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Posts Tagged ‘farm’

Hubby and I went to a dinner theatre, last night, as a last-chance date before I go out to Saskatchewan (he is staying behind until we get possession of the acreage).  Hubby got the last two tickets available, and we wound up sitting with another couple at a four-seat table.  There was quite a stretch of time between dinner being finished and the play beginning, so we struck up a conversation with our table mates.

 

Turns out, they were farmers, and had driven an hour into town to get a little culture.  I mentioned that we were moving on to an acreage soon, and that eventually we’d be moving out to a farm, ourselves.  They have been farming grain and cattle for 30 or 40 years, and seemed like real salt-of-the-earth folks.   The conversation revolved around water wells, cisterns, cows, and Mexico vs. Cuba for vacation destinations.

 

After, as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Hubby commented that our table mates were probably sitting in their truck right now, shaking their heads at us.  He commented that they probably think we’re completely crazy.  I mean, who would want to get into farming?  It is hard work, and the pay is the pits.  Around here, most farmers are in debt up to their eyeballs, and the vast majority of farmers I know have an off-farm job.

 

I told Hubby that we have a couple of advantages.  We don’t know what’s impossible.  And I already have a good off-farm job.

 

We’re never going to be wheat farmers.  The equipment costs so much, we would never be able to afford it, and still compete with the huge grain farms in our area.  But I think there is a market for local tree foods – the 100 mile diet is in the popular lexicon, and we’re within 100 miles of a couple of decent sized cities.  Wheat and chicken and potatoes and beef and lentils are easy – these are major Prairie crops, so they are common, and relatively cheap.  I bet folks would really love to be able to get their hands on 100-mile hazelnuts, though, or 100-mile apricots, and I would additionally bet that they would pay a premium in order to do so.   Especially if they were also organic.  There are lots of niche-market options, and we’ve half a mind to try several.   Planting and watering a few dozen trees is a far cry from farming wheat.  These are crops that don’t need a lot of space or machinery or money to get into…just some foresight and time.

 

Now, we’re never going to get rich selling locavore hazelnuts at the farmer’s market.  I do think, though, if we plan and market and manage well, we can make our income exceed our outgo.  And have our ideal lifestyle while we’re at it, with space to roam, good food that we grow ourselves, and a job for hubby that does not involve selling his soul to someone else for 40 hours a week.  If we can manage that, by our own accounting, we’ve won.

 

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re not actually crazy, either…

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I read a quote, once (and I cannot remember who to attribute it to, unfortunately):

“Those who believe they can, and those who believe they can’t, are both right.”

 

I went for lunch today with a lady from work.  We were talking about stubbornness, and I commented that being stubborn was my worst flaw and my best asset.  She replied that she wished she was as stubborn, and could only dream of doing the things I have done, like traveling and buying a farm.

Huh?  Really?

 

She makes as much money as I do.  She is very intelligent.  She is quite organized.   I don’t see any reason why she couldn’t do whatever the heck she wanted.

When I pointed that out, she said

“Oh, but I can’t

“I’m too old”

“I can’t afford it”

“I’m not adventurous enough”

 

Well of course you can’t, honey.  Look at what you’re telling yourself.  All those lovely excuses you’ve made…

 

I got this a lot when I took a year off work and backpacked through Europe and North Africa.  Colleagues, all of whom make comparable wages, went on and on about how jealous they were.  I told them to stop being envious and start planning to do it for themselves.  That did not make me very popular, but they could do it just as easily as I did.

 

This is not to say that it was easy.  I paid off all my debt, scrimped and saved for years, lived in older rental places, worked overtime, lived below my means, drove an old, crappy car, and, in general, worked really really hard to be able to do that.  But I wanted it badly enough, and I accomplished my goal.   I’m not all that special.  There was no magic trick.  Just planning and time and a few sacrifices and some hard work.  I was 29 years old.

 

Now, people are commenting on how we could afford our farm (and acreage).  In fact, my father commented to my sister “I don’t know how your sister plans to pay for all this stuff”.  Of course, Dad lives in a brand-new house in a nice subdivision, got a new car last year, and just spent thousands of dollars remodeling his kitchen with oak cupboards and marble countertops.  I’m not sure he has grasped that we bought an old, run down place that is going to need a lot of work.  I also don’t think he has any understanding of how cheap land is in Saskatchewan, if you get far enough out of town.  The farm costs us about as much as an average car payment.   The acreage, being run down and needing work, will cost us less than renting in that city would.

 

So, how can we afford all this stuff?  Easy.  We drive old cars.  Like 20 year old cars, that we buy for cash.  We don’t have cable or rent movies (no TV).  We play board games instead of going shopping.  We don’t eat out a restaurants very often.  We cook our food from scratch.  We don’t buy brand-name clothes.  Our dogs and cats are mutts that we rescued, not $2,500 purebreds. We ‘redecorate’ by buying some new fabric and making different pillow cases for the throw pillows.  We mostly buy our books second hand.   Every year, when I get a raise, I put it into savings, so that we continue to live below our means, and have a safety cushion if we need one.

 

Does this make us somehow less cool?  I mean, a lot of my colleagues drive Hummers, or at least new Jettas.   They wear True Religion jeans ($250-300), and lululemon hoodies ($100).

 

Well, it depends on your definition of cool.  My vintage Corolla gets me to work just as reliably as my buddy’s Hummer, and costs me about 1/10th as much in gas, let alone insurance.  My $30 jeans still keep my butt from hanging out.  My $20 Costco hoodie keeps me warm, and I like the color.  I think our trip to Cuba this winter was pretty cool, and we paid for it out of cash we saved by not buying that other crap – stuff we don’t really need or actually even want.  You can be a trendsetter, or you can be unique just like everyone else.

 

Or, you can quit fussing about what everyone else thinks, and just go do whatever makes you happy.   Do you believe you can?  Or will you tell yourself you’re too young, too old, too dumb, too broke, or not adventurous enough?  Either way, you’re sure to prove yourself right…

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The Plan

Well, it all went according to plan, for the first few months at least.

We wanted a hobby farm, or, more accurately, a homestead.  Which we could never afford in Central Alberta, so we decided to find something in Saskatchewan.   Weeks of short-notice long drives to look at disappointing parcels of land turned into months of determination to find something ‘just right’.

Just Right turned out to be a half-section of land in central Saskatchewan, which my Mom and her partner went in with us to buy.   Three hundred and twenty acres of rolling pasture, with a nice fence, a couple of big sloughs and a run-down yard site.  For just the cost of a car payment, we were in business…or so we thought.

Mom started building a house, which got stalled when her contractor disappeared into the night…with quite a lot of her money.  Then the economy crashed, and my husband found himself working very part-time, with no prospects for decent work.  I applied for a transfer which, two years later, is still pending.   Such is life.

We got tired of waiting, and applied for a transfer to a different town in the province, which, to our surprise, went through about three weeks later.   A rush trip out to scout homes, and we made an offer on a run-down farm house on ten acres…accepted, pending subdivision.   I start work at the new location in mid January, and the subdivision could be approved any time between now and October.

So now we need a New Plan, but this two-year journey to get into the countryside is almost over…then the REAL fun begins…

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