Friday, 26 January 2018

Homesteading vs Lifestyle Block or Hobby Farm

Our farm is 5.5 acres or 2.17 hectares in size and when we purchased it in 2012 it was one big grassy paddock of almost flat land with a dip in one area towards a pond in our neighbours land.  We are 6 km from two small regional towns Bulls and Marton, 20 - 30 minutes from two small regional cities Whanganui and Palmerston North and 2.5 hrs from Wellington the capital.



In  New Zealand land the size of ours is termed a lifestyle block as people generally choose to have a bit of land to keep a few animals, enjoy having a bit of space for their family and pets but tend to work elsewhere and not earn anything from their land. 

Wikipedia provides the following definition for a lifestyle block:

A hobby farm (also called a lifestyle block in New Zealand) is a smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income. Some are merely to provide some recreational land, and perhaps a few horses for the family's children.

Moving to a lifestyle property can be rewarding and provide plenty of opportunities to learn new things, in fact for many people, they will have no choice but to learn a huge range of skills. 

These may include animal husbandry, small machinery use (think chain saws, weed whackers/line trimmers, ride on lawn mowers, rotary hoes and tractors), towing and backing trailers and horse floats, fencing, tree pruning, managing your own water and sewage systems and lots lots more.  Every skill that you don't have will be one you have to to pay or barter for or find a mentor to teach you.   For some people the acquisition of these skills, the new opportunities and the new community of people around them leads to a feeling of fulfilment.  However some people have a romantic vision of living in the country and are unaware of the time and work required to maintain a lifestyle property (it takes a lot longer to mow an acre of lawn, move the cows, shear the sheep, and clean out the chicken pen than to sweep the front porch of a townhouse and clean out the budgie cage) which can become a burden that interferes with other hobbies and activities.

Homesteading on the other hand is more about self sufficiency and may or may not involve making a living from your land and Wikipedia defines it as:

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterised by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craft work for household use or sale.


Homesteading is a term that might conjure up images of people living an agrarian lifestyle toiling away to eek out a life from a parcel of land in the country and for some people this is still the case, but there are of plenty of variations on the theme of homesteading and you don't even have to live in the country or have a lot of land.  Modern homesteading is a mindset of doing as much for yourself as you can, acquiring practical skills and shortening your supply chains.  It is about being responsible for you own well being and living a life that allows you do more for your self and others reducing your dependence on the consumer society. 

You might learn to make soap or cheese, spin wool and knit, grow your own food and learn to preserve it, learn to forage and collect wild edibles or medicinal plants, grow willow and take up weaving, learn to hunt or raise livestock for personal consumption, you might live in town so start a community garden or find some land to share, or you might go completely off grid, move into the wilderness and fend for yourself.



Having land in the country is not a pre-requisite for homesteading and it is always better to start where you live now.  Skills take time to acquire and when you are not also having to manage a larger parcel of land you have the time to dedicate to learning new things.

I was fortunate to grow up in the country on 10 acres of land where my parents built on bare land and started from scratch.  We raised most of our meat, grew fruit and vegetables which we preserved, had bees, gathered our own firewood, cooked all our food from scratch, had pets and a house cow.  My dad is an engineer from a farming background and my mums a nurse from town.  Between them they had quite a few skills but they still had a lot to learn along the way.  We are a bit like my parents with Randall being born and bred in a city while I grew up in the country.  We first started our homesteading journey when we lived in a 2 bedroom town house 3km from the CBD of Brisbane Australia.  We grew citrus in a pot, planted a vegetable garden that we watered with grey water, collected and propagated plants, built a pond, started composting, shopped at the produce market and preserved what we grew and brought and cooked from scratch.  At the same time we worked hard and saved as much money as we could so that we could move to the country.


We were able to purchase a rundown old farmhouse on 3.5 acres in the Queensland countryside and set about expanding our skills further to include managing our own water and septic systems, caring for chickens and cows, fencing, soap and cheese making, dehydrating, fermentation, permaculture and much much more.


Home made soap
We have now moved to New Zealand to a slightly larger parcel of land but it has good soil, regular rainfall and a temperate climate so will be incredibly productive compared to our land in Australia.  But this time we are starting from scratch.  What was once a big grassy paddock is gradually taking shape and becoming a rural homestead.  We will use the skills we have to do what we can and work of learning new skills a long the way.  It's not a race as rushing in can be expensive.  We want to live closer to nature, making the most of each season doing as much as we can for ourselves, learning new skills, meeting like minded people and reducing our reliance on the system.  

For us this is definitely not a hobby farm, and while it is about a lifestyle what we are aiming to achieve is much more about providing for ourselves, doing it for ourselves and being as self sufficient as we can and perhaps in the future even making a living from our land.

So come along for the ride as we set up our homestead from scratch, learn from our mistakes as no double there will be many, have a go yourself where ever you live and challenge your self to try something new.  Our homesteading journey in underway and hopefully we can provide you with the inspiration to give it a go no matter where you live.





11 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing your adventure on your NZ land....ps...I had to laugh about James being presented the award from a relative of yours....I'm sure you were quite surprized to see the picture. Kathy

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    1. Yes but they are so involved in music and dance I am not really that surprised.

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  2. What an opportunity you have! It will be great to read about the development of your land and homestead and how you use and grow your skills along the way. Meg:)

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    1. I agree Meg it is an opportunity and even if we make mistakes it will be an opportunity to learn and for others to learn from us.

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  3. I really look forward to reading about this journey. I know you are going to be busy, but please keep us posted.

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    1. You are so right Cheryl. We will be busy but sharing this journey right from the start is important to me, for us as well as others.

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  4. I'm keen-beans to see this story unfold.

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    1. Thanks Mr HM lots going on behind the scenes just have to get it on the blog.

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  5. Excellent post. Your thought process exactly follows mine when we first bought our 5 acres. Definitely not a hobby - this is our life!

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    1. Yes while we are not planning on earning cash from our land straight away it will reduce our need for cash so everything we do is about our life in the big picture as every decision has consequences in the bigger scheme of things.

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