Homestead Life: What We Would Do Differently with 100K at the Onset

Homestead, inspiration

“If you could start your Homestead over, completely from scratch, and you had a hypothetical budget of 100k USD in your pocket, how would you plan and prioritize?”

  • What kind of priorities would you have or reconsider?
  • What kind of power would you use?
  • In what ways would you use this nest egg first?
  • How would you do your planning again, if you had the option?

 

@thetreeoflife asks us this hypothetical question as she and her partner mentally and practically prepare to make their homestead move.

I am so excited to dig in and think about the aspects of this question this morning as I enjoy a cup of coffee by the woodstove.

Ini and I started off with a much smaller “nest egg” and if we had had 100k, I am not quite sure we would do much differently. First I’ll walk you all through some of our thought processes, what we liked about that and also things we may shift or do in different orders.

 

Land

First off, make land a priority regarding how you use your nest egg. Think about what your dreams are (for us it was perennial food forestry ultimately) and tailor your vision and land choice toward what is important to you. Maybe you want land for raising livestock or extensive gardening, maybe a certain slope orientation is important to you. Take some time to really consider what your priorities are and your long term visions and as you go about finding land, see if you can literally imagine your dreams unfolding there.

For us, we chose Missouri because of its longish growing season (zone 6b), large amounts of rainfall (over 50 inches annually), prevalence of springs and aquifers (one of the highest concentrations in the country), lack of building codes and relatively inexpensive land prices.

In exchange, we live in Trump country and it can get a little bit “backwards” here or feel like it’s outside of time. There is little progressive politics and we are 45 minutes in every direction from a city large enough for a legit food store with organic bulk produce. We do a lot of ordering online. Consider for yourself what your limits are. 20 minutes from such a town? How do your specific dreams mingle with location and community aspects? We have a small progressive community around us that mostly satisfies us, but at times we wish we had larger social circles.

I think for any budget, land takes up a large part of that. And I think it should. It’s the key asset you’re investing in when creating a homestead.

I also wouldn’t be afraid to choose a place and land you really love (consider the long term taxes though) if it’s a bit more expensive. After all, you can’t change your place as easily as you can make more money or tear down or build a building.

 

Home

For us it was ideal to find a place without an existing home. A structure such as a barn or outbuilding was okay, but we knew we wanted to build our own natural home. We didn’t have any building experience so we didn’t start off right away building a home and I think that was a good move. We built our humanure composting building first- this allowed us to practice our building styles, gain experience and have a home for our poop! We would do it again this way.

Permaculture asks us to Observe before we act and this is wise. We waited a year living on the land before we cut trees, established long term garden plans, built buildings, etc. And I love that we did that; I’d recommend it.

To this effect, we purchased a yurt and easily erected that from the start to take the pressure off of the home aspect. 3 years in and we are finally in the position (financially, energetically, stress levels wise, we have a lot of the other foundations of the homestead worked out and are far along on our food forests) to build a “true home”. We have a great relationship and understanding of our place, the sun & wind patterns, and generally how things feel on the land. We feel equipped to choose a home site. It’s good to wait.

If I could do it again, I would still do it this way. Set aside part of your budget for a beginner home that perhaps can be used in the future for travel, guests, etc. RVs or trailers are popular options. We enjoyed living in the yurt for the first year. There are a lot of options depending on your lifestyle and how you’re truly okay to live for the first few years. In this way, you can really get a piece of land that you like and not pay for someone else’s (dream?) home. By purchasing a tiny home or a house on wheels (or building one?), you’re saving your budget for land, water & power, good foundational elements.

You can always work outside the homestead to make more money to fund a future home and perhaps you’ll have more know-how and be more prepared in the future to build it anyway. I know our building skills have increased enough that we feel excited and (mostly) equipped to build!

 

Water

Water, no matter how you slice it, is a priority. We got a well ¾ of the way through our first year on the land. Before that we pumped water from a well into 5 gal jugs from a gracious neighbor and also got water at times from our spring.

Prioritize water on your land. Our land has a spring and a perennially spring fed creek (that has only gone dry, according to locals, about once in 100 years). This was really important to us as food growing is a top priority- to always have water moving around us. It was also really economical to dig a well and that was a plan all along. Make sure it wont cost another $20,000 to dig a well. Get a quote. Definitely put water in the budget.

We still don’t have hot, running water year round. It can definitely be a bummer, but it’s also something we’ve worked with (and are very excited about for our future home!). Depending on your needs, maybe this would work for you, or perhaps you need running water right away. Either way, make sure you have abundant water on your land. Water issues are a real bummer in any homesteading vision.

 

Power

We lived our first 2 years on the land without power. Our land was a raw piece of land without grid tie (and we liked it that way- power companies often get right-of-way for 10 feet on either side of the power line and we didn’t want to grant them that right to cut down trees, etc). It was interesting, to say the least, living without power for the first 2 years. Both of us were raised in homes with ample electricity haha and we got a taste for how people around the world live without it. It was character building!

We charged batteries at the library, at autozone, at friends’ houses when we’d come over for dinner. We used solar rechargeable lights and certainly weren’t tempted to stay up super late into the night on the dark, cold winter nights. Do I regret it? Absolutely not- it was a good experience to have as a modern human, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Know your limits and priorities.

Ultimately, in our second year, we set up a solar system and are happily bringing in and storing via batteries more of the sun’s energy than we can use in a day. We have a freezer, run all appliances and work tools, and are content with this amount of energy. We didn’t even have a generator in the beginning and that would’ve made life easier.

If you are going to plan to build a solar system later on, or budget for it from the beginning, many solar places will happily talk you through what components you need and you can get quotes from various places before you ever buy. That’s definitely a good route and I never regret not going grid tied (we don’t have any incentives to do so either in the state of Missouri and there are no federal or state kick backs). Now we have paid for 10 years of energy needs up front, have no energy bills, feel great about taking in the sun’s energy and are literally empowered that we did it all ourselves.

Foundations

Looking back, I suppose the first 3 years on the land have been about laying foundations, of both skill sets, business (regarding our Permaculture plantings and future nursery ideas), power, water, etc. I think it’s wise to start slow and small instead of jumping into a large vision. Move into the place first. Spend a full 4 seasons there. Let the land talk to you. Let your dreams mingle with your place, its people, wildlife, energetics and the specific piece of land you’re on.

 

I believe in collaboration and synchronicity and that we aren’t only here to establish our dreams on a blank slate (there is no such thing), but to interact with the web of life of which we find ourselves a part. We aren’t humans with a green backdrop, so as you think about establishing yourself somewhere, leave room for that somewhere to establish you.

 

Things we haven’t done yet that we wish we had done earlier

Finalize the roof catchments systems.

We have built 3 structures (5 if you include high tunnels) and are not set up yet to catch and make full use of rainwater. Some roofing material we have built with was reused and galvanized metal and therefore not suitable for many uses due to zinc content. Our solar shed was roofed with new baked on enameled metal which is perhaps the best roofing option for rain catchment. We have yet to set up the appropriate system to collect, store and distribute water. It’s on the list…

Lay out water lines.

We have also yet to bury pipes to create a permanent irrigation and water distribution system. We have plans to lay pipes and hydrants for easy access to irrigate and other uses. Our water systems are still in the development phase and while we are grateful for what we have, we are also looking forward to an even more complete system.

Chip brushy trees

Much of the 3 acres that we are bringing into cultivation was cleared 7-10 years ago. The resulting growth is woody shrubs and small diameter trees. In clearing space to plant perennial food crops, we have had to remove a lot of biomass. Some of which has been burned to return minerals to the soil, and some has been made into biochar.

This has been a little labor intensive and the jury is still out on the effects of biochar. In retrospect it would have been great to have had a wood chipper onsite to turn all that biomass into easy to apply mulch to feed the soil that feeds our plants. We will arrange for this on future clearings and are excited to see how many wood chips we get.

This is our answer after 3 years on the land, ask us again in a decade…

 

150 Years | 7 Generations Thinking: Inheriting Things From Strangers

Ecotrain, Homestead, inspiration

The other day I read that the 7 Generations thinking (originated by the Haudeneshone ie Iroquois Nation) is about a span of 150 years.

That’s really not that long, if you think about it. Those of us who are fortunate to have family records (or some freak down the line who pieced it all together -and I can say that because I’m likely taking on this role for my family), possibly even know the name, profession, or even the face in a rare still black and white photograph.

Were these people thinking about you?

In our day in age, we are very much geared toward the Individual- the rise, the fall, the accumulation and somewhat the passing on. What strikes me so much about the perspective of 7 generations thinking is that it requires a long term view of our actions. What are the ripples into our environments from my actions?

In a world with so many people, too, I think this Individualist thinking is also spurred on because we inherently believe our actions don’t really have that much of an effect.

We wait for others to do things because of this. Certainly I couldn’t be the one to … start a business on the Steem blockchain… make a sustainable invention… solve a puzzling world mystery, etc. These things are reserved for other people, people smarter, more attractive, wealthier, younger, etc. Yet when we start to think about how our actions ripple throughout the next 150 years, we realize that we do have a say about the shape of things.

Is an ancestor thinking about you right now?

I want to broaden the scope of an ancestor through writing this article. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately because Ini and I are talking with a local man about the possibility of taking on a position in carrying on his life’s work which involves a certain forest in our area. This person has been working tirelessly to create a sustainable livelihood in relation with this forest. The forest is too small to employ anyone to sustainably manage it (usually over 30,000 acres are needed unto that effect) and so this man had to get his creative thinking cap on.

On Balancing Wrong Action

Many people know that Corporations make Wrong Actions, especially regarding our ecosystems. Notoriously, driven by capitalistic bottom lines, extract, exploit and devastate more, while adding overwhelming amounts of pollution to the environment. They cut corners, dump toxic waste, and have leaky pipes in the Gulf and through the veined corridors through which they run in this country, which pollutes bodies of water all over the place.

The EPA and governmental organizations make a farce of stomping down this type of action, usually their pockets are lined with bucks, too. One such idea to balance this is the Cap & Trade System. The idea is totally new to me so I can’t write much on it, but essentially it allows those who produce a ton of Carbon into the atmosphere to pay people, essentially trading with them, who are sinking carbon back into the earth from the atmosphere.

What a Forest Does

Forests, of course, through the incredible respiration of trees, naturally act as carbon sinks. This is now scientifically documented at what rate this process happens and a large corporation, that has scientifically deduced the rate at which they are releasing carbon, can invest in a long term trade with a forest to balance out their negative effect.

Our friend has engaged the aforementioned forest in such a Cap & Trade deal, which will last for about 125 years. It is this role which we are talking with him about managing.

 

Could someone you don’t know right now be an ancestor to you?

The fact that this person, who we’ve only known for about 3 years, has worked for the past 25 years setting this up and devising a way to make a sustainable business in our local area – for someone who will come after him! Is incredible. He has essentially worked with the next 7 generations in mind not knowing who would take the work on for him!

Ini and I aren’t sure if we’ll have kids and while we have 1 niece and 1 nephew at this point in time, there’s no telling if a blood relative will want to pick up and carry on what we’ve created here. Fruit and nut trees will be abundant by the time they’re entering college, but who can say what their dreams will lead them to. We’ve often wondered who will carry on our dreams. Could we, like our friend, be preparing something for someone not even born yet who we’ll meet many years down the road?

 

If you can complete your dream in your lifetime, you’re not dreaming big enough.

Winona LaDuke recently crowdfunded a hemp farm that will empower Native American youth and in one of her emails she wrote the quote above. It has sat with me ever since. Am I dreaming big enough? Including a vision which propels and energizes the next 7 generations? Am I dreaming something which is viable or healthy for the next 150 years (and not only of humans, but the entire biosphere)?

Am I thinking of water, soil, income streams, food, shelter, and more? Though it may sound like a lot, I really don’t think it is. It is living in alignment with our true nature which is connected to everything. To be out of balance with this nature creates disharmony and though we may reap short term gains and excuse ourselves for trying to survive, how are we influencing the lives of our great great great grandchildren or even the children of a stranger who will show up one day and fit magically into the puzzle we have created.

I think our friend I mentioned above is the first person I have met who has dedicated so much of his life and toiled to create a sustainable job for someone he’s not even sure will come. He does it because it was his promise to the woman who donated the land into a land trust, which is happening more and more nationwide. How do we not only “preserve” these places, but also allow them to bring in salaries based on good livelihood as we talked about yesterday in our “Putting the Eco back Economics” post? Balancing the negative effects of greedy corporations is one such way.

Putting the Eco In Economics

Ecotrain, inspiration, writing

We’re all familiar with the concepts of economics and ecology, but how often are they combined? Eco economics is not a new concept; in fact it is the original form of economy.

 

Before a globalized industrialized economy, we were much more closely tied to the capacity of the immediate ecosystems. But we’ve strayed from the path and now, as in no other moment in time, it is absolutely imperative that we reintegrate the awareness that we live and are supported by a finite planet. It not only behooves us to ally with and rearrange our lives in relation to eco economics, but it is imperative for the very survival of *homo sapiens* and countless other species whose survival depends on our actions.

Energy Slaves

Since the industrial revolution (and indeed before in some cases) the capacity for human’s influence on the planet has increased at an alarming rate. With the advent of liquid refined petroleum, we could utilize the massive stored energy from sunlight from millions of years ago at a rate previously impossible.

We could simply extract a material that contained so much potential energy that our capacities to “get stuff done” grew in leaps and bounds. This ability allowed for previously unknown levels of exploitation of natural resources at a rate far more quickly than they were being reproduced.

Previously (and sadly still currently) the discrepancies between the “haves and the have-nots” are real and felt by us all. The bourgeois own the property and means of production while the proletarians or peasants do the work. Tenant farmers of serfs worked the land owned by people in positions of power and did so at times against their will. Human slavery was the ugly crutch that these systems relied upon.

With petroleum, all of that changed.

No longer were (as many) human slaves needed, for this liquid fuel in the form of gasoline or diesel enabled the enslavement of petroleum slaves. The physical workforce was no longer needed and so fewer people could affect larger areas of land and sea.

 

Ecosystem Limits

What this did was further disconnect us from natural cycles and the innate limitations of local ecosystems. All natural systems have a carrying capacity, an upper limit of growth, after which point the system culls or sheds the excess. Trees in an overcrowded forest get choked out and die, booms of animal populations lead to busts and heavy mast years are followed by lean harvests.

 

But this is not the case with our human economic system, which strives for infinite growth. With a system that is based upon non-renewable sources of energy (the very core of industrial society), it is by definition doomed to fail. The problem lies in the paradigm, upon which our entire economic system was founded: the belief that there is an infinite pool of resources to draw from to be extracted and manipulated. We humans are not living in accordance with Earth mandated limits. Operating under this false pretense is wreaking unimaginable havoc on many levels.

 

Humans have created a sick society that is propped up on this lie of infinite growth fueled by infinite resources. The economy that believes and in fact requires constant and rampant growth is one that is destined to fail.

 

To begin addressing how eco economics might play out, we must first grasp how ecology worked and at least entertain (if not embody) the Gaia theory that espouses that the Earth is a single self-regulating & living organism.

A body not unlike our own that communicates throughout a system of interconnected parts and feedback loops (much like our own aches and pains, joys and excesses.)

 

This reality runs counter to all the mechanistic understandings and beliefs that are brought to the table with industrial capitalism.

 

In nature, there are natural checks and balances.

There are shortages, illness and destructive forces of nature, but they occur as a natural balancing tool of any ecosystem. This is one element that is sorely lacking in our capitalistic driven economy. The free market will sort itself (or be bailed out- but where is the true cost of this bailing…) we are told, but where is the feedback for whether the foundation upon which all of this rests is sound or not?

 

The current model of privatizing profits and socializing costs is one where the many bear the cost while the few benefit. This is never the case in a natural ecosystem, but this excess and imbalance only takes place when fuelled by greed and fear of scarcity. This has allowed governments and banks to subsidize industries that don’t work! Without subsidies, the structure crumbles and the people have borne the environmental and financial cost of continuing to operate failing industries. This is NOT eco economics

 

Modeling an economy after billions of years of evolution seems wiser than one that is only a couple of hundred years old doesn’t it? The amazingly complex and interconnected web of life has proven effective and supporting life thus far, so why not learn a thing or two?

Wisdom from the Sun

The basis for terrestrial life is incoming energy in the form of solar energy. This is transformed into sugars through the magic of photosynthesis and creates the inputs needed to support life. This is said to occur at about 1% efficiency, meaning that the ecosystems operate with a 1% surplus. The sunlight turns into plant and algae tissue, which feeds the rest of the system. This is a great starting point for modeling our economy after. If we had our economic systems tied directly to real life, we simply could not grow beyond the carrying capacity for life.

Thus as a starting point for eco economics, the growth of any economic endeavor must be directly linked to an ecosystem’s potential to support that growth.

  B Corp

B corporations are making great strides to be more ethical and transparent in their business and this is a great step forward. Fair labor practices, healthier production methods and distribution of wealth are all great improvements. Still there is an undercurrent of constant growth required for business to continue. We must take lessons from past civilizations whose growth outstripped the carrying capacity of the Earth. The result was the destruction of vital resources like water and soil through deforestation, erosion and loss of biodiversity. Simply put, death follows in the wake of this destructive and short-sided acting.

Positive Movement

Moving forward there is great hope as many brilliant minds are working towards a healthier and more sustainable future. We cannot rely on governmental bodies or regulations to determine our direction– it is up to each and every one of us to make the necessary shifts to build momentum toward eco economics. Movements like Permaculture, restoration agriculture (pioneered by Mark Sheppard), the work by Paul Stamets, Vandana Shiva, Wynona LaDuke, Rowan White and countless others illuminate the future of eco economics.

 

We have the potential to turn this ship around and avoid disaster, if only we learn form the wisdom of nature. The fate of the next 7 generations lies in the decisions of us all. What decisions are you making today?

Can You Be A Writer If You Want To Be?

inspiration, writing

For anyone who has ever wondered if you’re a writer, I look at this way (these thoughts, by the way, are spurred on by a friend of mine who is a certified “artist” and whose father was a famous artist — as if we need that distinction for clout– and this can relate to other arts as well):

If you write, if you feel the creative flow moving through you, you are a writer.

We are taught from a young age that only the “best” make it in any given category. If, by third grade, you haven’t made it into the top 3 in your class, that’s likely not your path in life. It sends most of us down a crap shoot wondering what our skills or purpose in life could be. Many find a narrow path when indeed that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

 

Wild Violets

My partner is currently a “late onset hunter”.

Hunting season started last weekend and he has yet to get a deer. All year he poured over books about deer, strategizing hunting and studying the behavior of this gentle yet strong animal. Last year he ultimately got a deer with the help of a friend of ours who is a lifelong hunter, one who started to hunt at an early age.

I’m thankful I have a partner in this homesteading gig who believes he can learn new skills well into his life and isn’t held back by limiting beliefs. It’s one of the saddest things when I hear people say, “Well, I couldn’t do that, I’m not an X.” -or- ” I can’t do that, I’ve never done it before.” When we are kids we often aren’t limited by these types of thoughts as much as we are when we get older.

Though don’t we hear it all the time?

Sadly this is too true! We hear people’s limitations — and our own, all the damn time.

I’m no good at that, I could never try this, etc ad nauseam. Luckily, the universe can be gentle and kind and remind us that indeed “it is never too late” and if you have a passion, by all means, go at it with all you’ve got!!

 Coming back around to writing.

I often find I am “hit” with inspiration. It’s a common occurrence when I’m meditating – my brain comes up with the “best ideas” and sometimes they distract me til I take a moment to jot them down. Other times I’ll read something that inspires a thought train in me and still other times, writing prompts come about from dreams, when I’m taking a walk or when I’ve been ruminating on a subject for a while and I finally know the angle I want to write from.

 

If you want to be a writer, my best advice is to start.

To keep going.

 

To write in private embellishing your secret urges until you are self unconscious enough to share it.

I’ve thought about this many times when people share their hesitancies to make Vlogs and share their face on videos- what are we truly afraid of? Yes humans are notoriously, painfully judgmental, but at the end of the day *who cares?* I’d much rather be seen through the eyes of someone who has a compassionate heart than through, as ole Teddy has said many times, a critic who never enters the ring themselves.

What I admire most about my late-onset hunter partner is that even though he gets discouraged by not getting a deer the first few days of the season, he still wakes (us all) up at 5 AM to go out and try again. Though he may not know the culture of the gun ranges, he still goes and chats it up with people who likely have been shooting a gun as long as they have been chewing gum. We could all learn from this. About the art of not giving a damn what the crowds may say. About the skill of trying, trying again, until we’ve satisfied our own inner muse and they feel that the craft is ready to be shared in the light of day.