Priorities and $

by brenda on August 23, 2013

I haven’t updated all of you in quite a while. The truth is, I just haven’t felt like writing. We’ve been busy selling things and showing our property, and I’m just tired. My emotions have gone up and down. Every time God moves in our life, I get excited–what does He have for us next? And then, a lack of faith steps in and I worry–what does He have for us next? It is scary to trust, and to go where we know He’s leading…

As much as I’ve internally stomped my feet and said “no God, we’re not selling this farm!”, my husband and I feel total peace that selling, is, in fact, what we are supposed to be doing. And so, we’ve been selling animals, and equipment. Yesterday we sold a dairy cow. We’ve sold all of the turkeys that we were raising for Thanksgiving. Many of our laying hens were purchased last night. Our Great Pyrenees puppy, Lexi, who we just got went to her new home last Saturday. It is sad to watch all of the animals go.

We’ve shown the property to many people. Lots of people want our property. Lots, I fear, would be in the same boat as us–or worse. When people ask about what is most profitable on the farm, we say, without a doubt, grass fed beef, and raw dairy. Pastured poultry is–well–a huge money-sucker. We wish we had this same advice in the beginning. Maybe we could’ve avoided the debt. If we’d fenced the entire property and filled it with beef (or maybe even grass fed sheep), I think we’d be doing ok right now. Lesson learned. I hope that whoever buys this place next will be wise, financially. Many have talked about buying the farm with another family member. Great! Good idea….I hope it works out for someone to do that…

As we think about our next location, and where we should live, there are lots of options. I look at photos of homes for sale, and I realize the dilemma so many people are in, when I tell them that they should buy farm-fresh food. So many of you tell me, “but I can’t afford it.” And I believe you, truly, some of you just can’t afford it. You or your husband might have a low paying job, little education, lots of mouths to feed, college debt for a degree that didn’t take you anywhere in life, etc. I get it. I wonder, as I look at homes though, how many “can’t afford it” because of the home that they chose? Bear with me–please don’t give me “hate” comments. I’m not really up for that right now, k? :)

See, here’s the deal….If my husband gets a job that pays as well as his last one (he’s been interviewing, we will see), and we pay off our debt, we could probably get approved for a pretty cool house….I was looking at this one, or this one, or this one (which is pretty much the exact same floor plan we used to own, but so much fancier, and with a basement, and with a pretty view). We could probably get one of those homes….Would we have less debt? No. Should we? Well, it really depends on our priorities. If we bought one of those homes, our monthly budget would be so tight that we would not be able to afford:

  • grass fed beef
  • pastured poultry
  • $10 per gallon raw milk
  • a CSA with farm fresh veggies

Probably, what we should buy, if our priorities are in order, is something more like this. And there’s nothing wrong with this house. It’s just, if you compare the ones above with this one, well–you get my point, right? And if we bought a home, closer to this price range, we could afford all of that good food.

I’m not judging those of you who live in a nice home. I’m just saying, for all of us, no matter how much we’re tempted by the nicer homes (aka bigger payments), it all comes down to where our priorities are. And maybe the above houses are nowhere near what you can afford. Maybe it’s more like a difference between this and this or maybe even this. I’m simply stating that we all make choices, within our budget, and those choices impact the kind of food we can afford.

We won’t be buying one of those higher end homes. First off, my hubby likely won’t make as much as before. He was a manager at his previous job, and it looks like most companies are not hiring external candidates as managers–so he will take a step or 2 down on the career ladder. It looks like this farming “sabbatical” he took has been a sacrifice in more ways than one (more debt, less wage, lower job position). It was worth it. This experience was so worth it, and we’re both thankful we did it. Besides the probable lower wage, we aren’t choosing one of those homes because real food is a priority to us. We want to be able to afford good food every month (after we eat up all of our own pastured meat from the freezer! Which will hopefully only be gone after we’ve paid off the farm debts!!). ;)

If you knew what you know now about real food, would you have spent so much on housing? What are your thoughts about this?

Update: God blessed us with a home that is nicer than we thought we would be able to purchase. He worked out the details, we are so thankful! We still prioritize food in our budget. We will decrease every other area of spending before we will decrease our food budget. Going to weekly farmer’s markets and buying local, farm-raised food is a HIGH priority in our life!! :) :)

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  • Catherine Wood

    Good word :) I’m glad you are able to keep a good mindset about it all! I can’t imagine how difficult it’s had to be for you and your family. But, you’re right, God will take care of you and He’ll bring you through the hard times. Maybe you’ll meet your new best friend in your new neighborhood or your children will make their very best friends there and your husband finds a job where he’s able to move up the ladder in no time! The possibilities are endless for you.
    My husband and I are struggling too but in a different way. We’ve been married a year and a half and have been swamped with rent, student loans and other bills. At this rate we will be 50 before we can afford a house. It’s depressing and disheartening. Cutting back here and there isn’t enough. I know we need a drastic change but the only one that’s becoming a realistic solution is moving in with my parents. Needless to say, my husband doesn’t like that idea. I just don’t know what else to do. I’m trying to trust and be patient but it’s hard to wait on God’s timing and I’m a planner! It’s so hard to sit on my hands.
    And as far as the housing question, I definitely am in no hurry to buy a big, expensive house. I just want to be able to own a house, period. A small house with land. That’s not too much to ask right? Renting is the worst, though. I’d definitely choose a smaller, less expensive house over a larger, more expensive one in order to eat better.

  • Natalia Jean

    Looks like you’re getting a lot accomplished as far as selling stuff goes:) hopefully you will sell your farm soon. I was wondering if y’all had thought about relocating? I’m from WA state and my mom still lives there so I know housing is pretty expensive up there. I live in Texas now with my husband and daughter and we own all of our houses outright (just pay taxes, ins and utilities plus we’re also only 30yrs old) which I’m pretty sure we couldn’t have done that up there. The field my husband is in pays the same up there as it does down here which is a pretty decent amount it’s just down here you get more for your money. There’s lots of states right now that have decent employment opportunities and very competitive housing so it’s not just Texas. I’m not opposed to financing stuff at all it is good to be able to pay things off quickly tho and when they’re so cheap compared to your income its very possible to do. I found this house in Houston and its cheaper than your current budget friendly house but super nice: http://m.realtor.com/?returnUrl=http%3a%2f%2fwww.realtor.com%2frealestateandhomes-detail%2f13226-Fawcett-Dr_Houston_TX_77069_M86022-80202%3frow%3d1

  • http://amotherscalling.com/ Heather Anderson

    This is wise advice. We are one of the families who truly cannot afford ALL the real food choices we would like. We have had some rough times. But I will be honest, there was a season when we could, but didn’t prioritize it at the time. We have learned the hard way. I pray that wherever you end up will be filled with blessings.

  • Hope

    The deck on that last house would scare me with kids, to heck with the view! But on point, we have chosen to live in a 1750 sqft. home on a 7500 sqft. lot with four kids, and we homeschool!
    We could afford an uber sweet house on some land too, BUT food is more important for us. I would rather help support local food providers at the farmer’s markets, than hit the Walmart and return to my McMansion. Besides, it is all about perspective. My husband’s mother came from a family of 13, and they lived in town in a home a couple hundred sqft. smaller than ours. And check out what folk in other countries have to live in! Yikes, we are spoiled.
    I forgot to mention, my husband is only 5 minutes to work! Holla! No commute, no gas expense. Commuting up to 2 hours per day used to be his life when we lived in western Washington.
    Folks may call Spokane, “Spokompton”, but we love it. So much outdoor stuff to do that is very accessible. Great Farmer’s Markets! Like minded people.
    Anyway, priorities! We just picked up our Organic Grassfed 1/2 beef yesterday, and our produce from the FM, some Alaskan cod from some fish dudes at the FM, organic peaches..etc. Life doesn’t get much better. We do Craigslist for household stuff, thrift store for our clothes (except my husband for work). We garden & can, hike, camp, travel. I wouldn’t trade all that awesome stuff for more stress and a bigger house & yard to upkeep. By the way, I do like the cheaper home you picked, those 70′s houses are super practical for families, and you can update them at your leisure, which is kind of fun too. I used to loathe that style of home, but that is what I would choose next if we ever move.
    I have commented before and have said that we too had to sell our business and go back to the old 9-5, but we haven’t regretted it. And God has continued to bless us. Hoping you get the farm sold, so you can get to getting on with a new life.

  • Anonymous

    Part of the reason we can’t afford the real food I want to feed us is because our rent is very high (though typical for the area/house), we have two car payments, a loan, my husband works an hour away so there’s gas (we’re in Southern California with way high gas prices). Because of past stuff and bad planning we don’t have good credit so buying a house with a lower payment probably won’t happen soon. SO I have chickens in my backyard and a garden (or had one until said chickens got in and destroyed it) and I do what I can until I can fix what I did.
    Hope everything works out for you and maybe you can still try the farming thing on a different scale, in a different way at a different time?

  • Hilary

    sad for you that your losing your farm, but don’t forget that sometimes God lets dreams die so he can resurrect them later! I enjoy reading your blog and wish the best for you and your family.

  • LibertyL

    I really like the looks on that last home you have the link to. So interesting, and love the landscaping! And definitely more affordable. Best of luck to you and your family with the house hunting.

  • Sheila H.

    Hi,
    Just found your blog. I am sure I join many, many people who wish you the very best for your future. I would like to add my thoughts on the cost of eating well. Consider this, when I entered my 60′s, I became very ill and the drs. were no help. There were too many symptoms to list here – all autoimmune issues. Guess what – we stopped eating “foods” with chemicals, white sugar, all grains and oats and my health dramatically improved. So if you want to save money in the long run, pay the price for real foods and be happy and healthy. Also, have you considered a smaller amount of land and just raising beef and chickens for yourself and your family? You could do a lot with just 5 acres. Just a thought.

  • Erica A

    Great post! I know how you feel to be lost and your utter honesty made this so worth reading. I’m deeply sorry you are forced to sell your farm but I commend you for trying. We just moved into a home last October and I admit we are house poor. It is a nicer home than what we were in but was a compromise to what we wanted. I’ve been following the Tiny House movement since it became “mainstream” if you will and nothing is more appealing to me than living mortgage free! I would love to have the ability to farm and will do my best to create a homestead growing our own produce with maybe some chickens. Personally, I would live in a far less than desirable home (with a half decent kitchen) in order to eat wholesome foods while supporting local farms for what I can’t produce myself. Remember, food is what keeps you alive and healthy. A comfortable home is just a cushy bonus that would kill you slowly as you stress about making the mortgage payments. Best wishes for your future. I’m sure everything will turn out happily.

  • Heather

    My quick opinion is to buy something cheap. That may sound bad but really, if it makes living (family time) and eating real food more affordable, who really cares what your house looks like, or how big it is, or how recently it was built??
    Here’s the thing. The whole reason that your hubby quit his previous job was to have more family time. If you get yourself into something that you can barely afford or that you are just somewhat comfortably making the payment on, how stressed are the both of you going to be? Will your husband have to take on a few extra hours a week at work to pay the bills? Are you going to have to take a 2nd out on the house or apply for a hardship loan?
    We live in a rural community where I don’t see the, what I call the “American Nightmare”, being lived out as much. The materialism and the need to feel as though your house is the prettiest house and everyone is envious of you is just ridiculous. It is a serious pride/heart issue.
    Our family has just purchased a extreme fixer upper (no really, it’s bad), on 5 acres, off grid and are moving in 4 weeks. The home/property will be paid off in 7 years (that’s the length of our owner carry loan) and we will be completely debt free. The home and the property need a lot of work but we’re not in a rush to do it all at once and we know what it eventually could be. And really, we don’t feel as though we have to be anything for anyone. If we are living in a way that is pleasing to the Lord then no one else’s opinion of it really matters.
    We eat real food too. We currently have 6 people in our family and spend about $1700/month on food.
    I am so happy to know though that my kids are eating foods that nourish their growing bodies and minds, that they have a mom and dad that love them and love spending time with them and teaching them, and that they are being discipled in the ways of the Lord. My kids don’t care what our home looks like on the outside (although we do want to make it somewhat pleasing) but what really matters is how they (and we) feel about what’s happening on the inside.
    With the links you have provided I personally like the little 3 bed, 1 bath, blue home. It works, it’s less expensive, and a small home always brings family together in a special way. The home that we currently live in is a 3 bed, 2 bath, apx. 1000sq feet, and we make it work with the six of us, no problem. It can be done! :)
    Take the time to pray about it and see what the Lord has for you. Things work out best when we follow His leading. May you find blessings in your final choice!

  • Melissa
  • Tiffany

    I’m probably too late given the date on this post, but perhaps you guys could find a house with a couple acres or do an urban homestead so that you can still produce the majority of your own food. As you’re well aware, growing your own food gives you more control over what it’s exposed to and cuts down the cost (plus it’s just so fulfilling!). Depending on the municipal codes where you live, you could do a couple goats, some hens, maybe a few ducks/geese, etc. even in the city. We’re on a normal city lot and have milk goats, meat rabbits, and some layers in addition to a garden. If we had at least an acre we could add a few pigs, do a batch of meat birds, etc. I’m not sure what you’re looking at lot-wise, but remember it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

  • Laurel

    Hi Brenda, Even though you’ve had so much great advice already from other people, I just had to comment to let you know how moved I was by your story – your son, your farm, and everything – and how much I like you after reading it! You are such a wonderful person, I wish I could be your friend. Maybe you want to move to Vancouver Island? Anyway, we will be praying for you and your family and especially your dear, brave Isaac. Now, as far as advice goes, we have been very happy with the lifestyle choices we have made. We live in a 1550 sq.ft. house that my husband built on 2 acres, and we homeschool our 7 kids. We don’t feel crowded, it just feels normal! Our 2 acres is plenty for us to grow much of our own real food – we have 3 dairy goats that provide more milk than we can drink (as well as kefir, cheese, etc.) and a big flock of free range chickens. We have also had, at various times, a cow and calf, sheep, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, meat chickens, bees, and an assortment of pets. It may sound like a “hobby” farm, but it is much more than a “hobby” to us — it provides real, healthy food for our family and a few customers/friends. Neither the expense nor the time spent on farm chores are overwhelming. So I would say, save money by going for a smaller, plainer house and make it a priority to find a place that you can have a few animals. I know how terribly disappointing it must be to have to give up your beautiful farm, I really feel for you, but you can still have a lot of the same benefits to your family on a much smaller scale. God bless you!

  • Anonymous

    We moved to a rural area and bought the cheapest property we could find. The house is small and not well-built, but the shed is huge (same size as the house) and the boundary was mostly fenced. We raise our own chickens for eggs and meet, beef steers, keep two dairy cows and a big vege garden. We could have spent more on a nice house and had less land and had to rely on others more. I think you are aiming too low with BUYING all that food, there is so much you could grow yourself if you get a big enough property and then you will save money as well.

  • beebeefox

    wow. expensive homes! maine is so much cheaper. looking around 100k range for homes on acreage. choices galore!

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