First Steps To The Farm

Saturday, February 25, 2017

So, what do we actually DO in starting a farm.. from scratch.. on a large chunk of land?! If you were curious in what actually needs to happen, well, this list is it! The first steps toward production... the first steps toward starting Newsom Natural Farm:

1. Cross fence the pasture to separate cows + crops

Done! The boys did this gradually over the last few weeks. Marshall worked on fences for the first few months once we moved back to Texas the other year, the season which Taylor was born. He knows all sorts of stuff about fences! The only issue we had was pulling the barbed wire on it too soon, before the posts set in the concrete. This has to be redone last weekend, but now we are good to go! Our family will be getting cows out here soon!

2. Order tractor parts needed + fix tractor

Happening this week! We know what is needed and just sold some furniture, which means Marshall will be ordering what's needed this week! We also have the manual for the tractor which is a huge help (I dug it out of the garage the other week). We are so grateful to our granny for the tractor she had on "the farm" that we inherited! And once its fixed, then the real work begins...

3. Mow the pasture

Once the tractor is fixed the mowing will commence! This will be a PROJECT! All this land needs to be mowed!!

4. Send a soil sample to the local Ag extension office to see which nutrients we need

This is actually something we can do anytime. The Ag office for the county is just in town (it sits in the county seat for EVERY county in Texas---254 counties in the state, to be exact---all to support local farmers and ag workers! Each county in each state has one too!). Once the report comes back we can add what we need to the soil for a productive crop. We are starting with sandy soil out here which is such a GOOD thing!

5. Order seeds!!!

We are gradually coming up with a plan on the seeds: how many, which produce and varieties, things like that. Think heirloom & unique! Once they are ordered, we will keep everyone in the loop! This little blurb explains a little more (generally) of what we plan on doing:

"We're a new family farm dedicated to providing East Texas with unique, locally grown produce through responsible, innovative, sustainable agriculture."

6. Get the land ready + PLANT!!!

Another PROJECT! After mowing we will need various implements on the tractor to till and break up the soil, add whichever nutrients, and get the rows ready for seeds! It is also raining a bit lately, which is good for this as well!

7. Utilize the well for watering!

We need to find an efficient way to utilize our well over the acreage of land we are starting on! There are actually 3 wells on our property, and we are planning on using one concrete well for this first season. Some sort of irrigation system will have to be implemented, and that is another project we are thinking on.

8. Support + Grow + Prepare for Markets!

Farmers Markets start up in April & May and the season runs through September & October. There are 6 quality markets out here (greater Tyler area) we have found and we will likely just go to 2 of them.. Those most local to us. We will be concentrating our efforts on Wood County.. That's still a lot of people to reach! Over 42,000 potential customers! We will be applying to the markets in the coming weeks! Also in this: business cards + a sign for our table are needed!



Why We Are Starting A Natural Farm

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Marshall decided to get out of the Marine Corps earlier than initially planned the other year, the question was bound to come up: why? There really is a lot of security in the military, as in a steady predictable paycheck, a set contract, and benefits such as the discounts you can get nearly anywhere plus the healthcare, etc. It seems frivolous, sometimes, to choose to leave that security, and go somewhere to do something you never have before. Especially considering that we were entering the third trimester with Taylor at the time. "Why?" came up a lot. Why move cross country, less than three months before your baby is due, with land but no house, leaving the only job you've had, to choose a hard and severely underrated career path.... and something essentially unknown?

Because we wanted to. This is where we need to be. Remember I shared the story behind our land the other week? It is incredible everything that came just at the right time for exactly what we needed the past few years. Buying 40 acres in east Texas over 4 years ago, while we were living in another state with no immediate (yet eventual) plans to move back in no concrete time frame... That sounded like a risk to so many. But we were able to, and we did. We knew it was the right choice for our future. This land is our future, and our present. So we have this land to start a farm... Because we want to. Even with this explanation.... it's such a foreign concept to so many! (We hear that a lot)

It may be as simple as that. Because we want to. Marshall studied horticulture while at Texas A&M, and he just wanted to grow food. Even more than me, he is the kind of person that does well doing what he needs on his own terms... Meaning... Working for "the man" is never a long-term thing. Having our own business truly is. Being his own boss and doing things on his terms, growing food the way he sees best, while providing a need to our local community, is huge. I mean, it's a big deal, starting a business and owning a farm. We want to, we see the value in the land, we see the value and need for local produce in this area, and well... we want to work for ourselves in doing this (and one day, we will be there!)

We even want to eventually become, perhaps, a cornerstone in the community. Newsom Natural Farm will one day be our full time thing, a destination, where we can have seasonal festivals, a weekly shareholder program to pick up your own produce, maybe even being a catalyst to start another farmer's market right here in the county seat... Our name can be on Taylor's little league teams jerseys, and we can sponsor the local sports teams in their big games. Finding the right parcel of land decided the rest of our future for us - our home, our work, our livelihood. We want to be a part of the community in this farm, and that's just what we plan to do!

Why natural? I mean, what does the difference in all these labels actually mean? Well, I know this may be it's own blog post one day: natural, organic, conventional, etc. There are so many different terms we find on our produce at the store and the market that we don't exactly know a clear definition to. So I'll get to more detail on that another day soon. But for us, natural means back to the basics. This is where cows are important: their waste provides nutrients needed for growth... natural fertilization. It keeps it simple. Natural is a generic term that doesn't require certification like organic does. So it's true meaning can differ between various farms which use the term. By coming back to the basics, it means no or minimal chemicals, droppings as fertilization, and focusing on soil health, plant health, and nutrients needed. We will be looking for natural, sustainable ways to grow our crops, rather than looking first to the newest chemical sprayer on the agricultural market that will "easily" get the job done. There is a right, natural way to do it, and that's just what we plan on doing.

Also on this- in our area, the organic label isn't necessarily expected to be as big of a deal as if you were in Dallas. There is so much cost just to being USDA Certified Organic, that it wouldn't be worth it in certain areas. The further you get from the city, we feel that the happier the community will be to buy local, whether you pay for the label or not. We plan to be open about our process and what is in the produce you are eating - we have nothing to hide - so in that respect, paying for the label may not ever be in the cards for us.

We want to do this farm the right way, and the way that we are comfortable with. We want to become a part of the community and share the process of growing your own food and what that means. We also want to avoid the laws and government interference that can come when you use all sorts of chemicals and pesticides to regulate the crop..... Although more common in large-scale production farms. We just want to stick with the basics. This also means we are going to be particular in choosing seeds, I mean, this is where the crop starts! Seed selection and ordering seeds may even have a post all their own. This is something we are looking into right now & are very excited about! We will be looking specifically for specialty, heirloom variety seeds!

So... why are we starting a natural farm? It's simple. We want to.

first month (+ then some) of tiny living: lessons learned

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We have now been living tiny for a month + a half! Time sure flies. In all this time, we have made this tiny house a home, finished the fence in the pasture, completely reorganized the garage in preparation for a yard sale, and looked into ordering seeds! You know what that means!!! Yet this post is about tiny living.... So here are some things we have learned in our first month + then some of living in 288 square feet:

Much of the "stuff" we are getting rid of! Feels good! Except Scruffy!!

1. We had too much stuff (It was a chore to pack and move in our two cars and trailer.... Literally we were "moving" for months before we moved in!)

2. We don't use all the space we had, therefore we don't need it. Also, you don't need so much "space" in a home in order to have "personal space" ... personal space is rather, a state of mind. It all comes down to how you look at it. For tiny living, you must look at things with a "half glass full" mentality. And even if we did want more space... well, our backyard is 46 acres of space! If you were to live tiny, I'd suggest to do so on wheels or on a piece of land! One more thing on this: being intentional on your use of space is an absolute! More on that in a minute..

3. Not having a washer and dryer isn't the end of the world. We do laundry outside the old fashioned way, or go to a friends for a playdate + laundry day. 

4. A dishwasher, though, is a game-changer in tiny living!

5. We are much happier with less things. Less clutter. Less items. It's freeing! (If you don't believe me, try counting the number of individual items you own and tell me how that feels. Even the pens. It is incredible..)

6. Taylor has less toys and is much happier! The only ones you really need are blocks, legos, crayons, and books....Even the closet curtains! Ha! This creates less clutter too! 

7. Walk-in closets were extremely overwhelming... We don't even wear half the clothes we have now---in a fifth of the closet space we used to have. Again, we don't need that much to survive. A closet about the size of our shower is just perfect. I'm thinking of a capsule wardrobe next...

8. Less space inside intentionally means more time outside! Yes, this was thought about. We sit on 46 acres in a 288 square foot house, and we spend all our time outside anyway. We are really inside just for food, sleep, and when it's dark. And we don't mind one bit. Yes, again,, we wanted this! It was a bonus of having to find a cost-effective way to move on our land when the time deeded it last fall.

Now more general things....

9. Keeping a clean home is so important! Less clutter falls into this idea. This means more constant sweeping and although it takes less time than before, it makes a huge difference in your own peace of mind. More clutter or an unkempt tiny space makes for a grumbling living experience.. you know, more chaotic. Keep it simple. Trust me. (And yes, still learning this!)

10. Listen to your parents when they tell you to make your bed! Living in one open room that shares all functions of a home causes you to learn this lesson quickly. It makes a huge difference just in your own peace of mind. I'm finding myself more aware of these little things now.

11. Space is a luxury. Even just a few square feet make a major difference. We recently took the pack n play out to replace with Taylors actual crib, and in the process had to rearrange our dining table arrangement to best fit this... while it takes up more space, it sits under the window (yes, he's right next to us) and altogether just moves our table over a few feet. We still have a large open living area between the cube organizer and the closet. The space by the table, crib, and bed is just the bathroom area, and it's really a better use of that space which we don't spend much time in. Except, you know, for the bathroom, or to sleep. But in all this, we clearly know space is a luxury. And we love this new use of space!

12. Anything can be your home.. after all, home is where your people are. Not your things, but your people. Relationships are what last! Invest in your relationships. All that to stay... we live in a storage shed. Yep, that's right, our house was originally a 288 square foot storage shed. It's not even a third of the size of the average garage.. it couldn't even store everything we have in our garage! With that said, home is where you make it. It doesn't have to be fancy with all the finishings, it doesn't have to be a certain size or in a certain neighborhood, it simply has to best fit you + your people + your life. This little "shed" is our home.. our tiny home on our property. And that's just how we like it!

Side note: it took over a month of living here for the mailman to realize that we live in the "shed" rather than the old nasty house that sits next door! They were knocking on the door of that house to deliver a package... for 5 whole minutes.. before they thought to check the tiny home! Ha!

how we fit our life into 288 square feet: downsizing process

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On that day last fall when I resigned and picked up Taylor early, I went home to just sit.. and enjoy... (just for a moment) not to have to worry about anything else. Then I looked around...and soon came to the conclusion that we just had too much stuff. Although, I know Marshall knew that a long time before. I just didn't have, or take, the time to do anything about it. We didn't "need" it all. I didn't even know everything we had. And once I realized what would likely come from this event- having to find a way to move on our land nearly immediately (though it did take months to get the tiny house ready) I knew that we needed to start sorting through everything that we had. Hence the downsizing..

We had to move this 1600 square foot house..
..into this 288 square foot home!!

At our other house we had a barn, and that barn wasn't really used for anything except storing tools. So I figured this was a perfect place to put things as we go through our belongings - "out of sight, out of mind," right?

So it begins..

And it happened gradually, because we never really knew the real "timeline" of when anything would happen. There was a lot of waiting last fall, but we have gotten used to waiting over the years --- does the phrase "hurry up and wait" mean anything to you? Military life (and transitioning out of such) sure gets you acquainted with the waiting process (orders, trainings, moving, house-purchasing, limited time home... etc). Remember, we've moved 5 times in the past 5.5 years of marriage (yes, that's right!!) so we are used to waiting for our stuff to be moved into or out of storage. So it began gradually.

Every day I'd take Taylor around the yard and to the barn, back and forth, in his wagon a few times. I piled up some stuff and sat him next to it all. He enjoyed getting an abundance of wagon rides while getting to play with whatever I set in front of him - just being outside - and I enjoyed seeing our house empty over time.

It was really happening! Everything we went through in the fall called for a huge change... We were getting rid of stuff! (Well, out of sight, out of mind, at this point in the process) Repeat the above scenario maybe four times a day, nearly every day for two months, and you come up with a barn packed full of stuff. You could barely walk around the piles.

And then we had to move it all. We started emptying the house and barn to get it "show ready" so we could try to sell it, and all this stuff had to be moved 23 miles to the garage at our land. This happened over time as well... I packed our Escape up as much as I could, and drove three loads a weekday (or every other day) for a few weeks over to the old house on our land...As much as Taylor would let me drive him around, that is!! Keep in mind, the houses are 23 miles apart, so that's an hour of driving per round-trip. It was a LOT. At first, I couldn't find the garage door key, so I put it in the back of the old house add-on. Then once we found the keys (they were just sitting in the old house, we were never given the keys when we bought the property), we had to move everything from the add-on into the garage, just a few yards away.

Once we were actually moving in and getting all of our personal things out of the house, we had to decide what we were going to store in the garage. And I had to make sure we had two separate sides to the garage - storage and sell. Let's just say our garage is packed right now!

After living in our tiny home for a month (today! one month!) we've found that we really don't need that much stuff. And then I walk into the garage and think... Where did all of this come from?!?!?!

We still have a lot of work to do in the downsizing department, when looking at our garage full of stuff... But we did it! Right now in our tiny abode, we have just what we need (ok, maybe a little more, but not much more) all in 288 square feet... It's hard to imagine that we have anything else in our possession, until we walk through the garage, that is.

Whenever I open the door, a few things comes to mind...
+Why do we have so much stuff?!
+Where did all of this come from??
+Oh, I've been looking for that!
+I'll probably need that one day...
+I just can't get rid of that yet!
+Let's just have a yard sale right now and be done with it all!

..And then I walk back into our house and "forget" about whatever that "it" was. It is such a nice thing having the majority of our belongings in a garage. "Blessed forgetfulness," if you will. But really, we need to get rid of it. Sorting out what we are storing from what we are selling or donating is a big start. So far, all we have is the mess of things (see above photo) and a small pile of stuff to the side that needs to be boxed and donated. This weekend we will really get down to business on sorting through it all, which leads to the next step---

The next step is to box everything up and label it, even briefly. I personally feel like I won't be able to relax about the situation in the garage until everything is tucked into a box.... Piles of boxes are easier on the eyes than piles of things, after all. We will get there. And soon, likely a few months from now, we will sell or donate the rest.

So, how did we move everything from 1600 square feet into 288 square feet? Simply put, we first put everything into the garage. And when we did move in at the new year, we brought just the "essentials," which consists of sheets, toiletries, clothes, whatever food we had, and the appliances we needed. As we figured we needed or wanted something, be it books, toys for Taylor, or additional pans or mugs, we just went into the garage to find it.

In all, I don't necessarily have a step-by-step process of how we "downsized" everything we had. All I would suggest to others who may be in a similar situation, or maybe who just want to find a way to get rid of stuff, is this: keep note of what you use, and if you haven't used it in two weeks, put it away - out of sight, out of mind. Walk through your house, and anything you think or know you can live without, put it away - out of sight, out of mind. If anything comes up as a maybe, it's probably not essential, and is likely something that can show up at your garage sale down the road. Now there are good things to store away in the garage, like in our case, things that won't fit into the house - family furniture, file box with important documents, winter coat and boots, fishing poles, ladders, etc. But a lot of it, it can go. I'm not sure how we acquired things, but after 5 and a half years of marriage plus a baby, it happens.

Getting rid of stuff, or at least having it somewhere else in storage, is completely freeing. We walk into our tiny house now and think it is just the right size. I mean, we have 46 acres to wander around and play on. We spend most of our days outside anyway, in the pasture, by our ponds.. We don't need that much room inside, and even so, its all the room we need!

A tiny place means less things and more us.
A tiny place gives us the freedom to be on our land, which is where we feel at home.
A tiny place also means utility bills a quarter of the price they used to be!
A tiny place means we can have a nicer place for less than we had before (because duh, there is less square footage for those nice features and finishes to cover, which is less cost)

A tiny place means we are on our land... starting our farm here in the next few weeks... and we are home!

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