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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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!