Author Topic: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?  (Read 3276 times)

steviesterno

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help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« on: July 01, 2017, 06:55:27 AM »
We're thinking about moving out of the suburbs and into a bit more country up in NY. yes I know about the winters and I'm making peace with it. But it looks like we'll be able to sell our house with 12 feet of grass and get something with 5-15 acres, a barn, and a water source or 2. I'm pretty sure we won't be able to be totally self sufficient, which is fine, as I'll still be working full time. But it would enable to wife to stay home with the kid(s). she wants to get more involved with some self sufficiency, growing stuff and raising some animals. So I guess I'm looking for suggestions or places to go read about some of the beginner aspects of this kind of work. I'm reasonably handy and do much of the work around our house now, and I understand the more property you have, the more time you spend tending to it. I'm actually really excited about that aspect of it.

I'm not sure we'll be able to kill or eat any animals we raise, we're both thinking they will be more like pets. I'm not certain I'll be able to hunt but that might be a possibility for cheaper meat. All parties involved are cool with fishing for food or raising fish to eat though.

Raised bed gardening or actually planting stuff like a real farm?

where do I learn about the basics of keeping chickens?

Is it worth it to raise bees for honey?

what kind of equipment is needed? I imagine my garage of tools, plus a tractor or something for brush work/plowing/mowing? how about tools needed if you own woods?

anything you wish you knew starting out?



Papa bear

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2017, 07:08:44 AM »
Google 'permaculture'. There are some free online courses and some books on the subject.


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YttriumNitrate

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2017, 07:12:43 AM »
Anytime someone mentions saving money by hunting, I think of this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYbl29zeRyc

Aunt Petunia

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2017, 08:32:40 AM »
How old are your kids? We bought a property much like you are describing prior to having our first kid, and did not realize how much time it took to maintain until after DS came along. We have had to let a lot of things go for now. The utilities also get more expensive when you move to the country, so you have to figure that into your cost as well. We are on LP gas for heat, but in the northeast I think they use oil which is way more expensive. Electricity also costs more per kWh because the company has more lines to maintain per house. The water is free though.

I have a good-sized garden and do some canning but we are by no means self sufficient.

Chickens are easy, but you do not come out ahead financially on meat birds unless organic is important to you, and even then it is a bit of a wash. You do come out ahead on layer hens. I like the brown sex-linked hens, they are good foragers and relatively smart. Roosters are not worth your time. We had one and he would peck our ankles and didn't even do a good job protecting the hens, plus he ate a lot. Expect some attrition with free range birds but the feed savings makes up for it.

For equipment, we have a 1960's Farmall tractor that still works like a charm, I think we paid $2500 for it. This is used for plowing snow and moving big things around.  We also have a 1976 Chevy 4WD truck that is convenient to have but not strictly necessary.  If you have a lot of trees then it is worth it to have a zero-turn mower as well, as it will cut your mowing time in half. We have an older one that breaks down all the time, so I can't recommend a good brand.  For woods you just need to spend a couple hundred dollars on a heavy-duty chainsaw. I also have a roto-tiller for the garden.

I don't know much about hunting but most people I know who do it seem to spend more on equipment than they could ever possibly save on meat. There is probably a way to do it cheaper.

I can't tell you about keeping bees either but I would like to try it when the kids get older.

Overall we like the peace and quiet of our home.

simulatedsanity

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2017, 08:47:41 AM »
This is something that we have thought about as well. YouTube is a great resource, Justin Rhodes and Joel Salatin are good people to check out. +1 to reading up on permaculture practices. Also recommend a book by Jean-Martin Fortier The Market Gardener. It's more about making a living from your garden but there are lots of ideas about sensible farm layout to decrease work time and getting high yields from small spaces. No one wants to put in 3 months of work and get 5 tomatoes.

Big question though, have you or your wife started gardening in your current lot? It's a lot easier to practice in the suburbs and make your mistakes there. Does your city allow chickens? Again, I would practice some of these skills before you pull up stakes and move chasing the country dream. Lots of people burn out and go back to the city after a few seasons of failures. A good starting place would be getting some books on urban farming, and digging up your lawn. You can do a lot on even the tiniest of spaces. Thegoblinchief on here has a journal and quite the little urban homestead. He has a blog as well called Fat Robin Farmstead. Excited for you guys!

steviesterno

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2017, 09:26:41 AM »

Big question though, have you or your wife started gardening in your current lot? It's a lot easier to practice in the suburbs and make your mistakes there. Does your city allow chickens? Again, I would practice some of these skills before you pull up stakes and move chasing the country dream. Lots of people burn out and go back to the city after a few seasons of failures. A good starting place would be getting some books on urban farming, and digging up your lawn. You can do a lot on even the tiniest of spaces. Thegoblinchief on here has a journal and quite the little urban homestead. He has a blog as well called Fat Robin Farmstead. Excited for you guys!

we've done some stuff here. We collect rain water and I built a system for that, we do some irrigation, but we haven't put raised beds in because the move may be happening in under 3 months...

We're not looking to derive all or even any income from this. I'll still work full time with medical and retirement, so there's going to be money coming in. The farming/homesteading is more for educational/environmental/side hustle money if anything.

NV Teacher

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2017, 06:35:46 PM »
Living on a small farm or a few acres is great.   I just wonder if you really understand the amount of work that goes into keeping it all up.  Gardening is a good place to start.  Moving into animals is a whole other story.  Gardens can be left for short periods of time where animals need tended everyday.  It's hotter than hell, animals need tended.  It's 10 degrees below freezing, animals need tended.  You're sick as a dog, animals need tended.  You want to go on a family trip, animals need tended.  For the right people it's a great life, for the wrong people it becomes their worst nightmare.  Do your research and move forward with your eyes wide open.

Trifele

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2017, 06:54:02 AM »

Congratulations on your plan! It is totally doable, and it sounds like the right thing for your family.  We are currently living that same scenario -- small homestead farm, one working spouse, and one spouse home with the kids.  We love it and would not trade it for anything.   The privacy, the self-sufficiency, the nature -- priceless.   Upstate NY is fabulous -- we lived there for many years.   

First piece of advice -- subscribe to Mother Earth News magazine.  It's everything you need.  They are also online, and in their archive they have 40 years of articles on: gardening, energy efficiency, raising chickens and other animals, beekeeping, preserving food, tools/equipment, and on and on.  If you encounter a question at your new place, I guarantee that ME News has written about it. Grit magazine is also good, but geared a bit more toward the larger farm, with 4-legged livestock.

Chickens are easy and super fun.  For the basics look at one of the two publications above, but you will also just figure it out as you go.  Your wife and kids will love it.  The most important thing chickens need is a good coop that protects them at night from predators.  Building a good coop will take you some time, but once it's done right it's done for many years.  It needs to be dry and well ventilated, but not drafty.  (Chicken's feathers are super insulating, but only in still air).  Keep in mind that some predators are small (snakes and weasels), and some can dig.  You need to use hardware cloth in your coop build to keep all those guys out; chicken wire doesn't cut it.   If you are interested in egg layers that will also be good, healthy pets, I'd suggest you stay away from hybrid egg-laying types.  They have been bred only for egg production, and suffer from more health problems and a shorter life span than a good heritage breed.  Check out backyardchickens.com or -- again -- one of the above publications for an overview of good homestead breeds.  Finally, you'll need to decide whether to free range the girls, or fence them in.  The more freedom they have, the better their life will be, but the more predator danger.   We have a fenced 1-acre pasture for our 11 chickens, and for us that strikes the right balance.   The fence keeps out dogs, and although the chickens are still vulnerable to hawks, they have a great life.  We have a patch of woods and lots of bushes in the pasture, so they are able to dive for cover when they need to.  In the past year and a half at this location we have not yet lost a chicken. 

Bees are a labor of love.  I have been teetering on the verge of starting beekeeping, but have not yet taken the plunge.   I know beekeepers for whom it is cost effective and the honey provides a nice cash crop.  I know others who lose money on it but keep doing it year after year because they feel it's important.  I'd recommend that you not start on beekeeping until you have gardening, chickens, and the basic property management humming along.  Then take a class at your local cooperative extension.  Very informative.

Equipment. For mowing, your needs will depend on the property you buy -- How much do you need/want to mow?  Is it hilly or fairly flat? Do you plan to also plow earth or snow with the tractor?  Any other things the tractor will need to do?  I would wait on making any tractor decision until you have the property and have some tentative answers to the above.  Keep in mind that a 4WD pickup can do much tractor work.  (We have an old one that we use to pull stumps, drag logs, etc. as well as hauling loads. )  Ditto on major tools -- I would take it slow and see what your property needs.  And check Craigs List for used tools/equipment.   For our woods management, some of the things we use all the time are:   chainsaw, pruning saw, lopper, tree trimmer, axe, maul.   For the garden: wheelbarrow or 4-wheel utility cart, shovels, broadfork, hand trowels, rototiller (wait on that one until you know exactly how much you are tilling, and whether your tractor will do it).   

Big picture
*Check the fracking/power line situation for any property you are looking at. 
*If you don't homeschool, be sure to check out the school district. 
*Figure out how far the property is to the nearest grocery and hardware store. 
*Check internet and cell connectivity. 
*If you are interested in making your new place energy-efficient, look carefully at how the house is situated with regard to the sun. 
*Look at the potential gardening spots with the same eye -- how does the sun travel over them, how many hours per day do they get? 
**Taste the tap water in the house.
*Examine the house critically, and go into it clear-eyed about the work that will need to be done on it, and whether you and your wife will have time to do it.  You'll both develop the skills you need, but do you have the time and inclination to do it?  If not, how much will it cost to hire it done?
*Finally, try to visit some folks that are living the small-farm life.  You'll learn a ton. 

Long post, hopefully helpful.  Feel free to PM me as well.     

MrsPete

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2017, 07:57:18 AM »
We're thinking about moving out of the suburbs and into a bit more country up in NY. yes I know about the winters and I'm making peace with it. But it looks like we'll be able to sell our house with 12 feet of grass and get something with 5-15 acres, a barn, and a water source or 2. I'm pretty sure we won't be able to be totally self sufficient, which is fine, as I'll still be working full time. But it would enable to wife to stay home with the kid(s). she wants to get more involved with some self sufficiency, growing stuff and raising some animals. So I guess I'm looking for suggestions or places to go read about some of the beginner aspects of this kind of work. I'm reasonably handy and do much of the work around our house now, and I understand the more property you have, the more time you spend tending to it. I'm actually really excited about that aspect of it.
I grew up on a farm, and it's real work. All the time.  Leaving for a weekend is tough; try to  make friends with a neighboring farm family so you can "trade labor". 

If you're looking at something just for your own family, go for the lower end of your acre spectrum; 5 acres is probably a good goal.  All acreage doesn't come with water sources; that does increase the cost of land.  Consider what you want on your land; do you want lots of trees, or do you want open land? 

Taxes on large plots of land are quite real; I have a tax deferment on my land because we actively farm it (similar programs exist if you have a forestry plan), but you typically need at least 40 acres to do that -- investigate the details in your area.  Also, you may be qualified to get a cheaper license plate for your truck (and you will need a truck if you're living on a farm). 

I'm not sure we'll be able to kill or eat any animals we raise, we're both thinking they will be more like pets. I'm not certain I'll be able to hunt but that might be a possibility for cheaper meat. All parties involved are cool with fishing for food or raising fish to eat though.
It's not so hard to draw a hard line between food animals and pets; never name food animals, never play with food animals.  Would you be up for taking cows, etc. to the slaughter house?  Typically -- or at least this used to be true -- that the butcher would take the animal and return 50% of the meat to you, keeping the other 50% to sell.  No money involved.  Hunting is not cheaper than buying meat from the grocery store; not when you include the equipment, especially not when you include your time.

Raised bed gardening or actually planting stuff like a real farm?
Raised beds are expensive to build and require more water.  They are not practical on a large scale.

where do I learn about the basics of keeping chickens?
Online. 

Is it worth it to raise bees for honey?
Bees are a fun hobby and quite fascinating, but how much honey do you use?  Personally, I use maybe one jar a year, so I could only "save" $5-8 per year by raising bees.  Of course, you might be interested in selling the honey.  And there's an intangible benefit:  Your plants will benefit from pollination, and you'll be working against the loss of bees, which is a global problem for us all.  We have a Bee Keeper's club through the County Home Extension here -- in fact, the Home Extension is a great resource. 

We're not looking to derive all or even any income from this. I'll still work full time with medical and retirement, so there's going to be money coming in. The farming/homesteading is more for educational/environmental/side hustle money if anything.
What you're describing is quite typical of people out here where I live:  Typically the husband farms the land, while the wife works at a "real job" that provides medical and retirement.  It's a realistic way for people to keep their farms and live in the modern world too. 

If this is your plan, definitely stay on the smaller side. 


Trifele

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2017, 11:00:46 AM »
The other commenters raise a good point about how hard it is to get away.   Any time you have animals, that will be an issue.  No different really than having a dog or cat -- you have to arrange care.  In some ways, farm animals can be easier.  You find ways -- friends and neighbors, work swaps.   If you just have chickens, you can design an enclosed, attached, roofed run at the same time you build your coop.   It will let you be able to get away for 4 or 5 days, without even having someone stop in.   

Other animals are more work, but from what I heard you saying OP it sounds like you are mainly aiming for a hobby farm/homestead rather than a working farm.   But even if you decide later on you want to keep livestock for meat or milk, vacations are still on the menu.   Just more logistics to solve. 

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2017, 12:08:15 PM »
Pick one or 2 things to master, and then add another.

At our farm, we started with lettuce and chickens and hens.

Then we added tomatoes.

Now we do all the veggies, and bees, but we've dropped hens and chickens.

Hope to add the hens and chickens back in, but they need more infrastructure and we're over-extended.

Indio

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2017, 12:53:41 PM »
There have been a lot of good suggesitons on this thread so far so I'm going to chime in on the areas that weren't covered in detail. With respect to location, you need to be very aware of the aquifer in upstate NY that will support your farm. There is a lot of fracking in the Marcellius shale area and it has led to contaminated water supplies. If you can't count on well water, make sure you have a lake or stream that will support the farm.

As a beekeeper, it is very difficult to make money selling honey because it's coming into the country from Vietnam and China at ridiculously cheap prices. I keep bees to pollinate my garden and rear queens and nucs that I will occasionally sell or give to other beekeepers. That is not as time intensive as it sounds and it helps the enivronment. Most of my honey is used for baking and cooking. Sometimes, I will give my kids jars that they give teachers as thank you gifts. Since we can't eat 80lbs of honey, what is leftover I use it in soap, this requires work to get it right and homemade beauty products. However, the bees pollination services are worth it to me because my crop yield has quadrupled since I got bees. Some mornings when I'm the garden, I marvel at the traffic jam on a squash blossom. It's a lovely sight to see.

I would recommend visiting the Ithaca farmer's market and speak to the farmers there as part of your research collection. Alternately, Cornell is a great source for info about agriculture. They have a small farms email they send out weekly with lots of useful tips, meetups and education opportunites. Also, check out NY NOFA for more info and their annual conference. You wouldn't believe how many like minded people you will meet there and they will likely to barter care for animals when you're out of town.

LonerMatt

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2017, 03:27:33 PM »
Posting to follow.

steviesterno

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2017, 08:53:45 AM »

Congratulations on your plan! It is totally doable, and it sounds like the right thing for your family.  We are currently living that same scenario -- small homestead farm, one working spouse, and one spouse home with the kids.  We love it and would not trade it for anything.   The privacy, the self-sufficiency, the nature -- priceless.   Upstate NY is fabulous -- we lived there for many years.   



thanks for the advice! I've already signed up for the Mother Earth News and Grit mailing lists, as these are things we like to do anyway. I understand that a lot of what I want to do is more work/more trouble than the easy way. hell last week I made ginger beer. it took like an hour to peel enough ginger, and then another 45 minutes to prep it. Way quicker/easier to grab some at a store, but I wanted to do it the old school way so I did. pay off was learning how, and a much better product.

I believe we'll be able to accomplish much of the house work. I've done construction, so as long as I find blueprints or plans for a solid coop, I can make that happen. Same with raised beds and irrigation, I've done some and I want to do more. Isn't that the point of this site? better living through hard work?

Another aspect is that it's closer to our parents, both sets. we're currently 24 hours of driving away, which sucks. We'd be down to 4 hours, which makes weekends and visits much more reasonable.

I'm thinking about bees more for pollination and because bees need help. I don't eat a ton of honey, but would be happy to make soaps and stuff with it, too. Mostly it seems really cool and old school.

our families just told us they each have a basic lawn tractor waiting for us (free) if we move up. So all we'd have to do is add plows or whatever. I have a garage/shop with wrenches, table saw, band saw, chain saw, sawsall, hand tools, etc, and it's sounding like that will almost hold us to get started. Eventually I want a log splitter because I don't love splitting by hand. Well I do, it's manley as shit, but damn it takes forever.


This new job would also cut an hour a day of commuting out of my life, 30+ mins of back and forth for the kid to go to daycare, and add 3 weeks paid vacation. So while it would be a step down financially, it would be a big step up in time and hopefully quality of life.

Trifele

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2017, 09:45:48 AM »
OP -- great job with the ginger beer!  I should try that some time. 

Sounds like the stars are aligned for you and your family.  I bet you will love living in the country.  Good luck!

steviesterno

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2017, 01:30:34 PM »


I'm not sure we'll be able to kill or eat any animals we raise, we're both thinking they will be more like pets. I'm not certain I'll be able to hunt but that might be a possibility for cheaper meat. All parties involved are cool with fishing for food or raising fish to eat though.
It's not so hard to draw a hard line between food animals and pets; never name food animals, never play with food animals.  Would you be up for taking cows, etc. to the slaughter house?  Typically -- or at least this used to be true -- that the butcher would take the animal and return 50% of the meat to you, keeping the other 50% to sell.  No money involved.  Hunting is not cheaper than buying meat from the grocery store; not when you include the equipment, especially not when you include your time.

 

what if one of my hobbies is sitting quietly in the woods? and I already own the right rifle/shotgun/bow and the farms I've looked at butt up against gameland? My hope is to snag something while already out working on the property. Otherwise every time I go hunting I just end up napping in the woods.

specialkayme

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2017, 02:14:01 PM »
I can't speak to much of the topic, but I can help you out a little on the beekeeping analysis. I operate a sideline bee business, with about 42 hives, and been beekeeping for about 15 years. Most people think it'll be neat to have a hive or two and "go get some honey" when you want it. It doesn't operate quite like that, and it isn't very cost effective.

To get involved, here's what you need:
- Woodenware (the stuff to put the bees in) will probably run you about $250. If you're very handy, you might be able to build some of it yourself, but not all of it. And the cheap alternatives (top bar hives) are not easy to learn on.
- Bees - you can choose a package of 3 lbs (~$110 each) or a nuc (short for nucleus hive, or a 5 frame mini starter hive - ~$145). Yes you can go cheaper and capture a swarm, but they usually aren't found when its convenient for you.
- Protective gear  (bee suit, gloves, ect) will probably run you around $60
- Tools (smoker, hive tool) - probably another $50.

Total start up cost (for one hive) ~$475.

Most people kill their bees the first year. Keep that in mind. So you'll probably need to buy two or three nucs before it "sticks."

Annually, you will probably need to buy:
- A new queen (not every year, but you should budget for it) - $40
- New frames, foundation - $50
- Medications (for varroa mites) - $15
- Sugar (for feed) - $20

Total annual costs - $125 per hive.

Timewise, it might cost you about 40 hours per year. Not too bad.

Now, what does that investment get you? First year - no honey. It takes the bees time to build up. You might be able to get some honey the first year, but don't plan on it. The second year, NC's state average is 35 lbs per hive. NY is higher, probably closer to 65 lbs. I wouldn't expect to get state average your first year though.

So you get the honey, but how do you get it out of the frames? Extracting equipment will run you, if you're cheap, around $200. If you don't want to hand crank an extractor and have a heated uncapping knife, you're looking closer to $800. Lets use the average between the two, or $500.

So, lets say you get 50 lbs your first year. Market rate for honey is $7 lb. (some get up to $10, but national average is $7). So you harvested $350 of honey. It cost you annually $125 per hive, so your net was $225. At 40 hours, you got paid $5.65 an hour, or close to minimum wage. Before taxes, of course.

So, total up front investment would run you about $600, plus $365 per hive. So one hive runs almost $1,000. At $225 "profit" it'll take you almost 5 years to break even. That's assuming you keep your bees alive the first year, which again most don't. If you don't, you already spent the $1,000, plus the $125 to keep them alive, and now you'll have to put out another $150 for replacement bees and another $125 to keep them alive the next year. So that 50 lb harvest now gave you a $50 loss, before you count the cost of your equipment and time.

That's assuming you keep the honey for yourself. If you are planning on selling it, double your time output. That's not counting the sweat, the blood, the frequent stings, and the customers that ask a TON of questions about why your honey is more expensive than Walmart's, or questions about what I'm doing to save the bees. All nice, and I like it, don't get me wrong, but time consuming.

Long winded, yes, but just trying to make sure you fully understand what's involved before you think it'll be "neat" to get a hive or two to put some honey in your tea.

steviesterno

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2017, 04:37:18 PM »

Long winded, yes, but just trying to make sure you fully understand what's involved before you think it'll be "neat" to get a hive or two to put some honey in your tea.


wow.... that's way more involved and expensive than I thought it would be, but it doesn't sound like a total waste. My understanding of having bees is that in addition to the honey you get (eventually) having a good supply of bees in the area is better for all the nature, flowers and crops.

So do you think it's worthwhile if you're going to have 1-3 hives or are you better off not even bothering?

specialkayme

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2017, 05:53:32 PM »
My understanding of having bees is that in addition to the honey you get (eventually) having a good supply of bees in the area is better for all the nature, flowers and crops.

Native pollinators are actually much better for your local environment than honey bees. Native pollinators are much more efficient and effective pollinators than honey bees, on a "per bee" basis. Honey bees take the front page just because its easy to drop 60,000 honey bees in one spot. Not easy to do that with native pollinators.

If you're looking for small scale pollination and bettering the environment, look into mason bee nests. Much easier and a whole lot cheaper.

So do you think it's worthwhile if you're going to have 1-3 hives or are you better off not even bothering?

That depends. Are you considering it a hobby or a side income gig?

If viewing it as a hobby, I find it very fun and rewarding. But it's a money sink at 1-3 hives. Less so than most hobbies (hunting and fishing for example), as you can actually make your money back over a period of time if you work for free, but as long as you go into it knowing you're losing money but learning along the way, it's fun.

As a side income gig, 1-3 hives isn't worth bothering. Beekeeping very much works on an economies of scale. The first hive, based on the math provided, provides a return at ~$5.50 an hour, and takes 5 years to recoup your costs. But the next hive makes things better, as you don't have to buy another smoker, bee suit, or extractor. It also adds less time (maybe 10 more hours for the second hive, making 50 total). So at 2 hives, you're now making around $9 an hour (exclusive of bottles, insurance, marketing, internet fees, taxes, ect), and it would take 3.5 years to make your money back. 3 hives bumps it up to around $11 an hour, and about 2.5 years to make your money back. Assuming the bees stay alive and you get 65 lbs per hive. It doesn't exactly work like that, but you get the idea.

But beekeeping is farming, and is inherently unpredictable. Some years you get bumper crops. Other years you don't, and your hives die. It's part of the business. The good ones make it by cutting expenses and cashing in on good years. For what its worth.

For fun and to give away some honey, it can't be beat. But if you're looking for a low cost way to add some honey to your tea, make your own mead, or bake with some honey, you'd be better off sticking to your 9-5 job and buying it from someone else. The guy that sells it is able to do it by taking alot of stings and managing 600+ hives.

MrsPete

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Re: help with mini/hobby farm/homestead?
« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2017, 06:28:39 PM »
Pick one or 2 things to master, and then add another.

At our farm, we started with lettuce and chickens and hens.

Then we added tomatoes.

Now we do all the veggies, and bees, but we've dropped hens and chickens.

Hope to add the hens and chickens back in, but they need more infrastructure and we're over-extended.
This is good advice, but I'd say start with tomatoes; homegrown tomatoes are one of the most delicious foods in the whole world, which makes the effort more rewarding.

last week I made ginger beer. it took like an hour to peel enough ginger, and then another 45 minutes to prep it. Way quicker/easier to grab some at a store, but I wanted to do it the old school way so I did. pay off was learning how, and a much better product.
I CAN do a lot of things that I don't do on a regular basis.  I value knowing how to do these things, even though they aren't cost or time-efficient. 

- Woodenware (the stuff to put the bees in) will probably run you about $250. If you're very handy, you might be able to build some of it yourself, but not all of it. And the cheap alternatives (top bar hives) are not easy to learn on.
Yeah, see, most of us would probably never even break even from this $250.  And I had no idea a queen cost $40.  So if you're going to raise bees, it should probably be for reasons other than economy. 

But beekeeping is farming, and is inherently unpredictable. Some years you get bumper crops. Other years you don't, and your hives die. It's part of the business. The good ones make it by cutting expenses and cashing in on good years. For what its worth.
Unpredictable is right.  A couple years ago I had a bad year and barely cleared $1000 on 25 acres of farmed land.