Here on our farm we use a Stihl Brush cutter. For us, we compared the cost of this cutter against the cost of hiring a worker. Although by comparison, the cost of labor is inexpensive in Brazil, with a worker costing around R$80 a day. That's about $27 (US).
Farm and garden machinery are expensive here and it wasn't a decision we took lightly. In the end we did buy a brush cutter and have had the same one for 8 years.
We have the FS85 which is classed as a landowner series. They also do a professional range.
Read more about our experience with our Stihl cutter
When I look back at what we spent on wages for workers here, I feel this was money wasted. Although the two of us can't do the same amount of work as a local, what money we make, is ours.
Therefore my advice to anyone thinking of buying a brush cutter would be, do it. If you are physically able to use the machine, buy it because the money you save in not paying wages will more than pay for the machine.
We see the machinery we buy as an investment, not as an expenditure. Of course there are ongoing costs such as gasoline (petrol), oil, and then parts. The repairs my husband will normally do himself with guidance from watching YouTube videos. There are a bank of helpful videos about problem solving and how to replace parts.
My husband cuts through most types of grasses and weeds using the nylon line. Although we have a blade attachment, this is rarely used except on small shrubs.
At some point on your farm, you are going to have a crisis. This may be a financial one, weather related, or health.
Of course no one can predict when these things are going to happen but you do need to be prepared as much as possible.
We had one such incident last year, when we had an excessive amount of rain in a very short time.
Our coconut trees which we had planted about 18 months before were flooding. We took advice and were told they will be okay if the water doesn't get to the trunk.
The water continued to rise, and I made the decision to dig up at least 20 trees. This was 5% of some of our best trees. By digging them up I had no idea whether they would survive. If left I wasn't certain they would they die. We had a week of discussions of shall we shan't we dig them out. These are the trees which are going to be supporting us financially in the future, not just looking pretty in a garden. My thought was about the potential loss of revenue associated with those trees.
This was not an easy decision but it was made harder by the fact my decision was not supported by my husband. We had slaved in the heat, watering these trees weeding, checking for insects and I was not about to let these trees die if I could help it.
Finally I just grabbed the spade and wheel barrow and waded into shin deep water to save these trees.
My husband is an amputee and can't get his prosthetic wet so it was down to me.
In lashing rain, I drove my spade into the sand slicing off roots which we had been nurturuing. I carried on the full circumference of the tree, lifting heavy wet sand away from the tree. Now knee deep in water around the tree, I began push the palm to see if it would assist me in saving it. The wet sand acted like a suction keeping the palm for itself.
Ants and beetles which had fled up the tree to escape the rising water were now in my shirt, biting me, and leaving large welts behind.
There were cross words spoken about me cutting through the buried irrigation pipe, and tempers began to flare. I felt I was taking control of the situation potentially saving 5% of our better trees. We had invested a lot of time, money and effort in these trees and I didn't want to lose them.
In the end, 16 of the 20 survived replanting and are doing well. We have now made mounds of soil in the land which is likely to flood and planted atop these.
When we initially bought our land, there had been an unprecedented amount of rainfall, or so we were told. People in their 50s said they had never seen it so high. When we had our land leveled, we neglected to find the high water line and this resulted in our problem. Now with our mounds, we have a solution, although it isn't the ideal one. Once the trunks are mature they will be able to withstand a couple of months standing in water.
Having an Action Plan.
Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? If we had made some critical decision earlier, we would have saved ourselves some of these headaches.
I think these are a few things to take into consideration in a crisis situation.
Once the crisis is over that is the time to reassess and plan for the next unforeseen incident.
- Act quickly: Action wins out every time. If something needs fine tuning afterwards then do it.
- Work as a team: Second guessing the decision doesn't help, once a decision is made, do it fast. Support is crucial.
Getting stung is something farmers and homesteaders will encounter at some point on their farm. Although it is never a pleasant experience, it is something we can prepare for.
I am writing this after I downed tools this morning because I was stung on the eyelid. Although we have a wide variety of wasps, mud dabbers, and bees, this morning it was a small wasp. These nests are well hidden in the cattails which I was cutting this morning. This morning I got off lightly with one sting. Last week I had 5 on the face and 3 on my arm.
I have been known to swell up when stung so for me, I go to the house and take an antihistimine.
I also drank a liter or water to flush my system. I will continue drinking ample liquid and taking it easy.
My friend here in Brazil is an ex Red Cross nurse, and has been in many remote areas in Africa and Asia and has seen this problem and I freely take her advice regarding potential problems.
You and your family may react differently than I do and in fact you may react differently to the stings of various insects.
Know what works for you and take immediate action. This might include,
- An Epi pen
- Visit to your doctor or emergency room.
Although I have removed several of the nests, there are many which may be hidden.
Today, I have made a net covering for my hat, similar to a bee keepers hat. This will allow me to continue cutting without the risk of getting stung.
Life on a small farm or homestead can be overwhelming, with jobs which all seem to need doing at the same time. This is why priorities need to be set so tasks which are important don't get overlooked.
In an ideal world, we would have one thing to do at a time but let's be realistic, does that ever happen on your farm? I know it doesn't on ours. Just when we seem to be getting caught up, something happens. We might get an equipment failure, an ill animal or even something in the house which needs repairing and can't wait.
Things can spiral out of control and it is difficult to get a handle on it.
Sometimes we do a partial job and hope to get back to it later, of course later never comes and that half-assed job doesn't last. I wonder if you are nodding in agreement with this statement.
Here are items which need to be considered when making a priority list for your farm.
Weather: Although this can't always be predicted there are trends. For planting there is a fairly defined season when the best time to plant is. The weather for most farmers, is a high priority and often plans are changed rapidly as unexpected weather hits.
Health: More important than weather of course, but often we neglect to take care of our own health. When was the last time you had a check up? You're probably in great shape with all the farm work you do but there is probably a nagging feeling cropping up that you should go and get checked out. Make an appointment and stop worrying about it. Your farm will have to wait. Make time for yourself, even if it is a long soak in a bath, a yoga class or something which will relax and ground you. Take a day trip to somewhere which doesn't sell plumbing or farm supplies and enjoy it.
Visit a friend, opt for one who is supportive.
Money: I wasn't sure how far up the list this should go but it needs to be close to the top as most small farmers it is a constant worry. Sometimes it can seem like your wallet is permanently open and cash is flying out. Buying fertilizer, parts for machinery, feed for animals and so the list goes on. Although you might have gotten out of the rat race, you may feel like you're on a hamster's wheel going round and round and having to run faster. No one said life on the farm was going to be easy but you may not have realized it was going to be so hard.
Animals: Whether you are trying to add to or eliminate some of the animals on your farm, this often takes an enormous amount of time and thought. Make a point of getting rid, either eating or selling, any animals which aren't making you money, feeding you, or which bring you joy. I know it can be hard if there is an emotional connection but other people can look after your animal equally as well as you.
These are just some of the priorities which need to be addressed, your list may be different. It's all about finding a balance and staying flexible so that when the unexpected happens, although you might not be ready for it, you will deal with it.
Have you noticed the rise in female farm bloggers or homestead honeys? You know who I mean those seemingly sane but quirky women who have relinquished their well-paid corporate career and bought a dilapidated house with acreage smack dab in the middle of nowhere? They have traded in their kitten heels for mucking out boots.
It's you isn't it, you've chucked in the job and moved to the country. Whether it was a joint decision or you were dragged by your ponytail kicking and screaming, the point is you're there and it is your homestead.
Once the initial joy (or shock) wears off, you'll find yourself asking the question. How are we going to make money from this place. Sure you could try and 'live off the land' growing your own fruit and veg, have a few chickens and maybe even get a milk cow. Heck if you married Davy Crockett, he can go out a huntin' and bring back a coon for you to skin and cook into a mighty fine stew.
<insert a scratching record sound here>
Okay, calm down forget about skinning that raccoon. Just stick with your vegetable garden, orchard and non-rowdy farmyard animals.
How Homesteaders Make Money
According to the USDA 91% of the farms in America are classed as small farms.¹
Even if this sounds like an idealistic lifestyle, you still have to have money, I mean chocolate doesn't grow on trees does it? Okay, technically it does, but growing that just to feed a midnight chocolate craving might just be too much for an upended urbanite.
Many small farmers often need to earn money outside farming activities in order to make ends meet. This results in the best of both worlds, a income and a better lifestyle for their families. So let's look at other ways to make extra cash to add to the homestead kitty, whilst still retaining a reasonable quality of life and a little bit of sanity.
According to those flashing ads you see in the sidebars of many webpages, you could make a whopping $56,000 in one week from your kitchen table, who knew it could be so easy! I guess that problem is solved.
Just in case that doesn't pan out though, it's good to have a back-up plan.
Create a Homestead Blog
To have a successful farm blog, you don't have to be perfect to be the homestead honey, you just have to have heart and show you're not a quitter. In fact, showing the flaws and the mistakes in your plans will get your blog more loyal viewers. An audience loves it when plans go pear shaped. What's more, this leads to interaction with the reader as many will leave you comments of support or advice about how it should have been done.
Here's an example.
Let's say you're baking a cake and plan to put the recipe, and accompanying video, on your farming blog. The cake comes out lopsided because your husband hasn't fix the oven, even though you've gently reminded him 4,000 times. Yup, there is a definite lean to it, which if this had been in the center of Italy, tourists would pay to see it. Alas no one is going to pay to see your wonky cake, or are they?
This mishap of a misshapened cake is not a disaster, it's an opportunity. You can explain to your blogging audience there are choices of how to proceed.
- 1. Cut off the high side and eat it. (My personal choice)
- 2. Pile on the frosting on the low side until it's level.
- 3. Feed it to the chickens
Listen Sister, don't kick yourself, your readers love problem solvers and clever life hacks such as this. You're showing them you can think on your feet, and also that you aren't perfect and you're okay with that.
Homestead blogging topics
Some of your readers will be other homesteaders or small farm owners,but not all. There will be people who will read for the enjoyment and to see how your farm deals with various problems. There are people who love to read and cheer on those who are in essence braver and have made lifestyle choices which they've always dreamed about but were never confident enough to make.
Your topics could include:
- Gardening tips
- Recipes incorporating home grown vegetables
- Raising and home schooling children
- Rearing farm animals
- Dealing with farm related bureaucracy
- Adjusting to life on the farm
- Ways to make money from your homestead
- Farm crafts
If the expensive tweezers which once, plucked your eyebrows into a perfect curve are now used to yank ticks from the dog's ears, don't sigh and feel sad. Rejoice in the fact that you are using the tools you've got and making it work for the betterment of your small farm. Don't worry if you've got enough dirt under your fingernails to plant spuds and you can't remember the last time you shaved your legs, you're there and you're going for it. Your readers see you as a modern day pioneer and are cheering you on.
How do I know this? Because I am a homestead honey too and I say, go out and show them what you've got, warts and all. (That's just a figure of speech, no one likes to see warts.)
By Mauroguanandi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I think most of us have heard the saying, you can't see the wood for the trees. Sometimes this occurs on farms such as mine and yours. We are too close to see other avenues of potential revenue. I read a story about a Taiwanese man who was looking for a way to make extra money. His story came to my attention because my neighbor has the same tree growing in his garden.
Here in Brazil they call it a Monguba but its Latin name is Pachira aquatica. This Taiwanese man had been a truck driver but began planting 5 of these trees in pots and braided the trunks. This became very popular, especially in Japan and spread throughout Asia. This is often seen in businesses as a symbol of financial well being. Sometimes it is called a money plant, although now many plants are labeled with this term. This now generates 7 million (US dollars) for Taiwan. Not bad when you think it all began with a truck driver, a few plants and an idea.
The point of the story is, we often think that the golden egg is either out of our reach or not for the likes of us. Let me tell you, that is nonsense. Set a time aside to brainstorm with people in your family about ideas which could be developed on your farm. Involve everyone, including kids. Often adults are jaded to possibilities and it takes fresh eyes to see the potential.
The key with any brainstorming session is not to be critical, just write everything down. If you do this perhaps once every couple of months or once a month, you and your family will begin to see potential where you hadn't before.
When you have your list of ideas, you need to look at a few things such as how viable it is.
- Is there a need for what you want to do?
- If there isn't can you create a need?
- Who are your customers?
- How will you get the end product to them?
- What will it take, financially and time wise to get this going?
- How much time can you commit to it.
If you're idea is a product such as an artisan item, these are now considerably easier to get to market. For example, ETSY and Ebay are both excellent outlets for handmade items. Be aware, especially on Ebay you will be competing with cheap imports so you either need to make yours competitive or better quality.
We had a mini-brain storming session a few days ago when I walked back to the house with a half of a coconut shell. It was the right size for an ashtray. This only needed flattening on the bottom to keep it from tipping over.
That is just an example of what natural resources we have on our farm, what do you have on yours?
If you have animals, have you explored all the possibilities with those. If we take chickens for example, they offer eggs, meat, manure, feathers. Obviously you can sell the eggs you don't use and the manure is fantastic for your garden. Although you may think that feathers don't have a value, they do. If you look on Ebay there are people who sell them for crafts. They don't ask a lot of money for them, however. Consider making crafts from them. If you are stuck for ideas, go over to Pinterest, they have so many inspirational ideas. Be forewarned, Pinterest is addictive.
When we look at our farms we don't see it as others do. I know when I sit outside with my morning coffee, I see jobs which need to be completed. When guests are here, they see what I used to see, wide open spaces, a sparkling lake, and a natural environment teeming with bird life. They see paradise.
It was this feeling that made us fall in love with our place and although our thoughts have changed, the place has stayed the same. It is merely our perception of our small farm.
So how does this relate to making money from your small farm, you might think you can't sell inspiration. Well, actually you can. I have recently been listening to an audio book by Natalie Goldberg.
She runs workshops for writers. And apparently, so do a lot of other people. Your place could be the inspiration they need.
Stop for a moment and look at your homestead as an outsider, someone who doesn't have a hundred and one things on their to-do list. What do you see?
Let's say you were a city dweller, and you just arrived to stay on your farm for the first time. It's a pretty amazing place, that is what you have to sale.
Earning Potential For a Writer's REtreat
There are two ways to earn from using your small farm as an inspirational place. One is to individuals. In Ms. Goldberg's book, which I mentioned earlier, she found it difficult to write at her own place and sought out alternative places. Don't be fooled into thinking these were all quiet places, they weren't, in fact cafes were one of her favorite places to write. J.K. Rowling also wrote in a cafe. The truth is,they just need somewhere away from their own distractions. You know what it is like, if you are at home you know the dishes need to be washed, the floor needs to be swept and so the list goes on. Your list may be different than mine but these are things which are always on my list. So, for someone else your small farm could be the perfect place for them to pen their next novel.
The other option would be providing a place for a group of writers. I have a friend who has gone away to a writer's retreat where they will be with other authors, learning from each other and listening to what the other attendees have written. It can be an exciting time. Your farm could make the perfect meeting location for a writer's workshop. The length of time varies, it could be a weekend or just a few hours.
What Would you Need to supply?
So what would you, as a host and owner, be responsible for doing? Obviously table and chairs although some writers prefer to sit in a circle on the floor writing. If you have a room or area large enough to accommodate a group of people where they can do their writing, then this is a good option to look at to make some extra money from your farm. Even if you only have a barn, if it is dry and comfortable imagine the inspiration a writer could find there.
Besides supplying them with somewhere to write, you may be asked to supply the refreshments. This could be as simple as tea and coffee and sandwiches.
If this workshop lasts over a weekend, you will want to accommodate them. Why send them up the road to a hotel if you can earn that revenue. Remember their rooms don't need to be fancy, you're a farm.
You might think, 'I don't know anyone who wants to teach a writing course.' I can understand that it may seem daunting at first but think of it this way, there is probably someone with writing skills wanting to start a class but can't find the right venue. Just because it isn't being done in your area doesn't mean there isn't a need for it.
The amount of authors who have decided to go down the route of self publishing has skyrocketed. Does that mean they all are experienced writers? No, of course not. If a writer's book doesn't take off like they wish it had, often they will be looking for a course to help them become better at their chosen field. Most writers, especially at the beginning, are filled with self doubt and want to improve their writing. This is why these courses are so popular.
Where to find an Creative writing teacher
If you know any teachers, this would be a good place to start. If they don't want to do it they will probably recommend someone. If you don't have anyone in the field of education that you know, go to the library and explain what you want to do. Librarians, God love them, are one of the world's best untapped resources of information about what is going on not just in the literary world but in the community. Not only would they be able to suggest an instructor, they could mention the courses to some of their regular visitors. As you must know, those who write also read, and usually are regular visitors and supporters of the local libraries.
The price you charge will very much be dependent on your area and the services that you provide. Find out the price of other venues in your area, such as meeting rooms and base your prices around this as a starting point. Remember you have something special, although you may not be aware of it.
The time around the holidays can be a boon time for people with small farms. If your farm is near a town you can have holiday themed classes. Remember you don't have to teach these classes yourself but if you can, there is good money to be made from it. Let's look at some of the holiday themes tutorials.
This is a hands on class which would require a couple of long tables with chairs. A smaller table for the instructor to use as a display table.
There are many different wreaths which can be made and it would be up to you or the instructor to supply the necessary items to construct this.
The outlay needn't be much and your students can pay for their place ahead of time, allowing you to buy supplies and keep the rest.
Show a few examples of finished pieces and explain the steps involved. Then, let them get started.
Serving refreshments such as mulled wine or eggnog will give the class a festive feel.
Playing festive music will get everyone into a holiday spirit. It would be a good idea to also wear something
Wreaths are just one of the things you could do.
Handmade Christmas gifts are always popular. Mason Jars, Bell Jar or other canning jars have a ton of usage ideas and creating gifts using these would be a big hit.
People can fill these with anything personal to the recipient. This might include small chocolates for their favorite aunt, fishing paraphernalia for their brother, or make-up items for their daughter. It is just a novel way to make Christmas a little bit different and special.
Because people are always busy during the holiday season it is best to time this right. If you plan on running several classes, have them begin in late October or early November. You will know your target market. If you are aiming at busy mom's, make sure your classes are during school hours. If you are hoping to attract people who work, then an evening class is better. There is no reason that you can't run several during the week, all it takes is organizing and planning.
During the autumn months, it is usually a slower time on the farm, depending on where you live and this added cash injection could be just what you are looking for.
sewing for money
Normally one thing we have on a farm is space. This could be space in a barn, an extra room or even a cellar or attic. It doesn't matter where really, so long as you can turn it into a place for you to work.
Today's post is about the different avenues open to people who love to sew? Perhaps you have a machine but felt you didn't have the time to use it. If you knew that you could earn cash by sewing, would that change your mind? With a little creative thinking, you could turn your sewing machine into a money making machine. Below I have compiled a list of ideas for you to consider. Some may be more suited to you than others. Take a look and see if there are any that could start you on your way to earning money from your hobby.
It is often thought that tailors or fashion designers are the only ones that can generate an income from sewing but this isn't the case. All you need to know is that with a bit of thought and persistence you can do it as well.
Mending clothes for people. This is an obvious one but not the only way. Although mending or altering clothes may be easy for you, there are many people who can't or won't attempt simple sewing procedures such as putting on patches, replacing zippers or even hemming. This is where your services come in. Often people will have clothes that they love or that are hardly worn and need to have some changes. Perhaps they have lost weight and need to have their garment taken in a bit.
Another type of alteration is making or changing clothes for disabled people. Often people with a disability will find certain types of clothing difficult to wear. The addition of Velcro or other opening could ease this problem. For example, my husband is a below knee amputee and if he needs to adjust his prosthetic, it would be easier to remove the lower part of his pants leg using Velcro or a zip. Often it is difficult to find articles that are exactly what he needs. With a few minor adjustments by a seamstress though, they are perfect.
Car & Furniture Upholstery
Pink Car Upholstery
Car upholstery or furniture: for this it is necessary to have an industrial machine. Although your standard machine may cope temporarily it won't hold up to the rigors if this is going to be your business. If this is going to be your area of expertise, invest in a more robust machine.
I knew a man, in England, who had a small workshop behind his house. He not only did upholstery he also did car interiors. He had a love for classic VW's and if you were to go to a VW show in the UK, more than two-thirds of the cars there would have had their interiors done by this gentleman, such was the skill of this man.
Bikinis, sew bikinis
You see them everywhere. What you don't see are unusual bikinis. The style of bikinis is pretty much the same as they have been for 40 years. Fabrics may have changed but the styles are more or less the same few since I was young. So how can you make them different?
To make bikinis that will sell and stand out from the crowd, you need to do things a bit special. Use ribbons, different fabric, buttons, zips, chains etc. Adornment is the answer. If you asked most women, which they have more of, shoes or bikinis, I think they would say bikinis. Because the amount of fabric you will use is small, you can get quite a few bikinis from a small section of fabric. Some of the fabrics I have seen are fur, leather and even tilapia skin!
This is one of the trending items I am seeing in Brazil at the moment, unusual and unique handmade bikinis.
sew pet clothing
For many people they love to see their pets in clothes. Some are for warmth and others are for decoration. This can be a huge market. Let your imagination run wild. Opening a shop on places like Etsy or Ebay to promote your new venture could earn well for you. The type of customer who will buy from you will offer repeat business if they are satisfied with your product, service and price
Plus size clothes
Make clothes for large men and women: You may think that there are clothes available in the stores. This isn't always the case. I have a friend here in Brazil who has her clothes made because she is a large woman. The clothes she wants are not available to her. Although these may be for sale in the USA this isn't the case in other countries. Offer to ship world wide.
For many women, they have one style of dress they prefer and it can be easily replicated. Look for niche markets such as this.
sewing machine bobbins
These are becoming very popular as a way of commemorating an event such as graduation, weddings or even a death. Often people will use up t-shirts or provide photos for printing onto fabric. Offer your services online or via a Facebook page.
Memory quilts can be any size, they don't need to be a quilt for a bed, they can be for a wall hanging, or even on a pillow.
Handbags and purses
Women and handbags. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you make something unusual, people will buy it, go for something unique and your bags and purses will sell. Places to sell them will be on Etsy, or at craft fairs. You will have to have many if you are going to be selling at a crafts fair because they sometimes last a full weekend and you don't want to run low on stock.
Be your own model. Make sure you are using your own product and when people comment on it, give them a business card.
Who doesn't love to wear something different at Christmas time? This is your time to shine and become creative. Whether you are sewing or gluing or a combination of both, this is a time when people buy handmade, one of a kind articles.
It isn't just clothing though, think about decorations such as sewn door wreaths, table accessories such as place mats, napkins and table runners. Stockings and Christmas ornaments could turn your white Christmas into a green one!
Make kitchen cooker covers: I knew a woman who use to make these in England. She had started out making some for her traditional AGA . A friend of hers visited and commented on them, telling her that she should try and sell them. Now my friend was a whiz with her sewing machine and was also a business woman. She had experience building a business from scratch and selling it on. She knew a good opportunity when she heard it. She made a few samples for a chic boutique and they loved them. Did she stop there though? Of course not. She began selling via Ebay all over the world. Her biggest client base was the USA where they loved receiving cooker covers with British farmhouse scenes. My friend was well into her 60's when she began this. She started at her kitchen table and moved upstairs to a spare room where she organized it into a small cottage industry.
Which would you choose?
Well there you have it, a sampling of ways to make money fromsewing or other projects. Because you have ample space on your farm to create an area where you can make money on your farm or homestead.
Because we all know that making money on a small farm isn't easy, I try and find sites which will allow me to build up multiple streams of income. Some of these include designing sites and others include writing.
I have just started on a writing site which I am excited about, it's called Niume,
and it is causing quite a stir among the writers who I know. The reason for this, is the community spirit is still there where on some of the other sites, it isn't.
The writing posts don't need to be long but the minimum is 5 lines of text which is nothing in comparison to many of the sites I write on. In essence you write on a topic you know or love and one which is useful to other people.
You pick a category (they call it a sphere) and then you can promote it on any of the social network sites. The pay is currently $1.00 per 1,000 views. Yes there are sites which pay better but the requirements are more stringent.
If you have never written online, this could be a good site to cut your teeth on, as it is simple to use.
I would suggest you upload a profile image and a bit of information about yourself before you start writing. People like to see an image of the author I believe. If you don't like to use your own image, an image will be better than the blank default icon. There are free images to use on a site called Pixabay.
Why not head over to Niume
and take a look. Just to let you know, when you sign up using the link I am providing, I will receiving compensation for it and so will you. We each will earn $1.00 to add to our coffers.