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50 Things I Learned This Year

Last year at this time, I embarked on what I thought would be a little adventure into self-sustainability. Little did I know then how little I actually knew.

A year ago I had grand ideas of where my family would be at this point. I had dreams of a garden large enough to sustain the families needs, home-grown milk and eggs, jars of homemade sauces and jams lining the pantry shelf, and everything used in and around the home natural and organic.

Turns out, self-sufficiency is a whole lot harder, and takes much more time to achieve than I naively thought. Although we didn't get as far as I had planned, the year was full of accomplishments. Here are 50 things I learned this year:

1. December is cold.

2. January is colder.

3. Raised garden beds aren't necessary, but make life a hell of a lot easier.

4. Working outside every day helps you appreciate the rhythms of nature.

5. Happiness is a warm fire on a cold night.

6. My husband and I can share everything, except a wheelbarrow.

7. Nothing tastes better than homegrown tomato and cucumber salad.

8. Chickens can and will jump a 5 foot fence, especially if there are tasty tomatoes on the other side.

9. Snails love butterleaf lettuce.

10. Pushing a wheelbarrow through the mud counts as both aerobic exercise and resistance training.

11. There is no such thing as a kink-proof hose.

12. Plant more lettuce than you think you will eat. Plant less zucchini.

13. I love my 4-wheeled cart.

14. Contrary to popular belief, goats do not eat everything. Either that, or our goats are too darn picky.

15. There is nothing that feels so good as the warm sun after a long rain.

16. Contentment can be had with very little. Maybe only with very little.

17. Weeding the garden is a nice way to spend a balmy summer morning.

18. If you think you don't like beets, carrots, or cauliflower, it's because you've never had the home-grown variety.

19. Neighbors will run when they see you coming with yet another bag of zucchini.

20. Nature is hard and harsh much of the time, but it is also breathtaking and beautiful.

21. Kids grow best with plenty of fresh air, hard work, and lots of sunshine.

22. So do adults.

23. Even if it grows well in your area, don't plant veggies that your family won't eat.

24. Forget the home improvement store when shopping for plants. Go to a real nursery, even if you have to pay more. The advice you get there is worth its weight in gold.

25. Compost, compost, compost.

26. Start small.

27. Don't plant a garden bigger than you could possibly care for. (See #26).

28. Camping outside is fun.

29. Roosters are jerks.

A warm, waterproof jacket is a necessity. So are rubber boots.

31. Never underestimate how attached you can get to a chicken.

32. Animals always get injured or sick at the worst possible time (i.e. in the middle of the night, on Saturday when vet calls cost double, during a thunderstorm).

33. I'm thankful my eggs are fresh and salmonella-free.

34. Healthy eggs come from happy chickens.

35. Goats can get lice. Lice are gross.

36. A fox can squeeze into spaces you'd never imagine they could fit into. Which brings us back to #31 and #32.

Natural cleansers smell much better than the store-bought stuff.

38. Borax is a natural way to get rid of ants, fleas, and other pests.

39. There is no natural way to rid the house of termites.

40. Old houses do have souls.

41. Handmade products have a different type of energy than mass -produced products. Fill your house with handmade items and everything just feels better.

42. You can make much more than you can imagine.

43. Our grandmothers did it, and so can we.

44. I need to go apple picking every year. Fresh apple cider is super good. So are homemade apple donuts.

45. It takes a lot of tomatoes to make homemade pasta sauce, but it's the best.

46. You can never have enough seasoned firewood.

47. Bartering is a good way to get what you need.

48. Unlike chickens, goats, and cows, horses are not sustainable pets. Unless you are actually using them for some greater purpose, like plowing a field, they generally just stand around eating up everything and cost way too much money in upkeep. That said, I'll never give up my horses for anything.

49. I'll also never give up my chickens and goats. And, one day, I hope to expand our acreage and our livestock to include a cow (or two or three) and many more chickens and goats.

50. Homesteading is hard work. Homesteading takes up a ton of time. It's easier to buy what you need than to grow it. But for all its challenges, homesteading is rewarding, gratifying, and fulfilling. Basically, it's worth it.

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