Finally a Forever-Farm

It’s officially official; at long last Runamuk has a forever-farm of it’s very own! On Wednesday, June 27th, after nearly 10 years working toward this goal─I finally became a land-owner.

Big Thanks to the Dream Team!

fsa farm closing day
From left to right: Nathan Persinger, Penobscot County USDA Farm Loan Officer, Janice Ramirez, Somerset County Farm Loan Officer, myself holding the keys to the farm, my NextHome realtor Leah J. Watkins, and Andrew Francis, FSA Program Director for Somerset County.

Closing was held at the USDA Service Center in Skowhegan, Maine, and my whole team turned out for the occasion. I’ve dubbed them the “Dream Team” because without these people none of this would have been possible. Nathan Persinger, Penobscot County USDA Farm Loan Officer and my FSA rep, Janice Ramirez, the Somerset County Farm Loan Officer, my realtor Leah Watkins, and Andrew Francis, the FSA Program Director for the Somerset County FSA. They each believed in me enough to help make my dream of farm-ownership come true, and they will always have my unending gratitude.

Settling In

With the ink drying on the paperwork, the #GreatFarmMove #FinalChapter is well underway. I’ve spent the last 6 days moving my farm and family from Norridgewock to New Portland: Saturday and Sunday were the hardest, with the larger furniture, dressers, beds and bookcases, coming over in the Hilton’s horse trailer and a borrowed truck (thank you Ken and Kamala Hahn!). Saturday night a few of my closest friends came to help move the bigger items into the house and joined me in the celebration of this victory.

My body is bruised and sore all over, but I’m on the other side now─there’s not so much left to move now, and we’re beginning to settle in here at the Hive House. The house is lovely and fair─filled with character and charm. There are plenty of spaces for a whole spectrum of workshops, along with a 10 acre field out back and mountain views in 2 directions. I never would have dared hope I would end up with a house and property as nice as this─it’s amazing and I feel so blessed to be here.

i bought a farm
The Hive House.

Admittedly, the Hive House was not my first choice; when the Swinging Bridge Farm turned out to be a dead-end, I had to think fast and make some compromises. To some degree it feels a little like we’ve each come into this relationship a little reluctantly. This house had apparently been part of the same family for several generations and has a legacy within the community here in New Portland. Change can be hard, and for something as iconic as a house such as this one, I imagine it’s strange and uncomfortable and difficult to see it changing hands. But now that we’ve been brought together─the Hive House and I─I feel like we’re falling in love slowly, hesitantly, like a shy bride (the Hive House) and her recalcitrant groom (yours truly) unexpectedly captivated by each other.

Savor the Moment

It’s such a monumental accomplishment that I have allowed myself to take the time to really savor the moment─a honeymoon phase, if you will. I’ve been a tumult of emotion: alternating between relief, pride, love, excitement, fear, wonder and incredulity.

Relief: I’m immensely relieved that it’s finally over. Years of working toward this goal and here I am finally owner of my own home, where I can raise my kids and grow my farm and never have to face having to leave it behind ever again. If I have my way I’ll grow old and grey, die right here in this house and my ashes will fertilize the same soil that I farmed.

conservation at the hive house
Lots of birdhouses around the field at the Hive House!

Pride: I am so proud of me! I did it─I bought a farm! And though I’ve had some help along the way to grease the wheels, this was MY accomplishment. It was me who decided to generate an income from farming, and it was me who worked and strategized how I could some day buy my own place to ensure my own security.

Year after year I have doggedly pursued this goal, and even after my divorce when failure seemed imminent, I kept at it. I have been told that it would never amount to anything, that the chickens are of no use, that the bees are too risky a venture, and that you can’t make money farming. Maybe I’ll never be well-off, but I was able to buy this beautiful property as a farmer based on the income I’ve made from the farming of bees and chickens. I did that, and I’m proud of that.

Love: It’s at the root of everything I am and everything I do. Love for my kids, love for nature, and love for my fellow mankind drives me to protect those things. I revel in that love and it consumes me.

Gratitude: To be here, to have this beautiful house and property for my own, I am just so immensely grateful. I am filled with gratitude for every person who ever said a kind word, grateful to those who believed in me and encouraged me, and humbled that the Universe saw fit to bring me here to this place.

Excitement: Now that I finally have a forever-farm I’m excited to be able to get down to the business of farming. I can put into action my plan for a pollinator conservation farm, where I can share the beauty and wonder of the relationship that flowering plants have with their animal pollinators.

Fear: I’ve had people question my ability─asking whether or not I can handle it and if I know what I’m getting myself into. Now that I’m here and looking around, I admit that it’s a little overwhelming to think that I am responsible for all of this. What if those nay-sayers are right and after all this I wind up blowing it in the end???

Wonder & Incredulity: It’s a marvel that I ended up here after the long journey I’ve been on; there are moments when I can scarcely believe it’s really real. The field, the view, the gardens and the pond, the house and all of the out-buildings─it’s like a dream: a wonderfully wonderful dream that I never want to wake up from.

Switching Gears

I still have a few things to bring over from Norridgewock, but today I’m switching gears to begin construction of 2 chicken tractors to house the laying flock on the pasture out back. Making a video-tour of the farm is on the list of things to do, but until the moving is completely finished that is not a priority. Also, stay tuned for news of Runamuk’s Farm-Warming Party scheduled for later this summer!

Thanks for following along! Be sure to subscribe by email to receive the latest updates from Runamuk directly to your in-box! Follow @runamukacres on Instragram for more frequent updates from our farm!

Anxiety in the Home-Stretch

I fully admit that I have been suffering an increasing level of anxiety and stress during this home-stretch of buying a farm. The USDA’s program for beginning farmers seeking to finance the purchase of a property for farming is a grueling process and since passing the 200th Day it’s become more difficult for me─largely because the delay is causing quite an upheaval in both my farming operations and my family-life. It was a relief to receive word on Monday that the Appraisal of the Hive-House has finally been scheduled, and will occur on Friday, May 11th at 11. Once that report comes in next week, Closing should follow within a couple of weeks. Yaaaaay!

The FSA’s financing process reminds me a little of a video game, in that─you can’t advance to the next level until you have successfully completed the level before it. Each step in the FSA’s process is crucial to advancement and to reaching Closing Day, and it’s not over until you’ve signed those papers and received the keys to your new farm. My whole experience with the Swinging Bridge Farm taught me a valuable lesson.

I suppose having to go through this process twice has contributed considerably to my current state of perpetual tension. This all would have been over months ago if I hadn’t bet on the wrong horse the first time, but I’ve been much more careful this time around and I’m confident we will soon be scheduling Closing Day.

That knowledge does little to assuage my anxiety regarding Closing though…. So much hinges on this property sale that it almost chokes me up to think about it. My kids need this home. I need this home; Runamuk has reached a point where I don’t feel I can continue to farm without adequate infrastructure and a permanent home-base. My days as a landless farmer have reached their limits.

What’s more─buying a farm and moving a farm are similar to buying a home and moving a family, but way more intense because there’s livestock and farm equipment involved. And because in order to keep my farm income coming in so that I can pay this new mortgage I’ll soon have─I need to ensure that the farming continues even through the move.

To top it all off, there are a few nay-sayers in my midst who can’t seem to fathom how anyone could possibly buy property on an income generated from farming and have deemed my plan destined for failure. That’s just insulting; I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I didn’t have some idea what I’m doing! And besides─my loan has already been approved: TWICE!

I look forward to proving the nay-sayers wrong, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Before the 200th Day I wasn’t necessarily counting the days to Closing, I was just keeping a tally of the process; but once I passed day 200 I began counting. This has been a long process for me and my family, and I am mentally drained and exhausted. With the tension mounting in the home-stretch, I find some consolation in knowing I made it through all the days before today, and I will get through today too.

I am no stranger to anxiety, and have been careful to take care of myself: watching my caffeine in-take, drinking herbal teas, taking Valerian capsules twice a day, getting fresh air, spending time with friends, playing my banjo and drinking beer or wine (all things in moderation!), and most of all─keeping busy.

With my first farmers’ market of the 2018 season happening on Saturday, the same day my first round of new bees are scheduled to arrive, and then 50 new pullets to go pick up Sunday evening─Runamuk’s farm season is about to kick off with a bang this weekend, so keeping busy is not a problem. There’s equipment to prep for both bees and chickens, soap to make, soap to wrap for market, a new sign to make to hang in the Runamuk booth at market─not to mention I need to assemble all of the things that go to market with me: tables, tent, shelving and display pieces…the list goes on and on. Keeping busy is no problem at all, lol.

Once the Appraisal comes in Closing should happen within 2-3 weeks, so we’re really close now! Check back soon for another update from the farm, and be sure to tune in to Facebook Live to watch me sign that mortgage contract on Closing Day!