Homestead, Hobby Farm, or Commercial Farm?

“And sometimes I dream of things very, very fine,

but then realize a love of simple things is mine.”

-Katie Lynn

So you are ready to start something; growing food, raising animals, starting a new hobby. You have a bit of land or a plot in the city. You have checked zoning, read every homesteading and farming memoir in the library system, have been following my blog, and have a little bit of money to put towards an agricultural endeavor. Now, do you want a homestead, a hobby farm, or a commercial farm?

We have been homesteading for seven years now. Splitting logs if we have a wood stove, starting a small commercial farm with wool, eggs, milk, vegetables, and herbal medicines. Before that we had a small hobby farm where everything almost paid for itself but not much more. And we have lived on a “regular” paycheck and used homesteading as a means to save money and have a better life.

We have found ourselves in the most wonderful of circumstances; we are now the proud owners of a 1.1 acre lot zoned AG in the country. There are restrictions on how many animals one can have per acre. I do not have irrigation or water rights (the city water is from up the road from the reservoir and it’s quite good and not too expensive). My husband works full time and the children live over an hour away so I will be doing most of the work on this new farm. Land and houses are expensive in Colorado so our mortgage is high and will take a lot of our budget. All things to consider.

Homesteading: Homesteading is a a great way to live a simple, healthy, pretty self sufficient life. It generally includes a garden (anything from a community garden to a huge plot of land counts), avid preserving (120 pints of tomatoes…check!), a few farm animals (maybe a few chickens for eggs, ducks for laughs, goats for milk, and moving up from there), and a great respect for the lifestyles of our ancestors. There is nothing quite like gathering around the fire at night, the oil lamps lit, knitting on your lap, laughter in the air, time as a family sacred.

I will definitely be getting a homestead back in place here over the next year. Already, I miss my garden and harvesting what I want to eat. Popping open a jar of preserves without having to read the ingredients. Installing a wood stove and gathering kindling. Start milking goats again. I have homemade presents in mind for Christmas this year and new inspirations for crafts.

Homesteading generally saves money but it does take a lot of time so a stay at home wife or someone that can work their own hours can excel at this.

Hobby Farm: A hobby farm tries to pay for itself. The goats start to produce milk and you have excess, so sell the rest or make cheese and other products. Sell the extra eggs. Everyone pulls their own weight. The goats pay for their own feed, so do the chickens. A lot of people raise meat on their farms. Meat chickens grow to market weight in 6-8 weeks. Set up a U-pick or CSA or set up at a farmer’s market to sell extra produce.

An outside paycheck generally covers the costs of living expenses and the farm covers itself. Always make sure you have enough to live on plus enough to take care of animal feed in case the goats dry up, the chickens stop laying, or the garden gets destroyed by hail! Taking care of a farm is a year round chore but it is all seasonal. Planning for the down times takes a lot of stress away.

Commercial Farm: Oh, but you have a really great idea! Lots and lots of vegetables, specialty mushrooms, lamb, wool, flowers, etc. You have the land, you have the start up. You can get your name registered with Secretary of State and get a website. You can claim profits and losses on your taxes. You can qualify for grants and live your dream full time! Find some interns, and go for it!

We wouldn’t mind going this route. Our farm is named Pumpkin Hollow Farm and I have lots of ideas for pumpkin festivals and private tours and lunches at our farm. Farm to table dinners and homesteading classes.

A few things to keep in mind when pursuing a commercial farm.

  1. You could trigger an audit. With the ever booming hobby farm craze, folks from all over starting taking deep losses on their taxes. I know a lot of small farms that have been audited so keep your books and receipts in order!
  2. Have some money put aside for unexpected expenses or losses.
  3. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket! Create lots of ways to make money on your farm. Classes, festivals, different animals, different vegetables, crafts, etc. will help balance the budget out year to year.
  4. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. What a gift to have a farm. Don’t forget to grab a beer and sit on the back porch watching the chicken antics and the view around you.

Maybe you start as a homestead and work your way up or maybe you jump right into farming. Whatever you choose, have fun and be willing to be flexible and creative. A simple life is always a good life.

Buying Land to Homestead (city or country?)

So you want to be a homesteader?  You will need land!  Now, do you want to live in the city or the country?  You can certainly homestead either place.

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I found a city, within forty-five minutes of my husband’s work, an hour and a half from my children, that has a very reasonable housing market compared to the other places in Colorado.  Pueblo has every amenity; arts, theater, restaurantuuuuus, hiking, bike trails, museums, and farms nearby.  My beautiful little house is powered 100% with solar.  I heat the house with the wood stove or the gas furnace.  I have city water, but it tastes pretty good and it is a sure thing.  I have farmed the entire front yard, producing much of our own vegetables and fruit and some for canning plus all the perennial fruit trees and berry bushes are coming along fine.  The wild mulberries here are delicious.  I have a large chicken coop and lots of chickens.  I have a greenhouse and additional garden. I have a farm dog.  I have a root cellar.  I have everything I need to homestead well here.  We even have a lake one block away that is stocked by the city for free fishing.

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Living in the city has a ton of benefits like the ones above plus most cities allow goats and sheep nowadays.  The utilities are generally cheaper.  Without a well, one does pay quite a bit for water.  And there is the space issue.  You can only do so much before running out of room in the city.  I must say I am impressed with how much I can grow here though.  Using vertical growing techniques and permaculture ideas increases yield exponentially.  Finding a home in the city can often be more affordable as well.

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It’s a shame we aren’t city people.  In the country, you might have a view.  A few acres of land to traverse.  More options for animals.  Outbuildings.  Stars.  And country people are my people.  I may have grown up in the city, but I’ve always been a country girl.

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These are things to look for when you are looking for a homestead, whether it be in the city or the country.

Check zoning.  Can you have chickens?  How about, by chance, goats?

FHA doesn’t do Ag loans (agriculture zoning).  FHA is the most common lending so plan to find something residential that can have animals.

Check and see if the community has an HOA.  If so, do not move there.  You will not likely be able to grow corn in the front yard or have a rooster crowing.

A wood stove or wood burning fireplace is a must.  On a wood stove, you can place a pot of beans and a kettle of water or percolator on days that electric goes out.

If you are looking in the country, is it on city water?  Is there a well?  How deep?

Septic tank?  How old?  Get those checked before buying.

How many acres?  What is the zoning?

Let’s be honest now here.  EVERY farmer/rancher I know has an outside job.  It’s just the way it goes these days.  Someone in the household probably has to work.  Check the distance to work.  No one wants to commute two hours to the office!

Check the fencing.  Are you going to be able to keep your pup in?  Goats?  See realistically much work has to be done to move in.  Fencing in the city is incredibly important as well.  Preferably a six foot fence!

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Well y’all, that will get you started.  Happy land dreaming!

 

 

Two Days in Santa Fe

I am sitting in a coffee shop on the Plaza enjoying a delicious brew in a corner booth overlooking the frost covered buildings and the vast sky that promises warmer weather today.

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I read a study that compared the frequencies of people and places and how we thrive best when matched with our own similar frequency level regarding people and lands.  According to the study, if you were to close your eyes and someone placed a stone from a place that you love in one hand and a stone from a place you do not like, you would notice the difference.  This place matches my frequency.  Whether crossing the Santa Fe Plaza or eating red chile in Socorro or driving though farm land or artist towns, this is my place.  One day…

I adore the architecture and the history here.  The traditional adobe with straw sticking through its ancient walls.  The oldest house in the United States is here and was built in 1598.  Down a small street next to San Miguel church (circa 1636) is the house and free museum.  I loved seeing the tortilla press (not too different than mine) and the stone used for grinding corn into meal (a bit different than my Vitamix) and the other items of the era.

There is a distinctive look to New Mexico.  It is all about the details here.  Punched tin, kivas, adobe, bright trim, murals, and vigas create textures, history, and art in the architecture and design here.

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We brought our granddaughter’s stuffed animal with us and have been capturing moments with it to the delight of Maryjane.

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Now I have seen the fake stuffed animal heads mounted on boards.  They are cheeky and kind of funny from a vegetarian perspective.  In fact, I have long had a stuffed moose head we named Moosletoe hanging in our living room.  One is funny; more than that might be over the top.  However, when I saw this rooster head I started giggling so much that the cashier started giggling, than Doug joined in, and the contagious laughter prompted his coming home with me.  He is hilarious.  Perhaps he will inspire my rooster, Bob, to behave himself.

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Amazing how ten days flies when on vacation.  Thanks for coming along with me, we’ll see you back at the farm!

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Searching for Home

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It is just an ordinary old building from the outside.  It was a feed store and a liquor store among other things.  Its basement is flooded and water rushes around the old, old boiler standing proudly, its ankles wading in the rainwater misplaced.  The large main floor is open with high ceilings, windows, wood floors, and my eyes gaze around in wonder as if I were designing a loft for a popular television show.  The upstairs is a rounded loft that would make a lovely bedroom.  The back room is really the gem.  A rustic blank slate of old brick and cement, a kitchen it must be.  I dream as the owner shows me around.  Lord, I could decorate anything.  Unfortunately we have to rent a year before we can buy and she could not afford to allow us that being too far behind.  The bank will likely have this unspoken masterpiece, unappreciated in its barrenness but too expensive in its needs.  I wished her luck.  I could have had supper clubs there and art openings and karaoke nights!  But alas, it is not for us though if could buy we could get it for a song.  I could even turn the outside strip into a garden oasis with chickens.

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So, Doug and I decided to head out to the building that holds the company that he is interviewing with tomorrow.  We are confident and hopeful.  We backtracked from the building to various neighborhoods, many with pristine grass and home owner’s associations written all over them as well as mighty confident price tags.  Because his work, should he get the job, is on the far north side of Colorado Springs we would be a mere ten minutes from the first bit of country.  A life Doug would like to hold onto.  Truth be told, so do I.  We still want the large gardens and chickens.  The views, the stars, the quiet, that life.

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We drove past the trees that were scarred by the fire I wrote about a few years ago.  The area is regrowing and beautiful.  To live in the trees would be magical even though the fire risk is always a possibility.  A few minutes further we get into the prairielands we know and adore.

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Oh where will our new home be?  And can it be somewhere we can stay?  To put down roots and apple trees without fear of being forced to move?  Can we find someone to help us get the house then buy it from them?  Or a place that we can rent then purchase later?  A place that we can call our own?  Dreaming of home is a bittersweet ordeal when you know not where home is.

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Home is by a hearth and fire, surrounded by our cats, and visited by our beloved ones.  It is where we find each other at the end of the day and at early dawn.  Where the rooster will crow and the pumpkins will grow.  We are searching.