Folks Are Too Asleep.

Why are you making your own placemats, towels, kitchen towels, blankets and napkins? Why not just go to Bed Bath and Beyond? For the very same reason that we grow our own food, make our own soaps, butter, electricity, dry clothes on a line and live mostly off grid. It’s also why we have non-traditional means to cook. My question back: Why do you go to Walmart, the Supermarket, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and make no attempt to be more self-sufficient?

My answer: We are not some baby birds in a Shitty nest waiting for the momma bird to come puke pre- chewed crap down our throats.ADB7D5B5-B793-41FD-995E-E8488D101EF82DFFAA33-2196-43B3-A473-501C616589ACD0A9CCE1-2C5E-4A6F-A6ED-8607712F0DA6FA00DE5B-5DDD-49D2-9921-7220A1AE1E14E2C15AC0-FF06-4342-A23E-8A61B88410ACADA07D06-94A6-490B-911A-D44096A8C502DE0FDF7D-F4E2-4539-B0E6-CD964FCCBECC47848B7C-054A-4FAB-A190-801779999855F280953C-6C19-4FBA-B820-4ED2781D70A78874A88C-DA91-459A-B031-98C8362E15B6

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Catching Up Again. What A Year

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So much has happened in the past 2 years.  Leaving work, surgery, new projects begun at the farm as I have healed up both mentally and physically, brought me back to the blog to share what has been going on and kind of where we are going.  The end of this month marks my 11th month post back surgery.  It is going very well, but, I fear it will never again be what one would consider “normal”.  My new routine now includes a great deal of stretching and bending is a thing of the past.  It takes a considerable amount of time in the morning to get up and loosen up so that I can face the day.  The farm has kept me active, although I am having to get myself back into a regular exercise routine in addition in order to keep up both my stamina and strength.  Having left work a little over a year ago and having had my injury sideline me for most of the first year, I have only now begun to figure out what looking forward might mean.  I was a specialist in retirement planning and have had to remind myself to practice what I preached: Never make any major life decisions in retirement during the first year.  Well, considering that I spent close to 6 months of that first year flat on my back and healing, it wasn’t too difficult to let that sleeping dog lie.  But I have recovered to a great extent and now am now starting to fashion a life going forward.  A life of just leisure would make me insane.  The question to be answered was, “What does this farm life look like now that it is the only thing I have to concern myself with going forward?”

Retirement was very sudden and almost imposed on me.  I was sick of being lied to by my company as well as the economic and political world.  If you care about those you serve it creates an aire of fear and anxiety that eats away at you.  There was fear about so many things I couldn’t control, not to mention the lack of understanding people had if I made a mistake.  Fortunately, those were few and far between and I never had any complaints, but it wore me down to the point that when I was injured physically, mentally I knew I just couldn’t take it anymore.  For those whom I served for some 30 years, I simply cannot and will not apologize for how I chose to survive this.  I am still alive, I am healed, I am moving forward, and am able to continue to be a husband and father.  There wasn’t much I could do or would do differently if again faced with the same circumstances.  In fact, I’d have probably done it faster.  The physical proof that the changes were positive is the fact that I’m losing weight, my endurance is picking back up, my mind is quieter and my blood pressure is down.  I was mis-placed in finance and I am happy to be rid of it.

So the way that our new life is progressing is to a simpler lifestyle.  We are embracing a self-sufficient way of living and working to move farther and farther away from this truly insane society.  In a way it is a dropping out.  I cannot abide the news any longer and it seems that there is nothing but hate, lies, and greed running everything this country does.  We have dubbed the farm “The Island for Misfit Toys” from the Rudolph Christmas special.  Indeed, it is rare to have people in one’s life that actually “get you” without pre-conditions.  We welcome those that also share such a longing for a simpler and old fashioned life and I think that my life going forward will be to keep going deeper in that direction.

I think that as a society we are facing catastrophic pressures on too many fronts.  One of them somehow is going to eventually give; be it economic (my first bet), political, geo-political, peak-oil, warfare, resource depletion, over-population or human extinction due to human induced climate change.  One cannot prepare for every contingency, but 95% of this country is completely unprepared for even a 2 week emergency.  My assertion is that it will last much much longer.  It isn’t a question of “if” but “when”.  I guess that is the financial planner inner voice coming out.  After all, financial preparedness included adequate insurance and several months of cash-reserves.  I would now include in that, non-paper currency like metals, and as much food and water stores as you can muster.  As my wife told my doctor at an appointment when I had completely melted down over this, when he asked why I think that something like this is going to happen (I think out of concern for himself, not having ever really heard it before), she said,  “He knows to much.”

So now that the majority of the storm has passed and we are now settled into a new routine and lifestyle, the lifestyle itself is taking shape.  I keep informed about the economic scene because we are still a monetary society, I have tried desperately to filter out the absolutely child-ish and hateful political scene (I can’t even think what my life would be like having to be an advisor during this “administration”. They are simply the most horrible, ignorant and hateful people I have ever seen at the helm).  We are planting again, livestock is back on the land, and I am even learning some crafting.  Not only are we trying to become more self-sustaining, much of what we are learning now has to do with going pre-electric.  Learning how to preserve food the way people did prior to refrigeration (smoking, drying, root-cellaring, etc.). Not all of this is in some grand “prepper” scheme, its that we find these lost skills far more interesting and fulfilling than the world of screens, gossip, social media, and the endless tennis court volleying of one side vs the other.  Locally there isn’t much of a like minded community out there, but we are hoping to help build it.  After all, your neighbors may soon be your only source of community.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually knew who they were?

So in the next few posts I will try to get the blog back up to current.  Then going forward, I’ll try to be more punctual about what we are doing and how we are doing it, and why.  The past two years were devastating.  Going forward all we want is to do is live like Hobbits, live the middle path, and enjoy a simple existence far from the deafening roar of a society gone completely off the rails.

 

The Bone Crushing Construction Is Over!

Not bad for a guy who, just six months ago, was in a hospital bed having his spine fused.  Zina and I have both agreed that now that the barn is built and the pasture fenced in, that the farm’s infrastructure is completed and its time to just be here and farm the place.  There will always be a hammer to swing at something, but none of it has to be a priority over the gardens and animals.

Friend Paul designs and produces archery equipment.  He called and wanted me to come with him to this year’s World Archery Championships in Las Vegas.  I used to go every year and bring my team of kids, but since having bought the farm, we have not been in at least 5 years.  He has a time share out there and it just happens to be just across the street from the South Pointe Casino where the shoot is being held.  Since we had just finished the big building projects I thought it would be a nice break.  We’ve been hanging out at his trade show booth and at the apartment.  Because we have kitchens, we bought our food instead of eating factory farmed slop at the buffets.  It has been so much fun.  Not only do we share archery as a common hobby, we both run hobby farms and our world views couldn’t be more similar.  Sometimes just begin around the like minded is very soothing.  It helps to re-confirm your sanity.

I have been using the week to unwind, but at the same time as a transition.  For the 30 years I slogged through my career I never had just a “routine” life.  It was largely crisis mode, multi-tasking and racing to deadlines; not to mention having gone through 3 major market corrections (thank god I’m missing this one – although I’m in touch with my partners fairly frequently).  Between work and the farm construction I was mostly running from one task to another.  So this week, during this break, I started to put together my new routine.  Some people in retirement want to travel and explore and do all the things they never got to do while they worked.  I couldn’t be farther from that perspective.  I’ve had too many adventures.  Like the Hobbits, I’ve seen the Orcs and Goblins and quite frankly wasn’t impressed.  I threw my ring in the fiery furnace and the eagles had to come and rescue me and carry me back home.  I’m done.  Right now I can’t think of anything more peaceful and healing than working in the gardens and hangin’ with the critters.

The weekend after I get home, Zina and I have an appointment at the Donkey’s Rescue Shelter over in Bennett.  The stalls and corrals are built and we will be adopting a pair of donkeys.  They will serve as companions and pets and predator deterrents.  They do not get along with Canine’s and will do well to keep the coyotes and foxes at bay.  In addition, we are in touch with a breeder and come spring (using another stall area in the new barn) will begin raising Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  I just ordered the fencing panels to build a turkey coop inside the barn, and we will be getting pigs again and our usual flocks of chickens.

So its been a nice break but I’m getting eager to get back at it on the farm.  There is so much to do, but now it can be done on a measured schedule instead of a breakneck pace that made a lot of it a struggle to maintain.

New batteries are arriving for the solar system next week as well.  All is coming back together…….  time to chill.

 

Here is a picture of some of the first day’s official scoring and a look at some of the pro’s targets that shot clean on the first day.

 

Above:  The completed barn.  Cupola and Stall door and everything ready to go.

I am retiring to the Shire.  Orcs need not apply.  Just a pipe, good ale, good food and company.  The rest can stay outside the fences.

Have to Vs. Want to

As of today, the JAZ Farm “have to” projects have practically ended.  There are some things yet to be done with the drip irrigation to get water to the greenhouse, but other than that we have a functioning homestead that we can now enjoy with all the infrastructure built to support our goals.

It has been practically 4 years since the start of this endeavor.  Looking for the place, rebuilding the place, putting in the coops and pens and gardens and greenhouse and alternate power source, and all the other “pieces” of it all finally have come to an end.  Should we want to add more pens or livestock or other “homestead things” we can do them at our leisure and want.  The last bits have happened in the past week.  We built a sub-divided chicken coop, added a pig loading corral, strung the drip mainlines to the greenhouse, moved plants out to the greenhouse, built the chicken tractor, and started the bed prepping for the root vegetable gardens.

I was about to the end of my physical capabilities and wouldn’t you know it, the world conspired to attack me mentally through work.  The times they are a changing’ and I must change or retire (the jury is still out, I love my clients and I hate having to continually defend them against criminals).  Every generation thinks they are changing things for the better, but my experience has taught me that it is simply one big circle.  Everyone forgets history, repeats it, and then says “no one could have anticipated that….”.  What nonsense.  Sorry, I digress, but in our efforts to be prepared, the one variable I didn’t anticipate was “real” work.  Now that the farm is done, I guess I can focus my attention on whatever the Department of Labor thinks we need to change at work.  They are attacking the wrong people.  Why aren’t the banksters in jail?  Why haven’t hedge fund managers and those responsible for the worst heist in the history of the world been summarily jailed or executed for crimes against humanity?  Instead, lets target those who already work in the best interest of their clients.  Let the criminals go free.  Such are the ways of things.

So I am thrilled about the fact that the JAZ Farm is as self-sustainable as it can be at this time.  That in itself is a sense of security.  The rest of the world?  What a joke.  We are just big apes with big malfunctioning brains thinking we are the superior species on earth.  Arrogance and sociopathy rule.  I long for the gentle and the kind.  My motto, probably for the rest of my life is:  Live Like A Hobbit.

 

 

I Knew It. I Just Knew It.

To quote Neil Young, “What will people do? After the garden is gone.”   I grieve every day.  The world is in hospice.  When do we get to justify a violent reaction to unrestrained patriarchy and greed as self-defense and justice?  What about my son?  What about your grandchildren?  Has breeding now become an immoral act?  I feel sorrow for every pregnant woman I see today.  The people who did this have names and addresses.  I think they should be paid a visit.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oil-cover-up-climate_us_570e98bbe4b0ffa5937df6ce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Dollars and Sense

IMG_4015By trade I am a financial planner and my wife is a CPA.  That’s right, we are boring like toast in skim milk.  However, that means that we don’t really do anything major without going through the columns and rows of the spreadsheets to make sure that what we are doing is viable.

I have gotten questions from time to time from folks, even though its none of their business, about how much money we have sunk into the homestead project.  Many of the questions almost sound like some followers think that this project is a flash in the pan and that someday we will move to a mini-mansion on a fairway somewhere in knobby knee, bermuda shorts world.  So I thought I would walk everyone through how this will play itself out.

To be clear, in terms of relative costs, we have a community up the road from us in the city that is called Legacy Ridge.  It is a subdivision of homes on a golf course over looking the foothills of Boulder.  Those postage stamp houses go for 500k to over 2 million dollars.  We own 3 pieces of property.  The sum total of those 3 don’t add up to even ONE of the mid-range houses up there… but we don’t have the debt either.  That is the key point.

The first rule of financial planning is to define your goals, timeframes, risk tolerances, and resources.

  1.  Goals:  We intend to be here as long as we still can see above the dirt.  Most of society’s definitions of success, to us, smack of trying to impress the neighbors.  We love this lifestyle and we will work from now until our retirement to make this homestead be as self-supporting as possible.  So our overall goal:  Build the farm, be as self-sufficient as possible, become debt free, and need almost no money to live day to day when we retire.
  2. Timeframe:  From now until we can’t see above the dirt.
  3. We are moderate in our aversion to risk.  Long term time horizons don’t phase me now that I’m going on 30 years in the financial planning business. I also have an expert tax planner as a spouse.  I know more about managing risk than just about anyone I know.
  4. Resources:  Our ability to earn a living, our common goal of using that living to build our farm, ingenuity,  and continuing to create multi-functional layers on all that we build here.
  5. Potential Drawbacks:  Taking care of ourselves physically.  I suffer the most from that problem.  The well running dry.  Storms and climate change catastrophes:  no solutions.  Peak Oil: need to take up bicycling.  Major medical expenses:  that’s why we want to live on as little as possible.
  6. We may, at some point, have more than one family living here.  Who and for what reason is not determined, but I imagine it would be a friend or two, my mother, and my sister’s family.  Who knows.  In any case, they best like digging in the dirt.

Ok.  So a huge part of homesteading, prepping, and financial planning for the future, is to have what you need in terms of physical necessities and financial assets prior to leaving work and living out one’s “golden” years.

I have long told the middle class saver that one of the most important things you can do by the time you retire is to be debt free – including your mortgage.  Forget what you have ever heard about the interest deduction being good for you.  Pay off your mortgage, all credit debt, and try, if at all possible, to have no vehicle payment.

For instance, we still maintain a house in the city because we need it for work convenience.  We got the farm at the bottom of the foreclosure fiasco of the financial collapse.  We will use the equity from our city house to pay off the farm mortgage at retirement.  If the housing market fails again, I have no qualms about using other savings to pay the mortgage off.  This is our fortress and we will keep it no matter the cost.

Here is what our homestead should look like when we pull the plug on trading our lives and time for paychecks:

  •   The farm mortgage will be paid for. The only ongoing expense for the place will be insurance and property taxes.

> There isn’t much we can do about insurance.  However, we will have our agricultural status for taxes and if we play our cards right and are able to hay the place, the hay should pay the taxes and have enough left over to feed our grazing critters.

  • No utilities:  We won’t have an electricity bill now that the solar is installed.  We will have a minimal propane expense as we are installing solar hot water and a stove, along with a solar hot air condenser that I will be building for heat.  The sun will provide much of our heating and hot water needs.  We are on a well and the solar panels power the pump.  We will have to replace the pump and solar inverter at some point, but those things last a good long time.  The only utility expense we will have is trash removal, but even that will be minimal.  We compost all of our food scraps, burn cardboard and paper, and recycle.  It seems unlikely that we will generate much waste that needs to be removed.
  • Because we raise our own food, our food expenses will be minimal.  We can grow our own greens year round, and given the success of our pigs and chickens, its seems unlikely that the industrial grocery cartels will see much of our money.
  • Vehicles:  Once the farm infrastructure is built, I will not need as big a vehicle as the pickup.  Being retired, we won’t be commuting.  Therefore, we won’t have auto payments and our fuel bills will be very small.
  • Given the sociopathic society we live in, the biggest expense we will have is paying for medical insurance.  Hopefully, someday more altruistic heads will prevail and recognize that healthcare is a right.  I will not go to a nursing home… ever… that’s what the .22 is for.
  • The expense that will replace some of our food bill is feed for our food!  Once the fields are growing grass again, the goats, pigs, cows and chickens can forage to their heart’s content.  There will always be feed costs, but in the scheme of things, it will be much cheaper than having to buy everything from a food system who’s future is anything but rosy.  We will offset a lot of our fertilizer needs by aggressively composting manure and grass.

If we do this right, then our ongoing expenses will be:  taxes, insurance, some gas for transportation, some propane for what the sun can’t do for us, trash, medical insurance, some minimal food, feed for our food, some seeds that I can’t save, and the occasional new pair of overalls, boots, t-shirts and toilet paper.

“So what will you do when you are too old to do such things?”  That is what our savings and investments are for.  We will do our best to keep them from being touched until absolutely necessary.  Personally, I don’t think I’ll get far along enough in life for that to matter, so it will all be left to my wife and son.

Because the goal is to be self-sufficient and also to live on as little as possible expense wise, we should be able to make all of those expenses on Social Security – EVEN if the benefits are reduced as seems more and more likely because of the mis-management of the funds we have all paid into all of our working years.  Like most people, we don’t have pensions.  Therefore, by having minimal monthly living expenses, our savings and investments will be allowed to be held in reserve for emergencies and upkeep.

“Well”, asks the citiots, “what will you do to keep yourselves busy?” ” Aren’t you going to travel the world and the seven seas?”  “Won’t you get bored?”  (As I type this, I am laughing hysterically).

  • First, most city folk that I have encountered in my almost 30 years as a financial planner will not be traveling and doing all of those dreamy wishes and fantasies, because very few have saved even a fraction of what it would take to do that and then not run the risk of running out of money.  Most will run out.  Sorry.  Just a fact. Be sure you are on good terms with your kids.
  • Second, I have always believed that one should build a life you don’t need a vacation from.  We will do so many things here that we may be busier then than we are now.  Among the tasks and hobbies:  Gardening year round to produce food, taking care of the animals, going for hikes, astronomy, archery, hunting, quilting, carving, navel gazing, wheat harvesting, movie watching, cooking, canning, freezing, writing, photography, and belonging to a community.  There is NO chance we will run out of things to do.

The forethought we have put into this is pretty extensive.  Too many of us never stop to think about what we want to retire TO.  Most of us think about what we want to retire FROM.  That is why the retirement failure rate is so high.  Remember, it is highly likely that you will be retired LONGER THAN YOU WORKED!!  Unless you set goals and put tangible numbers to those goals, you might as well stay dreaming…. it will never happen.  I can attest to that fact by having watched people postpone retirement and other goals because they lacked vision and only saw consumption and spent everything along the way to what they had only “hoped” for and never “planned” for.

So yes, while we are working, we have poured a lot of resources -not to mention sweat equity- into our homestead.  However, most of the expenses were “one time” expenses that don’t suffer from planned obsolescence.  We are getting lean and prepared.  However, the planner/prepper in me is always aware of the fact that the best laid plans can also come unglued…. and we are trying to prepare for those possibilities as well.

There you have it.  Homesteader, Farmer, Hippie, Prepper, Financial Planer/CPA.  That is how we will bug out… by having as many ducks in a row as possible and having little or no obligations to “the man” when we get there.

Have you done the numbers?  Have you set goals and developed a plan to get there?  If not….. I would suggest getting after it while you still can.

 

 

 

It. Is. Finished

Habits are a funny thing. We are coming up on our third anniversary of the farm. Every week for those three years, roughly from Thursday noon through Monday morning I’ve been on the business end of tools and machinery building out the infrastructure. In addition to that there was the whole raising a kid and working a real job. There has been little to no down time. Very little rest. A friend once asked me how long I thought I could keep it up. Answer: 3 years, evidently.
I told my wife while we sat on the front porch, just after my 50th birthday, when we were contemplating the purchase of this place, that it would be a life consuming project. She has also had her share of projects – the biggest being painting the inside of the house, sealing the wood fences and decks, chicken chores, and harvesting while I burned out power tools. After all it was a dilapidated foreclosure, the only infrastructure being the house, barn, and broken down corral for all of the toy horses of the previous owner. I’m not sure she understood the magnitude of its scope. It CONSUMED our lives.
The habit groove wore itself into my brain pretty well. When I turned the last screw on the greenhouse I found myself in a state of disbelief that that three year chapter had come to an end. Sure, projects never really end, but this was the end of what was needed in order for us to see the farm as “complete”. The remodeling of the house, deck building, fence building, chicken coop building, pig pen building, observing field building, dog run construction, driveway covering, organic garden building and growing and harvesting, greenhouse acquisition and building, grow room building, painting, scrubbing, moving furniture in, installing appliances, heaving anything and everything – none if it lite in weight – a never ending spiral of money down a hole – not to mention the mental fatigue of planning things, designing things and thoroughly trying to envision it so as to not make stupid mistakes, had finally come to an end.
So far, a couple of weeks into it, I am starting to actually let myself believe it. I have a synapse worn in my head that says that when I put on overalls it is going to mean frustration, heavy shit to be hauled, and pain. I can’t even count the number of loads I have filled my truck with and then unloaded, along with dozens and dozens of trips to the Depot and the ranch supply stores. Day after day, week after week how many post holes have I dug in three years? How many feet of fencing? How many tons of aggregate and compost and soil have I had delivered and then had to move? . That isn’t the case any longer. How many times have I cut myself, bruised myself, dropped shit on myself and yet gotten up, cussed like a sailor, and continued on anyway? How many building and construction skills have I had to learn, knowing I will probably never use them again?
One of the things I had always wondered in life, was the outside limit of physical and mental endurance that someone can handle. I know that people in horrible conditions can endure herculean amounts of suffering and pain all of which would make this project pale by comparison. But what about a task you set before yourself? What is the upper limit of what one person can really do? After all, people climb mountains and hike thousands of miles or run marathons to try to discover that in themselves. In my case, I know that now. I. Am. Exhausted. My limit has been reached. I climbed the rope, rang the bell and now I will sit for awhile and heal. It helped me slay a lot of demons along the way. The amount of physical work I took on shows just how vicious the voices in my head have been and how much energy needed to be expended to exorcise them. This was an effort more about mental health than physical prowess after all. The demons are now corpses and they will not be missed.
Yesterday, unbelievably, I actually went out into the greenhouse and just sat there zen-ing out. I have actually gone out to the pens just to see the critters, not to repair or change something. We have been out harvesting, with nothing left to have to do but harvest. This morning I drove into the nearest town that has such a thing, and sat in a shop, had coffee and read the news. What a concept. All the while though, I had to catch the thoughts in my head that were telling me that I had to get back, that I couldn’t just relax, that there was something that had to be built or taken care of. Its an amazing thing to look at all that the farm now has on it and think, “Wow! I built practically all of it”. There is still a barn to build and a ranch hydrant to install, some pasture fences to put up in anticipation of our cows and goats, but the fundamental pieces of the farm that will allow us to grow most of our own food is up. It. IS. done.
So I have to now work on changing the habit. Let myself simply merge into it and let the place heal and grow and provide. The biggest reason is that the place kind of broke me. Physically. My hips and shoulders scream at me every day. I use a cane to get around in the morning until I loosen up, and my heels raise holy hell if I go barefoot. I’ll bounce back, I always do. After all, that is what life consuming means. Time for JAZ Farm to just be the farm, not a place where I do penance and beat myself to death for my sins. It has been transformed from an abused plot in a grass field, to a small farm that will be off grid despite that setback. It is the place that we hope to now play and live and escape from the cacophony of the world. I think I will go put on my overalls, go outside, and do………. nothing. What a concept.

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