Just as we discussed some of the great things about living on a hobby farm (here), it must be said that there are some disadvantages to living on a farm. Whilst I love every minute on the Rock Farm, I can freely admit that living out of town is not for everyone. If you find any of these drawbacks sound like they might apply to you, then perhaps you should visit a farm for a weekend at a time. If you think you’re ready to take the plunge and take a tree change, these are somethings that you might consider before leaping in!
Distance from facilities
Hobby farms by their nature are out of town. This means that if you forgot to buy the milk or bread, you have to make up your mind whether it is worth returning to town for a little shop, or go without until your next trip into town. You can’t roll out of bed and stroll down to the cafe on the corner for a cup of coffee…
This means that we tend to buy extra food. We have a stash of long life milk in a cupboard. We own a chest freezer that rarely gets below half full. When I visit a hardware store, I tend to buy extra – to make sure I have enough to finish whatever job I am doing. Yet despite this, occasionally we do run out of stuff, and we have to make a decision. Is it worth travelling all the way back into town for – or can we wait until our next trip.
With no public transport other than the school bus, owning two cars is an essential part of living out of town. The cars provide an important safety link, particularly important as we are a long way from Ambulance services. Both of these vehicles do a lot of kilometres each year. There is also the added risk of stray animal strike – meaning both our cars are fitted with bull-bars, and the option of a small runabout as the second car is not very appealing.
There is always something to do
Be it feeding the animals, watering trees, repairing fences or mowing the lawn, there is always something to do, and always an unfinished task. Whilst we love this active lifestyle on the Rock Farm, we have plenty of friends who love coming to visit, but acknowledge that ours isn’t the lifestyle for them. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you want to do on the hobby farm, but by setting a long term plan, and prioritising your efforts, you can make it a lot less stressful.
Going away requires lots of planning and sometimes cashing in on favours
Going away for the weekend is easy enough, but leaving for more than a night or two requires a bit of planning. We need to ensure the dog and the chooks are cared for, and the stock are in a paddock with plenty of feed and water. If there are neighbours with teenage kids eager to earn a few dollars, then you may be able to arrange for someone to keep an eye on things for a nominal rate.
If you have house-sitters, you find yourself worrying about how much water they will use, if they understand how to reset the pump if the power goes out and they myriad of other little things you quickly learn to live with on the farm. Sometimes they can be more stress and heartache than not having them at all.
Access to services
Most hobby farms don’t have access to services such as town water or sewage. With water storage tanks and septic tank systems widely available, it isn’t really a problem for many of us – and the bonus is you don’t pay water rates. That said, you have to make your own arrangements for water. If you have a small roof area, or small water tanks, you may find you need to purchase water – particularly in hot dry spells.
Many hobby farms don’t have a weekly rubbish collection service. We carefully sort our rubbish, and store it. Once a month or so, we take it to the local tip. It is messy, dirty work, but it does remind us exactly how much landfill we create. This means we recycle and reuse as many items as possible.
The Internet is another service we struggle with. When Telstra politely advised us that ADSL2 would be connected to our home on 15 December 2028, we really felt as if we were being left behind in the digital age. Thankfully we are able to access a 4 G signal form a special antenna on our roof, meaning we can still get high speed data access from a 4G dongle, albeit at great expense. We are presently investigating the Sky Muster satellite based NBN to see if we can improve our internet plan.
Cost of living
There is an increased cost of living when you live on a hobby farm. You might be able to offset some costs if you qualify as a primary producer, or if you’re able to supplement your income by selling your produce. But if you’re like most hobby farmers, you have chosen to live on your piece or paradise because of the lifestyle it provides, not the income it generates.
Despite the obvious larger mortgage required for a hobby farm compared to the regular house, you may find the standard mortgage lending criteria don’t apply. Depending on the size of your hobby farm, you may require a 20% deposit. Check with your mortgage provider before you have your heart set on that nice little 40 hectare block!
You will also find the cost of insurance is more expensive on a farm. In many instances you will require business insurance. Again this will be determined by the size of your farm, where it is located and the stock you run.
Having to run two cars, and drive large distances, we spend a lot of money on fuel and time in our vehicles. Whilst most of our driving is easy country miles, we still have to maintain our vehicles, and service intervals seem to come around all too frequently.
Cost of upkeep
As a responsible landowner, you will have additional costs that come with looking after a block of land. Some of these include:
- Fencing. Steel wire and fence posts are inordinately expensive. Getting someone to install fencing generally doubles the cost per metre. The old adage that good fences keep good neighbours certainly runs true. Your neighbour will not take kindly to your wool shedding ram covering his prize winning fine wool merino ewes!
- Weed control. There are many noxious weeds that can be found on rural blocks. If you leave them, they multiply at an alarming rate, reducing the carrying capacity of your land. You may also receive a fine from the Local Land Services department for not managing your weeds. Spraying or mechanical control (digging them out or mulching) is expensive too.
Little jobs take longer than you plan when you have lots of helpers on the farm. Even simple stuff like testing the PH of the soil can take longer when you are visited by a gorgeous four legged friend who is after a cuddle (the two legged variety is gorgeous too!). It is easy to get distracted, and finishing the task at hand can require a concerted effort to stay on track.
Of course I am biased – we love living on the Rock Farm. We think that the benefits from living out here far outweigh the disadvantages. It is very much a lifestyle choice but it does come with disadvantages. We don’t have the trendy cafe just at the end of the street. Our school is a 15 minute drive, work is 45 minutes. Every trip into town is considered and if we can avoid it, we do. Holidays require a little more planning, but really no more than anyone with pets. Like all things, you make your choice, and live with the consequences of it,
Good luck with your decision. If I have missed any thing, please let me know. 🙂