All the Dirt on Living the Good Life with Kirsten Lie-Nielsen of Hostile Valley Farm

by: Sara on 12/06/2018

Thank you to everyone who entered our book giveaway contest for Kirsten Lie-Nielsen's new book So You Want to Be a Modern Homesteader? All the Dirt on Living the Good Life.

It was exciting to see all the great questions from 'wanna be, soon to be and current homesteaders'. Because of the great response we decided to choose one winner from Instagram and one from Facebook. The winning questions are answered below. Kirsten also included a response to the question,  "How do I start", because it came up so often.

Now if you didn't win, and still want a copy of the book, it is your lucky day! Receive a 40% discount on this and all other New Society titles until Friday, December 7th.. Order online at www.newsociety.com and enter the coupon code Winter18.

How do you balance the materialism of society with modern homesteading?

Rampant materialism and consumerism in modern society is a large reason to homestead, but that does not mean that homesteading provides a full escape.  While the idea of homesteading means being a self reliant as possible and making what you can for yourself, in the modern day it is still hard to balance those goals with the realities of wanting a farm just like another farmer, or feeling you need the latest kitchen gadget to do the cooking for your family.

While the book does not delve too much into this fascinating question, I do have a few opinions.  Most homesteaders and farmers find themselves too busy to be caught up in the race for the latest tech or fashion.  Even if you’re enthused about those things, there just isn’t time to check the magazines and keep up with the trends when you’re caring for animals and crops and working on your home 24/7.  

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Where you may feel the pressure to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is in the latest animal or kitchen products, but even then, homesteading has a way of keeping you grounded.  In many rural locations around the country, your neighbors will be salt of the earth people without a lot of cash to spare - if you have neighbors at all. The nearest town is probably not the big city.  It is easy to physically drop out and remove the pressures of modern materialism on the homestead.

Do you consider it a homestead if there is no livestock?

Absolutely.  I believe that anyone striving to live as self reliantly as possible could be considered a homesteader.  A vegetable or herb garden is a huge step, and even buying from local farmers puts you closer to the source of your food.  Those with no room to grow food can still can and preserve what they buy, or reduce their grocery bill by making household products themselves.  Homesteading comes in all forms, and each one is important.

How do I start?

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Caring for livestock is both physically and emotionally demanding

Start with a backyard tomato plant or a couple of chickens!  But if you’ve decided to really go rural, the beginning of the journey often starts with a property search.  Before you start calling up real estate agents, there’s the discussion of goals and budget. You should clearly understand your goals before jumping into a property that does not suit those goals - something too rocky or wooded for your planned crops, or something with derelict buildings you do not have time to fix.  If you’re not sure of your goals, your horizons broaden because every kind of land can accommodate some type of homestead - rocky, wooded terrain is great for goats, and derelict buildings are much less expensive if you have the know-how to fix them.

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We always have more eggs than our family can keep up with and are able to sell extras to pay for grain.

The budget conversation is a little bit more complicated.  Everyone’s budget is different and what each individual is willing to give up will be different.  Start by listing out your expenses and see what you might be willing to go without. If you can, transfer those savings directly into your homestead’s budget.  And when you start moving forward with projects, write out how much each one will cost, how long it will be before you can harvest the benefits, and how much growing or raising that animal or crop will save you on your grocery store bill.  It’s good to be realistic. Homesteading, in all honesty, has a large cost of entry, but if you are able to make those initial investments it begins to pay for itself and make you money while you are able to live a lifestyle that you have longed for.  

Favorite thing?

I began homesteading largely because of the animals.  Our livestock’s needs quickly outgrew a suburban acre and I was not ready to stop.  Even now the birth of new goats on the farm or the prospect of introducing a new animal for another exciting purpose is what keeps me eager through the long winter months.  This isn’t the case for everyone, but I do encourage everyone to find something that truly jazzes them about live on the farm, beyond the basic idea of self reliant living. It’s those things that thrill you that will keep it from becoming monotonous.

Also by Kirsten Lie-Nielsen, The Modern Homesteaders Guide to Keeping Geese

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