A perfect homestead? Beats me.
A pretty good homestead would be one which has been developed for at least a few years. Systems are in place, working well with the bugs worked out. Crops have been grown in areas that have been under natural cultivation for a while with open pollinated seed which evolved specific to the location. Livestock has been bred on site and are well adapted to the environment. Pests are in balance with predators.
Most importantly, the skills required to keep the place going have been internalized. All the books in the world won't do much good when it's crunch time. Experience with the land must be developed over at least a few seasons to gain an understanding of the patterns of nature on the site and how to take best advantage of them. The people involved will be familiar with each other and fully assimilated into the local community. They'll not the good hunting and fishing spots, where to find wild berries and nuts, who to go to to get something fixed, who has what to trade with, who has specialized skills, who can be depended upon for a helping hand or sound counsel.
At home, at night, in the winter
I use the bedroom for sleeping, often with a heating pad for the back. The new bed is MUCH warmer than the old one. Got some different blankets that are toasty.
I use the bathroom for a few moments at a time. Longer periods of use has ample hot water involved.
I use the kitchen for a few moments at a time. Longer period have the stove going and sometime some hot water.
For the most part I'm at my desk.
I don't use the back bedroom or the living room. I don't really care about heat in the laundry room. I've shut off vents in those rooms, heating them does nothing for me.
This place uses electric heat and the bill is less than 100 bucks. It's been well insulated to keep the Cool in. Florida does not need much heating, but sometimes this place gets HOT. Right now it's daytime and I have the door open. Being a tightwad, I'd like to see how much I can cut that bill down.
Big seed catalogs don't fit in the mailbox way out at the road so the mailman brings it to the house and drops them on the porch with the rest of my mail.
I'm gonna order a different catalog every day from now on.
I'm constantly exploring ways for people to get started in farming. I've offered ideas for a large group. This is what I've come up with for a small group.
Lots of thought went into this article. It's been a month just writing it up, many months developing small ideas into the bigger picture, and probably more time will be needed to add finesse.
You can keep up with revisions on my site as well as explore relevant links.
For better or worse, this is what I've come up with.
Get yourself a cup of coffee...
A Few People Can Share A Farm
Getting started in farming and making a go of it is made difficult because of the cost of land. I've met people from all walks of life that would love to farm, would probably do very well for themselves, but lack the financial resources to buy property. It's tough out there just paying the bills. It would take a young kid making minimum wage forever to save up for a downpayment. If they are paying all the rent and bills alone, it may be impossible. People are left with only the dream of farming. Unless that dream is nourished, it can wither away. Rather than let the dream die, exploring different ways of buying a farm is in order.
Back in college, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I was earning something like 7 bucks an hour as a short order cook. Minimum wage was around $5/hour, so I was doing better than some. Still, the paycheck was only around $200/week. A couple bucks an hour up or down does not make a great deal of difference. Slightly better food, a new pair of pants now and then, some money to go to a concert, maybe I could get cable TV. To make ends meat I got together with some college buddies to share an apartment, 5 of us in all. These guys made less than me and with the rent at $500/month, sharing an apartment was the practical way to go. Split the rent, the light bill, everyone paid for their own long distance phone calls, and everyone was on their own for groceries. I don't know where toilet paper came from. The dishes were never done. There were mushrooms growing in the bathroom. Someone ate my spaghetti. There are advantages and disadvantages with shared housing arrangements. We had our own rooms and the bills were affordable. Had we organized ourselves a little more, by sharing cleaning/cooking/groceries, we could have made the apartment a more comfortable experience. As an example of cooperation for mutual advantage, I can think of none better.
I've explored the notion of a large group of people cooperating on an enterprise. A key element is using the money people are already spending. Most folks are already spending money on housing. Putting it to use to buy a farm makes good sense. I want to explore the notion of a handful of people sharing a farm. A small group can be formed more easily than an army. I'll use my place as the reference because it was cheap to buy, was purchased without a bank or even so much as a credit check. Several people will fit with a little bit of carpentry, it comes with 3.7 acres of pasture and trees and most importantly, the bills are low.
This place is a 40 year old mobile home. About 15 years ago the previous owner built an addition along the entire north side to add an enclosed porch, bedroom and sizable living room. Total area is 1000 square feet. Except for that one outlet and the garage light, practically everything works. With the 2 existing bedrooms and the laundry room, 5 people could fit comfortably but the plan may call for bunks or couples in the bedrooms. Fully enclosing the back porch would make a fine bedroom, as would the front porch. It can work.
If I were to sell the place, bank financing is not an option. The trailer was built in 1972. No bank is going to touch a trailer older than 30 years. Anyone with the money to pay for the place outright would probably be looking at something more modern. The only practical option is to finance the sale myself, which is what the previous owner did with me. $5000 down, 500/month is affordable. I've gone the extra mile in paying down the debt. It'll be paid off before I've been here 5 years. There are homes out there that can be had for little down. My last house I moved in with a $1600 downpayment. 25 years ago my brother and I bought a place with no downpayment. We got a bank loan that covered the entire price of the house, plus an extra $2k we used to put in a new front door, turn on the utilities, and catch up on some bills.
Anyway you look at it, coming up with a downpayment is not the easiest thing to do. For someone earning wages, saving up $5000 is tough. Add in a few hundred more for closing costs, turning the lights on, hooking up a phone, and renting a truck to move furniture. Having been a landlord, I've seen hundreds of people who can't come up with $800, the first months rent and security deposit, needed to move into an apartment. I've also seen people come up with a thousand bucks fast. They gotta have a car, somehow they find the money. They gotta have an apartment, they come up with it. Tax refunds are a nice shot in the arm every year. If you put the first $25 from each paycheck into a savings account or a mayonnaise jar, you'd have the money within a year. Split the downpayment with 5 people, $1200 each buys the property, pays the closing costs, and gets the lights turned on.
The place has some bills, everyone chips in equally. The place has a mortgage, everyone chips in equally. You are sharing the roof, the bathroom, the appliances, the electrical wiring, the door knobs, light bulbs, and the land. Sleeping arrangements, room size, and who owns the couch has no bearing on the amount of each share. 5 people demands the bills be split 5 ways.
Split 5 ways, 175/month each. About $45/week. These figures are based on my current situation. With 5 people sharing the home, the electric bill would probably be more. I don't pay for homeowners insurance. I don't have municipal water and sewer, I have a well and septic tank. I don't have cable TV. The bills will depend on the specifics of the property and the lifestyle agreed upon by the people in the group. Not included in the above figures is the cost of groceries and supplies. The arrangement can have each person looking out for their own needs but considerable cost reductions can be found by working together. There is also no debate over who's turn it is to buy toilet paper this week. Groceries and supplies can be collectively purchased and meet everyone's needs for around $50/week each. This brings the total Room and Board charge to $95/week/person. Keeping the bills down is essential. Everyone has their own personal expenses, transportation, cell phones, hobbies and interests, and would likely be saving for a place of their own.
The numbers say around $100/week/person will do the job. It also assumes everything is smooth and there are no troubles. Reality and experience dictate otherwise. The water heater leaks, the fridge breaks down, the stairs need to be repaired and we don't have a saw to do it with, and we need a bigger pot to cook enough spaghetti to feed everyone. With everyone in the group dependent on everyone else, prudence demands the group be prepared for troubles and unexpected situations. The group needs to do more than just get by. It needs to flourish. A weekly Room & Board charge of $125-$150/week would make it possible for the group to get ahead of the game without making it unaffordable. The amount can be estimated ahead of time in order for the people involved to determine if they can be involved and make plans accordingly. When it's time to search for a property, these figures will aid in selecting suitable properties. The weekly R&B can be reduced at any time the group comes to agreement. Increasing the amount can cause hardship.
The first few weeks will surely find a need for funds. Tools and renovations, furniture, kitchen equipment, perhaps a spare fridge or chest freezer is essential to smoothing out operations. Once people are settled in, the surplus will grow, even with setting aside funds to handle emergencies. When the group has enough to cover the bills for a couple of months, that surplus can be used to further the ultimate goal of establishing a farm. It is the farm operation that will cut expenses and offer opportunity to everyone involved.
Everyone chips in on the bills, they do the same with the workload. Share the meals, share the cooking, share the cleanup. Everyone keeps an area clean and tidy. Take turns cleaning the bathroom. Getting a farm started takes an endless contribution of effort. Using natural growing methods, the costs are kept down, but the workload can be considerable. There is compost and leaf mold to gather, chickens to chase, growing areas to develop as raised beds, swales or hugelkulture. There are seeds to start and seedlings to transplant, potatoes that need to be hilled, and greens to harvest. If the marketing strategy includes farmers markets the product needs to be sorted, washed, packed, and the market staffed. The advantage of a group is found in division of labor. Where one person has strong skills, another may not. Delegating tasks according to ability makes good sense and puts the right person on the job for which they are best suited.
Growing vegetables is perhaps the easiest thing to do. As one of the first projects to pursue, it can be done with very little cost (seeds and hand tools), and offer food for the group. This offers an immediate return by reducing the grocery bill. If the grocery bill can be reduced consistently, the R&B fee can be reduced. Rather than reduce that fee, an increase in the surplus would allow the group to enhance operations with more/better tools and equipment. Get the pressure canner to preserve the harvest and keep the bills down when it's not harvest season. Buy and scavenge the materials needed to build a solar dehydrator. Save up for solar PV panels to eliminate the electric bill. Getting ahead on the mortgage or paying if off entirely sure would be a relief. The potential revenue from farm sales from even a small plot of land suggests the people involved could replace their employment income. Surely they would be able to enhance their income.
Cooperation, working together towards a common goal, sharing the burdens and responsibilities all come together to form an effective means of getting the land and bringing out the best in people. It promotes success. There is nothing new here. This is a proven method that works.
Until it all goes to hell.
Jack wants to move out to go to college or join the Army and wants his money back when he leaves. Jill is upset because she works twice as hard as everyone one else. John does all the cooking and it's as much time as Jane spends pulling weeds. Jane does the job of handling the bank, the shopping, the errands and wants to be compensated. Jim has been busy the last few months and has not put in the same effort.
Unless the arrangement has plans and procedures in place at the beginning to account for discontent, the mortgage holder will end up with the property, the lawyers will end up with all the money, and the people involved will be broke, homeless, unemployed and in debt. If things go well, at some point some members of the group will wish to move on to the next chapter of their life. The best case scenario of living together in harmony and operating a successful farm is possible for many years. Still, prudence demands there be an exit strategy for people to leave the group, voluntarily or involuntarily, and an entrance strategy to bring new members into the group.
There are separate and distinct projects involved: property management, rentable housing and a farm. The initial plan of 'share everything' can be modified to keep the separation.
Property Management Company
Establish a company with the purpose of buying and financing the land. This can add a couple hundred to a couple thousand bucks to the overall project, so it may be a difficult step to take with limited funds. There are advantages in the long run, but these advantages may not present with the single property. Foregoing this part of the plan is possible, in which case the farm company serves the purpose of owning the land.
The land company is the landlord. The home is a rentable asset, as is the land. The rent for the home must cover the mortgage, utilities, taxes, property insurance and maintenance. It is assumed the property is purchased with owner financing. In order for this to work, the people involved will need to be personally responsible for that mortgage. This is a committment from which there is no walking away. If there is no rent coming in, these shareholders either come out of pocket for the mortgage and expenses, or risk losing the property and all their invesment. A small group of people involved with a closely held company would be well served with equal shares and an equal investment.
The shareholders are not required to rent the home or live in the home. They are not required to participate in the farm enterprise. They can be unrelated and unassociated individuals involved only in the land company. Becoming a shareholder requires investment capital to create the company, purchase the property, and pay the bills long enough for income to fall in place. A shareholder is free to sell his/her share at anytime to anyone for whatever price. Any person can own from between 1 to all shares.
Instead of a small group of people investing in a land company, a large group of people could engage in a land company. An ideal situation sees the shareholders raise enough capital to purchase the land outright. Any rents collected cover a few minor expenses, with most of the rest being available for distribution to shareholders. Having prospective tenants already lined up is an incentive for those investors to get involved. For the prospective farmers, the shareholders are a potential market and the land company removes the need for a large investment. The trade off is ownership vs leasing the land. There are land companies out there, but a small group of farmers would benefit from a land company on their side. It may be possible for the farmers to eventually buy all the outstanding shares.
Using my place as a reference, the electricity creates a slight complication. A single meter for a housing unit and a farm will require the rent include the utility bill. A separate power pole could be installed, but the well is powered by one meter and shared by the housing and the farm. The septic system is usable only by the home. Installing independent systems is possible but can increase the investment required to unacceptable levels. Increasing the rent according to projected utility demand with the land company responsible for the electric service bill is the simple solution. Independent systems can be installed at a later date. In the meantime, the farm has no bathroom. A portalet would be the responsibility of the farm company.
The house loses status as a center of activity and becomes an income generating asset. The house rent would be a major component of the income for the land company. The utilities must be included in the rent as there is no way to split it equitably between the house and the land rentals. Using the same figures as above, the rent would be $1000/month. Because there are not independent systems for the home and the land, the rent must include electricity.
Stable tenants are desired. Anyone can rent the house. The tenants can be completely unrelated to the group or comprised in part or entirely of the group. The rent would need to be sufficient to cover the mortgage, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and property taxes. Those living in the house will be responsible for their own means of organizing and working out internal issues without impacting or shutting down the farm company or land company. As with the earlier plan, cooperation and sharing of expenses offers advantage if the tenants are unrelated. Since tenancy does not require a surplus for farm development, the R&B fee would be lower than the projection above. $40/week for each of 5 people covers the rent. Add another $50/week for groceries and supplies. $100/week rather than $125-150/week. Furthermore, with the land company in place the initial cost of tenancy is low and affordable. If the tenants are not involved in the land company or the farm operation, they would be charged a security deposit.
The farm company rents the land from the land company. The rent includes the use of utilities and may be adjusted for increases in utility usage as the farm expands. There are few expenses incurred by the land company but they need to be covered. Property taxes, some part of the utility bills, and insurance on structures used by the farm company won't add up to $100/month. Increase this amount to include a buffer for maintenance, increased electricity usage from running a well pump, and a return on investment. $200/month would be in line with a reasonable rental rate for the land and systems involved.
Developing a farm will take some investment. Along with the rent, there will be a need for tools, seed, fuel, and and endless list of other supplies and materials. This investment does not need to come in all at once. The farm company needs regular cashflow. 5 people chipping in $100/month each will pay the rent and allow enough to work with to get the place going. The greater investment is the time and effort being put in by the people involved. There is much more to discuss in how the farm is organized and operated. For the sake of getting this article finished, I'll assume equal effort and equal reward.
I've presented 2 plans.
Plan 1, everyone chips in equally, share everything equally. Cost per person, $1200 down, $150/week.
Plan 2, the people establish 3 companies. If all people involved live in the home and work the farm, and set up the companies with minimal cash outlay and equal shares, the cost per person can be $2000 down, $150/week.
The investment is pretty close. The monthly budget is the same. It may seem to be pointless redundancy for the people involved to shuffle money from one company to the next, but it is necessary to keep the books right and the enterprises separate and distinct. If the time comes that an outside investor is interested in assuming all the debt of the land company at a favorable rate, those books become critically important. If one of the people in the group wishes to exit, these books establish a fair market value. The key difference between the two plans is flexibility and continuity. There is an entrance strategy for others to get involved. There is an exit strategy for people to leave the group.
Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to a small group cooperating on a farm enterprise (other than coming up with the money) is the personalities involved. People come and go. They pair off and go their separate ways. They get along and they argue. There will be people who want to leave the group, people who want to join the group, and people who, as a last resort, need to be driven out. Setting up the 3 companies makes life a whole lot easier. Problems have solutions. They don't tear down the whole operation. In the event of disagreement there is a remedy to be found.
If 2 people can't live under the same roof, they can part company while still maintaining the farm. If someone moves out, the rent for the home is split among those who remain. A new roommate can be brought in, even if that new roomie has nothing to do with the farm. Everyone can move out. As long as a new tenant is found, the land company remains solvent. The farm can be a flop, never making a dime in sales, but the people involved still have really low bills. If someone wants to sell their share of the land company, there is nothing to stop them. It would be nice if the other shareholders had the right of first refusal. It would be possible for the shareholders of the land company to buy back the share.
What's important to understand is the fact there are plenty of options under the 2nd plan. In the first plan, if cohesion of the group breaks down there is the risk of losing the land and everything that comes with it. It is difficult to interchange people without a plan and a statutory structure which allows it to be conducted quickly and fairly. A few years down the road, if the original group is still working and living well together, the fruits of their labor can be impressive. Even if they hit some bumps along the way, they don't have to stop and start over from scratch.
Perseverance has it's place. This sort of situation is designed so that it is not necessarily a permanent one. It may be that most of the original group takes their leave as time goes by. While there, perhaps they learn skills that make them better people. For those who remain behind, the learning continues, as does the development and performance of the farm which can make it possible for the group to operate with fewer people involved. Attrition can be an advantage for those who stick with the plan.
If the original team sticks with it the advantages are greater still. Say the farm business performs well enough for the group to buy another farm. Some of the original team break off to operate it, perhaps bringing in roommates, interns, or new group members to give the place a financial boost at the start. A couple of local farms begins to form the nucleus of a cooperative market.
There is no limit to where this can go but it has to start somewhere.
As I mentioned in the OP, leaf mold is terribly overlooked and is in dire need of more attention. I must admit to being a Purist when it comes to production methods. I shall strive to be more open minded.
I started making leaf mold about 12 years ago. I had a huge volume of leaves available. When I added them to the compost heap, the heap cooled down. I was trying to put together a big steamy pile. Hot composting was the objective, getting the C:N ratio right so I could have compost ready FAST. I was tossing the hot heap every couple of days. I drove over to my brothers house one day. On the way I came across a huge pile of bagged leaves by the road which I simply HAD to have. It took several trips with a 5x10 trailer piled high to haul them home. With all those bags of leaves there was no way I was going to put them all in the hot compost. I figured I'd pile them in the corner, letting them rot slowly on their own with no attention. I could draw from the leaf heap as I needed more browns. Then spring came and I had even more leaves that had to be stolen. The pile got bigger. After a couple of years I got into mulching. Sure was handy having all those leaves. As I dug into the pile, I found the leaves were breaking down beautifully, even without the steamy goodness of the hot compost heap. I figured I could save myself a lot of work if I had enough material piled up ahead of time to keep my compost pipeline full. I started heaping up even more leaves and studying up on compost. This led to my thinking that rotten leaves, all by themselves, was a different animal.
1 Pay off the house. It is an obsession at this point. I'm so close right now I can taste it. March is possible, May is certain. With the mortgage gone I have the ability to flush the job. After 47 years, I'd like to be debt free. I'll have new doors of opportunity open up when I am able to seize control of my time.
2 Make The Natural Growing and Small Farm Reader a reality. This project has been gaining momentum lately. This project would provide a residual income stream for me and a hundred other people. The stage would be set for moving ahead with more projects.
Magnus Fundal wrote:
Don't mind if I make my own observations, then.
By all means, I welcome it. Anything that adds to the body of knowledge of what is going on and how this stuff does whatever it is it is doing will touch many lives. There is much more to it than meats the eye.
If I'm right, leaf mold is an abundantly available, mineral rich resource that also serves as a nutrient trap. Identifying it as a separate and distinct product would open the doors to an entire industry, and a local one at that.
I have no references or sources to offer other than my back field and years of personal observation to support my conclusion that compost is different from leaf mold.
It is my understanding that bacteria can not produce lignase. Nonetheless, leaves will break down in a compost heap. Fungal decomposition is a slow, cool process which would be a challenge in a hot, active compost heap. That heat is gonna cook the fungi. Something else is happening. In a rich, diverse, steamy compost heap I'm sure there are all sorts of things going on with environmental factors, organic acids, enzymes and stuff I never heard of which can aid in decomposing lignin without participation by fungi. It's a different process with different results.
In the finished product there is a recognizable distinction. Leaf mold is spongy. The texture of compost is more like dirt, kinda flat. The smell is different. Leaf mold has a simple woodsy odor. Compost has a different odor depending on what went into the heap. Wet compost has the texture of mud. Wet leaf mold expands. I've seen remarkable difference in the soil. Beds treated with compost separated by a 2 foot wide path from beds treated with leaf mold grow different weeds.
Leaves. Only Leaves. Really.
Pile them up, walk away. If you want to encourage bacteria, do it in the compost heap. Leave the leaves alone.
I want to read more about how and why.
Me too. Can you send me a copy of your thesis when completed?
"Organic" labeling is an artform. If the product can not be labeled as Certified Organic, simply use the word as part of the Brand:
"Organic Traditions" All-Natural YumYums
"Organic Delights" Hair Conditioning Rinse and Styling Gel
"Fresh Organics" Gear Lubricant and Engine Degreaser
I've found a wide range of misunderstanding of what 'organic' and 'natural' means to people.
I spoke with an Amish farmer a few years back asking if his produce was organic. His response has been stuck in my head ever since. "It sure is. It's organic. But I won't lose a crop. I'll go to the spray if I have to ."
I asked a landscape guy if his compost was organic. He said it was. I asked if he had the Certifying Documents. He had no idea what I was talking about.
Sometimes people don't know what they are eating. I overheard a young lady talking about Celiac's disease: "That's why I don't eat Wheat. I prefer to eat Grain."
Organic produce is not supposed to have pesticides, but once it leaves the farm there are plenty of places for contaminants to be applied. Makes it hard to trust the label when at any step along the distribution chain the food can be adulterated. I've used compost made with supermarket produce. The stuff did the job but included in the heap were countless rubber bands, stickers, tags and pieces of plastic bags. What a mess.
The amount of compost produced by a sack of spoiled vegetables may not seem like much. What is important is not the volume but the quality and richness of biota that comes with it. It's the microbes. Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, yeasts play a key role in the soil. They do the job of chelating the nutrients: altering them into a form the plants can use. They change the soil structure, holding it together when its loose and breaking it apart when it is hard. They convert lignin into hummus. All too often the microbe populations have been destroyed or radically altered by the previous use of chemicals and the effects of repeated tillage. Bare soil allows the destruction of microbes by UV sunlight. Even small applications of herbicides and fungicides can wipe out entire species of microbes, tipping the balance in favor of less desirable microbe populations.
It's getting hard to find land that has not been paved, covered by a house, used as a dumping ground or previously used for farming. Remediating soil that has been anthropomorped or is marginal to begin with is well served by adding compost. An inch thick layer is a start. You can turn it in, but if left on the surface I find it will be mixed in by bugs and worms. You'll probably see an improvement the first year. Next season, add more. Keeping it covered with a thick layer of mulch is probably the best thing you can do to protect that soil once you've put that work in. Amending soil is a process. Give it the time and effort, you'll see the results.
After many years I grew out of the booze. A worn out body and a demanding job don't leave much room for it anymore. Mostly I wail the coffee, although once in a while a glass of wine or some #7 tea.
This one is frugal, tasty, and hits the spot on those sunny Florida summer days.
I get gallon pickle jars from the big jobs at work. The company pays for a few things like peanuts (salt), and pickles (acid) to keep the guys working without turning into a pickle in the heat.
I put 5 tea bags in a gallon pickle jar, leave it in a sunny spot, head to work. Let it brew all day in the sun.
When I get home it's ready, but still pretty warm. I've measured 110 degrees.
Take out the tea bags (add to compost).
I add about a half a cup of sugar to sweeten it up. Honey is excellent in there, perhaps a splash of lemon juice. You have to add the sweeteners when the tea has cooled or it tends to ferment.
It's not really an Adult beverage, but I know a guy who brews some of that Backwoods Old Time Recipe #7. Comes in a ball jar.
Pour a tall glass of tea, add a splash of #7, take off your shoes because you're gonna lose them if you don't.
Christmas is coming and most some of you are away from family. While you probably have plans for a good meal and some fellowship, I thought it might add some fun if you had some gifts to share.
Over at thriftbooks.com they are having a holiday sale. Buy 5, get 1 of them free (the lowest priced). Seems a shame to miss out on that, and you folks seem to enjoy reading material.
Here's the plan:
Put everyone's name in a hat, everyone pulls out a name. Get your own name, try again.
You will be the Secret Santa for that person. Pick out 5 books for them. (Figure about a $5 average price)
PM me with your selection. I'll see to it they get sent out.
You have until Saturday Night to get your PM to me. Sunday morning at the latest. Sunday afternoon at the very latest. Sunday evening starts to really push the envelope.
What are you waiting for, do this at once!
These books come from different locations and will arrive over the course of several days.
They'll be in mailing envelopes and it will not be possible to tell which books are in which package, so you'll have to open them Christmas day and split them up accordingly (read: fight over the spoils).
This should be enough books that, once consumed and reviewed, you may be able to engage in some book swapping.
I've been a strong supporter of organic growing in the past, and I still am. Organic growing is a gateway to permaculture, but the grower has to make the effort to keep on going to get past the organic method, otherwise it's essentially the same situation as Green Revolution Agriculture, but without the synthetics.
I could do a monocrop in the back field. I'd probably make some money, and I've been tempted. A field of just carrots or just potatoes would be mind numbing to me. I can stand a couple hundred potatoes. Several thousand, one after another after another, would quickly become drudgery. It becomes assembly line work. Plug in the seed, turn on the pumps, repeat. This is not the homesteading lifestyle I dream of, and who would want to come out to the farm if all I had to offer was a field of carrots and a shiny well pump. There's no interaction, no enjoyment, no diversity, nothing to lift the spirit. You've got one thing to look forward to: the carrot harvest, along with the carrot packing, carrot loading, and the truck turning onto the road. The operation in the video requires no skill and very little understanding. All one needs to do is read the directions and delegate tasks to the hired help. So simple a caveman could do it? How about: so simple a robot could do it.
This is not agriculture, it is not organic growing. It is a bastardization of an idea for maximized profit on an industrial scale in order to take advantage of a marketing strategy. Every problem seen in this field is a result of applying organic principles to an industrial model. The more important issues of natural growing are ignored in favor of a proven commercial process which is in conflict with the nature of these issues. I've got nothing against carrots, can't make a decent pot roast without em. But growing carrots like this flies in the face of stewarding the environment and does nothing whatsoever to improve quality of life for the people involved, other than the guy who signs the paychecks, and I question his ability to sustain his business.
Organic growing is only a start. It's Natural Growing 101. To get it right you have to move to the next level.
Yeah, you can hook up the pumps and turn them on. It's easy, cost effective, and can be done by anyone who knows his way around a pipe wrench. Of course, the soil will end up salinated and the well will run dry as it does on GRA crops which are constantly irrigated. When the Mad Hatter ran out of tea and cakes he would simply move on to the next seat. I suspect this will be the solution sought for the grower in the video. Solving that problem ahead of time can be done by reducing the demand for water to a level which nature will provide. Deep mulch, high levels of organic matter in the soil, rich hummus, and hugelkulture are all well developed ideas that have proven their effectiveness and are cheaper in the long run.
Geoff Lawton walks through a field beside the carrots. It's totally exposed to the sun and blows away with every step he takes. There goes all the work put into that soil. But the grower is not concerned about the soil, just the product. Cover that soil, the work and investment would be around to keep giving back. One more step, adding a cover of leaves, grass clippings, old hay, wood chips, or whatever is handy would preserve that soil.
This means monorisk. Bring one pest, one virus, one bad weather pattern and all is lost. Putting all your eggs in one basket is kinda dumb if you ask me. That's no way to run a business, but that's none of my business.
The grower of the monocrop is the reason they migrate. They have nothing because they spend what little they make on temporary lodging, travel, and living out of a trunk. Diversify the crop, stagger plantings, bring something to harvest regularly rather than all at once. Regular work means people can put down roots. Being around for the entire year, the people would be able to develop skills. They'll become members of the community. They'll be regular customers, no need for distribution. Their lives will improve. They'll be better people and it will show in their work. Is that too much to ask?
Organic is a start, but buy itself is an incomplete method. If you want to keep it going, you need more. Nature is complex. It all works together. Cutting it down to the basics loses the essence of that complexity and the ability of the land to sustain the crops, fertility, nutrition, people and community. In a small backyard setting organic growing will get you by because the ecosystem has not been disrupted to any significant degree. When a vast field is laid waste to support a monoculture, natural systems break down. Bad bugs are not kept in check by good bugs. Water runs off, taking soil with it. Disease has a population sufficient for an epidemic to ravage the entire field. Bare land is assaulted by the sun, wind, and rain. And the people are reduced to the value of the commodity being harvested. When the work is done, they get loaded up on a truck just like the carrots.
The grower of the crop in the video will probably be able to keep up that operation for a while. Only when his crops begin to fail will the flaws in organic growing present. When enough of these operations fail, only then will solutions be sought for problems they didn't need to be hit with in the first place.
I'm in north Florida. When I lived in town betony was all over the backyard. Pull it up, it'll come right back. Dig it out, same thing. Tilling equates to betony multiplication.
It's those roots.
Betony forms tubers on the roots ranging from a fraction of an inch to several inches in length. It's called Rattlesnake Weed because of the size and shape of the tuber. If the tuber breaks, it's still viable and can grow another plant from a piece only a fraction of an inch in size. The roots also grow horizontally, propagating by rhizomes. If allowed to bloom, the plant produces an abundance of seeds the size of dust which further spread the plant. Persistence is the enemy, and this plant won't give up.
The strategy I've employed works well with raised beds. Clearing the bed of all traces of roots is easier down here with the loose sandy soil. Rather than pull the weed I follow the roots to get every last bit. It's a chore. Miss a piece, it'll come back. The removed roots will grow quickly if composted. I have piled it up to dry before composting, and the water stored in the tubers keeps it alive. A steaming hot heap will knock em down. The sides of the beds need to be a solid wall extending below the ground surface. I've used ceramic floor tile, but the gaps between the tile allows the roots to get through and the plant comes back. I've used lumber, but as the lumber decays, the roots grow through it. My best defense was some scrap concrete fiber panels sunk into the ground about a foot. This made a continuous wall which made it hard for the plants to dive deep enough to get under the barrier, but not impossible. It still came back, but it takes a few months.
I can get the weed out of the beds, but if the weed is outside of the beds, the roots find a way in. I ripped the stuff out of the paths and mulched the paths. Again, more chore. Any plants that bloom a few feet from the beds and mulched paths would produce seeds to blow back into the beds.
Eradicating the weed is a battle of attrition. Pulling them up when you see them is the easiest method because you can see the plant. The roots are not strong so the top will pull easily, but always leaves something behind. Pulling is only a temporary measure, but keeps the plant under control with the least effort. You'll need to keep the area in and arou6nd the gardens clear of visible weeds, and the effort is continuous. Start in the center, work your way out. This will give you an area that is mostly clear of the weed for a longer period.
That's the best I've got for you.
Out here in the woods I have not yet found the weed. I am thankful.
Aaron Festa wrote: On a bigger topic anyone have ideas that a newbie can make using a coping saw and some files and chisels?
Intarsia is a form of woodworking which fits coped pieces to form the piece. Colors are handled with different species, but can be polished, stained and painted. The basic tools for this artform is a coping saw, some files, and chisels.
Welcome to Permies.com. From what you describe, you're in the right place.
Speak your mind, get feedback. That's pretty much how it works around here.
So far it sounds like you are off to a fine start.
There is a slight risk of financial calamity which would wipe out the value of your savings, but the chain of events which would leave you in a desperate situation are highly unlikely. There is always inflation, but from the sounds of things, you have a buffer against that. Inflation is most volatile in the food and energy sectors. Since you are able to produce some of your food and have the bike/carpool in place, you are in a good position. You are also internalizing skills which will always be valuable. You'll find these forums to be a goldmine for finding and learning more skills which will further your pursuit of ascetic resilience.
Jonathan Overlin wrote:
Your house and land are paid for
you have 78 acres of mostly wooded land
you have a loafing shed, some paddocks and an old tractor
you also have 100k to invest in enterprises
What would you do?
My house and land will be paid for in a few months
I have 3.7 acres, mostly pasture, some woods.
I've got a garage, a small livestock shelter, and a lawn mower.
I have a few dollars that I have not yet spent.
I would do those things which I enjoy doing and which generate enough income so I can keep doing it. It may not be the Most profitable, but it can provide a comfortable living. If I like what I'm doing it's not really work. If all I do is pay the bills, I can break free of the bonds of employment. This is about 500/month for me. I can grow vegetables and sell them right from the field. I'd like that. About a half an acre should be enough for me to reach financial independence, accounting for taxes, and some extra to develop other projects. Those other projects can be whatever strikes my fancy.
Without that job thing, my time belongs to me.
That's what I would do: buy my independence.
If money is what you want, you can make lots of it, more than you can spend. Go get it.
I can use more money than I have, but I also want to do things that have nothing to do with money.
I would get some ducks. I like ducks. I think this place would be more fun with ducks around. And some chickens, maybe some turkeys.
I would like to build some solar equipment with which to experiment. I've built dehydrators and box heaters. I'd like to try out different solar cookers.
I would like to establish a berry patch. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries all grow well and are so tasty.
I would like to build a kitchen, get it licensed for commercial production, and put the unsold vegetables and berries to good use. While I'm at it, I'd like to teach classes (I can cook!) in that kitchen for others to learn how to can, dry, pickle, and prepare all that good stuff. I would make some videos about cooking, and canning, and growing vegetables, and doing the things I want to do. I can probably make some more money doing that, which I could put back into doing more things that I want to do.
I would like to set up some tanks for raising catfish. Catfish, potatoes, fresh peas, and strawberry ice cream makes for an awesome meal.
I would like to get some help. With so much going on that needs attention, and with the bills covered, and with plenty of food around, I could offer someone the chance to get involved, learn, and become prepared to start their own farm. If my help is working hard, learning, and mastering skills, I'd like to help them get what they want.
With some help around here I could do even more. I could spend more time writing about stuff. These forums have a wealth of information, but we've barely scratched the surface. There is more out there to figure out, and sharing what is learned gets more people involved so we can figure out even more stuff. Some of this stuff can be used to make a little money. If we figure out enough stuff, lots of people can use the information to do those things they want to do.
There's a lot to read. In an earlier post I explained the reason for interest.
Setting up as a For Profit Company allows virtually unlimited discretion as to the use of the fund as well as options for raising the funds. I am able to engage in whatever enterprise I see fit without the risk of being injoined by a lawsuit for unfair competition which could instantly wipe the entire project off the face of the world.
Let me allay the notion that I will make a big sack of money from this project.
-Even in it's infancy this project is eating a little bit of money in the form of documentation fees, mail, and website charges.
-Income Taxes will eat a third of the interest income as well as income from fundraising projects.
-If I solicit donations to the fund, income taxes will eat a third of the donations.
-If the fund grows to a point a staff is needed, it would take the interest income of several funded proposals just to cover the payroll.
-I draw no salary from the fund. I make a few bucks on the proposal fee (section 5.2), much of which which would be used for public record, credit, and criminal background checks, as well as travel to the site and real estate investigations.
-A single default would wipe out the income gain from several successes.
-If the Fund is a raging success, those mortgage payments go right back in to replenish the fund and get another farm going.
-I lined my pockets where?
There is a vast amount of investment capital out there. The amount of private investment capital blows the doors off what is available through non-profit organizations. Getting that money invested into farms is the task at hand. If done right, the Farmland Fund serves the purpose of offering the opportunity for people to get started and draws attention to those who have proven themselves.
A guy is at the casino with a bucket of quarters plugging them one at a time into the slot machines. Cherry-Cherry-Lemon. He keeps at it. 7-7-Banana, Clover-Clover-Zap. His bucket gets lower and lower.
Finally he reaches in for his last quarter...Bust. He's got nothing left.
He's been playing so long he's gotta go to the bathroom but finds the bathroom stall doors in the casino are coin operated. This guy has to go BAD. Another patron sees this guy in his anxious state. Understand the urgency of the predicament he hands the player a quarter and walks off. Just as he is about to put in the quarter to open the door, the fellow in the next stall finishes his work and opens the door. 'What Luck' the guy says as he pockets the quarter and makes use of the facilities.
With his gift quarter he tries one last time on the slot machine...JACKPOT-JACKPOT-JACKPOT
As a matter of fact it's such a huge jackpot that sirens sound off, balloons and confetti tumble down, the casino manager offers him a suite, and the champagne flows all night. Being the largest jackpot in a long time a news reporter interviews the winner. The new gozillionaire tells his story about the bathroom, and the quarter and the lucky break with the next stall.
'You must be rally thankful for the guy giving you that quarter" says the reporter.
'No' says the winner, 'I'm thankful for the guy who opened the door.'
I invite anyone to form a non-profit organization to help folks get a farm of their own, bring in a grant writer, charge zero interest, do whatever you think is right. Let my Fund be an inspiration for others to duplicate or emulate. As long as it helps bring people and land together, I'm all for it.
Adam Klaus wrote:IMHO, 7% simple interest is too high to be realistic for a farm enterprise in most situations.
This is not a project to help people handle hundreds of acres of wheat or a herd of cattle ranging to the horizon.
It could easily finance a small home with a few acres with a mortgage in the neighborhood of $500/month. Compared to renting an apartment, this is competitive. I use my place as a reference for price, housing, utilities, and land. After that it is up to the prospective farmer to explain what he/she would do with the place and how the mortgage would be paid.
Adam Klaus wrote:Is there any way to attract investment from a more philanthropic angle, rather than a returns approach? If we could offer financing to farmers for more like 2%, then I think we could really help to move more young people onto farms.
I'm not a man of unlimited means. It has taken me a year to build the fund to $3000. Philanthropy is not within my grasp beyond a $20 kickstarter pledge. If the interest rate was lower, it could draw in folks of less scrupulous intention. I don't want to finance a home for 30 years and be left holding the bag for someone who's plans 'inexplicably change' as soon as they move in. I'm looking for folks who have every intention of making a go of it and develop an income from farming. Get your foot in the door, establish yourself, show the world what you can do when unleashed, and get refinanced at a favorable rate so the fund is replenished to repeat the process.
For this Fund to work, I will need competent people who want to own their own farm. If I had a 2nd farm being operated by people I believe in, I've got an ideal prospect for the Fund. A trained operator could start here. I'd have a vested interest in teaching them everything I know (which will take about a week), expose them to all the information possible, give them the incentive to perform, and focus on preparing them to manage that 2nd farm.
What has been emerging over the past couple years is a plan to move an individual from start to finish: Train, Prove, Own. Do it a few times and we all share in the next step: a co-op. Do it a whole bunch of times, a Permaculture Community will have sprung to life.
My home is owner financed at 7%. I expect to have it paid off before my next tomatoes start to bear fruit. I took the place in summer of '10. 5 years to pay off a 40k note is not impossible. Earning wages part time would be a challenge to pay off a note, but there are ways for people to develop income, particularly with a farm. Bringing in roommates is probably the fastest way to cut the bills. Home food production, home energy production, frugality, all contribute to making ends meet. I've been putting together an article offering ideas how A Few People Can Share A Farm. The easier I can make it for people to afford a farm, the better off we will all be.
As for paying off a mortgage early, that would be a positive thing. A pre-payment penalty is not part of the plan. The Fund would be back in action, furthering someone else's dream. The Fund offers a foot in the door. Get the farm going, develop an income, then use that success and experience when seeking refinancing. A part of the Fund plan includes full disclosure. Your progress would be in full view of the public in the hopes private investment would seek you out once you have established a pattern of success and prove yourself to be a good risk.
The farmer gets a better rate, the private investor gets a good return, the Fund gets replenished, someone else gets a chance.