Why I Will Never Homestead Like Joel Salatin (with video)

I Will Never Homestead Like Joel Salatin

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Recently, I've been noticing some of my friends' homesteading failures are due to listening to advice. Not necessarily bad advice - but advice that isn't suited to their location.

For example, one of our neighbors has been trying to raise free-range chickens. While some people can do this with minimal loss of livestock, especially if they live in the suburbs or in farming communities, we cannot. Where we live, on the edge of forest wilderness, we simply have far too many predators - everything from bear and cougar on down to eagles, hawks, bob cat, foxes, weasels, raccoons...you name it. All chickens must, at the very least, be locked into a predator-proof house at night, but we've found that protection during the day is also necessary unless you're willing to loose your flock. A covered chicken run is a must here.

Open compost piles don't work where they will attract wild predators.  Courtesy of Ingimar Erl and Wikimedia Commons.

More recently, another neighbor created open compost heaps. I confess that when I've read about composting, it seems that a lot of people successfully compost in large, uncovered piles - and I have never read warnings about it...not even warnings that it might attract mice and rats, which are common even in heavily peopled areas. But around here, my neighbor discovered it also attracted black bear - bear that are not afraid of humans and not afraid of digging deeply into compost heaps to find food. And bear who are not afraid of humans are a danger to themselves, as well as to any homestead.

Open compost heaps also attract dogs - both neighborhood domestic dogs and wild canines. This is was the initial reason we kept our compost in sealed bins. Yes, good, rotating compost bins aren't free, but if we want to compost anything an animal might consider food, it is an absolute must. (In case you're wondering: Even  open compost heaps for yard debris such as wood chips and lawn and non-food garden clippings can attract rodents who want to nest in them.)

Another example comes from my homestead. For years, I've wanted to have chickens and rabbits in mobile tractors. I love what Joel Salatin has done with chicken tractors, and when I've read about people using tractors for rabbits, it seems like such a great idea: They keep the grass and weeds down, they get free food, plus their meat may taste better...But the reality is, I cannot homestead like Joel Salatin does on his Virginia farmland. First, we have the problem of living on a mountain; we have very little totally flat land, so gaps between the tractor and the ground would be a persistent problem, letting livestock out and predators in. Second, have I mentioned that we have a lot of predators? Even if I could keep out predators by using wire beneath the rabbits (wire wouldn't work with chickens, since they need to scratch the ground freely), predators would still try to get at our livestock, which would terrify them. I want my livestock happy, not terrified.

Tractors are suitable only for flat land and areas with lower predator populations. Courtesy of Jessica Reeder and Wikimedia Commons.

Perhaps no other area of homesteading is more full of bad-for-your-homestead information than gardening. Yes, there are certain principles of gardening that apply virtually everywhere, but there is also a ton of gardening advice that just isn't going to work on a wide variety of homesteads. One good example is Ruth Stout's version of no dig gardening. This method involves no tilling, virtually no digging, no irrigation, virtually no weeding, and lots of straw mulch. While this method worked brilliantly in Stout's garden, it was reliant on her particular type of weather and soil. Where I live, for example, not irrigating during the warm growing months simply doesn't work because we don't get rain during those seasons.

Choose varieties of vegetables according to your gardening zone and microclimate. Courtesy ParentingPatch and Wikimedia Commons.

Another good example from gardening is seed recommendations. I often see homesteaders on social media asking strangers which variety of green bean or corn (or whatever) they are growing...without asking what gardening zone they are in or what their microclimate is like. Folks, veggies that thrive in Missouri are not likely to do well in Washington or Maine. I even find that what I can grow in my microclimate isn't the same as what my neighbors can grow!

Truly, I am not criticizing people who offer homesteading advice. (I am one of those people, after all!) Nor am I  being critical of homesteaders who follow said advice. The homesteading life is one where you will make mistakes; every one of us will! My point here is that what works for some won't work for all...and this is something to keep in mind as you learn about homesteading and implement new projects on your homestead.

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