I am sure you have heard of this term, AgriTourism.   If not, a lot of the agricultural community is turning their farmplace into a learning place.  Whatever they raise or grow they are willing to teach others about. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes not.  It may be a weekend event or an ongoing opportunity that just requires a phone call and a visit for a personal tour.  Questions will be asked and answered, maybe some free literature and contact information for more info.

This might be your chance to find a great new business for yourself or expand on what you have.  Google the term for your state and find out where to go for help in finding farms with information for you.  Also, check out the livestock networks of owner/breeders who might be able to guide you with help.  Check out the farmer’s markets and various animal show events for people to help you find your way.  They are glad to pass along what they have learned.

I researched heavily the alpaca and llama farms and ranches in the area and also their websites online to see who I wanted to visit or had info for me.  I read alot about chickens before I bought.  Those in AgriTourism are really wanting to help promote what they do.  They may have a guest house you can stay in for the weekend.  Some places have permanent cabins they rent as a restful vacation retreat for you.  One place nearby has expanded to include a chef who teaches cooking classes that include the seasonal foods they grow. 

 If you are looking for property it’s a great way to network to find out who might have a bit of land they have not put on the market but would be interested in selling.  I have found out a lot of land is sold among people who don’t even use a realtor.  Word of mouth among friends and neighbors travels far and can be successful.

AgriTourism is  becoming more popular and states are setting up new agencies to deal with this new business.  Find a place to visit and enjoy what you find.

Preparing for Fall

When Spring rolls in I can never imagine I will ever again be ready for winter, but it seems by the time Fall is here each year, I am ready.  Although we live on 104 acres, we only have to “work” the 8 we actually live on and keep alpacas and chickens on.  The rest we have an agreement with a neighbor to let him graze his cattle and keep those acres maintained for us by mowing,  planting, fertilizing as he needs to in order to graze his cattle.  

We just got our first load of hay from our neighbor, covered and stored for winter use.  Trying to get their little pastures renovated.  I cleaned out and reorganized the barn (really, not much there, but I kept putting it off, even knowing it could be improved).  It looks and feels so much nicer inside.

Keeping the hummingbird feeders full (they are migrating through and eating twice as much for the journey ahead) and watching the pecan tree so the crows don’t get the crop (they bear nuts every other year only).  The green peppers in the garden are absolutely huge and need to be picked and stored (chopped and frozen), and getting the flower beds renovated and weeds pulled (the zinnias, cosmos and cannas are still blooming).  The grass is still growing so mowing, and then caulking around and painting where needed outside the house.

We both work full time, so the weekends are our “work”-ends.  As much as I love working outside, I am now ready for a few months of “rest” (i.e., not “as much” to do outside).  Here in East Texas we will usually see our first hint of spring in February, so the wait is not too long.  We will continue to work outside all winter, but some things like mowing that take several hours a weekend will not have to be done very often to free up some time to work on other things and get ready for the holidays. I want to do some sewing, jelly and jam making, and other  fun-inside stuff.

I like to watch the migrating “everything” that come through here.  Last year, I looked up into the sky, and there were layers of  hundreds of hawks flying and circling and moving southwest.  It was a spectacular sight that I had never seen before. 

I watch the hummingbirds and Monarchs come through.  I look for the shed snakeskin in the pastures, and try to eliminate mouse hiding  places near the back door.  Cleaning up and hauling away any trash piles outside and in the garage.  The cooler weather and welcome fall rains and storms, with unhindered views of spectacular sunsets, are what I look forward to with much  joy.

northeast Texas sunset

northeast Texas sunset

Don’t let the dogs out in the dog days of summer

We live in the country on 104 acres.  We are conveniently close to highways and roadways going any direction we would want to go.  Very convenient for us.  We don’t get any traffic on our road except for the three other neighbors.  We can recognize any strange vehicle coming down the road and we keep a vigilant eye open to follow where they are going.  You have to watch out for each other in the country.

One thing that is hard for country dweller’s to understand, they may own livestock or not,  is that a loose dog is a potential threat to livestock.  Their dog may be sweet and cuddly at home, but the instinct to chase is there.  And if another dog or two are wandering along the road, then you have a huge potential for a deadly chase if they buddy up and slip through a fence.

Of course, they won’t chase huge cows, but horses for one, and our alpacas for another, are creatures that cannot truly fight back and will run away, many times they are run to death in the dogs chase.  A heartbreaking, and usually expensive, loss for the owner.  The dogs, meanwhile, have ended their chase and have trotted back to their owners for a meal and a hug.

Livestock guard dogs are an exception to this.  They live in the pasture with the livestock.  They do not bond with the family in the home.  Their family is the livestock and they live in the pasture with them.  Their puppies are trained this way with the parents in the field.  Also, guard donkeys and llamas are effective guards if they have the true guard instinct.  Any animal that relapses from guarding should not guard.   We have one guard llama with the girl alpacas and one guard with t he boys.

Roaming dogs are more of a threat than coyotes.  It is a kindness to your neighbors to let your dogs roam unleashed in your own fenced yard and nowhere else.

Should you live rural?

Not everyone wants to live in the country.  We had our first reaction from our realtor of all people.  I have to interject that she was not up to speed on interacting well with people we came to find out.  That’s not something you can determine up front when you are working with a realtor.  But  you don’t have to stick with that person if no contract was signed.  She happened to be the realtor who showed us the property we decided on buying.  Most realtors will be positive about the property and point out the good things; she seemed to be just the opposite. She just had not been in the business long enough, although she was a “mature” woman.  Her reaction to living in the country on 104 acres was “won’t you be scared at night all the way out here”.  My comment as I recall was “heavens, no”. 

So, can you expect everyone you know to be enthusiastic of your decision to live rural?  Probably not.  If they don’t like dirt, bugs, snakes, spiders, coyotes, skunks, racoons, mice, and the myriad wildlife the country brings, as well as the seclusion and distance from the city, then your friends may not visit often.  Be prepared to accept that you may have to trek to their houses in the city for a visit. 

And if you have children, take into consideration the inconvenience to activities, friends and their parents, who may not like driving all the way to your house to drop them off for a sleepover. Our kids were in Select Soccer clubs, baseball and basketball all through high school, so we really had to stay in the city so trips to practices and games were not lengthy.   

Will your kids be happy?  It would be my advice to wait to move until the kids are older, maybe after high school, which would give you more freedom to move from the city, unless they are willing to drop all their activities and start anew in their new community.  Going cold turkey on good friendships is harder for kids unless the move must  improve THEIR education and opportunities.

Environmental considerations in buying rural

When looking for a rural property it is easy to get too anxious.  Do a little checking out the community and surroundings. 

One area we were interested in and we did not buy, we found out later was heavily into some litigation with an area cement plant processor that apparently was in trouble for emissions and other stuff floating into the air and being environmentally unfriendly.   There was also a problem with water quality in the area and citizens were up in arms.  We had no clue.  A little homework would have possibly shown us those issues if we had decided to buy there.

Once again, go to the city hall and see their master plan and future projects.  If you want peace and quiet, make sure you will have it for a long time.

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