I'm looking to learn a hands on skill in building something useful that I can sell either locally or online (etsy, or something like that). I don't have any particular skills now, but I've had interest in learning all kinds of things from woodworking to metal works, to anything else. I'd like it to be a low cost upfront investment - meaning I don't want to spend $1000 on a welder just to get started. Preferably I could do it all the old fashioned way with hand tools.
Since I'm starting from scratch anyways, I'm wide open to any ideas you all can share with me. Nothings off limits if I can start with low investment costs, and I'm actually building something with my hands that is useful and that I can sell. All ideas are welcome and appreciated.
@Steve - I'm not totally sure what I enjoy, to be honest. Currently I have sheep, rabbit, one cow, and chickens on about 5 acres of my land, the rest is wooded and/or unused for now. I have plenty of room to grow or raise anything that would be good for my little cottage business, if there is opportunity for that.
I like spending my time outdoors, but it's really on the rainy days and cold winter days that I have a ton of free time that I'd like to spend creating things for this business.
I can't say what I enjoy, because I haven't experimented with much yet. I guess if I was forced to define what I think I'd enjoy, it would be to make something from scratch where the materials come directly from my farm - either plant or animal based. Just as an example - I could see myself enjoying growing bamboo on my property, then harvesting it and learning to make useful things from it. I don't actually have bamboo on my property, but that's just a very generic example of something I think I'd like. I hadn't heard of corn dollies before, but after David mentioned it I looked it up and that is roughly in line with what I'd like to do. Although, I think I'd rather work with wood or metal (or both) before straw.
But, again, one of my top priorities is that the initial investment is as close to $0 as possible. We live 100% on our minimal farm income and outside investments, so while I'm not poor I don't have a lot of free money to get started.
wooden spoons or rakes, hammer,ax,hoe, handles,coloring book boxes,bee hives, brooms,book cases,picture frames,butcher block,bows and arrows,. theirs just lots of things that you can make of wood that takes very little investment in tools or knowledge . good luck
we don't have a problem with lack of water we have a problem with mismanagement
beavers the original permies farmers
If there is no one around to smell you ,do you really stink!
Any ideas where you are gonna sell your stuff. If you want to sell at the local farmer's market, go there and see if there is anything you want to make. Also pay attention to what people buy. Ideally you can find something that people want to buy. It is probably counterproductive for you to spend a lot of time making something nobody wants to buy, or buy for $1, when it takes you 100 hours to make one.
This article on Wired is about a guy who searches dumpsters for stuff (mainly electronics, seems like) to fix and sell. There are some.... enthusiastic... dollar figures quoted, but I believe the premise is still sound.
I like these ideas. I've been planing to build a bat house for awhile, so I may start with that. I can make one to use, and take a picture to try to sell it. If it sells, I can quickly make more and see where it takes me.
I'm also super jealous of the dumpster diving guy. I lived in Austin for 12 years, and I remember distinctly when the Circuit City was going out of business - the same one mentioned in the article. I was probably in the store paying half price the same days he was in the dumpster getting things for free...
I made a chicken tractor just like this one (the picture isn't mine) and I have had several offers to buy it or build one for people to buy. They aren't hard at all. If you cut the parts for several at a time, you could make them much faster, but I built mine in 6 or 8 hours for the first one.
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
I am not sure how it works in other places, but here our local grocery store does a salad bar where people come in and grab some lunch and pay by the pound.
I always thought for a micro-farm, they could contract with the store to tap into the the "Buy Local" movement and furnish all the fixings for the salad bar. A simple sign could say, "all local, so limited selection, but for a reason". I think with a greenhouse and a few acres of land a Permiculture Farm could do well. People would get a warm fuzzy feeling for buying local, the store would have the same, if not more salad bar customers, and a Permicultural farm could do well fiscally. Grow some lettuce, peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc. Some potatoes for the salad bar, eggs, vinegar for a salad dressing. Sunflowers for the sunflower seeds, apples for apple slices or apple sauce, etc...you get the idea.
It would be a bit scary to have 100% on the line with one store, BUT the greater the risk, the greater the reward too!
A sincere thank you to all of Permies Forums for making Christmas special to Katie and I, and our four daughters. Thank you!
Suggestion: Start small and try lots of different things to see what people will buy.
I planted bamboo on the edge of my property. One day my neighbor mentioned they were going to cut it all down, and I had to remind her that that section was on MY property and I had planted it intentionally with the hope of making something useful out of it. Made a few temporary fences with some, and it worked great but too flimsy for the most part. Plan to harvest some, hang by the small end in the barn to dry, after cutting off all branches (the goats will eat that), and selling as fishing poles at the Farmer's market after fitting with line, hooks, sinkers and floats. Just one item among many.
You will grow into whatever you are doing, and expand it as you go, once you see what the market is.
Years ago my brother tried to teach me to weave rush seats. He was refinishing some old chairs for a customer. They had a section of rush in the center of the wooden seat which had worn through. He told be that this weaving was something that refinishers often had a hard time with as they, themselves, didn't usually like to do but it was difficult finding someone who would.
Perhaps either of these jobs would suit your circumstance. Find some broken down furniture at thrift stores to practice on. A table or chair and supplies would cost under $100. Your local library will provide the instruction.
I'm always saying that the trades will always be in demand, and that skilled "repair" people are becoming a dying breed. Probably plumbing and electric are not on your list but for years I've been looking for someone to repair my tools. I have an old digging fork with bent tines, an old shovel with a cracked and shriveled handle, a bunch of hand tools that I found in the workshop when I bought the house - rusty and dinged, etc. I know most homesteaders take care of these things themselves DIY, but for those of us who don't have a forge or the strength or experience (old lady here), we're willing to pay for the service. I even struggle with just sharpening my loppers. I know we're in a disposable society but I believe anyone who has inherited their grandfather's scythe would pay for repair and sharpening in a heartbeat, rather than buying new. If you live close enough to a farm & garden store you could arrange with them to set up a table on Saturdays for people to drop off and pick up their tools. Only thing is you need someone to teach you the skills.
If you decide to make and sell stuff, be prepared for the time and skills required to sell them. Especially the kind of items mentioned in this thread which are fairly common so there is a lot of competition. Craft sellers spend a lot of time at farmers markets, craft shows, managing an Etsy shop.... It can take several years to make much money, and that's only if you're really good at marketing, networking, advertising, not to mention the length of time necessary to learn the craft. (sorry to be a Debbie downer but it IS hard and requires super passion and commitment).
Dumping my brain here - ANOTHER possibility is to produce organic mulch. Organic gardening is becoming more popular in cities so if you have chickens and can get free woodchips and leaves dumped at your place - you can turn it over and sell it on Craigslist. Find a landscaper to recycle their store bought mulch bags to you, or offer it "bag your own". You can start with just your fork and shovel and muscle to test demand in your area. Start the pile now and it should be ready to sell next spring.
Many good ideas on here. Another, perhaps, is building raised beds from free pallets. I approached our local natural food co-op store about me assembling one for display so people could see the end product and then selling kits out of the co-op. The manager was all for it. I could also then offer to deliver the kit, assemble it, and maybe even get soil into it as added offered services, for extra fees, of course. Around where we live the raised beds are not cheap! I would also stain the wood and put a layer of protection on it with a non-toxic product I found (for which I cannot find the link at the moment) so they last much longer. And if I had the time and was feeling really creative, I would also offer to add either some color or draw some designs or simple flowers on them (that's the extent of my art ability ). I would also post them on Craigslist and approach any other privately owned store in our area that might have customers interested in a raised bed. In your zone, now would be the best time to get going on that! Here are a couple of links to videos on youtube giving ideas on building raised beds from pallets:
Another idea also using free pallets is to build free-standing bookshelves. I did that also and it came out great! The only thing I paid for was the side of the bookshelves since the pallets I had did not have long enough boards for my needs, and the hardware. Solid wooden bookshelves are pricey. And as was mentioned, once you have your parts list, pre-cut quite a few which will make the whole process much faster. I stained the bookshelf to pull together the different color wood pieces from the different pallets so it would look more uniform. It came out very well and quite solid. The finished bookshelf was 72" H x 15" D x 42" W and ended up costing about $40. Your profit margin from that would be a nice chunk. And if you built lower standing bookshelves, you wouldn't even need to purchase the side pieces for the height; you could just use the pallet wood for that also and your only cost would be the hardware and a bit of stain, but that often can be gotten free on freecycle.org which is where I got mine.
So many possibilities!
A friend of mine has a deal with some of our local restaurants, where he picks up their kitchen knives on a scheduled basis, takes them home to sharpen by hand and returns them. He is very detailed in his work and makes sure they're just so before returning them.
To properly sharpen a chainsaw chain is also a useful service.
With forty shades of green, it's hard to be blue.
Garg 'nuair dhùisgear! Virtutis Gloria Merces