If you have been homesteading for any length of time, or you’re just getting started with your homestead, there comes a time when you begin to feel overwhelmed with all of the work and everything that needs to get done.
Bottom line, what do we do when homesteading gets tough?
This usually happens to me each year just as fall is rolling around. It’s the last big push to bring in all of the harvests. The majority of them all come in at once and need to be put up, root cellared, or canned. The weather turns bad and we’re having to feed the animals more often because the grass becomes dormant.
There's just a LOT more work all at once! Usually, this happens within about a six week period and can start to feel overwhelming.
In episode #277 of the Pioneering Today podcast, I'm discussing the realities of being a homesteader and what it’s truly like, even in the busy seasons. I don't see these hard times talked about enough and it gets easy to feel alone in it all.
Rest assured, you're not alone! And I hope today's podcast episode encourages, brings solidarity, and allows for a glimmer of hope that it's truly just a season. And most importantly, remember your “why”!
- What to do when we get overwhelmed with the homesteading life.
- How to ask ourselves those tough questions to find out our true priorities.
- Knowing when to say no, or when to take a break from the non-essentials.
- Remembering our “why” for living this homesteading lifestyle.
- Why it’s important to keep track of and record your expenses on the homestead.
- How to use my Family Garden Planner – it’s filled with a yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily planner for the homestead, with places to tally the harvest yields each day, as well as how much you’re able to put up from each crop, and so much more! Pre-order your Family Garden Planner here.
- Think of your homestead as a job.
- Previous podcast: 5 Tips on Cutting Your Debt.
Hey, pioneers and welcome to episode number 277. So, if you have been homesteading for any length of time, or you're just getting started with your homestead, it really doesn't matter how long you've been doing it, there comes a time when you begin to feel overwhelmed with all of the work and everything that needs to be done. And usually, not always, but usually this happens to me during the fall, when it's the mass time of bringing in all of the harvest. The majority of it comes in at once, the weather starts to turn nasty and then we are beginning to have to feed more than we were previously because the grass is not growing much anymore. And so, all of the work feels like it cumulates right into this one spot and is pressed into usually about a six week period.
And so, today's episode, I want to talk to you about when you're feeling like that. And sometimes you can feel like this, even without it being that specific time of year. But I really want to talk to you about the realities and it's normal to feel that way or what to expect, because I feel like so often when we're sharing about this homesteading life, because it really is amazing. There are so many awesome things and so many great benefits from living this lifestyle, but sometimes I feel like we don't talk about the hard times. And when you sometimes wonder like, oh my goodness, is this really worth it? So, that's what I really want to dive into today because this is something that has been going on at our house and within our homestead, and is a lot more common than I think people realize and I don't want you to feel alone in it.
And if you haven't felt it yet, you're still going to love today's episode, because trust me the day will come when you will feel like this and you'll be able to look back on this and help put things into perspective. But first, let me welcome you to the Pioneering Today Podcast, I'm your host, Melissa K. Norris, a fifth generation homesteader who got back to my roots of using simple, modern homesteading for a healthier and more self sufficient life after a cancer scare in my late 20s. This is the place for you, my friend, if you've sometimes wondered if you weren't born 100 years too late, if you've always thought that you and Laura Ingalls would be best friends, and if you think that every home and kitchen would be better if they were filled with Mason jars and Cast iron, and those things were used daily with homegrown and homemade food. If that is you, then welcome home and welcome to this amazing community of modern pioneers.
For those of you who have been hanging out with me for a while here on the podcast, then, you know from listening to last week's episode, which was actually technically two weeks ago from the time I'm recording this because I did not get you a new episode out last week. So part of the reason that all of this came up is I traveled. I was gone for eight days. I went to Nashville. I live here in Washington State in the Pacific Northwest. And so I flew to Nashville and was there for two days for a wonderful mastermind opportunity where I got to meet with my business coach and some friends within my mastermind. And for two days, we just really spent time mapping out what 2021 is going to look like, where Melissa K. Norris and the Pioneering Today Podcast, all of the things and the courses and the membership, how those are going to grow and evolve and what's going to be happening, and the plan for everything in 2021.
And then, I flew to Maryland and met up with the founders and board members of the Homesteading of America's Conference and traveled to Virginia and got to stay there and present for the Homesteaders of America's Conference, which was online this year, even though I was actually onsite in Virginia for a couple of days. And then we traveled back to Maryland, flew out of Maryland, and had some connecting flights and then finally made it back home really late Sunday night. So, I was gone from Sunday to Sunday.
The reason I share that is twofold, one because I left mid-October or actually at the beginning of October, I left October 4th and that is the prime time of harvest and preserving season for us here on the homestead. Fortunately this year, we have not had our first killing frost. It's going to be coming and happening this week looking at the weather, but it's quite late for us. And that's was really a blessing because this summer was unseasonably cool and wet even by Pacific Northwest standards, which meant that a lot of my warm weather crops really struggled and were in hibernation mode for pretty much all of July. And didn't even really start to do normal growth until August, which means I didn't even get the regular amount, I wasn't really getting any ripe tomatoes or even my green beans until mid or end of August. Some of them even the beginning of September, which is extremely late.
So I was really, really grateful that we got that extended summer without having a killing frost, because if we'd had a killing frost mid September, I really wouldn't have gotten much of a harvest of anything. But, that put the harvest and preserving and production time a lot later. So we were really just hitting stride with all of the tomatoes and canning and everything coming on right before I needed to leave. So, I spent a lot of time, one getting the homestead ready for me to be gone for a week. So that included the kids ready, meals on hand, things that were frozen cooked ahead of time, and then trying to do all of the harvest and preserving as well as packing. And then also getting everything ready like YouTube videos and my emails that go out to you guys and blog posts and podcast episodes.
So, I was trying to cram all of that work into a very short span in order for me to be gone for eight days and not be doing any of that because that prep work really began about two weeks before I needed to leave. And of course, I was also getting everything ready to go for the presentations and the teachings that I was doing at the Homesteaders of America's Conference, because I needed all of my slides and everything done and saved on disc in order to take with me so that I didn't have to do any of that when I was on the road, knowing that I wouldn't have internet service and or much time. And I couldn't bring my entire hard drive where most of the photos that I was sharing with my presentation were located.
So I wanted to preface and just give you a little bit of what was going on there because I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. I was talking to my husband and just explaining, I don't feel like I can keep up with the house. Just the level of everything that we're doing and all of this work that needs to be done just feels impossible. And something has to change because we can't keep up. Things are falling through the cracks. And so, we had a really big discussion and talk about, are there ways that we could make things better? Is there just some things that we're going to have to give up? Focuses? There was just a lot of discussion. And some of that has to go with me running the online portion of this. So obviously like recording these podcasts and getting them up to you guys, the online courses and the membership that I have and the website and the YouTube channel and the social media, all the things that go into that. And, it is a business and that's what I do full time now, instead of working at the pharmacy.
I quit my job, day job at the pharmacy going on three years now. But, I was like, I don't know if I can keep up the growth of everything and doing everything that I'm doing and be able to keep up with everything at home, including running a full functioning homestead with all of the livestock and cooking from scratch and cleaning the house, all the things that you would expect with a normal life and having a normal homestead. I just can't put in any more hours. There's not enough hours in the day. And so, we really had to talk about, well, should the business be growing at this fast of a rate? Are there things that we can do on the business side to free up more time at home? Are there things that we could do on the home front to make things run more smoothly so that it's not as stressful? Just a lot of looking and evaluating at a lot of things.
And so then, it's like, well maybe, somethings we'll just have to not be done. And so, that's why for three weeks there wasn't a new YouTube video that went up because I couldn't not focus on doing all of the video work that needs to happen for people who are inside the courses and of course, inside my membership. Right now, we're in the middle of our herbal fall challenge and that requires me to go live in there once a week for the fall challenge, the new videos and lessons that are coming out with that. And then, I already do gardening task lives and different things, weekly live videos, almost weekly for the members. And so, that is something that I can't let slide or decide to put off, but I can choose if I have to let something go by the wayside, not to do some of the free stuff like the YouTube channel. And then last week, I just could not get a podcast episode out.
I actually came back home and planned on recording, but I got sick. I was down for a day with, at first, I didn't know if it was just going to be a migraine. I don't get migraines very often. This is only the third one I've had, but I was actually throwing up from it. And so, I didn't know if I was starting to just come down with the beginnings of a flu or if it was the migraine. Thankfully, it was just a migraine, it was gone by the next day. But, that took out an entire day of me being able to record podcast, which is why you didn't get it.
So, I share that with you because I realize most of you listening to this probably don't have where you're needing to record podcasts and do YouTube videos. But most of you probably do have a day job and or stuff that you're doing on the home, maybe you're full time homeschooling, different things like that. And so when you get overwhelmed and you physically can't do anymore, there always comes a time when we have to look and evaluate and say, well, what is able to slide right now and what's not? Definitely having those priorities in place.
And during harvest and preserving time, if I let some of that slide, then that means we don't have that food to eat, sometimes for an entire year because it's going to go bad. And so that means we either, one go without that food crop or two, then I'm going to have to be purchasing that from somewhere else. It's not something that we're producing. So that's going to be money out and finding a source as well. So it's twofold there.
So I share that because we need to be able to ... It's hard to sometimes look at things objectively because we get our emotions tied into it, but you really need to be able to look at it and prioritize and ask yourself this question, if this doesn't get done, what really is the longterm consequence? Is this something that I have to do right now or not, because we can't always do all of the things. There's this fallacy that we should ... We see things on Pinterest and Instagram and just online and even YouTube, but it's just this snippet. And usually it's some of the better snippets, right? I'm going to be honest, I don't always share the really hard things. Most people don't really want to look at your house when it's an absolute mess. So sometimes I do share that to give you guys the reality as well.
But usually, what we see on social media from people is the best foot forward. It's the Highlight Reel. But so often we compare ourselves in what we're doing and what's going on with someone else's Highlight Reel. And it's just the regular nature. I don't think, most people, I don't think are actually doing that intentionally, but it's just the nature of the modern world that we live in. And so, we have to be able to stay objective, which can be really hard because I tend to be one of those people that think that I can do it all and I want it all and have a really strong work ethic and I'll push really hard. And sometimes it takes that sitting down and asking yourself, is this really that important? What needs to be done and what doesn't? And sometimes that's really hard for me. And so, I'm sharing that because maybe that's really hard for you.
But the other thing is when we're looking at our homestead, while I do love homesteading, it's a passion of mine, it's something that I feel is a calling that I just feel the need to do deep down in my soul. And I love, and it's why I share it with all of you guys. It also has to be looked at almost as a job, and it's hard work. And I think sometimes we forget that. Homesteading, it really is hard work. Being self sufficient is hard work. And there are times when you are going to be tired or things are going to fail. They're not going to go the way that you want them to go. And in those moments, you can question and wonder, is this really worth it?
It would be so much easier if I just went and bought some of this stuff already done at the store. I could go and buy tomato sauce, right, instead of growing the tomatoes from seed, starting them indoors, transplanting them outside, pruning them, harvesting the tomatoes, getting the skins off, getting them cooked down into sauce and then finally getting it all candid on the shelf. Oh my goodness, how many hours have I spent and how much work have I spent into doing this when I could just go to the grocery store and buy my tomato sauce off of the shelf and save myself a whole lot of time?
But, the reason that I do that is because one, I know exactly what is in my tomato sauce, and I know that I have that self satisfaction that I get when I go to our pantry shelves and I see the jars lined up of all of that delicious, homegrown tomato sauce that hasn't had any chemicals sprayed on it. I know exactly what's in that sauce. It doesn't have any added sugar. And you can purchase brands of tomato sauce in the store that don't have high fructose corn syrup and any added sugar and those different things too, but I'm never will get the same amount of satisfaction and confidence that I get when I do it myself.
My health is really my big why, both my health and that of my family, because when we started doing more of this and upping the amount of food that we were growing and putting up, not only was the flavor better, oh my goodness. That's like comparing apples to tomatoes, even though I'm using tomatoes as the example, so that it makes a whole lot of sense. But, the flavor of the homegrown food and then it's preserved and what we eat is vastly different than what you find on the store shelf in most cases, at least, I guess I should say for our taste buds. But really the health, I can't put a price tag on my health and the way that it improved and getting off of the medications and my quality of life when we moved over to raising and putting up and eating a lot of our food ourself and increasing that every single year. There is really no price tag that I can put on that.
But I had to remember when I'm in the midst of that, and I'm wondering, is this all worth it and I'm really tired and it feels really hard, is being able to evaluate that and be like, is this worth it? And then going through that checklist and being like, is it worth it? And some of the things will come off of the table and some of them will stay on. And I also think it's important that we look at our homesteading endeavors, be it our livestock or our gardening. And we almost, well not almost, we need to look at it as a job and the financial standpoint.
And so, like I said, I know that I could go and purchase from the store. I could find some tomato sauce products that are done in glass that don't have high fructose corn syrup, that are organic, and that meet all of those standards there that I'm getting with my home grown and my home preserved. But then I have to look at and be like, well, if I was taking out the amount of money to buy a year's worth of that compared to when I raise it and put it up at home, how much is that going to cost me? And when I start to look at all of the things that we do raise ourselves and we're not buying from the store, I realize that even though I'm not getting a direct paycheck, right, from going out in the garden every day and working and doing these things and feeding the chickens every day and moving them and the pigs and the cattle and just all of those things, while it's not an actual paycheck that I'm getting every two weeks hitting my bank account, it is saving us a lot of money.
If I were to go to the store and have to purchase all of that food that we provide for ourselves, that would be a significant amount of money coming out of our budget. And so, I think it's really important that we keep track of what we are spending because I do buy organic chicken feed and we do buy some grass hay for the animals. We don't have a growing season here during the winter months, we have to feed hay. And we don't have enough pasture in order to hay it for ourselves because the pasture that we have, the animals are eating the grass that's growing during the warm season. I don't have excess in order to be able to hay and put up, so I've got hay costs. And so it's really important that you look at your homestead and everything that you're doing, and this may be just be with some backyard chickens. It might just be your vegetable garden, but, that you treat it like a job and you know how much you're spending and how much you're getting in return.
Now, if you're selling some of that livestock or you're selling some of the eggs and you'll actually be able to look at the finances bringing like, oh, this is actually bringing in X amount of dollars. But for most of the things, especially when it comes to your garden, the majority of things, you're not actually going to be seeing an income coming in like you're selling produce or doing a CSA or something like that. But, it's important that you keep track of exactly how much you're bringing in as far as harvest yield goes so that you can look at that and be like, well, if I wasn't investing my time in doing this, and I was purchasing this from the store, how much would this actually cost me?
One of the things that I have found extremely helpful in doing that and keeping things in perspective is by keeping really good records. Not only does this let us know when we're looking at things from that time and financial standpoint. So like I said, I was considering maybe cutting out certain crops or not doing certain things. I can look at it and be like, oh man, but then I would need to go and find the money to go and purchase this from the store. So that can help you make those decisions. And you may even look at it and be like, well, you know what, that's what I'm doing right now. I did not have the time in order to seed another batch of lettuce to put into the greenhouse when I wanted to, and so I'm buying lettuce right now.
I have some that's coming up, but it's not ready to harvest yet. I missed some of those sowing weeks this year. And I'm like, well, I'm going to have to go and buy if we want salads. And of course there's always that option like I said, right, you decide, do I want to go without this food or am I going to purchase it? So I'm buying lettuce right now from the store. And so you might be thinking, well, goodness gracious, lettuce does not cost that much, it's not that big of a deal. But, it's still something that I want to consciously make that decision on when I'm making my decisions.
And if you're not recording how much you're bringing in on your harvest and your expenses, or you don't have it in a place that's easy for you to pull out and look at it, then it's going to be really hard to make those educated decisions. So, I used to have things all over in a ton of different notebooks. So I would have just regular notebooks and my husband would have one where he would keep down the different dates on the cattle's heat cycle. So when we needed to bring in a bull and that type of thing, and then when the bull is here so that we could track and make sure ... We don't actually do preg checks. Our cattle aren't team, we don't currently have an area set up where we can put them in a stanchion or a headlock so that we can do different things. So, we just keep track of watching their behavior around their heat cycles to know if they took or not.
And so, he had a notebook where he keeps track of all of that, and we keep track of how much we spent on hay, how many bales we bought, just all of those different records. And then, I would have all these different sheets of papers where I would write down how many jars I put up of what each year and different planting dates and just all over these different calendars and notebooks and scraps of papers, just willy nilly, all of these different records. Well, when they're all in these different places, it can be really hard if you need to go back and look at things to find all of the information.
And not only when you're looking at the financial aspect of how much did this actually bring us in, because I always like to know how much was the final cost for me purchasing feed and purchasing some of the livestock like our Meat Birds, for example, and then knowing how much they averaged out per pound when they were harvested, how much is it actually costing us? So if I was going to go buy this from the store, how much did we actually save by doing it ourselves? But if I've got everything at all these different spots, it's really difficult.
And so, I created last year, it's just now coming to print, November 3rd, The Family Garden Planner. So many of you have my book, The Family Garden Plan, which walks you through raising a year's worth of food for your family, how much to plant, when to plant and all of those gardening things. But, I found I wanted and needed a notebook journal, planner that had the charts right there for seed starting and how much in harvesting that had a yearly plan, a monthly plan, and then a weekly sheets where it's the week at a glance. And so, I can know from 6:00 AM till 7:00 PM at night, broken down by the hour by the week. And I can put in the dates that I need to plant certain things so that I don't miss those planting windows based on first and last average frost dates as well as record my harvest yields right there each day.
So for example, I'm looking at yesterday right now, which was Sunday and the chickens are going into molting season, so I only got nine eggs. But because we hadn't had that first average killing frost yet, I still have cucumbers coming on. And so, yesterday I was able to harvest enough to do one quart of fermented pickles, so I've got that down. And then there are budget sheets as well. So I've got every month where I can put in how much we spent on different feed, different things like that, different garden expenses. And then, I can weigh that against how much I'm actually bringing in on my harvest yield. The other thing that it has, as I mentioned, earlier, I did not get some of the things sown exactly when I should have.
So I have a low right now for my lettuce, from when all the time lettuce was done, and then I waited, I didn't get stuff sewn soon enough to have a new lettuce crop. I have some now, but I'm having to buy lettuce. So in the back of this is done the gardening tasks by month for the entire year. So to take you from seed starting and winter planning into the spring and doing those early crops, warm weather crops, fall and winter growing crops, as well as pruning, when to spray for diseases, et cetera, all of it broken down by your gardening area and zone, and then month by month. So then I can just easily look at my upcoming month for October, flip to the back to my gardening zone and the month of October, and go through here and make sure that I'm not missing any of these tasks so that I stay right where I need to be, so that we get everything done and don't miss out on anything.
So, you can go and preorder right now. It officially begins shipping, which is The Family Garden Planner. So worksheets, weekly tasks, all of the organization that you need for your food growing year right in one easy spot for your record keeping. There's actually a lot more in there, but those were the favorites that I wanted to share with you. And so, we have been using this so that we really know how much we're bringing in and then how much it's costing us, so how much money we're spending and if we need to go and purchase that food somewhere else so that we have all of that broken down, very educated for us.
But it also makes me look at the homesteading as a job. And I actually mean that in a good way, rather than just a hobby. I got so excited when I was telling you about everything that was in The Family Garden Planner, because it was in my hands, I forgot to tell you, you can preorder that at melissaknorris.com/planner, and you can order it anywhere books are sold, so Target, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, any of those websites will have it, you can go and snag it. But, I do have a fun bonus for you at the website, which like I said, you can purchase it anywhere that you want. And then you can go and grab the bonus at melissaknorris.com/planner. And you'll just scroll down, and you can get a preorder bonus, which is how to store vegetables on the shelf for months with no fridge, freezer dehydrating or canning. It's the vegetable curing guide and charts.
And I have to say, my husband and I, when we were looking at the crops we were bringing in, we are increasing the garden next year specifically so that we can grow more types and amounts of winter squash, because winter squash is the easiest thing for me to preserve, doesn't bring me any stress as we move into the fall and winter months, because all I have to do is cure it. And winter squash will last on the shelf once it's cured for a number of months, depending upon the variety. And I go through that in that preorder bonus chart that you can get when you order your copy of The Family Garden Planner. But, it'll stay on the shelf anywhere, depending upon the type of winter squash that it is, anywhere from three to nine, sometimes an entire year. And all I have to do is cure it. So we've definitely been looking at the food preservation and looking at different ways that we can preserve the food that makes things a little bit easier. And it's also in the form that we enjoy it and eat it the most.
So to wrap this all up is to think of your homesteading like I said, as a job, and this is especially true if you are wanting to have homesteading become your full time occupation, or maybe you're looking and you're like, I don't want to go to a day job anymore. I want to just be able to homestead and for this to be able to provide for our family. There's usually a transition period there. My husband still works a day job. I'm now at home doing this, but also working from home. And we used our homesteading as a way for us to save money. So, if you are still working your day job, but you are doing this homesteading things, and this is the way you even look at it this now is this work that we're putting into this food is definitely saving us money that I don't have to have cash on hand to go and buy these things.
So, if you're starting on your homesteading journey, or may even been on it for awhile is if you know how much it's saving you compared to when you used to buy these items from the store minus your expenses, which you're only going to know if you're recording these items down, then you can take that difference and put that into a savings account. And then, use that money that you're not outputting anymore, right, buying because you're making these things are growing these things at home, but actually take the difference, take that financial difference, that exact dollar amount, and either put it into a savings account and, or pay off debt. That was one of the big things. And you can listen into my previous episode, which was, five tips on cutting your debt homesteading style and my story on quitting my day job, you can listen more on that.
But that's what I did when I knew that I wanted to be able to quit my day job is we used what we were saving by doing our homesteading activities and paid off everything except our mortgage, I should say. The mortgage is not completely paid off yet, but that's the only debt that we had. So, we paid off, we had medical bills that needed to be paid off. We had a camper trailer, our vehicles, et cetera, different things like that. And if you don't have any big debt like that, I would say first off, apply it towards that. That's what made the most sense for us is to get rid of that debt and then come up ... We did a small savings account first, then, we paid off our debt. So if something happened, we could fall back on that small savings account. And, there's a lot more in depth detail in that episode that you can go back and listen to.
But also, if you're planning on wanting to quit your day job, then you'll have that extra money set aside in case something does happen. And then it will also allow you to even do a couple of test months per se, where your not using any of the money from your day job, if you're planning on quitting it, so that you'll know, oh, could we really get by without that money that's coming in by just with what we're producing at home, or if you've got another obviously spouse or someone else working. But I tend to be someone who likes to test run those things before I jump into them.
And I find that when we're tracking and treating homesteading as a job, that it forces us to maybe get a little bit more creative and to look for ways where, oh, could I find maybe a different feed source or could I do this differently where I'm not maybe spending as much money or as much time? And it just makes us more efficient and effective in the long run. And even now, as you can see, as I was sharing in this episode and over the past couple of months, it's something that we're continuing to involve and try to improve on and to better and reevaluate with the different stages of life that we're in. And as the kids age and grow, that changes things for us, because of course they actually are eating more and now they're home because of Coronavirus. So the kids are home full time too, and so that's put a different spin on things. It's also put a different spin on as much as we're eating from the house, and the workload.
So, I hope that you have enjoyed this episode. You can go and grab any of the links in the blog post that accompanies this. You can get that at melissaknorris.com/277, because this is episode number 277. And you can go and snag your copy of The Family Garden Planner, as well as that pre order bonus. I will be back here with you next week, where we're going to be talking about where to start first with your homesteading, especially when it comes to adding livestock or increasing the livestock that you are raising. But we'll also be talking about things that aren't just livestock, but we'll definitely be encompassing that. So, I can't wait to be here back with you next week for that episode.
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