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How I went from rat race to homestead with no savings or money.

 
Posts: 12
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hugelkultur
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Few people are truly trapped, so true.
This is making me think. There is an old farm down the road, part for sale and at risk to me. Maybe the owners would allow me to rent the land in exchange for a permaculture farm. Hmmmm.
Are those Hugulkulture beds by the way? So glorious!
 
pollinator
Posts: 128
Location: Gaines County, Texas South of Seminole, Tx zone 7b/8a
19
dog trees greening the desert
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I am still in the beginning stages of this. when I was young and dumb credit cards got me along with student debt for a computer science degree that I don't really even us cause I just got tired of programming all day long. I joined the army in 06 and while in the army my dad passed away and he had land in different areas and I used insurance money that I obtained from his death and payed that land off and most of my debt down. After getting out of the Army I continued with getting a communications job up in Wyoming and after 2 years got tired of spending 750 on rent for a 2 bedroom apartment and then nearly 300 month on food plus paying 900 on my loans and credit cards from college so I finally moved back to the county I finished High school and where my 30 acres. That was 3 years ago but I finally moved on my land this January once I got most of the electrical issues fixed and water well working again. So now I am on my true path to getting where I can be debt free and while improving my land as I go making it where I can work less for someone else and be able to work for myself more. I am just ready to be finished paying debt and get to paying more on my stability. So not truly out of the rat race I am almost there. I am also tempted to allow a few others to move on my land and for their rent I will us the money to buy the equipment to help speed up my land dream.
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Really inspiring,
Thank You
 
Posts: 16
Location: Northeast Utah zone 6B
forest garden solar greening the desert
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This has been an awesome read.

I am in a similar situation with little in the way of resources/cash and with debt I am trying to get rid of.
Gives me hope that my plans at least have a chance of working.  

In the area I live in there is a ton of land available.
Some of it easily attainable (5-10 acre lots @$250 down/$250 month) but you are paying a premium per acre (nearly $10k/acre).
There are other plots of varying size that come up for sale at better prices but not always a owner financed situation which is what we need.

My goal, for whatever land we buy, will be to have it paid off within a 5-6 year period.
So still looking, praying and hoping.
 
pollinator
Posts: 317
Location: South Central Michigan Zone 6
51
dog forest garden fish hunting tiny house food preservation
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Scott Reid wrote:This has been an awesome read.

I am in a similar situation with little in the way of resources/cash and with debt I am trying to get rid of.
Gives me hope that my plans at least have a chance of working.  

In the area I live in there is a ton of land available.
Some of it easily attainable (5-10 acre lots @$250 down/$250 month) but you are paying a premium per acre (nearly $10k/acre).
There are other plots of varying size that come up for sale at better prices but not always a owner financed situation which is what we need.

My goal, for whatever land we buy, will be to have it paid off within a 5-6 year period.
So still looking, praying and hoping.



Keep it up man, you got a good plan.

We have since had an issue with the local authorities on our old property,last summer we basically had to pack up and go. It was perfect timing because we literally found the perfect property for the price. We moved in in October, and have been fixing it up all winter, and now have the garden coming along and seeds starting in the basement. We have several feet of topsoil with over 5% organic matter without having added any compost yet. We are truly grateful and feel the hard work has begun to pay off. A lot of this is possible by not having any debt, we didn't go to college, instead I learned a trade. I actually only have a 9th grade education on paper, I was a drop out because I felt like school was just a prison forcing me to become a worker ant. I am no fucking ant. So this high school drop out got ahead of the game by working my ass off and learning as much as I could about life. Utilized the internet, libraries, and plenty of books. Offered to go work on other's farms for free for a day just to try and pick up some techniques.

You are on a good path, just keep up the hard work. I find myself being bogged down by laziness at times, but burnout happens in this business. Just gotta get over the hump. Thanks for the inspiring words.
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dog in garden
dog in garden
 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
73
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Wow... That sounds really simple. I'm planning on something like that after high school and it seems pretty intimidating. That helped a lot. What "homework" did you do? Rent prices, markets, or what?
 
Posts: 90
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Travis, you are a DOer! Love what you have made by and for yourself. I would love for anyone with equal roll-up-sleeves and DIG in attitude to do exactly what you did, but in my area. Just like you found your original 'shared' acreage, there is MANY such options here. I[m past the heavy lifting stage myself, but I do see several unused acreage options here (northernmost California) that could be approached just like you did there. Your gain in experience and thrifty living with full return payback is a 'ticket' that sadly way too few see let alone GO FOR.

I do hope that your posting here will get those happy few off their desk chairs and out playing with dirt.

This thread is a few years old, how about an update? (further inspiration?!)
 
Travis Schulert
pollinator
Posts: 317
Location: South Central Michigan Zone 6
51
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Well, here we are 3 years later... my wife is full time on the farm, crushing it, and loving life. I split my time between the farm and my family construction company, which I love doing both and not just one or the other.

I have 9.5 acres that now have poly culture planted swales and berms. A half acre intensive market garden that pays all the bills, plus my wifes income, and after everythings paid still puts money in my pocket.

It took only the first 2 weeks of market this spring (2019) to pay for the years farm investments. We are completely killing it weekly at the farmers market. We only do one market a week and its paying very well. We stuck it out, and were finally making good money doing this. I say "good money" but for many living in the modern world it would barely be enough to get by, but for us we live good on it. Because we spent the last 7 years building a frugal, simpler life.

For the market garden- I used 20 year landscape geotextile fabric, and a fully automated drip irrigation system. We applied this to a no-till garden. Yes I know there are other ways to do it, and other ways to make money without using any plastics of any kind, and I encourage you to go out and be the example needed to show you dont need any plastic to be productive. But let me tell you we battled weeds and native rhizomes for 5 years, spinning our wheels. The first year on our new property, we tried doing the 20 year fabric and drip irrigation, this literally quadrupled the profits, for about half the work load as previous years. It literally saved our garden because I dont know how long I'd be able to farm and not make a good enough profit. But, that was my decision to use plastics on a half acre of my 10 acre poly culture food forest. But that half acre literally pays for the other 9.5 acres, and paid to have almost 500 trees planted in the last 2 years, another 500 this fall...

For the other 9.5 acres- we have 450 feet roughly of river frontage, places to hunt and fish along the river, I've kept 7 acres of the 10 to be zone 4. Because I like wild forested spaces, and I can produce enough food on a smaller scale to not have to use the rest of the property for anything but forest plantings, hunting, and fishing. We have dozens of edible and medicinal species, which I'll rattle off a handful right now, but missing some:
Elderberry, hazelnut, paw paw,gingko, poplar, spruce, mulberry, apple, seaberry, rugosa rose, perennial clumping grasses, currants, serviceberry, and many more I cant think of at 5:30am. Most of which is thriving and surviving and growing quickly.

New outlooks: I hate to say it, but permaculture folks have left a very bad taste in my mouth in the last couple years. I considered myself a permaculturist since about 2008, I took Lawtons PDC. But then I started using landscape fabric on a half acre, which has upset dozens and dozens of people online, and many permaculture instructors have made it a point to attack us and our farm. It's kind of sad really, that we went through all this work, all this sacrifice, only to be booted out of the community because 5% of our paradise isnt perfection. And the catch 22, is our farm is called imperfect by them, and shunned because it doesnt resemble someone elses idea of perfection. Well, that my friends is a very subjective idea... perfection...

So, at this point, I've realized that most of the people criticizing farmers for not farming right, are mostly people who are still too scared to become farmers. I remember reading the "can you actually make money with permaculture" thread many years ago on this site, and I still wonder if you can.... the 9.5 acres of permaculture food forest are in their infancy stages, so many years before I'm picking fruit and nuts, instead of salad mix and broccoli. But the salad mix and broccoli (there are about 15 other crops we make money on) are what pays to continue "playing" permaculture. There are people out there "playing" farmer, I played farmer until I switched to something that kept the weeds down in my no-till garden... Now I am the farmer, we are farming, because we give the giant veggie farms at our market a serious run for their money. We have the premier quality product at our market, everyone else struggles to meet or match our quality, and we continue to sell out, year after year. We struggle to grow enough to meet demand, because people are thirsty for really high quality, really clean food.

The relentless frustrated criticisms by all the people out there in internet land finally got to me, and I quit trying to push my message online. People get hung up when they see the landscape fabric and cant look past it. At this point, I have lost a lot of faith in the permaculture world and movement, and I see it on the downword spiral. Mainly because of where it's gone, you have a handful of people making a lot of money in permaculture, and it's all being taken from the pockets of kids who have dreams of doing great things, but then they get out there and realize the world dont fart rainbows and unicorns. It's a tough world,you better be ready to make a good profit, without acquiring a shit load of debt, if you expect your farm to make it long term.

I have the beginnings of a permaculture food forest, in 10 years, most species will be producing, maybe then I'll write a book about how you need market gardening in order to subsidize the permaculture side of things. This is no fairytale world, there is no utopia. You can spend 30 years getting somewhere slowly with permaculture, or you could be there in 10 years by incorporating a half acre market garden into your permaculture... I was told by multiple permaculture educators that my methods and systems are a complete failure, and terrible advice. This has been thrown at me many many times now in the last couple years, whilst trying to promote my message and farm.

You tell me, was it bad advice for me? I went from being a high school drop out, with zero education and no money living in a trailer park. And 7 years later, I own 10 acres, very low monthly bills, my wife and I go out west to California and the mountains from Michigan in the winter on vacation, boondocking in our converted cargo trailer camper. We have a successful farm, dozens and dozens of super loyal happy customers that LOVE us and our food and remind us weekly of these facts... my wife is happier than shes ever been now that shes on the farm full time, and not pulling weeds for 14 hours a day just to make ends meet. We are living our best life, today, and you know what? I do not care if you think its permaculture or not... it doesnt matter at all, what matters is I produce shelter, food, and knowledge for others, I do this with minimal inputs, I do this while building topsoil and diversity, and I do this all while living a great life, seeing my country, and loving my wife. Our relationship is not strained because of a struggling farm...

Really, anyone can do it, for me it took breaking away from what I'd learned on this forum and elsewhere. And to just invest some money into things that will allow us to get ahead of the game, we did, and we won. We couldnt be happier, or feel more successful.  Permaculture is just a word, go make your own way, and your own life, who cares what other people call or dont call it.


One more note, look around the USA today, what do you see? Farms struggling and flooded, everywhere. Yet, we hlare having our best year to date, and the excess rain has only helped, because of well thought out design and layout of swales and garden beds.
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productive garden
productive garden
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fish
fish
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fresh market
fresh market
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pool in garden
pool in garden
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cabbage rows
cabbage rows
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foggy field
foggy field
 
steward
Posts: 3817
Location: West Tennessee
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Travis, I applaud you and your successes. Well done!

I’m relatively new to permaculture and I’ve learned that permaculture is a design. Nowhere in my reading here on Permies or in books have I found someone saying Permaculture is a prescription and here’s the right way to do it. The repeating message I read is considering the location, soil, topography, existing trees & plant life, etc., and incorporating that into design to capture resources like sunlight and rain, so inputs and work decrease as outputs increase as time goes forward. The design varies so wildly from location to location, with elements influencing factors so unique to one’s spot on the globe that what one person does in Vermont is unlikely to yield the same results when replicated in Florida, South Dakota, Australia, or Finland.

It never ceases to amaze me, even people in the permaculture and ecological agriculture community, that must poo-poo other peoples ideas, methods and techniques because it’s different from what they do or believe in.

It seems clear to me that you’ve found a way that works for you at your location and you are successful. Bravo Travis!
 
gardener
Posts: 646
Location: Piedmont 7a
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Well said, Travis. Sounds like a lot of people feel entitled to “should” on you. Keep ignoring them, and keep enjoying your success. You have built a sweet life for yourself and your family, and provide healthy, delicious food to your community. Well done!
 
Huxley Harter
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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You're doing amazing Travis S. I believe you're right about starting with a market garden. It allows you to rent property until you can move on to more permanent plans. Thank you for sharing!!!
 
Posts: 417
Location: Portlandish, Oregon
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Don't let the naysayers get you down. I have tried to follow your posts closely as I am a few years behind you in a similar plan. You are an inspiration to some permies!
 
pioneer
Posts: 213
Location: California Coastal range
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YOur farm looks great !

Dont let naysayers put you down.  They do not realy understand what permaculture is if they do.   It is a design system, where you have a set of basic design rules and criteria of what you need.  You, the people there, you and your wife are part of the system with needs.  Being able to meet bills and stay in business is a major design criteria ! You seem to be a farm with budding food forests, a moderate organic truck garden and many other elements .  A 20 year landscape fabric is way less plastic than most organic farmers use out here in my part of the US, and I am in a major organic vegtable and berry area.  

Keep up the great work, you and your wife are an inspiration.  I wish young people knew about the possibilites and success stories like yours

( some people dont see the permaculture in my place either, I guess because I do not have keyhole gardens or swales.  I have alot of design and intent in what I do.  And an awful lot of design and decisions into the day to day living and energy, I happen to be most into energy patterns and building.  I also do grow food, rather alot in proportion to how much time I spend at it.  I have no till raised beds with gopher wire underneath and heavy mulch, I like to water with an overhead sprinkler and also harvest alot from all pathways and edges hit by water.  I tried more free form garden beds for years, and go almost no yield.  I need to eat, this is how I get the plants to not be eaten by gophers.  ANd, yes, I trap, and yes the cat hunts, etc...  I think people easily judge when they are "just playing"  I grow all my years fruits and vegetables in a very small area with very little work)
 
pollinator
Posts: 291
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Thanks, interesting thread. I have several people responding to my ad for a place to park my vehicles and garden Permaculture style.  I not entirely sure why I’m hesitating. One reason is I like wild natural communities and Im concerned I’ll bog myself down rather than travel around exploring the West. What about traveling about tending wildcrafting “gardens” on public land? Similar to what the tribes and clans did before??
Also I hope that with enough traveling I’ll find that “perfect” place in the geography. Ive been lucky to have a lot of freedom and unlucky to have undiagnosed cPTSD to fully enjoy the freedom.
I think cops hassle young people more. And young guys even more. Any criminal record will amplify the attention. As I’ve gotten older they don’t seem to pay as much attention. I’m lucky I didn’t get a record though not that they didn’t try to find a crime to place on me. They tried pretty hard to cram me into their system but I squeezed through the cracks somehow. I’m convinced there’s many many people with undiagnosed ptsd or cPTSD in prison. And it ain’t over till it’s over.... Peace
 
Posts: 97
Location: Russia, ~250m altitude, zone 6a, Moscow oblast, in the greater Sergeiv Posad reigon.
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Travis Schulert wrote:Well, here we are 3 years later... my wife is full time on the farm, crushing it, and loving life. I split my time between the farm and my family construction company, which I love doing both and not just one or the other.

I have 9.5 acres that now have poly culture planted swales and berms. A half acre intensive market garden that pays all the bills, plus my wifes income, and after everythings paid still puts money in my pocket.

It took only the first 2 weeks of market this spring (2019) to pay for the years farm investments. We are completely killing it weekly at the farmers market. We only do one market a week and its paying very well. We stuck it out, and were finally making good money doing this. I say "good money" but for many living in the modern world it would barely be enough to get by, but for us we live good on it. Because we spent the last 7 years building a frugal, simpler life.

For the market garden- I used 20 year landscape geotextile fabric, and a fully automated drip irrigation system. We applied this to a no-till garden. Yes I know there are other ways to do it, and other ways to make money without using any plastics of any kind, and I encourage you to go out and be the example needed to show you dont need any plastic to be productive. But let me tell you we battled weeds and native rhizomes for 5 years, spinning our wheels. The first year on our new property, we tried doing the 20 year fabric and drip irrigation, this literally quadrupled the profits, for about half the work load as previous years. It literally saved our garden because I dont know how long I'd be able to farm and not make a good enough profit. But, that was my decision to use plastics on a half acre of my 10 acre poly culture food forest. But that half acre literally pays for the other 9.5 acres, and paid to have almost 500 trees planted in the last 2 years, another 500 this fall...

For the other 9.5 acres- we have 450 feet roughly of river frontage, places to hunt and fish along the river, I've kept 7 acres of the 10 to be zone 4. Because I like wild forested spaces, and I can produce enough food on a smaller scale to not have to use the rest of the property for anything but forest plantings, hunting, and fishing. We have dozens of edible and medicinal species, which I'll rattle off a handful right now, but missing some:
Elderberry, hazelnut, paw paw,gingko, poplar, spruce, mulberry, apple, seaberry, rugosa rose, perennial clumping grasses, currants, serviceberry, and many more I cant think of at 5:30am. Most of which is thriving and surviving and growing quickly.

New outlooks: I hate to say it, but permaculture folks have left a very bad taste in my mouth in the last couple years. I considered myself a permaculturist since about 2008, I took Lawtons PDC. But then I started using landscape fabric on a half acre, which has upset dozens and dozens of people online, and many permaculture instructors have made it a point to attack us and our farm. It's kind of sad really, that we went through all this work, all this sacrifice, only to be booted out of the community because 5% of our paradise isnt perfection. And the catch 22, is our farm is called imperfect by them, and shunned because it doesnt resemble someone elses idea of perfection. Well, that my friends is a very subjective idea... perfection...

So, at this point, I've realized that most of the people criticizing farmers for not farming right, are mostly people who are still too scared to become farmers. I remember reading the "can you actually make money with permaculture" thread many years ago on this site, and I still wonder if you can.... the 9.5 acres of permaculture food forest are in their infancy stages, so many years before I'm picking fruit and nuts, instead of salad mix and broccoli. But the salad mix and broccoli (there are about 15 other crops we make money on) are what pays to continue "playing" permaculture. There are people out there "playing" farmer, I played farmer until I switched to something that kept the weeds down in my no-till garden... Now I am the farmer, we are farming, because we give the giant veggie farms at our market a serious run for their money. We have the premier quality product at our market, everyone else struggles to meet or match our quality, and we continue to sell out, year after year. We struggle to grow enough to meet demand, because people are thirsty for really high quality, really clean food.

The relentless frustrated criticisms by all the people out there in internet land finally got to me, and I quit trying to push my message online. People get hung up when they see the landscape fabric and cant look past it. At this point, I have lost a lot of faith in the permaculture world and movement, and I see it on the downword spiral. Mainly because of where it's gone, you have a handful of people making a lot of money in permaculture, and it's all being taken from the pockets of kids who have dreams of doing great things, but then they get out there and realize the world dont fart rainbows and unicorns. It's a tough world,you better be ready to make a good profit, without acquiring a shit load of debt, if you expect your farm to make it long term.

I have the beginnings of a permaculture food forest, in 10 years, most species will be producing, maybe then I'll write a book about how you need market gardening in order to subsidize the permaculture side of things. This is no fairytale world, there is no utopia. You can spend 30 years getting somewhere slowly with permaculture, or you could be there in 10 years by incorporating a half acre market garden into your permaculture... I was told by multiple permaculture educators that my methods and systems are a complete failure, and terrible advice. This has been thrown at me many many times now in the last couple years, whilst trying to promote my message and farm.

You tell me, was it bad advice for me? I went from being a high school drop out, with zero education and no money living in a trailer park. And 7 years later, I own 10 acres, very low monthly bills, my wife and I go out west to California and the mountains from Michigan in the winter on vacation, boondocking in our converted cargo trailer camper. We have a successful farm, dozens and dozens of super loyal happy customers that LOVE us and our food and remind us weekly of these facts... my wife is happier than shes ever been now that shes on the farm full time, and not pulling weeds for 14 hours a day just to make ends meet. We are living our best life, today, and you know what? I do not care if you think its permaculture or not... it doesnt matter at all, what matters is I produce shelter, food, and knowledge for others, I do this with minimal inputs, I do this while building topsoil and diversity, and I do this all while living a great life, seeing my country, and loving my wife. Our relationship is not strained because of a struggling farm...

Really, anyone can do it, for me it took breaking away from what I'd learned on this forum and elsewhere. And to just invest some money into things that will allow us to get ahead of the game, we did, and we won. We couldnt be happier, or feel more successful.  Permaculture is just a word, go make your own way, and your own life, who cares what other people call or dont call it.


One more note, look around the USA today, what do you see? Farms struggling and flooded, everywhere. Yet, we hlare having our best year to date, and the excess rain has only helped, because of well thought out design and layout of swales and garden beds.



    I really appreciate hearing about your success story. What you are doing is real permaculture, even if you're making some compromises along the way, and I greatly admire what you are doing. It bears mentioning, however, that it is possible to grow annual veggies 100% incorporated into a larger permaculture system, using companion planting and perennials to stabilize everything. My family did this while we were in new york state, and we used raised beds on contour as a variety of swale. Geoff Lawton suggests using perrenial shrubs to stabilize the corners of the beds, since they are most likely to be eroded, then some stable plantings such as borage, probably a mixture of species, along the side and downhill edges, and the middle space can be your main crop. If it's potatoes, for instance, you can throw in some onion, garlic, and chamomile, or you can put in peas and corn with them, or if it's brassicas, might as well have several different kinds (cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale, turnips) then add in rosemary, chamomile, dill, mint, (you probably don't want true mint, might want something from that family that won't take over) sage, and thyme, and voila, you have a brassica-herb garden. Of course, there are all sorts of awesome complications and edges you can put in, like if you have several of these beds uphill from each other, then you will need a spillway on each of them to prevent erosion, and as you go downhill, you would switch the side of the bed you put the spillway on, leaving an annoying square of disconnected space at each bed... or annoying until you realize that you can turn it into a micro (and I do mean micro) food forest or guild setup, with a single dwarf fruit tree in the middle, four little shrubs at the corners, a bunch of herbaceous plants for support, and maybe a vine or two. The possibilities are endless if you apply design and aren't dogmatic.
    Sorry if this is a bit preachy, it saddens me to hear how narrow-minded (not calling you narrow-minded, I mean the mudslingers) people can get, which is the exact opposite of what you need to do good design. A good rule of thumb: the more complications we can fit into a system, the better.
 
Posts: 58
Location: Del Rio, TX
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

The Gov doesn't seem to like people who have figured out how to get by in the world without debt and a "paycheck" type job.

 Sometimes even if you do have a job.  This is very clear if you try to cross the U.S. border and they ask you for your bank statements, or proof that you have job. . . I hate senseless bureaucracy.



It appears that they are taking senseless ideas from the southern border and applying them to the northern border! There used to be a thriving cross-border economy between our little Texas town and the larger city in Mexico, but they tightened border security so much that it just isn't feasible to pop over to the Mexican side for lunch, and it's hardly worth the hassle for dinner. Both sides have suffered from this nonsense, but Border Patrol puts a spin on everything to make it appear as though they have made things so much better.
 
Kevin Young
Posts: 58
Location: Del Rio, TX
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Travis Schulert wrote:I hate to say it, but permaculture folks have left a very bad taste in my mouth in the last couple years. I considered myself a permaculturist since about 2008, I took Lawtons PDC. But then I started using landscape fabric on a half acre, which has upset dozens and dozens of people online, and many permaculture instructors have made it a point to attack us and our farm. It's kind of sad really, that we went through all this work, all this sacrifice, only to be booted out of the community because 5% of our paradise isnt perfection. And the catch 22, is our farm is called imperfect by them, and shunned because it doesnt resemble someone elses idea of perfection. Well, that my friends is a very subjective idea... perfection...


That's incredible that people would be so critical--in what way are you a threat to them? Are these people who simply can't compete with you at the Farmer's Market? You are growing GREAT looking vegetables, you are IMPROVING soil, you are living an AUTHENTIC life, you are BLESSING the land you are living on. I'm sorry that there are people who can't handle your happiness and success.
 
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I know its not easy for any of us to say anything that will change the situation.

Somehow people do not always appreciate good fortune created by hard work.

You may get peace in your head if you can look past the comments, ven invite people over to see what you are doing.
Great work anyway.
 
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Travis Schulert wrote:
I have 9.5 acres that now have poly culture planted swales and berms. A half acre intensive market garden that pays all the bills, plus my wifes income, and after everythings paid still puts money in my pocket.

It took only the first 2 weeks of market this spring (2019) to pay for the years farm investments. We are completely killing it weekly at the farmers market. We only do one market a week and its paying very well. We stuck it out, and were finally making good money doing this. I say "good money" but for many living in the modern world it would barely be enough to get by, but for us we live good on it. Because we spent the last 7 years building a frugal, simpler life.

For the market garden- I used 20 year landscape geotextile fabric, and a fully automated drip irrigation system. We applied this to a no-till garden. Yes I know there are other ways to do it, and other ways to make money without using any plastics of any kind, and I encourage you to go out and be the example needed to show you dont need any plastic to be productive. But let me tell you we battled weeds and native rhizomes for 5 years, spinning our wheels. The first year on our new property, we tried doing the 20 year fabric and drip irrigation, this literally quadrupled the profits, for about half the work load as previous years. It literally saved our garden because I dont know how long I'd be able to farm and not make a good enough profit. But, that was my decision to use plastics on a half acre of my 10 acre poly culture food forest. But that half acre literally pays for the other 9.5 acres, and paid to have almost 500 trees planted in the last 2 years, another 500 this fall...

For the other 9.5 acres- we have 450 feet roughly of river frontage, places to hunt and fish along the river, I've kept 7 acres of the 10 to be zone 4. Because I like wild forested spaces, and I can produce enough food on a smaller scale to not have to use the rest of the property for anything but forest plantings, hunting, and fishing. We have dozens of edible and medicinal species, which I'll rattle off a handful right now, but missing some:
Elderberry, hazelnut, paw paw,gingko, poplar, spruce, mulberry, apple, seaberry, rugosa rose, perennial clumping grasses, currants, serviceberry, and many more I cant think of at 5:30am. Most of which is thriving and surviving and growing quickly.

New outlooks: I hate to say it, but permaculture folks have left a very bad taste in my mouth in the last couple years. I considered myself a permaculturist since about 2008, I took Lawtons PDC. But then I started using landscape fabric on a half acre, which has upset dozens and dozens of people online, and many permaculture instructors have made it a point to attack us and our farm. It's kind of sad really, that we went through all this work, all this sacrifice, only to be booted out of the community because 5% of our paradise isnt perfection. And the catch 22, is our farm is called imperfect by them, and shunned because it doesnt resemble someone elses idea of perfection. Well, that my friends is a very subjective idea... perfection...

So, at this point, I've realized that most of the people criticizing farmers for not farming right, are mostly people who are still too scared to become farmers. I remember reading the "can you actually make money with permaculture" thread many years ago on this site, and I still wonder if you can.... the 9.5 acres of permaculture food forest are in their infancy stages, so many years before I'm picking fruit and nuts, instead of salad mix and broccoli. But the salad mix and broccoli (there are about 15 other crops we make money on) are what pays to continue "playing" permaculture. There are people out there "playing" farmer, I played farmer until I switched to something that kept the weeds down in my no-till garden... Now I am the farmer, we are farming, because we give the giant veggie farms at our market a serious run for their money. We have the premier quality product at our market, everyone else struggles to meet or match our quality, and we continue to sell out, year after year. We struggle to grow enough to meet demand, because people are thirsty for really high quality, really clean food.

The relentless frustrated criticisms by all the people out there in internet land finally got to me, and I quit trying to push my message online. People get hung up when they see the landscape fabric and cant look past it. At this point, I have lost a lot of faith in the permaculture world and movement, and I see it on the downword spiral. Mainly because of where it's gone, you have a handful of people making a lot of money in permaculture, and it's all being taken from the pockets of kids who have dreams of doing great things, but then they get out there and realize the world dont fart rainbows and unicorns. It's a tough world,you better be ready to make a good profit, without acquiring a shit load of debt, if you expect your farm to make it long term.

I have the beginnings of a permaculture food forest, in 10 years, most species will be producing, maybe then I'll write a book about how you need market gardening in order to subsidize the permaculture side of things. This is no fairytale world, there is no utopia. You can spend 30 years getting somewhere slowly with permaculture, or you could be there in 10 years by incorporating a half acre market garden into your permaculture... I was told by multiple permaculture educators that my methods and systems are a complete failure, and terrible advice. This has been thrown at me many many times now in the last couple years, whilst trying to promote my message and farm.



Travis, this is just my opinion, but I hope that it makes some level of sense.  If not I will learn from others opinions.  You're clearly doing great permaculture work on that 9.5 acres.  It takes a lot of time to develop a working permaculture system and in the meantime making money with annual agriculture seems like a great idea.  It let's you develop a loyal customer base, and as you start adding perennial goodies to your offerings to that base they will love what you guys are doing for them even more.  My personal view of what you are doing is that you have a job (the market garden) that pays the bills so that you can transition to a permaculture farm.  I go to an office job day after day, year after year, to pay the bills so that I can have a piece of land to grow food forests on.  I don't think an annual vegetable garden is a permaculture system, whether it has plastic or not, just as my office job is not a permaculture system, but you have to pay the bills.  I think your job gives you better alignment to transitioning to full permaculture as you can transition the annual gardens over to a permaculture planting when the 9.5 acres starts to pay the bills as well as the before mentioned ability to transition your current customer base.  My office job can't transition over other than perhaps a few skills that could be useful, though I fully expect that I will retire there.

For me a permaculture system has to mimic nature and the planting needs to ultimately maintain and build it's own fertility.  Annuals play a great role in permaculture plantings as mainly pioneering species after a disturbance which are quickly mostly replaced with perennials.  But you paying the bills with 5% of your land that has not yet transitioned to perennials in no way means your aren't a permaculturist on the 9.5 acres (and somewhat on the 0.5 acres if they get transitioned over and the annual market garden acts as a means to eliminate the unwanted perennials that were there)….it's just the equivalent of me going to the office...heck, probably much better as the plastic is less impactful than my commuting miles.  If you're doing what you love and paying the bills while building a permaculture farm then I say "Very good job sir!  Quite impressive!".  The pictures of your place are very beautiful and are a great testament to your hard work.  I can't see how anyone could put down the amazing stuff that you're doing.  I can't wait to see the picture of your food forest when it starts really hitting it's stride.  It will be amazing!

My only concern would be breakdown products from the plastic getting into your soil if you leave it there too long.  But many permaculturists use plastic at some point.  The famed Martin Crawford used plastic to kill the perennials in a space before moving the plastic and planting it out.  I use lots and lots of leaves and woodchips, but I'm doing things much slower than Martin or yourself, so that makes it more possible for me to do that.  I kind of think of this the same way as when people do earthworks with fossil fuel powered machines instead of with shovels.  Rapid transition is the payoff and it justifies itself by replacing modern farm produce and all the massive damage that that creates.
 
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Travis Schulert wrote:For the market garden- I used 20 year landscape geotextile fabric, and a fully automated drip irrigation system. We applied this to a no-till garden. Yes I know there are other ways to do it, and other ways to make money without using any plastics of any kind, and I encourage you to go out and be the example needed to show you dont need any plastic to be productive. But let me tell you we battled weeds and native rhizomes for 5 years, spinning our wheels. The first year on our new property, we tried doing the 20 year fabric and drip irrigation, this literally quadrupled the profits, for about half the work load as previous years. It literally saved our garden because I dont know how long I'd be able to farm and not make a good enough profit. But, that was my decision to use plastics on a half acre of my 10 acre poly culture food forest. But that half acre literally pays for the other 9.5 acres, and paid to have almost 500 trees planted in the last 2 years, another 500 this fall...



I can completely relate to this.  Where I'm from in Western Oregon, all of the sunny section of our property was habitat for the extremely aggressive perennial buttercup.  We ended up using a bit of landscape fabric around some of our raised beds, and in the annual/biennial section of the garden we tried cardboard and a foot+ of woodchips surrounding no till beds.  We had a spectacular garden for two people, though nothing like your production.  

Buttercup is a plant with a very dense root system, where any bit of root about 1 cm long will sprout into a new plant.  It's sort of like a starfish.  We also had bindweed and blackberry, but those were nothing in comparison.  Initially, I didn't even realize people considered bindweed a "weed" because the rhizomes pull so easy, plus you can feed them to animals.  Most animals can't eat buttercup, and if it grows to more than about 2 inches tall you can't pull it without many little rootlets breaking off and what's left in the soil turning into about 10 more little plants.  If you put it in a compost pile, unless it's smack dab in the middle, you end up with a beautiful pile of buttercup.  We had to have a special buttercup-bits pile in an area far from the annual/biennial garden.

The cardboard and woodchips only made it just barely manageable in three years of pulling and pulling and pulling.  After we moved, in two years it was a field of buttercup again.  An organic farm about 3 miles from us as the crow flies used landscape fabric in order to be successful. Where buttercup thrives, farming is very challenging.

I'm going into this amount of detail to try to point out that permaculture is hyperlocal, and every location will require it's own special solutions - many of which take years to figure out the best way.  Kudos to you for making a commercial enterprise work, for continuing to strive for a greater goal, and for sharing your experience with others.  We need these examples in the world!


Travis Schulert wrote:
New outlooks: I hate to say it, but permaculture folks have left a very bad taste in my mouth in the last couple years. I considered myself a permaculturist since about 2008, I took Lawtons PDC. But then I started using landscape fabric on a half acre, which has upset dozens and dozens of people online, and many permaculture instructors have made it a point to attack us and our farm. It's kind of sad really, that we went through all this work, all this sacrifice, only to be booted out of the community because 5% of our paradise isnt perfection... I was told by multiple permaculture educators that my methods and systems are a complete failure, and terrible advice.  



This is so painful to hear!  Permaculture does attract a sort of black and white, right and wrong, mentality at times.  Almost all future-thinking, revolutionary concepts do.  Please don't let the haters and criticizers diminish your enthusiasm, make you doubt yourself, or create hostility within you.  Their hostility is their problem.

I'm going to make some statements here that I have found to be true in my own life when I've been faced by intense criticism. These personal truths have helped me a lot over the years:

You do not need to defend your actions. Your successes speak for themselves. And you will never know how many people you've inspired, but I'm willing to bet that they are much, much greater in number than the people who've criticized you.

Thank you for sharing your inspiring update.  If you can continue to manage it, please keep giving us who dare to call ourselves permaculturists a chance to hear your stories and experiences.  :-)
 
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Greg Martin wrote:

Travis Schulert wrote:
I have 9.5 acres that But then I started using landscape fabric on a half acre, which has upset dozens and dozens of people online, It's a tough world,you better be ready to make a good profit, without acquiring a shit load of debt, if you expect your farm to make it long term.

I have the beginnings of a permaculture food forest, in 10 years, most species will be producing, maybe then I'll write a book about how you need market gardening in order to subsidize the permaculture side of things. This is no fairytale world, there is no utopia. You can spend 30 years getting somewhere slowly with permaculture, or you could be there in 10 years by incorporating a half acre market garden into your permaculture... I was told by multiple permaculture educators that my methods and systems are a complete failure, and terrible advice. This has been thrown at me many many times now in the last couple years, whilst trying to promote my message and farm.



Travis, this is just my opinion, but I hope that it makes some level of sense.  If not I will learn from others opinions.  You're clearly doing great permaculture work on that 9.5 acres.  It takes a lot of time to develop a working permaculture system and in the meantime making money with annual agriculture seems like a great idea.  It let's you develop a loyal customer base, and as you start adding perennial goodies to your offerings to that base they will love what you guys are doing for them even more.  My personal view of what you are doing is that you have a job (the market garden) that pays the bills so that you can transition to a permaculture farm.  I go to an office job day after day, year after year, to pay the bills so that I can have a piece of land to grow food forests on.  I don't think an annual vegetable garden is a permaculture system, whether it has plastic or not, just as my office job is not a permaculture system, but you have to pay the bills.  I think your job gives you better alignment to transitioning to full permaculture as you can transition the annual gardens over to a permaculture planting when the 9.5 acres starts to pay the bills as well as the before mentioned ability to transition your current customer base.  My office job can't transition over other than perhaps a few skills that could be useful, though I fully expect that I will retire there.

For me a permaculture system has to mimic nature and the planting needs to ultimately maintain and build it's own fertility.  Annuals play a great role in permaculture plantings as mainly pioneering species after a disturbance which are quickly mostly replaced with perennials. The famed Martin Crawford used plastic to kill the perennials in a space before moving the plastic and planting it out.  I use lots and lots of leaves and woodchips, but I'm doing things much slower than Martin or yourself, so that makes it more possible for me to do that.  I kind of think of this the same way as when people do earthworks with fossil fuel powered machines instead of with shovels.  Rapid transition is the payoff and it justifies itself by replacing modern farm produce and all the massive damage that that creates.



I see no problem with using weed suppressant on a small part of your land. We make so many other sacrifices that i really think we are justified. Without fabric for at least part of the year we would have to dig, which we dont do, or find a miraculous quantity of mulch. We cover for a month, uncover and allow weed seeds to germinater, recover to kill before planting, and cover any resting plots.
Martin Crafward does cover to clear his new food forest areas but uses a biodegradable fabric made from, I believe, paper. I did look at gettining so.e but it is out of my pension range.

Do what you have to do to move forward and be happy, change what you can when you can.
 
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Thanks for the kind words! I am definitely over the criticism at this point, but mostly because I left the social media platforms.

Thanks to drip irrigation and landscape fabric, I just got done planting another 200 trees since last Saturday.  Now I have a living food hedge around 5 of my 10 acres, soon to be a privacy screen, that comes along with currants, seaberry, kiwifruit and plums. Hurray for not spinning our wheels with farming techniques that wont ever allow us to get ahead!
 
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