Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rainy day thoughts on homesteading and hobby farming, and which we are.

On this rainy Thursday there is a lot going on, but not a lot to talk about it looks like. It is a good reminder of just how much the weather affects our day to day life, and controls what we can and can't do. Today though, it isn't changing what we were going to be doing. Almost all of what we are doing is preparing for the arrival of the Critter with house cleaning, and baby stuff preparation. Other than doing daily animal chores we haven't been doing anything really "homestead" related. At least, not homestead related beyond the fact that we live there. No photos worth getting from today or yesterday, so it's another old photo post.

Actually, on that note I wanted to think about homesteading and hobby farming. Before going on with the discussion let's set out some definitions.

Here is the Wikipedia link about it. and here is a Mother Earth News discussion of it.

Hobby Farming:
Here is the Wikipedia about it. though there aren't a lot of other good discussions about it.

Okidoki, you've read all of those now, right? Well, at least skimmed them. There are obviously some
similarities between homesteading and hobby farming. The biggest one being that it is a usually small, barely profitable if not financially net negative farm. The major difference that I see from the two definitions is that homesteading is focused on finding a more sustainable and independent lifestyle.

For me one of the defining differences between hobby farming and homesteading is that most of the places I consider hobby farms put more into the garden or farm than they get out. The homesteaders often use what they have, and minimal resource input other than work to get as much as they can out. That's not to say that homesteaders don't have well made things, or that they don't invest money. The big difference is that most things are focused around production or reduction of footprint. For instance, for the garden we have going we could have spent a lot of money on seeds, and mulch, and soil amendments, border for the beds, other tools. Instead, we dug the beds with a shovel, turned them with the same shovel, made borders out of stones from the soil, amended with manure from the rabbits, and mulched with waste hay from the same. It's two different ways of doing the same thing, and the hobby farm would probably produce better, but for a very different cost.

For example, our first year gardening we produced quite a lot of tomatoes, though not nearly the amount we could have with better soil by spending money on amendments. We could have grown more by having raised beds with good soil that wasn't rocky. We could have gotten better yield if we'd used a better system of trellising that controlled the vines better for more access. We could have done a lot of things that would have cost money. But, last year we grew a lot more with $30 than we could have purchased, and that went a long way towards us being able to eat relatively well despite our budget.

The thing I am going to say is that as someone who is focusing on the low cost, low impact side of things is that sometimes I do look at things and think how much easier it would be with more money, more resources. I am however very happy with what we're doing with the resources we have. As we move on in life whether we have more resources or not, I intend to continue to try to keep in mind that what ever we have on the property should be producing, that we aren't a hobby farm, and we aren't a dude ranch. Not everything works perfectly, and not everything can be done without investment, but it needs to be well considered, minimally negatively impacting, and it needs to in the long term produce more than is invested.

So, that's why I see us as homesteaders rather than hobby farmers.

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