Step 3: Dig In

Step 3: Dig In (How to Start Farming)

You have to start somewhere! No matter how much you read or hear, there is no substitute for firsthand experience. Often this step of making the commitment and getting your first plants or animals is the hardest, but don’t let it deter you from your vision. Roll up your sleeves and get to work! It is time to start a farm!


The Power of Checklists

It is well known that when facing a big, daunting project, the best thing to do is break it up into chunks, or steps. This process of chunking your task changes your perception by taking one mountainous project and turning it into a series of smaller, very doable projects. (This is why we had you break your vision down into milestones earlier.)

For the sake of illustration, we are going to assume that you are looking at getting a flock of laying hens for the first time. The approach will apply to any other project you tackle as you start farming, however.

The first thing to do is list the steps needed to get a flock of chickens (or whatever else you are doing). You can write these steps down on paper if you like, but in this case it’s nice to use an app such as OneNote so that you can easily reorganize the list if necessary.

To start a flock of chickens, we might put on our list:

  1. Build a chicken tractor.
  2. Buy portable fencing.
  3. Buy feeders and waterers.
  4. Purchase and set up a brooder.
  5. Order chicks.

(Please note that this is not a complete list for starting with laying hens. The point is to illustrate planning and launching a country living project of any type.)

Hopefully you have some idea of what should go onto the checklist from your previous learning. You might want to quickly check some of your favorite sources to make sure that there isn’t anything that you missed (our Quick Start pages can help).

Set this checklist up in your favorite app in outline form. Break each major step down into smaller substeps if you find that helpful. Tag the major steps with a checkbox so that you can keep track of your progress.

Helpful Resources

Just Do It

Once you have done some initial research and set up your checklist, you have no further excuse for procrastination. Now you need to do the work.

If you are a chronic procrastinator, consider these ideas for getting unstuck:

  • Set a project deadline.
  • Break the project down into even smaller tasks.
  • Delegate steps that you are not good at and don’t enjoy to someone who will shine in that role.
  • Identify and address the source of friction. Is there a real problem you need to solve before moving forward?
  • Find a way to make a daunting project fun, like inviting family over for a barbecue when you have finished building chicken housing.
  • Find a method of holding yourself accountable, such as a checkbox in your planner or regular check-ins with someone close to you.
  • Make it a habit to put in 5 minutes of work on your project daily. (If you are battling procrastination, do not set your sights on 30 minutes or an hour; you will most likely put it off because you don’t have enough time.)

Moving forward is a habit, and like all good habits it can be learned.

About Land

Too many people think that buying land is a prerequisite for beginning a country lifestyle. In fact, it is not. Country living has more to do with your mindset than your location. You can become more self-reliant and more in touch with nature anywhere. Many beginners were able to start farming or ranching on less than ten acres!

Even if you live in a populated area, consider some of these ideas:

  • Teach yourself to cook.
  • Become self-employed.
  • Mend your own clothes.
  • Start a container garden.
  • Offer to help a farming relative out with the chores.
  • Buy fresh produce from a local farmer and learn how to preserve it.
  • Get a few chickens (some subdivisions are adjusting their rules to allow for this).

Owning land may be an important part of your vision, and if so then you should definitely pursue this option. However, it is simply not true that you must own land to live a country lifestyle. In fact, starting right where you are will minimize the stress and learning curve of this new adventure.

Adjusting Your Routine

Starting a new project of any type will place two different kinds of demands on your time:

  • One-time tasks (building a chicken coop, for example).
  • Recurring maintenance (the daily chores of feeding chickens, gathering eggs, etc.)

In a way, the one-time tasks are almost easier to deal with because they can be fit in just about anywhere you have time.

Routine maintenance has to become a habit. To make it easier in the beginning, consider writing down a list of your daily maintenance items in a convenient location, perhaps in your note-taking app or on a piece of paper nailed to the wall in your feed-storage location. It frequently also helps to tie a new routine to an old one (e.g., feed the chickens right before getting dinner).

Dealing with Setbacks

You will experience problems, challenges, obstacles, and setbacks (repeatedly) throughout your country living adventure. You will face these difficulties particularly often when you first start farming. This is perfectly normal, and a key part of how you will learn.

The secret to dealing with these adverse events is to change your perspective on them, choosing to view them as opportunities to grow rather than occasions for frustration and regret (all things work together for good, right?).

To aid in this process, try these steps:

  1. Name three things you did well in the adverse situation.
  2. Choose one thing you will do to improve.

Also remember to find something to be thankful for in every difficulty you encounter as you start farming. God promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Realizing the full implications of this promise is a tremendous help to changing your perspective.

The secret to success in anything is quite simple—refuse to fail!

Helpful Resource

Recording the Process

It’s a great idea to keep good notes and records for many reasons:

  • Troubleshooting.
  • Cementing information into your mind.
  • Making useful information available for later reference.

You will want to find a record-keeping system that works for you, one that prompts you to write down what is useful without creating unnecessary clutter. Also, it helps to have this information stored in a place and manner that is easy to find later on.

You have many, many options here. Again, be prepared to experiment a bit until you find something that works for you. A few ideas include:

  • Spreadsheets.
  • Simple calendars.
  • Specialized journals.
  • Composition notebooks.
  • OneNote or a similar app.

Examples of things you might want to record (aside from the obvious financial records) include:

  • Recipes.
  • Remedies.
  • Frost dates.
  • Planting dates.
  • Crop rotations.
  • Building plans.
  • Future projects.
  • Supplies needed.
  • Soil test results.
  • Egg production numbers.
  • Plant varieties to try.
  • Steps for preserving different types of food.
  • Information on common pests and diseases.
  • A calendar of infrequent maintenance items.
  • Pasture photos (for monitoring pasture health over time).
  • Lists of the feed, supplements, and medications required for every animal on the farm, including pets.

If done correctly, record-keeping should not feel onerous. It should fit smoothly into your regular routine. If at any time this process does start to feel burdensome, evaluate whether you are keeping unnecessary information or if you need a different note-taking tool.

Helpful Resource

You’ve already come a long way! Keep learning!

Step 4: Practice Country Skills »