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Old 05-05-2009, 12:34 PM
 
Location: Kennesaw, GA
167 posts, read 770,257 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenTap View Post
This is a hard decision. Here we often get people that move in and think life will be great with more acreage and highly fertile soil. They last about 8 years and then leave. I blame that mostly by taking more of a bite then they can chew. I highly recommend keeping yourself limited to three "sides". In my case it is logging, raising sheep and raising crops for dairy cows. I can stay up on all of these things, but if I was to have beef cows, sheep, horses, a huge garden, maple sugaring, etc I think I would be stretched way too thin.

It all depends upon what you want to do. A neighbor of mine raises enough food for 400 people on only 4 acres of land, but he does not have livestock either. I think once you get into livestock you start needed a few more acres. Around here you can sustain 1000 pounds of livestock per acre. That means about 1 cow per acre, or about 4 sheep. For example if you wanted 4 sheep and a beef cow, at a minimum you would need two acres. Add in another acre for a house and a garden...you see what I mean. Livestock takes up land, but you can also get 200 pounds of beef out of that cow, per acre, per year so that has some serious value considering the high grade cuts you will get.

The mistakes I see people make are buying land for "firewood". I know a guy that has 30 acres of land and most of it is forest. He has 5 beef cows and 2 horses and thus ends up buying hay to feed them, leasing land to pasture them and then brags about how he gets free heat from burning wood. The reality is, he is spending a lot of money on that free heat. If he cleared his woodlot and converted that to fields and looked or his firewood elsewhere...or even burned propane or oil...he would be further ahead. Here the land base is 90% forests and 10% field so finding a few cords of firewood to burn is pretty easy while getting hay and pasture is 9 times harder. He burns about 4 cords of firewood which if he bought would cost him about 400 bucks. For hay he is spending about 2200 bucks. If I am going to pay property taxes, I'd get rid of the latter bill first!

I would think 1/3 of an acre is a bit small, but if you have no desire to get into livestock, then its probably fine. Myself I enjoy having livestock and as I type this, the sun is coming up in the East and is nice and pink while 6 sheep graze in the foreground. Its a quaint picture and since getting into livestock, my stress levels have gone way, way down. For me I just like having livestock.

Just keep in mind, what makes any farm or homestead difficult, is also its greatest asset. Good luck in your decision anyway.
Well, we are in the suburbs and most houses are built on less land than ours is. So we consider ourselves fortunate. I think that it would be nice to have more elbow room, but the biggest plus would be living in a place that had a more agricultural mindset. Mention having chickens or a goat around here and people are horrified. Now, do I want to give up my husband's blessing of a secure job so I can grab a few more acres? Not sure. I don't want to move to a small town and be that "new family" that will only last 8 years. I want to be confident and commited. I don't think I'm there yet. I'm going to squeeze the life out of this third acre first before I tackle something bigger.
To answer your question about livestock- I am very fond of animals and also a responsible and loyal pet owner. I would definitely like to have livestock someday, but only when my kids are old enough to really pitch in. Right now, the daily duties of taking care of little ones heaped on top of raising livestock would NOT lower my stress levels. But I am glad you have found serenity in your farm. I hope to be there one day.
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Old 05-05-2009, 05:34 PM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mezzogirl View Post
To answer your question about livestock- I am very fond of animals and also a responsible and loyal pet owner. I would definitely like to have livestock someday, but only when my kids are old enough to really pitch in. Right now, the daily duties of taking care of little ones heaped on top of raising livestock would NOT lower my stress levels. But I am glad you have found serenity in your farm. I hope to be there one day.
Not to sound like I am talking down to you here, or I am being a better-than-you elitest, but I take care of a 16 year old foster child and a 2-1/2 year old all day and rest assured it can be done. My wife and 16 year old do not help out very much, but my 2-1/2 year old...she is by my side all the time and its a great time.

Fixing fences, taking care of the cows and of course the sheep...and she just knows livestock. I will admit that my parents live just down the road (540 ft) so if I do need to do something that I absolutely cannot have her with me, then I have a way out, but I would say 90% of what I do I do with her and I would not want it any other way. It is just great and I think it is great for her as well. Ask her what a sheep eats and she might say corn, hay, grass or grain. Ask her where milk comes from and she won't say a store, or even a cow, but instead says a Holstein. (okay we have a few Jersey's but we call them Grass Rats so she saying Holstein is perfectly fine with us )

On our farm we have always had the children (grand kids, kids, nephews and nieces) around, and while there are times we let the kids do things they should not do, all in all they are well behaved and have a work ethic that is pretty strong. Really the only thing we do wrong is let the kids drive tractors way too young. Last year we had a 5 year old till a field with a huge 400 hp tractor and a guy taking a soil sample was shocked when he was there by himself. Perhaps 5 is a bit young, but he did a fine job!

Myself I think farms and kids go hand in hand, but I respect you for realizing that in your situation, you should wait until the stars line up better. Just don't wait too long, the world goes by fast and farming is hard. It is better to get the first few years of farm life in while you still have a back left and have some ambition in the ole skeleton.
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Old 05-05-2009, 05:46 PM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wabanaki View Post
BT, How much time will it take to clear 2 acres of forest land with heavy equipment (1-2 days, 2-3 days ?).
I cannot say. It depends on so many different factors. For instance the trees themselves can be the type that have deep tap roots of which hard maple and elm would be some. The soil itself may be of a type where the roots lay flat upon the ground, or go deep as the tree looks for nutrients. Then there is the lay of the land and the amount of rocks or boulders in the soil.

But I will say, generally speaking you get a better bang for the buck using bigger equipment. You pay more per hour for the equipment, but you also get more done. If you got your own equipment and don't value your time you are okay, but its often better to hire say a 2 yard excavator that can rip stumps from the ground at $110 per hour rather then a 1-1/2 yard excavator at $75 per hour. At the same time, look at the operator as a benefit as well. A good operator makes it look easy, but it takes awhile to learn how to do it with any sense of measurable time. It is better to pay a guy $110 per hour and get much, much more done then it does to rent a big excavator and try to learn at todays rental prices (IMHO)

We have also found that an excavator is a better deal then a bulldozer. They pry stumps from the ground faster, and they can pile brush better. They can also dig holes and bury problem stumps and rock walls far better then a dozer can. As for production, we found teaming an excavator with a wheel loader is the fastest possible combination as long as the ground is not muddy. The excavator pries the stumps/rocks from the ground and the loader shoves it to the edge of the clearing a lot faster then a dozer.

We also found that pulling rock walls is best done in the spring when the ground is wet. Doing so when it is dry is a lot harder. But when pulling stumps, we like to do it in the fall. We pull the stump and then let the freeze-thaw cycle of the winter season knock off the dirt. The next summer we push the stump with the loader. By doing this we save our soil, and there is no sense to farm land whose topsoil has been pushed into a big pile at the edge of the clearing. Top soil for us is gold so we try to conserve as much of it as we can. We prefer the excavator/loader combination over a bulldozer because of this reason.

Hope this helps.

For what it is worth our last foray into clearing land on this farm cost us $3500 dollars at $90 per hour for 8 acres. If I did the math right, that was 38 hours for 8 acres. I would say with the bigger equipment we can get now, we could probably 3 acres per day. ???

Last edited by BrokenTap; 05-05-2009 at 05:56 PM..
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:05 PM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
Reputation: 1506
Quote:
Originally Posted by marmac View Post
Driller-------Income taxes are the least of a small landowner/ farmer/ homesteader's worry.

First you have to generate enough--income-- to live.
You got that right. They say the average farm has one really profitable year every 7 years, 2 "decent" years and 4 losing years. We don't have a problem with tax deductions or depreciation that's for sure.

We were doing okay a few months ago, but on the big farm we are losing about $40,000 bucks a week due to the exceptionally low price of milk ($13 cwt versus last years $24 cwt and the high cost of grain. What makes us swear is that the price of milk for the retail consumer has not dropped a penny. Not only are we losing money, the consumer is not doing any better on their grocery bill. At the same time there is a 4 billion pound supply deficiency of milk in this country so why the low CWT price if we must import 4 billion pounds of milk per year?

Yep that will make you swear (and have wayyyyyy to many deductions and deprecation allowances)!
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:32 PM
 
357 posts, read 890,781 times
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thank you for your well detail aswer, i realy appreciate that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenTap View Post
I cannot say. It depends on so many different factors. For instance the trees themselves can be the type that have deep tap roots of which hard maple and elm would be some. The soil itself may be of a type where the roots lay flat upon the ground, or go deep as the tree looks for nutrients. Then there is the lay of the land and the amount of rocks or boulders in the soil.

But I will say, generally speaking you get a better bang for the buck using bigger equipment. You pay more per hour for the equipment, but you also get more done. If you got your own equipment and don't value your time you are okay, but its often better to hire say a 2 yard excavator that can rip stumps from the ground at $110 per hour rather then a 1-1/2 yard excavator at $75 per hour. At the same time, look at the operator as a benefit as well. A good operator makes it look easy, but it takes awhile to learn how to do it with any sense of measurable time. It is better to pay a guy $110 per hour and get much, much more done then it does to rent a big excavator and try to learn at todays rental prices (IMHO)

We have also found that an excavator is a better deal then a bulldozer. They pry stumps from the ground faster, and they can pile brush better. They can also dig holes and bury problem stumps and rock walls far better then a dozer can. As for production, we found teaming an excavator with a wheel loader is the fastest possible combination as long as the ground is not muddy. The excavator pries the stumps/rocks from the ground and the loader shoves it to the edge of the clearing a lot faster then a dozer.

We also found that pulling rock walls is best done in the spring when the ground is wet. Doing so when it is dry is a lot harder. But when pulling stumps, we like to do it in the fall. We pull the stump and then let the freeze-thaw cycle of the winter season knock off the dirt. The next summer we push the stump with the loader. By doing this we save our soil, and there is no sense to farm land whose topsoil has been pushed into a big pile at the edge of the clearing. Top soil for us is gold so we try to conserve as much of it as we can. We prefer the excavator/loader combination over a bulldozer because of this reason.

Hope this helps.

For what it is worth our last foray into clearing land on this farm cost us $3500 dollars at $90 per hour for 8 acres. If I did the math right, that was 38 hours for 8 acres. I would say with the bigger equipment we can get now, we could probably 3 acres per day. ???
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Old 05-05-2009, 09:52 PM
 
9,807 posts, read 13,683,788 times
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BT------$ 3500 to get 8 acres of field comes out to $437.50 per acre.

Sounds like a good deal to me.
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Old 05-06-2009, 01:18 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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It is, but I think I can come in well under that.

My plan right along has been to harvest the wood on the land I want to clear, sell it to a papermill and then reinvest the money in my sheep operation. In this way I am not using savings or cash out of pocket to invest in my sheep operation. Hopefully in a few years I can slowly wean myself from cutting so much wood, and start making a bit of money from the sheep.

Incidentally, the NRCS does not pay for clearing land, but they will cost-share through the Equip Program to till and reseed pastures and crop ground. Since paying for an excavator or bulldozer is the most expensive aspect of the deal, and the land I am dealing with has been arable land before (no rocks and just stumps) I intend to let the sheep graze around the stumps for a few years, let them rot down and then plow the soil and grow corn for a few years, and then reseed into hay ground/pasture. Keep in mind I am only looking at gaining about 20 acres of arble land, so its not a whole lot, but enough to sustain my goal of 150 sheep (with my existing tillable land).

Of course with the logging industry all but shut down right now, my plan is not exactly working as well as it should. I have managed to deck about 60 cords of wood and my trucker claimed he could ship it to the mills by the end of the month. I can sit on it until it moves, but as the days get warmer and my wood dries, I am losing money because the wood does not weigh nearly as much.

You know how it is, you just got to roll with the punches.
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:14 AM
 
Location: Nebraska
4,178 posts, read 9,536,988 times
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Gee, BT, wished we lived closer; I could take some cords off of your hands! If you can't get the paper mills to buy your wood, could you cut the cords smaller and sell them at the local feed store for firewood? The less 'green' the better! If you live near a small town or city where fireplaces are an approved option, you could unload those cords easily.

I used to see small carry-able bundles of firewood going for $7 apiece in front of grocery stores, and they were always sold out within two days. Just a thought. I realize that the time and $$ you've already spent could already preclude that sort of investment.

I don't understand the folks who move to the country without a real, concrete plan. I knew my property would not even be self-sufficient for at LEAST five years and planned accordingly. I'm not looking to make money as much as I am looking to grow things that satisfy my table (although the money from production sales is an option, it is not factored in to the plan.) I thiink that a lot of folks move to the country and think that they can make a "killing" off of their vegetable and egg sales, and don't realize that everyone in that area is already growing their own, already know planting times, fertilizer, soil requirements, and what grows best far more intimately than any 'newbie'. I found a summer Farmer's Market 50 miles away on the Internet last week; only open from June 1 til October 31. That's the only place I have seen for a local market for organic produce. While that could mean more $$ for me when I start to sell my overproduction - it could also more likely mean that there is no local interest in such a thing.

It bothers me that farmhouses are left to fall apart while the "yurt people" you have described come in, build an unsustainable home, expect to grow everything they need without other income, and end up leaving because it isn't all cakes and wine. Farming isn't sitting outside in lawn chairs watching things grow; some folks - too many! -seem to think that it is. It is hard physical labor - or expensive equipment that needs more regular care and maintenance than any plow horse. Like the guy who spent all the money feeding his animals while 'saving' on his firewood, the costs of labor and exchanges of time over money are not understood by most who want to be 'gentleman farmers'.

Folks see the big Angus auctions here and think, "Wow, those ranchers are making a killing!" not realizing that that may be the only income they have for three or even six months. Most ranchers' wives are employed in paying jobs such as teachers or heath-care workers so that their families have money to eat off of year round. Because of the economy downturn, many family ranchers have laid off their hired hands and are employing their children full-time. Your description of having a 5 year old plow is funny and all too true; because most of the very young children here rope and ride, brand and castrate, and scramble up on top of the tractors to bale hay as quickly as any teenager or adult.
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:50 AM
 
9,807 posts, read 13,683,788 times
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Yes, SC Granny----------I am always amazed when people plan to move to a very rural area and presume they're going to make good money from selling their produce from their gardens, meat, and maybe milk to people close by.

Did they ever stop and ask themselves-------" where are those people near by been getting their things for the last 20 years or so"

Were those people just sitting on their butts day after day, year after year, waiting for some new guy from the city to move out by them and "rescue "them?

I doubt it !
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Old 05-07-2009, 09:08 AM
 
Location: Kennesaw, GA
167 posts, read 770,257 times
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"I thiink that a lot of folks move to the country and think that they can make a "killing" off of their vegetable and egg sales, and don't realize that everyone in that area is already growing their own, already know planting times, fertilizer, soil requirements, and what grows best far more intimately than any 'newbie'. I found a summer Farmer's Market 50 miles away on the Internet last week; only open from June 1 til October 31. That's the only place I have seen for a local market for organic produce. While that could mean more $$ for me when I start to sell my overproduction - it could also more likely mean that there is no local interest in such a thing. "

EXACTLY!!! That is one of the reasons I stay in the suburbs right now. Farmers who can hang onto their acreage outside the city (and put up with all the crap that goes with it) can make a nice profit because farmer's markets and organic vegetables are a current trend in the suburbs. If you can package your product to look all vintage pretty you can mark it up for ridiculus prices and sell out within the hour around here. I would never presume that I could move out to a small town where everyone has that small town bond, and become the top vegetable salesman...so I get your post. Too bad I can't find 5 or so affordable acres in the burbs.
Some really good info on this thread.
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