Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Losing my mind

I've talked to my parents (Dad specifically) and I think I've come up with a way to expand my sheep raising efforts. The primary thing keeping things small has been lack of land.

But I think I have found a pretty piece of property of about 16 and a half acres (more or less) with about 12 acres (we think) in open farm land. The price is a little high perhaps. But location, at this point, is everything. The place is across a field or around a corner from my parent's home.

Eventually, when they are either ready to move into a smaller, maintenance free place or (hopefully not soon) pass away, Ken and I will move into their place.

Most people would say the property on which I've put a bid is too cut up for any real use... but if the survey comes back the way I think it will, it might just be perfect for what I want to do simply because it's sort of cut up. The angles are a little weird as it follows some the lines of the landscape, but in the middle of the place are three houses that belong to other people. Most folks would find this detrimental. I'm looking at is protection for my sheep. These will be neighbors who are virtually on-site and if there are any troubles, they will be my eyes and ears.

There is a large area that can either become hayfield with the smaller odd bits becoming sheep pasture, or the small bits strung together can be hay fields with the large area enclosed as a whole then subdivided into small rotational pastures. I need to further assess all areas before I make a decision how it will be used.

There is also a large wooded area which will be available for hunting by friends (and maybe family), and maybe, just maybe an area in which to raise one or two hogs each year for family use.

Now, watch me dream like a crazy woman...

I can see sheep. This one is easy. Chickens... also pretty easy since we've done it before and with proper perimeter fencing might work better. The chickens can be for both meat and eggs. A hog or two in the woods. One or two steer pastured steer for meat. And eventually, a lovely milk cow living on the three acres of cleared land in what is now my parent's front yard (it is currently being farmed for grain/soybean/corn).

In the history of the county, this property has never been surveyed. It has been passed down through many, many generations; cut up between kids and cousins, re-assembled, cut up again, sold off in small bits and now, finally, this is (I think) the last piece of the tract in this area still owed by the original family. Because it has never been surveyed and I learned of it and put an offer on it before it was marketed, the real estate folks have had to hire a survey company to figure out what it's actual dimensions are.

The current owner has been paying taxes to the county for 16.92 acres. And they claim that all but 2 acres are in the open. But looking at satellite images, I'm thinking there is more like 5 acres in woodland. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the woodland is basically a large swale or series of swales leading down to the river. It's value as farmland is nil. It's value for hunting might be a little higher. If there are a decent number of oak trees in there, it might be good for firewood, hogs and growing mushrooms. (See I can be creative in my thinking). But I don't know what's in there yet as we are waiting on the survey people to put in the stakes so we can see it.

To raise animals I will need to install sturdy perimeter fencing around the areas designated for pastures. I will need to have electricity brought in. A well will have to be dug. The whole farmed area will have to be converted to hay or pasture from tilled farm. There is a small erosion problem in one section which appears to be addressed now by the current farmer letting it go back to scruffy trees. The neighboring land owner, however, has failed to address his erosion problem and that may impact on my land soon and will have to be addressed.

What is interesting is that the neighboring property is the property that is directly across the lane from my parent's house. Perhaps if I can get positive things going on this initial piece, and run the current farmer off by taking back this larger tract for my own use, the neighbor will consider selling or renting that piece to me for additional pasture, which could do nothing but help cut down on the erosion there.

But I'm really dreaming here.

At this point, I'm waiting on the survey... and feeling very grateful for parents who are allowing me to, essentially, take a loan against my inheritance before I'm too old to do anything with it.

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