I’d like to introduce you to my friend Kendra at New Life on a Homestead. Kendra is an inspiration to me, as she strives to live a frugal and simple life while creating a homestead for her family. Today she’s sharing her journey to a simpler life on their homestead.
Only three years ago, my husband and I were living a dramatically different life. We were renting a noisy apartment in the middle of town, he was working his full time job and I was keeping kids during the day so that I could stay home with our four year old daughter and newborn son. We were very frugal, yes, but in such a mainstream way. We didn’t shop at the mall, but bought our clothes second hand. We didn’t own a new car. Actually, we only had one vehicle which my husband had most of the day. We used coupons for groceries and toiletries. We did what we could to save money… but there was always something bigger that seemed to be missing.
On a warm Spring day in 2008, my husband and I loaded the kids up in our van and drove to a local farmer’s market for their grand opening. We’d been thinking about eating a more natural diet, and figured this would be a good way to start. Little did we know that this day would change the course of our lives forever. I met an amazing woman there, who has since become my mentor. I was looking for a source for raw milk, but what I found was more precious than any treasure. She is the True Queen of Frugal. Ms. Addy opened up her humble home to me and my family, and has taught me how to save money in ways that had never even been a possibility in my mind.
That same year, my husband and I found a repossessed 2200 sq. ft. modular home- a major fixer upper! After several negotiations with Fanny Mae, and after selling the land the home came on, our initial investment was $22,000! I wish I could say that was our total investment, but we knew it would take a lot to make it livable again, plus, there was the major expense of moving the home onto an acre of land that my father so generously gave us.
We worked on this home for about eight months. Every day, my father and I would spend hours and hours cleaning, repairing, painting, and trimming. We did most of the work ourselves. We bought almost all of our materials from a salvage yard, or found them used (or even free!) elsewhere. Although it took us much longer to finish, it saved us a ton of money doing as much as we could on our own. It is amazing what you can learn to do when you put your mind to it! (For those of you who are curious, our total investment ended up being about $80,000- still a good price for such a large home.)
By November 2008, we moved into our new place in the country. Surrounded by nothing but trees and nature, a mile away from our own mailbox, and no neighbors in sight, we finally had a place to call our own. And it was heaven! But the changes did not stop there. No, this was just the beginning!
Now that we had a place away from the city, we were eager to put to use the advice I’d been gleaning from my new friend, Ms. Addy. Through all of those months, she’d been sharing with me everything she knew about saving money: how she grows and cans her own food, how she milks her cow and makes her own cheese, how she makes a head-to-toe shampoo bar for her family to use instead of store bought soaps. I sat at her feet, fascinated by what she was telling me. Honestly, in all of my life, it had never occurred to me that I had the ability to can my own food, or make my own soap, or do any of the other amazing things she shared with me!
She showed me her fruit trees, and invited me over when they picked apples and made fresh apple juice (or cider) with their cider press. She dug up some of her blueberry bushes so that I could have some of my own. She shared her herbal remedies with me, and showed me her favorite herb books. She told me everything I needed to know about raising chickens for meat and eggs. She took me to a hidden Amish Community, which I never even knew existed, and we browsed their general store in awe of all the neat things they sold. She shared her family recipes with me, and encouraged me to try making my own bread. She gave me raw cream from her cow and showed me how to turn it into fresh butter. My eyes were truly opened to a whole new world of frugality, and my appetite for learning more was ravenous.
But the most important lesson she taught us, the main theme of everything that she said, was the invaluable wisdom of learning to become more self sufficient. To Ms. Addy, the whole reason for learning to do all of these things wasn’t merely to save money, but to be able to provide for her five children should the world around us suddenly begin to crumble. She didn’t want to live depending on others to supply her most basic of needs. If electricity was lost, if grocery stores were empty, she had peace in knowing that she could still go about her daily life pretty much unchanged, and her children would hardly notice a difference. The more I thought about this philosophy, the more I clung to it.
My husband and I began implementing this mentality in our own home. We immediately put in a large garden (our first attempt ever at growing anything!). We planted fruit trees and bushes. We got a couple of milk goats. We got chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits, and even a pig!! We put up a clothesline for drying our clothing. We purchased cloth diapers for our babies. I learned to cook from scratch, and how to grind my own wheat for bread. I bought a couple of canners and learned to can our own food. I make our own cleaning supplies, including laundry detergent. We bought a wood cook stove to cook on without the use of electricity, and an old hand crank washing machine. Slowly, over the past two years we have learned to do everything that Ms. Addy has shown us, and more! The internet has proved to be an invaluable tool for learning to do many things.
We definitely aren’t there yet. We’ve still so much to learn. But as you can see, we are taking great strides toward self sufficient living. And everything that we’ve done has been on the strictest budget, especially since my husband lost his full time job at the beginning of the year. We definitely make the most of any free materials we can get our hands on, and always… ALWAYS… buy used.
For us, learning to homestead has been for three main purposes: saving money so that we can pay of our home and shed the slave’s shackles of debt, living and eating healthier and more naturally (on a budget), and learning to live life without depending on anyone but God to take care of our every need. I hope that you will be inspired to look into your own life, whether living in the city or a rural town, and ask yourself if there are things you can be doing to stretch your dollar and your resources even further! I’m betting there’s still more that you can do!