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Zellie Potgieter

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since Jan 12, 2019
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Recent posts by Zellie Potgieter

John Suavecito wrote:Syntropic agriculture sounds a lot like permaculture.
John S

It probably is.  I am not religious on these things :)  
The thing that I like about syntropic agriculture is that it dovetails really nicely into some other stuff I know already (like how plants actually really like growing together, and our idea of plants competing is wrong - although I am sure there's some exceptions), and other stuff I didn't think about.  After listening to a few lectures, it now strikes me how many trees are growing in full sun that would probably like it better if they were in the understory.  I know in my yard that even the things we think of as wanting full sun seem to be happier in dappled shade.  Plus, I generally gravitate towards trees (fruit) rather than veg, so the idea of growing trees faster and healthier appeals (which again dovetails into the work from John Kempf that shows we really have no idea of how fast trees and plants can really grow if they are in a healthy environment).  

I like the idea of growing a forest fast.  Yes it's a lot of management, and again, I am not religious about these things.  I can grow a syntropic forest until such time as it becomes too much work, and then scale it back to such a place as the work becomes manageable.  
4 months ago
I think of it as a twin issue - lowering your expenses and boosting your income, and then do something like slowly exchanging your current off-farm income with farm income.

Reading a lot on mrmoneymustache.com has lowered my expectations of how much money I actually need.  

Also understanding that selling fruit or veg is a time sensitive thing, where selling seeds or a plant is not (or something like dried fruit or processed in some way, but I am not really inclined that way).  Plus, you may get $1 or something for your apple or tomato, but if you grow out the tomato seeds you get a lot more than $1.  This is especially true for trees that people use that they would like to buy a lot of, to make a shelter belt, for example.  If you don't sell your seedlings this year, next year they will be worth a lot more, and the extra time you need to keep them alive another year is not a great burden.  I think of selling fruit and veg as a stage in the business, rather than the end goal (or maybe something that gets people to know you.  If they know you grow awesome tomatoes, then next year they might be inclined to buy the tomato plants)

There's a few places that goes into the actual cost of their operations.  Joel Salatin does a lot of money talks. Edible Acres.  Peter Kanaris talks to Jim Kovaleski that does front yard farming and makes enough money (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSvwN4SlzeQ).  I know Joel's farm is big, but he talks about making money renting land and pasturing pigs (? I think it was pigs, may have been beef, also poultry).  

Generally, I think it depends on how you are inclined.  Do you want to find something that just two people can run forever?  Or do you want to grow into a big farm with employees.  Mostly, the type of place that I gravitate towards is a smaller operation that I can envision doing when I am 80 because I enjoy it so it doesn't have a finite race to get enough money to retire with, but it still needs to make enough money that I can invest in order to travel or stop working if need be - this is where lowering expenditures and knowing tax laws comes in.  I like growing fruit, and really enjoy syntropic growing, so a small nursery operation selling starts or rooted plants is more my style than a CSA style farmers market farm.

I haven't seen anything that tells me that it's not completely do-able, but I see it as a 5 year exchange starting at 100% off farm to eventually 100% on farm.
4 months ago

Cristo Balete wrote: ... when there's an earthquake, particularly if it's in a mountainous area where the earthquakes seem to shake the mountains for miles around, more than the flatland.  


Interesting point, given that all the place I like are in mountainous areas :)  
3 years ago

Cristo Balete wrote:California seems expensive, but if you get in the right area the winter winter heating bills are practically nonexistent.   It always shocks me that people shrug at $500 a month heating bills in freezing winter areas, and then have a fit over mortgage payments.   You'll never see the money that gets spent on heating, but most of the time (if there's forethought about reselling) money put into buying property pays off.  Plus the interest on a mortgage is tax deductible.  And there's protection with Proposition 13 and tax levels staying low, which are also tax deductible.

It's also regulated as far as building codes because of earthquakes.   And when you've got your biggest investment in your life keeping the roof over your head, you will thank your lucky stars that it was built to code when there's an earthquake, particularly if it's in a mountainous area where the earthquakes seem to shake the mountains for miles around, more than the flatland.  

Some friends of ours inherited a cabin in northern California and were disappointed to find that a high percentage of the population was on welfare, the poverty rates in areas that were not retirement areas was high, and some of those areas had drug and alcohol issues.  Now that marijuana is not illegal, the dangers from the growers and their workers protecting illegal growing setups hopefully will be lower.

Ben, are there any issues with the Indian casinos?  Higher traffic volume and more accidents were complained about in farming areas, but not sure how that's played out over the years.

Oh my, so true on the heating!  Those bills can add up quick in colder places.  Same with animal feed and housing through winter.  

I don't mind the regulations on building and earthquakes.  My husband is a builder (who LOVES concrete :) - so not permies, but very useful in an earthquake).  He also did part of his research for university on building in earthquake zones, and we lived in New Zealand, where everything has to built to earthquake specs.  

:) I just finished watching Murder Mountain on Netflix, so that is definitely something that is a concern.  
3 years ago

Ben Zumeta wrote:If you want ideal summers (you choose where you want it 60-100f based on if you go coastal or up to the mountains/rivers) and don’t mind rainy but mild (freezes are rare) winters (but snow within a n hour and a half for skiing), and want to live in a place with virtually no enforcement about how you can develop or destroy your own land, check out Del Norte county in Far nw CA. It’s called Caltucky or Calabama by the sea due to its “rural” culture, but that is changing in the right (leftwards) direction in my observation over six years here. I also still appreciate that even those whose politics I disagree with around here are at least largely adept DIYers. However, we need more permies!

Del Norte is the cheapest place in California but has the greatest water security, has the lowest fire risk in the state on the coast, and is the least populous place by radius in the continental US (nobody living in the Pacific helps that stat). We also have the highest biomass/acre on earth in our forests, and the highest soil biodiversity there as well. Oh, and the largest undammed river in the continental US, which is in my opinion the best swimming river in the world. It is slow pitch softball for permaculture here with all the organic matter around.

That sounds pretty amazing.  Although that is some serious rainfall.  

Rainfall would give me pause, as well as the small population.  While I want the convenience of a small town, I would also need some people close-ish by to sell stuff too if I go that route, though Crescent City seems to be growing pretty rapidly.  It is in a higher earthquake risk zone than what I would like (Ha! High Earthquake risk vs low fire risk :) ), but seems  like something to explore.
Thank you, I will definitely go visit, and see what I think.
3 years ago

Alex Horton wrote:Hi Friend,

I am from the bay area, south san jose, and have lived in Prescott AZ for a whole 6 months attending Prescott college. With that I can say the weather was significantly more dramatic than california in terms of heat/cold fluctuation with the lack of moisture amplifying the hotness and coldness of an otherwise mild latitude. Dehydration in summer and fall, freezing in winter. Its a good place if you want to toughen up your inner animal.  I actually got quite sick after my first winter there as I was not prepared for how biting it was compared to california/tahoeish winters. (I am from a mild climate so take this with a grain of salt). The town itself is a mix of VERY traditional/conservative types (John McCains hometown), as well as VERY non traditional/ anarachoesque types and artists mainly from the college ,also Arco Santi which is close to there. It is close to Flagstaff which is beautiful, and the grand canyon, as well as Pheonix. Prescott is safe and friendly and has a hometown feel, but is small and isolated. Much safer feeling (to me) and hospitable than parts of Phoenix which is about 1.5 hours away.

Personally, I would chose to live in San Diego, as I missed the ocean in Prescott, being a surfer. Additionally, I would find the culture of san diego more palatable. Nuclear is sketchy, ill give you that, though it may be useful to look into studies of cancer rated in surrounding areas to get an idea of the effects. It is a personal choice based on what you value, where you want to place your family. Fresno and Central Valley/ Yosemite foothills are a great place, but far away from life enhancing culture that San Diego has Id say. There is strong conservatism and water rights power struggle mentality in Fresno, and I do not know many permie activities out there save some awesome and progressive commercial farmers.

My two cents, for what its worth..Maybe go an see in person on a trip. The worst parts of san diego will be the prices, trafific and fire danger. The worst of arizona the conservative biggotedness and exteme heat/cold. The best of both i think i already covered....okay im done..... BEST of luck~!


I did not know it was John McCains hometown.  That is very interesting.  I did find that there was a lot of rules when you look at buying a place in Prescott (and there was some homebuilder that wrote a big article, at the start of 2018, I think, about just how completely obnoxious and inefficient the whole permitting process is in Prescott).  

:) That is the frustrating bit about risks.  Do I take the immediate risk of the polluted air in Fresno, or the maybe risk of nuclear issues in San Diego?  The nuclear issue may never happen, or it may be catastrophic.  Is the extreme heat/cold in Arizona worth being farther away from that risk?  Although, they have their own risk of air pollution (I assume from the sand storms).  
Being close to the sea is definitely something that I would love, and counts for a fair bit.  San Diego also "sounds" (from google, may be completely wrong), to be a bit more middle of the road, politically.  The conservative biggotedness can get tedious just as fast as the leftist lunacy.  

I am hoping to be able to make a trip this summer (probably the best time to make the trip to assess the different climates).  But I am also hoping to pare down my selections a smidge.  If Texas and Arizona and California is on that list, that will be one heck of a road trip :)  
3 years ago
Thank you for all the replies.  

I find it is such an interesting (and massively frustrating ) exercise to try and figure out where to live if you have no restrictions (like what normally happens if you are simply moving for work).  The human mind is so bad at assessing risk (like being afraid of flying, but not of driving, even though driving is a lot more dangerous) that every little thing becomes a big thing.  So part of the exercise is to figure out with what risk I can live with.

The one thing that I am very wary of is property taxes.  Income tax can be worked with. Deferring some things, or investing it, or creating a business so some things can be deducted as expenses.  Sales tax can be worked with.  If I am producing a big percentage of my food, then sale taxes don't make such a big difference.  If I am using my own water and solar, then taxes on that don't matter.  Or I can make the calculation and do a yearly drive to do some massive shopping in a state with no sales tax.  

Property tax has none of that.  You don't pay it, you lose your place.  My $50,000 place that I buy outside of Dallas can be worth $500,000 in 20 years.  Now my property taxes are $10 000 a year.  Where in California (at least for now, you never know when they will change that), my property taxes will still be paid on $50,000.  Big difference.  Even in year one, Fresno County Property tax effective rate is 0.87% (going off a quick google search ).  So on $50,000 that's $435.  Outside Dallas (Azle County), the effective property tax rate is 1.9%.  On $50,000 that's $950.

Not massive difference in terms of money, but that's still double.  So I think some of the high other taxes can get cancelled out by the property tax.  Plus, in California I get $4000 a year to use for my kids on homeschool stuff (I can take it or leave it, the actual admin and oversight of it if I take it can be mitigated), in Texas I don't.  Cancels out a few things for a few years.

The political climate in California is definitely a concern.  High taxes and lots of government intervention is a concern.  Yet I keep coming back to California  

I have yet to find some actual rules (like the rainwater harvesting in Colorado) that puts me off completely from California (homeschooling removes a lot of issues for rules that's going on in schools, too).  Plus the ridiculous amount of government regulation in Canada may have lowered my bar a little
And maybe living close enough to Fresno that the kids can go to the mall there if needed can mitigate some of the issues of people not wanting to develop (which can be a blessing and a curse).  That does mean that I will have to drive the kids to playdates, given that I definitely don't want to live right next to Fresno.  

Marco, I agree that an actual nuclear crash seems very unlikely.  But when I google San Onofre nuclear power plant, what I get is "Fukushima waiting to happen", which is slightly concerning.  I prefer the weather in San Diego, but I think the weather in the hills behind Fresno is pretty good too (and far enough way to mollify my internal threat sensor ).

Jincy, that is so true.  I have big dogs (150lb and 110lb ) and the one is named Cuddles (150lb one).  She is more likely to hurt you because she stepped on your toe than she is to bite you.  Yet she looks ferocious.  Very good deterrent
3 years ago

Jeff Imray wrote:I would rethink San Diego, They shut down San Onofre 3 years ago now its just a huge storage for Nuclear Waste. I live in north county and its 70 everyday. If you dig deep the #1 weather in the USA is Vista California and it rates #5 in the world. The key is to live on a hill so you don't get a frost(and no apples). I go to Tuscon often and its weather is nice but a whole lot tougher than San Diego. De Luz is a town in north county that is cheaper but it is still spendy out here...

:) Jeff, that is funny.  De Luz is one of the places I looked at (but then got scared off by the fact that the nuclear waste would be very close-ish to where I live).  I am considering up in the hills behind Fresno.  Land there seems to be fairly cheap (relatively speaking :) ), and up in the hills would be out of the smog that hangs over the valley, yet still close enough to Fresno and Visalia to find friends for the kids.  It will also be a little cooler than in the valley (though nights in winter will be a bit cooler too).  

The weather in San Diego area is definitely talking to me.  I don't mind a few nights here and there where it gets cold, but I hope to live my whole rest of my life without ever seeing snow again (or needing gloves :) ).

Since I have you here :) , I was wondering about something else.  Everyone talks about all the rules and regulations strangling California.  Looking on Google, I have not found it to be ridiculous.  I like the property tax that is based on what you paid for your place, rather than what it is worth now.  There seem to be no issues with capturing water.  The cottage food laws seem okay.  I can sell raw milk.  The rules around building a house myself seem to be okay.  Is there something I am missing?
3 years ago

Greg Mamishian wrote:
Besides my regular job, as a hobby I install residential sewage treatment plants, and use ours as a demonstration. I host "Sewer Tours" Saturday mornings so folks can see for themselves exactly how it works and can decide if they would like to do it themselves or pay me to install it for them.

So in this regard our homestead has made us thousands of dollars.

This sounds really interesting, Greg.  I take it this is something other than a septic system?

3 years ago
I originally asked about living in San Diego county, and then, as I was reading another thread, I saw that they have a nuclear power plant about 50 minutes from where I would like to live.  So ... that's a hard no  

I have been through this up and down, and have not found a satisfactory answer.  We currently live in Canada.  I am done with snow and cold.  A few days of cold, sure.  And some snow here or there that melts quickly can be tolerated.  But months on end, no thank you.  I am from South Africa, so for me, winter is 2 months of 0 Celsius in the morning, and then 15 ~ 20 C in the afternoon  

I would like to live in zone 8 and above.  Maybe zone 7b.  But that's low enough.  I want to grow sweet citrus (I know there are some citrus that's somewhat cold-hardy, but they are all the sour ones).  
I don't want high humidity.  I would like to live where I can do all the permie stuff.  Catch water, build my own house, do solar, have animals, and such.

While I don't mind living very rural, my kids are pretty social, so I need to live close to a city (I think at least 30,000 or so).  

I would like at least 5 acres, but 20 acres would be much better.  

I would prefer to live in the desert, and then turn it into a paradise, than to live in a place where it rains a lot (with the accompanied agriculture that sprays everything).  

I would really not like to live close to any fracking.  

All of these have landed me in Arizona.  Used to be Arizona, Texas and San Diego county, but I think the fracking in Texas and the nuclear in San Diego county would be a deal breaker for me.

Land close to Phoenix is fairly expensive.  Prescott is better, but they seem to have a lot of regulations (they get colder in winter than Phoenix, but it seems fairly mild).  

In my general search, I happened upon a crime database website.  Arizona seems to be pretty high up there in crime.  Tuscon, which I think would be better than Phoenix to live in, has higher crime than Phoenix.  Now, as I said, I am from South Africa, so I have a pretty good idea about crime.  But I also don't want to live somehwere where I am worried about leaving the kids at the house while I am doing something elsewhere on the farm.  

I realize this is pretty broad, and that I am trying to fit Xanadu into the US  

So I guess I have multiple questions.
- Any experience with Tuscon?
- Is there somewhere else that I am not thinking about?  Some random place that would fit the bill, but does not look like it on paper?
3 years ago