The Best Homesteaders are Good Researchers

Reader Contribution by Jenny Underwood
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by Steve Fecht for W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Community seed swaps are a great way to learn from those that do. Here, seed swappers share advice at W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Harvesting Change: Food & Community Gathering, May 2014 in Detroit, Mich.

Research. You might not have thought much about that concept since your school days, or perhaps you’re the kind of person who loves to dig deeply into a ton of topics. Whatever your preferences, the fact remains that research is an excellent way to learn about things we don’t know a lot about.

For example, let’s say you’re a beginning or aspiring homesteader. You could just sell everything you own, pack up your family, and move sight-unseen into an off-grid lifestyle. It could be done. I don’t recommend it, though.

Research Considerations for Homesteaders

Location. Instead, research the location, the neighbors (or lack of), the climate, the amenities, the closeness to town or supplies, the expense of living in the area, and the crops that grow there (just to name a few considerations). This will most likely help to ensure that you’re a success, not a failure.

Crops. Then, its time to research your preferred garden crops, the time of year to plant them, the type of soil they prefer, the varieties that are best suited for your area, and opportunities to produce a specialty food.  You need to research pests and fertilizer and crop rotation and harvest and preserving!  Trust me, there’s a ton of work that goes into a garden.

Livestock. If you’re going to get animals for your homestead, you’re certainly going to need even more research. Now you need fencing, breeding implements, shelter, food and butchering tools, along with technology for preserving the meat or other produce, such as eggs, milk or honey.

Limitations to Book Learning

Research is an absolutely wonderful tool, and you can use a ton of resources such as books, online blogs, and mentors. I would never suggest you skipping this vital step. However, there are limitations.

First off, you can literally research yourself to death. In fact, you can research so much that you never take the actual step of doing your project. Case in point: The first time I got chickens, I had read, read, read about them to the point that I was convinced they would die before I got them home. They didn’t.

People write a great number of wonderful books and they try to cover all possible happenings, but most likely, you’ll never see most or any of them. I’ve raised chickens several times and actually never had a single one die of disease. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read up on it to stay on top of a potential problem, but it does mean that you can’t let a possibility cripple you from taking that scary first step.

Some things just can’t be learned from reading or watching someone else do them. That’s just a fact! Before I became a parent, I read boocus of books on parenting.  I knew exactly what to do when they cried — except I didn’t until I actually became a parent and learned from that beautiful word called “experience”. Never, ever underestimate experience. That’s another reason when you are doing research that you do your best to try and find a mentor who really has “been there, done that”.

So remember: Check out reputable resources, read, watch, listen and observe — and then get out there and do it for yourself! Who knows, one day you might be the expert everyone is coming to.

Jenny Underwood is a homeschooling mom of four who lives in a fifth-generation homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, where she gardens, forages, hunts and preserves food for her family. Connect with Jenny at Our Inconvenient Family.

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  • Updated on Jan 27, 2022
  • Originally Published on Jan 24, 2022
Tagged with: Jenny Underwood, Missouri, Reader Contributions