Our 7 steps to “here” — finding courage, fighting fear

I remember exactly one year ago when Nick and I started seriously discussing buying land to farm and homestead, we had no idea how to do it.

We heard about other people doing it, but they had money – capital if you will – to get started. Their land was given to them. They had a job they could do from home. They knew how to farm or knew people who knew how to farm. They were different from us. They had it easier.

So, for nearly a year we talked and brainstormed about how we could make this work. How could we purchase land, have jobs that allowed us to live in a rural location, and afford to fund a small business? And on top of it all, where in the heck would we find the time to do it all?

These are the seven steps we took to get here. There are a million paths to any destination, this is our path.

1. Getting started — where there’s a will there’s a way

What we eventually discovered was, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And so we started to set things into motion, having faith that we’d be okay. But what to do first? Find a new job? Sell our house? Pay off school loans? Save up more money? What we eventually learned is you just have to start somewhere. So somewhere is where we started.

2. Living on half as much

A year-in-a-half ago Nick quit his full-time job as an MRI technologist to take care of the twins and run the house. He took this time while at home to discover what he wanted to do next. It was a year of growth and discovery for him, and an important year for our family. Through this decision we were brought to this dream of where we are today. And, although our household income was nearly cut in half, we barely noticed a difference. This, we discovered, would set the stage that would allow our family of four to live on one income and enable Nick to work full time on the farm.

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3. Liquifying assets — selling two houses

It’s amazing how the universe will accommodate you when you start putting things into motion.

We were currently living in a beautiful home in a rural suburb on the eastern border of Minnesota (Afton, MN). We also owned a starter home in St. Paul that we had been renting out the last four years. (This was the first house we purchased as a married couple and hadn’t been able to sell it since buying it during the housing boom in 2004.)

We sold our house in Afton first. It sold in 24 hours at nearly $20k over the asking price with 4 bids. We were gobsmacked.

Next step, move into our rental property and get that ready to sell.

We lived in our St. Paul home from August to November. We spent August and September repainting everything, updating the kitchen, gutting the bathroom, and carpeting the attic. Then we listed that house. It sold in three days at $7k over the asking price with three offers . Again, we were shocked and incredibly grateful. Things seemed to be working in our favor.

4. Paying off debt

This section deserves even more of a focus because this is where we get into how we funded our soon-to-be farm/homestead/business. For that reason, I’ll provide a brief overview in this post and do a follow-up post later with all the financial details.

We haven’t yet decided if paying off all of our school loans was truly the best financial approach (instead of keeping a majority of cash earned form the sale of two houses to fund the business), but I have no regrets — at least not yet. We wanted to enter this dream with zero debt so we would have the flexibility we’d need in our jobs and our new, courageous and adventure-filled lives.

We made a substantial amount of money from selling our home in Afton, which I’ll share in a follow-up post. We used this money to pay off our school loans, credit card balance, and our 20% down payment on our new house. The money we made from the sale of our rental property is what we’re using to fund most of the start-up costs for the farm.

5. Working from home — you don’t get what you don’t ask for

That was probably one of my most valuable lessons learned in 2017.

I worked at a fairly traditional 9-5 job managing a small team in marketing at a large corporation. Though we had lots of workplace flexibility on the team, working from home full-time hadn’t yet been explored. So, assuming this wasn’t an option, I was too scared to ask. It took me months to muster up the courage. When I finally did, though it wasn’t an enthusiastic, immediate yes, it was definitely a supportive “I’m going to do everything I can to help you do this,” which did eventually turn into a “yes.”

I now work from home four days a week and make the two-hour commute into the office one day a week. Though it’s been a bit of an adjustment, it’s also been a dream come true for this desperately-needs-to-be-free girl.

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6. Downsizing — spending less on the next house

We know that starting a new business in farming is going to be financially straining and physically exhausting. We know it will take a lot of time and money. Which is why we decided that the next house we purchase would cost even less than our previous house. This would continue to allow us flexibility in our jobs, but also in our lives. So, we bought a smaller home on a few less acres than we originally anticipated but that cost less than our last house. (Again, I’ll go in more detail about the financials in a subsequent post.)

7. Letting go

The summer of 2017 was probably one of the hardest, scariest, most stressful times of mine and Nick’s life. Moving three times in less than four months (and with a new puppy and two five-year olds) challenged us like never before. But we learned another really important lesson last summer — let go.

Let go of fear. Let go of desire. Let go of how we think things ought to be and instead follow our hearts and let the universe take it from there. Continuously letting go, or at least being present and aware of our fears, desires, and insecurities, got us through one of the most challenging times of our lives and it gave us the courage to get to here.

 

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What exactly are we doing here anyway?

A question I ask myself every day. And each day into this adventure I find myself facing paralyzing fear and doubt (more to come on this later).

The thing is, we don’t know 100% really what it is we’re doing. We may not even know 10% of what it is we’re doing. What we do know is we’re chasing a dream and conquering our fears.

The light between the trees

The dream we’re chasing

Joy. Freedom. Connection. Sustainability. We’re seeking a way of living that is adventurous, courageous, and authentic — a life that nurtures the land along with our creativity and passion. A life that allows us to be present more as a family and more engaged with nature.

Homestead. Market garden. Hobby farm. Business. These are many of the names we’ve called this dream, to ourselves, our neighbors, our friends, and our family.Family w/the Christmas tree

The fears we’re conquering

Failure. Poverty. Inability. Complacency. We have no idea what we’re doing and we’ve just uprooted our lives completely. We’ve only ever lived in the cities or suburbs. We have no background nor personal connection whatsoever in farming or homesteading. We’d never heard of permaculture until a year ago nor did we know what a market garden was, and I didn’t even know homesteading was a thing. But here we are on our own 16 acres of land in rural Wisconsin preparing to make our dreams a reality. Gulp…Fearless Townes

 

City girl gone country

November 3, 2017, I moved to 16 acres in a tiny town I’ve never heard of before in the middle of nowhere, Cumberland, Wi.

Born and raised in St. Paul, I was never more than 10 minutes from, well, really anything, except for maybe a farm. As an extrovert, the constant commotion of the lights, movement and noise energized and awakened me. I was happy in the city and I liked it — still do. It’s all I’ve ever really known. But there’s something I’ve always liked, perhaps even more than the city — the country. Maybe because, until now, it’s been a novelty to me. Nevertheless, I was enamored with it and it inspired me.

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Every summer as a girl I’d spend two weeks on a bee farm (not sure that’s really the technical term for it) located 30 minutes outside of Alexandria, MN*. Over 360 acres of rolling hills, woods, prairie and a pond. It truly was, and still is, heaven on earth. Those two weeks each summer were what dreams were made of (minus the ticks, I hate ticks).

I spent hours on end outdoors with my little cousins making forts in the tall prairie grasses, racing through the woods on ATVs, catching gardener snakes for a local pet shop, and then frogs to feed the gardener snakes, exploring an old dilapidated barn that defied all safety regulations, and seeing how close we could get to the pond before our feet would get sucked into the mud.

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I grew up, and spent significantly less time in the country, but the magic and wonder of the outdoors never left me.

This blog is the story about how I left all I knew in the city to start something I knew nothing about, a small scale farm and homestead in the country.

I hope this blog will inspire you, not to move to the country, unless of course that’s what you want to do, but to live out your childhood dreams and further explore your passions.

Enjoy!

*The bee farm I spent my summers at is actually the Reece family farm. It’s owned by my mom’s cousins and they make local raw honey. It’s delicious.