Countryside Newsletter #7greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
The March/April issue went to press this week. That means it's Spring!
Well, mentally anyhow sticking our noses out the door proves otherwise (-20° with wind-chill as I write this). At least thinking about those cute little seedlings in their peat pots will keep us warm on the inside.
There's always a collective sigh of relief at 3:30 p.m. on deadline day. Those last few hours are always hectic, and that's putting it mildly. There's a heightened sense of tension in the air as Calvin and Marianna check adsfor the nth time; Dave puts the finishing touches on the cover; and I'm scurrying around from computer to computer like a chicken just beheaded. (It's inevitable the closer it gets to deadline, the more changes I'd like to make must be something akin to Murphy's Law.) Ann packages the box of CDs, zip disks, and proofs, whisking it through the forest and over the river to the nearest FedEx pick-up site 15 miles away, meeting the 4:00 pick-up time with just minutes to spare. Whew.
So now we begin work on the May/June issue. (It always amazes me that larger magazines have an editorial calendar one or two years in advance!)
If there's ever anything in particular you'd like to see, or you'd like to contribute, feel free to e-mail me at mailto:email@example.com , I'd like to hear from you!
Speaking of cold, Sandra in Longview, WA learned the importance of proper footwear the hard way:
This fits into the category of "Lessons I Have Learned."
When we moved from Southern California to Washington State, we knew that the weather would be wetter and cooler. We had warm coats, knitted caps and lined mittens, but we didn't consider our shoes: Our everyday footwear is tennis shoes. Even though a friend told us we should buy some waterproof, lined boots, I didn't think it was all that urgent.
One day my husband Alex spent most of the afternoon working outside and in the garage. He said the cold went right through his work boots. The next day he had a cold.
After that we shopped around for some warm boots and found a pair for Alex that he now wears everyday. No more cold feet for him. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any that fit me and the search went on the back burner because I thought I had more important things to do.
Whenever we go for walks and my feet get wet in the rain, I faithfully change my shoes and socks as soon as we get home.
One day a neighbor invited us to see his gardenhere was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. So I stood in the cold, damp mud for 45 minutes in my tennis shoes. When I got home I couldn't seem to get my feet warm. (The radiant heat in the ceiling probably had something to do with it. Apparently, the guy who designed the house never heard of the principle that hot air rises.)
I fought off a sore throat for several days, but finally was rewarded with a dandy 101° fever for my procrastination in buying some decent shoes.
I can hear all you people in Minnesota laughing at the woman from California who didn't know such a basic thing, but the necessity of winter boots justnever occurred to me!
Moral: Keep those feet warm!
One way the people in Minnesota keep warm is by laughing at people from California, so you can take pride in the knowledge that you helped.
Tips on purchasing the perfect property
Ellen Nehawka, Nebraska
Many homesteaders have written to Countryside about the problems they experienced in purchasing their dream property. Maybe the following suggestions will save someone a bit of heartache.
Rule #1. Unless absolutely necessary, never purchase real estate in a new location until you have lived in the area for at least six months, preferably a year or two. To see an ad in a publication, travel there on a weekend and purchase immediately is like marrying someone the day you first meet. One in a hundred works, the other 99 Living in the general area gives you lots of advantages.
First, you get to know the general economy. Are businesses growing or closing? Is there new construction going on? Are there opportunities for employment? Never buy a place without at least one full-time income in the household.
Second, find out what real estate is really worth. Check out lots of different properties and learn about local ordinances, finances, developments, etc., before you decide on your dream property.
When you find property that does interest you, never buy the first time you see it. Tell the agent you need to think about it. Then, on your own, drive down the road to nearby neighbors. In any rural area there will be a couple of life-time residents who can give you information on the property for the last 30 years. Don't be afraid to check several neighbors. At least one will have been in the house enough to know if there are major problems. This also gives you an opportunity to decide whether you want these people to be your neighbors.
Third, read the local newspapers and spend free time driving the area. If a large hog operation sits down the road, your agent is not required to tell you. He/she may be careful to only show the property when the wind is in the "right" direction. Newspapers are important ways to learn of new developments such as a new highway or industry coming in next year. Also, don't ignore schools just because you plan to homeschool or have no children. Property taxes are the main source of revenue for rural schools. If the district just voted to build a new school, your taxes may double next year. Can you afford that increase?
Fourth, establish "contacts" by letting people know what kind of property you want. If people seem convinced that you plan to stay in the area, they'll keep their eyes open for you and might even give your name to someone thinking of selling.
Fifthand I cannot emphasize this enoughmake certain the locals are people you are comfortable with. If you cannot accept the local people, their customs and their expectations, then leave the area. A few of you may want isolation with little local contact if that's the case, make sure the locals are "okay" with it. Some neighborhoods would be paranoid and/or suspect of you; others would be insulted.
If the area is religious, make sure there's a church of your liking nearby. If you're "cohabiting" make certain that's accepted in the area. Rural areas thrive on tradition and are slow to change. Do not assume that they will accept you nor that you have the right to force change. You can live in a rural area for 20 years and still be seen as an outsider. Consider it a privilege to be accepted as a local resident. You don't move to an area because the geography is pretty you move there to be part of the community. Twenty years from now, these people may be the only "family" you have. If your spouse dies or your home burns down, these are the people positioned to help you. Will they? Will you be willing to help them in return? Consider all this before putting your life savings in a piece of property.
Legal Matters: Anyone buying rural property needs to understand what a land contract is. I am not an attorney but I did sell real estate for a while. Here in Nebraska we're seeing fewer land contracts all the time but they may be common in other areas.
Land contracts are the traditional means of selling a farm. The seller agrees to transfer ownership after the final payment. If you miss a couple of car payments, the car is repossessed and your land is too, if you use a land contract.
If you sell a home you can get a tax break one time with the IRS from capital gains. But this doesn't apply to farms. So elderly people sell on land contract, pay taxes only on that year's income (payments made) and have something to live on in their retirement years. Advantages to buyers are low down payment, fewer closing costs, and no income qualifications to meet.
As I said, the disadvantage is that the buyer doesn't own it until the final payment. But when buyers skip out, they're also a pain to the seller. Sometimes it takes one to two years for the seller go to court to get clear title and is able to sell it again.
The land contract is being rapidly replaced by a deed of trust. In this situation the deed is literally held by a third party which accepts payments on the seller's behalf. If a buyer skips out, the seller can regain the property in 90-120 days. But the buyer owns the property from the date of closing. Usually they have to miss two or three payments before a sale is forced and then the buyer can still get other financing to buy back the property. Basically, it works just about like a mortgage but the seller is the financier. Many banks and insurance companies now use a deed of trust.
Push for a deed of trust instead of a land contract. If you must use a land contract, use a local lawyer and hire your own lawyer separate from the seller.
Most real estate practices are based on local custom, such as who pays which fees,how taxes are prorated, etc. Know those customs before you make any offers. Here in Nebraska, we try to avoid attorneys at all cost; they treat real estate sales just like divorces they complicate, aggravate and drag it out as long as possible. A good, long-time real estate agent knows five times more about it and proves it when you go apply for the loan.
In some states you must use attorneys. In that case, try to get one who specializes in the field.
Find creative ways to be frugal
Barbara West Plains, Missouri
Making ends meet that's been one of my life's biggest challenges. Just about the time I think the ends are going to stretch enough to meet they become frayed again, and so the challenge continues.
Most of us always seem to need fewer days until payday. In my area, at least, we all seem to be in the same battle. The resourcefulness of friends and neighbors are a jump start for me. Maybe something here will make your ends meet a little quicker:
*One thing that quickly pops into my mind is barter. What do you have, and what do you need? Do you have extra eggs? How about that garden or wild berries? What about extra milk?
One of my neighbors does custom sewing and quilting. One of my friends recently exchanged labor for some purebred heifers. If you love to cook, what about cakes and pies? They don't need to be fancy but if you have the flair then try cake decorating.
* You might put notices on bulletin boards about classes you could offer in sewing, quilting, or crafts; perhaps you could give classes in watercolor. Ladies like to do things with a friend. Set up designated times for sessions over several weeks.
* Join the local farmers' market. The extra produce you have can be turned into cash. Plant a few extra flowers or herbs in pots for a quick profit.
* Don't hang onto all those old unused items. Have a yard sale.
* If you have small children, get to know neighbors who also have little ones. Perhaps you can exchange babysitting services so that each of you have one morning a week to do exactly what you want to do. A little time for yourself works wonders.
* Could you tutor a student? Start a pet/farm sitting service. A little time spent caring for a neighbor's pets or feeding farm livestock can be cash in your pocket. Maybe you can trade a few days and you can get away.
* A friend of mine started an errand-running service.
* There is always someone who needs a tree trimmed or cut down. Sometimes they don't want the wood: they just want it hauled away. You can sell it or use it for yourself. Sometimes you can work out an agreement to cut on shares.
* Look at your livestock. What do you have? I have some nice registered goats. My bucks more than earn their keep with outside service. If your doe needs service, perhaps the owner of the buck will take a buckling instead of a fee. I also have a nice little stallion. He brought in some cash last year and I also traded his service for bushhogging the pasture.
No matter what you do, you need to advertise. There are so many free opportunities don't think about spending cash unless you just have to. Use the free radio and bulletin boards. Keep posters and cards made up to stick up at any and all times. Talk to people and let them know your skills.
I have a nice sign at the end of the driveway. People won't know what you have or what you do unless you let them know.
Lots of luck and keep thinking of ways to stretch those loose ends. One day maybe they'll even overlap.
More homesteading tips and ideas from Countryside can be found by clicking here:
some featured articles from past issues of Countryside
-- Ken S. in WC TN (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 05, 2002