I want to paint a picture of what our farm looks like in our minds' eyes. First let me say that in order for this to happen we have to sell our house and find a piece of land. If the house doesn't sell in 6 mo, we will take that as the answer "no" and move on to making this place as sustainable as possible. We'll probably lease land in the area in that case, to keep our livestock on.
So for the next 6 months we're piling up every penny we can get our hands on, which won't be much since Allan isn't working, but we're the king and queen of frugal, so I know we can get a small chunk together. We need a mortgage that is less than what we have here. We'll accomplish that with the equity we have built up and the cash we're putting away.
We're looking here in Texas, but also all over the country. Texas would be great because of the LOOOONG growing season, (think 3 crops a year) and of course all our friends are here, but Allan is desperate for a change of seasons, so we're looking in Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, etc. I have 3 requirements: 1. It must be a place that would naturally be farmed. We won't be living somewhere we have to import water or seriously amend soil 2. I want a long enough growing season to have a fall garden and 3. it must be a cheaper cost-of-living area so we can actually afford a house. The northwest coast almost perfectly fits all our ideals, but we could never afford a house and land up there.
We'll raise fruits and vegetables. Of course, the types will be location dependent, but we'll grow everything "naturally" (I don't want to deal with having to certify organic...it's too expensive for a small farm) and what we don't use we'll sell at the farm store on our property. We also want fruit and nut trees around the property, but not necessarily orchard style. That would be nice, but with the dollar amount we're looking at spending, we may not have enough property for that. With all that comes a big amount of canning and baking, but that's where I shine anyway. How cool would it be to need an "easy" meal in January and pull a jar of spaghetti sauce off the shelf that you raised and made on your own? Need nuts for holiday baking? There's a bag full of them in the freezer that you picked last fall.
The vegetables would all be garden-style with my boxes like I have here. I am going to change them up based on things we've learned over the year of doing this, but it will be "small." The only thing I really want a "crop" of is wheat. I am still looking into how much we'd need to offset most of our flour costs.
Everyone knows we want cows, chickens and turkeys to start with. Eventually I'd love if we could figure out how to expand into pigs and goats. Out at pasture we'll rotate the cows first, then chickens and turkeys in order to have fully pastured animals and help the soil build fertility. This will be so much easier in a warmer climate because we don't have to deal with much over-wintering, but if we move further north we'll just have semi-pastured animals. haha!
We'd like to have just a couple bee hives for honey.
We're looking into solar energy, geothermal and wind power. Our goal is to be as "off-grid" as possible. The bulk of our constant expenses are utilities and food, making up 2x what we currently spend on our mortgage. Since we don't have any debt, our focus to get expenses down has been the electricity, (far and away our greatest utility) and the food budget. Since we want to eat better, we've had a hard time cutting the food budget, (and I think if you knew what we spend, you'd say there's not much way to cut it for a family of 5/6 either. I am a really good shopper, even with buying locals and organics). Thanks to Allan's pension from the VA (there are some small benefits to losing your leg...LOL) if we can virtually eliminate our food and electricity expense and cut down on the mortgage, we will be free to do almost whatever we want. Now..."whatever we want" is relative...we won't be taking extravagant vacations or spending mass amounts of money on new toys or gadgets. By whatever we want, I mean, we won't have to bust our butts making sure that we sell X amount of whatever just to survive.
I want to make for ourselves and sell these things eventually, (we will start small and figure out how best to utilize our time/resources and then work to this and possibly more)
milk and cheese
Allan's prosthetics--a shop on the property that he will open a few days per week
The baking and the classes are the most exciting to me, the rest is just natural. I want to build a certified kitchen on the property to bake and sell baked goods. I love to bake and I have been told I make some pretty rockin' stuff. I'd love to open our home and property to teach people how to do these things we're doing. I think a lot of my generation is ignorant to how to care for themselves or "live off the land" if you will. Sheesh, until a few years ago, if some catastrophe had struck I'd have been the biggest victim around...I didn't know how to do squat for myself. I had always thought it was a novel idea, but never looked into it. It was the first year of making and canning our own apple butter as a way to save money on Christmas presents that sparked my interest and we've come a long way since.
Obviously we'll still homeschool, (provided it continues to work out as well as it has...I'm going to guess we'll only get better at it as we go) and the kids will help us A LOT. They won't be slaves, my ultimate goal is to make this life as enjoyable as possible. We will all be working our tails off but we'll be doing it together. There will be no nights without daddy because of being called in or long days where nothing can get done because mom has to take sole care of the kids and they are fussy that day. Allan has been home for almost a month now and it has been amazing. We have gotten so much done and the kids are so happy to have him here. I know this isn't reality for everyone, but we're Blessed enough to have this option now. If we had waited a few more years, we'd be in an even prettier position, (the house would have been completely paid for in about 5 more years) but we'd also be even more used to the big income and the shiny stuff that commands our attention. It was getting hard to walk away from, so now was the time.
There is so much more to it than this...but this is a good start and hopefully makes it a little clearer. I know I've been so vague and crazy lately. My brain feels like it's humming most days. I will be more than happy to step away from some of this "noise" and find a more peaceful, fulfilling place where we can do what we believe is God's work for us and share that with others.