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Things To Know Before You Become a Homesteader

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You're really getting into the idea of homesteading- you want to grow your own veggies, can your food, raise chickens, heck maybe even a goat or two. But before you jump into becoming a homesteader, here's a few things you should know.

It's Not An All Or Nothing Game
Truly, it's not. There is no reason at all you have to go from being a corporate businessperson working at DTC to a full fledged, full time farmer. First is the learning curve - it's going to take you more than a week, a month, even a year to learn even a part of the aspects of being a full fledged homesteader. It's perfectly OK to ease into the game, starting small, like cooking all your family meals from scratch, learning to make the perfect loaf of bread, starting your own garden. It's also perfectly OK to decide to stop somewhere on the path and say "this is far enough and no further". Maybe for you the line is having chickens - you just don't to do that. You're perfectly fine with buying eggs and fresh chickens from the local farmer's market. And that's a good thing too; supporting your local small business people and small farmers is a step in the right direction. YOU choose how far you want to go and with what.

Know Your Local Ordinances

This is a very big deal. What goes in parts of Denver County will not fly in say Douglas, Park, Jefferson counties and so on. And the same goes the opposite direction. In fact, in some areas of metro Denver, what works in one part of the county does not in another. What you can do in Conifer is not the same in Westminster or even Arvada - and yet they are all parts of Jefferson county. This applies to almost all the aspects of homesteading - where you can have a garden and how large, what kind of livestock you can have, are you allowed 2 chickens or 10, and can you have a rooster?

Call your county zoning and planning office. They are very happy to talk to you about what you can and cannot do at your specific address and they will answer any and all questions you have. They would much rather talk to you than come out to your place and issue you a fine.

Get Your Permits

Another thing that can garner you fines. You called zoning and planning and they said you can have x number of chickens, but did you remember to ask them about building a coop? And a run? What about a greenhouse? Once again, zoning and planning to the rescue - they will tell you what size outbuildings you can have on your property - if any, and talk to you about fencing, and tell you what you need to do to get a permit to do these things.

Don't Forget Your HOA Or Landlord

If you have a homeowner's association, you'd better run your plans past them. Your neighbors might be all into the idea of free eggs, but someone on the HOA board could very well put their foot down and say no. Same goes for your landlord. Everything else may be in place for you to get started, but it's his or her property, and they can say no.

Money?

Oh yeah, money. Starting out homesteading can have a rather hefty initial outlay. Even starting canning, you need to buy the jars for the first time, and a canning kettle. You may even want to look into a pressure canner, or a food dehydrator, or vacuum sealer. Those three things alone, if you decide to go high end, could set you back right away over $2000. However, these are one time purchases that should last a very long time. A chicken coop, even made with salvaged lumber and done by you and your friends is still going to have some cost; mainly, your permits to build. And then there is continuing outlay of money for food and bedding for any animals you might choose to have. It is not the cheapest venture you will ever get into. But it is a worthwhile one.

Here Comes The Peanut Gallery

There are always going to be people you know who are just NOT going to understand what it is you are trying to do. Be ready for the comments. Some standards are "Are you gonna be hippies now, quit your jobs and grow pot?" "Isn't it easier/cheaper/faster to buy _____ at the store instead of doing it yourself?" . A big favorite is "Only poor people______." Fill in that blank - own chickens, sew their own clothes, learn to knit, have a garden, cook meals at home - you name it, someone will try to put the "only poor people" label on it. But if you've looked into any aspects already, you know this is not something only poor people do.

These comments will bother you. You will want to have stunning and witty comebacks. Don't bother. Instead, invite them over to eat some of your "pastured" eggs, have a salad from stuff you grew in the garden, have them admire the exquisitely knitted lacework item you just made. Show them the benefits of homesteading. Make it a teaching moment. This leads to the next -

Community

There are plenty of people all over the Denver area who are getting into this lifestyle. Meetup.com has a number of like minded groups from specific subjects like herbalism and cheesemaking, to the Greater Denver Urban Homesteaders group. Don't know how to do something? There are classes all over the place, from people who participate in the Handmade Homemade Market, to any farmer's market, to Living Art School. Area groups abound on Facebook as well. Just ask around - someone will offer to teach you or show you how to do something, often for free.

Homesteading is a Full Time Commitment

That garden will not water itself. You cannot board your chickens (at least, not yet) like you would your dog to go on vacation. It may be -20 degrees outside with the windchill, but your animals will still need food, water, cleaning up of their poop, and you will need to check to make sure they are warm enough - or conversely, cool enough come summer. No matter how hot or cold, blizzardy or rainy or any weathery outside it may be, you need to make a schedule and stick by it. The animals will expect it.

Homesteading takes perseverance and commitment to a 24/7 lifestyle. Yes, it's OK to cheat after a long day at work, stop by King Soopers and pick up fried chicken for dinner because making a dinner is just too much for the day. BUT, you still need to go out in the yard, give those hens fresh water and food, lock them in for the night at twilight, let them out again the next morning near sunrise. You cannot ignore livestock any more than you would ignore an infant. And the deeper into the homesteading lifestyle you decide to get, the more obligations you will have on a daily basis.

It's Addicting

Oh yeah, it's addicting. Big time. You start on one small aspect, and suddenly, others appear. You find the appeal of a fresh made pot of soup as compared to the overly salty pre canned soup from the store. You enjoy walking out and watering that garden, watching your achievement grow before your eyes. You rapidly learn the joy of taking a child by the hand and letting them pick fresh peas and eat them right there, or pull a fresh carrot and eat it right away. You will find amusement in watching your chickens follow you around as you get their feed. They joy of picking up a warm, freshly laid egg. Yarn becomes a thing you must have. Your shopping habits change. It will take over your life - and that's not a bad thing.

Welcome to the homesteading adventure - it is so very much going to be worth your time.

Like what your author has to say? You can follow her blog to learn more about her family's personal journey as homesteaders.

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