Before You Choose Community Homesteading…

There’s part of me that shudders at the thought of sharing crops, animals or tools.

There’s so much potential for things to go wrong! Poor communication, mis-understandings, differing in ideas, failure to fulfill duties, accidental damage to goods, emergency situations, plain ole’ mistakes that anyone can make… gulp.

Some mistakes come at high cost. I’ll spare you the details. Predators are a real and true issue in most areas, as are vehicles on the road. Tools break down and sometimes its because if mis-use. Sometimes its just because it has been used.

And some mistakes are minimal. The birds went without feed for a day. We forgot to collect the eggs last night. Or forgot to close the gate and the calf chewed down the neighbor’s garden (ok, not so minimal). The rototiller ran out of gas.

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You get it!

I’m an advocate of living life together, of sharing garden work, cutting firewood together, splitting the cost of feed or labor to care for animals. I love this living of life with one another.

BUT…choose wisely. Seriously. Nothing is worse than walking into a deal with someone who can’t be trusted (for both parties!). Your animals depend on it. So does your insurance company (if you have one!).

An occasional harvest party is one thing: it doesn’t matter so much who is there. But when it comes to a continual agreement, here’s a few things to observe before inviting another to join your homestead:

  1. Does the individual follow through on other commitments or do they hop from one infatuation to another?
  2. Do they express interest in the given activity (garden, raising meat birds, etc) before you make an offer?
  3. Do they have former experience in the particular area or will you have to teach them everything? Do you have the time and patience for that?
  4. Do they have the appearance of a teachable and willing to learn spirit? If needed, are they willing to do it your way?
  5. Do they live nearby? A long drive (more than 10 min) will kill commitment quicker’n anything!
  6. Perhaps another good question (if you have young children on your homestead) is this: would you entrust your children to them?

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And a few questions for you:

  1. Are you trustworthy? You have the power to leave someone with a very bad taste in their mouth!
  2. Are you willing to set boundaries and clearly communicate them to the individual? They can be simple as:
    • returning tools to the shed after use
    • their leaving the dog at home so he doesn’t dig up the garden
    • cleaning up broken eggs from the chicken nests when collecting
    • advance notification if they cannot fulfill their duties
  3. Can you hold to your boundaries? It is your property and you must do what works for you, even if it doesn’t perfectly ‘suit’ the other individual! And if the showdown comes, can you communicate that the sharing thing isn’t working out, particularly if they fail to follow through without explanation?
  4. Are you able to think through and communicate the time and work their commitment will require?
  5. Are you a particular person? It is your property, but if you can’t leave the person to pull weeds in their own manner, don’t have ’em in! You’ll only frustrate them and yourself!
  6. We live life together to benefit one other. Recognize it! You aren’t a boss, but you do have the final say. Choose wisely. This isn’t a chance to exercise authority. It’s an opportunity to make two lives better: yours and theirs.

Communicate clearly and choose wisely! Don’t be afraid to set up a trial period for both yourself and the other person!

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