Travis Johnson

pollinator
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since Feb 03, 2016
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9th generational farmer, our farm having officially started in 1746, but dates back to the Mayflower. We had the first sheep shearing shed in new England, and always had sheep to 1988. For 20 years we went without sheep until I took over the farm in 1992, reintroduced sheep in 2008, and in 2015 retired at age 42 and started full-time farming. We are still struggling at farming, and probably always will, but the goal is the same...another generation.
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Recent posts by Travis Johnson

Rebecca Wooldridge wrote:...hould probably be broken down into more categories....



I encourage you to write down your expenses because it probably will shock you how little things add up. When a person tracks things by categories and then sub-categories, they really get a good idea of what they are spending, and just where things can be cut. For instance, at the shipyard I used to buy a coffee and breakfast sandwich for $2.25 every day. That amounted to $11.25 a week, $45 a month, and a staggering $540 per year. A family can do a lot with $540!

I will list how my Person Expenses look listed out in Excel, but keep in mind I do not use all these categories, or sub-categories. For instance, I don't have any loans, nor cell phone or satellite, but I have a category nonetheless. The idea here is to make a template, but a person does not have to use each category, or sub-category.

On most of the categories I have a spot that takes the total cost for the month and divides it by my families size, in my case (6). This gives me a cost per person basis for each category. Some expenses though are very personalized, like clothing (my wife and her love of shoes for instance), or presents for the kids, so these I add up separately for each person.

While it is interesting the trends and exact numbers I can give you regarding our expenses, the real benefit is to make accurate, and aggressively lower monthly budgets so that we spend less money. In other words, as difficult as it is to track where the money is going, it is another thing to actually refrain from spending it, and that of course is what budgets are for.

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1 month ago
Comparing budgets to other families is really a very difficult thing to do because there are so many variables in life. Just the numbers themselves can be misleading, like for instance: I keep track of every penny we spend, but also put everything I want to track into categories (and even sub categories not listed) so that i can keep an eye on budgets very precisely. Others may find that just keeping up with a few basic categories is enough, and I am sure that it is.

One of the key things I noted really needs some explanation, and that is it was averaged over 4 years. On certain categories this is really important, like budgeting for food! This is pretty constant for us; month to month and year to year, but home construction is not. My home is paid for, so the $307 cited is for renovations, additions or improvements. Some years we have bigger projects than others, but averaged out over 4 years, that is what we average per month. On the farm side, Depreciation is the same way; we use cash-only here so big purchases like bulldozers and fencing means lots of depreciation. Depending on how I do that, it might be big for a year, and smaller the next year. The same applies to Rental, repairs and Vet bills; some years are worse than others.

The real key to budgeting is not budget based on these averages per say, nor what other people are spending. That is just silly and does not do the individual or particular family any good. That only ends up trying to justifying a persons reasoning for those particular numbers. Instead look back upon the numbers...over years if you can, and really deduce what is a real world number for the upcoming year, and then try and be aggressive on a budgeting goal.

To put that in practice, it would be like Katie and I looking at say our food bill. $925 seems kind of high until you realize that that includes everyday meals at home, fast food, family nights at restaurants and date nights for her and I. We went for a 10% reduction for food expenses for 2018. However, we could still spend $925 a month, but increase our quality of life by reducing our fast food meals to almost $0, and instead fortifying our marriage by going on more date nights. Or, we could invest that money into going out as a family to better restaurants then McDonald's. That is the key to tracking a person's money; knowing that, they can make changes with where it goes. Not spending less, just having a better quality of life...though spending less is a lofty goal.

Katie and I took some time last week to really look hard at our budget, and we found we could trim $200 a month on personal expenses, and $500 a month on the farm expenses; or at least that is the goal, spelled out in each category. In total that is $700 a month, or $8,400 a year in savings. But should anyone think Katie and I have it altogether money wise, please consider this; if we had done this in 2014, we would have had $33,600 in expense savings to date!!

Tracking every penny spent is difficult
Creating a budget is easy
Sticking to an aggressive budget is the hardest of all; yet is what reaps the most benefits.



1 month ago
Just install an automatic damper. It is a $20 fix.
1 month ago
We always wanted to have a wood cook stove, and while we found a few, we ended up passing on them due to clearance issues to combustibles, and the problem of having a chimney. One day we were getting parts for our pot bellied stove at a antique stove shop, and saw a 1917 Crawford gas cook stove. The woman took 50% off the price because I happened to have the cash in my pocket, and ended up bringing it home. It operates on propane instead of wood, and in many ways that is wrong, but it fits well in our 1930's era kitchen, and really works well for our big family.

Who knows, maybe someday we will get a biogas station hooked up to run it! (LOL)

1 month ago
It has been claimed that Blueberries help a person remember better.

For whatever reason, my second daughter loved blueberry juice, so from infancy until age 4 organic blueberry juice was her preferred drink of choice. Today, at age 11, she can recall things that we forget about, and she was age 2-1/2 or so when they happened. She constantly amazes us by recalling events from long ago.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but her memory is superior (and no this is not just a proud Dad bragging).

...

Funny thing: A guy from Washington County Maine; the blueberry capital of the USA, wanted to test blueberries for how good they are for you, but needed a flat of blueberries. To his shock, none of the big producers would give him even one flat. In the end he had to get a flat from a guy who only had 2-3 acres of them. Now by big producers I means 14,000 acres of them big! So he had them tested and they determined they were not only good for a person, they were REALLY good for you. Now those same blueberry giants have it printed all over their boxes, but they were too cheap to even give one flat away. What is one measly flat of blueberries when you have 14,000 acres of them?
1 month ago
Bats are really good at getting the flying insects that come out at night, where as ducks do really well at the low level insects that come out during the day. This is not exactly a perfect system as day time flying insect predators, and ground level night time insect predators would be ideal, but I have had good luck with my commercial flock of sheep. It works well enough so that I do not use insecticide on my farm.
1 month ago
Anne, that makes a lot of sense.

Being the new year, my wife and I took a long hard look at our expenses and really trimmed our budget. If we can hold to it, we are looking at $200 off our monthly personal expenses, and $500 off our farm expenses. That is some pretty good savings.

I certainly do not mean to convey an excuse, but being retired at age 43 is a little challenging when a person has 4 young daughters, but it is that same quality of life that makes retirement at such a young age nice too. Trade-off's you know.
1 month ago

Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:I was surprised to see here, in a thread about saving money, so many of you drink 'creamer', condensed or other milk in their coffee. Maybe it's the American way of drinking coffee?



Honestly, I do not think that is the case. I never cared for tea until i was over in Ireland staying with some friends. At their house they invited me over and offered me some tea asking if I liked creamer in it..."Why yes I do..." and interestingly enough, since trying it with creamer, something I never even considered here in the USA, I actually like tea now!

One thing I do now that it is winter is; use my coffee maker to make coffee, then take the decanter and place it on the stove. This keeps it warm without excess electricity.

We also like to take less costly cuts of meats and make it delicious. Smoking lower cuts of meat allows the food budget to stretch.
1 month ago
What does your soil test reveal?

Remember it is just a guess unless you test. Not having enough organic matter is a problem, but just one of what could be many problems.
1 month ago
I do require more power (in both kws and amps) because I have a wife, 4 daughters, and a commercial farm which is drastically different than a person who is single and only has to be concerned about their own well being. What you are describing is really more about a type of lifestyle and not really about needs and wants.

I have a daughter that at age four, is scared of the dark so her night lights consume extra wattage, and the other three like white noise so they operate fans. In a perfect world I would just say "suck it up buttercup", but I have to tell them no to so many other things that are far more important to their growth, what is some watts to me to keep them peacefully sleeping? Did I mention one was four? Trust me, you keep her sleeping at all costs! (LOL)

We conserve electricity here, but I will be honest, we do not get crazy in doing so. Normally we operate at $85 for a month of power usage in the summer, and $250-$350 in the winter. A lot of that was keeping our stock tanks for the sheep ice free. This year we went to a system where we give the sheep just enough water for the day. With the sheep drinking the water completely up, there is no need to operate stock tank deicers and we are at $100 a month instead of $250-350 a month. That one act has cut my winter time electricity consumption by over 200%!

I never had good luck with battery powered tools because I do not use them sporadically, but intently. Can you imagine trying to cut 10 cord of wood in a day with a battery powered chainsaw? It is just not going to happen, but 1/2 gallon of gasoline and oil per day will sure get me the production I need. That same sort of application applies to other tools like a 4-1/2 inch grinder. I could never rely on batteries because when I am cutting off bolts, fabricating parts, and doing repairs, I would go through more batteries then could be recharged. And of course being a retired welder by trade, what I can fabricate myself just by having a welder saves me an enormous amount of money. So for me, my family and my lifestyle; plugged in power works much, much better, BUT I am not located $50,000 worth of poles and wires away from the grid either, I am already tied to it.

But as a full-time farmer, and accidentally getting into the land-clearing business, I have amazing potential sitting right in my yard all the time...bulldozers and tractors. PTO generators are CHEAP since you are only buying the generator part of the unit, and unlike portable generators, they have clean power too boot. With 1500 gallons of diesel fuel on hand at any one time, my lifestyle is not compromised in an off-grid, or power outage situation. I can operate for months with that much fuel. I had the PTO generator given to me in a bartering trade, with the biggest expense being a new pto shaft that cost $186.

So really, how many watts and amps a person needs depends on lifestyle and what they already have for resources. The more people a household has, the less the collective electrical compromises will occur. In other words a husband has stuff he just cannot live without, just as a wife will, and each individual child. It collectively adds up. But depending on what a person has for resources, it can be mitigated. Not a lot of people have bulldozers on here, but a ton of people have tractors; they can power pto generators just as well as my bulldozer can.

I commend you for being resourceful, but it is no more resourceful than what I am doing, or how resourceful other people on here can be, or how resourceful they are already. All it is is using what you got to live the way you wish.
1 month ago