Hello again and what would you do?

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by macey, Feb 14, 2015.

  1. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Hi guys,
    It's been an extraordinarily long time since I last posted anything here!
    so hello again.

    I'm currently having an internal conflict re. The site that myself and my wife take care of....
    we have been here for 5 years and in that time we have undertaken extensive earthworks to provide water storage and drought proofing as well as fire protection and black/grey water management.

    there are 4 interconnected dams, water capture and diversion, spread and infiltrate strategies. Back flood Swale/dam structures and deliberate drainage of a boggy woodland to fill one dam and allow timber and firewood production.

    there are also integrated animal systems in zones 1,2 as well as in a series of small rotatable paddocks that 2 pigs plough with a view to planting staples.
    i have retro implemented a food forest where a small orchard was already established.

    installed a large solar system and retrofitted the house to be slightly better at passive energy collection and usage.

    as you can see we have thrown an awful lot of time and energy,not to mention implementing what I believe is a very good design.

    the problem is threefold however:

    firstly we are on some of the worst soil you can imagine. Excepting the 1 acre wooded area, there is less than a cm or 2 of topsoil followed by 40-50 cm of dispersable bleached clay followed by endless meters of impervious clay!
    yes I know I can build soil, and I am but it is not a quick process.

    secondly we have a significant mortgage and I work away from the property a lot to bring in money to cover, subsequently failing to manage the site as well as it could be.

    thirdly it is not a large site considering the capabilities of it to produce food and we would like to be as self reliant as possible.

    so the quandary is this:
    we could sell, buy further away from melbourne and have no mortgage, better soil and more land and the time to manage it.
    we have invested so much time in improving this site and I really would take great satisfaction in rehabilitating the landscape as much as possible over the course if our lifetime.

    the first option takes us away from many things but allows us to get out of the system to the greater extent.

    the second keeps us near to certain things but means managing a low output site while paying a mortgage however the joy and satisfaction of rebuilding the land is ultimately going to be wonderful....

    thoughts and comments?
    im not asking for a categorical answer, just some opinions :)

    Andy
     
  2. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    I met a retired farming couple once , while away and over a week or so spent plenty of time with them , they gave me an opinion that ive never forgotten but of course ignored.

    "We should do something new at least every 5 yrs" now this can be a total change like im in the middle of now or simply a change of direction , it keeps us motivated and fresh .

    The dreaded mortgage , I don't think its going to get any easier to pay these off , luckily we have low interest rates but don't count on that forever. The govt seems to be able to extract any spare cash we have in reserve by devious means so we never seem to get ahead .

    We slid back a lot in the last 12mths Mrs Terra had a knee replacement and of course this affected her work hours , point being you might get sick or injured , so im going with the "get rid of mortgage" group im downsizing to take the pressure off .

    Problems I see with property selection if we buy / build a valuable property and work full time on it to be 90% self reliant which would be for me the ideal situation , all of a sudden we find that rates , insurance costs become a real burden , ok when your young not so good for silver tops , many hope to sell enough to cover these costs but that's not easy .

    Plenty of options out there I think youve answered your question

    (we could sell, buy further away from melbourne and have no mortgage, better soil and more land and the time to manage it.)

    Sounds like you've learnt a lot while developing this property , maybe you can do 4 or 5 more before you settle on a position / climate.

    Good luck Rob.
     
  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    have you looked into refinancing the mortgage? rates here have changed a lot over the past five years. perhaps that can help?

    i do not agree with the extractive practice of draining a wetland to increase wood production or to fill a dam. the world needs wetlands. the dam in place can be considered useful to catch the heavy rain overflow events, which may be rare in your location, but at least then you're not destroying valuable natural habitat. in our area such practices are illegal.

    i would not want to live too far out as then you lose too many chances at community and having access to things like libraries or chances at material recycling or working with others easily, public tranportation, fire and police protection, mails, deliveries, ...

    to get into details would involve a very fine examination of the expenses and what you're doing.

    for a once in a while activity does it make sense to run a system that demands more frequent attention? are a large part of your expenses due to things that are not under control because you are not there?

    i would not even consider having large animals if i could not be around to manage them.

    also, by not being around you are likely not able to take advantage of crops/produce when they are at peak production or ripeness, not building community ties, etc. likely that also means that much of what you are doing overall for production is being lost. perhaps scaling back the bigger more expensive parts of the system until you can be there to manage it daily makes more sense?

    the issue of soil fertility and extractive practices is well understood. clay is a mess at times, but i'll take clay over sand or rocky soil any time. i find clay to be very productive when it is treated appropriately. it does take time to rebuild topsoil.

    i'm glad you've been able to increase plant diversity and to get things going, that the soil is rebuilding, it takes time to get fruit and nut trees into production.

    if you sell would you recover your investment?

    would you make the same mistakes on a new place?
     
  4. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Thanks for the input guys.

    Songbird, I appreciate where you are coming from re wetlands etc. unfortunately you have made some assumptions without knowing full facts.
    The boggy woodland is not native wetland and is in fact caused by the banking up of water behind a council made roadway that was abandoned when a large subdivision was shelved 20 years ago. The land in question is at the bottom of a shallow valley and, there is a storm drain on the opposite side of the roadway. The entire bottom half of our land floods during winter.

    I have extracted the water into a dam on the woodland side of a firebreak I created, in order to protect the woodland on our property from a large stand of mallelueca that runs several acres from a northerly direction on unmanaged council land.

    By doing so I have increased the protection to a number of houses south of that point and have increased the chance of wooded habitat remaining for wildlife following a brushfire. (We did already evacuate once this year due to an approaching firefront within 1.5 km of our land coming from that very direction!).rs
    The animals are well cared for by my wife :) and the pigs are easy to manage in the setting of their use as land improvers rotated as ploughs and not planting crops but biomass for soil building behind them. Theory also dig out stumps and turn in fine woodchips into the ground :)

    With 4 dams the ducks look after themselves, the chickens are the only ones that need much and very much have there needs met.

    You are absolutely correct about not getting potential yields from our current production but rather than wasted it mostly ends up in the pigs and chickens stomached rather than ours ;-)

    A good 2 thirds of the land remains uncultivated due to time restraints and that is my point, with more time I could effectively manage and produce more effectively and with more land and better soils could run a highly productive system, I have the skills both permaculture and just general agricultural practical like ability to use various pieces of equipment, build Ag fencing, plant and manage wood lots etc. the dams were all dug by myself on this property as well as all the fencing and outbuilding construction.
    So I know between my wife and I we could definitely thrive.

    I also see your points re. Not relocating as well, it is exactly the 2 different angles that have already been provided here that I am after. It's helpful to hear them from several people in order to build our own decision.

    Cheers
     
  5. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    ok, thanks for the added information, yes, i did mistake the wetland part.

    i still would include some wetland in any design if i had water for it as i think the filtering and extra wildlife habitat and diversity are sorely needed.

    as for the rest of it. if you are not there to harvest then in some regards you are missing the joy and i think that might be a part of the trouble with your set-up. in the middle of a big project, to not see the results and to say that the pigs and chickens get most of it is fine, but it doesn't seem like you are connected to that and i think that lack of connection is what is frustrating you. i hope i'm wrong... : )
     
  6. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Yes absolutely songbird, it is the lack of connection that frustrates me....not the lack of connection so much as the fact thati have connection with the land but am unable to interact with it to the extent that I would wish!

    If I had the ability to dedicate the time this site requires without needing to work away so much I would have no hesitation in staying here.

    The factis as things stand this is not possible and we could live elsewhere without the need to be offsite for more time than we are on....also allowing us to build community and become active in this arena.

    It's a complicated decision....thanks for your input :)
     
  7. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Andy, how old are you, what decade are you in, if you don't want to be specific? You know how much work you put in in the last 5 years, and it sounds monumental. Are you really wanting to start from scratch again? I forget just how many basic things we've done here, and I realize that starting over would be a task that psychologically I'm not sure I'm up to.

    What are your taxes on the land? Paying off the land will eventually happen, but taxes are forever.

    Sounds like you've bonded mightily with your place and you can be proud of it. Isn't living in a rural place always full of "wish I could have done more"? Isn't fixing up an old house always full of projects? Do we ever really finish? I'm kind of thinking not.

    You already know the idiosyncracies of your place. Buying someone else's problem may be something that seems doable in the thrill of purchasing until you are faced with it. There are unknown issues with every piece of land, whether it's water or drainage for septic tanks, or soil, or annoying neighbors or traffic or access, you know, it goes on and on.

    Could you possibly subdivide your property and live on less of it? That would help pay for it more quickly.

    And you social connections might be lost. If you love your place, love your neighbors, enjoy your community, that is just as important as your piece of land. I found that when we moved an hour away from our friends that they visited once, then found reasons not to come because they felt it was too far, too difficult for them to drive in the mountains at night, any number of reasons.

    And I LOVE clay, love, love, love it. I wouldn't hesitate to improve clay soil with lasagna layers of thick, thick mulch, cover crops with deep roots that fix nitrogen. Clay is full of wonderful minerals that vegetables and fruit take up and make available to you. Clay holds more water than loam. The trick is to never let it be exposed to the sun. That makes Permaculture perfect for clay. Deep layers of leaf/weed/grass mulch that are maintained year 'round at a shovel blade's depth will make that clay the most wonderful stuff you've ever grown in.

    Think of it as like cooking with wheat flour instead of white flour. It takes a little longer to absorb moisture, but when it does, vegetables and fruit love growing in it. So when you get clay wet you have to wait a few hours, keep the sun off of it, and just pile up the mowed greens and browns. When I first planted my fruit orchard I loaded the mulch around the trees, a shovel blade deep, and it absorbed it and absorbed it, and took about a year (in a mild winter location) before the mulch stayed on top and built up. The worms came up almost immediately into the mulch. They tilled for me, and I never had to again. The weeds are suppressed, I can transplant right into the mulch, which on the oldest layers of the soil becomes the best compost ever with the least amount of effort ever. :)

    All I have are weeds to mow to make mulch, and they work perfectly. They are a combination of all sorts of greens, and then browns by the end of the summer that make wonderful hot piles overnight. Now I use more weed mulch than I ever imagined, and the results are better than I ever expected.

    You know, one farm product that I always found a demand for was fresh eggs, and since you already have chickens, could that be something that your wife could do, or be part of? The price of eggs are going up and up here lately, and people LOVE fresh eggs, and will pay premium prices. Since you've lived there for several years people know and trust you, and you'll probably get a quick customer base. Eggs are great because people need them over and over and over, and they produce a lot more months of the year than a crop would.
     
  8. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Ah yes the quandary of make a change or continue to change where I am. This can be a great challenge, or it can be as simple as "do I leave everything I've worked hard to get done and start over elsewhere? do I stay, knowing that the time will come when I have all the time I want now to get the dream where it should be?" I don't envy anyone facing this decision. On the one hand it is easy to think pack up and go to a fresh start. On the other hand it is hard to pack up and go to a fresh start.

    In my case, my wife and I wanted land to become self sufficient on, we are mostly anti-social types preferring our company to that of others (see my signature). We looked for five years to find land that wanted us to tend it, when we did find it, we bought it and began the journey. Today, one year into the "retirement project" we still are not able to live on our land, but it is getting closer every month, we have cleared the spaces we needed to clear, have begun to build the storage building and chicken coop (both half way finished) and once these buildings are complete and we have moved all the items from where we live now up to the land, we will be able to make the transition to living there full time.

    I have 4 more years to retirement, we set that date as the end goal in the beginning. As we started working on the land, my wife decided the time frame should be moved up, so we did that. Now we can't wait to get moved onto the farm.

    Your situation, while different in many respects, is similar. Your decision seems to be "do I stay or do I go" which is more dependent on what your end goal is now, not what it was when you started the journey.

    A wise elder once told me " There are many ways to get to the good red road, but only one good red road, the trick is to keep your feet moving in the correct direction so you don't stray once you are on it."

    Good Luck in what ever you decide to do.
     

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