Farm Estate Update


Is Landscaping a Smart Side Hustle for Your Homestead?

Holly WellesMany homesteaders are looking for ways to diversify their income and make the most of the tools and skills they possess.

For some, landscaping may seem like the natural choice, since you're already familiar with the great outdoors. Why not go for something you're skilled in?

Lawn care can be an excellent source of additional income, but like any business, it requires patience, motivation and financial smarts. 

Take your time and do your research before making a decision. Running a business is a fulfilling venture that also calls for a lot of hard work. If you're sure about taking it on, you'll need to know the elements that come along with it. Here are some points to consider about starting a landscaping side hustle.

Advantages of a Landscaping Business

Turning your current landscaping skills into a side hustle can be a successful way to supplement your income. Owning a business is a great feeling — you get to be the boss and manage operations as you see fit. Several more advantages exist beyond this new freedom.

Increased Income

One of the first advantages of a side gig is extra income. More money doesn't hurt, and it can help you perform upgrades around the homestead. There's likely no shortage of people near you who need work done on their lawns, meaning you'll have a steady flow of clients.

However, client retention also depends on what services you offer and what people need. Matching what you do to what they want will naturally bring in more money.

Trade Associations

Join a landscaping association, and you'll have tons of help from mentors and peers. You get to talk with others who know the field and can give you pointers you weren't aware of. Networking and advertising your services become more credible through word-of-mouth referrals.

You may also find contractors you can hire to help with your business. Industry associations are well worth the cost to join because they put you in contact with people you wouldn't have found otherwise.

Interpersonal Development

Excellent interpersonal skills are integral to this job — you'll deal with a range of clients who all have different preferences. You'll have to know how to communicate well with them and answer any lawn questions they have.

Working in landscaping and dealing with people from all walks of life can quickly make you a better communicator. Remember to stay up to date on your gardening knowledge — continual learning enables you to provide valuable help.

Preparing the Right Equipment

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Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Landscaping jobs require lots of equipment, some of which you may or may not already own. Having the right tools to start with puts you ahead of the game, and you get more use out of your household equipment.

Your tool collection will have to accommodate every season — each one calls for different landscaping needs. Snow shovels and plows become must-haves in winter, while leaf rakes are necessary for fall. Plenty of standard equipment is usable year-round — stock up on the basics before buying specialized gadgets.

The best way to start is to conduct research and either rent machinery or buy used tools. Both of these options cost less than splurging on brand-new, top-model equipment. You can purchase a used model for over 25 percent less than new equipment and avoid severe depreciation while receiving similar functionality.

New equipment looks impressive at first, but it depreciates fast, making the resale value much less than the initial investment. Plus, if you're not looking to scale your work into a full-time business, you're not likely to use this machinery enough to justify the higher price tag.

Potential Challenges

The advantages are looking great, but there are still a few more things to think about before taking the first step. Don't let these challenges discourage you. Instead, view them as the realities of how the job can impact your life as a homestead owner. Avoid taking on more work than you can handle if your home duties are overflowing. If you do try landscaping, here are some more factors to accommodate for.

Injury Risk

This field is comparable to construction work concerning injury risk. You'll work with dangerous tools like hedge clippers, chainsaws and lawnmowers, and long hours under the sun can dampen your focus.

There's an extra layer of liability due to working on someone else's property — if you damage anything, it'll be your responsibility to pay for it. Many landscapers invest in insurance for these reasons. Adequate breaks and proper equipment training don't hurt, either.

Offseason Work

Winter can bring work to a halt with less need for lawn maintenance. Planning for this in advance will save you the stress of losing part of your income for the year.

Offer services like snow plowing, tree care and ice removal to keep operations running even in the cold months. The cold season doesn't have to freeze your bank account if you know how to take advantage of the opportunities.

Startup Costs

Starting a business means hiring and paying contractors, marketing your brand and purchasing equipment. These expenses can add up fast if you don't properly budget for them. Many entrepreneurs get in over their heads because they don't save enough money to cover their business launch.

Start saving as soon as possible and investigate cost-effective ways to procure the tools and services you need.

Building a Landscaping Hustle From Scratch

Hopefully, these points will provide some insight into what direction you'll take with landscaping. Maintaining two livelihoods can be a valuable lesson in discipline and professionalism. There's no right or wrong answer to whichever you choose — it all depends on what's right for you and your homestead.

How to Celebrate the Holidays Without Materialism

Holly Welles

It's the most wonderful time of the year in a multitude of ways — namely, we spend time with loved ones to celebrate the holidays. However, not everything that glitters is gold, especially this time of year. You may feel yourself growing weary of the materialism that comes with the holidays. It may seem impossible to side-step the gift-centric focus that this season brings.

Fortunately, though, you can celebrate the holidays without it being too materialistic. You'll soon find out that the holiday season will be just as memorable regardless of how much you spend. Here are six ideas for festiveness without all the fuss:

1. Set a Spending Limit

It's easy to let your budget get away from you when Christmas rolls around, and spending too much is one way the season can become materialistic. So, start this holiday season by setting a strict limit to your spending and sticking to it. This step stands as one of the best ways to budget your seasonal spending.

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Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Plus, by the time the holidays end, you will feel proud of yourself for spending a reasonable amount. Otherwise, you might feel disappointed in yourself for over-spending and giving into the materialism that comes with this time of year.

2. Personalize Presents

You could pay a lot for a pile of Christmas gifts that'll fade from memory in a few months. Or, you could make a point to personalize everyone's gifts and make them special enough to be remembered forever.

You might consider hand-making gifts for everyone on your list and asking them to do the same. Other families have done Secret Santa-style gift picking, where everyone buys a present for only one person in the family. Rather than wrapping them up and handing them over, though, you can make things even more individualized.

Leave the presents unwrapped and have the person guess which one's for them. It should be obvious if you choose presents based on the recipient's personality. Families who have done this kind of exchange have said it's an unforgettable way to celebrate the holidays — no over-spending required.

3. Say Thanks

Everyone gathers for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Day. Before you share a meal, make a point to go around the table and share your thanks for the holiday season that's about to begin or that has just transpired.

What makes you feel grateful? Remembering such sentiments will refocus everyone. These feelings are what the holidays are all about, and you should never forget them.

4. Give to Those in Need

Giving gifts to others always makes us feel good. You can amplify those sentiments by giving to those in need this holiday season. You have a slew of opportunities to donate to others during the holidays. For instance, you might adopt a child in need and buy them must-haves as well as what they want for Christmas. Or, you could volunteer at a homeless shelter to prepare a holiday meal for those who don't have their own place to celebrate.

Your family can become involved in your charitable efforts, too. Just as you can adopt and shop for a child in need, you can choose to help fund another family's holiday gifts or meal. Bring your brood along to shop so they can get involved in giving during the season, too.

Depending on your children's ages, they might also be able to volunteer with you at holiday-centric events, too. Regardless of how they participate, they'll remember giving back and how good it makes them feel. It could become a tradition for all of you in the future.

5. Gift Experiences Instead

We've already touched on personalized presents. You might also consider skipping traditional presents in favor of gifted experiences instead. For instance, rather than buying your children a pile of plastic toys, plan a trip for the family to go to the zoo.

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Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

You can hand over these types of experiential presents to everyone on your list. Even something as simple as a coffee shop gift card — and the promise of a coffee date — can make a great gift for a colleague or friend.

6. Partake in Free Holiday Activities

Even holiday activities can be a bit materialistic. So, find things for your family to do that don't cost any money. In wintertime, you'll have no trouble if you live somewhere that gets nice and snowy. Playing outside, building a snowman, constructing a fort... you can make holiday memories without spending a penny.

Of course, you can still have fun outside without snow. Take a walk to check out the changing leaves before it gets too cold. You might also hike through a local park or green space to check out the winter landscape and wildlife. No money's required to enjoy all that the season has to offer.

Holiday Ideas for Minimal Lifestyles

You don't have to overspend to enjoy the holidays. Instead, you can shift your focus from materialism to moments. With that, you're sure to find that you're enjoying the season more than ever before. In the end, that's what the holidays should be.

How to Reduce Cooling Costs on the Farm

Holly WellesA  farmhouse comes with ample charm and coziness but, sometimes, you'd like your place to be a little cooler — temperature-wise, anyway. Summer can be uncomfortable in a drafty old home as heat easily makes its way inside the place you go to cool off. To counteract this, you might pump the air-conditioning, a method that works but can be pricey.

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So, how can you have both — a stunning country homestead, but one that also stays cool without an exorbitant utility bill? Here are five ways to do it:

1. Upgrade Your Air-Conditioning Unit

You're thinking that this will be a big expense, and that's justifiable — but it's one that'll save you money in the long run. A newer, efficient air-conditioning unit will churn out more air while expending less energy. Start your search with appliances approved by Energy Star so you know that they'll use the least amount of power possible to keep your country home more comfortable than ever.

Once you've upgraded, check with your energy provider to see if they offer rebates for your purchase, as some companies want to provide incentives for their customers to use less. Your homestead can benefit from taking advantage of modern-day energy efficiency.

2. Close the Curtains

When you choose to live in the country, you want to gaze at your land. Chances are, your home has nice, big windows, and you love to keep them open and take in the outside landscape.

However, natural light is also a natural heater, so you should keep blinds and curtain shut, especially during the day's hottest hours. Do the same with doors outside — open and close them as quickly as you can.

To that end, try to avoid using heat-producing appliances, such as the oven or dishwasher, when it's hot outside. Limit baking and other heat-reliant activities to the morning or nighttime.

3. Try a Fan

Fans use a fraction of the energy that an air-conditioning unit does and, while they can't create cool air, they can keep things circulating through your house. Plus, that breezy feeling can make your space seem a lot cooler. Some estimates say you can reduce cooling costs by about 23 percent simply by turning on your ceiling fans and setting the thermostat slightly higher than usual. And, if you have a breeze blowing on you, then it won't feel warmer at all.

4. Keep the A/C Unit in Shape

When's the last time you changed your air filters? Leaving them to collect dust and other allergens makes it harder and harder for air to pass through and cool down your home. So, your air-conditioning unit will be working harder than it has to — and expending more energy — just to regulate the temperature. Replacing filters once a month can remedy this.

To that end, regular tune-ups can keep your air-conditioning unit churning at its full capacity. Before the heat of summer sets in at the homestead, think about calling in a technician to ensure the appliance is in working order — this small expense can help save energy costs in the long run.

5. Check for Leaks

You don't want your air-conditioning unit breathing cool air into your home only for it to escape through a leaky door, window or wall. Inspect your country home for any leaks in the seals around such areas with external access. Plug any holes that could be letting out cool air — weather stripping or caulk typically do the trick.

Keeping Your Farm Cool

Take the above five steps, and you'll be on your way to keeping your farm cool and comfortable in the summer. That way, you and your family can do exactly what you intended in the first place when you moved there — enjoy the landscape and enjoy life.

The Homesteader's Guide to Yard Sale Success

Holly WellesSpring means housecleaning for many, and that means its time to host a good, old-fashioned yard sale to clear the clutter out of your home. Many people can earn more income for their old belongings. They simply do not know how to maximize their earning potential.

Hosting a successful yard sale shares many similarities with running a profitable retail shop. The difference is, instead of having overhead costs, you pocket 100 percent of the proceeds. Here are some tips for making sure your spring yard sale rakes in some extra money, even if your property is a little remote.

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1. Get Out the Word

Advertise, advertise, advertise! You need not pay to advertise your yard sale in the information age. Utilize social media and websites such as Craigslist to spread the word.

Apps exist providing maps of yard sales. Such apps come in particularly handy for those who live in rural areas who host their own sale instead of going the neighborhood route. You have plenty of great stuff — make sure far-away neighbors can find your homestead!

2. Help People Find You

Many people struggle to find yard sale success due to a lack of signage. Remember, most sale visitors whiz past signs at 30 mph or more, so using more than one sign in a signature color is key to helping people find you.

Local dollar stores sell poster board for a buck or less. Select bright colors such as florescent pink, orange or green. Make sure people can see your signs by posting them prominently — and be a good neighbor by taking them down when the sale ends.

3. Can You See a Pattern?

Remodeling your kitchen from country chicken chic in favor of sleek black and silver? Consider having a themed yard sale! Themed sales draw individuals seeking what you have to offer.

Popular themes include kid-themed sales for those with growing tots and sports themes for those looking to peddle their old baseball cards. Those who love the smell and feel of real books can hold a literature-themed book sale.

4. Collaborate With Neighbors

Yard sale shoppers adore neighborhood-wide bargains and why not? Neighborhood sales mean more merchandise to choose from and require less driving and fuel. Joining together with neighbors helps reduce vehicle emissions from idling engines.

5. Have Plenty of Help

Most yard sale shoppers get up early on Saturday to find great bargains. Unfortunately, some come with less than honorable motivations. Some yard sale shoppers travel in pairs where one individual distracts the seller while the other grows sticky fingers. Make sure you have ample eyes to keep your valuables from walking away in someone's pocket free of charge.

6. Think Like a Retailer

If your idea of staging your yard sale involves tossing a bunch of items on a blanket in the front lawn, you likely will earn little. Just like shoppers in retail stores, garage sale shoppers appreciate an orderly arrangements. Group similar objects such as kitchen appliances together and use tables and empty crates to display wares in an attractive fashion which draws eyes to more expensive items.

7. The Price Is Right

In general, count yourself lucky if you recover a third of the retail price of certain items. Furniture and designer clothing and accessories demand higher price points, but most merchandise nets between $.50 and $5.

Non-designer duds usually fetch anywhere from $1 to $5. Softcover books usually sell for less than a dollar, hardcovers fetch a bit more. Collectible items can fetch a pretty penny, although you may earn more listing certain items on eBay if they have a niche market.

8. Give It Away Now

Even the most successful yard sale enthusiasts get left holding some leftovers. Assuming you don't want to list items online, consider making a donation of unsold items. Many local churches accept donations to help the needy, and organizations like Goodwill offer receipts for larger items so you can deduct the estimated price on your tax return.

Hosting a Yard Sale on Your Homestead

Yard sales go hand in hand with spring housecleaning, so if clutter is driving you buggy, take advantage of warming temps by hosting one. Whether you hold your own or take part in a neighborhood sale, you'll walk away with an extra wad of dough in your pocket!

Is Backup Power Important for Your Homestead?

Holly WellesLiving in the countryside has many benefits — the beautiful scenery, the fresh air and being away from the hustle and bustle of the city are likely just a few of the many reasons you moved to a rural area, or why you’ve enjoyed living there your whole life.

That said, being in a more rural area comes with its challenges, and if you’re not prepared, those challenges can do serious damage to your home, your health and your wallet. One of these challenges, as we know, is getting power.

It’s likely that you've thought about getting backup power for your homestead, but with so many different options and price points for backup generators out there, how do you know which one to get? Beyond that, is getting backup power a worthwhile investment?

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Protect Your Homestead

If living in the country has taught you anything, it’s probably the importance of being prepared. Since we don’t have the same access to resources as the city-folk, we've learned to adapt and anticipate a problem before it happens.

Your access to energy should be treated the same way. A power outage to your home could mean frozen pipes, spoiled food and a lack of running water, which is why it’s essential to be prepared when a crisis strikes and have a backup generator in place.

How to Pick the Right Generator

When you're deciding which generator to get for your homestead, you’ll want to think about a few things to make sure you're prepared.

1. Pick the Right Kilowattage

If your generator is too small to handle your appliances, there isn’t much point in having one in the first place. For your typical three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, a general rule of thumb would be no less than 10 kW.

If you want to be able to run all of your appliances in the event of a power outage without the risk of overload, you might consider a generator in the 15 to 25 kW range, depending on whether you have all gas utilities, all electric or a mix of both.

2. Select the Right Style for Your Intended Use

Backup generators come in two-pole and four-pole styles, the difference being how hard the motor has to run to generate power. The two-pole-style motor will need to spin at double the RPMs as a four-pole style to produce the same power.

Two-poles are good for running for the duration of a normal workday, while four-poles are better for long-term use. The further away from civilization you live, the more reasons you’ll have to get the four-pole style. If it’s typically a days-long venture to get the power back on, you’ll need a generator built for that type of workload.

3. Choose the Right Engine

Generators have various engine options to choose from, and you’ll want to pick the one that’s the best fit for your homestead. Gas, diesel, natural gas and propane are typical options.

  • Diesel is best for efficiency.
  • Gas is best for convenience, especially if you live deep in the country.
  • Natural gas works best if you have an existing natural gas line going to your house that you can tap into.
  • Propane will work only for those that have access to a large propane source since these types of generator motors are not very efficient.

Another option you have available to you are power take-off generators. They'll allow you to hook up the generator to a farm tracker and let your tractor motor do the work. These generators are efficient and cost-effective if you can stand to be without your tractor until the power is back on.

Set up Your Generator

Once you’ve picked a generator that will provide the right power load to your home, you’ll need to hook it into your home’s electrical system. This step can be accomplished with an automatic or manual switch.

Automatic switches are very convenient because they'll throw the generator into action as soon as your primary source of power goes out. You’ll pay for the convenience though, as this option is very expensive, with many automatic switches cashing in at over $1,000.

The manual switch is a much more cost-effective option, and it just requires you to manually pull the switch once you’ve noticed the power is out. Doing so will transfer the power source over to your generator.

Enjoy Peace of Mind

Living in the countryside provides a sense of peace that you just can’t get anywhere else. Be sure to prepare for a power outage with a backup generator proactively so that your peace of mind is never interrupted. A tough farmer keeps on running, even when it’s dark — why shouldn’t your home be the same?

How to Polish Your Homestead for Summer Weddings

Holly WellesHomesteaders have a lot of ways to make extra money with our land, and an increasingly popular way to do this is to open up our outdoor spaces for summer weddings. It's the perfect time of year for a celebration that embraces natural charm and beauty.

If you're getting ready for a summer wedding season, however, you do have to figure out how to prepare your outdoor space for such a gathering. To make that task more manageable — and ultimately successful — here are five tips for getting your homestead's exterior and landscaping just right.

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1. Clean the Hard Surfaces

After a winter of snow, sleet and salt, your outdoor surfaces might look a bit dingy. You'll want any picturesque barns and patios to shine in your clients' photos, so it's time for some spring cleaning.

You might be able to clean up on your own by grabbing the hose, turning the head to its hardest-hitting setting and washing away dirt and debris. If you find you can't clean your homestead up with the supplies you have, hire a powerwasher to come over and rinse everything before the celebration.

2. Landscape

It's not all about the grass in your backyard, although you should work to keep it trim and healthy Creative landscaping can add that finishing touch to your outdoor wedding venue. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this, no matter your style.

Try optimizing gardens to create bright blooms and lovely smells. Planting lavender or herbs can add a new element to a summer wedding. Colorful flowers can create a unique visual aesthetic. You can also add elements like a gazebo or trellis to create more opportunities for photo opps.

If this sounds like a lot of work, try keeping things low-maintenance. Your homestead can incorporate natural elements that fit into your local environment and still add plenty of charm to any summer events. Consider adding or pruning your trees to create lovely shaded areas, and plant drought-resistant grass to reduce your landscape's ecological impact.

3. Choose Your Mood Lighting

Floodlights outdoors make it easier for guests to see, but the bright bulbs don't quite set the mood for a party. Plus, the glow will undoubtedly attract bugs — you can do better than that with mood lighting.

Your best bet is to try torches and candles, both of which you can assign to double duty. Finding a flame that contains citronella will keep bugs at bay while providing your customers with the perfect level of mood lighting.

Hosting Summer Celebrations

By taking these steps, you will ensure your homestead looks its best pre-summer wedding season. And, once you've completed the checklist, you get to focus on the business — taking photos, listing your venue and meeting potential customers. Your hard work will have made it all possible.

Letting Go: When to Hire Professionals for Projects

Holly WellesA self-sufficient lifestyle is appealing. When you don't need another person's assistance, and you can manage your property on your own, that sense of independence is a source of strength. It's a freedom you've earned through hard work — a special kind of satisfaction you can't find elsewhere.

At the same time, a self-sufficient attitude can compromise your operation if you're not careful. You're a competent, capable homesteader, of course, but it's smart to ask for outside help when a project exceeds your abilities. Knowing when to hire professionals will keep you from making any costly mistakes.

With this in mind, when is it best to delegate the work to someone with more experience? When should you entrust a project to someone else? Here are three situations that demand expertise.

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Photo by Getty Images/welcomia.

1. Electrical Work

It's often best to leave electrical work to electricians. When you work with wiring, you're putting yourself at risk of electrocution, but that's not all. You're also creating a fire hazard that could spread throughout your homestead and cause larger problems. These are essential issues to consider if you want to take a DIY approach. 

More than that, certain projects with electrical work require permits and inspections. An electrician can handle the approval/disapproval process and save you the frustration. When you have a homestead or farm to operate, you have better things to do than deal with paperwork, which is an unattractive prospect for anyone.

In short, it's a smart idea to bring in an electrician instead of taking out your toolkit. Even though they're admittedly expensive, you can mitigate the cost. Something simple like mapping out your circuits correctly can save a professional from having to do it for you, and by extension, save money.

2. Renovations

If you have plans to renovate your homestead, you're likely enthusiastic about starting the process. You have your tools; it wouldn't take much to find the supplies and, depending on the scale of the project, you might even finish it in a weekend. Before you start, though, you should pause to reconsider.

Even if you're confident you can complete the project yourself, time is money when it comes to remodeling. You don't want to stop halfway through because of an unexpected setback you hadn't prepared for. It could cost you far more than what you were expecting — or what you had in your budget.

With an experienced contractor, you can attend to other responsibilities around your property while trusting a professional to manage the work for you. As long as you ask them the right questions and contact a few of their former clients, you'll feel far better about the success of your project.

3. Mold Removal

Mold removal doesn't always require professional help, but it's important to acknowledge when the problem is outside your skillset. If the patch of mold exceeds more than 10 square feet in size, you should seek assistance from someone with experience in the area. Otherwise, your safety is at risk.

When you're attempting to contain the problem yourself, you could run into unforeseen issues. It helps to have someone with you who understands the complexities of mold and how it spreads. As an example, contamination in an HVAC system can distribute mold throughout an entire building, with the occupants unaware.

Consulting a contractor or other service professional can prove beneficial in more ways as well. They can identify the source of the mold and provide actionable advice on how to account for it in the future. Their expertise will keep you and those who live with you safe from harm.

Everyone Has Limitations

A self-sufficient lifestyle is appealing, but everyone has limitations. It's important to recognize them and know when to hire professionals if you need outside help. When that happens, don't hesitate — reach out to someone in your area who can lend a hand.







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