Sunday, November 27, 2011

Niche or broken market?

I am a firm believer in planning. I read constantly to learn and discover new ideas and ways to farm. All I have to do is plan until we get moved onto the land. We will not go into debt in this adventure to ensure ourselves of being self-sustainable and avoiding any chance of going bankrupt. So while I sit and wait; I read, I dream, and I plan.

I often see people talking about buying chickens from the feed store, or finding items they need on the feed store bulletin board, so I figured I would go and look for myself. I traveled to 5 feed stores in my area. Not one had a bulletin board that was worthy of even looking at. Nothing, nada, zero, zilch. I thought when I bought the land it was in the perfect spot, right next to a feed store, what a convenience. Not really, they mostly sell cattle goods. Every feed store around really only deals in cattle and horse feed. Okay, I get it, I live in quarter horse and beef capital of the world, but doesn't someone around dabble in chickens, pigs, and meat rabbits? This has got me to thinking, by dabbling in these other animals am I in a niche market or am I messing with something that others have failed at here. I know what I want, I have even got the breed of each animal picked out, but there doesn't seem to be anyone remotely close to me farming these animals. Why? I don't know. In all of my reading, I cannot find the answer to that question. The friendlier farmers around here tell me there is no money in it, the non-friendly farmers just stare at me like I have asked the dumbest question they have ever heard. To the friendly farmers, I say, I am not in it for the money. My business (farm) plan is to simply recoup the cost of raising the animals/produce and to pay the property taxes, while providing my family and friends with the best meat/produce around. I realize this isn't a get rich quick scheme, nor will this farm ever make me rich, but there has to be a market for something other than a t-bone around here.

Hopefully in a couple of years I will be able to have a successful report, but now I have doubts. Now to go read and find out why no one is doing this.
I hope that I have found a niche..........

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Promises of Freedom

Having not been around my wife and children much because of work being so busy, I made some hefty promises. Promises I was not going to break under ANY circumstance.

Promise #1: Turn my phone off for the entire weekend I was off. I am never truly off, but I had determined my sanity and my family's attention was more important.

Promise #2: Attend my son's football game and give him a monetary prize for each tackle. I guess this was my way of paying him back for all the days that had passed and I had not seen him. My son being the savvy six year old business man he is, counter-offered my promise. On top of the money, he wanted to spend some time out on the land shooting his bb gun. I countered his counter-offer by promising him to take the real guns if he got five tackles. The promise was written in stone.

Promise #3: Build a ladder going up to the hayloft to make it more accessible for everyone.

I was able to hold to every promise and it felt great! Turning off my phone for the first time in ten years was the absolute most liberating thing I have done in a long while. Paying my son for achieving each and every tackle he so diligently worked for was worth every penny. Building the ladder to make my son and daughters' dream clubhouse more accessible and to hear their minds think and creative ideas flow was the absolute icing on the cake, well, almost. The capability to be able to go out and practice our second amendment right on OUR own soil was the cherry on top. I now know what true freedom feels like. I now know what living the dream feels like. Am I in Heaven? I don't think so. It is just the reward of hard work, dedication, and an undying need of fulfillment. Alas, I have found it.

By now you have figured out that my son got his five tackles. The fifth actually happened on the very last play of the game. What he didn't know was no matter if he had gotten them or not, we were going to take the guns out to shoot them. He had tried too hard to get them to be let down, and I needed to relieve some stress. There is no better stress reliever than wasting some lead, at least to me there isn't.

Promises were fulfilled. Exercises of freedom were fulfilled. Living the dream I have for me and my family is still ongoing, and I couldn't be any happier.

Unwanted Motivation

Eighty plus hours a week at a job (going into the busy time of the year), kids in sports, social activities, a few minor kinks here and there, have put the farm on the back burner. Not by choice, we have wanted to be there, but being physically and mentally exhausted, it has kept us from getting any closer to the dream.

Que the unwanted part: A home burglary while at work. A wife and children coming home to a back door that had been kicked in, has added a new sense of urgency in our plans. Luckily the thugs didn't make off with much; although, we all feel severely violated and uneasy.

Que the motivation: A day cleaning out the nasty barn. Physical and mental exhaustion had found a second wind. On a day I am absolutely positive that I would uncover many snakes, I was thankfully let down. A trip to the dump with a ton of trash, well 2,560 lbs to be exact, left the barn in a much better state than we found it. My son also discovered an idea for his dream on the land. He would try to convince me that he NEEDED the hay loft to become his club house. It didn't take that much convincing. One trip climbing up to clean out the hay loft was all I needed to discover storing hay somewhere near ground level is much less work. This has been an overall good decision, because the children have finally gotten excited about something on the land. Yay!

I promise to find myself more time to blog and more time to work on the land, all thanks to an unwanted A-hole who set up temporary residence in our home and took things that didn't belong to him.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cleaning up someone else's dream

As you can see in the main picture there is pipe laying obscurely in the grass. This was the case on about an acre of our land. We hadn't been able to cut the grass on it for fear of hitting a pipe with the mower. I haven't been able to get out and really work the land because of work, the heat, and a few minor speed bumps that happened in the house we live in now, but getting this land cleaned up has been a priority of mine since we bought it. This weekend brought much needed cooler temperatures to our area and I knew that this was my chance.

My wife and I got up early on Sunday morning and decided that we were going to start the tedious task of removing the pipe out of the field. I had seen 20 ft sticks of pipe on my walks over the land, and I had seen 3 inch pieces. With my wife at the steering wheel of my truck and me working the chains, we managed to pull approximately 3000 lbs of pipe, steel, barbed wire (rolled), t-post, etc. We work well as a team, almost as a fluid motion knowing what each other is thinking, and in 3 hours we had accomplished what I had feared days it would take.

We had all the pipe, steel, etc. piled up, the field was clean and I was satisfied. However, I think my wife, while pulling all of this out of the field, had aspirations of doing something else. What? You may ask. Pulling up saplings and trees and bushes with the truck. That's what. If she could find a paying job that all she had to do is yank trees, bushes, stumps out of the ground, I swear she would have found her dream job. I sometimes think the highlights of our marriage is her being able to "gas it" and yank stuff out the ground. Seeing her laugh and giggle every time she does, makes me laugh and look for more to do.

We took a quick lunch and potty break (the closest public restroom is about 13 miles), I loaded up the mower and went back and finished cleaning up the barn and land, and Shawna mowed our previously un-mowable land. It is a lot of hard work, but since this is ours, the work is all worth it and doesn't seem to feel like work but rather a sense of accomplishment and joy.

The pipe was placed on this land by the previous owner who had aspirations of making a pipe fence and corrals for bulls. His dream had somewhere fell short and the grass had eaten up pipe. So now, I have 3000 lbs of scrap to take to the recycler and a wonderful view of what our entire property looks like mowed. The barn still needs a little TLC and some deep cleaning, but that is another weekend.

Added: After I had typed this, I went to find our riding mower had four flat tires because of the massive thorns on the land.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Putting the cart before the horse.

In a perfect world everything would go into place on the farm in one week. The house, pool, Tiny Home, livestock, barn (fixed), grass, and plants would be placed on the property and we would be living large. I live in my own perfect world; great marriage, well-behaved and healthy children, good job, and my own health. We make decent money, but are far from rich which keeps our farm from happening in a week. Next to come, set priorities. Priorities, ugh, this is where patience comes into the mix. Patience, ugh, means we have to plan for what's next. Patience is the area where we (Shawna and I) lack in. Priorities is the area where we disagree. Planning is where we excel. These 3 P's is what going to make our "perfect farm".

The plan- through my thorough research skills and Shawna's excellent organizational skills, we have came up with what we believe is the perfect plan for our farm.

Priorities- I found out this where I am from Mars and Shawna is from Venus. No big deal, I will concede that my priorities were a bit out of whack. We will take it one step at a time staying on our plan.

Patience- We feed off of each other in this area. We have none. Maybe this comes from both of us having demanding jobs. I think the farm will be our teacher in patience.

It still doesn't keep me from wanting my livestock (cow, pigs, and chickens) NOW!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Marking my territory

Where does the house go? That's the million dollar question. Where I want it and where the wife want it are two different things. We somehow always find a way to meet in the middle. Compromise, alas, that is what marriage is all about.

There hasn't been anything really for Shawna to do on the land. Not to sound chauvinistic, but after handling barbed wire and coming home looking like I had been in a fight with a mountain lion, this is not a girls job. I love my wife's smooth, youthful skin. As a matter of fact, I like the fact that my wife is quite girly. Now if the jobs requires getting dirty, she is all for it, but it is on her terms.

Time to stake off the house, pool, and Tiny Home so the gentleman that is going to put in our septic system will have an idea where to run lines and how much it will cost. Sounds easy right? Wrong. I asked Shawna to show up and help me stake off the land. Woohoo! Her first job on the farm. Girly Shawna decides to show up and help, and I pick the hottest day in Texas history. Things go south from here. The heat is stifling and her mood is heating up near the temperature outside. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had become accustomed to the heat while putting up all the dang fence. We both ride desk at our day jobs in climate controlled rooms that we can adjust. We have both taken for granted that people on the other side of the glass are 5 degrees away from becoming the latest heat stroke victim. In due time I think we will find the happy medium when we actually start the farming side and become more accustomed to the heat.

The Staking begins, we mark off the house, pool, and tiny home. All the while, I am trying to put the structures closer together and Shawna is trying to space them further apart. I listen to her and agree with her (that's what smart men do when the wife is mad), then in a couple of days I start giving her comparisons. The problem when you have four flat acres with nothing on it is that there is nothing for depth perception. We marked off a 3600 sq. ft. house and she thought the house was to small (you could fit the house we live in now in the staked off area nearly twice). Pool and Tiny Home also got staked off, but not too close to each other, she said I was crowding the structures. I knew better, but by the time we had marked off the land, we had nearly a football field for our living and she still thought it was a little crowded (again no depth perception) (I also was starting to question my tape measure). I actually want all the things she does, I just want less to mow. Less to mow means more time to enjoy. I say, let the creatures do the mowing and the humans do the swimming. After a few visuals and comparisons, she has agreed to let me back it down to a more manageable size. I am excited because now I won't have to spend all weekend mowing our football field.

Farm lesson learned #2 - wait for more girly appropriate weather before involving the wife.
Farm lesson learned #3 - rent a blow up bounce house for visual aid and depth perception.


When we bought the land, all corner post had been laid (very well constructed using metal pipe from the pipe graveyard on my land I presume), and half the barbed wire had been ran. I went to the store to price t-post and wire only to find the previous owner had used the most expensive t-post made. Being my anal-retentive self and knowing what would transpire from my wife when she discovered the t-post didn't match, I decided to bite the big one and keep the property matching all the way around. The barbed wire was a pleasant surprise, it was relatively affordable, $80.00 for a quarter mile. A quarter mile! I thought, wow all I have is four acres, I could fence my whole property with a roll. Somewhere in my very mathematical brain, mile and feet did not register and I quickly found out how long a quarter mile was. Precisely three times down one side of the property with a little left to get tangled in everything around me, was how long it lasted. The previous owner, for what ever reason, decided he needed to run 8 strands of 4 point wire. The corner post were welded for an eight strand application, and being my anal-retentive self and knowing what would transpire from my wife when she discovered 1/2 the fence had five strands and the other 1/2 had eight, I decided to bite the big one and buy more wire, a lot more wire.

The Texas weather this summer has been unbearable. Record breaking heat day after day, after day, no rain, and more heat. I have still manged to fence some in the evenings after I get off from work. I have also discovered the peace and serenity of being alone out on the farm with nothing to do but work and dream. The perimeter fencing is almost done; this will get us by until Tiny Home is built and we are able to work the land. Every one keeps asking me how bad I hate fencing. I simply answer, I love it.

Farming lesson learned #1- 1/4 of a mile of barbed wire is 1320 ft or three trips down one side of the pasture. 1/4 mile sounds really long until you start fencing.

We have the land, now what?

The land has been purchased. I like to say we purchased it sight unseen because the grass was 7ft tall and we could not get a good lay of the land, but we got it for a good price. The first thing I wanted to do being first time property owners was have a picnic on it; after all, it was ours. The very next thing was to cut the grass/weeds/bushes, but I needed to borrow my mother in laws tractor to accomplish this. It took one day to mow most of it, but there was about an acre that has yet to be mowed because that seemed to be someones dumping ground for steel pipe for fencing. We love the land, it is flat, and the barn seems to have good bones although I think it needs new tin.

The next thing to do was to plan out where to put the house. After sleepless nights of thinking what to do with the land and the layout, I came up with this idea.

Build the pool house first, which we refer to as Tiny Home, and live in it for a year while paying off the land and saving our money from the rent we were paying to have a large down payment for dream home. I researched the idea and plans for a tiny home and came across a whole culture that make permanent residence year round in these homes. Our home will not be as tiny as some. It will be a 396 sq.ft. home, but others I found online are living in ~100 sq.ft.. We do have two children and I don't see 100 sq. ft. possible. Did I mention two dogs, one of which is a great dane. We will make this work and there should be some good stories to come from living like this. The children aren't too fond of it, but they will survive.

I plan on building Tiny Home myself. I have the skills and knowledge to do this even though I am a white collar worker. I will document the progress as I go so others can learn mostly what not to do. The dream home will be contracted out, I simply do not have the time to be a contractor.

Plans for the land consist of a garden (approx 1/2 acre), a cow, two pigs, egg laying chickens, and broiler chickens. All of this will be raised to eat and not be pets. My son wants a sheep as a pet and I am fine with that. I plan on being able to self-sustain ourselves as much as possible, all while raising the livestock as close to organic as I can.

I am open to all suggestions and concerns anyone might have. It is never too late to learn.

Finding the right land and purchasing it.

My wife and I got a late start to life. We both were previously married and had partied through our early twenties. As thirty approached, we found each other through a twist of fate and have been totally in love every since. I have dreamed about owning acreage since I can remember as a youth, but a certain level of immaturity kept me from my dream (i.e. fast cars, loud music, partying, women; all of which cost money).

Now that my wife and I have hit the mid-thirties, finally finished with college, both have good jobs, and a few kids, the time has come to settle down and get this show on the road.

We knew what town we wanted to purchase land in. The only problem is that no one in that town ever sells their land, and if they do, they want an arm an leg for it. After years of searching and looking, and having enough to make a down payment (so we thought) it was time to actively pursue our choices.
My wants: 10 acres, no trees, good land to be able to self-sustain ourselves as much as possible.
The wife: A space to plop our dream home on and no trees.

Off we go with a realtor looking at our picks. (This is where reality sets in) Our first property, 12 acres, too far from work for me (I am always on call and have to be near work), no water, no electricity, and the land is not ideal for farming. It just didn't feel right.
On our way to the second property (10 acres), the realtor talks us into stopping at a four acre tract very close to where we want to be, but I am not happy because it is only 4 acres.
We get to the property and the realtor ask us what we think and how we plan to pay for it. I say I love the location, hate the size (too small), and that we have roughly 20% to put down (this is where my dream was crushed). It seems that buying raw land is totally different, from purchasing anything else. The realtor told me we would need 30% down no matter how good our credit was. (I took this with a grain of salt as I have always been able to walk into the bank and ask my lender for what I need and get the check before I turn in my credit application. Turns out he was right, thanks to the sub-prime crash.) The four acres had water and electricity already ran to it which was a BIG plus. We decided that we did not need to see the other property with the 30% factor and talk to the bank first.
After sleeping on it and weighing the pros and cons, we decided we needed to take another look at the property. I had contacted a drilling company and it was going to cost about $20.00 a foot to drill a well and on average the wells in the area were 1300 ft. OUCH! Enough said. We decided the four acres would be best and I would have to tame my goals for the ten acres.

So we now have four acres and a dream.