…so why “almost a farmer”?

Welcome – and I hope that you enjoy (and maybe get something out of) this living blog.

So why “Almost a Farmer”?

We live on a wonderful 12 acres in rural Maine, USA.   We bought this place about three years ago – it was a run down farm with a small cottage requiring considerable work.   It has 10 acres of open fields and a couple of acres of ‘wet underfoot’ forest.  It has all the requirements of a New England farm – stone walls, pretty views of other farms and nice neighbors.

Our Maine farm when we moved in.

Our Maine farm when we moved in.

We bought this piece of paradise so we could be near family and have a place for our horse.  We already had some small farm-ish experience in Colorado – which I enjoyed – and this was a deal we could not pass up.  Walking distance to family in a familiar setting (to Jen at least who grew up here).

Maggie - our horse

Maggie – our horse

Since owning a small farm (4.86 acres) in Colorado,  I have been reading and researching all of my options for turning my 12 acres of run-down farm in Maine into a working farm and homestead for the last three years.  I have so many plans and so many dreams for this little piece of paradise….but became despondent because my plans and dreams (and those that most of the authors writing about homesteading seem to want me to have) just don’t fit my reality.  Their dream – and the one that I feel I have been almost brainwashed to follow is :-

“Throw away all your ties to the world – quit your city job and live off the proceeds of the land”

Its a super nice dream – but my reality, and a feel the reality of many people,  is considerably different.  Here is why that ‘dream’ does not fit us :-

I love my “city” job.
My job is one of a kind anywhere in the world.  It fulfills my intellectual needs, provides me a handsome income, medical insurance and (most importantly) lets me telecommute from home!  I travel a lot for work to some amazing places and meet some fantastic people.  In a word, the job is ‘perfect’ for me.

About to lead students on a lava tube mapping program

About to lead students on a lava tube mapping program

My time is limited

Give me 24 hrs – take away sleep time, job time and normal family time (kids to school and home, T ball, dance etc) and the amount of farm-time is quite low.   So I have to make the most of the time I have!  I am looking for ‘bang for my time’.

Small kids
We have two small kids (at time of writing 4 and 6).  They absorb our time and money cause, like all parents, we want them to grow up well balanced, educated and have a world of opportunity.  Living on a farm provides them even more opportunities.  How many kids grow up with a horse and chickens, cats, dogs, a rabbit, wild turkeys, deer etc and a whole farm to run around on?  But still, it means one eye needs to be on them at all times…which equates to the parents rarely can work on the farm together for any length of time.

My little ones not long after we moved to Maine.

My little ones not long after we moved to Maine.

We don’t have pockets full of money
We live comfortably but have a mortgage and small car repayment.  We work at reducing these…but don’t have a huge fund behind us for farm improvements.  We sink money into house improvements when we can (like our tax refund).   Ideally we need some homesteading activities that will be sustainable.  i.e. the costs are covered by some income.  We are always looking at ways to make our lives more comfortable without costing us a fortune.  We also like to visit my family in Australia…and that costs heaps!

We don’t have a vast farming infrastructure
We don’t own a tractor.  We don’t have miles of fencing.  Its sort of a clean slate.  We do have a small barn that we have built a stall for our horse and a add-on chicken house.  We have a great garage workshop area.  So the basics are there even if the big farm toys are not.

Refitting the small barn for a horse stall in 2012

Refitting the small barn for a horse stall in 2012

We just don’t fit in.
Sometimes we feel that the true homesteaders look down their noses at us cause we don’t want to throw “it” all away.    On the other hand, the real farmers look at us as not being committed to the land as we don’t own a tractor etc   We are sort of in limbo!  We are the classic hobby farmers – and proud of it.

I know that there are other folks out there like us.  Maybe they hate their job, but still love the security of the income.  Maybe they still have to commute to work each day.  But the bottom line is they have some land, they have some limited time and they want to live the best of both worlds.

So my aim is to try and provide advice, through experience, on what works for us and what we can do to make our dreams a reality.

So come on our journey….where we will talk about things that have worked for us, things that don’t and how we are trying to pull it all together to make a happy life for our family!

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Gaz

About Gaz

I'm an Australian transplanted to rural Maine where I live on a small property with my wife and two youngest children. Life about family, work and trying the make the planet a better place for everyone.
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6 Responses to …so why “almost a farmer”?

  1. Su Ba says:

    Re: “Sometimes we feel that the true homesteaders look down their noses at us…”
    In my book, anyone who looks down on you and your efforts simply isn’t worth worrying about. I’d ignore them. Personally I’d give you a big thumbs up!

    …Su Ba , http://www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      Thanks Su Ba for being the first person to comment on our start-up blog! Awesome. I have been visiting your blog this morning and just LOVE it. I spend a lot of time on the Big Island (I am a volcanoes educator) and I can see us moving there sometime in the future…and we even have an idea of where we would love to live just north of Hilo on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Cheers – Gaz

  2. rawolf says:

    Thank you for taking time to share your story. My wife and I are looking at buying a small parcel of land (10 Acres) in maine to build a vacation cabin on and move there to start a small farm. So I’m trying to learn from other peoples experiences and since we will be working and have 2 young kids this article has helped set expectations on time and what we will be able to tend to.

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      You are very welcome…and sounds like you are just like us (just maybe a couple of years behind our journey). Read everything you can. Dream big – but start small. It’s a wonderful rewarding and fulfilling life.

  3. Yvonne says:

    I’m very glad to have found you, Gaz; the support of just knowing others are out there doing the same kind of living is really important. We are on the Blue Hill peninsula in Maine, surrounded by some absolutely amazing organic farms and have been in this area for a decade. We are a “collective” of 5 (I’m 50 and the others are all under 25) and we started homesteading on just 2 acres in Orland last year so we’re anticipating our second summer this year (we’re a bit wiser but still with that “it’s-all-new” excitement, right?). My son (he’s 20) and I have come to know many of the farmers here over the years so that really is an amazing support, just seeing the conviction they bring to their way of life, really inspiring, and it helps me keep perspective, too, as what we do is just for us and, therefore, the pressure of a “viable” farm/way of life/bottom line isn’t on us. We get to do it just for us, at this point, and have a lot of fun learning everything along the way, sharing the skills we bring with others and learning alongside them with what we don’t know. Living more sustainably is always looked on positively in our little corner of the world so we’ve felt very supported and as we provide more for ourselves, we still — of course — need to buy from some of the other farms who produce what we don’t. My biggest recommendations for people starting out with homesteading would be to get to know your local farmers, buy what you need directly from them instead of a store, get involved with your local Grange (many of them are rejuvenating these days). The farmers I’ve known are some of the most generous, giving people possible (as well as just plain good, hard-working people) and are a fabulous network of support, information, and bring a well of experience they are happy to share, when they’ve got time to do so (I think it reminds them of back when they were “young and innocent” too…). So far, I LOVE “almostafarmer” and your posts are relevant to our lives and interesting. Thanks for being out there!

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      Well..wow! Thanks for the vote of confidence…and it sounds like you are on a wonderful path! I am pleased that I can provide you some ideas and thoughts to help you on the journey.

      We always need to support those who are working hard at making the farming/homestead community a better place for all…especially relative newcomers who struggle with so many issues. My way is by sharing things I am learning as I develop our place. Others share through the Grange network or 4H. Some folks don’t have a mechanism to share …but ask them and they are a wealth of advice, knowledge and other support.

      Being part of the community is always the answer. I understand the folks that wish to be hermits from our society, but to really live a full life needs other in my opinion.

      Thanks Yvonne for your kind words…and I look forward to you joining me on my journey!

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