Help sought from the wise please…


I am in need of advice. My partner, Jemma and I have rather a big decision to make regarding our future together.

A little background may help.

Jemma grew up on a farm. That farm is has been in the Hindle family for at least three generations. It was run by her parents and they produced grain as well as raising pigs, chickens (thousands of them) and the occasional bullock. When Jemmas dad died her mother took on the farm alone and carried on the grain production side.

These days the farm is still going but it is a mere shadow of its former self. The buildings are in sad state and many areas are simply not used anymore. Jemma stables a few horses there now, but thats it.

Jemma and I are frequently over at the farm, either collecting wood for our fire, walking the dog or mucking out the stables. Its a beautiful site with magnificent views but I can’t help but get a little sad whenever I am there. For example, today I was standing in front of one of the stables. Its roof has those large ‘s’ shaped red tiles that interlock each other. Some of the rows have slipped over the years and no one has ever attempted to repair it. The windows in some of the out buildings are all smashed or dirty and their frames are rotten and falling apart. I imagine, Tony, Jemmas dad would have repaired all of this when he was alive all by himself and would never have allowed this to have happened. Not far from where the stables are there stands two huge diesel tanks resting high on purpose built concrete stands. I can imagine Tony filling up the tractors there before driving down to one of the fields.

Jemmas mum is finding the work on the farm increasingly difficult as arthritis and age catch up with her. She is having to contract out a lot of the work to outside companies or temps to get the work done particularly around harvest.

I can see a day when she is unable to continue the work herself and will either have to sell off land and bits and pieces or contract the lot out. Either way its the end of an era and potentially the end of the Hindle families farm history. I find this immensely sad.

Yet all is not lost. Jemma and I are quite possibly the only ones able to keep the farm in the family. Her sister is not at all interested, which is unfortunate.

Jemma has always wanted to get back onto the farm proper and get involved. She has dreams of starting up the pig side again and too bring sheep in too. This is not so difficult as it seems. Jemma has experience of looking after both species. Her knowledge of sheep farming for example extends to not only feeding and raising but also to lambing. She can also shear them too. Pigs, she tells me are a lot easier.

It goes without saying that I have absolutely no experience what-so-ever.

So, here we have it. The big decision.

  1. We do nothing and let fate decide. Stay employed by the NHS (for all the moaning, we have a secure job, a pension and the money isn’t too shabby) and continue life as normal.
  2. We buy into the farm. We purchase a bit of the land. Stick some sheep on it and some pigs and hope for the best. One or both of us we need to go part-time to facilitate this option, but having calculated finances we think it may be possible. The down side of this option is that we would almost certainly have to sell out current home. This is a real downer for us as we both love this house very much. We love the area, we love the pubs, we love the convenience of local shops. Renting the house out is a possibility, but if it didn’t have a tenant for a period of time we would be in a proper shitty state. So, I believe selling up would be the safest option.

So thats it then. The big decision. I am torn between sticking with what we know and what we don’t. The safe option whereby we have a regular wage, a safe job and a pension against forging our own path into the unknown.

Your thoughts, advice and wisdom are all welcome…

M.

One response to “Help sought from the wise please…

  1. Well, this is a doozey of a problem, is it not? To stay on the Mean Streets, saving lives, or to become a Son Of The Soil and make a living from God’s Green Earth. It’s one of those ‘turning point’ moments I’m so fond of when I write about my own on my blog, but in my case I rarely recognise them until well after the time has passed. In your case, it’s a conscious decision that needs to be reached….to take a leap of faith, or to stay where you are.

    Now, a few cold realities to chew on. Nothing, and I mean nothing, screws up a relationship quicker than the lack of money. When money is tight, you both have different ideas on how to spend what little there is, and arguing about who did what with a few quid is very debilitating and destructive. Dont let anyone say that money isn’t important, cos it bloody well is. Being skint for months/years on end can really grind you down.

    What do you know about the economics of making a living from the land? Do you have a business plan, or is it just suck it and see? If you sold your house to help finance this project, then where would you live? The obvious place is on the farm, but where exactly on the farm?

    How long do you plan on doing this, if it works is it forever, or do you think it might be wiser to set a time limit? What I mean by this is you say right, if it doesn’t work out within two years, do we cut our losses and find something else, perhaps go back to the Mean Streets? If it *does* become a goer, then you’ve cracked it, but I think it might be wise to have an exit strategy in case it goes the way of the pear.

    There’s more to life than making a lot of money. I’ve worked in jobs where I’ve hated every minute of it, where I’ve lain awake at nights thinking about how I don’t want to turn in the next morning. Having a job you like is less common than you might think, while having a job you really enjoy is pretty rare. Most people drift into a job, start moving up through the pay scales, then find themselves trapped by their ongoing obligations and commitments, so they stick at it when their heart isn’t really in it. This becomes especially true when the rug-rats start arriving…..bills to pay, and promises to keep.

    Now, the upside. You’re both still young, lots of time to find out where you’re going in life. You can afford to dedicate a fixed period to find out whether this project is a goer, say, five years, and still be young enough to pick up the threads of something else if it doesn’t work out. What I personally know about working the land could be written on a fag packet, I can’t grow shit, if I look at a plant it promptly dies, and looking back I can’t say I ever saw you take any interest in greenery….so it’s certainly a leap in the dark. Jemma, on the other hand grew up with a hayseed between her teeth so it’s logical she’ll take the lead in the prospective farm project. With hard work, a bit of luck and a fair wind it might just work out fine….who knows?

    So, whats to be done. First, let me say that it’s not me doing this, so any advice I give is tempered by the knowledge that it won’t be me suffering any consequences or reaping any benefits. However….

    I’ve taken risks and changed direction quite a few times in my life, and I’m still standing. Leaving the army was a huge change, moving to Felixstowe was a total leap in the dark…just think about that for a moment. No job for either of us, no house to live in, and three kids to worry about…but it worked out pretty well. Then the move from The Dock to NTL, then the complete change to try the Ambulance Service, then upping sticks and moving here Oop North. Again with no job to go to in the beginning, but again it worked out. I’m a firm believer that if you’re both willing to get your head down and work then things can only improve. Life is for living…so get on with it.

    Final thought. If it was me standing in your shoes then I’d do it. When you’re old and grey it’s not the things you did which you regret, it’s the things you *didn’t* do…..and you can take that to the bank.

    Final Final thought. A ‘Dr Pepper’ moment. What’s the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work out, then you’ve still got each other, and there are other paths in life.

    Onward and upward!

    Like

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