Wednesday, 11 March 2020
Working full time and running a smallholding
A lot of the YouTube videos we watch, the books and blogs we read or the people we have spoken to think of smallholders and homesteaders as having an 'off grid' mentality. That they want to disentangle themselves from the rat race, utility companies and live a completely self reliant life, on a hill in the middle of nowhere maybe. While that's all fine and dandy, Steven and I have to have a realistic approach that works for us. Would we like to be off grid, totally self reliant and mortgage free. Yes, we'd probably like to give it a shot before we leave this planet, but we have always been realistic in that we're a little bit different!
When we bought the smallholding in January 2016, we did so using a mortgage. If you follow our blog, you will know this and it won't be a surprise. Now mortgages these days can take you up to retirement age which you will also know we don't want to have our mortgage around our necks for that long and that we are actively working on maximising our income and minimising our outgoings which will allow us to pay it off sooner. In order to pay this mortgage, we need to work.
Why am I telling you this? Because we are priding ourselves on showing people that you can have a mortgage which means you need to work full time and run a smallholding effectively. We are not joining in the chants to become off grid and to escape the rat race. We have nothing against that but we know we are accepting of having council tax to pay, a mortgage to clear, utility bills to take care of and so on, for as long as we live in some cases.
What we do do ( :) ) is budget, see where we can reduce bills and save, look to where we can be as self reliant as we can with accepting of these decisions. For example one of our most expensive outgoings is oil. We could convert the Aga to solid fuel and live off our trees, but we aren't here often enough to feed it. We could collect rain water and convert the house non drinking water to use it and buy bottled to drink but realistically, we aren't going to do that any time soon. There has to be a balance. So our budget each month takes our incomings, minus the absolute essential outgoings and leaves us with a balance. How we spend that remaining balance is key. A fair bit of it goes on insurances, for the cars, house and animals. If we were off grid, we wouldn't have a vehicle to insure nor insure the animals is my guess, so those expenses wouldn't be there, but then nor would our incomes each month as that isn't self reliant isn it?
So where are we self reliant, even partially? We grow as much of our own food as we can and each year we learn and build on the previous year. We make decisions for things we don't or can't grow ourselves. For example, we have bananas for breakfast on the meat from we eat beef which we don't raise ourselves. We are self reliant in chicken and lamb, pork later in the year but not beef or fish. Again we could choose not to have both, but we don't, we pay for it as we like it and we can right now.
We pretty much run our smallholding before and after work and weekends, so if you are thinking about doing it then don't be put off if you work full time. I can't comment on other lifestyles being able to manage a smallholding or not as we haven't lived anyhing else ourselves, but we know this one and we know it works.
Before work, we check the livestock and feed them all so they're set for the day. Depending on what you have this can be anywhere from 10 minutes upwards. I like to spend a little time watching the animals come out of the pens or coops for the day, seeing them go about their business, have a stretch or for the ducks, get a bath! On a night is the same, check everything is ok, feed and water them, collect eggs, clean out, whatever needs to be done and before bed lock everything away. It can take as much or as little time as you like, but it has to be done every day. There's no days off in smallholding.
We plan as much as we can, plan for the best and the worst, be adaptable and also realistic. Don't try and take on too much but absolutely do take on as much as you can. You may find that you can take on more than you think but it depends what character you're like. I would take on too much and Ste probably less than we could, so between us we balance perfectly most of the time!
In the coming weeks I will do some posts on what organising looks like here and share our ideas and thoughts with a hope that people may find them helpful.