We've been getting lots of emails from readers lately asking about our financial situation and how we fund our homestead. They usually take me by surprise. WHAT? Why would people be asking that?! Perhaps because it was pretty public knowledge that last year, in Alabama, Dave Ramsey ran out life like the tightest of ships. Like serrrrriously tight. Tighter than those maroon pleather pants I wore in middle school tight.
And yes. We are still Dave Ramsey followers, working desperately to pay off the very last of our student loan debt (don't even get me started…), though we don't quite follow all the rules as prudently as we once did. Mainly because we're working to build our homestead while paying off said debt at the same time.
While I'm not going to divulge actual numbers (isn't that like showing people your dirty underwear?) I do think it'd be beneficial to point out how we support our homestead and what that involves. Especially since we've finally crunched some numbers on how much we're spending (better late than never).
How we Fund Our Homestead
1. We rent our homestead for a reasonable price.
While this isn't most people's idea of “arriving” at the American dream, for us, it's been the perfect situation. We happily have submitted to being on our property for years, and years, and YEARS to come. In the words of our landlord “I want you to live here for the rest of your lives.” and we couldn't agree more. We're happy here. It's exactly what we wanted in a piece of property and we were able to get started without emptying our savings account on a down payment. On top of that, our rent includes property taxes, road association fees, and two shares of irrigation water. We pay less than we would pay to finance the property – and frankly, the thought of a mortgage on five acres of prime agriculture real estate doesn't exactly comfort me. Renting has been a fantastic way for us to enjoy the property without carrying the entire burden of the property ourselves and the landowner has been an absolute blessing in our lives. We're happy with this situation.
2. I started working.
I blogged on this beautiful page for over three years before I made a dime. And I was happy to. Blogging is like therepy for me and I've enjoyed (more than I ever thought possible!) getting to share our family's story here with you every week. When I first started blogging, I sank hour after hour after hour after hour into this blog with no intention of ever monetizing the site. It wasn't my goal – and frankly, it still isn't. Last year, in our hardest of financial tests, I still was bringing no money into the household – which we were fine with. We made the decision early on in our marriage that me staying home with our children was our priority.
That being said, at some point (when my brain wires finally connected in the way that they should have) I began to monetize the site. It all started with the release of my cookbook last year which brought in more money than we originally anticipated. Frankly, I thought my Mom would buy a few copies for Christmas gifts and that'd be about it. But after investing over a year into putting it together, I was so thankful for it's financial provision for the family. With that cookbook money, we were able to purchase our dairy cows, put up corrals, stock up on hay for the year, get our chicken flock started, and even plant a few annuals (that died, but that's not the point). The cookbook gave us money that we weren't accustomed to having in our normal, day-to-day budget and so we were able to use it as “building the farm” money.
The cookbook continues to bring in a steady income each month which we utilize for farm expenses.
On top of cookbook sales, the blog also brings in money via sponsors, ads, and affiliate sales. On top of that, my essential oil business continues to grow and has started to provide us with a serious additional income.
This blog income most recently funded our greenhouse project, which while expensive, will reward us with freshly grown produce all winter and spring long.
The huge benefit to my work is that it can be done at home, as I can. Some days that involves hours and hours of computer work. Other days, I can't commit any time to it. For a mother of two (soon to be three!) young children that is also running a farm this is essential. Working around our family's and animal's schedule is what makes this job doable. On top of that, it's my dream job. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing.
How thankful I am.
3. We work endlessly.
If I had a dollar for every hour we'd spent digging fence holes, mucking stalls, stringing barbed wire, feeding and watering animals, milking our cow, weeding our garden, or fixing a broken piece of equipment – I'd be a gadjabillionare.
That's a really rich person, if you didn't know the proper definition of gadjabillionare.
We rarely, rarely buy things new. Or put together things. We didn't opt for pre-made, perfectly shaped chicken coops. We build a lot of things out of netting and crooked fence posts we salvage. We buy used equipment and just recently finally splurged on our first brand new piece of power equipment (a drill).
What we lack for in funds we make up for in ingenuity and pure, adrenaline fueled, determination. As I told my husband recently, I'm a real stubborn son-of-a-turkey when I want to be. And when I get my heart and mind focused on a homestead project, I find a way to make it work with or without money. Plenty of projects have been done for free because we didn't have the funds – but we just found a way to make it happen.
Adapt and overcome. It may be a military motto but it's become mine.
If you're willing to throw hard work into the equation, it takes care of a lot of the financial problems – even if it's not the most fun option.
4. We barter.
We needed fence posts and traded homemade bread. BAM. Business deal. Produce is exchanged for hair cuts. Fertilized chicken eggs and prenatal massages for dairy products. A roast and homemade butter for use of a chicken plucker.
We've made friends with those in our community who are focused on the type of lifestyle that we live and most are not only willing, but eager, to do business with us in a variety of different ways. Bartering has been a great way to trade extra from our farm for extra from another farm. I can't over-stress the importance of community with this lifestyle – for example, a local farmer just called us and said he had a bunch of freshly cut oat hay that he didn't want to bale. If we came with ‘ol Bess and forked it out of the wind rows in his field, we could have it for next to nothing. Had we not established a relationship with this farmer, he never would have thought to call us and let us capitalize on this option.
Also, I'm not going to say we sell our products – because, well, that would be illegal, wouldn't it? But we are able to share them with friends and family in exchange for a variety of other items that we need – like bags of animal feed. Eggs, organic garden produce, and dairy is always a hot commodity. And I'm telling you – if we had the means and know-how to do it, we could have easily raised 20 hogs for local families this year. The demand is HUGE y'all.
5. We dream.
We continually seek a variety of ways to make our homesteading a viable financial entity in and of itself. With our landlord's blessing (and request) we're looking to plant two acres of steep, rocky terrain with wine grapes. We dream of supplying other local families with organic, pastured meat products. Our laying flock is ever expanding and Lord willing, will be open for egg sales in the future. Though our main goal has always been to supply our own family with enough food for the year, we're continually looking forward to the future of Beatha Fonn and how we can better share this wonderful life with others.
Money isn't free flowing for us. It's honestly earned and it's tightly spent. And as we continue to grow in our farming adventure, we are continually reminded that all of this – the property, the animals, the lifestyle – is the Lord's, given to us to enjoy for this time.
And for that we're thankful!