grass and pond

From Retirement to Homesteader

How do you want to retire? Not financially, but what lifestyle? Do you want to travel the world, RV full-time, and spend more time with the grandkids? How I went from retirement to homesteader.

She Shed
My she shed, where I spend many hours burning the midnight oil when I am not gardening

I always dreamed about a homestead lifestyle, gardens, chickens, and possibly a pond. I worked in municipal finance (aka glorified accountant) for 25 years in California, which didn’t exactly give me the tons of experience needed for a homesteader.

People gave me a lot of flack about romanticizing a labor-intensive lifestyle and said I would regret realizing my dream. Even my aunt, who lived on a cattle ranch for 60 years, told me it’s not as fun as you think.

In 2018, my husband and I purchased 14 acres of land in Louisiana complete with a pond. I found many resources to research the steps in self-sufficiency in our retirement. I bought 12 chickens, took master gardener classes from the local ag office, joined a beekeeper’s group, and bought lots of books to study.

And … I love it. And for the icing on the cake, I bought a 12 X 20 she-shed (can I get a hallelujah)?

Homesteading Skills

Self-sufficiency has always been paramount to my husband and me, which has been especially true in our blended family of 6 grown children.

We have strived over the years to provide enough land and animals to support our family, enabling us to be as independent as possible . . . in a nutshell, we are “preppers”. Well, my husband is a prepper, I garden and raise chickens for fun.

Chickens

Australorp
Hen and her chick
Australorp hen with her chick

Chickens are hilarious, they each have their own personality, some are friendlier, some will beg for food, and others will peck you for just looking at them wrong. My chickens provide endless amusement and entertainment.

If you decide to raise chickens, then you will get eggs when they are around 20 weeks old. If the only reason you raise chickens is for eggs or meat production, you will find economically, it does not pencil out. Raising chickens is very rewarding, and the quality of meat and eggs far surpasses what you can find in the grocery store. Grocery store eggs and meat will always be cheaper unless you are willing to go large scale, and economize the housing and feed, and I am not.

Ordering day-old chicks

First-time chicken owners will want to research breeds for the best fit for their farm. When determining a hatchery, it is best to find the closest reputable hatchery. Receiving chicks in the mail is a tough journey for the chicks, so the shorter the journey, the best for the chicks.

Polish Chicken
Ornamental Polish Hen

My first order was for six australorps and six guineas. The australorps are consistent layers of medium-brown eggs. The guineas are known for reducing the insect load on our garden, and in Louisiana, we have a lot of insects. I raised the australorps and guineas together, but found once the hens and guineas matured, the guineas would brutally attach the hens, so we had to get rid of them.

My second order was to vary the chicken colors, so I ordered some easter eggers, olive green eggers, and welsummers to provide a variety of different colored eggs.

After I achieved my colorful egg basket, I decided I wanted some ornamental chickens, such as polish, wyandottes, and speckled sussex, and although their egg laying is not as consistent as my australorps, they are fun to have.

Lastly, I started researching the friendlier and mellow chickens, and purchased some buckeyes. Buckeyes are the sweetest hens I have owned. She will eat treats out of my hands, and will follow me around when they think I have treats.

When considering buying chickens, make sure you do your research on the different breeds, and their function most closely matches the needs of your homestead.

Basket of Eggs
Daily Egg Haul

Eggs

There’s nothing quite like fresh eggs from your own backyard chickens! Homegrown eggs just taste better than those found at the store, and the reasons are simple.

The freshness of the eggs and the chicken food quality makes a huge difference. High-quality feed ensures that your chickens produce wholesome, nutritious eggs with a rich flavor.

Additionally, you can be sure that no artificial ingredients have been used in producing your backyard eggs as you control exactly what goes into them.

Store Bought Eggs vs Home Grown Eggs

Large scale chicken and egg production companies prioritize the quality of food as well as cost, ensuring the producers are providing healthful and nutritious food for their animals while keeping expenses low. This helps keep egg production costs low, allowing for healthy and affordable eggs for consumers.

My chickens get the highest quality feed along with yummy snacks (aka leftovers). Since my chickens are spoiled rotten and ridiculously pampered, we have amazing-tasting eggs. If I was going to economize, raising chickens for eggs is not a route I would take.

I used to sell my eggs at farmer’s markets to offset some of the cost of food, but the hassle was not worth the revenue, so I am now the favorite neighbor, and give our eggs away.

People ask me if there is really a taste difference between my eggs and store-bought eggs. Let me say emphatically, yes, there is a marked difference in taste, color, and texture.

Gardening

There is something spiritual about planting a seed and food pops up, good, flavorful food. Food independence and homesteading property can be a great way to reduce food miles, produce chemical-free food and begin a more sustainable lifestyle. The goal is to produce most of our food or consumption at home. I have found Hoss Tools has a plethora of information, and I enjoy their YouTube Videos – appropriate for the novice to expert.

Books
Homesteading Resources

Research

Before I planted any seeds, I did a lot of research on our growing zone, did soil testing, and took master gardener classes through the LSU agricultural extension. My sister-in-law lives close by and have been instrumental in teaching me the many ways of storing food for long-term use, including canning, freezing, dehydrating, and fermenting.

Vegetables

Like most gardeners, I started growing tomatoes. Hoss Tools has so many tools that I never realized I couldn’t live without. I also planted cucumbers, chili peppers, and okra. If you’ve ever had just-picked tomatoes and cucumbers mixed in Italian dressing or fried okra straight from the garden, you’ll know that all of the work is well worth the harvest.

Crafting

My homesteading fantasy was realized when my husband came home with my very own she-shed for all of my crafting projects. Although it is 20X40, and I thought I would never fill it up, I am busting at the seams. I have always sewn and crocheted afghans, but in the last four years, I have learned how to quilt and have gifted many lap quilts.

She Shed Inside
Inside my she shed

Cricut

My husband gave me a Cricut as a gift. I made lots of t-shirts and affixed vinyl on all of my pasta containers, but when I found out about sublimation and the detailed design you can put on t-shirts, mugs, and almost anything that is the right substrate, I was hooked. A warning to those that want a Cricut, the Cricut is just a gateway drug for sublimation.

Sublimation

Sublimation crafting is a fun form of art that allows you to express yourself through unique designs and artwork. With the help of sublimation printers, you can transfer vivid prints onto almost any surface—plastic, wood, canvas—allowing for amazing creative possibilities! You can create personalized t-shirts or mugs for family members, or even make wall art with intricate designs. The possibilities are endless! If you are interested in learning about sublimation, check out this sublimation for beginners blog. If you would like to find some sublimation ideas, check out this blog.

Pfaff Sewing Machine
My Fancy Sewing Machine

Sewing

I took sewing classes in 4H (Head, Hearts, Hands and Health) in Arizona when I was in the 4th grade. Sewing was my go-to when I was stressed, because reading the pattern and following directions would take my mind away from all of my troubles. A finished garment also fed my need to create. My mom had a tried and true Singer that I used, but now in my fifties, I have upgraded to a Pfaff, my grandmother’s tried and true machine.

Quilting

My grandmother was an expert quilter, she would sell her quilts for $500 and up in the 1980s. She would be very stern about cutting the pieces perfectly, piecing perfectly, and all of her quilts were hand quilted.

LSU Quilt
LSU Quilt

I wouldn’t even think about quilting because I knew my pieces would not be perfect, my piecing would not be perfect, and I had no patience to spend a year hand quilting. I have the utmost respect for her skill level.

LSU Quilt
Machine Embroidered

I finally came to terms that I would never be perfect, and I could make a less than perfect quilt and no one would really care. I did purchase a Pfaff, a middle – upper end machine. It did cost more than I imagined spending on a sewing machine, but I love it. My machine has an embroidery attachment, and I use that tool to quilt my blanket.

This is a quilt I made for my husband (a huge LSU fan). It is not perfect, it is not hand quilted, but the hubby loves it, and that is all that matters.

Retirement

Retiring to Louisiana and taking up homesteading doesn’t mean that your fun has to end—there are still plenty of ways for you to express yourself and enjoy life. My retirement life involves exploring nature, raising chickens, and exploring new crafting ideas. Best Life Ever!

This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)!

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