‘Many dream of retiring on a hobby farm, but few are prepared for the hard slog’

Aug 09, 2020
Life on a hobby farm is no walk in the park, warns this community writer. Source: Getty.

Many city dwellers, perhaps nearing retirement, or simply fed up with city life, have an idyll in their minds, one which involves selling up the family town house and moving out to the country, where they‘d buy a nice little ‘hobby farm’, to keep life interesting and to make a few dollars to help out with the pension income.

It really does have a lot going for it doesn’t it; getting out of the dirty, noisy, unsafe city, with all of its traffic, travel delays on those long trips to the office, the school or the factory, not to mention the tugs wandering about at night, looking for trouble. Then, if you move, there are the good wholesome vegetables, bought fresh from a neighbouring farmer, eggs straight from the nests of free-range chickens and in your bit of woodland nearby, fallen timber can be collected in the winter to feed the hungry Aga oven and warm the whole house.

There are most likely no neighbours nearer than about a hundred meters, plenty of room in your fields where the dog can run free, trying to catch those pesky rabbits, and the kids, although too young to ride on the roads, can hurtle about the place on their mopeds also having the time of their lives, avoiding your cattle, (every farmer has some cattle, right?), and zooming in among the trees in that copse just off the south paddock, where you collect your firewood.

And you’ve got rid of all that hard work that had to be done in the city too, especially if you were employed in the building trade, or a motor mechanic – it will be nice to be able to just sit back and watch the grass grow, with your herd of cows ‘mowing’ it for you every day, and your ‘home-grown’ veggies just starting to show in the kitchen garden, while the little lady does a bit of light dusting and some laundry inside….. Yes, idyllic isn’t it!

But be careful before you come to a final decision, and do plenty of research! People who buy hobby farms usually don’t want anything too big, something perhaps ten hectares in size, where there’s not too much work required and it’s all easy living. But beware! A piece of land that size, if every bit of it was left as pasture, would just about support four cows in the manner to which they are accustomed and which they require, which doesn’t leave a lot over for that bit of woodland where your firewood can be gathered, or your kitchen garden can flourish.

Oh, talking about the firewood, you may own it, but the law won’t permit you to cut it without special permits which aren’t easy to get – the authorities like dead wood to be left alone as habitat for small animals and birds!

Another thing to remember, farming is a ‘seven-days-a-week’ occupation, stuff doesn’t stop growing, or the animals don’t stop eating just because you want to get away for a weekend. The kitchen garden most likely needs daily watering too, and there’s the Aga to be cleaned out and ashes removed every couple of days, not to mention clearing out last night’s s**t from the cow shed, (though at least four cows aren’t going to manufacture a lot of that stuff, but it still needs clearing, for the health and cleanliness of the animals.

The next thing you need to consider, before you come to a final decision is, just how strong and healthy are you, because farming, even on a small ‘hobby’ set-up, can require some fairly heavy labour at times, like trying to shove obstinate cows to go where you want them to go, trying to change a wheel on the tractor, moving surprisingly heavy bales of hay into a paddock to feed hungry cattle and dragging out various pieces of steel equipment to attach to your tractor, so you can keep your fields healthy and tidy. And don’t forget, if you really do want to get involved in the lifestyle of the country farmer, these gentlemen have a very strong reputation for doing virtually everything, apart from helping their cows give birth to calves, themselves, (and some even do that!).

What it boils down to, in my opinion, is that you’ll provide yourself with a great life, you’ll make lots of excellent friends, you’ll enjoy the best of simple food and you’ll breath air that hasn’t just left the local tannery or paper factory, and it won’t be loaded with car fumes. But, you will still have plenty of work to do, some of it heavy, though at least it will all be for you, not some distant boss, living in Darwin, (or Beijing) and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that every little success is due to you as well!

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