Rebecca Brown

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since Nov 25, 2011
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Recent posts by Rebecca Brown

Hey Ken,
Thanks for the input!
A couple of responses:
-These are end projections; i.e., what the farm will make when everything is up and running. I also have year-by-year projections that show how it will hopefully build. I'm also worried about the time and lifestyle demands.

-I'm aware of the need for transitional income. My partner wants to go back to school for her Master's around the time we move, and her stipend should cover most of our expenses for the first few years. You have to have at least a lower-level graduate degree in her field to do much. I also have a small arts and crafts business that I will probably continue for the first two years, and possibly beyond that if we need the money. I also want to have a significant amount in savings when we make the leap.

-We're not planning on moving for at least another two years. Most of what we need is already in place, and all the berry bushes and mushrooms will be bearing by the time we move.

-I didn't put in contingency plans here because I was trying to save space. If necessary, I will reactivate my teaching license and go back into the classroom (perish the thought, but you do what you have to.) As for the classes, my partner has a PDC in addition to being an environmental scientist, and she eventually wants to teach permaculture and environmental classes on the land. There are several different things my partner can do, even if she has to travel to the swamp in the summer to do biodiversity studies.

-Our mortgage, when we're not paying it ahead, amounts to $200 a month. It'll be paid off in 2023 at the latest.

You think 3000 pounds of veggies from a market garden is low? The estimates I've found have been all over the map. I was also assuming half the theoretical yield from the food forest. I'm trying to be conservative.

Thanks again for your help!
6 years ago
Thanks for the replies thus far, everyone! Sorry I haven't been back on here; life's been really busy this week.

Okay, a couple of quick answers; we don't live on our homestead yet, and when we move there full-time we'll have to give up our current jobs because the commute is too long. We'll either have to find local jobs (tough), work from home, or make enough off the farm to make ends meet.

We will be expanding the food forest; we're going to place a big order next month, and the figures I've used have taken that into consideration.

Our primary crops will be fruit, veggies, mushrooms, and flowers. My estimates on what we can sell are based on what I think the maximum work two people can handle is. For example, I'm assuming fifty mushroom logs with four flushes that total two pounds a log. Four flushes is the most you can get per year in our climate, and it takes a good bit of work to handle the logs.

Oh, and the meat prices I used were averages of all cuts and the price per pound of a full pig or cow.

Chicken Eggs 183 dozen $732
Duck Eggs 40 dozen 240
Veggies 3000 pounds 9000
Tomatoes 400 pounds 1600
Mushrooms 100 pounds per flush 4000
Blackberries 60 gallons 900
Blueberries 60 gallons 900
Raspberries 30 gallons 540
Soap 3000
Classes 2000
Apples $5/lb*800 lbs 4000
Peaches $4/lb*100 lbs 400
Cherries $5/lb*50 lbs 250
Pears $4*20 lbs 80
Pawpaws $5/lb*40 lbs 200
Figs $4*30 lbs 120
Jams/Jellies/Salsas/Etc $4/jar *1000 jars 4000
Pork $4.75/lb*100lbs per pig*4 pigs 2137.5
Nigerian Dwarf Goats for breeding purposes $250 each *4 1000
Nigerian Dwarf Goats/for meat or pets $100 each *2 200
Jacob Sheep for breeding $250 each *4 1000
Jacob Sheep for meat/pets $100 each *2 200
Misc Fruit $4/lb*100 lbs 400
Piglets for Breeding $250 each *4 1000
Flowers $5/bouquet *200 bouquets +100 sunflowers +10 bouquets in vase 1300
Bedding Plants/Hanging Baskets $5/each (average)*200 1000

Grand Total: $40199.50
After Expenses and Income Taxes: $26934.75

I'm working to reduce the income we need to as low as possible, but until we pay off the land, it will be significantly higher than it otherwise would be.

Any other input would be appreciated. Thanks again!
6 years ago
I'm trying to develop a business plan for our homestead. I've been working on it for a while now, and I think I've refined it pretty well. The part I'm having trouble with is the revenue/net income streams. I would like us to make more than I'm currently projecting, but I'm not sure how to do it.

Paul talks about making $100-200k from a permaculture system. I'm sure people can do it, but I'm not certain that's feasible on a 10 acre farm. I would like to net $40-50k, however. I've no interest in being one of the permaculturists who lives on $14k a year. Or less; I know one family that live on their permaculture homestead and make about $7k a year. That's their entire income! They're on food stamps and have dirt floors. I grew up in that kind of poverty and am not interested in returning to it, no matter the reasons.

But back to our farm. We have 10 acres, most of which is rolling hills. There's a spring-fed pond on the property and we intend on putting more ponds in. We have a baby food forest, but right now it only has a dozen trees and won't yield for another five or six years. We also intend to have a market garden and raise heritage breed chickens, ducks, goats, sheep and pigs. We'll sell breeding stock of the goats, sheep and pigs and also sell pork and eggs. We won't sell the chickens for meat; it's just not worth it for the return you get. I also want to sell flowers and bedding plants. Value-added products would be jams, jellies and soap.

Below are the best prices organic/natural farmers get at the most upscale farmer's markets in the two cities nearest us. The pork price is the average price of all the cuts and the berries aren't organic. I think we could boost the prices of both a bit, probably by $1 per pound or gallon.
Chicken Eggs $4 doz
Duck Eggs $6 doz
Most veggies $3 lb
Tomatoes $4 lb
Mushrooms $7 to $10 lb
Blackberries or Blueberries $15 Gallon
Raspberries $18 Gallon
Chickens $14 each
Pork $3.75 lb
Beef $5 lb
Flowers $5 bouquet
Jams $4/jar

Using these numbers and the yields we expect, plus the maximum size of the operation for two people, I have us grossing about $40k a year and netting just under $27K after expenses and taxes. This is just sightly more than the minimum we need to get by until the land is paid off.

My questions:
First, is this reasonable? I can't see people who are already paying a premium for organic and natural paying us much more just because we do permaculture. Maybe in the Pacific Northwest, but not here.
Second, how can I increase these numbers. I really, really don't want to work off-farm once the food forest is in production. I've considered farm stays, but we would have to invest a lot of money in building a place, etc, and I'm not sure how that would turn out.
Thanks!
6 years ago
Here's how the codes prevent you from building a $20,000 house:
-In the county where we live now (not where our homestead is, thank God), the building permit for a new house runs $10,000
-Utility connection fees -sewer, water, electricity -have a blanket fee of $10,000, plus inspection fees.

So, you are out $20,000 before you ever break ground. Then there are these gems:
-All plumbing, electrical, and septic work has to be done by a licensed contractor, even if you know what you are doing.
-Owner-builders have to get all plans stamped by a professional engineer.
-Owner-builders have to have 4x as many inspections (at hundreds of $ each) as contractors.

The code is just as restrictive for existing homes. We had to replace some drywall in our bathroom last year; we were legally supposed to get a $200 permit and get our plans approved. The law applies to any home repair more extensive than replacing a sink trap.

And God forbid your home gets declared historic. An older friend of mine is having to sell the home she's lived in since the 70s. Why? It just got declared historic, so it's now under the jurisdiction of both the planning board and the historical preservation committee. She is supposed to restore the home to its "original looks," which means tearing down the porch that's been there since the 50s, replacing the fence with something "period appropriate," getting rid of the shed she built 20 years ago, and replacing some windows. The work required is extensive enough that it would count as a remodel which would, you guessed it, mean she'd have to bring the whole 100+ year old house up to modern building codes. The cost of these renovations would be tens of thousands of dollars. She would have to take out a loan on a place that's been paid off for 15 years and she's about to retire. The committee has the legal power to force her to do this.

So, she's selling. She's being forced to sell the house where her children were raised, where her partner died, where she planned to live until her death, by a bunch of code enforcement officials who want to make things look better.
6 years ago
Have the well water tested before you buy and regularly thereafter, especially since you live in Pennsylvania.

Plan on everything but the land costing 20-40% more than you think it will and taking up to 2x as long as you planned. (This has been our experience.)

As others have said, transition slowly. Buy the land as soon as possible and start planting trees and shrubs. It takes 3-5 years for berry bushes to go into full production, 5-8 years to get ANY crop out of most fruit trees, and 10-20 years to get nut trees going. We bought our land in July of 2010 and planted our first fruit trees that fall. We expect to see our first apples and pears around 2014 or 2015.

Once you have the place, start taking weekends and vacations at the homestead and work to improve it. In the two years we've owned our land, we've transformed the bramble-filled pasture into something almost usable, planted over 50 trees and shrubs, started a poultry house, and more. We just put in an Amish-built portable building to serve as a dwelling for now and we're working to finish that out. We've done all of this and we've never stayed up there for longer than 5 days at a time -and that was just the once. We'll typically go up just for the day or an overnight trip. We don't get up there much at all during the worst of the summer and the worst of the winter.

When you select your cash crops, try to select several different ones that ripen at different times, need different conditions, etc. Try to pick at least one that isn't dependent on the weather at all, like soap. Value added is the watch word. Most of the successful farmers I know make most of their money from value added products. A basket of cucumbers might fetch $3; a jar of pickles will fetch the same, and you can get many jars per basket.

Get to know your neighbors and ask one of them to keep an eye on your place when you're not around. This will prevent or reduce problems with theft and partying teenagers.
6 years ago

Max Kennedy wrote:Though in some ways government is going too far it is still better than what came before where parents could sell children into indentured servitude or as child brides. The trick is to find a balance. For example I have bought eggs from a Mennonite family in late spring and been served by older girls, barefoot in the snow while the boys, even the <1 year old in another girls arms had boots on. The feet definitely all showed the effect of constantly being without appropriate footwear. In NE Ontario with temperatures that can be below -40 celsius that is more than a cultural difference, it's cruelty. That is not what is going on here but it is what child welfare authorities are trying to prevent and can get over zealous in doing. More communication and flexibility by the authorities is warranted.



Yes! As someone who has worked with abused and neglected children before, I have to thank God that SS is there. They have a very tough job to do. You have NO idea what some people do their children. I've seen things that still give me nightmares. SS just needs to find a balance between helping kids who need the help and infringing on parents rights.
6 years ago
I tried to post a picture of our tiny house, but I kept getting a bad request error so I'm going to post the link to our blog and you can go there if you would like to see pictures.
It's 12X32, for a grand total of 384 square feet. We paid $3250 for it, plus $130 for a metal door, $400 for transportation and $300 to prepare the sight. So, for just over $4000 we have a nearly 400 square foot unfinished cabin that comes in under the building codes and is going to be quite homey. It's also gorgeous!
You can see the pictures here: http://tinyhousebigsky.wordpress.com/
6 years ago
A couple of things about dealing with SS:
-They can't take your kids away without a judge's order; judge's are historically loathe to issue these orders and will do so only in cases where they see clear evidence of neglect or abuse. A city judge is more likely to overreach than a country judge, but in many states they won't remove children unless blood is coming out from under the door.

-If SS shows up at your door, remember that you are under no obligation to let them in without a search warrant. Most judges will NOT issue a warrant for a SS search unless evidence of abuse or neglect has already surfaced, such as a child with broken bones or one who constantly shows up to school dirty and hungry. If a neighbor calls in a tip to SS and they show up, you can feel free to tell them to buzz off.

In the case above, the family was living in a storage unit in a major city. The wonder is they didn't get their kids taken away before. Not that I think what they are doing is wrong, but no city judge is going to allow that and there was no way to hide where they were living. If I was them, I would take my kids and leave town pronto.

I've had to deal with SS before in various jobs. I've actually called them myself; I have a legal duty to report and both times I've called where in cases where kids were being outright abused and I witnessed the abuse in the course of my job. Even then, the kids weren't taken away (though one should have been, imo). The two mothers were given counseling, monitoring and parenting training. Most social workers are very reluctant to take kids away. They are not likely to do it because you homeschool or drink raw milk. If you live without electricity and running water they might, depending on where you're at, but as I pointed out before, you are under no obligation to let them in.
6 years ago
I would like to say, for the record, that many states have laws that make it perfectly legal to shoot at trespassers. You're supposed to ask them to leave first. If they don't leave, you're legal if you do shoot at them in those states.

I would also like to point out that anyone who is on private property and refuses to leave when asked politely almost certainly does have ill intentions. In our case, we are two women who will be living alone on our homestead, possibly with small children. Our nearest neighbor is an older woman who lives alone. The road ends half a mile before you get to our house. Anyone who is on our land or hers has gone WAY out of their way and ignored numerous "No Trespassing" and "No Hunting" signs. If we had trespassers who refused to leave, I would call the sheriff and get out the gun. I wouldn't shoot them unless I had to, but I wouldn't take any chances either, not where the safety of myself and my family is concerned.
6 years ago
One of the most effective no-trespassing signs I've ever seen was a piece of plywood spray-painted with the words "Trespassers will be shot." Two of the words were misspelled and two of the "s"'s were backwards. My friend has it propped up against his fence next to the gate. He doesn't have ANY problems. Everyone, including the nearby drug dealers, thinks he's a crazy hillbilly and, for the record, he would only actually shoot someone if they were breaking in his house. The sign is legal in our state. Our land is in a decent area; we haven't had any problems, and the "No Hunting" and "No Trespassing" signs seem to work.
6 years ago