Turning our farm into a business

These last three months I feel like I’ve been living in Acronym-MANIA as I dive a little, nay, a lot, deeper into the farm business. With acronyms like the USDA, NRCS, FSA, EIN, BTR, WAMS, DTM, LLC, to name a few, how’s a girl to keep it all straight? Lucky for you, I’m about to give you all the deets on those seemingly random combos of letters. I promise it won’t be boring – much. <winky face>

Let’s start with the more commonly known acronyms, LLC and EIN

Yes, we have both – Woot! We filed for a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) last spring. The LLC establishes us as a business and provides some protection if all goes to crap. When we filed we also got something called an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is so we can someday hire employees since we’re planning to grow this business Jack-and-the-Beanstalk style – BIG and fast.

fullsizeoutput_1deb.jpeg

Nick planning his crop list and seed order.

Our official farm name is Fresh Roots Farm and Gardens, LLC. Nick chose it because we’re growing baby root vegetables (e.g. carrots, radishes, turnips, beets) and because we’re putting down fresh roots in Cumberland as a family (Yup, Peeps of Cumberland, you’re stuck with us for awhile – hopefully).

fullsizeoutput_1df3

Continuing to establish our family roots by snow tubing at Trollhaugen with our Cumberland Cub Scout troop last Sunday (2/10/19).

Moving on to the USDA, NRCS, and the FSA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that offers funding in the way of grants to new farmers who would like to or are using sustainable farming techniques that promote conservation of their land. We decided to apply for a grant to help us purchase another greenhouse since the more covered crops, the longer the growing season, and the more food can be produced.

fullsizeoutput_1e16

Ryker lying in a bed of oats and winter rye cover crop last fall. We use the cover crop to build nutrient-rich soil and organic matter. It also helps prevent erosion and weeds. This is considered a regenerative/sustainable technique.

fullsizeoutput_1e18

One of the Mustards debugging and fertilizing our apple orchard all natural.

But first, before applying for the grant, we had to establish our farm with our local Farm Service Agency (FSA)   another division of the USDA. Check, check, check! Now we wait for the director of our local NRCS to come out and take a look at our property to see if we qualify. Fingers crossed!

fullsizeoutput_1e1c.jpeg

This is our front yard, AKA, the vegetable garden last year with a few test crops. We still have to put in fencing and a water drainage system. We use the raised beds because we have heavy clay soil and need the water to be able to run off the beds.

Here’s the DL on WAMS and BTR

I’m still not sure what BTR and WAMS stand for, though I have one of each – hold a sec while I look these up. (I literally just googled, “What does WAMS mean?”)

After contacting the wrong people and hitting a few dead ends, I finally landed on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website where I registered for a Web Access Management System (WAMS) account (google delivered!). I’m still not sure how this will help me, but it has something to do with taxes and the seller’s permit we need, which brings me to the next acronym. In order to obtain a seller’s permit, which is required to sell our veggies and flowers, we had to apply for a Business Tax Registration (BTR) number. Check! Now we just wait the 5-7 business days to receive our seller’s permit – I think.

fullsizeoutput_1e1e.jpeg

I wasn’t sure what photo would go best here, but am convinced one is needed. So, enjoy this photo of Hedwig in the pool. She lays deliciously tasty eggs and gets rid of ticks.

Now, for something a little more exciting – the greenhouse, farmers markets, crop list and cut flowers + our last acronym, DTM

Perhaps you’ve already seen on Instagram, but our greenhouse is up and covered! Nick also designed and built a seeder table inside. Next on the agenda? Putting in heat and crop tables.

fullsizeoutput_1e28.jpeg

The greenhouse shortly after it was put up. It’s 30′ X 50′ and sits in our front just to the east of the uncovered garden.

After discussing what we feel capable of delivering our first year and the client base we want to build, we reached out to a few farmers markets and were accepted at two of them – check again!

We ordered and received our seeds and will start/plant many of them in the next couple of weeks. Our crop list includes lettuces (arugula, spinach, spring mix, kale), micro greens (radish, peas, and broccoli), Sunflower shoots, red and golden beets, radishes, carrots, turnips, garlic, tomatoes, and cucumbers, to name most. We chose most of our crop list based on their Days to Maturity (DTM). In other words, how many days it takes from the time you plant till you can harvest. The lower the DTM, the more times you can harvest in a season. This is one way to help create profit.

fullsizeoutput_1e24.jpeg

Test radishes from last summer.

fullsizeoutput_1e25.jpeg

A few of our test cherry tomatoes from last summer.

img_6045.jpg

And a spring mix in Nick’s DIY bubbler washing thing-a-majing.

We’re also going to try our hands at growing and selling cut flowers. We have absolutely no experience here, but such is this entire adventure. Nick and I took an online class on growing and selling cut flowers, so we’re ready to…keep referencing those online modules and our notes till we grow a gorgeous bouquet. We’ll be growing zinnias, asters, dahlias, sunflowers, anemones, snap dragons, along with various greenery and airy fillers.

fullsizeoutput_1e1d.jpeg

I’m planning on also utilizing wild flowers from the property in our bouquets (something recommended in our online class).

So, what’s next for us?

We still have loads of infrastructure to build, like constructing a wash and pack station, putting in a French drain tile system to redirect water to our pond so the garden doesn’t flood, and design and implement an irrigation system.We also have all of our branding and marketing work to do, like designing a logo and website, social media accounts and designing what our farm stand will look like.

This building-a-business thing has been challenging and overwhelming, but also very fulfilling. I mean, we’re actually dreaming out loud and in action.

I’d like to end with this quote from my amazing sister-in-law who is a production BA and owns her own production company, “You just do it. I didn’t know how to start a company, but I did.” Yeah you did. #girlboss

 

 

 

Becoming a market garden

Wowza has it been awhile since I last wrote. I’ve started and stopped many times. The last few months have been a fury of emotions as I come to the tail end (hopefully) of my 2-year existential crisis (What am I doing? Why? Is it enough? Does it matter? And does it align with my evolving values?). Now I’m ready to rock and roll. Let the pendulum swing baby because this life that I want to live is about to take shape.

First things first — what have we been doing on the farm this summer?

Ready for it? Drum roll please….(dum-dum-dum)…we’ve been building a market garden!  Man oh man has it been a lot of work. I’m super pumped to share with you what we’ve done so far, what we’re learning, and why we’re doing it.

fullsizeoutput_1167.jpeg

“So…for a friend who’s asking, what is a market garden?”

I’m super glad your “friend” asked because I’m dying to tell you them.

Now, it’s possible that if your “friend” googled “market garden” they may get a slightly different answer, but in a nutshell, this is how I understand the term (remember, I’m learning too). A market garden can vary in size, many being anywhere from an 1/8 of an acre to 7 acres or larger. The crops are typically a variety of veggies (or flowers) and sold direct to consumers through a farmer’s market, farm stand, CSA, and even restaurants.

Apparently more goes into a market garden than meets the eye, which is why we’re a bit behind schedule and why Nick’s tanned and toned bod is looking so good — but I digress. You’ll just have to see it for yourself ;). Anyway, keeping it as brief as possible (sort of), here are the steps, with photos, we’ve taken so far in building our market garden.

Step 1: Preparing the land — tree roots and bulldozers

As you may remember from a previous post, our property isn’t ideal for farming, even on a small scale. It’s heavily wooded and very hilly. So, before we could get started with the garden, we had to cut down about 40 trees, pull the roots and level the ground. Nick cut the trees then once the ground thawed we hired people with big equipment to pull out the roots and start leveling.

fullsizeoutput_1162.jpeg

Starting the leveling

fullsizeoutput_116a.jpeg

Almost done!

Step 2: Picking rock — dollars and buckets

Oh the amount of rock that had to be picked out of the 1/2 acre dirt pit that would soon become a garden. And it just keeps coming up! Nick got creative and started paying the boys $1 for every 5-gallon bucket they filled with rock (not worth it in my opinion, but the kids took to it like a fly to poop).

IMG_5388

Rock pile from picking rock

IMG_5390

Rock pile from picking rock

Step 3: Testing the soil — calf poop and compost

This is something we should have done prior to buying the property, but alas we didn’t. Live and learn I guess. And that’s what we’re doing — learning by living. We don’t really know what we’re doing. In theory, yes, but in practice it’s a whole different ball game.

The soil test consisted of filling a few containers with dirt and sending them out to get tested by experts. Based on the results we needed to add a dash of this and a dollop of that to create the perfect recipe for growing nutrient rich veggies. So we add crushed limestone and compost to start.

Some day we hope to make our own organic compost, but in the meantime, we’re dependent on others. Turns out compost is hard to find around here — especially the amount we needed to get started (24 yards). In the end we purchased calf poop from a nearby farmer. Zero waste and supporting local. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Step 4: Making the beds — playtime and tractors

Now, this is the step that got Nick all sorts of jacked. He finally got to play with his own big equipment (Ew gross! Not that!), a walk-behind tractor.

For our market garden we’re using a no-till permanent bed system. This is because we have a large amount of clay in our soil which can water log the crops if there’s nowhere for the water to flow. So, using a permanent bed system allows the rainwater to run off the beds in small trenches that runs down into the pond or slowly gets absorbed into the ground. There’s more to it than that, but I usually tune Nick out at that point. It is interesting though — REALLY!

IMG_3884

Nick playing with his big equipment (AKA walk-behind tractor)

fullsizeoutput_1157.jpeg

After all the beds were made

Step 5: Covering the beds — weeds and waiting

We’ve decided that it’s important for us to be responsible and respectable stewards of the land and all living things, which is why we’re choosing not to use chemicals, and also why there’s clover all over our yard. For that reason, instead of spraying to kill our weeds, we covered the beds with a black tarp. Without sunlight and with the intense heat, over time, the weeds and grass all die off. We’ve had our garden beds tarped for the last couple of months (minus two beds for test crops). And it appears to be working!

fullsizeoutput_115c.jpeg

The garden beds covered in black tarp to kill the weeds and grass underneath

Step 5: Building a greenhouse — sledge hammers and metal posts

This isn’t done yet, but we (Nick) did get the frame of the greenhouse up. And let me tell you, watching Nick work that sledge hammer has done wonders for our marriage. I’m telling you, that I just can’t tell you what that does to me.

Moving on…

We bought the frame of the greenhouse from a friend of a friend. The next steps, so Nick tells me, are to level the inside of the greenhouse, put the ends on, and then cover it all in plastic walls. There’s a few other things that’ll go into it too, like a fan, possibly insulation, etc. The greenhouse will be used in addition to the outdoor garden beds.

IMG_5385

Greenhouse skeleton. This will be used to grow cucumbers and tomatoes.

fullsizeoutput_116c.jpeg

Evening close-up of the greenhouse

Step 6: Growing test crops — baby roots and lettuces

We’ve reluctantly come to terms that we won’t get to a point of selling veggies this year. Everything is taking longer and has a bigger learning curve than we anticipated. That being said, we’re using this year as one of learning and are taking the opportunity to grow a few test crops, including carrots, radishes, beets and three different types of greens. They were planted about two weeks ago. Now we wait and watch and learn.

fullsizeoutput_116d.jpeg

Seeding the garden beds for our test crops

IMG_5378 2

Greens mix

IMG_5375

Radishes nearly two weeks in

IMG_5247

Radishes a few days in

IMG_5255

Rows of tomatoes

IMG_5258

Tomato

Step 7: Finding our market — farmers markets and co-ops

Deciding to wait a year to start selling our veggies has allowed us the opportunity and time we need to find our customers, know our competitors, and determine our niche. We’re doing that by traveling to farmers markets, finding co-ops, and talking to people. This is where I get to shine. Nick shines everywhere else.

img_5304.jpg

I don’t have any pictures of the markets so this raspberry from our apple orchard will have to suffice

As in life, nothing is going quite as expected. Sometimes it’s better or easier and sometimes it’s worse or harder. That’s when we tell each other and ourselves, that this, the painful learning and growing and joy of going after a dream, is the adventure we’re after.

When a pile of junk becomes inspiration

I guess it really is true what they say. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” or in today’s case, it’s another man’s business.

Today, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting a local kid who brought so much inspiration to me, and I don’t think he has any idea that he did. No, I didn’t ask permission to write about him, so in the off and unlikely chance he comes across this post, I hope he likes it.

Hidden junk

So far on this blog, I’ve only told you about the beauties and wonders of our dream-like property. But now stuff’s about to get real, real fast.

You see, like perhaps most large areas of personal land, it would appear that a portion of ours was used as a personal dump. Somewhat hard to see at first glance, and hidden off behind some trees on the west side of our pond, you’ll find rusty metal galore. Junk for us, treasure for some. Everything from an ancient pontoon, riding lawn mower, multiple push lawn mowers, barrels of some sort, an old metal mattress spring, and a slew of other unidentifiable metal objects. Many of it partially buried from its 60+ years of being there.

Hidden treasure

Today, when I got home from picking up the kids from school, an unidentifiable young person was at our house with a truck and large trailer.

Turns out it was the “kid” Nick told me about a week ago. He met this “kid” at the brush dump while dropping off crap wood from the many trees he cut down for the garden. The “kid” asked Nick if he could have the wood. Nick was like, “you want to come haul thousands of pounds of wood off my property so I don’t have to? YES PLEASE!” And so he came, and with a broken hand, hefted large tree stumps and branches into his mini van. The “kid” made an impression on Nick that day. This was a kid not afraid of hard work.

Today, he made an impression on me. He showed up and started clearing out our dump pile of metal scraps. He was going to recycle it for cash. This is what he did for money. Not a job, neigh, he doesn’t call it that. What I call it is business, and good business. It’s good for the environment, great for our property, and he just made our lives a heck of a lot easier, all at no cost to us.

sTAyfnTfRZ2fia2U9Rbqtw

The scrap metal loaded up on his trailer. He’s coming back to pick up the rest tomorrow. (Ryker thinks he’s helping.)

Awestruck

There was a brief moment as I was watching this “kid” heft incredibly heavy and sharp rusty objects, without gloves, into his trailer, that I thought, “wow, he works really hard not to have a job.” The thought sounded like judgement, but felt like awe. Here was this junior in high school working his butt off and making good money without getting stuck in the grind of what many jobs offer. Security? Yes. Freedom? No. He told Nick that he makes more money doing this than his brother ever did with “real” jobs. I was, am, impressed.

He saw a unique problem, that likely no one else was solving, and went for it. Now he even has special permission from his school to do pick-ups during the day, and they give him their leftover scraps from their auto shop.

This “kid” at 17 years old knows more about running a successful business and working his butt off than I do, a 35-year old with a masters degree in business. And the clincher of it all, I don’t think he even knows that’s what he’s doing.

93ND614RTWyRUN410l%2NQ

Here he is stopping to pick up some of the wood on his way out. (This is a glimpse of where the garden will be, well, at least part of it. Nick took out about 20+ trees)

Inspired

Although I am always a proponent of learning, no classroom can come close to life experience. This kid taught me more about business in the 15 minutes of chatting with him than my six years of business classes. What he taught me was, like Nike, you just do it. Don’t worry about the perfect business plan, like I have been, finding the right audience first, like I have been, doing all the right marketing, like I’ve been trying to do, but just do it already.

Now, that’s a lot easier said than done. I have 35 years of fear I’m facing, a family I’m supporting, and a lot of self-doubt I’m trying to overcome. But I really want to be like that “kid.”

 

 

“What have you done so far?”

Asked the host at a local happy hour event I was attending. This question was enough to send me into a mini tailspin of panic. What have we done so far? And has it been enough?

As I share this adventure we’re on with others, I get all sorts of questions. Some, like the question above, are out of excitement and genuine interest. While other questions are asked with an undertone of “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” which in response I assure them, “I have absolutely no idea what we’re doing.”

In either case, I appreciate the interest and the opportunity to tell people about this adventure. But holy crap am I scared.

Paralyzed by indecision – what we haven’t done so far

  • A name – we still haven’t picked a name. Turns out it’s super hard. Plus, pretty much this whole shebang hinges on a name. You know, important stuff like a website, an LLC, a business checking account, marketing, and this very important thing called branding.
  • Tools – a UTV, ATV, walk-behind tractor, truck, plow, riding lawn mower. Do we need it all?
  • Infrastructure – a hoop house, green house, wash house, propagation house, chicken house, walk-in cooler, fencing, water, garden plot. What do we start with and where do we put it?

Seriously! How’s a person supposed to know which to get, how much to spend, and when to get it? That’s the thing. We don’t know. And we don’t know anyone who can tell us. So, at some point very soon, we’re just going to have to take a leap and make a decision.

fullsizeoutput_c2b-e1519704273668.jpeg

Building momentum – what we have done so far

  • Bought seeds – see the complete seed list here: Seed plots &amp; schedule – Seed order
  • Got nearly all of our smaller garden tools
  • Started four flats of micro greens
  • Cleaned out our entire back shed to be used as either a propagation house or wash house or both
  • Measured and remeasured and then measured again about two more times where the garden will go (the sun is our biggest determinant and as the days get longer it keeps changing direction, meaning what once had sun has shade and vice versa)
  • Started lots of spreadsheets for seed plots and harvest time tables, etc.
  • Research, lots of research

So, have we done enough at this point? Probably not, but we’re learning. And through that, we’re also learning to have patience with ourselves and to not be afraid to fail, which clearly we are since we can’t make a frick’n decision.

But we’re getting really close to jumping – or at the least, pushing each other off the edge into the unknown and the scary world of decision making.

 

 

 

Why Cumberland, WI?

That’s the most frequent question we get, at least from the locals here in Cumberland. How we ended up here was somewhat arbitrary. We’d actually never even heard of Cumberland, Wi before. But here we are.

Choosing Cumberland…

It fit our search criteria

When we decided we wanted to buy land and start a small-scale farm our dreams extended as far as Northern California, Oregon and Colorado, maybe even the Carolinas or Florida where the growing season was particularly long. But alas, what we value most, family and friends, became our main determinant for choosing land. And so we set our sights closer, MUCH closer, about 1.5 hours from the Twin Cities, because that’s where all our loved ones are.

Aside from being just 1.5 hours from the Twin Cities, we also wanted land that was affordable and beautiful to hike and explore, which ultimately meant, non-traditional farmland — hilly and full of trees.

So, although our land is zoned agriculture, it’s not ideal for farming, which presents its own challenges, but it also made it more affordable to attain. The fact that it’s farther North with a shorter growing season (another challenge to overcome) also made it more affordable.

IMG_0725

We fell in love

After seeing many properties in our price range that were, frankly, unlivable, unfarmable, and unbeautiful, we, to quote Alanis Morissette, “fell head over heels” for this property (yet to be named).

It was a warm and sunny September, Saturday afternoon and our now home was the third of three we looked at in Cumberland that day. It also happened to be the one we were least excited to see of the three (one reason why good pictures are so important). The first two properties we saw were, let’s just say, disappointing. The first was a clean and VERY small home, good farmland, not good for recreation — I wasn’t in love. The second was downright disgusting, and pretty much all marshland, but surrounded by a breathtaking view. By this point our expectations were low. We had already seen so many houses before these.

Maybe that was it, low expectations often equate to pleasant surprises. And so we were more than pleasantly surprised. It didn’t happen all at once but the excitement grew and grew with each step across the property, each new breathtaking view to behold: the pond, the apple orchard, the pine plantations, the rolling hills, and my absolute favorite, the butterfly garden (picture to come this spring).

Sliding hill

Let’s take a quick detour to the butterfly garden

Now, bare with me for a second. The butterfly garden was the most dreamy thing I’d ever seen. It was bursting with colorful flowering perennials overflowing a winding zen-like walking path that led to an old twisted tree — perfect for the most romantic tree fort. And then there was the screen house with a wooden swing in it overlooking it all. But it was the butterflies at the koi pond that got me most of all. That’s right, butterflies and a koi pond. Take that every Disney-princess-dream-land ever to exist!

I stood there at the point of combusting with the overwhelming beauty of it all. As I watched the tiny golden koi fish dart between Lilly pads, that’s when the magic really happened. No less than 15 Monarch butterflies flittered boldly all around me. I hadn’t seen so many butterflies at once in the natural world, maybe ever.

Still on that detour — Chasing butterflies

You see, Nick says this thing when I get distracted, along the lines of, “You’re chasing butterflies again.” This inspired my first ever published piece (as an adult) called “Chasing Butterflies.” It was published in Moon Magazine just barely two months earlier. It felt serendipitous. It was meant to be.

Chasing Butterflies

Now…back to our regular scheduled programming

We looked inside the house next and relief shuddered out of us. My excitement grew. I could actually live here! It wasn’t the prettiest, nor did it have the most character, but it wasn’t gross and I could do something with it. Yay!

Nick and I were positively jittery with excitement and fear. He turned to me and said, “I don’t know how I can farm here, but I don’t even care, I want to live here.” Me too. Me too.

And so began three days of trying to decide if we purchase on emotion. It didn’t work in the past for us and we definitely didn’t want to repeat past mistakes, but we felt that in the case of chasing your dreams, you must always lead with your heart, not your head. And so we brought my parents back three days later, explored the possibility of how we might farm here, checked out the town (which is adorbs, btw) and made an offer a few days later.

The End  Beginning.

 

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.

fullsizeoutput_b31

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.

IMG_6505.JPG

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.

 

IMG_1923

 

 

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.

Fog

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.

Christmas lipstick

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.