"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Q&A #4 Buying the farm

Q: Ulf, I want to buy my own farm and live a green lifestyle, can you give me some advice?"

This subject could and should fill a book on its own. In fact I have several books on exactly this. So my answer here is going to be understandably shorter than it realistically ought to be. Instead I will point you to the information you will really need.

Starting point- Lose the illusions!
  • Most of farm life is not romantic and beautiful. It is a lot of hard work and often heartache. You will see projects fail, fruit stolen by the birds, veggies eaten by caterpillars, stock die and fences break. This is the flip side of the coin when everything works out.
  • You will have to deal with heat and cold, mud, rain and whatever the weather throws at you. Not optional, Stock will need to be fed or milked, plants watered or sheltered.
  • You will deal with life and death and often at the most grizzly extreme. Just accept this. If you cannot then please stay in the city.
  • You will be tied to your lifestyle as the running of the farm will depend on you. Holidays might be few and far between if you have to milk the cows everyday.
  • You will need to be fit enough to deal with the constant lifestyle. You will have to lift heavy things sometimes, work for extended periods. You will be injured sooner or later and there are certainly a lot more things that can hurt you on a farm.
  • You will need the support of your family, you cannot do this alone. Don't do this if your spouse has no interest in helping! Nothing will destroy this lifestyle and possibly your marriage faster than this.
  • You will need a lot of common sense and the ability to work with your hands. Do I need to explain this one?
  • Forget anything about farm life you have ever seen in the movies!
Next- Learn, learn, learn!
  • Read every book you can find on farming, animal husbandry, gardening, self sufficiency and anything even vaguely similar. If possible, buy and keep these books. If you read nothing else you should start with The new complete book of self sufficiency by John Seymour . Regardless of what part of the world you live in this book is probably the most useful of all.
  • Investigate the type of farm you want to have and try to get some experience helping out on farms in the area you want to live in.
  • Talk to people already living on their own farms in the area you want to live in. Find out what is possible there and what is not. 
  • Learn the practical skills you will need as soon as you can. How to fence, slaughter a beast, dig a garden, preserve fruit, light a fire, use a chainsaw, do basic carpentry, do plumbing, replace a roof sheet, sink a hole, shift large rocks, use a firearm, handle livestock and so on.Understand that these practical skills will make or break you when dealing with farm life. You have to be as capable as possible in almost every area.
Make a list.
This is possibly the most important list you will ever make when buying a property. It will have two parts.
The first section will be features that are absolutely essential for you to consider the property at all. If the property fails in any of these points, walk away!
The second part of this list are features you would like the property to have but are willing to do without.
You use this list as your checklist when viewing any place for sale and you do not deviate on the mandatory requirements!
As an example I will give the checklist my wife and I used when we were looking for our farm.

  1. Within our price range and fairly priced.
  2. Must have reliable and good water source year round
  3. Must have a house in reasonable repair with at least three bedrooms
  4. Must have reliable grazing to support roughly five head of cattle
  5. Must have space for vegetable garden and orchard
  6. Must have reasonable growing soil
  7. Must have a good farm shed with power
  8. Must have good neighbours at a reasonable distance from the house
  9. Must be within 40 minute drive of the local town
  10. Must have reasonable fencing for livestock
Optional preferred features 
  1. 100+ acres good grazing
  2. extra farm sheds
  3. established orchard
  4. improved pastures
  5. established veggie garden
  6. on a dead end road to limit traffic
  7. abutting rainforest
  8. nice views, especially sunsets
  9. renewable energy potential
  10. potential for home based/ farm based business
  11. not near large industry
  12. no dirt bikes!
  13. minimal feral pest problems
  14. good stockyards with loading ramps
  15. coldroom
  16. ........and so on and so forth
 So you get the idea. I wont lie to you, we truly fell in love with a couple of properties that were missing one or two of the mandatory features! Fortunately we made ourselves stick to our list and in hindsight I am glad we did. Both properties would have been terrible mistakes!

Lastly, remember you are going to have to actually PAY for the place. You will need to ensure you either have a source of income local to your farm or else you can purchase it outright from your own funds. This can simply be the biggest hurdle you will face in this day and age and the banking vampires have no interest in helping you beyond their own profits. In fact you may find rural based loans can be a lot harder to obtain in many areas.

Now if you have read all of this and are still not put off, then I wish you the best of luck. Despite the enormous hardships my wife and I faced to get to where we are we still would not change a thing!

We love it here!

No comments:

Post a Comment