Are you trying to start your dream homestead, but just haven’t made it happen yet?

For years, I was stuck. Wishing. Hoping. I wanted to live the homestead life but just wasn’t quite there.

As I look back now, I see the reasons it took me so long and what things were holding me back. I want to share my 5 biggest mistakes along my journey, in hopes you can avoid them in yours.They might not be surprising.

They might even be stupid.

But they were ALL things I struggled with from the moment I realized I wanted to break away from my 9-5 and live closer to the land.

Maybe you can relate?

#1) I thought I either had to live in the city or on a homestead.

Computer work still happens, just in a yurt instead of an office.

Basically, I thought that I either had to be a person who lived in the city and held a 9-5 OR I had to be some crazy person off in the wilderness 1,223 miles from the nearest town carving my own toothpicks from leftover logs.

I didn’t realize there could be an in-between.

The truth is – regardless of what my life looked like, it’s always been a blending. Even out here on our 30-acre homestead I still do a lot of normal things everyone else does, like work!

#2) I (wrongly) believed I wasn’t ready and it wasn’t the right time.

You see, I thought I had to know all the things about homesteading first.

And I didn’t believe the time was right because I hadn’t met “Mrs. Right” yet or had piles of cash to get started.

And that I didn’t think I could do it without a FULL and complete plan of action.


One day I just did it. I decided this was the life I wanted to lead and went for it – to hell with all the “should haves” in place first.

Then, and only then, did everything start to come together.

permaculture chicken homestead

Our first chicken coop, built in our rental home.

#3) That I needed to own land.

Yea, for a long time, I waited. Because it didn’t seem logical without owning land. Pretty straightforward right?!

Well, that was total baloney too.

I ended up starting our homestead life in several rental homes!! I ended up spending more years being a rental-homesteader than not.

#4) That I didn’t have the time.

Are you following a pattern here?

Total crap, again.

I thought that I needed to have tons of free time to live that “dream” life. After all, those homesteading folks just sit around and whittle everything from scratch right?!

No, that was so wrong of me to think that.

So, I started incorporating more and more sustainable homesteading pieces into life as I could make the time for. In fact, I like to say that we started homesteading overnight once we came to understand this.

(True story: I actually whittled a wooden spoon to help convince Beth to move across the country to be with me.  And IT WORKED!)

Now, drumroll, please…

new homestead

The place we became homesteaders, a work-trade rental.

#5) I dreamed and schemed, but didn’t actually do it.

I would spend days and days thinking about how life would be good when…

or I’ll get that started when…

And that never got me anywhere as you can imagine.

But one day I took a small step, symbolically a giant leap, that kickstarted the whole homestead thing – It was the simple act of taking an action that ended the cycle of wanting and actually living. 

Actually having my homestead.

Actually growing my food.

Actually having land to tend.

Homestead Views

Start Now, Not Later

All this to say – take a look at where you are today. What can you do to further your goals/dream? What obstacles like these are you using as excuses keeping you from the life you want to live?

I want to empower you that like me and many others like me, have been able to make it happen, and I know you can too.

Want to know more about how YOU can start your homestead today?

Join Your Sustainable Homestead for a complete guide to achieving your dream homestead!

About Beth Brettell

I am a permaculture homesteader and artist of anything that surrounds me. My love is endless for my son and partner. I am blessed to live on 30 acres in Northern California, tending to gardens, chickens and our home.


  • Brandon says:

    Hi Bret & Beth,

    You are inspiring. It is great to hear about the path to your homestead.

    We are on a similar path. We have been fortunate to be able to rent our last two homesteads after years of travelling in an RV with our growing family.
    We rented a cabin in the Slocan Valley of British Columbia where we were fully off grid for a year. Now we are renting a home in south east British Columbia where the owners have tended to their soil for the last few years. There’s lots of garden space and fruit trees. We have been learning so much with the hands on experience. Growing so much food!!
    We can taste our dream of homesteading on our own land!
    We have the dream and the will.
    We filled out your survey hoping to win a spot in your program. It feels like the final piece in the puzzle towards our dream.
    Please consider us for one of the remaining spots!

    Many thanks for all you do,
    Brandon, Whitney, Infinit, Injoy & Evergreen

  • Tamara “Mari” Praus says:

    I love that you mentioned #3. I have grown a few Veggie/herb gardens at rentals in very different climates. First, in Henderson, NV where my landlord said it wouldn’t work and my mother said I was wasting my time and money on a garden I would have to leave behind. It was there that I first used daikon radishes to rototill and amend the dirt into soil. Then in Gallup, NM where the soil is very alkaline and the weather extreme. Most recently in the Front Range of Colorado where elevation and wildlife have to be considered. Here in Evergreen, CO I started with only deer resistant herbs, placed ollas strategically around the garden for deep root watering and use nasturtiums as natural mulch moisture protectors. I am the only person I know in my community who hasn’t had my garden nibbled by deer or elk! I see hoof prints occasionally but nothing is eaten. Next year I will slowly add a few more herbs and veggies that aren’t as deer resistant as I trained the deer this year that there’s nothing yummy here. Also, so much of what I learned in NV and NM is applicable to CO as well. None of my gardens at rentals were a waste!

  • Kari Durfee says:

    Hi, what would you charge a landowner to design a 4 acre property, live on the property and implement the design over a 7 year period?
    Thx for all the great info!!!

    • Beth James says:

      Hi Kari – that’s SO hard to say because there are many factors involved to take into consideration. I’d weigh what you’d like to make per hour, how long you think it would take to implement and design but also – what would it give YOU in terms of experience or way of life. It’s all a balance for how much money you might need versus what you’re gaining as a whole picture.

  • Krystal says:

    The fact is, it’s simply easier to procrastinate for the “perfect” conditions, rather than pursuing things in unfavorable conditions. I think a lot of us struggle with this at first- especially those who don’t realize how many cost effective, frugal, and even free options there are when it comes to self sufficient activities. Sure; some things will have a bit of a hefty cost to get started (such as a flock of chickens), but other things (such as a small garden bed) can be as cheap as the cost of seeds! This is such a great post, one that every new homesteader (or dreamer) needs to see!

    • Bret James says:

      Hey Krystal – very true about how easy it is to procrastinate and wait for the perfect conditions as you put it! Maybe to say it another way is people sometimes wait until the time when things look as they planned or envisioned, which might be never! Once we start looking to the present and find ANY way to start to have the small pieces of what we want in life – well that I think is a golden ticket right there 😉

  • Debra says:

    I am disparately trying to get my organic permaculture food forest off the ground, literally. My husband and I own 10 acres near Yosemite. The summers are hot and dry, challenging to say the least. I think you might have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. We call it ‘stress gardening’ because it is. We have just over 1/2 acre planted; hugeling raised beds and have planted several fruit trees and berry bushes near and in between swales. We would love to expand but are struggling to fine tune what we are trying to establish. The ground is currently rock hard and living on a 40 degree slopes (we purchased before learning about permaculture) doesn’t help stress gardening. It makes it worse. We definitely compost, have chickens, spread straw, and mulch, mulch and more mulch! Tons planned for dumps since PG&E is clearing lines. The #5 photo above, looks like you are successfully gardening on slopes! I really would like to add garden stretches along my swales and in between the trees. Any suggestions? Oh, and how do you manage the gopher populations? We have two cats that help but have lost a fig tree, an alder and every single watermelon plant…the buggers!

    Any suggestions or references would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and best of luck to you.

    • Bret James says:

      Hey Debra, it’s somewhat hard to give confident suggestions without being there, but I hear you are looking for thought so I’ll throw some things out there. For us, we are on slopes of 12-20% grade but keep our garden in the lower end of that. We are North of you at 3000′ in elevation so have a very similar climate (Mediterranean). We compost a ton and are constantly bringing more in. We mulch a ton and do it deep – 6″ on an active veggie bed. Our garden was strategically located against woods on the east side, so that the summer sun is cut off starting at 4pm to reduce plant stress (but gets full morning and spring / fall sun). Also, I irrigate more than I would like, adding overhead water just to help cool it all down on the hottest of days. If you have bedrock near the surface then consider moving to raised beds (but only if bedrock is within 12″ of the surface). You are correct in focusing on getting an area dialed in before expanding and I would look into more forest style gardening (Eric Toenmier books) to help build soil, keep things cool!

      • Debra says:

        Thank you for the reply and your time. We sure do share very similar conditions as we, too are at 3,000 feet. What a great suggestion, tuck up against the tree line to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. That I can. We do have soil about a foot deep before transitioning. A heavy layer of mulch helps to build up more and we do it every year. We compost everything from kitchen and garden scraps to horse manure and hen house clean outs. We completely stopped the practice of burn piles. If people only know the valuable resource they’re burning off…. And boy,, you’re not kidding when you say you water more than you would prefer. Same here. Still wondering when Jeff Lawton’s greening the desert will start happening here on our little homestead. HA! Here’s to cooler days and rain in the Sierras hopefully in the very near future.

        You’ve certainly given me much to think about. Thanks for the lead on Eric Toenmier. Will do. I’m not feeling as desperate now. Looking forward to following your progress. Best to you and the family…and best of luck with the homestead.


  • Kalita Todd says:

    I love reading about your progress & playing a small part in your steps toward your goals.

    • Bret James says:

      Thanks Kalita for being apart of our “kick start” that helped us dive into this path. We miss you guys A LOT and sometimes talk about how good it was over there 😉

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