What Do I Tell Her?

We have an acquaintance who has posted on a few of the yahoo groups we use. Here is what she asked for:

Looking for a Place with land…
Our landlord is wanting to sell the place we just moved into a few months ago. She’d like it if we moved out.

Hubby and I have been discussing it before she even brought up the subject.

We’ve been feeling pulled to move to somewhere where there is land, trees and a place we can grow food, raise chickens and goats. We’d love something we could rent or preferrably rent to own. We really don’t want to have move again after this time. I’d love to live in H— or L—, but anywhere along [the center of the state] is fine. We could go as far as B— [north of her current city] if need be. My hubby works repairing and selling iphones. He uses [a local online classified] for most of his business, and we don’t know of anything like that anywhere else or we would consider moving to another state, or to [the southern half of the state].

We can afford about $1200/mo…give or take. Preferrably less, but that would depend on how much land.

Let me know if you know of something that fits my description. We just want to be self-sufficient as much as possible…we cannot do that here. I cannot plant a garden or even a fruit tree at our current location.

I hope that this gets to someone who knows of a place for us!

Thank you in advance.

Here is some of her background:
They have never farmed or raised animals.  The have had a small family garden.
She has severe epilepsy and quite often is not allowed to drive a car. Sometimes she is in bed for days at a time after an attack, and often has had to go to the hospital for tests or emergency care.
They have 5 kids, 3 of whom live at home.
They used to live in a very nice 3,500+ square foot new home–until they lost it due to foreclosure.

Here is what I wrote back to her:
I am assuming that the most important things you are looking for are animal rights and water rights [we live in the desert and the right to use water does not come with agricultural land unless you buy it]. If you don’t have those, you can’t do what you want. Any size house in live-able condition would be okay because I’m assuming that your first goals are raising a few animals, raising a garden, and letting your kids have some space to run. (Same goals as we have–which is why our house is comparatively small, fairly old, and in need of repair.)

Just as a little information for you, it costs us approximately $200 each month to raise our animals. That includes feed and electricity for the barn. It doesn’t include things like fencing that might need to be repaired or vet bills (if you can find a vet to help with large animals) vaccinations or meds that the animals might need, building shelters (like a chicken coop), feeders and waterers for the animals, loss of animals to predators, spring-time repairs, breed fees (for the goats), hoses and sprinklers, shovels and other ‘out door’ tools (pick-axes, pitch forks, manure rakes), bedding for the animals…. We LOVE what we do…. we really love the lifestyle, but to get set up is very costly, we grew into it gradually.

We were also blessed to run into some very good goat people–which means we paid a bundle for our first goats, but they were worth it because we knew they came from healthy, good milking stock–not just auction animals. We also know enough people that we can ‘scrounge’ materials for some things (old fencing for around the garden, old hay bales for temporary winter shelter, friend’s kids that are willing to help us in return for our help….) But that took years of doing what we are doing to be part of the network in the state.

And if you don’t own a truck with either a trailer or a shell, you will need to figure that into your cost. If you are planning on goats, you need some way to transport them from here to there as well as picking up feed from the store. It doesn’t matter what type of pasture you have, if you want goats or other smaller livestock you will need feed through the winter. If you want goats to give you milk, you will need grain feed all year. You are probably planning on hauling your own hay–which means you are going to need a good sized truck–a little pick-up can’t do the job.

It would be a good idea to go to the library and check out a book called “Hobby Farming for Dummies“. It is written by Theresa A. Husarik who lives in an area similar to ours. You might also want to go to the library and check out any Storey Guides you can find (Storey’s Basic Country Skills, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, and Barnyard in your Backyard). Reading a few books will give you a better idea of what is involved and what type of land, fencing, and water needs you will have.

I’m not trying to discourage you, I think it is a great idea, but I don’t want you to walk into it blind and think that hobby farming is easy or will reduce your living costs by much. It will take lots and lots of your time, and lots of hard work. I don’t want to see you get the set-up and then realize that every day of the rest of your life has outside work that needs to be done…. there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done. And you don’t get to go on vacation unless you add the cost of hiring someone to come into your farm and take care of the animals. 

It was 10˚F this morning. It took 30 minutes to haul buckets of water, clean out one water bucket that was nasty, feed all the animals breakfast, and collect the eggs. In the summer we plan on 60 minutes of barn chores in the morning and 90 minutes at night. That doesn’t include extra time on Saturdays for maintenance.

YES, YES, YES! It is worth it! At least it is for our family. There are many, many other people (even in our own neighborhood) who think we are crazy! Our attitude has been, “We can’t send our kids to a private school to learn what they’ve learned here. There aren’t any private schools like that, and if there were, we wouldn’t be able to afford them.” But also understand, that our kids WANTED this. We didn’t choose this for them, they wanted this and we followed what they wanted. That means we have very willing and mostly un-complaining helpers who do a job and do it thoroughly to the very best of their ability.

I don’t want to discourage her, but I’m not sure what to say to her to make sure she understands what a commitment and change of lifestyle she is facing.

So many people think we are self-sufficient on our little place. Far from it! Without the local feed store and local hay growers, we would never survive. There is a reason we call it Hobby Farming, because like every hobby, it rarely pays for itself in our area.

She’s a nice lady, and they are a nice family, but they are talking about moving out of the city and into the country with little idea of what they are getting into.

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