It’s official! Today when I went to check the mailbox, I found what I have been waiting for this past several weeks – the brand spanking new 400-page Baker Creek Heirloom seed catalog!
If you haven’t yet ordered your copy, I urge you to. It was only $5, and it has absolutely everything you could have ever hoped for in a seed catalog. It’s all non-GMO, heirloom, and beautiful!
I’ve only just cracked it open and so far I am amazed. They have included so much about what they do, who they are, and the lot. I assure you it will be well worth the money if you buy a copy.
For those of you who don’t take the opportunity to buy this catalog, they still offer their free catalog; but I must warn you, they only print 300,000 copies and they mail them quick, so be fast!
Here’s a link for those of you who would like to get the big catalog:
And for those of you wanting the free catalog, click here:
It has been well over two years since I started working from home and I have to say that I love it, although there are some definite ups and downs, pros and cons, consequences and benefits, which I thought I'd lay out for anyone out there interested in doing the same.
First off, let me say that I did not find work through any of those devious and deceptive ads on Craigslist or any other job listing website. There is no such thing as stuffing envelopes from home and earning money.
Second of all, I do not perform the kind of work that one might perform at an office in a bricks-and-mortar building.
Third, no matter what anyone tells you, it's hard work! I probably invest more time working from home than I would if I were to have a normal "city job" although I certainly prefer the former.
Now, the nitty-gritty of it all. How did I get started? Simple - it was luck. The biggest let down of finding work that you can do from home, in my opinion, is that there is no concrete method of locking down employment for yourself. You must either perform a service or provide a product that people are willing to pay for, and pay enough that you can support yourself or at least pay your bills.
Here are some great examples of work you can do from home that can potentially earn you money:
Cabinet making, furniture building, antique restoration
Homemade jellies and jams, breads, dessert foods, eggs, and veggies from your garden
Automobile repair, computer service and repair, small motor and appliance repair, etc.
Web design and development
Building websites for small businesses or neighbors for a profit, content development for local clubs, organizations, or even schools, ad revenue from publishing your own online newspaper, blogging, although this typically will never make you enough money to rely upon
I started out a long time ago working in an office for a company when, by chance, I happened into a unique opportunity to take my work home with me, where I struggled over time to develop the work into something that I can rely upon for my income at home without the stress of a commute or an office in the city.
Some of the most difficult things to manage didn't even occur to me until I was already working from home. Things like how easy it is to get distracted, or how much coffee is too much coffee when the pot is only a few feet away, and how to properly budget my time.
When you're working at home you have to consider that you will be more tempted to dismiss things than if you were in an office working under a boss who's sole job is to encourage you by scaring you to death about the stability of your own job. I found that I could easily start watching television and before I knew it I would have wasted a few hours. Or, I'd get caught up playing on the internet, not really doing my job.
It took time and dedication but I finally nailed it and am happier for it. The whole point was to get away from the office setting, which I did, and after that it was a matter of organizing myself so that I could do the same work without the same old headaches. Once I nailed that the rest was great. It's still full of headaches and since the source of income is literally closer to home, things can get hectic, but I feel like this was the right move for me and my family. The tough decision is deciding whether or not it's a suitable and viable option for you.
For more about working from home visit my website at www.brandondinsmore.com
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.
For starters, we were contemplating moving to Southeastern Oklahoma for my wife’s new job, although we weren’t as familiar with the area as we were with the rest of the state. It was hot, dry, and unreasonably occupied by the oil and gas industries. We would come to learn that in greater detail over the next year.
Second, we were going to be living so far out away from everything we were used to and, even though this was exciting in our journey toward self-reliance, we didn’t know just how far away we were – 45 minutes from the closest anything, roughly 17 miles of the worst dirt roads imaginable separating us from the nearest paved road which was nothing more than large rocks cobbled together and potholes.
Finally, we had a plethora of new things to deal with. No more assuming that everything would be taken care of by a landlord or maintenance man. Instead, we had her vehicle for work and my old trusty farm truck for everything else. We knew that if it all hit the fan that our only hope was over an hour away riding in the oldest, roughest truck in the state.
So, we made the decision to move onto a nice piece of Earth, approximately 260 acres of solitude with nothing nearby aside from the cattle and wildlife with the occasional visit from relatives or the closest neighbor who lived about seven miles up the road.
We had just made the decision when we asked, “Is there anything we should worry about out here or know about? Like crack houses and meth labs, people to stay away from, etc.?”
“Nope. That’s it. We’re about twelve miles away if you need us.” Said the woman we would be paying in exchange for the new place. As we walked out the door happy of our next step in life she said, “Oh, Copperheads. Lots of Copperheads. They like to lie on the front porch, back porch, sometimes come inside, and they’re all over the tall grass out there. Might be some Rattlers, too. Just shoot ‘em.”
My wife and I shot a glance at each other. “Really? Copperheads? And enough of them that she could list at least three places she’d seen them out here recently?” we seemed to say to each other silently.
We left and talked it over with my wife’s mother who grew up in that area. She wasn’t worried although we were a little terrified due simply to the fact that all we heard growing up were horrific stories of injuries and death from snake bites. Her mother calmed us and said it was a good move so we stuck with it.
While we were moving boxes into the new house and unpacking them we found all sorts of massive spiders and my wife has a fear of Brown Recluse spiders, having suffered an awful bite when she was a child that put her in the hospital, so that was a little bit of a turn-off, although nothing we felt would alter our plans or cause us any worries.
Our two dogs were happy and loved playing outdoors. They had no more worries of annoying apartment dwellers in the city taunting them or potentially running over them in their hurry to get to work each morning. They could roam for hours and still not be much closer to another human being. Of course, we hadn’t yet had an encounter with anything that might hurt a dog.
Then, one night after I had finished tending to the garden and was doing my nightly check around the property, locking the chickens up in their coop, and so on, I heard a yelp. Moments later the smallest dog came limping up to me whining. He had been bitten by a Copperhead. The little guy had a rough night, shivering and shaking, with a fever and the chills. But he made it. The dog was tough. It was about a month of time before he was back up to full speed and he was stronger for it. We didn’t think we had anything else to worry about and we were kind of happy for the experience because we needn’t worry any longer about how to care for a bite like that. We had been through it and succeeded. No more obsessing over Internet forums for magic cures or freaking out because of some insane person’s ramblings in an anonymous forum. You know how it is. “How dare you waste your time on the Internet when you should be at the vet right now! Shame!” and all sorts of crazy like that. Because, let’s face it, when you’re over an hour from the nearest vet in the middle of the night with an animal that has a very common bite, the easiest and most sensible thing to do is to take the animal to the vet, right?
It was about two months later that we came to meet our other fear, coyotes. Our smallest dog was outside with us, completely recovered from his Copperhead encounter, as we went for a run up and down the hills and back roads for some evening exercise - we liked to stay active and healthy, just in case of the impending Zombie apocalypse. The sun started to set and in the distance of a large pasture we saw a farm truck. We thought it was nothing but just to be safe we called the dogs to come closer. Our memories of city life conjured images and stories of stolen dogs due to their breed. The smallest dog never showed. It wasn’t out of the ordinary but after about fifteen minutes we felt something wasn’t quite right.
We searched for him all night, taking shifts walking the pasture, driving the back roads, spot lighting any open area we could think of. There was no sign of him.
It took a while for us to come to terms with what had happened but the poor guy had been eaten by coyotes that hunted in the open pasture. They made a meal of him in seconds and we never saw him again. This is something we still can’t forget because he was a great dog. For us, it’s the thought of how it must have gone down, how he must have felt with one or more large dogs tearing down on him while he lay defenseless. This was a dog that seemed to think everyone was out to play with him and never assumed violence from another animal. Our attitude toward the wildlife changed overnight. No longer were we the loving, “show all animals compassion” type of people. We hated coyotes and swore to kill any that we saw from then on. Incidentally, we didn’t see many more after that, go figure.
We tried getting another dog so our big one would have a friend but after only a few days the two of them went off running toward what sounded like the only other dogs for miles. It turns out that what they heard were wild boars. The little dog was torn to pieces accompanied by the most horrific sound I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t bear to imagine the sight of it but I stupidly went searching with nothing but a dull machete, as if I could have accomplished anything more than being attacked by the very animals that destroyed the new puppy.
So, we left it at that. No more new dogs. We became more and more protective of our big dog. She was scared after that and has never been the same. I could see from a distance that she watched the entirety of the events marking the ends of those other two dogs. Something about seeing death did something to her. When the sun would set and twilight would come upon the land she would stand with her head as high as possible in the air barking and howling, as if she was shouting her anger and rage at the encroaching nightlife and violence of wild animals in the immediate distance. Then she’d see that darkness was setting in and would do everything but tear the door down to get inside to safety where she would stay until the sun was out and bright enough that it had completely destroyed the night’s darkness for another day.
Things calmed down for a bit. And then one night my wife jumped out of bed screaming. A scorpion had been crawling all over her thighs under the covers. Luckily, she wasn’t bitten, but that marked the beginning of what I can only call an infestation. We had scorpions in such high numbers that we couldn’t do much of anything without triple checking to ensure none of those bad boys were in hiding.
So, after only a few months we had come in contact with spiders, snakes, coyotes, and scorpions. We learned how to avoid them all, how to handle them if we came in contact, and how to kill and dispose of them when we needed. What else could we encounter that would scare us half to death?
Enter the oil and gas industry.
It was late one night and we were having some drinks and enjoying a rare weekend off to ourselves when suddenly we heard a loud knocking at the door, something unheard of out there and something that was cause for immediate alarm. When I spied through the peep hole what looked like a hideous Zombie from a movie thoughts of our evening jogs and exercise snapped into my brain as I contemplated an exit strategy, should this interaction go awry. I grabbed my knife and yanked the door open to find a bloody tanker driver. He had been driving recklessly around the curve in front of our house, something these tanker drivers did constantly, and he flipped his truck causing the nasty liquid to flood our property, the roads, and everything in sight. He needed help so, having been drinking, we had to drive him some fifteen miles to meet the ambulance.
This was an adventure in itself as we were doing something that could have endangered all of our lives, but we felt it was more important to get this man to safety and, more importantly to speed along the process for someone to clean up what looked like 3-Mile Island less than fifty yards from our front door.
We had problems with those tanker drivers from day one living out there. They would drive incredibly fast, ignoring the 15 mph speed limit signs, ignoring the rules of the road, forcing drivers into ditches, causing irreparable damage to vehicles and property, running over animals, and generally disrespecting the fact that land owners allowing for drilling on their property was the only reason they had their jobs. So, most of us, the neighbors and others out there, were angry at them. Never once had one of them stopped to help us out of a ditch that they forced us into by driving on the wrong side of the road, but when one of them flipped their truck nearby they wanted us to help pronto. And we obliged.
Over time we saw more damage and more oil wells, drilling stations, heavy machinery and equipment, and people flood into the area. None of them residents or land owners, all of them oil and gas industry employees.
The beautiful views were ruined, clouded with odd fumes and odors. The water changed in taste. The ground seemed to be less fertile near the wells. We couldn’t understand the necessity for that amount of desecration of land.
Then one day we got word that a tanker driver had sped by a neighbor’s house while the children were playing outside and he threw up so much dust and gravel that he peppered the kids’ eyes, knocked over their mailbox, and ran over their beloved family dog. Chasing the driver in his pickup truck, the neighbor finally confronted him as he tried to outrun him on those horrible back roads. When he spoke to the driver he was told, “You wouldn’t live here if it weren’t for me. This is my land.”
The neighbor was disheartened and it caused a great change in all of us.
Needless to say, we soon moved away and let the spiders, snakes, coyotes, and scorpions take over the house we were in, putting it back to its rightful way of being, and we let the oil and gas industries do what they desired with the land.
Our biggest fear became not insect or animal bites, but death by way of toxins in the air, ground, and water we relied upon for survival.
So it became that our first step into the adventure of self-reliance was fraught with the harsh stings of unavoidable things and it was exhausting, but we learned valuable lessons that we will keep forever. Lesson one being; don’t sweat the small stuff, like the bugs and snakes. We’ve coexisted for centuries without too many problems. Lesson number two is that you can’t wait for industry to clean up their act. When you get that awful gut feeling that something just isn’t quite right with the water and air, or you start to see a little too much development on the other side of your fence, it might just be time to get away. If not for your sake, do it for your health’s sake and the health of the rest of your family.
When it comes to snakes and oil I would choose the snakes every time.
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.
When we first started out on our own the natural first step was to start raising chickens and plant a garden. It sounded fun and rewarding plus there was the added benefit of feeling like we were practicing a small bit of self-reliance. It wasn’t until we started doubting ourselves that we first ran into the trouble that plagues so many other like-minded people. This trouble all starts with the millions of questions we have about how to do things, do them right, and do them well.
Naturally, in this day and age, rather than seek out the advice of elders who know a thing or two and have done things themselves for ages, we sought out the helpful advice of the Internet and, specifically, random strangers in forums from various websites. Now, it isn’t all bad, so don’t get me wrong. If it wasn’t for the Internet I wouldn’t know a flipping thing about Paul Wheaton. Heck, if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t have been able to purchase half of the baby chicks that are now a growing part of our flock.
Anyway, let’s get to the grit of the matter. We got our very first chicks at a local farm and ranch store. You know the kind; they have bins full of chicks of different varieties and you’re confronted with so much cuteness and your brain starts coming up with scenarios where you can have them all, so you naturally pick out what you feel in your gut are “simply the best” from among the bins. Then you pick up what will inevitably be the smallest and most expensive bag of starter feed, an over-priced plastic feeder and waterer, and maybe a heat lamp because, you never know, those small chicks might need something akin to the surface of the sun to keep themselves warm while you play with them inside of your heated house.
Once you have your basket full of chicks and goodies you get home and setup shop with your new family of feathered friends, but wait!One of them is moving a little slow so what do you do? You go straight to the computer and start hunting. It turns out that your chick might have Marek’s disease, worms, or some other parasite. Better isolate the little guy so he doesn’t contaminate the rest of the chicks because, as a member of the forum you are visiting mentioned, “One time I had a million chicks die instantaneously and it turned out that it was caused by ink on the cardboard box I had them in, combined with the wind direction from my ceiling fan, coupled with the negative vibrations I was putting into the environment because I drank coffee after 8pm!”
So you start researching more and more and you keep finding horrible things that might possibly be going on. You know that it has to have happened to someone else because these are chickens, after all, and humans have been raising them for years. Someone has to know the remedy!
This is the beginning of what I call “extreme Internet overload” and I think we’re all probably a little guilty of it. We mean no harm but we’re so afraid that we’re going to kill everything that we touch that we start to rely upon search results to guide us in our efforts to do this or do that.
Ultimately, we get through those first few weeks, having hypothesized that our chicks have every disease and disability on Earth, and they start to grow into adult birds. We go through the same thing as they mature, thinking hens might be roosters, or that there’s a magic cure for the annoying and loud crow of a rooster. “Is there any way to stop a rooster from crowing? How can I prevent my rooster from mounting the hens? What does it mean when a hen makes loud noises like a rooster? Are they all going to die? Can I eat an egg that’s been under a hen for a couple of hours?” And on and on we go, contemplating every action of our chickens until we reach a point, a really great point, when we realize that this whole chicken-raising business is the easiest thing on Earth to do and we never needed to worry to begin with. But how else would we have learned, right? Without going through the experience on our own we would be just as clueless as ever.
So, I say we just go with it. Stay away from the chat rooms and message boards because it’s like trying to diagnose your own medical issues online. Five minutes of browsing WebMD and you suddenly realize that you have cancer combined with Ebola and if you don’t do something soon you might also contract a rare African virus that only three people have ever had.
The same goes with gardening. I remember when I first went outside with a shovel and hoe to start working the soil. I made a great garden bed and felt it was going to produce a large volume of food for my wife and me. Boy was I wrong!When I visited a website asking what plants were suitable for my climate, I couldn’t just visit the agricultural extension office or their website (or even give them a quick phone call); I had to go to the most obscure website I could find only to see that everything I wanted to plant would either die immediately or wouldn’t produce at all unless I applied this technique or that chemical or said these magic words or sang that special song. I was doomed!
Needless to say, after fretting through the first growing season I realized that it really was as simple as throwing seeds on the ground, watering them, and waiting for nature to do what it does best. I stopped visiting the websites after that.
Now that it’s been a few years I find that I no longer rely upon those same websites or books; rather, I invest in manuals that have practical information in them, like design ideas for coops or trellis ideas for a garden. No more questioning what I’m doing. It has been a relief and it definitely builds confidence when you don’t have to worry constantly about the millions of things you’re potentially doing wrong and can focus on what you actually did right.
I always try to give out a few key pieces of advice when someone asks me about raising chickens or growing food.
1. It’s easy. No matter what you think might be going wrong, chances are the chickens or the plants have already dealt with it in their lives, or have at least evolved in such a way that they can handle it. If cold weather really endangered chickens, why, we wouldn’t have any left!
2. Don’t listen so much to what the worriers have to say.More than likely, those oddball examples of how everything went wrong were the exception to the rule. If every chicken ever hatched managed to burst into flames and explode when you looked at it, people probably wouldn’t waste their time raising them. And remember, most of what you end up reading is from people starting out just like yourself, so you’re essentially reading the panic and fear of others instead of getting good old-fashioned knowledge which you can easily find by interacting with the chore at hand, whether it’s your flock or your garden. There is much to be said for observation and patience.
3. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you are just starting out, try only a few chickens or a few plants. It might yield more than you thought.
4. Water! Plants and animals need plenty of water. If there’s one rule you should remember it’s that you should always have plenty of water on hand.
5. Stay away from the Internet unless you truly have a unique situation. You’ll thank yourself in the end because you’ll save countless hours of hypochondria and worry on behalf of your time and efforts.
In the end, nothing beats experience and I can attest to that. I have spent many hours of my time thinking the worst only to find out that nothing was really wrong in the first place. I thank the people in those forums who helped me out because in the end what I learned was the same thing that they had learned, over and over again, which is simple: “Everything’s fine. Don’t worry. It’s going to be all right.”
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.
It took us several years until we reached a point that we felt was secure and stable enough, plus we had put enough money back to feel safe, so that we could venture out to the desert again to start prospecting for land. We were immediately overwhelmed.
Not long after hitting that first stretch of open road in New Mexico did we start to understand just what we were in for. There were a multitude of climates and micro-climates with such a variety of landscapes that we couldn't make up our minds. It was all too perfect. How would we make such a decision?
After spending about two weeks surveying New Mexico we came back more disillusioned than ever. It felt like we had taken several steps back and the decision of where we would settle down and plant roots became cloudy. This caused us to hold off and try to put the idea of moving there on the back burner.
About two years ago, after searching for possible homesteads in Arizona, rather than New Mexico, I started to see that there were many opportunities our there that weren't available to us when we first sought out the desert. For one, land was cheaper. That was a huge plus for us. Second, it wouldn't be hard to find a piece of land in the middle of nowhere. After all, it looked like a majority of the state was sort of "off the table" or government land, meaning we could buy an adjoining piece of property and wouldn't have to worry about anyone encroaching upon our private paradise. Finally, there was the land itself. We were blown away by New Mexico but once we starting seriously considering Arizona we could see that the beauty there was unmatched. In our opinions, this was something worth keeping at the top of our priority list.
More time passed. We started noticing little signs that seemed to point toward moving to Arizona. We didn't like all of the negative press we heard from out of Arizona but we chalked it up to the same kind of people that tend to live just about everywhere. We figured we'd live far enough away from people that we wouldn't have to worry about getting caught up in politics or other such contrivances. We also seemed to notice Arizona coming up more and more in random conversation, or on the radio, or even in books we were reading. It seemed too coincidental for us to simply ignore.
So, we packed up and went on a massive road trip to explore as much of the state as we possibly could. We had already made arrangements to visit several pieces of land, plotted out the best routes to visit them as well as to see some of the state's other natural beauty, and we were confident in our newfound idea of a perfect place to live.
The same thing happened once we arrived – we were overwhelmed. But this time we were better prepared. Instead of letting the immensity of it get to us we decided that we would be strict with ourselves. It went a little like this: "What do you think of this parcel of land? Would you pay what they are asking right now, cash, if you had the money in your pocket?" If the answer wasn't an immediate 'YES!' then we moved on. If the answer was, in fact, a yes, then we would comb the parcel with a fine-toothed comb, disregarding it at the first sight of something we didn't quite like, whether it was too close to a large city, too close to a suburb or neighborhood, or if it was too close to something nasty like a factory. We even went so far as to ignore properties that we found to be too close to old Uranium mines, any sort of past or future oil venturing, or even land that we felt would possibly interfere with any of the tribes in the state, like the Zuni, Navajo or Hopi. We wanted to find the "perfect" piece of land, mind you. And we didn't want to bother a soul, harm a fly, or be annoyed by a neighbor (you know, that guy that always seems to know when you're outside working and can't seem to take the hint that you don't want to be bothered?).
Another week went by and we still had not made any headway on a final decision so we packed in and went back home to Oklahoma.
This is when things became clearer and easier for us. After going over every minute detail of our journey, the pros and cons, what we liked and didn't like, we started to do something we never thought of in the early stages of our exploration. We made a list!
Our list was simple. What did we need to do, want to do, and have to do with this land? It was as easy as that. My wife wanted to be close enough to at least a few people so we could raise kids nearby some friends. I wanted to work the land, grow food and build. We went on and on with our list and then we did something that seemed to make the decision for us just 'click'. We summed it all up into a few essential necessities. I required enough land to grow food and my wife required a location that wasn't too far removed from society, although we still wanted to be as far away from the big city as possible. That, and our land needed to provide us with all of our food and water.
It struck us like lightning and we couldn't believe what the verdict was: We would stay in Oklahoma!
All of those years of dreaming of the desert and planning, saving, preparing for the big move, and we landed on the idea of simply staying where we were raised. It's funny how simple it was yet it took us so long to discover that we were all right with it. From the very beginning we thought that we had to get out of Oklahoma, that it wasn't suited for the types of people we were and wanted to be. All along it turned out that what we were really looking for was where we had lived our entire lives.
So, we found a piece of land that met our criteria and within two months we were moving. It was fantastic. After the first week we realized that it was perfect for us. We could envision the chickens free-ranging in the yard near the house, large garden beds that would yield enough food to keep us through the longest winter, and plenty of water from down below to quench our thirst during the hottest summer days.
I'd have to say that we couldn't have made a better decision and all it took was a journey to the desert that spanned seven years to show us what was always right in front of us.
We still have every intention of buying some land out in the desert one day and using it as a place to relax on vacations, or even a place to build a cabin when we retire and live out our lives in the expanse of that big open sky.
It's been a long summer filled with gardening, felling trees, removing old brush and debris from corners of the property, and keeping up with livestock, but it's been fun. On our property which we purchased a few months ago we have found all manners of old junk in hidden piles tucked away on the back corners of the acreage. Everything from rusty old bicycles to engine parts and anything in between has been found, pondered, and eventually yelled at for being there with no reason or justification. Now that we've accomplished the large task of tidying up we can survey the land and make further plans for the future.
But there's just one thing ... the neighbor.
You know the type - that guy or gal who seems to stop by when you're in the middle of something important, or worse, when you're having a temper tantrum about one of those pieces of rusty metal you just found and realized you have no possible way to get rid of without the help of a piece of industrial equipment. We've all had experiences with these types of neighbors and I think we can all agree that sometimes we just wish we could snap our fingers and make them disappear. Well, that's what we're dealing with right now and we're learning life lessons right and left with this one.
First of all, let me say that this neighbor is a great one, nice and friendly, offering to help or lend materials and equipment if needed, but that comes into play later, as we begrudgingly found out.
Second of all, there are the neighbor's animals, a horse and a cow. They are beautiful animals, don't get me wrong, but they also come into play in such a way that we are utterly befuddled.
Finally, you have us, a young couple eking out a living on our land, enjoying the fruits of our labors and the peace and serenity that come with working the land all around us.
You see, when we eyed the property months and months ago we saw that it was perfectly suited to our wants and needs. There is abundant water, fertile soil, plenty of trees and vegetation which provides us privacy and beauty, and the air is clean. A lack of traffic and noise is an added bonus, having endured the city life for several years.
Once we got onto the property and tallied up all of the various tasks we wanted to complete, our big picture suddenly snapped into focus and we got busier than ever. That is, until one day when, cussing at a pile of debris from the previous owner, I looked over and realized that a barbed wire fence which went through the middle of our property was actually blocking my easy access to over half of our acreage. Not only that, there was a horse and a cow grazing on the other side of the fence and they seemed to have free access to our land which I had little control over. On any other day this would have simply been something to look at during a break for some water in between chores but on this day, maybe sensing some strange form of disrespect aimed unintended at me, I became enraged. "Why are there two animals on our property grazing?” I asked my wife. I started to notice more detail in the image in front of me.
"Why is that fence bent almost completely to the ground? Why is half of our property on the other side of that fence? Who did that? Why did they do that? When!? And just who do they think they are!?"
Of course, more cursing came and I probably looked like a toddler out there coming face-to-face with what I felt was an immediate threat. Thoughts of squatters came to mind; the dreaded concept of "open and notorious" entitlement or dispossession ran through me like a cold shudder. "We have to do something about this!"
It turns out that years ago, before we ever even knew about this property, the owner had given permission to a neighbor to run his livestock on a few acres. At some point a fence was erected and a gate installed allowing access from one property to the other. Fine. "Completely fine,” I told myself to keep my sanity. But it didn't stop irritating me. I had to have those animals off the property and soon!
This is where things became tricky. You see, when we purchased the property we made arrangements in the contract that the fence be removed, the gates closed, locked, and secured, and any livestock be removed before we would complete the purchase. To our knowledge this was done, but of course when we arrived it hadn't been done. "No matter,” we thought. “We'll take care of it soon enough. It's not that much of a burden.”
Well, that's where we got ourselves into trouble. By not having that done beforehand we immediately put ourselves in an awkward position. If we said nothing then we were ultimately saying, without actually admitting to it, that we were okay with someone else using our land as if it was their own. But if we piped up and said, "Get your dirty stinking animals off of our property!", then we would be awful neighbors already starting off on the wrong foot with everyone in the area.
Since we are younger than the people who live around us we knew we couldn't simply act as if we belonged. There is a certain amount of time, a test of your worth, that must occur in order to be fully accepted in a community, at least in our opinion, and we weren't about to upset that natural balance although we had no idea how to accomplish our goal, which was to get the animals away, tear down the fence, and start working on cleaning up the other part of our property.
Enter the neighbor.
Upon the first encounter we were excited to meet and get to know each other. The fence and the livestock were the last thought on our minds but it became apparent very quickly that it was the first thing on the neighbor's mind. "Those are my animals over there. I brush-hog that land so I can let those animals graze over there."
Being afraid of awkward confrontation I said nothing and my wife looked to me for direction. She got nothing. So we let him continue.
"You can't mow that because it's too tall so I do it. That's the deal."
A week or two later he was back, only this time it was to explain the importance of the two animals. They were old, seriously old, like over twenty years old; at least that is what he told us. "They're basically going to die anytime now." Odd, but okay.
We only talked a little about the idea of telling him to go ahead and remove them from our property between his visits but again we didn't feel that it was appropriate to say anything too abruptly or without warning because, as we came to feel, that time had come and gone. The chance for a friendly exchange of terms had expired. Anything said now would be taken with a little more affront and responded to a little more defensively. After all, nobody had stated for the record what was and wasn’t going to happen.
Then one day the power went out. It wasn't a big ordeal and since I was enjoying the nice weather I decided that I would get out the push mower and take a stroll over the fence with it to mow over what I thought were shallow ditches from the lateral lines from our septic system. In all honesty, it was my excuse for checking out what the soil looked like where those animals had been grazing to see if that piece of land offered anything that I could use immediately. It wasn't more than five minutes before the neighbor came flying down the drive and bolted out of his truck. "What are you doing!?"
"Well, I'm mowing my grass, if you must know. I'm checking out what lies on this side of the fence."
His response didn't register with me until after he left. He said, "You can't mow this with that. You have to have a brush-hog and you don't have one, but I do. I've always taken care of this land so I can let my animals graze there. Why are you mowing if you don't have a brush hog?” and so on and so on. He didn't seem to realize that I could sense the anger in his voice, the condescension in his statements, or the rudeness in his assumption that he held some right to my property. So, feeling completely embarrassed for having been talked down to like a child, I changed the subject, trying to move things to a mutual area of interest, like pests and rodents, gardening, chickens, and so forth.
What I found is that he really didn't offer much in the form of positivity when he spoke to me and perhaps this was due to my mowing the grass. I found, in just thirty minutes of conversation with this neighbor, that I was doing so many things so wrong and I was unaware of it all. For one, I wasn't raising my chickens right, I had bad plans for a garden, I didn't know how to take care of my lawn, and on and on. I took this to be an insult as no sane person would berate another like that and claim it was all in good humor. Then he started offering materials and services. Big things, too. He offered to give me lots of things but in the end and only after he left did I realize that those offers were to lull me into allowing him to continue using my land for his wants and needs. I felt stupid. I was essentially told that I could have use of certain help or materials but in accepting them I would be silently agreeing to continued usage of my land by the neighbor. Even if it wasn’t said aloud, I knew that if I was to take up his offer for something like sheet metal for a barn that he could very well throw that back at me down the line when I told him to get his animals off of my property.
Keep in mind that during all of this my wife and I are still trying to come up with the right way to say what needs to be said and I am trying to find that sweet spot in the conversation, that silence which is just long enough for us both to know that I’m about to say something that needs attention to be paid to it. As soon as I see my chance I’ll be ready to alert the neighbor to the fact that things are going to change now that we own the property. And if I can find that sweet spot in the conversation I will be able to do it tactfully and without altercation, just the way we would prefer it to be done. That moment never presented itself and the conversation developed into more of one man spilling his own sentiments onto another man, assuming that the old adage of seniority being the first to the punch still applied.
Now, not only had I taken a chewing out by a near stranger but I had given way to him, making it easier for him to continue doing what he was doing, but also making it more difficult when I actually had to confront the issue of his animals and my property.
That brings us to present day. Recently, we locked the gate in an attempt to comply with something the previous owners told us about “that gate being closed sends the message that the animals are no longer allowed on the property; no questions, no problems.” But his animals mysteriously found a small hole in the fence that they can climb over, so we haven't accomplished much.
We've contemplated how to go about breaking the news to him, but in our efforts we've only come to feel more anxious and uncomfortable about the whole thing.
Do we simply start ripping out the fence then deal with his angry outbursts when he sees what we're doing, as he did with my lawn mowing? Or do we go over and have a sit-down with him, man-man or family-to-family, and then listen to his angry comments and questions, having to somehow explain and justify why we want to do what we want with our land? The answer is simple: We do what we want and when he asks we tell him if we see fit to tell him. We own the property and don’t owe any explanations for our actions. But it's much more complicated than that. How do we keep neighborly relations with this man in spite of what we aim to do with our land?
I've argued it over several times with myself and my wife, with family and friends. The fact is, we own this land and he does not. Legally, technically, honestly, there's no need to get worried about what he thinks, says, or does. But when it comes down to it, the awkwardness and the confrontation just don't seem worth dealing with. We beg of our circumstances to allow that we can handle this matter in a mature manner and still maintain friendships. On the other hand, essentially giving him some of our land due to our inability to tell him to get off of it is ludicrous, to say the least.
So, that lands us smack in the middle of the situation we’re in right now – a situation that shouldn’t have ever come to be, a situation that has many easy solutions and all of them ending most likely with resentment from our neighbor toward us or, depending on his reaction to our decision, resentment from us toward him.
We’ve learned already that whatever it is in the future, whether it’s simply a dog on our property bothering a hen or something as serious as someone cutting trees down onto our land, that we absolutely must deal with it swiftly and confidently, no matter the outcome, because in the end we will be the ones living here for the rest of our lives, making this our home, and no amount of unhappiness is worth sitting idly by as someone else enjoys your land at your expense.
As it stands, we plan to meet with the neighbor, whether we pay a visit to his home or I simply go turn the mower on across the fence to get his attention. Then we will state our desires and let what happens happen.
And to think, all of this could have been avoided with one simple, “No, thanks. We would prefer you move your animals back to your property.”
Stay tuned for the outcome as I chronicle our experiences of homesteading, from city-dwelling to country living.