Friday, May 1, 2015

Homesteading like a Jerk: Spending Money You Don't Have

Yahoo has an endless supply of finance-focused articles aimed at teaching folks how to spend less, save more. Grow your own food, they say. Do the work yourself, they say. Spend time, not money. It will save you bundles. And for the most part, I agree.

But one thing they rarely talk about is exactly how much it costs to start your own garden, or own your own flock of hens, or find materials to build a DIY furniture set. Contrary to popular belief, I've rarely, if ever, received my gardening supplies for free. Now, you uber-awesome folks who upcycle everything and have insane scouting and dumpster-diving skills, I salute you. And you should probably stop reading because chances are, you'll see this post as one huge bunch of excuses. Real jerk behavior.

And you'd kinda be right.

You see, I wanted to avoid purchasing the cinder blocks for my raised beds this year. I know there are millions of cinder blocks just sitting out there, alone in the world, just waiting for someone to come transform them into something useful. But I couldn't find 'em. Craigslist? Nothin. Local Facebook group for homesteading supplies? No go. Random drive-bys in my run-down Toyota Echo when it looks like there's a construction project going on? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. And even if I did find them, how would I haul them home? My car has quite the trunk storage, but only four, teeny, wore-out tires holding up all that weight. Not cool.

So I bought the cinder blocks. I spent money on cinder blocks...a material the non-jerks out there could likely find for free in a matter of minutes.

But ah - ha, never fear, readers. I came up with a mighty good solution for the next time I need cinder blocks.....or pallets for my dream patio furniture......or a really nice set of hay bales.....

A truck. I bought myself a truck. That's right. I spent more money.

Feast your eyes upon the glory of all glories...the champion of all mighty steeds...the white knight of the highest beautiful, strong, pallet-picking chariot of goodness....

That baby put me back a couple thou.....and where, you might ask, did I get this couple thou? Good question, because as you may have figured out by now, this post is all about spending money I don't have. And my goddess roller was no exception. I took tax refund money we'd earmarked for a well-water filtration system and I spent it on the truck instead. All of it. Poof. 

Just look at her, all parked and gorgeous in the Farm n' Barn parking lot.

So we'll have yellow stains on all our white bowls and appliances and cups and clothes for the next year....but I've got a truck. I can pick up stuff. I can dumpster dive with no regard for my interior vehicle upholstery. I can lay out a sleeping bag and sleep like a real cowboy if I wanted to. This truck has taken me to a new level, let me tell you.

I'm starting to realize real quick that this whole homesteading thing isn't all sunshine and recyclables. It takes some serious, knee-jerk financial investing to build something like a raised bed, or a chicken coop (especially if you want one painted all cute-like), or a hoop house, or a self-reliant food system in your own backyard. Did you know I spent close to $100 on seeds this year? That doesn't even include the seed starting medium, the little pots I ended up buying when my "upcycled toilet paper seed starters" fell apart and ruined my life, or the lights I bought to keep the seeds alive, or the rack I bought to hold the seed trays that hold the seed pots that hold the seeds that will someday, hopefully, turn into food I can eat.

Now, I get it, I'm a newbie. I'm still learning. I will probably try those dang toilet paper seed pots again next year and maybe they'll work for me. I'll get better at recycling, repurposing, all that jive...and I've even got my Pallet Picker to help me with the big stuff....but that doesn't negate the spending I've done thus far to get this whole endeavor up and running. Yahoo doesn't tell you about how a recycled raised bed made out of old fence pickets actually needs some sort of dirt inside of it, and unless you live on hilly, fertile land, you gotta get that dirt from somewhere else...normally in exchange for money.

But (and this is a huge but)..

I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, once this startup phase is over, I might start seeing a return on my investment. Maybe these beautiful girls will be worth their weight in gold (plus some for all the eggs they'll lay). 

I keep thinking that someday, maybe, I'll master the art of breadmaking and won't waste so much dang money on epic Pinterest fails. 

I mean, after all, I spent money on tulip bulbs last fall instead of a couple extra bags of Halloween candy....and that turned out great.

Any of you ever invested in something way more than you ever expected to? How did you make it work? What did you take from to support your project? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading! Happy May, all!


  1. I love this, and your admission how you spend the money you don't have....because we all do! Are those cute little chicks really THAT big now?? I really want to come see! I feel like nearly ever project we set out to do economically or diy leads to more (and then more) money spent. Specific examples, lots of little ones but I can say that nearly all my big ideas for things that will be cheaper if we do it ourselves/find it on a sale site turn into bigger investments than originally expected. Several "finds" sit waiting to be made beautiful simply because I got all excited with the find, and then puttered out with the expense of the other things necessary to make my vision a reality.
    All the expenses of starting your endeavors this year won't be repeated in the future. Unfortunately the old saying "it takes money to make money (or save money" fits well here. Think of it more as an investment into your family's health and future. I'm certain the subsequent years will be financially less taxing. As for the probably have friends not so far away with big vehicles to grab that stray pallet on the road, or pick up cinder blocks.....but you've got it now, so hopefully it's more of a blessing than a burden!

    1. Ha thank you!! Yes - they are super huge already and here's the kicker - they are nowhere near full grown! They are going to be so fluffy!! Well...except for Gandalf...he's gonna be....well...delicious. I totally hope you are right when it comes to spending money to save money! I think it's awesome you try and repurpose what you can and are so interested in DIY - so am I! I keep thinking that one day maybe I'll finally be one of those bloggers that has "old wood scraps lying around" and a "hand-me-town circular saw" at my disposal! HA

  2. Gardens aren't cheap to start! When I was really little, we had a garden of about 1 acre every year. The only reason that was even possible was because we had tractors and plows from the early 1900s that had been inherited from previous generations of farmers in the family. It would be back-breaking to turn up that much ground by hand, but with a tractor it takes minutes. Even though it was all family labor, when you think of the cost of the land involved and the cost of the equipment just to prepare the ground--I can understand why most people don't have gigantic gardens. Do you can, too? Those canning jars aren't cheap, either, but they can be used forever until someone breaks one.
    Trucks really come in handy for all sorts of stuff! I doubt I'll ever own one, but I always try to keep people who own trucks really close. My uncle's '88 truck is the reason we didn't have to pay any delivery fees when we were shopping for furniture at thrift stores when we first got married--that was awesome.

  3. Yay for a truck! My husband loves his.

    Good luck with your garden!