Buying your rural acreage

Most of us probably dream about that little place in the country but don’t see a way for that to happen.  Believe me, it takes some dedication in finding that place.  We also had to wait until our two kids were out of the house because they were both on Select Soccer teams and  school soccer teams through high school and we were constantly going to practices or games it seemed. They also were near to all the facilities and on  good teams that they would not have had opportunities with had we lived further outside of the big city (Dallas).

We thought we had found our spot in 1995 and custom designed and built our “forever” home on 3 acres.  But once they were off to college we decided we needed more property than 3 acres to do what we wanted (raise alpacas and have a larger property). So the search was on.  In a previous blog I recommended writing up a list of what you want to achieve in moving to the country.  Put everything you can think of on that list and think about how remote you want to be (close to medical facilities, close to a particular livestock vet, close to a university, close to a mall or a grocery, nearby schools or bus routes, etc).  This list is VERY important.  Otherwise, you will be looking at properties but not considering their true appropriateness to your situation.  You must not start looking until you make your list. 

Read up on buying rural property so you can also include features about the property that you really want or avoid (a barn, a pond/tank, a large or small house, an all weather road or a high maintenance/can’t go anywhere in bad weather road,  flooding in bad weather, etc.)  Remember  that some missing features can always be added later (a pond, trees, a paved driveway, a barn, etc.)  Just be realistic with your budget and consider how quickly you want these things added, or can you stand to space them out over several years?

It will not be an easy process or a quick process.  We did not rely on any realtor to find it for us.  I did all the legwork by researching online using several key search terms and we did lots of driving on weekends and narrowed down our area of searching based on several criteria.  It took two years of looking before we got lucky and found our 104 acres with a house that happed to be the same age of house we would be moving from.  We had originally been looking for 10-25 acres.  We just lucked into this opportunity.  Everything fell into place for us.  It will take lots of your time and a whole lot of patience, but each trip out searching was an adventure in itself and was not a waste of time.  We did have fun looking but it all came back to the list we made, and if some place did not fit our list of requirements, it was easy to move on. 

If you would like a starting point in the process, please e-mail me ( alpacaspirit at easydoesit.com) for some considerations in buying a property, with a house or without.  I have put together a kind of  check-sheet that you can add to, and some links to articles to read.  Enjoy your journey.

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Getting into the spirit of the holidays–be original

When not cleaning pastures or painting chicken coops, I have been looking into the idea of making my own soaps and lotions.  It is not difficult and you eliminate the preservatives and extra ingredients that can be harmful. 

I discovered a wonderful website called Bramble Berry.  I have the link in the left hand column.  They have instructions, online  “classes” and tutorials, products to make the soaps (remember soap on a rope? they have the rope; you make the soap),  sugar scrubs, bath fizzies, candles, makeup, and more, plus soap molds as well as  packaging materials and labels, and gift sets (you make the product, they provide most of the ingredients and all gift packaging). 

Sign up for the newsletter and read the blog,  order something to get started.  Be sure to find the Soap Making Forum for “getting started” info and ongoing conversations.   Note that the bar soaps must “cure” before using, like 4 weeks or longer,  so get started now to give a try to a new hobby.  You can also make some money by marketing them at the local farmers market or holiday festivals.

I am so excited to find them because they are the first I found with EVERYTHING I need to get started in one place.  I am making up a list of supplies today and ordering so I can have holiday hostess gifts, as well as family and friends Christmas gifts, ready by Christmas.

Recycling and composting

It doesn’t take much for any of us to do something to reduce, reuse, recycle.  No matter how small of a step to you, it can only lead to bigger and better things and teach awareness of our environment to our younger people.

Junk mail is the first thing to start with.  Set up a narrow  kitchen plastic trash can in a corner of the laundry room or garage. Find them cheaply at one of the “dollar” stores or better yet, recycle one found at a garage sale or on Craigslist.  Then toss everything into it, even empty boxes from processed foods, the cards that fall out of magazines, then the magazines after they are read, the empty envelopes from the bills, the daily newspaper after reading, etc., etc.  You will be surprised how quickly this container fills up.

Under my kitchen sink I have 3 small trash cans and nothing else.  One is for plastics, one is for glass, and one is for cans.  In the garage I have larger plastic containers I empty these into.  Once a week on my weekly trip into town, I load up the plastic containers in the back of the Explorer and stop at the recycling center and empty everything.  I don’t waste gas as this is on my way to where I am going.  Take gloves and some hand wipes to stay germ free. I don’t have to really touch anything when I am there; all the doors are open to empty into.  It is very painless and it will make you feel good in the process.  Look into taking some of your metals to the local metal recycler; they pay you cash. 

I found a great website.  Try earth911.com for some good info.  Read the blog and sign up for the weekly newsletter too.

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Cool weather alpacas

The alpacas today are enjoying the cool temps and the rain that has come in.  They don’t like to be out in the rain so they are all cushed next to the hay tubs in the barn munching at the hay.  Some chickens and guinea fowl are relaxing in the space too.  I always get the pastures cleaned up good before a rain so there are no soggy poop piles to deal with when the rain leaves. 

My alpacas are very good at pooping outside in the rain, although the poop pile will be close by so they don’t have to get very wet.  It has been a rare occasion when they have pooped in the barn, but when they do I break them of it by keeping after them and cleaning  up the pile asap and sprinkling Stall Dry over the spot and carrying in a bucket of sand or dirt to spread on top to eliminate any scent that may take them back to the same spot.

I am watching Flash who is pregnant and we expect she will have her cria within the next month.  Since we just brought them on-site last November, it will be our first cria here at our farm. 

We are trying to get all repairs/maintenance completed before the cold weather arrives.  I still have a final coat of paint to put on the last 2 coops.  We had a water faucet in the barn fail so my husband is working on repairing that.  If you get any water lines installed at any time, be sure a professional plumber does the job.  When we hired the guy to put up our metal barn he said he could also install water lines.  Well he did, but the job was not done the way it should have been so this line is proving to be challenging to figure out what was connected to what and with what, plus he glued the fittings so that meant cutting out pvc threading from the inside of a cast pipe.  We put in three calls to him and he never returned a single call.  We have marked him off our referral list to others.  We are happy to refer anyone who has done a fine job for us.  He did do a fine job with the barn, but returning phone calls is number one in customer service.  Be sure to have a backup plan in case of a situation like this where you have no water.  We are able to have several lengths of hose connected to our exterior house faucet and reach into the barn which is directly across from our driveway/garage.

I hope to configure the downspouts on the back of the barn to add rain barrels and I can reduce some expense in watering the animals by being able to fill buckets from the barrels.  In the summer they drink the most water of course so that would be a cost savings.

I have someone coming by to look at the fleece I have for sale.  She also needed a local supplier of some spinning supplies so I tracked down some shops and have them all mapped from Mapquest  and with phone numbers so she can go see what they have.  Do not underestimate customer service in it’s smallest form.

Alpacas in the Fall

Well we had a nice turnout for our National Alpaca Days.  It is interesting that no one actually was from this immediate area; they all drove a distance to see the alpacas, feel the fleece, get some literature and enjoy the country.  We hope to have a holiday farm day sometime in November and additionally have products for sale. We do have one pregnant girl that should have her cria by then. 

The chickens are all doing well and enjoy their coops.  I do have 3 guinea fowl that just don’t care to go in at night; they roost on top of the coop.  I call them The Three Stooges.  Unfortunately, a couple of the other guineas in another coop seem to be learning their bad behavior.  I have a feeling that will all change when the winter winds start to blow.  For now they are enjoying the crisp fall evenings.  I hear the owls hooting in the tree lined edge of our 104 acres when I am out closing up the coops and always fear they will be owl dinner, but so far they have avoided that fate.

The chickens are getting close to laying age and my calendar has a note to switch to layer feed in a couple weeks.  I have to get them fixed up with nesting boxes.  I found dishpans at the $1 store and will try them out.  Since they are plastic they will clean out easily and be lightweight and indestructible.

I am starting to think about Christmas gifts; with the economy we will scale back our spending this year;  I am also looking at making some cute soaps and sewing some hanging kitchen hand towels.  I subscribe to a blog, Tipnut, that I found to be fun and helpful, try it and see if you don’t find some info to help you out in some way  http://tipnut.com/

The only veggies I planted this year were tomatoes and they really didn’t take off until after the hot summer ended.  They are now loaded with blooms and I have already taken a dozen large ripe tomatoes with plenty more growing.   My favorite flower Impatiens have also revived after the hot weather; I thought they were gonners.  But they revived into large bushy plants that are exquisite in the shade.

My September/October shady garden

My September/October shady garden

Impatiens

Impatiens