Homesteader/caretaker reality check

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by mamagrrl, May 13, 2004.

  1. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    I'm looking for a reality check.

    We're making a decision whether to buy 160 acres of a neighbor's property here in California. It's generally steep terrain, on a river, with 3 or 4 established buildings/homes, a very small orchard and an ancient and tiny vineyard. No utilities of any kind. The nearest full-time neighbor by road, is probably a good 4 dirt-road miles away. It's an hour to the nearest town and that town doesn't have a stoplight (although you DO have to slow down.)

    We can't move there for the next 4 or 5 years at the request of our youngest son. This wouldn't be a problem, but the land is on a railroad line (defunct) and strangers sometimes walk in along the line and break/steal things from the buildings.

    So, I thought what we need is someone who likes the middle of beautiful nowhere, wants to homestead and would be willing to trade scaring off strangers (dogs?) and help with care and maintenance of the buildings/space for the right to live in one of the buildings and homestead on part of the land.

    Of money, there'd be little to none, unless we can come up with a way to create it. If the land makes money and the homesteader materially helps with that, then they'd have a share, of course. Ranching's a possibility, as is fishing tourism or even a railroad-buff-ghost-town sort of a thing. Someone once suggested a retreat center, as it's so remote. I kind of like that idea.

    So, give me the reality. Would this be attractive to folks who want to homestead but maybe can't afford their own land, or would I have an ice cube's chance in he!! of finding someone decent? What should I look out for, or look for?

    The likelihood of finding someone compatible with this situation will greatly help us decide to go for the land. If folks think it's highly unlikely, then that'll likewise be taken into consideration.

    Let the advice fly! :yeeha:
     
  2. Dave in Ohio

    Dave in Ohio Well-Known Member

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    I would be interested if it was somewhere else than California, Pa for example, or maybe even Idaho,Wyoming area.
    Dave
     

  3. Kirk

    Kirk Well-Known Member

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    Probably none of my business but why are you not moving at the request of your son? If it were his senior year in high school I might stay to let him finish it out. Otherwise I would tell him what you as the parent have decided to do. I get so sick of hearing about parents who are ruled by their kids. If this homestead is your dream for your family, wouldn't it be best if your son made that move along with you, when YOU decide its time?
    Kirk
     
  4. If it is fenced you could lease it to someone local for livestock. My grandfather years ago raised horses and beef cattle in Red Bluff Calif. He was always paying 5$ a head a month to run cattle on other peoples land and he had to maintain the fencing. No one lived in the old farm house but with our comming and going all the time I don't think anyone would have gone on to rip the place off. Good Luck
     
  5. RAC

    RAC Guest

    I was going to ask the same question Kirk did. Is he in line for some scholarship or something?

    Also, though, since your main concern seems to be theft and vandalism, you have to be realistic about any person acting as caretaker. They will have to go into town, perhaps every day, working for the rest of their money, go shopping (unless the stores deliver out there), etc.
     
  6. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    I see it as a basic respect issue, not who's ruling whom. He is extremely respectful of us and we try to return that consideration whenever possible. It's just simple respect... well, that and a careful weighing of the importance of desires. (Oh, and he's a teenager, not a very young child.)

    We homeschool, so we've become really attuned to their learning needs. Our current location simply suits his learning directions in terms of available area-of-interest opportunities more than out in the beautiful nowhere would. (yes, he's tried the beautiful nowhere for a time.) I respect the time and thought he's put into the reasons for why he would rather stay where he is for the moment and we decided that at this time in his life, it really *is* important for him to be here.

    Plus, he's my last baby and in four years he'll be out of the home so I prefer to treasure this time together. The first fourteen went like the wind. Four more will be like nothing.

    Sure, I could go presidential, demand he goes where I want 'right now, mister!' and he'd do it. The fact is, I don't have to and don't particularly want to. I'm willing to wait. It doesn't harm me. It suits his needs. As an unexpected side result, it's created a complete change about his feelings on our moving away. He's now very happy to go and spend parcels of time with me out on the land. We agreed to the best current solution for everyone.

    Thanks, however, for looking at the problem from another direction. It would indeed be a solution to cut out of our current place immediately and go rural.
     
  7. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    :haha:
    Uh, no storks! :p I only wish!

    You make a good point. I was thinking that if someone was living there, there'd be dogs. Folks usually respect fence lines when there's a barking dog bouncing on the other side of the wire, especially if it looks like someone is around. I certainly wouldn't expect anybody to be there every minute of every day of course. Even with the best garden, a body needs sugar and the occassional cup'a joe.
    Good to spell it out though. That's a reality check for sure.

    Keep 'em coming...
     
  8. K. Sanderson

    K. Sanderson Active Member

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    I think you might very well find a retired couple to caretake for you, or someone who can work wherever he or she pleases. It sounds like a nice place, and if I wasn't committed to staying with my grandmother for as long as she needs me, I'd offer!

    Kathleen
     
  9. Shygal

    Shygal Unreality star Supporter

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    But what happens in four years when he is 18 and decides to go to college, go in the army , go find himself, whatever? Will he honestly want to still spend parcels of time with mom out on the land, or go and try to make his own life?

    A lot can change in four years.
     
  10. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Go to RV.Net and post in a forum there.Lots of older Rv types who would do 3 months,they do that for campgrounds and such.I think you could find responsible people,esp. if you have water/power
    BooBoo
     
  11. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    When he turns 18, he'll do as he needs to do. College, army, start a business or trade... That's part of the reason we decided as we did.

    I think when he's grown, he will want to spend some time visiting with us on the homestead, but building his own life will come first, and that's how it should be.

    Any grandkids now, THOSE will be mine for at least a good part of every summer! (well, once they're past toidy training, anyway.) :p
     
  12. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    Thanks Kathleen for the suggestion to find a retired couple. That might be just the ticket.

    BooBoo's suggestion is a good one, but I'm not sure an RV much bigger than a dumptruck could get down that mountain road, and the only power we'd have will be generator or eventually solar. Most RV's are pretty huge, aren't they? I suppose they aren't all enormous, though. It's definitely something to consider.

    'Unregistered' suggested renting to a neighbor ranch, which we might do. The range isn't fenced yet - which seems to encourage the neighbors cattle to come on over anyway. Do you think I could get back-rent from them? :rolleyes:

    Dave, I'll ask the current owners if they'd be willing to move their land to Wyoming before I buy, but I don't think they'll be up for it. :D

    Great ideas and awareness issues from everyone so far.
    I knew I'd find great advice here!
    Keep it comin'! :yeeha:
     
  13. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    Not sure what I have to add other than something like this would be potentially attractive to a family like mine. My wife's work is often times available in some rather remote areas and I work mainly over the internet. We're young enough to still be able to work hard and old enough to have our heads firmly on straight. That sort of combination seems like the only way to get everything you need out of caretakers for your place.... how you go about finding the right folks for you, I just don't know.

    I've often wondered about care taking situations. There is part of me that would be very interested in doing something like that and other parts that would regret having to hold back, knowing that improvements would have to be kept simple because at the end of the day the place isn't mine. Basically getting caught wanting to do more and longer-term projects than I probably should. Considering I've done that very thing in a number of rentals over the years... I think it's probably safe to say I'd do it again.

    Back to the question at hand, I suppose it depends a bit on what all you want this person(s) to do. It can range from basically housesitting to a ranch foreman of sorts... wanting the homesteaders to be the ones that fence off the ranch, maintain all the buildings etc. Depending where your expectations fell you could be expecting a straight exchange of services agreement or to being paying someone on top of residence to fulfill those duties. Lots of variables in a thing like this. I do hope you can find what you're looking for though. Sounds like a wonderful place....

    Hey, and if my move to Florence doesn't work out like I'm planning I might just be available in July. :p

    J
     
  14. barbarake

    barbarake Well-Known Member

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    I think the 'no utilities' is going to be the kicker. Is there any way you can at least get electricity out there??
     
  15. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    The nearest line is probably a good 6 miles away, at closest.
    We'd probably put in a closeted (to keep down the noise) diesel generator if electricity really seemed to be the crucial point. It's been mentioned a few times, so that might be important, hmmn...

    Solar?

    When we're on-land, we run off of Alladin lamps and a small gas generator (finally!) for the power tools. Otherwise, we like it quiet at night so you can hear the coyote. Okay, and the neighbors' cows that have come to visit...

    Electricity. A possible problem. Okay.
     
  16. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    May I ask what your wife does?

    We would eventually be looking into Satellite service, and strangely enough, the cable line is slightly closer than the electrical. Go figure.

    Sounds like a good combination to me! Although I think I'd add an affinity for long stretches of quiet, but still an affinity for many differnt kinds of people. Now, to find it... :haha:

    That's exactly the attitude I think I would want. As folks were writing in with their advice and thoughts on this, it occured to me that I want someone who'd love the land as I do - and that could be difficult if the land never became theirs. So maybe I should consider, after a certain portion of years and if the fit is good, making some of the land theirs or at least a life-time free-lease. I mean, I used to be caught in the fix-a-rental-have-the-landlord-sell-it cycle and it was awful. All of my wonderful work and all I got was to enjoy it for a short time. I can understand that frustration completely.

    I need to think long and hard about that, too. At first, it was just babysitting with a few odd jobs until we could be up there full time. Then, I thought that as we would be trying to turn the land into a supportive concern (trout farm? beef or sheep ranch? Alpacas? exotic organic veggies? Quail ranch? fishing camp? Homeschooler camp? Camp for innercity kids? etc, etc.) that if the 'babysitter' were to materially participate, then they would get part of the profits, or maybe own part of the business. When we do well, THEY do well! If the right-fit person or family comes along, anyway. Does that make any sense? Would that be attractive, or maybe TOO attractive? I want someone who would be heart-involved, but am I giving the baby away with the bathwater? Somebody reality check me, please.

    Good luck with Florence! ...but if it doesn't work out... :D
     
  17. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There have been a number of posts by young couples/families wanting to get started. Might be a good chance for young folk starting out, who are more gung ho and don't have knees going and backs aching. Do you need 160 acres? Could you work a deal to let a young caretaking family be paid with a share of the land?

    You haven't mentioned a fresh water source yet. No electricity, no power for a well pump. Where's your water coming from?

    Opportunity must have place in confluence with time: If this is not the right time to move, then perhaps this is not the right time to buy.
     
  18. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    .....................Highspeed internet communications is now a reality from ANY location. So staying in touch will not be a problem. There is a small dish (1.3 meters) that will mount on a motorhome that popsup when the vehicle is stationary and then it locates the satallite automatically with the help of an on board GPS system tied into your computer. Cost...4,500 , install about 1,000 , and the ISP is 99 amonth. For a stationary location like a home I'm sure the cost would be much less. ....fordy... :eek: :)
     
  19. mamagrrl

    mamagrrl Member

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    Oh, sorry. Right. The property's on a good-sized river, so first thought was a Ram pump for animal and ag purposes. (Hydro might be a good power source too, as the river's always flowing.) There's at least one developed spring that the houses run on now, might be a few more springs, but they're undeveloped as of yet. We have springs up hill (on land we own that butts up to this land, but we're far enough uphill that we never get 'strangers'), We use a solar pump on one spring and it's worked well. We could always run a mile or so of line to bring the water down from the top-most property (where it's most abundant, not counting the river of course.)

    It might not be, but it certainly won't be later. A twist I haven't mentioned is that there's a mean-spirited city fellow who's also interested in the land. If he gets it, he'll have to go through our land to get to it, he'll never let go of it and he'll give us difficulty about our easement on it. He has a history of this unfriendly behavior. :( (He's not a neighbor anymore.) The people who own the for-sale land want *me* to buy it, so they're holding him off for a while so I can gather my resources and commit. It's now or never for this particular spot - that butts up against our land on three sides, is on the river on the fourth side, has three or so houses in very good condition, has the flatest areas we've seen on the mountain so far and is next to BLM land on two or three sides... :eek: Gorgeous.

    I think that if we were to forgo it, we'd regret it later.
     
  20. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    My wife is a teacher, specializing in children with developmental disabilities, birth through 6. Most states (and I'm sure California is no exception) have a pre-school (as opposed to preschool) outreach program to work with these kids, diagnose them and get them services in time that they can enter school at or near their age appropriate level if possible, if not to get them into the programs they do need. These type of programs are home based programs and as such she has to go to the parents homes. This coverage is for rural communities as well (hence the comment about working in rural locals) so there would, in all likelihood, be someone needed for that area as well. Her position is a high need area nearly worldwide so opportunities for her are always quite good. Would there be work for her out there? Can't say (especially since I don't know where exactly "there" is) but it's one of the better professional careers as far as finding rural work in concerned.


    You have no idea how good that sounds after nearly 3 years in England. The population density here is the hardest thing I've had to get use to in that time. (of course Florence is hardly better... so it's not as if I've learned my lesson)


    Agreed, I think that is wise.... that is, IF you can find the right people. I've been studying vernacular architecture and pre-industrial working/living solutions over the last few years. I will either be continuing that research for a few more years or return to the states and (hopefully) begin practical applications of that knowledge as well as writing on the topic. Granted this isn't everyone's (or even a few people's) idea of an enjoyable pastime, for others it may not be this, but something else that might have a permanence to it, that they would be unwilling to put exceptional effort towards and one day just have to walk away. I know I would love to have a resource like that river you are speaking of... but crushed to have to either not fully use the resource or have to then leave the work I had done for others to enjoy, or worse, tear down.

    The other option of course is more the house-sitting course which you then don't have to be quite as selective, but you can expect to both get less out of those people (who would act a bit more like renters, (nothing wrong with renters mind you)) and who you can also expect to replace over time (again, as you would with renters). The benefit of course being that the selection process would probably be an easier one.

    Maybe. Honestly I'd say it's a gamble either way. If you let the property go it will go to someone that you know you have issue with. That sale, might or might not come back to bite you in the hindquarters. If you bring someone on that you can get along with and find some amicable way to give them some level of ownership in the property in exchange for their work and initiative on the property, thereby creating the community you want instead of the community that you are given, your gamble will pay off really well. Could it go the other way and you get in a self-serving family thats lazy and looking for handouts instead of opportunity and community? Absolutely. That's why what ever you decide to do needs to happen in an environment of a lot of communication and over time (as you suggested in your own post). The right people will be just as concerned with the same questions you are. They will want to have time to see what sort of people you are, how the relationship works and of course, if they are giving more to you and your family than they are getting for their own family. Personally I think the gamble is worth it, but then again, the fact that I am currently living in the UK and having lived in a number of other countries before kind of puts me in the "willing to take a chance" crowd.

    Thanks. This is one of those strange cases where I have work and my wife doesn't. So, if we can get her work we'll go, if not... well, it's back stateside.

    J