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Building up courage...

 
Posts: 13
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Hi everyone!  I'm new here, and I want to start learning all about the skills I'll need to start a homestead.  I've been dreaming of making the lifestyle change for a while now, but recent events have suddenly made the dream a lot more tangible.

To make a long (and rather tragic) story short, I've come into a good amount of farmland.  The previous owner rented it to some conventional farmers, who are currently growing the typical corn and soybeans in the typical huge-tractor-and-huge-fertilizer way.  I'm keeping the contract as is for now, since breaking it before it's over would be more trouble than it's worth, but this land is the big chance I've been waiting for.

On the other hand, I feel like I've just been thrown in the deep end!  I have a lot of questions and concerns...

First of all, I'm not sure to do with all of the land!  As overjoyed as I am to have so many acres, I'm only one person, and I can only farm so much land.  Plus, no matter what I'm doing with it, I'm still responsible for all of the taxes!  My current plan is to pick out five acres or so to work on and have the current farmers keep doing what they're doing with the rest, at least for a while.  The end goal, though, is to find a use for the land that's better for the earth while still mitigating at least some of the cost of the property tax.  The options I've come up with include growing hay, grazing some sort of animal, or replanting to native prairie through a government program, but I'm sure there's options I'm not thinking of.

Second, I'm worried about what the aforementioned commercial farming has done to the land.  I know I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of restoring the health of the soil, but I have no idea how long I should expect to be working on it.  Is it something that can be fixed in a year (which I'd honestly be surprised by), or is it something I'll have to fight with for the foreseeable future?

Finally, I have a problem a bit closer to home- the kind that isn't necessarily relevant to this site, but I still hope I can get some advice.  It probably boils down to me being a people pleaser, but I'm currently in a relationship that I don't want to be in.  My partner and I are a bad fit, and our goals for the future don't match up at all (she'd rather be anywhere than where this land is).  I'm scared of what will happen if I try to break it off (last time, I had pillows thrown at my face...hard...) but I know I have to.  I'd take any advice I can get.

Anyway, thank you for reading this long post!  I can't wait to start my homesteading journey.
 
steward & bricolagier
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Jay Baker: Welcome to permies!
The answers to a bunch of those questions are here, yes!
I suggest starting here at  The All Forums View which will show you what categories to look at, those are all links to the forum that talks about that subject.

And Dr Redhawk's soil series will help you a LOT to learn how to remediate damaged soil  Dr Redhawk's Soil Series

I think starting with 5 acres is very wise. A lot of land overwhelms people.
Check out the Skip Forums for ways to learn, and you really might consider taking a Permaculture Design Course, if you want to work a lot of land, it will help you more than you can guess at right now. Permaculture Design forum

More info here than you can eat quickly, this is a lovely rabbithole to go down and learn all the things you need to.

I look forward to seeing you learn and grow!!
:D
 
steward
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Jay, have you had an opportunity to see what Gabe Brown is doing in Bismarck?  He converted his land from chem ag to soil food web regenerated.  A path like Gabe's seems like one potential profit making option to begin to heal your land.....oh, and another big welcome to Permies!  Excited at what you wish to do...what a blessing you can create!!  So many opportunities.  Also, have you had a chance to see what Mark Shepard has done in Wisconsin?

 
pollinator
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"Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.". I kid, I kid.

1. Don't panic! You've been given a wonderful and terrifying opportunity.

2. I suggest you think of this as a business you have inherited, and you are on a 5-10 year trajectory to making the business align with your personal values. There are many small, sensible ways to nudge things along. Meanwhile, there will be taxes on the land and taxes on the income. The business has to stay strong and earn its keep.

3. Walk the land. There is no shortcut; quads don't cut it. You need to know where the water is, where the habitats are, how the sun moves in the seasons. Often you will discover corners that are fantastic animal/pollinator habitats and lousy for farming; the amount of change you can bring by enhancing  those corners helps to balance off the industrial agriculture in the centre. Also, farmers are increasingly open to buffer zones in riparian areas to protect the quality of water sources.

3. Carving off a few acres for your homestead experiments is a wise approach. Try to accommodate: your lease farmers need lots of room to swing big equipment around. Plan for a good, thick tree/shrub buffer between your homestead patch and the sprayers.

4. Lease farmers tend to "mine" the soil rather than invest in it. It's pure short-term economics. They're not all pigs, they're just operating in a tight margin business. Add a third element: let your lease farmers know you are interested in ways of investing long term to build up better soil, with the idea of reducing the cost of chemical inputs needed for good crops.  If it doesn't cost them extra (rent reductions, etc.) they may surprise you. There's a lot of cutting edge work going on in the supposedly conventional farming sector.

5. Don't panic. Ride the wave.

My 2c.
 
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As it was stated above, it is best to begin with a smallish parcel. 5 acres is a good number, maybe continue to allow the farmers to use the portion you aren't able to keep under plow while you build up infrastructure.

As for the "partner", if you do not want to marry the woman tell her it's over. stringing a person on because you don't want to hurt their feelings and/or because you don't want to face the music is wrong. At a certain point it becomes using, that is one reason I am against long relationships with no defined purpose.

You can be blunt without being mean. if you can't do that, maybe you are meant to make your relationship more permanent.

EDIT: Welcome to Permies!
 
master pollinator
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Jay wrote:...but I'm currently in a relationship that I don't want to be in.  My partner and I are a bad fit, and our goals for the future don't match up at all (she'd rather be anywhere than where this land is).  I'm scared of what will happen if I try to break it off (last time, I had pillows thrown at my face...hard...) but I know I have to.  I'd take any advice I can get.



Here is a thread about homesteading alone. There are stories in there of Permies who make a relationship work, with no homesteading help from their partner. However, if she is against even living on your new place, I don't recommend keeping the relationship. This life is hard enough with people who want to succeed in it. Are you cohabitating now?

Be safe.
 
gardener
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Hi Jay and welcome to Permies! Congratulations on the land! That is so exciting!

Jay Baker wrote:It probably boils down to me being a people pleaser, but I'm currently in a relationship that I don't want to be in.  My partner and I are a bad fit, and our goals for the future don't match up at all (she'd rather be anywhere than where this land is).  I'm scared of what will happen if I try to break it off (last time, I had pillows thrown at my face...hard...) but I know I have to.  I'd take any advice I can get.


That sounds hard. As a recovering people pleaser, I get not wanting to hurt someone you care about or disappoint them. But she will feel how she feels about it and odds are, she will feel hurt and angry. There's probably no avoiding that and you certainly can't control it. You both will have some discomfort to deal with. The fact that she has in the past expressed her upset with violence, even if it was pillows, is disconcerting. Are you afraid for your safety if you break up with her? If so, you may need to take a different, more boundaried approach. I'm not exactly sure what that would look like, but don't hesitate to seek support as you figure it out. Please be safe.

I know it doesn't seem like it, but please remember that telling someone "no" can be an incredibly loving thing. It's being honest, vulnerable and respectful to you both. And in this case, freeing both of you to pursue the goals that matter most to you and hopefully be happy.

When I have to have difficult conversations, I always find this video helps me. Kind of a comforting pep talk. Maybe it can help you too.


 
Jay Baker
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Greg Martin wrote:Jay, have you had an opportunity to see what Gabe Brown is doing in Bismarck?  He converted his land from chem ag to soil food web regenerated.  A path like Gabe's seems like one potential profit making option to begin to heal your land.....oh, and another big welcome to Permies!  Excited at what you wish to do...what a blessing you can create!!  So many opportunities.  Also, have you had a chance to see what Mark Shepard has done in Wisconsin?



Thanks for the recommendations!  I haven't seen what Brown or Shepard are doing, but I'll definitely take a look.  It's good to know that people have successfully dealt with the kind of soil problems I'm looking at.
 
Jay Baker
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Here is a thread about homesteading alone. There are stories in there of Permies who make a relationship work, with no homesteading help from their partner. However, if she is against even living on your new place, I don't recommend keeping the relationship. This life is hard enough with people who want to succeed in it. Are you cohabitating now?

Be safe.



Heather Sharpe wrote:That sounds hard. As a recovering people pleaser, I get not wanting to hurt someone you care about or disappoint them. But she will feel how she feels about it and odds are, she will feel hurt and angry. There's probably no avoiding that and you certainly can't control it. You both will have some discomfort to deal with. The fact that she has in the past expressed her upset with violence, even if it was pillows, is disconcerting. Are you afraid for your safety if you break up with her? If so, you may need to take a different, more boundaried approach. I'm not exactly sure what that would look like, but don't hesitate to seek support as you figure it out. Please be safe.

I know it doesn't seem like it, but please remember that telling someone "no" can be an incredibly loving thing. It's being honest, vulnerable and respectful to you both. And in this case, freeing both of you to pursue the goals that matter most to you and hopefully be happy.



A big thanks to both of you- it means a lot that you took the time to show kindness and support to a stranger on the internet.  As hard as a thing as this is, it's good to know that I'm ultimately making the best decision.

I am living with her right now, but I've been working on a plan to move out and have secured a friend's couch in case it comes to that.  I know I have my support network and the ability to rent a Uhaul, so I should be able to make it through one way or another.  Time to take a deep breath, huh?

Again, I really appreciate the support. Here's a picture of my darling rescue cat as thanks :).
 
pollinator
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Jay Baker wrote:Hi everyone!  I'm new here, and I want to start learning all about the skills I'll need to start a homestead.  I've been dreaming of making the lifestyle change for a while now, but recent events have suddenly made the dream a lot more tangible.



First, Welcome.  I am relatively new here to and I am impressed by the wealth of information available including topics I didn't know I needed to know.

Jay Baker wrote:
First of all, I'm not sure to do with all of the land!  As overjoyed as I am to have so many acres, I'm only one person, and I can only farm so much land.  Plus, no matter what I'm doing with it, I'm still responsible for all of the taxes!  My current plan is to pick out five acres or so to work on and have the current farmers keep doing what they're doing with the rest, at least for a while.  The end goal, though, is to find a use for the land that's better for the earth while still mitigating at least some of the cost of the property tax.  The options I've come up with include growing hay, grazing some sort of animal, or replanting to native prairie through a government program, but I'm sure there's options I'm not thinking of.

Second, I'm worried about what the aforementioned commercial farming has done to the land.  I know I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of restoring the health of the soil, but I have no idea how long I should expect to be working on it.  Is it something that can be fixed in a year (which I'd honestly be surprised by), or is it something I'll have to fight with for the foreseeable future?



My suggestion is to use cover crops.  A simple search of the internet will uncover plenty of benefits of the various cover crops which vary from oats and barley, wheat, rye, radishes and clover, as well as other grasses.  Plenty of options, just search cover crop seeds.  Cover crops can help improve soil health.


Jay Baker wrote:
Finally, I have a problem a bit closer to home- the kind that isn't necessarily relevant to this site, but I still hope I can get some advice.  It probably boils down to me being a people pleaser, but I'm currently in a relationship that I don't want to be in.  My partner and I are a bad fit, and our goals for the future don't match up at all (she'd rather be anywhere than where this land is).  I'm scared of what will happen if I try to break it off (last time, I had pillows thrown at my face...hard...) but I know I have to.  I'd take any advice I can get.



I think an easy way will just start talking all the time about farming and working the land.  Be happy and excited about it.  Share everything you read and talk about how the two of you can transform the property into a prospering farm where you two can grow your own food and raise chickens.  Take her to the farm and ranch stores, suggest getting her some farm clothes and work boots, but pick out stuff that would be attractive and suggest hot cute she would be wearing it while working on the farm.  Take her looking at farm tractors and pick out a small one but suggest if she goes in 50/50 on the purchase you could get the larger one that will be more comfortable for her to drive and plow the fields.  Either she will get on board or she will start thinking about leaving you.  I suspect this may be better than you trying to ask her to leave, it will be her idea so hopefully she wont be too upset.

Good luck.
 
Jay Baker
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Not sure where else to post an update, so here will have to do! It's so strange to look back at my words from 2+ years ago... I wish I could go back and give my past self a hug.

I've been away for quite a while. A variety of things have kept me away from my goals (and this site), with the biggest thing being my beloved mother's rock-solid insistence that I finish college. Out of state = away from my inherited land = no progress. Now, though, I'm finally done, and I'll be back home by the end of the month! I intend to jump right back into gardening, and to start making serious first steps toward reclaiming the soil.

The person I was dating was, in fact, a very bad fit. I must have broken up with her pretty soon after I first posted, since it's been years. Pro tip: getting stuff thrown at you (no matter how soft) is a red flag. Good riddance.

Anyway, I'm excited to get to work, and to be much more active here! I want to get some more badges >:) Here's to learning and growing.
 
master steward
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Hey, Welcome back Jay! Thanks for the update. Was the college course related to the land? Or is money earning and land projects pretty separated for now?
 
master steward
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Welcome back Jay! This is a fine place to announce your resurgence. Once you figure out how you're going to organize your plans, the projects forum is a great place to document what you're doing.

Please post your ideas and ask for feedback when you want it. You will find we're really friendly and supportive around here and love celebrating the successes and can be a place to seek understanding and support when the going gets tough.
 
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