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.