Shannon Slee Homesteading without credentials columnist at Lewis County Scoop

Start Small

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Start Small

Spring greetings from your local unqualified homesteader! As I’ve contemplated homesteading ideas to share with Lewis County Scoop readers,  I’ve frequently found myself dazed at the breadth of topics I could cover. Since starting our homestead from scratch in 2016, we have been on a veritable rollercoaster of learning, building a house, adding one species of animal after another, gardening, planting a home orchard, preserving food, cooking untold numbers of healthy, homegrown meals for our big family, milling lumber, making soap, starting a farmers market, and the list goes on. It honestly boggles my mind when I think about how far we’ve come from our former lives as “city kids” with virtually no practical country living or agricultural experience of any kind to where we are today. And when my mind starts processing all the things I’d like to share about this journey, I find it overloading and… shutting off. Frustrated, I walk away from the computer and my new article goes undrafted.

Well, reflecting on this annoying turn of events where I can’t get my thoughts together, I finally find myself with an article topic! Just as you can’t sum up the entirety of a complex existence in a short article—it would be far too overwhelming—neither should you expect to establish a vast homesteading portfolio all at once. What I recommend you do is START SMALL. How small? For us, it was eight chickens. In fact, it was my parents’ eight chickens and a silly little dream.

I should amend my previous statement about our nonexistent agricultural experience with this little story: I chicken sat for three days ten years ago. A full decade after I had graduated from high school, at which point I had been married and out of my childhood home for eight years, my parents got a small flock of chickens. I think there were eight birds in it. One three-day weekend they went out of town and asked us to “chicken sit” for them. The hens came to stay with us in our tiny chain link fenced-in yard smack in the middle of Quincy. I think they nearly caused a few accidents as people drove through our intersection gawking at them strutting happily through our nice green grass. I distinctly remember thinking, “I wouldn’t mind having a few chickens of my own.”

Jordan was not so sure. He promptly squashed my “silly” dreams of filling our fenced-in area with city chickens. Little did he—or I—know the scale of poultry to come, which would include hundreds of chickens in dozens of breeds: heritage laying hens, rare breeds, Cornish cross flocks of meat birds, dual purpose American Bresse chickens, dealing with injuries and problems, incubating and hatching eggs for ourselves and others, crossing breeds to make new egg colors, providing a “rooster disappearing service” to friends, not to mention dabbling in guineas, turkeys, ducks, and peafowl. Our daughter was featured on the catalog cover of one of the nation’s best-known hatcheries. And did I mention I have my eyes on starting a flock of quail?

You see, all this poultry business is a lot to talk about! I can’t tell you about every one of those things in a little article! It would snowball into a book. What I can tell you is, we didn’t start where we are now. We started small. Our chicken coop and run was one of our first big homestead projects about a year after we got settled in our new home, and we broke it in with—you guessed it—EIGHT chickens. That’s all. A rooster and seven hens were the foundation flock that got this great big mess of feathery, eggy, meaty fun started.

I tell people that chickens are the gateway drug that leads you from being normal, boring people to becoming adventurous, ridiculous people. Once you decide you are going to “try” chickens, you start to read books about chickens, to join Facebook groups where you can learn about chickens, to watch Instagram reels about chickens, and to connect with other people who have chickens. Suddenly you’ve found the elemental recipe to homestead adventure: you’ve learned to dream, to research, to take a leap, to troubleshoot, to connect with mentors, to fail, to adjust, and to succeed. You’ve learned that your boldness to try something new didn’t completely blow up in your face and destroy your life; rather, you just fed your family a delicious egg breakfast that healthy creatures at your home supplied you fresh this week. It’s a good feeling. An empowering feeling. But be advised! Now that you’re enjoying your eggs, you might just start wondering how to grow veggies, fruit, meat, and milk at home as well. But those are topics for future articles.

And always remember, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

To learn more about Shannon visit our Introduction of her as she heads up her column "Homesteading without Credentials" here at The Lewis County Scoop.

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The articles published on The Lewis County Scoop ( website are opinion pieces (Op-eds) and represent the personal views and opinions of the individual columnists. These views do not necessarily reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of The Lewis County Scoop or its legal entity, Lewis County Scoop, LLC. Read Full disclaimer here