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City Dweller looking for starting point

 
John Victor
Posts: 1
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Hi all,

I don't know if this is the best place to put this so if it is not please send me in the right direction. I am 24 and I am currently working full time while pursing a degree in civil engineering part time. I make a comfortable living and I am paying for school as I go so I'll be debt free and have a degree in about 2 years. My problem is I want to move away from the city and I am stuck in a very weird catch 22.

How could I put this type of degree and experience to work in a more rural area? How do I find a place to work in this type of area in this kind of field? All my classmates want to build huge city structures I wold rather help design/build a single family house that is super sturdy and will last for as long as possible. I currently work in building restoration; managing projects to restore historic buildings or repairs portions of them. This type of work has very little overlap with the type of place I'd like to move to once I get myself established better.

An even more difficult problem is how to gain exposure to the homestead/permaculture lifestyle. I was born and raised in the city. I am in for quite the change and I don't know how to really go about starting. I grow vegetables and plants on my back patio but I'm growing out of 5 gallon buckets since I don't even have a backyard. I love camping and being out in the woods and would love to have a place I could go to garden and build my own homestead slowly over time but how can I even start when I know so little and I am so far away.

Long story short: I feel like I am stuck I want to learn and work on different skills but I have already gotten so far in a different subset of work/life.

 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
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The first thing to do when you realize you are in the hole is to stop digging.

That said, there are lots of civil engineering projects needed for rural areas, it is just that they contract big firms from the big city to do it.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 384
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Some cities have rural areas fairly near the city. You could work in the city and live in the country. I'm in MO. Joplin isn't that big but has rural areas all around it, just outside the city limits. I'm sure there are some civil engineering jobs there. In a bigger city, you'd want to live on same side of the city as your rural area.

Growing anything you can where you're at is a good idea. A little experience is way better than none. How are the buckets working out? I have a lot of Eartboxes. They work great because of the water reservoir. They are pretty expensive. They are pretty expensive though I grow strawberries on my deck, mainly.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 384
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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What part of the world are you in?
 
Marc Mindy
Posts: 9
Location: South Boston, Massachusetts
urban
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Hi John!
Welcome to the Catch 22 world we all are in! (Well maybe not all of us, but the city people at least...) It is an amazing dichotomy and frustration that arises between wanting and needing the city, and wanting and needing to be as far away from it as possible.
Marc and I are in Boston, and as an example there actually is a homesteading world to be had here. It just is that urban homesteading looks a bit (lot) different that those folks out on the range.
Have you reached out to other like-minded people in your city? Surely they exist! We sidewalk-shufflers all dream of the vast great yonder! Take stock of all of the resources in your area. For example, in Massachusetts, we have an organization that entrusts and conserves property for the alleged benefit of society down the line. Well, one of their programs is a Master Urban Gardener program. Guess the type of people that are in this program? (Many homesteader types!)
So, I say, while you wisely work off your schooling, take stock of all of the organizations in your city that have a homesteader / gardening / herbalism / farming / outdoor bent. And keep pushing the envelop on indoor growing!

Two other thoughts:
1) We bought a travel trailer and stuck it permanently on a campsite in the country, ~ 1 hour from Boston. Think, "wicked cheap summer home" in the woods. Boo ya!
2) You are clearly a successful young man. BUT, it is not too late to change careers. Think carefully about what you really want. Get your cards read (Just kidding!)

Take care,
Mindy (of The Walking Herbalist)
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 384
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Most cities probably have some gardening or homesteading Meetup groups. If yours doesn't, it's not hard to start one. It takes a while to get it going. I have a SciFi Meetup group. It's only been about 4 months. I have 12 members, but I'm not having much luck getting them to communicate. Think we may all be introverts! You might not have that problem with a garden group.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1117
Location: northern northern california
65
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well its definitely more risky in this weird world we have these days, but maybe you could think about "flipping" houses. buying extremely cheap distressed properties, that you have to see some potential in obviously, fixing them up and then selling them at a profit.

in a different market from once ago, this gave many people an income and kept them building up resources. i mention this mostly because it seems what fulfills you and the work you like is in restoring, retrofitting, and building. you could have a reg job and do this on the side, part time, having no boss and just make something nice. even if it flops, you couldnt go so wrong buying a really cheap fixer upper and gaining the sweat equity you would willing to put in.

and we were all newbies once =) and had to jump in at some point, over our heads for a while, until you start up the learning curve.



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Jules Harrell
Posts: 43
Location: upstate NY near MA/VT
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Depending on where you are now, I suggest weekend woofing. I have two woofers coming this summer from Boston. We are three hours away. I would guess that there are woof farms near your city. Offer your services on weekends. You can learn while spending part of your time in the country, meanwhile living in the city and pursuing your goals. Jules
 
Aaron Barkel
Posts: 30
2
chicken duck trees
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Hi John,

I just found this forum today an your post made me register. I am in the process of building my own homestead an your post hit home. As a computer programmer of 25 years, I also didn't have the experience or necessarily the resource to "get started", but I i had the drive. I live about 75 miles from dallas, TX and used to live in suburbia with all the little houses on 1/10th acre lots where the neighbors would drive directly into their garages and never come outside. I knew I didn't want to continue this lifestyle, but wasn't sure how to get started. I used my wife's Amazon Prime account to start reading every book I could find on the subject of permaculture and homesteading. We sold our house and walked away with enough to put down 50% on 7.5 acres with a mobile home, a pond and a small orchard on it. Our monthly mortgage is about $600 and we live on my wife's income. We have given up a lot of amenities like fast internet and roadside garbage pickup, but we have gained freedom and and a much better way of life. Our plan is to both be working the homestead in 3-5 years.

As for your catch 22, I assume you are living in an apartment or a rented house. The first thing to do is learn to live on half of your current income. Save the other half for the next 2 years. If you can't learn to live on a budget and stick with it, this life may not be for you. Give up soda and switch from cable to over the air broadcast signal. If you can't give up cable, this life may not be for you. Rid your fridge, freezer and pantry of "fast foods" (frozen pizzas, pre made meals, etc) If you can't cook or don't like to cook, this life may not be for you. Start reducing your outputs. Get rid of paper towels and paper plates. Use wash cloths an regular plates instead. Get rid of zip lock bags and use tupperware. Look at your garbage. How can you reduce the amount you are producing? Kcups filling up your trash? Buy a regular coffee maker with a reuseable filter screen. Homesteading is a lot more about making healthy Earth friendly choices than just growing your own food. I know this paragraph sounds a bit negative, but it is intended to make you really think about your life choices and start forming good habits that will carry onto your homestead. It is also intended to REALLY make you consider what homesteading is all about. It is not just going out to harvest food everyday. When I started, I had this romantic notion of red barns and campfire songs with the twins. It's a lot less romantic when your coming in sweaty, muddy and wiped out after a 15 hour day of digging fence posts or toting chicken feed. I don't want to discourage you, but I won't sugar coat it either. It is hard work, but it is satisfying work.

Now that you have graduated college and have your degree and you have been saving for 2 years, you should have a small nest egg. Look for distressed properties in your area. Try and look in the 5-10 acre range. I wouldn't buy any larger than that unless you can put down at least 50%. Remember, you want to keep your monthly bills low, because homesteading has a loooonnnnnnggggggggg ROI on almost every project. Fruit trees take 3-5 years before you will have fresh preserves. Berry bushes are 1-2 years before you get berries. Affordable chickens usually require a couple of months of food before you start seeing any eggs. All that adds up each month. Here is where learning to live on half your income in the last paragraph comes in. Now that you already living on only half of your income, you have 25% for new projects an 25% for maintaining existing ones. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Buy a second hand lawn tractor. You'll need it. don't buy a full size tractor. It will only put you in debt and it isn't cost effective initially. Join your local Facebook groups with group names that contain ranching, farming, animals, goats, chickens, poultry, bees, etc. You can often fin goo deals on use equipment in these groups. Try not to buy anything new. The oler, the better quality and probably less expensive it will be. If you intend to work in your chosen profession for a while, you may need to travel an hour or more to get from your job to your homestead each day. Buy a cheap car that gets really good gas mileage. Avoid buying fancy expensive cars that will put you in debt. (Remember you are trying to reduce your monthly debt.) Pay cash for the car. Use it to get back and forth to work. Pay cash for a pickup truck. You'll need it to haul building materials and animal feed. Again (and I can't stress this enough), pay cash for it. It doesn't have to be fancy or new. It just has to be reliable. Who cares if it's dinged and dented. No one at the feed store is going to be impressed either way.

I could give you a lot more advice, but if you follow the suggestions above, they will put you on the right track. Buy the book, "The Backyard Homestead". Read it cover to cover at least a dozen times. Even if you don't think the chapter pertains to you, it does, you just don't know it yet.
 
Mark Warren
Posts: 69
Location: Maine
2
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Would you consider Northern Maine ? I have an acre or two that you can work on in exchange for helping me. Work the acreage properly and in short order you could be making money. This is an excellent area to live. Almost all the people are just plain good. There are jobs available as well. We could build you a Cabin on skids. When you put together about $ 3000.00, I know of many in the area that will finance you. Especially if they can see the work you have already completed. Load the cabin on a truck then move to your own place. You will also have the outbuildings you will need to be up and in operation. Things you will need like an outhouse, woodshed on skids, smoker on skids, etc.. I think you get the idea.
 
Ferne Reid
Posts: 98
Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
1
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Hi John,

You didn't say where you live and/or what areas of the country you would be willing to consider. You might get more replies that way.

We could use some help down here in West Tennessee.

 
ValiJo Miller
Posts: 13
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Since you posted your info a month ago, my first question is "Have you found your place to be?"
If you are still looking for options, and if you would be interested in a place in MT, I would like to visit with you.
I have been a host/teacher to interns and Helpers for about 10 years now. My land has many opportunities and options.
It also is an old homestead with historic interest, and one of my goals is to get it listed on the historic register.
 
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