By Jennifer Woolwine

The Simple Life Isn’t So Simple

Simple Living

baghdad to barnyard

January 13, 2022

You can scroll through thousands and thousands of aesthetically pleasing photographs of classic farmhouses, impeccably decorated spaces, well-manicured lawns, and magazine-worthy meals with picture-perfect families. Still, the reality is Instagram is the highlight reel of people’s lives. It is not “real life,” and most Instagram photos are edited snapshots. However, I am guilty of posting well-chosen images to maintain a beautiful, curated Instagram feed.

There’s added pressure on social media influencers to romanticize farm life and to make country living glamorous. Reality? Farm life is dirty and messy, and it is challenging work!

If we only show the pretty side of farming, are we doing a disservice to our followers? Are we setting unrealistic expectations for others who want to live in the country? Are we portraying an impractical view of simple living because the truth is, the “simple life” isn’t so simple?

The simple life isn’t so simple.

The so-called simple life can be pretty complicated. There are animals to be fed and tended to, gardens to be planted, weeded, and harvested, food to be processed, frozen, or canned, wood to be cut and split, and fences and equipment that need repairs. Projects end up being more complicated than expected, animals get sick, and the list goes on and on. It can be overwhelming for those with a full-time job outside of their farm life and a family to raise; it can be overwhelming!

There’s never a shortage of things on the to-do list, but it is the most rewarding and fulfilling way to live. If I haven’t scared you away from your dream of starting a backyard farm or homestead, my number one piece of advice is “take your time and start small.” Homesteading is not an overnight success.

Take Your Time and start small.

Are you interested in growing your food? You can develop an herb garden in containers or build raised beds for fruits and vegetables. Gardening is a lot of work, and it takes time to maintain. By starting small, you can experiment and figure out what you love to grow and what you don’t. Plus, you can take your time designing the perfect garden space and learn how to maximize your growing area.

Maybe you want to add chickens to your homestead? Farm-fresh eggs are amazing, and once you cook a meal with organic eggs, you won’t buy store-bought eggs again. However, before jumping headfirst and grabbing all the cute, barnyard mix chicks, you can, at Tractor Supply, tip your toes instead. Take your time, research, and determine your goal for raising chickens.

You Will Fail and make mistakes.

Homesteading is a learning process. Each year, you take what you learned the previous year and make it better. We have made our fair share of mistakes. We built our first garden next to our creek and, a few months later, had to watch everything get washed away by a flood. Watching months of hard work destroyed in just a few minutes was devastating, but we learned a valuable lesson. The following year, we started over and built our garden away from the creek, and it was bigger and better than the year before.

We’ve also made plenty of other mistakes, from using the wrong fencing materials to painting our chicken coops and outbuildings white, then having to repaint everything the following year. As much as whiteboard and batten are aesthetically pleasing for Instagram, white chicken coops are not practical on our farm and require a lot of maintenance.

I spent so much time trying to keep the coops clean by pressure washing them every month so they didn’t look so dingy and gross in my photos. So, I decided to repaint everything to match our barn (dark blue/grey that hides dirt so much better), and now I only pressure wash twice a year.

I enjoy capturing the beauty of nature and life on the farm and sharing it with all of you, but I’m hoping to share more “real-life” moments in 2022. I want to inspire others by sharing bountiful harvests and dreamy sunsets and make homesteading relatable by sharing more of the dirty work behind the scenes of everyday life on the farm and not portraying a romanticized version of homesteading.

Homesteading isn’t for the faint of heart.

Homesteading is not for the faint of heart and is labor intensive. I’m not saying that to discourage you or that you shouldn’t try it because deciding to purchase our farm changed our lives in many ways. We’re more conscious about where our food comes from, more confident in trying new projects, and our lives are so incredibly full now. The knowledge and experience we have gained over the years are priceless. We are so thankful for every day spent on the farm, and while it’s not a perfect life, it is a damn good one!

xo, Jen

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  1. Debbie Woods says:

    Life is messy, period! But so worth all the messes!
    Thank you for sharing. Your post was quite encouraging! 2021 brought some family messes….messes that have caused our family to become fractured and only God can fix.
    But we simply jump in and continue on our journey God has called us too.
    I love your farm and your animals! I know it’s hard work and you and your husband are equipped and dedicated! Thanks for being good examples and thanks for being real!

    • Beautifully written! I love your positive outlook and you are so right! God is with us every step of the way and throughout every challenge in life. I’m excited to see what 2022 holds for you and I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers Debbie!!! Thank you for reading my blog and for your sweet comment. Means so much! XOXO, Jennifer

  2. Sandy says:

    We’ve had a veggie garden at every home and it is hard on the back with planting, pulling weeds, and rototilling. Then there’s mud, bugs, weird-shaped produce and drought. But the fun of heading out with a basket and finding healthy, ripe vegetables each day is the best surprise! There is such joy in putting together a meal from your own land or just popping in your mouth a newly picked cherry tomato that makes it all worthwhile!
    We’ve had a horse and cattle. They were beautiful to watch as they grazed and romped in the field but, oh, the work! The horse was a picky eater so we still had to mow but the cattle ate every blade of grass. It wasn’t cheap to have these “pets”! There is the farrier, the constant hunt for hay, the feed and shots, the mucking of stall & paddock, the water trough where we had to run piping and electricity to from the house. You couldn’t go on long vacations but the heart connection between us and them didn’t want to anyway!

    • It is so much work, but I couldn’t imagine living any other way. It’s funny we use to vacation several times a year before the farm, and we haven’t wanted to leave since we bought the farm five years ago. I miss the beach a little bit, but I don’t think I would ever be able to enjoy myself with so many animals back home, I would be worried sick! Thank you, Sandy, for sharing your wonderful memories with me! XOXO Jennifer

Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a combat veteran and wife who is passionate about animal rescue, homesteading, and mental health advocacy. Jen's amazing journey of transitioning from military service to homesteading can be followed on her blog and social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard.

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