I wrote this as a combination of posts for our personal blog in July of 2016. I include it here, because it is a huge part of our story – where we come from and what we have been through.
We have had quite an adventure these last three months. With everything that has happened, I have done a lot of dealing with what I needed to, but otherwise disappearing off the face of the earth. I have done my best to write things down here and there as they have happened, but I now realize that the story keeps getting longer and longer. I figured that if I didn’t “return to earth” and start sharing soon, it may turn into a full blown novel.
Loosing it All
Over the past number years, we have poured pretty much all we had into our two small businesses. Our “real food” distribution company and our farm took up the majority of our time and resources. They were our life along with our children’s lives, but we were happy to be able to work together as a family… at something we all loved. We also ran a landscape company that we had phased out with the recent growth of our farm.
Our farm had gotten to the point where we were raising dairy cows, pigs for meat, dairy goats, sheep for both wool and meat, chicken for both meat and eggs, turkey, ducks, geese, rabbits, etc. We had spent an entire year building our large “Back to Eden” garden… layering cardboard, compost, and woodchips well over a foot deep. We had come up with a new Farm Share program that would provide us with the income we needed, spread out over the entire year consistently. We had done the research, the market analysis, the advertising, the visits and tastings, and even had our member contracts secured. We were ready to start this new program on April 1st, and our new farm share members were equally as excited as we were.
Then, on March 27th… Easter Day… 5 days prior to the official launch of our new program we received news that the owner of our home had sold it for a price far more than what we had discussed having the ability to buy it for one more year down the road. All of our dreams, all of our work… everything we have poured in over the last half of a decade – crushed in the matter of one email notifying us that we needed to vacate the property asap.
To explain a bit further, we had significant snow on the ground from early November straight through March and Kevin was not able to do any landscaping work to keep us afloat through the winter… we had fallen behind on our rent payments – something that we had discussed and communicated with our landlord. We were open with what was going on and were told that they were willing to work with us and that as long as we continued to make small payments and get caught up come spring, that it would not be an issue. As a formality, the landlord delivered a number of “3 day notices” but communicated that they did not plan to act on them. We received another 3 day notice on March 22nd and notified the landlord that we would be able to get the complete balance due to them on Monday, March 28th. This was a bit more than what we had planned since they had previously agreed to work with us receiving payments over a little more time, but we were able to quickly work out the cash flow in order to make it work. On Sunday, we found out that they were not willing to wait the one additional business day and had accepted an offer on the home for almost $100k more than what we planned on buying it for.
We tried to fight it for a handful of days, tried to come up with a way to buy the house ourselves, but with the great number of repairs needed, we knew that was not worth the high price tag that was offered by another party. We then started searching for a new place to keep our farm. Not much of anything was out there regardless of what fit into the budget. We had a number of people offer to help or provide housing in one way or another, but nothing realistically would have allowed us to continue on with our farm program as we had planned. Without being able to fulfill the program as we had contracted with our share members, we were not able to move forward in a manner that we were confident that the farm would be financially stable. After considering a few of these options, we gave into the realization that we had to move forward with selling the entire farm, packing up our house, and moving all of our belongings into storage then go from there.
With the current housing market here in the Colorado Front Range (Douglas County, especially), we decided that it did not make sense to stick around. It was way to expensive to live anywhere… land or not. Since our business were not able to run without a significant amount of land and at least a basic infrastructure, not only had we lost our home, but also our livelihood. We really didn’t have much reason to stick around outside of the friends we have made the past 10 years we have been here.
Where to Go and What to Do
We decided that it made the most sense to take advantage of the new freedom that came with not having a home, a business, a farm, etc. and purchase an RV to travel in for the next 6 months or so… making it back to the area sometime around September in order to rent a place for about 3 months. We would travel around to different farms across the country in order to network and learn from those who are living our dream. We would enjoy this time together as a family and do some sight seeing… something that we have not had much time for these past 10 years that we have been in Colorado. Between livestock responsibilities, business, and babies, we have not taken a lot of time to travel. (honestly, our last real “vacation” was our honeymoon almost 11 years ago)
And a Surprise
Among everything else going on, I had also recently found out that I was pregnant with our 6th child. Of course, this discovery was made about a month after we had decided that this year was super full as it was and that we needed to be careful for a number of months to make sure that we did not have a 2016 baby. It’s funny how those first few weeks that I knew I was pregnant, I was concerned about how we were going to keep up with the calendar we had put together let alone with having a new baby in there. Now… we have nothing concrete on our calendar for this fall except to welcome this baby with love and time. I love that God is continuously reminding us to trust in Him rather than our own plans or concerns.
After researching and dreaming about the RV option, Kevin was offered a job as an account manager with a new landscape company located in Parker. We believed that this would be a wonderful opportunity for our family to rest for a few years, morn the loss of our farm, and spend some time focusing on each other. We would take the later half of this time to regroup and plan for rebuilding our farm venture, better than ever down the road.
We were then presented with an opportunity by one of our milk share customers that was willing to purchase a property, lease that to us, and leave us with the opportunity to buy it back when the time was right. We were hesitant about this because we truly felt that God had called us into a season of rest and to focus on our family. We decided to try and look anyway… We searched for a home that would fit our large family and the land necessary to continue on with our farm share program in the future. We figured we could continue with the plan to rest for a couple years and then move back into things. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found that would even come close to fitting our needs balanced with our budget.
A New Twist
As if all this has not been enough, I was realizing that I was not coming out of my first trimester tiredness as I would have expected. It actually seemed to be getting worse. After one appointment with my midwife, we discussed making sure that I was eating on a regular basis to confirm that it was not a blood sugar issue. I was finding that food had nothing to do with it since I would get dizzy spells or come close to passing out even shortly after eating a complete healthy meal. I explained to her the continued exhaustion and she suggested testing me for adrenal fatigue. Sure enough, the stress of the last number of months had done me in and I was diagnosed with stage 3 adrenal fatigue.
It was comforting to now actually know what was going on with my body, but it was also very difficult to come to the realization that I was unable to do so many “everyday” tasks, let alone anything extra. Dealing with the slightest amount of stress seemed unbearable… and although I now knew why, it didn’t make it any easier to handle the fact that I could barely function and take care of myself, let alone adequately take care of our five young kids!
My midwife put me on a number of supplements to help my body heal, but unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is not something that heals overnight… especially not when you are in the later stages. I am still coping with the fact that the healing process can take up to two years, and trying to wrap my head around how it’s all going to work when we have a newborn added into the mix this fall.
After not being able to find a property within budget, we then went back to the idea of possibly living in an RV for a year or two. We found a beautiful property in Elbert County that we completely fell in love with. Unfortunately, the property alone cost 3/4 of our total budget. Not to mention that the cost to run electricity (or set up solar) was outrageous. We could spend most of the winter traveling and make our way back home once a week or so in order for Kevin to keep up with his work load that was mostly home based… For a number of reasons, this plan completely fell through. We were thankful that God was leading us somewhere, but really wished that we knew where!
Back to the drawing board… we started looking at houses for rent. We opened up our search criteria to span from south Colorado Springs to as far north as Aurora and within a budget ranging in price by over a thousand dollars. We pretty much dropped any and all filters that we had previously created, willing to even go down to one pet if necessary. We spent the majority of our time looking at houses – I spent hours looking at listings a minimum of three times a day. We left our schedule open so that we were able to go look at a house that came up the instant it was available. We found nothing…
Did I mention that the housing market is crazy here?!? Houses were generally gone before they were even listed. If we were able to find one that was actually available, we were quickly turned down because the Real Estate agents were holding open the application process and taking the “best candidate” that came along. Most of the time, they would receive many applications in a given day and unfortunately, our “big picture” did not equal “best candidate”… 5 kids, pets, and bad credit (a few hard years of self employment can do that fast). We looked and looked and looked… and continued to find nothing.
Through this process, we were staying in a short term rental home in Monument. We found and secured this property to lease for half of April and all of May. When we signed the lease, we figured that would give us plenty of time to find a permanent home! It was furnished and allowed no pets, so we had to find temporary homes for all the remaining animals and leave 95% of our belongings in storage. It was complicated staying in a home filled with belongings that were not our own… especially with our 5 young munchkins, but we made due.
We were approaching the June 1st move out date quickly and nothing was coming up. We did our best to be strategic about how many applications we actually paid for considering that they cost between $50-80 each time we applied. We decided to plan a few trips over the next few months… if we were going to be “homeless” and staying in hotels, we might as well do so traveling. We had to spend some time back near Parker every week or so in order for Kevin to attend meetings for work. I looked at the next few months and saw the small amount of savings we had accumulated disappearing quickly with all these hotel fees. It was now even more tempting to simply skip town and have Kevin take a job somewhere else in the country that had much more affordable housing options. We both loved the idea of starting a new adventure somewhere else but decided against it as we had committed to Kevin’s new work position in Parker.
We continued to pray that a house would come up last minute. Come May 28th, still nothing, so we reached out to some friends who graciously invited us to bring our entire family and stay in their basement. Still hoping that a permanent housing situation would come up soon with it being the first of the month, we planned on staying with them for a couple nights. Still nothing… so we moved back to the idea of taking a number of vacations and staying with our friends when we were back in town for Kevin to work. We worked on planning a trip to either the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas or to Disneyland and a number of other southern California attractions and planned on leaving later in the second week of June.
A few days into our stay with our friends, it was discovered that their already in need of repair septic system could not handle the additional stress that our large family put on it and it backed up into their basement. They had tried to have the system repaired the previous fall, but for one reason or another, repair plans continued to fall through and then they were dealing with frozen ground all winter long. We now had to find a new place to stay and went with the quickest and easiest option of reserving a hotel for a couple nights. We made sure to go to one with a pool, so the kids had a blast and thought of it as a mini vacation.
With no true options presenting themselves, we started to discuss the option of possibly just living in “vacation mode” for the month of June, July, and August – knowing that we did have a house that we could go into the first week of September. On Tuesday, June 7th, we were invited back to our friends house (after their main drain was snaked) and we spent some time discussing our situation with them. It was agreed that we could stay through the end of June… longer if necessary, but ideally, we would continue to look for a place and find something in the not too distant future. Kevin called on a few more houses later that afternoon and set up a meeting to go see one in Monument on Wednesday, June 8th. The house was being rented out directly by the owner and Kevin had discussed our full situation, as he had done so many other times previously with countless property managers. The one great thing about this house was that it was available immediately, although I was not all that excited about going to see it – the pictures did not make it look all that desirable and it was on the high end of our budget.
On Wednesday, we headed down to look at the house and had a great visit with the owner. We agreed that we both liked it and talked more about the ability to bring one dog and one cat… something that was still up in the air till the owner talked to his wife. We left with the understanding that the owner would email us the application and that we would get that back to him that night. We discussed that we had planned to take a trip the following week and that we would like to move in when we returned, which he was okay with. It was really starting to sound like a true possibility.
That night, we submitted our application and the owner informed us that we would be approved assuming that all of our references checked out. He requested that we sign a two year lease opposed to a one year, which we agreed upon… happily considering he informed us that we could bring our dog and our cat. I was slightly hesitant about committing to two years in a “neighborhood” and would prefer to find a way to get back on land as soon as possible, but Kevin reminded me how fast two years go by and that it would probably be a good amount of time to take a break… especially considering my adrenal fatigue.
We talked more and decided that we didn’t want to take any chances with someone else coming in and offering to move in immediately and committed to postponing our vacation and moving in right away. We set up a meeting to sign the lease and get the keys the very next day on Thursday, June 9th. I had gotten my hopes up so many different times over the past two months, I refused to accept anything as actually happening till we had a signed lease and keys in hand… With how many calls the owner had received on this house in the last few days, he could easily back out and rent it to someone else.
Finally, Some Hope
Thursday late afternoon… after a long day of errands and Kevin having meetings, we met with the owner at a bank in Parker, signed the lease, and got the keys. We immediately picked up Hank (our dog) and after a quick stop at Walmart to pick up an air mattress, we headed to our new home. We made a plan to move in slowly… since our belongings were spread across three 10×20 foot storage units that were paid for through the end of June, it made sense to keep things as low stress as possible.
We started moving items from the storage unit the next day… first priority – the kitchen and our bed! Slowly, more and more furniture made its way to our new home – my husband literally moving every single box and every piece of furniture on his own.
My efforts to unpack were about a tenth of what I was hoping to be able to do. I am now at a point in my pregnancy where I have to be extra careful not to use too much energy because the baby is now old enough to be producing it’s own hormones that my body can potentially steal from. This can cause a number of predisposed issues to with the baby after it is born, so I continue to pray and do all I can to make sure this is not happening.
So… lots of unpacking consisted of me sitting in the middle of the room while Kevin unpacked a box and I directed where things should go. I have to say, I LOVE not having a house full of moving boxes! We have continued to work on a few boxes at a time and making sure they are all unpacked before bringing in more. This has done wonders for keeping the stress level of moving much lower!
We hadn’t been in our new house for 12 days when we were hit with yet more hard news. Kevin no longer had a job… the job that we had stayed in Colorado for… spent two months looking for a house to live in so that we could keep our commitment to be with this new company and help them work through some of the many growing pains that come with being a small business start up.
Things had been difficult for the last month or so with the company. He was learning his new position still and working out some kinks. Unfortunately though, the jobs that he had sold were not getting done on time or to a standard that was acceptable. He was making promises to customers based on what the owner of the company told him would happen, but these promises were not being upheld and customers were rightfully upset. Kevin was put in a very hard situation where he did his best to offer ideas and advice to the owner who had no experience in landscaping or being a small business owner. We have been playing this game for the past 10 years, so we have gone through many of the ups and downs and made many of the mistakes that were being made.
Kevin and I both tried a number of times to offer solutions or assistance, but unfortunately, this was not received in a manner that we were told it would be. When Kevin took the job, we were told that it was a family company and that they would love to utilize both Kevin and my help on a consulting level to work through the business. When work got busy and the stress of being a small business owner weighed in, the owner was not at all willing to accept any sort of feedback… and he was failing miserably in their landscape division.
The job that was in progress at the time this all happened was going so poorly that the customer requested that the company Kevin was working for pull off the job immediately and that Kevin take over and finish the job himself. Since he was now unemployed, he was able to get started on the actual install process the next day and fix some of the poor workmanship and finish up the project to the standards that he had originally promised.
The customer was more than pleased with his work and very happy to have him finish the job… and not have to deal with the poor craftsmanship and drawn out progress that the few other customers before her were left with.
And now we find ourselves in a funny situation that we are trying to make the best of. We stayed in Colorado for Kevin to have a job where he could primarily work from home with the exception of one or two half days a week. This would give him the ability to help me where needed so that I can continue to heal in the best way possible. Now that this is no longer an option, we are seriously considering getting back into the landscaping business. We have a few more projects that were picked up from jobs that he had sold with the company he was working for, however they are up in Parker and we are about 45 minutes away in Monument. This commute made sense when he was traveling up there once or twice a week, but adds a lot of drive time when he needs to be on a job for the full day, five days a week.
Our plan is to start up a company based here close to our new home in Monument and to ideally find some good help so that Kevin is able to spend less time in the field. He really excels at the selling aspect of the business and working with the customers, but will need to make sure to be very hands on from the beginning to make sure that high standards are being met in the field.
We have learned a number of lessons, each in being small business owners, working together as a couple, and in the landscape industry overall. With this, we hope to be able to hit the ground running and build a decent business rather quickly.
Our long term goal is to also spend these next two or so years figuring out a reliable way to make an income remotely so that we are able to work wherever we may be. We would then like to take take about a year to travel and live in an RV while we visit as many farmers around the country as we can. We hope to network and learn about raising crops and livestock in all the different areas of the country, as well as how farmers work within the different markets that exist. From there, we hope to be back to farming again in about three years… closer than ever as a family, well rested, and ready to break back into small agriculture better than ever.
Yep… it has been hard to go through and there is not a day that goes by that we don’t miss the farm, but we really do trust that God has us right where he wants us.
Where We Are Now
We did end up getting back into landscaping. We have been very strict with boundaries in making sure that Kevin is not working crazy hours and we are very picky about the jobs we take in. We had a couple guys helping out over the summer, which was a huge blessing and kept Kevin home more often.
I started working on Productive Mommies this past summer. Our goal is to get to the point where we can live off of that income alone, hopefully in the next one to two years. Kevin will continue landscaping till this happens.
Once we are able to live off of a 100% remote income, we plan to do some traveling for a year or so. Kevin also hopes to then be able to transition into some remote work of his own, sharing the burden of “killing the beast”.
From there, we hope to get back into farming and look forward to providing our family and a small number of others with the highest quality meats, dairy, eggs, produce, and more. We also truly miss the lifestyle in so many different ways and can’t wait to have that back.
For anyone who is interested in learning more about our farm, the website is still active here: http://sobrezaltana.com/
Farms Across the Country
In our time traveling, we do hope to visit as many farms as possible. Please let us know (comment below or use the contact page) if you own a farm or if you know someone who has a farm that we should visit anywhere in the country. We will do most of our traveling one to two years from now, but also hope to fit in a few smaller trips between now and then.
We are looking for all sizes and types of farming and as much as we are eager to learn. We are also happy to share some of our experience with any newbies out there!