Monday, March 9, 2015

Planning or Dreaming?

In the military, it is said "There is a fine line between a fool and a hero". Well, the same can be said for dreaming and planning. We can only make plans on what information we have, the rest is really just dreaming, and hoping or wishing. Fiona and I have talked about this many times. We are hoping and praying we aren't just dreaming, but really working off of what information and knowledge we have. I guess time will tell.

We have had numerous people “question” why we are wanting to do what we are wanting to do and why are we doing it the way we are planning on doing it. Please, don't anyone take offense. By making us question what and why we are doing things just helps us to do better. It makes us and our plans stronger. And it isn't just the internet, it is neighbors, family, friends, co-workers. Sometimes, it seems no one understands. That is fine with us, we aren't doing this for them. Fiona and I have always done things “our way”. This post is not for any of you (or about any of you). This is for us. It is to reaffirm to us what we are doing and why. It is to help us rethink what is happening. It is to help us recommit to our directions and plans. It is to reposition our thoughts and plans to the here and now. It is to shine a light on our future and its path.

I am sixty-five and do not draw social security. I still work. We both still have reasonably good health. Nothing that farm work wouldn't help. Too much sitting around and thinking/worrying. I never have been good at the “laying our worries at His feet” thing. The longer I delay social security, the larger the check. But, “if you should die, you will have gained nothing!” is always put forward to me. So? What concern is that. Dead is dead. I won't be worrying about the “what if”. If I am disabled, I'll still be getting my larger check. What about enjoying your retirement? Daa? That is what life is for! Enjoy it! A preacher once said: The breath you are taking, the heartbeat you are experiencing, are the last ones you are guaranteed. That next one may never arrive. I have seen too many people make retirement plans. Then, one or both have a heart attack, stroke, cancer, or something, and they die or are crippled/disabled for the rest of their lives. Their savings are wiped out. Their retirement dreams are lost. What did they accomplish? I wanted to travel and see the country. That was one of my retirement dreams. I have seen all fifty states, much of Canada, and some of Mexico, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong, etc. My retirement dream has been satisfied! Now what? I have had to make new retirement dreams. (If she isn't hiding some dark secret from me, Fiona is in the same position in her life.) We both want to be as self-sufficient as possible for as long as possible. A big part of that is growing our own plants and animals. For food and enjoyment. Yes, we intend to eat them. (Or, as I tease her, “Mine are pets, yours are for eating!” And that gets a “Why do mine always have to make the ultimate sacrifice?”)

In case I have led you astray, farming is not our retirement dream. Farming is just a means to an end. I grew up in the hills of West Virginia. My Mother had a small fabric shop. One day a woman came in for some thread or something. Her husband was with her. My Father just happened to be in the shop at the time. That man and my Father got to looking at each other. You know how you see someone and you recognize them, but can't place them. Well, that is how they were. They got to talking and figured out that thirty some years before, they had worked together. My Father asked him what he was doing now. He said: “Nothing. I just retired and all I do is sit and watch TV. I have a yard about the size of this building and I pay a boy to mow it for me. All I do is sit and watch TV.” My Father told him that if that is all he did, he would be dead in six months. Two months later, his obituary was in the paper. He sat down and died.

My earliest memories of my Dad's Father was of him in his early seventies. He had a farm, two to five cows he milked (by hand) twice a day, a bunch of chickens, several pigs/hogs, two or three horses, and a large garden. He used the horses to work the garden. He grew almost all of the food for him and my Grandmother, for our family, and for the animals. (We went over and helped them a good bit.) She died at eighty-eight and him at ninety-three.

My Mother's side of the family has trouble with ninety-five. Her Grandmother died at ninety-five. Her Father died at ninety-five. And her Mother died at ninety-five. Her Grandmother fell down the steps off the back porch when she was ninety-one and broke her hip in seventeen places. She was going out to her garden and to feed her chickens. At ninety-four, she got off the walker and on a cane. My Mother's Father had to give up his spring ritual when he was eighty-eight. Every spring, he would hunt down a she-coon and steal one of her cubs. He would raise it all summer. It was free and had the roam of the place. Every fall, whatever coon he had would run off back to the wild. He would be coonless until the next spring. At eighty-eight, he said he just couldn't get around in the woods like he used to. His first and middle name was: David Crockett. Go figure! And her Mother had three gardens and an orchard. At ninety-one, they talked her into giving up one of her three gardens. She refused to give up the other two or the orchard. She had a cellar in the basement. It was so full, every summer she had to dump older food over the hill so she could use the jars for canning new food. And she used the food in the cellar. She had a good ten years worth of food in there. And I never saw any of it spoiled. And it always tasted great.

In Deadwood, S. D., I went through Boot Hill. I got several surprises. I thought Boot Hill was for the poor and outlaws. The graves were well marked. There were bankers and merchants and lawmen, etc. buried there. There were women buried there. There were children buried there. There were Chinese buried there. There were mass graves from mining accidents. It appears that is where everyone was buried. But what really got me was the ages. There were numerous accident victims from farm, forest and mining. But, if it wasn't an accident, they fell into two classes: the elderly and the young. Children as babies (infant mortality) and childhood diseases. And then the elderly: in their eighties and nineties. I hadn't thought of people from the 1800's living into their eighties and nineties. Average life expectancy of forties? Fiona and I were talking about this. The high childhood death rate lowered the adult life expectancy to such a low level. If you made it to adulthood, you had a long life ahead of you. But the death of children pulled the overall life expectancy down into the forties. Even the presidents had the same troubles. President Garfield had seven children. Three of them died in childhood: at one, two, and four. The others made it to seventy or eighty plus. Average Garfield life expectancy of forties. And then medicine started kicking in and helping the children. The increased life expectancy was from children living longer, not adults. Adults were still dieing at the same ages.

My point to this rambling is this: The man in my Mother's shop sat down and died. The people in Deadwood that didn't die in an accident, lived a frontier type life and lived into their eighties and nineties. My Mother and Father's families lived active lives and lived into their eighties and nineties. It is: “Use it or lose it”. Be active or die. Oh, yes. A lot of it is the luck of the draw: genetics. Good genetics is a great help. But genetics is only part of the game. It needs help. The more help you give it, the better off you'll be. We're not guaranteed that next breath, that next heartbeat. When God says come, you're gone. But, be active. Do something to help yourself. Don't sit down and wait for the grim reaper to come and harvest another soul.

The farm is our “life's gym”. It is our way of being active: mentally and physically. We know that time is running out. But we don't want to exist, we want to live our lives, to be active. We both like plants and animals. Being with them and working with and for them will be nice. Being able to eat plants and animals that don't have all of the pharma and chemicals will be really beneficial for our health. The fresh air to breathe, even when you're in the barn shoveling manure, is something to look forward to. Visions of “Green Acres”, I am not having. We feel that growing as much as possible of our own plant and animal food is a must, not just a desire or dream. So, our retirement dreams come down to living a strong, healthy lifestyle that nourishes our mind and body. Being able to share our bounty with family and friends is just a nice bonus.

Why Kentucky??? It is such a poor state. I grew up in a poor state: West Virginia. We used to say: thank goodness for Kentucky. They were poorer than us.

Communism and unions are both great ideas. Until you get people involved. They use it for their own benefit, not the people's benefit. How did Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton become millionaires while the rest of their people are so poor? I know, an over simplification. Well, maybe wealth is the same way. There is nothing wrong with being rich, until you get people involved. I know, it's not the money, it is the love of that money that is the problem. A view from life's highway: it is the poor man that will stop and help you while the rich man drives by laughing at you and your luck. Oh, the poor man wants to be rich, for sure. But, usually, he never will be. A poor man may not have much, but if you are willing, he will usually share it with you in your time of need. A rich man doesn't have enough to share. Oh, to be rich! But, oh, more so, to have a soul.

We have numerous trips to Kentucky. We have no problems with poor people. They have been wonderful to us. They would make great neighbors. If you decide to join us in Kentucky, leave your home and join us there, don't bring your home with you. If your home is so great, stay there. The biggest complaints in Texas about Californians is their desire to make Texas into California. If California is so great, stay in California. Don't come to Texas. Come to Texas to be a Texan, not a Californian. Be willing and be prepared to change and join the locals. Don't come in and try to change them. And don't lament what you left. If you miss it, keep it to yourself. Or, go back home and leave us alone.

Why Kentucky? We will be on a fixed retirement income. Lower cost of living equals our money going further. Poor state? Less demand for the rich amenities that add very little to life's worth. Rich people are often hollow people. They have a hole in their life. They need more. They just can't be happy. Possessions can't fill the hole. Only God can. Rich or poor, we all have that hole. Years ago, I read of a reporter having an interview with John D. Rockefeller. The way I remember the story is that John D. was the richest man in the world. At the end of the interview, the reporter told John D. that he didn't really seem to be happy. He asked John D. what it would take to make him happy. John D. is supposed to have said”Just a little bit more”. The richest man in the world needed a little bit more to be happy. And that little bit more still wouldn't make him happy. Only God could. What is that about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven?

Teasing aside, Kentucky is not that poor. It has poor areas, but it has richer areas, also. Just like anywhere else. 

Kentucky has a lower cost of living, so our money goes further. And it has a climate suitable to us for raising crops and animals without burning up (further south) or freezing to death (further north). Oh, we know, it gets hot, and cold, there. But, it is some of the best we could find for a balanced mix. And the cost of land is a half to a third of what we would find around here in Virginia for the same size property. And, the land would lie better there compared to land here in Virginia. Why Kentucky? Price of the land, cost of living, and the climate. 

For us, I guess our working band was I-40 to I-70. Further south, too hot. Further north, too cold. Rain fall for Kentucky is about 45 inches. Good for the gardening and pasture. Further west, it starts getting too dry.

Mineral rights? In West Virginia, they are almost non-existent. A drilling rig can go up right outside your bedroom window. They can strip mine right up to your front door. That means they bulldoze your orchard and forest and driveway and whatever else you hold dear or have been working and living for. You lose control of your life and destiny. In Kentucky, most of the places we have looked at, you get the mineral rights. We aren't interested in exercising those rights, we just don't want you coming in and exercising them over our desires.

The same thing for the trees. We want trees. We want them for their beauty and the wildlife in them. We aren't interested in logging the trees.

And that brings us full circle to: Why in the world do we want such a large piece of land? Kentucky enables us to get the larger piece of land because of the cheaper prices. But the price is cheaper because we aren't looking in the city or in recreational areas or tourist areas. We are looking in the country for farm land, out away from the towns and cities. Out where the land is cheaper. Out where people usually know their neighbors and talk to them and help each other. With a larger tract of land, you don't have people crowding you and being nosey. Poking into your business. You have less zoning. You don't have people telling you that you can't have chickens or goats or pigs or a garden in the front of the house. But, the driving force was cheaper land so we could have more land. With more land, we have more options. We can have the trees. Move forward twenty years. We need money. Sell off the trees to get money. We need more money, sell off a chunk of land. We need more money, sell another lot. The trees and land are a bank account for future use, if needed. Cut and dried. Pure mercenary!

We don't think much about the selling of the trees or the lots. That is “what if” stuff. That is backup strategy stuff. But we all should be looking at the future and asking ourselves what we would be able to do. We want to grow our own food: plants and animals. We want to keep nosey neighbors at a distance. We want long term strategy help. The “what if” stuff. The long term bank account stuff.

Kentucky seemed to let us have our cake and eat it, too.


PS: I'm into “hit and run”. I write. Pass to Fiona. She corrects my hillbilly ways. She posts. And then she takes replies, questions, and flack. I get home and she passes the sanitized version on to me. So, please, PLEASE! Any questions or comments, please pass them along. It is a way of us getting other views and observations. It helps us. It is a way for us to learn. We don't have all the answers. We need your help. In the end, we benefit from you. And that saves us money! Thank you for taking the time to read this and our other posts and for helping us in our adventure along life's way. May God bless and reward you and be with you and yours.


  1. Your timing on this piece is amazing. Nice read lots to think about here. Thank you. Good luck on your decisions. We are making lots of decisions here on our farm too. Perfect timing. I do hope both of us can figure this out. Liked reading this and perfect timing in my head.Thanks again. Hug B

  2. One thing about farming it is flexible in strange and unexpected ways. We are so glad you enjoyed this post. Ralph thought we needed to do one to clarify why we are doing what we are doing. It helped me when he gave it to me to post.

  3. I did so enjoy this post....and you two are so blessed to have each other on this glorious journey...except for the part about eating the animals......COULD not do that........
    boo hoo........

    1. I think Ralph's post would be considered an essay! I have to Thank God he put Ralph in my path and I paid attention to the sign God gave me that he was a good and Godly man. I am so glad you enjoyed the read.

  4. We are right there with you! We bought land almost 9 years ago now, and while working took our weekends and vacations to start developing the land. We put in a well, a septicsystem, a fruit and nut orchard, built a tool shed, are working on the outhouse, and parked our travel trailer right in the middle to make our work weekends easier! Well, we are officially retired, just sold our home of 25 years in the valley and are moving up to the new homestead! We are so excited! The architect is still working on our house plans, but when we get them back and submit to our building department, we hope to hit the ground running! We will be off-grid living with solar power, and are building our new home with the equity from the old home. So, other than insurance, taxes and things like clothing and such, we won't owe anything to anyone! We have started a small raised bed garden (which will be expanded), have plans for the chicken coop and also a small pond where we will raise fish. We hope to be as self-sufficient as possible! I will keep in touch with your blog to see how you guys do. Found you on Frank and Fern's blog.

  5. deborah harvey has left a new comment on your post "Planning or Dreaming?":

    husband is 70. looking for 'retirement'.
    want winter and not too much heat--can't stand it.
    youngstown too bitter in winter.
    am from huntington. West Virginia.
    husband thinks evansville indiana might do but henderson ky is right across the river. write to me about what you think.
    friends going to retire, too, said virginia too expensive and not retirement friendly.

    many thanks.
    deb harvey

    1. The above comment was left by Deborah Harvey. I cut and paste it to remove her email address for privacy reasons.

      Virginia is expensive. Taxes are high and on the properties we looked at here before we settled on Kentucky were over 2000.00 per year on any property with a good home and 20 acres or so of land.

      It is a beautiful State but rushed and busy and too close to DC for us :)

  6. Finally! Your blog is fixed. Hooray. I have missed reading about you so much.