I’ve always been a “planner”. Once this life project we call White Sky Woods got started back in 2009, I came to realize that all the planning I’ve ever done in my life and for work would really come in handy! The preparing, studying, projecting, budgeting, and other organizational tasks were useful from the very start and through to where we are now – about to make the plunge of turning dreams to reality. It helps that both Tim and I are organized people. We work through ideas logically and creatively.
Based on our individual skill sets, we quickly found our own area of expertise and roles in developing White Sky Woods. Tim can visually plan and then take that plan to build anything. He’s scrappy and resourceful, making him an amazing problem solver. Tim served as our contractor, architect, and builder (every building job in between mason to electrician). Working together we devised an energy-efficient, cost-effective home plan suitable for our family (a yurt!). Tim took our ideas, got them on paper, and then proceeded to build them to reality. There were only two things we could not complete on our own. This included drilling the 220 ft. well (although we truly did attempt at “drilling” our own well with a sand point – that’s a whole other story), and installing a full septic system (man, we really wanted to do a grey water system, but it’s against the law). Coming from a working background with budget keeping and job planning, Lisa’s role quickly turned into an accounting, billing, project planning and pacing, job-site assistant and general consultant position. We worked together like a Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer, and we made an outstanding team.
Did I mention we’re married? Some people I’ve talked to about White Sky Woods say their marriage would never have happily survived this process, but our marriage has thrived. Having a similar vision and then physically building it together has been simply AMAZING.
A quick snapshot of our plan over the past 8 years?
1.) buy affordable remote but accessible land (we ended up with 80 acres in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan)
2.) hand-build our home (we decided on a yurt) and homestead surroundings – debt free.
3.) create an attainable vision for ourselves that includes homesteading, growing and preserving food, raising animals on a small-scale, and being more self-reliant while working toward financial freedom.
I was recently listening to the Sustainable Living Podcast, episode 55 where Marianne interviews Stacy and Amy from Sow Edible Podcast. She talks to Stacy and Amy about their journey to homesteading. Since they are a married couple with children who practice permaculture on their homestead, it felt very familiar. They touched on what they did to get prepared for their move from a “typical” home and jobs to homesteading. Afterwards, I began to reflect on all the things we’ve been doing to help us be prepared (well, as much as possible) for the change in making a homesteading lifestyle successful for us!
Here are 5 things that came to mind:
1.) Use free resources to learn! I have so many details on this, it deserves an additional blog post (coming soon)! Some of my favorite ways to learn include following blogs, listening to podcasts, finding active people, groups, and pages on social media, attending events and reading books – lots and lots of books (magazines too). Some books we have purchased for ongoing reference, but the library is a great free resource to get books on any topic you want. Our current reading stack from the library looks like this.
2.) Find a tribe. Interested in raising sheep? Join a local spinning guild. We did, we learned to process sheep’s wool in order to spin fiber to yarn and then weave, crochet, and knit with it! Want chickens? Buy eggs from a local who keeps chickens. We have Dan the Egg Man (that’s our nickname for him). He’s shown the kids the baby chicks in the incubator, and we see what his chicken housing set-up is like so we can continue to explore our own options.
3.) Visit homesteads or small-scale farms. We’ve taken several family vacations to small-scale farms. Farmstay US is a great way to access these types of places. The kids got to interact with the animals, and we got to learn how these families run their homestead. We’ve done everything from milking goats, to making yogurt, to butchering chickens. Go during lambing or kidding season for a truly unique experience!
4.) Surround yourself with support. Tell people about your goals, dreams, and aspirations. They may not completely understand or have any desire to do the same plan for themselves, but if they are good people to have around, they will engage with what you are doing, cheer you on and bring more positive energy into your project. Focus less on the people who are naysayers and more on the people who make you feel good and give interest in what you are doing. Just as running a marathon isn’t for everyone, anyone should be able to take a step back and recognize the hard work a person has done to achieve that marathon and appreciate them for that and that they are following a goal. Same goes for the homesteading lifestyle.
5.) Practice! For many years, we’ve been growing a garden, learning what works and doesn’t and why, preserving our homegrown food with multiple methods and creating meals from that food. Part of this practice has also been to choose a simple lifestyle – NOW. Our transition shouldn’t be as shocking as it could be because we’ve been choosing a simple, low-cost life. We’ve been building White Sky Woods in a debt-free way, so we’ve been living below our means in effort to support the debt-free initiative.
I stumbled across an internet quote that stated: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” I agree. Will mistakes be made? Sure. But from those we will adapt and keep learning, trying, and doing.