Farm life and Semi-ER

Where are you and where are you going?
sumac
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Nov 27, 2019 12:35 pm

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER - garden update

Post by sumac »

horsewoman wrote:
Sun Dec 08, 2019 5:36 am
My husband came up with the idea to put in a wall to form a tunnel, so that we can care for the garden without bending down all the time - genius!
There are some stairs already, which made this an easy thing to incorporate. He filled it up with old wood, leaves and branches, manure and compost, and covered it with straw for the winter.
The whole thing is set up like a hugelkultur, for those who are interested:) The decomposing wood will provide nutrients for the soil for years.
The garden looks great! Looks like a pretty user-friendly setup compared to some other variations I've seen. I've wondered about whether this could work in a small commercial setting like the farm I work at, which has a lot of woody material that needs to be cleared anyway from around the deer fence. (And the water table is extremely high, so even with shallow raised beds there can be waterlogging issues in spring and fall.)

horsewoman
Posts: 242
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER - garden update

Post by horsewoman »

sumac wrote:
Sat Dec 21, 2019 2:35 am
The garden looks great! Looks like a pretty user-friendly setup compared to some other variations I've seen. I've wondered about whether this could work in a small commercial setting like the farm I work at, which has a lot of woody material that needs to be cleared anyway from around the deer fence. (And the water table is extremely high, so even with shallow raised beds there can be waterlogging issues in spring and fall.)
Well, we are very excited for spring to try the set up :) I don't know if a hugelkulur would help with waterlogging, but here is the wikipedia link for further reading up on it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%BCgelkultur

horsewoman
Posts: 242
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by horsewoman »

Happy new year everyone! We survived another New Year's Eve without any casualties - no small feat considering how many animals we have to keep save for the fireworks. The fireworks getting a little less compared to ten years ago, but I'm constantly amazed how much money people blow into the sky each year, for "tradition". Stupid³, if you ask me.

Anyway, I just finished off my 2019 spreadsheet, so without further ado, some numbers.

We earned roughly €54000 last year with 2 PT Jobs and various side hustles (mainly our solar unit and playing music). We are a household with 2 adults, 1 teen, 3 dogs, 2 cats and 4 horses.

Expenses in % - rounded up/down for convenience and in categories - I keep a more detailed tally with subcategories.
1. 25 % Expenses for our solar unit (loan, insurance, taxes) *
2. 22 % COL (Food, entertainment, clothes, instruments, health, gifts, travel)
3. 14% Housing (house is paid off, so running costs incl. taxes, insurance, internet, phones)
4. 10% Mobility (2 paid off cars, inc. insurance, maintenance, gas)
5. 9,5% Income Tax
6. 9% Animals & farm (feed, insurance, farm vehicles, fees, maintenance)
7. 6% Private school - tuition & school bus
8. 3,5 % insurance (legal, life and accident insurance)

This makes a savings rate about 28% for 2019. 2020 will be a lot higher because the costs for our solar unit are significantly lower now (*) - the loan is paid off so for the next few years we will rake in the money big time for selling power to our provider, until our contract runs out.
All in all I'm happy with those numbers. We could reduce costs in some areas, but a lot of expenses will go down naturally the next few years (private school finished, some of our senior animals dying, not replacing vehicles).
Keeping food costs down (8% of our income in 2019) will be a focus plus getting gratuitous spending lower (10% in 2019 - gadgets, instruments, clothes,...). I want to put more effort into getting rid of stuff, and source needed things either used or free, or do without.
To this end I fine-tuned how I will record spending in 2020 in the "gratuitous" category, to identify money leaks easier and for more accountability.

"Spending Money as a Failure of Imagination" - this concept Jacob mentioned in the "get rich slowly"- article so much resonates with me, and I really want to get better in this regard. Solving problems without money makes me extremely happy, but I have to be constantly on my guard not to fall into consumer behaviour. I can definitely do better, if only I pay attention.
https://www.getrichslowly.org/early-retirement-extreme/

Thanks for reading and to anyone who left comments in my journal. I find it very helpful to get feedback to my meanderings :) Joining this forum has been extremely beneficial, I have learned a lot of interesting things and concepts here!

Jin+Guice
Posts: 547
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2018 8:15 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by Jin+Guice »

@horsewoman: Happy New Year! I really enjoy reading your journal and am impressed by your permaculture and mending skills. That JLF quote really resonated with me as well.

classical_Liberal
Posts: 1186
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by classical_Liberal »

Your cash flow is so much different than the average consumers. I mean, you report a savings rate, but everything is mixed together. You pay for instruments, but make money playing them. You pay for solar, but make money selling the excess. Etc.

Your situation is the definition of semi-ERE, IMO. Like, you're ERE but not FI and maintain a positive cashflow through your activities. Even though I don't want the farm life, I do want to replicate what you do, somehow. A great example to us all.

Happy New Year!

horsewoman
Posts: 242
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by horsewoman »

@j+g, my permaculture skills lie mostly in managing to stay happily married to a my gardening husband, but considering the high rate of divorce that's a probably an achievement as well! :)

@c_l I'm very glad to hear that my contributions to this forum are useful to some people. It is certainly possible to get on this track without a farm, because a considerable amount of effort goes into maintaining the farm. If we applied this resources elsewhere, semi-ER would still be doable.

Jin+Guice
Posts: 547
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2018 8:15 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by Jin+Guice »

horsewoman wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 5:08 pm
my permaculture skills lie mostly in managing to stay happily married to a my gardening husband
I'm pretty sure this is beyond my skill set.

horsewoman
Posts: 242
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by horsewoman »

@J+G I'm pretty proud of that one myself :)

A few minor stumbles this week. Most annoyingly I can no longer find the vegan curd soap I was using for my DIY detergent in any shop. Seems that the brand discontinued it. I will have to order a larger amount online, the upside to this is that I can look for a soap that is made without palm oil. I try to avoid online shopping as much as possible these days but in that case it is the best solution.

Furthermore, my daughter talked me into buying school lunches. She needs lunch twice a week and so far I have prepared something for her to take along, mostly leftovers in a thermos. She complains that all her class mates get the lunch in the cafeteria, and kids that bring their own can not sit in the same area where the bought lunch is consumed. I understand that it is not a nice feeling for a teenager to be so left out. So we compromised that she gets school lunch once a week, on the day when most of here friends eat in the cafeteria. The other day she'll take lunch from home, since only a part of her class has lessons in the afternoon. It's not terribly expensive - €3,50 for soup, a vegetarian main dish and dessert. It is prepared daily fresh on the premises and the food is sourced locally, and mostly organic. Technically a good deal, but it's the principle I suppose. Well, she has not chosen this lifestyle but was born to frugal parents, and I don't want her to resent us. She has been an extremely cheap child so far, with very moderate material wants, so I guess this is reasonable. Social inclusion is important at that age after all (yes I'm aware that I'm looking for reasons to justify it to myself, thank you very much).

But we scored an ERE success as well! Inspired by my recent sales my husband has been bitten by the Craigslist bug as well - he is selling a lot of stuff that has been rotting around the farm for ages. He is pretty much a "Luddite", apart from a basic tablet he has zero personal electronics. I set him up with the app of the German equivalent of Craigslist, which makes it easy even for someone slightly "technologically challenged" to take photos, upload stuff and answer messages. He made €450 last week, pretty neat!

We are also on the lookout for a new wood splitter, having sold off the old one. It was not overly safe and not strong enough for our needs. It came with the farm but never was a good fit. After messing around with this terrible thing for over a decade it is time for an upgrade. I took a leaf out of the ERE book and recommended that we get a more expensive one with a well known brand name, so that we can resell it for a good price should we change our heating system. We are prowling the used market at the moment, hopefully something will come up. In the meantime we have plenty of split wood, and need to clear the storage areas anyway for maintenance of the ground beneath, so it is not urgent.

classical_Liberal
Posts: 1186
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:05 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by classical_Liberal »

I think the decision to spend a few Euros for the daughters lunch is a great one, ERE or not!

Vaikeasti
Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:02 pm

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by Vaikeasti »

Love reading your journal! You're living my SOs dream.
I'm really impressed by your loving consideration for your child while still not giving up your values.

niemand
Posts: 100
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2016 3:18 am
Location: Woop Woop, Australia

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by niemand »

horsewoman wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 1:35 pm
A friend gave me a basket of nashi pears, very delicious! They look like apples and are super juicy. I saved some seeds to try to grow such a tree. My gardener husband was really happy since this was the first time in history that I showed an actual interest in fruit trees (we have really a lot of fruit trees, mostly with fruit that does not really taste well! Or is wormy...). He instantly offered to buy such a tree for me, but in the spirit of the ERE principles, I want to try to grow our own from the seeds! Or get an offshoot of my friends tree, in case there are some.
Nashi pears are yummy.

If you want to grow them yourself you need to have a self-pollinating tree or have a combo of at least two trees that cross-pollinate. Otherwise: no fruit. This site shows which varieties pollinate each other: https://www.daleysfruit.com.au/fruit%20pages/nashi.htm

I recently mulched my self-pollinating nashi tree as it doesn't fit my goal of having a drought-resistant garden. If I lived in your climate zone I'd have them, no question.

I like your journal btw :)

horsewoman
Posts: 242
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by horsewoman »

@niemand: thanks for the reply! The seed did not sprout, as my husband predicted. I don't know if WANT 3 of those trees! My friend says his tree has so much fruit every year that they don't know what to with it, and it is not large. He knows more people who own such trees and they all seem to have large yields in our climate. One is enough, probably. So I will ask my MIL to gift me such a tree for my birthday, that will make her happy, and me too :) She loves to plant fruit trees, but her own garden is not very large.

Apparently you can plant a nashi pear tree next to a regular pear tree for pollination. We do have 3 different pear treas in and around our yard, but I need to check with my husband what kind they are.
oldbeyond wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 11:56 am
There's also a lot of permaculture/urban farming resources that seem like good examples of L6 and beyond (I guess I can tell because they seem inspiring?). For example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5iJYVnw4ns
I re-read the yields & flows thread (like the ERE book, this can be read several times and still yield - pun intended - insights!) and found this nugget. This guy, Richard Perkins, is a first rate farming-nerd-ninja. Very admirable how he combines the time-old vocation of being a farmer with collecting tight data, science and business skills. Personally we do not strive to make a business out of our farm, but after watching some of his videos I'm reconsidering my decisions to give up hen keeping. I was already wavering due to the distressing amount of food scraps piling up since all but one of our hens died of old age. The poor bird does her best but she seems to prefer the half-digested oats the horses poop out. Since we don't eat meat and very few eggs we could probably not keep a large enough flock to make a difference to our top soil. But they do eat the larvae in the paddock which turns into nasty horse-tormenting bugs. Plus our manure piles are definitely getting larger since no more hens are scratching around in them. So they had been doing their part in keeping the amount of manure more manageable. In the end taking a break from keeping hens yielded some valuable insights. I'm more prepared to deal with the downsides/hassle of keeping them since I can now appreciate more what they accomplish. We got chicken first thing when we moved to the farm, so I took their contributions for granted. Seems like we'll shop for some hens as soon as our old lady goes to rest. I'm not sure what's better, to leaver her alone (she seems perfectly happy) for the few more months she'll probably live or to get her some company (plus the added stress of a new flock, which will finish her probably off). I need to consult more experienced chicken owners on this.

User avatar
Alice_AU
Posts: 68
Joined: Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:42 am
Location: Sydney Australia

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by Alice_AU »

Hi @horsewoman, your life-on-the-farm stories are very interesting to read. I think I would love to do just that in retirement if I get to that point one day - grow fruit trees and keep chickens. I, however, would totally eat both the chickens and the eggs, love the eggs! If, on the other hand, you don’t want to - maybe you could sell them, or arrange a swap with your neighbours where you supply eggs and they give you something else? Also as I know from my mum who’s into fancy and heirloom chicken breeds, fertilised eggs and young birds also can be sold.

horsewoman
Posts: 242
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by horsewoman »

@Alice_AU my daughter eats eggs and is into baking, so we will use up a few of them. But one does easily underestimate how many eggs a young hen lays - that's how the Easter egg came into being I suppose. Shortly before Easter the egg production ramps up and eggs pile up quickly. It evens out till November, when they don't lay any eggs at all because they cast their feathers off. After a 2-3 years the eggs get less and you need to get new hens for the flock - this is only sustainable if you are killing the older birds... Which we used to do but cannot stomach any longer. So for me the hens will be food scrap annihilators and pest controls, and they can do that while being old as well.

I tried the selling and swapping method a couple of years ago, but it was not a success. My neighbours all have chicken of their own, and other people want a steady supply of eggs all the time like they are used from the supermarket - which you cannot provide unless you have a large flock (see above). There is very little understanding for the fact that large egg producers kill their bids after one season to keep production at a constant level.
Actually this circumstance turned us into part-time-vegans. I did not want to buy eggs in the store when my hens did not lay, so I started to experiment - which made me question the use of milk and butter in cooking/baking - and I learned that it is very easy to forgo both (without using any soy).

Frita
Posts: 284
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:43 pm

Re: Farm life and Semi-ER

Post by Frita »

My son, now 15, went through the eat-at-school phase. His magnet school (kind of like a public private school) started requiring all students to eat breakfast together as a class family. He decided that food from home was/is superior. (He actually prefers leftovers to sandwiches.)

Now that he’s in high school and on a traveling team, he has to cover his first meal (sometimes two) away. Most kids take money and buy fast food. We started out sending a sack lunch. Then he negotiated us giving him money ($4, we drink water) for one meal per weekend. Yesterday he told me that he’d rather take a sack lunch because fastfood isn’t very good or filling. Other kids on the team are following his lead on sack lunches too.

Anyway, have faith in your teen and your parenting. You taught some negotiation skills as well.

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