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Starting Your Homestead Off Right

Starting Your Homestead Off Right

 Bringing Rural Back Podcast

This post is an addition to and an expansion of the Tips for Picking Your Forever Homestead post. In it we gave you a system to use to evaluate property, eliminate the ones that do not fit your family and your hopes, and pick the one that you can hopefully make your forever home. I believe this post will help you.

Honest Self Evaluation

Why am I starting here? This is actually the single most important aspect of whether or not you will be able to achieve your goals in anything, even more so on your homestead.

Your knowledge, skill,  physical ability, and the amount of time and money you can invest will determine what you can accomplish and how quickly you can do so. Some things on a homestead have a steep learning curve. If you are like I am, you will quickly find that your greatest limitations are time and money. If you have more of one than the other there are still things you can do, but it is a lot tougher.

By doing an honest self evaluation you may find that you will have to adjust your timeline. We will get a lot deeper into that later, but you must have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

Set Homestead Goals

I believe that most people have goals in mind when they do most things, even if that goal is something that others would think unimportant. If something is a goal, it is important to you. Setting goals when it comes to a homestead is a not that much different from setting goals for a career. You have to decide the destination that you wish to achieve. George Harrison had a line in a song that went, “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.” This is even more so when it comes to your homestead. Here are somethings to ask yourself and some considerations for each.

  • Are you wanting to make an income from your homestead?
  • Are you wanting to produce most of your family’s food?
  • Do you want to have animals on your homestead?
  • Are you willing to market a product?
  • Are you willing to allow people to come to your homestead?

Not setting goals is a big mistake. It doesn’t matter if you are wanting to completely make a living off of your land or if you are just wanting to be as self sustainable as possible, goals are necessary.

Have a Plan for Your Land

If you used the selection process we suggested in Tips for Picking Your Forever Homestead, you already have a preliminary plan. You should take the time to develop this plan before you get too far into the process.

I have known some people who once they purchased a piece of land they started planting things. They didn’t have a plan at all. They would place a tree here and a shrub there and something else over there. There was no rhyme or reason to where they put anything. If someone were to purchase the land from them, they would have either had to cut or move trees and shrubs to be able to do most anything.

Graph paper is your friend. You can scale up or down your plan based on the size of your property and the size of the graph paper. Even if you have to get one of the big pieces of poster board that has the really faint grid, I would use one of these. You can do a proper layout of your property plan with blank paper, but you will have to establish a scale and use a ruler to get the measurements correct. If you just hand sketch your plan the measurements will be off and it will be easy to make mistakes. Take this extra step.

Don’t be too Devoted to Your Plan

I know I just told you that you had to have a plan and now I am telling you not to be too devoted to the plan. You may be wondering, what the hay? Your plan is a guide and shouldn’t be set in stone. You will find as you begin working toward your goals that somethings just will not work like you thought they would. Even if you did your research, things will pop up. You may find that in the part of your land that you had hoped to put a vineyard the soil is to shallow. You could find that an area has a wet weather spring or any number of other things. You should be able to adjust your plan while staying true to your goals. Who knows? You may even find that your goals change as you truly learn your land.

Are you wanting to make an income from your homestead?

If you are hoping to make an income or even more so a living off of your homestead there are more things you should consider.

Your homestead becomes a business.

As soon as you decide that you wish to make an income from your homestead it becomes a business and should be treated as such. You will have to track expenses and income. You will have to evaluate possible markets, what products to market, how much effort will you have to apply to produce your product, what is an acceptable profit margin, and finally how much to price your product.

What are you planning on offering to make a living?

If you are planning on selling a product you will need to consider what your market is going to be. There is no shortage of things that can be offered for sale. Some things like artisan soaps or crafts can be made anywhere and shipped. Others require a close proximity to your market. What things can you grow or make that would have a demand in your area?

We will look at selling chicken eggs because it is the most common commodity sold from most small scale homesteads.

If you live in a rural area or even drive through one you have probably seen a small sign stuck up in someone’s yard that reads “Fresh eggs for sale”. Around here the average price for a dozen homestead eggs is between $1.50 and $3.00 a dozen. You may be wondering how you can make any money selling eggs for $1.50 a dozen. The simple answer is you can’t, no matter where you are. If you are wanting to make a decent side income from chicken eggs you will have to go far beyond the sign in front of your house.

How could you make a profit from chicken eggs?

First, produce a superior product. The eggs you buy in the grocery store are the lowest quality that should be considered for human consumption. Those chickens never see the outside world. Most are caged in a very small area, their entire lives consist of eating and drinking what is placed in front of them and laying eggs. No bugs, no scratching, no life. By giving your chickens a life and access to grass and insects their quality of life is much greater. If your chickens have a better quality of life and better nutrition they will produce higher quality eggs.


Second, find a market that cares about better quality. You are not going to make any money trying to compete with the prices at your local grocery store or Wal Mart. That is just a fact. These places support industrial agriculture. The best markets for good quality food is upper middle income areas. These people are willing to pay for higher quality and many of them truly care about where their food comes from. This is a growing trend. People are beginning to reject the idea of factory farms.

Third, price your products fairly and include a good profit. How do I do that? You will need to spend some time and learn how to use a spreadsheet. You will need to include all of the costs to produce the product and a profit. This can be a tricky process so let’s work our way through with chicken eggs.

Purchasing chicks. For the purpose of this exercise we will consider production red chickens. Pullets run around $2.77 each when you buy 50 or more. These ladies will not start laying till they are around 22 weeks of age. On average they will lay for two to three years and normally lay an egg every 25 hours. This will slow down some during winter months and during times of molt. You will have to figure how much it will cost to feed and water each hen over the course of her life add that to the cost of purchase, then divide that by the average number of eggs she could be expected to produce. This will give you the cost of goods sold. The average hen will lay around 530 during her lifetime.

Note: I do not include housing costs in my figures because this cost can be amortized over many years if constructed well.

There are several things that will impact the cost of production, some of these things include: what type of feed you use, whether or not you provide supplemental lighting, how much your birds are allowed to forage, at what age you cull your hens, how you purchase the egg cartons. We could keep going, but this should give you a good idea. After you do all of this, you will have a good understanding of what it costs you to produce each dozen eggs. A good range of cost of production is between $1.75 – $2.50 per dozen. This is what it will cost you to have your hens produce these eggs. If you charge less than this you are taking a loss. In order to make a profit you will have to charge more for these eggs than the cost of production plus what it costs you to sell them plus your profit margin. This is why you will see free range eggs for anywhere between $5.00 to $8.00 per dozen. Again I only used eggs as an example because it is a really good illustration.

Offer things that are unique but would have demand

Around here I wouldn’t try to sell chicken eggs. I have been researching a couple of different idea. One is producing kiwis. Kiwis are expensive and if I can offer locally and naturally grown kiwis, I believe I could have a good market quickly, that would have a nice profit margin. No one is growing kiwi locally and I have other ideas as well.

Another idea I have been playing around with would be plant propagation. Figs, blueberries, blackberries, and kiwis can be propagated by cuttings. I am wanting to take it a step further and create something really unique, blueberries and apple trees produce better with a cross pollinator and kiwi have to have both a male and female plant in order to produce. Why not graft different varieties of blueberries together to produce one plant that will benefit itself with cross pollination. Apple trees have been done this way, but to have someone who could create a plant that is designed for your area would be really nice. And imagine a kiwi that had a male branch or two grafted into a female plant. This would be a major win for those with small spaces. You will have to use your imagination and work that spreadsheet.

Now I want to point out the end of the last heading “but would have a demand”. If you have an idea and no one is doing anything like it anywhere close to where you are think really hard about your idea. It could be that there is not sufficient demand to support a business. You will have to do your research.

Over estimate time requirements

I had to learn this one the hard way. If you really want to get yourself in a bind, give yourself only the amount of time you think it will take to get something done. Normally you will find that you underestimate by a bit. Sometimes by a good bit. Until you have learned the ins and outs of a job or project always overestimate the amount of time it will take to complete. If you get it done quicker, you will have more time for other things. If not you haven’t put yourself in a bind.

Don’t try to do too much too fast

Unless you have a good deal of experience in farming or homesteading this is a real danger. Many times we want to jump in with both feet into whatever new adventure we are pursuing.  Homesteading should not be that way. If you try to do too much too quickly you are likely to not see the results you had hoped for. It is easy to get discouraged and want to give up. By pacing ourselves we can reduce the likelihood of frustration and burnout. Failures are going to happen, that is just part of life. How we deal with those failures is what matters most.

Always evaluate your results

This is something that we really should be doing in all of our life. At the end of a family weekend I always ask “What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite?”. This is a simple evaluation. On the homestead we have to be a little more thorough with our evaluation. What plant did well and where? What plant had difficulties? How can we improve the fencing to reduce predator impact on our livestock? What sold best? What product did we offer that had the greatest profit margin? How can we improve.

This year our pastor gave us several plants. None of them were labeled. Some you could simply look at and know they were tomatoes of some variety, we couldn’t tell what kind, but at least that was something. Others we had no idea what they were till they grew much bigger. One of the tomato plants that was given to us was a type of cherry tomato. This plant has really outdone itself. It has produced incredibly well and the fruits have an amazing flavor. This plant will be in the mix from now on. Some varieties of sauce tomatoes do better than others in our garden. Our jalapenos have done really well, but they are too small to be used in some of the ways my wife wants. This variety will still be included in our garden, but in fewer numbers and we will continue to search for a jumbo jalapeno variety that will do well here. What types of herbs do we use most? Can we grow those here?

Evaluating your results will help you tweak your plan for next year. Your homestead and its results should get better each year. There will be years when there will be extenuating circumstances that may have to be allowed for as well. Things like a really wet year, a really dry year, a late frost, or an early frost will impact your results. Notes should be taken on all of these things and plans should be developed to deal with all of these possibilities.

I hope you enjoyed this post and podcast. I know for some this has been really in depth and for others it has just scratched the surface. If you will use these suggestions you really can make your homestead into something of which you can be proud.

Bringing Rural Back

You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

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Tips for Picking Your Forever Homestead

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

In this episode we will be talking about common homestead mistakes and how to avoid making them. If you are just now thinking of starting a homestead, this information is a must. If you have been at it a while, you will still find nuggets of information that will make it worth your time.

So you have decided that you want to be a homesteader?  How do you get started? How do you go about finding the land you want? What are some things I should be on the look out for? How do I go about the decision making process? In this episode we will not be talking specifically about soils and orientation, that will come a little later, but we will be talking about the mechanics of making a decision based on your situation at hand. We will specifically be talking about smaller plots of land. All of these same suggestions apply to larger amounts of land, but the smaller the plot, the more critical these become.

Lists

Wish List

I believe that everyone should do this step. This is where you list the things that would be on your perfect homestead. This list should include the amount of land and percentages of what you want on that land. Here is my wish list.

  • Between 10 and 20 acres
  • Medium sized home in good condition
  • Wood lot that is at least 1/10 of the total property but not greater than 1/4 (20 acres would have a minimum of 2 acres of wood lot and a maximum of 5 acres)
  • Pond that is around 1/20 of the total (10 acre property would have 1/2 acre pond.)
  • Moderately level land or gently rolling hills.
  • Good quality well
  • Within 20 miles of a small town
  • Pasture and garden spot
  • A decent barn

I could keep going, but this gives you a good idea. This list is the perfect image in your mind. Be as detailed as possible. This becomes even more important if you have the option of moving from state to state or from one agricultural zone to another.

If you are married, you and your spouse need to make your own list and you need to review each others lists. You will probably find at least a few things that are the same or similar and you are going to find some things that are in conflict.This is normal.

Must Haves

Must haves are the things that if a property doesn’t have you shouldn’t even look at that property.  Your must haves shouldn’t be a perfect copy of your wish list. There has to be some flexibility in your selection process. Again this is a list that should be completed by your spouse and yourself and compared to each other. Hopefully you will not find any fatal differences in the two lists.

My must haves list is much shorter than my wish list and yours should be as well.

  • At least 5 acres
  • Reliable access to property
  • At least 2 acres of cultivatable land
  • At least 4 miles outside of a small town
  • Not closer than 30 minutes to a large town or city
  • Reliable high speed internet

You see there is a massive difference between the wish list and the must haves. This will help you eliminate properties and narrow down the list of possibilities.

Deal Breakers

This may sound like an identical list to the must haves, but it really isn’t. These are the things that if the property does have or doesn’t have that immediately remove it from consideration. Again you and your spouse should come up with your own lists independently then compare the two. Here are just a few of my deal breakers.

  • Kudzu anywhere on the property
  • Soil too rocky
  • Signs of environmental contamination
  • Currently in operation as industrial agriculture

Both You and Your Spouse Have Veto Rights

A couple of years ago my wife and I looked at a piece of property. It met all of the requirements of my must haves and even several items on my wish list. I could have done everything I wanted to do on the property. It would have taken a lot of work, but it could have been done.

There were two homes on the property and a really cool old barn. The barn would have had to be completely torn down and rebuilt and the two homes had been broken into and all of the copper wiring that could be easily gotten had been stripped.  This instantly called into question the safety of the community. This in conjunction with the work that would have to be done to make either house livable took this property completely off the table. Actually just the theft alone made my wife veto the property. Was it perfect otherwise? Nope, but it could have been made to work, that just wasn’t good enough. If either person is unsatisfied, neither will be happy.

Compromise

Now that you have these lists completed and have looked at each other’s lists you can begin the conversation. Notice at this point you shouldn’t have looked at a single piece of property. Hopefully there will be common ground between your partner and your lists. If not,  stop right there and begin to try to find common ground. This can be an arduous task, but many times it doesn’t have to be.

My wife’s list looks somewhat different than mine, but it looks more like mine today than it did three years ago, but mine looks more like hers too. Neither one of us has given up everything on our list for the sake of the other. You know what? Neither of us should. If one person gives completely into the other’s desires when it comes to property, resentment will follow. It won’t matter if you have the finest homestead around if you are not happy at home.

Be Patient

If you are looking for your forever home and you currently have a place to live, DO NOT get in a hurry. Unless you are really frugal and lucky, you will have to have a mortgage on this place of anywhere from 15 to 30 years. Take your time and don’t settle for something that has a deal breaker or something that doesn’t have all of your and your spouse’s must haves. You should be hoping to be on your homestead for a very long time. Don’t rush it.

Know Your Budget

It really doesn’t matter if you find the perfect place if it is a place that you simply can’t afford.  Knowing your budget puts the power in your hands and I am not talking about what the bank will loan you.

A Mortgage

For most purchases you will have to have a down payment. For a standard FHA loan the down payment is around 3.5%. An FHA loan requires either an existing home or for construction to be completed within a certain time frame to qualify. FHA doesn’t make the loan. FHA guarantees all or part of the principle of a mortgage to the lender. What this does is either gives the borrower a better interest rate or a higher amount that can be borrowed and many times both.

A loan for open land is many times considered a commercial loan or in some cases a speculative loan. Down payments for these types of loans range anywhere from 10 to 50%. Why the big difference? Well to be blunt, if you don’t have a primary residence (I am talking conventional housing here), it is easier for you to walk away from the loan. This makes these types of loans more risky than a home loan. Interest rates will be higher for a land only purchase.

Alternative Financing

You may find that traditional financing is not a viable option. You can look to some alternative financing. I have heard of many people doing owner finance. This could be an option for you.

WARNING!!!!!!! Read the contract. Have an attorney read the contract. I have known disreputable land owners who have sold the same piece of property three times because they were able to foreclose. Some of these contracts are not good, but if you sign them, you are bound by its provisions.

Around here owner financing is not uncommon. The terms are fairly standard. At least 10% down, 9.9% interest rate, and 10 years to pay. These terms can be negotiated, but this is common. No matter what owner financing tends to be at a higher interest rate than what you would expect to receive at the bank, if the bank would loan the money to you.

Many retirement plans have the ability for you to borrow money from yourself and pay it back. Some retirement funds require you to pay the money back within 5 years. This can be really tough and if you leave your job you may have to pay the remaining balance in full.

I know a few people who have cashed out their retirement completely so they could buy property outright. When a person does this they must pay taxes and penalties. In some situations this may be a good idea, but I would take the time to talk to an accountant or tax attorney before I did this.

Looking at Properties

A Real Estate Agent

Talk to a couple of agents before you decide on one. After you have settled on an agent combine the lists of your spouse and yourself. Your agent should have a copy of your must haves and your deal breakers list. This should help them refine their search to help you find properties. If an agent shows you a property that either doesn’t have all of your must haves or has any of your deal breakers, talk to the agent and tell them to look at your lists again. If the agent shows you a second property that doesn’t meet your minimums, fire that agent and find another.

Be sure and ask about the properties zoning. Zoning is limitations placed on what an owner can do on a property by local governments. Here rural land has no zoning at all, but I know that there are states where all land has zoning requirements. Be sure to ask.

It is difficult for some agents to wrap their mind around the things that a homestead minded person wants. Most agents are accustomed to people who really don’t want to do anything productive with their land. They are simply looking for convience, school districts, and general aesthetics.  While these things can be important to a homesteader usability is more important.

Limit the Number of Properties in Consideration

Using your agent you should be able to reduce the number of properties to be considered to five or fewer without having to step foot on a property. Once you have reduced the possibilities to this number you can start actually walking the properties. Have your lists with you. As you walk the property refer to your lists. DO NOT ALLOW EMOTIONS TO BE INVOLVED WITH THIS DECISION!!! If a place has a picture perfect pond or a quaint little house and you allow yourself to fixate on that point you will overlook things that could make this particular property wrong for you. Be as objective as you can. Take notes. Ask about land lines. Make sure there has been a survey and a title search.

Walking a property can push it up to the top of the list or eliminate is completely. Both possible outcomes are fine. This is just part of the process. At this point you should walk a minimum of three and a maximum of five properties.  Why a maximum of five? If we have too many options at this point we tend to compare the options to each other instead of comparing them to our lists. At this point we should only be comparing to the lists.

Take lots of pictures of each property you walk. This will help you in the next step.

Develop a Plan for Each Property

This one can be a little challenging. If the property has clearly defined borders, like a wooded fence line you can use Google Maps to have an aerial view of the property. If it doesn’t, you can go to the county revenue department’s website where the property is located. They will have an interactive map that will show approximate land lines. In order to find the property you are considering you will either need the owner’s name or the parcel number. This will give you an aerial photo of the property with property lines. (You may have to select aerial view in a drop down menu). These sites allow you to print the photo of the property.

Once you have an aerial map of the property with property lines, you can take this along with the photos of this individual piece of property and develop a draft plan for that property. This plan doesn’t have to be in great detail, but it will give you an idea of what should go where and how everything will fit. You may just find that one of the properties will fit better with what you are wanting to accomplish than others. This is good and you are working forward in the process with a plan in place.

Make Your Choice

If you have taken all of these steps, you will be in a good position to make your choice. You already have a preliminary  plan in place, you have already done your research on financing, made sure the title was clear, made sure the zoning is the way you need. You will be ready to make your offer.

I hope this helps you pursue your dream and it helps you find a forever homestead that you and your spouse can be proud of.

Bringing Rural Back

 

You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

Visit The Rural Economist’s profile on Pinterest.

Affiliate Link Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for links, endorsements, testimonials, or recommendations for any products mentioned on this blog. If you see something you are interested in, check them out. Thanks for your consideration.

 

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The Changing American Dream

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

If you were to ask 1000 people “what is the American Dream?” The response would be something along the lines of, a big house in the suburbs, 2.5 children, two car garage, all of the niceties, and enough money to pay their bills and take a nice vacation every now and then.  I have asked dozens if not hundreds of people this question and the answer is fairly standard. But, the answer changes dramatically when I ask, “Is that your dream?”. Well over half say no, their dream is something different. In this episode we are going to explore the ways the American Dream has changed over the years.

The Phrase American Dream

The phrase American Dream was coined by James Turslow Adams in a book called Epic of America The Epic of America in 1931 (if you are interested in this book, you may be able to find it in your local library.) Even though the term had not existed in popular speech until 1931, that doesn’t mean that the spirit of the American Dream hasn’t existed since the very beginning of this country. Let’s look at a sort of timeline of the American Dream.

“that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”  James Turslow Adams

1629 The Puritans

This is the point where many believe the true American Dream began and for European descendants this is true.   These men, women, and children were fleeing Europe to escape religious persecution. They were looking to the new world as a place where they could serve their God as they saw fit and to not have a government tell them how they were to worship. They wanted to carve out a place for themselves in the world where they could be free, America was their opportunity.

1630 – 1749 Agriculture and Tradesmen

During this period of time the dream began to look somewhat like it does today. People wanted their own little place in the world. They wanted to carve it out by hard work, determination, and thrift. Specialization was common, but all of the trades were interrelated. The tanner had to trade for hides to make leather. The leather was used to purchase food, everyone had their jobs and everyone was striving for sustainability. It was hard, no doubt about it.

1750 – 1776 The Industrial Revolution

Technology was advancing and this was creating larger and larger cities. This was pulling people out of the rural areas with a promise of higher wages and a better life in town. Most historians believe this time period was when the middle class was born. This move of the citizenry toward the urban areas actually helped the creation of the first industrial farms. We would call them plantations now, but they were industrial in nature. With more and more people leaving the rural areas for the cities there was more land that could be purchased or claimed by the larger land owners. With a smaller workforce in the rural areas the demand for slaves increased.

This is where we see the first true dividing of the American Dream. For most people the American Dream became a home in town or just outside of town and a comfortable life. For others it was a desire for increased lands and labor to enable them to have a privileged life.

1776 The Declaration Of Independence

Oh that wonderful promise.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The American Dream had been assaulted. The king of England had tried to control the people of the new world through taxes, through soldiers, and through trade restrictions.  The people had had enough and were going to stand.

There is something that I want to point out here and this is just personal opinion. The Declaration of Independence is one of the most beautiful  things that has ever been written. It was a promise, but that promise has never been kept. Before you get mad at me think about it. When this document was penned, women had little to no rights, Native Americans were still considered little more than animals, and slaves were considered lower than them all.  I cannot tell you what the founding fathers really meant, all I can do is look at what they have written and take it at face value.

I believe this was a promise that they believed would be kept by those who followed them. They didn’t have the ability to end slavery at this point, in fact there were several who were there that didn’t want slavery to end. Thomas Jefferson himself owned slaves, and it is widely held that Jefferson had children by a slave (that debate is still going). Even with all of this, I believe that they were promising freedom for all and they hoped that those that followed them would fulfill their promise. The American Dream was to be able to govern ourselves.

1845 Manifest Destiny

The American  Dream changed once again. This time it turned toward expansion. People were pushing west. These people were driven by hope and a strong work ethic. They wanted freedom and the ability to make their own way by their own power.

1849 – 1855 California Gold Rush

There have always been people who wanted to “Get Rich Quick”, but normally these people are not the norm. Even during the gold rush people expected to have to work hard, but they dreamed of having high rewards for their hard work. High dangers many times meant higher rewards.

1861 – 1864 The Civil War

There are lots of reasons The Civil War occurred, to say that slavery was the only reason if far too simplistic, but it was one of the reasons. The American Dream was being extended to some who were denied it until now. The dream was still based on hard work and thrift.

Early 1900’s

Not much changed in the American Dream for over the first one hundred years. People wanted to receive the rewards of their labor, they wanted to be able to own property and live their lives as they saw fit. Most expected to work until they died for what they had.

1920 – 1929 The Roaring 20’s

After the victory in World War I America decided it was time to play. The American Dream was no longer about hard work, pride, and ownership. The American Dream turned into a desire for luxury and wild parties. Prohibition was in full swing and it really did very little to stop the flow of alcohol around the country. What prohibition did do however was give rise to national organized crime. This was a time of speakeasy s and gangsters.

1929 – 1941 The Great Depression

During this time the American Dream changed yet again. For the majority of Americans the dream was simply to survive the bad times and make it till things got better. This is not to say that there were not some incredibly wealthy people during the Great Depression. There were in fact James Turslow Adams was independently wealthy and it was during this time that he coined the phrase The American Dream.

1941 – 1944 World War II

The United States was dragged into World War II. There were movements that wanted us involved and I believe we would have eventually gotten into the fight regardless, but when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor the citizens were ready to go to war. During this time the American Dream was to support our men overseas and to see America victorious. Everyone was focused either on fighting the enemy or keeping the country running.

The 1950’s

During this time frame prosperity was rolling in the US. What most people think of as The American Dream was truly founded in this decade. This generation worked hard, most of them had lived through the Great Depression so thrift was important to them. Debt was looked down on and consumer debt was unheard of.

1960’s Peace, Love, and More Debt

During the 1960’s there was a cultural shift. People that didn’t remember the Great Depression were becoming adults. These people had never really witnessed hard times. Things had always been good for them. As a result of the prosperity they were raised in, their opinions about the world were very different from their parents. Debt increased. Consumer debt was no longer frowned on, in fact credit cards were expanding. You could buy everything on credit. But hey, things were still going really well.

1970’s – 2000 Keeping Up With The Joneses

There were recessions scattered throughout this time period. The late 70’s saw a fuel shortage. I remember a little of this, I was fairly young. The driving force for spending was to look like you were prospering no matter what. Credit cards took off. The house that was pictured in the American Dream got larger, a lot larger. The cars got fancier and more expensive. If a neighbor purchased a new car, envy drove many to get one as well, as good if not better than their neighbor’s.

The prices of everything increased. Wages were increasing too, but for many the wage increases weren’t enough to cover inflation and all of the credit they had amassed.

2000 – 2008 Retire Rich or Get Rich Quick

I am sure there was some of this scattered through out all of time, but it became normal during to 2000’s. I remember pyramid schemes, ponzi schemes, multi level marketing, litigation living, and so much more. I have known people who were involved in all of these. It is strange to think that there are people who make their living finding ways to sue others.

This was also the heyday of the lottery and reality television. Everyone thought they could become rich and famous by getting in on one of these methods. It had seemed that the days of hard work and thrift were gone.

2008 is the year the Great Recession started. Many people lost a lot of money in the stock market. The housing bubble burst and 1000’s of people lost their homes. Many people had to look around and figure out what to do next. It is still yet to be seen if this was a true turning point.

2008 – Present The Dream is Diverging

There are still lots of people who are trying to get rich quick. There are still loads of people who are getting deeper and deeper in debt trying to look more successful than they really are. But for many the Great Recession was a wake up call. In the 80’s and 90’s you probably would have never heard of mini houses. Very few people were even talking about trying to get out of debt much less make self reliance a lifestyle. All of this has changed.

I am glad that more and more people are trying to uncouple from the machine and live a more sustainable life.

Remember what James Truslow Adams said?

“that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

What is my dream?

My dream is 10 to 15 acres. A couple of dairy cows, a large garden, and about 4 acre Christmas Tree Farm. Debt free and able to spend time with my family. This is my dream and I am working toward achieving it.  What is your dream? I would really like to know.

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Why I Prepare

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

I wasn’t going to do a full writeup for this podcast because I have told this story in parts and pieces scattered through the going on three years that I have been doing this blog. Then I realized that I haven’t put it all together and there are people that would much rather read than listen. So here you go. This is my story of why I prepare and how I got to the point I am now.

My Family and How I Grew Up

I have been blessed beyond measure when it comes to my family. I not only was able to know all of my grandparents, I was able to know three great grandmothers. One died when I was fairly young, but I remember going to her house and I remember talking to her. The other two lived long enough to make an impression on me. Now they didn’t contribute as much to who I am as my grandparents did, but they were able to reinforce what their children were teaching me. My grandparents were children of the Great Depression and by today’s standards they were all preppers. Each set of grandparents went about their preparedness in different ways, but they would be preppers.

My Paw Paw

Paw Paw lived in town. Not a big town, but town none the less. He had a double lot, the largest lot in that whole section of town. He had pecan trees, grape vines, fig trees, and always had a fairly large garden. They canned everything they could. I guess you could call him a knife trader. He had a knack for finding knives that he considered affordable and finding someone who thought the price he was asking was fair. I never heard anyone say that he cheated them. He just knew what he was looking for. He did some trading in guns, but knives were his passion.

Paw paw also kept and traded in silver as much as possible. He kept cash on him at all times, but if someone had silver to trade that was what he preferred.   He would tell everyone who would listen this warning.

During the Great Depression every store had things to sell, but no one had any money. During the next Great Depression everyone will have money, but there will be nothing to buy.

My Granddad

Granddad lived in the country. He worked hard until he just couldn’t do it any longer.  He gardened big time. He hunted and raised animals for meat. He was a very hard man. He was a gun guy. He always had multiple calibers and ammunition for them all. He made sure all of us knew how to hunt. He is also the one who got me interested in foraging and herbal remedies. He too believed there would be another Great Depression. Even though he didn’t say it the same way I think Paw Paw and he were very close in what they expected to happen.

He would say.

Boy, it is going to get bad again someday. When it does the people who know how to grow their own food will be the ones who are better off, but they will probably have to defend their food or be robbed blind.

The wording is different, but the end result would be the same. People would not be able to buy the things they need. Both men talked about the decreasing ability of people to do things for themselves.

 I Became an Adult

Like many, after I became an adult, I went through a stage where I thought I knew better than my ancestors. Come on, I was better educated and the world had changed. I was busy working and trying to make a living to support my family. I still gardened, but it was for the love of the produce and I guess a little in homage of those who taught me. I did deviate a good bit. I went to organic gardening, they never did. As far as preparedness goes, I wasn’t. Not in any stretch of the imagination. We were just weathering the storms, bot financial and literal, believing that everything would be okay and it really wouldn’t hit me. I mean come on, what are the odds of something catastrophic happening to me?

The Tornado and A Revelation

April 27th 2011 was a day that I will never forget. I owned my own business, times were tough, but we were making them, barely. The tornado wiped my business off the map. Everything was destroyed except for one an a half room. I lost everything that was stored at the business that wasn’t in those two rooms. I had insurance which paid all of the debts, but I didn’t have “re-builders” insurance, I guess my agent forgot to tell me about that. When I opened the business, banks were loaning money to almost anyone. By the time the tornado hit we were in the middle of the Great Recession and banks were loaning as little money as possible. What a difference six years makes. When I was looking for financing for the business to open, I had banks call me and ask me if I would come to their bank. After the storm, none of the banks would even talk to me, they said it was too risky.

I had no way to support my family. FEMA helped a little and I mean very little. I had to pick myself up, dust myself off and hit the ground running. I had to take care of my family. In the nearly two months it took me to find a job I had to sell several things just to make sure my family could eat. Some of those things were precious to me, but me family was much more important that they were.

A Promise

I made myself a promise that as soon as I got back on my feet, I would do everything I could to make sure that my family didn’t have to go through that again. This is how I was pushed back into preparedness. It would have been so much easier on our family if I had taken the lessons of my grandparents to heart. If we would have had food stored we wouldn’t have struggled near as bad. It happened to me, it can happen to you.

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider subscribing, sharing, and even leaving a rating. The podcast is available on Stitcher (which is a streaming application that is available on both android and apple devices), as well as on iTunes. Thanks

Bringing Rural Back

You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

Visit The Rural Economist’s profile on Pinterest.

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Episode 7 The Education System’s Effect of Sustainability

The Education System's Effect on Sustainability

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

The education system is a big deal. Here in Alabama the AEA Alabama Education Association is arguably  the most powerful labor union in the state. In this episode we discuss its impact on personal sustainability.

In order to have a proper discussion of the education system and its impact on anything we have to look a little at its history. You know I couldn’t pass up on that.

History

There have been institutions of higher learning for a very long time. Up until fairly recent history these institutions were not open to just anyone. There have been schools for the ruling class and to help train religious leaders for almost as long as their have been people on the planet.

There have been schools recorded in several countries thousands of years ago. Most of which you either had to be wealthy or chosen to be able to attend. In the United States schools were originally the responsibility of each town and most charged tuition. There were schools that were set up for the poorer classes, but these were only to teach very rudimentary skills.

Most education was expected to occur in the home, this was impossible for uneducated parents and most couldn’t afford tuition fees. This widened a separation of classes. This was the norm through most of the 17th and 18th centuries.

In England a man by the name of Robert Raikes was going to change all of that, even though he didn’t know he was. I will spar you all of the history, if you wish you can read more about it here. But Mr. Raikes created a free school that taught reading, writing, logic, cipher, and Scripture. This was Sunday School and was the foundation of what we now consider public school.The children that attended Mr Raikes school were the most unfortunate, their parents were either in prison or had died. The children worked 6 days a week just to survive in the mills or sweatshops. Mr. Raikes was also a visionary of sorts. His was one of the few schools that allowed both boys and girls to study together. Remember this was in the late 1700’s.

By 1870 all states had free elementary education. There were still droves of problems with the system, but it was doing what it was designed to do. Create workers that were educated enough to do what needed to be done.

My Families Education History

Now lets get a little more personal. My great, great grandfather was a self educated doctor. We still have one of his textbooks and even his ledger. He was a highly educated man. My grandfather quit school in the sixth grade and he didn’t know how to read. His mother and he taught him how to read with the Bible. My father quit school in the tenth grade, but went on to get a GED (general education diploma), a bachelors and two masters degrees all in Theology. I graduated high school, and have an associates as well as a bachelors degree.  My children have all gone to public schools.

The Goal of Public Education

At one time the goal of education was simple. Make sure that everyone who attended received a basic level of instruction. This is still the goal of sorts. Today instead of focusing on problem solving and logic the schools are focused on standardized test scores. This focus has meant that many things that I consider needful learning has moved to the wayside. None of my children were taught geography, penmanship, or any real applicable skills. Oh my daughter can do mathematical equations that  are beyond my knowledge, but she doesn’t know how to apply them. On penmanship there is now a move to stop teaching cursive writing all together, because the written word isn’t as important as it used to be.

Today the education system is not only used to create willing drones for the machine, it has turned into an indoctrination center. When I was in school we were taught the creation theories of several religions as well as evolution. Our teacher told us that it was up to us to determine what we believed. We were taught to question everything, don’t try to do that now.

Parents Have Turned Over The Responsibility

As many problems as the education system has and as corrupt as it has gotten in several areas, the responsibility for our children’s education still has to fall on us as parents. When I was in the first grade, an experimental reading program was tried out in several schools. My school was one of the lucky ones. Some children did well with this system, but most didn’t. I was one of the ones that it hurt most. I passed the first grade and in the second grade we were to transition from the experimental program to actual reading. I just couldn’t do it.

I was passed from the second grade to the third on condition. That meant that if I didn’t do well, they would move me back to the second grade. I was in the third grade reading below a first grade level. Think about that. This experimental system not only didn’t help me, it moved me backwards. I had a teacher who believed in me and she talked my mom into enrolling me in special reading classes. This was the class for all of the children that were having severe reading problems. I remember there was a boy in my class that was legally blind and there were several special needs kids in there.

My mom also swung into action and she found every book she could that she thought I would find interesting. We are talking John Henry The Steel Driving Man, Paul Bunyan, and many more.  With the help of the special reading class and my mom, I went from below a first grade reading level to a sixth grade reading level in one year. Yay! Mom.

As parents we have to be actively involved in our children’s education. In some cases we have to correct the garbage that is being taught. In others we just have to add to the teachings. We have to work on our children’s skills. The system no longer cares about whether or not a child can do anything after they get out as long as the test scores are good.

There are still some great teachers out there and I applaud them. But we have to be honest and say that the education system in many ways stands in the way of the development of self reliance let alone sustainability.

Many have turned to homeschooling to deal with these issues and done correctly I am all for it. For many of us due to our schedules this is not an option.

What can we do to fix this? How can we make sure our children are ready for the future? What have you noticed? I would love to hear from you.

Bringing Rural Back

You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

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Episode 6 Stages of Sustainability

Stages of Sustainability

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

In this episode we talk about the stages of sustainability. In the podcast I call it steps, but after listening to it I believe stages are a better term. The road to sustainability is very similar to the development of a person.

The stages of sustainability are as follows: consumer, self reliance, and sustainability.

Consumer

Dictionary definition of consumer

noun

1. a person or thing that consumes.

2. Economics. a person or organization that uses a commodity or service.

3. Ecology. an organism, usually an animal, that feeds on plants or other animals.

I like to compare a consumer to an infant. To be a consumer a person really doesn’t have to produce anything. An infant must have everything supplied for it. As long a person has currency they really don’t need anything else. Once a person has a job that will cover their expenses they really don’t have to have anything else. In fact society really doesn’t want you to have anything else. The system wants you to stay simply a consumer.

Self Reliance

Dictionary definition:  reliance on one’s own efforts and abilities

This is something that only a few people move into and I wish a lot more people would move into. Self reliance is a step along the personal development scale. Self reliance should be measured in time. You have to achieve a level of self reliance before you can move into self sustainability. Self reliance is primarily based on supplies.

Self Sustainability

Self sustainability isn’t even in the dictionary so I am including the definition for self sustaining.

:  maintaining or able to maintain oneself or itself by independent effort <a self–sustaining community>
It is a little sad that self sustainability is so low on the societal importance scale that it isn’t even included in the dictionary. The second part of the self sustaining definition had to do with a nuclear reaction. Being self sustaining takes self reliance to the next level. This is where we take our supplies and them to our developed skills and the end result is exponential.
Corn is a good example. A single grain of corn is not enough to sustain you at all, but when you plant that grain of corn and you work the land, tend and care for the plant, you will get a harvest that is way more than a single grain. This principle applies to every natural system. The increase is different sure, but the underlying ideal is the same. This goes way beyond supplies. But here is the catch. You cannot wait till you need these things to develop the skills. You have to go beyond being a consumer, become self reliant, then develop skills to become self sustainable.
In our next episode we will talk about the education systems impact on the societal view of sustainability.
We are Bringing Rural Back.
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Dove Hunting: Bringing Rural Back Podcast #5

Dove hunting season has begun.

Dove hunting season has begun.

Bringing Rural Back Podcast

In our area dove hunting is the first real season to open up. It has been a tradition in our family for decades to go out at least on opening day and get into the swing of the hunting season.

 Some General Information on Mourning Doves

I have found that if I am going to effectively hunt something it is best if I know a little about the quarry. The mourning dove is considered a migratory bird even though they live and breed in the majority of the US. They are seed eaters and are quite agile in flight. Doves can reach a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour while in flight and can preform some fairly impressive evasive maneuvers.

Since doves are migratory they have a dark meat. Dark meat in a fowl occurs when that muscle is used a lot. In chickens, quail, and turkeys the dark meat is in the legs and thighs because they are primarily ground birds. Doves, ducks, and geese are primarily flight birds so their breasts are also dark meat. This can present a challenge for someone trying to cook them for the first time. If you try to cook dove the same way you would cook chicken, the end result will be something close to shoe leather. Dark meat also has a stronger or more intense taste that some people call gamey.

Hunting  Doves

Before you go hunting doves there are some things you should know.

Hunting License

Every state in the US requires some type of hunter education course. Most have a grandfather clause, what this means is that if you were born before a certain date you are not required to take the course. For example I am exempt from the hunter education course here in Alabama. For a good overview of the hunter education requirements in all of the states you can visit the International Hunter Education Association. This site provides enough information to get started.

After you have completed the required hunter education course you can then purchase your hunting license. The cost of this license will vary by state. Most states have a way for you to purchase your license online and just enter a reference number from your hunter education course. A survey is likely to pop up that deal specifically with migratory birds. On this survey you will be asked about last years harvest of migratory birds. You will need to check the appropriate range number of the birds you harvested last year. If you didn’t hunt, just click the did not hunt button. After this some states ask if you intend to hunt this year, click the appropriate box.

Firearm Restrictions

First you are going to want to use a shotgun. I am not saying that there aren’t a few people out there that might be able to hunt dove with a rifle, but I haven’t met any yet. My suggestion is use a 20 gauge or larger.

Note: On shotguns the lower the number the larger the shell. i.e. a 12 gauge is larger than a 20 gauge.

For doves I suggest either 7 1/2 or 8 shot shells. Shot is the projectile inside the shell, the higher the number the smaller the shot, but smaller shot means more pellets inside the same shell. Remember doves can fly 55 miles per hour.

While hunting all migratory birds your shotgun has to be restricted to a maximum shell capacity of 3. That is one in the chamber and two in the magazine. This goes for semi automatic as well as pump shotguns. I hunt with a Remington 1100. I love that gun. It has a normal carry capacity of 5, one in the chamber and four in the magazine. I have to plug my shotgun so it is legal to hunt with for migratory birds. A shotgun plug can be purchased or made. The plug I use was whittled by my great grandfather, I have used it for 35 years. If you are going to hunt any migratory bird get a plug, it is not worth the risk or the fines.

Learning the Trade

If you are an experienced shooter but have never hunted doves, it will take a little getting used to. You have to learn to gauge the birds speed, flight path, distance, and how much to lead the bird for the shot.

Note: Leading a shot is actually shooting in front of the target so that the projectile and the targets location coincide in the fraction of a second between the time you pull the trigger and point of impact.

If you are not an experience shooter I strongly encourage you to find a gun range that has sporting clays. There are several clay throwers that will mimic the flight pattern and speed of a dove. This will help you a ton. I have seen people shoot in excess of 100 rounds to harvest less than 15 birds.

Bag Limits

You are allowed to harvest 15 doves per day with a maximum of 45 in procession in a 90 day period.  What does this mean? This means you are allowed to kill 15 birds each day. If you are at a hunting camp and have the cleaned birds on ice, you cannot have more than 45 birds per hunter. This ensures that there will be plenty of birds to hunt for years to come.

Cleaning Your Birds

Cleaning doves is really easy once you learn how. After just a bit of practice you should be able to clean a dove in around a minute each. The thing to remember is you are going to be skinning these birds, not pluck them. There isn’t enough fat to merit plucking. The only part of the dove that I cook is the breast because it is the largest piece of meat. I save the organs like the heart and liver for fish bait. They are the perfect size bait for bluegill and perch. I will be making a video on cleaning dove after my next hunt. The remainder is fed to either the dog or the cats.

Cooking Your Birds

Like I have already said above, you cannot cook dove the same way you do chicken. Cooking too long or a too high heat will result in the meat being tough. One of the easiest ways of making sure the meat doesn’t get tough is by boning the meat. This will reduce cooking time and will help keep the meat more tender. You can also use a bring or a marinade on the meat, this will seal the pores of the meat and keep moisture from escaping as easily. A lot of people wrap the breasts in bacon, this adds fat that will help the meat stay moist. Here are some recipes for cooking dove.

Crockpot Dove Dumplings

10 – 12 de-boned dove breasts

8 cups Chicken broth

salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste I start with 1/2 tsp of each

2 rolls canned biscuits (I use canned biscuits because they are quick, you can use a comparable amount of homemade biscuits, I have done so myself)

1/4 cup butter

8 ounces sour cream (optional)

1 Tbs all purpose flour

Soak dove breasts in brine solution of 2 Tbs salt per quart of water for 4 hours. Take dove breasts out of solution and dry with paper towel and cut into bite size pieces. Place everything except biscuits in crockpot on high for 1 hour. At end of hour cut up biscuits and add to crockpot, cook for at least an additional 4 hours on low heat. Serve in bowl.

Want to download this recipe?

Baked Dove

8 – 10 dove breasts bone in

2 slices bacon per dove

salt and pepper to taste

Soak dove in brine solution of 2 Tbs salt per quart of water for 4 hours. Take dove out of solution and dry with paper towel. Salt and pepper dove lightly and tie bacon around each dove. Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for 30 – 45 minutes.

Want to download this recipe?

There you have it. This is the first full blog in conjunction with a podcast. I would like to know what you think, should I do more like this? Get out there and enjoy God’s creation while learning skills that will make you more self sustainable and good hunting.

Bringing Rural Back

You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

Visit The Rural Economist’s profile on Pinterest.

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