Tag Archives: rural living

Homestead Requirement One Is Manual Labor

Most people would say homestead requirement one is land. After back to the land homesteading most of my life, I know number one is manual labor.

Everything that happens on a homestead requires manual labor. Take my garden as one example.

Every fall into winter the old plants must be pulled and carted off, weeds pulled, paths covered with cardboard, beds mulched and set up for spring. The fall/winter crops must be covered during freezes, uncovered on warmer days.

Raised Garden Bed Planted for fall takes manual labor
Homesteaders usually garden. This lets them try vegetables and varieties not commonly available. I have a raised be I plant for a fall through winter greens. Over the winter a plastic cover is pulled over on cold nights, even covered with old blankets for really cold nights. It must be weeded and watered. This takes work. Any serious gardening takes lots of manual labor.

Seeds are ordered and started in winter. Transplants and seeds are planted in spring. Weeding is a constant activity. Watering is done by hand as there is no hose.

Too much work? Livestock is popular with new homesteaders.

Since I have dairy goats, I am out in the barn twice a day, every day for milking. Chickens require the same twice a day attention. During freezing weather, the twice a day turns into three or four times a day for extra feed and water.

Add to these items putting up and maintaining fences, brush hogging and/or haying, building clean out and repairs. All of these require manual labor.

Nubian doe High Reaches Drucilla
Meet a favorite homesteading addition, a typical dairy goat, Nubian doe High Reaches Drucilla. She needs milking and feeding twice a day, every day. She needs fresh water. During the winter she requires hay. Her barn needs cleaning out regularly. All of this requires manual labor.

Lots of people are moving out to the country, but most don’t want to be country. They are city people wanting to live in the country as though they still live in the city.

Others think they want to homestead. Most don’t make it more than a year or two. The constant manual labor discourages them.

Why does this matter to me? After nearly thirty years here, we have grown old and can no longer do much of this manual labor.

We are left wondering what will become of the place. Properties near us are now hunting camps or weekend playgrounds. One new neighbor is trying to turn a section of creek into a city park.

This place is home. We’ve put a lot of time and work into the place and would like to have someone who loves it like we do homestead it in the future. But the first consideration is whether or not they realize this requires a lot of manual labor.

Going Back To The Land

Judging by the various copyright dates in a variety of homesteading books, going back to the land has been popular several times over the decades. It has changed character.

The oldest books like “Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold, “Plowman’s Folly” by Edward Faulkner and titles by Louis Bromfield are more about farming in the old way. They espouse using manures for fertilizers, smaller fields one man can take care of, conservation practices to reclaim and protect this land. They called into question the abusive, wasteful practices commercial farmers were using.

healthy food
Raising your own food lets you choose which, if any, sprays to use. Chemicals are everywhere now. It’s nice to know home raised food doesn’t add to the list. Another plus is picking produce when it is really ripe and full of flavor.

The farms got bigger. The reliance on artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides increased. Irrigation allowed raising water hungry crops in dry areas.

Another big push for going back to the land came in the 1970s. One popular book was “The “Have-More’ Plan” by the Robinsons. The book itself was part of the previous movement, but addressed the needs of those moving back to small places seeking to be self reliant. That last is a pipe dream.

Small homesteads are becoming popular again with the same dreams of self reliance. It is possible to raise much of your own food. An orchard provides fruit which can be eaten then or preserved in jams, jellies and by drying for later. A well planned garden can do the same.

Poultry for eggs and meat. Goats or a cow for milk. Cow? Aren’t goats better?

A cow gives lots of milk and provides a calf for meat. Smaller breeds like Jerseys are good homestead cows. The cream rises for butter. And the cow must be bred and turned dry for two or three months cutting off the milk supply.

going back to the land isn't complete without goats
Goats have been called the queens of the homestead. They provide milk and meat. They also provide manure, mulch (expensive mulch hay, groan), weed control, waste produce disposal, companionship, amusement and can be trained for harness.

Commonly it’s said that six goats can be raised on what one cow needs. I’ve never compared the two myself. I do know six goats can be a lot of work. More than a cow? I don’t know.

Goats need better fencing. Goats need more attention. Goat meat is good to eat. Cream doesn’t rise in goat milk so butter takes a cream separator. However, breeding three goats early and three goats late will provide milk year round. Keeping a good buck can be a nuisance.

Going back to the land promotes gardening
The fun part of gardening is trying out all these new varieties never seen in the market. Bell peppers come in at least eight colors. Hundreds of tomato varieties cover pages of seed catalogs. Commercial okra tastes terrible, but other varieties are less slimy and more tasty.

Why is self reliance a pipe dream? List all the things you need every day. Would you raise sheep to make thread to weave cloth to make your own clothes? Would you go back to using horses or mules instead of a truck and tractor? Would you give up your electricity and running water or else put in your own source of power?

Going back to the land does provide a good way to live. Food you raise yourself tastes much better than you can buy. You can raise varieties not available otherwise And you know how that food is raised. I’m all for that.

Hazel Whitmore and her mother didn’t intend going back to the land, but had to in “Old Promises.”