Advice from the DIYers and the Started-From-Scratchers
I have been on my small piece of eventual horse heaven for 7 months now, and some days i look around and feel proud of all that I've accomplished. Other days, though, not so much. I have come to realize that I am the MASTER of repurposing, which has saved quite a bit of money. I've spent many days driving tposts by hand, or cutting down and dragging trees to the fire pit.
All of this got me thinking, from the perspective of people who bought their land and started from scratch, or the real do it yourselfers out there, what is some advice you have for others in the same boat? How did you stay motivated? What were some of your feel good moments? Probably the most important, what are some things you will NEVER do again, or would do, but totally different?
In sure i will have a lot of input throughout this thread, but i think I can say my best advice is to have a clear plan of what you want BEFORE you do anything. I have several acres of woods that need to be cleared for an arena, a barn site, and pasture, and as i clear, each area gets used for what it NEEDS to be, not what its going to be. I don't have big machinery, or the thousands of dollars it would cost to have someone come in and clear land, so armed with my brush cutters (aka my goats) and a chainsaw, I've managed to clear out about an acre in under a months time. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the trees are down, and burned, and there are clear paths for us to put up fence now.
Will i ever do it like this again? NO. Which leads me to the next point. Start with the right tools. I've wasted more time and frustration over a crappy hammer or dull sawblade than i care to really think about. Needless to say, I've upgraded.
My most recent feel good moment? I traded a used saddle i had for a round pen, and found a bunch of free sand on craigslist to put in the round pen. Score!
Know your limits. We built our current farm from the ground up, but we're not truly DIY'ers. DH is a carpenter, is a pretty good welder, and grew up working on a dairy farm so he knows how to operate (and repair!) all kinds of equipment. I've also worked in construction in carpentry and electrical. We've got 98% of the tools needed to build almost anything. We still hired some stuff done- septic, continuous gutters, electric service entrance, and house plumbing (primarily to be sure the venting was correct). Definitely buy good tools for the projects you intend to attempt. Nothing sucks more than crappy tools. Some things are easier than others. I could teach any monkey to run vinyl siding in about half an hour. Framing a house or pole barn? Not so much.
I did not start from scratch. I started from overgrown and falling down, but I found I got more productive after writing a to-do list.
That way rather than thinking OK I have 2 hours what can I get done and standing in the middle staring at things while time ticked away I had a list I could look at and try to pick something that would fit the time available.
I put mine on a dry erase board in the barn, which in hindsight is not ideal. The list is barely shorter than when I wrote it because I keep adding new tasks to it. I wish I'd recorded it in some way that I could see how many tasks I had crossed off over the months, rather than just seeing that there are still 300 things left to do.
After 5 years of hand dragging and lifting everything from trees to boulders to cinderclocks-and hand scraping/shoveling stalls and run ins- the best thing I did was to buy a used compact tractor w/loader and mower. You would not believe the things you can do with a small loader-
Have a plan. Know what you can do and what you should have done by someone else. Try not to get ahead of yourself because having a multitude of uncompleted projects - well it really plays with my brain and I find it depressing. Don't forget that google earth updates every couple of years and you can really see some differences if you take a screen shot and file it.
I agree wtih the taking of pictures. You will look back and say "how did I ever do that"? We started from less than stratch. First we had to pull up old grayhound runs with years of over-growth before we could even start. My hubby (in his 60's by the way), did everything himself.
Yes I agree but I was so proud to do it because I'm afraid of heights......and it really was the top priority so my horses would have someplace dry to go.....
Oh, me too. And although my horse had somewhere dry to go, it was under a tin roof. Which, according to Conjure, is unacceptably loud when it's raining and does not allow one to hear creeping tigers. So he would not go there.
So during his stay at boarding school, I've built him a nice wood and shingle roof. On top of a new stall in his favorite pasture right behind my house. He used to live in the pasture farthest from the house and never liked that arrangement either. I can't wait till he sees his new accommodations at the end of the month.
Plant trees early. This labor of your DIY project may go on for 10 or 20 years... it may never end- so don't put off landscaping to the end- plant the trees first and they will be big and beautiful before you know it. Seeing your trees develop /flower/ fruit is so satisfying... and the years it takes for them to grow- you just can't get back that lost time.
Wow. This thread is custom made for me. I'm starting on building my hobby farm next spring. From scratch. Right now it's a 20 acre plot in New Hampshire with six acres cleared, an entrance driveway and nothing else. But I'll be retired, so I'll have all day every day to mess around with it.
IF I can get the friggin' wetland permit approved in the next few weeks, we'll do the driveway, septic, well, and electric service this summer. Maybe plop down the mobile home this fall or definitely spring.
I am going to have so much fun. Incidentally, the "plan" is 20 pages long and still growing...
We started from scratch with 28 acres of east Texas piney woods. Keep in mind it is a work in progress. We found that if we listed projects by priority in "phases", we didn't get so overwhelmed. There will always be work to do, and you just have to accept that there are limits to what can be accomplished in one day or one year. We built the barn first , house was next phase, followed by the equipment shed. This year we put in a front gate (had too many random people showing up on the property), and we have several other projects in line. I agree with pictures, we took them weekly (every Sunday) when building the house and barn.
Don't think you have to do it all at once either. If I think "70 acres that needs XYZ" I know I can't do that. If I think "I can mow for half an hour after I ride". Then hmmm, I do that every day for a week and it all got done, and I got to ride and enjoy the place.
I did a fencing project and knew going in it might go like wildfire and I'd get the whole section finished in 2 hours. I also knew that things might go wrong. I ended up with 3 PERFECT sections finished and the understanding of what I did wrong in my prep and how to proceed to get the other 10 sections done. (and I took pictures!)
Yep, photos. Tons and tons of before, during and after photos.
Not only are they fantastic to share...but looking at them keeps you motivated because you can see the improvements.
Don't go broke. But don't go too cheap on stuff either. Buying twice to replace junk is expensive as hell.
Pick your "No Way" category and have someone else do that. For us it was fencing. We did it ourselves at first 8 years ago. 2 years ago I broke down and paid a pro to fence the second paddock and rip out the first paddock and put it back up in straight lines without the leaning posts, LOL! Not only did we suck at fencing...we damned near shot each other over it. Just not worth it for us.
At some point, pick a "for you" spot and make that over instead. A garden spot made over into an oasis for yourself, redecorate a room in the house, whatever will work as a little "reward" to keep you happy. I redid the deck year 4. This year (year 8) I ignored the outside and redid 3 rooms in the house instead.
You jump in the saddle,
Hold onto the bridle!
Jump in the line!