Official Closing Date

At long last I have an Official Closing Date on my #foreverfarm! We have overcome every hurdle─Runamuk and I, and this property I’ve affectionately dubbed “the Hive House”─in order to come together to form this union between farmer and farm. There’s no going back now; it’s only a matter of time before I finally have a permanent location for my farm and family.

Everything that I am, and everything that I have ever done in my life, has been leading me to this moment. It has taken everything I have to get here─years and years of hard work, determination, and sacrifice. Now I am exhausted from my long journey, and I’ve reached the end of my proverbial rope.

This week, my agent at the FSA, Nathan informed me that the title search had come back clear and as such has been approved. They’ve ordered the title insurance─the last piece of the FSA loan puzzle. Nathan was about to schedule Closing for next week, when we discovered an unexpected speed bump.

beeswax soap at amrket
Some of Runamuk’s beeswax soap on display at the Madison Farmers’ Market.

Up til now we’d been operating under the impression that Closing would happen just as soon as all of the hurdles had been overcome and the paperwork could be ready. However, to allow enough time for the FSA’s interminable loan process we’d sited on the Sale Contract that Closing would occur on or before June 29th. Since this was my second time through the process, Nathan has been pushing my paperwork through as quickly as he could, but we learned this week that the Sellers will not be ready to Close before the June 29 deadline.

In order to Close early both parties have to agree, and that is not going to happen in this case.

I was shocked. I had not entertained the notion that it could possibly take til the end of June to resolve this part of my life and move onto the next. What’s more, it’s become increasingly difficult to live and farm under my present circumstances. These temporary lodgings have served their purpose─this tiny trailerstead in the backwoods of central Maine has been the stepping stone I needed to make Runamuk’s farm-purchase happen─but I was aghast at having to live and farm 5 more weeks under these conditions.

Runamuk needs the proper infrastructure to be able to function successfully. I need a proper home for myself and my family, and space to do my own thing. In these temporary conditions I’m lacking space to assemble and store hive equipment, I have no place to dry the herbs used to make Runamuk’s various beeswax salves, there isn’t space to extract the remaining honey that I have still waiting in combs from last fall’s harvest, and I am lacking pasture to move my new pullets onto so they’re eating way more of that expensive organic grain than they otherwise would be.

What’s more, while I was able to plant my potatoes, onions, and garlic at this temporary location, I was intending to plant the remainder of my garden at the Hive House. With a Closing Date of June 29th I’ll have to abandon many of the full-season crops I typically plant: the tomatoes and winter squashes etc, which directly impacts my ability to produce food to store to see my family though the winter.

All of this will affect my farm-income and I’m concerned about being able to meet the financial projections I forecasted for the FSA when I assembled my paperwork for this loan. Unfortunately there’s really nothing to be done for it. Legally the Sellers are within their rights. If you look at it from their perspective, you can imagine what it might be like to have to say goodbye to the home they’ve known their entire adult lives. I’m sure that’s not easy either.

limited availability
Signage at farmers’ market explaining the sparseness of Runamuk’s booth; currently I’m out of honey, and since the new flock has not yet started laying, I don’t have eggs either.

Since there’s nothing to be done for it, I’ve accepted this year for what it is─a year of transition for Runamuk. I’ve decided to take it easy on myself; buying a farm through the FSA is a daunting prospect even under the best of circumstances. Moving a farm is challenging for any farmer, and trying to continue farming while relocating your operation is an ambitious proposition for even the best of us. I’m doing good just to be at market, to still be making soap at all, and to be working with bees even as a landless farmer.

I’m incredibly stressed and anxious about the whole thing, and these last few weeks I’ve just been trying to hold on til Closing. When I learned I would have to wait 5 more weeks I wasn’t sure I could make it. But when I posted to my facebook community expressing my concerns, a wise friend (thank you Janet!) quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt:

tie a knotIt brings to mind this mental image of myself clinging to the knot at the end of my rope, hanging on for dear life while the Journey finds me whipping in the wind and rains like a ragdoll. And I just keep telling myself “Don’t let go!”

Come June 29th the Hive House will be mine and Runamuk will finally have a #foreverfarm. It’s a huge relief to know that everything is a GO─nothing can stop this sale now. If I can just tough it out a little longer I will soon be moving Runamuk and my family HOME. Check back soon for details regarding our upcoming Farm-Warming Party!!!

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200 Days

200 days

Today marks the 200th day since I first dropped off my application with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency back on September 28th. 200 days slogging my way through the red tape associated with the government-financing process in hopes of one day owning my own forever-farm. Everyone wants to know what’s going on─have we Closed yet? when do we move??? My perpetual answer seems to be “Not yet.”

runamuk apiaryPermanently Part-Time at Johnny’s

Farmers everywhere are gearing up for the season ahead. At Johnny’s Selected Seeds, most of the seasonal employees (local farmers like me, hired to help man the phones in the Call Center during their busy season) have returned to their farms. It’s bittersweet to watch my colleagues depart one by one. I’m happy for them to be able to do the work they love because I know all too well how farming can consume the soul, but I’m a little envious that I can’t go too.

Originally I was hired as a seasonal employee 3 years ago, but following my divorce I’ve required the stability of a dependable paycheck year-round. What’s more, with a new mortgage I expect to continue to need supplemental income year-round for another 2 or 3 years, so I’ll be there in the Call Center 2 days a week all season. Permanently part-time…ouch.

It only stings a little though, because I’m finally buying a farm! Squeeeeeeee!

Guesstimated Closing Date

No, we have not moved yet, and we don’t even have a date for Closing. My agent at the FSA (Farm Service Agency), Nathan Persinger, likens their loan process to an iceberg…what you see above the water is nothing compared to the mass of ice below the water, and it takes a long while to navigate a safe path for your ship.

The good news is that my loan request was approved, and I’ve received word that the job for the Appraisal was accepted by Farm Credit East, who states they will have it done “on or before May 11th”. That’s much sooner than Nathan had expected; officially they have a full 90 days to get the Appraisal done, and this is a busy time of year too, so I was very lucky to get it scheduled so soon.

Once the Appraisal is done that just leaves the Title Search between me and Closing. So long as nothing pops up in the county registry regarding the Deed’s legacy, then the FSA will schedule a date for Closing. Typically once the Appraisal is done, Closing can happen within a couple of weeks.

I have this gut feeling that the Appraisal will be completed before May 11th, and so I’m guesstimating that Closing will take place somewhere around May 18th.

OMG that’s just 4 weeks away!

Validation

200 daysTears sting my eyes whenever I think about signing those papers at Closing. When I was young, my family moved around a lot… We never left Maine, but we moved from Anson to Madison, to Skowhegan, to Salem (Maine), to Kingfield, North Anson, and then back to Anson/Madison again. I thought when I became an adult I would finally be able to set down roots somewhere, and while I came close a few times, I have yet to gain that sense of permanency that my spirit craves.

It was 9 or 10 years ago, following a move that was particularly difficult for me, when I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. I was a stay-at-home homeschooling and homesteading mother and wife, and while I didn’t want to give that up, I came to realize that in order to buy a home and put down roots I would have to have an income of my own─my husband’s paycheck alone was not sufficient to buy the home I’d long envisioned. And so I set out to generate an income for myself. I decided I could use the skills I’d learned as a homesteader to make money while I continued to stay home with my children: I became a farmer.

Since Runamuk’s inception, I have experienced many ups and downs along my journey as a farmer─even some serious set backs that might have caused a lesser woman to abandon the path for a smoother road altogether. For better or worse I have kept on and soon my life-long dream for a home─a farm of my own─will become reality. Soon, so many hardships and sacrifices will be validated. When they put those keys in my hand every struggle will have been worth it.

Note: I plan to Facebook Live the contract signing, so stay tuned for details on when Closing will take place; you won’t want to miss this monumental occasion!!!

Ramping Up at Runamuk

Meanwhile, being permanently part-time at Johnny’s does not mean I’m only farming part-time. No, I’ll continue to farm full-time in addition to my off-farm employment, and─like my seasonal colleagues who are departing the Call Center─I am ramping my farm up for the season ahead of me.

This season, for the first time ever, Runamuk will be attending 2 farmers’ markets. I’m pretty stoked to say that we’ve been accepted into the Gardiner Farmers’ Market, which is held on Wednesdays from 3-6 throughout the summer months. The Gardiner market will hold an extended market from 3-7 once a month, and this is when you will find Runamuk there with our raw honey, beeswax products, and GMO-free eggs. It’s going to be a long haul for me from New Portland (where the new farm is located) to Gardiner, some 65 miles south, and since customers don’t necessarily need to buy products like honey and soap on a weekly basis, I’ve decided it will work best for me and my family to only make the journey once a month.

To prepare for the season ahead, I’ve been busy making soap─so much soap! All the old favorites: the Randy Lumberjack, the Girl Next Door, and the unscented Honeybee soap; the seasonal fragrances, including the ever popular Lilac-scented spring soap. Some of last year’s trial varieties will be returning: Maine Lobstahman, Caribbean Escape, and Hazelnut Toffee, and there will be a few new fragrances too: Strawberry-Rhubarb (you won’t believe how yummy this smells!), and Lavender─by popular request.

forum onion crop
I sold my onions in bunches of 3 and 4 at the farmers’ market. They were a big hit!

I’ve got 50 new egg-laying chickens that will be 16 weeks old and about ready to start laying when I pick them up on May 15th. I’ve made my pre-season supply purchases: seeds (because you can’t work at a seed company and NOT buy seeds in the spring lol), onion plants and onion sets, seed potatoes, new beekeeping gear, wooden-wear for new hives, and candle molds and supplies for candle-making. I’m planning to debut my first beeswax candles this year.

Naturally I’ve got more bees on order, and even some new Queens from Hall’s Apiary in New Hampshire. I fully intend to raise some of my own Queens, but with the new farm I really want to boost my hive numbers in a big way this year─and buying in additional mated-Queens to make my own nucleus colonies is a sure-fire way to do that. Over the next few years I will be working hard to increase the scale and productivity of my apiary; the plan is to scale up to 40 honey-producing colonies by 2021, and to focus more on raising lots and lots of nucleus colonies, both to replace hives lost in the winter, and to be able to offer overwintered nucs for local beekeepers. So many bees!!! I can’t wait!

200 Days and Counting

follow runamukThe long process to Closing on a real estate loan with the FSA is one of the major reasons why more farmers aren’t utilizing this avenue to farm-ownership. Even with a Sale Agreement and Approval for the loan, nothing is certain until you’ve signed that contract at Closing. It’s months and months of anxious uncertainty to gain the keys to your home and place of business. Only the most determined farmers will successfully navigate their ship through the iceberg-infested waters that is the government process.

I am that determined. I will have a home and forever-farm.

What had initially begun as a means to an end, has consumed my soul; I am a farmer, through and through. I have such love for the Earth and the natural world around me─like a clean, clear mountain spring that wells eternally from deep inside me, driving me to this work─compelling me. I am a producer and I will feed my family and my community─nurturing their bodies and their spirits with my labors of love.

The end is in sight!!! Check back soon for news of Runamuk’s Closing Date! Be sure to like Runamuk Apiaries on Facebook so you can watch me sign the mortgage contract via Facebook Live!