Homesteading comes with a lot of questions. When you are new to homesteading it helps to bounce questions and ideas off others who have gone before you. The homesteading community is vast and we love to teach others through our mistakes!
Today we are hosting Courtney from My Neiss Life!
She’s a new homesteader living on 31 acres in Ohio. We met in a Facebook group and once we learned we each had chickens we became fast friends!
As our conversations progressed, we thought it’d be fun to share with you the questions we had for one another. Our hope is that you will learn from our discussion and ask us your own homesteading questions!
THHH: What attracted you to homesteading and how did you decide to make the leap from ophthalmology to 31 acres?
Courtney: I have a long history of homesteading in my blood. My father’s side of the family has pig farms and breeds buffalo, and my mother’s family has had farms and personal livestock as far back as I’ve been able to look. I’ve always wanted to be more self sufficient, but never took the leap. I left ophthalmology when my son was born to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to be the biggest influence on him in those early years. When we moved to our new home on the 31 acres it came with a chicken coop and run and you know what they say, “Have coop, will buy chickens”! We always wanted chickens and we took it as a sign it was time to finally commit.
THHH: Wow! What a leap! We’ve heard it said that chickens are the gateway animals to more farm animals. What other animals do you have on your homestead?
Courtney: Currently I have 9 chickens and 8 ducks. I have 2 half acre ponds that have bass, bluegill, catfish and more turtles than I have ever seen in them. I also have a dog, and my husband and son (they are messy and I take care of them so I figure they count). We get a lot of wildlife as well between the ponds and the forest. Any recommendations on what the next addition should be?
THHH: Ha!ha!ha! Sometimes our family is messier than our chickens! When it comes to animals we think through their purpose and ask a few questions to determine our next addition. Do we have a milk source? If not, goats or cows are viable options. Do we enjoy riding and need an alternate form of transportation? If so, horses may be the next step. Each addition is a process so be sure to think it through and plan what you need to do to house and care for your new additions. Thus far, what would you say has been your biggest challenge?
Courtney: I’m struggling with the bedding in the chicken coop right now. I saw different suggestions on this and ended up using sand, but I’m not sure I am very happy with it. It has definite benefits like how fast it dries out, and I like the fact that it helps keep their feet cleaner. I am finding that scooping the poop out is not nearly as simple as people made it seem. Likely because groundwater is very high here so while the top sand is dry, it is damp just under so the sand doesn’t sift through the scoop like it should. I would love to know what you use for your coop and why?
THHH: Chicken coop bedding really depends on your climate and physical abilities. We live in Arkansas, a humid hot southern state. Our water table is high as well. We don’t want to clean the coop out every week, so we opted for a deep litter method (DLM). It means we have a dirt floor with hay or pine shavings strewn about. The poop activates the dirt/hay/pine floor to break down. We only clean out the coop twice a year in the spring and fall. Essentially we have a giant compost bin going on! You can read up on it here. Be sure if you choose this method you have plenty of ventilation, otherwise the decomposition puts off too much heat & you and your birds could be in real trouble! Putting troubles aside, what has been your biggest accomplishment?
Courtney: Taking risks to create the lifestyle we wanted to raise our kids in. It has all really been about our son and any future kids, from quitting my job, to buying land, to starting a homestead. If I spend my days washing grass stains out of little jeans because my son plays outside all day, or going to the garden to pick potatoes and green beans for dinner tonight then I will feel like I’ve succeeded!
THHH: That’s the pure joy of homesteading! And homesteading is about sharing in the community, so if you could give one piece of advice to new homesteaders what would it be?
Courtney: If I could give one piece of advice to people nervous to start it’s that the learning is easier if you do it as you go. Instead of trying to learn it all before you start. It’s easy to tell yourself you don’t know enough about raising chickens, or planting a garden, or whatever you’re dreaming of doing, and that you still need to do more research first. I would still probably be a victim of this if it wasn’t for my chicken coop. But I bought my chickens and they are all still alive and so am I! I’m learning as I go and there are so many great resources just like this blog that it doesn’t take long to find the next puzzle piece you need. Now that I’ve got my homestead started, any advice for me on what to do next?
That’s great advice! Just do it.
We often get stuck in research mode and sometimes you just have to put our best foot forward and start getting dirty! When you start a homestead the most important rule of thumb is start gradually. Don’t feel you have to run out and buy a cow, a horse and some chickens. It takes times to learn each animal’s needs as well as the needs of your family.
Moving forward you’ll want to access your family’s goals.
Are you wanting healthy food? Then maybe it’s time to start your garden and learn the skill of canning & preserving food. Think on the foods you like to eat. Maybe it’s time to start growing some apple trees? Or if strawberries are your favorite snack, read up on strawberry plants. It’s really up to you. We tend to alternate between “big” changes (adding another animal) and a “small” change (adding another plant). Just remember no matter what you implement next, give yourself time, grace and mercy as you learn the lay of the land on your homestead!
Do you have questions for us? Place your questions in the comments and we will answer what we can!