The hubby has tried several times, but I win out when it comes to the tractor work. I don’t know why it’s even called “work” since it is so much fun to do. I believe she’s mine and he should get his own. I just have to rename her and paint her a beautiful girlie color. (Let’s see if he’s brave enough to ride a pink tractor. :))

We used the disk attachment to try and break up the super hard ground. This took 4 passes. I tried looking for a moldboard attachment that a good neighbor suggested, but couldn’t find one for the life of me. And we will definitely need a tiller attachment at some point.

So from the same spot on top of my tractor, here is the view of the ‘backyard’ moving into the (eventual) kitchen garden area. Now I pan left:

And as you can see, there is a lot to do in order to turn this into a market garden. I’ll first mow this down to a manageable height. This will allow me to see what grasses and weeds I’m dealing with before designing the garden layout.

A little bit down, a lotta bit to go. In the mean time, we have big plans to make this property as free-of-charge as possible. We are going to try all of our ideas (below) and will let you know if any of them work.

The To Do List (or should I say, The To Pay For List)

Declare the property a ‘homestead’. The reason for doing so is to give us an extra layer of protection. Everyone has a homestead. The government recognizes your home as one, no matter how big or small. But a declared homestead is you telling the government that you want to exercise your right to be protected from the vultures that may try to take it from you. The vultures are creditors and anyone that tries to sue you for a bunch of cash. Neither can force you to sell your homestead to pay them. Good. But, (you knew it was coming) this doesn’t apply to the home loan itself, a contractors’ lien, or a tax lien. It is still enough to feel a little bit safer than you would without it. Declaring it here in California is as easy as filling out a one-page form and taking it to the County Recorder. Some states have some requirements as to what kind of property can be declared, and you can find this information at findlegalforms.com.

Test the water and soil. We received absolutely no information on the property whatsoever. We understand the circumstances for the previous owners were tragic. And now they’re out of the country for good. This would normally be a non issue if it weren’t for the fact that we want to grow things and raise animals. Did they dump chemicals on the land? Did they bury animals here? Is there a hidden irrigation system? These are some of the things that would be nice to know, you know? Well, it might do us some good to bring in professionals to ease our worries. So I was able to find a lab that can test the ground water and the soils for pollutants. Hopefully it won’t end up costing us too much. (So far, living “free” doesn’t seem so attainable. :() But we figure that it’s a one-time expense that will keep us safe and healthy.

Install solar panels and build utility sheds. We have put aside $10K for energy independence. Although we had to call the electrical company to get started on construction and land management, we don’t plan to keep the service for long. $10K will afford us the panels, inverter, wiring and anything else necessary to run the household. We’ll add more for the hubby’s shop later on. Before you say it, I already know. Most people would not have $10K in the bank to throw down like that. We just happened to make money on the sale of our previous home which is rare in this economy. But from what I understand, most solar companies have a leasing plan that should allow any home owner a good start. Do the math and decide if it is worth it to you.

So what is a utility shed? A little bitty house-like building that covers the ugly equipment sitting around in your yard. Water pipes and valves, electrical panel and meters, propane tank, pool filter, holding tanks, air conditioner unit: It’s all ugly. Little bitty house-like buildings: Cute. And we have the wood to build them for free. Finally, something that is free! I have many ideas for dressing them up from magazines, the internet and tv design shows. Fab!

Get the extras. Okay… so it won’t all be for free. There are some services worth paying for like Internet, TV and our cell phones. It’s just the day and age we live in I suppose. So the hubby will continue working a little bit here and there to pay for it. What can I say? I’m a farming diva, not Survivorman!

Build the chicken coop and run. It’s time to answer that age-old question, “which came first?” The chicken coop of course! This was a cheap build using left-over and reclaimed materials (free in the future if we decide to add onto it using our own milled lumber) and the only real expense was the chickens and the feed. The main point in doing this so soon is so the business gal in me can see an immediate return on our investment. Chickens will give a return so fast that you will wonder why you didn’t have them before. Eggs, meat, poop and entertainment… what more could you ask for? Surprisingly, turkeys are the fowl that bring the biggest return, but that is a bit ambitious for us newcomers. Maybe sometime in the future?

The design for the coop is so that we can expand when ready; adding more hens or adding an entire area for raising chicks.

Coop De Ville

Mini Cooper

Work that land. Although the land is in charge, we have come up with a plan that makes everyone happy. We’ll keep unused open areas mowed for now and continue to work on the market garden. I have garlic in the ground and I also have onion, leek and radish seeds on hand. An area for a kitchen garden has already given us tons of food to eat. (satisfied sigh) I plan to grow and mix my own chicken feed in hopes of cutting out that cost altogether. And after time, we’ll produce our own compost and/or mulch each year.

But preparing the market garden according to the land, not what was on paper, was a big lesson for me. You see, I suffer from “fantasy daydream” disease where the homestead layout looked perfect by design and I could picture myself running it with ease. But I had to wake up and smell the roses and deal with the land we actually purchased.

Beauty And The Farm

If I Had Eyes In The Back Of My Head

Market Garden Update: In Full Swing

Selling. Soon enough, I’ll have to figure out how to sell it all. Do I grab a permit for the roadside or join the Farmers’ Association and try to set up a table at their market? Do I get certified organic and see if a restaurant (or other establishment) will buy from me or make a deal with another farmer to sell the food for me? Lots of options to consider and questions to answer. More information as I learn… we’re in this together!

Here’s our Facebook page for updates

Plans for the future. These are outlined on the next page but who knows if the order will go as planned..? And contrary to this “pay for” list, we expect to eventually have “free” lists that will only take a bit of hard work. All in baby steps of course.

These things will allow us to live a more independent life together. And we’re enjoying it. (bonus!) We don’t need to wait for it all to be finished and perfect to love it. What we’re paying into it right now, we’re already getting back.

The next post in this series is all about building. Please continue the journey with us…

Plotting The Course