So…you’ve either had the boldness to ask or you’ve been approached with the offer of using someone else’s land or sharing of a garden, berry patch, chicken raising or other. Here’s a few things you ought to know.
There’s part of me that shudders at the thought of living it together, because 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 and some are minimal.
I’m an advocate of living life together, of sharing garden work, cutting firewood, splitting the cost of feed or labor to care for animals, of landowner’s opening up opportunity for those who do not have. 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 or plants depend on it. So does your insurance company (if you have one!) and your pocketbook.
So let’s talk straight, wanna-be homesteaders! It’s easy to become excited at the possibility of joining efforts with a homesteader, particularly if its something you’ve longed for. I get it. I live it.
But…before diving in headfirst, here’s a few things to chew on:
Be respectful of the core fact: it’s not your land
When doing anything on someone else’s land, it’s important to remember its theirs, not yours! They have the right to ask for a change in setup if its inconveniencing their life. Or if the hog-shelter you set up looks too trashy. Or if you set up a poor fence and the creature in it continually escapes. In many ways, you are at their mercy. It’s part of using land that isn’t your own.
We had to move our turkey’s setup this summer (a whole weekend chore!) due to our owner’s wanting extra garden space sometime in the future. We communicated back and forth, found a new location, moved the setup and underneath it all, we remained conscientious of our reality: it’s his land. And we have to respect his wishes.
Choose a nearby neighbor
If you must travel beyond a 10 minute (or so) drive, think again. Nothing kills ambition more than lots of driving time and the emptying gas tank! I understand that rural homesteaders won’t get far in 10 minutes time…for some that is the end of the driveway. I’m talking to farming communities here! And depending on the task, a longer drive may be worthwhile. Or not. You count the cost and choose.
Choose a homesteader who has others’ best interests in mind
Don’t enter into an agreement (particularly where money is concerned) with an individual whose character is questionable. Go ahead, do a background check with those in the community! Is the homesteader known for their interest in others’ welfare, or are they concerned only with saving money? Are they known for being generous or stingy?
This rings true for those who are joining an activity already happening on someone else’s homestead. A person (you) can learn so much if you approach life with a ready-to-learn attitude. Come as a sponge, ready to soak everything up! Everyone homesteads differently, ’cause different methods suit different people and farms.
If you have “read up” on the task at hand and want to try a particular method, or if you grew up performing the task in a particular way, ask for permission before putting it into action! New ideas can be great, ’cause those of us who were raised on farms (aka stuck in the rut) need “new brains” coming into the picture. But at the same time, there may be a reason for doing it the same ole’ way. Ask, just ask before trying to change the hen’s feed, attempting to ‘free-range’ those seemingly tame rabbits, or moving livestock to a new pasture!
Discuss the commitment required to make it work
Most homesteaders can give an estimate of the work and effort that goes into activities. If not, talk to someone who knows. Are you and the homesteader traipsing into new territory? Check with your local feed store for someone who is informed about the given subject. Thoroughly check it out. Sit down and calculate the time needed in a day, a week, a month. Is it doable? And costs. Always figure in costs for setup!
Keep respectful communication flowing
Choose a homesteader with whom you share mutual respect. And if things aren’t working out, talk about it. If someone collected eggs on your day, let ’em know it bothered you in a gentle and respectful manner. Brushing things under the carpet isn’t a good idea. Too often the truth pops out in gossip or blow-ups. Don’t be afraid of putting up boundaries to keep you/your assets safe. But do it directly (to the person) and politely. And if they are closed? Perhaps you ought to back out, cause you’ll find that more issues will arise in the future.
When wrong, admit it
Are you trustworthy? Or are you the one taking eggs from the hen house on the wrong day? If issues arise, be willing to take a look at your own self! Make certain your own stubbornness and attitude are not causing the riffle at the homestead. If you have? Don’t run and hide! Apologize and allow them to keep you accountable. Seriously? It will benefit your life in more ways than one!
Take hold of opportunity
You have a chance to learn, to benefit from others’ efforts, to take notes if you wish (one day) to have your own homestead! And show your gratefulness in whatever ways you can, even if its only giving them a much-wanted gift at Christmas (being on their homestead you might pick up on something), giving them a weekend away from the farm while you see to the chores, or sharing something special with ’em.
You are contributing something to the homesteaders as well, whether a new addition to the place, financial help, labor, or friendship. Cause it may happen. It could be you’ll find a friend for life!