Homesteading Without Credentials in Missouri

When to Take the Leap into Homesteading

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As I began to draft a homesteading article to kick off the new year, my rose-colored glasses were firmly on and I was ready to sing of a glorious lifestyle that you would most certainly love and should most definitely pursue. I was halfway through an enthusiastic piece on “When to Take the Leap” into homesteading and my thesis was to emphatically encourage people to “GO FOR IT!” Then 2024 rolled around and reality kicked me in the rear and stomped on me while I was down. Ever since, I’ve been eating a giant humble pie whose ingredients include weeks of illness, multiple heartbreaking livestock losses, financial strain, and homeschool struggles, and that cake was iced with subarctic weather making EVERYTHING harder and less pleasant. In the midst of it I scrapped what I had begun to write and entertained a new thesis possibility: DON’T DO IT! IT’S TOO MUCH!!

But no storm lasts forever and thankfully our bodies have mended, the ache of loss has become less keen, we’ve reflected and regrouped on our budget, and some of those stubborn wrinkles in schooling are gradually and painstakingly being ironed out. Then I read James 1:2, which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” I believe this will be the theme of my song.

On social media, I often share the interesting and beautiful aspects of homesteading. There is no denying it: raising the amazing animals and plants with which God has gifted humanity is filled with unparalleled joys. It is also plain to see that including children in the process of learning and stewarding this creation is wholesome, healthful, and promotes maturity like few other things are capable of doing for them. But make no mistake, if, from the outside looking in, any life or lifestyle looks perfect, easy, and painless, you’re either the victim of deceptive marketing practices or interpreting the situation without complete information.

When we invite people into our lives in any capacity, it is so important to be honest with them about the challenges we all face. This helps eliminate false expectations and sets others up to persevere rather than to crumble under the weight of disappointment that will surely come. For example, when I breastfed the first of my five premature infants, I struggled, BIG TIME. In spite of a great deal of counterproductive advice and discouraging voices, I stubbornly and painstakingly persisted, learning and growing from much trial and error along the way (not the least of which was feeding my child in a bathroom stall for the comfort of ignorant people. Note: You don’t owe that to them. Don’t do it.) I pressed on through my child’s difficulties and my own inexperience, not because it was easy or popular (at the time), but because I believed in the goodness and value of this very hard thing I was attempting to do. Later, because I had endured and overcome, I was able to avoid many mistakes and enjoy a much smoother experience. Over the years I gained a bit of a reputation for troubleshooting breastfeeding issues and was even called to hospital and home more than a few times to help friends and family members try to get a good start nursing their babies, navigate challenges, and employ sensible strategies for gauging progress. By the end of my fifth child’s infancy, I had experienced eight more or less consecutive years of breastfeeding and could do it confidently and seamlessly in any setting, but I was still acutely aware of how hard and humbling nursing could be for new mothers and felt compelled to talk about it in honest terms.

How does this translate to the homesteading life? Well, if you don’t talk about how much work and stink it is to clean out rabbit cages or scoop chicken manure, all people will see is how “lucky” you are to have scrumptious homegrown meat and to “effortlessly” collect baskets of rainbow eggs. If you just show your beautiful mason jars of fresh, raw milk, people won’t understand the demanding milking schedule you maintained, the sweltering heat or biting cold conditions you milked in, or the heartbreak of losing a your favorite goat to a dog attack in spite of all you thought you did to prevent it. If you don’t share your experience with pests and weeds and backache in your garden, they may be tempted to think that a bountiful harvest of tomatoes and peppers comes easy. You get the idea. We persist in scooping the poop, weeding the garden, fighting the beetles, training the children to be reliable and consistent with their chores, carrying on after loss… not because it’s always enjoyable, but because we believe in the end results as well as the growth that comes along the way.

To be perfectly honest, I had no idea how hard homesteading would be when I started. I know better now. It’s time consuming. It is physically demanding. Some aspects of it are really expensive. And as much as we wish it wasn’t the case, when you have livestock, you will also experience the sorrow of dead stock. On the flip side, our family is experiencing more historically normal, self-sufficient living. We are intimately connected with our food in a way that people who tell you, “You know you can buy that at the grocery store, don’t you?” will never understand. We experience the richness of new life, the affirmation of watching our children mature in ways that will serve them the rest of their lives, and the joy of hard-earned victories.

There were days in January I questioned just about everything about our approach to rural Lewis County living and wondered if it really was worth the effort. It was a hard month and I’m not sad it’s over. Revisiting my original question, though, I think I have worked out a more balanced answer for you than I would have given a month ago. If you’re wondering when it’s time to dive into a new adventure—whether it’s pursuing more natural health, breaking free of grocery store dependency, homeschooling, or raising animals—there’s really only one thing you need to know and it’s that no one knows everything when they begin and they absolutely don’t need to. It will never be perfect, it most likely won’t be easy, but your life experience will be richer because of it. If you’re willing to do some research… if you understand it will be messy and you will make mistakes and it’s up to you to adapt to and grow from them… and if you’re ready to experience God’s grace in ways you hadn’t anticipated… the journey is absolutely worth embarking on for the long haul. Just be warned: life will never be the same, and that’s not a bad thing.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).


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 (www.LewisCountyScoop.com) 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