Gardening is NOT Cheap

From the start of my dreams of becoming a homesteader I had the idea that it was going to be cheap, boy was I wrong. As I continue further into this journey of being a homesteader, I am learning that there is nothing cheap about it, from the garden, to the processing equipment, to animals it is all kind of expensive. I knew that everything about the lifestyle I wanted to live was going to full of hard work, but no one has really explained that the initial investment into the homestead would be as truly expensive as it really is. As I write this, we are also on course to become debt free and save money to buy a property, so EVERYTHING we buy to get closer to the end goal of leaving the city and becoming the country folk we really are at heart has an added cost to it. I am ashamed to admit how irresponsibly we have handled money through our 20’s. There were times we chose to go out to eat instead of paying a bill, or bought something that we didn’t really need and then struggled to make sure we had gas to get to work by the end of the week. Our desire to leave the city and get out of the current life we are living has brought a level of maturity to our handling of money that we didn’t have, even just last year. I want to break the cycle of Friday to Friday, and be able to save the money to, not only take this leap for ourselves, but be able to bring you along with us. We are not perfect still, but with every step forward we gain momentum and have a stronger will to push aside the impulsiveness at the store to further our goals.

                Financial stability is an absolute necessity when it comes to being a homesteader. Whether you are trying to cut the grocery store from your life, or trying to expand the animals you have, you need to have a reserve of money to draw from when things go bad. I still do not have an emergency fund in place, but we are slowly adding to it every week to fend off Mr. Murphy. I am an avid believer in Dave Ramsey and the way he teaches. I am following the baby steps to the best of my ability to get out of this mess we created for ourselves. So, is this where you need to begin if you want to homestead? The answer depends on your situation. We did not start with becoming debt free for the shear fact, we didn’t know if we were going to like the work involved, or if we even knew how to grow a garden. I started with getting some seeds and starting them indoors and when I had success with that, I bought more stuff to be able to plant them outside. We have only had 1 year of experience and semi-success with gardening and the rabbits we keep, but that year has caused us to realize this is the life we want and love, but to get there we need to destroy the debt that sucks us dry every month. As Dave says your income is your biggest wealth building tool, my definition of wealth is vastly different than his, but the concept is still the same. I do the daily grind to make a paycheck to do what? To buy things to keep ahead of the neighbors, to instantly live the life my parents have taken years to build for themselves? It doesn’t work that way. The ONLY way I will be able to get where I want to be in the time I want to get there is to cut the debt, build up some savings, and educate myself on the real costs of what it takes to homestead. So, where do those real costs begin?

                The true costs of homesteading are never really talked about on any of the platforms we like to follow, I want to change that. I want to break down some of the costs we have already incurred to this point, and to be honest it was a major shock to me when I added some of the things up. With us currently renting the house we live in I am not going to start with the cost of property, but I am going to start where we did, the garden.

Tomatoes and Fencing
2018 Tomatoes

                Gardening can be the cheapest thing on the homestead, but it can also rack up the costs fairly quickly if you buy your plants, need fencing, or if you need to have someone till up an area for you. I start all of my own plants indoors, but that comes with an extra cost of lights, shelves, trays, inserts, seeds, and soil. When we first started this endeavor, I went to Menards and bought a couple packs of seeds, a couple plug trays, and a bag of soil, this by it self was not very expensive, but not knowing if I was going to be successful at all it was like spending a million dollars. I can’t remember how much I spend initially, but it was probably around $40 the first trip to the store. As the plants grew, I needed to get larger inserts to put the plants in, but our local store only carries the sets with the tray, insert and domes, and those are about $6 each. So, in total for the first year of starting seeds we spent around $150, which doesn’t seem like much, but that’s just to get 60 or so plants started to go into the ground. I also bought a little patio greenhouse to be able to clear off the kitchen table of plants and that was $25. Next, we had to fence off the garden area so Scotty (our big lazy dog) wouldn’t go lay in the freshly turned soil and smash all the baby plants when they got planted. Now, our back yard isn’t very big, so I only made the garden 2 feet wide and the length of the garage and fence on one side, but I still needed 2 rolls of fencing to get it fenced off and at $34 per roll it adds up quickly. I come from a construction background, so I should have realized when I bought the fencing that I was going to need some posts to put the fence on, but in my excitement of having a real garden for myself I forgot (facepalm), so back to the store again. Now, I am not including all of the gas for the van we have had to spend, or the time wasted going back and forth to the store, because I don’t really associate that with the garden at this point yet, but if you are using your homestead as a business, you need to. But, step back to the posts, I bought the posts I needed for the garden at $3.50 each and needed 9 of them to get it done (I will add ALL the math together in a few minutes). The last thing I bought for the first garden was a load of compost from the municipal organic resources center, this was $4 and I gave my friend $20 to deliver it to me. Now, lets looks at the numbers for the first year’s garden:

                                Seeds, trays, soil (first trip)- $40

                                Extra trays and soil-$110

                                Greenhouse- $25

                                Fencing($34×2)-$68

                                Compost-$24

                                Tposts($3.50×9)-$31.50

                                                Total- $298.50

                On the heels of a successful first garden, I decided to expand my infrastructure for this years garden as well as expand the garden itself, I spent a TON of money this year for that and I am not even really done with buying the things I want, but those things will be for next year. But this year I bought:

                                Shelves (to start the plants on) ($14×5)-$70

                                Light Fixtures ($6×10)-$60

                                Light Bulbs ($8×6)-$48

                                Larger Greenhouse-$30

                                Sod Cutter rental-$35

                                Trays, Inserts, Soil, Seeds-$200

                                Tposts ($3.50×20)-$70

                                Remesh (for tomato “trellis”) ($7×9)-$63

                                Ground Fabric-$19

                                Row Cover-$10

                                Row Cover Hoops-$15

                                Fabric Staples-$30

                                                Total-$650

Marigolds under lights
Starting Marigolds under the new lights for my mom.

                As you can see, gardening can rack up the costs fairly quickly in the beginning, but all of these things will get reused year after year so the cost is only really a one-time cost (thank GOD). I have learned a lot from this years garden on what to do with the lights and shelving, and the $70 I spent on shelving is going to get spent again next year for a set of shelves better suited toward starting the seeds indoors, since I didn’t measure my trays before I bought the shelves and they do not fit right, but I learned a lesson and that is more valuable than the $70 I spent on shelves that we will be able to use in other places in the house.

                When I started this post, I didn’t realize that I was going to have so much to say about the costs of gardening that we have already spent, so I am going to turn this into a small series of posts about the costs of homesteading. I will dive into the things we have bought so far, the things we plan on buying, and the things that were a waste of time and money. As much as I know the cost of things at the store, I am horrible at adding up the total cost of things and realizing how much I have spent unless I put it down on paper like this. I want to help make sure you know the costs that others do not talk about, and hopefully save you money in the long run with teaching you my mistakes and allowing you to learn from them.

                Until next time,               

  (We are STILL working on a good tagline to keep you coming back for more)

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