CALIFORNIA DREAMING - The difficulties of country living
I visit internet farming lists, to learn about rural living from farmers. I dream of buying a communal farm well away from the city and RUNNING A COTTAGE INDUSTRY BY INTERNET, THE NEW MODEL
I read up on how to run cottage industries from isolated sites in the mountains. It can be done.
Another thing I research is organic farming methods. My favorite is CATO's "HOW TO FARM" BOOK, it's online, You can read it right now. He wrote it 250 years before Christ was born and it could have been written today, it's so clear and easy.
Then, I research with FARMERS' LISTS and then type up what I hear, repeating what our country cousins tell me. (Both ENCOURAGEMENT and WARNINGS.) I think ourCity cousins should hear it so they'll see all sides of the matter and join me in an exodus one appropriate day.
We will buy an ancient farm, well tended, create a main house for all to meet and eat in, and AGRARIAN "WORKER VILLAS" to all sides to fit with the probable ZONING codes which require ONE OWNER family and the rest to ostensibly be SLAVES! (Very Neanderthal legislation, wouldn't you say?)
From my gleenings, there are two schools of very negative thought about country living. One comes from in-the-know COUNTRY people who say it's murderously hard. Waiting for a sump pump to cough up your water, waiting without light during storms. Feeding cows and chickens at dawn. Damn animals MUST eat first thing!
Well, that's no diff from my house where cats want to be fed the sec I wake.
Then, there are the rumors that city people spread which OTHERS LIKE THEM from moving to the country, which is that country living is murderously hard. Rattle snakes, wolves, bears and the need for a shot gun. (Argue as I may that L.A. has more need for a shotgun!)
RUMOR #1.) The reason life is hard far from the city is that ranches and farms simply don't make money. They cost an arm and a leg. They're a money pit.
When asked, 'what about this?, TIV the farmer replies: "Farms do cost their owners lot's of money, yes, but that is not the biggest problem with a "communal" farm. Mismatched people fled screaming from Biosphere 2 experiment, and they weren't stuck with having to pay off the mortgage with others on board. A group mortgage is doomed to be problematic. (I think I solved it with the FARM VILLA as non-profit, tax exempt CONDOS CONCEPT) Out in the sticks, even the best online business can have dry months. Say JIM doesn't have his five hundred, ya gonna toss him in to the woods for the bears and wolves to eat? No, you send him to the city and take over his watering chores while he earns a few thousand programming again.
So I tell the city folks, pair yourself up in a compatible manner, intelligent class fellows, no helter skelter dry wallet roomies on a farm! Maybe People who've tried farming in the city for a while, with a roomie or two to test their temper and wallet. (How do you meet them? Craigs list works for me. I've made good friends with my FREE BABY FRUIT TREE offer. I offer them many pots of things but they must bring me potting soil. That stuff is costly, so like a good Private club, I weed out the mentally impoverished.)
The many houses I have lived in while I am smack in the middle of the city of L.A. had a large yard to grow food and a small fruit orchards. I had a single hen for eggs. I grew vegetables and fruits but on 8,000 square feet of land, that couldn't make me money. I may have gotten a summer's worth of zucchini out of the yard, all the salad I could eat, mulberries for a few months in great abundance but most of the trees yielded nothing to give away.
I was at my first house twenty years. The second a year. I put in a peach tree, nectarine, avocado, fig ) but then I got evicted by ignoring the landlady's whims, (STOP growing pumpkins, corn, morninglories as they TRAIL OR TOWER around and STOP feeding the feral cats on our entire street.)
My luck, she'd drive up while I was putting pieplates of cat food out on lawn!) So I moved. I unplanted everything except one Santa Rosa Plum tree that got too big, and moved it and the soil to a house with a nice landlord and got a lot of nectarines and apricots and peaches each year. Mulberries I brought from EVICTO house were two inches tall. They grew immense in a handful of years, prolific bearers, too.
When moving, in JANUARY one can lift all the young fruit trees and move the dormant bare root trees to a new house. This second property was far from Beverly Hills, twice as big, twice as cheap. All but one tree survived. This new house is generous chunk of land, enough to take me a good year to landscape, ---FOODSCAPE I mean! But in return this land will give me all the food I need in a year. A single chicken, who lays very well, gives me all the protein I need and I'm crazy about eggs. All I have to buy at store is milk, bacon, sugar, coffee and soap and toilet paper. The rest I can grow. Purslane grows all over the curbs here. More than I can eat. In autumn, I gather the seed and plant it in spring in flats, then transplant to decent soil beds noting bitterly how it prefers growing out of cracks in the cement!
I'm still in the city but on the very edge of it, on a rental property with slightly larger yard than I found in city of L.A. or Van Nuys. Here, at the very edge of the population center, the lots are much larger. 150 x 100. I can grow some of my food needs on such a lot, (could do better if it weren't covered with big trees.). We do so all year round (as I'm in no-freeze zone, California.) In another state, I'd probably have to learn to can or make preserves but here I can eat fresh food year 'round. One friend Anamaria has a room rented with its own bath and rights to the pool and she makes her house payment with that person. My girlfriend Edythe has a tenant in her guest bedroom, a girl from the university, sharing the old home's single bath. Edythe makes nearly entire RENT that way. The rest she makes doing jams and pies for the FARMER's MARKET.
I have no rental companions but I'm not alone. 8 cats that eat home grown greens simmered with their budget chicken.And there is a family of possums around at night, crawling around garden eating peaches, figs off the ground or in the trees. And all the snails. Not a snail left. The earlier house in Van Nuys, was closer to center city, took me two months to foodscape entirely, so thickly that I couldn't get a single tomato plant into any cranny of the garden. It was too small, being 50 x 100. I ran out of space for the things I could do. So city lots are a big drag.
This larger lot gave me near food self sufficiency for five or six years, but then the fruit trees got big and I realized I hadn't left one spot bare. I had a jungle. Now, that's superb when it's hot. You spray every leaf up to 30 feet high, and it chills the house like a refrigeration grid. But not a space here for a lot of tomato or zucchini plants!
So a 1 acre piece might give self sufficiency and maybe a surplus to sell. This might contribute to its own rent or housepayment.
BENEFITS: ORGANIC FOOD, HIGH MINERALS and EXERCISE! There are many collateral benefits. When you garden daily, you save on a gym. You're very fit. If you garden with a cartwheel hat on so skin doesn't burn and I always do, and some SUN BLOCK on my hands & forearms....we get better from the work out.
For knee health, baste two old potholders onto the fabric of your trousers over your knees so you're never afraid to kneel to use a hand trowel. And keep gloves near so we're never afraid to get hands into alkaline soil. So the allegation that a garden is a useless money pit is way OFF! It's a health pit!
MINERALS: Organic vegies have up to 14 times the mineral as shop bought. No toxic poisons which STEINMAN's POISONS IN OUR FOODS will reveal are on everything. Read the PERMANENT FARM online.
RUMOR 2.) The work is horrendous, many hours a day. And it takes tractors and other expensive equipment.
I go to my knowledgeable old time Farmer, "What about the RUMOR that farm work is really beyond what humans today can do? Isn't the work horrendous? Doesn't it take tractors and other expensive equipment?" My old timer replies: Not if you do it right. Look up no-till farm subjects, starting with Masanobu Fukuoka's book "One Straw Revolution" Road back to Nature and Natural Way of Farming, which are difficult to find, I looked, pub. 1978. The theory is amiably explained in RUTH STOUT's books, they're at online used bookshops. Read Permaculture books. Google that word to understand it. (Go to ABE BOOKS and put those in the search engine.) 3 dollars a book. Some of Masanobu's books are free online if you vow don't republish at: http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/01aglibwelcome.html
MANY of the BOOKS there are free with no waiting. NO forms to fill out. SO THE MAIN URL IS
THE INTERNET has become the best book store or library that exists. Google Fukuaka + gardening and you get his concepts. http://www.juniperandsage.com is a great spot to read.
And don't just farm all day. It's the 21st century. Start an internet business that provides you with cash."
I thought about that. If one runs a home office and can work two hours a day and pay the rent, and do so over the internet, as most of us do, one can do that desk work at night perhaps, and garden by day. The time you spend in growing your own food is about the same as going shopping at a market and going to the gym for a work-out. And I love working in the garden whereas Gym workouts are deadly boring. You can combine both in farming. And look at the old TIME losers you used to endure, 2 hours of freeway commute, and demons around you at the office for 8 hrs a day.
In comparison, life on the farm is bucolic. And conceivably, I could grow enough to make a living off my work. Now, I only have a quarter acre, but if I had 5 acres as I plan one day, I would plow the land with an old fashioned plow and a mule. I happen to be descended from the first muleskinner or mule breeder in the state of California, woman by the name of Dona Josefa. And if I had a larger piece of land than I now do, just give me a mule and an old fashioned PLOW that can duplicate what a roto tiller does, I'd probably do five acres in a few days, maybe a week. Who needs tractors? ANY physical work is good for you. BAD is sitting in front of a VGA or RCA all day, mouse or clicker in hand. Mules are endearing. I'd love to plow a few days each season with such a wonderful animal.
3.) RUMOR # 3 They say that in the state of California, water is very expensive. All farmers go broke. My main GURU was Tiv a lifelong farmer who says "you can dig a well, have a solar well, be off the grid, self sufficient". I've seen what that looks like. My pal Brad Draper the male nurse built his own house on a mountain, 5 miles away from Sta Fe, where water is free (it's not inside Santa Fe, there H20's not free and your use is closely measured, monitored.) Brad built his own home in a little fertile valley up there. As far from town as Mulholland is from L.A. He has an electric sump pump out back on a well. He must have been drilled for it. Couldn't look down it though, sealed to the eye. He had an old fashioned outhouse at end of yard. And in the house, has a beautiful bathroom shower he tiled by himself, and a washer/dryer. He does have electricity provided by the city. No generator, but he could have opted for a home generator. He has poultry pens and I don't know how, but has the gumption to kill his friend the Turkey every November. It's not something I could do.
But the rumor that I heard goes: You can have a well, but it's not free in California. If you dig a well they throw a METER on that and clock your use and you pay for it. When I heard this, I went into stunned shock. I slunk away saying "I'll tell my Homesteaders' List. See what they say." I have only just begun researching this. My country pals with wells don't pay anybody for the water. I guess you have to check the laws in the region in which you live. If any of you have knowledge on clocking wells, get back to me on this.
A list member answered: "I hear from an ex farmer pal who had 700 acres that citrus took (meaning citrus will drink up) 48 inches of water annually. This year, a huge rain year, they had only 30.' Average is 22 inches. So you'd have to pay for all that water and earn it back selling oranges."
That put me to thinking. See, I don't know. I'm still researching this. Friends tell me they don't pay for water in their wells, in other states. Maybe California is the wrong state to try self-sufficiency farming in. On House and Garden Channel, they did a show on two guys who used all house waste water for the garden. Laundry, toilets, bath, dishes. It is obviously do-able. So I tried to put a hose in my bathtub, run the end out the window, but fit of hose to tub nozzle was no good so I couldn't empty the bath tub with gravity. But there are hookups available to do that. SYPHON fittings.
The old timer on the list writes: True you can use waste water for crops but you can also dig a well, have a solar well, be off the grid, self sufficient even in California." Another lister stubbornly maintained "No, if you dig a well they throw a METER on that and clock your use and you pay for it. And if you dig a well, water may be hundreds of feet deep, that's very costly to get to. Also imagine that you can pay the several thousand dollars and it is all yours, that's only until your neighbor digs one and sucks the aquifer dry with his jacuzzi, orchard irrigation and dishwasher." Well, that means the answer is, get an acre and grow for your own family.
But here's where I had some insider info: After all, at the Homesteaders' List I'd read a lot about rain barrels as rain catchers. And they'd posted tales of pigs being used to tromp out a private lake, which could catch all the irrigation water you could need, --- their hooves and considerable weight tromping a clay floor lining the bed of one's own, personal lake so you could catch rain water and even grow tilapia fish. But pigs wouldn't go over too well in the San Fernando Valley. A big suburb.
My list pals were surprised that I, a city girl, could even engage them as far as I DID. But I lost the discussion, when it came to pig care, pig diseases and the high cost of pig feed but hell, it's only the early Millenium. I may get real knowledgeable about pigs in the next century.
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