The "Ah ha" Moment

by Nettie Jacobs
(St. Ignatius, Montana)

Mission Creek

Mission Creek

Here I am, 54 years old. A Computer Scientist with degrees in Computer Science/Applied Physics and a Masters in Computer Information Systems, a good salary and the stress and long hours to go with it. I was born and raised in Western Montana, and it seems as though my DNA kept pulling against the route I have taken in life, education and profession.


Many "preppers" testify that they had an "ah ha" moment. A point at which something 'clicked' and they realized they had to prepare for themselves and their families and to do anything less would be irresponsible to themselves and their community in the case of a disaster or emergency. I have had such a moment, even more than one.

I myself lived on the East Coast of Virginia for a couple decades, and the several hurricanes I went through took me to school on preparedness pretty quick! Then about a year and a half ago after moving back to Montana, I lost a job and went through a 6 week unemployment period. Extrememly short compared to what many have suffered, but it scared me. Made me realize everything I had was wrapped up in a house with a hefty mortgage and some credit card debt, and the ever present student loans from my masters. Then my brother-in-law died suddenly, leaving my sister in a terrifying spin of not knowing what was going to happen to her - she couldn't even grieve because the fear and stress of financial ruin hanging over her head had her immobilized. That's when I had the final "ah ha" moment.

I prayed about it, and what I got was so simple, I shook my head thinking "yup, just like God to come up with something like this!"

Gee, how about selling the the house with the big mortgage and buying (outright) something I could afford with the equity? How about snowballing those credit and student loans out of my life? How about going back to being a "Montanan" right here in Montana!?

So we started looking for land and found some nice (small) acreage in St. Ignatius, north of our house in Missoula, and once the house in Missoula sells, I will be able to pay for it OUTRIGHT, lock, stock and barrel! (It went on the market last week). I have snowballed two monthly payments out of my life and have the others in my sights once I am not paying a mortgage.

Next, create the garden in the upper pasture, build sheep and goats pens in the back 3 acres and prepare the lower pasture for wheat and other grain crops. We planted two trees in our little "orchard" yesterday! We have a total of 6 now. To make the back 3 more accessible, we've gotta build a bridge across the creek.

So it begins. We have a 33x48 metal building on the land that will be converted into a house, and a little (<800 sf) house that we are all in right now.

We know we have years of hard work ahead of us before much return, except in major satisfaction. But we have started, we have obeyed that nudge, and "ah ha" became "uh huh" and I won't look back. Who needs a pillar of salt in their long term storage that big?

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Nov 03, 2015
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Response to Digital Willie
by: Nettie

Well, out other house sold this summer, and we are now mortgage free! I used a 401K for the down on this land, and it cost me dearly in taxes, but I feel it was worth it. Now that money is sitting in the land, not in some fluctuating investment account.

Your wife, if she is like me, just wants to know she will be secure, taken care of and that the kids will be ok. Not be sexist or anything, but we women like to know that we will be taken care of in the basic sense, and that's not a bad thing. We are concerned for our kids and dread the thought of them going without. So if you can show her your dedication to their security, and a plan on how you can accomplish that, then she will be on board I think. If you are realistic, and honest and not pie in the sky and dreamy, that will give her something concrete to go on.

Another thing. In the modern, technical world, if something happens to you, she has the insurance, the 401k etc. But what if she won't on the farm? I think that lurks in a spouses mind when considering going back to the land, "what happens if he gets sick or dies? How do I do this alone.", so perhaps openly discuss that, and have a plan. Not just to help you convince your wife, but for reality's sake. My man is 64 years old, I am in my mid-50's, and I am already doing most of the animal care, feeding the sheep, the livestock guardian dogs, getting the hay etc. So it's reality. So be realistic, have a plan and define very clearly what you expect of each other once on the farm. - Nettie

Jan 20, 2014
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401k, goin' it alone
by: Nettie acobs

I cashed in a $55,000 401K, gonna get the tax bill for this come April, but I feel it's well worht it. To me, it's was worth far more as the down payment on my land than sitting there going up and down with the market.

As for going it alone "granny" you might just be surpised that one day you will be digging in your garden all alone and next thing you know someone will be digging right next to you!

Jan 19, 2014
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Do Whatever it Takes
by: farmergranny

The "ah ha" moment came for my family almost 20 years ago; two sons, their families, and I (66 yrs. now, single) built a spec home, sold it for cash and purchased 40 acres of land. Initial goal was to build tiny houses, be out of debt, and "live the good life" we so desired. 20 years later, both sons split off "their share" of the 40 acres and built mega mansions...one lost his in the construction crash, the other lost it through a divorce. I now have 21 acres of land without family BUT am managing. My foremost goal was to be debt free and, since I had foolishly put my house up for collateral for one of my son's business, had an $80,000 debt. I retired from a teaching position, and took another one 1000 miles from home for two years, and will have the entire debt paid off in June...when I plan to return to my little piece of country. Over the 20 years, I planted 25 fruit trees, have a pole barn and chicken coop, 80 blackberry bushes, wild plums and walnuts. I've gardened in the summer during school vacations. Although I'm going it alone now, I'm excited about returning home and continuing my journey into self-sufficiency, all be it without the family support. Don't ever give up your dreams!

Oct 23, 2013
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Congrats!
by: Anonymous

Bravo ! Keep at
it. It gets easier.

Oct 01, 2013
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Only way to live
by: Anonymous

I am 30 and have just purchased 5 acres with cash! On it, there are 2 outbuildings and one is in really great shape. My hubby and I are in the process of converting that into a tiny house (700 sq ft) to share with our 4 beautiful kids. Some people say we are crazy but as soon as we sell our house, we will pay off other debts and be completely debt free. I can't wait. We have already fixed a garden plot and used it for gardening this year and it did wonderfully. We have a chicken coop and run built and ready. This spring we are purchasing chickens, rabbits, and pigs. Everything at this point will be trial and error, but we have some great farmer friends who are going to help us! Crazy?? I think its the only way to live!!

Sep 26, 2013
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Resources for "going it alone"
by: Nettie Jacobs

Digital Willie,

Everyone's financial situation is different, but I think many of us share a very important goal: to be out of debt and outside the cubicle!

In my case, I had $45,000 in a 401k. At 54, that is pitiful, and I feel it would serve me far better as a down payment on my small homestead than sitting there getting beat up by the crappy economy! So I went for it and cashed out (the taxes will hurt like heck, but to me, it's worth it). I am selling my house in town and the proceeds from that will pay off the new homestead lock-stock-and barrel. I have a large amount of equity in that house because I bought it after a divorce where my x-husband and I refinanced the house we had been paying on for 25 years! My land costs 1/2 of what that house in town does!

So again, it depends on what you have, and many people block some things out as "untouchable" when in fact they are simply "assets" and could be used to obtain an even better asset - freedom!

Your sixty acres is huge compared to my small 5 1/2, but that's another thing. When planning and preparing, know what you really want, what you can really handle, and what you can really afford in order to achieve that goal without getting into deeper financial waters. My big dreams of the big farm didn't match my reality, so I scaled back, and now that I am trying to restore 5 acres of un-maintained land, I am glad I did!

Good luck, and God's Speed! - Nettie

Sep 25, 2013
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Amen Brother!
by: digital Willie

Like you I am a 50 something with technical skills and a good job, and I am consumed with the idea of getting back to the land. I have purchased 60 acres, and have plenty of plans in my head.

I would like to know ho much "back up" people have had when they started their journey? I have IRAs, 401ks etc. and while not real flush, I think we can do it. I want out of the rat race, and I need a good argument for my loving wife too!

great thread and I look forward to more.

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