Subscribers get two chances to win a free audio copy of Jim Collins's The Simple Path to Wealth in December. Mr. Money Mustache reads the Forward. Don't miss out. Subscribe today!
Financial independence means you can indulge your dreams. By 1995 I had reached a level of net worth where I could realize many of my dreams. Coming from an agricultural background I wanted to move back to the country and have a small farm. Ten acres with a house and barn came up for sale a mile from where I grew up. My dream was now owned.
In 1982 the family farm went through a wrenching bankruptcy. I was eighteen and had no future. Everything I knew related to farming. The pain etched a deep wound in my psyche that never went away. My desire to live in the country was not the whole dream. I had to own a small farm. In my mind I had to understand why the family farm died when I was at such an impressionable age.
With ten aches to my name I started my side farming business. The tax office was humming along at full speed and my hired staff was nothing short of awesome. Back on the farm I began the process of healing childhood losses. First I bought steers, then chickens. At one point I had 48 steers and 400 chickens on the farmstead.
Raising 48 steers and 400 chickens is a lot of work when you are doing it Amish style. I used a limited amount of automation; the rest was manpower. The work was great exercise. My goal was to keep costs as low as possible. I had to make the farm profitable, proving to myself it was possible. The only way to bury the demons was to create a consistently profitable farm.
I managed my mini farming empire with an intensity only an accountant can bring to bear on the finances. Soon the farm was earning a tidy profit; sometimes the profits were excessively tidy. I had proven to my inner self farming was possible as a way of life. Year after year I added to my net worth from the proceeds of my farming efforts.
Falling in Love
The quiet rural lifestyle always appealed to me. I lived in the city for a few years, but was never really happy there. My gaze always wandered to the countryside. It is true what they say: You can take the boy from the country, but you can’t take the country from the boy. My farmette is my greatest pleasure outside family.
The animals are the part of farming I love the most. It still brings tears to my eyes as I recall memories of Christmas Eve looking down on the steers quietly tucked into the warm straw, chewing their cuds. Steam rose from their muzzles as they made lowing sounds. A humid warmth rose from their bodies with the clean smell of well tended Holstein steers.
The chickens were more fun than nostalgic. We butchered chickens to sell for a few years, but the work was more than I was willing to do so we cut back to personal use only. The hens produced enough eggs to put adequate cash in the till to make it worth the while.
Losing What I Love
The steers are gone now. I actually have to stop to wipe a tear as I write these words. For twenty years they were a major part of my life. I fed them twice a day and cleaned them regularly. My animals were so tame I could snuggle right in with them and I did. Last summer the last steers were loaded on the cattle truck headed for the stockyards. There were no new calves to replace them.
Beef prices were sky high last summer so selling steers was kind to the checkbook. However, calf prices were so high I could not see any way to make a profit buying replacement stock. It was my excuse to be steer-free. Prices have changed a bit since then. I could re-enter the beef business, but have chosen not to. The direction my life is taking will not include farming. I did not even buy replacement chickens this year. As the hens age and die, the chicken part of the enterprise will also cease to exist.
My heart and soul are in that farm. The only reason I stuck around was because of those animals. The tax office filled in the blank spaces of time. The first thing each morning and the last thing each evening I tended my animals. I looked forward to it. I spent many hours working around the barn and just watching the animals go about their carefree lives.
My interests are all encompassing. I want to do everything, experience everything. Of course, it is not possible to experience everything. We have to pick and choose what we want to focus on. At best we can handle a few projects at once. Any more than a few projects and we lose the flavor of any experience at all as we become overwhelmed. I can run a farm and a tax office. When the farm entered my life the rental properties started to get sold until only one commercial property and one land contract remained.
There are only so many hours in a day. Time for relaxation and reading are necessary for good physical and mental health. Too much focus on structured projects (sounds like work) quickly diminishes the pleasure they bring.
With the exception of this year, I spend only a small amount of time in the office outside tax season. My practice will eventually merge with another firm or be sold outright. (Don’t worry clients. I will still be around for a long time. Tax accounting is who I am and what I do. I will only cut back to my normal schedule from years past.) My dislike of travel is well documented. However, my varied interests can only be satiated by travel. I enjoy being places. The getting there is the pain in the ass for me.
The steers are gone. I will always remember those days with fondness. Soon the chickens and perhaps even the farm itself will be gone. Maybe I’ll live in the city again. I doubt it. The country calls too loud. It may sound crazy with the way I talk about travelling, but I think I would enjoy a six or eight month road trip around the U.S. There are so many historical places I would like to see. Our national parks also call loudly to me. I think I would enjoy a road trip when the car is my home and I can spend extended periods of time in wilderness areas.
We pick and choose the experiences we will have in life. I have done a lot of things in my 52 years. There are so many stories and adventures to share. My children are nearly grown. Mrs. Accountant and I have plans. The future we see is so different from the life we have lived. We tended to stay home and enjoy our rural life. It will feel strange when we finally make the move. Our mornings will not start with the animals, nor end with them. If we discover we do not enjoy the new path we will make adjustments until we find what makes us happiest.
Mrs. Accountant and I talk about selling the farm. We will probably defer that decision for a while. If all else fails and we are not happy with our new life choices we can always go back to what gave us pleasure in the past. That will not happen. I am a ‘looking forward’ type of guy. My farming days are approaching their end. I will miss my animals and even shed a few tears. The first half of my life is over. It was an awesome adventure. Now it is time to enjoy the second half of our lives. It will be different. I think it will involve more of you, kind readers, than it has in the past. I think I will wander your way now and again in the real world. We can lift a cold brew to memories and the future when our paths cross. All that matters are the friends we meet along the way.