Self sufficiency found me first

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ranch's picture
ranch
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Joined: Dec 2 2010
Posts: 14
Self sufficiency found me first

Hello.  I'm new to the forum, found it via Zero Hedge.  Wonderful information here.  

In 2003 my home-based food business was moving along well and I had saved about $200k to buy a property, and at that time my existing home was paid off.  I asked my UPS driver to be on the lookout for something in the general area.  UPS drivers know every parcel and mine has 20+ years' experience, so asking him was a good idea.  Within 6 months we'd purchased a modest 2600 sq ft home on 6 level clear acres of pasture, with a 2200 square foot "warehouse" building for the business.

The previous owner used the land for his own horses but I put angus cows on it and learned over time how to raise cows.  We've had a huge freezer perpetually full of our own grass fed beef for years.  We also have our own well, a creek running through the property, and our own septic. My warehouse has about 20 pallets of food at any given point in time, enough to feed my own family for months if necessary.  My home was built in the 1980s and whoever designed it clearly had self-sufficiency in mind, with a bank of southern-facing windows and a "sunroon" that gives us solar heat.  An efficient wood-burning stove with a fan above it, in the main room.  The windows are also armored, so I am told, so even a sledge hammer won't break them.  There is a very good home security system also.

I used to think my property would be the ideal retreat for all kinds of people interested in self-sufficiency, and now I can see the writing on the wall and I feel an incredible sense of fortune for what I have!  I compare my setup to that of my friends in family who live day-to-day with minimal supplies in the big city.  What a difference!

Year after year, with changing seasons, I learn a lot more about this property.  I also watch my neighbors and learn from them.  The issue we have here is that gardens don't grow well--notably in the last few years, the weather has been either super dry or really cold, or too wet, etc.  It could be that our area is just experiencing a temporary weather disruption, but I've seen a ton of effort to grow things turn out with almost no benefit as gardens just don't produce.  So, what does best? Animal farmers.  My cows do magnificently here and I have a good relationship with a butcher.  He gives me more tips on how to get the most out of my property.  Chickens do really well too, based on what I've seen from my neighbors.  If I can find the time, I will expand my farm to include a dairy cow.  

I have honey boxes, and love the honey I get.  I learned how to raise honey bees from a Romanian guy who I befriended once right before Thanksgiving.  Invited his family to our house to join the celebration, and in him I have not only an extremely loyal true friend, but a mentor in how to live with what you have.  He tells me stories of how they had no petroleum, or maybe 1 gallon of gas to last a week, and they survived raising ducks and rabbits and keeping potatoes, etc.  15 people in one house, playing piano and making due.  

I've installed a big secure safe inside my home, and I have guns.  My neighbor is a gun nut and we get along great.  He probably has several dozen guns.  I also keep a lot of firewood in a shed, at any time 5 or 6 cords.

Another thing: I had a carpenter friend build a second home on my land, a really small 2 story house (about 14' x 10').  It was built exactly like a real house, with real windows and real insulation and a little electrical panel.  I don't have a bathroom out there but I was thinking of parking a travel trailer next to it for that.  I like the fact that I have a second house here.

I look forward to reading the comments of others in this forum.  Thank you for sharing your stories.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2237
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

Good story, Ranch, thanks for sharing.  It's always interesting to hear how people who have already made significant strides towards having a sustainable lifestyle have done it, and how they live.  We need all the "role models" we can get!

Weclome to CM.com, as well!

aarondenal's picture
aarondenal
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Joined: Oct 24 2010
Posts: 59
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

Ranch,

Congratulations on cultivating a sweet homestead.  Sounds like you have put in a lot of work.

What area of the country are you in?  We are in the Rocky Mountains and gardening here is tricky as well.  For example, this year my squash plants produced exactly enough sqashes for us to use.  Not a single extra.  This is an unusual problem to have with the usually-prolific squash plant.  It does seem like the weather, especially rainfall and spring freezes, plays an enormous role in our overall gardening season.  Have you thought of building a greenhouse?

ranch's picture
ranch
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Posts: 14
Re: Self sufficiency found me first
aarondenal wrote:

Ranch,

Congratulations on cultivating a sweet homestead.  Sounds like you have put in a lot of work.

What area of the country are you in?  We are in the Rocky Mountains and gardening here is tricky as well.  For example, this year my squash plants produced exactly enough sqashes for us to use.  Not a single extra.  This is an unusual problem to have with the usually-prolific squash plant.  It does seem like the weather, especially rainfall and spring freezes, plays an enormous role in our overall gardening season.  Have you thought of building a greenhouse?

Hi.  Thanks for your message.  I've gone through a few phases.  First, a city kid just bursting with excitement at having my own ranch, not far from the city, with two elementary age kids who now had total freedom to bike and roam around the area.  We all put in countless hours on basic maintenance: feeding the cows, electric fence, trimming trees, etc.  Next I went through a phase where I'd hire a college kid to do all maintenance in the summer, because I wanted more time with the kids (by this time we had a third child).  Now I'm 7 years into this property and everything is coming together in terms of knowing just how much I can get off the land.  

This is the pacific northwest, near the Canadian border.  Not a lot of sunshine.  The last three years I've watched my next door neighbors, who are well-off financially and semi-retired, work tediously to garden vegetables.  They do EVERYTHING by the book, according to local expert advice, sparing no expense in their equipment.  Every year their garden is nearly a complete failure.  We've had extreme heat, long winters followed by bursts of warm followed by sudden cold, etc etc.  In addition, I just think this little windy spot we're in, with a high water table, is just a poor place to grow plants.  I've got a dozen 15 year old apple and pear trees that don't produce much either.  I feel I can focus on raising animals for sufficiency, and trade that for vegetables someday if I really need to.

As a side note, unfortunately I've become very pessimistic about the governance of this country overall (local and federal) and I'm in the process of "planting a flag in another country" which may or may not lead to anything.  I mentioned in a previous post that I visited Australia recently, and in the spring I'm taking my son to Europe. At this point I'd like to leave my ranch in the care of someone, and spend a year or two outside of USA.

bluestone's picture
bluestone
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 29 2008
Posts: 263
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

Ranch

nice story.  How effective are the sun room and the bank of southern windows in providing solar heat to the house in the winter time?  I was considering putting in a sun room in our house - could be used as a greenhouse and as a means to provide some heat to the home, but they are pretty pricy?

thanks

Brian

bigrock's picture
bigrock
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Posts: 2
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

i am new here as well but grew up farming,,,

 

I would call the local county extension agent who can tell you what to grow and how to grow it,,,these are people who live locally and are very in tune to farming...these folks also provide a master guardner course for a small fee that will help as well..in the south, they are all ran through the local universities and can help from growing trees to ptoatoes and pest provention....

I would suggest starting off with potatoes,,they are easy to grow and is a very good crop for eating as well as making vodka or fuel....

 

I like the green house idea as well,,especially with the cow maneiur you have as fertilizer...

hope these items help

ranch's picture
ranch
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Posts: 14
Re: Self sufficiency found me first
bluestone wrote:

How effective are the sun room and the bank of southern windows in providing solar heat to the house in the winter time?  I was considering putting in a sun room in our house - could be used as a greenhouse and as a means to provide some heat to the home, but they are pretty pricy?

Hi.  The sunroom was here when I bought the house.  The old lady who owned the house mentioned that "on sunny winter days, it heats the entire house if you leave the door open".  Little did I know how much I would love the sunroom.  

I have a photo of the sunroom but I am not sure how to attach it here.  In winter time, as happened today, it does provide some really nice warmth for the house.  You can also go out there and sit in the sunlight and get some much needed rays even when it's freezing outside.  Vitamin D in winter. 

There's an electric shade that we use in the summer, it rolls down to prevent the house from getting too hot.  However, if you let the room get really hot it's ok because we can close the door that connects the sunroom to the rest of our house.  Sometimes it's nice to go in the sunroom after dark on a summer night, and it's toasty warm.

Regarding the other poster about calling county agents to help advise what we can grow, perhaps in a bygone era that would be a fabulous idea.  These days, sadly, nobody with land trusts any bureaucrat "helper".  Bureaucrats might make a friendly visit and the next thing you know a list of violations comes in the mail.  We are one of the lucky few with our own private well, and the county doesn't seem to like that.  Most homes have been converted to city water because a condition of getting a building permit is to seal up wells.  There are no new wells being drilled.  I am just gunshy of bureaucrats.  Having said that, however, I have had to deal with them for certain issues and I have never had a single problem.

vbonzo's picture
vbonzo
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Joined: Oct 8 2009
Posts: 1
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

One of the best greenhouses for cold climates is the dome made in Colorado by a company called Growing Spaces.

I put one up in Northern New Mexico and use it all year long.  It is extremely efficient but does need to be heated if 

you intend to use it all winter.   I am growing strawberries in 0 degree temps and cultivating asparagus, potatoes,

artichokes, radishes, carrots and berries.  I've also had no trouble with turmeric and ginger even though they

typically don't grow in cold climates.  I've found that gardening is very soulful work, it teaches depth and over time you

learn to listen to your garden and it is a very beautiful experience.  Having fresh veggies and herbs over winter is a real

pleasure but you've got to deal with heating costs.  Enjoy. 

bluestone's picture
bluestone
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 29 2008
Posts: 263
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

ranch, thanks for the input on your sunroom

Brian

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

Hi Ranch,

I second the notion that you should get in contact with your local cooperative extension service. They're very helpful and will advise you on what to plant, when to plant it, and they do things like soil analyses that will help identify what you might need to add to a garden or farm for better yields.

I am every interested in the windows you cannot break with a sledgehammer. What sort of glass, glasscoating, plexiglass, or shutters are we talking about here?

Welcome to the site!

Safewrite

 

bigrock's picture
bigrock
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Joined: Jan 2 2011
Posts: 2
Re: Self sufficiency found me first

Ranch:

 

you can take your soil sample to them. you can attend a master gardner meeting and class for a small fee at there office,,u can even use a false address,,these people really dont care.. my extension agent is geting ready as well,,just sayin,,its a smal fee resource...

 

my extension agent showed me how to run water from my river up a hill for irrigation of a small food plot,,,

 

good luck...

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