shirt like, "Come on. Come on. Come on."
Jessica: Right, oh I know.
Melissa: She didn't do that. I told her the same. It was so cute because after we started walking away she was like, "Mom, I really like her." I said, "I do too." It was just the sweet... It was really cute. Anyhow, I'm so glad that you could come back on. I think this is going to be a fun episode. I've been doing a bit of a series where we've been walking through homesteading skillsets and starting out at your very most basic entry level, and then building up on those.
This is going to fit in really nicely and naturally with that. What I'd love to know is if you were starting over again, which you guys have in a way because for those who haven't been following along or might not know you yet, you guys moved out of state and have started a brand new homestead. Do you want to just kind of maybe briefly share about that?
Jessica: Yeah. Interestingly, when I recorded with you for the last podcast, we were out here visiting and I was seeing our land for the first time. I think I told you about it then, and it was still super hush-hush. Now, a year and a half later or however long it's been, things have definitely changed. We moved from central Arkansas from a four acre farm that we lived on there for eight years, to the midlands of South Carolina. It's a 720 mile move across the southern United States. It was a big move to move our family and our farm.
We bought a piece of raw land. Now, there was a little bit of structures of here, most of which we've now taken down, but no utilities, no infrastructure or anything like that, that we are using. We have been working on it for a little over a year now. We got here at the end of last summer, and so now we're going into the second fall here. It has been quite the journey to build a farm from scratch, and honestly use a lot of that experience.
People said, "Well, you're not starting from scratch. You're starting from experience," and I really liked that phrase because it is very different when you're doing something from experience rather than embarking on it for the first time.
Melissa: Oh, yeah. 100%. Now that you've got the experience of having done it from the ground up on your first place, without having all of those years of experience, and now starting over but with the experience, what would be some of those lessons that you would give to someone whose doing this for the first time so that they can start on the back of your experience as they begin their journey?
Jessica: Yeah, learn from my mistakes. You don't have to make them yourself. It's funny, I've always said to people, "Don't get in a rush." And then we come here and largely build this farm in a year, which people are like, "Wait a second, I thought you said don't get in a rush." I would say if it is your very first time and you do not have the experience, going slow is a really good solid piece of advice. Unless you just have money that you can waste, because that's ultimately what ends up happening when you let your spending and building get out ahead of your experience is you end up making mistakes that just cost you a lot of money.
When you have to tear things down, or rebuild them, or do them a different way, and going slow it also can save heartbreak. I see so many people want to jump into homesteading and then they've got a goat herd, or a sheep herd, and a cow, and they've got 130 chickens, and they've got all of these things to care of. I think that if we again allow our spending and growth to get out in front of our experience, we ultimately end up not getting what we desired.
You can easily trade in your grocery budget for a feed bill if you don't make choices rightly. You can easily trade in what you would have saved with your simple life with vet bills and redoing made mistakes. I think learning a skill at a time, get chickens, understand them, understand how to care for them, then get your dairy animal, then good at gardening on a small scale, and then do the acre garden.
I don't know why new gardeners always want to go out and till an acre. That's the thing that people think, "I'm going to do this." I'm like, "Well hold on a second, garden 1,000 square feet first and see how you feel about that because it'll teach you a lot." Then take your experience into the growth. Let the experience be the leader rather than the other way around.
Melissa: 100%. I know two... Even for us, when you get... A lot of times it's cheaper when you're buying livestock for example, when you're buying them as babies, as infants. Most people are starting by buying chicks, and even building up your cattle herd. Most of the time you're going to be buying calves that have just been weaned, maybe yearlings, et cetera. The feed cost when that animal is young is much lesser because they're not needing as much volume-wise as when they are older.
So, if you start out with all of those as young, which a lot of people are doing when they're building up all of this, not only then as those animals age, your feed costs are going to go up a lot. I don't think a lot of people are prepared for that because they kind of budget for what they see them eating when they're smaller. It's just you're not thinking about it. You're like, "Oh, well this is what my feed bill is worth this month for this, so I'm just going to calculate this out for a year and expect it."
Or if you've... Have you seen that?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. Another thing I think, sticker shock. People look at the $800.00 six month old heifer versus the $2,000.00 three year old freshened cow that's in milk, and they go "$800.00 is way more affordable than $2,000.00," but when you look at the fact that that heifer needs another 18 months, she needs to be bred, that's going to be an expense, she's going to have to be fed in the meantime, she'll have to be maintained in the meantime, you're going to have to deal with flies and all of these little expenditures that by the time she's three years old and freshened, you will have put that difference in.
So, paying that $2,000.00 now, and tomorrow you get milk, that's a better choice for me. Now we did just buy some heifers, but we also already have cows and milk. I think we look at those young animals as the beginner place, and maybe they shouldn't be. Maybe that's not the best place for a beginner.
Melissa: I agree. Having myself, I'm newer to dairy animals, I grew up with beef cattle and all of that, but we didn't have dairy animals. We bought our milk cow already in and fully trained. I have to say, not only that, but if you're buying a heifer you are saving money, but have you ever trained a cow to milk? Like really, I've got 20 something years experience with beef cattle. I've never trained a cow to milk. I'm like, for me, that's also a big thing because they don't just intuitively go and stand in that stanchion and let you milk away.
If you don't have experience with cattle at all, and dairy cattle specifically, and training them, that price tag for that $2,000.00, that is even a bigger deal. It's worth that money spent.
Jessica: I've broken in a lot of [inaudible 00:14:42] goats to milking, and I have had the bruises to show for it. When it came to a cow, my first cow was also an experienced milker that was already in milk. I was like if it's that bad with goats, please, I do not want to do it with a 1,000 pound animal.
Melissa: Actually, it's really funny, my daughter, she was out with us when we got her and she helps with milking and stuff. She's actually dry right now because she'll be ready to calf in a few months. She was asking me because she'd never kicked before, but she was new to me, and I have had horses and cows, and I have been kicked before by large animals. So, she lifted her foot and I immediately just got out kick range. It was instant reflex.
She looked at me and she was like, "Wow, you really jumped." I said, "Yes, and that's what you do. You don't wait for them to make contact if you're not sure how they're moving." She was like, "How hard do they kick?" I said, "Honey, we're down here with our heads. They kick hard enough to break a bone, and if they kicked you just right in the head, it potentially-" I'm mean very, very rare don't get me wrong, but potentially it could be fatal if they hit you just right in the temple.
I'm like, "So yeah, you need to be ready to jump." So, it was a great teaching lesson.
Jessica: Yeah, a healthy respect here. We need to have a healthy respect for these animals.
Melissa: Yeah, but it was really because she was almost like, "Oh come on, mom. Toughen up." I'm like, "Oh, no, no. I've been down that road. I have no desire to." But yeah, I'm with you. I think you can't just look at the dollar amount. There are so many other aspects, and sometimes spending more is actually a cheaper route in the long run.
Jessica: Yeah, I agree.
Melissa: I think that's totally the gist of that.
Jessica: I agree with that. Another thing that we've really learned just in our time and that we did not repeat this mistake after we learned it the first time, good fences just make homesteading so much easier. We do the electric fence thing. We move our chickens around in electric netting, but we have a solid parameter fence, and that was the first thing that we did here.
My husband actually spent at a month and a half before we moved out here in South Carolina while I kept the farm in Arkansas. He was making trips, and he was building fences before we ever brought our animals out. I know that there's so much heartache in animals gone loose and getting run over, and making feuds with the neighbors, accidental breedings, and all that stuff. We've experienced some of that stuff, but we really haven't experienced it here because fences were the top priority. We budgeted in fencing along with our move.
It was like moving and fencing, those were the top things that we were keeping in mind. We have to pay for these right now. I have so thoroughly enjoyed, aside from some road turkeys that I couldn't keep from wandering, which are now penned, that ate my garden on Thanksgiving morning of all mornings, but aside from that we've really had no heartache due to poor fencing. So, that's a big one.
Melissa: I really do love that they chose Thanksgiving morning. That was just almost poetic justice, like-
Jessica: It was.
Melissa: ... "I'm going to show you."
Jessica: I looked out front and I was like, "Come on guys, not this morning."
Melissa: I got to ask you, in November/Thanksgiving, what do you still have growing in the garden? Do you guys... You must have a warmer...
Jessica: [inaudible 00:18:23].
Melissa: ... oh boy. I'm going to get jealous, okay.
Jessica: You're about to get real jealous, okay, because I came here and I didn't realize it's very similar to Arkansas here, except for it's a little warmer through the winter. We're zone eight, which means that our average low temperature is between 10 and 20, but what I've learned here is that below 20 Fahrenheit is like -6 Celsius or something like that. Here, that is even rare. Our coldest night this last winter, our first winter here, was 22 degrees. The coldest night. Of course, my cow calved that night because naturally.
Melissa: Of course.
Jessica: But you can grow cabbages, and kale, and all the lovely brassica and peas, and all that stuff pretty much all winter. You might have to go throw a fabric over them on those rarely cold nights, root vegetables. We harvested food, not much because my turkeys were very-
Jessica: ... thorough, but we harvested some food throughout the winter, salad and all that stuff. It's pretty glorious. And you can grow citrus here. Not all, but some citrus, which I'm just in Heaven over that.
Melissa: She is rubbing it in y'all, like lemon with salt right now.
Jessica: I can grow the lemon for you.
Melissa: That is hilarious. I actually have a friend from high school that I got to run into recently, and he's been experimenting out here, which our coldest temp that we got this past winter was five degrees Fahrenheit. He's been breeding, so I'm super excited, but hearty citrus, both some lemon and limes-
Melissa: .. that made it through.
Jessica: That's awesome.
Melissa: I have basically just told him he's giving me of his stuff. I'll pay for the stuff, I don't mean giving it. But I'm like, "I need to get some of those, please."
Jessica: Yeah, "Put me on the list."
Melissa: Yeah. We're going to test it and see how it goes once he gets a few more grafted where I can grab them from him. Anyways, I hope to be able to someday say I grow citrus here, but I'm also holding that very loosely.
Melissa: I'm preparing for them to not make it.
Melissa: I did want to jump back though to the fence thing, because I think that's so important, good fencing, for all of the reasons that you said. I also think that if you have never built fences before, I think some people are like, "What is a good fence?" Also talking about perimeter fencing as your permanent fencing versus every single paddock or section that you might want, especially on a new property or a property that's not been fenced before, used for livestock, that type of thing. Do you want to touch on that a little bit?
Jessica: We now do not have goats anymore, but our theory is this, fence your farm for goats and everything else will stay in. If that is your goal, you'll have a solid fence. When we first started, we were trying to do everything on a budget. When you do first start, you are looking at that initial cost rather than maybe the longterm cost. We dove in and did welded wire everywhere, which what goats do, and I kept Nubians, Lamanchas, and Saanens, so they were all larger breeds, they're all 100+ pounds.
They come up to your lovely freshly stretched fence, and they throw their fat bodies into it and they rub all the way down until the fences begin to break and bow to the contour of their fat bodies. It's infuriating. If you have welded wire, they will break it. What will happen is that nice affordable fabric that you were like, "This is the cheaper option," will need to be replaced in two years.
So, we start out with woven wire, and that's what we did here. We do, it's just the four by four square farm fence. I can't remember what it's called, like All Livestock, or something like that, or maybe it is called Goat and Sheep Fence. I'm not sure. Yeah, we H-brace everything. My husband's brilliant on that stuff. I want to say maybe he's made some sort of tutorial about that. If he hasn't, then he should. He's very good at building fences. He had never built one when we started homesteading, so there is that encouragement.
It's not his trade by any means, but we've built some poor fences first, didn't stretch them well, didn't anchor the things well, didn't tie everything down and tighten it up well, used welded wire. And those fences were replaced at our first homestead because it was necessary, because our animals were getting out.
Melissa: Yeah, I love that. I also think with the welded wire and stuff, I'm curious... Not using welded wire, excuse me I said that backwards, that type of fencing versus for cattle, do you use that same fencing for your [inaudible 00:23:22] barbwire for our cattle. I'm just curious.
Jessica: For cattle, barbed wire is appropriate. Cattle don't push on fences, and they don't test fences like a lot of other animals do. In fact, our beef herd is trained to a single wire of electric. So, we haven't done that yet because the pasture they're currently in is fully fenced with farm fence. But we are going to be experimenting some with that. I don't know, we'll see what we end up doing. We're moving them to a much larger pasture that it's not feasible to farm fence it.
We keep our alpacas and our cows, and our horses all together. Horses, you can't do barbed wire, so that's why we don't have that for them. You're not supposed to. I guess some people do, but you're not supposed to.
Melissa: I will say I've had horses in my past. It's been about 12 years since I had horses. I've had horses on mix, and I will say we have had cattle... I grew up with cows. I'm 41 years. I had cattle from birth, obviously my parents, and then my husband and I, I think we got our first cows as our own herd... I want to say we'd been married three years, so 20 years because we just had our 23rd year anniversary, and I have never, the good Lord willing this stays a true statement, we have never had a vet bill with barbed wire with cattle.
The barbed wire has been excellent. I've not had any wounds, nothing. With horses, oh my good night, yes. It can be done, but be prepared for vet bills because horses are just a walking natural magnet for injury.
Jessica: Yeah, I have some experience.
Melissa: Yes, I love them. They are beautiful, but I never spend as much money on horses. Any animal that I've ever owned, bar none, I sunk more money into the horses for just various different reasons and a lot of it was accident prone.
Jessica: We just got back into horses, and I was pretty well sworn off of them, but my husband is a horse man. He just is. Some people are. To the people that are moved so deeply by horses, that's why it's such an expensive thing because those people are like, "Whatever is needed to take care of my horses, I'm going to do it." Already, we've had the vet out here a couple of times.
I think it's more that he's a helicopter dad than it is purely necessity. He really is. It's very cute. I have some horse horror stories. Weirdly, they always happen on holidays. [inaudible 00:25:57].
Melissa: Yes, and after hours so that you get to pay double the vet fee.
Jessica: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Melissa: Always, yes.
Jessica: That's another Thanksgiving story. That was gruesome and expensive.
Melissa: I have to say, we always were able to save the animal. There was a couple of instances where I had some hawks that had permanent scarring, but not permanent function damage. Anyhow, I do love horses and when I'm around someone else's horse I get that romantic feeling again, and then I'm like, "You need to remember past the honeymoon. Remember past the honeymoon," to keep myself from not... Anyhow, for anybody who is really new listening to Fences, your fencing does depend upon the animal too to a degree.
Melissa: We've had good luck with the cattle. The only issues with barbed wire that we've had with our cattle, it's not necessarily them pushing on it, but if they can get their head through it, you wouldn't think this because they're a large animal, kind of like a mouse, if a cow can get its head through the barbed wire, they usually will get their body through. We have learned to tighten really well so that they can't and/or in between where you've got your posts and you've got your longer stretches of barbed wire, is to use their metal stays.
They go on in that section, and then they can't push it because it keeps it nice and tight and in an even line for the spacing that you've designated. As far as barbed wire tips, those would my two biggest ones there.
Jessica: I think on all fencing it's just a matter of keeping it tight and well braced. What I see a lot of people doing getting into homesteading is, "Well, I'll buy the cheapest fabric I can," the material of fencing, and then "Oh, here's a tree. I'll use this. I don't have to use as many posts because it's just added-" you know, everything you add obviously I'm saying tighten and brace. Every part of that is more expensive.
Are you going to concrete your H-braces in the corner? Each step it's more expenditure. You go, "This is so expensive." Your fences are expensive, that's true. A good fence is going to cost you money, but when you buy that $2,000.00 cow if she knocks the fence over or rips her udder open on it, or whatever, there are so many things that can go wrong, it's ultimately add all of those things up into the cost of your fence. A solid fence is just such a good insurance policy.
Melissa: It is. Especially my husband and I, until a few years ago, I now work from home, but we were... He still works away from home during the day as a day job. We were committing the opposite direction. I was 18 miles one way, and he was 20 miles the other way from our house. So, making sure our fences were good, because if one of the animals got out, nobody was here to put them back in.
Depending on where you live, where we live, the property owner is liable. So if my cow gets out and causes an accident, we don't have the Open Range laws here. It's on me. They're a big animal, so they could actually cause a lot of damage... Obviously, I wouldn't my cow to get hit, but it could cause a lot of damage to somebody in a vehicle as well. So yeah, I can't back you up enough on iterating invest in solid, solid fencing.
Jessica: Those are kind of the things that I have really seen us walk in the experience of here, like okay we got this right from the beginning. Interestingly, this kind of ties in together when we're talking about fencing and infrastructure. That goes back to that take it slow thing, because ultimately if you're trying to go really fast you're like, "Well I want to do the right thing, so I'll build great fences," but you don't really know your land yet, and you don't really know where your most fertile soil is, and where your best grass is going to be year round, and where different things are going to be throughout the year.
You throw fences up, where later you realize that's really the best place for your garden, or you plant your fruit trees where you later realize is really where you need to keep your goats, that's what I did the first time. Those fruit trees did not survive that decision to put the goats in there, even with the trees fenced. I think that when you go slow, that's where again you're not allowing your spending and growth to get out ahead of your experience because ultimately, it'll catch up and it'll cost you money.
One thing that we did here moving to this new farm, we probably spent the first six months... We bought the land at the end of 2020. I came out and saw it the first time in 2021. Maya had come out and made the decision, and brought me out. I had taken an aerial view, and then when we came out and saw it I took video notes, all this stuff. We did not lay a line of fence until June. We didn't do anything until June. So, we had been planning for over seven months and we had tried so many different configurations.
By the time we started building here, I had mapped out a 10 year plan for this farm, considering every single thing we could possibly want to do. It's changed just a little bit since practically getting our hands on it, but not much. I think that's important. Make a 10 year plan. Make a five year plan. Do not decide what you're putting where based on the next thing that you can afford, because you're going end up contracting yourself down the line. Have a longterm plan.
Plan beyond your budget. It doesn't matter if you can afford that right now. Think, "This is what I want it to be in 10 years," and then make your next decision based on that plan, not based on where you are right now. Does that make sense?
Melissa: It makes sense. You're preaching. We just bought a 40 acre farm a half mile down the road from us.
Melissa: Thank you. Thank you. We're not planning on moving there. It's going to be a farm space. It's going to be a teaching farm. We're going to do workshops.
Melissa: But it's that same thing. I am looking at it and I'm like, we want to do this, and this, and this, and if I want to do this and have 50-100 people workshops, there's no bathroom outside. But I'm like, "Melissa, that is not the first thing that you need to do." This is really good because I'm walking through this right now. We've only owned it since June, so we've not had it super long even though I've seen the property all my life because it's on this road.
I am walking myself through those exact steps right now. You were saying [inaudible 00:32:40]. So, thank you. I'm like, yes.
Jessica: Yes, I understand that. We want to be able to host workshops out here. We're building a big shop, a workshop. It's got a bathroom and a community room, and different things that we can host people. Because we sat down first, and honestly what I really did was we came out here last April whenever we did that podcast. I was out here staying in an Airbnb. I probably sat and just looked at this farm for... It was raw land, it wasn't a farm, for probably like 15 hours that week.
I'm just sitting there and I'm imagining, well if this were here, how would that work with all these other things? If this were here, how would that work... We moved things around like puzzle pieces. "Well, we can't put the well house here because it's going to be in contradiction with that." We had all the pieces we knew were in our 10 year plan, and moved them around in our mind's eye and in our drawings until it all made sense together.
It was like, "Okay, this layout will actually work." Taking all the permaculture principles, or zones, and what you're going to access, how frequently and what water lines, and those things into play, but it is hard when you have these visions of what you want to do, and then that thing you really want to do is [inaudible 00:34:01] priority list.
Melissa: Yes, and that's exactly it. Some of this stuff is not going to happen by next spring, but I'm wanting to do the work for those now. The prioritization, it is the... When anything is new, you have that initial excitement and it's so easy to let that carry you beyond, and I think that's the theme of this whole episode, hold on to that because you're going to need that for the longterm because that phase does pass. But don't let that phase override wisdom in what you're doing.
Jessica: Yeah, that's so good. I agree entirely. It is hard. That's a lot easier said than done. I'm saying this as if I'm very wise and sage in this, my husband is. He's the one whose patient and orderly. I'm the creative that have gillion ideas. I'm like, "Let's do this today. Let's let these animals out in this field that they've never been in today. That'll be fun." He's like, "No, it's not fenced right yet." He's the one that's always the sound anchor in the situation.
Melissa: Yes, same. I've already got the electricity in, and I'm picking out the light fixtures that are going on. He's like, "Um, we probably need to actually make sure that the roof is sound."
Melissa: [inaudible 00:35:31].
Jessica: Exactly. Such a party pooper.
Melissa: Yes. Yes. It's a good thing though when you have those opposite abilities for one another, because you need the vision but you also need the practicality. So, if they're good matches, yeah. They make for some interesting days.
Jessica: Yeah, for sure. For us, it's been a thing. This is also like that coming from experience. We really took the scripture in Proverbs to heart. It's in 24. I think it's 27, that says basically put your outdoor work in order and then build your house. We are planning on building a house here. We bought a mobile home that we put on here. We were planning on putting it on and then selling it and moving it off. But the one we ended up being able to buy, because everything was backed up because of COVID, was a nicer one.
So, we're going to have it for a guest house on our property, and we're going to build a house down the road. We really wanted to get the infrastructure in place. I feel a lot more secure knowing that we can grow food, and I'm okay. We are completely comfortable in this house.
Melissa: We live in a manufactured, a double-wide. They have a lot of great things. The construction in them now, because I grew up in a 1974 single-wide trailer-
Jessica: [inaudible 00:36:50].
Melissa: ... the construction, you can't compare them. So yeah, they're built completely different in this day and age. We kind of went through that same thing. Actually, it was two years ago we were like... My husband's five years older than me, so he's in his 40s, I was approaching 40 at that time. We're like, "Okay, if we're going to do a stick built home, or a new place on our property, now is the time to do that," we felt.
Melissa: We really looked it all out, and then we just decided. I'm like, "You know, why don't we just do some renovations to this place to meet the needs that we have, rather than building an entirely new thing." For us, that was really the right decision, even though when we first got it, it was the same as you guys, we had planned, "Oh no, we'll move this off. It's just a temporary thing." But it didn't end up being that way.
Jess, thank you so much for coming on today. You have your new book coming out, so please do share about that, and then any last bits of sage wisdom that you have please impart those as well.
Jessica: In the process of moving I was writing a book, just throwing that in there. Here I was walking out all of that experience that I'd learned through having done it before. I was writing The First-Time Homesteader, which is basically all of that knowledge wrapped up in one book that's really aimed towards the person whose in town, maybe just looking for land, or has moved out to their home, or living in a camper, or getting on their land for the first thinking "Where do I start?"
It just covers a lot of the entry level information, helping make decisions, sharing some of our experiences and mistakes. I really hope that it helps a lot of people, because I know a lot of people are in the early stages of this journey, which I am so excited for. I love seeing the influx into homesteading, so I want to be able to help people with that. I guess it'll probably be out by the time this goes out, because it's going to be live here in the next couple of days.
Melissa: I know it's probably all the places that one can purchase books. Just look for The First-Time Homesteader-
Melissa: ... by Jessica Sowers, and you'll find that.
Jessica: Jessica Sowers, yep. That's right.
Melissa: Okay, awesome. Well, thank you for sharing all of your wisdom with us here today. I look forward to seeing everything that you guys are doing. I know you have a lot of fun things in the works, and so it's been really exciting to watch you I don't want to say push things, because that almost sounds like a negative connotation, but to dream big because I think this is a world where we need to see big dreams in this space happen, and then people actually make those dreams reality.
Melissa: I'm really excited to see all the things that you guys are doing even off of your homestead in town. I guess now instead of just dancing around it, what is it that you guys are doing because this is going to sound funny if we don't say it.
Jessica: I like that you say "push" actually, because it reminds me a lot of birth. What we're in right now has that real feel of labor, and of getting through the hard work of seeing something beautiful come into the earth. We bought some buildings in the very small town that we live outside of called Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, population 5,000-ish. The side of town that we bought our buildings in is pretty dead.
We've got a really great restaurant, a couple of small businesses that have been hanging on down there, but we are opening a homesteading store. It's called The Carolina Homestead Exchange. We are doing that in partnership with our friends at Murray McMurray Hatchery. We are also opening a coffee shop. We have three phases down there, kind of the same thing with the homestead plan. We applied that same planning model there, think of what you want it to look like in 10 years, and do the phases.
It'll be all done before 10 years. We're currently working on renovating those buildings and envisioning a farmer's market, and classes, and all kinds of community. I'd love for you to come down sometime and maybe teach some classes down there. That would be awesome.
Melissa: I'd love to. You had me at you're putting in a coffee shop, because we have the same espresso machine and I'm like, "Oh, we're homestead sisters. She understands my love and importance of coffee in life."
Jessica: It's my joy. When I have my coffee, I'm always like... There's something in me that's just joy that rises up, and I'm like, "Yes." Every day, it never gets old.
Melissa: You're going to do it every day. For those of you who are tea drinkers who listening right now, just say "Bless you," to us. I do like a good cup of tea, don't get me wrong, but yeah there is something about coffee. It is, it brings me so much joy. In fact, it was so funny, I was with my kids because my son's 17 and my daughter is 13. We were traveling, and so we stopped into a coffee shop. Even though I usually make everything at home.
It was so funny because they were like, "Mom, I think that you have an addiction to coffee." I said, "I'm not trying to hide it." I have went caffeine-free at different times in my life for different reasons, but I said, "Yes, I really enjoy my coffee, and as far as vices go, it's fine."
Jessica: I'm at peace with it at this point. I love coffee too. We're going to be roasting coffee in the coffeehouse down there. I just imagine it'd be just sort of an anchor point for all of it. I wrote my first book largely in a coffeehouse. Having children so young, and having so many children, my home... I had to get away from my home to work, being a work from home mom. I was a work from coffeehouse mom. That was what I did.
That just holds a special place in my heart. I love the atmosphere for creatives. I love music. So, when I think of our downtown businesses, The Carolina Homestead Exchange, the coffee roasting, the coffeehouse, just the market, the community, it just encapsulates everything that I love with music, and homesteading, and food growing, and ultimately having a place where people can come together over those things. I just think it's going to be really special.
Melissa: I do too. Then you had me at music. So yes, count me in. I know timelines change with construction and all this, but do you guys have an estimated loose time of when you think this might be open?
Jessica: I can tell you that our original goal was to open it next spring 2023. I'm not 100%. We got really held up on... You're dealing with old buildings, and asbestos remediation, and all of that stuff. We got a little delayed on that stuff, but we are hitting the ground running now and seeing progress happen now. I am still going to be optimistic that maybe next spring could really be doable. The coffeehouse will not be open by next spring. We're trying to get The Carolina Homestead Exchange open first, as well as starting to roast coffee, which we'll be selling online and stuff like that.
Then the coffeehouse will be kind of the last phase of the entire thing. Maybe here in a year we'll have the whole thing done, but we'll see.
Melissa: Oh no, that's exciting. I didn't know you guys were going to do the coffee roasting and you'll have that available. Well, I'll have to get some. I'm excited. I'll keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much for coming on. We will have in the show notes for everybody, in the blog post that accompanies this links to Jess's book and all the different things, and her Instagram and YouTube if you're not following along on their journey there. Thanks so much for coming on.
Jessica: Thank you.
Melissa: Hey friends, I hope that you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. I look forward to being here back with you next week. Blessings and mason jars for now.
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