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Inevitably, trials will come...

Hello friends!

First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this blog. As you follow us on our journey we plan on sharing as much as possible with you, in regards to how we became farmers and the stewards of Golden Forest Farm; as well as our current day to day activities, revelations and outlooks on life, and the projects we are working on (as well as towards) as they come about. The ups and the downs... The good and the bad... In this sharing, you will see that things are hardly ever perfect, or they atleast may not fit our current vision of what we may perceive “perfect” to be...  Inevitably, trials and challenges in life will always present themselves. Your reaction to these trials can either make or break your potential successes in life I think....

Like all of you, we too have had our fair share of trials. Some as simple as planting seeds and them not coming up for various reasons, to coming home, or rather having to ditch our car and hike home, only to see that our little farm had literally been up-rooted, damaged, and changed forever.  

This summer has probably been the most difficult this far. Between the relentless heat, a slow filling well, and a “micro-burst” that threw trees into our garden plots, we’ve been ‘challenged” extensively this year.  How do you keep on going when everything “seems” to be working against you? We can safely say that things always work out and often times, they work out for the better in ways than one can normally imagine themselves. We have experienced this time and time again. This can be said from finding this amazing little farm, to learning how to plant better in our area, all the way to the house not being damaged from the “micro-burst” that we experienced a few months back. In the next several paragraphs, I’m going to share a few specific ways as to how something that we thought was awful, turned into something of an unforeseen blessing in disguise.

From the beginning: 

Well, in short we didn’t want to live in a place that had crazy zoning restrictions, so we started our house hunt to build our future farm at (More about all of that in our first blog!)...

-One of many trials to come...

Our house... I shared a good bit of our house hunting story in our first blog. I encourage you to read it. It will help you get to know us a little better.

In short, we searched everywhere from the Upstate of SC, to the South East part of North Carolina, to the South West of Kentucky, to the North West of Georgia and landed in the one of the least populated counties in SC. It was a very frustrating experience to be honest. Things just wouldn’t work out no matter how perfect we thought they were. Time after time. We made so many offers on properties, most of which had been sitting on the market for months or even years. AND they literally got an offer the same time we decided to make an offer and were sold right out from under us.  We often joked about how realtors should just hire us to try and make offers on properties that they had listed for over a year or more, because it seemed like as soon as we showed interest regarding a property that had been listed forever, it would literally be put under contract by another buyer.  On what we had decided was going to be our last day house hunting for a while, we decided to drive an hour and a half to a place called Abbeville.  A place that most folks in the Upstate had never heard of...

We had been through this small town so many times in the past several years, but NEVER considered it to be where we’d call home. Not that it was a bad place, but it was just far away from where our current home and business was at...

We never thought we’d find the house... We had terrible cell phone reception, and I was so worried we’d get lost. And then we saw the “Sumter National Forest” sign and felt a little better about this potential prospect.

- Side note: I slightly exaggerated us wanting this house from the get go. I mean, it didn’t take us long to realize that we really wanted it, but was far away from where our current income at the time was coming from, an hour and a half away (and also a big deal when it comes to aquarium installations, and maintenance, and being nearby those accounts in the event of an emergency). Did we really want to have to drive an hour and a half every time we went to work? Should we be that far away from our accounts? Everyone knows fish tank maintenance can require a relatively immediate response sometimes. Did we really want to be that far away? Notice, our decisions were based on something that, potentially, wasn’t always going to be our main focus...  

Also, when house hunting you don’t normally go for houses that have been on the market for a while. That normally leads some folks to believe that there is something wrong with it...  This house had been on the market for over a year... We were very hesitant at the beginning, and we walked the property keeping in mind that there may be a potential disaster lurking around some corner. Thankfully we kept being pleasantly surprised...  While it wasn’t the house we had always dreamed of, it had many pluses that were more important to us than the minuses.  The whole property was cross-fenced, and perimeter-fenced. For all those who have had fencing installed know this is a HUGE expense. It also had a barn, two sheds, water taps everywhere, two working septics, and a house.  All right across the street from a gravel road that led deep into the Sumter National Forest, loaded with “almost secret” hiking trails, horse riding trials, mountain biking trails, and atv trails. A lot of lakes, ponds, and rivers around for kayaking, fishing, and just playing in.  It was as if we had “been led” to an area that was probably one of South Carolina’s best kept secrets!  Such an underestimated golden area...

So, what was the problem? 

We thought on it for a few days and called the realtor to set up an appointment to get a better look at the property and the house.

-Second big trial...

As many of you small-time self-employed folks know about this...  No matter how much money you bring in, it’s extremely difficult to get financing. Especially when it comes to “manufactured homes”. We quickly learned this... This was why it was still on the market. It was a 1993 manufactured home... The perks were it had been de-titled, and it sat on a permanent foundation with brick underpinning, with a cement and brick front porch, and a cement patio pad that ran the entire length of the house along the back.  It didn’t really look like a “manufactured home” and rivaled many of the stick-built homes being thrown up in many of the track home neighborhoods that were going up all over the place around our old house in Greenville.

STILL, no one wanted to touch us with a ten foot pole...  We had talked to the realtor about asking the owner to potentially finance it under a short-term loan, at 5 years max... The realtor assured us that he would turn down the offer because he had turned down so many other “owner finance offers” many times over the past year... But by law, they have to present all offers... Things can change, right???

So, we gave the realtor our offer, and the realtor presented it to him.  Then the realtor called us back and informed us that the owner wanted to meet with us.  So, we drove out here and met with him and the realtor one day, we talked a bit, and then we left and drove back to Greenville.  We felt good about the situation and the owner, and we were like “if it’s meant to be, then it will happen”...  And, he accepted our offer!  We did everything legally through a lawyer and the court (which I suggest)...  

It went relatively smoothly after that, which always tends to be the case for us when it seems like we are doing what we are suppose to be doing...  Or in this case, moving to where we are suppose to be building our future farm. 

Gardening

If any of you has ever tried to grow anything, you know that it always comes with it’s own set of struggles. It can be anything from bad seeds, to a bad watering  situation, to not being able to keep it weeded (the bermuda grass is AWFUL). People can choose to be defeated by these trials and give up, or they can see them as a need to adapt and overcome.

In my first blog I shared how our very first garden got washed away. Some would have thrown the towel in then and there, and been done with it...  But nope... Chuck, my determined husband, re-did the entire garden all over again.

Here’s his side:

- “We planted our very first "real garden", and decided to do a roughly 60x60ft plot (which was huge for us at the time).

We wanted to do a "no-till" type garden so we bought a bunch of paper mulch and ordered in about $700 worth of compost. We laid the paper out over the entire 60x60 plot, and carefully brought in wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of compost to dump and carefully spread over the paper mulch that we had rolled out all over the grass everywhere. We worked tirelessly into the night to get it all done and planted with seed, since it was suppose to rain the next day.

Well, the next day it rained alright... It was a torrential downpour and it literally washed most of the compost off of the paper mulch, along with the seeds we had planted, out into the rest of the yard! It was ALL in the yard... And it was very disheartening!!! But we regrouped and added more compost (thankfully we had plenty leftover on hand), and planted more seeds, and kept it watered so it could germinate and grow through the paper mulch before the next storm came through.
Live and learn...


It ended up being the best garden we had ever grown to that date! AND, we even had all kinds of things randomly growing out in the yard from when the compost washed off of the garden plot! (Lol)
That garden set in motion what we are doing today, and the scale we are currently growing at today. We learned a lot that year, as we have every year since...

One thing in life is for sure...
Problems <challenges> will ALWAYS come about.
It's how we deal with them, that determines our success...😉👍🏽”

 On to the next “challenging” learning experience...

Planting seeds can prove to be very challenging at times. Especially when the local squirrel population deems it more important that they eat the seeds, rather than let the seed produce a plant. Don’t they know that if they eat all the seeds, then there won’t be any plants and therefore won’t be any seeds the next season?  Silly squirrels...  

I feel that it might be good to show others that not everything always goes according to plan in the picture perfect world of Instagram and Facebook... Especially for us growers and farmers...

This is yet another planting story from my husband and the mastermind behind the entire farm! 

Here’s how he told it on our farm’s facebook page...
-“It was pretty disheartening for me to come home to see that the thousand or so sunflower seeds that included multiple varieties, all strategically planted in a particular pattern in many of these holes of all of this woven ground fabric, had mostly been dug up and eaten by what appears to be squirrels. Scratch marks, broken sunflower shells, a few chewed holes in the fabric, and kicked-out dirt were all that was left behind... All of that work, and time, and the fact that my legs were still sore from doing a thousand squats, all for nothing... I can't help but to think of how the squirrels were probably so excited when they realized that each hole in the fabric marked off a new “treasure” for them to dig up, and enjoy...  No guess work whatsoever lol...

I could've just thrown in the towel and decided to just transplant something else into those empty holes, but I decided to replant with sunflowers again and have a better plan for potentially preventing this from happening again.
We shall see if I have outsmarted the squirrels this time around...

Well I’d say we won in the end, don’t you think?!

Situations where things don't go according to plan happen often with growers and farmers, and many want to give up quite often... But it’s how we handle the situation that will determine our success.” 

 

-Watering... 

We also figured out that our watering situation out here wasn’t ideal for gardening. We have a well (which we do love)...   A fairly deep well actually...  A 350’ deep well... We know this, because my husband and I spent July 4th 2016 pulling the well pump out of our well, by hand... Have any of you ever done this? Let’s just say I know why plumbing companies don’t do it by hand... That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. These pumps are at least 50lbs and then pulling something like that up 350ft is REALLY HARD!!! We had to though, as we had no choice at the time... You need water in the middle of the summer for many reasons, and not only for a garden. 

Also, our well is a very slow filling well... We didn’t think to much about it when the owner told us that he had a hard time watering his cows. (Should’ve paid better attention to that.) Over time we’ve had several issues with our well, but thankfully, we are very fortunate to have a small town plumbing company called Ray’s Plumbing. Family-owned and they will come out to make sure you have water, on holidays like “Memorial Day” (another story), and even the weekends. 

Next up, devastation!

Or so we thought at the time...

Again, many of you that follow us on facebook, know about the “storm” we had back in June. For those of you that don’t... we had what’s being called a “micro burst” hit our little community.

Here’s a little bit about that... 

-We came home from delivering veggies to the aftermath and destruction from what we thought at the time was a tornado that went up the back of our property along highway 28. Since the land behi us, and around us was clear-cut, leaving it devoid of its trees earlier this year, we no longer had much of a windbreak anymore, and so that made matters so much worse for our own land, as well as those around us.  

All of the roads were blocked to our street... Highway 28 was shut down completely, as atleast 50 power poles were snapped and laying all over the highway, along with lots of broken trees. Literally every road to our area off of highway 28 and every road around was blocked by down trees and power poles.  After literally driving for almost an hour looking for a cleared road to get home, we decided to just drive as close as we could get, and just park the car and hike the gravel road that leads through the forest to our house, climbing over downed tree after tree...

.

We drove into the forest by a gravel road that comes out at our road normally, but that's where we had to ditch the car and walk because trees were completely blocking the road. All of the power lines were down, including the power pole in the front area of our house, blocking our driveway.

Most of our neighbors’ houses were damaged, and after seeing all of of our hard work around the farm just trashed, I tried hard to remain positive, but it took all of my effort to not just break down and cry... I  thought to myself, “I still have more tomatoes and peppers in flats that we can plant somewhere”, as I looked at a big tree that had landed on our recently planted tomato plot. 

House was ok with just some minor damage, although I would've rather it had taken the full hit, than all of our crops, fencing, buildings, and other infrastructure. Our entire property was completely trashed...

Now, you may be wondering what good came out of this. Well, our gardens weren’t terribly ruined...  Very little damage in fact, once we started cutting up the trees and strategically removing them piece by piece. AND we are fortunate enough to have GREAT homeowners insurance...  The insurance adjuster went out of his way to make sure everything would be taken care of... He said he hadn’t ever seen anything close to this in a long time.

What good came from this? I’m so glad you asked! This trial enabled us to jump on our newest addition so much faster. We are starting our aquaponics building VERY soon and we can’t wait to share our plans with you! (More about this in it’s very own post!)  It’s something that we planned out 5 years ago, but has always taken a backseat to other projects over the years, until now.  Now, we realize the importance of being able to grow INSIDE of a fairly protected area, as much as being able to grow outside.  And with what we have planned, it will not only allow us to grow things easier, but it will allow us to grow items all year long, that normally are only grown in the summer months, and vice-versa...  As well as naturally reducing the local mosquito population, while providing a fairly free food source for our chickens and our ducks, which in turn will increase our egg production without having to buy extra feed in order to do so.  So, many systems will be interconnected within this aquaponics build, all while providing a more resilient food producing system for us, our local community, and the other communities that rely on us to deliver our Farm Fresh Veggie Bags to.  Had this storm never happened, we wouldn’t have been “motivated” to move our farm into this direction.  It would still be something that sat on the back burner, and who knows when/if it would ever happen.  We’ve purchased much of the infrastructure for this aquaponics build, but we still have a ways to go before we have it all set up and water flowing through it, before we can add the fish that we plan on raising.  Finding the extra funds to turn this 5yr plan into a reality is presenting one of our current “challenges”, but in time, I’m sure things will work out in the manner that the need to, in order for this to manifest into reality...  And when it does, it will be a rather “interesting” and unique aquaponics system, involving many functions and features that will create the availability of many things that are normally considered to be out of season during the winter months locally.  It will also aid in providing more consistency in regards to in-season crops during the heat of summer. A win-win for us, our customers, and our community as a whole.  “Invention, it must be humbly admitted does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” ~Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

I’m telling you all of this not to complain, but because if we have learned anything from all the trials we’ve been through, it’s that you need to keep on keeping on, and always remember to be thankful for the things that are most important in life, in every situation,  Being thankful for what you have, and being grateful, is a magnet for miracles.  We have no doubts...

I could sit here and tell you story after story of things that have happened but really all you need to know is that no matter what your trial might be, the way you react to it will determine where you will be in the future, as well as your mental state.

I know more trials will come and we hope to weather each one of them better each time. “... knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope...” (Rom. 5:3-5) 

I will end here for today! I hope you enjoyed reading a little more about our story. I hope that this will encourage you that no matter what your trials and challenges are today, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” ~Zig Ziglar

 

Thank you so much for taking your time to read this, and showing your support for our small family farm!!!

We wish you all the best,

Monica & Chuck