If you’re considering buying land and starting a homestead, or even moving an existing homestead to a new property, this podcast is one you'll want to tune into to learn what to look for and things to be aware of BEFORE you buy.
Today's episode (Pioneering Today Podcast #303) is with Cathy Payne, who I have previously interviewed all about raising American Guinea Hogs. The Guinea Hogs were new to our homestead this past year, and I wrote a follow-up post where I shared whether the American Guinea Hogs were really worth it and if we'll raise them again.
In today's episode, Cathy is sharing about her homesteading journey, as well as giving her insight on what you need to know when buying a homestead property (plus some great tips if you already have property but are continuing on your homestead journey).
Cathy has lived in suburban neighborhoods for most of her life. In 2010 she retired from a 33-year teaching career in special elementary education. It was at that time she and her husband purchased 11 acres of land in an agricultural area and dove into homesteading.
Tips for Buying or Starting a Homestead Property
Whether you're buying a new property, or just starting on your journey of the homestead lifestyle, these tips could help save you years of struggle, or possibly going around and around in circles without making any progress…
Do One Thing at a Time
Cathy's best advice, which she's followed throughout her 10-year homesteading journey, is to do one thing at a time. Don't try and do it all, or “bite off more than you can chew”, but layer in one new aspect of homesteading at a time.
Don't try to add in multiple operations at a time, wait until you've mastered (or are at least comfortable with) the first, then layer on the next project or operation.
Know Your Goals
Before you buy a homestead property it's important to know your goals. What do you envision your homestead property to be? It’s very exciting to expand and improve your land, but knowing what your goals are will help you stay on track and not get too sidetracked in projects that aren't accomplishing your goals.
Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Do you have kids that you're wanting to homeschool?
- Will you grow enough food to feed your family for a season? A year?
- Will you grow enough for your family, plus neighbors?
- Are you wanting to grow food to provide an income?
- Are you hoping for tax deductions from your homestead?
- Will you grow fruit, vegetables, medicinal herbs, be planting berry bushes, nut trees, or fruit trees?
- Will you raise animals for meat, or maybe a dairy cow for milk?
- Are you wanting to preserve enough food for your family for a year?
- Will you can your own food? Dehydrate food? Ferment your food?
Know Your “Must-Haves”
Make lists about your needs for your ideal homestead property, but also understand that it’s nearly impossible to find a piece of land that will meet every single one of your needs.
Having a list of “must-haves” can really help to eliminate possible properties right off the bat.
Ask Yourself These Questions:
- How much land do you want?
- Are you raising cattle? Sheep? Pigs? Egg-laying chickens? Meat birds? Maybe keeping some geese? (What you raise will determine how much land you need.)
- How big of a house do you need?
- How many people are living on the property?
- Do you want amenities? Bare land?
- Are you willing to build?
- Is there shade or shelter for your livestock?
If you're planning to raise livestock on your property, make sure you know how your property is zoned. Don’t take your realtor's word for it, check with the local extension office.
If you’re planning on doing any type of farming with livestock, and you don’t check about zoning, you may end up in a horrible situation where you may have to get rid of your livestock.
Meet Your Local Large Animal Veterinarian
You'll also need to know if there is a local large animal veterinarian who makes house calls. Get an idea of the costs included in house calls, it's all part of the livestock process and you don't want to be caught off guard with an expensive vet bill.
You also don’t want to have to figure out who to call once an emergency happens, knowing and being prepared ahead of time is best.
If you want to sell your meat, you need to know the legal steps necessary you must take for each step. Think about finding a “meat-selling mentor”, maybe someone who is already selling meat in your area, to learn about the process from them.
These can sometimes be tricky hoops to jump through, but it’s always smart to do things the right way.
Know Your Community
It’s important to know your community. Getting to know your neighbors, participating or frequenting local Farmer's Markets, learning what products other locals are selling are all great ways to meet and learn about your community.
If you're wanting to sell products, taking these steps is a great way to know what people in your community are looking for. This can help determine what you sell.
Use Online Tools
If you’re looking to buy property, there are a lot of online tools you can use to help get views of the land.
Seeing an aerial view of your property can give you a glimpse at neighboring properties. You'll want to know if your potential neighbors happen to have commercial gardens, pig farms, chicken factories, etc.
All these can pose possible threats, such as chemical sprays on crops that might drift over to your home, seep into the groundwater, or perhaps lingering smells from chicken houses or a pig farm that can drastically change your outdoor experiences.
If you travel or go on vacation, it’s important to have help or strategies set in place to allow for you to do this. This may mean you don’t raise a certain kind of livestock that requires more hands-on care, but it’s still possible to travel if you have good helpers nearby.
Keep Good Records
Study and learn about your land and your climate. Really take time to reflect on what you’ve done, what’s working and what’s not working, etc. Doing so will help you build on to what you’re doing in the future. It's why I devote an entire section in the Family Garden Planner just for jotting down notes so you have a reference point the following season!
This will help you to know if you need to increase an operation or take it down a little bit.
- Connect with Cathy on her website.
- Follow Cathy on Instagram or Twitter @guineahogbooks.
- If you’d like to get $5 off the soft-cover of Cathy’s book, “Saving the Guinea Hogs” use code “PT5” (coupon code good through 5/21/2021).
More Homesteading Articles
- What to do When Homesteading Gets Tough
- Avoid Overwhelm – Choosing What’s Right for Your Homestead
- What To Do FIRST On Your Homestead (Or What To Do NEXT)
- Self Sufficient Homesteading Tips for the Long Haul
- How to Earning a Living from Your Homestead
- Creating a Homestead Business That Makes Money
- What To Do When Your Family Isn’t Onboard with Homesteading (Or Something You’re Passionate About)
- Homesteading + Making Money (How to do it All)
- How to Get Everything Done in a Day Without Wasting Time or Getting Distracted
- Eating a Year of Hand Harvested Food with Alexia
- The Homestead Documentary Project
- Homesteading With Children
- How to Prepare Your Homestead for Selling
Melissa Norris: Hey, pioneers, and welcome to episode number 303. On today's episode, we are going to be discussing setting up a new homestead, factors for finding land, resources that you want to be aware of, what to look for before you buy. So, I am very, very excited for this episode, because some of this is actually some things that my husband and I have been discussing when we were trying to decide if we were going to stay where we're at, or if we were going to begin looking for a new place to homestead.
Melissa Norris: Now, we've decided to stay where we are for now, but these were all really great questions and things that we were bringing up as we were talking to one another, and actually, in today's interview, there were some points that I hadn't really even considered thoroughly when we were kind of batting around this idea of what we wanted and what we were looking for in some different properties. So, this is an excellent episode to listen to if you think that you may be moving someday, or wanting to set up a homestead in a different spot.
Melissa Norris: Today's guest is a repeat, back to the Pioneering Today podcast, and that is Cathy R. Payne. So, if you listened to the episode where Cathy and I dove into talking about the American Guinea hogs, then you'll be familiar with her, but this episode was really a fascinating one, because Cathy did not start farming and/or homesteading until she was 57 years old. So, she didn't have any experience with having a homestead, or having property, or doing any of this type of stuff that goes along with homesteading, but she was a schoolteacher, and so I love the way that she was able to bring her school teaching background and applying it towards learning and researching how to begin homesteading, and doing it very successfully at, I hate to say a later age, because age is just like, it's a number, right? But let's say partially later in live.
Melissa Norris: So, I think you're really, really going to enjoy this episode, and for any of the things that we are talking about, and links that we'll have in the blog post that accompanies it. You can find all of that at MelissaKNorris.com/303, because this is episode number 303. So, MelissaKNorris.com/303. Okay, let's dive into this interview.
Melissa Norris: Well, I am so thrilled to have you back on the podcast for another episode. So, Cathy, welcome back to the Pioneering Today podcast.
Cathy Payne: Thank you, Melissa. I'm so glad to be here.
Melissa Norris: Yes! So, today we're talking about a slightly different topic, but I have a feeling it will wind its way back to one of your areas of expertise when you were a previous guest, and we were talking about the American Guinea hogs. But today, I'm really excited for us to be talking about purchasing, either what to look for in land or property when you goal is to be a homesteader, or to set up a homestead-type operation, and/or maybe you haven't really been living a self-sufficient or a homestead lifestyle per se, and you already have a home and property, and you're like, okay, well, what would be the best way for me to set things up on my existing property?
Melissa Norris: Because I know that there will be people in two camps there, and so I think it's really great if we can cover a little bit of both. And I'm thinking that a lot of your advice, I know for my own advice, but I'm always excited to listen to other people and learn other things from them, things maybe I haven't considered, some of it will probably pertain to both of those scenarios.
Cathy Payne: I agree, and that's exactly what I had planned to do.
Melissa Norris: Awesome. Okay, so let's dive in here, and if someone is really newer to the homestead lifestyle, and they're looking at purchasing property and/or doing it on their own property, what is your advice for kind of the first thing you look at or begin to assess or take into consideration?
Cathy Payne: Yes, well, the number one thing I think is to think about what are your goals for the property? What are your goals for your homestead vision? And if you're anywhere in this journey, congratulations, and I'm thrilled for you to be thinking about either obtaining or improving your property, and moving forward, and living those dreams.
Cathy Payne: Are you wanting to get into homeschooling? Are you wanting to feed your family? Are you wanting to feed your community? Do you want to earn income? Are you thinking about tax deductions? What are your goals? Will you raise animals, vegetables, fruit? So, those are some things to kind of get you thinking, where do you really want to go? Is this for your family? For a lifestyle? For an income? Or a little bit of maybe all of those. And that's kind of a good place to think about getting started.
Melissa Norris: I love that, because I feel like with homesteading, almost more than any other type of lifestyle, there's so many different facets, because homesteading is kind of all, it can really encompass all of those things, or only some of those things. But I feel like there's a little bit more the consider, just like you outlined, than if you're looking at just a few things. I feel like this lifestyle just encompasses so much that there's so many things to look at, and that was a really good encapsulation.
Melissa Norris: And before we get going too far, just in case people aren't as familiar with you as I am, or they haven't had a chance to listen yet to the earlier episode we did together about the American Guinea hogs, can you share with people one, where you're homesteading, and when you started homesteading, and a little bit about your journey, and then we'll dive a little bit deeper into everything?
Cathy Payne: I'd love to, and for people who want to catch up with that episode, 282. That was a good one.
Cathy Payne: Well, I have not been a homesteader all of my life. I've lived mostly in suburban areas, all over the Midwest, and in Florida, and in Georgia. And in 2010, I retired from a 33-year teaching career in special education, elementary, and my husband and I decided to purchase 11 acres of land in an agricultural area and dive into homesteading.
Cathy Payne: We had been working with our local farmers, and going to farm tours, and joined Georgia Organics, and we decided to just do something. And I wasn't really sure what we were going to do, and so I want to advise other people to learn from my experience, such that it is, and that was an eight-year homesteading journey in my 50s and early 60s, and kind of learning everything one day at a time.
Cathy Payne: But I'm really good at researching and diving into things, and as it involved, just seemed like we took one step at a time, and I definitely worked to plan, and I definitely knew what I was going to do every day, every week, every month. And so, you keep doing that, and you end up learning quite a bit.
Melissa Norris: So, I have to ask, did those plans change as you learned things and started implementing or doing research, or did it just cause slight detours, or did everything pretty much stay as you had envisioned from the very beginning?
Cathy Payne: No, it was very much of an evolving vision. I believe that it's really good to start small and then build on each year. So, the mistake that I have seen people that end up homesteading in and out within a few years, or just burnout, sell farm, move back to the city, it's because they jumped in too big. Usually it's people that have enough money to lose, I guess. People that are working on a budget don't make these mistakes.
Cathy Payne: But some people will jump in, start a dairy, have a cheese cave, and I mean, millions of dollars in operations, and within a few years, they're gone. And I've seen that happen more than once. So, just instead of buying 150 chickens for your first batch, maybe start with 25. Instead of getting 20 cows, maybe start with 2-5, and then you can kind of see what works. Because when you're buying supplies for many more animals, you're buying many more supplies, and if those don't end up being the right ones you needed, you've wasted a lot of money.
Melissa Norris: Yeah, no, I completely agree, and really, that's always been my advice, even if someone's just starting in the kitchen, cooking from scratch. And like you said, it's kind of always building. But starting small, and then having a plan that you know that you're going to do more of this, but just starting in one spot and kind of conquering that, getting confident in it, and then picking the next thing, so that you're always adding more, but not in an overwhelming sense.
Melissa Norris: But part of me, I'm like, I love the enthusiasm, and I think that when people jump in that strong, it's because they're so excited, and I feel that to live this lifestyle, you definitely need to have that excitement and enthusiasm and that passion deep in your gut, because there are times that it's hard. It is hard work, especially if you have livestock. It doesn't matter if it's Christmas day, or if it's the worst rainstorm or snow storm that your area's had in 100 years, the livestock still has to be taken care of regardless. And so, if you don't have passion from the beginning, and enthusiasm, then when those days hit, you're not going to carry you through.
Melissa Norris: But like you said too, if you have too much enthusiasm and it gets ahead of you in the beginning, you're going to be overwhelmed, and even the enthusiasm that you had in the beginning will wane if you overwhelm yourself too much.
Melissa Norris: So, I really love that advice, and I have to say, I love that you're on and sharing that, because my realm of homesteading, and from the area and the folks that I predominantly work with and help and see within my membership and courses and just social media online, they don't necessarily have money to lose, so, it's more along the bootstrapping way.
Melissa Norris: And that's really how we've done ours, is figuring out the way that we could do it, still doing it well, but in often cases, as cheap as possible, or at least as cheap as possible until we have made enough savings with what we were doing that we could then turn that back into the homestead and upgrade equipment or different things like that.
Melissa Norris: So, I love that you're bringing that perspective, though, because I think it's important to remember that all different lifestyles are coming to homesteading now, I think in an almost unprecedented way, at least in the past probably 50 years ago. And some of that I think is due to the pandemic, but I also think some of that is due to the way that modern society, and modern agriculture, and just the whole modern lifestyle, people are wanting to get back to roots.
Cathy Payne: Yes.
Melissa Norris: I think it's a combination of things. Do you see that, too?
Cathy Payne: I do. I really do see a shift, and it's becoming more mainstream. When I was growing up in the '70s, coming to age, it was, in the '50s, everybody had a farm. By the '70s, people were leaving the farm, but there was still kind of this hippie, back to the land thing, but no time and no money to get into that. And now, it's kind of coming back, years later, and it's starting to catch on again.
Melissa Norris: Okay, yes, and it's funny. I am a child of the '80s, but we actually had a hippie commune, which turned into Cascadian Farms, just a few miles up the road from us, and actually, the founder of Cascadian Farms, his daughter and I grew up together, and she was my best friend. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. So, it's really been interesting to watch that evolution, even though I wasn't' born in the '70s. I was born in '81, for anybody who is listening and wondering. But to see that progression has been just really interesting, and yes, we're definitely seeing those come back around.
Melissa Norris: So, figuring out your goals, and like you said, it may be, it's most likely multifaceted. You're going to have multiple different goals. But really being clear about that in the beginning is really key. And then, kind of what are your next steps that you recommend when people are like, okay, these are kind of the goals we have?
Melissa Norris: But I know my husband and I have even looked at property, thinking maybe we would like to expand and have more acreage for our cattle herd, and most of the time... And which we haven't found anything, so we're staying exactly where we are. But when you're looking at different properties, what we've found is, there was really never one perfect property that met all of the needs exactly as we wanted. Have you run into that, too?
Cathy Payne: Yes, yes, and it's good to make lists. I'm a real dedicated list maker, and also record keeper. So, if you're looking for something, you want to have the things in mind that will meet your goals, or at least... And you're not, like you said, going to get the perfect property, but what can you start with? What could be a starting place? Then you make the property what you want it to be.
Cathy Payne: So, how much land do you want? And that will depend. Are you raising cattle, or are you raising sheep, or are you raising chickens? All those things need different amounts of land.
Cathy Payne: How much house do you want? What's important to you? How many people live in your family? And are you okay with just a basic farmhouse, or do you want something with some modern amenities?
Cathy Payne: Do you have a flat, sunny gardening area, if you want to plant vegetables? Do you have shade for your livestock? And again, all those things can be modified, but you just need to know what your starting point is, and where you want to be, and figure out what will be involved in getting you there.
Melissa Norris: Very wise. Now, because I have lived on the same piece of property... Well, I shouldn't say the same piece of property. I've lived on the same road, the same zip code, literally the same road, my entire life.
Cathy Payne: Wow.
Melissa Norris: I know. Which, pros and cons, I'm sure. But that means I'm very well versed in county ordinances and different things like that, for if we want to develop the property, just because I've lived here my whole life. However, I would know if I was moving to a different county, or especially moving out of state, that there may be things... Like, I'm aware of here, like water rights and different things like that, of things that you can and cannot do, just from living here, but someone brand new who was moving here, that would be like, hey, you need to... In fact, people will email me and ask me about moving to this area. I'm like, well, these are things that you need to consider and you need to be aware of if you were going to choose here.
Melissa Norris: But if you're not from that area, or maybe you don't know anybody really well in that area, but you feel like it suits your needs, do you have any recommendations or places to begin looking, or even just things to consider asking that you might not think of just off the top of your head, especially knowing that most likely, some type of agriculture, be it either produce or livestock, will be within some of your goals?
Cathy Payne: Right. You definitely want to know, is the property zoned for agricultural use? And you can find, and don't take your realtor's word for it. Check with the local extension office. So, once you've got, if you've got your eye on a property, and you plan on doing some kind of farming, especially for livestock, you're going to have to check with the extension office. Because if you don't, then you may end up with a situation where the neighbors are going to make a complaint, and you're going to have to sell the livestock, or go through a long process of maybe some kind of exception, and that's not a place you want to be. I have had friends dealing with that before, so it's not a situation you want to find yourself in.
Melissa Norris: Oh, no, definitely not. Yes.
Cathy Payne: And if you do plan to raise livestock, I'll kind of jump into that.
Melissa Norris: Yeah.
Cathy Payne: You want to know, are there large animal vets in the area that will make farm calls, and who are they? And see if you can meet them, because that's a big thing. Sometime, you're going to need a vet to come out to your farm for an emergency, and it's never going to be a convenient time, and you don't want to be trying to figure out who that person is going to be in the middle of an emergency. So, you want to have those people in your pocket already.
Cathy Payne: And not every area has a large animal vet. Some vets only take care of cats and dogs. So, there's some that maybe will do horses, or some that will do cattle, and so forth. So, that's a big one.
Cathy Payne: And the other thing is to think about processing. If you're doing more than providing meat for your family, if you want to sell any meat, you need to find out how it can be processed legally for sale, and every state has different laws, and they are remarkably hard to find. And even the people who are the extension agents, or even the meat inspectors and different people, they don't seem to have articulated a way to explain to people what the rules are. They just know how to enforce the rules.
Cathy Payne: So, it's kind of a catch-22. But it is possible, so finding a mentor, somebody who's selling meat in your area, can tell you all about it. But it's just incredible how hard some of this stuff is to find out, but you need to know it exists.
Cathy Payne: And even selling eggs at a farmers market, every state will have laws about what kind of education and certificate you might need to have before you can legally do that. So, those are tricky, and if you plan to sell food, is there a town nearby with a farmers market?
Cathy Payne: Because urban farms do really great because they have restaurants, and they have consumers sometimes within a bicycle's distance away, and an urban farmer can bike their things to the local farmers market, or to a restaurant. But if you're out in the country, you have all the land you need to grow the food, but you don't always have somebody to sell it to. So, you want something in the middle, or somewhere that has a good farmers market.
Melissa Norris: Yes, yes. That is a big one. I am so glad that you brought that up, because like you said, we live very, very rurally, but again, sometimes in those smaller communities, there are definitely places that you can sell, and there is a demand, but you have to know where people are already congregating, so that you can go where the people are already at. Because it's really hard to get people to come to you, especially if you are off the well-beaten path, which a lot of our homesteads in more suburban or country, rural areas are. So, I'm really glad that you've highlighted that.
Cathy Payne: Also, if you're looking for property, there are a lot of tools online now to help with things like that, and especially the satellite views of the farms from above. So, you want to look to see, once you find a property or an area that you like, kind of scan out from that property.
Cathy Payne: Are there properties nearby that have monocrops that might be heavily sprayed? So, if you see fields and fields of soybeans or corn right next to your farm, with a little investigation, or just assumptions, you can kind of think that those might be very heavily sprayed with something that could drift onto a farm, and if you want to be organically grown, then that can impact you.
Cathy Payne: The other thing is commercial chicken houses, or commercial pig farms. They have lagoons, and they have pollution, and they have smells that are not pleasant to be near. Even slaughter facilities, you want them to be in your area, but you might not want them in your backyard.
Cathy Payne: So, these are just things to think about, and somebody did tell us that, and we were like, oh yeah, this is nice property, and then, oh, look at all those chicken houses. No, we'll go. We'll keep looking.
Melissa Norris: Yeah, and the drift thing, that is so important, because not only... I want to focus on the drift aspect for just a little bit, because even if you're not planning on doing certified organic for selling to customers, right, for retail, even if you're just wanting organic practices for you own family, which is my own personal opinion, that that's what... I hope that's what most people's goal is, even in their own just backyard vegetable garden and fruit production, just for their own family.
Melissa Norris: I've actually had members dealing with this, where neighboring farms, just like you said, are spraying with pesticides like Roundup, for example, and they'll get a drift, and it will kill part of their crops. And so, they're actually trying to see if they can plant like a large hedgerow that's near it, that would help to capture more of that mist, so it keeps it off of their vegetable garden and their herbs and things.
Melissa Norris: So, even if you're not planning on doing it, having your prop certified organic, certainly if you are looking for certification for organic, having drift nearby is going to impact that, because it will show up on tests, an you actually have to have tests if you're getting organic certification. But even a backyard vegetable garden can still be unfortunately impacted by that drift. So, I just kind of wanted to make sure that we talked about that, even if you're not planning on going the organic certification route.
Cathy Payne: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, we had something that I think is a positive aspect to a negative situation. Gary Black is our ag commissioner in the state of Georgia, and somebody in a suburban area had a neighbor that blew mosquito spray on her yard, and that just goes in the air and it kills all the butterflies and the hummingbirds and the bees. And the person who complained had a certified wildlife habitat and bees in her yard.
Cathy Payne: And this is just in a suburban neighborhood, but she complained, and they came out and tested the spray that was on her plants in her yard, and they confirmed that it had been oversprayed, and they worked with the mosquito pest control person to cease and desist, and they're going to come back and monitor that situation.
Cathy Payne: But you don't want to be there, you know? Once the bees are dead, and once your ground is contaminated, especially if you were doing something something certified organic, or certified naturally grown, then you're kind of in a hard place, because it takes years to reclaim that land as organic once it's sprayed.
Melissa Norris: Yeah. I believe, at least in the state of Washington for organic, I think it's nationwide, for organic certification, that it has to be a minimum of three years with no synthetic pesticides showing up in the ground and in the test samples.
Cathy Payne: That's right. So, that can really put you back a piece.
Melissa Norris: Yeah.
Cathy Payne: Some other questions I did mention earlier are, will one or both of you have a day job? Are you doing this as part of being a full-time mother, and even adding homeschooling and just feeding your family, or is one of you working outside the home and off the farm, and someone else... Is there money coming in? How much money you want to come in?
Cathy Payne: And it's pretty much true of any farm life, at just about any level, that at least one adult on the property is earning income off the farm. It's very, very rare that that doesn't happen, but it does happen. I mean, if you want to be big enough, then you do it long enough, there are definitely people, like Joel Salatin and [inaudible 00:27:07] Farm, who not only are running a business, but their children are running the business too. They have adult children helping to run the business. But that runs a big gambit of possibilities, so again, just something to think about.
Melissa Norris: Excellent point, yeah, and I'm with you. I think it is possible, but I feel like it's a little bit more of the exception to the norm, and more norm is there is one person still bringing in an income, at least for a few years in the beginning, until you really get things established, and oftentimes even beyond that. I mean, sometimes for many, many farms and homesteads, until retirement age, at least from your day job, someone else, one person is bringing an income to the household.
Melissa Norris: So, I'm glad that you did that, because I feel like sometimes it's romanticized that you're going to buy your homestead, and you're going to provide all of your own food, and you're not going to have to work for someone else. You definitely will be working on your own homestead. So, I'm glad that we covered that, because that's normally not the reality.
Cathy Payne: Also, you need to think, whether you have crops or you have animals, do you like to travel? Do you have family out far away from the farm? And if so, who will tend the farm if the whole family leaves, or if both of the adults at the property leave? That can be very difficult.
Cathy Payne: And so, during the eight years that we were on the farm, I think John and I got away a total of maybe four or five nights over eight years, that we were both away overnight at the same time.
Melissa Norris: Wow!
Cathy Payne: And that was very few and far between. You know, we would just do short trips and come home, because somebody had to be there. So, it's easier, I think, if you have a vegetable farm, and especially if you have an off-season time, if you're living further north. But in Georgia, there's always something in season, and it just gets to be very difficult.
Melissa Norris: Yeah. No, that's really true, and we have livestock, too. The chickens and the beef cattle we have year-round. We don't breed our own pigs, so we'll bring pigs on. And kind of the same thing, if it's just for a weekend, we'll have a neighbor... we'll top everything off or put out extra waters, extra feeders, et cetera. Actually, during this summer, we're really not feeding much. It's pretty much all pasture, but it's definitely making sure water is there. And if it's just for a weekend, we'll have someone come over and check. Automatic waterers can fail, you know? Most of the time they work great, but it's always good to have feet on the ground or eyes on the property for you if you're not there, just in case.
Cathy Payne: Yes.
Melissa Norris: And we've often found, we've tried to plan, in fact, this is how we plan our summer vacations, is when the garden is first planted, but it's not requiring a lot of water yet, because for us, we have quite a bit of rainfall still that time of year. Things isn't drying out yet. Things aren't getting up to harvestable size, or where it's really need a ton. So, it's kind of like right when we get the garden in the ground and we're past all the dangers of frost, so there's no removing of frost covers, et cetera.
Melissa Norris: There's about a two-week window where the garden really doesn't take any hands-on care, and we can be gone for a week. And so, it's not really the off season, but it's kind of a lull between the planting and where a lot of work comes in. So, even if you don't have that off season, oftentimes within your planting and harvest schedule, there will be a shorter window that you could leave from the vegetable and the fruit production side.
Melissa Norris: But I'm with you, like we actually take much more frequent vacations than you have, with those eight years you said, those nights. But it is having someone, either it's a housesitter, or if it's a family member that lives close by, or a neighbor that has teenage kids that you know are responsible that can come check on the property and stuff. But it does require you finding someone. You can't just leave without having someone there to replace you. So, that's such a smart thing to talk about. But it is possible to still take vacations. That was the point of my whole monologue there.
Cathy Payne: It is, it is. You just have to think about those things. So, if you want to move somewhere that isn't close to friends or family, or where you know anybody, then you probably wouldn't want to have animals such as rabbits or pigs that are going to need intensive daily interactions. But cattle is perfect choice. If you buy a big piece of land, you have cattle. Cattle can really be left out with water and grass and silage, and they're good to go for the most part. That's what I understand. I've never raised cattle.
Melissa Norris: Yeah.
Cathy Payne: And chickens, it's easy to find somebody that can come take care of some chickens. So, all those are things to consider if you're the kind of people that do like to take family vacations.
Melissa Norris: Yes, which actually brings me, because we're talking about finding people, and we were talking about looking at looking at neighboring land, and how that can affect your land. But really, also not just what's being grown or used on the neighboring land, but neighbors, and not that you get to pick your neighbors, but when you're looking at property, if you can meet your neighbors and talk to them and kind of get a feel for what the community is like, especially the people that are really close to your property. Because honestly, a good or bad neighbor... a good neighbor makes life really enjoyable, especially if you do need help, or you do need to leave. But a bad neighbor can make you want to move.
Melissa Norris: Do you have any advice? Because I've obviously never moved to an area where I didn't know anybody. But did you go and talk to neighbors, or was that something that you guys, when you were looking at property, investigated at all?
Cathy Payne: We did know one or two farmers in the area when we moved in, and that gave us maybe a little false sense of security. And then we met our neighbors once we purchased the property and started going out to fix it up, before we actually moved in. But our neighbors were wonderful. We just had the best neighbors, and we knew more people in that small county and that small town out in the country than we did in our subdivision that had 65 homes that were all close together, because we never met our neighbors in the suburbs. They were always just get in their car in the garage and drive to work and come home and go into their house. It wasn't that sense of community, and that's something I also wanted to bring up.
Cathy Payne: Getting to know the other homesteaders, farmers, families in your community is so important, because you do help each other out. And when we first started, my husband was doing a lot of out of town consulting, and he'd be gone for two weeks at a time. And of course, it was always when lightning bolt hit a big tree and it fell over the fence line and it was holding down the fence, and the pig could crawl over that log and escape into the woods with the coyotes.
Cathy Payne: But we had neighbors with chainsaws who would just drop everything and come over and help. Or if something malfunctioned in the well, and I couldn't get water in the house, there was always somebody I could call, and that was great. And also, just knowing people to ask those questions about meat processing, or fencing, or what's the best way to do something.
Cathy Payne: And sometimes, there are going to be people who do more of the conventional side of agriculture, which is going to be different, but you may find that they learn things from watching what you're doing on your farm, and they say, why are you doing no till? Or what is that cover crop you're putting down, and why are you doing that? Why do you rotate your animals throughout the pastures? What are all those little fences? So, it can go both ways.
Melissa Norris: Yeah. Well, is there any final bits of wisdom or points to consider that we haven't covered yet?
Cathy Payne: Well, it's important to keep good records, and study and learn your land and your climate and whatever it is that you're doing. Just take the time to really reflect on what you're doing, and what's working and what's not working. Because, going back to the original thought that you start small and build on things, you need to know what's working and what's not working so you know how to either increase an operation, or take it down a little bit.
Cathy Payne: So, always think about it, and most of all, enjoy the journey, because there will be heartbreaking times, but there will also be very joyful, happy times, and you just want to enjoy it.
Melissa Norris: Well, amen to that. I completely agree. Cathy, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast, and sharing some really great gems of wisdom and things for people to consider when they're looking at new property or doing things within their own property.
Melissa Norris: And where is the best spot for people to continue their journey with you, if they would like to follow you and learn more about what you guys are doing with your farm, and the American Guinea hogs, and just all of the homesteading things that you guys are doing?
Cathy Payne: Yes, you can go to my website, which is www.GuineHogBooks.com. That's G-U-I-N-E-A H-O-G Books.com. You can see me on Instagram at @GuineaHogBooks, and I am also on Twitter at @GuineaHogBooks, but I'm really not a Twitter person, so don't expect too much there. But you could tag me there. I guess that's it, and I would like to offer your listeners another special.
Melissa Norris: Oh, absolutely. We love specials.
Cathy Payne: Okay, so we'll use the coupon code PT5, and that's the numeral five, to get $5 off the softcover edition of my book, Saving the Guinea Hogs, and you can find that at the GuineaHogBooks.com, and that will be autographed with free shipping. And I will have this run for about two weeks after the release date.
Melissa Norris: Oh, awesome. Well, that is fabulous, and we'll be sure in the show notes and the blog post that accompanies this episode to have links and the coupon code and everything for everybody who wants to go and check that out, as well as linking to the previous episode that Cathy was on, where we really went into depth into the American Guinea hog, which was a fabulous episode, and if you have any desire to raise pigs for your meat or on your homestead, I highly recommend giving that one a listen, and considering the American Guinea Hogs, because they're a hog that until, actually, I had met Cathy, and as of last year, I had never even heard of the American Guinea hogs, and then we ended up raising some. So, definitely something that you'll want to consider and do some research on, and Cathy is an excellent, excellent resource for that.
Melissa Norris: So, thank you so much!
Cathy Payne: Well, thank you! And I want to tell you, your listeners are amazing. They really responded to that podcast and shared a lot of their homestead dreams with me, and I just enjoyed communicating with all of them.
Melissa Norris: Aww, thank you. It sounds weird, I feel like a proud mama, because of course I think that my podcast listeners are amazing, but it makes my heart very happy to hear other people experience the same thing. So, thank you for everybody who is listening. You really rock a lot.
Cathy Payne: You do.
Melissa Norris: I hope that you enjoyed this interview as much as I did, and learned some great tips. I have a very exciting interview to bring to you, and a guest who is a new guest to the podcast. And I have to confess, I was kind of doing maybe a little bit of fangirling, but I am super excited for next week's podcast episode, because Jessica Sowards, or if you follow her YouTube video, you probably know her as Jess from Roots and Refuge, but she is going to be our guest on the podcast, and we talk about a lot of amazing topics. So, make sure that you don't miss next week's episode, and for now, I leave you with blessings and Mason jars.
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