Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Any one else out there dreaming of retiring to a farm or homestead?
As much as I enjoy reading about the adventurous young folks who are leaving suburbia to take up farming, I can't help thinking that my situation is quite different from theirs and I wanted to see if there were any others out there in the same boat. My wife and I intend to retire from our current careers sometime over the next 6 years and move to our farm full time. The plan is to "farmstead" since we hope to pay off the farm mortgage with the proceeds from the sale of our "city house" and we have some savings tucked away so we should not be under pressure to be very profitable (Q: how do you make $100,000 dollars a year with a small farm? - Ans: Start with $150,000). We have already begun planting fruit trees, berrys and grapes and when we move in I'd like to get some layers, meat birds and pigs. The more I look at our upcoming retirement to our dream farm, the more I cannot believe I ever thought moving to a condo in FL was a good idea.
So, any other "farm retirees to be" out there? If so what is your dream and where are you in the process? Even better, if you have already done it, let me know how it's working out!
No, we are north of Woodstock in New Brunswick. At least we will be this time next year. Right now I am writing this from Calgary.
It sounds like your place is roughly the same size as ours - only ours had nothing on it when we bought it. Just bare land. In the last 3 years we have put in a road, power, two wells, a barn, a workshop, a guest house and a chicken coop. The house is still to come (best for last!)
What kind of "primitive" sheep are you getting? Are they Icelandics? That is my breed of choice but am having difficulty finding a source. I saw a website for a farm in northern Quebec that might have them but I haven't been able to get a definitive answer on that.
Ooooooo I would love to see your lovely old house!! One of my favourite places in our country is Kings Landing where they have a few the age of your house. I could live there. Easy. My husband is always telling me I was born 100 years too late.
How do you handle caring for all the animals when you are alone for six weeks? Don't you get overwhelmed? Or do you have a system down? If I was there, I'd come and help.
I am eager to hear news of your dairy!! Please keep in touch!
Heather S said:
Hi Karie, are you in Nova Scotia too?
We bought an old homestead, about 80 acres with outbuildings and a 230-250 year old wooden house on it (thankfully restored though we'd like to modify it a bit... ) The quality/price of land in this region is very good so we're very pleased on that front. We have a lot of liming and wood ashing a head - and some truly noxious weeds (abandoned farm/horse land) - but hey ho, it's all a journey and the pleasant surprises out-do the less positive.
Our goal is to start a goat cheese dairy - so no rest for the weary in that! We plan to make farmstead cheese so coming to grips with both the stock as well as the cheese side of things. So not so much retiring as.. deviating off into a whole new direction At the minute we have a couple of pigs, hens, chicks, guineas, and a small flock of primitive sheep are set to arrive in a few weeks (to help with the weeds!) But the idea is to let things happen at their own pace.. and so far things are going well. Lots of fencing a head for us too. There's been loads of hard work but we've smelled a few roses..! I've been there mostly on my own the last 6 weeks, lonely at first, but wonderful neighbours and empowering to see things done. It's also so wonderful to see the changing seasons (fabulous weather this year) and the amazing wildlife right on the doorstep. Yes, so far so good! And still smiling.
Karie Young said:
I can't imagine not loving it there. We have been at the farm for the last three years, for most of the summer. Building projects and planning and our neighbours and other locals have been so supportive and friendly. I love it - and them - so much! Our house will be built sometime in the next 7 months so I hope to get there and just build fences - or set up temporary ones.
What are you farming there? What kinds of animals do you have? How does your garden grow?(hehe)
Heather S said:
We recently moved to Atlantic Canada also (Nova Scotia), we bought our sweetwood farm 2.5 years a go but moved in 3mths back. We should share experiences. It is a gorgeous place with friendly people. Good luck with your farm dream.
Thank you for the kind words about our Farm Karie,
Ironically, for us, it was the house that decided where we bought. I can't say I wasn't influenced by the streams to the north and south, the nice mix of field and forest, the many outbuildings and the truly wonderful neighbors. But we fell in love with the house first. I have long known to trust my wife Cindy's instincts on most things and while I was going around testing soil and thinking FARMING, FARMING, FARMING, as we made the farm search, she was quietly thinking retirement, retirement, retirement, and though I had to compromise on the size of the farm 45 acres, and some other farming specific things to get the land AND house we wanted, it was well worth it. She finally got it through my thick skull that in reality we aren’t retiring from our present careers to start a new farming career, we are really planning to BOTH retire and farm simultaneously, we needed to address both things and a dream house to return to at night makes for a much better retirement. Our place is an old Civil war era “two up, two down” Virginia farm house, fully restored (i.e. all the molding and floors removed, the old plaster removed, new insulation and electrical run throughout, then wallboard and the original molding and floors put back just as they were originally; along with a 1000 sq foot addition where the old summer kitchen was in the back, containing a modern kitchen and above it a master bedroom suite. There’s even a porch (with a swing) and rocking chairs!!
It’s not perfect, I still bang my head in the low doorways and its 3 ½ hours from our city house, but it’s pretty darn close to perfect and I can’t wait to dropkick this overpriced jerry built city house and move down there full time.
Our eldest is also in nursing school on route to becoming a nurse practitioner and our other daughter in college swings between becoming an English teacher and joining the marines, so we have that in common.
You are going to be looking at some pretty cold winters I would assume, certainly if you are up by Nova Scotia, there is a terrific Podcast out there, called the “Chicken Thistle Coopcast” done by Andy and Kelli Prior who run Chicken Thistle Farm; They are up in northern NY by the great lakes and deal with similar winters to yours. You can find the full history of their podcasts on itunes for free, if you haven't heard them already, I really think you’ll enjoy them.
Karie Young said:
Steve, your place looks wonderful!
Yes we are very lucky to be living in Canada where the health care isn't a massive concern at this time.
My girls are grown, one heading into the Airforce, the other a nursing student, heading toward pediatrics. Both think this is a wonderful idea, although my youngest says she's "gonna stay a city girl". We'll see.
I am in full agreement with you that the porch swing be the first development!
I guess if you are on the 5 year plan, I may get there before you do, so I'll make sure I keep you posted with what works and what doesn't .
You are right - the soil will get there, and my mom taught me all about worms and compost.
Thanks for your post! It's such a pleasure to be getting to know others along this path!
Steve Kemp said:
Thank you for responding to my post, what a fascinating life you have lead, no wonder you are leaping off into a new farming adventure. You were lucky to find someone wise enough not to try to talk you out of your dream, I am fortunate in that department too, not only is my wife onboard with the whole thing, she has begun to really love the idea. Considering that only a few years ago we were set on retiring to a condo in Sarasota and a sailboat in the Caribbean! She has displayed a remarkable flexibility. How are your daughters taking this change? You didn’t mention their ages, but I assume they have left home, I have two in college and one a junior in one of the top high schools on the east coast, so getting him to move to the rural high school near the farm was a no-go. (Missing his friends would have been bad but “They don’t even have a Lacrosse team Dad!!!” lol). So we are on the 5 year plan, to get the whole crew through college first. Does your place have a house on it or are you planning to build the house? I wouldn’t worry about the soil too much, it might dictate how you start, but kitchen gardens are better as raised beds and you can always amend the soil, it’s a little expensive, but your animals will help out there over time. You are so lucky up in Canada to not have to worry about healthcare in retirement, I think it may be the biggest concern most of us in the states have, since there is usually a gap between early retirement and Medicare at 65 (if it remains solvent). I think your worry about not smelling the roses is legitimate, but hopefully our greater age will also allow for a smidge more wisdom in that department. I think having the money to avoid the pressure of getting things to market to meet a payment will help temper the desire to do too much, I think a proper porch with a swing may be the best first step. I have included an overhead shot of my place below too.
Karie Young said:
Yes, I am one of those. I have planned the move to the country since I went on a band trip when I was 12. I found myself staying with a family in rural British Columbia on their small family farm. I fell in love. Milked the cows, fed the pigs, collected eggs for our breakfast. A life changing trip. At least in my head.
I went on to model in New York City, get married to an upwardly mobile executive, and give birth to two wonderful girls. The divorce came when they were very little and as a single mom, I made a living where I could. I ran a hotel, a limo service, went back to school and became a marketing executive. 17 years later, I was still dreaming about the farm and figured it should be a retirement project. So I looked for land I could afford which meant across the country from where I lived.
Then, as luck would have it, I met a wonderful man. We fell in love, and I proposed my retirement project, I must say, a little timidly. He is an architect and although a little older than me, had not yet thought about retirement. Fast forward a few years, and we bought our land, got married and are a year away from moving to our "mutual" dream of hobby farming.
There are definite plus's about heading to the farm at our age. We don't have most of the financial issues that the young people do. We are not "betting the groceries" as my husband says, on whether the farm makes money. We will be retired and living on our savings, but would love to be able to make a go of it sustainably. The plan is for sheep, goats,(I like to make cheese), chickens, turkeys, pigs, and perhaps a family cow or two. My husband has a great fondness for draft horses, and I've always wanted to work with them, too.
The challenges I see are not so much the long hours, as we have both worked long hours at things we don't like, and we love being at the farm. Our ages mean that it takes us a little longer to stretch out the kinks in the morning, but we are still able to do the work with ease. No, the challenges will be knowing when to stop the work, to sit on the porch and enjoy the view. To decide "that's enough for the day". We both love being outside all day, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from working at the farm.
I have been gardening organically for more than 20 years and have a decent understanding of what it takes in the prairie soil, but we will be living in Atlantic Canada, and I have no idea what to expect with the soil. There have been no soil tests as yet, but I did build an adobe oven using the soil on the farm, and it worked pretty well. So I guess you could say there's a substantial amount of clay.
I plan to move next summer, and my sweet husband will follow after a few months.
I have looked forward to this since we purchased our bare land 5 years ago - and the planning has evolved more than a hundred times so far. I'm sure it will evolve some more once we have practical experience under our belts. I have read every book I could get my hands on, about raising animals, soil structure, identifying wild plants in Atlantic Canada, and know that the time for reading is done. I am itching to get dirty now.
I am thrilled to have found this site! And to see there are so many like minded people! What an adventure! One upon which we are all embarking, together!