Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Crazy Plan

I hope everyone had great Christmas and New Years’ celebrations, and that now you are excited about what 2013 holds!  Every day is precious, make the most of it.

OK, now something that has been on my mind for a while (forgive the word-heavy post!).  I know we have set up this blog ostensibly as a place to talk about our journey to find our own corner of the world to grow our own food, and we haven't really been talking about it here.  But that doesn't mean that we aren't thinking about it.  And I mean a lot!

Plus, we haven't really told many people what we are planning to do.  Why?  Mainly because they will almost certainly think we are crazy for chucking a couple of well-paid 9 to 5 careers in for this madcap notion of growing our own food with any “real” work fitting in around this.  But then the people who read this blog have read the "why" in my Meaning of Life post earlier in 2012, so now I am going to put some of our ideas out there.

Here is the crazy plan:
1.  Buy a property with the qualities listed below.
2.  Get cracking growing our own food, focusing on heritage and heirloom varieties for a focus on the best taste (we are all about great-tasting food).
3.  Year one - chickens, a couple of weaner pigs and my personal challenge: bees.  Have a crack at making cider/perries with our first fruit harvest.  Start a farmer's market stall selling any surplus produce we don't barter away.
4.  Year two - a goat for milk, another couple of pigs, plus a beef steer.  Mead-making anyone?
5.  Year three - ducks, a sow that we will use for breeding, with a couple of pigs, another beef steer, and some lambs.
6.  Year four - sheep, and perhaps a heifer for milk and breeding (depending on how we go with the goat!)
7.  Year five - commence farmstay.  Actually we may start this sooner as we get going and need extra hands but growing enough food will be the focus.

We will supplement our food as much as we can with whatever we can get for free from nature - fish, venison, rabbit, duck, goose etc.

It is a very rough plan at the moment, and we have no idea whether we have enough cash to actually last that long, or whether we can make enough at farmer's markets to pay the bills that are inevitably going to arrive.  As an accountant I would do a budget, but I have no notion as to what things are going to cost, so it won't be that useful!

So, what do we want in a property?  We have quite a list worked up, and each point has been the result of much discussion.

In no particular order we want:
- lots of space.  We don't want to be able to see our neighbours and we need enough land to grow our fruit and vegies plus enough pasture for animals.

- a mix of native bush and pasture.  We want to have some bush that is suited for camping and generally giving the native fauna a place to live.

- our own water supply.  We know that water is precious, so a creek and a dam or two, or maybe a spring, would be ideal to ensure we can keep our garden growing and putting food on the table.

- established orchard.  It takes a long time to get fruit trees up to full productivity so an apple and pear orchard, with other fruit trees, already established, is a must.

- north-facing block.  Plants like sun.  We like sun.  Enough said.  Oh, and keep in mind we are talking the southern hemisphere here people!

- a house, of no particular quality.  We would like to build our own house.  I have a lot of ideas in mind for a very energy-efficient house that is incredibly cheap to run and is very self-sustaining.  But before we can build it we need somewhere to live, and we will also need a house or cottage for the farmstay business component of our plan.

- outbuildings.  No real rocket science to this one, if there is already a chicken coop that is one less thing for us to build, plus we will need somewhere for the vehicles.

- in the right area.  This should really be number one.  We need a place that is in an area where people are either doing something similar or have experience at doing it.  We don't want to reinvent the wheel, we want to use other people's knowledge as best as we can on our journey and also not try to do everything.  Why try to get into making goat's cheese if the family down the road are making award-winning stuff that they are happy to trade for some pork products?  Plus we need an outlet for surplus produce.  We need a town with a farmer's market or something similar within reasonable distance to allow us to shift all those things that you suddenly have a glut of. And we can't be an excessive distance from an airport.  When we progress to the aforementioned stage two this will be more important.

- reduced chance of bushfires.  We aren't spending years building a place and a business up to support us and then having it go up in smoke in 30 minutes and have to start from scratch when we are older and less able to do the hard physical labour.  This may be hard but we will be looking for properties with plans in place to manage this risk.

So that is it, pretty demanding I know but we can trade a few things about, and we will probably end up adding to this list.

I don't know where in here we would have time for anything like building a house, but we will see how it pans out.  We know that we are not really going to get vacations in the first few years, hence the massive trip now, but we have a few ideas for how we can get holidays once things are ticking along and I'll flesh these out in another post.

So what do you think?  Are we crazy?  What would you suggest we change or plan differently?  Would you pay to come stay on our farm and eat our quality food, and maybe help out around the farm if you feel so inclined?