When you hear the word “homesteading,” like as not you get a picture of your head that includes a chicken coop, cows or goats in a pen, and perhaps a pig or two wandering around the yard. Many homesteaders do, in fact, keep some small livestock so that they can be self-sufficient in animal protein.
We have decided – tentatively, of course; life is a journey and we may change our minds down the road – not to do this. Why?
1. Animals require constant care.
They need to be fed and watered every day. Nanny goats and dairy cows need to be milked. What if we want to get in the car and go on a one- to two-week road trip? We’d have to beg a neighbor or acquaintance from town to come by every day and take care of them. Even finding reliable people who would do this for pay is difficult.
Especially with a young child who is full of curiosity and wonder, we don’t want to be tied down to our place 24/7/365.
2. Animals can get expensive.
I don’t care how “self-sufficient” a particular breed of hen is said to be, she will have no chance to prove this character if she is eaten up by an eagle, mountain lion, or coyote. Around here, to have free-range chickens would require at least a couple of well-trained dogs. Dogs cost money to feed and maintain. The other option is to either keep them in a well-protected run, or a chicken tractor. And of course you need a coop. These things require extra money, as well as time and work to maintain them.
And if you’re on raw land like we are, you have to put out quite a chunk of change to buy fencing for larger livestock, like cows and goats – not to mention a place to shelter them. It could take a while to recoup your investment in milk and cheese.
3. Neither one of us wants to butcher.
If all you have are laying hens, this isn’t an issue. But numbers one and two apply to them. My most recent idea was to raise quail for meat. If I would die without doing this, I could. However, I don’t want to kill a living thing larger than a wasp. I just don’t.
J is even worse. He’s an animal lover.
4. Everything else we’re doing already takes a lot of time.
I’m not going to lie and say we wouldn’t have time to milk goats or grow fodder for chickens in the winter if we had them. But having been on our homestead for seven months, we’ve discovered that we keep quite busy without having to take care of animals to boot.
We have almost five acres of forest to manage, a large garden to care for during the warm months (and a smaller one during the cold months), an active boy to raise and educate, various chores to complete throughout the day, (within a couple of years) an orchard to monitor and maintain - Let me give it to you straight. God has not called us to be full-time homesteaders. To live simply, yes. To go off-grid with water and reduce our electricity usage, yes. But we didn’t move out here so that we would spend eight hours a day caring for critters. There are other things we’d rather do with our time. Other things God has called us to do.
5. We can be healthy without eating meat and eggs several times a week.
Sorry, you Paleo/high-protein diet fanatic, you. The key to good nutrition is in reducing grain consumption, avoiding processed foods (which grains, even a whole-grain porridge, basically are), and making sure you’re getting the right amount of fat-soluble vitamins, plus vitamin C, via nutrient-dense whole foods – and supplements, when necessary.
Oh, wait. I heard that. I heard somebody say, “But if you eat a high-meat diet, you’ll never need to supplement. You’ll get all the nutrients you need.”
Okay. Now show me the double-blind completely unbiased scientific experiment that has been repeated at least twenty times with at least a thousand random people in each study that proves your assertion.
(I’ll give you a hint: nobody in the nutrition world has ever made any such study – if for no other reason than unbiased nutritional studies are as rare as walruses in Africa.)
My point is, you don't need two to three servings of animal product every day in order to get the nutrition your body needs.
6. Animals need water.
A lot of water, in the summer (recall that we live in southeast Oklahoma). We are off-grid for water. We do not have a well (too expensive and complicated with too many potential things to go wrong), do not have a pond. We catch our water in two large rain tanks.
Enough for the three of us. Not for animals.
7. Somebody out there is praying that we will buy their product.
We have the money to buy milk, cheese, and – when we want them – eggs and meat. Thousands of full-timers around the country are struggling to make an income by selling their goods. If we have the money, and they have the goods, why should we bust our butts trying to do something we’re not really excited about doing, when other people are counting on us to buy from them?
Not only that, but also there is the efficiency aspect. While discussing this whole issue with me, J brought out the fact that creating an infrastructure for raising any kind of animal, large or small, is very inefficient for a family our size – unless we are going to raise enough so that we can sell some of the resulting product.
8. We are heading toward a mostly, if not exclusively, vegan diet.
More on that later, and our apologies to those full-timers mentioned in number seven who may not be able to count on us as customers anymore.
Not all homesteaders raise livestock, and we have decided to join that clan. It’s going to make life a lot simpler, and give us more freedom.
P.S. – Bees we will do. They can feed and water themselves just fine, thank you very much. ;)