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Royally Failed Again: Now What

 
master pollinator
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I will try to put this simply, without too much drama, and yet present the details so maybe people can help me.

The long and short of it is this; I am a workaholic, but just cannot work.

As most people know, I have an inoperable tumor on my pituitary gland that affects my energy levels, emotions, and ability to handle stress. A few weeks ago a friend stopped by and wanted me to mow the sides of the road for him in (4) towns. That I could do, and did (2) towns, and made some money, but his tractor would not stay together for more than 2 days. So he had me move some hay around. In 30 minutes time, I was dead. I mean I literally could not move; it zapped all of my strength. The same thing happened at Rock the Flock, and that was an event that Katie and I put on, and where things need to get done, yet I physically could not do it. Then my friend wanted me to run knock-down roller behind his paver: again I could not do it. It was an easy job, but stressful because the tiniest mistake meant you messed an expensive road up. I worked one day, and said I could not do it. And I can't; I can not be that stressed every day for 12 hour days six days a week.

If we could sell our home, a lot of problems would be eliminated, like being 100% debt free, and eliminating some of our property taxes. We have had 22 people look at our home in 30 days of being on the official market, yet have only got one offer. They gave us an incredibly low offer, we accepted it, and then a hour later they said they decided to just continue to rent and not buy a house. But from what our realtor says, no one has anything bad to say about the house, just no offers. This is frustrating because its issue is its location (a very rural, Maine setting) and not something truly fixable.

I have concluded I must work for myself. But what to do? We have a lot of resourses, but it costs money to put them into production.

1. I used to make wooden models of boats, tractors, trucks, heavy equipment, ect and got paid for it, and I have the skills and woodworking equipment, but it is a high labor/low income sort of business. I would have to sell each model for $300, and make and sell 52 of them a year in order to be close to it being worth while. Could I get that many orders per year?

2. Grain farming. Katie and I have a substantial amount of acres, and thought about small grains. We have a market for all that we can produce, and can grow the crops on the land we have, but do not have a means to harvest it. I am not sure we could buy a combine, and so I thought about making a combine, and then doing custom combining on a microscale for myself (100 plus tillable acres) and for others in the area (Amish). But can I make a homemade combine that really works?

3. I am a retired welder/machinist and have fabricated all my life. I thought about starting my own company where I make implments for small tractors because there is not stuffsized that we use (homesteaders), or is affordable. For instance, small scale loose hay equipment, because lets face it, we cannot afford to pay $44,000 for a baler, but still need to feed our animals. Or small scale combines, but would enough people buy the equipment I make. And where would I get the start up money to do something like this?

4. Mining: This farm is unique in that we have lode and placer deposits of minerals. We all know the value of prcious metals per Troy Ounce, but it is another thing to extract them from the earth. I might be able to build my own mining equipment, but would the initial cost be worth it?

5. Writing books. I have written three, with two completed and the third halfway done, but none have been published. Would people read a fictional romance on railroading? A memoir about finding precious minerals in Maine? On taking a farm from beginner, or hobby farm status to full time farm status? This seems easy, but writing takes tons of time, and I know NOTHING about publishing...

All this is very frustrating. I just keep trying doing various forms of work, and one by one realize I just cannot do it. If you are not a workaholic, you would not understand, but when I tried to talk to a social worker about it, I found out she had retired, and due to a calamity of eroors, I even lost my primary care physician. I would talk to Katie about it, but she is so busy pulling 200% of teh load that we do not have time to even talk about what to do. Maybe you guys have some ideas?
 
pollinator
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I'm sorry to hear about the troubles. Hopefully you can find a path forward.

The first thing I thought once you mentioned willingness and ability to farm crops was hemp. Here is a link to the Maine department of Ag page on hemp, you can start applying for 2020 permits on Jan 1 and it is a $600 fee plus $50 per acre for the permit.Industrial Hemp in Maine

I know people doing this in several states and it seems to be a bit different in each state but one thing that might appeal to you is that in some places the end customer will come harvest the crop for you. In fact, depending on how developed the processing capacity in your state is it's possible that your customer will give you the seeds/starts on credit AND do the harvesting for you. Obviously that is a lower profit way to go but it is also lower risk and for the time being the margins seem to work out for competent and careful farmers. The certified seed that my friend is using in Kentucky cost him between 50c and 3$ each, approx 1000 seeds per acre (500-3000$/acre), expected revenue approaching 6 figures/acre (this is with him harvesting, drying, and doing some processing to remove excess leaf and stem). Seems improbable to me but even at 20% of their projections there is profit there.

Feel free to send me a purple moosage if you have any more specific questions but it appears that most places the best way to start is to contact the ag department and ask about the possibility. And if it's something they would consider at your property then see if they (or someone else in the community/some hemp advocacy organization) can point you in the direction of a processor who would be your customer. The biggest national company is called Hemp Inc. and they have processing in at least North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon and in theory could purchase material from anywhere in the nation, but the specific logistics of it all can get a little odd. Seems to be a puzzle that each land owner/producer has to solve for themselves
 
master pollinator
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I advise against trying to make models for a living.  My husband has a business making models but he is not able to support our household with it.  It's more of a hobby that pays for itself and a few bills.  He was a professional modelmaker in "Hollywood" but as an independent modelmaking businessman he is competing with China and everyone else.  Unless one is a fabulous marketer/salesman I think it is near impossible to make a living as an independent craftsperson.  Of course if you are a fabulous salesman it doesn't matter what you do, you will be successful.

 
Travis Johnson
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Burl Smith wrote:100 acres in Maine? Could Social Services ask for a better location to place foster kids? All you need to do is make the application...

https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=KR9XXcm7FOHO5gLvqJboDQ&q=foster+care+maine+pay&oq=foster+care+maine+pay&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0i22i30l2.5581.22019..23562...2.0..0.676.4360.0j22j1j5-1......0....1..gws-wiz.......35i39j0i67j0i131j0j0i20i263j33i22i29i30.bRymCZp4Zh0&ved=0ahUKEwiJ9PH5qYjkAhVhp1kKHW-UBd0Q4dUDCAs&uact=5#spf=1565990719659



That is a good suggestion, but I am not sure that is in the cards anymore.

The biggest reason is that I have been a Licensed Foster Parent for the State of Maine for several years, but it was too difficult. Being a foster parent was not that hard, it was giving up the kids when the time came for them to leave.

The issue is, if you are a good parent, you have to tell the kids no, and over time they remember you getting after them for not getting their homework done, but over time they forget about how diificult their biological home was. They forget the neglect and abuse, and remember the birthday parties, and good times that they had. That is just a kids way of being resilient to what they have endured. So after about a year they want to go home, and while you know in a few months, all the problems of that home will come back, the big elephant in the room, but the kids can chose to go back, and for the first few months everything is good, and then...well...the abuse and neglect crops up again. By then it is too late, and they cannot come back. There is no words in the English Languge to describe how hard it is, to know things will go south, but take a child that you have grown to love, and take them back to an abusive or neglectful home. I do not have it in me to do that anymore.

I am incredibly proud of being a foster parent. So many people say that they want to be one, but to actually go through with it takes a lot. Your home is checked by everything from plumbers, to electricians, to the State Fire Marshall's Office. And good gracious there are (3) background checks you must pass. Physical health checks, and Financial Health Checks...and finally the checks by the Dept of Human Services. All that, and yet a biological parent screams 6 inches from your face asking if you "have morals" when you know their husband raped their daughter that you are taking into your home for safety reasons. Yes, it really is an accomplishment to be a foster parent, but not easy.

As a side note; I also grew up in a foster home as my parents were foster parents too. I have had at least a hundred foster brother and sisters over the years, and have (6) brother and sisters that were adopted by my parents out of the foster care system, plus us three biological children that they had. Two of those adopted sisters have Down Syndrome.

So your suggestion is great, but I am not sure I could do it again.
 
gardener
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I think might have mentioned  a deal to station windmills on your land,  and the pushback from local nimbys.
As a passive income stream, that seems worth fighting for,  if there is any traction to be had at all.

If your internet is reliable,  there are real work from home customer service jobs out there-the pay is probably  not enough.

I don't know what hay goes for there, but here it is valuable enough that people lease acreage just to grow and harvest hay.
You have the land,  are there any haying Operations you could strike a deal with?
Same goes for any crop, hay just came to mind.

Creating farming implements seems like a great idea,  but in addition to innovation,  I suggest jumping on the band wagons.
Quality hoes,   broadforks,  pallet tools, are all out there,  but there seems to be lots of room for small scale and local producers.

People who know not a darn thing about anything make money sharing their "knowledge".
You know solid fuel heat,  boiler systems, tractors,  welding, animal husbandry,  foster care,  festival planning, timber harvesting, and much more.

Video is a faster conduit for information/money exchange than writing is.
YouTube seems to have become more a means to introduce yourself to potential patrons, and less an income stream in and of itself.
Your story, your talents,  seem like a great fit for this niche.

Loans.
Don't worry,  I get the resistance to debt, hear me out.
If you can get a loan using the property you are trying to sell as collateral, you are essentially selling the property to the bank.
Given the low offer you were ready to takeu might even get more for it that way.
This of course assumes you own the property free and clear.


Taking care of your family obviously means everything to you, and you are pulling out all the stops to do so.
That is entirely  noble, rather than  royal,  and simply can't count as failure, not until you give up entirely.
I don't see that happening.
I know that none of that fixes things.
But you will fix things,more  because you are steadfast, than anything else.

You have my admiration.







 
pollinator
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I don't have any profound advice for you, just wanted to express my empathy. Being a very active person, and this being connected to my self-worth and coping mechanisms, I resemble your remarks. I hope you find an adequate solution.
 
gardener
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Online company selling camping/working holidays.  Get some interns to do the work (I have Workawayers to do our physical work as I can't do it). How old are your children? If they are teenage, get them onboard dreaming up camping ideas - which sites would be good for a mfamily to camp out and do a bit of gardening, or get them to make nature trails around your property. Your job? To manage all from a laptop. I do think that only 30 days to sell such a specific property is not long though. If you are a good woodworker, try woodturning art pieces rather than practical pieces. Look at YouTube for some of the amazing stuff people make and sell, especially those who include resin in their pieces. Then run wookworking/woodturning courses. We ran a coup,e of drystone walling courses last year which made a little cash and got a long stretch of wall done. Hostcourses run by others - set up a craft week and get the turors to do the work. Maybe a business studies intern could do the organising and advertising. Get the Maine tourist board on board first and ask them what they would like to see in the area.  Team up with local B&Bs to put on events like a hog roast etc for guests. I think what I am trying to say is be a manager not a worker and throw your limited energy into things that other people will carry out for you.
I did see a great vidoe about a family who showed their children wildflowers on their property and how to propagate them, thise chi,dren now have their own market to which come many locals to buy the plants, even a college who is using the plants to lanscape parts of the campus.
 
master steward
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Travis Johnson wrote:

5. Writing books. I have written three, with two completed and the third halfway done, but none have been published. Would people read a fictional romance on railroading? A memoir about finding precious minerals in Maine? On taking a farm from beginner, or hobby farm status to full time farm status? This seems easy, but writing takes tons of time, and I know NOTHING about publishing...



One thing you could do is put one or more of the books up for sale on permies in the digital market. It might not sell, but it also might! And, there's no investment to put them on permies. I think putting them in PDF format might be good, but I really know little...other than that Raven wrote her book on Cleaning with Cleaners You Can Eat, and it's a PDF, and it's made some sales. If the books are written, you might get good feedback from permies--you could also ask a permie to proofread read them if they need editors (pretty sure every book needs an editor) and that could help fix typos. We've got a writing forum (https://permies.com/f/351/writing), and maybe there'd be some good input there.

I can honestly say that putting my creations up for sale on permies was a really great thing for me. Sure, I've only had a few sales, but I've gotten feedback, and it paid for me to improve my technique and buy more supplies. I know when Raven put her ebook on cleaners on permies, she did it as a first edition, to be added to and edited, and then updated. Those who bought the book, bought not just the first edition, but future improvements, so there was far less risk on the buyers part, too.

It doesn't cost anything to put something on the digital market, and permies takes an impressively small portion. I'd ask what the other writers in the writers forum think, and maybe even send Raven a moosage, and see if posting them for sale is a good idea. I don't know enough about publishing, copywrite, etc, but I know others here on permies do!
 
Travis Johnson
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We have talked about being a Blog Family (A Youtuber).

We had a woman that found herself homeless with a 1 year old when her boyfriend kicked her out, so we took her in for several months. She was here all of three days and looked at Katie and I and said, "is your life like this all the time?" It truly is crazy. My inlaws's just cannot understand how we live either, having had the same routine for 40 years...

But when I watch some Homesteading Families, I just shake my head. It is obvious to me that they have no idea what they are doing, but somehow get a following. Wranglestar really comes to mind on this. I remember watching him put in a "swale" with the wrong implement, the wrong way, and not very sustainably. I do not video, but after some 3400 posts, I hope I have shared enough photos to show that Katie and I really are active on this farm and improve many things yearly.

I am just not sure we are very Blog-Worthy. We live in a 80 year old Tiny Home, we farm with a Tiny 20 year old tractor, and we do not buy our way into profitability, but instead we do as much as we can ourselves. In other words we are just another average Maine Farm! :-)
 
gardener & author
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You have a lot of homesteading knowledge and I'm so glad you share it with us on Permies. I'd be interested to read more by you, either books or a blog. It would also be great to have YouTube videos from people that know what they're talking about.

I agree with Nicole that the Permies digital marketplace is a good place for authors. Permies is a lovely community to ask and get feedback in too, so many nice, helpful people.

As for other ideas, I am trying to come up with more homestead business ideas at the moment too. Something that's helping me make decisions is working out what other benefits besides income can be gained from each decision - your grain idea, for instance, would not just be providing income, but increasing local food security, reducing food miles, building community by sharing/hiring out harvest equipment and so on.
 
Burl Smith
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Thanks for the lowdown on the foster-care scenario. My own experience was with housing welfare recipients, basic room & board for $400/month or half of their entitlement and they can be a handful because you don't want dipsh*ts having access to your laundry facilities and they require constant distraction in the way of coffee and cigarettes, but it can be done but not in a tiny home. You'll need a larger dwelling for that.
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
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Burl Smith wrote:Thanks for the lowdown on the foster-care scenario. My own experience was with housing welfare recipients, basic room & board for $400/month or half of their entitlement and they can be a handful because you don't want dipsh*ts having access to your laundry facilities and they require constant distraction in the way of coffee and cigarettes, but it can be done but not in a tiny home. You'll need a larger dwelling for that.



Yeah I understand. I was just hoping I could tell you your idea was great, but I already have done that, and why I no longer do.

With these kind of questions, you hear great ideas, but when you try to explain why they cannot be done, you hope you do not make the people that are offering you ideas, mad. It is easy to say, "then why did you ask"? I try not to be that way in responding. So I am really, really glad that you were no offended by my response. I would never want that.
 
Burl Smith
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...the kids can chose to go back, and for the first few months everything is good, and then...well...the abuse and neglect crops up again. By then it is too late, and they cannot come back.



That's an interesting point. Isn't there an option to care for those who have no home to return to, but then I guess they could opt for another foster home and still be ineligible to return to yours. Sad.
 
pollinator
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Hi Travis,

Not sure I have any great solutions, except to note that you haven’t “royally failed” at anything.  Life has dealt you some unique challenges, which prevent you from doing things the way you did them successfully in the past. Viewing it as “royally failing” is a sure path to a downward spiral.

It is not for lack of trying, or lack of work ethic, or lack of intelligence or gumption. It is caused by a medical condition which limits you in certain ways. From a permaculture perspective, the problem is the solution. So you can’t drive a tractor 12 hours a day. You can write really well. So you can’t pave roads. You can communicate very effectively. So you can’t bring home the bacon. You can tend to things at home, raising the girls, allowing your wife to work.

Could you teach people things that are in demand, like timber framing?  Round wood framing?  Woodworking?   If not, could you host an instructor who could?  Or write an illustrated guide?  Or a YouTube video?  These are things you could do on your own schedule, as your energy level permits.

I don’t know what the answer is for you. Frankly, just being able to stay home and raise your daughters and keeping the home front ship-shape is a huge luxury, and indeed, royally succeeding!
 
pollinator
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Could you possibly have a couple apprentices to do the hard work while you teach them?
 
pollinator
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I think an apprentice or three could be a great fit, depending on how much energy it takes for you to manage people.. it is a very different amount of drain for different people in my experience.


Homestead scale/cost tractor implements might work, but production would involve a fair bit of labour, plus perhaps investing in materials. What about selling blueprints/intruction videos as well?


It really seems like there should be a way to make your land work for you. Leasing patches for tinyhouses?
 
Huxley Harter
pollinator
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Or possibly lease your land as a base for a folk Or welding school or you could run it.
 
pollinator
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Travis,

First, I am very sorry to hear your struggles. It is hard for me to say I understand, because I think we are pretty similar people in the sense of working all day being a great day. I can't imagine the ego hit this is (we are built to love the fruit of labors), and I know you will make the best of it because you have value in other things above that.

Secondly, while I appreciate all the free advice you give, I strongly agree about the business model- you have a great fund of knowledge and I would pay for it. Most of us (statistically) on here have done less real homesteading stuff than you do in a month. Not in time necessarily, but in actual accomplishment, because you have your trial and error and your family's knowledge to inform you. If you are limited to how many projects you can do by your health, maybe you could edit footage of the smaller number to teach the rest of us.  I totally agree with you about the Wranglerstar and Douche-omatic types out there- they are "getting by with more" and seem to leave out the failures to prop up their online persona. I trust you would show the warts- and you learn a great deal from the warts. There are a few that do show the full montage- I would suggest Swedish Homestead, the chickens get killed by something- he talks about it. That might give you an idea of the length of footage, and what production values are important versus excessive. You tube is not optimal because they give you a tiny fraction of the income from your work, but it is larger than zero, and they have the platform.

It doesn't have to be YouTube, there are other ways you could leverage your knowledge and get paid to think. I am specifically thinking about your knowledge of grants. There are lots of people on medium acreage like me who might be eligible for some grants, but lack the expertise to even bother with it. Knowing the bureaucracy is a valuable skill. Paid video consults might be reasonable, or even on a percentage of grant system.

Apprentice is a great idea as well, there is far too little of that.
 
Burl Smith
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I believe the Unemployment can enroll you in a vocational course, I had a neighbor do that for the last 3 years before retiring and collecting social security. Even better- Maybe the Vo-Tec needs an instructor, Airconditioning and Refrigeration was a laid back course when I was in it...ummm Appliance repair...?
 
pollinator
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A few years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia with Chronic Fatigue. The effects of which sound like what you are dealing with. So much you want to do, used to be able to do, but literally cannot do any more. The mind says "just a little more" and the body flatly says "No, you're done now." So that yard project that not that long ago you could have done in an afternoon ends up taking nearly 3 weeks to finish. My challenge was accepting that I can't do it anymore. Not right now. In time I will learn what I can do, and how to better manage my health and stress and in time I will get back to where I can work a low stress 40 hour work week.
I could no longer do the job that provided for my family and we had to move. At the time I could manage 24 hours a week at a retail job. That covered our living expenses. 9 months ago my wife and I decided that I needed to go full time. Right now I am a full time manager of a retail store. I'm working on my exit plan. I don't think I want to do this forever, but it pays the bills right now and affords me the ability to develop other interests.

I have 30 meat birds coming next week. Next spring we may try 50 and sell half to family and close friends. If that works I may start a small pastured poultry business. I highly recommend looking at Joel Salatin and John Suscovich for info if that interests you. I'm sure there are others, but poultry could be one option to generate an income stream.

Consulting sounds like an option. If you have navigated bureaucracy and know how to help others through it, it's a marketable skill. I cannot tell you the sums of money my previous employer paid to consultants and "experts" to help with permitting and such. Stuff they didn't want to deal with.

On the YouTube aspect, I have considered it myself and they way I see it, it's a marketing tool more than an income stream although it can at some point begin to provide income. It is a fantastic way to show people who you are, and what you're about. When you make that connection with people they will pay more for your product. Grimsmo Knives is an excellent example of that. John actually just did a video about that recently.

Now, this right here:

Travis Johnson wrote:
I am just not sure we are very Blog-Worthy. We live in a 80 year old Tiny Home, we farm with a Tiny 20 year old tractor, and we do not buy our way into profitability, but instead we do as much as we can ourselves. In other words we are just another average Maine Farm! :-)



Go back and read that again.

Travis Johnson wrote:
I am just not sure we are very Blog-Worthy. We live in a 80 year old Tiny Home, we farm with a Tiny 20 year old tractor, and we do not buy our way into profitability, but instead we do as much as we can ourselves. In other words we are just another average Maine Farm! :-)



That alone sells your channel. If you started doing videos on that alone I guarantee you will get followers.


 
pollinator
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I agree with Caleb. Tiny is BIG right now. Tiny homes, Tiny farms, Tiny tractors...Tiny people (your kids). Use it as branding. Make up a common header for your videos, make half a dozen videos to start and plan to post a minimum of one a week. I actually do five or six at a time and space them over a month or more, so I only have to spend a couple hours doing videos. TeenyTiny or IttyBitty, maybe. Put up a "marketplace" to sell your products (most of which are branded, even if it's just a logo burned on the bottom). I'm not good at marketing, but somehow people still find me.

Make sure you post to any social media when a new video comes online (automate this) and possibly get on Patreon. Even if you only get a few hits at first, it'll run on autopilot for a couple weeks at a time.
 
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> youtube --> marketing tool

I've thought about this a little for myself a while back and I think Caleb's right. A very few people make money off youtube, but not really much and IIRC there are some hoops to get through first. But youtube has a low cash entry price and a decent search function which means that people who need your knowledge can find you on youtube fairly easily. It gets your name, out there visible, and that's a big part of any business plan.

Travis, thinking about what you have posted, I have to agree with the many who mention your experience and skills. A skill/experience package like yourself doesn't just embody the "do-it" ability which you have exercised for years to get where you are. Your knowledge and physical intuition you have gained are themselves assets which, while not requiring as much direct sweat and strain, have significant value and many people know enough to be willing to pay for it.

Apprentice model seems somehow good, also. I don't know how that plays out practically - Paul may have some good understanding about the mechanics of passing along knowledge for some cash value.

IOW, no silver bullet but maybe the informational side would be a worthwhile direction to cast your thoughts.

Well, FWIW. Best luck.
Rufus
 
Dillon Nichols
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In my neck of the woods there is a gov program supporting 'research and development'.

It supports an entire cottage industry of people making their living off doing the paperwork for various companies to get their hands on this money.

I think the usual idea was a percentage of grant basis.
 
Travis Johnson
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Caleb Mayfield wrote:A few years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia with Chronic Fatigue. The effects of which sound like what you are dealing with. So much you want to do, used to be able to do, but literally cannot do any more. The mind says "just a little more" and the body flatly says "No, you're done now." So that yard project that not that long ago you could have done in an afternoon ends up taking nearly 3 weeks to finish. My challenge was accepting that I can't do it anymore. Not right now. In time I will learn what I can do, and how to better manage my health and stress and in time I will get back to where I can work a low stress 40 hour work week.
I could no longer do the job that provided for my family and we had to move. At the time I could manage 24 hours a week at a retail job. That covered our living expenses. 9 months ago my wife and I decided that I needed to go full time. Right now I am a full time manager of a retail store. I'm working on my exit plan. I don't think I want to do this forever, but it pays the bills right now and affords me the ability to develop other interests.



First and foremost, I must say that I have empathy for you Caleb. It does indeed sound like you have something similar to me, and it is really debilitating. I think the worst thing is, we look healthy, but because it is an internal issue, people just assume you can do what most people can do, like do some physical work for prolonged periods of time, handle stress, and make instant decisions.

I have wondered if the effects of cancer caused Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? That is a huge question mark, but something I researched pretty early in my assessment of what I had when everything the Dr's did, would not help make me get better. For me, I can do physical work, just no more than 30 minutes or so, and then I am wiped out. I mean completely wiped out. And if I overdo it today, for the next two days I will be absolutely useless. So like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it does seem like I just cannot recover quickly enough, but whether that is the tumor causing that by pushing on my brainstem, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I am not sure. But I have been tested for a ton of other stuff like Lyme Disease, and Heavy Metal Poisoning, and all have been negative.

I applied to Tractor Supply thinking I could handle that, but I never got a call saying they would hire me. I am not sure why because they preferred "welders and farmers", and I am both; retired after 23 years of welding, and obviously a farmer now. I thought that would have been a good way to help homesteaders, but it did not work out. :-(
 
Travis Johnson
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Travis, First, I am very sorry to hear your struggles. It is hard for me to say I understand, because I think we are pretty similar people in the sense of working all day being a great day. I can't imagine the ego hit this is (we are built to love the fruit of labors), and I know you will make the best of it because you have value in other things above that.

Secondly, while I appreciate all the free advice you give..



Note: I truncated this just to save space, trust me, ALL of what you had to say originally made sense and was touching. And you bring up some very good points.

Grants:
I have been pretty succesful on grants overall. I am not sure of the exact figure but it is close to $70,000. Not bad for a sheep farm because the USDA HATES sheep farmers considering them a "trivial commodity."

There are a few extenuating circumstances why i have gotten some grants, like having a farm that spans (2) water sheds, with one being polluted and getting special funding. But overall I am tenacious. In fact, as of 2017, I was the only farmer in Maine to take the USDA to Federal Court and win. That was an intense learning experience for sure! Not many sheep farmers can say they took on City Hall and won.

Warts:
I do try and tell people about the mistakes and not so ideal aspects of my farm, but I am not 100% on that. Part of that is a philosphy a philathropist told me about years ago. He said he never announced anything until every T was crossed, and every i dotted, so that any opposition to his project would be mitigated. I often do that here, seldom stating things I am "going to do", and rather just do them, and then announce what i did.

That leads into something else though. I have learned that success often comes from constant refining. Lets say I build an implment and it does not work quite right. I try an figure out why, and then modify it...and modify it, and modify it. Over time it does work. Coupled with not saying anything until I am done, it appears like what I made was perfect right out of the box, but that is not the case, I refined it until it worked.

Beginer Farmers/Homesteaders:

What really frustrates me is that beginer farmers and homesteaders often lack confidence. I think they look at me and think by some amazing stroke of luck, I shimmied out across some nasty rope bridge, over a 1000 foot drop, with hungry crocodiles swiming in the river below, and somehow Travis Johnson made it; when that is NOT the case at all. People can really do this, they just need to know that they can. Yes, there is a deep chasm to cross (hard work), and there are nasty crocidiles below (people who want your money), but there is no rope bridge, its a concrete bridge, 12 feet wide that cold hold a combine up, because verym very few people want to see a small farm fail. It may not seem it, but legislatures, the USDA, even relatives want to see a farm succed).

Here is an example of confidence though, because you know me, I love to give examples to show my point. :-)

On another forum, a guy asked if he could build a road with his tractor. Everyone but me said go out and hire it done by a earth moving contractor. WHY? Consider how they built the majority of the roads in the 1930's...with crap equipment. My junk, 20 year old, tiny Kubota tractor moves 1/3 of a cubic yard of earth. In 1930 they used front shovels that were massive in size and moved...wait for it...the smae amount of earth. What we have today is so much more compact, yet does the same (or more) work! Yes you can build a road because our ancestors did it, and so have I.

That is what I wish I could give to homesteaders...confidence. I try on here, but I fall really short. It seems everyone thinks farming is some complex scietific thing: NOPE, people have been doing it for 9000 years so it is pretty simple.

 
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Good morning Travis
I haven't been on in a while, not because I was ill, quite the opposite, I got lucky and am now well. Holy crap though, when I read this thread with all tender love and caring this community offers, I can see I have been neglect.
I feel for you man. I still watch more youtube than I should, but I'm no longer living vicariously through other's lives like I was when I was down for the count. Youtube how tos, even Permies gave me mixed emotions as I went from a life of action on the little ranch here in the mountains of northern New Mexico to a withered old guy that couldn't walk. Watching others try to make a go at homesteading made me feel good, so there is that benefit for others so there is that.  I thought about doing it, but I don't have the personality needed to promote a show about my projects.
An ironic aspect to my life is that I would come up with an idea and based on the idea I'd make the first cut, dig the hole, bust the rock and be knee deep before my wife would come looking for me for dinner. Hehe, often gingerly saying, "Why are you digging this hole? Anyway dinners ready." It's difficult to translate a life like that into encouragement for the young ones coming up and trying to make it go.  It is especially difficult to be flat out on your back and think about it when the body says, "nope ain't gunna happen." If your mind stays as clear as it seems today Travis I'd say you can do it, whatever "it" is. You're smart and a fantastic teacher.  Thank you for being you.
Brian Rodgers
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:
3. I am a retired welder/machinist and have fabricated all my life. I thought about starting my own company where I make implments for small tractors because there is not stuffsized that we use (homesteaders), or is affordable. For instance, small scale loose hay equipment, because lets face it, we cannot afford to pay $44,000 for a baler, but still need to feed our animals. Or small scale combines, but would enough people buy the equipment I make. And where would I get the start up money to do something like this?


Well there you have it. Go with what you know. Design and build implements for sub-compact tractors. Things that the OEM companies don't make. Start with one that's fairly simple like a bed shaper. Building one wouldn't put you out too much in cash. Then make a youtube video of it in operation and post about it here and there and you'll end up getting someone that wants one. Sell them the one you already built and that will give you cash for materials to build 2-3 more. Maybe you could do a whole system for high tunnels and sub-compact tractors and size everything to it. That would include bed spacing so that the tractors can straddle the bed and you could make a baby greens harvester for it. We've all seen the cordless drill powered unit but my back wouldn't be able to handle that. Even the guy that invented it won't be able to use it one day. Hell, maybe you could even design an electric tractor at some point. That would be perfect for high tunnel use as non of it as real stressful work on the tractor. Plus you could design it with more ground clearance than the typical sub-compact. For now, just design implements that will work with a low ground clearance. Potato harvester would be a good one.

Start with one implement but keep some future vision in mind while designing and building anything.

Bob Fisher built one wood stove, then another for a friend or neighbor. Then another, then word spread and pretty soon they were sold all over the country. He would ship the cast iron doors to regional fab companies instead of shipping a hole 500 lb wood stove. Just don't get stressed like he did. That would be a good selling point. People would be getting your good product but supporting a business in their region and helping to keep the carbon footprint down. The cast iron  stove doors were a way to prevent the fab shops from just using his plans and selling them themselves. People would know it was a Fisher by the doors which weren't easily duplicated. Not sure how you'd approach that with implements but that would be down the road. You could just have a cast iron nameplate or something. That way that nameplate could be put on any implement so there's only one thing to cast for all.

There are small scale implements available but I think they're mostly a European thing and to get them here, they cost as much or more than the full sized stuff. Meanwhile, there's plenty of compact and sub-compact tractors out there. Most do have low ground clearance though so they're limited by that.

I've got one of these and plan on making a bed shaper for it at some point because I happened on some arched steel pipe from a tarped hay shed that I'm going to build a high tunnel out of. I did fab for 25 years myself so it's just going to be cheaper for me to build one and I can make it whatever size I want.


I do wish it was a little wider and I may end up making wheel spacers for it. I'd just put them on when doing certain things because wheel spacers do put extra stress on wheel/axle bearings. That's something someone could build and sell too. That and maybe even taller wheels for the newer compact tractors because most are pretty short.

As a side note, a company in India bought the tolling and patents from Mitsubishi and are reproducing these tractors. I wish they'd start selling them here in the USA. Mine's a 1981 and still going.



They've updated the front end and some other things a couple of times since this early model

You could call your company Cat 1 Implements and you'd be number 1 in search results in no time.
 
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I'm going to write about workaholism rather than decide your next career move because I know workaholism that all too well, and your situation much less. Workaholism is an -aholism. I know it as a place the voices saying "your lazy" or "your a failure" (in all the various creative ways you've been told you were) can't go. Your brain is too busy and you are actively doing things, thus proving your not lazy. Not to mention the euphoria of doing things said to be impossible and proving yourself despite others. One shouldn't have to work their behind off to feel good and valued. They should know the good and value they already bring and just be okay being themselves. I'm not a true workaholic, but those I know were belittled by their parents and some continue to be belittled by their spouses. Not outward abuse, just the addition of destructive voices to their psyche. I don't know your situation, so I won't speak to the specifics and instead, just write this: whatever you have done or plan on doing is just fine. Success is defined by those who judge and don't do, and therefore not a valid assessment. Those who work know there's mistakes and re-tries even in the "successful" projects. Humans, just like birds and monkeys have instincts to do things. Ir's not being lazy or not that determines your desire to do things, it's the health of your psyche- and like you said- confidence.  You can do a little of all of the things you listed that are compatible or something better that falls in your lap. Diversified incomes and saving $$ are also ways of living. I hope this helps. Good luck!
 
Travis Johnson
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I think last week was a very trying week for me because I THOUGHT I was getting better, but when put to the test, which was having a friend ask me to work for him in various situations, I really failed. I could not move 50 bales of hay. I could not run the straw-blower. And I could not even run the knock-down roller. My disappointment was really in understanding that my Doctor was right, I am very sick, and as my wife says..I really am disabled...as in, I am not able any more. That is a very difficult thing to accept.

TJ Jefferson mentions warts, and one massive wart on my face is; as a workaholic I often scoffed at the "lame and the lazy" as I called them. Last week I realized on my own, I am lame, and what it is really like, and there is no laziness about it, it is sheer hell. If that sounds derogatory, I admit it is, but the shame is NOT upon others, but realizing for years and years, I was wrong in how I judged others. I really, really am sorry for some of the things I have said about the disabled over the years.

In some ways I should endure this well; I have said for years I have run my life at 100 miles an hour, and thus lived two lifetimes. Tripping all over the world, owning acreage, retiring early...I have accomplished a lot, so it should come as no surprise that I would also have to stop early, but I am struggling to accept it, far more than what I let on here. I think the greatest regret is, in my twenties I did not always follow through with what I promised, and as I aged, I vowed to have more integrity. So last week it was with great shame that I could not help my friends when they needed help the most. Of course they do not fully understand it is a medical condition that causes that, and chock it up to what they attribute everyone that quits for them; that they are lazy.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Travis

I was going wander off, but those last couple sentences...

Do you really think your friends actually look upon you as lazy?  What's chances they are so outright daft as to just go and label you a quitter? Doesn't seem all that likely - most people are some smarter than that, least if they know you at all.


Rufus
 
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The best way out is just start a project and explain it: I am sure, people would be interested in participate.
I am living in Porto,Portugal be just tell me what I can do:
For the moment I am trying to build a web site to promote bamboo as a live transformer, Do you have bamboo in your environment ?
With your skill, You could fabricate art-work in bamboo and we would sell it on hour web site : physical store "Art Object in Bamboo:
Look at our site in building, become an "abonné" and we will chat over it.

www.bamcivmar.com

Jean Pierre Michotte
 
 
Travis Johnson
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Rufus Laggren wrote:Travis

I was going wander off, but those last couple sentences...

Do you really think your friends actually look upon you as lazy?  What's chances they are so outright daft as to just go and label you a quitter? Doesn't seem all that likely - most people are some smarter than that, least if they know you at all.


Rufus



No, I think they really do. I was in NO WAY trying to generate sympathy or embellish with drama by saying what I did.

Part of it is with them, with my friends management style that is. They have gone through hundreds of employees, but for a good reason; they are word vomit employers. They work long hours, get tired, and then just blurt out whatever they feel. So they yell at their employees A LOT. For them, 5 minutes later they said how they feel so its over and they are fine, all the while most people are still fuming for being yelled at.

And then they are a husband-wife team too, so the wife will tell you to do something this way, then the husband will tell you do it that way, and you get yelled at by each when you do it either way. When they realize what happened, that you were told two ways to do it, they just laugh thinking it is funny, but for you...who got yelled at...it really is anything but funny. And I really mean yell, no drama on that, they scream and yell at the top of their lungs. So people that work for them quit, and then attribute it to those workers being lazy. People are lazy, but not EVERYONE is lazy, so when that many people quit working, there is more at play then just an inability to do work. But this husband-wife team just does not get it. They are good people, they just do not attribute their management style to people not wanting to work for them. I admit they pay really well, and give bonuses out and stuff, but for most people, constantly getting screamed at is just not worth the pay.

For me, just running roller was too much. If you do not shut off the vibrator everytime you change directions, you make a pothole in the new hottop, and with a roller you constantly go back and forth so the chances of messing up are really high. And you cannot stop with the roller in a straight direction, it must be at at angle, and with a roller you are always stopping to change direction, so not only must you remember to shut off the vibrator, at the same time you must remember to be at an angle as you reverse direction. Then there is the water that must be started and shut off, and where to drive, and when...its actually a lot to handle. But then to get yelled and screamed at when you mess up; so NO THANKS! With my medical condition, I just cannot handle 12 hours of constant stress like that.

But yeah, another person that quit; for them I am just another lazy employee that does not want to work. (Insert shrugging of my shoulders here)
 
Travis Johnson
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I thought I would explain just why I cannot handle stress with my medical condition...

The way the body works is, when you feel stressed, your brain sends a signal to the Pituitary Gland, and then the Pituitary Gland through your Thyroid checks to see if you have enough hormones running in your system to manage the stress level. If not, the Adrenal Glands produce more hormone, and then the Pituitary Gland checks again and adjusts more or less hormone as required for your stress levels. (This is a basic version...it is actually pretty complex).

None of those three functions work for me though.

I do not have a Thyroid because it was fully removed due to cancer. And my Adrenal System was damaged as well. But the real issue is my Pitutary Gland. It has a tumor in the center of the lobe, on the brain side that is almost impossible to remove surgically. (more on this in a minute). That presses on my brain stem and gives me seizures for an added pleasurable life experience! :-) The tumor also is pressing on my gland so hard, that it is only producing 25% of what it should of all hormones.

So for me, I have limited hormones to start with, and when the brain senses stress, the Pitutary has no Thyroid to check to adjust its homone levels. So I am given those hormones in pill form, but there is no way to adjust what I need as my day procedes. It is like driving a car with no accelator. When you come to a hill (increased stress) the car slows down, but when the cars starts down a hill (less stress) it goes really fast. That is the way it is with me, I have no way to maintain the same level of stress in my body.

But the kicker is, it is an inoperable tumor, with a 50% chance I would not survive the operation if I had it done, so it is only done in real emergencies. There is also only two hospitals that can do it in New England. But they have learned high doses of hormones can reduce the cancer threat. So I am give that, but it is like having a car's engine set at full throttle. If I encounter too much stress, like a car going up a massive hill, my body just shuts down, and cannot get going for a few days, just as a car would stall. But if there is no stress, just as a car would fly down a steep hill, I am really aggressive...like wanting to throat-punch a driver that cut me off at an intersection. That kind of agreesion.

So all the time I am "on edge", like my jaw is clenched, I shake, I cannot sleep...

The only way to describe it is like if you cross a street, and a car speeds past and almost hits you, you get really worked up, and while the danger is past, you still have that adrenaaline pumping within. That is how I feel all the time. There is no let down for me. There is no relaxing. My muscles are tight (even as I type this), my jaw clenched, my legs are taunt, and my mind races with gloom and doom, just like after that car passes that almost hit you, you think of all the issues you would have if you had been hit...you spouse would doing all the work, you would have hospital bills to pay, you would be in pain, and of course what you would do to the guy if you could get your hands around his throat. That is my life, 24/7/365 days a year. It is really hard to make life decisions when you are overwhelmed. The Drs are trying to kill the cancer i know, but its tough enduring the effects of too much artificial hormone in me.

So I state it simply as, "I cannot handle stress", but I hope people see now, just how much that is understated.
 
Jean Pierre Michotte
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I am very sorry to read that \
3 months ago, I was willing to go away in Switzerland for Euthanasia \
I met a wonderfull doctor, I was diagonsticated a Cancer tumor in the neck.
But my wife and I decided to fight back and that is how I came back to permies.com to force me to do something
I do not want to say that I know how to do.
I am pertubaed by what you discribe, I just want to put you back in a rewarding atmosphere. Send me one of your wood model, We will put it for sale in our WEB page of Physical artwork for the amount you want and we will see what. I will put your price plus a commissiom for the site, soit isnot charity.
   
  It is busdiness and we will be partners

Jean Pierre Michotte  
 
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I feel for you, Travis.

But going over all your post in this thread alone, you've basically encapsulated what would make your YouTube channel unique.

You're descended from farmers, so you're caught up in the issue of ensuring there are farmers enough for the next generation, and with so many issues of inter-generational change, both from a personal context and a professional one, as a welder and a farmer both.

You're heavily into frugality, which runs contrary to the consumerist ideology of the day. At the same time, you're pretty close to debt-free, and you have systems that, although not without their challenges (which make for great viewing), will keep you solvent, and can be expanded at need to do more, albeit with more work.

There's that bit about being the only Maine farmer in 2017 who has taken the USDA to federal court and won. That would make for a whole-season story-arc in a conventional format show.

And there's the costume photography, and the kids, and the tiny house downsizing, and the whole chopping your electrical bill in half with over-gauge wiring, the constant conversation about where your approach and permaculture intersect for you, the issue of faith and outreach surrounding Rock the Flock...

And in all honesty, if you felt comfortable going into it even in briefest detail, your medical woes fill in the rest of the plot quite nicely.

I would also hesitate to open the doors of privacy on my life in such a way. But if it's possible to do so within your comfort zone, you have the makings of not only a YouTube channel, but a series on TLC, or on The History Channel, if the slant was right.

I'm thinking that a couple of hands would do, and a go-pro on each. You'd still have to select tasks that weren't stressful on you, and hands that could both take the brunt of stresses for you and weather the brunt of your vigilance when there isn't enough stress for you. I would suggest that at least one of the hands be someone with video editing experience.

I suggest that, considering your past success with grants, and the fact that you obviously know your way around an application, that you see what grants might be available that could be applied to such a project, and whatever compensation for your help isn't provided by the grant, you might be able to work out with room and board and apprenticeship or work experience.

In any case, I hope that in these words you find an ace that you can keep. There are lots of good suggestions in the posts above, and I hope you can draw strength and inspiration from them, Travis. Good luck, and my best to you and yours.

-CK
 
Rufus Laggren
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> husband...wife...

That's surely a tough tag team. I guess it comes down, like a lot of things, to how much they are willing to respect you and trust your honesty. No slam on them if they really aren't prepared for that, but... In such a situation I would hope I would, before the SHTF, stop and look them in the eye and say something like "Guys, I really appreciate the work and responsibility you're placing in me. But. I don't know if you're aware, but I have some serious medical issues that make it very hard for me to deal with frantic stress. If there is a real problem with the job I'm doing, then I guess I have to sign off. Because I truly cannot keep getting yelled at - it makes me physically sick. I can't handle it. I'm sorry. Do you think the work I'm doing is good enough that you can skip the yelling? If we can take a shot at going forward w/out in-your-face stuff then I would like to do this job with you. But I can't handle the confrontation. Please tell me: Is my work such that we can try going forward calmly? Thanks for listening. No hard feelings either way - we all have our own ways of doing things, after all."  And any other specifics based on your relation to these people. Sometimes when you really are at the stopping point and you really mean what you're saying, it shows. People can tell, at least some of them.

I always keep telling myself and mostly keep forgetting: _Check_, twice, to see if you actually have the right picture before before making closed end decisions, especially if you'd rather not go that way.

BTW. Your description of your situation was one of the best, and level headed, explanations of a serious medical problem I've seen, ever. I don't know how it compares for you with fabricating for work satisfaction and all, but that bit of writing is itself a beautiful piece of work, IMHO. I understand more now, maybe a lot more than I did before seeing  your post.


Regards,
Rufus
 
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Travis,

Rather than a blog, you could look into creating an "evergreen" website. Instead of having to produce pages and information on a fixed schedule, you can work with your energy levels to create pages that will stand the test of time. I can recommend Sitesell as I've been using them for 13 years - the subscription and web hosting price is $300 a year (and that price has not changed in all the years I've been using them!) regardless of how well your site does. They're always adding to their tools and functionality, nearly always without an extra charge - I think I only paid an extra $50 one time. Their aim is to help you build a successful web business rather than a pretty looking site - so they have a special Brainstorming tool so you can see which topics are of interest to people searching the web. Their forums are as helpful as permies.com, and have people weighing in from all over the world.

Due to life taking me in a different direction, and not having a dog anymore, I haven't done much with my site for the past 6 years so it's not the best example (www.make-and-build-dog-stuff.com) but am still making enough ROI that I haven't scrapped it. It did help carry my hubby and me through a number of lean years and got him out of the rat race. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme but can start making you money in the first year, if you follow their Action Guide. Here's a link with more information:  https://case-studies.sitesell.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxa3k3dWQ5AIVDcJkCh0uOAxMEAAYASABEgJX-PD_BwE - Patty, the first case study mentioned, used to live near me and she mentored me for a short while. Like her, I started out with no web knowledge other than how to type and do email. I'd never taken a digital photo...

Anyway, all the best to you and hopefully that tumor will disappear and you'll get back more of your energy.
 
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I haven't read all the replies but I think you could advertise yourself as a grant writer for people. A USDA grant writer. You already know everything and it's an at desk job.


How is the micro brewing market in your area? It's cropping up here and is really active across the border in CO. If you could farm specialty barleys and other brew ingredients I bet you could make a decent income selling it to people around your area. I'd go to the small breweries and see what they are interested in getting. You'd still have the combine issue though. I think I could probably squeeze around that on my acreage by hiring the guy that combines the fields across from us for a decent price. I'm not sure if you could do that.


My husband has been researching publishing as his goal is to get a book published. He says there are 2 ways to go about it. One is to send out a 2 page summary of the book and sell it based on that. The second is to get a large following you can show to publishers. If 200k people follow you on Instagram than that is 200k books you can tell a publisher you are going to sell.   I think there is another way to go about it and that's the self published E-book. If you can get people to read and review an e-book you wrote, that you price in the reasonable couple buck range, you can more easily sell another book by showing you're E-book success.


I am not sure if your health could handle putting on workshops but I see this as a lucrative avenue to pursue. Breeding, raising, butchering workshops. Maybe a workshop on spinning wool if you have wool sheep or making lamb chops if you have meat sheep. Or cheese making from sheep milk. With the homesteading boom teaching is incredible valuable. We are thinking we may pay someone to come teach us to butcher our pigs when it comes time. Then we could put on workshops for others on pig butchery. And then my husband said we could do curing workshops on hams and bacon and such. Since it's already something we intend to do offering it up for other people to pay for seems like an easy choice!


You could always offer Glamping too. The "farm experience" in a fancy yurt or some such thing. Not sure the start up on that but the east coast seems the place it would work.
 
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I had a serious immune disorder for many many years.  I was also previously before that, a workaholic.  I was not kind to my body, I made it keep on when it needed rest, when it needed nourishment.  Part of the reason I developed the immune disorder was due to that. Even after I got really sick and couldn't work anymore, I was still not listening to my body, I was still forcing it to my "will".  It was only when I literally could go no further that it forced me to look at these patterns of self-torture.  It took me a decade to learn new, healthier ways of living my life.  Life is not just about working.

Now many decades later I have learned to be still, to be peaceful......but mostly to be Joy-Full.  Yes, my workaholicism brought me satisfaction, but it did not always bring me Joy/Happiness.  I may be wrong here, but I think I see the same pattern in you.  Still trying to fit the square peg in the round hole. Sometimes we are searching so hard for something we cannot see the forest for the trees.  Maybe it isn't in your plan to be working right now.  There are Higher purposes in life to be fulfilled than just working. Perhaps you should consider it from that point. Maybe this is a enforced rest break so you can get back to seeing what you are really supposed to be doing.

You have land that I assume is paid for, you have skills that most wannabe farmers could only dream about. Is it possible for you to be sustainable, or nearly so, without having to work in a "outer" type of job.  Maybe you are looking in the wrong direction.  In the olden days that is what people did, and that is what people were. Jack of all trades, their land was like a small country - and they provided for most all their needs without having to make it a consideration of an over-whelming need for money. Bartering is having a big come back.  Perhaps people could give you goods in exchange for your knowledge of life skills you have acquired.

Can you not offer workshops for those wannabe's?  Teach them those skills that most do not have.  I had interns on my small farm for several years.  Kids in their middle 20's, college graduates - and you know what? They know nothing. They can't do anything.  It is a product of our age, the technological age where young adults have never worked with their hands, or really had to use their brains. I had a young woman, working on a Master's in Math and she couldn't figure out simple construction math.  They learn things in college but they have no idea what it means....or how to use it when they get out in the world.

If you have the patience, which I did not, to offer internships...where they build their own small cabin, grow their own food, and then do work in return for them to live there, you can make it a profitable business. Or you can charge for workshops for all manner of things. Just think about all the things that we as "older" small farmers have amassed as skills....and I can guarantee you that not many know those skills anymore.....watching YouTube videos confirms that most people have air in their heads.

Make your skills that you do have; work for you, don't try to mold yourself to new skills when the ones you have are worth all the money in the world.

Peace Be Upon you, may you find that Path that not only provides physical sustenance, but emotional also. You have not failed.  Failing is when you stop trying.  Please take a little time to see that you are valuable, do not judge yourself or let what others think affect how you see yourself.
 
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