Homestead Roots Newsletter - 2/15/2024

Homestead Updates, Managing Lifestyle Creep, Creating Profitable Homestead Businesses

Homestead Roots Newsletter - 2/15/2024

The middle of February is here! Spring is so close! In this weeks newsletter I talk about the importance in creating industry or money making ventures on your homestead and then discuss one disappointing business on our own homestead. We also take a look at a sneaky creep stealing your money and talk through some new irrigation systems we are planning for our garden. Thanks as always for reading along with us!

Fresh snow on February 15.

P.S. The sap collecting image below was from yesterday. The image above is what it looks like today! A nice fresh 6-8 inches of snow. I was up early for plowing and the kids were way ahead of me with their sleds!

We Are Now All In on Syrup! Plus Visiting Family

The boys collecting sap with our new IBC Tank.

After dabbling with this weird early sap run we are all in now. The extended forecast looks good for sap and so we put out all our taps. I should do a count, it feels like 25-30 taps. We aren't actually tapping sugar maples, it turns out any maple will work. We use a bucket and tubing with little plastic taps. I would actually like to transition out of this method and would prefer to use the brackets and bags system. The buckets are a lot to store and they often tip over or blow away. For now they will work! We realized at some point that I used our sap storage IBC Tank for the pig waterer last summer. So we found another food grade IBC tote (275 gallon), picked it up and are putting it right to use. These totes are really great for homestead stuff. This one was used once and held coconut oil, it was really clean when we picked it up. Sometimes they use them for toxic stuff so you have to be careful when purchasing. The tote fits in the side by side which will make hauling sap a little easier this year! As we checked buckets today we had a few that were overflowing after less than 24 hours!

Other than the early tapping this year we work really hard to have a quiet offseason to rest our bodies and minds for the busy summer season. We also try to sneak in a little local travel, this past weekend we visited my brother and his family in Rochester. The cousins had a blast playing and it is always fun to be with family. One of the side effects to homesteading is that it does keep you close to home, which we love! But it can make travel tough especially during the busy summer season when we are managing the farm business as well. Little trips like this are fun and very doable!

The Creep That Is Stealing Your Money!


There is a term commonly used in finance circles called "lifestyle creep." Lifestyle creep is where your cost of living increases at the same pace that you earn more money. So as you earn more you also find ways to spend more. This creep is what keeps people living paycheck to paycheck whether they are earning $25K per year or $200K per year. It is incredibly prevalent in our society and something to pay special attention to because it can be extremely problematic with saving for the future. Here is a short video with more explanation:

Ideally as you start to find success in your work life and start to see your income climb you would make wise decisions about your spending. If you live in a comfortable spot, have a functioning vehicle and a happy life this extra income should be going towards paying down debt or towards saving for your future. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be some perks to earning more, there should be! But so many people get caught up in this and then wonder where all the money went!

The most beneficial thing for us was putting a framework around saving as we saw our income climb. If you don't really know how to save, or the purpose of saving it can be easy to spend that extra money. But if you can clearly see a goal in mind whether that is getting out of debt, saving for your future or building your emergency fund. It is important to have a plan and be knowledgeable in how you want your money to best work for you.

Our Struggling Egg Sales Business

Eggs all washed up and ready to go!

One of the principles of homesteading that I stand firmly behind is that a homestead needs to be at least somewhat financially self sufficient. This can look two ways, one is that you create an enterprise to bring in money. Another is that by keeping an animal or growing something you are avoiding a need to buy those items. For instance we can’t sell goats milk but keeping dairy goats means we don’t have to buy milk from the store.

One of the ways our homestead earns money is through egg sales. Over the years we have sold eggs on a small scale to friends and family and at a large scale through our farmstand. We have had as many as 150 hens supporting our egg enterprise. Last week I crunched the numbers on our egg business and was disappointed by what I discovered. Based on the cost of feed our profit per dozen eggs is only $0.49. I knew that it was low but had no idea it was that low! So that means that $0.49 per dozen needs to cover the cost of all the time, labor and energy that goes in to keeping the hens, collecting and washing the eggs and transporting the eggs to the farmstand. One big issue we’ve discovered is continuing to feed hens through the winter while they are laying very little. The cost of feed is the big player in this equation though! We can fairly easily sell every egg our hens produce at $5 per dozen, but is the work worth profit?

On the flip side we started purchasing eggs wholesale from a local farm last year and the profit per dozen is much more respectable. Not to mention we don't have all the labor involved. So now we have a decision to make. Do we continue to maintain our flock? Do we raise our prices? Do we shift to just selling the wholesale eggs? I am not sure yet where we will land but I do know these are important conversations to have. In treating our homestead like a business and not just a hobby farm we need to do the calculations, and have the conversations and make decisions for what is best for us.

Irrigation Planning for Spring

A large item on our summer todo list in the market garden is getting our irrigation figured out. The last couple of years have found us extremely reliant on our irrigation and our system needs some work. So we are in the process of planning out how to approach everything this year and how to get some timers set up so that watering isn't reliant on Ingrid or I remembering to water. We have proven this to be a broken system!🙂 

As part of this plan we are going to build in a little permanence with our system. Currently our water lines run on the ground leaving them susceptible to rodents and lawn mowers. We plan to get them buried this year. They won't be deep enough to avoid freezing however so we will also need a system to clear the lines before the freeze. One of our short comings is an inability to run water in the winter, so we want to be able to turn the water on for a short spell to water a few things late in the fall or early in the spring and then clear the lines.

The biggest thing is just getting ourselves organized and creating a system where we can integrate timers so watering is happening when it needs to happen. We will keep you posted as we get to work and start implementing everything. You just watch, we will get all this done and then it will be the wettest summer of all time!

Slow Growth During a Busy Season

One of our simple pop up farmstand tables in the early years.

The 5 year span of time after we sold our first veggies and before we started focusing more on making our garden a business was full of learning! We had very young busy kids taking our attention so we focused on experimenting and learning. During that period we had a couple really down years experimenting with new gardening methods, like Back to Eden gardening, that was an utter failure. It just didn't work in our climate and system, and it set us back a couple of years. Despite failures we look back fondly at that time as it was really setting the stage for us to have success in the future. This slow growth, allowed our skills and abilities to grow with our customer base and honestly that model has followed today. We continue to grow in our knowledge, our growing space and our customer base. When I talk to young growers I always urge patience. Farming of any kind is labor intensive and can be extremely frustrating as you’re most often at the mercy of the weather. This can very quickly lead to burn out. It also takes time to learn your soil, your weather and your skills. Rushing into all of it is not a good plan for success.

Thank you as always for reading and for following along on this journey. As always I would love to hear from you. If you have questions or suggestions just reply to this email and I will be in touch.