Project Self Sufficiency: Why Planning Is Spontaneity’s Best Friend

calendarI would like to say I am a spontaneous person. I’d like to, but I can’t. I am, however, impulsive. They sound similar, but impulsiveness is much more expensive, and far less fun. Trust me, I know these things.

Spontaneity is creative, fun, and surprising. Impulsiveness is chaotic, confusing and demanding. Let me give a quick example of each.

A spontaneous farmer gets his work done ahead of schedule and says, ‘Dang, I think I’ll take my wife to the movies.’  An impulsive farmer looks through a seed catalogue, sees a bunch of new or cool varieties and buys them up to add to his usual products without giving thought to the financial, time or space costs, giving himself more work and stress as a result.

The key to opening up opportunity for the former and inhibiting the latter is, planning. December is my planning month. (Note: planning does not come natural to me. It is way to disciplined for my random, extemporaneous mind, but it is a skill I’ve cultivated at great cost over the years). I sit down with my calendar, my budget, my seed catalogs and business plan and work out something that makes sense.

By knowing what I have room for, time for and money for, I can minimize stress and optimize production. I will always ask Brittan’s input, to make sure I’m growing and raising things we will actually use or sell, because my tendency is to grow things that are fun.  For example, we almost never eat eggplant, but I think they are beautiful plants with gorgeous flowers and fruit. They are also challenging for me to grow. Last year, I didn’t ask her about them and planted way too many. Actually, two would have been too many, but I digress.  I wasted hours and hours nursing a couple dozen eggplants only to have 90 percent of them go to the chickens or compost heap (same thing, really).  This year, I will plant a maximum of two, because she reminded me of my impulsiveness last year, so I could work it into my plan.

I use a calendar to write down a planting schedule to ensure I get everything out at the right times. The plan cues me when it’s time to get seed trays started in the greenhouse and when it’s time to feed my plants.

Planning in advance reminds me when to schedule the arrival of new chicks or ducklings. I know when I’m going to buy feeder calves or put my male goats in with the does for breeding.

One of my favorite tools is a planting chart provided free from the University of Georgia Ag Department. I found it several years ago as a .pdf online. While not exhaustive, it gives great guidance on when to plant specific crops for both the spring and fall seasons. I love it. Many States have similar guides. I encourage you to do a search for your area. If you can’t find one, contact your County extension office and see what they have.

As for calendars, this time of year they are on sale EVERYWHERE. Or you can print out a blank one from an online template which is my normal plan. This year, though, I’m going to buy a notebook style like a Franklin Planner so I can keep more detailed notes. Wait, did I just use the word, detail….

Planning is an evolving process, but I encourage you to try it. It will save you many tears and sleepless nights.

Now it’s your turn. How do you plan your homesteading/farming year? When do you get started? Please share, we’d all love to learn from you.  Also, send us any questions you have. We’re in this together.



How the Simple And Sustainable View Real Estate Differently And Why You Should,Too – Part 2

Simple living houseIn Part 1, we looked the history of American personal real estate investing. We discovered we had made a mistake thinking that investing in home ownership was the best thing we could ever put our money into. It turns out that houses are just as subject to economic and market pressures as stocks and mutual funds are. So let’s spend just a few minutes discovering a new way to think about home ownership and money.

The Simple, Sustainable crowd want to limit risk and maximize life.  We learned that big, oversized suburban homes, don’t actually improve our lifestyles, they only make them APPEAR to be improved. In reality, those houses have to be filled with stuff. Stuff costs money and generally depreciates in value rather quickly. Financing the typical suburban lifestyle frequently requires multiple incomes, which increases the number of vehicles a household needs. Those vehicles must be purchased, fueled, insured and maintained. The stress of the big circle of the big suburban lifestyle is killing us.

Living Simple, Sustainable lives, means instead of buying as much as we can afford, we look for the minimally viable living space.  It means prioritizing the land over the structures. It means smaller mortgages, spread over shorter periods of time. We think in terms of 15 year mortgages, maximum, and getting them paid off early.

A smaller house is less expensive to buy, to heat and cool, to maintain and to furnish, which reduces our expense requirements even more.  Fewer operating costs allows for faster wealth building or faster mortgage reduction. I bet you can feel your blood pressure dropping just thinking about it.

Besides the financial savings, reduced energy costs benefit the environment by reducing nonrenewable portions of our footprint.

Most Simple, Sustainable lifestyles include growing some, or all of our own food. I’m not just describing the back to the country, homesteaders, like my wife and me. More urban and suburban dwellers are gardening (much of it organic) than at any time since the end of WWII.  Whether the motivation is environmental, financial or nutritional, it’s a win for everyone except big corporations.

Let’s summarize: The Simple, Sustainable, Lifestyle, has less debt, on shorter terms, smaller operating costs, better nutrition, and less stress. We have taken back ownership of our time, our lives and our finances. We are investing in our families and in ourselves, rather than handing our hard earned cash to big banks, insurance, utility and oil companies. We are keeping it and using it for things we value rather than handing over to someone else.

I remember once, a friend parking his big, new, heavily financed truck next to my little runabout commuter car. As we got out and started walking to the office, he said, “Geez, Sam, what is that thing you’re driving?”

“Paid for”, I grinned. Years later, I’m still grinning.

There is a revolution happening all over America. Some haven’t caught on yet, but the movement is growing. Americans are beginning to think differently about real estate and home ownership. Rather than throwing money after the appearance of wealth, we are looking at ways to build REAL, tangible, cash in hand wealth. We have minimized risk, have more liquid assets and own our houses outright. We have less stress and sleep great at night. We’re not afraid of the next economic bubble. We have created a kind of immunity.  We love our simple, sustainable lives. And we’d love to have you join us.

I sure would like hear from y’all. Drop in a comment, or send an email with your thoughts on how you’ve simplified your life, or how you’d like to. After all, we’re in this thing together.





How the Simple and Sustainable View Real Estate Differently Than Most people, And why you should too. Part 1

Real EstateMost of us, especially those of us called, ‘Boomers’, grew up hearing, “Your home is your biggest investment, so buy as much house as you can afford.”  In fact, for many years, some ‘experts’ even encouraged us to refinance every 5 years or so and withdraw the equity in order to invest or to facilitate a lifestyle of consumption.  We assumed equity was an eternally growing organism.

In 2008, we found out the hard way, that real estate was a gamble like any other ‘investment’, and was subject to economic laws and markets. Many people lost their shirts when the housing bubble burst.  I got to keep my shirt, but lost all my equity and then some. Wow was that a tough lesson.  Now I look at real estate a whole new way, just like many others who learned a new kind of prosperity through simplicity.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I knew instinctively that the ‘buy big’ and ‘equity happens’ had ‘baloney’ written all over it, but I chose to ignore my spidey senses and went along with the crowd. Oh, how I wished I’d listened a long time ago.

I don’t remember exactly when I first began to question the generally accepted real estate philosophy, but I remember clearly what I was thinking. I was watching one of those fix it shows on HGTV and was floored at how much the homeowners spent on the makeover. Out of the blue, my brain told me that the perception of real estate held by most Americans was a violation of the laws of thermodynamics; things have a tendency to run down.  It’s called ‘entropy’.  Building materials would always deteriorate and decay. It was inevitable.  Basic physics demanded that barring intervention, appreciation would peak and would be followed by depreciation as the buildings, roads, yards and community infrastructure fell to the laws of thermodynamics.  A drive through the neighborhood I grew up in, confirmed my hypothesis.

On a visit to Kentucky just prior to 9/11, I took my wife to see the house where my sisters and I spent most of our ‘Wonder Years’.  It was a three bedroom, 1.5 bath ranch house.  It was a typical starter home in a typical subdivision, in a typical suburb. Over the years, the idyllic setting where neighborhood children rode bicycles, played backyard ball games during the afternoons, kick the can in the streets on muggy summer nights and dreamed our dreams of what we wanted to be when we grew up, became a place of overgrown trees, dying lawns, crumbling bricks and oft replaced roofs.  The days of property appreciation had long since abandoned the neighborhood just like the children who grew up, moved away and never came back.

Despite what science, logic and my eyes told me, I continued to buy homes, sell them and buy bigger ones, accumulating, rather than eliminating debt.

To be continued…..

In the next installment, I’ll explain how I changed my way of thinking and joined the growing ranks of the simple, sustainable prosperous.  Then I’ll challenge you to do the same.

I love hearing from readers. Please drop a note to offer your feedback, ask questions or just say hi. Also, please consider subscribing to the blog for updates. This month, beginning later this week, everyone who follows and subscribes (need your email to do this), will receive a copy of my list of the best fall garden crops for beginning (and experienced) gardeners to plant. I’ll start emailing those later this month, so I need your email to g

Loving Our Simple, Sustainable Life

logoI complain about the heat….a lot. Mostly, that’s because I don’t have a lot of other stuff to complain about.  My wife and I live on a 6.25 acre homestead in NW Georgia, with 6 dogs, 4 cats, 8 goats, 2 cows, 2 miniature donkeys, 8 ducks, 7 turkeys, 30 something rabbits, and upwards of 50 chickens. In the spirit of full disclosure, the livestock population goes up and down with the seasons and space in our freezer.

We need more shade trees for the pastures. I guess I could complain about that.

We have a garden that provides food for us and some for the animals.  We don’t have an automatic watering system, so I have to drag garden hoses around and they love to get tangled on things. Sometimes I complain about that.

Our house could use some new siding and there’s often fence to repair (weird thing about farm fences. One day there’s no hole, the next day there they are. I blame aliens).  I could complain about that.

My car has a big dent in the side where someone backed into it and just drove away. It’s not attractive.  My wife’s truck needs a new fuel filter and two of our vehicles have broken air conditioners. That’s annoying.

Yep, if we search hard enough, we can all find something to complain about. But the fact is, my wife and I have to really search to do so.  We have no mortgage at the bank. We owe nothing on our cars.  My morning commute is about 50 feet (from the back porch to the barn).  My wife has a home based business, so she has to walk 48 feet to get from the bed to her soap studio.

We didn’t have to go to the grocery store at all this week.

Our life is not always easy. The work can be very physically demanding and sometimes the bank account is running on fumes, but we love our simple, sustainable, lifestyle.  We both love what we do. My wife makes handcrafted milk soaps, scented candles and other natural body products. The business grows daily and is about to go viral. Check her out at, or on Facebook at Yellow Barn Soap Studio.

I farm, write books, and coach other people in how to farm, garden and simplify their lives and lifestyles spiritually, financially and career wise.

As recently as three years ago, we were ‘living the American Dream’ with a big house in the suburbs, huge mortgage, and a two hour a day commute with all the trimmings.  I had a well-paying, highly stressful job in Corporate America. We had also started farming in our suburban back yard and on land we rented from a friend at Church.  I had twitches and tics from the stress. I couldn’t sleep. I went through a series of heart tests, including wearing a heart monitor 24/7 for a month.  The doctor told me my choices were either de-stress, go on antianxiety medications, or die.

Dying didn’t sound all that appealing, and I hate medication. I am way too much of a control freak to use chemicals to regulate me, so I opted for door number 3 and decided to de stress.

It took a while to decide on our priorities and create a plan, but we did it. We found a worn out Emu farm out in the country that was in foreclosure and purchased it. My wife did some renovations to the old, but livable trailer, we fixed the barn and cross fenced the property and moved in. We still have a lot of rehabbing to do on the farm, but it’s worth the effort.

We put our house on the market. It took longer that we wanted to sell it and we had to take money to the closing table, but we got out from under it. We were working our plan. We had hoped to totally unhook from the corporate drip by the end of 2015, but my company decided on some restructuring and eliminated a number of Director and VP positions. I was eliminated.

That was one of the most frightening, liberating days of my life. Did I mention I’m 57 years old, in a bad job market? We weren’t ready for the ‘arm bands’ to be removed, but here we were in the deep end and it was swim or drown.  We’re swimming.

We’re still growing, still learning, but the tics are gone, our health is better, and the biggest thing I have to complain about is August in Georgia…or a Braves losing streak. Life is good; and getting better.

What about you? What steps have you taken to simplify your life or make it more sustainable? We’d love to hear about it.  While you’re at it, please follow this blog and join the adventure. Let’s change the world together.



Books by Sam Burton


Isitoq’s Hound