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Who did you all believe before starting out?

 
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Our journey into homesteading/farming/saving the planet ;) started in 2008 by reading books, magazine articles etc. I was born in the city, never been on a farm and never really been to the country as a child. Back in 2008 I worked in the financial industry and we lived on an acre in densely populated south Florida. We were your typical "don't care where it comes from so long as I can buy it" people although not on a scale where we spent more than what we earned, we were always careful to enjoy ourselves but not to overspend or borrow to have fun. One day, when I was in my 30s it dawned on me that I do not want to be a part of the machine, I did not really like my job nor the whole industry, hence on my lunch breaks I started visiting Barnes and Noble and looking at homesteading books, magazines (Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms...) etc. etc. Why "back to the land"? Who knows but who really cares? ;)

We also slowly started looking at land. It took us 10 years to work our way up to 32 acres of abused SW Virginia land that we have slowly been rehabilitating over the last 2 years.

Having been the person who worked my way up/through the ranks, paid for my education without borrowing and being the typical citizen who has to have a mortgage to afford 30+ acres and a house/farm, I started becoming aware that, in my opinion, most of the "back to the land" industry is a fraud. What I mean by this is that the authors of magazine articles and books almost NEVER say how much they started with. For example, how much did people like a famous Shenandoah valley writer/farmer from Virginia pay for their farm? Don't get me wrong, I love his books and I think they are inspirational and have their place in the world - but do we really know what someone like him started with? How about Helen and Scott Nearing? Were they "piss poor" when they bought their Maine land? How did they pay for food and bills etc. while the farm was starting out? These days it is really even more difficult as land prices are higher and you have to buy health insurance as well.

These days when I open Mother Earth News and I see an article about which tractor is better, the 2019 Yanmar or 2019 Kubota, my first reaction is not envy (haha), it is "what do you have to be growing to justify a $30,000 purchase" and the second reaction is "boy, the author must be rich". When I open Hobby Farms and I see the young (in their late 20s) family who just bought the 40 acre homestead in Wisconsin and they are making artisanal cheese to make a living, they already have a baby, I immediately think, "wow, baby AND a farm and they are in their late 20s, early 30s" - how expensive is that? Where did they get the dough?". However, the article doesn't say what they paid for the land or how they got the money, it focuses on the cheese business. Now, the guy/girl reading this looks at it and goes, "I would LOVE to get out of the cubicle and do this". But is it realistic? Are our "heroes" and authors selling us fog or are they real?

Do you think all books/magazine articles on farming, homesteading etc. should include financial background and starting points? Does it make a difference to you (the reader) whether the author worked for 20 years in New York or San Fran and accumulated a $million and/or sold their tiny toilet-bowl apartment there for another $million, bought 40 acres in New Mexico or Maine and is now "playing farmer" and writing books/articles or do you think it is irrelevant? Do you think that someone like that has a right to write books about how to start homesteading/farming without disclosing their own starting situation? Does it matter to you whether they were rich or they were more like you when they started?

I was not born in United States and did not live here until 2002 (for the first 1/2 of my life) so my perspective may be totally different. I was born in a very different economic system where there was no incentive for people to sell you a story or a brand/image to make a living so I may just be more sensitive to this? I do not have any scientific proof but I feel that a lot of people get inspiration from folks and follow their advice without digging into the circumstances behind all the advice. This post is not meant to disparage or be negative, I am just curious about whether people notice this stuff and whether it bothers them if they do or not do ;). I am in the process of writing a book myself and the thing is, once I started seeing this stuff, I notice it everywhere.

Thanks!

 
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Oddo, I don't think it is a cultural thing, I have noticed the same thing (and we have had this discussion here about how unrealistic some of the things we see are.
I find myself often reminding my husband (not my 20 year old kid, mind you, but my 50-year old spouse) that the things we see on TV are not necessarily true, just TV. The things I see on youtube about homesteading are entertainment and an income flow for these people, and not always a portrayal of what really happens. Some speak frankly about how they managed to get their land, with family help, or after working "normal" jobs and then taking a hard turn.

[on that point, since I know a few of those folks are here on this forum, good for them- they are monetizing their experience, and I am grateful for it. it is more work they are doing, alongside their farm chores, and bringing them income.]

Just my two cents--- I think it's a lot like what we all have to realize sometime in life- somebody is always richer, thinner, prettier, has a bigger/faster car, etc. Some folks have more than others. Nobody's circumstances are the same, and it doesn't do me any good to fixate on it. I take what I can from wherever I can find it, and apply it to my little slice of heaven here, and try to leave the baggage behind.
 
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I think about this point as well.
Even if someone has started with little or nothing,  I wonder how much of their income comes from teaching,  books, or videos.
It's not that I begrudge them that income , rather I want to know if the techniques/lifestyles they are advocating can stand in their own.
Otherwise it starts looking like a multi-level marketing thing.

The amount of free information out there  is staggering , so,  if you can separate the wheat from the chaff,  you will find yourself with an excellent education.
Of course, this is always the case,  even in paid courses.
 
Oddo Dassler
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William Bronson wrote: I think about this point as well.
Even if someone has started with little or nothing,  I wonder how much of their income comes from teaching,  books, or videos.
It's not that I begrudge them that income , rather I want to know if the techniques/lifestyles they are advocating can stand in their own.
Otherwise it starts looking like a multi-level marketing thing.

The amount of free information out there  is staggering , so,  if you can separate the wheat from the chaff,  you will find yourself with an excellent education.
Of course, this is always the case,  even in paid courses.



This is what I actually think about as well. I am seeing this from the point of view of saving agriculture (or rather fixing it) or saving capitalism (or rather fixing it) or saving the planet (or fixing it). Most of the books/articles pledge to help you do so but in order for that to happen, the approach advocated has to be scalable and applicable to the majority of Americans.

In other words, can a debt laden wage slave who is engulfed in the cycle of buying stuff made somewhere else, stuff he/she does not need, eating junk that passes for food and getting sick in the process only to become a victim of the "healthcare" system for more debt and money, incurring a huge environmental footprint in the process (a footprint not calculated into the price of the junk purchased) go back to the land, become a part of the solution? It would seem to me that in order for this to be "sold" to someone, the person doing the selling has to be genuine (as in lived to tell), otherwise it is all a theoretical exercise (at best) and an attempt to take more money from the fools (at worst?).

This, by the way, is one of my doubts about permaculture - does it actually scale? And is the hidden, underlying assumption the abandoning of specialization and going back to the land in droves (which would be antithetical to capitalism)? Bottom line, is permaculture even compatible to capitalism? I do find the likes of Mollison much more veritable than the likes of the many authors today.
 
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I believed Eliot Coleman, whom I still respect tremendously, even though I realized some years ago I could never be a farmer myself.  http://fourseasonfarm.com/

I think a lot of the people we see and read about in farming/homesteading, we know about because they are writers and educators by trade.  If they were merely or primarily farmers, we wouldn't tend to know about them.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I believed Eliot Coleman, whom I still respect tremendously, even though I realized some years ago I could never be a farmer myself.  http://fourseasonfarm.com/

I think a lot of the people we see and read about in farming/homesteading, we know about because they are writers and educators by trade.  If they were merely or primarily farmers, we wouldn't tend to know about them.



That's a valid point but even so, stating where you come from would be nice. I think Coleman actually did that. I listened to a podcast where he explained how he got his land, from who (the Nearings) and what he did with it afterwards. That's honest in my mind.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Tereza Okava wrote:Oddo, I don't think it is a cultural thing, I have noticed the same thing (and we have had this discussion here about how unrealistic some of the things we see are.
I find myself often reminding my husband (not my 20 year old kid, mind you, but my 50-year old spouse) that the things we see on TV are not necessarily true, just TV. The things I see on youtube about homesteading are entertainment and an income flow for these people, and not always a portrayal of what really happens. Some speak frankly about how they managed to get their land, with family help, or after working "normal" jobs and then taking a hard turn.

[on that point, since I know a few of those folks are here on this forum, good for them- they are monetizing their experience, and I am grateful for it. it is more work they are doing, alongside their farm chores, and bringing them income.]

Just my two cents--- I think it's a lot like what we all have to realize sometime in life- somebody is always richer, thinner, prettier, has a bigger/faster car, etc. Some folks have more than others. Nobody's circumstances are the same, and it doesn't do me any good to fixate on it. I take what I can from wherever I can find it, and apply it to my little slice of heaven here, and try to leave the baggage behind.



Tereza, my apologies, I think I should have disclosed that I was born into socialism (not the kind practiced by the states behind the iron curtain). In that scenario, there were private businesses but they were services like blacksmiths, locksmiths, so on and so on. People owned property just like here but since most of the stuff was controlled by the state (like the economy), there was no incentive for people to sell you a brand with the hidden intention of making money on you, since they could actually not get rich anyway. When I immigrated out west, I was shocked to see the way the system fosters this motivation to make a living any way you can. Don't get me wrong, people have to survive, feed their children, do whatever it takes, I understand it. I just feel that this assumption has become so ingrained in the culture, that nobody really bothers to question what is behind someone's enterprise, how they started and whether that applies to their own situation, BEFORE forking the money out for that book or conference or tool or...

I do plan on asking these folks one day, when they give a presentation at a conference, how much they paid and what they started with. I think it is only fair and would benefit everyone to find out. Or do you not think it matters? Should we all just assume it is all lies motivated by the desire to make profit by default?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Whose background specifically would you like to know about?  The information may be out there in internet-land.
 
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I really like Mark Shepard from New Forest Farm.  He makes no qualms about borrowing money to get going, and I appreciate the honesty of someone that is doing something I really admire and is upfront about what he had to do to get going.  His book is awesome as well.  Like Tyler, I don't have any plans to be a farmer, but I learned a lot from Mark and his philosophy regardless.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Trace Oswald wrote:I really like Mark Shepard from New Forest Farm.  He makes no qualms about borrowing money to get going, and I appreciate the honesty of someone that is doing something I really admire and is upfront about what he had to do to get going.  His book is awesome as well.  Like Tyler, I don't have any plans to be a farmer, but I learned a lot from Mark and his philosophy regardless.



Thanks! Have not heard of him, will have to check it out :)
 
Tereza Okava
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Oddo, I was imagining a somewhat similar background, thanks for clarifying.
It may just be because I am at a certain point in my life (crossed that giving-a-damn line) but I just don't really see what good it does me to worry about it.

I hear what you're saying: there was a film talking about establishing a permie farm that involved BUCKETS of money. It's not realistic to assume that most people can afford to do large-scale earthworks and have a multi-hundred-gallon compost tea aerator delivered on a whim. But if I can watch that same movie and get some ideas about how I can plant  my oranges together with grazing animals underneath, I'm okay with that. I don't think I need to throw out the good in the pursuit of the perfect.

Edit: came back to add-- you raise a really interesting point that seems to be more and more frequent lately. Do we have to agree with everything someone says to appreciate what they do? It's easy to assume that someone is completely untrustworthy once you find out something abhorrent about them (the "cancel culture") but on the other hand, is anyone perfect? Do we end up painted into a corner, unable to listen to what anyone says? Ten years ago I would have been very surprised that I would be here on staff in a discussion forum with people who have creeds and practices so very different from mine (and which previously I might not have been able to set aside and see these folks as nice, decent people despite our completely opposite views on controversial topics). And yet here I am, and their knowledge benefits me, and I am grateful and lucky to know them. My point, lost somewhere, sorry, but I suppose it's something like I'm okay with gleaning what I can from wherever I can find it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Oddo Dassler wrote:being the typical citizen who has to have a mortgage to afford 30+ acres and a house/farm,



I think one thing to consider is does one actually need 30+ acres and a house to farm?  What is meant by the word "farm" in this example?  People can homestead on tiny parcels of land if they have the will and knowledge.  I tend to look at the smaller examples myself, rather than the huge farms which requires multiple people to work.  The thing I like about permaculture is that it can be done on a tiny scale and be very productive.

My husband and I bought 20 acres of land with money he earned during one really lucrative year in "show biz" but that much land is far more than we have been able to maintain, let alone make productive.  We decided to get Wildlife Management tax status instead of agricultural status, and now I'm homesteading only about an acre, but have not even slightly achieved full productivity of that much land.  The rest of the acreage we are trying to restore for native plants and critters.
 
William Bronson
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Taking people where they at is one way to learn from them.
I used to find my self landing on a certain racial supremacy website because of my googling of back to the land type subjects...
Yet another reason to appreciate Permies.

Of course,  knowing how people get to where they are is still informative.
I know one family farm that is financially secure due to mineral deposits they sold from their land.
Rather than take that as reason to dole out checks to the family, they use the farm as a place for family members to innovate.
There is a lot of cushion,  but the expectation is that the family creates income for the farm.

So,  they have created what  Joel Salatin would call "fiefdoms".
From haying to market vegetables,  to tree products, they have had some great ideas, a lot of experience, and they share their knowledge freely.
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:

Edit: came back to add-- you raise a really interesting point that seems to be more and more frequent lately. Do we have to agree with everything someone says to appreciate what they do? .



No I don't think you do have to, however there is one celebrity farmer that I will no longer watch on YouTube or click on any link from him because of his view that paying people peanuts is acceptable just because that's what he made when he started his own business. We all know that the pay you get when starting something up can often be close to 0, but while working for someone else it should be livable. That doesn't mean his advice and techniques are wrong, but it does mean I refuse to support him in any way.
 
Tereza Okava
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I can accept that, Skandi. We all draw our lines somewhere, and I don't mean to say that we should feel like we have to listen to things we really don't agree with. (and as a self-employed person in a field that has an ongoing problem with paying peanuts, I hear you loud and clear about exploiting people's work and labor.)
 
Oddo Dassler
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Tereza Okava wrote:Oddo, I was imagining a somewhat similar background, thanks for clarifying.
It may just be because I am at a certain point in my life (crossed that giving-a-damn line) but I just don't really see what good it does me to worry about it.

I hear what you're saying: there was a film talking about establishing a permie farm that involved BUCKETS of money. It's not realistic to assume that most people can afford to do large-scale earthworks and have a multi-hundred-gallon compost tea aerator delivered on a whim. But if I can watch that same movie and get some ideas about how I can plant  my oranges together with grazing animals underneath, I'm okay with that. I don't think I need to throw out the good in the pursuit of the perfect.

Edit: came back to add-- you raise a really interesting point that seems to be more and more frequent lately. Do we have to agree with everything someone says to appreciate what they do? It's easy to assume that someone is completely untrustworthy once you find out something abhorrent about them (the "cancel culture") but on the other hand, is anyone perfect? Do we end up painted into a corner, unable to listen to what anyone says? Ten years ago I would have been very surprised that I would be here on staff in a discussion forum with people who have creeds and practices so very different from mine (and which previously I might not have been able to set aside and see these folks as nice, decent people despite our completely opposite views on controversial topics). And yet here I am, and their knowledge benefits me, and I am grateful and lucky to know them. My point, lost somewhere, sorry, but I suppose it's something like I'm okay with gleaning what I can from wherever I can find it.



Hah, yep I know what film you are talking about. However, a lot of people actually love the film and quote it everywhere. Which, I suppose, is fine, better than quoting and adoring a 4,000 acre monoculture corn farm sprayed with RoundUp.

I hear you and I agree on stealing tidbits and ideas from everyone. I suppose it comes down more to ethics for me but also as well to providing a solution that will help as many people as possible. I suppose I see the lack of disclosure as being no different from the bourgeoisie telling the peasantry how to improve their lives, of course, within the confines of the system they run.... To be exact, how can someone who has inherited 500 acres tell someone else how to start by renting land?
 
Oddo Dassler
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William Bronson wrote: Taking people where they at is one way to learn from them.
I used to find my self landing on a certain racial supremacy website because of my googling of back to the land type subjects...
Yet another reason to appreciate Permies.

Of course,  knowing how people get to where they are is still informative.
I know one family farm that is financially secure due to mineral deposits they sold from their land.
Rather than take that as reason to dole out checks to the family, they use the farm as a place for family members to innovate.
There is a lot of cushion,  but the expectation is that the family creates income for the farm.

So,  they have created what  Joel Salatin would call "fiefdoms".
From haying to market vegetables,  to tree products, they have had some great ideas, a lot of experience, and they share their knowledge freely.



I agree with taking people where they are at and learning from that. But I feel there is a whole industry (for lack of better word?) geared towards selling people the dream of homesteading and small scale farming. For example, take market gardening. Another turn-key system where you buy the plastic covers, optionally you build the hoops, you buy the compost and you can go as far as buying the transplants. Voila, instant success. Now you can write a book, have a Youtube channel, go to the farmer's market and tell everyone you are organic, no-till and part of the solution. You can talk about fungi, microrhyzomes and pooh-pooh on the plow. Yet, realistically, by buying compost you are still mining someone else's land and fertility, by using plastic to fight weeds you are still part of the petro-chemical complex. In fact, I respect the guy who sprays more because at least they are not pretending ;). Well, not really but you get my point. Yes, maybe it is better than just owning a lawn, but damn it, make it honest and go all the way :).
 
Oddo Dassler
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Oddo Dassler wrote:being the typical citizen who has to have a mortgage to afford 30+ acres and a house/farm,



I think one thing to consider is does one actually need 30+ acres and a house to farm?  What is meant by the word "farm" in this example?  People can homestead on tiny parcels of land if they have the will and knowledge.  I tend to look at the smaller examples myself, rather than the huge farms which requires multiple people to work.  The thing I like about permaculture is that it can be done on a tiny scale and be very productive.

My husband and I bought 20 acres of land with money he earned during one really lucrative year in "show biz" but that much land is far more than we have been able to maintain, let alone make productive.  We decided to get Wildlife Management tax status instead of agricultural status, and now I'm homesteading only about an acre, but have not even slightly achieved full productivity of that much land.  The rest of the acreage we are trying to restore for native plants and critters.



I think this is a good point - how much land do you need really? We came here because land was cheap(er - no cheap land anywhere really), we have woods to heat using a woodstove indefinitely and we wanted to farm - as in not just for us but for other people. The idea is/was to do this with a mortgage (like many others in our position) and show that a diverse farm of pre-WW2-style could actually provide income, be good to the land and be a part of the solution.

Let me ask you the opposite question: if we did not buy these 30 acres to farm and bring back to balance, should someone rich from the city have bought it as recreational land, for example?
 
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When I started out, I had $600 and 3.75 acres of land.

In 2008, the government gave every tax paying American $600 as a "Stimulus". I figured if I spent the money on sheep, over time the lambs they produced would lead to more sheep, and thus more income. And that was how it worked out. $400 went to buying a flock of (4) sheep, a ram and ewes, and the other $200 went into fencing.

My wife at the time, only gave me $50 a week in allowance money, and that was all I had to farm with. But since I had sheep, it qualified me as a farm, and so I went for every USDA grant I could get, because I had too. I always worked it so that I made a little money off it, and then kept building my farm up. Grants, low interest loans, bartering...I did everything I could to position my farm to be better, and it was a strategy that worked.

I have always farmed, but I am the first out of 9 generations of farmers to actually buy the farm. Even my cousin had his land given to him, but for me, my mom and dad needed money for retirement, and I wanted to farm, so we figured out a price and I bought the remainder of the farm from them. That was five years ago. Now we have hundreds of acres, have cleared 120 acres of forest and put it back into fields, and have raised hundreds of lambs...in 12 years time, from $600, and only 3.75 acres of land. Incidentally in 8 years time I was able to go from having (4) sheep, to full-time farming, but I never said it was easy.

It can be done, but people do not want to hear it. The reason the media has so much emphasis in buying their way into farming is because that is what people want to do.

Myself, I think it is even easier now to get started in farming because when I started out the USDA was all about big farms, but over the years the policy and loans and grants have changed to include more and more provisions for beginning, and new farmers. A few of us small farmers really fought hard for these provisions. I had a USDA Conservations get so mad spit was flying out of his mouth as he said it was stupid for the USDA to spend money on sheep farmers...a "type of farmer he absolutely hated." And another time I went toe-to-toe with the Assistant Director of the USDA here in Maine in Federal Court. It was a Federal Court case I won, the first in Maine.

A few of us have really fought hard for small farms to be recognized and funded with low interest loans and grants. We have opened the gate, and people need to really step through some of these opportunities that have been opened for beginner and small farmers. Opportunities are not just doled out, they are generated, and it behooves a small farmer to make as many happen as possible, and be ready to recognize them when they come along.
 
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I am not necessarily defending the specific peoples on these lists (and I do think these videos can commonly tempt us to put on "rose-colored glasses" romanticism), but I think the transition from the Rat Race to farm life most often happens a lot more slowly for most of us aspiring Permies out there - maybe some thing like this:

1. get excited about permaculture/homesteading
2. gain knowledge
3. begin small scale experimenting(window/backyard gardening)
4. learn & live frugality as a method to assist in furthering your dreams
5. make plans
6. buy house/farm
7. begin development during evenings/weekends while still working - This is my current position on the scale
8. start business development & proof of concept (even if this never happens, its a goal or ideal)
9. marketing & build audience/reach (or attempt climate/social impact, if this is your goal, rather than business)
10. Full-time on the homestead (if successful in above)
11. Last step - either rest on your laurels/routine, start a new venture, or develop new/different life goals

Going through these steps takes years; I think the disillusionment many have is when they fail after trying to jump from step 2 to step 9 within a matter of months.  I tried to jump from step 6 to step 9 too early, and, although my disappointing performance has not disillusioned me completely, it still has knocked me back for awhile and forced me to re-evaluate my plans and time-frame.  


Mark, Joel, and the others have been trying to make this work spread for decades, and even now we're not at market or media saturation.  This doesn't mean Permaculture as an economic system is a bust, it means that permaculture (in more ways than this) functions much more slowly than Consumerism dictates we are "allowed" to have patience for.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Oddo Dassler wrote:et me ask you the opposite question: if we did not buy these 30 acres to farm and bring back to balance, should someone rich from the city have bought it as recreational land, for example?



There's nothing inherently wrong with recreational land.  Most of our land at our place is recreational in that it does not produce anything but enjoyment.

I personally think it would be very difficult to pay a mortgage using farm income.

 
Oddo Dassler
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Travis Johnson wrote:When I started out, I had $600 and 3.75 acres of land.

In 2008, the government gave every tax paying American $600 as a "Stimulus". I figured if I spent the money on sheep, over time the lambs they produced would lead to more sheep, and thus more income. And that was how it worked out. $400 went to buying a flock of (4) sheep, a ram and ewes, and the other $200 went into fencing.

My wife at the time, only gave me $50 a week in allowance money, and that was all I had to farm with. But since I had sheep, it qualified me as a farm, and so I went for every USDA grant I could get, because I had too. I always worked it so that I made a little money off it, and then kept building my farm up. Grants, low interest loans, bartering...I did everything I could to position my farm to be better, and it was a strategy that worked.

I have always farmed, but I am the first out of 9 generations of farmers to actually buy the farm. Even my cousin had his land given to him, but for me, my mom and dad needed money for retirement, and I wanted to farm, so we figured out a price and I bought the remainder of the farm from them. That was five years ago. Now we have hundreds of acres, have cleared 120 acres of forest and put it back into fields, and have raised hundreds of lambs...in 12 years time, from $600, and only 3.75 acres of land. Incidentally in 8 years time I was able to go from having (4) sheep, to full-time farming, but I never said it was easy.

It can be done, but people do not want to hear it. The reason the media has so much emphasis in buying their way into farming is because that is what people want to do.

Myself, I think it is even easier now to get started in farming because when I started out the USDA was all about big farms, but over the years the policy and loans and grants have changed to include more and more provisions for beginning, and new farmers. A few of us small farmers really fought hard for these provisions. I had a USDA Conservations get so mad spit was flying out of his mouth as he said it was stupid for the USDA to spend money on sheep farmers...a "type of farmer he absolutely hated." And another time I went toe-to-toe with the Assistant Director of the USDA here in Maine in Federal Court. It was a Federal Court case I won, the first in Maine.

A few of us have really fought hard for small farms to be recognized and funded with low interest loans and grants. We have opened the gate, and people need to really step through some of these opportunities that have been opened for beginner and small farmers. Opportunities are not just doled out, they are generated, and it behooves a small farmer to make as many happen as possible, and be ready to recognize them when they come along.



Well, I think YOU should write a book! :) Although, in my world you would explain how you went from 4 acres to hundreds in detail. I think it is this kind of detail that would be most helpful to people.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:I am not necessarily defending the specific peoples on these lists (and I do think these videos can commonly tempt us to put on "rose-colored glasses" romanticism), but I think the transition from the Rat Race to farm life most often happens a lot more slowly for most of us aspiring Permies out there - maybe some thing like this:

1. get excited about permaculture/homesteading
2. gain knowledge
3. begin small scale experimenting(window/backyard gardening)
4. learn & live frugality as a method to assist in furthering your dreams
5. make plans
6. buy house/farm
7. begin development during evenings/weekends while still working - This is my current position on the scale
8. start business development & proof of concept (even if this never happens, its a goal or ideal)
9. marketing & build audience/reach (or attempt climate/social impact, if this is your goal, rather than business)
10. Full-time on the homestead (if successful in above)
11. Last step - either rest on your laurels/routine, start a new venture, or develop new/different life goals

Going through these steps takes years; I think the disillusionment many have is when they fail after trying to jump from step 2 to step 9 within a matter of months.  I tried to jump from step 6 to step 9 too early, and, although my disappointing performance has not disillusioned me completely, it still has knocked me back for awhile and forced me to re-evaluate my plans and time-frame.  


Mark, Joel, and the others have been trying to make this work spread for decades, and even now we're not at market or media saturation.  This doesn't mean Permaculture as an economic system is a bust, it means that permaculture (in more ways than this) functions much more slowly than Consumerism dictates we are "allowed" to have patience for.



Sure. I have been at this since 2008 and we went from 1 acre to 5 acres to 32 acres. And I was a professional earning a good income, far better than many. I agree with what you say in general.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Oddo Dassler wrote:et me ask you the opposite question: if we did not buy these 30 acres to farm and bring back to balance, should someone rich from the city have bought it as recreational land, for example?



There's nothing inherently wrong with recreational land.  Most of our land at our place is recreational in that it does not produce anything but enjoyment.

I personally think it would be very difficult to pay a mortgage using farm income.



My point was - recreational land paid for in cash by the rich. If your question is inherently - do you have to have a 30 acre FARM and my question is - well, should the 30 acres have been purchased by someone rich in cash to have fun on - I think something may be wrong with the world ;). At least I would much rather the land be "kindly used" (as Wendell Berry puts it) and preferably in a way that feeds others (since I like farming). I think buying a piece of land to ride ATVs on or hunt on is part of the problem but that's just me.
 
master pollinator
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Oddo Dassler wrote:
Sure. I have been at this since 2008 and we went from 1 acre to 5 acres to 32 acres. And I was a professional earning a good income, far better than many. I agree with what you say in general.



Are you willing to share how you purchased your land? Are you paying for your place from the land, or from outside employment of some sort?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Oddo Dassler wrote:think buying a piece of land to ride ATVs on or hunt on is part of the problem but that's just me.



We invite a hunter to our land, who shares the meat with us.  Maintaining land for hunting may be far more sustainable and productive than using it for farming.  It would make more sense (to me) if farmers and ranchers in my locale would eat more venison, and not bother with crops and cattle, since venison raises itself prolifically here with no effort. A little effort into land maintenance and restoration would go a long way.

I basically hate ATVs but I don't think they are especially relevant to this discussion.

We bought our land for cash.  Does that make us "rich"?  Yes, I think compared to most people on the planet we are rich.  We were able to have lucrative jobs for a few years (4) and save enough to buy the land.  Most people don't have that opportunity.  It would have cost us far more to buy the land with a mortgage, so I guess we would have had to be "richer" if we had gone the mortgage route with the land.  We did buy our house with a mortgage, and paid for it with a home business.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:

Oddo Dassler wrote:
Sure. I have been at this since 2008 and we went from 1 acre to 5 acres to 32 acres. And I was a professional earning a good income, far better than many. I agree with what you say in general.



Are you willing to share how you purchased your land? Are you paying for your place from the land, or from outside employment of some sort?



Absolutely. Our first acre was purchased through a mortgage, right before the crash of 2008. I am a software engineer, my wife is a veterinarian who paid $100K+ for her degree (via a loan). I made good money and we paid off the loan and we carried the mortgage until it came back in value, 9 years later. We lost money on that property because we had to renovate it to sell it (see below). In the meantime, we moved to Austin, TX and bought a foreclosure (lucky), a mobile home on 5 acres. We spent 3 years renovating it ourselves and sold it for much more than purchase price. We used that money to renovate the first home that was under water financially in order to sell it. We sold it and walked away with a little bit of cash left. I was employed and my wife was too so we picked up this property with a mortgage (again). She works now while I farm (I quit my position voluntarily to focus on the farm). Right now the place does not pay for itself but maybe it will 1/2 this year and more the years after.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Oddo Dassler wrote:think buying a piece of land to ride ATVs on or hunt on is part of the problem but that's just me.



We invite a hunter to our land, who shares the meat with us.  Maintaining land for hunting may be far more sustainable and productive than using it for farming.  It would make more sense (to me) if farmers and ranchers in my locale would eat more venison, and not bother with crops and cattle, since venison raises itself prolifically here with no effort. A little effort into land maintenance and restoration would go a long way.

I basically hate ATVs but I don't think they are especially relevant to this discussion.

We bought our land for cash.  Does that make us "rich"?  Yes, I think compared to most people on the planet we are rich.  We were able to have lucrative jobs for a few years (4) and save enough to buy the land.  Most people don't have that opportunity.  It would have cost us far more to buy the land with a mortgage, so I guess we would have had to be "richer" if we had gone the mortgage route with the land.  We did buy our house with a mortgage, and paid for it with a home business.



I allow hunting as well (even though I abhor it) because this land was part of a common trespass pattern around here. I concur on the ATV feelings. My point is that increasingly the only people able to afford land are the rich ones. I would rather own it with a mortgage and farm it than someone come in here to tear it up with ATVs or just buy it for leisure.
 
Tyler Ludens
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For most of the history of civilization, land was owned primarily by the rich.  Not saying that's a good thing, just saying that I'm not particularly aware of any time in history when low-income people could buy land.

There are many opportunities for people to acquire land which don't require them to be rich, but these opportunities are not well-known.  Many older farmers are looking for young people to will their land to, because they don't have heirs. https://permies.com/t/101848/Otis-test
 
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.” To be exact, how can someone who has inherited 500 acres tell someone else how to start by renting land? ”

Travis is a great data point. Greg Judy was basically bankrupt, he owned no land for years, just cows and leased. He still mostly does. He makes great money. There are great mentors out there. I’ll think of more.

The issue in my opinion is that people don’t think of this as a generational project. Joel Salatin had I believe 40 acres of degraded mess when he started. That area now sells for serious money because of the hobby farmers moving out of DC but back then it was cheap. Even now land that is marginal can be had for a low price- but initial returns are low. As a culture we aren’t thinking of our kids benefiting from our work, but often that is the time frame. And then they don’t want the farm which is another problem. In my opinion the great ones come up with a way of accelerating the time line. Salatin has interns, Greg has cheap rotation down to a science, Mark has figured out how to get further up the value chain. I am very appreciative of all. Like (sorry on my phone might screw this up) Tyler said, feel free to modify. I’ve got no interns, small acreage and no value adds, but the way these farmers think about problems and solutions is inspiring to me. Travis you’re definitely on the list!
 
steward
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I’ll share a little about how I (really we, my wife and I) got to where we're at, a 60 acre farm. The Guide to Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour was the first book I read about anything related to homesteading. I have always enjoyed gardening, and had a vegetable garden to some degree since my late teens, so I was familiar with the labor involved, failures, successes, and unpredictable nature of gardening. When my wife and I got our first house ten years ago, we had a garden, and it grew each year. This was about the time I read John Seymours book. Things in this book resonated with me, and so the garden grew a little more. The first documentary we watched together was Food, Inc. It really opened our eyes and overnight we changed, and I desired to grow and raise as much of our own food as possible, and our garden grew a little more. Still living outside of Nashville, TN there was no room for animals, but we were buying meats from a neighbor and other local farms, getting small glimpses and exposure to raising livestock, wetting our appetite, all the while still growing our garden. Our lifestyle and goals in life quickly changed, with food quality, being in control of our own food and doing what we can to stay healthy, stacking the deck to avoid health problems later in life, became our first priority.

As time went by, we watched more documentaries, and a lot of rural living/log cabin tv shows. I started seeking new authors and got into reading more books on homesteading, and picked up a few subscriptions to periodicals like Countryside, Backwoods Home, and Acres, USA. I spent years reading and soaking up information and as noted in other posts above, I also noticed what homesteading people were doing, looking at the infrastructure, equipment and animals in the documentaries and magazines. It was clear to me that a lot of these people had been at it a decade or more, some having inherited a farm, some starting from scratch on small acres and some having more money than others.

With money from savings we put cash down for a loan on the 60 acres of raw land and got another loan and some more cash down there, to build our 1200 sq ft cabin. So by pure chance of buying our first home (30 year mortgage) in 2009 right after the housing market downturn, and ten years later it being in proximity to one of the strongest real estate markets in the country, we sold our first house for almost double what we paid for it, and had also paid off about half the principal on the loan. The proceeds from the sale of this house paid off the first loan for the land, which we had for 24 months, and more than half of the other loan to build the cabin. We currently have a 15 year note on the cabin which is manageable for us. If our old home hadn’t appreciated in value like it did and net us a healthy gain, we wouldn’t be here. Selling that house happened to be our golden ticket for my wife and I’s homesteading adventure, life and retirement. If that house hadn’t ballooned in value, we would still be there, still be saving, and gardening, and starting homesteading later in life, instead of now in our 40’s. Aside from having had saved money to have the cash to put down to get started, it’s really circumstances and luck that we are where we are today.

I knew the lifestyle that I wanted to live was going to be labor intensive, and I am ok with that. It seems to me many people imagine and idealize retirement as relaxing and enjoying leisure time and pleasurable activities, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Seeing myself in my 70’s taking it easy in a hammock or on a boat with a drink in my hand, for examples, has no appeal. My desire for my life and also “retirement age” became, and still is, hard work every day, but for me it doesn’t feel like work anymore. I’m just doing things I love that make me happy. When I’m old, I want to still be getting up before dawn, and working outside, all day, growing healthy food and raising healthy, happy animals, living an agrarian lifestyle. I will be delighted if I keel over and die in my 90’s or older, outside under the warmth of the sun, serenaded by songbirds and the bellows of mooing cows, working in my garden.  

 
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Travis Johnson wrote:When I started out, I had $600 and 3.75 acres of land.

In 2008, the government gave every tax paying American $600 as a "Stimulus". I figured if I spent the money on sheep, over time the lambs they produced would lead to more sheep, and thus more income. And that was how it worked out. $400 went to buying a flock of (4) sheep, a ram and ewes, and the other $200 went into fencing.



That is the secret - not putting oneself into massive debt, keeping to a tight budget until things grow, and taking full advantage of government assistance programs.

In many Western countries, people accrue enormous debt, living off the future via credit cards and higher purchase loans. Many don't live in reality - they want everything all at once, instant gratification. Here it is common in the housing market.

I listen to vids, read blogs and posts, take an interest in economic reports, then after careful consideration of all the data, try to make an 'educated' call.

1. Being sceptical of everything until supported by evidence has benefited me, I don't like win/lose scenarios.

2. Importantly, happy to take onboard what all the Permaculture gurus say, but don't worship any of them like some people appear to do.
 
Travis Johnson
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Oddo Dassler wrote:Well, I think YOU should write a book! :) Although, in my world you would explain how you went from 4 acres to hundreds in detail. I think it is this kind of detail that would be most helpful to people.



I have, two in fact (in regards to farming)

The first has been the 4900 posts I have put on here. The second has yet to be finished, but it was how to take a farm from Hobby Farm Status (Or Homestead Status) to full-time farm status. While not a book, I also taught classes on sheep farming.

I freely share.

The "secret" to making a go of it in farming, is to start small and work up. Focusing time and energy on others who have more than you do is not going to allow a person to make, and seize the opportunities that come along for their own farm.

But that is not what people want to hear, they want some magic formula of do this, then that, then follow up with that, and they think it will magically work, but it will not. They are so focused on what worked for my farm, that they will never focus in on what is available to them for success for their farms.

What a lot of people do not understand is, saying "No" is an opportunity for success too. Sure, a flock of twenty cheap sheep might be an opportunity to jump on, but at the same time, saying no to that deal may be in the best interest of your farm too.

It really comes down to focus, and it is a relentless pursuit.







 
Travis Johnson
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If I was to look back on everything, and explain what one single thing I used to make my farm a success, it would shock people because it is a combination of two things, and both costs a few pennies...

1) A pencil
2) A tiny 2 x 4 inch note book (or whatever size they are)

Over the years, keeping one in my pocket at all times, and then as I worked, rode in the car, was on vacation, whatever; and I had thoughts on farming, I would write those notes down so when I could get back to my computer, I could research, or follow up on those thoughts with emails, or applications, whatever...

We all have 24 hours in a day, and what we spend that time on determines the success or failure of our ventures. That pencil and note pad has kept my focus on farming.
 
Oddo Dassler
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Oddo Dassler wrote:Well, I think YOU should write a book! :) Although, in my world you would explain how you went from 4 acres to hundreds in detail. I think it is this kind of detail that would be most helpful to people.



I have, two in fact (in regards to farming)

The first has been the 4900 posts I have put on here. The second has yet to be finished, but it was how to take a farm from Hobby Farm Status (Or Homestead Status) to full-time farm status. While not a book, I also taught classes on sheep farming.

I freely share.

The "secret" to making a go of it in farming, is to start small and work up. Focusing time and energy on others who have more than you do is not going to allow a person to make, and seize the opportunities that come along for their own farm.

But that is not what people want to hear, they want some magic formula of do this, then that, then follow up with that, and they think it will magically work, but it will not. They are so focused on what worked for my farm, that they will never focus in on what is available to them for success for their farms.

What a lot of people do not understand is, saying "No" is an opportunity for success too. Sure, a flock of twenty cheap sheep might be an opportunity to jump on, but at the same time, saying no to that deal may be in the best interest of your farm too.

It really comes down to focus, and it is a relentless pursuit.



Cool. Just so we are clear, questioning whether something is genuine is not the same as (or even related to) not focusing on the subject that we are doing - farming. We can have multiple parallel thoughts in life, you know ;). I started this thread here to ask whether people have noticed the same thing as I have over the years. We are all different but at the end we are not THAT different, otherwise books, movies etc. would be pointless as nobody would be able to relate to them. I think of myself as an honest person and this is my expectation of others so it bothers me to see what I see as another hypocritical, money oriented capitalist scheme to get money from unsuspecting people, this time under the guise of saving mother Earth or or starting a "brown revolution" or a libertarian fiefdom building (would love to have seen the same fiefdom today if one of its main protagonists was born in the inner city to a surrounding of crime, drugs etc.and was not given his/her land for free, for example). In that context, I feel the guys denuding mountain tops are at least honest and in plain view...But to each their own. I still think you should write something condensed - I know I would be very interested in reading, even though I am not at all interested in sheep and animal farming, from an ethical point of view at least. Thanks for the civilized discourse!!
 
Oddo Dassler
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Travis Johnson wrote:If I was to look back on everything, and explain what one single thing I used to make my farm a success, it would shock people because it is a combination of two things, and both costs a few pennies...

1) A pencil
2) A tiny 2 x 4 inch note book (or whatever size they are)

Over the years, keeping one in my pocket at all times, and then as I worked, rode in the car, was on vacation, whatever; and I had thoughts on farming, I would write those notes down so when I could get back to my computer, I could research, or follow up on those thoughts with emails, or applications, whatever...

We all have 24 hours in a day, and what we spend that time on determines the success or failure of our ventures. That pencil and note pad has kept my focus on farming.



I walk around with an old dictaphone :) - I feel the notepad gets wet, dirty, pages get stuck.... Voice recordings are easier IMHO.
 
Oddo Dassler
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F Agricola wrote:
That is the secret - not putting oneself into massive debt, keeping to a tight budget until things grow, and taking full advantage of government assistance programs.

In many Western countries, people accrue enormous debt, living off the future via credit cards and higher purchase loans. Many don't live in reality - they want everything all at once, instant gratification. Here it is common in the housing market.

I listen to vids, read blogs and posts, take an interest in economic reports, then after careful consideration of all the data, try to make an 'educated' call.

1. Being sceptical of everything until supported by evidence has benefited me, I don't like win/lose scenarios.

2. Importantly, happy to take onboard what all the Permaculture gurus say, but don't worship any of them like some people appear to do.



I agree with your 1 and 2 points and generally with everything you said. However, sometimes you do what you have to do. My wife is a veterinarian, she spent $110,000 on her degree. If you ask me, everywhere else in the world these degrees are much cheaper but in the States they are what they are. $110,000 is a small plot of land somewhere, she spent it on a professional degree. Vets, unlike human doctors never make the money etc. etc. but we have the advantage of having a vet at home for our own animals and she is always employable no matter what, which is a good thing. Either way, e did not have $110K lying around for her to go to school with so we had to take on a loan . We paid it off in record 6 years but that kind of thing takes away from your other financial goals, hence we had to take out a mortgage to get our farm today. I am a software engineer and I can work from home - one of the basic requirements for us was to find a rural farm with high speed internet and trust me, that's NOT easy in United States. But we did find it and I always have the option of going back to work behind a keyboard. Not something I want to do but I could always do it. Back on topic of your reply - I am in my 40s, I immigrated to USA in my 20s after my country fell apart in a civil war, no family here except for wife, her family is just her Mom (Dad passed away) and Mom is not rich, hence it is all us, we created all we have in just 17 years to be exact (no debt aside the mortgage and a decent savings account, my truck is paid for, so is tractor, all implements etc. etc. etc.). I look around here and it is VERY generational (and a lot of "poor" people by capitalist standards although I don't actually think they are poor, many people live on the same plot as their great-great-great grandparents, there are graveyards behind every house etc. but sadly, almost nobody farms their plots. Many of them are unhealthy, they buy the junk in town like McDonalds, Kroger etc. and even without a mortgage they do not want to farm. Then you have us who spent 12 years getting to a plot of land we love and can farm for the rest of our lives . Crazy, innit?
 
pollinator
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What a great topic...
I never assumed that my land would make money only save me expenses and offer a better life. I'm a bit of a doomer so the remoteness and self sufficiency aspects of it are a huge draw.  We bought our original 6.5 acres in rural Ontario for $8500 16 years ago and picked up the adjacent 3.5 acres a few years later for another $10000. We built the house ourselves from savings, lines of credit and time... The land is marginal, swampy and treed but it is ours. Over the years I toyed with the idea of making money from it but the difference between money from our land and money from Carpentry work was orders of magnitude different. I love gardening, energy efficient building, heating with wood, chickens, alternative energy and woodgas and the property acted as my testbed for all my crazy ideas. I have no desire or talent at "showing off" online to monetize what I enjoy though which seems to be the most common and lucrative way to monetize your lifestyle these days. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about anyone who does though its another skill set and path. When My wife passed away 2.5 years ago things just stopped. A period of introspection had me reevaluate everything. When I look at the historical record apart from the rich land owners who have always been there, the majority of history involved people tending the land for their own sustenance first and foremost. Whatever tiny surplus was usually devoted to a very few consumable specialty goods. With moderate industrialization you see the emergence of trades people with some land but again mostly for self consumption or as an investment worked by others. The TV analogy to that is the little house on the prairie where the father farms but makes his money doing carpentry. To me that is the model I settled on; Gardens to provide good food that could be ramped up if needed, chickens to fertilize said gardens, inputs limited to grain, Energy made on property with some grid backup, outside work to provide the extras knowing that that work could one day dry up or become much less lucrative, a culture of saving and low impact living. To me commodity based farming is a product of our consumer/specialized society where you do one thing very well for all your income and buy everything else. There is no one answer or model and I try to see the lessons in a persons experiences not their idiosyncracies.
After all this time and a new partner we recently purchased 24 acres with 3 acres of fields, a 2 acre garden clearing, and the rest wooded. It will be a new life with new realities and lessons...

People/things I like:
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The new alchemists
The first 10 years of mother earth news
the first 10 years of HARROWSMITH
The first 10 years of home power magazine
John Seymours book
The book "Your money or your life"
Joel Saladin
The Money Moustache blog

Cheers,  David

 
Oddo Dassler
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Location: Virginia
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David Baillie wrote:What a great topic...
I never assumed that my land would make money only save me expenses and offer a better life. I'm a bit of a doomer so the remoteness and self sufficiency aspects of it are a huge draw.  We bought our original 6.5 acres in rural Ontario for $8500 16 years ago and picked up the adjacent 3.5 acres a few years later for another $10000. We built the house ourselves from savings, lines of credit and time... The land is marginal, swampy and treed but it is ours. Over the years I toyed with the idea of making money from it but the difference between money from our land and money from Carpentry work was orders of magnitude different. I love gardening, energy efficient building, heating with wood, chickens, alternative energy and woodgas and the property acted as my testbed for all my crazy ideas. I have no desire or talent at "showing off" online to monetize what I enjoy though which seems to be the most common and lucrative way to monetize your lifestyle these days. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about anyone who does though its another skill set and path. When My wife passed away 2.5 years ago things just stopped. A period of introspection had me reevaluate everything. When I look at the historical record apart from the rich land owners who have always been there, the majority of history involved people tending the land for their own sustenance first and foremost. Whatever tiny surplus was usually devoted to a very few consumable specialty goods. With moderate industrialization you see the emergence of trades people with some land but again mostly for self consumption or as an investment worked by others. The TV analogy to that is the little house on the prairie where the father farms but makes his money doing carpentry. To me that is the model I settled on; Gardens to provide good food that could be ramped up if needed, chickens to fertilize said gardens, inputs limited to grain, Energy made on property with some grid backup, outside work to provide the extras knowing that that work could one day dry up or become much less lucrative, a culture of saving and low impact living. To me commodity based farming is a product of our consumer/specialized society where you do one thing very well for all your income and buy everything else. There is no one answer or model and I try to see the lessons in a persons experiences not their idiosyncracies.
After all this time and a new partner we recently purchased 24 acres with 3 acres of fields, a 2 acre garden clearing, and the rest wooded. It will be a new life with new realities and lessons...

People/things I like:
The nearings first and foremost
Elliot coleman
The new alchemists
The first 10 years of mother earth news
the first 10 years of HARROWSMITH
The first 10 years of home power magazine
John Seymours book
The book "Your money or your life"
Joel Saladin
The Money Moustache blog

Cheers,  David



Thanks!! That's a good attitude to have. Just a  note - it's not that I am badmouthing someone - I am questioning whether they disclosed fully where they came from. If you hide things at the beginning, everything afterwards is based on that, no? ;)
 
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