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Build or buy?

 
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Sometimes I feel trapped by my ability to make stuff. I’ve spent the last 15 years making things, for my self and family, in architecture school and work, in my own metal and wood furniture business, in remodeling previous homes…. I just bought 10 raw acres of land to build a home and shop for my family, and am   having a really hard time prioritizing my time.

I could build an almost free, totally indestructible,    appropriately sized broad fork for myself. But it takes a half day of my time. Or… I could buy one for 250 and spend time doing something else on the long to do list. I enjoy making things, it is my huge passion in life, but where to draw the line? I make my own     bacon and eggs, why shouldn’t I also make my own cast iron pan and stovetop? I also want to dig up red sand, sift iron oxide, smelt it, refine it and forge it into a knife to butter my toast.

How do I break the cycle?!       😵‍💫



 
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That's such a nice problem to have. Self resiliance is a wonderful thing. But I do appreciate what you mean. We only have so many hours in the day and so many years of life!
I guess a simple way of prioritising is to put a value on your time. If your wages cost more than the item to buy, then it makes more sense to buy it. That may mean that you never get to make anything though! So the other side of the coin is whether you can make it better than you can buy it - does it need to be custom made to fit your application, or will a standard item do? Also are you going to do something new, learn a new skill? That satisfaction of achievement is priceless...
I can sympathise entirely with your problem. We recently discovered our local rocks are magnetic and are researching iron smelting....

 
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Scott Lawhead wrote:

I could build an almost free, totally indestructible,    appropriately sized broad fork for myself. But it takes a half day of my time. Or… I could buy one for 250 and spend time doing something else on the long to do list.



Well this one would be a no brainer for me, I cannot get paid anywhere near 250 for half a day, even if I wanted to work so time wise the fork is a saving. I would have to work 30+ hours for that money.
 
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In homesteading, the eternal question is time or money.  I am afraid it is up to the individual to decide which there is more of.   I went back to work to pick up some added dollars to have a few luxuries.  
 
Nancy Reading
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John F Dean wrote:In homesteading, the eternal question is time or money.


I feel it can also be a triangle - the aspect of satisfaction of creating something oneself can be just as powerful as either of these.
 
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We each have to decide how much our time is worth, and if you have the spare money to trade for time then like you said it's a matter of priorities and getting things done. I've never heard someone say, "now that I'm building my homestead, every day I'm so bored, there's nothing to do!" More like "I cut off the work at 20 hours a day and try to get some sleep" or "every day is busy no matter how much you finished yesterday."

If crafting/building something brings more joy then I would do what gives you joy, and balance that with fulfilling your goals.
 
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Here is a simple, straightforward answer.....  Make a list! In fact, make several lists!

When I bought my old place 11 years ago it was about to be condemned. It needed everything. But it had a huge 1 acre back yard where I could create the garden that I've always dreamed of. So I began making lists of everything I wanted to do and everything I HAD to do.

First list is top priorities, emergency type stuff.. .. make it habitable so I could live in it and rent out rooms for extra income. Actually this was 3 separate lists. The do it now because it is a real emergency, it needed heat and refrigeration and water. Once that list was done move to list # 2.... fix it before it become an emergency. The huge front porch roof was rotten and  disintegrating. Tear it down before someone gets hurt. The stairs to my 2nd floor room were also rotten and disintegrating. Keep reinforcing it until I could get it fixed. Keep tarring the roof to stop the leaks until I can hire a roofer. Start working full time to pay for these really expensive fixes. Then moved on to list # 3. All the stuff I really wanted to do to just make it pretty.

Truth be told.... each week as I busted my butt to make all these repairs I would reward myself with just a little time to start building my awesome garden. Can't forget to reward yourself for your hard work, dedication and hoots-pah! I got all the major repairs done 2 years ago and I am so proud of myself. And I am having a wonderful time working on list # 3. It is so much fun doing all the neat stuff especially when I can take a hot shower at the end of the day in a dry house with the heat on. The whole endeavor is your reward!

What does your gut tell you to do?
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Let the fun continue!
Let the fun continue!
 
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as everyone has pointed out it is definitely a personal choice/time management thing combined with experience, energy and then THAT intersects with a sense of accomplishment..

it's complicated..

BUT as Nancy pointed out it is a nice problem to have ;-)

when i was a kid i used to enter local x country ski races - my stepdad passed on advice that resonates to this day:

"train your weaknesses, compete your strengths"

if i calculate i have time to learn, i will diy at all costs, if i already have the expertise, no problem.. but... i need a new roof, it appears easy enough, but i am mid-50s, live alone and don't own scaffolding... that will be 100% a buy despite what many tell me.." you are so handy it will be simple"... no, not gonna.. will work/save for that one

Debbie Ann said make lists - she is right... it REALLY helps, i have several too lol!! my point about the roof is you have to be prepared to ironclad about some decisions as well so you don't keep "revisiting" - that eats time and energy in and of itself - be sure to have a "gonna be solved with $$" list as well

i am a big reduce/reuse/recycle buff as well - if i can restore/repurpose - that adds another dimension that makes something worth doing myself.. making a greenhouse out of old windows has some extra challenges... but i reused those windows!! all my shelves are scraps, found in the garbage etc... i have a nice sized "boneyard".. not pretty, BUT less in the landfill and THAT makes me feel accomplished!

but then... cordless power tools? the new ones really are better, the old ones are not worth fixing.. corded tools are in many ways the opposite.. etc etc. etc.

how often do you cook bacon and eggs? do you NEED a cast iron pan..?? what about that stove form scratch??

the bottom line appears to be - you don't need to "break" the cycle, just manage it to your satisfaction - you have skills - i  do not let them atrophy nor consume you!!

cheers!!



 
Scott Lawhead
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Hey team, those were some great replies! I really try to focus on efficiency in my homestead work, so a jack of all trades master of none is a really important  phrase to remember. No need to master any task! Just get pretty good and move on! Unless of course, as everyone has mentioned, it brings you pleasure.

Nancy- that is so cool you have magnetic rocks! Where are you located? I would love to get in on some smelting.  
  Is a cool video about it from a knife maker. Some day I will do this! It’s pretty low on the list though…

Debbie- lists! That is all. Lists on lists. And always make sure to carry over some list items from the previous day to the current day, because nobody can actually get the to do list some in one day. That’s blasphemy.


When I was running my furniture business, I had this thing I would tell clients. I would say that I wish they didn’t give me the job, because they didn’t need me, because people should be making their own dining room table and shelving! Most just laughed and moved on, but I really mean it. That’s something I really enjoy about the folks on permits, we get stuff done our own!

What are some examples of some great items that you made instead of bought? Or vice versa?

I bought $1 pitch fork tines (no handle) at a garage sale. I welded a long pipe on to it, some furniture wax for the steel, and it has been such a work horse for years. Maybe a bit (read, a lot) heavier than the average, but if the zombies come for me, my burly pitch fork will put up a good defense. I still want a hay fork, which I will buy, and a broad fork which I will probably make and it will be heavy and slightly less effective than one I would buy. And that’s ok!
 
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Scott Lawhead wrote:Sometimes I feel trapped by my ability to make stuff. I’ve spent the last 15 years making things,



I resemble that remark.

As far as a $250 broadfork for half a days work, absolutely worth it to me. At least assuming you WANT a broadfork. If you won't use it there's no sense making one.

Smelting your own iron? Maybe once to get it out of your system. There's a lot of metal floating around to resort to that. Definitely lists would help you stay on track.

If you can figure out the critical path for getting your site up and running that will help you prioritize. In manufacturing critical path are the things that have to be done in sequence and if one process isn't done you can't go on to the next. Like swales should be done before planting. The roof should be fixed before remodeling the kitchen.

Hopefully this helps. It could be that you just have a long road ahead of you and you just need to go a day at a time and eventually you'll get where you want to be.
 
Nancy Reading
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Scott Lawhead wrote:

Nancy- that is so cool you have magnetic rocks! Where are you located? I would love to get in on some smelting.  



I live on the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland, UK. The rocks here are basalt - strata of lava flows from a prehistoric volcano. You have to be a bit careful when navigating with a compass, since there are lots of magnetic anomalies, and the beach sand will cling to a magnet nicely. It's pretty low grade ore I believe, maybe 25-30% if we're lucky - I think they did quarry out some slightly different rock for ore at the south end of Skye - but I think there is enough here to be worth having a go. As Daniel said - maybe just to get it out of my system! At the moment it's just a twinkle in my eye; having a water tight roof is a bit higher up on the agenda...
 
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