by Adam Dawson
Hello everyone! For those of you who don’t know, my wife Emily and I are former bloggers here at Blogging Away Debt. We handed over the reins in February 2014 while we were in the long, hard slog of our debt payoff. I have really enjoyed reading and commenting on the stories from the new bloggers here. Ashley and Jeffrey asked if we’d like to provide an update for the readers. So, thanks to those of you who’ve asked, and thanks to Jeffrey and Ashley for facilitating the opportunity.
The last 14 months have been very active for us indeed! There are so many things to update on that I’m going to split it into multiple posts. Just a warning, this first post will have very little to do with our debt payoff, but a debt update is right around the corner! I’m going to start off with one of the more fun topics – Goats!
Our Little Homestead
First, for some fun things. We told you in this post and this post about our decision to get a couple of mini-goats in summer 2013 for brush control in our back yard. The goats were wonderful lawn mowers and ate our jungle down to almost nothing, exactly what we hoped for. Billy and Olive also did what goats do, and in March 2014, the goat stork brought us Caper! This was quite the experience, seeing this little furball come into the world and grow up in our back yard. Then, surprisingly in October, we came home to more bleating from an unexpected arrival, P-a-a-a-a-atty Mayonnaise.
Having the goats was great fun and they served a wonderful purpose ($75 each instead of a $1500 lawn tractor). But they tore up a couple of planters on our patio, and eventually discovered our bedroom window, where they started providing wake up calls about 6 am. On the day that the goats started bleating at 3:30am, I listed them for sale immediately. So we sold our 4 goats for about the same that we originally bought 2 for, and had a year of free lawn mowing in between.
We expanded into chickens last year as well! Our little flock of 5 hens was so much fun! We got beautiful brown and even blue eggs that tasted wonderful! I built my own coop in the back to add room for even more laying hens and even a couple ducks, but we suffered a couple losses to raccoons and our flock became scared of the coop, and decided to take up residence on our back porch. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I have been unable to train them back to the newly reinforced coop. So just this week, we gave the remaining ladies to the neighbor and we will have to start over with new birds. Building a coop was fun, as someone who never had a lot of training or guidance in handy work. I learned a lot, and was able to build the coop for probably around $200. It sounds like a lot, but it’s essentially an 8′ x 8′ shed that will add some value to the property as an outbuilding.
After 3 seasons, I’ve finally gotten the hang of gardening in Texas. What I finally figured out is that there are 2 short growing seasons, fall/winter, and spring/summer, instead of one long growing season like a lot of the country has. You need to plant in a very specific window for your garden to have a shot at producing well in the right weather. And you have to pay attention to your soil health. 2015 was shaping up to be our best year so far, with abundant salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, strawberries, peas, potatoes, onions, carrots, and radishes. Until last weekend, a deer got through the cheap mesh fence netting I put out and basically destroyed the entire garden in one day. I have onions, potatoes, and radishes remaining. The pumpkins and squash may also survive. Because we live on top of a limestone bedrock, setting fence posts here is extremely difficult, or expensive if you hire it out. So I made freestanding fence posts and used cheap netting for the deer fence, and I’m regretting my choice to cut corners to save money on this project. I will need to put a more reliable fence up if I want anything to ever come of this gardening.
Barnhearted Life Goals
To accomplish these goals, we will need to get our finances and retirement funds in order during the next few years so that we can afford to live on less money as we take the risk of starting up our farm. Being not only debt-free, but also building the foundation for our retirement fund, will be very important goals for us so that we can enable this future together. To offer some details, I think we will need about $2.5M in our nest egg in order to retire on time. My goal is to be debt-free, and also have enough retirement savings by the time we are 38-40 years old that our investments should grow (with conservative assumptions) to be at least $2.5M by the time we are 60-65. That way, if we are never able to save another dime from future jobs or farms or businesses, we will still be able to retire comfortably if we stay out of debt.
Thanks for reading this initial update! In the next post I’ll get into more financial details.