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Things you wish you knew when you bought your first farm...

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    Make sure your partner is honest about his level of commitment and investiture BEFORE you buy. I am now the Jill of ALL things, him, none.


      I wish I'd tried driving my commute during typical travel times, not just on our weekend property showings. I thought 45 minutes would be fine, but actual weekday traffic means closer to 90 minutes each way. That's 15 hours/week wasted in my vehicle.

      I wish I'd visited the property after rain, so I could see how the heavy black clay (which grows absolutely luscious bermuda) remains a swampy mess for days after the rain stops. I wish I'd visited the property during summer drought, so I could see how the clay dries to concrete that can shatter bones on impact, with 5" wide cracks just waiting to devour someone's leg. Also, that luscious bermuda grows 10 months a year in Texas, so that's a lot of mowing as well as stressing over my easy-keeper potentially foundering.

      I wish I knew everything would be more expensive than I'd budgeted for. Firstly, my anti-social-at-the-boarding-barn horse completely lost his mind at being solo on my property, so I had to rapidly acquire a pasture mate. The cement floor in my barn may as well be ice, so unplanned $$$ on rubber mats. Those $25 volume-discount hoof trims at the boarding facility are now $40 (now times 2 horses!) New corral panel & gates required renting a flatbed trailer to get them home, plus hiring someone to bring a tractor to dig the holes to install them. I can store about 70 hay bales, again not enough for volume discounts or free-delivery, nor enough to last a whole winter.

      I wish I knew to invest in appropriate tools from the beginning. That $2k riding mower took 10 hours to mow 6.25 acres and needed new blades every 4 months because we pushed it beyond it's true purpose. We finally bought a $9k zero turn this summer and reduced mowing time by half (after 5 years, hallelujah!) I wish I'd paid to install extra gates earlier in our life out here, but I didn't realize how much they'd enhance efficiency. Please buy a 4-wheeled dump cart the day you move in - you will NOT regret it. Splurge on the heavy duty 1" contractor hose for quick filling of water tubs, and shell out the $50 for the big manure basket-fork.

      I wish I knew I'd rarely ride my horses BECAUSE they are in my backyard. I spend far more time on property maintenance than I ever imagined, so between that and my commute, I lack the time & energy to ride. I do get to see and love on my horses everyday, of course, which does make me luckier than many!


        My thought this weekend when I was riding around on my mower: You will either spend all your time mowing or trying to grow grass. There is no perfect balance of animals to pasture where you won't have to do one or the other....OR BOTH (thanks, non-edible weeds!).
        Brand Loyal
        BLM Mustangs: Smokey, Dollar, & Tanner
        BLM Burros: Radar & Ping


          Originally posted by TheHorseMutterer View Post
          trying to grow grass. .
          my experience dictates one should pave the areas you want grass to grow since I have never be able to kill the grass that grows in the expansion joints of the concrete drive


            Originally posted by clanter View Post

            my experience dictates one should pave the areas you want grass to grow since I have never be able to kill the grass that grows in the expansion joints of the concrete drive
            These are wise words that I wholeheartedly agree with.
            Brand Loyal
            BLM Mustangs: Smokey, Dollar, & Tanner
            BLM Burros: Radar & Ping


              As someone who is both involved in it for a career and reviewed it prior to purchasing - zoning is easily changed (at least up here in Canada). Look for the over-arching document for the county/city like an official plan that shows what they plan to change in the future. It could be zoned agriculture now, but be identified as an area for regeneration in the official plan where the county (etc.) plans to allow residential.

              Also - check to see how the lands around you are divided or subdivided. I did not pay enough attention when we bought our hobby farm that the lands to the east were divided into 10 acre lots, but owned by the same person and farmed. Now I'm stuck with 5 new houses - one in each of those lots - as the original owner sold them off.

              You should also look at the history of the site. I had no idea our property was run as a timber mill many years ago. There are still areas that do not want to grow grass because of the compaction etc of the soil.

              Good luck and have fun!


                Originally posted by TheJenners View Post
                More spigots than you ever think you might need

                For minis, lots of systems of gates and paddocks/runs. It will help you with rotational grazing but minimizing as much grass as they get into their greedy little mini mouths. I planned out for my mini donkeys and they are doing dandy on just 1/3 acre year round.

                Overbuild everything. Go ahead and expect you will have crazy/shitty neighbors, and learn fencing laws and trespassing laws. Buy signage regarding private property/trespassing/privately owned horses. Especially with minis. Read my thread I started about my former neighbors and their freakin cows.

                But honestly, have fun! It's annoying at times and I cried more going through my purchase process (on BARE LAND even) than I did going through either of my divorces, because I had a horrible loan officer who I still wish bad things upon. Compared to that witch, dealing with contractors and the building process was a cake walk. I did just get a setback because the guy who was going to put in my arena had to push me to next year because his employee quit suddenly and with no notice, and now he's delayed and can't get to me before the wet season.

                That reminds me. If you aren't moving regions and are just looking at buying in an area you already know well, network! Everyone knows someone and having a name makes it so much easier. I met a friend, not sure how exactly but I think Facebook, and I bring him and his wife all my manure (they are organic growers), and through him I also had a place to put all my crappy topsoil when I built my runs and did my landscaping, and he will also happily take the topsoil when the arena guy does get to me. His wife helped me get my garden up and is always willing to answer questions. My hay guy is also a septic guy and has a dump truck for hire and brings me rock when I need a lot, instead of umptymillion loads with either my or my Dad's dump trailers, and he can get the rock at his bulk pricing to pass savings on to me, and the guy at the quarry was the one who recommended the guy who will do my arena, who incidentally was also the guy who did the dig out for my septic and also my driveway so he knows my land. I got a couple guys who I knew through building my house to come help my Dad put the roof on my equipment shed way cheaper than it would have been to get some unknowns. I know a guy down the road from me through work, and he has a big tractor and auger, and he's come over and done fence post holes and also dug a water line for me at some ridiculous price like $20/hr because he just likes playing on his tractor. Networking is the bomb
                Network, Network NETWORK!

                You may find a few toads, but there are MANY princes to be found through a network. Also known as community.

                The best time to look at horse property is during the wettest season. If possible, go when it is actually raining. This will let you know where water wants to go and what the soils are like when saturated.

                If you are looking at raw land, #1 make sure you have water, #2 make sure if perks, # 3 cost of electric service and #4 can you get reliable cable/internet #5 are there reliable contractors in the area, some BFE locations can make building a long, slow process because there aren't any trade folks around.

                Access to the property in general, home + barn. Be sure fire and rescue and any other wide and long vehicles can have access. Pastures... 10-12 foot gates at a minimum. Sometimes you can do a narrower gate if you have it angled correctly. My fencing contractor didn't charge extra for gates, no matter how wide. His quote per linear foot was his quote (board fencing). He wasn't the cheapest, but he wasn't the most expensive either. The guy I really wanted, wasn't available. The guy I used was the only one he would refer people to. This is another example of networking. I had seen the work from the preferred guy over the years. Always great work and his work held up well over the years. I had many folks recommend the one I used and I had a recommendation for another and I had seen the work for a 4th.

                On the networking and farrier in the area. If you are new, trying to find someone that will service your area and that is GOOD will be important. If you are looking for land in a horsey area, that shouldn't be too hard.

                A source for horse quality hay that can be picked up or delivered for a reasonable price.


                  Originally posted by Piaffe11 View Post
                  As someone who is both involved in it for a career and reviewed it prior to purchasing - zoning is easily changed (at least up here in Canada). !
                  well, that is something that you had better not take for an absolute .... the only way I would step out onto that limb would be by making the sale contingent upon obtaining the favorable zoning change


                    Originally posted by clanter View Post

                    well, that is something that you had better not take for an absolute .... the only way I would step out onto that limb would be by making the sale contingent upon obtaining the favorable zoning change
                    I meant for the neighbouring properties more-so than the ones the OP is thinking of buying.... I agree - you shouldn't buy a property that isn't zoned to what you are looking to do.

                    Look at it this way, just because the neighbour is zoned agriculture doesn't mean it can't be changed the year after to residential or rural residential. Happens quite a bit unfortunately, especially in rural areas with small townships that do not currently have a heavy residential population to rely on for tax income. It would be less than fun for the OP to buy a place only to have the surrounding neighbourhood change to residential over the next few years.


                      How fast it falls into disrepair if you don't keep up! (you asked!)
                      The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton


                        I assumed I'd love having my horses home, but I didn't know how much I'd enjoy it. They were gone for two months this summer after I had surgery, and it was horrible. When I brought them back home it was seriously the best remedy after a scary stretch of time.

                        Yes, it took a couple of years to get my place where I wanted it after building a new barn and all the fencing and the hidden and unexpected cost of things....but I have loved having my horses at home. It's not fancy, but it works perfectly for my three horses and my lifestyle, especially since I do it all on my own.

                        One more thing, can check out the neighbors and find out they're great, only to have them move and you get new neighbors who are pack rats. The previous owners took great pride in their place, but the new ones have filled the once beautiful yard with junk. I put up solid fencing on that side so I don't have to look at it anymore. And they were offended. Go figure.


                          Lots of great advice. This is a very handy tool: USGS Soil Survey. It allows you to pick a target area and find out about the soil content, flooding, drainage, etc. We were able to pass up several properties that might have appeared suitable in the middle of a dry summer, but that spent the rest of the year under water.
                          The Natural Resources Conservation Service is the Federal agency that works in partnership with the American people to conserve and sustain natural resources on private lands.