Keeping your balance

Balance is crucial along the winding trail that is life. Leaning too far one way or the other could result in a trip, stumble, or fall. Although neccesary, balance is not a God given skill. It takes time, patience, and practice to perfect the balance of responsibilities, commitment, and time management. Understanding the value of balance comes by looking at life through the eyes of those who rely on you.

I think that anyone with a full time job or career struggles with work/family balance at times. My career requires my time and attention from 7:30 to 5 every Monday through Friday. In the spring, days can get longer but the majority of them are as stated above. What my job does not require is that I struggle to keep conversation with my wife at night because I am perplexed by an issue risen earlier in the day. For me, keeping my mind to the task at hand has always been a challenge and in this instance, it is not that work keeps me from family, but that I can’t keep from work. I understand that I need to focus on family while at home, but my coworkers and customers are relying on me and I can’t let them down.

My parents still milk cows and grow crops on the farm where I grew up about 10 minutes from my current home. There is plenty of work to do on the farm and at times, it can be more than my mother and father can comfortably handle on their own. I am always willing to offer a helping hand when needed and have spent countless hours cutting wood, working land, unloading forage boxes, feeding cows, and performing countless other neccesary farm tasks. I don’t get paid to work their, per say, but I do enjoy a multitude of other benefits. Homemade raspberry jam, repurposed building materials, and the use of a truck and trailer, if needed, are all wonderful perks of helping out on the farm. Although I truly enjoy working on the farm, there are times when I get the call for help and I need to decline because I’m needed at home. I understand that I need to help make things easier for them, but my wife and baby are relying on me and I can’t let them down.

I have always been a bit of a dreamer and my mind always bounces from one million dollar idea to the next. One day I want to plant my yard to Christmas trees and the next I want to industrialize the chicken coop market. I have started so many projects and left them at 10% complete that my idea notebook looks like a graveyard. The only thing that has been a constant over all of these years is that I need to farm. I understand that if I spend a bit more energy on the next idea, I can make it, but everyone is relying on me and I can’t let them down.

It is normal to struggle with balance in life, and everybody has different battles that they need to fight every day. For some, it is turning off the TV and reading to your child. For others, it is closing the laptop and leaving work so they can eat a meal with their wife and kids. For me, it is the constant fight between my thoughts and my actions. Remember that to continue moving forward, one must consider not just the direction they are moving forward, but also the direction of all travellers on the path.

Farms and Fish

We can all remember the first time we fell in love, or at least the first time we THOUGHT we were in love. It was the summer between 8th and 9th grade. It was a hot one (if you know what I mean.) I can remember spending every weekend I could get off of my parent’s farm with my first girlfriend. Sure, all we did was go to her parent’s farm, but we were together and that was all that mattered. I remember staying up all night and talking about the day together on the phone. I remember walks through the pasture to check that the spring fed cow tanks hadn’t run dry. I remember when school started again and I was so excited to see her every day. I remember when she started avoiding me. I remember when she stopped talking to me. I remember when it was over. I remember sitting around with my buddies after school. I remember them telling me, “There are plenty more fish in the sea.”

I thank God that it was true. I thank God for giving me the strength to pick up that pole and cast it a few more times, that is, until I got the keeper that is my wife. There is a lesson to learn from this, and it doesn’t apply solely to hooking the perfect partner. I am also learning to appreciate this age old wisdom when looking at farms.

I truly enjoy looking at real estate. Whether online, in the paper, or in a semi-creepy Sunday afternoon drive-by, nothing gets my imagination rolling like looking at a potential property to own. I imagine buying the property. I consider what things need to be repaired, replaced, or updated before we move in. I think of how I would remodel the old machine shed into my dream farm shop. I pick out the trees that I would cut down and where I would put a rustic swinging bench that Brittni and I could sit on as we watched our baby gallivant through the yard with our dog. I look down the field and see the outline of future rows of beans, sweet corn, and tomatoes. I imagine how I would replace the old split rail fence with high tensile wire to contain a quiet, meandering herd of beef cattle on a crisp fall morning.

I abruptly awaken from my slumber. I unlock my phone, and open Zillow. Saved Homes. SOLD! My heart sinks. She was the one. The one where everything I ever wanted was laid out before my eyes. Gone. My dreams now belong to the new owner of the brick, two story farmhouse on 27 acres with the classic, red, hip roof barn and the 30×60 pole shed. It’s no use. I double tap the home button and swipe up. I set my phone down and decide it’s time to go to work. As the door slams behind me, my phone dings and a push notification slips down onto the lock screen. “3 NEW listings match your criteria!” There are plenty more fish in the sea.

Facebook Marketplace: Craigslist’s Killer

Anyone who has had children can tell you how expensive parenthood can be. Medical bills, formula, day care, diapers, clothes, and a smorgasbord of other expenses can add up at an alarming rate. Extra bills call for extra income, and in these lean times, every dollar counts.

In a pitch-all effort to ditch the old stuff we don’t need anymore and make some extra cash, we have decided to start selling anything worth more than the trash bag it belongs in. I have had my share of online selling experiences via Craigslist and most interactions have ended in a typical manner. The person of interest, er…interested person, that is, calls or texts telling you they want your stuff bad. They will be over tomorrow at 5 AM with cash in hand and that is the only time in the next 11 weeks they will be available to pick it up. You get up early to wait for the should be buyer but soon realize it is 11 AM and you wasted half of a Saturday trying to get in contact with some yahoo who offered you a measly $60 bucks for the Hope Diamond you wanted to move. I have a poor taste in my mouth to say the least. But Facebook Marketplace? That’s a different story.

When I got home a few nights ago, Brittni challenged me to put some of her things on Facebook Marketplace. In the past, I have tried to sell items on Marketplace, but have never had any real luck attracting buyers. It seems like the old codgers who want to buy the antique or decrepit junk I am trying to sell aren’t on “FacePad”. The things Britt wants to sell are different though. She wants to sell old shoes, diapers our baby outgrew, and some tall black boots that she isn’t scandalous enough to wear. I don’t know the least about any of the things she wants me to post, but I give it a shot. Moments after I began posting her treasures, my wife’s phone went haywire. Apparently the best words to sell old boots and diapers are very vague and non-descriptive ones.

Within her first 12 hours, Brittni had marked 4 of the 8 items listed “SOLD.” She also set up meetings with the buyers in mere moments through Facebook Messenger. She verified that her buyers appear to be normal people and could see if she has mutual friends with them, which in most cases, she did. It seems that Facebook has taken a hard look at Craigslist and found resolutions for the problems that they never could. All of the struggles and challenges that I ever had with Craigslist are gone…or are they?

I decided to post some of my stuff on Marketplace to see if the quality of buyers or listing traffic has just increased that much. I posted a meat smoker, an old snow blower, and an old ice fishing tip-up I bought at a garage sale and anxiously waited for the phone to start dinging. I waited. I waited some more. After 3 days, I had 2 messages about the items listed. Neither have resulted in a sale and I am sorry to say that I had to let one inquirer know that the $5 price for a tip-up does not include shipping to Minnesota.

As the week is coming to an end, Brittni and I can compare our successes and share our triumphant stories. She can show me the $90 cash she made selling things that were invaluable to her. I can show her I have the strength, patience, and fortitude to keep myself from calling Steve from Bemidji an idiot. I also get to keep the junk that I may have felt obligated to list for sale. I’d say that is a win for the both of us. By the way, if you need a meat smoker, a snow blower, or an old tip-up, give me a call. I’ll make you one hell of a deal.

Investing in our future without spending a dime!

As a young, married couple with a three month old baby, Brittni and I have taken a new approach to investing. Beyond paying our monthly mortgage, we don’t do it. At that, please don’t offer me unwelcome advice about the need to plan for our retirement or keep an emergency fund to cover 6 months of living expenses. I know that those things are important. They just aren’t as important as paying hospital bills, buying formula and diapers, or feeding ourselves. So if we are not investing financially in our future, what are we doing? We are investing our time and energy to increase the value and marketability of our home.

When Brittni and I bought our house, there were a couple of things that were very apparent about it. The first was that the house may have been on the market longer than usual due to the unsightly yard. Stray trees had grown up in various spots in the yard and instead of cutting them down, the previous owner left them for shade that he could utilize while burning trash in a rusty old barrel behind the garage. Although the trash from the household was burned, it is safe to say that any tree branches that had fallen were not. There were massive piles of brush strewn across the two and a half acres that a book of matches made quick work of. With some elbow grease, a lot of hours, and an arsenal of lawn tools and equipment, I have slowly cleared the brush, trimmed the trees, and removed all of the garbage. I have built flower beds, removed an eye sore chain link fence, and sprayed the giant patches of weeds behind the garage as well. Countless hours have been spent managing our yard and giving our little home some much needed curb appeal.

Secondly, the previous owner was a DIY-er. I won’t say all of the work they did is shoddy, but my guess is that all of the shoddy work was done by them. The siding on the house looks great from a distance but on closer inspection, the corners don’t line up and the angles are cut wrong along the eaves. Inside the house, the original stained crown molding is infected with paint from the ceiling and walls due to poor masking. In the basement, the outlet for the dryer is on the opposite wall of the hookups for the washing machine. These little details brought the price of our home down as well. We haven’t spent nearly as much time on these little fixes, but I plan to refasten the siding, reroute the wiring in the basement, and scrape the drips of paint from the beautiful hardwood molding.

Lastly, one of the lot lines ends adjacent to a small river that floods over half of the yard multiple times every spring. Unfortunately for us, we purchased the home in August. Before buying the home, we asked our insurance provider if we needed flood insurance. We were told that our home was in a zone where a damaging flood would only occur once every 200 years. I made the assumption that this meant any flooding would be minimal. Boy was I wrong. Any rising water we have seen has yet to damage anything but my ego as I try to pull my garden tractor from the over saturated turf. To reduce the flooding, I have started filling in the low spots to improve the slope of the yard. This helps the water flow off of the lawn into a retainer that reconnects to the river. This hasn’t cost me any money either.

The family home makes up 20-30 percent of the average American’s net worth. Our family is no outlier to this statistic. A home is a big investment and we need to protect and improve it. Our home was priced the way it was due to the shortfalls we may not have noticed due to our excitement to start our lives together. We may not have a lot of money to make necessary repairs and updates, but we do have the time and energy to make the most of what we have. Although this isn’t our forever home, it is our current one, and we are working our hardest to make it appealing to the next young, naive couple looking for their first house.

Where to Start

There are a lot of obstacles to overcome in our pursuit of farming, but there is only one elephant in the room. Money. To reach our goal of farm ownership, Brittni and I will need to work harder than we ever have to earn and save more. Even at that, financial independence doesn’t come without it’s own set of challenges. Follow along to see what we are doing to financially prepare ourselves for our future business endeavors!

The Chase

My name is Riley Bricco. My wife, Brittni, and I were both raised on dairy farms in Northeast Wisconsin but have since found ourselves separated from our roots. With the recent birth of our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Georgia, we have decided that we want to start our own farm to grow livestock, crops, and our amazing family on. I will be documenting our journey from the start and feel that writing about our life and experiences will keep us on the right track to a life in agriculture. There will be hurdles along the way, but with faith, family, and strong will, we shall overcome. Follow the page for frequent updates on our progress and stories about what we are doing to reach our final goal!

Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

It’s True…

Team work makes the dream work. The fairer motto of high school football teams and Wal-Mart Supercenter employees rings true in all things, including family. As Brittni and I work to create a better life for our family, I am constantly reminded of the need to work together.

This morning, I went to my parent’s farm and began work on a new chicken coop for our back yard. I arrived around 7 AM, earlier than I normally would to work on a project like this. With a rough idea of what I was building, I immediately got to work collecting tools and materials for the project. I began from the bottom and worked my way up, but soon realized the physical limitations of the supplies I had available. I soon began wringing my hands and scratching my head, contemplating my next construction move. After some time, I was still stumped.

Upon completing his morning chores, my father came over to inspect my work. With short consideration, he explained a simple resolution to the issue that challenged me for what seemed like half of a day, but was, in reality, only 15 minutes. We continued to work on the aviary domicile through the morning. Each time we came to the next step, we would share ideas back and forth and agree upon what would be the best design. As the day went on, I had accomplished much more work than I had anticipated completing when I left home that morning. The tasks I feared doing by myself were a breeze with the extra hands to hold a board while I cut or help carry heavy materials. We worked on the structure until he had to start his evening chores of feeding and milking cattle at 5 PM. I cleaned up the work space, made a list of the materials I need to finish the project next weekend, and headed home.

I walked into the house, Subway dinner in hand, and greeted my wife, Brittni. She had just fed Georgia, who is a few days shy of 3 months old. I unloaded the bag of food and sorted our sandwiches, sodas, chips, and cookies into two piles. Seeing that Brittni had spent all day with our child, I went to relieve her. As I held our baby, Brittni ate her awaited dinner and thanked me for picking it up. I thanked her for watching Georgia and cleaning the house while I was gone. Once my wife was finished eating her dinner, I passed the baby back off and had mine.

A day like today really makes you realize that a good team can be more valuable than any amount of skill one person can possess. My father and I worked together on a project making the work go faster and increasing the quality of the final product. My wife and I worked as a team to improve our home, as well as that of our feathered backyard friends. Whether working directly with someone to accomplish a task or working towards a common goal from different angles or perspectives, team work does, in fact, make the dream work.

Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil – Ecclesiastes 4:9

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