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.

Rural Property: A buyer’s guide

1.  “NEEDS”:  We researched what we needed to know about buying a rural place  and made a list of all our requirements for buying a property. We would not settle for anything less. As it turned out, we only settled for “less” on one    item on the list, and that was not living near highways.  Turns out our property’s advantage is actually because it is accessible to so many rural connecting roads and highways.  Consider whether you have a business that depends on people coming to you.  Being near to a main highway is advantageous. You don’t have to live on it, just within an easy driving distance.  We are.

2.  BUDGET:  Of course we had our budget, and we had a house on 3 acres  to sell, and we were not in any hurry.  We did not put our house on the market until we found a place we wanted.  Be sure you don’t overextend yourself.  You can always “move up” later.  Make offers under the listing price. 

3.  FUTURE:  The next determination was what is the housing and growth indicators for a particular area.   We did not want to live somewhere that would be flooded with new home building and built out in a few years.  That had just happened to us.  Not a bad thing, but we wanted some distance from housing communities. Go to the city planners and see what’s on their master plan.

We also could see what communities focused on farms and agriculture.  And the communities who kept their countryside fairly neat and orderly without a lot of housing in disrepair or junked.  Good county maintenance should not be overlooked.  Regular road maintenance and mowing and trimming should be apparent. 

4.  COMMUNITY:  Another important consideration is medical facilities.  Doctors, dentists, hospitals, emergency support.  We felt better knowing they were not far.  Find out what school system you are in.  Our address is not in city limits and we are nearer another town so we are under that town’s school district.   Research the school system and it’s  ranking. 

5.  MUST HAVES:  Then you have to get down to a list of expectations for the property itself you want to buy.  There are lots of considerations.  Do some reading and make sure you know all the pros and cons.  The realtors will not always be knowledgeable.    It’s up to you to know that a dry gully running through the property means it carries water regularly. We found that out after going back to a property we were interested in after a rain and found water running all directions over the surfaces towards a nearby creek, it was overflowing and looking  more like a river. 

You must inspect your property during the week, on weekends, during the day, at night, and after rain.  It is most important to do this.  Will you be allowed to have a well?  Where does the water go in a torrential downpour?  Will your animals be safe in bad weather?  Your Realtor may not know.  Talk to the local USDA office; is the property registered with them? http://www.usda.gov/    Most ag properties will be.  Find out the history of the property. What limitations as to usage of the property?  USDA office can tell you.    What kind of predators are in the area? What kind of fencing will you need to install? We research to find out that alpacas and chickens have specific needs; we had to get rid of the barbed wire for those pastures and replace it.

As a result, it took lots of  weekend driving, but we were ready.  The kids were in college away from home and we had no weekend commitments.  I did all the research and assembled lists or properties we wanted to drive to.  We did not contact any realtors unless we found something we wanted to consider.    Logging into Realtor.com and lots of other real estate websites and  setting up searches so I would be notified of particular properties that met our criteria.  It did get frustrating after a period of time of not finding what we wanted.  After several months, we were able to fine tune our search to particular areas that we would want to live in.  That was very important. Driving all over, examining the towns and the countryside, was important research. 

After two years, the luck factor kicked in.  A property had been on the market for a long time and had not sold.  The owner decided to split up the acreage and sell them separately which meant the house and  104 acres was priced within our budget.  Well actually, it did stretch it somewhat, but it was a great deal and met our list of needs.  She sold her remaining 154 acres to someone else, and kept 100 acres.

So, after some frustration in not finding what we wanted for two years, we found exactly what we wanted.  It was worth the wait.  We are in a secluded area; all agriculture.  Our neighbors farm and they will not have housing developments.  We have a nice little town nearby with good schools, a grocery, a few restaurants, bank, fire dept. and police  a few minutes away and we belong to the Chamber of Commerce and the Caddo Mills Historical Society.  Greenville is the closest large town about 15 minutes away that has everything else we need that ours does not, plus a great refurbished downtown square, as well as hospitals, doctors, dentists, etc, and a junior college, a mall,  and lots of businesses and restaurants, hotels, and community arts.

It pays to take your time and do your research before moving to the country. Make a “needs” list and stick to it the best you can and you  will find your perfect place.

National Alpaca Farm Days

ASR Summer Surprise, with mom Dash of Flash

ASR Summer Surprise, with mom Dash of Flash

Our national organization, Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) has dedicated September 26 & 27 as our farm days this year.  This is a national publicity blitz to be advertised starting this month.  Visit the website to see what farms have signed up for this national event.  Farm sign ups have just started and more will be added, so check back regularly.


Also, generally all ranches are happy to have visitors any time of the year.  Find a ranch near you and call to schedule a visit with the family.  Bring cameras and maybe a picnic too!


Those crazy chickens


IMG_0018 I loooooove my chickens. I’m not personally attached to any, but I just love hearing them clucking, the silkie bantam rooster crowing, the guineas squawking when they see something unfamiliar, and drinking out of the alpaca’s water buckets. (The chickens have their own water fonts, but for some reason they like to hop up on the old tire that sits around the 5 gal. Tractor Supply buckets and swig away).

I was absolutely petrified about keeping them but then decided what have I got to lose (except maybe a few if I was a real klutz about it). I did my research to see what kinds I should have, and that went out the window when Ideal Poultry had a special on rare breed chickens package (all pullets). I love my rare breed chickens. I also love, love, love the Partridge Silkie bantams. They were a risk as they were straight runs (not sexed, you could end up with all males), but I was extremely lucky and had only one male. Of course you don’t know until they are full grown what you have.

I got a total of 30 (10 Silkies, 10 rare breed, 10 guineas). From zero to 30 is quite a leap but I wanted to have enough that if some did die I would have some left. I lost 3 after several weeks had gone by just because I think they were not thrifty. The others graduated into the coops just fine. Then, recently, with warm evenings, I was keeping the chicken hatch doors open on the coops and that’s when disaster struck. I found one guinea and one chicken dead on separate days (headless, the birds were apparently too big for the hunter to carry off). Then I started counting and found 4 of my Silkies missing (no scattered feathers, so I assume they were small enough the hunter could quickly snatch at night and carry off). Now I do close them up and everything has been fine.

We designed our own coops (very simple A-frames to economically utilize materials and enable good air flow from low venting up and out the top screened vent gables). If you would like more info on the design, let me know. If you need any support in getting started, I have some books and hints that can help you. You can contact me. The only thing is to first check your zoning laws if you are in the city limits, and also your homeowner assocation laws or property deed restrictions.

I advertised on LocalHarvest and got 2 regular egg customers that ends up paying for the feed which is just fine. I’m not looking to get rich, but if it helps pay for something it helps. I sell them for less than the store and one buyer has a co-worker who puts in an order and she takes to her. Local Harvest is the best place to advertise. Selling at farmer’s markets requires some paperwork and I am not quite ready to get out that early and sell yet. You can also find chickens to buy if you don’t want to go through the dependent chick stage. Get a chicken breed that fits you best; do some internet research. Ideal Poultry has a section on breeds descriptions. Give it a try and you will love it

A Surprise in the pasture

Lovey dovey

Lovey dovey

Where'd the milk bar go?

Where'd the milk bar go?

Here I am!

Here I am!

There just isn’t anything cuter than new babies of any kind. We were not expecting any so soon! Sunday, Father’s Day and the first day of Summer, we walked out into the pasture to check on a couple of new chicks our broody hens had hatched. Some movement in the pasture made us look and there was a little alpaca! Where did that come from? It was from our pregnant girl, Dash of Flash (Dash for short) who we thought was due sometime in late fall. We were shocked and amazed that she gave us no clues she was ready. These animals are really hard to observe as being in a pregnant form. They just don’t get really bulky. Her baby girl weighed in at 17 lbs. and we surmise that she was only an hour or so old. We discovered them about 6 p.m. hanging out in the pasture. Dad is in the pasture next to them, Hershey Surprise.

A little background: first of all, it’s a good thing I didn’t know she was due now or I would have been really nervous since this is our first on-site birth. Her first cria a couple years back at another farm had been a stillbirth with difficulty and Dash almost did not survive but she did and we gave her a long rest, not breeding her until last year. Their gestation is 11-12 months. We did not think her first breeding to our herdsire last spring was successful (we are novices at this and they were not real thrilled to be in a pen together).

We then decided to pasture them together for a week. We thought this was not successful, but apparently at some point it was. We tried them together again in the fall and they did not like each other so we pastured them again (again, novices. We were not aware at that time she was probably pregnant). We started back into the breeding again this spring with all 3 girls and Dash was spitting off the male immediately so we knew then probably she was pregnant from the fall breeding, and it would be a fall birth. The other 2 girls bred with Hershey just fine.

Our herdsire looks to have the ability of one breeding equals success, as our other two girls appear to be pregnant for next spring births. I am keeping more precise records now and know when he was successful with the girls. We also have gotten 2 10×10 catch pens (one for the girls side and one for the boys) since last Fall which is much better keeping them in a more confined space for a short time while breeding. And we also know if they don’t get together pretty quick, try another day and relieve them of the additional stress of being together when they are not interested. Dash can be rebred 2-3 weeks after birth, so we will have hopefully 3 new crias next spring.

Summer Surprise is gaining weight and running around, has learned to use the poop pile (they have a communal dung pile; easy to keep the pasture cleaned up), and she is so curious she will drift away from mom to investigate the wandering chickens or wild rabbits running through the pasture. An occasional burst of energy sends her bucking around the pasture. Her dad, Hershey Surprise, is a stunning mahogany brown with dense fleece and I hope she will have his good fleece qualities. My original goal was to have grey as a color emphasis, so all of our animals do have strong grey backgrounds. Hard to know what color she will end up as they tend to change a little from the color they are born with, but right now she has medium brown with smoky grey tipping all over and more around her face and neck.

The temps are reaching 100 this week so making sure they have cool clean water and hose down their bellies makes them happy. The big barn has good cross breezes and the fans are running during the day to help move the air around.


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