(1) Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Most things on your property can find a new life as something else, even if it's just an old rusty rake that gets a new life as fall door decor. If you have a building that looks like it won't be good for anything, reanalyze the situation. We ended up using part of an older barn for our chicken coop, which saved us a bundle in time and money. We did take down part of the building (after the wind started that job for us) but we saved almost all the wood. We are still using the wood from that building on other building projects!
(2) If it ain't (completely) broke, don't fix it. But really! If something could use a repair but is working the way it is, just wait. Make a list of everything that needs attention on your property (ours is HUGE!) and then prioritize the list. This will help you save money by fixing things that could wait and avoiding emergency repair situations. Some of the things may have to wait a few years, and that is just fine.
(3) Look before you buy. If you have an older property, chances are pretty good you are going to find some of the tools or equipment you need laying around. We found two harrowers buried behind a barn with bushes growing up through them. It was hard work to get them loose but it saved us around $1200! You may not find everything you need or exactly what you were looking for, but you will save money by using what's already there. We have found everything from tools to animal feeders.
(4) Just make it. I am a very firm believer that there is always an alternative method to accomplishing any task. Before we found the above-mentioned harrowers, I used a section of chain-link with a tire on top to drag my pasture. We have made everything from a bench in the entryway of our house to compost boxes out of old dog houses to garden boxes out of rocks. The more you practice thinking outside the box, the less money you will spend on things you think you need to buy but could actually make. (I've tried to use old nails but Andy draws the line there … ha!)
(5) Prioritize goals for your property (and be patient). This sounds good to your ears and logical to your brain but I totally failed at this when we purchased our property. I was just so excited to FARM IT ALL! I underestimated the amount of time, money, and work all my projects would take and jumped into 40 things at once. This caused me to (1) not accomplish as much (2) become discouraged and (3) actually waste time and money recovering from my mistakes. For example: before we did anything with animals, I should have spent the time and money necessary to figure out how I was going to water my pasture. That sounds like a simple task but I quickly realized how little I knew and had overlooked about irrigation. Having my watering system figured out would have saved me time, money, and frustration. Now, two years in, I have to take a break from animals because I need get my watering figured out. Not to mention I am a lot farther behind on my pasture rehab because I haven't been able to water.
(6) Maximize the production of your garden and store what you grow. Once you have an established garden growing, the costs for your garden will stabilize. This will make it easier for you to estimate how much it is costing you verses saving you. If you can maximize what your garden produces, this can add up to impactful savings on your grocery bill. To take it one step further, if you are able to preserve much of what you grow, you can continue to reap the monetary rewards after the growing season and harvest are over.
(7) Put your animals to work! Have some weeds that just keep getting away from you? Put that goat on a tether and let em' at it. Need your garden tilled? Let the hog or chickens in there. Need some quality fertilizer? Spread out your chicken poop. Or any poop. Need to seed your pasture? Wait for some rain, broadcast spread your seed and then let the heifers pug up the ground to work the seeds in. Have some sheep that take way too long to herd in at night? Teach that ol' farm dog a new trick. "Sit" and "stay" are usually enough for my dog to help me keep my animals in line. Just having her sit somewhere usually deters them from making any crazy moves in that direction. Have some rocks you need to find? Let your horses out on the land, I promise they will bring every rock up to the surface in a matter of days. Just kidding! Horses are good for herding your other animals around or just using their poop. I'm not really sure what sheep could do for you. Besides try to die. (Kidding again!! Well, kinda …) They can also be good weed eaters.
(8) Be patient. I know I mentioned this a few times in the above points, but it is a major one. (At least for me. Patience isn't one of the virtues I was naturally blessed with.) Getting your farm the way you want it to run may take years. And that is ok. Every time you complete a project, you are making progress. Focus on the progress and find joy in the journey. I get so anxious about the piles around the property and the imperfect parts that I forget how much we actually have done. It has also been so much fun, I wouldn't trade the crazy projects and long hard days (and nights) for anything. If you don't have the money for something, just wait. It's not worth any amount of debt to get it done NOW. Getting it done later will be just as good — and usually, I'm glad I waited because I come up with better ideas the longer I think! Solid planning and patience will save you the most money as you farm your small acreage property.