Cota Farms' Blog

July 3, 2019

All That’s Left Behind – Selling The Farm – Part 6

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 11:22 am
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Selling your farm is different than just selling your house because the farm is home to more than just you and your family. We have had a large variety of animals here on Cota Farms over the years mostly because we had the space and enjoyed their company. Often we were unable to maintain them here and my heart cracked with each one that died, went away or we had to remove them ourselves. Wildlife just showed up uninvited and we tried to make allowances for them to the point that they ate too much of our livestock. Even then, we used livestock dogs with the greatest success in controlling their advances instead of traps or hunting.

Just yesterday morning we caught and relocated a large snapping turtle that paused in our driveway. Perhaps he was going after the goslings and I certainly did not resent him for that as his efforts are appreciate in their population control. We don’t raise geese anymore and the few that were left on their own would overrun this farm in a few years without the harvest. Living with nature instead of against it can allow you to realize this world on a different level if you are able to open your mind to it. Unfortunately that would required overcoming a great deal of programing and conditioning that is designed to deceive us. I’ll give one of the most difficult examples I can thing of – violence. Yes, it’s true. Violence is as natural an occurrence as rain and just as vital to the life cycle of this planet we call home.

The important thing to comprehend here is that like so much in this world, natural, healthy and good things are perverted, including violence. I believe this debasement of natural law is part of an ancient and ongoing struggle or even a holy war. That doesn’t make me part of any group. It would be too easy to point to this practice or that political trend and make my argument but that is not the purpose of this positing, I have a book for that.

Selling the sheep has been more difficult for me than parting with any possessions I had left to sell or give away. What has surprised me the most is how much I hauled to the dump. It’s plain I’ve been doing something wrong. Our new home will be less than 140 square feet but that’s just a box and I don’t plan to send much time inside it.

Mature snapping turtles can be dangerous like water snakes. There was a strange joy in overcoming my natural fear of the turtle, as I have with the local water snakes, and replacing that fear with compassion, for lack of a better word, and deciding he did not need to die to make me feel more safe. Since the plan is to leave this small farm and relocate myself to a much larger, more natural environment, this was more than just and enlightening experience, but a necessary one.

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June 20, 2019

Going Homeless In Style

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 6:16 pm
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I’m taking a little break from my ‘selling the farm’ series as progress has become painfully slow mostly because it won’t stop raining. The change in weather across the world is real and far more serious than the media in the States will admit to. When they do speak about it, we are pelted with politics and misinformation. Eventually the crop losses across the world will force even the distracted Americans to wake up and take notice.

I spend a lot of time considering what I want to happen if the farm sale goes my way. I began this line of thought long before I considered selling and moving on. In my heart I have already moved on. What I don’t want to happen is more of the same. I’m done with all that, really, seriously, completely. I’ve even convinced my wife and long time companion to give up the acceptable life of working, struggling, paying taxes, and struggling some more. It really wasn’t that hard. We have no retirement, no savings and can’t apply for social security for a few years yet but I can’t stand it anymore. Truth is, I dropped out of society years ago and became the stay at home part of the marriage. I busied myself with trying to make the farm work for us; I gave it my all but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

A couple of years ago I decided to up and run away to the desert. My poor health and better sense (at the time I was not prepared to live that way nor did I intend to) brought me back after only a few weeks but the seed had been planted. I learned that there is a surprising large number of people (tens of thousands) that live in not just recreational vehicles but converted vehicles of all kinds in the western part of the country, in the desert, national and state parks and land managed by the government. I did a quick estimate and perhaps 20% of the land within the 48 states is public.

I’ve done a lot of research on this since and have fully committed to spending the remaining days of my life living like so many others are already doing. God bless the internet! It is so easy now to see and understand how this is done. I’m sure most of these people do not consider themselves homeless, it seems that category is reserved for those who primarily live in the cities without traditional housing. Within that grouping people are divided into those that live in their cars while working yet not earning enough money to afford housing and the rest who are labeled addicts. Unfortunately, they are sometimes all just considered undesirable no matter their circumstances.

Those that live in their vehicles outside the cities fall into different groupings the most interesting of which are those that choose to live that way. I long to be one of them. The biggest difference between those in this category has to do with planning. Many people didn’t have the time, resources or inclination to plan ahead when they made the choice to move outdoors. I have an engineering degree that when coupled with cheap technology allows me to envision a more comfortable and graceful transition to this kind of life. I want to wake up in the desert or mountains but I also want a little refrigeration, be able to enjoy my music, book and video collection, access to the internet and a comfy bed. I also required a certain number of dogs and cats to be right there with me. Of course this would only be an improvement in living conditions from their point of view. I love all my other farm animals too but I will just have to settle for the wild variety.

Our Tiny Home

There are so many YouTube channels on this one subject that you must sort through them to find the specific information you want and get past those personalities that are just not for you. I haven’t had a question yet that there is not several people out there wanting to share their experience or expertise about it. Health care, no problem, concerns with pooping, I’ll even talk about that myself in subsequent posts, how much money do you need, I’ll share my budgeting plans.

My wife has zero spacial conceptual skills so I drew her a picture. This is how much space we will have and this is were everything will go. I naturally think my design is one of the best out there and I’ll explain how it works, about how much it will cost and why I chose the cargo trailer conversion.

June 16, 2019

Facing The Wall – Selling The Farm – Part 5

Filed under: Book,The Plan — Cota Farms @ 8:18 pm
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The process of selling the farm has been sadly very much like everything else I’ve planned in this life, surprisingly difficult, discouraging, and even spiteful. Sometimes I’m able to step outside the feeling of self pity (I can’t think of a better phrase right now) and view with fascination how circumstances magically become more difficult as I am able to navigate around lesser problems that I have learned to deal with simply because they were always present and I became used to them. It’s certainly not about greater challenges joining with greater ambition, in fact I very much am trying to do less, have less and be less.

I am strong enough now to resist the platitudes that state we all have these experiences and that life is just like that. No, it is not. We all don’t experience being raped, or wrongly imprisoned. Many of us have never had a drug addition or desired to gun down a room full of people or actually done so. I’m not saying that some people never experience disappointment, but it is obvious that those born into families with great wealth and power have lives that don’t resemble what most of us call life. Likewise, a person who has talent, recognizes that talent and then works at it to become a star athlete or musician will leave this world with other thoughts in their mind than the person who has never read a book that transported them to another world or has an unattractive face.

I have spend much time considering this and how could it be that we humans have anything in common beyond the biology of life. Turtles and hawks are easily grouped together among themselves because we don’t perceive them as having life beyond their particular biology. They act consistently within the established framework (nature) to ensure their continued existence. We humans don’t do that nor do we have very similar experiences across the population as do say Aardvarks. No, life is not just like that and it is completely illogical that we evolved in a way that is contrary to the forces of nature, the same forces that are the primary principles behind the ideology that is the theory of evolution. It is obvious there are other forces in play here, give them whatever name pleases you. I wrote a story (not a lecture) about this – The Souls of Sheep

Once again I find myself facing a wall, the boundary of my ability to pass beyond. What scares me is that my past experience when facing a wall dictates that I will not pass through the wall. Usually I just stand there for a long or short period of time (days, years) eventually moving left or right and sometimes backwards. In those past times I was younger and physically stronger and could endure the ordeal. What happens when you progress beyond your ability to endure? Perhaps that is the definition of death.

May 23, 2019

Disassembling Your Life – Selling The Farm – Part 4

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 5:31 pm
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It is difficult to prepare your home, farm, business for sale when you are not moving upward but rather moving on. After speaking with my realtor I understood what selling this property, my home, means. It is about erasing my presence here as much as possible. Sure it make sense, perspective buyers must be able to see themselves living there, not the remains of the former owner.

We have seen the closed store fronts where the ghosts of the logos still linger. It is generally an impersonal thing because despite the laws of the land, these are companies and not human beings. The persons that worked for those companies hopefully moved on to other opportunities. If they didn’t then perhaps they were forced to sell their homes and likewise erase their presence from where they once lived.

It’s a life changing experience particularly when future expectations run toward the bleak end of the spectrum. I recently re-watched “The Grapes of Wrath” just to verify that my frame of mind was more than just self pity. Yep, my feelings are totally justified and I am in the good company of many a fellow human being past and present.

The Grapes of Wrath Poster

Like those characters in Steinbeck’s novel, I too am looking at homelessness but I hope to do it with more grace and comfort. It’s a race and there are so many of us joining it all the time. The number of homes for sale in my county is disturbing but I can only see competition for the too few buyers that are able to secure mortgages. It’s a shameful thing when we are set against one another over scarce resources, exactly the point of Steinbeck’s masterwork.

April 5, 2019

How To Sell Your Farm -part 1

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 2:36 pm
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Before we begin let’s address the obvious: if you’re a farmer or someone who wanted to be a farmer but you failed at it and now have to sell your farm, then you know little to nothing about selling a farm. You need help! I have a neighbor, a good friend or so I thought, who has a realtors license (he told me so) and offered his services. We made plans to make more detailed plans with dates and times confirmed and then he just stopped communicating with me. I was confused and disappointed. (I hope he is alright and maybe he decided he just didn’t want to be bothered.) It did bother me for awhile though and eventually I ask around and found a realtor that was highly recommended.

She is probably the only person who has a chance of selling my farm for what I want in the way I want to do it. I know this because she told me so. I told her “wow! I really needed to hear that kind of confidence”. So get a realtor and pay them the most you can to motivate them to do a good job. This is one of those times when you really can get what you pay for and capitalism can live up to the hype.

There are different reasons people sell their farms and or homes but I am focusing on the one where you are too poor to hang on to it and therefore you don’t have any money to remodel the place first in hopes of getting a better offer. That’s the reason that requires a list. The list comes in three parts.

The first list comprises those things that must be done so that people don’t just pass over your property. It also includes those things that must be done in order to qualify for FHA approval and bank financing. Most buyers will be seeking a mortgage. I had to put new gravel down so people could get to the house without breaking an axial. I will also have to complete my deck repairs and put up more railing to meet building codes and insurance requirements.

The second list comprises those things that, under better circumstances, should be done because it obviously devalues the house or property. There are missing roof shingles and patches from previously missing shingles. Each winter some shingles are blown off and as the roof ages the number of missing shingles increases. It is time for a new roof. I had envisioned a metal roof in a striking color like hunter green. That ain’t gonna happen so there will be more patches. There is probably a number somewhere that tells you the difference in market value with and without a new roof but it is moot. I think I got some basic painting covered though.

The third list comprises those things that won’t make any list for me but probably would for other people in other worlds. We haven’t had television for many years but sometimes when I am sitting in a doctors office or even waiting to have a car serviced I catch a little bit of television. There is a show I have seen more than once that is about people who want to buy a house and sell their house at the same time. The idea of the show is to fix up your old house before you sell it and sometimes they like their old house after they fix it up enough to just keep it. I think what those people do would fill up the third list.

yellow hallway

I met with my realtor today and she helped me to better arrange my lists, that’s one of the things that a good realtor does. She helped me understand that I can’t just throw a coat of paint inside the house I have to remove the colors as well. It was my intention to just match what was there. I was wrong about that. I love the yellow hallway but it has to go. She also helped me to understand that after we cleaned the house she would send over someone to clean the house. Fortunately pride is something I lost when the farm failed. Selling your house is a lot about undoing all that made your house your home. It makes sense, the house must be blank before it can become someone else’s home.

I already knew I needed a realtor but now I understand better why I needed a realtor. What I really needed was a good realtor! Unfortunately realtors are no different from any other professional like lawyers or doctors or dog groomers, half of them are just not very good at what they do. (Man could I tell you stories about dog groomers.) I was lucky, the second time, and found what seems to be a good realtor. Stay with me to find out just how good she turns out to be.

April 3, 2019

Maintenance – Selling The Farm – Part 2

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 7:47 pm
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New Gravel

Before you can list your property you have to do all those things that you never got around to while you were going about the business of living and farming. It’s a sad irony that I have to clean up the farm and the house, perform maintenance and a hundred other small jobs to make the place one that I would want to live in before I can sell it. It’s kind of like punishment for failing to be successful. You would think that failing would be punishment enough but there are still many more painful moments yet to come; why don’t you follow along with me so you can witness the whole sordid affair.

The driveway has been in need of new gravel for at least two maybe three years. It will be one of the first things that a potential buyer will see and can not be put on the -sell as is list-. I’ll talk about the lists in another post. We have a long driveway which is always desirable except when it comes time to purchase gravel or when it is covered in ice and snow. I’ve noticed neighbors (that can be anyone within several mines in the country) that have put asphalt on their driveways and it looked good. I did a little calculating in my mind concerning what this would cost and it added up to me hating my neighbors, give or take a thousand dollars. We are fortunate to have a quarry just a stones throw (a stones throw, am I funny or what) from the farm so we naturally went with quarry gravel. Limestone is the preferred material to use but it is at least twice as much and in my experience and inspecting nearby driveways, it doesn’t really last any longer although this is the common wisdom.

On two occasions I used slag which is comparable in price to quarry gravel and outlasts gravel or limestone. I like slag because it melts the ice and snow away faster, it looks nice and it packs at least as well as limestone but there are two problems with it; it is not always available and it often comes with sharp objects that can cause a series of unexpected flat tires.

The gravel in the pic is about 23 tons and costs about $500. I will need about twice that much more to complete the area near the house and fill in the areas missed by the tailgate spread. This is the most money I plan to spend getting the property/house ready for show. I have already arranged to trade a Wheel Horse mower for some interior painting. Other items I will give away to good friends and maybe sell a few things. A lot of things will just be hauled away to the dump. I think that could be a poem.

April 1, 2019

Cleaning Up The Mess – Selling The Farm – Part 3

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 3:21 am
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The farm has greatly suffered along with my deteriorating health. It’s a mess! So many half finished projects and failed experiments all there having to be cleared away before the property can be shown. I’ve made arrangements with some local Amish boys to help with what I can’t do. The high tunnel alone will take a long day to clear out and make presentable.

A mess on the farm

I’ve been working with one family for many years now and as the boys grow and move on to their own families I employ the younger ones. It is a joy to work with them and be around their family. They are a testament and proof to anyone who cares to see it that life can flourish outside the culture that we are programmed to serve. (I am using all my limited writing skills to be as subdued as I can. The ‘in your face’ approach never works out well.) This is/was a rural community with small and large farms but there is no available labor to be had among the young people here save the Amish. To be blunt, our youth will just not work that hard. Any wonder we have so much work for Mexican immigrants – ops, did I go too far?

Ours in not the only farm that is up for sale. In our small county there are many farms stopping operation and the land is being sold off. I can right now point to two dairy farms that I have visited that are finished. But not to worry as milk, cheese and ice cream actually comes from the grocery store, right? Yes that was a rant, sorry, as I was saying we are lucky to have help dismantling out small farm. Just last night a very young Amish man and his little brother were here loading lambs for us to go to the Easter auction. Without their help our options would have been frightening. You can’t find sheep wranglers on Craigslist.

There’s a lot to clean up outside the house which is a whole other issue. Some of the money from the sale of the lambs will pay for more gravel which will be spread and raked by, yep, the same sheep wranglers. They have many other talents as well like roof repair. Sure you could, if you have lots of money, hire a contractor to come give you an estimate that usually borders on the ridiculous and hope they actually show up to do the work. (It has been my experience that at least half the time they do not.) But we have learned from past mistakes and found other ways to get things done.

I arranged to have them come back for a couple days work of cleanup before the next load of sheep are hauled off. They will also be doing the bulk of the cargo trailer conversion, we discussed some details during the trip back to their place. They don’t drive so I happily pick them up and drop them off. You can follow the trailer conversion right here so check back occasionally. I’ve decided to go with the Murphy bed that allows for a tiny sitting area that looks out on a double glass door framed into the back end that opens onto the ramp door deck. Got all those ideas from YouTube videos.

March 19, 2019

Selling the Farm

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 7:48 pm
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Now that I am past the hard part, admitting failure and deciding to act, it’s time to move on to cleaning up the mess.  That really was the hard part because whatever comes next is as a direct result of the failure and is only to be expected.  It won’t be smooth sailing (how I would so love to just go sailing) but it will be sailing to whatever destination even if that is sailing off the end of the flat earth. I read somewhere we can do that now. 

In an attempt to make that final save, the goal here is to sell the farm before losing the farm. It is a race against time on many race tracks; the mortgage, property taxes, collapsing housing market, my ability to function, and so forth.

Selling a farm is a little more involved than selling a house.  It is potentially such a problem that I have decided to not sell the farm but instead sell a house that sits on acres of land. And if that doesn’t go well, a very real possibility, I will have to resort to plan x, something I would just rather not do. There is also another option that fits between house on land sale and plan x, the auction. I mention it because in certain situations when the constellations align just right, it is possible to make more money in an auction than a normal real estate transaction. Maybe it’s a rural thing, not many actions in the city, but they pop up all the time in the countryside. 

If you’ve never been to an auction, a good one meaning there are a lot of people there that want what you need, then you’ve missed an enlightening experience. Very often the property or livestock or painting receives much more than it would have if just listed. If you’ve got the time and a few thousand dollars to pay the fee should you not get your needed price, you may do well. This doesn’t really apply to eBay because it also lists the same item right next the auctioned item essentially creating a ceiling.

Plan x would require more time and investment in my own failure, don’t want to drag this out. But interestingly enough, it could bring more money by dividing the land into smaller pieces and raising the per acre price. All I can do is prepare the property as well I can for presentation and there you go.

Unfortunately there are others who must sell out or bug out and, and do something else so maybe my experiences may be useful in some way. This journey will expand from the original postings full of optimism, innovation, and energy to homelessness. Hopefully my writing will have improved at least. If all goes well then it won’t necessarily have a sad ending.

March 11, 2019

The Farm Has Failed

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 8:34 pm
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I guess it would be more accurate to say that I have failed. Now that I have a clear plan of how I will move forward, I thought it important to outline why I think the farm and I failed, primarily for myself. It is nice to think that someone would see this and even benefit from the log, but I will dismiss that idea as vanity.

  1. The small business landscape today changes so fast that there can be no academic understanding of it. There are few rules that you can apply that will guide you to success.
  2. Limited success can kill you. If you are lucky, say doing some coding that attracts the attention of a mega company, you can sell out quickly and make money. Otherwise, any small success will be copied by so many and so fast that you may never innovate again. Predators are ruthless.
  3. Business diversity is not the friend of the small business owner/operator. The idea of diversification just made sense to me. When one thing doesn’t sell, the other will. More people will be looking at you because you have more to offer. It is a sound principle for Walmart but for my small farm it meant spreading limited resources so thin that everything suffered, mostly me. Did everyone else already know that?
  4. The small business is not the future of America, it is a lie. If it is touted as a partial solution for the dwindling job market it is only done so to protect those powers that are now harvesting the wealth of the middle class. I also employ tricks to distract my sheep when I need to catch them for….
  5. Self-deception is the drug that keeps us going. While I was standing next to other small farmers, competing with them in the friendly atmosphere of the farmers market, I believed I did things better, my produce was superior, my meats more unique. When they stopped showing up at market it was because they were not as good as me. What other reason could there be?
  6. My hard work and sacrifice would ultimately be rewarded. This is a tough one. This idea is at the center of everything American and to even attempt to disagree with it would only invite ridicule and scorn. I don’t need any more of that.
  7. The ability of the large produces to control not just prices but the infrastructure, like insurance or certification, required to bring a product to market, is a tool they us to squash even the very smallest competitor. I use to think that such a tiny vendor as myself would not be noticed much less worthy of attack. Again my own vanity led me astray. It wasn’t about me, but all those like me added together. As the economy winds down and the last remaining profits are snorted up, even the 2% market share is gone after.
  8. Likewise, the niche markets are no longer a good bet. It’s a niche market for a reason. If there is any money to be made there a corporation has already financed a spinoff to go after it. The small number of sales I could generate by selling, say wool blankets or tanned hides, did not support my costs and I could not simply keep increasing the price.
  9. Cheap imports, including food, cannot be competed with.  Yes, the Chinese imported talpia or shrimp my not be as wholesome as a locally grown variety, but as people are forced to take jobs paying less they will compromise. 
  10. What you sold to people last year you can’t count on selling to them the next. All of us are victims of the dying economy and we fall away from sight to become poorer and sometimes homeless. We survive by spending less money on good food and other items so that we can keep what we have come to believe is more important.

We will survive by having less so that we can keep what we believe is more important. Cota Farms was as much an idea as it was a farm and the two never did quite come together. It would be easy to say sour grapes, but it is not true. I look back and recognize my failures and mistakes but I also acknowledge that I did not possess what was needed to bring that idea into this world.

Of course there are many examples one could point to and say, “see, that person was able to do this or that with just a handful of beans.” I salute them. This is not a blog about how to become successful with just a handful of beans. That alone is refreshing, it is my diary.

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