Career Counseling
January 24, 2011 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I have two very different life goals that aren't compatible with each other at all.

1.) I'm the kind of person who wants to make a lot of money, if nothing else but to give it to various charities with follow through (see how they use it / volunteer a few times a year / help them succeed) but overall to just be a successful person. Be decently comfortable.
2.) My housing dream, since I was about 10 or 11 and refined when I discovered the Tumbleweed Tiny House company at about 14, is to have a little house on a large amount of property.
1. I'm the kind of person who wants to really take up gardening, to compost, to live off at least part of my land;
2. The kind to have chickens in the 20+ size flock, a couple of big gentle cold winterable type dogs who live inside but who also go running with me and other outside sports, a cat perhaps inside, possible goats or some such;
3. The kind to have solar panels, a small wind turbine, a solar oven, a back deck just for a view, a fireplace that heats the house, a self built smoke-house with
4. Possibly my own hunted game inside and a stump out back to dispatch a chicken for dinner once in a while;
5. So therefore the kind with an axe and a few guns in the house.
6. And the kind who loves using the internet for references and keeping contact but who, instead of buying an electric blanket this winter, bought two hot water bottles.
While not all of that was necessary to the question, it should help you to get an idea about me.

How do I.....reconcile between two such ideals? I mean, a lot of my time would be spent up keeping the farm but I also have the desire to work an actual job.

I have had experience with working various kinds of jobs; zoo volunteer (mucky but fun work, with some heavy lifting occasionally), dental assistant, retail, restaurant, and currently military. My job in the military (tech), or at least my experience, apparently has the reputation to provide me with the training to get a very well paying, albeit desk, job after I get out. Yet my first urge is to want to learn farm skills via WWOOFingand possibly a job like Workampering just for fun once or twice (yeah, it's mainly old people that do that second one).

I'm determined that the first place I buy be a small towable house. Because then I would at least -have- my own house and could save on rent, etc. But it's a hard time for dreamers right now. I just don't want to get out of the military and have to wait another few years to get started. I don't want my dream to be my retirement plan - no offense to all of you retired farmers out there, but I'd rather start young.

Help? Do I really have to decide between a successful challenging job and a borderline hippie commune like lifestyle?

(So far as I figure, btw, a man to help me doesn't factor into it. It could, but I'm selfish and I'm sure that moving somewhere to “live with him” butts up against an idea that it should be the other way around. Anyway, I'm not determined to marry and have kids or anything, but I can't -completely- throw the idea out.)
posted by DisreputableDog to Work & Money (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, meant to indent those seperate 1 - 6 #s or change them to letters.
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:16 PM on January 24, 2011

Best answer: The hardest thing is going to be #1: Making a lot of money. If you can do this, then you can do all the rest of it with ease. If #1 is important to you, then concentrate on that, and once you've got it (good luck!) then you're gold. If it's any consolation, getting things like solar systems, towable homes, land, view, wind turbine etc, is a lot more expensive than you'd think! You might also look into the Vandweller lifestyle, which might satisfy your urge to workcamp, travel, etc, without being as expensive as buying a towable home.
posted by The otter lady at 5:24 PM on January 24, 2011

Best answer: I really don't see how these are necessarily incompatible, in the long run. I work in the defense industry, and I meet a lot of people who (I'm guessing) make decent money, and live on the extreme edges of metropolitan areas, on huge amounts of land. Chickens? Sure, a former program manager at my company would bring eggs into the office.

Of course, the commutes are a bitch. Pretty sure a lot of them spend easily 3 hours a day driving from the exurbs where they live into the inner suburbs they work in. But there's really nothing fundamentally incompatible about having a profitable career and living far enough away from the urban core to have a ton of land, as long as you don't mind driving hours every time you need to get to something.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:26 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do I really have to decide between a successful challenging job and a borderline hippie commune like lifestyle?

No. There are plenty of urban homesteaders around doing similar things -- you should have no problem finding meetups of like-minded folks. It may be difficult reconciling the "large area of land" with a non-remote urban job, but the rest is all doable.
posted by benzenedream at 5:28 PM on January 24, 2011

Best answer: You are in the military now?

See if when you get out you'd be able to work some kind of military contract job. Here locally they have companies that do things like train Special Forces, etc. Fort Bragg is close enough to plenty of rural areas where you could find the kind of land you wanted. And the commute wouldn't be THAT bad.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:30 PM on January 24, 2011

I guess I don't really understand why the two aren't compatible, depending on how large a hobby farm you hope to maintain. You'd look at smaller cities like Durham, NC or South Bend, IN, where you can be out in the country on fairly large plots of land within 20 minutes or so, and you'd commute into the city to do your upper-middle class job in upper management or law or banking or whatever. You're probably not going to make millions in salary, but when you're not shopping a ton or maintaining a large house, you can save significantly and invest.

I know plenty of people who live this way, working as high-earning professionals and going home to a large wilderness property with some hobby farming. Obviously a full-time job limits the amount of time you can devote to the hobby farming, but I know plenty of people who grow all their vegetables in the summer and keep chickens and have solar panels and whatnot.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:33 PM on January 24, 2011

Gardening and living off the land and taking care of chickens and dogs - this is all very time-consuming. Start small and see how much you can handle.
posted by leigh1 at 5:35 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I know how to do this. I could do this. To some extent I *have* done this, but my house out in the country isn't quite as far out as you're talking about. We've got propane and well water, though, and sometimes think about getting chickens. I've got the deck, the fireplace, the cats, but not the goats, solar panels or guns. I'm a software engineer. I first started programming almost 15 years ago. I majored in computer science in college. I made between $150-200k last year, and I can work from home a lot of the time. I spent a couple years at tiny mom and pop places, a few years in college, several years at a federal government agency, a little while at a Silicon Valley startup, and now a couple years at a billion dollar company. Only recently have I gotten to the point where this is a realistic option for me.

Living out in the country is easy. Making a lot of money is hard. Like I said, I know how to do it, but it requires a lot of time to gain experience, an interest in and aptitude for logic problems, and a fondness for computers.

You can move to the country tomorrow, but don't expect to pick up a new field and be making six figures in a year or two.

And, sure, there are other fields where you can do this as well. I don't have experience with them so I can't tell you the ins and outs there. I do know what I've been able to do though, and I can tell you that you can do it if you put in the time and effort.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:37 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not so sure that I see your laundry list as ideals. They're all things you want to have. What do you want to do and who do you want to be?

Making a lot of money usually results from having a talent or skill that's in short supply--others will pay for something that they can't/won't do themselves. Do you have such a skill or talent or ability? Working on that could lead you to a job or a business that pays you a lot of money. The other stuff all comes from that.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:40 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you buy a small house in the country where you live and work now?

My husband and I are planning to do some of the stuff you are planning, but on a small house scale, with a small acreage scale. We had to seriously think about whether we wanted to save until we could buy the house of our dreams and settled on buying the house we could afford right now. Since it isn't anything special it was cheap. The chickens and gardening are coming first and the solar panels, many acres, and living off the land will come later. But it is surely a satisfying start.
posted by aetg at 5:57 PM on January 24, 2011

Best answer: It also depends on what you think of as being comfortable, and what your "very well paying" job will be after you leave the military. $50K? $100K? $200K? More? At the high end of the pay scale, you don't have time for raising chickens, I'm afraid--and most of those highest paying jobs are in more urban areas where you can't buy a lot of land without being really wealthy. You could get a place further away from your job, but then you have either a long long long commute, or you only get to go for the weekends (if at all) and your chickens will get lonely.

The only way I see this working is as a post-residency medical provider (doctor/nurse) working in a rural area for a hospital (i.e., not having to deal with managing your own practice). I don't see this working in tech or in law or business--too time-consuming, too focused on urban areas.

Of course, once you make your millions of dollars, having a farm and a small house will be easy. But I don't think you can have them both at the start of your life. Plus, your profile says you're only 22, so there's plenty of room to grow.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:14 PM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: Alright, well, ditching the idea of making a ton of money, what jobs are best suited to a sustainable OR nomadic-for-a-time lifestyle, skills aside?
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:02 PM on January 24, 2011

Look for cheap land near cities. If you're in the military and defense fields, 20 acre farms are a definite reality near places like Colorado Springs or D.C.

Commute in twice a week and work from home the rest of the time. Assuming you don't share my assumptions about gas prices, in which case plan on working from home every day.
posted by salvia at 7:26 PM on January 24, 2011

In thinking about how big a farm/how many and what kind of animals etc. you might want, you should read this comment by a farming mefite.
posted by rtha at 7:32 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my father's good friends when I was growing up worked as an on-location casting agent for extras--i.e., when Gladiator was being filmed in Tunisia or whatever, he would go to live in Tunisia for three months to work with local people (usually not professional actors) to fill out the background. That was pretty awesome. Made good money. You can do similar work as an on-set PR person--or really any skilled on-set job that would require you to travel. I also had an ex-girlfriend who was a TV producer for those reality-type shows ("Puppy Makeovers!" "Pimp my Gym!" kind of things). She used to travel a lot.

If you can stand blood and guts, I think the best job for a nomad is a traveling doctor or nurse--look up "locum tenens." You travel all over, get put up in long-term housing, get paid very well.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:38 PM on January 24, 2011

Do I really have to decide between a successful challenging job and a borderline hippie commune like lifestyle?

In theory no. In practice, people who are successful at their jobs and make a lot of money spend most of their time doing their job, not cultivating hobbies like having a farm that requires daily attention. If you're married, there may be a chance to take advantage of some division of labor where that land- and farm-maintenance gets coordinated by your spouse.

I have a job that I like. I don't work terribly long hours, but after doing a full day's work, going to the gym, and doing some grocery shopping, I still got home at 9:30. Would I want to feed the chickens after that? Probably not.

Still, though I think this is possible as a defense contractor located someplace with a nearby rural area as long as you opt for something that keeps daily farm maintenance to a minimum. first, remember: the guideline is that you can mortgage 3 times your annual salary to get an idea of what you will be able to afford. The nearby DC area is out, though: I have a coworker in Maryland who wanted something similar to what you wanted but couldn't find something in her pricerange and opted for a more conventional housing development.

I have a feeling that you don't know how much this is going to cost or what your financial plan for reaching your goal is. Think seriously about what your financial goals are to get what you want.
posted by deanc at 8:02 PM on January 24, 2011

I have a good friend who works in a sales job in the city, 9-5, and makes a ton of money. Then at 5pm she drives the 1 hour commute out to her farm, exercises her horses, does the farm work, shuts up the chickens for the night, milks the goat, feeds everyone, and retires to her tiny cabin she and her boyfriend built themselves. Of course they then get up at 4-fucking-30-am to do the next round of animal care before work.

I think you can have it all if you are prepared to work very very hard. Of course, once you have enough money, you can hire someone to do a lot of the farm labour for you (my friend could afford to if she'd just stop buying horses!)
posted by lollusc at 8:07 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The nearby DC area is out, though

Western Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia has loads of farm property and miscellaneous acreage for sale within a couple hours of DC.
posted by electroboy at 7:59 AM on January 25, 2011

Some of the jobs mentioned above require travel, which would mean you wouldn't be around to feed the chickens and take care of the garden. Unless being a hermit on your land is part of this ideal, you could probably find some like-minded folks to help out. If you are doing towable houses they won't even need to be that close to you.
posted by yohko at 11:26 AM on January 25, 2011

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