Saturday, December 13, 2014
Snowstorms and Brainstorms
Farm Buddy is taking over the blog again today. She is wrestling with that age old dilemma of how to keep a small farm going, pay the bills and earn at least a measurable fraction of a living wage. I think this is a question that all small farms wrestle with and there must be some folks out there who have come up with some answers. Anyone have any ideas?
Hello Blog readers. It’s farm buddy here for another guest blog. While SOME people are complaining about the snow, here at MY farm, we are happy! This winter, I have twenty-five cattle at my farm, in addition to seven sheep, two pigs, and six chickens (after the great chicken massacre that occurred on November 22nd when a weasel broke into the chicken coop).
Although I do managed grazing during the grazing season, where the cattle have access to a section of fresh pasture every day, we are now in our second month of the non-grazing season, which extends to about May 1st, if we are lucky. My cattle spend the winter in an outside barnyard area, which is probably about a quarter acre. They are fed free-choice baleage outside in three round-bale feeders, and they also have access to the barn, where there is also dry first-cutting hay available along with water. The barn has a comfy bedding pack to which I add straw daily. The footing in their outside area can become difficult when the mud freezes and they can poke through it, so I am happy that the snow has blanketed the area and made the walking easy for them. Furthermore, the snow is beautiful! I love all the seasons, unlike someone we know.
Today I am going to pump your brains for grand ideas. Here is the state of economics on the farm. On my farm, I sell grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, a limited amount of pork, and also pasture-raised chickens (if the fox does not stage an attack). I feel that I do quite well with this, and am quite satisfied with how the farm is doing. However, because I have a mortgage, I need to have an off-farm income.
Back in 1999, I stopped running my dairy farm and decided to do the beef and lamb farming, but knew I needed an additional income. I knew I wanted to do this from home only, as I HATE to leave the farm. So I went to the library and researched at-home jobs. The job I came up with was medical transcriptionist. This was a great idea, aside from a few minor problems; I could not type, and I did not know a thing about medical terminology. However, I do have quite a bit of determination and a very good memory. Next, I saw this great job listing in the paper at a local hospital for at-home transcriptionists. I checked it out right away, and they were very nice, but they did tell me that I would have to learn to type first (DUH!) I enrolled in a business college to learn typing, and I memorized a book on medical terminology. I was on my way! I then made a pest of myself until I got that job that I had noticed earlier. What a great job…real benefits, like health, dental, vision, even a retirement plan! Things I had never imagined as a farmer!
I had to train for six months at the hospital, which was difficult, as I actually missed the haying season of 1999, but luckily it was a very, very rainy summer, so that probably prevented some ulcers! Now here is the ironic part…on the day I completed training and was sent home with my new computer and ready to begin my career from home, the entire transcription department of the hospital was outsourced to a company overseas. Can you believe it?
However, I don’t give up easily. I next found a local transcription company that had secured the contracts for the satellite clinics of that same hospital. I went to work for that company and happily typed along from home for about four years, even if it was for less money with no benefits in sight. Then the hospital, in their infinite wisdom, decided that it was not sensible to let local people type these reports and forced the clinics to also outsource their work. The doctors I worked for were devastated, as they appreciated being able to talk to me about any problems or questions that they had. They were not thrilled about calling India for answers, but we still lost that contract.
Back to square one. Finally, I was the only employee left, as the others had all left for greener pastures, and my boss was able to secure another contract. This time the contract was with a private investigation firm. Fine by me, and more interesting than medical stuff too, and I typed merrily along for about seven more years. However, this past year, due to some personal problems in that private investigation firm, work has S L O W E D down.
Now, I am not a person that needs money. I happily drive a 1977 pickup, when it runs, and own one pair of hiking boots and one pair of Muck boots, which is my entire collection of footwear. I spend absolutely no more than forty dollars a year on clothing, and I never travel, but I do have to pay that pesky mortgage, farm insurance and phone bill.
So here is where you all come in. Any grand ideas on how I can make some additional money from home? Here is what I can do…I am good at writing and grammar, and I do careful, quality work. At my job with the private investigation firm, I often rewrite the reports, so that they sound better. My clients really appreciate that effort and skill, and they tell me that they would rather have me type their work instead of my boss (I haven’t revealed this to her!).
The things I can't do....I cannot work for those big transcription firms I find on the Internet because they mostly require a fixed schedule. This does not work on a farm. I can only type when nothing else is going on with the farm that needs my attention. I also am not a really fast typist, despite many years of my best effort.
My ideas for extra income were perhaps writing memoirs or recipes for people. I was thinking that people could record these things, or anything, send them to me as an MP3 file, and I could transcribe them. However, I am open to totally new ideas. Does anyone have any? I have a decent brain, an exceptional work ethic, and a real will to please!
As you know, Kris also needs an at-home job. Just think, if she worked from her home, she could write more entertaining stories about those dumb donkeys and that sweet, cute, wonderful, smart Border Collie puppy! Kris is VERY smart, extremely good with computers, and is also a good writer.
Anyway, Kris is always telling me that I should pose difficult questions to the blog readers, so that is what I am doing. ANY grand ideas would be GREATLY appreciated, so have at it! In the meantime, enjoy the snow, if you have any!