Win a copy of The Tourist Trail this week in the Writing forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Dave Burton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Greg Martin

How to get started?

 
Posts: 55
Location: Mallorytown Zone 5a
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello all. I was wondering what kind of advise you can give regarding getting started. Right now the Mrs has 2 jobs and i'm doing 3 jobs (all part time) but I would like to ween myself away from working for someone else to working for me and providing some food and income for the family.

I guess the question is where to start. I have 20 acres, mainly 5 of pasture and the rest is wooded area and rock. I want to garden, food forest with trees and scrubs, various birds, smaller dwarf pigs or sheep, rabbits etc... Basically I want to do it all.

I'm just kinda stuck as to where to start the process. I would like to get something going that I can turn around pretty quick for a small income stream while longer term production gets slowly put into place. So garden or birds? Pond or trees? When I start to look at everything I want to do my brain gets a bit fried and I don't want to waste the season planning and not getting anything done.

Advice? Motivation? My budget is very small so it would be a growing process. What would you do?
 
Posts: 43
Location: NH
1
forest garden hunting trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pastured poultry is a fast turn around, 6 weeks from arrival to slaughter date.
I would recommend pastured Poultry profits to get started http://smile.amazon.com/Pastured-Poultry-Profit-Joel-Salatin/dp/0963810901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1435893943&sr=8-1&keywords=pastured+poultry+profits

Finding customers is the hardest part, but if you dont sell any at least you have your own home raised chicken to eat.
 
gardener
Posts: 1029
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi John,
The more info you provide, the better your response will be.

Some things that come to my mind when reading your post:
-Where is the land in relation to where you live?
-Are you living in a rural or urban area?
-How close is a market to you?
-You have 3 jobs. Do you really want a 4th or a 5th? Maybe what you really want is to experience nature or get your hands dirty. There are probably weekend initiatives in your area that would let you commit very little of your time and energy and gain some experience in growing things.
-Do you have the tools and ability to use them? Woods=cutting usually with a chainsaw. yikes.
-Do you have other abilities or passions that can match up with someone in your area who is already doing the things you want to do? It's better if you can start things up with a partner or two. Maybe you're good with computers or accounting or metalworking. Those are also valuable parts of any permaculture project.

As for potential for your land, assuming you really want to do something:
Gourmet Mushroom production is screaming out to me. Cut some trees, put in some plugs, stack and maintain. Once the initial work is done there's not much work involved, unless you soak the logs. Chickens as edge species, but you might find yourself investing too much time money in infrastructure as they need predator protection and food, ducks as mushroom protectors (slugs, snails).

I would also try to start with what is on the land. If you can earn 1 dollar without putting any effort other than harvesting, you're already miles ahead someone who is investing a lot and needs 1,000 dollars to break even. There is probably already stuff on the land that you could earn money from, you just need to find the person who will buy it, and that's the hard part and those connections will pay off in whatever future business you create. If you can make maintenance efforts match up with sales (like brush clearing for instance) then you can stack more functions into a specific activity.

best of luck,
William

 
master steward
Posts: 15992
Location: Left Coast Canada
3724
books chicken cooking fiber arts sheep writing
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A quick income stream is all well and good if you have someone to buy it. We've made a lot of mistakes starting our farm, investing time and money in a lot of projects, we didn't enjoy, that people have promised they would buy, only to have all this produce and no one to buy it. The nature of farming is that most of what we produce spoils rapidly. I've come to the realization that I'm not a super-duper sales person who can network in her sleep. I am however very good at growing things.

Eventually I've come to understand that this whole income stream that books and websites talk about, is just another capitalist style of interacting with the world - and not a style that thrills me. Yes, being able to make enough to support myself is good, but not the reason I started farming.

So I look at it a different way now. Every dollar I save, is worth two dollars I earn. Saving money is far more profitable than making money.

Hmmm... how to put it. Say I want to buy locally grown, no chemical added, sustainably grown eggs from happy hens. In the store, this costs $6 to $8 a dozen. To create the same eggs on my farm, it costs a little over $2. These are all local prices - this varies drastically depending on where you live. By having my own hens, my eggs cost me about $4 less, that's $4 that I save per dozen eggs. If I were to sell these same eggs, the wholesaler would pay $3 a dozen, the shop would pay $3.70, and the customer pays $4. So, if I sell my eggs, I could earn 1, 1.70, or 2 dollars respectively. By selling my eggs I make 2 dollars or less. By consuming my eggs I save 4 dollars or more. The money saved is twice the potential earning.

Of course I both sell and consume my eggs, so it's balanced. The eggs that are imperfect or that don't sell, won't go to waste, because I can use them in my home.



My thought on just starting out is to grow what you like to eat.

Start with a garden of less than 1000 square feet. Grow a great variety of foods THAT YOU ENJOY EATING, and OBSERVE how they grow, what resources they need to thrive, what your rainfall patterns are. Include as many staple crops in that garden as you can; dry beans, dry corn, grains. Just a few square feet of each. What grows, best, what grows worse? Observe what bugs you get and what other problems occur. Can you grow crops over winter. Can you try growing crops that other people don't normally grow where you live? Experiment. Save the seed from the successes. And most importantly, observe yourself - do you find yourself wondering aimlessly in the garden searching for some stray weed or has the garden become some overgrown due to your lack of time, or distance from home, or this just isn't your style of growing food?

Anything you grow, you use yourself and this saves you money. If you grow too much for your own use, then go to the farmer's market.

Once you have the garden set up, it's time to start thinking about animals. Animal manure makes the garden grow better than anything I've ever seen. Including animals in your system can be a great benefit. Some ducks eat slugs, geese mow grass, chickens bugs and grass. Then you got to decide what to do with what the animals produce. Do you eat meat? Are you willing to kill your own animal at home? Where's the local abattoir, and do they process on a small scale - ie less than a thousand head per batch? Do you have somewhere to store the meat? Do you have anyone to buy the meat or will you eat it yourself? What are the local laws about growing, selling, and processing meat?

Can you be at home dawn and dusk every day? Know that the time of dawn and the time of dusk change throughout the year. If you can, then chickens might be a good starting point. But they need to be secure from predators at night. If not, then perhaps starting with rabbits. The nice thing about bunnies is that their poo is plant ready after a couple of days - unlike chicken poo which takes a few years to be plant ready. Bunnies also have the best input to output ratio - fastest growing for the smallest amount of food. We've also had the most people interested in bunny meat and willing to pay more per pound than something more common like chicken or lamb. Bunnies can be ready in as little as 6 weeks from 'hatching' but usually 8 weeks is more regular. Then there is the problem of killing the cute little bunny... you think you can do it now, but wait till the time comes. There aren't many places that process rabbit, this is one of the reasons why it's not a common meat in the store. Then again, you could raise rabbits for fibre - angora fibre fetches a high price with handspinners - but then it takes one heck of a lot of work to grow it.

Bigger animals like sheep, goats, &C are great, but have a steep and expensive learning curve. Diet and care have a drastic effect on large livestock and can mean the difference between - for example - $75 for a fleece off one sheep, or all the sheep having garbage fleece that brings no income but plenty of expense. Starting with a smaller animal, keeping it healthy and safe, will teach you a great deal and prepare you for the larger ones.




Or to put it a bit more succinctly
- start small
- start one project, get it underway and calm before starting the next project.
- learn about your land through observation
- learn about yourself through observation
- try lots of different things
- when trying something for the first time, try it on a small scale to limit the losses if the venture fails.
- grow what you like to eat. Do it well. Then grow extra to sell.
- once you've gotten to know yourself, your land, and how to grow things you can use ... then it's time to grow for selling.
- get a library card and read as much as you can - remembering that each author is writing from their own experiences and what works for them might not work where you live
- read The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe.


Probably not the most popular path to farming, especially because it takes a different mindset than most of us are use to in the Western World, but it's the one I've discovered works for me.

Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure. Sounds like a nice bit of land.
 
steward
Posts: 4530
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1481
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The first thing that I'd do is observe, observe, observe... What things are already there? How can they be used? Who will pay you for them?

For example, what plants are dropping seeds during the year? How about collecting and selling or eating seeds?

What medicinal herbs grow on the place? How about collecting and selling medicinal herbs either dried or fresh?

Got any pine cones? Or interesting shaped grasses? Or acorns? How about collecting them for sale to craft stores?

Or collect suitable flowers for sale to a florist or at the farmer's market.

What vegetables or mushrooms are growing? How about feeding them to your family or taking them to the farmer's market as "wild-crafted"?

Are there too many trees? Are any of them suitable for building fences or buildings? Could any of them be sold to a lumber mill? or as firewood? or coppiced for poles?

Are there any weeping willows or other species that could be collected for basket weaving?

What about selling recreational activities? Fishing? Hunting? Hiking? Camping. Photography backdrops? Bed and Breakfast?

What's the gravel, rocks, and soil like? Does any of it have a higher use as decorative stone or building materials? Adobe/cob walls? Stone foundations, fences, or walls?

What's the insect population like? Are there any hole nesting bee species that could be cultivated for sale as pollinators?

The above are all activities that can be started with a budget of Zero... Just have to devote time to it, which isn't exactly free with so many jobs running around the family, but it's easy to find time for the things that we love doing.

Edited to echo my agreement with what R Ranson said: It's much easier for me to save a dollar than to earn a dollar. When I grow my own vegetable seeds. it's like a free gift to me. Buying vegetable seeds costs a tremendous amount of my labor. Making my own catsup takes labor, but it's labor that's easier to come by than the type of labor necessary to buy catsup from a store.

 
Posts: 1924
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
147
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If I were you I'd focus less on a quick money maker and put my energy into the long term stability and production. Actually, that is what I am doing.


If you have debt, make that your priority. Pay it off now.

Then start on infrastructure. It's the big one, the expensive one. Get that in place.

Then look at plants and animals. Start planting those trees and bushes. Get a cow or goat or whatever animals you forsee having.

Of course, be doing a kitchen garden the whole time along, expanding yearly.

Start slowly and it won't be a huge panic attack if something goes wrong. If the chickens get taken out by a predator or disease or the crops fail. So don't be quitting those jobs yet.

 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1029
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

R Ranson wrote:
Eventually I've come to understand that this whole income stream that books and websites talk about, is just another capitalist style of interacting with the world - and not a style that thrills me. Yes, being able to make enough to support myself is good, but not the reason I started farming.



That is one thing a person should sort out early on, and it's good you've mentioned it.
On the one hand, saving money can be done. It can be done well or poorly, successfully or unsuccessfully. If you observe well, you sometimes find that in efforts to save something very insignificant you go to great strides and spend lots of time and money doing it. But when you are able to not spend money it really helps.

On the other hand, if (and this is a big if - you really need to think about it) your goals are to do something worthwhile for other people and for your nearby ecosystem - that is, the first 2 ethics of permaculture - gathering and exploiting to maximum benefit the energy contained within money (however fictitious it may in reality be) might be something worthwhile.

Too often people are afraid to make money, like it's unholy or will turn you into a robot.
Strangely enough those are exactly the people who should be making money and doing awesome things with it.

Ben Falk talks about setting up economic "swales" to slow down the flow of money, spread it out and get it to nurture important things. I personally like that view and a lot of my current work is to those ends.
William
 
Posts: 31
Location: Melbourne
7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey John, you already got a lot of good advice. I'll just add that I wrote a post about starting a profitable permaculture farm.

To summarize the post:

Planning is critical – have a good design and install working landscapes
Keep your expenses low – embrace frugality and downsize your lifestyle
Have a savings buffer – accumulate cash while you can and before you need it
Start with a basic business plan – think how are you going to survive the next 18 months
Have a simple marketing strategy – put the bigger challenges to one side and start to focus on developing a small customer base from day 1
Learn how to manage your numbers – the math never lies about profit and loss
Invest in yourself if you want to succeed, find people you can learn from and learn from other peoples mistakes
If you don’t have your partners support none of this matters, you can’t make it alone
It’s going to be hard, anticipate the setbacks and plan for them

Good luck with your journey.

 
John Gratrick
Posts: 55
Location: Mallorytown Zone 5a
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi everyone and thanks for the responses...wow

Ok so I'll try to answer as much as I can, I'm sure I'll miss something but oh well.

Right now I'm living on the land. Total is just about 21 acres. We are rural but are 20 min away from a 22k pop town, 40 min from 150k+ and if we push it to 1 hour we are close to 900k city population.

I was thinking about chickens as a start but mainly for the eggs that they would give us. I can go through 2 cartons a week with my kids. Selling after we are taken care of is a possibility. There are 2 restaurants close to us but are supplied from suppliers so I may be able to do something exotic like microgreens but that will come in time. Right now we are testing out a small plot to see how the heavy clay soil is responsive to what we have. So far tomatoes, corn, lettuce/kale are doing well, the beans are doing great, peppers and zucchini not so much.

Local producers are very limited. We have 2 farmers markets close by, and one in the town 20 min away. the 2 close by operate one day a week for a few hours in the afternoon on the weekdays (Wed and Fri). The town seems better but haven't had a chance to investigate as been working.

It isn't so much about wanting more jobs as wanting fulfilling jobs. I would ultimately like to eliminate one job and replace its income from the farm. Then expand from there until the farm is providing my revenue.

Tools are an issue as money is tight. I have shovels and small hand tools but nothing more powerful like chainsaws, tillers, etc... so far everything is being done by hand.

So far there are a lot of sickly pine trees, a few maples here and there (too small to tap) and a few oaks that we have been planting from collecting acorns from the park. Apart from that I've been harvesting some cattails from the back of the property, dandelions from wherever looks clean and been getting weird looks at the dinner table. Its free so oh well.

Infrastructure I want is mainly chicken coop, goose or duck house and maybe cold frame as well as solar dehydrator. I don't really want big buildings all over the place. I want to enjoy the openness of it all. I've put in some roses, a dwarf cherry tree, red currants, rhubarb, asparagus, and 15-ish strawberry plants I got for free from job #2.

I've been banking about 35% from each pay to set aside for bigger purchases or bulk buys when I can get any deals on things (or retirement: thanks to ERE and mrmoneymustache).

I've been trying to develop some kind of land design as to where to put this and that, but I can't seem to get things to a point where I'm happy with them. I'm willing to risk some of my small savings to start up, that doesn't bother me even if I lose it, at least I tried. My main hindrance is that I want to do everything to the point where I overwhelm myself with what I want to do and in the end do very little. I need to come up with a to do list and work from that.

Thanks to everyone for the great ideas and responses
 
Posts: 99
Location: zone 6a, north america
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hey john,

there's so many gems already in this thread, but to riff off everyone else, for me, the wisest investments are the ones that kickstart the exponential function found everywhere in nature. if you don't have a specific direction yet, then pick ones that build your foundation (like the soil) and fill in the details as you go. like a chicken tractor and a 55 gallon drum to make biochar for instance.

also, i bet ya a golden acorn that if you got 15+ acres of woods, there's much more there then some scraggly pines and small maples. much much more.

one last thing: someone on one of the threads mentioned using a cheap sawzall with some wood blades for cutting wood less than an arm diameter. since then, i've using one for pretty much everything i'm doing right now. the chainsaw sits on the shelf.
 
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!