Rule #3…..Track every expense and every bit of income

I must start by saying that I am not a tax expert or financial guru.  This part is easy.  Track EVERYTHING!!!  I had no clue what the farm was doing until I started this.  I have spreadsheets for everything.  I know how much each egg, broiler, and gallon of milk cost me.  I also know how much I spend and make daily, weekly, and monthly.

This one is short and sweet.  Read about and understand the tax implications.  Even if you rent your farm there are huge tax savings that you may be able to use.  If you are uncomfortable with taxes consult a CPA.  They will usually do a one time free consult.  Also, just because you are a small urban hobby farm doesn’t mean you aren’t a farm!!!  These days farmers come in all shapes and sizes.

Rule #4 coming soon..until the Happy Homesteading!!

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Rule #2: Every expense had to be scrutinized by both of us.

So this one is straight forward.  Every household expense had to be reviewed and approved by both myself and my wife. I mean EVERY purchase.  I give most credit for this rule to my wife.  The 1st thing she did was start using coupons.  She was able to cut the monthly grocery budget by 40% or more.  When you can buy used over new. If you don’t use and item for over 1 year it is time to sell. Craigslist and Ebay are your friend.  If you want to farm on a lower income you can not hoard.

One of the hardest things for me was automobile purchases.  I must admit I was spoiled.  I usually got a new car every few years.  Not anymore.  Our last purchase was a new hybrid for my wife. The research was endless and it was finally decided upon.  Now I am a big fan of used cars.  New cars are a terrible investment.  However, there is not a hug market for hybrid vehicles as of yet.  In order to approve this purchase it had to save us money or at least break even.  Gas was $3.00 a gallon and her Chrysler 300C (HEMI) got about 16mpg around town.  She had a 36 mile commute round trip.   With traffic she was using about 3 gallons of gas a day which was $9 per day.  The new hybrid uses less than a gallon a day.  We figured the daily savings was around $6.33 which translates to $190.00 per month.  We also saved about $14 a month on auto insurance.  That meant our savings per month was just over $200.  In the end we didn’t break even but we came very close.  The 0% financing and trade value of the Chrysler put us in the area anyway.  What put us over the top was the idea that we would be lowering our carbon footprint…even if it is only in a small way.

The bottom line is every penny does count.  Think of every dollar saved as a dollar the farm is making in income.  If you approach every purchase in this manner you can win the game. I promise!!!  LOL. One last thing…some purchase have beneficial tax implications.  Always keep that in mind when making large purchases.

Thanks for reading and happy farming!!!

 

 

Rule #1

Every animal or plant had to benefit the farm and our budget.

The first thing we decided was that if it didn’t serve a purpose it didn’t need to exist.  It all started with chickens.  My wife wanted to get her own eggs.  Cheap enough I thought.  Then I tracked feed costs and time spent.  I decided that it certainly was better  than buying eggs from unethically kept chickens, but remember the end must justify the means.  We cut feed cost by giving the chickens kitchen scraps and by free ranging.  We got our total egg cost down to less than $.04 per egg.  Worth it for sure.

Then we moved to meat chickens.  After a few trial and error batches of birds I was able to get the cost down to $2.40 per bird at processing day.  Those same birds sold for $11-$15 each depending on the size.  Worth it??  Maybe not highly profitable, but certainly better than losing money.  Overall the meat chickens and eggs bring us a small profit every year.

I personally believe chickens can be the single most profitable animal on the farm.  You can hatch your own, eat their eggs, and eat them for meat.  They will eat anything, and in summer can get up to 85% of the feed just from free ranging.

Then came goats….not so worth it, but lets take a deeper look.  We maintain a small herd of dairy goats.  There is one buck, one wether (neutered male), and 4 does.  We spend over $1000 a year on feed, and we make $0 a year on anything they produce.  We do save on milk costs for 8 months a year.  We also save on gas. We mow a lot less.  The goats pretty much keep the pastures in check, along with the wood lined edges.  This saves me on gas for my equipment as well as my time.  In the long run the goats do contribute to the farm.

Over the past few years there have been other animals that just didn’t make the grade.  Sometimes the reason is feed cost versus return.  Sometimes it is simply cost to get started, and sometimes it is just a time constraint.  Whatever the animal or process is if it doesn’t contribute in a positive fashion it doesn’t live or grow on our farm.

In wrapping up Rule #1 it is important to remember the big picture.  Growing produce might not make you money if you don’t sell it, but if you eat it your monthly grocery budget will shrink.  Not every endeavor will put cash in your pocket, but at the end of the year it may still be profitable.

Keep a lookout for Rule #2 Blog.  Hopefully posted by early next week.!!

Quit your job and become a farmer??

So I get a lot of questions about what I do for a living.   The answer is very complicated.  My wife and I used to be business owners and we SOLD OUT!!!  She went back to work after  few months and I was designated to be the “stay at home” dad.  At the same time we moved from suburbia to a small 4 acre hobby farm.

At first my role was to take care of our son, and keep monthly costs low since we had only 1 income.  Slowly over time my role evolved to small acreage farmer.  With that evolution came increased monthly costs.  That’s when my wife and I sat down and came up with a few guidelines for our farm.  Following these guidelines might make the difference between success and failure. They were as follows:

  1. Every animal or plant had to benefit the farm and our budget.
  2. Every expense had to be scrutinized by both of us.
  3. Track everything..all income and expenses without exception.
  4. Don’t be ashamed to utilize alternative income methods.
  5. When in doubt….SAY NO!!!

I have decided to write a 5 part series touching on each of these.  Within the series there will be links to pages and sites I found useful as we grew.  Some processes and ebooks were free, and some were not.  However, using rule #2 kept us from useless costs.  In the end I will tell you exactly what we do today on our farm, and what we could be doing better.  Over 5 years in and we are still learning everyday.  Throughout the series if you have additional questions please feel free to ask.

The series should start June 10th and finish by June 16th.  Enjoy and happy farming!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut your chicken feed cost…

So Summer is upon us, and I thought I would write a quick Blog about how we feed our chickens for under $1 a day.  That’s right….we feed 20 layers and 15 soon to be layers (teenager hens) for less than $30 a month.

First of all our small farm is just over 6 acres.   The chickens have access to about 4 acres of that which includes some woods.  From April thru October I feed them 100 lbs of feed from our local granary along with 100lbs of corn.  Total cost is $30.  I let them out every morning around 8:00am.  They spend ALL day free ranging.  In addition they get all our kitchen scraps from the day before.  In the evening around dusk we feed them 1 scoop of food in the coop.  The chickens all come in to eat and roost for the evening.  Rinse and repeat.

Now many people claim that doing this will result in less eggs.  We have 20 layers.  One of those layers is 3 years old (family fav).  Currently we get 18 eggs per day.  It is the same number of eggs we got when we were feeding 3 times as much bagged feed.  Interestingly enough we also feed 15 pullets that are not laying yet.  Once they start laying our egg production will actually be higher.

Lastly, we know that in the winter and early spring our feed cost will go up.  This is where the eggs help out.  From March thru October we hatch over 160 eggs per month.  These chicks replace any hens we lose, and the remainder are used for meat.  Yes we process chickens for sale 6 months out of the year.  However, in the winter we do not hatch.  In those months we have a bulk buyer for all the extra eggs.  It brings in about $50 a month, but that buys almost 200% more feed.  That extra feed is just the right amount to make up for the lack of fresh greens and protein provided by free ranging in the summer.

In closing I want every reader to remember the reason he/she is homesteading in the first place.  A more sustainable lifestyle was our reason.  Let your livestock do what they were bred to do.  Feeding grain to livestock isnt self sustaining….unless you own a  granary.

 

Until next time…happy homesteading!!

Today’s mowing used no gas….

So today I needed to mow the chicken run.  The actual grass wasn’t too bad, but the wild fennel was everywhere.  We have had so much rain lately that the weeds really started to take over.  When this happens I really like to let the goats do their thing.  Not only does it cost nothing, but it actually saves us money on feed.  The other aspect is that it gives the pasture a couple of days of rest.

 

Goatmowers

Here you see Mocha and Gidget along with one of this years kids.  It took about 2 hours to clear this area.  Luckily the run continues for about 500ft up the left side of the pasture.  I think it will take at least another 3 days to clear that out.  It is perfect for me because I am moving all the chickens to pasture this week and starting work on the pig shelter.  We have decided to include a breeding pair of pasture pigs to the farm.  Most likely they will be American Guinea Hogs or Tamworths.  Those two breeds love to graze more than root, and are readily available in my area.  Wish us luck!!