move to the boonies low income? advice

mamato3August 1, 2008

I suppose I wish for the days when life was more simplistic. Thankfully my husband agrees with me. My dream is for a fairly small place of our own, as far out in the boonies as we can get.

Although I want a small house, (small by city standards anyway, I want a 3 bedroom) I want enough land to be able to grow enough food to feed my family of 5 all year long, whether through freezing or canning.

I'm perfectly happy without meat, though my husband isn't. That in itself provides a problem for my dream world, since neither of us have the stomach for killing animals. I can fish, and I can handle shooting and skinning quail and rabbits. I can't handle the idea of killing my own chickens though. I guess that means that we need to live somewhere close enough to be able to buy meat.

And since we don't expect to be able to win the lottery any time soon, we'd need some form of income to handle a mortgage payment., and upgrades to the house. I'd prefer to be solar/windpowered, but we'd still need a way to pay for those things. Although I would be happy without a lot of modern conveniences, I don't want to completely shut off the world, we still want TV and internet. We want a place somewhere in the eastern us, snow is ok, but not excessive blizzards. Desert land is a definate no-no, as I want to be able to grow plants.

Unfortunately we are just average people, with no degrees, and 3 small kids. I planned to homeschool my kids, at least through elementary, but we want a place also close enough for the kids to have school.

I guess with current gas prices, realisically for hubby to go to work, we need to be within about 30 miles of a town where he could find work. His current profession is as a kitchen manager of a seafood restaurant. I'm sure he won't be able to continue that line of work, as most small towns already have permanent staff in the local shops. I'm guessing he'd end up working at a grocery store, or a butcher shop. Funny enough, he has butchering experience, just can't handle killing things.

To handle paying for all the new items that we would need to purchase, I estimate that we would need at least 2k/mo income, probably more like 4k, just so we could get a loan to buy a place, and make the payments.

Is there anyway to make my dreams a reality? None that I can see unfortunatly. Even though we could make due easily enough on a low income once our credit cards were paid off, and we didn't have a car payment, it seems impossible to make such a move until then. While I'm still under 30 now, I don't want to wait until I'm 50 to move.

Any advice from those who may have done this type of move before?

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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

Hi Mamato3,
What a sweet and beautiful dream you have, you sound exactly like me as I have wanted the same thing since I was in my early 20s. I have never had it, still not quite there. My children are all out on their own now and I have a divorce pending, but my dream is greater than ever. I am now in my 40s, but that is not a deterrent. I am lucky to have a profession that I can go pretty much anywhere and find work and still make a decent wage. I want a place where I can live as self-sustaining and independent as I can. The thought of producing my own food gives me such a feeling of self-reliance. But more than just having a place, I would like to make money from it, not a living but just some extra. Have you ever thought of doing that? I am looking into farmer's markets, running a u-pick operation, community supported agriculture, and some other things. These might be a little risky if you need to depend on it. But others have done it and still are. Your state's Department of Agriculture is a good resource. Here is link you might be interested in, although it is for NC the principle is same no matter where you are:
Another thing about the butchering, I believe you can take your animals in to have them butchered or certainly find someone who is willing to do the job in trade for something else.

I know I am not much help, but I feel a kindred spirit and will keep pulling for you and your family. I truly wish you well and just don't give up.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 8:50PM
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Actually my husbands goal was that we could make enough to live on farming. But, I think we'd have to have lots and lots of land to make that happen. I don't know for certain. I guess I should look into it as a reasonable alternative. I was only hoping to be as close to self-reliant as possible.

I fully expect that it will take us a while to make our dreams happen, but I'd rather figure out the goals, and start working toward them now rather than later.

Of course most importantly in my mid, is that I want a place that is safe for my kids, where I don't have to worry about them playing in the backyard alone.

Where I live now, there are 6 people on the sex offenders list within a mile. That's 6 too many for me.

I've thought of starting a home daycare here, just for a little extra money. If I planned well, I could hopefully move into an area that there might be a few children needing daycare that I could care for.

Sounds silly, since I never even dreamed of having kids at all, I wanted to be an environmental biologist. Funny how that's led me to wanting to be a stay at home mom, always looking for "greener" ways of living, and looking more towards self-reliance than depending upon consumerism. I think I would be perfectly happy jumping back in time as a farm wife, even in my great grandmas day. lol

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 9:33PM
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Mamato, it really depends on what you want to do with the land, and how you want to do it.
-Do you want to go organic?
-How important is minimizing costs?
-How important is minimizing the amount of time you spend working on your land?
-How much meat do you actually want to eat? (you didnt mention to what degree your kids ate meat/how much you wanted them to eat)
-How important is minimizing your ecological footprint? (petroleum and land use... different issues from what we think of as organic)
-How important is it to be "self-reliant"?
-How much can you expect to involve your children(and husband) between now and the time they leave home?... How much of your expectation of them is fair? realistic?(A lot of teens rebel and even the best sometimes don't like to hang with their folks cultivating weeds on a summer day)
-what kind of things do you guys specifically like to eat? (it is hard to grow a supermarket diversity, but maybe you can barter)
-How much is your present income?( helps with certain kinds of loans, and determines how big a loan you can get... my wife and I are getting a 120K CHIP loan through BB&T because we make less than 50k/year combined)

As an example of minimal land use that would satisfy all the needs of 5 adults year round, you would need about .7 acres of pasture for a milking dexter and her calves, .75 acres of rice, .78 acres of chickpeas, and about another quarter acre to stagger enough spinach to be bringing in 4 lbs fresh a day. (You'll need about 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil per person per day to round out your vitamin E intake.) This is around 2.5 acres, but you can easily add another half acre to grow other vegetables for variety, or in case you need to add some land to one of the other areas. The cows will only need to be confined to their .7 during the time that the pulses and grain are growing, so their area goes up to 2.5 acres during the rest of the year. You can seed some of this to hay for emergencies or if you want to support more cows on your .7 of permanent pasture. You'll have to set up a rotational paddock system to use the .7 to it's fullest. A green manure that doubles as a hay/forage in the row crop areas would be a good idea in the off season. You can substitute any grain and pulse pair for the rice and chickpeas... my wife likes them so I am going to try them first.
This assumes that you can irrigate any and all of the areas in case of a drought, and that your cow is kept bred, or that you slightly improve the pasture/grow some hay so you can keep 2 cows and breed one as the other's milk dries up. This also assumes you actually get out and do something for enough time every day to give you extra vitamin D in case you your needs are higher than 488 IU a day. Also... I started out using 2.5 cups of milk per person per day, but this wasn't quite enough calcium for teenagers or adults over 50, so I doubled it without adjusting anything else. It is therefore a very high calorie diet, with more than enough protein, and you can probably scale back the grain and legume a little.

Since I am a vegetarian, I did not include meat from slaughtering the calf. You will have to figure out how you will deal with the yearly calves. Slaughtering the only baby animal on the farm may be hard until your children get older. As gas prices go up, you may be able to loan out your cow's offspring to mow fields and control overgrowth. I may end up selling mine if the future owners agree to give it a good home and long life...

If you want to know how I arrived at these numbers, I can post that, too. I don't know how long a post they allow in here, and I am just trying to get some rough figures out there, since I am going to be doing this soon myself.

hope this helps!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 10:31AM
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Oh hey a few more assumptions... that somehow you are carrying forward the extra gallon of milk each day to the time that the cow is dried and waiting for the next calf to come. Freezing works, but your family may not be crazy about drinking thawed milk for several weeks. A cleaned deep freeze that was devoted to only milk would not have anything to pick up off flavors from.
The quarter acre of spinach is not all planted at once, but staggered so that you continually have around 4 lbs of fresh spinach daily. If you integrate with the veggie patch, very little land should lay fallow waiting for you to plant the next crop of spinach. Freezing the spinach makes it's vitamin C content plummet, and that and the vitamin A is the reason to grow it. Canning is a royal pain when you can stagger plantings year round (don't let anyone tell you that you can't grow it in summer... you can).

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 10:58AM
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Thanks for the awesome figures! I prefer that my kids don't eat meat either, and thankfully they really don't like it, so that's a non-issue for us. Mostly my eating habits consist of lots and lots of salad, with all variations of things thrown in, or just plain veggies. MI don't know about a cow personally, just because we then have to find something to do with the calf. I have considered goats instead. Mostly because we are ok with goat milk and they take up less space. I'm not sure just how many goats we would need though, to provide enough. I make a lot of yogurt and cheese, so we would need surplus for that.

To answer the questions: Minimizing cost is the most important, simply because we are poor now, with only 40k to support all 5 of us. I don't mind doing a lot of physical work, if it means that it's less money that we need to spend. I'm not actually sure what they consider "organic" as far as agriculture, but I do not want any pesticides, no. I prefer natural deterrants.

One thing that I'm thinking as an option. We've talked about picking out and buying a plot of land in the near future (once we decide on location) and then aquiring a loan to build a house after the land is paid off. Thinking maybe we'd get a better loan if we already owned the land?

Not sure if this was in my original post, but we had hoped to build a home that would be self-sustaining, and "off the grid", meaning I am thinking to a home with full solar power and well water. For that reason alone, I'm thinking we'd have better luck with building a home to our specs than trying to buy a pre-built place.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 9:06PM
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A bank will be more likely if they are the ones that financed the loan for your land, sure. Are you living in a rental now?... it might be better to live where you are, and occasionally go out and work your land.
Really, there is no better time than now to buy a home and/or land... IF YOU HAVE A GOOD SECURE INCOME.

You say you can provide lots of free labor for the raising of food and fiber. That same labor can turn a handyman special into a green home. You will have to balance how efficient your newly constructed home will be vs the reuse and recycling of an already existing home. A old home won't be covering up any more farmland or wilderness. Are you sure you can't integrate your green features into an already existing home for less money and natural resources?

While cows require calves, goats require kids to start lactating. Kids are probably just as cute as calves, so there is still the dillemna of what to do with the offspring.

Renewables are getting pretty cheap... if my state had any kind of decent incentives, I would be getting a photovoltaic system in the next year or two. As it is, the state 30 minutes to my north gives like a $10K grant, along with a $2k federal, property and sales tax exemptions on the system. I figured with all of this, and a 4% increase per year for utilities, I would reach breakeven in under 10 years. Insane.
The state below, where I lived for several years, is nearly as good. Just this state sucks.

You need to go DSIRE to see your state's rebates. If they haven't hopped on the bandwagon, write you state and federal legislators and ask them what their problem is. Make sure you, your husband, your relatives and friends vote to replace these people. There is a closing gap, and the sooner we are able to buy, the sooner we pay off as individuals and start supplying our neighbors with clean power, and the faster our technology is able to improve and achieve economies of scale for better prices so everyone can afford renewables.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 12:02AM
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And there's part of the dilemma. We are hoping to move out of state, since this state pretty much sucks. We haven't decided where to yet, possibly colorado, or NY or surrounding states. Our state sucks in multiple ways, but cost is the major one. Alledgedly this state is one of the good ones to live, but the school system is horrible, and employment doesn't pay crap. As a comparison, homes here, and in surrounding areas, cost as much as near my sister in law in Orlando. The problem, employment only pays near the lower end of minimum wage, skilled or not.

So while it would be awesome if we could buy a place close enough for us to go work on the land on the weekends to prepare it for the upcoming future, it doesn't seem likely.

Good point about the reduce reuse aspect. I'm thinking primarily on which will be easier for us to afford, however an existing house will probably already be supplied with a well and septic, leaving us only to provide electric.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 10:54AM
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Try this and other books by this author . One acre and security-- how to live off the earth without ruining it
Angier, Bradford.
319 p. illus. 22 cm.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 3:59PM
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Mamato, I have a book here that you find easily by John Jeavons "How to Grow More Vegetable than you ever thought possible on less land than you can Imagine". It gives you complete information on how to grow a four-person garden using 1302 sq ft. It's possible to grow quite a lot of food in a very small area using the right techniques. His techniques use less water, build soil, and don't promote the use of pesticides.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 10:36PM
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