Here it is, February, and already the beginning of Spring is noticeable, with green grass coming up through the dead matting of last year’s ground cover and birds moving North and stopping by to munch on the bugs that have started their preparations for the warmer weather.
This winter seemed short although it was also extremely harsh while it was here. Violent winds cutting like razors and ice accumulating so fast it was nearly impossible to navigate outside for days at a time, cabin fever had started to set in just when we thought there was no end in sight. Luckily, we managed to keep pipes from freezing, animals from dying, and our sanity from bending to the weather.
This Spring we have more planned and more to do than any previous year. With plans for a permanent garden bed, livestock corrals, fencing, loafing sheds, and even the seemingly bizarre creation of a dry creek bed to help control our flooding rain waters due to be here in several weeks, we are sure to be busy but the transition of our property from a once barren flat-bottomed bowl of Earth into a valley filled with abundant forage, food, scenery, and animal life will be enough of a reward to make this whole trial of endurance worth it.
We started removing a nasty old shed a couple of months ago, smack in the middle of winter no less. It proved to be a mistake as we are still working on cleaning up the remaining debris. We also managed to sell a shed which sat at the top of our little hill at the entry point to our property. This has given us quite a bit more space with which we can grow food, contain some feathered friends, and hopefully build a small produce stand for passersby.
This week we continue to removal of the largest and most atrocious of all the out buildings on site, a massive drafty barn made entirely of sharp jagged metal. The thing is truly monstrous, so large that inside of it sits another shed, a smaller wooden one, which will remain as our primary workshop and storage area. We managed to remove enough of the metal panels on the roof to allow for easy access on and off the roof while we work tediously at what will definitely be the most difficult part of the process, and then we progress to the sides, then the solid steel frame. Once it’s all gone we’ll have a nice little building leftover and a great little concrete pad that will come in handy for servicing machinery and livestock.
All in all, I’m excited about how the new season is shaping up already and can’t wait to tell you about our next projects.
I’ve noticed recently, and I’m sure this is extremely late, that there seems to be a fascination with the purchase and sale of things like cell phones, tablets, laptops, and general electronic devices. So much, in fact, is this fascination that the prices and level of interest trump things like animals or livestock, ACTUALLYHAND-MADEMETALLICOBJECTS, vehicles, and even surrogate pregnancy !
It just blows my mind.
Recently, I was searching for a small tractor, trying to find a used one from a reputable farmer at a decent price, when I saw one for around $1200 next to someone’s cell phone collection (3 total) and the asking price was the same. That doesn’t seem quite right. A piece of equipment older than I am or a few cell phones that will do what, exactly, when it comes to growing food or raising livestock ? Nothing. Well, I say that, but I’m sure I’m wrong. There’s probably an app that you can download on those phones which will tell you such convenient things as the temperature, the time, even the date. Wow ! Maybe I missed out on a cell phone bargain !
This shed was on the land when we moved here but we opted to remove it so that we could make room for some better things, and since we already have plenty of building space we thought this would be a great chance to start our Spring cleaning a little early.
Okay, I’m going to talk again about something that came about due to Craigslist. I have some odd luck with that site in general and yesterday was just another perfect example.
I had an old storage building, or shed, that wasn’t needed anymore and that had quite a bit of value so I thought it would be smart to simply sell it to anyone willing to pay for it and take it down, haul it off, and reassemble it on their own property. Easy enough, right ?
Well, I had a very low price in mind when I offered it and there were several people asking to buy it for insulting amounts, embarrassing trades, or just flat out ridiculous reasons for their “urgent need of said shed.”
I settled on a guy who promised to come out and see it in person, having already told him what my asking price was. I figured that he was okay with the price, else he wouldn’t have wasted driving two hours simply to look at it. This is where my nightmare began.
First, he can’t find his way to my place and I have to guide him over the phone several times, so he doesn’t even arrive until after dark. There is no light in the shed so that’s going to hinder things. Then, when he finally gets here, he decides to be brutal in his assessment of the shed. “That single piece of wood there is slightly damaged. This entire building is probably in horrible shape.”
I’m not quoting him directly, rather, I’m presenting to you, the reader, what he really means.
“I had a distant relative that once had a problem with termites. She lives about an hour from here. You must have termites and they must have destroyed the wood in this building.”
Of course, I stand there, shining a light, responding with my much-practiced, “Oh, neat. Hmm. Weird. Hmm. Yep. Uh-huh.” And so on.
“This ground holds moisture. I bet the bottom of the shed is rotted out.”
Let me take a moment to point out that this is a solid steel building and what he’s implying is that, due to the ground, the actual EARTH we stand on every day of our lives, that somehow this particular building, different from every other building on the same EARTH, is definitely rotting away due to the “moisture”, you know, the water content in the soil that is inescapable, all-encompassing, and literally everywhere on this planet. Except for the oceans. Crap ! He might have me there.
“Well, all I see is metal and it’s only been here a few years. My house and other buildings have been here for decades and, as you can see, none of them have rotted into the ground, decomposed, or returned to the Earth in any other way.” I say this calm and collected, suave like nobody’s business. I know I’m in the right here and he’s simply trying to build up his case before making an insulting low offer for the shed.
“Is that bottom line price you gave me the bottom line price ?”
Of course it is, right ? I mean, come on. I told you the price on the phone, emailed you the same price. I even text messaged you that price. I told you it was the lowest I could go due simply to the fact that so many OTHER people were interested in the shed. Why would he even ask for a lower price ? Here is where I start to believe that he is bent on being rude, offensive, and insulting to me, because he looks at these negotiations as a chance to prove alpha-male dominance over another of his species. In this scenario, I’m supposed to submit, bow down, and let him have his way with the women in my family. Not going to happen !
“You know, I might be able to help you out and drop the price a few bucks, but there’s no way I can just give it to you for free simply because you made up a bunch of stuff about termites and moisture.” “Well, I just don’t know. I’m going to have to talk it over with my wife. I’ll let you know before I leave if we want it or not.”
So, he goes through this process of trying to make me sweat. It doesn’t work because I have so many other interested parties in this shed. What’s odd is how he’s trying to play this weird dickering game.
After a short while he calls and says he’s leaving, that he’ll have an answer in about thirty minutes, on his drive home. Remember how he lives two hours away ? Obviously, he’s going to buy it. He just wants to try to jerk me around a little to prove he’s superior. Men. Am I right ladies ?
Eventually he calls and decides to pay what we’re asking but this doesn’t stop him from trying to get the thing for free. When he arrives to dismantle it the next day he waits to pay me, as if he’s holding the money hostage. When I go out to tell him to pay me he starts listing off all of the various pieces of wood (keep in mind he’s really buying the metal) that have damage. He keeps doing this hoping I’m going to suddenly throw my arms up and say, “Fine. It’s free ! I’m so sorry for ruining your day ! What a fool I am. You should have this for free and that for free and many other things that I own…all for free ! Forgive me !”
I get my money and leave him to continue working. But before I go he makes sure to inform me that he’s a cop and he does this over and over again. I start to realize that the way he’s talking to me, treating me, even from the night before when he came to first look at the shed, it’s all exactly as a cop treats you when he makes you get into his car so he can insult you and write you a ticket. He’s doing that thing where he won’t answer you or respond to any questions you have but instead insists that you give him your full attention because, you know…he has a gun and is legally given authority to use it “when he sees fit.”
I don’t care and I kind of hate this guy at this point. I feel like he’s being really rude and offensively off-putting with his attitude and behavior.
I figure he’s going to have to come back to finish taking apart this shed the next day, today, but he insists on getting it all in one day/night.
The guy stayed here until after 3am slamming hammers and dismantling the thing with not a single care in the world that he might be over-staying his welcome. On my side was the below freezing temperature, ensuring that his helpers would never work for him again. I simply sat and watched them out the window until they left, at which point I went to bed.
Today’s project ? I start building the fence that keeps people OUT and my animals IN.
I’m so glad that guy is gone and I think I’m done with Craigslist for a long long time.
I seem to encounter strange people. Don’t believe me ? Then let me enlighten you.
Recently I placed an ad on Craigslist to get rid of some old refrigerators. There wasn’t much to it aside from the few minutes I spent emailing various people (and by ‘various’ I mean dozens and dozens) and answering the same questions over and over again, promising to hold the items for inexplicably long amounts of time, reconfirming that I would not deliver the items to some god-awful location a hundred miles from me, and so forth. You know how it can be with that site, right ? It’s like a great labyrinth of ridiculousness that you must ENDURE rather than a fun way to interact with human beings.
Aside from people professing their sincerest intentions and then completely failing to live up to them (I’m talking to you, guy that promises to show up every day for over a week then comes up with the worst excuse on Earth to skip out on me) and the people trying to obligate you to something completely OTHER than what you intended, you have to also deal with people asking for lots of unnecessary personal information.
For instance, “What is your exact physical address, since I have not yet expressed interest and have given you absolutely no information about myself ?” or even better, “Give me your address so I can drive by and see what you have. I won’t show up when I tell you. In fact, I’ll just stop communicating with you, giving you every impression that I might just rob you when you aren’t at home.”
Kidding aside, I finally snuffed out a viable option to unload these refrigerators. Apparently, people sell them for scrap metal or something. I have no clue and I do not care to find out. It’s none of my concern anymore.
So, this random guy shows up and I’m relieved. Not only is he seemingly nice and physically un-noteworthy, I get the feeling that he’s honest. That’s what I like.
We started by exchanging greetings and then I showed him my merchandise, which I offered to help him load into his trailer. This was apparently a huge mistake because it gave the impression that I wanted a lengthy conversation. I’m a conversationalist by nature but rarely do I feel the need to indulge that aspect of my personality with strangers.
This guy starts unraveling his entire life story on me, flaws and all, and while I’m happy that he feels so comfortable around me I can’t shake the feeling that I’m in for a few hours of B.S. instead of five minutes of loading and then a quick wave with a short, “See ya. Get out of here.”
I got to listen to this guy tell me about elderly people and how their kids don’t love them, the entire history of the types of straps he intended on using to secure the refrigerators, previous jobs he held in other states, and then he dumped something on me that I never saw coming.
“I’ve got that virus that’s going around.”
He was talking about (brace yourself) H1-freaking-N1…the virus !
He not only had other ailments but he had ‘Swine Flu’ on top of it all. “Really ?”, I asked, not really believing a person could be that sick and still able to load appliances onto a trailer.
He continued to go on about this until he got on the subject of a former girlfriend and how she became addicted to crack/cocaine. This turned into talk about her inevitable descent as a human being into prostitution and other things. And then…death.
His father died of cancer immediately after the girl went to jail for drugs and sex crimes.
Of course, there was more. After missing his father’s funeral he managed to make it to his high school graduation. Yay ! He might be finished talking. Keep in mind that at this point all of the items were loaded and there was absolutely no reason for him to still be present in my reality, my universe, my supposed sanctuary away from ‘crazy.’
What really got me, what really threw me for a loop was this topper : He was very upset that his high school was going to change its name.
“Why would that upset you ?”, I asked, bemused and pretending to care, hoping he’d leave sooner that way.
“Because it was named after the founder of the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan.”
Okay, I’m dumbfounded now. Did he just say that ? To a stranger ? As if I felt the same way ? Out LOUD ! ?
“What people don’t know is that this guy was a great guy. He was the first civil rights leader ! By God, he released ALL of his slaves…BEFORE Abraham Lincoln told him he HAD to !”
It went on and got worse from there but needless to say, I stopped caring about this guy immediately and instead starting looking for something, anything, that I could use to beat him off of my property.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time scouring the internet and newspapers in hopes of finding work you can do from home. The reasons are many, from being able to spend more time with your family to putting in the hours needed to provide for your livestock, and the benefits can be exceptional, that is, if you can find a legitimate job that pays well and don’t get yourself ripped off by a con-artist or pyramid scheme.
For me, it was a long process, starting with years spent working in cubicles for various professions under all sorts of bosses and supervisory staff, but the end result was that I could finally do my work from home at least as efficiently as I could do in any office environment.
I thought I would share some insight and perhaps a few avenues worth checking out for those of you interested in working from home.
First, let me say that almost all of the opportunities out there are bogus. If you need references to back up that claim simply head over the Craigslist, or if you’re really daring, try opening your Junk mail folder online. It seems like there are countless job offers requiring that you invest your own money first, which we all have to admit is ludicrous, right ? I mean, have you ever started a job at an office or a warehouse where they made you pay them before you could start working ? Not likely.
Second, be realistic. As annoying as that phrase can be when you truly are serious about finding work you can do from home, it’s worth repeating…over and over again. There aren’t going to be any work-at-home jobs that pay you millions of dollars for doing relatively little actual work. You’re going to have to invest a lot of time and energy in order to receive the same sort of pay-off as you might expect from a standard office job. That doesn’t mean it’s not rewarding. Just think of it as the Universe’s way of saying, “If you want an easy job you can do from home then I’m going to make you work a little harder for it.”
In being realistic, you’ll find that you can easily ignore those too-good-to-be-true scams out there which will prevent you from wasting LOTS of your precious time. You’ll also find that you tend to deal more with actual human beings that way. Remember, every single job that exists does so in order to either provide a product or a service to customers. There are no other jobs. Stuffing envelopes ? Nope. Never going to happen.
Now, let me tell you about some of the things I’ve found in my searches that actually yielded income.
This is fairly new for me but I love what I’ve seen so far. I’ll be honest, most of what you’ll find pays relatively nothing, but with this service it’s all about volume — quantity over quality is the rule, not the exception here.
With the Mechanical Turk service you can choose from a multitude of tasks to complete for a few bucks each time. The highest paying are for audio transcription. From the few that I’ve done, they’re mainly recordings of sales meetings for call centers. You simply listen to the audio and type what you hear, word for word. Once you’re done you submit it online and then you’re usually paid between $20 – 30. Not too shabby for those of us who can type pretty fast.
There are too many of these websites to ever possibly list, but here are a quick few that I’ve had great luck with :
There are a slew of others and if you’d like more info please let me know and I’ll be happy to provide more.
As with everything online nowadays, you first have to sign up for an account, providing a seemingly endless amount of data, over and over again, but once you’re done you can bid to complete anything from brief articles about products all the way to designing full-blown pieces of architecture. People will pay to have someone else do just about anything, as I think we all know. Keep in mind that most people are also cheap, so you won’t find an infinite amount of high-paying gigs on these sites, and a lot of the time you’ll find that people will offer to do the job for way less than you could, so there’s a bit of competition at some of these places. But, for the most part, you can find odds and ends that fit your skill-set perfectly and in no time you can be raking in at least a little cash.
One of the easiest ways to make money freelancing is website design. It is fun, although intense at times, and involving. The only drawback is that it is so easy now. There isn’t as much of a need for it as there once was. Instead, it’s much better to go in the direction of designing mobile apps. Again, this will become increasingly easy in the next couple of years so the money will run out and you will have to move onto something else eventually. But I always recommend offering some sort of computer services because you can always find at least a few people in need of help that just don’t have the time to do it themselves.
Once you’ve signed up for a few of these things and started working you will probably start to notice that the cash flow isn’t large. That’s expected. This is when you must start thinking outside of the box, or rather, thinking more locally.
3. Work With What You’ve Got
If you have the space, by all means, grow food ! Turn your fruits into jellies and your veggies into baskets of sell-able produce. If you have chickens, sell eggs by the half dozen, or if you have many try full dozens. Again, these things won’t add up to much individually but remember, it’s all about volume and quantity. And think of it this way — you might not make much on each of these small services but at the same time, you’re not confined to an office cubicle all day and you get to move around, have fun at home, and do the things you love, at least if you love raising food and livestock.
4. Always Keep Looking
Last, but not least, always keep your eyes open for any other opportunities. Remember what Carla Emery said about living life as a homesteader being an interesting combination of being poor and living rich ? Well, the point might be that you are constantly doing little things to make small amounts of money, but in the end it all adds up to paying the bills which is what the real goal is. After that, it’s about enjoying life, maybe putting some cash back in savings, and overall ensuring you’re having fun while you’re doing it.
So, I’ve been obsessed with reading Westerns as of late, and one particular author, Zane Grey, has been at the top of my list. I’m reading one of his most popular novels, Riders of the Purple Sage, and I’m hooked. I’m only a few pages from the end and I can’t wait to see how it all ends.
If you’re like me, and you scour the internet for free books or public domain literature (a great way to get free books when you’re stuck inside), you’ll find this link handy : Gutenberg
Go there and you can download quite a few classics from Zane Grey, like Riders of the Purple Sage.
A few years ago I produced an album, titled Prelude under the moniker of Rounder for AtmoWorks Records, and I am happy to provide one of the tracks from the album for free download here.
You can also listen to the song by clicking to play below :
If you enjoy the song let me know by commenting, liking, sharing, or emailing me. I would be more than happy to provide even more from the album.
This particular track, entitled Afterglow, starts off eerie and proceeds to take on the characteristics of an elephant stampede, ending in an unusual calm which I’m sure you will find interesting, to say the very least about it.
In my experiences living in the country I have learned several things and I thought it best to share some of the most valuable lessons as a way of maybe helping others avoid some of the annoyances and other issues that I have come to face.
1. Never leave a conversation without stating your full intent or your wishes.
Our first experience happened on about 260 acres of land. It was used primarily for grazing and baling of hay. We were given free access to use any and all of it as we saw fit and we certainly intended to. But during our very first conversation about the land we failed to state what our intentions were, and worse, we failed to give a solid and obvious ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in response to the queries of the original land owners.
They had asked us if we would mind them running cattle on the acreage. They didn’t specify exactly which part of the acreage and we naturally assumed that, given the 260 acres, they meant to run the cattle on some part other than the immediate ten acres upon which we would have our dwelling.
So, naturally, we said we didn’t mind. We didn’t want to seem rude from the onset of our dealings with these folks and we couldn’t see any harm in cattle grazing on land that vast.
Here comes trouble. Within a couple of weeks they started running their cattle, not on that wide open acreage outside of where we would be gardening and living in general, but right smack on top of the ten acres that we intended to be using for the duration of our stay. Now, it might seem a bit odd, to insist on the sole usage of those ten acres to be for us and our own animals, and it might seem a bit odd that cattle grazing upon that ten acres would bother us, but you can bet that it did, and for a primary reason — the cattle all but dominated us. We couldn’t have a proper garden, raise animals in a rightful way, or enjoy our time outside of the house without having to hear, see, smell, and move out of the way of about 100 head of cattle.
This problem could have easily been solved by us stating in the beginning that we didn’t want any livestock on those ten acres, that they were fine anywhere else, just not that close to our home. But we failed to foresee this and, as the lesson goes, we learned that trying to bring up the subject at a later date only caused resentment and anger between those folks and us. They saw it as us going back on our word and we saw it as a purposeful act, seeing how far they could infringe upon our privacy and just how far they were willing to go in order to show us disrespect.
In the end, we had to deal with the cattle. Sure, they eventually go them off of those ten acres, but not after the cattle had destroyed much of what we intended to be food crops and housing for our own animals.
2. Always count your chickens.
It never ceases to amaze me how many times I’ve went to let our chickens out in the morning only to realize that one or more of them managed to have to stay the night perched up in the rafters above the chicken coop or hidden under the porch, or some other crazy place.
When we first started raising chickens they spent their first weeks in a bathtub inside where we could monitor their every move, their growth, and learn who was who among them. Only when we turned them loose outdoors did we realize just how important it was to keep track of them. You never know when a hawk might be your flock from above, or when a coyote might be out in the sticks waiting for his chance to pounce.
We were already nervous about keeping the chickens outside after the many horror stories people felt compelled to tell us. We heard everything from snakes eating chicks alive to raccoons finding their clever way into the most impenetrable fortress to drag off chickens by the dozen for their nightly dinner. So, keeping those stories in mind, and never intending to fall victim to such events, we were diligent, and I mean really diligent. It was to the point that we were spending more time looking after their safety than we were spending actually enjoying the chickens and their eggs.
Well, over time we started to feel safer and we would let the chickens go about their days and evenings as they were meant to, free-ranging on the open pasture and in the brush, eating all of the bugs we didn’t care to have crawling around the place. There were times when we’d lose a few of them for a few hours of the day only to find them inside of the coop at sunset waiting for us to close up the doors and secure them for the night so they could sleep.
Eventually, there would be nights when we’d be missing one or more chickens and we’d spend a good chunk of time scouting out their whereabouts, happy to find them tucked away somewhere safe, only to grab them and put them in their rightful place in the chicken coop.
We started getting lax on a lot of things because the chickens are great at taking care of themselves. But one thing that we found helpful was taking five minutes every evening and counting the chickens. We always knew exactly how many we had in our flock, so at bedtime we’d make sure the right number were in the coop and when morning came it made it a whole lot easier to count them as they came out of the coop to get their day started.
No more freaking out when only a few of the chickens came out of the coop. “The others have been killed in the night !”
Nope; turns out we didn’t do our job the night before and count them to make sure they were all inside. So, never forget to count your chickens.
3. Buy double.
When you live in the country it’s usually an all day affair to go to town, whether you’re grocery shopping or picking up feed. We’ve learned that the best bet is to always buy double what you need. It has come in handy during bad weather when we couldn’t get out on the back roads to stock up on chicken feed or other supplies.
I hope this little list is helpful to those of you out there making a go of it for yourselves. If you have any questions feel free to ask !
It wasn’t even our first day living out in the country, here in Oklahoma, but it was certainly one of many eye opening experiences that taught us that there is no limit to the kinds of things that you’ll encounter, scream at, run from, and eventually get used to, living in the country…(Read the rest at Capper’s Farmer)
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has made their new catalog available ! Check out the variety they have this year and request a copy before they run out here.
If you’re interested in something even cooler you should pay a few bucks and get their Whole Seed Catalog. It’s full of stuff that you’d never believe. I ordered my copy already and am waiting for it’s arrival in the mail. I’m sure that I’ll be stocking up on some great new varieties of seeds for Spring.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write for a great publication’s website, Capper’s Farmer magazine. You’ll know them for their great DIY projects and homesteading tips and advice. Feel free to check out my articles at their website, www.cappersfarmer.com, or you can browse through the snippets I’ve posted on this website and you’ll be taken straight to where they reside at Capper’s.
There are things that we must all learn when it comes to living the country life, homesteading, getting off the grid, and so on. Many of us find that there are innumerable resources, from books to websites and everything in between, detailing the intricacies and how-to of daily life and we become overwhelmed. For a lot of us things don’t seem quite as simple as they eventually reveal themselves to be, whether it’s raising chickens or growing a garden. All of these things are easy enough but we are bogged down with information in our attempts to “get it right” and that’s where tuning out the noise comes in handy enough to be a literal lifesaver, if not for you, for your animals and plants…(Read the rest at Capper’s Farmer)
Seven years ago my wife had a chance to visit Santa Fe and she fell in love with what she saw — myriad creative minds living a lifestyle that she could only describe as pure bliss. I was interested in what she was able to witness and about a year later I had the opportunity to visit Arizona. I was blown away. It took only about a week for the two of us to decide that our life needed to start heading toward the Southwest. There was something about the beauty and solitude of the desert, the mountains, and the people, that we couldn’t shake. No matter what occupied our daily lives we always came back to this central idea of creating a life for ourselves and our future family in the rural spaces of this gorgeous piece of Earth…(Read the rest at Capper’s Farmer)