Thursday, January 15, 2009

Real World Rural Living - making my money online (sort of)

(photo credit: Ricardo Galli)

How I work at making a living in the real world rural depressed economy while actually making a living (sort of) online.


Just to update you on my farming - and how I'm not so worried about today's downturned economy and all those Beltway knuckleheads we elected.

Mostly, by figuring out how not to do commodity farming, I've been cutting my expenses over the last few years. By about two-thirds. Essentially, I've learned to start raising grass-fed beef instead of trying to compete with the corn-fed crowd.

I've gone from two plots of 30 acres each down to 3 plots of 15 acres each - with three rotated crops instead of two. And the result is that I'm only paying to have two of them custom planted and harvested (as well as sprayed) in any given year. So I've cut my off-site investments in half.

Then, I went and bought me an old square baler, so I can put up my own hay and not pay for this as well. And learned to stretch out my haying season so I'm not rushing around to put it up all at once. I've got a neighbor last year to put it up on shares (he took half), which worked out pretty well. If I cut and rake it ahead of him, I get 2/3'ds. I don't pay for his repairs or fuel.

This year I learned from my failed crop. The corn got drowned out. So I turned the cows in on it and let them finish it off. Did a nice job. Saved me four weeks of feeding hay. Now, if I'd been just raising grass for cattle, I'd not have lost anything. Just turn them in after the ground was firm enough to walk on, and they'd grow pounds of beef of whatever was out there. Put that low ground into pasture and take my high ground back for row crops. And the cattle clean up between the trees and such - where I can't realistically grow row crops because it's too steep.

Instead of giving up half my calf crop to pay my feed bill, I've been raising them up as stocker cattle (about 3/4's the weight of a fat steer) and selling them for slightly less than I would as fat cattle. Means I make nearly twice as much off the same calf crop. And I've cut my inputs by feeding them out on pastures instead of corn rations. They stay healthier and I have fewer vet bills. No implants, hormones, or antibiotics - just grass and water.

Now, you don't see above that we are actually making money off this farm, yet. Costs are still above what it takes to run it. The cows pay for themselves, as do the row crops - but equipment costs, electricity, all the main house costs are funded elseways. And I don't get a dime from farming, just my room and board.

So I need to keep another job for my spending money (and to pay for this Internet connection).

I was working at a local warehouse, but finally quit this and got a freelance job doing web design. About time, since I actually talked about this in a 2003 paper on rural economics - written when I was going to school and only working warehouse part-time. Five years later, I'm putting my actual theory to work.

And since online spending continues to grow overall, I'm in the right area.

That's how I'm surviving this silly economic downturn. Recession/Depression - just a bunch of Beltway nonsense. Those of us who can't simply print more money are a bit more close-pursed about what goes in and out.

So quit listening to your news and vote out of office any politician who has been there more than two terms. That's my policy on politics. Keeps me on an even keel.

Luck to you, too.

(PS. no that's not my laptop. I'm running only desktops here - most of them a few years old and doing just fine, thank you.)
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