A Reality Check for Those Who Plan to Start a Prepper Homestead AFTER the SHTF

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Lots of preppers are convinced that they’re going to “live off the land” should the world as we know it come tumbling down around our ears. Seed banks are stockpiled, books are purchased, and people are confident that they’ll be able to outlive everyone else based on the sweat of their inexperienced brows.

But this may not be the best of ideas for some folks.

If you’ve been at it for a while, having a homestead can be a wonderful survival plan and a rewarding lifestyle. But if you think you’re going to go straight from the city to live off the land, you’re in for a horrible – and potentially fatal –  surprise.

A prepper homestead is something that must be built over a period of time – it’s absolutely not a plug-and-play solution, regardless of the number of survival seed packets you have carefully stashed away. Homesteading for survival is not a good plan if you have never done it before. No matter how hardworking you are, homesteading takes time. Time for learning, time for mistakes, and time for your plans to come to fruition.

When you do eat a meal in which all the ingredients were produced by you, on your own land, it will be the most delicious, gratifying meal you’ve ever eaten. But it’s a long road to get there.

A prepper homestead isn’t as easy as you may think.

If a prepper homestead is your survival plan, let me give you some advice: STORE. FOOD.

You are going to have to have something to get you through that first year when your farm doesn’t produce diddly squat.

As anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows, my family is prone to new adventures. We’ve moved from a large city to a cabin in the North Woods, where I discovered I knew nothing about building fires and living in the wilderness. We drove across the continent to move from Ontario, Canada, to the West Coast, where I had to rebuild my preps from the ground up since US Customs would not allow us to bring our food supplies across.

Another year, our adventure was food production. My daughter and I moved to a small farm, eager to polish up a new skill set and build that idealized prepper homestead that many of us dream about.

After only a few months there, I realized it was my duty to announce that while raising your own food is a noble goal, it’s not as easy as people seem to think. It was way harder and more time-consuming than I expected.

Of course, shortcuts do exist to help you circumvent all of these issues. If you have lots of money, you can shorten the amount of time it takes for your farm to be productive. The shortcuts all seem to cost a lot more money than the hard-work-method, and if you’re getting into self-reliance on a dime, they may not be practical or affordable. The other issue is, you may not even know the issue exists until it smacks you in the face and you’re chasing a goat down the road in your pajamas, frantically waving your arms to warn approaching pickup trucks to slow down so they don’t mow down your livestock. (Ask me how I know this.)

The real truth is, raising your own food takes time, experience, and skill. It isn’t something you undertake after the SHTF. If a self-reliant homestead is your survival strategy, you need to start now.

The garden

Unless you’re Jack, the possessor of magic beans that grow to prolific heights overnight, you’re going to get awfully hungry waiting for your garden to feed you. The first year a garden is grown in a new place, you learn about all sorts of foibles of your location, things you’d never know unless you have taken the effort to create your own salad bar.

Some folks get lucky and end up with a lush green jungle from the very first season, but for most of us…well, let’s just say that my daughter and I would struggle to live for a week on the calories produced by that first year’s garden.

We had all of the plagues this year that condemned us to gardening failure. First, we moved late in the season, but I had nurtured my veggies in buckets, so I assumed I’d transplant them and they’d magically grow.

Alas, on the first night, they fattened up the local deer. If I shot a deer that got fed by my vegetable plants, would that count towards the success of my gardening efforts? Because that would substantially up the caloric bounty.

So, I re-fenced, got a big dog, and replanted. Then, like something out of a sci-fi movie, freaking GOPHERS yanked the plants down by the roots and made them vanish. All that remained was a fluttering leaf here and there.

I dug out my raised beds, laid hardware cloth at the bottom, and refilled them. Then I replanted again. By this time, it was late July and we had a heatwave. Many of the new plants didn’t survive the blazing 110 degree days, despite shadecloth and plentiful water. Some of the ones that did survive got peed on by the dog I got to protect them from the deer and immediately withered from being drenched in urine.

Did I mention hornworms? They decimated several of my tomatoes and peppers overnight. OVERNIGHT! I watered in the evening and things looked great. The next morning, half of my plants looked as though they’d been scalped. Out of a sense of vengeance, I threw those hornworms in the chicken run to be pecked, tortured, and eaten alive. Take that, you evil little jerks.

That year, all I got was tomatoes and peppers from the plants I saved. Thankfully, we’re big fans of salsa and marinara, but we did not have enough to live off. In four months on my little prepper homestead, I basically produced a large salad.

This is all part of the game, though.

Next year was better because I put into place what I’ve learned. I got a deer-proof fence, I gopher-proofed my raised beds, I figured out how to keep my dog out of the lower beds by placing barriers at the corners after he peed on my favorite tomato plant. Once I harvested the last tomato, I got a cover crop ready to go into the beds to enrich the soil and feed my chickens over the winter. And to greater express my determination, I enrolled in a master gardener’s course through my county extension office, where I learned a lot that was specific to my area and climate.

I did successfully grow food the second year. But not enough to feed us for an entire year. And if we’d had to live off of that first year’s harvest, we’d have died of starvation in a month or so.

Also, those seed banks you’ve stashed away? They’re probably not going to feed your family on a long-term basis. Here’s what a lifelong farmer had to say about them.

Shortcuts:

As I mentioned above, shortcuts are expensive and all of these may not be realistic or fall within your budget.

  • Start out protecting your garden from all possible foragers by building a deer-proof, gopher-proof area before you ever plant a seed.
  • Test your soil and amend it with stuff from the nursery to provide the perfect growing medium for your veggies. (Add these kits to your stockpile so that you can test your soil regularly throughout the season.)
    Take a class from locals, geared towards your environment.
  • Install a drip irrigation system.
  • Pay a master gardener to help you get your garden established.
  • The best (and most expensive) shortcut? Move to a place with existing fruit trees, established gardens, and permaculture fixtures.

The eggs

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

In farming, it’s the chicken. The chickens come well, well, before the eggs. Like, at least 6 months before.

There’s a lot more to backyard egg production than throwing some feed into a henhouse or opening the door to let your birds free-range and telling them to be sure and deposit their eggs neatly in the bins provided to them.

First, many people start with little baby chicks. Not only are they flippin’ adorable, but they’re way cheaper than adult birds. You get to know exactly what they’ve eaten for their entire lives, which means you know whether they’ve been consuming antibiotics or hormones, and can alter their diets to fit your personal food philosophies.

But chicks are fragile. Out of my first batch of 8, five died.  FIVE. More than 50%. I felt like an unwilling serial killer of baby animals. Since my subsequent batches have flourished with the exact same care, I suspect there was some illness from the feed store where I purchased them. Baby chicks need special food, an environment that is safe from predators, and a heat source so that they can maintain the right body temperature. Of course, you have to be careful with the heat lamp or you can set your coop on fire, something that very nearly happened to me, but mercifully, we caught it just in time.

When they get big enough, you have to teach them where the water is and put them in a safe place where they won’t be eaten by predators. We have raised chickens in a large covered run that keeps them protected while allowing them fresh air and some freedom and we have free-ranged them. Free-ranging is less work and costs a bit less, but it has more risk. Free range hens often enjoy laying eggs in places other than their nesting boxes, too.

Keep in mind that when it’s too cold or too hot, your chickens won’t lay eggs. If there is a predator sniffing around the coop at night, they won’t lay eggs. When they molt, they will lay fewer eggs. Hens of laying age are actually no guarantee of fresh eggs on a daily basis.

Shortcuts

  • Have a predator-proof coop built for you by someone who has raised chickens.  You’ll need a floor that nothing can dig under, good door latches, a sturdy top, shade, nesting boxes, and roosts.
  • Install an automatic waterer that refills when it gets too low.
  • Buy full-grown, already laying chickens.

The milk

Everyone thinks of cows when they think of milk. A calm, productive dairy cow is a wonderful thing. However, this is not an instant kind of thing either. If you get a calf, you should know that cows should not be bred before 15 months, and may not reach maturity until they are 22 months of age. Cow gestation is 9 months, like humans. So you’re looking at about two and a half years or more before you can get so much as a drop of milk from a cow that you bought as a calf. Their poop is enormous, smelly, and draws flies, which is a problem if you don’t have a lot of land for them to roam on. Cows are also quite expensive to purchase and they eat way more than goats, so for the homesteader on a budget, goats are a better option.

Goats come with their own set of difficulties. If you go and get a couple of female baby goats with the intention of bottle feeding them to make them friendly, that’s awesome. You will succeed in having the sweetest goats around, and they’ll follow you around the homestead like a dog. What they won’t do is give you milk for at least a year and a half. 18 months of feeding for them, caring for them, shoveling their poop, and cleaning their stalls.

You should not breed a goat until she’s a year old. Then, if the breeding takes, you have 5 months of waiting for babies. Then, you have a couple of weeks where she’s producing colostrum for her kids, which you should never, ever take. Finally, you have milk. FINALLY. And it’s delicious. But that first glass is the most long-awaited glass of milk you will ever sip.

Goats are cute but can be a total pain in the rear. If you give them a cardboard box full of veggie scraps, they’ll eat the box and ignore the vegetables.  They will climb on your vehicle and dent it with their little hooves of destruction. If you fence them in, they will get through, around, or over your fence. No matter how many acres you give them to romp on, whatever is on the opposite side of the fence is what they must have.

Our 10-month-old goat discovered that she fit through our gate and we had to chase her down the road that led to our farm one day. In pajamas, since it was morning and we weren’t dressed yet. We ran hardware cloth through the bars on the gate and that kept her in. At least at that exit point. There’s a project every day with goats. Here’s some GREAT information on housing your goats that I wish I’d seen at the beginning.

Shortcuts

  • Fence your grazing area with goat-proof fencing. Once you’ve had goats, you will know that they can jump over, climb through, open the gate, or knock down just about anything you put up.
  • Buy cows or goats that are already producing milk.  You’ll need more than one mama animal because a) goats and cows are herd animals and b) you can give one mama a break while the other is producing.
  • Plant hay.  If you have enough space you can greatly reduce your food bill this way.

The meat

Meat is also far from instant. The closest thing to instant meat is going to be rabbits. Cute, fluffy rabbits.  They breed quickly and prolifically and are mature by the age of  8-12 weeks, at which time they can be butchered for food. Below, you can see the ages at which these animals can be butchered for meat:

  • Chickens 16-20 weeks
  • Ducks 24-28 weeks
  • Turkeys 24-28 weeks
  • Rabbits 8 weeks
  • Lambs 10-15 months
  • Goats 12 months
  • Pigs 8-10 months
  • Cows 18-24 months

Of course, this is the age of maturity in the best of all possible worlds. The world that contains premium feed, the ability to pick it up from the feed store, and a controlled environment safe from predators. If your animals are free-ranging, they’re going to grow more slowly and be leaner since they’re working for their food. If you have selected heritage breeds, they grow more slowly still than the hybrids that are bred specifically for a speedy maturity. As you can see, this isn’t an instant gratification kind of thing.  Add an SHTF long-term disaster to the mix, and you’re looking at quite some time before you can harvest meat.

It gets even trickier when you want to develop a breeding program on your farm in order to raise your meat. Then, you must add in the time for the mother animal to become mature, waiting for the right time to breed her, and then waiting for the gestation period to be over. Literally, we’re talking about years before you have meat production for many species.

Then there’s the butchering. Are you going to be able to slaughter the animal you saw born, raised from a little baby, and perhaps gave a clever name to?  Lots of people are fine with this, but many others will find that it’s much harder than they expected. Humanely dispatching an animal takes experience and the right tools. Cleaning and butchering the animal is also not something you can dive right into. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some farmer friends who will help you the first time or two. It’s an enormous job and you run the very real risk of spoiling your meat if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Shortcuts

  • Buy animals that are just past the fragile stage and raise them to maturity
  • Stock up on a whole full of pellet food and hay for your livestock
  • Have your property professionally fenced.
  • Buy a property that is fenced and contains housing for various types of livestock
  • Get to know local farmers and learn all you can from them. They can help you prevent expensive mistakes.

Reality check: You’re probably going to fail

So, you might read this article and think I’m telling you that a prepper homestead is an unrealistic survival plan. That’s not the case at all.

What I’m telling you is that a prepper homestead has to be created well before a disaster strikes. You have to figure out:

  • How you’ll care for your crops and animals.
  • How you’ll nourish them.
  • How you’ll protect them.
  • How you’ll water them.
  • How you’ll harvest the food.

And honestly, you’ll probably fail to do one or all of these things correctly at some point.

You have to learn many of these things from experience. My experience can’t teach you because my setting is entirely different. You may have different predators, a different climate, different physical challenges – every single family’s circumstances will be unique. The only way to predict the problems and overcome them is to experience them in the first place. And trust me, it’s way better to experience failure when the feed store and the hardware store are only a short drive away.

Be sure to have back-up plans.

While it’s incredibly important to take every step you can towards self-reliance, it is equally vital to have a backup plan. Have these things to fall back on:

Share your own homesteading lessons

Most of us learn our homesteading lessons through failure. Something we thought would work, did not. Are you raising your own food? What did you learn the hard way? Please share your experiences from your prepper homestead in the comments below.

A Reality Check for Those Who Plan to Start a Prepper Homestead AFTER the SHTF
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Daisy,

    What an awesome article!! SO refreshing to read about the realistic side of homesteading. We have had similar calamities… our veggie garden was burned up by the sun. Our first goat in milk failed to produce more than a few drops after feeding her kids and our chickens refuse to sleep in their cute little coop – which led to the one and only chick they hatched being snatched up off the ground by a predator in the night.

    Homesteading is definitely not all sunshine and unicorns, thank you for speaking so openly about your experiences! (Thanks also for your compliments on our goat housing article. That’s one area where we’ve – so far – been very successful! )

    Ros

    • One has to almost work at it full time to know what to expect, what to look for, and how to address the issue. I grow a garden every year, and I always have obstacles. To me the reward out weighs the negatives.

  • Daisy you article is so true to life & really a hoot to read because I’ve had some similar experiences. One was late blight in tomatoes where you bring in these lovely boxes of green tomatoes just before it freezes & soon you have stinky, drippy boxes of rotting tomatoes.

    I was with my brother & sister in law taking their 6 wk piglets to the auction mart. While stopped to open the gate the piglets all jumper over the side of the pickup & there we were running around a pasture trying to catch them in our some what good clothes. Even if you think you have caught them they can easily get out of your hands.

    Last year we had the water table so high that all veg. in low ground were sitting in water & drowning. Very poor crop on a number of thing. This year root maggot got most of cabbages before we found the cause. No one, even gardeners of over 50 years had ever had that problem before so new problems can come along. Birds will eat your berries & some come in flocks. Deer killed our cherry trees & set back our apples. Yes we all need to practice & be prepared for the unexpected.

  • This was a great article! All the mistakes I ever made, living in the Sierras. I learned that deer can sail over a 9ft. fence, like they have wings! They will eat ANYTHING green. Flower bulbs (literally), flowers, small bendible trees, and soft new veggie plants are all just an appetizer. Gophers, voles, and assorted other vermin are more than happy to finish off all of your hardwork. I literally sat and cried one night when I realized that $1000 worth of fruit trees and vegetable plants were gone with the wind. It is okay to start small, and be successful by using a small greenhouse. That way, you will have a few rattlesnakes and bugs to battle. You will get about 30 tomatoes and a few other goodies. This will bolster your ego and allow you to sally forth to the fields. 🙂 It is a long journey to abundance, but you can do it!

  • LOL I’m going to strangle you, Daisy, because you must be in my computer somehow reading my draft posts. Okay, well, yours is far better than mine would have been, but, seriously, I’m drafting up a very similar post.

    Only stockpile one year of food? I’m in year THREE of trying to grow a garden. One little plant that I thought would die gave me 25 gorgeous fat butternut squash, and three mangel beets grew for the goats (which they then refused to eat!). It was a horrible year throughout Nova Scotia for gardens, and even the market farmers have been scrambling. There’s a reason my Mennonite friends always put up two years’ worth of each item when they’re preserving – you never know if you’ll get *anything* the next year.

    I’m killing ALL of our chickens as soon as the weather is cool enough, and starting over again with a different breed. Curses on those people who try to convince us that chickens are easy. And free range chickens poop on everything.

    One thing you didn’t mention about raising your sweet, beautiful goat doe to adulthood – she could DIE right after kidding. A year and a half raising my sweet Nanette, as friendly and loving as a goat could be, and she was dog food a month after her kids were born. Sometimes I think goats spend their days thinking up ways to die. And you never know how much milk you’ll get until you start milking them. So two years of feeding them and you get a dud milker.

    It’s an adventure, but anyone who figures they’ll pack up their seed bank and their copy of The Self-Sufficient Life and head for the hills when the SHTF, well, it won’t end well.

    • Great minds think alike, Marie! I’ll bet your draft is quite different because you’ve been at this longer than I have. 🙂 I’d really love to hear the lessons you’ve learned after a few years of this.

  • Oh, and here’s a tip for goat fencing:

    Once you have your fence built, throw a bucket of water at it. If the water goes through, so will your goat.

    We have looked at a goat that is on the wrong side of the fence and we couldn’t figure out any way possible that she could have got out. Then we realized that the 12″ tall little baby goat was JUMPING over the 5′ tall fence.

    • The key to fencing any animal is to make sure life is more attractive inside the fence than outside the fence.

      For goats, that means a paddock system whereby you rotate them so that the paddock on one side is spent (they won’t go in there) and the one on the other side is just a tiny bit better than the one they’re in (they won’t bother). If they’re getting through, it’s definitely time to rotate paddocks!

      Don’t put your veggie garden on the other side of the fence. Don’t separate your bucks and does by a single fence. Make the area inside the fence look good to them, and they won’t challenge it.

      Goats are particularly good with electric fence, because they are intelligent and very sensitive to pain.

      Get the hottest fence charger you can afford. Don’t be fooled by “mile ratings;” find out how many joules it supplies. We have a six joule charger that even the bucks leave alone!

      The old adage that “if it won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat” is true for electric fences, as well. Don’t believe me? Try peeing on your electric fence. If that doesn’t cause you to “hold your water,” it won’t hold a goat, either!

      We have good control with three hot wires, topped by a ground wire. Use high-tensile galvanized steel wire, not the cheap poly crap. (Although we use that for the grounded top wire.) Attach the top wire directly to the T-post with fence wire. This will give you a “distributed ground” that will work better in drought than a single grounding rod at the charger.

  • I agree with most of what you said. I have had moose eat all 100+ cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants that were just starting to mature in one night! This spring my early greens in the hoop house were eaten to the ground by voles. I’ve had pretty good luck with chickens, not that I haven’t lost a few. One point of disagreement is that you can get meat chickens that will be ready to butcher at 8 to 10 weeks. I used to be a dairy farmer and if you decide to keep a cow I hope you have artificial insemination available in your area. Bulls are just plain dangerous. Haven’t tried goats but did have sheep a while back. Spring lambs can be butchered in the fall at about 100 pounds.
    Years ago an oldtimer told me that an experienced farmer moving to a new farm will take at least five years to learn how to farm new land to best advantage. We started with woods fifteen years ago. You would think weeds wouldn’t be a problem. Chick weed showed up in the first year. I wouldn’t give you a dime for one of these survival seed vaults they advertise. Talk to cooperative extension or a local master gardener about varities. Then try several and find out what works for you.
    When you have a good crop of anything you can preserve put as much up as you can. Also share some of the surplus with neighbors who aren’t doing as well. Next year maybe they will share with you in your need.
    I think the Mormons also hold with keeping two years food supply.
    As Daisy says, if you want to base survival on your homestead you should be doing it now not dreaming about how it will save you if things go bad.

    • Howard – are you referring to Cornish Cross chickens or a different breed? I’ve been considering those for next spring but if you have other recommendations I’d love to hear them.

      • I left a reply don’t know if you got it. I prefer Red Rangers which I get from Murray McMurray hatchery. Other sources have similar crosses. They grow a little slower than Cornish cross but can be turned out to forage some when they are done in the brooder. I tried Cornish cross and they grow so fast that they tend to have foot and leg problems. Also they don’t do well in a mixed flock. I lost some to picking by Road Island red cocks who were much smaller. The Cornish are supposed to make a fryer in 6 or 7 weeks but the meat seemed too mushy soft to us. I let the rangers get to roaster size with no health problems.
        Howard

        • I’m glad you reposted! The first one did not show up. 🙂 I was concerned about the growth speed of the Cornish, honestly. It seems pretty unhealthy and the key is health, of course. I’ll check into the Red Rangers! Thank you for the recommendation.

          • My kiddos raised some Cornish cross chickens for 4-H this past summer. First year doing any type of meat animal project – definitely a learn by doing thing- but we consulted many very experienced people and had good results. By 8 weeks these cockrels were nearly 9 pounds. They went to processing at 9 weeks and most were over 10 lbs. (usually they are supposed to be around 7lbs – but we just followed advice from various people and ended up with huge birds). We only lost one right before fair (I went out to grab the water one morning, filled it, and went back within 5 minutes and he was dead – fell over and couldn’t get back up – probably scared by the dog – but then we learned on the spot – through youtube how to “home process” a bird and had chicken dinner that night). Anyway – it’s definitely work but such a great reward. Because they were fast growing it was a good introduction into meat animals – especially for the kids to see a faster turnaround from their investment of time. The birds seemed pretty happy because they were well cared for from start to finish. Basically making sure they were continually fed and watered with lots of good air flow was key. Purchased cockrels to yield bigger birds. I would raise them again to get my freezer stocked pretty quickly with nice quality birds but I’d also like to try the red rangers to compare differences between the breeds and the experience itself.

            • The rangers do not grow as fast but they also dont stroke out or go immobile. We prefere to the Cornish cross 50-75 at a time. Chicken plucker is a must. Me and a buddy halfed the cost and built our own. Wonderful to hear you have the kids involved in 4H. All that waste from processing makes great fertilizer.

          • Daisy,we bought and raised 31 Cornish Cross chicks two years ago…….when we butchered at 11 weeks we had 30,more than have were 9 plus pounds,some as big as 12 pounds. Very good eating. When we brought them home they were inside in a separate “pen” (we’d bought 20 other pullets & 1 rooster) When they were old enough the all went outside into adjoining pens with their own houses.I found the “key” to the Cornish Cross’ was to take away their food at night,for 12 hours,they thought we were starving them,but it kept them from over eating,and therefor growing to “fast” and breaking their legs.
            The one we lost was an extra that the feed store had given us,which was scrawny from the start,poor little mite lasted about a week,so it wasn’t a surprise. I would raise the Cornish Cross again…my family loves the taste!

        • We butcher Murray McMurray Jumbo Cornish Cross in between 6-1/2 and 7-1/2 weeks and average 6.2 pounds dressed, with our largest at nearly 9 pounds dressed. We love, love, love the meat. Yes, it is a hybrid, but while they are available, that is what we will purchase, raise, and butcher. We do supplement their water with vitamins, especially B vitamins, and we raise the birds on pasture in moveable pens, so they are getting fresh grass daily along with their high protein feed. We also butcher our Pekin ducklings at 8-10 weeks and they get about 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, dressed. Pekin ducks are definitely more of a sustainable bird. We enjoy our ducks, but duck soup is not Chicken Soup. We think we raise the best roasters ever, every year! Breasts that weigh 1 to 1.2 pounds EACH; leg quarters a pound each too. We cannot get that with our Rhode Island Reds, even in 20 weeks time.

      • Daisy… we’ve been farming/homesteading for 40 years. We had a herd of registered dairy cattle until we had to sell due to health issues a couple years ago. I’ve had chickens for 30 years.
        (just mentioning this so you know I’m not a newbie)

        Your article was right on. I’ve been talling people for many years that “if you get a bumper crop of ANYthing, put up at least 2 years worth… three if you can”. Granted, this works best if you are canning or dehydrating your produce… if you want frozen goods to last beyond 12 months, you really need to vacuum pack them for the quality to hold.

        But to answer your question about meat birds- yes, CornishX chicks will reach 5# *dressed* weight at 6-7 weeks old. At 12 weeks, they can dress out close to 10#!

        They do actually do well on pasture (we raise at least a couple hundred on pasture every summer), but still require a good amount of grain in order to get those weights. However, the overall grain required to get to 5# dressed is much less than any other breeds you’ll try.

        Their drawback is simple- they are a hybrid which simply is bred for meat production. You can’t keep them to breed your own… no matter how carefully you try to restrict feed or provide extra vitamins, etc, they WILL outgrow their legs sooner or later.

        If you want a breed which is a very efficient meat producer, a wonderful layer, AND will reproduce true to type, look at the Slow White Broilers from Welp Hatchery. I don’t have any connection with them except as a satisfied customer, but their Slow Whites are amazing birds.

        They will reach 5# dressed at around 9 weeks (cockerels), and while they carry that weight on a longer frame (they aren’t as plump and meaty/compact as the CornisX) birds, the flavor and texture is wonderful.

    • I can vouch for the Red Rangers. They are hardy and are very good layers and meat birds. They are a fairly docile breed. We hatch our next season chicks from our own eggs.
      IF you decide to raise cornish x (we have in the past), we fed peep feed with turkey peep feed 50/50 to help strengthen their legs. (An Amish fellow told us and it really helped with disjointed or broken legs) We only fed the peep feed/turkey peep feed mix until the bag was gone. (We mixed in some of the beef grower when they were down to about 1/4 bag of peep feed left) After that, we fed a beef grower that was high protein. We also pastured them so they had fresh grass 2x per day. They drink A LOT of water. A lot. Our neighbor fed strictly medicated feed and when he butchered they had a slimy feel and their feet were white. Eww.
      I also want to add, we have raised 1000’s of rabbits and we never even weened till 7 weeks. To get a 4-5 lb rabbit, it took up to 4 months depending on the breed.

  • So true In what you say!
    We moved out to the country 7 years ago to make a “homestead” Had Grandeur ideas about raising Chickens rabbits goats for meat and planting large gardens to feed us. We were not stupid about growing things even though we had lived in a city…small coastal city. I had always had a small garden to provide Tom’s Cukes and squash for our meals. Nothing like good wholesome fresh food .
    We moved far inland towards the opposite end of the state and at a higher elevation very close to the mountains.
    Problem number one!! very different soil composition and very different growing season and conditions.
    I plant in 3 arears and it totals up to about 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre…separate areas to insure some yield even if things go south in one or the other plots.
    All the work is done by my spouse and myself..all of it.
    We read all we could,..asked local farmers for info…tried various techniques..
    What we found was that if nature would comply and give us a perfect growing season,…plenty of rainfall….no chem-trails……no wildlife to eat the garden then maybe….just maybe we might could harvest enough food for a couple months at the most!! We had good yield the last three years…but this year was a disaster…we did all the correct things but nature was against us. First,..it was a late spring frost..most was lost,..we replanted,…nearly half that wouldn’t sprout. Then it was a very harsh spring and summer with extreme high temps hovering at the 100 mark for weeks…and NO RAIN!! we have a well but couldn’t irrigate for fear of depleting our drinking water source. What did start to produce was mostly affected by chem-trail spray…plants would acid burn and rot over nite. Then it was late season drenching rain that finished off the plants. Very little canning dehydrating or even freezing the produce this year. What we got won’t last thru thanksgiving.

    Problem number 2!
    over Fathers day weekend we suffered a wild dog attack that broke thru the Chicken compound and coop area destroying an entire flock of chickens..(31 birds)….15 Mallard ducks…..and out in the field attacked and killed our last Goat. Yes we killed the wild dogs but that does us no good,…our egg and meat supply was almost wiped out…

    Problem number 3
    With all the “crap” that happened we now suffered a monsoon,…We live in South Carolina and here in my area we got 14 inches of rain over a 72 hour period…the fall/winter crops are drowned in the field now…what didn’t wash completely away that is. My septic system is overflowing and now I have multiple trees down all around the property.

    Now here is the real deal,.. all this failure has happened when we had modern conveniences such as tractors,..tillers and cultivators….gasoline for the equipment….modern soil additives such as nitrogen and other fertilizers and all the little things that technology has brought us…..THE GOOD TIMES so to speak….and yet we failed after doing all we could.

    So where does that leave us if this had been a post SHTF event?
    As a realist, I can assure you that if we had not been canning and storing up food as it has been available over the past few seasons,…our chances of survival would be nearly zero!!

    People who have asked me the how and when about homesteading and self-sufficiency, I tell them they should start YESTERDAY!!!!
    Its a learning game and its a roll of the dice.

    Sorry this was so long a reply but even at that I only hit on “SOME” of the difficulties we experience at times.
    I appreciate your blog and what you do!!! Please keep sounding the warning and reaching out,…some people are listening
    Good luck and God Bless

    D. Simmons

    • D. Simmons –

      It seems like we have the same story! It’s amazing the difference elevation can make in your endeavors. Thank you for sharing!

  • Miss Daisy! That was a fantastic article!!

    I’m still in my beginning stages and have discovered that the money I have to get started, isn’t going to go all that far! I have to laugh at myself.

    Thanks for all the pointers! While my place is almost all fenced except the rear line, it was fenced for cows, soooo I think I have some work to do there…. Another expense. Funny how that happens. (Want goats)

    I’ve noticed holes all over my property; so when you mentioned gophers my eyes got real big. I could feel your pain. Not sure what varmint is on my place (except mice I have seen) but I’m sure to find out soon enough. Need to add hardware cloth to my list, cha-Ching! Only good thing is I think I have enough scrap to start raised beds.. Im coming to the conclusion that my emerging “homestead” is going to shift me from a minimalist to a hoarder! going to have to make due, should be fun and frustrating at the same time.

    Sage advice on the food storage, been working on that. Looks like this year was bad for many people.

    Keep up the great work. Always enjoy your articles.

  • Great article and so very, very true.
    I think I will be unpleasantly surprised when I pull my sweet potato plants. I’m betting there will be nothing there, much like my beets last year. Will have to proof them against rodent maraduers next year. For weeds, am using Dewitt Sunbelt fabric and am VERY pleased thus far.
    Had 30 turkey poults fail this spring. Did a necropsy and they were fully formed. Think the incubator wasn’t humid enough. But my meat chickens did great. We switched from Cornish X’s to Pioneer which is a hybrid dual purpose breed from McMurrays. This year we hatched from our own chicks and got a nice crop of 7-8 pound roosters and 4-5 pound hens. Enough to get us thru to spring. But having two years supplies stored is a very good plan.
    I came to the “prepping” community from homesteading. And having hiked and backpacked all my teens and then many, many years in the military, this trained me to always be prepared. It was a natural progression.
    Pam

  • I have been gardening for over 50 years and as a Master Gardener can appreciate all the various
    problems experienced by other posters to this site. I have made all the mistakes and then some. If I could offer any advise it would be to enroll in the nearest Master Gardener class. What you will learn here will greatly enhance your knowledge and ability to provide for yourself and family. Another suggestion would be to only plant perennial food producing plants and trees. Fruit, nuts, berries and some herbs will produce year after year with minimal upkeep after they are established and will become the back bone of your food supply. Additionally I would suggest that you build or purchase a greenhouse. The costs may vary but you can construct one for very little using plastic and pvc tubing. A green house regardless of size will allow you to get your plants started well in advance of planting. I run an aquaponics system in mine also. The quality of your soil is the key ingredient to successful vegetable growth and health. Don’t skimp on this important aspect and
    make sure you learn how to compost.

    In the 24 years that I have been building my homestead I have tried to practice many of the principles contained in Permaculture to obtain an “edible landscape” We have built up to 50 fruit and nut trees of all kinds, black berries, blue berries, raspberries, currents, etc. etc. Other perennials include artichokes, horseradish and Strawberries which put out new plants each year.
    The point is to lay a foundation of edible plants to compliment your vegetable garden.

    • Farmer Frank, your advice is awesome! I look forward to building my own edible landscape and am planning on taking the Master Gardener’s classes here in my county. 🙂

  • I never did any farming before although I knew a lot of farmers….so don’t know what I’m doing but….. I found it fairly easy to produce enough goat milk and chicken eggs to live off of…..I have pigs now too and they are very easy to raise too….I would not want to try growing vegetables to survive, myself with my skills/experience and I live in Costa Rica…I think buying a couple of milking goats….and a buck….some chickens…..then you’ll nutritionally have two of the very best foods you could have..which you could maintain your health/strength with…good luck….

  • Thank-you so very much for this informative article! Reality is tough. My own rehabed garden had mixed results. On the other hand I invented a rocket-stove that cooks three ways. It is the ultimate prep item, but also great for backyard and beach fun. I would hope to contact you regarding a review for your readers of this extraordinary product. See: http://www.GordonRocketCompany.com/

  • Everybody tells the new gardeners to start with a SMALL garden, but no newbie ever does! I did not listen either.

    I thought that since I had a decent garden in Iowa then I could start with a large garden when I moved to Kansas. HA! The most common harmful bugs are different, the pattern of heat and rainfall is different, and the type and varieties of plants that do well are TOTALLY different! Golden Bantam sweet corn that did so well in Iowa flat out FAILED in my Kansas garden! I got nubbins instead of ears because we had a heat wave when the plants were blooming. The heat damaged the pollen: we had to switch to a variety that bloomed earlier. I worked very hard for the salad I got for a yield! If I had started with a smaller garden I could have hovered over the individual plants long enough to notice that the pests that I was watching for were not the ones that I needed to worry about.

  • Been there done that!! Loved the article. While we will not be getting any animals (for the time being at least), I’ve spent the last 9 years working up to getting a steady crop of ANYTHING every year. My limited goal is to grow enough of 3 or 4 things to take us through a year and haven’t even been able to do that year after year. Some years, like this one, can’t even grow enough of ONE thing to take us through the year. Did the gopher thing. fortunately, the birds get my hornworms quick. I grow sunflowers now to detract the birds from picking at my tomatoes. Even bees wouldn’t stay with me! Still, keep working at it, expanding and experimenting and improving, AND spending too much money!!

  • Excellent article, although by the nature of the subject, somewhat incomplete. Books are written on these things. We retired to Costa Rica in 2008 and are homesteading our our 75 acres here, not far from the beach, but high enough to grow many crops. It is not easy, but with the help and advice of many local permaculturists, we have crested the first waves of impending failure. Until you fail, you don’t know what to do. So failure is a good thing, most of the time. Way too many people think that they will figure this out in a few months or a year, when it is a lifetime’s work to learn to become self-sufficient. Not to discourage anyone, but realism is a good thing when survival is at stake.

  • Just some thoughts for you.

    Instead of just having a garden, try planting a food forest also. These are perennials grouped in companion style around a fruiting/nutting tree. There’s no tilling and all you do to fertilize is chop and drop the legumes. https://www.openpermaculture.com/magazine/seven-parts-apple-tree-guild (free site, just enter email to read the whole thing).

    To get rid of the horn worms, plant mint nearby (in spots around your tomatoes). Depending on the kind of mint, you should consider planting them in large containers sunk part-way into the ground so they do not overrun the garden. http://geofflawton.com/videos/permaculture-paradise/ (free site) There are many other compainion plants you can put near your garden to confuse the bad bugs and attract the good ones.

    Consider swales for auto-watering, which also ease the drought/flood peaks. http://geofflawton.com/videos/5-acre-abundance-on-a-budget/ (free site, just enter email)

    I do not work for any of these sites. I simply have applied what I’ve learned from them and it has made self-reliance easier. However, just as you have pointed out, this takes 2-4 years to get to full harvest (for the center-piece tree to grow). All good things take time. 😉

    Love your site and your information!

  • Hi Daisy, thanks for all the hard work sharing with us – getting advice from Farmer Frank feels like a privilege! He mentioned aquaponics, and mixed gardening (perennials and annuals) and I love hearing people preach diverse methods and plants. I have some inside hydroponics, some container plants and have a small outdoor garden. The hydro has done pretty well once I learned some of the requirements (how much and what kind of light, how much/kind of nutrients, adding a fan of some sort.) The lettuce is growing by the day, tomatoes and peppers like the setup and I’ve started some peas.

    Outside I’ve got containers of turnips and potatoes, these aren’t growing as fast as the hydro but they are doing well. I had 6 4×4 raised beds this year, mixed up tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, green beans, sugar snap peas, lettuces. (Lettuci?) The broccoli grew nicely but the aphids went to town on them till I soaped them. They didn’t really recover. The green beans did best, the summer heat didn’t bother them (Blue Lake seems great for Arkansas) and I had four different harvests, shared lots with neighbors. The tomatoes were doing great, lots of bees, lots of flowers. Till the cutworms came over night and we lost 2 of the 6 plants immediately. I plucked and killed bunches of them but came down to 2 of 6 healthy plants. Did get an ok harvest out of them. The peppers (jalapeno and ancho) did ok, were much better last year. We never figured out what got the outside lettuce, but that was really a lark – I added them too late I think.

    So – like your experiences, I lost quit a bit of my harvest to invaders, a little to weather (storms broke supports and limbs) BUT because I did inside and outside, hydro and soil, not everything was lost. 2 is one, one is none really applies when it comes to food security. Thanks again!

  • Was sent over by Appalachia’s Homestead with Patara. Great read, and SO true!! I laughed so hard, about chasing a goat in pajamas, you KNOW why!!! Only some one who has done it, can relate! Great advice!!!

  • You also never know if you will be on your homestead, I look at the life skills learned on a homestead can be applied to many areas of life. I hope a strong work ethic, ability to problem solve, and having a concept of what it takes to produce food will help my kids survive.

  • Super article! One of the best I’ve read in years. Most of the stuff you find on-line is written by armchair survivalists. In reality there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Some thoughts . . .

    Did you ever see mosquito spray on a list of barter items? Buy the best. At dusk, when you are working in your vegetable garden, the mosquitoes and gnats will suddenly appear and DRIVE YOU back into the house. Trust me.

    Moving to a new area. Sooner or later you will need a doctor, dentist, lawyer, or auto mechanic. Back home you knew where to go and where not to go. In your new environment you’ll be a victim waiting to happen.

    KNOWLEDGE is your best investment. Your ability to earn a living and/or grow a garden depend on it. And you can carry knowledge across international borders without fear of confiscation . . . unlike gold, firearms, or vegetable seeds.

    Smell. Here’s where first-hand experience is priceless; you never know what it is that will bite you in the butt. I read about rabbits. Looked great on paper. Built some cages. Bought a breeding pair. Two weeks later I returned them to the seller free of charge. I could not STAND the smell of the critters.

  • I’ve been gardening for about 35 years and I’m still learning. Every area in the country has its unique challenges. What works in Montana might not work in North Dakota.
    I concentrate my efforts on vegetables that I can always depend on for a good, consistent crop. Carrots, beets, potatoes and green beans are good dependable producers for my AO. I’ve tried growing everything that I thought might work and have been disappointed many times. And then you have things like dill, cilantro, and amaranth that you only have to plant once, and then in successive years you fight to control them…

  • This was so good, so comprehensive. I was amused by your pajama story cause I’ve been there, chasing a herd of 40 cows by moonlight that the dogs alerted us had broken through the fence.
    I grew up on a dairy farm with a large vegetable garden in New York. I now live on a Black Angus cattle ranch in Arizona. We resurrected this ranch 25 years ago. I have had my garden in several places and I cannot say enough for the benefits of deer fencing, cats for gophers, guns for coons and javelinas and help from younger, more agile helpers.
    Like I said, your article covered it all. When I sit down to a meal with my own spaghetti sauce made from my tomatoes and meatballs made from our grass fed beef, canned in beef broth, I am ever so grateful and find it quite satisfying because I know the work it took to get there. This article is surely a keeper and one to be shared. Thanks, Daisy!

  • Unless you are willing to become the War Lord of your little fiefdom who can also use brutality when it is needed, will succumb to the dictates of the hordes who will be roving the countryside looking for anything to eat and will come at you like a column of army ants.

    This is where “Development of Allies” becomes the first task which must be undertaken after you have secured sufficient shelter and water to hold you through that first developmental period.

    Remember my friends; Be smart enough to pick the best person for the job, (those who think and act like you do) and then be wise enough to get out of their way and let them do it. Building alliances is what reveals the capabilities of leaders.

  • Where do you get the money just to start???? I have always wondered that. We can barely scrap together enough to do the basics in a rental.

    And land, around here there is none. It is being zoned for commercial mostly, then torn up and razed to make apartment communities, complete with laundromats and storage facilities. Apparently you can’t keep anything in a matchbox apartment that takes up half your income so a storage facility right next to your apartment is extra convenient. If it isn’t apartments it is strip malls, because they one that is falling apart and empty 1/2 mile down the road isn’t good enough.

    There are some people who keep chickens around here and my daughter has on occasion toyed with the idea of killing a rooster at 3am because they DO NOT sleep, ever. As far as actual farm animals, not allowed in the city limits.

    And hormworms are horrible, horrible things. Cardinals like them at 6am but will tear up your tomatoes to get them.

  • Great article! It takes a lot of hard work and even more knowledge to grow any kind of crop. I would also like to put in a plug for the Master Gardener courses offered at your county extension office. To become a fully certified Master Gardener may cost several hundred dollars and a lot of time in volunteering, but you learn a lot and also give back to the community. They often offer free or low-cost classes for vegetable growing. There may also be online courses/info offered just for your area, so look around. It is important to find people who know about your climate and what varieties of seeds/plants will work there. This knowledge will save you a ton of money.

    Also, just to test your sunlight and to get your toe in the water, you can try growing a few vegetables using the bag gardening method (using bags of garden soil from the big box store) by cutting out a rectangle and planting into the bag. (For larger veggie plants, you can stack two bags). Here is a link to one article: https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/gardening-techniques/bag-gardening-zmaz10amzraw However, DON’T use bags of top soil–not enough nutrients.

    Also check out your community and see if there are any community gardens where you can rent a plot for a year. This is a great option for meeting other gardeners who might be willing to give you advice. If you decide you want to create a garden plot at home, you can cut down on the expense of soil by creating your own using compost bins. Look on the web for how to create compost (or go to those garden classes for this) and set up a number of compost bins. Borrow leaves from the neighbors and add rabbit pellets (usually available from your local feed store) for the nitrogen. Water and turn those bins and in about six-nine months, you will have some good soil to build your own beds. Again, you need to research/find classes on how to do this, but this will save you a lot of money in buying soil.

    I would also like to mention the Mittleider gardening method of growing vegetables vertically in small spaces. (BTW, I don’t get any money from mentioning them).You can grow veggies directly in Mittleider beds built with a sawdust mix, using drip irrigation and their specific fertilizer. Some people also use soil, but still use their fertilizer. They have a book and also provide classes at a location in Missouri. I have seen these veggie beds, and they do work. It is a specific method and you do have to follow it exactly. Here is one brief explanation at https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/mittleider-garden-method.htm and at http://healthyhomesteading.com/2011/05/the-mittleider-method-of-garden/
    The actual web site is outdated, but it is http://growfood.com
    You do have to build the beds using wood 4 x 4s sunk into the ground, so this is not a project for renters. I just know this works for some serious people who want to grow a lot of food in a small space. Of course, there are other methods of gardening in small spaces, so look for those resources and try them out. This is one way to get some experience even if you don’t have a lot of land.

  • You hit the nail on the head with this one! This life is NOT an easy life. And then, just when you THINK you have it all figured out, WHAM! Another curve ball! I’ve been doing the ‘farmish’ kind of life for 5 years now. In Texas, we fought critters, drought, severe heat, flooding but we were on our way to being primarily self-sufficient. However, we never had a good source of water. We spent $1200 to figure out we couldn’t even get a well there! Water is LIFE! No water, no farming, no animals, no water for cooking, drinking, sanitation, and that is no good. So after 4 years we took a leap and bought our dream property in another state. It is barely above the next gardening zone line, but it is a whole new world!
    Not to mention,
    ~Our new pup ate all of the pullets we bought this year. She doesn’t bother the older ones though.
    ~We raise rabbits for meat, only I CAN NOT butcher the cute little fluffy bunnies. No one in my household will.
    ~We have no support system out here. If we leave the house for a few days, there is no one to come take care of our animals.
    ~We try to be pesticide free. Organic gardening is hard!
    ~And how about when your garden does do well, you have all this stuff to preserve and put up! Then make sure you use it!

    I hope people saving seed packets thinking they are going to just go out and pop a seed in the ground and feed their family all year read this post!

  • 50 years of homesteading and still have failures…between weather and wild animals it is a struggle every year to have a productive orchard and garden. Foxes got the grapes, deer having a banquet in the orchard. Tomato worms the worst we’ve ever seen. Fortunately, we learned early the importance of storage food. If your garden fails it is another year without those valuable crops….a year!

  • Interesting essay.
    Let me make two comments…thirty years ago I planted forty apple trees in my new orchard. I found it was impossible to fence because elk are the size of horses and can breach any fence I could build. Today three of those trees are still alive and less than two feet tall.
    Secondly there was no mention of keeping the harvest. What, for instance, should you do with the four-hundred pounds of potatoes you grew…or two-hundred pounds of beets you dug? And does it make any sense in planting a hundred foot row of lettuce since that will last only several days after it’s picked? And lastly, about those elk! That could well become five-hundred pounds of excellent meat…but do you know how to butcher it and then store it, without electricity or refrigeration, in mid-summer before it rots?

  • Thank you once again for a no b.s. article. I am hoping to start my own homestead soon. Problem is land is so darn expensive,even here in Cochise County,Az. Nevertheless, I hope to find something by early 2019

  • Love this article! At my age (76), I have neither the intention nor the strength to do homesteading, but if I ever get a dementia attack and consider it, I hope to remember to re-read this article and immediately drop that crazy idea.

  • Daisy,
    This was an excellent article of truth. I grew up learning with my dad on our own homestead. We learned also that roosters can be aggressive and just plain mean, as well as a lot of your same lessons. My husband would like to start a homestead and i keep telling him, he really doesn’t want to work that hard. We are in our mid50s and i like living in the suburbs with my successful raised garden, established fruit trees, and nice neighbors.
    You are a wonderful writer who shares knowledge and experience in an honest and entertaining manner!

  • If you plan to raise chickens, but several animal traps. In the last 3 months alone I have trapped 4 raccoons -and 2 opposums that try to get in the coop for the eggs and chickens. They will work for you at night when you are sleeping.

  • Great article!
    I shared this with other like minded friends. Most of them agreed with you, but there is always that ONE guy –

    “STUPD ARTICLE! WHEN THE SHTF SHE WONT BE WORRYING BOUT GARDENING, OR WORMS! NOT WHEN BANDS OF MUTANT ZOMBIE BIKERS ARE MARAUDERING THE COUNTRYSIDE!!”

    Yeah, he is kinda special.

    Keep up the good work!

  • A very good summary of starting basic homesteading, Daisy. Keep up the good work. It is like the old adage about starting a business; one has got to figure that the first two years one can’t rely on the homestead at all. Better have two years of food in reserve, if you plan on starting homesteading at the beginning of the RESET. My wife and myself rented a farmhouse with acreage for many years to come to the conclusion that we are not homesteaders. No matter how much we put up, it was never enough to get through the winter. It is a well known fact that Native Americans went through the a period of famine every year in early spring. Once the RESET occurs we all better plan for that. I remember our first year of raising chickens. A neighbor dog broke through the fence and killed half our chickens. Strong fences make good neighbors. Another year a mink had a field day with our chickens. No fence will stop a hungry mink. This year all our orange trees are not producing because of a drought this summer, after a bumper crop last year. Still learning how much to irrigate properly. There is a reason humans congregate in cities.

    • Not to cast a shadow on prepping since my neighbors and our family have been working on it since the 2007 crash. One thing stands out as an existential threat. The vast majority of preppers have prepared with a car or truck loaded with “Getting out of town” equipment consisting of three or four days of food, a tank full of gas…and a thousand rounds of their favorite ammunition. If your homestead or retreat lies about a tank-full of fuel away from a large city, where is their escape going to peter out? Their fuel is gone, their food is gone and they are stranded at your gate…perhaps by the dozens…or hundreds. If those refuges are men, they are very likely to behave like men have behaved for the past several thousand years…meaning that they will kill the men in your enclave and spare the women…for obvious reasons. They will very likely spare the girls for similar reasons and may or may not spare the boys. If this society truly collapses and people starve as they have starved in numerous other nations in the past, you men must be utterly prepared to defend yourselves and your families and you women must be utterly prepared to defend your men, your children and yourselves. And if it comes to that you must be better at your defense than your adversary is, at taking what it is that they want.

  • The boys raised two pigs in a small portable corral, moving the fences every week after the pigs had rooted up the brush. The idea was to use pigs to prep the mountain meadow to be a garden. Windfall apples, kitchen waste, everything we could gather was fed to the pigs.

    All was fine until it came to be hog killing time. One pig is a mountain of meat to process. The remaining pig got extremely ornery, until he was harvested.

    One of four yearling dwarf apple trees was nearly stripped clean of leaves by a passing deer, so deer fencing is up now. Nothing keeps out squirrels who clip the branches to drop apples onto the ground for their later snacking.

    We and the kids spent two days double digging a big bulb garden. After the first crop came up, it was eaten to the ground with just many green rings and doe and fawn tracks in the mud.

    Planting the three sisters drew coons over the garden fence where they flattened everything to get to the corn. That was after the wind blew down the corn. My neighbor said, that’s why farmers buy wind insurance. Who knew there was wind insurance for a corn crop?

    Every crop and venture has a steep learning curve; Mother Nature is always collecting tuition.

    It took the English Pilgrims two years to get crops out of the New England ground.

  • Daisy, you have such a wealth of information on your site that I find it difficult in deciding what to read first. Just found The Self-Reliance Weekly Report from 2006 and hope to discover lots more information to help me.

    I started homesteading around ten years ago and find myself starting over and over again, but that’s ok, for I learn how not to make the same mistakes. The homestead has been in my family for generations and was left to my husband over thirty years ago, so not having payments on the farmhouse or the land is such a blessing.

    I have to be honest and admit that moving to the homestead was out of fear after hurricane Rita hit and then the 2008 financial crisis which was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for me. Maybe that is one point Daisy is making in this post, don’t panic and make a decision out of fear, but weigh all options before you decide.

    So I am on the homestead for good or bad, I feel more for the good for I have learned so many valuable skills that is getting me further along in how to become self-sufficient.

    Hope to keep learning with all the information on here.
    Thank you Daisy

  • Coming late to this thread, but I think it is great advice and so are a lot of the comments. I have been on the Homestead for 40 years now and have become and old man waiting for the SHTF moment ( any time now… 😉 ).
    Over that length of time I have learned a lot (funny that..). I am glad our farm is not too remote, we are a mile up a dirt road, but link to a highway which leads to small towns ; which give us access to schools, Drs, hospitals, shops etc. My children grew up ( went to college) and both got ist jobs in the local town. My wife and I both worked “off farm” at times which was vital for our finances. Being too remote adds another level of difficulty. Having good internet.. makes a huge difference to life these days.
    I am in NZ, so different climate, but I found I can grow citrus… lots of sweet oranges.. even tho the locals said I coudn’t. ( too cold.. hard frosts). This is due to the new rootstocks (trifoliata), which cold harden the citrus, but also had to learn about micronutrients. We are zinc deficient, and some friends with better climate get no crop because of this. Citrus need lots of fertilizer to get good crops of sweet fruit. Variety choice is critical too.. and this applies to many fruit trees.
    After 30 years I found we can grow raspberries! This years I have picked 2lbs every second day and have a freezer full. Last year was a wet summer and there were hardly any. It is a late Autumn Raspberry, a newer variety which just seems to suit our climate. So… live and learn.
    Thanks to Daisy and everyone for the comments

  • Hahah I have brought many of your points up to a group of veterans/dads who love talking guns and survival. Having a big bucket of seeds will do you 0 good unless you have actually tried to plant them on the land you own in several seasons. Is tehre enough sun, for which plants, enough shade for cucumbers? Where are the low wet spots, this year only 20% of crops are planted in the midwest when we should be done. Where do tomatoes do best.

    I am trying potatoes in stacks of tires with straw, manure, potatoes layered and 1 inch spaces between tires, 4-5 foot tall. I did it with fencing a few years ago at the end of the season you just undo the fence or knock over the tires to get your potatoes.

    I plant my lettuce in the shade of my cucumbers, lets you harvest lettuce much longer.

    Do they know how to can? if you havent had a garden 3-4 years where you intend to survive, you are in trouble. its like having a bunch of rifles, but never having fired one before.

  • Great article! I’ll never forget the year I decided I was going to raise chickens (we had them when I was a kid, how hard could it be?). I built a run from an old dog run on the property, thought it would work perfectly. One morning shortly after setting it up, my 3 year old daughter came running into the house, saying “mommy, mommy the chickens are all sleeping in the yard and they’re naked “. Yeah, raccoons came to call and apparently a cage that was intended to hold a dog couldn’t keep out the raccoons. Awesome. Not one of my shining moments.

  • This is the best article on homesteading I’ve ever read, including my own. The reality ‘check’ factor is outstanding and presented in a format that should be MANDATORY study for any wannabe prepper who becomes seriously motivated. Which, unfortunately, as Daisy explained, will likely be too late if one procrastinates too much.

    The other great myth that desperately needs debunking is the one where all these ‘chairborne Rangers’ and Internet big game hunters they think they could fire up the old 4X4 pick-up, throw in enough beer and Slim-Jims to last a while and simply bug out to the old hunting cabin or build an expedient camp somewhere deep in the woods or mountains and just hunt and fish and live off the land because they put together a basic ‘Bushcraft Bag’ and watched a few you-tube videos on the subject, LOL! It’ would be a sad thing when they suddenly realize a couple days into their little adventure that not only will they be very UNsuccessful at getting any game, but they, themselves become the hunted prey.

    If you are seriously contemplating a permanent physical move into semi-self sufficient lifestyle, you probably won’t make it alone. Especially when you can no longer just drive up/down to your ‘Fleet Farm’ store any time you need re-supply. You’ll need some kind of core survival group to sustain yourself. It doesn’t have to be a large group. A basic family unit would work, or a handful of like-minded individuals willing and able to make the commitment. It’ll be difficult enough, even with help. But your odds of surviving a major nationwide catastrophic breakdown by trying to keep a hobby farm going all by your lonesome, are not as good as winning the Powerball .

    And, of course, most of your successful resource and operational planning will mainly depend on your ability to afford the initial set up. With a small group, you can all pitch in to buy the land ahead of everything, and gradually build it all up. Should be at least an acre for each independent member. And then go from there as explained in this article AFTER you’ve at least stocked up with six months of food for everyone for the non-growing season, and, of course, enough ‘security supplies’ to ward off looting predators. Then I’d start with chickens.

  • The idea of starting early on homesteading is great.
    The problem is no one knows when and where SHTF will start or where and how much impact it will make on you, personally.
    So unless you move to the real middle of nowhere, like Alaska.
    Chances are that you will have to move/ bug out and relocate at some point, leaving all your “homesteading stuff’ behind. So although the experience would be great, starting over will be harder, in many ways.

    Once the cities are no longer livable for the most part, where will the masses go? Will they form roving bands? Will the migrate to other smaller cities? Will they just die off?
    What about the War Lords/ Dictators/ Gangs that are likely to evolve, how wide will they range from their home base and where will that base be located?

    You see their are to many variables to think that you can establish a homestead and never have to bug out and start all over again. I don’t know how many would want to try that a second time or even if they did, who is to say they will not meet the same problems in the “new” location.

    Nothing will be static post SHTF.
    Gangs will relocate to follow the resources/ people they prey upon.
    Regular people will relocate as the resources of where they first moved to ,run out or become overburdened by the sheer numbers of new people moving in.
    Then you will have plagues , famine, wild fires and other natural disasters,(tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc) causing people to flee and relocate.
    Then there are the Gypsies groups that roam the US. There was a reason they were hated and shunned in the past. They will come through and steal you blind and move on. you may never even know they are there, until you see what is missing.
    Now not all of thus will happen right after the start of SHTf, some of it may happen in 6 months or a year or so later.

    So if you think you have found the perfect homestead location, where you will not have problems with people stealing your food and livestock, think again.

    To much of our planning is based upon what we expect to happen in the first few months of SHTF, very little is based upon longer term planning. If you are going to “homestead”, you better look at a “Prepper community” of homesteaders, that has plans to create area defenses and to work together to handle problems.
    General ” farming communities” and rural areas will not be prepared for what will come there way and there is very little chance that with out pre planning your defenses as a group, that you will survive the coming mobs, raiders and thieves.

    Without doing that, you are probably just building a homestead up, for who ever, or what ever group that comes along post SHTF, that can take it from you..

  • That was a good article,based upon current society.
    However good luck buying all that stuff, soil improvements, animals, etc, after SHTF.
    Besides that it is the Two legged vermin that you have to worry about, as they will do the most damage after SHTF.
    This is the much more important and bigger issue.
    As we have seen with Antifa, they are not limited to the inner cities but have been attacking people in the suburbs.
    How much more so, will the hungry mobs travel to the rural areas for food after SHTF.
    If your homestead is with in 50 to 100 miles of a majorly populated area look out. Especially if you are accessible by a reasonably good road. Something a car or light truck can navigate with ease.
    Which is probably most of you.

    Most preppers and homesteaders will not survive, not due to a lack of planning or experience, but due to the location they picked and the lack of understanding about SHTF.
    The Hungry, angry mobs (BLM, Antifa and other groups) will travel long distances, feeding off from the ” free” resources ( whatever they can steal) of any group, town or homestead they encounter.
    It will be nearly impossible to fend off fifty, a hundred or more of these types of people.
    Look at how they act in Portland, when some one tries to stand up to them or gets in their way.
    Study these riots carefully as they are the key to the types of people and actions you will see post SHTF.

    So for all your homestead building and prepping, you better looking into defenses against mobs.
    The trouble is, there really are none. Except not to be in their path.

  • This was a wonderful article & you have it right. We homestead in Maine. It takes tons of work, skill, labor, and drive. We have 2 LGD’s for predation, which solved that problem. I know a lot of people who homestead, and one big problem is that many are dependent upon incubators to hatch out their eggs, (as hatchery birds just don’t have much brooding instinct). Our solution to that was: We use bantam cochins to hatch out most of our eggs: chicken, turkey, and duck. Our geese hatch out their own eggs. If doing this after SHTF, remember, you will have problems buying feed, hay, straw, and possibly no electric for the chicks. Again, having mother hens solves that problem also. There is NO instant gratification in the homesteading life! Our orchard took 5 years to produce.
    Thanks for the artricle!

  • Everything mentioned above is absolutely correct! Read and learn! Then plant at least four times what you think YOU need. More if you expect others to join you.
    Every year I plant some new items to see if I can grow them, while eliminating others that just do not do well in my garden. Experience is key. How much do you need and what will grow in your in your area, plus – what do you actually like to eat? How much garden space do you have? It is not enough. Look into companion planting and which plants will climb a fence.
    Planting “one” package of black beans/frijoles will not yield enough to last more than a few meals. Do you rely on dried beans? You need to plant a lot more than you think.
    Plus, the packages are not always accurate to contents. I purchased cabbage seeds and instead got bok choy. Plus one “package” does not yield enough for a year. It is just a standard size to fit on the shelf, with a few ounces or less of seed. The package does not even tell you what it will yield – under ideal conditions
    I love tomatoes. I don’t make spaghetti sauce or salsa because I like a brand which can be purchased in the store. Instead, I just can tomatoes to use in other dishes. For a year? I currently have 28 San Marzano paste tomato plants and that will not be enough – provided they do not get bugs or a blight or drought. Plus cherry tomatoes and slicing tomatoes for the table.
    One “bag” of seed potatoes will not produce enough to get you through a month- if you love potatoes.
    Our neighbor got two dozen chicks and they purchased a cute hen house. They have one left. Several died while tiny, the others were taken by hawks. The mistake they made was not putting in a covered run for the hens – and they were farm kids! We do not raise meat. I will pressure can what I get from the store. I actively look for vegan recipes and try them out, then try to grow or purchase the necessary ingredients.

    Then there is the fruit! You need time for those shrubs and trees to grow to produce, plus another variety for cross pollination. Be aware of regular versus dwarf plants. We cannot get to the top of our cherry tree, we should have planted a dwarf or a shrub. The birds take the fruit before we get to them. We are lucky to get enough for two pies. Plus, they all need to be fenced in. Tall, sturdy fences to keep out the deer, and hopefully it will discourage the raccoons, too. Should we put a netting over the top to keep the birds out? Do you have the netting? The cherries, currants, and black-cap raspberries all come in at the same time. Two of us are not enough to keep up with picking it all and making jelly…at the expense of the vegetable weeding.
    Do you plant wheat? Can you harvest it? Do you have a source of yeast and can you make bread?

    Also Important-
    You must be able to preserve your harvest. Can you: Can – waterbacth and pressure can? Dehydrate? Pickle? Freeze? (What if the freezer goes out?). Do you have the jars and equipment? You can never have too many jars if you make vegetable/fruit gardening and canning a priority.
    Plus, important this year, can you get lids? When I wash my jars, after being emptied, I put on a new flat lid and a ring. They are stored ready to go. Those canners who do not do that are frantically searching for more lids. Make sure you keep your jars ready to go and have a year’s worth of lids available. I would pick up two boxes every week at the grocery – when they were available.
    Do you have a place to store your produce ? Shelves in a cool place or a root cellar?

    My daughter chided me recently for have two years worth of food and not making enough time to spend with them at the lake on long weekends. 1) We don’t have two years of most things. 2) We are retired, and the garden in our “income”. 3) They can come here and work with us. It is more work than anyone thinks.

  • I should have mentioned – know your growing zone and how long each crop takes! Here in 4B. we need a head start on tomatoes and many other vegetables in order for them to be harvested in September. There are many plants that just will not reach maturity if I directly sow the seeds in a bed. Plus, the seeds could be washed away with a heavy rain, so have more seeds ready to replant.
    We need to be able to start our seeds indoors and have grow lights to help them along.
    Do you need a protective cover to plant the seedling outside in early May? To add more heat and keep away the frost? What about in September when we get a Surprise! early frost. Can you protect the plants then?
    Plus you need enough kitchen space and helpers to put up all of that produce before it rots.
    Gardening and preserving enough food for a family – requires a family’s worth of work.

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