There is a lot of work to be done. First, we have to finish and sell our house. Then, we have to figure out a way to get all of my crazy, hair-brained ideas in motion. And so begins the ‘mad’ planning. My husband and I have quickly come to agree on the fact that we need to go cheap this time. We thought we were being frugal and smart but in looking back, we lived in a part of California that is extremely costly. Only about a third of the entire state is so expensive, the other two-thirds is really very reasonable. And gorgeous! So that’s it, we are going where it’s cheap(er). Other criteria includes: climate and terrain (has to support a wide variety of plants), neighbors (everyone has to be on the same page – no farmers living next to bikers living next to party houses), and finally location (we still like privacy yet I don’t think I like being isolated, and now I know the difference). But wait, I don’t want it to sound like we can afford to be that picky! I’m the first one to know that there is a fine line between being a beggar or a chooser. We just know what we don’t want.

With that said, just about 2 hours away is another gorgeous part of California where the cost of living is a lot less, we both have family there and are very familiar with it, and most of the land is perfect for having a fabulous garden due to the abundance of sunshine all year long. If it was a snake it’d bit us! So I will take off on weekends to go to look at properties. From what I’ve seen online we can do quite well. I can’t believe what’s available. Things are so tough right now for everyone, and it seems that they may get worse. We know how quickly things can change and what once was considered a security (home ownership) can be gone in an instant. We plan to buy something outright, and only what we need. In the end we want to own the land and not the other way around.

Next on the list is to figure out what it is (exactly) that I want from the land. Yes, I want a large garden and we all know that. But I don’t know if it ends there. I suppose the real problem is what the rest of the family is thinking – that it ends there. At this point in time I can feel it in my gut; I want more. I just haven’t voiced it yet. But I learned years ago to never spring anything on my husband and the boys. So, we are all sitting around one day (the key word being sitting) and the question came up on what I will grow in the garden. “As much as I can,” I answer. Again we go over the plan; we’ll try to find a piece of property with a fixer on it and enough space for a large garden. Then, little by little I let out clues as to what else I had envisioned, “If we can find, let’s say, an acre of land, at least one-third of it should be dedicated to growing food.” After the shock (of hearing about the actual size of the garden I want to build) wore off, I explained that the surplus is necessary for canning, dehydrating, freezing, and eventually selling to make extra money. “Not to mention that we can also feed other family too. If we’re going to go for it, then let’s go for it!” “Oh…” they said almost in a choir-like hum. Now the hubby’s wheels are turning. He loves to build garden boxes and sheds and lay out the irrigation, etc. He’s diggin’ it. The kids see how much work it will be and are quickly planning out the rest of their lives away from our new town.

After a few days I let out another clue. “Chickens. I want some.” Another shock wave hit. I explained that even though a large garden will grow a lot of food, we aren’t vegetarians and it would definitely be worth it to have chickens because everything about them is beneficial. “From eggs to poop we are guaranteed to see a return on our investment. And only a very small portion of the property needs to be devoted to keeping them.” I even casually (though I was completely serious) suggested getting ducks as an alternative because they lay eggs as well and will eat all the ‘bad’ bugs out of the garden. And then I spent a large amount of time convincing everyone that it will be my responsibility alone. They didn’t have to worry about putting their own lives on hold because I knew that it was the way I wanted to live and that I would take care of it. Choir-like hum. Seeing the favorable reaction, I then decide they could handle more and so I told them everything… or just one word anyway. HOMESTEAD. “It is a way of life”, I explain, “it involves good use of the land so that we have all of our basic needs met without being completely dependent on outside resources.” I showed them a magazine article explaining the benefits of living the homestead lifestyle, and that I have a plan. No hum, just silence. We reconvened the next day and the hubby said, “okay”. And a couple weeks later he approached me with a few of his own ideas about things like bio-fuels and solar energy, and has done so repeatedly ever since. I silently cry tears of joy.

Now that we’re all in full homestead-mode, more than ever I can’t wait to get started. I think the hardest part so far is working on the layout of the homestead and how to make it as efficient as possible. There was a suggested layout in the magazine article, but it depended on the property being a perfect square. Where in this state are ya gonna find that? So the layout plan would depend on answering a few questions: If the property were in a long, rectangular shape would I be able to tend to a garden that was at the opposite end from the house? What if we eventually want more animals or bigger ones, and would one acre support that kind of growth? And just where should the chickens and the duck pond go?!! Searching the internet (which is filled with websites that have FAB homesteading examples and experiences) and reading book after book, I finally sat down and just thought about how I see myself running it from day to day. I would sit and see myself planting, watering, cleaning, feeding, digging and walking the land. We have a golf cart that I will re-purpose as my “get around” vehicle and add a little trailer if needed. As far as chickens go I know they are vulnerable to many predators and should be in our line-of-sight from the house. Depending on the size and shape of the property, I would separate the living space (house, garage, shop) from the farm space (garden, coop, pond, tool sheds)… that’s just how I see it working for all of us. Perhaps a driveway can be the dividing line? Oh yeah, the duck pond goes right next to the garden to encourage the ducks to run around it and eat bugs… duh! Whew! I knew I could do it.

So now I can actually see myself running the place. I have a Martha Stewart-style daily, weekly and monthly checklist of chores that can easily be adjusted when reality hits. I am now at the point where I can write a business plan. Yep, you heard me right. One more hair-brained idea of mine is to run the homestead as a business. I see myself doing a lot more; selling our (food) surplus at the Farmers’ Market, even selling hand-made gifts and maybe teaching others how to do some of these things too. I will carefully budget for the future of the homestead; grow it little by little, and hire help if possible. Maybe some of the things we are doing now can be written off as a tax break..? Well, it’s all just more ‘mad’ ideas I’ll have to reveal to the family at some point. But I did go ahead and order Quickbooks Pro and Business Plan Pro. I also chose a name for our homestead. And I signed up with LegalZoom.com to get their help in setting it up correctly from the start. Does anyone else in my family know what I’m doing? No. (The shame of it all quickly sets in.)

I have an (unfinished) small farm plan I’ve been working on and if I had a choice my ideal layout would look like this:

(Click on the picture for a larger view.) This is based on finding one acre with a fixer and would be a good start. It leaves room for things like expanding the garden if needed later on. If we end up with more than an acre then we can section off an area for other animals in the future. I read a wonderful blog a while back that suggested starting the garden right away. It certainly is needed and will get you into the ‘swing’ of farming so why wait for the house to be remodeled? On the unfinished side (where the garden is) I left room for implementing a wonderful plan for a ‘wetlands’ area. I read a few articles on how to recycle water on the farm and it involves creating an area for the water to collect and then pumping it back to where you need it – depends on the land having a slight incline. FAB idea. I would add ducks and a pond to that area. Also, in the ‘front yard’ I would add a small neighborhood garden for anyone to come and take what they need.

At this time I am about 3/4 way through the business plan. It looks really good too and will help the family to know what my intentions are. (I do plan to tell them.) I even created a logo! Check it out:

This logo will go on everything… including the garden entrance. I also started using it on the business plan and all my stationary. Oh yeah, check out the opening to the business plan…

“The motivation behind the decision to build a homestead is based on a desire to be somewhere in the middle of two beliefs. We all know we’re in a crisis concerning the way we live. No one is safe from the dramatic ups and downs of the economy or the health-threatening environment, no matter where you live. So the idea of living “off-the-grid” is beneficial as well as encorporating a “green” lifestyle; whether you’re on the right or the left both sides win. If we can learn to live independent of the economy and live responsibly to others around us and the planet, then we’ve accomplished our goals.

Old Homestead Hideaway will be the home base where all thoughts and ideas begin. We will learn how to live in a way that satisfies our need to be in control of our health, food, energy use, safety, waste production, pollution reduction, and more. And then we will take our ideas with us to the Farmers’ Market and beyond. We will continue to brainstorm on subjects like:

  • – How we can benefit our community
  • – The different ways to live “green”
  • – Utilizing “off-the-grid” methods for running the homestead
  • – Using the land as a source of income
  • – Making sure that the plan is fair to everyone involved and successful from the start

That is why the decision to run the Old Homestead Hideaway as a business is so important. A business can be successful when it implements a good plan and sets small and achievable goals. An organized, well thought out start will yield great results.”

I figure it’s a good start although I know it’s a little personal. But who will see it anyway? Yeah I know, the FAMILY will. After all, they are the ones I talk about in the plan. (I gotta tell them.) But I’m sure this will serve as a reminder to us when years from now we’re asking the infamous question that everyone asks themselves, “How did we get here?” That’s when we’ll read it, take a moment to reflect on it, and get right back on track. No more side-stepping like in the past.

The next post in this series explains how we got it all started. Please continue the journey with us…

Law Of The Land