Are you interested in SELF-EMPLOYMENT?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Skills That Pay the Bills: Self-employment for Homesteaders by Regina Anneler

Lessons Learned About Starting a Business by Gretchen Gundrum

Your Business Niche by Carolyn Evans-Dean

Got the Blues?  It’s a Good Thing, if They're Blueberries!  by Ed Mashburn

Setting Up a Website by Elizabeth Connick

Butter 'N' Eggs - Without the Manure! by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Selling What You Make, Online  by Jeremy Pellani

Black Walnuts: Pennies from Heaven, by Neil Shelton

Obtaining Self-Employment by Tracy Breen

$1,700 in the First 4 Months: My Homestead Income by Kristin Embry

Self-Employment: Are You Sure You Really Need a Job? by Neil Shelton

Marketing Homestead Products by Regina Anneler

You CAN Afford Your Homestead Dream, Part I by Tony Colella




Homesteading for Retirement

by Brenda Curkendall

In readying for retirement, the world changed.  As a result, we redirected our efforts into an endeavor which would mitigate the reduction of purchasing power when living on a fixed income.  We are planning for a Weimar Republic hyperinflation scenario.  During the hyperinflation years of the Weimar Republic, the farmers made out fine.  Applying lessons of history, we wanted to acquire a farm or ranch or land.  

We chose to become homesteaders.  It was an educated decision to become as self-sufficient as possible.  We are not spring chickens anymore.  We are an older couple, ages 65 and 57 this year.  So, with that in mind, choosing to become homesteaders also took on a different slant in that we wanted to minimize the workload for a couple of old farts playing the homestead game.   

Over the past three and a half years, we left the comfortable lifestyle of our urban home for a ranching lifestyle with Himalayan Yaks, Buff Orpington chickens, our livestock guardian dogs - a Great Pyrenees and an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, mouser barn-cats, a garden and a hay crop.  Before making the plunge into this latest life endeavor, our prior experience was limited to some exposure to running big equipment (airplanes) and tractors, a well developed urban garden, and food harvest and storage.   

Economics of a Homesteading Retirement

In the process of deciding how to become homesteaders, it occurred to us that not only could we grow our own food, but that we could also generate revenue from an agricultural piece of property.  The right property might support an agricultural crop for income, livestock for income and food, as well as producing livestock feed, our own garden, fruits and nuts.   

These factors influenced our property selection priorities.  Where a modest home and one to five acres would likely have been enough for us to retire and be mostly self-sufficient, it was unlikely to produce the income desired to replace retirement income, nor adequately grow our own livestock feed. 

Farmland is very expensive, especially bottomland.  Finding a property with agricultural potential meant finding a property which was mostly flat, which had good southern exposure, good soil: not too much clay, decent drainage, and adequate water.  The facilities and home became a secondary concern compared to the features of the land.  In addition, we were looking for a fenced property.  This is a huge labor/expense-saver when is comes to considering livestock.  Finding a property that met these requirements was a tall order, especially one within our budget constraints.  

The Acquisition: How Did We Get Here?

Over a two-year search, we surveyed real estate in three states.  Features we were seeking included water, good soil for gardens and agricultural endeavors, land for livestock, good southern exposure, buildings enough to house us and our stuff.  There is an incredible amount of information available via the internet including real estate brokerage websites, county property searches which provide a lot of background on a property often with aerial and terrain maps with parcel lot lines, Google Earth terrain and aerial views, and Department of Ecology Well Logs - which also have terrain maps, all allowed us to walk a property without leaving our living room.   

We only set foot on maybe a dozen properties after eliminating literally  hundreds for bad sun exposure, too steep to grow crops and livestock, too wet, inadequate water, well-depth too deep, too difficult an access – especially in winter where one would need to plow-out of your own driveway, and so forth. 

We acquired a "fixer".  It was all we could afford.  Since bank financing is not available for “agricultural” properties unless you have three years of agricultural experience, a stick-built house, with an approved well, so that left us to self-finance.  We liquidated IRAs, and the 401-K, set aside the funds for the tax man first, set aside funds for the move (and the box truck), set aside funds for repairs (not enough), and then what was left-over was what was used to make an all-cash offer for the ranch, which was accepted.  It was wonderful!  Now, after a flurry of moving and fixing, we finally had a ranch, with no livestock.  However, we had made the first step towards being Homesteaders.  We were ecstatic! 

Homestead Revenue

For us, we passed on goats and rabbits due to the daily work load.  As we moved into our ranch, our hay crop was ready for harvest.  Luckily, the former owner had already arranged for a sharecropper to bring in the hay.  A hay crop can be shared with the sharecropper doing most of the work.  We maintain the fences, and a few other things, and still get a cut of the hay as the land owner.  Yea!  That resulted in minimal work for the maximum benefit.   

With our portion of a hay harvest we could sell it or use it to feed livestock.  Our first year was without livestock, so we sold it.  The proceeds paid for property taxes.  The second year, we acquired livestock so we kept our portion, one third of the crop, to winter-over our animals.  We now have a herd of ten yaks.  If we get four to five calves a year, we will be able to sell at least one yak a year to cover the same property taxes and also have a yak to butcher for our own meat.   

If we acquired used hay cropping equipment, we could harvest the hay ourselves and generate about a thousand dollars a month.  However, we would have to do the work ourselves.  With retirement in mind, we’re continuing to share-crop the hay.  With fuel prices rising, we have decided to start acquiring used haying equipment as the opportunity presents itself and the funds become available.  We already have a Case tractor.  We would like to be capable of bringing in the harvest if we needed to.  Our crop is Orchard Grass, champagne-quality hay which requires an annual investment to maintain this crop, yet fetches an annual income which is not likely to go away in the future.

Equipment to Facilitate Comfort

We spent our first season on the property getting ready for winter.  There is real snow here.  Temperatures can drop down to 30 degrees below zero and we needed to be prepared.  We put up firewood in log-cabin style stacks and tarped them for the winter.  Most of the firewood was seasoned deadfall gathered from around the property.  A firewood shortage is highly unlikely on this ranch. 

Slinging a maul to split wood is hard work.  We split about eight cords of wood over the first two winters here, but it’d be nice to not have to work so hard in retirement for our heat, therefore, we have decided to build a log splitter!   Building it ourselves is about a third of the cost.  Every penny saved is another penny we can apply toward something else which we need.   

One thing we hadn't counted upon were the fence repair requirements of a ranch.  After windstorms, several trees came down.  In the eighteen months living here, we’ve had three trees which have fallen across our fences.  It required removing the deadfall, then fixing the fences.  It doesn’t take long to become familiar with fencing pliers and barb wire.  Fortunately, yaks are much easier on fences than cattle.  If they want on the other side, instead of leaning through the fence and wrecking it, the yaks just jump the fence.  I think they’re related to goats... just kidding.  They’re related to cattle, bison and water buffalo.  The good news is that they generally don’t jump the fences.  The youngsters have a few times out of curiosity, but then panicked when separated from their herd and leapt back across.    

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