Hello, first timer here thank you in advance for reading what is sure to be a long and winding post.
I'm currently living in a small rental house in NY and will need to move within six months or so. I am at a crossroads, and I'm weighing some really difficult, impactful decisions.
My quickest summary is that I'm 36, male, single, employed part time as an IT Manager and also working my own side business selling drums and drum equipment. My IT job is mostly work from home with commutes to the office roughly twice a month. Crucially I have a personal relationship with the owner and would be able to continue this job if I were to move away. My drum business I could do from anywhere, (largely amazon and ebay orders) and I am also looking to pivot this business from hawking product to producing content.
NY (Long Island) is my home but I don't enjoy living here very much. I dislike The City more each time I'm there. I loved living in California, and liked living in Fl, and could imagine myself happy in a number of different places (AZ, TX, NC/TN, OR).
Thus far in my career I have prioritized freedom over dollars. This has allowed me to live a pleasant, independent life, while making enough money to support myself. The problem now is that I don't have a lot of money saved up, or a six figure income with which to acquire a big loan to start the next phase.
Houses in this area of Long Island (southern Nassau cty) run about $600,000 for a modest house on something like 0.20 acre. Add to that taxes around 10k a year, and purchasing a house in this particular suburban utopia becomes a non-starter for me.
My next thought was to move out father-- either well east into Suffolk, or out into *gasp* Jersey. By doing this, esp southern Jersey, $300,000 can get one a very nice house on a bit of land. Expenses are more reasonable. Lifestyle more free and relaxed. I'd have an affordable mortgage instead of rent, BUT then I'd be in JERSEY, alone, with a big house and its big maintenance costs and not much else.
For some years I've been researching Homesteading. I've wanted to build my own kingdom ever since I was a kid. Despite being a computer/gamer nerd I've always had a love of carpentry, masonry and building anything. This includes growing plants and working a garden. The idea of being self-sufficient is super appealing to me. When I go to the grocery store now, I wind up spending >$120, for what feels like a small amount of crappy food and a large amount of plastic, and I still have to cook it all myself.
So WTF to do?
Plan 1 was to sell as much of my stuff as possible, grab the cat and drive across the country to California (again). Buy the best piece of land in the Santa Cruz/Boulder Creek or maybe the Sacramento area (Davis, Folsom/Lake areas?) that I can possibly find for about $30,000 or maybe up to 60 with financing. Plop down a camper, or maybe a used manufactured home if I can get a good enough deal on it. Plant an absolute ton of bamboo (more on this later). Live frugally while developing the land, building workshop, planting small food beds, etc. Continue working part time in IT and building my drum business. In 5-7 years, I've got a quickly growing cash crop, AND lots of lumber to start building my dream home. Within 10 years, with the profits from continually growing bamboo harvests and a carefully selected and treated amount of my own lumber, I can build the dream self-sufficient home.
Clearly Plan 1 is not without its obvious difficulties and gaps in knowledge/ability. Let's start with location of California...
In my research I've heard horror stories of permit and general bureaucratic red tape and expenses simply bc the state is CA. A guy on Youtube proports to have spent 20k on land and then 25k on required paperwork to build his container home in the desert. I HATE bureaucratic red tape, govt theft, and nonsense fees. So while I LOVE the land of California, I'm wondering if being so stubborn as to my location would be a disastrous financial move considering the plan I have. The "dream house" I'd love to build would use non-conventional building methods such as rammed-earth, adobe and bamboo. It seems like a terrible idea to move to perhaps the most difficult and expensive US state in terms of bureaucracy and taxes.
Plan 2 then becomes moving plan 1 to Florida. Yet up front this too seems like a terrible idea with the rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes. My plan is a 10-20+ year plan. Of the areas I'd consider, Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Lake Okeechobee, or further north JAX/St. Augustine, all of them are in the crosshairs of climate change. I feel like I would have to go inland to the Gainesville region to mitigate this somewhat. But even then, how suitable will the area be in 20 years?
Yet now we come to the question of community. I'm an independent man, by nature & design, but I'm also tiring of being alone. I'll need the help of a strong community if I'm going to achieve these dreams on a 5, 10 and 20 year timeline. I have friends/family here in NY, a tiny bit in CA, but anywhere else I would be very much alone. I'd need to be in an area with like-minded, intelligent folk to find some help, make some friends, cooperate. I'll need to find an exceptional wife willing to put up with my particular brand of nonsense. I don't know if I can find all that in the boonies of Florida.
So that's when we start thinking of places like AZ, or NM, where I've heard of amazing communities such as the Earthship complex out in NM, and some similar concepts in AZ. I'd bet the chance of my fitting into a community there to be much higher than a random rural area in FL. Yet I really don't want to live in a desert! I love trees, hills, flowing water, the forest. I love lumber! So I'd have to sacrifice landscape for community. But I want BOTH - I want to love the land, my land, and the people.
Is this long enough yet? Probably. Thank you for reading this far. I will move to some questions and hope that someone has any advice or anecdotes to offer.
#1) IS THIS BAMBOO PLAN EVEN VIABLE? Would I be able to learn enough to grow a successful crop of bamboo within 5 years by myself? Even if that were guaranteed yes, would I be able to SELL this crop for any profit?
#2) IS CALIFORNIA SIMPLY A NON STARTER? If youtube comments are any source, the answer is yes.
#3) COMMUNITY OR RAW COSTS? Is it worth spending 2x or 3x in startup costs to be in a place that I love? Or am I letting sentimentality possibly kill my venture?
#4) WHERE TO FIND HELP? I'll never be able to do this alone, but for now alone is all I got. There's also the fact of being an only child of two wonderful and aging (70) parents. I'd be flying home likely 3-4 times per year. I couldn't just leave a working homestead for a week, so the whole plan quickly falls apart without being able to find good humans to cooperate with.
I truly appreciate any advice, tips, stories etc you'd have to these or any part of my situation. Esp if you have experience growing bamboo!
Hi Brian, welcome to Permies! I can take a shot at a few of your other questions.
#1 Don't grow too much bamboo here in WI
#2 I haven't heard good things about bureaucracy in CA except maybe in more rural areas.
#3 I would consider that there are probably 500 to 1000 communities in states other than CA, FL and NY that have the community you desire. And many for lower prices than you're looking at in CA or NY. Even if a state generally leans in a different political direction than you lean, there is still likely 40% of the population that thinks your way. I'd suggest reading a few of the other threads on "Where to set up a homestead" "Where should I get land", etc to see some other thoughts on the topic. I looked in a number of states and ended up in the middle of nowhere in northern Wisconsin in a great community with more gardeners than most places I've lived.
#4 We have a Singles section that you could peruse to find like-minded ladies. And just because you're setting up a homestead doesn't mean you can't design it to let you leave once in a while. I have gardens and chickens and I can leave for a week or two by leveraging a neighbor or two. Even when we had a cat we just got a high schooler to come cat-sit for us. Garden irrigation can be on timers. Houses can be heated with furnaces. Many things can be automated simply or designed to run on their own. So don't let that stop you from following your dreams. Now if you have dairy goats it would be much trickier...
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association