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Post in 'The Green Room' started by jebatty, Aug 15, 2009.
A great read Ten Acres Is Enough.
EDIT: Try this link instead Small Farm Resources
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Thanks for the link-ten to fifteen acres is my goal for a small farm. Here in New Jersey we still have rural lands left, but they tend to be pricey-ten to fifteen is about all I could ever hope to afford. We hope to have enough land to harvest our own firewood, raise some chickens and turkeys, grow enough food to supplement our own use, and to hunt on.
Nice resource. Thanks.
10 acres sounds like a wonderful sized property to own. I envy you
But I also know, from a financial perspective, that the things 10 acres gives (food, fresh air, wood heat) is NOT the things I spend most of my money on. For instance, would farming my property pay my internet bill? Summer air conditioning? Health insurance? Car insurance? Here's a list of things where I spend the vast amount of my money, in no particular order:
Car insurance and depreciation
Kid's college (7 years, between 2 kids)
automobile depreciation and repairs ($3000 a year)
milk, coffee, cheese, beef--- all those groceries I can't make on the farm
health insurance and health co-pays
Internet service, cable TV
Utilities, phone, electricity, sewer, garbage removal
It seems my usual expenditures of $40,000 a year would drop by less than $10,000 or so, if I had a 10 acre farm where I made my own turkeys, chicken, vegetables, and wood burning heat. Definately not something I could "live off"
I think the fellow who wrote the book also thought it was impossible at that time until he researched, planned, and implemented the plan. The same could be done today. But remember, this was posted as a "great read," and likely will provoke some new thinking and dreaming.
A person would have to do some serious modern day research and then be willing to start on a tight budget to bring this into a realistic plan. The only totally unescapable expense is property taxes. Health insurance, probably not what you have now, is possible (or remember when there was none?). Electricity can be reduced tremendously if a person really tried and was willing to give up many things now considered essential, but truly not. Water could come from a well or a stream, sewer from an outhouse or septic system, and garbage removal is reduced to zero by reducing consumption and then compost and recycling. Kids can pay there own way through college, booze is a luxury, food consumption turns to what can be produced or bought with goods produced and sold; auto and fuel also can be reduced to the essentials needed to operate the farm.
One point is that living in a 21st century world we consider essential so many things that are not that it is really hard to get our head around a lifestyle radically different. There are billions of people in the world who live on the income earned from less than 10 acres of land.
I agree 100%. We (myself included) have lost our ability to descern between needs and wants. I hope that we never get tested like they did during the depression. I wonder if we'd make it without widespread riots and looting. Most Americans are not tied to the production of our basic needs. We turn on the hot water and are irritated when it is not 125F. Food and meat come from the groery store, etc. I have told my wife that as soon as our farm and house is paid for, I'm quitting work and just going to farm enough acres to pay taxes and get basic needs. Most of the crap I spend money does not satisfy and definately has no eternal value.
my wife makes fun of me because my dream is to own 50 acres. Farm 5, 2-3 for livestock, and the rest for hunting and wood. Sell enough wood, meat and produce to pay the bills, buy ammo and gas.
I'd love to figure out how to do it. I work in the New York City and live in the suburbs. I would give up a lot to never have to set foot in NYC again and live in the country. I just have to get the whole family on board with me. My wife and I both want it, we just have to decide how badly we want it.
Smaller cities are a compromise that might be an easier sell. You get the best of both worlds. We live 4 miles from downtown Syracuse yet are in the country. Now, it may not be country 20 years from now but it is pleasant and convenient in the meantime.
And that's exactly the question - how badly do you want it? If you want it, then you deed to make this a goal and then follow a plan. IMO a goal statement is Present, Personal, Positive with a Timeline ("Goals," by Brian Tracy). And with that, start making the Plan.
A simple goal statement might be, "On May 1, 20__, I and my family are living on a ____ acre farm with sustainable land resources for [farming, woodland, hunting ....]." Repeat that statement out loud at least daily, and start writing down the steps you need to take to make this happen by the time set. Start to put a timeline on the steps, and then do it. On May 1, 20__, you will have achieved your goal.
Sounds like a plan. We just have to figure out what we really do want. In a perfect world my land would also be my sole source of income. There are a few details to sort out. I don't want to live like they did on Little House on the Prairie, but I don't need a mcmansion either. The most important thing is to figure out if it is just a fantasy, or if we really can make it happen. We've thought of doing the B&B;thing as one way to have our country place support us, but I'm not sure if I want to deal with the people. I'm not afraid of hard work or long hours, my work day in the city is 12-16 hours plus at least 2 hours travel time for 9 months of the year. My biggest problem is that for the last 20 years I have worked in the entertainment industry as a Stagehand or Motion Picture Studio Mechanic. Too far from a big city, and there is no work for me. That brings me back to the income issue. What could I do for a living away from a big city?
While I love NY, moving away from our property taxes would significantly reduce your income requirements. If you find a resort area with cheap non-lakefront property, you could probably make a living selling $300 cords to the Mcmansioners and get property maintenance work along with it.
Possibly. If I leave one of the most expensive places to live in the US (NY metro area), I guess I wouldn't have to make nearly as much money as I do. I have messed around with all kinds of stuff, wood cutting, construction, limited car and truck repair. May be I could be a handyman, firewood, fix it guy, and work the whole business from my farm. Can people really do that? If the economy ever gets going again, the equity in my house would surely go much further in the "country" somewhere. One thing though. Could I still get fresh sushi?
I am a professional, now retired (retired Dec 31, 2006). From 1972 to 1997 I practiced my profession in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. In 1992 I went solo in my profession, based in our home. In 1997, when our youngest was 21 and graduated from trade school, we sold our house and move 175 miles north to our cabin on the lake. I continued to practice my profession solo from our cabin, and then fully retired in Dec 2006. In each of these two solo steps I took big cuts in income and ended up way below my peers. My professional friends said they envied me and "wished" they could do what I did.
The relevant word is "wish" (or dream). If you only wish for something, it will never happen. You need to make it a goal, and then it will happen. The big difference between my peers and myself was that my wife and I were willing to make the sacrifices to live in our cabin, that is, lose most of my business and give up most of my income in exchange for a much simpler and less expensive life in northern Minnesota.
I'm not living on 10 acres, but we have woodlands, heat 100% with wood (except electric backup if we are gone for a few days in winter), water from a well, sewer is a septic system, harvest trees, make and sell some lumber, do practically everything myself, produce some of our food from a garden, provide a large portion of our meat from hunting, and indeed live very simply -- and I devote substantial time to voluntary efforts working towards a sustainable environment for us all.
As simple as we live, my wife and I continue on our journey to an even more simple life. This includes expanding the garden and raising chickens. Although I am retired, my wife works two days/week as a nurse, so we do have income other than from retirement.
Even if you decide not to make "10 acres" your goal, the range of options to simplify are huge, and the payback in quality of life is even greater. Make your plan and go for it.
I wrote this in Dec 2006 to our children. Disregard the focus only on oil (although it may be true, we face many other challenges of equal importance and with probable similar effect). This lays out a change very consistent with "10 acres is enough."
This is not the usual e-mail. I don't regard this as silly. If as you read this you think I am being too dark or dismal, skip to the last paragraph and then go back and finish reading what I have to say.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference on "green" design sponsored by two Minnesota quasi-governmental agencies. I was particularly challenged by the topic presented by luncheon speaker, James Howard Kunstler, who presented a petroleum-depletion paradigm (along with other issues) which is not only plausible but also probable, in my opinion. I also ordered and now have read one of his books, "The Long Emergency." I will be very brief on the paradigm laid out by Mr. Kuntsler. I find his paradigm to be more probable than not, at least sufficient to begin now to develop a plan to "hedge" the future. Everything that follows is greatly simplified. I encourage you to read the book if this intrigues you.
His chief thesis is that the world now is or very soon will be at the "petroleum peak," defined as the point at which one-half of world oil reserves will bave been depleted. While one-half yet remains, the key fact is that the first one-half represented the cheap, easy to extract, and high quaility petroleum and natural gas, while the second one-half is just the opposite on a cascading scale of rising extraction cost and diminishing quality. He then argues that the world has no viable, economical energy replacement. Nuclear power represents the best option, but the United States is woefully behind in development of this option, and nuclear/electric power will not meet every energy need. Other energy options, such as hydrogen, solar, and biomass, are either petroleum dependent for their production, technologially illusory and extremely costly, and/or cannot provide sufficient energy to replace petroleum. Coal is a viable option for some energy needs, but the environmental cost will be great, available supplies may be exaggerated, and distribution limitations will not make coal a viable option at all locations.
While the play-out of the oil depletion paradigm is complex, suffice it to say that the results will include 1) the substantial end of automobile transportation (due to lack of fuel), 2) great down-sizing of nearly all industries (with consequent loss of employment) due to their oil dependence, 3) collapse of suburban and sprawled develoment, which depend upon the auto for their existence, 4) collapse of large cities because little productive work can be maintained in these cities without a petroleum based economy, 5) collapse of the financial markets (which may be the first to occur as the prospect of wealth loss appears likely), and 6) great social upheaval.
He argues that future life (future begining now and probably fully realized within about 15 years) will nead to be based upon small, largely self-sufficient and sustainable communities with these attributes: 1) located on or very near to current or potential hydroelectric waterways (a source of power), 2) located on or very near to rail and/or barge/ship waterway infrastructure (source of needed supplies and using petroleum/coal efficiently), 3) located near productive agricultural lands (souce of food), and 4) currently vital with small businesses able to meet essential needs and provide community support (and not likely to be sites of big box development such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, etc.). Essentially, this is the picture of America before the mid-1950's.
Things I have tentatively concluded and would encourage you to think about and act on, at least as a hedge of the future:
1) Gain productive skills, trades, crafts which can provide a livlihood and assist in providing for your families in an oil-depleted future. In this regard, recreation and entertainment based industries may not have much of a future; medicine seems likely to have a future, but the drug and medical technology industries are very petroleum intensive, so "family practice" or nursing type medicine skills may have the best future; and most education-intensive and service-type professions do not have much of a future. Employment which will have a future will be that which truly is productive (converting a resource into a usable and needed product or maintaining a needed product).
2) Locate or plan now for living arrangements compatible with the preferred community description above. There is a high probability of suburbia collapse, collapse of large portions of the housing market, and consequent loss of value of suburban homes. We may be seeing the start of this now. When maintaining a suburban existence, renting would be better than owning, and keeping a high mortgage balance would be better than accelerating payments to build an equity which may disappear (use available funds to finance the hedge). A rented home may be easily left, and a high mortgage/leveraged home may be abandoned to foreclosure with minimal loss.
3) Move investment possibilities away from stocks, bonds, and probably even bank accounts (social upheaval may mimic the financial collapse of 1929 and loss of bank deposit assets). Consider agriculturally productive land or possibly forest productive land; a small, economical home in a small community of the type described above (rent out now and move in when needed); a small production business of a highly needed, basic product and which has good possibility of nearby available resources to maintain production in the face of supply disruption; other resource-based, hard assets (coal, lignite, peat, as energy sources, and essential minerals).
Things I would encourage you to avoid or resist include: Any further suburbanization of your lifestyle. Risk of loss is high and probability of risk realizaiton is high.
[continues with next post]
Final word: in a worst case, that is, if none of these predictions is realized and rosy economic growth and development continues as in the recent past, a family life based on the tentative conclusions actually is quite good and even may be highly attractive. In essence, it is the "simple life" to which many people aspire. It also may be a much more meaningful life because this type of life connects us closely with our environment and develops community. Lastly, it also may permit us to better cope with some of the other major issues and challenges of our time: climate change, epidemic disease, water shortage, environmental destruction, and world politics.
With my caring love, Dad.
Along with your professional friends, I too envy you.
I am only 39 now. My stepson starts his last year (if all goes well) of High School in a few weeks. We won't be making any big moves until he is out and on his path. We have some time to make our plan yet. For now, I'll do my best to get the most out of my 1/4 "farmstead" and I'll keep on learning about my options and try to save some money too. In 16 years (55 y.o.) I can retire with a pension and full health benefits (assuming, haha, that things don't change much). My house here will be mostly paid for and we should have quite a few options. I'll just have to tough it out for a while and keep checking in with my friends here at hearth.com that are already living the way they like.
I posted this before the last two posts.
Certainly some doom and gloom there! Not unrealistic either. I know that the whole suburbia thing is totally non sustainable. I don't want to be a part of it anylonger than I have to, but I am now deeply entrenched in it. The financial events of the last yea have only gotten me even deeper. It won't be easy, but I am determined to get out of this one way or another. It all goes back the fundamental question; How much would I/we/you give up to get out? That is not a question I can easily answer.
I have a cousin in Atlanta that has gotten very involved in the "New Urbanism" movement. creation of sustainable, somewhat independent communities is the way of the future.
I got a kick out of this part. I guess this lifetime Stagehand is screwed! :grrr:
A little amusing that I wrote the above in Dec 2006, not longer before the economic collapse in which we still wallow. We may be experiencing a few of the predictions.
I have a son-in-law in just about the same business. At age 40, he's ready to hang it up but doesn't know what to do. The current stage work is too hard on the body. too much time away from the family. too erratic, odd and long hours, and not enough work. Good luck to you.
I am lucky that here in NY the work can be very steady and quite lucrative. I am also lucky that I've been at my current job long enough that my work isn't even that hard on my body anymore. The hours do however suck! Between my work and my hobbies, I do have some pretty useful skills in other fields, only my resume probably wouldn't show that too well.
Excellent thread, jebatty. Thought provoking. It's stimulated me to read a few of the references and think about it all. I'm thoroughly stuck in the suburbanization matrix. I'd like to escape that. One thing that struck me from reading early parts of the original 1866 reference "Ten Acres Enough" is that the greedy bankers have been making life miserable for everyone else for quite a long time, actually. This is nothing new. The writer suffered from the financial panic of 1837. Bankers have run the economy into a ditch repeatedly to finance their high rolling lifestyles. I guess they'll finally be happy when they've turned the clock back a thousand years and we live in a feudal society once again. Ah, actually, we're rapidly headed back there. Most have not figured this out yet.
Visions of "Green Acres" flash before me, as Eddy Albert croons the corny theme music. And for aficionados of the sci-fi genre, I picture THX1138 running away as the voice track drones "...he is leaving the city..." ;-)
Jebatty - great post. I have read several books by Kunstler and frequently read his Monday rants. I have read multiple other books about peak oil and am very concerned about the potential impact it will have. While I have not read the book, I'd argue that 10 acres is most certainly not enough though. I started another thread about the required size for a sustainable wood lot - based on a lot of really good responses, it seems like one would need a minimum of 10 acres just for a sustainable wood lot, nevermind acreage for pasture and fields. In any case, this was a good post and I think you gave your kids some sound advice. How did they react?
I would say that 10 acres would be more than enough.
Garden = 1/4 to 1/2 acre
Orchard = 1/8 to 1/4 acre
Ceral Grain crops = 1/8 acre each for wheat, oats, sorgum
Feed Grain crops = 1/2 acre soybeans and 1/2 acre corn
Alfalfa = 1 to 2 acres
Pasture = 2-3 acres (note would not really be enough for cow production but for meat goats, milk goats and sheep (lamb))
That leaves about 5 acres for house, pond and trees.
Noted that this would not be enough timber for heating/cooking BUT You could grow prairie grasses like switchgrass or big blue stem and bale them up every year. Insert outdoor would boiler (w/ tech changes) and bingo, you've got heat.
Or buy your 10 acres some place where it doesn't get too cold.