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I want to quit farming  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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My food forestry is supplemented with other resources but I recognize how difficult it must be to farm for a living.  I've read other threads discussing the worldwide rise in suicide and depression among farmers.  This video kind of made it real.    In the posted video Stefan Sobkowiak talks about a really bad day on the farm. 

I'd like to thank him for sharing and being so open with his thoughts and feelings.  Hopefully, this will help someone who is having a bad day on the homestead.

 
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Working with Mother Nature is hard, she doesn't cooperate with the deadlines of human beings.  Working with people as customers, who always need to be right, is hard, too.  Farmers have to have a tough skin.  People think they want to get back to Nature, but when they do they are stunned by what Nature is, most of the time. 

Farming seems to take a LOT of blind faith, perseverence, a knowlege of MANY sciences (soil biology, plant pathology/genetics, entymology, biochemistry, fluid mechanics, hydrology, just to name a few), a willingness to maintain engines and equipment, water lines, electrical setups, solar setups, battling rodents/animals/insects and the weather.  Working from January to June before getting any money out of it if it's crops.  Making wine takes years.  Selling eggs is a constant vigil to protect the chickens.  There's even more than this...

As far as perseverance goes, we have to try, try, try again.  It never is really any other way.  I come from a line of farmers, so I guess it's in my genes to never give up.   But if taking a break from it for a day or two gives one new ideas on how to fix it, how to make it better, then that's a good sign.

I'm sure you know all this, but when it's put into a paragraph it reminds us of how much it really is.   Farmers have gotten the reputation for being dummies who work in the dirt, it couldn't be further from the truth. 

And the most important thing is farmers need to raise and sell what people want, not what they want.  That is the No. 1 rule of any kind of retail or selling of anything.   There has to be Plan B, Plan C, and a backup plan.   Farming isn't quick, it isn't guaranteed, it isn't for people who need a result Right This Second.  Sometimes it's just plain cruel.  But it is also about looking at the bigger picture over the long run.

I have a second job in the off season, just because I can't hang everything on farming, it would be too stressful.

If you feel like roadkill at the end of the day, and the thought of going out there again is a miserable one, and this happens more than once a month,  then maybe it doesn't suit.  All the independence and pride in a bushel of tomatoes can't make up for not being able to make a living at it.
 
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Yeah, I watched this one, too.  Good stuff from Stefan. 

He started ramping up his YouTube channel a few months ago and is now putting out videos about once/week.  Some great permie content.   
 
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I think something like 80/100 of all biz fail in the 1st year and by year 3 another 16/20 fail.
So in 3yrs something only 4 out of 100 new biz make it and farming is a biz.

So dont be too discourage that you farming biz or t-shirt biz or restaurant or etc biz fail completely or that you have to supplement it.  Just keep up the good fight you are already doing better than the avg guy.
 
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S Bengi wrote:I think something like 80/100 of all biz fail in the 1st year and by year 3 another 16/20 fail.
So in 3yrs something only 4 out of 100 new biz make it and farming is a biz.

So dont be too discourage that you farming biz or t-shirt biz or restaurant or etc biz fail completely or that you have to supplement it.  Just keep up the good fight you are already doing better than the avg guy.



If you make it a lifestyle and not a business it's not a big deal in farming.

IMHO that is the problem with many people in farming. They try to make it a business not a lifestyle and then have to get off the land when it utterly fails.

The best option is having diversified streams of income, and not all of them from the farm.
 
S Bengi
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I completely agree, I wouldn't quit a "day job" until I feel more secure in the new farm biz.

And yes there is homesteading/permaculture lifestyle and there is making money from a farm biz.
Some people just do homesteading and make their money doing online work, craft, restaurant, trade or office job.

Dont forget to enjoy your homesteading lifestyle and it is not a all or nothing game.
It is okay if you work part time at the "office" and at other time on the farm.

If you could get a seasonal winter job, working in the office and do the farm during the summer, that could be another way to make ends meet while still focusing on the farm.

 
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Just in case anyone watching Stefan Sobkowiak's "I want to quit" video doesn't realize who he is and what he has going, here is a link to his web site for Miracle Farms the Permaculture Orchard

The farm was originally developed as a commercial monoculture apple orchard, transitioned to organic upon purchase in 1993, and certified organic in 1996. Starting in 2007, five acres have been converted to a permaculture-inspired “u-pick” orchard. Plants, fruits and vegetables grown here include over 100 cultivars of apples, 18 cultivars of pears, asian pears, plums, cherries, peaches, paw-paws, hardy kiwi, grapes, mulberries, gooseberries, redcurrant, blackcurrant, saskatoon berries, raspberries, strawberries, and a whole range of herbs and perennial vegetables.



The orchard is designed to promote maximum diversity of plant, insect and animal species, with a special focus on creating habitat. This results in a high population of pollinators and other beneficial insects, as well as birds. Together they help control pests. Not only does this increase fruit yield, but it also greatly reduces the amount of maintenance work necessary, since a lot of it is being done by the eco-system itself.




 
Scott Foster
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Cristo,

I think everything you just said really applies to the new economy.  I am on my third small business and I can say that getting rid of the resistance in your own brain is the biggest hurdle.

Most of us are and were trained in a system based on the industrial system.  Seth Godin has some great ideas regarding this concept.  I'm probably butchering the idea. 

The industrial system and the promises that came with it are gone.  It seems that many think it's going to get better based on this old model and it's not.

We've been trained to get a roadmap when we work and this doesn't work if you are an entrepreneur (I include a permy farmer in this fold.)     It sounds like you have a background that hardened you and allowed you to work towards a goal with the possibility of failure.  Many, myself included, were trained for a sure outcome.

I'm working my way through it and I'm very happy I'm aware of it.

https://youtu.be/nt4E-x0hIE8
 
Scott Foster
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S Bengi wrote:I think something like 80/100 of all biz fail in the 1st year and by year 3 another 16/20 fail.
So in 3yrs something only 4 out of 100 new biz make it and farming is a biz.

So dont be too discourage that you farming biz or t-shirt biz or restaurant or etc biz fail completely or that you have to supplement it.  Just keep up the good fight you are already doing better than the avg guy.




I agree, but working hard isn't necessarily the goal.  Working smart and evolving is important. I've tried the push forward, keep working it will get better.  NOt so much, you can work less and work smart.  You can't work hard and work dumb.   Being self-aware and not hiding from issues is really important.

Seth Godin says fail more to succeed.  


https://youtu.be/fGdYG5FWls8
 
Scott Foster
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Thanks, Judith!  I should have given some background.  :-)
 
Scott Foster
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J Anders wrote:

S Bengi wrote:I think something like 80/100 of all biz fail in the 1st year and by year 3 another 16/20 fail.
So in 3yrs something only 4 out of 100 new biz make it and farming is a biz.

So dont be too discourage that you farming biz or t-shirt biz or restaurant or etc biz fail completely or that you have to supplement it.  Just keep up the good fight you are already doing better than the avg guy.



If you make it a lifestyle and not a business it's not a big deal in farming.

IMHO that is the problem with many people in farming. They try to make it a business not a lifestyle and then have to get off the land when it utterly fails.

The best option is having diversified streams of income, and not all of them from the farm.



You are dead-on with this.  Having multiple streams applies in anything entrepreneurial.
 
S Bengi
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I don't like the rat race where we are wage slaves living paycheck to paycheck.
I am not too keen on the idea that I should quickly make some workers dependent on me and I take half of the work that they do.
Instead I hope that everyone can be more free.

And even when it comes to being self-employed, I dont want to waste my life away working hard to give apple $1000 yearly for the next Iphone.

Instead I hope that we can all get to a point where we have pre-paid for shelter, solar-HVAC, solar-electric, septic, water and food.
And thus we can life a semi-retired life, just doing 3month gigs to cover consumables, treats, communications and such.

Electric-bicycle and electric-motorcycle could actually be prepaid for to, so that 1/2 of transportation is pre-paid.
Even vacations can be done with a mobile home, specifical a wind powered(motion, electric, water) sailboat

But all of that takes time, and alot of effort.
 
pollinator
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I did quit!  At various times I have thought I wanted to be a farmer, because I admire people who can grow food for other people.  But I have a black thumb and am not single-minded enough to farm, so I have given up the idea of farming.  I'm just going to keep puttering with permaculture food systems, but I'm never again going to fool myself into thinking I can make any $ from farming.  No more farming for me, just home-scale permaculture.
 
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Scott Foster wrote:My food forestry is supplemented with other resources but I recognize how difficult it must be to farm for a living.  I've read other threads discussing the worldwide rise in suicide and depression among farmers.  This video kind of made it real.    In the posted video Stefan Sobkowiak talks about a really bad day on the farm. 

I'd like to thank him for sharing and being so open with his thoughts and feelings.  Hopefully, this will help someone who is having a bad day on the homestead.



Most people (not the video author) make basic mistakes:

1) Not enough planning/preparation
2) Rushing into things without thinking
3) Not enough money in the bank when starting out
4) Starting too many things on the farm at once and getting overwhelmed
5) Treating the farm in romantic ways instead of treating it as a business

The whole lifestyle vs business thing is actually the opposite - if you do not get OVERLY (that's the keyword here) emotionally invested, you have a better chance of success.

Farming can also be like horsemanship - just because you had Daddy doing it, doesn't mean he did it right. I can't tell you how many people I have met that have grown up with horses and still don't understand them and know how to work with the properly. Same with farming. So on and so on.

These days to make a living doing it, best way to go about it is to start mortgage free. There are quite a few folks around here that inherit land but still don't want to touch it. Then there are people who would kill to own a few acres free and clear so they can farm them, but they cannot afford to do so. if you can't start mortgage free, you need to have a good bank account backing you up, work from home preferably or have the significant other have a good solid job in town. Being that we are a 3rd world country with our "healthcare system", not having health insurance is assuming a HUGE risk where one problem can cause you to lose everything. Hence, having the significant other bring in money and insurance sure helps allay some of the risks and stresses. It is hard and this is why the average "farm" has increased in size and the number of "farms" has decreased.

Finally, a big problem is being a slave to a philosophy or a particular method of doing things.

The BIGGEST problem of all are books, magazines and magazine articles, videos and online brands written and made by people who came into farming with a substantial bank account or a substantial land inheritance from their parents. They will almost NEVER disclose this but will make it look all easy and neat. Well yeah, if I spend 15 years in New York trading stocks for a living and retired with 7 figures in the bank, I too can play farmer. ALWAYS ask first - what did the author bring to the table to start with. If they are not willing to start their book, article, website or video with that disclosure, you should be suspect of the contents. So for example, you may revere someone like Joel Salatin (many small farmers do). However, the first question you should ask is how he got into his land. Did he buy it at a fair price? Did he get it as a gift? I am sure he has published this somewhere, I am not picking on him, just using a household name for an example. Around his area of Virginia land now goes for $10K+ an acre. Just to get started on a small homestead would be $50K right out the door and that means no water, no internet, no infrastructure and ... nowhere to live (no house).

A lot of people make the mistake of reading these books, articles, videos while sitting in their cubicles, thinking life is better on the other side of the fence. What invariably happens is they get land with a mortgage and must keep the job in town. Now all of a sudden they have two jobs - the one in town and the one running their farm. The bigger mistake they make is that they immediately start 10 projects, load up on animals that need daily tending. It is all a ruse for the most part, propagated by the well to do book, video and magazine authors. Only the well heeled can debate the finer points of a solar charging system and spending days building the right stand for the panels etc. etc. Most people on a farm have so much to do, they will prop whatever panel they have found to charge whatever deep cycle battery they could muster. The whole image of the clean, neat, small farmer is almost a scam, just like any other money making business out there. The photos of the clean lady in her lavender field, smiling in the sun, perfectly dressed etc. etc. Sure, but if you look at that photo and think EVERY DAY will be like that - you have been had. There are many ways to sell you an idea, an implement, a new way to start seeds, a new method to do something, if only you would buy someone's book or whatever....
 
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I'm loving the thread as I feel this way this week! I want out! (but not really...)

Thanks for sharing the video Scott Foster. The big shift from seeing it as a business to living it as a lifestyle is so crucial though $ is important. But the emotional investment is indeed HUGE. I can struggle to see the bigger picture when overwhelmed with workload as my partner and I are shooting for meeting many of our long terms needs upfront without a large bank account. My installed PV solar and therefore don't need to worry about monthly bills.

"The BIGGEST problem of all are books, magazines and magazine articles, videos and online brands written and made by people who came into farming with a substantial bank account or a substantial land inheritance from their parents. They will almost NEVER disclose this but will make it look all easy and neat. Well yeah, if I spend 15 years in New York trading stocks for a living and retired with 7 figures in the bank, I too can play farmer. ALWAYS ask first - what did the author bring to the table to start with. If they are not willing to start their book, article, website or video with that disclosure, you should be suspect of the contents. So for example, you may revere someone like Joel Salatin (many small farmers do). However, the first question you should ask is how he got into his land. Did he buy it at a fair price? Did he get it as a gift? I am sure he has published this somewhere, I am not picking on him, just using a household name for an example. Around his area of Virginia land now goes for $10K+ an acre. Just to get started on a small homestead would be $50K right out the door and that means no water, no internet, no infrastructure and ... nowhere to live (no house). "


Well said. isn't PC all about local and appropriate solutions. Following a philosphy or techniques can be dangerous. The idea of failing more to succeed seems a vald approach, one that i'm employing regularly ;)

This is a great convo as there's no RIGHT way to farm, homestead or produce good on the land for a profitable biz.

Meeting your own needs can SUCK sometimes. Rewarding when its flowing, but the drudgery can creep up... We did without power or running water for 2 years (not that big of a shift from previous nomadism) and had to sleep outdoors one winter when the yurt got moldy. I've been focusing on what WOKRS lately and all the successes to celebrate. Drip irrigation from a solar well pump is worth celebrating!

In the vid Stefan brought up 2 great points "if you farm and live there, don't walk around on the farm to try and make it feel better. Waling around, you'll see more things that aren't working." Can't escape this ughhh. So much to do... 

"appreciate the best and expect the worst"

Would love to hear anyone else's feedback on way to stay balanced and healthy during the early years of establishment. Losing 80% of the elders we planted this spring and hustling to give buckets to trees in droughty times can wear we out! How to you seek a balance of tenacious effort and letting go?
 
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On the fruit trees--some years, particularly when we had early 'warm ups' that generated a too early blooming THEN back to normal and a late april frost equaled NO FRUIT

this yr..all is good. very heavy branches on the asian pears, "standard (i say that because the trees were here when we moved in so i dont know what kind they are)", peaches ad plums. just got to be ready for the potential 'invasion' of bear, deer and others. so far,so good

on the eggs. we used to have near 200 laying hens. Egg production was always awesome about late Feb till late Mid August. Mid August, we would have the same dramatic drop off in egg production. I think, like we did, that many people have come to see the chicken as a 'machine' since we have for too long taken for granted = "go to the store, they always have eggs" type of consumerism that exists because so many of us have been raised to eat/demand seasonal food out of season

and eggs ARE essentially a seasonal food

it does differ by breed-our experience with 'easter eggers' chickens- the Araucana, they would not lay an egg after mid august. others were easily tricked by introducing a light on a timer, in the morning giving them 14r hrs of total light

that is what most hens need-14 hrs

i know i was long winded in reply..sorry for that. didn't want to come off like a jerk!

thanks

 
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I've been volunteering at HUG-Hilltop Urban Garden, which is in a black neighborhood and I am white.  They would like it if I grasped white privilege/white culture better. One of the cultural or perhaps mythological things for the white male is the 'rugged individual.'  Or in libertarian parlance self sufficiency.

I posit that farming started as and should be a community event. Not that everyone should be a farmer and live on a farm, but most other jobs/professions could work their schedules to help out those that produce our food. For instance, Yakima is a agricultural area that brings in workers to harvest. I don't understand why the schools can't coordinate with the farmers so that the kids and teachers can help harvest. Or why can't the insurance broker have reduced office hours to go help th farmer at certain times of the year.

I guess as an urban dweller I have a wish to adopt a farmer and have working on the farm be part of the traditions of the year. Yes, I'd want something in return, not necessarily money but part of the harvest. Or I could be a venture capitalist for the turkey flock. And come take care of the place so the farmer can get a weekend away. And I'm not talking about a paying to volunteer and the farmer calls it a workshop.
 
Oddo Da
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My advice I give everyone (for free haha) is DO NOT get animals your first year. They are a HUGE responsibility to feed, keep etc. Second, if you are going to farm for a business but want it to be sustainable then slaving to a philosophy, ANY philosophy is a mistake. For example, if you want to grow veggies for a market, market gardeners are the best growers. If you are stuck on solely permaculture, you are missing out on other methodologies and tools that could help you make more money while still building great soil and being organic, sustainable etc. So on and so on. I dabble in horse training as a hobby - the best approach to working with them is to use whatever works and pick methods from multiple people. You zero in on a single method and you are missing out on the rest of the wealth of knowledge out there. You like PC? Mix it in with everything else that works but still conforms to the basic set of values and principles you stand for and adhere to.

Finally, diversifying is key. I grow veggies, fruits, grains, I make honey, keep bees and make bee-hive boxes that I sell. However, I have a job working from home that is supporting this effort, mostly for health insurance. I, however, also have a sizable mortgage on my 30+ acres because that is the only way I could buy land and a home without waiting to be 80 years old before I could afford to pay cash for some parcel of land with nothing on it and then spend 20 years building everything. Life is short and it sure ain't perfect....
 
Tyler Ludens
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Oddo Da wrote: If you are stuck on solely permaculture, you are missing out on other methodologies and tools that could help you make more money while still building great soil and being organic, sustainable etc.



Can you discuss these methodologies and tools which are incompatible with permaculture?

 
Oddo Da
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Oddo Da wrote: If you are stuck on solely permaculture, you are missing out on other methodologies and tools that could help you make more money while still building great soil and being organic, sustainable etc.



Can you discuss these methodologies and tools which are incompatible with permaculture?



Not so much incompatible but people make them incompatible by getting stuck on tenets. There are videos out there that address this question better - look them up on youtube. I do whatever works but my basic tenets are no chemicals, no external inputs if I can help it (for example, I will "borrow" cow manure from a neighbor or make pollen patties for the bees when they need to be fed or feed them sugar water if necessary), I will use a tractor to plow a plot once and bury horse manure in it with a tiller and then build, build, build the soil. I will grow a cover crop on a field in the winter and use a tractor to disk it in (external input is diesel fuel). I am moving slowly towards using horses to substitute the tractor power though. So on and so on.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not really seeing anything you're mentioning that isn't compatible with the framework of permaculture.  The "tenets" of permaculture are pretty darn broad.  So maybe I'm not sure what you're thinking people who practice permaculture are missing out on.



 
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Interesting
 
Oddo Da
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm not really seeing anything you're mentioning that isn't compatible with the framework of permaculture.  The "tenets" of permaculture are pretty darn broad.  So maybe I'm not sure what you're thinking people who practice permaculture are missing out on.



I was not talking about permaculture per se in my replies - just in general. For example, some people will take things too far and not want to use row covers because they are "artificial"or they will mulch EVERYTHING to the point of being detrimental by providing a great habitat for (e.g.) squash bugs or other pests. My point was that everything taken too far ends up being detrimental - if you wait for everything to "line up" and be perfect, you can end up waiting for a very long time. Commercial (!) agriculture is not the same as homesteading. I think incorporating principles of permaculture in a practical way is perfectly acceptable and a good idea. But don't be a slave to it all. That's all.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for clarifying. 
 
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For example, some people will take things too far and not want to use row covers because they are "artificial"or they will mulch EVERYTHING to the point of being detrimental by providing a great habitat for (e.g.) squash bugs or other pests. My point was that everything taken too far ends up being detrimental - if you wait for everything to "line up" and be perfect, you can end up waiting for a very long time.

  This seems to be discussing Idealism but is using idealism in permaculture as an example.  Having an ideal is fine, if it is kept in check.  It is something to head towards (but not have to achieve fully), and to experiment with in the directions of working the farm.  I do agree that this could be an issue, but I think that focussing on this issue too much could also pose some problems, which would make a person have too many things to regret in the future.  Having a permacultural ideal is good so that a person keeps in check the pressure of the mainstream ideal that demands production over quality.  

Permaculture is supposed to be about observation and learning from it.  If a person mulches everything, and doesn't reflect on the observations that pests are invading, and consider the consequences of pest damage, then that might not be good permacultural practice.

Sometimes, though, the observation is a long-term commitment to the particular thing being observed.  There is a passage in the book gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway, in which he discusses the Bollock Bros farm on Orcas Island Washington, USA; and it comes to mind here.  The Bollocks gardens and high ground borders an area of old farmland that was restored to wetland.  They put chinampas in it and had a rich crop of cattail bulbs and shoots.  And then the muskrats moved in.  The brothers got no more bulbs.  Shitty huh?  But then, a couple years later the muskrat population started to drop.  Eagles and otters had moved in, and the cattail population began to outproduce what the smaller muskrat numbers could eat.  Similarly, and on point to your mulching example, I have heavy mulch in my beds and I have had an issue with voles... but during winter this year a weasel moved in and pretty much wiped out the problem.  Sometimes the solution is actually to wait because Nature works on her own schedule.

This might not make good business sense, and sometimes it is better to ignore the Ideal and go for the practical solution, but that too is permaculture...  Permaculture is about caring for the Earth AND caring for the People.  If a person fails financially because he is too idealistic to make a practical income, then that isn't good permaculture either.  

Even in Tyler's example, where she is interested in home-based permaculture and not farming for cash, she is still needing to focus on what is practical in order to make her project successful, mostly because she has limited time, energy, resources, money, water, et cetera, and because she self admits not to have much of a gardening thumb (but I personally actually think she's pretty good at it).  


 
Roberto pokachinni
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I really needed to watch this video.  Stephans example makes me think more about what I really do want.  Although I know that I can succeed in farming, I'm not sure that I want to be a full-time farmer or rely on the whims of the market or the increasingly bizarre weather for my living.  A person needs to make a living, and farming can be part of that, but it doesn't have to be all of it.  Times are potentially too tenuous to be stuck on something that might not work.  Not that I would expect my farming to have a guarantee, but there should be a fall back plan or other streams of income.    

The market seldom really reflects on the work involved.  As an example, In my case, the garlic I plant is easy to grow and propagate.  I can grow tons of garlic and people love my garlic.  But, cleaning a lot of garlic so that it is presentable to market is not easy.  It takes a real lot of time and physical energy.  Having the proper space to cure my garlic is fairly easy until the crop is expanded to the point that I can't shelter it from the elements.  Then it can be quite easily a problem, as can having adequate space to store it long term; the storage space has to be pretty evenly dry, and there are specific temperature ranges that seem to work better than others.  If I can't provide those temperatures and the minimal and steady low humidity levels needed for the volume that I need to store, then it's also a no go.  I can only expand my crop to fit the rest of the infrastructure and my time and energy, and all of those limits are already on the horizon, and it's my biggest money maker, but the money is not such that I can afford too much time, or money to build larger infrastructure.  There are ways to do it, I know, so that it can work.  But I have been too overwhelmed and out of sorts to get back into a CSA type arrangement where the customers actually can help and provide a guarantee to a point.      

I've had a really crappy year and a bit at work (which is not farming), and am on a leave of absence.  I thought that this would give me plenty of time and space and energy to get to work in the garden and/or farm and land projects but the effects of the work situation were such that they have cascaded into my home life and have made me feel just as overwhelmed by my farm as I had been when I had no time at all because I was working too much overtime with a micromanaging narcissistic idiot and commuting to and from work on top of it--and this pretty-much consumed part of my soul.  I'm recovering from serious burn out as well as depression, and like Stephan says the last thing that I need to do when I have such deep problems is go for a walk around on the property and notice all of the other problems or things that need addressing.  That is essentially what my world is right now.  I just paid for my land, and I want to run away from it instead of relaxing into the reality that I no longer have a mortgage.  I should be celebrating, but I'm too overwhelmed by too much of everything.   I know better, but I can't help from feeling extremely heavy and depressed at the moment.  Like Stephan says, when things are going shitty, "It sucks." and it is not easy to look ahead to the brighter horizon.     

I really enjoyed this video because it was so real.  You could see that Stephan was almost in tears at the end of it.  That's some heavy stuff that he was dealing with, and sharing.  Powerful.  I can and will learn a lot from this.  I'm going to take the time to watch it again and meditate on what I can get from it. 

Thanks for sharing it, Scott.
 
Oddo Da
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

For example, some people will take things too far and not want to use row covers because they are "artificial"or they will mulch EVERYTHING to the point of being detrimental by providing a great habitat for (e.g.) squash bugs or other pests. My point was that everything taken too far ends up being detrimental - if you wait for everything to "line up" and be perfect, you can end up waiting for a very long time.

  This seems to be discussing Idealism but is using idealism in permaculture as an example.  Having an ideal is fine, if it is kept in check.  It is something to head towards (but not have to achieve fully), and to experiment with in the directions of working the farm.  I do agree that this could be an issue, but I think that focussing on this issue too much could also pose some problems, which would make a person have too many things to regret in the future.  Having a permacultural ideal is good so that a person keeps in check the pressure of the mainstream ideal that demands production over quality.  

Permaculture is supposed to be about observation and learning from it.  If a person mulches everything, and doesn't reflect on the observations that pests are invading, and consider the consequences of pest damage, then that might not be good permacultural practice.

Sometimes, though, the observation is a long-term commitment to the particular thing being observed.  There is a passage in the book Gaia's garden by toby hemenway, in which he discusses the Bollock Bros farm on Orcas Island Washington, USA; and it comes to mind here.  The Bollocks gardens and high ground borders an area of old farmland that was restored to wetland.  They put chinampas in it and had a rich crop of cattail bulbs and shoots.  And then the muskrats moved in.  The brothers got no more bulbs.  Shitty huh?  But then, a couple years later the muskrat population started to drop.  Eagles and otters had moved in, and the cattail population began to outproduce what the smaller muskrat numbers could eat.  Similarly, and on point to your mulching example, I have heavy mulch in my beds and I have had an issue with voles... but during winter this year a weasel moved in and pretty much wiped out the problem.  Sometimes the solution is actually to wait because Nature works on her own schedule.

This might not make good business sense, and sometimes it is better to ignore the Ideal and go for the practical solution, but that too is permaculture...  Permaculture is about caring for the Earth AND caring for the People.  If a person fails financially because he is too idealistic to make a practical income, then that isn't good permaculture either.  

Even in Tyler's example, where she is interested in home-based permaculture and not farming for cash, she is still needing to focus on what is practical in order to make her project successful, mostly because she has limited time, energy, resources, money, water, et cetera, and because she self admits not to have much of a gardening thumb (but I personally actually think she's pretty good at it).  



Well, sometimes things are so generic that you can always turn them around to come out on top ;). In all seriousness, I think the basic thing is to delineate a viable business (as in making  a living farming sustainably) and homesteading. I think it is fairly easy to grow food for a family even on a fairly small piece of land. Guaranteeing production for many mouths to feed is something entirely different. Especially if a person is to do that sustainably, organically, without external inputs and more to the point, in a timely fashion. Today we have the luxury of failure because the grocery store is always around the corner. I will give you an example - I have two horses and this year I planted 6 acres in orchard and fescue grasses. This is on land that used to grow corn and soybeans the conventional way (roundup+petroleum derived fertilizers) - this land belonged to someone else and is now mine for about 8 months. People shook their heads when I told them I don't want to spray round-up or use chemicals. They laughed when I refused chicken manure from a "factory" chicken farm as fertilizer. "No till" (which everyone is so proud of) around here means spray spray spray. Anyways, we planted the grass seeds and they came out in full force. It is a thing of beauty to watch. But then we got pigweed and then fall panicum grasses in full force as well - they come out after soil had been abused with herbicides such as round-up. Both of these "weeds" (and I put the word "weed" in quotation marks because one man's weed is another man's food - I grow stinging nettles and people think I am crazy) are highly liver toxic to horses. Since I do not use chemicals, next year my stand of orchard/fescue will be established and I will be able to take the first cutting for my horses and then I will mow, mow, mow the stand religiously in order to prevent fall panicum from coming out and seeding (this year it is too late to do so). For at least 2-3 years I will have to forego the second cutting of hay and hence give up profit and food for my horses. Two hundred years ago my horses would have gone hungry and died. Today I can call up my hay grower neighbor a mile down the road and he will sell me his hay, grown conventionally with herbicides etc. He cannot afford to fail. Well, at least in the short run, by using pesticides he may fail in the long run.

You can google "companion plants" all day and you will be told that marigolds repel harmful insects, that so and so planted with so and so does something amazing etc. I can tell you from experience that it is all baloney. In a home garden with the grocery store around the corner, the whole beneficial insect, beneficial plant thing may or may not work but at the end of the day who cares since nobody else depends on it. I have parasitic wasps laying eggs in the tomato hornworms this year. Great! I will take all the help I can get! It is a perfect example of Nature taking care of itself in balance and I must be doing something right. However, next year things may be different and hornworms may outgun the parasitic wasps - the 80+ families that may depend on my tomatoes that year will do .... what?

Life is all about hedging, games of chances and probabilities etc. You always try to make it so that chances are tilted in your favor. Putting that into existence and work within a set of guidelines is the best way to do it.

My wife and I do not eat meat. We do not believe in keeping animals pregnant to get milk from them. Hence, we keep no animals (other then chickens for eggs and horses for work and riding) on our farm. By adhering BLINDLY to a set of principles we are denying ourselves income opportunities (meat, milk etc.) and help (cows and goats and pigs can clear weeds better than any tool you have in your arsenal).

See where I am going with all this.... :) Thanks for the discourse.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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You always try to make it so that chances are tilted in your favor. Putting that into existence and work within a set of guidelines is the best way to do it.

This really rings true.  There is a guy named Thomas Elpel who said something like this about Permaculture:  That it is tilting the ecosystem in your favor.  What you are saying is all about permaculture, and I think the reason Tyler picked up on it, and me as well, is because you were choosing to say that Idealism can be harmful in permaculture.  But Idealism is potentially harmful, period. 

Your example about what other people are doing near you seems to say to me that Idealism is rampant in our greater culture (their's), but it really stands out when you are going in the opposing direction (permaculture).  Those people are not tilting the ecosystem in their favor, they are tilting the short-term profits in their favor at the long-term detriment of their land.  They might have a good chance to make a profit because their project is currently tilted towards profit, but do their great grandchildren have the same opportunity to profit if the soil is destroyed by the profiteering of their ancestors?  The set of guidelines is what the principle or ethics of permaculture are all about.  Care for profit is not in there.  If a person needs some small margin of profit in order to care for the Earth or Care for people, then that can work into it, but not to their collective or solo detriment.  You can still care for the Earth and not mulch, for instance, but you better be gardening or farming in a way that protects and builds your soil system or you are not caring for the Earth.  Nature does one of two things, she covers the Earth with a protection of mulch, or a protection of plants.  When she doesn't erosion and desiccation happen, and the living soil is the first casualty. 

All of what you are doing seems to me to ring quite potentially true to permaculture, so long as you are designing your strategies to fit the principles, instead of tilting and redesigning the principles to fit your strategies, as the chemical no-till guys seem to think is alright.  I've heard of that type of No Till and have commented on it before.   At least those guys are not tilling anymore. Sigh.  I don't think that tilling is necessarily so bad if it's done right and done appropriately to quickly build living soil mass.  Tilling in a cover crop on new land a few times, and adding a bunch of amendments like manure and biochar during those times, and then not tilling it again can be hugely beneficial in turning abused land around to production.  As another example, using a keyline plow to rip the ground deeply without turning it can build deep soils faster than almost any other system besides trees if it's done right--with the aid of deep rooting plants.  I would prefer that your local No-Till farmers continued to till but were somehow able to build their soil biomass while not using chemicals.  But they have thier ideals to stick to.           
 
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A lot of people seem confused that commercial Permaculture enterprises are hedged against economic failure because of the multi-crop aspects I.e. If one fails for whatever reason (weather, pests/disease, uncooperative animals, market prices, etc) the others will provide an income.

Although true to an extent, at the end of the day it is a farm, which puts limitations on income streams.

I assume farmers in the USA are similar to here in Oz - they know how to weld, repair machinery, do irrigation schemes, etc.

There lies the potential for additional income streams; just need to use the grey matter and think up ideas - welding work for others, make garden sculptures from scrap metal, etc.

My grandparents and uncles were old school multi crop farmers who realised almost 100 years ago they needed to diversify by becoming sugar cane cutters and gang cooks, working on fishing trawlers, dairy work, fruit/vegetable pickers, etc.

In the modern context, continuing education is important - it opens doors. How many people with zero experience do (Permaculture) courses, get the piece of paper, then set up a business?

People say it's harder these days, bullshit, it has always been hard but there are way more opportunities than ever. Simply put, everyone should have several arrows in their quiver - failure to plan is a plan to fail.

In my instance, worked hard to put myself through college, got a job, did university part time whilst working, got a better job. Had lots of outside interests including a lifelong love of gardening and family heritage in rural multi skilling.

A middle aged acquaintance, who grew up and still resides in the same small rural village, initially trained as an electrician. After years of doing trade work and getting different certifications to work on high voltage lines, etc, he was able to afford a sugar cane farm and separate properties with a herd or two of beef cattle. Now he's older, he does basic electrical work for town folk but his income is balanced between three very diverse investments. Education being the main investment because he obviously had to learn about cane growing and raising cattle profitability, besides the initial electrical quals.

Being physically active, seeking new challenges (academically or otherwise), and responsibly managing finances from an early age will lower the chances of psychological issues like depression.

One of the main tenets of Permaculture is community, NOT being a lone wolf in the bush. Communities give all sorts of support and open doors to opportunities.

Community support has always been a BIG thing in Oz, it's definitely part of our culture because of isolation and harsh climate conditions - according to some reports, about six million Aussies do some type of volunteer work - that's over a quarter of our population: rural fire services, Country Woman's Association (CWA), Volunteer Rescue Associations (SES, Bushwalkers S&R, et al), physical and mental health assistance, etc.


 
Oddo Da
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F Agricola wrote:A lot of people seem confused that commercial Permaculture enterprises are hedged against economic failure because of the multi-crop aspects I.e. If one fails for whatever reason (weather, pests/disease, uncooperative animals, market prices, etc) the others will provide an income.

Although true to an extent, at the end of the day it is a farm, which puts limitations on income streams.

I assume farmers in the USA are similar to here in Oz - they know how to weld, repair machinery, do irrigation schemes, etc.

There lies the potential for additional income streams; just need to use the grey matter and think up ideas - welding work for others, make garden sculptures from scrap metal, etc.

My grandparents and uncles were old school multi crop farmers who realised almost 100 years ago they needed to diversify by becoming sugar cane cutters and gang cooks, working on fishing trawlers, dairy work, fruit/vegetable pickers, etc.

In the modern context, continuing education is important - it opens doors. How many people with zero experience do (Permaculture) courses, get the piece of paper, then set up a business?

People say it's harder these days, bullshit, it has always been hard but there are way more opportunities than ever. Simply put, everyone should have several arrows in their quiver - failure to plan is a plan to fail.

In my instance, worked hard to put myself through college, got a job, did university part time whilst working, got a better job. Had lots of outside interests including a lifelong love of gardening and family heritage in rural multi skilling.

A middle aged acquaintance, who grew up and still resides in the same small rural village, initially trained as an electrician. After years of doing trade work and getting different certifications to work on high voltage lines, etc, he was able to afford a sugar cane farm and separate properties with a herd or two of beef cattle. Now he's older, he does basic electrical work for town folk but his income is balanced between three very diverse investments. Education being the main investment because he obviously had to learn about cane growing and raising cattle profitability, besides the initial electrical quals.

Being physically active, seeking new challenges (academically or otherwise), and responsibly managing finances from an early age will lower the chances of psychological issues like depression.

One of the main tenets of Permaculture is community, NOT being a lone wolf in the bush. Communities give all sorts of support and open doors to opportunities.

Community support has always been a BIG thing in Oz, it's definitely part of our culture because of isolation and harsh climate conditions - according to some reports, about six million Aussies do some type of volunteer work - that's over a quarter of our population: rural fire services, Country Woman's Association (CWA), Volunteer Rescue Associations (SES, Bushwalkers S&R, et al), physical and mental health assistance, etc.



At the end of the day all you are describing is that it is easier to fail these days because the downside is not so bad like it used to be. Two hundred years ago failure could have meant starvation and death, today, especially in societies with excellent social support networks (anyone in the developed world is better than USA) - you can try and play farmer and if you fail - oh well. Going to college certainly helps in all endeavors in life but reading books does just as much for the person. In fact, I have a college degree and advanced training but I think if I was born again I would have just read more books, especially with the curriculums here in the States looking like they are not really teaching people anything in college (or high school) anyways.

One trend I already mentioned is the whole ruse being created for the middle class unhappy (wo)man. They work a 9-5 job, have a mortgage, shuttle the kids, eat whatever is sold at the store and are totally disconnected from Nature. Then they see these shiny books and magazines about self sufficiency, about going back to Nature. Some of these are based on true stuff but most of them don't describe the person's circumstances in detail. For example, it was much easier to go back to the land in United States in the 1970s than it is today. Quite a few people who wrote these books did so in the 70s! Context, location and timeline are important!  How many of them were college educated intellectuals who decided they wanted to stick it to the man by disconnecting from the system but disconnecting from the system usually means having money to fund the trip.

I often say to people that these days in order to be a poor farmer you have to be rich. Land is expensive, restrictive regulation abounds, you are fighting all sorts of forgotten knowledge. There was an article on CNN the other day about the dangers of keeping backyard chickens because of salmonella. Really? Washing one's hands is what solves that problem but it is not like there are no salmonella outbreaks in the modern, sterile food system. But for some reason people will always consider the grocery store lettuce or eggs to be salmonella-proof, as if someone sits somewhere with an instant salmonella test and tests every head of said lettuce. Many of these assumptions are just based on lack of education of how things work - and this is really the core of the issue - knowledge is lost and worse yet, it is replaced with incomplete or bad knowledge rooted in myth. Even though people are much more educated today (going back to your college story) - they invariably fall for these bad assumptions. It is that their college degrees are worthless? Is it just mere convenience to ignore the facts? Do they even consider or know the facts? Or is it a game of chances along the lines of "it will not happen to me" and hence a (college) educated guess?

Many, many people make the mistake of keeping goats, sheep, pigs etc. They simply get overwhelmed because animals require constant care. They require an up-front investment of proper shelter and fencing, they break out of said fencing and shelter, they get sick,die in gruesome ways, they multiply out of control, so on and so on. Once I knew a young lady who wanted desperately to go back to the land and homestead. She got a mortgage, loaded up on chickens, rabbits, became a breeder of both, grew a garden, got a husband, got pregnant. To keep all that going, she had to work a job in town, so did he. She looked 15 years older than she was soon, worn out and tired, animals all over the place, pig(s) escaping to neighbors' properties, fences falling down etc. etc. Soon they were divorced, bitter and the farm went to hell. I think this story is common.

I can't tell you how many times I have read a question online along the lines of "I have ticks in my yard, yuck (!), what do I do???". the answer almost invariably is "get chickens!" or worse yet, "get guinea fowl!". Now instead of a tick problem you have a tick problem AND a chicken (or worse yet guinea fowl) problem. But in this day and age of easy availability and instant gratification, it is simple to put in an order and go get something to try out. It is funny because most of the time the same people who wanted to live in unison with Nature will be the people who do this and then six months later you see ads on Facebook that say "must get rid of guinea fowl, need gone ASAP". It kinds of defies the whole living with Nature thing because nothing in Nature is instant gratification that is easily disposable.

Why does the above happen? It is because of asynchronicity. What I mean by that is the struggle between two forces that work within and around each of us:
1) the cultural/historical context we are brought up with (e.g. we must have children, we want to be in control, we want to live with Nature)
2) the reality of life where we have to work in town to have a job and pay the mortgage, pay for the kids etc. etc.

Once you are trapped within those two, you cannot make decisions rationally and you are under pressure to do things you don't want. The corollary of this is that you are too busy living and surviving and you simply do not have the time to build the skills necessary for whatever endeavor you are embarking on.

Let me put this into a real example: people get married, have kids. They went to college so they may have college debt (here in the States). Now they are trapped. They already do not have the time to do anything else but survive - commute, work, overtime, kids, pay the bills, try to exercise. They do not have the time to learn what is good diet, what is good food, good lifestyle, what issues are important around them etc. They already lost. Now some of them try to look for an exit. Some zero in on buying a boat, some on chasing sex, some on drugs and booze and some find Mother Earth News. The seed is planted. They move on to Joel Salatin. Then they discover permaculture. They find all the videos of self sufficiency, homesteading etc, on youtube. They are hooked.

But, remember - they have zero skills. They have never been on a tractor, never grown anything, never lost a chicken to a fox, never built a chicken coop, never replaced a mower blade, they don't know what a tomato hornwork looks like, so on and so on, the list is endless.

It is easy to make money on these people.

Ah, yes. By the time someone like described above is even feeding themselves, they could have bought a lifetime supply of organic tomatoes, peppers and other healthy foods at Wholefoods, just by keeping their money and not breaking a sweat.

Rare is the beast that enters the farming world intelligently, with a good plan, a good bank account and an overall good situation set up for success AND the ability to turn a wrench, grow food etc. a priori. For most successful survivors it used to be luck or a confluence of lucky events (parents left me free land when I was just looking to quit my boring job with a good savings account in tow?) leading to the above realizations post fact. These days it is a bit easier to succeed (ironically) because people who have lived or are living through the challenges write books and make videos. But beware, for quite a few of them growing a few veggies and fruits is just something to put behind the paid talks, seminars, books and education - after all, if you will write about farming, you better have a farm somewhere, no?
 
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This video....man, I just wanna go share a beer with him and raise my hands while I yell "PREACH, Brother!"

This year:
Deer broke through our fencing and ate 25% of my fruit trees. And half of my hazelnuts.
An apricot tree and peach tree just never came out of dormancy.
Blueberries aren't producing and some got nipped by rabbits.
Lost 2 ducks and a chicken to disease and/or predation.
Haven't had measurable rainfall since MAY. It's the END OF AUGUST.
Wildfires have ravaged our state and the last 2 weeks it's been so smoky and the smell of fire retardant so acrid that we have had to stay inside. My daughter spends all day coughing and sneezing and I'm getting ready to buy an air purifier.
Vegetables are doing alright, but the severe heat and lack of rain means some of my cultivars are stringy and bland tasting.
I have had to, LITERALLY, run screaming full tilt towards bald eagle attacks to get them to leave our ducks alone. One time I got so close, I don't know how he didn't hit me as he took off with one of my male ducks. At least he dropped the drake and I have a great story in my head about it.
And the 12 cubic yards of 3 way mix for our raised bed kitchen gardens is complete shit (or, uh, devoid of any shit at all) and is more sand than anything and they won't refund my money because the soil company I worked with is greedy. So now all that needs to be dispossessed. Probably just as expensive fill.

Oh, and my lawnmower broke.

Not to mention all the weeding, plowing, plucking, bending. lifting, planting, tending, swearing, soreness of daily farm work.

AND JUST LAST NIGHT:
Two of my guinea hens got eaten and I got dive bombed by Barred Owl while I was shutting the pigs in at sundown.

I just commiserate so much with him and everyone else who faces those moments of "I'M DONE". It's hard. And we keep on, and we diversify and we pull ourselves up, and all that tough love stuff. But it's still tiring and emotionally hard. And I don't think acknowledging that makes anyone soft or weak or unable. I think it just makes us humans. Just as those moments of "I'M DONE" are usually followed by depression or tears, or actually leaving the field, or sitting in the pasture and having a good cry (what? I'm the only one?) they are equally followed by some small triumph, some small beauty, some article or book that lifts our minds back to why we are doing this.

I think that's why I like permaculture. It feels so diverse that any failure is contained and there is always a success waiting to be found. It challenges my thinking and propels me forward to read more, learn more, do more, try more. Multiple systems feel like insurance for my mental health when it comes to growing our food.

When I get to the stage where I say out loud - "nature: 1, Lindsey: 0" I just get a good cry in, have a beer and say; "On to the next".
 
Scott Foster
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Lindsey Jane wrote:This video....man, I just wanna go share a beer with him and raise my hands while I yell "PREACH, Brother!"

This year:
Deer broke through our fencing and ate 25% of my fruit trees. And half of my hazelnuts.
An apricot tree and peach tree just never came out of dormancy.
Blueberries aren't producing and some got nipped by rabbits.
Lost 2 ducks and a chicken to disease and/or predation.
Haven't had measurable rainfall since MAY. It's the END OF AUGUST.
Wildfires have ravaged our state and the last 2 weeks it's been so smoky and the smell of fire retardant so acrid that we have had to stay inside. My daughter spends all day coughing and sneezing and I'm getting ready to buy an air purifier.
Vegetables are doing alright, but the severe heat and lack of rain means some of my cultivars are stringy and bland tasting.
I have had to, LITERALLY, run screaming full tilt towards bald eagle attacks to get them to leave our ducks alone. One time I got so close, I don't know how he didn't hit me as he took off with one of my male ducks. At least he dropped the drake and I have a great story in my head about it.
And the 12 cubic yards of 3 way mix for our raised bed kitchen gardens is complete shit (or, uh, devoid of any shit at all) and is more sand than anything and they won't refund my money because the soil company I worked with is greedy. So now all that needs to be dispossessed. Probably just as expensive fill.

Oh, and my lawnmower broke.

Not to mention all the weeding, plowing, plucking, bending. lifting, planting, tending, swearing, soreness of daily farm work.

AND JUST LAST NIGHT:
Two of my guinea hens got eaten and I got dive bombed by Barred Owl while I was shutting the pigs in at sundown.

I just commiserate so much with him and everyone else who faces those moments of "I'M DONE". It's hard. And we keep on, and we diversify and we pull ourselves up, and all that tough love stuff. But it's still tiring and emotionally hard. And I don't think acknowledging that makes anyone soft or weak or unable. I think it just makes us humans. Just as those moments of "I'M DONE" are usually followed by depression or tears, or actually leaving the field, or sitting in the pasture and having a good cry (what? I'm the only one?) they are equally followed by some small triumph, some small beauty, some article or book that lifts our minds back to why we are doing this.

I think that's why I like permaculture. It feels so diverse that any failure is contained and there is always a success waiting to be found. It challenges my thinking and propels me forward to read more, learn more, do more, try more. Multiple systems feel like insurance for my mental health when it comes to growing our food.

When I get to the stage where I say out loud - "nature: 1, Lindsey: 0" I just get a good cry in, have a beer and say; "On to the next".


....
Lindsey, nicely said! 
 
pollinator
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I quit all the time.  I quit, i mope, i try to conform to a non-garden living, but always my mind turns back...and after a time I shake off the hopelessness, and pick up where i left off.  Its like an addiction.  I  am addicted to hard labor, dirt under my fingernails, and the smell of compost, irregardless of whether or not I produce a viable income.  And food I grow myself just tastes better.
 
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Every now and then these posts come up saying: "is there anybody that has a good business model for making money off permaculture?" And I always crack a wry smile because it seems to me that true living in harmony with nature means we need a business model that is organic. I find farmers who succeed are those whose economic model follows the principles of permaculture: be diversified.
I certainly felt less than successful until I discovered that the way I was running my businesses in practice had absolutely nothing to do with what was being taught out there. So I stopped taking conventional advice, just like I at a much younger age stopped reading conventional gardening books. Doing much better now.

My own story: I bought this land with a partner who put up all the capital while I was going to put in all the running costs. I would of course have ended up putting in much more money in the long run, but it was the only way I could get access to that kind of capital. Was at the time running a small consultancy and gave it up for a full-time gig for the first five years. I felt lucky that I had the kind of educational background that made this possible. I was further lucky that I was only 42 at the time, so I had the kind of energy that would allow me to get up two hours earlier and put in work on the farm before going to my dayjob, and farm every weekend. And I guess my biggest piece of luck was that my mom taught me how to garden as a youngster, wherever I went I grew things, from a windswept plot next to the beach to a second story balcony. Indeed knowledge is everything, the ability to know how to observe on the basis of experience, think and observe some more before rushing into action. Like Fukuoka,   I knew just enough to be able to admit that I was ignorant. Stopped me from making bad mistakes, bad ones being the ones which teach you nothing. Instead I made good mistakes, costly but rich in wisdom. Thanks to my dayjob I could afford to learn more about the depth of my ignorance.

When my contract came to an end I revived my consultancy, took about a year or so to get back into the groove but most fortunately my dad left us a little bit of money that year. He said "I want to give it to you now so you don't fight about it when I'm gone". Such a sweetiepie. The money was enough to be able to only work the jobs I wanted and I spent the rest on setting up a small agroprocessing business - I make soap which includes a lot of things i grow on the farm. That is how I ended up growing stinging nettles and other 'weeds'. I operated this business like a pension plan, never taking any money out of it unless I absolutely had to, but re-investing the profits and whatever I could spare. Had an investment goal in mind of how much I needed to invest before it would supply me with an adequate retirement.  Two years later i lucked out again and raised money for a project with a non-profit that provided me with a 50 % dayjob which allowed me to work from home. Involved travelling once a quarter but I was free to take on all the consulting I wanted while I had that steady income to cover the basics.

More stuff that made this happen: picked a piece of land only 2 kms from a nature reserve so have no problems with pollination and birds, insects and reptiles have gradually moved over as habitat becomes available. But I am not so close that i am plagued by serious trouble like baboons.  Surrounded by horse people so unlimited supplies of free manure - they thought we were crazy offering to take their manure for free and saving them dumping fees! The drought last year was entirely to the good, taught my trees to grow deep roots and allowed me me to see that 70% of my land is well enough established to not need additional water. Only about 10% needs real intensive watering, like the annual vegetables, and even there it is no end of fun experimenting with permaculture water harvesting techniques.  Am busy pulling up irrigation equipment, will repurpose some and give away the rest. My partner wanted out a couple of years back so that was costly and made things tight for a while but in a way to being sorted. That has made it much cheaper to live plus I no longer have to negotiate how I want to farm. Bliss!

I never tried to become totally self-sufficient. I am too near the coast to grow good potatoes, for instance, so I buy them from a farm at a higher elevation. Over the years many of these arrangements have evolved into barter: trade for soap. Where they haven't i tend to look for other connections that can supply me what i need. 

13 years later all I can say is that indigenous knowledge systems, or permaculture principles, have been key to allow me to run this diversified economy, growing rugged plants and creating resilient ecosystems which don't die if I am away on a job for a couple of weeks. I guess what also really helped was that i work in the renewable energy field and barefoot technologies are what my hugely supportive non-profit employer did. I tested everything they invented at home on the farm and in the soap workshop - the human-technology interface is what I specialize in. Only now I look back and realize how much money I was saving. Diversity in everything is most definitely the way to go. And unless you are an expert market gardener in a good location,  I think to process on farm as much as one can, the profit margins are much better for a finished product than for raw material.

Working within your limits too. If you see that expanding a particular activity is going to cost you a fortune in investment and require even more hours from an already stretched day, then just don't do it. Expanding faster than my ability to maintain has been some of my most costly mistakes.Plural yes, sometimes I just don't learn fast enough.

My part-time work has come to an end and in about six months I am about to wind down the consulting as well in order to -gasp - become a full-time farmer/soapmaker. Am 25 % short of my pension plan goal but, like any old-school African, see the land as my real wealth, I think it can supply the rest. Trees are starting to yield and although I have a few big investments yet to make -full-on solar PV, an olive press - these will be covered in a year or so. In my culture there can be no higher purpose than to take a piece of land which was abused and restore it to a functioning ecosystem. Have never had a day when I did not want to farm.  I guess it has helped that i grow lots of medicinal plants and generally don't like conventional medicine anyway, however, I am just about to take out health insurance for the first time at 55. Not getting any younger :)

I must admit I do get tired nowadays, having essentially worked two or three jobs for over a decade. My land restores me. I find it helpful never to go over it and stress about what needs to be done. instead I pick the first thing i see and start doing it. Of course I could never keep livestock with the constant travelling so looking forward to my first flock of chickens next year.
 
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We very recently "quit" for want of a better word. We took some time this winter to travel and as we both turned 60 this year, we focused in on what was left in our bucket lists while we are still healthy. We both realized that what we were building was essentially for someone else having no real family, no heirs, so we took the time and homed in on what we wanted to do and where we wanted to live. We decided to change it all. We have pulled up stakes, moved to the woods in New England (where we know absolutely no one but it is already home to us) and are selling the property in Kansas. People that know of this plan think that we've lost our marbles but this decision is thus far matching up to the decision we both made separately in the late 70s to move to Alaska and we lived there happily for 35 years. One of the best decisions of my life. We'll plant a few fruit trees, (starts of a 100 y/o apricot tree and ancient Asian pear on the KS place) rework the tired perennial beds around the new house using PC/organic/soil centric methods to include areas for growing vegetables, harvest a little downed firewood but it will be for product quality and life enhancement not to wholly feed ourselves and others.

As it turns out there are many local farms/farm stands/markets in the area and it's quite likely that I will apply for grunt labor field work at one of them. I don't need much pay, rather taking it out in trade as it were. We can still have some of the lifestyle while allowing us more free time to do what we need/want to do. I've read every comment in this thread aloud to my husband as we are transitioning back to KS to sell personal items and pack up what's left. Every one of the comments has touched on themes that have constituted our discussions that have culminated in quitting for reasons similar and yet different than in the video.

I've been too busy to read or post much on this site but many thanks for this thread. It's were we are and have been this past year.

 
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Natasha Abrahams wrote:Every now and then these posts come up saying: "is there anybody that has a good business model for making money off permaculture?" And I always crack a wry smile because it seems to me that true living in harmony with nature means we need a business model that is organic. I find farmers who succeed are those whose economic model follows the principles of permaculture: be diversified.
I certainly felt less than successful until I discovered that the way I was running my businesses in practice had absolutely nothing to do with what was being taught out there. So I stopped taking conventional advice, just like I at a much younger age stopped reading conventional gardening books. Doing much better now.

My own story: I bought this land with a partner who put up all the capital while I was going to put in all the running costs. I would of course have ended up putting in much more money in the long run, but it was the only way I could get access to that kind of capital. Was at the time running a small consultancy and gave it up for a full-time gig for the first five years. I felt lucky that I had the kind of educational background that made this possible. I was further lucky that I was only 42 at the time, so I had the kind of energy that would allow me to get up two hours earlier and put in work on the farm before going to my dayjob, and farm every weekend. And I guess my biggest piece of luck was that my mom taught me how to garden as a youngster, wherever I went I grew things, from a windswept plot next to the beach to a second story balcony. Indeed knowledge is everything, the ability to know how to observe on the basis of experience, think and observe some more before rushing into action. Like Fukuoka,   I knew just enough to be able to admit that I was ignorant. Stopped me from making bad mistakes, bad ones being the ones which teach you nothing. Instead I made good mistakes, costly but rich in wisdom. Thanks to my dayjob I could afford to learn more about the depth of my ignorance.

When my contract came to an end I revived my consultancy, took about a year or so to get back into the groove but most fortunately my dad left us a little bit of money that year. He said "I want to give it to you now so you don't fight about it when I'm gone". Such a sweetiepie. The money was enough to be able to only work the jobs I wanted and I spent the rest on setting up a small agroprocessing business - I make soap which includes a lot of things i grow on the farm. That is how I ended up growing stinging nettles and other 'weeds'. I operated this business like a pension plan, never taking any money out of it unless I absolutely had to, but re-investing the profits and whatever I could spare. Had an investment goal in mind of how much I needed to invest before it would supply me with an adequate retirement.  Two years later i lucked out again and raised money for a project with a non-profit that provided me with a 50 % dayjob which allowed me to work from home. Involved travelling once a quarter but I was free to take on all the consulting I wanted while I had that steady income to cover the basics.

More stuff that made this happen: picked a piece of land only 2 kms from a nature reserve so have no problems with pollination and birds, insects and reptiles have gradually moved over as habitat becomes available. But I am not so close that i am plagued by serious trouble like baboons.  Surrounded by horse people so unlimited supplies of free manure - they thought we were crazy offering to take their manure for free and saving them dumping fees! The drought last year was entirely to the good, taught my trees to grow deep roots and allowed me me to see that 70% of my land is well enough established to not need additional water. Only about 10% needs real intensive watering, like the annual vegetables, and even there it is no end of fun experimenting with permaculture water harvesting techniques.  Am busy pulling up irrigation equipment, will repurpose some and give away the rest. My partner wanted out a couple of years back so that was costly and made things tight for a while but in a way to being sorted. That has made it much cheaper to live plus I no longer have to negotiate how I want to farm. Bliss!

I never tried to become totally self-sufficient. I am too near the coast to grow good potatoes, for instance, so I buy them from a farm at a higher elevation. Over the years many of these arrangements have evolved into barter: trade for soap. Where they haven't i tend to look for other connections that can supply me what i need. 

13 years later all I can say is that indigenous knowledge systems, or permaculture principles, have been key to allow me to run this diversified economy, growing rugged plants and creating resilient ecosystems which don't die if I am away on a job for a couple of weeks. I guess what also really helped was that i work in the renewable energy field and barefoot technologies are what my hugely supportive non-profit employer did. I tested everything they invented at home on the farm and in the soap workshop - the human-technology interface is what I specialize in. Only now I look back and realize how much money I was saving. Diversity in everything is most definitely the way to go. And unless you are an expert market gardener in a good location,  I think to process on farm as much as one can, the profit margins are much better for a finished product than for raw material.

Working within your limits too. If you see that expanding a particular activity is going to cost you a fortune in investment and require even more hours from an already stretched day, then just don't do it. Expanding faster than my ability to maintain has been some of my most costly mistakes.Plural yes, sometimes I just don't learn fast enough.

My part-time work has come to an end and in about six months I am about to wind down the consulting as well in order to -gasp - become a full-time farmer/soapmaker. Am 25 % short of my pension plan goal but, like any old-school African, see the land as my real wealth, I think it can supply the rest. Trees are starting to yield and although I have a few big investments yet to make -full-on solar PV, an olive press - these will be covered in a year or so. In my culture there can be no higher purpose than to take a piece of land which was abused and restore it to a functioning ecosystem. Have never had a day when I did not want to farm.  I guess it has helped that i grow lots of medicinal plants and generally don't like conventional medicine anyway, however, I am just about to take out health insurance for the first time at 55. Not getting any younger :)

I must admit I do get tired nowadays, having essentially worked two or three jobs for over a decade. My land restores me. I find it helpful never to go over it and stress about what needs to be done. instead I pick the first thing i see and start doing it. Of course I could never keep livestock with the constant travelling so looking forward to my first flock of chickens next year.



We bought our 32 acres and they were severely neglected. Invasive species of trees, weeds galore. The woods had been select cut, the fields used to grow corn and soy the Monsanto way. It is a HUGE amount of labor to turn it around and bring into balance. At the end you have to divide et impera, piecemeal restoration efforts, square foot by square foot. We are funding this with savings and jobs in town (I work from home). It is like any other business where you set out with a set of guidelines and try to work within them. However, the sad thing is that a) farming is set in the real world and is subject to Nature's whims, market whims etc. and b) there is a lot of myth in farming and c) these days to succeed in any business you have to have a plan and you have to be well educated. It is not like the software start-up world where you create virtual fog and get rich sitting in a chair. Sadly, farmers, esp. sustainable ones are not given any kind of a break in the business. Homesteading is an entirely different matter. At the end, most people going into small-farming these days are urban refugees and most enter the field thinking that it is the last bastion of "no skills required" and "low barrier to entry education-wise" only to discover you have to have money AND it requires many, many skills from working on farm equipment to everything else, which most urban people do not have. To add insult to injury most aspiring small farmers bite off more than they can chew and with a job in town it turns into a life from hell...
 
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Yes, J Anders. When I would get impatient riding my bicycle to work, and when the garden doesn't do what it should, I ask, "Why am I doing this?" And the answer always comes, "Because it's what I do."
 
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