Need Advice

Rock Tavern, NY

Hi everyone,

My husband was laid off from his job, and since he was the only one employed, we are faced with a fresh start. I feel that now is the time to do what I always wanted, which is to sell my large-ish suburban house (that hubby picked) and move to a small house with a nice piece of land and start a hobby farm. I want to live off the land more than my garden enabled me to, and I want to teach my children about self-sustainabilty. We currently live in Orange County NY, but we need to move, as the condominiums and McMansions are taking over this area. We are thinking to move to either Vermont, New Hampshire, or the opposite direction, Pennsylvania. Can anyone tell me where I might find information about land/houses that are available in these areas? I have no idea where to look, other than with traditional realtors, and they want to sell houses, with the land being secondary. I looked at the last post about the beginning farmer and rancher opportunities, and that seemed to be the right direction for me, except the farms were way out west. Is there any program over here in the east?

How do I do this? Can anyone help me? I know this is something I can do. I can grow anything, I have experience with many types of crops, and I can learn anything I don't know. How do I start?

Thank you all for your help.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

The resources I posted are nationwide networks, especially the Rural Heritage.

Try finding the local farmer's markets in the area's you're interested in... lots of good folks with dirt experience, get into the network of market gardens and small livestock. Their experience and word of mouth will be a big help.

Ask at the feed stores for info...

How do you figure to do a hobby farm with no income? Even many folks trying to make money with their farms and homesteads have to have a job to raise enough cash for taxes, feed, equipment, and medical expenses. A hobby farm really means... this is what I do with all my extra cash instead of investing it in wall street.

Also, check out Countryside magazine. They are currently running a "greenhorn" series for folks wanting to get started. Lots of advice from those who 'been there, done that, this worked, this didn't'. Invaluable experience, lots of useful advertising, but watch the land deals...

Good Luck!

Jacksonville, TX(Zone 8b)

Also check out

You can search anywhere in the US.


Elmira, NY(Zone 6a)

You can look at an ordinary realty site online like and just sort the results according to lot size ("larger than 1/2 acre"). You would be surprised the good deals that turn up. Also, consider upstate NY. It is way cheaper than Vermont or PA (don't know about NH). Yes, we do have taxes up here, but in the small towns it is not much at all and you do get a break on land taxes if you are farming. And there is a Beginning Small Farmer program run by Cornell University Cooperative Extension here.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Any results with your search yet?

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

I would reconsider the idea of living off the land if you want little luxuries like electricity and phone. You will need an income. I am not trying to dampen your enthusiasm. I just want you to check out job market of any location that you are considering. You also need to check out cost of living in an area. Prices of everything vary greatly. Find out the price of things like elctricity and not just bread and milk. Property taxes vary in 4 digit numbers depending on what area of the country you are living. There is a lot of homework to do. A lot of it is things that may not occur to you until it is too late.

Elmira, NY(Zone 6a)

Good point about checking the job situation, kahty65468. It is cheap up here, but one of the main reasons why is because there are no jobs. You have to have an onlilne business, be Amish, or be on Social Security.

Rock Tavern, NY

Hi Everyone,

Thank you for all your responses. I'm sorry about the delay in replying--we've been trying to get things together down here, and after a lay off, it's not the easiest thing in the world.

I didn't complete my entry the first time, and I'm sorry for that. My husband is looking for a job--he will be the steady income. I am the one who wants the land to supplement that income with what I grow, and to teach my children how to live off the land. Though I could cut myself from "the grid", so to speak, and start ALL over again, my husband is not that kind of person. So we compromise. We were looking at many places, but I'm thinking we might settle upstate, around Albany. My brother works in Troy, and says there are opportunities in Albany and Schenectady for work. That's where we are focusing for now, for him hopefully to work in the city center, and for us to live nearby, but in the most rural area we can. It doesn't seem too unlikely, with some preliminary work, I've seen that about 30 miles out, there are farms and properties with acreage. That gives me hope. As of now, he was commuting 65 miles on the train into work, so 30 miles is a walk in the park.

I have not yet looked into property taxes in the area, but I will do so. Currently, we are living in the NYC "metro area", so the taxes are high. I'm hoping if we go up, they will be less so. But we have to go where my husband's work is, so that's going to have to decide it for us.

Thank you again everyone. I will let you know what happens!

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

Bless you and good luck to you and your family. There will be many adjustments but it is worth all of it. Our family did the same thing 25 years ago and I have not regretted it.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I knew someone once who lived on a large lot in town, and raised most of their own food. Every square inch of the lot was vegetable garden, it was amazing. And with a few chickens or rabbits in the back yard for meat, there's a lot your kids could learn about self-sufficiency right there. So much of self-sufficiency is mind set, learning how to make do with what you've got and not just pop to the store and buy it, not just hire someone to come in and do it for you. And all that can be done in the burbs.

There's more and more folks every day doing urban homesteading because of the money situation, and the school situation (there are often better schools in larger towns); even if you home school, you'll have more opportunities for age group socializing.

Just an idea...

Rock Tavern, NY

Kathy65468, thank you so much! This is one of those very scary moments that I just know will have us come out better for. The trick, I'm finding, is being brave enough to make the change that needs to be made. I am hoping we have the courage to see it through.

Jay, you are right. I was hoping that moving up here (Orange County, NY) was going to be the opportunity you are speaking of, a yard with vegetables and chickens, but truthfully, as we found out, Orange County is just an extension of New York City. I could have vegetable gardens all over the place, but no chickens or rabbits or even a beehive. None of it is allowed. It truly is the suburbs, in the strictest sense. Disappointing, but we learned. I will not be sorry to leave it.

I am hoping that no matter where we wind up, we can have what we were originally hoping for: a nice piece of land with a smaller house (that's my hope, not my husband's, but I think he will come around) that we can use as a small farm, chickens included. I can't see that that's too much to ask. I've got the right mind set, I just need the right place to be to make it come to life.

Thank you all again!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh, bummer.

I've lived 30 miles out, and the driving is really no fun. Watch out what you sign DH up for. Driving that every day is more a lot more tiring than sitting on a train, I assure you. And one of the things that tends to happen is the person going into town ends up being the errand runner, which can be sort of a thorn in the side.

It's tough when not everyone is as enthusiastic about Great Ideas as we are. =0( I've cycled through my share of partners who had noooo interest in working the land... they've ranged from dead weight to active underminers. One would sit on the couch, look out the window and think up more projects for me to do. She loved living in the country, but was more of the landed gentry sort... someone else to do the work. Another complained I was in charge of everything, so OK, would you like to be in charge of the garden? Yes. Come planting time... she decided she didn't want a garden that year. }}}fume{{{

Just some things that came up for me...

Now I've got a partner who is trying to figure out how to stop working in town so she can spend more time on the farm. Muuuuch better! =0)


Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

When you first move to the country that drive to town is a real pain! You feel deprived because you can't just jump in the car and run to the store for something that you probably did not need anyway. It is amazing how quickly you adapt. Eventually, you reach a point where you cannot understand why anybody wants to go to town. At first it was things like lack of gas money or lack of time because there is much work to do on the place, but soon it is that you realize it is more fun to sit in the yard and watch the birds than walk the mall. From May to October, we hardly eat any meal in the house. Most are cooked outdoors and eaten there. You discover that it is more fun to wash your hair with the garden hose than in the shower. 200 feet of garden hose laying in the sun supplies hot water for long enough to wash hair. You will work harder but you will be more relaxed and less tired.
You will actually have a relationship with your kids. The thing I was least prepared for was the day my daughter did not ask me what was for dinner but who was for dinner and I told her it was Johnny. She just responded with "cool". No, we are not cannibals, Johnny was a 10 week old rabbit. We frequently ate what I went out and butchered that morning. Talk about fresh food!

Tamworth, NH(Zone 4b)

Be darn sure that wherever you end up looking, you check out the zoning regulations before you get your heart set on some property and buy it. We lived in Niagara Co. NY, on the outskirts of a small village that was part of a larger township. It was designated an "agricultural district" but that turned out to mean very little. Our zone was considered "semi-rural residential", and the zoning regs were poorly written and not very clear, but if read conservatively meant you had to have 10 acres of land to own so much as a chicken, because owning any type of farm animal, even poultry, meant you were "farming" and farms had to be on at least 10 acres. That was true even in the "rural residential" zones. Well, except you only needed 5 acres to have a horse. But a chicken required 10. Go figure.

Now, in practice, the zoning officer did not go around looking to bust people, but if he got complaints from neighbors, then he was obliged to let you know you were breaking the rules. We'd had our chickens for over 2 years, and our sheep for a year before anyone complained (we had almost 4 acres, BTW). I don't think anyone really cared about the chickens - the previous owner of the property who lived there 30 years had raised turkeys (and probably would have told anyone who complained to go you-know-where), but after our sheep lambed, I think it freaked some folks out. Particularly the suburban-style couple that bought their house around the same time we bought ours. So, we moved.

So, think ahead to any possible animal you could conceive of owning, and make sure the zoning will allow it.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

SHEEP freaked people out?!
Homo domesticus is getting way too disconnected from life for my taste. Sheesh.

Here's a nice quote I just came across...

"God gave all men all earth to love,
But, since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all."
Rudyard Kipling

Elmira, NY(Zone 6a)

It is true that sometimes on the borders of the rural you will find more regulations against livestock and such than you will even in the city. In Elmira, you cannot have any livestock at all and that includes chickens. And that is not just in the city of Elmira but the town(ship). It does not matter how many acres you have. But you can have chickens in New York City. I think sometimes it is because the smaller cities and larger towns were at one time very determined not to look rural, to look citified and "modern," and that kind of continues now. I also think that's why in places like LA and NYC you can have chickens and even goats, at least I know people who do, but you cannot have them in a town like Elmira. People would just be appalled here, whereas in NYC, no one is ever going to think it is a farmtown, so they don't care. Hopefully, these things will change as times change and it becomes more acceptable and who knows, even laudable to have chickens and so forth. I feel lucky there is no regulation against growing veggies in the front yard here, although I fully expect my next-door neighbor to complain about it next summer. He's stuck up. You know, the plasma tv, TWO SUVs, etc.

Tamworth, NH(Zone 4b)

Like the quote! Yes, I think the sheep were the last straw, so to speak. We had 5 ewes and 1 ram. All the ewes but one twinned, so we had 9 lambs. Once they started growing and becoming "real sheep", I think people thought we were going to keep them all and add more and more. Of course, no one ever asked us what our plans were. And, to be fair, we had one particularly obnoxious noisy ewe who bellowed like a cow. But we intended to sell her, or butcher her, and would have told that to anyone who asked, but of course no one did....

The actual complaint however just focused on the fact that we had farm animals, and "manure piles" too close to the buildings. Manure piles according to zoning had to be a certain distance from any occupied building. We had cleaned out the sheep pen in the barn, creating a small pile of bedding behind our house about 6 feet across and 18 inches high. It was old hay and straw mixed with sheep poop and urine. It was not visible from the road, and it didn't smell unless you were standing right next to it. So probably it was our next-door neighbor that complained about that, since he was already complaining about the sheep themselves. He would have been the only one who knew the pile was there. Once we got the complaint, we used it for mulch on all our flower beds around the house. Presto, no more pile! ;-)

Paracelsus, you may be right about the motivation for regulations against livestock. I'm not sure it was the case in our town, but I think that non-farmers wrote the regs, and didn't really think about how reasonable or practical they were. Five acres OK for a horse, but ten required for a flock of chickens?

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b), I mean, sharing the produce helps with a lot of folks. Not with everyone; I think those'uns wear their shorts too tight, cuts of the circulation to their heart.

Sometimes the reason chickens are allowed in the cities is because folks got the stupid laws struck down. I think that was the case in Albq... didn't used to be able to have chickens, but now you can have a few, just no roosters. That seems reasonable.

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

Chickens are frequently allowed because of the cock fighting industry. The folks who do that rub elbows with the folks who have money and so they were able to make sure chickens were allowed even in urban areas. I love chickens and fresh eggs and live in the country. That being said, of all my livestock I think chickens stink the worst and are definitely the most noisy! If I had close neighbors I would rather they had sheep than chickens.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

You mean cock fighting in the old days? Because it's illegal now in most states (though not here).

As far as odor... yeah, when it's wet, the chicken yard reeks! And if they're free range, you're always tracking their deposits into the house. Yeeach.

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

Yeah, I wish the fighting stayed in the old days but there is still much of it going on legal or not.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh, yeah, it still goes on, but we're talking about where the difference arose between city and town laws, and I think you've raised a valid possibility. I'd never have thought of that.


Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

This is the link I like to refer to sometimes for inspiration. I'm really amazed at what they have accomplished in their backyard. Had I known I could have done all this when living in the city, I might never have moved to the country. Now, I'll never go back to city living.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Kathy ~ regarding stinky chickens, I thought you might be interested in this information

Joel Salatin believes that "if you smell manure (on a livestock farm), you are smelling mismanagement." For instance, Salatin recommends that chicken houses' floors should be provided with one foot of sawdust or fine leaf chippings, into which the birds scratch their droppings, and the droppings decompose leaving no odor.
Leafs should be commonly available and worth a try in your location.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

When it gets wet it doesn't matter what they are bedded in. They gonna stink. Half my yard is roofed and half isn't so one side gets very muddy. The way the chickens love the muddy side, you'd think they were ducks. LOL

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

Yup, when chickens get wet they get stinky. No way to stop that. Maybe Mr. Salatin lived in a dry climate. In August, the chickens had very little odor. In April put on the gas mask!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I allowed mine free range and only penned them at night. Never had an odiferous problem but then I never allowed the population to get too large for the area they were in either.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Coyote's and hawks pick off free range out here, so keeping them in a yard is what happens. And chicken yards stink when it rains.

Just like corrals to those who don't love the smell.

Ferndale, WA

Hi Littlebrook 15: Why if you have the spirit of adventure, are you limiting yourself? Have you never heard the saying " Go West young woman Go West" What you are proposing to do is certainly an adventure, so how can you fall in love with a place you've never thought of. I and my lovely wife and chickens live out in the great Northwest, and you'd be in for a treat if you just visited and farms are everywhere. Oh come on, at least dream big if your going to dream at all. Haystack

Rock Tavern, NY

Hi Haystack,

Right now we are looking in the area where we have family, but truly nowhere is off limits to us. If this doesn't pan out here, we will go elsewhere. I think it's one of the benefits to having a one income family--though you are totally stuck when that job is gone, the truth is, you're not tied down anywhere for any reason. We can pick up and go anywhere, practically, so we will go where the work is--no matter where that may be.

It may be that I'll see you in the "wild wild" west!

Fayetteville, AR

Two more websites: and I also am trying to sell my place and buy another more farm-like. I'm ready to leave NW Arkansas because of the biting bugs (I am SO sick of ticks and chiggers) and plant bugs that make it almost impossible to garden organically, but there are few other places I can afford that are not popsicle weather for months out of the year (I am spoiled in this respect). I've got my place for sale on and have gotten quite a few responses, so I think most of the listings are current and accurate.

Ferndale, WA

Hi there Littlebrook!!! It's been a while so I'm just checking in on you and DH. How is the search going. Is DH back to work yet? and have you been able to find any land yet. I hoping you and your's find what you are looking for. Haystack

Luanne I left you a message over on Poverty' thread if you are interested. Haystack

Rock Tavern, NY

Hi Haystack!

Thanks for the message. No, husband hasn't found work yet--this is getting interesting. There are jobs out there, but no one is biting. Someone "in the know" tells him that they most places are waiting until the end of the first quarter to see how many they can hire/if they can hire. Actually, I'm wondering if these places are not all just so inundated with people that they have to sift through them all, and it's just too many. So many people are out of work, and more keep losing their jobs.

I know my husband is capable and qualified, his resume is updated, his cover letter is tight, but still nothing. I'm beginning to wonder what else we should do.

I haven't looked for land yet, because I still don't know where we are going to go. Right now, we're just going to sell the house we're in and see what happens next, pretty much. Not the most fun I've ever had. :)

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Man, that bites. =o(

Well, just keep cultivating that 'Can do' attitude of any good pioneer, and hone your survival skills. Lots of homesteading skills are also good for surviving tough times in the city... make do, do it yourself, or do without. You may not be able to grow much of your own food, but you can still put by and develop a lot of self-sustaining skills.

Hang tough, tough it out, never give up...

Rock Tavern, NY

Thanks, Jay. This gets to beat me down a bit some days, but it's not going to beat me. I think we'll come out better in the long run (though the run is gettting VERY long).

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

You might want to check out The Compact...

though they're not homestead oriented, they've got a lot of great ideas and experience in a serious 'make-do' attitude... all the way to using rags instead of toilet paper. Lots of info on getting by using little, saving money, etc.

Reduce, re-use, and recycle is just the modern way of saying... make do, make it yourself or do without. LOL Self-sufficiency is a way of thinking first and foremost.

Ferndale, WA

Hey Littlebrook!!! It's been a month since I have heard from you, are you still alive and kicking??? Whats up? Has anything broke for you good folks yet. I sure hope things are looking up for you. Let us hear what's going on with you guys. Hay

Rock Tavern, NY

Hey Haystack,

Things are starting to lighten up here, which is nice. He's gotten one firm offer for a job, which he can't take because of the salary (WAY too low for this area), and he almost got another, but the job requires him to move every 6 months, which we won't do. So I guess really nothing has changed, except it seems that there are possibilities, and that's better than before, when it seemed nothing was going to happen at all.

I am hopeful that the right job is out there, and he will get it soon. We remain with our fingers crossed.

Thanks so much for asking!

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

Glad things are looking up for you and your family.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Keep that positive outlook!

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