Marriage, Mortgage and Faith…Reading Journal Week 34

My blog and I can’t seem to get together these days. I still farm. I still work. I still carry a stack of books around with me everywhere.

Recently I was talking to some co-workers about “rich people” saying you probably have no idea who they are. You only notice the flashy jerks but that doesn’t mean they are all flashy jerks.

So who are the millionaires really? That question was answered by The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko. Stanley goes the next step to find out what’s going on between a millionaire’s ears to separate them from the pack in The Millionaire Mind. This week I read The Millionaire Mind.

So back to my question. Who are they? The introduction covers that well enough. I’ll just pull a few quotes.

  • I am a fifty-four-year-old male. I have been married to the same woman for twenty-eight years.
  • We live in fine homes in quality neighborhoods, but only 2 percent of us inherited all or any part of our homes and property.
  • Some of us have inherited a portion of our wealth…61 percent of us never received any inheritance, financial gifts or income from an estate or trust.
  • 97% are homeowners
  • …with small outstanding mortgages
  • Nearly 50 percent of our wives do not work koutside of the home.
  • 90 percent of us are collage graduates.
  • Many of us play golf and/or tennis on a regular basis. In fact, there is a strong correlation between golf and level of net worth.
  • We became rich without compromising our integrity. In fact, we credit our integrity with significantly contributing to our success.

I’m pulling just a few examples from a lengthy list but I want to focus on three ideas: Marriage, mortgage and faith. I simply don’t have time to cover the book in depth today. I STRONGLY encourage you to read both this and the previous book, The Millionaire Next Door. Julie and I first read them in 2002 or 2003 and they made a big impact. Reading them again later we find them to be even more impactful…the path ahead is more clear now.

Marriage:

Millionaires do everything differently including how they pick spouses. There is a joking quote in the book that says,

Given the choice, I prefer to be physically attracted to a woman who is intelligent, honest, unselfish, well-adjusted…

So there you go. He breaks it down into qualities that lead to a successful marriage according to millionaires:

  • Honest
  • Responsible
  • Loving
  • Capable
  • Supportive

These words describe my wife well…not that my 18-year-old self had a clue what he was doing. But those are words that describe “spouses”. How did they describe potential mates?

  • Intelligent
  • Sincere
  • Cheerful
  • Reliable
  • Affectionate

Again, Julie.

But what’s not in that list? Measurements? Muscles? Money? Nope. So what if you married for money, muscles or measurements and find your marriage to be lacking in cheer, affection and honesty? You might try to become the embodiment of the attributes listed above.

The author goes on to cite research into “normal” marriages.

Dr. Tucker also found that, overall, both men and women would contemplate divorcing a spouse who lost his or her job!

Compare that to story after story of entrepreneurs who listed failure after failure, firing after firing, flop after flop. A whole series of examples of couples saving up, stepping into the unknown, getting their butts kicked by life, dusting each other off and trying again, ultimately succeeding.

I’m moving pretty fast here but Julie and I have been through the grinder and she has always been my biggest fan…even when I’m ready to give up. If we ever accomplish anything together it is because of her. And this book points out the significance of her contribution.

Mortgage:

It’s amazing to read the details on the kinds of homes Millionaires typically owned in 1996. 5 bedroom homes. Nothing huge or opulent. Just a house. But a house that is worth $1.4 million in 1996? Surely there are better deals out there.

Most of us have mortgages, but 40 percent have no mortgage at all. Less than 5 percent of us have an outstanding mortgage balance of $1 million or more. Only about one in three (34 percent) of us have a mortgage balance outstanding of $300,000 or more.

Read that again.

Most of us enjoy living in well-established neighborhoods. There is nothing flashy or even modern about the style of houses in these neighborhoods. Our homes give us away – for the most part they are conservative in style, like our lifestyles.

I have TONS of people in my life who try to borrow 120% of a property’s value so they can lever up their way to wealth. But that’s not what the millionaires detailed in this book did. They were wealthy before they bought. And they bought something that would add to their wealth at a time when they could get a deal. Let me quote a little more from the book. He is narrating with a typical millionaire respondant’s voice:

I purchased my home about twelve years ago, and my family has lived there ever since. The approximate purchase price was just under $560,000. According to conservative estimates, it would sell today for just under $1.4 million.

Compare that to a recent conversation I had with a friend who had borrowed from his 401k to make the downpayment on a home he could just barely afford saying, “You should always buy as much house as you can, right?” I really don’t think so. Dude, you borrowed from your retirement so you could have a big house today. That’s not what the millionaires detailed in this book did. They bought high-quality but distressed properties when sellers greatly outnumbered buyers…and they probably bought them from people like you.

But let’s not talk about suburban palaces. Let’s talk about farms. I mean, this is a farm blog, right? How much money COULD I borrow? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I have a mortgage that is, according to this book, too large compared to my total net worth. What I need is a return on my investment from this farm. I started small. We grew a little. But before we grow any more we need a cash-generating machine to push us onward, not low interest rates. And I think that’s the lesson here. Produce before you consume.

Faith

In the chapter The Realtionship Between Courage and Wealth the author includes a few points about religious faith. He kicks things off early on by talking about overcoming fear. Let me tell you, I know a little bit about fear. I know a little bit about failure too. But I am not afraid. And I am not a failure. These are things millionaires have to remind themselves regularly. They have to build up some level of confidence and courage over time, daily reminding themselves of the truth. Every day I have to remind myself of the truth.

  • I am not an accident.
  • I was made for a purpose.
  • I am God’s workmanship.
  • Even if I fail I have value.
  • I am loved. No matter what.

But what if you were never taught those truths? The book indicates that you will be less likely to accumulate wealth. In fact, there is a positive correlation between faith and higher wealth.

I don’t like to be preachy so I’ll stop with one more quote. One I tell myself often.

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.

Is this a book about farming? No. But this is certainly a book about the majority of farmers I have met. Hard working and frugal with enduring marriages. They struggled together and built wealth over time and, as noted in the book:

There is a strong correlation between net worth and the proportion of one’s wealth that is invested in real estate.

Be sure to read that correctly. He said “wealth” not “debt”. You can’t farm in debt. That’s why I have a job in town.

I think there is a lot of real insight into what it is like on the other side. In fact, I think the truth presented in this book makes the endpoint approachable. The majority of millionaires didn’t inherit money, they didn’t necessarily get top grades in school, they aren’t the best looking people. But they are careful in choosing their spouse and they make that relationship last. They know the difference between risk and opportunity, between wealth and debt. And they appear to be fulfilling their role in creation.

These are goals I can work toward.

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August Farm Photos

Hello everyone! This is Julie. I love to take pictures and I am going to start sharing some of them here on Chris’ blog. I hope you enjoy! You can also follow me on Instagram.0726150755~2~2

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Chris taking over…You know I can’t let a post go up with so few words. Comments in order of pictures:

  1. Somebody photoshop me into the Abbey Road cover. And remind me to stand up straight.
  2. Reserve your turkey now. Now.
  3. How did he turn 11? What happened?
  4. Swallows have about a week left before they go away for the winter. Dragonflies are coming through now. Hawks will start soon. Less than a month until we light the wood stove. That picture is a reminder of how little time we have.

Helpers

HelpingHands

Our youngest likes to tag along and usually wants to hold our hands as we walk. It’s nice.

All of our kids help in one way or another. The youngest is a lousy dish washer. Lousy. But she’s an excellent kitten tamer. The boys are ready to rip the guts out of chickens on butcher day because that job pays the best. The girls prefer not to do that specific job. One spent the first 3 years of chicken processing in the house preparing lunch with grandma. And that’s helpful.

But the key is to find the opportunity for each of them and to appreciate what they each do.

I appreciate anybody who is willing to gut a chicken. I also appreciate anybody who is willing to bake a pie and share it with me.

And I appreciate my little girl taking big steps to keep up with mom and dad so she can hold our hands.

Some Thoughts on Keeping Chickens

I don’t claim to know all there is about keeping birds. Heck, I don’t claim to know anything at all. This is a post about what I think I know about chickens…and I have given this topic some thought.

Egg Eating

All chickens eat eggs happily. All chickens. Just break an egg open in front of your flock and see who comes running. I THINK this is a normal, instinctive behavior. Birds don’t want messy nests so they clean up broken eggs. And believe me, I have some experience in this matter. I have heard and read that egg eating is contagious and the only cure it is to cull the whole flock. I believe this to be false. I believe the contagion is the end-result of nutritional deficiency in the flock or of unclean nest boxes.

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There. I said it. This is total heresy in the farming world though.

My birds have had trouble with this from time to time (keep in mind I have a flock of four year old birds). Most of the time the cure has been to keep oyster shell in front of the flock free-choice. When that runs out, eggs start breaking. The other possibility has been packed or dirty nesting material. If we have a prolonged period of rain I may not be as disciplined as I should be about cleaning next material. Wet birds with muddy feet do bad things to clean nests. The final reason I believe I have had periodic trouble with broken eggs is because we are sometimes delayed gathering eggs. Things work better if we collect eggs at 11am and at 4pm, not just when we tuck in the birds at night.

clean nest boxes

In summary, I THINK you should keep oyster shell in front of your birds keep your nesting material clean and fluffy and collect eggs frequently to prevent egg eating. And I don’t think you should cull the whole flock when you notice the behavior.

Old Birds Don’t Lay Eggs

I think there is some merit to this idea. I do. I have a flock of NH Reds that have passed the 4 year mark. This is a small flock. Survivor birds. They have been here since the beginning. They survived the mink, several skunks, hot, cold, rain and dry…these birds have seen what Macoupin County can throw at them. I say I keep these birds as breeding material to build my own flock of acclimated birds but, really, I’m not hatching any eggs. I just have the birds because I want the birds. They seem to lay well in the spring and summer but things slack off noticeably in the fall and winter. I suspect one should start chicks every six months and rotate out flocks every 18 months. But that’s a lot of work.

Revenue

How much money can you make selling shell eggs? It depends. How much money do you have to spend to keep your birds alive, healthy and how efficiently can you pack eggs? I think layers provide two main benefits to your farm. First, they add and manage manure on your behalf without any training. Second, the eggs you do sell provide ongoing customer exposure. Every yummy dozen eggs you put in someone’s kitchen is a chance for more. Maybe they want a chicken. Maybe they have a neighbor who wants to try your eggs. You need exposure to get word of mouth. Eggs provide constant exposure.

But not a lot of profit. If Henderson couldn’t make shell eggs pay…

Sick birds

I am not a veterinarian. I can not afford to call a veterinarian. If I have a sick chicken I just make a decision on the bird and move on. I don’t spend a lot of time on this topic because I keep my birds well fed and healthy (and I do think you feed health into your livestock). But I also don’t waste a lot of emotional energy on this topic. When it’s time to do something I just do it. Make a decision and move on. For example, we found four turkey poults were having trouble walking and put them in a hospital pen. One bird was looking particularly rough, the other three were recovering. What caused the problem in the first place? Maybe too crowded? Not enough Riboflavin? Too much protein in their feed? Dunno. I’m monitoring the situation. But that one bird? Compost. No second thoughts.

Also, and I know this seems uncaring, sometimes birds just die. No apparent reason. Just a dead bird. Was it defective? Did it break its neck getting on the roost? Did it choke on a grasshopper? Dunno. One dead bird is not cause for alarm. It is going to happen. 20 dead birds in one night is a problem to be solved.

Size of flock

How many birds should you have? More. Always more. Too few birds and you don’t have enough to sell and I would suggest a minimum of 50 birds to make it worth the management effort. If I had 100 birds/acre I would be a busy boy but I don’t think I would overload my farm. My current marketing reach could not move that much product but it would be fun to solve that problem. But the more birds you have the more efficiently you can operate. Every 250 birds or so will need a range feeder and a couple of drinkers. You should probably have 80 nest boxes for each 250 birds. And once you crack 250 you need to aim for 500. Then you can start getting bulk discounts on egg boxes and selling eggs by the case to larger buyers. I’m not there yet. I, personally, may never get that far. But I suspect the next generation will expand what I have started. I think you need more birds. Yes, I’m talking to you. Yes, you.

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Bird Breeds

It’s no fun to work with flighty birds. A reader, Eumaeus, suggested that his experiences with Silver Laced Wyandottes were negative…mostly that the birds were flighty. I find that I agree. SLW are flighty, lay medium eggs but they appear to winter well. Customers invariably ask me for Large eggs instead of Medium. It’s a problem.

We bought a flock of Rhode Island Reds from Central Hatchery some years ago. When I sold the aging birds they each weighed 10-12 pounds. Those were big, big birds. They were also pretty chill and gave fair numbers of large eggs.

We have also had good luck with a number of red sex-link breeds but our favorite, by far, are New Hampshire Red. Those are large birds but not as big as Central’s RIR. They lay dependably and tend to tip toward Large eggs.

Years ago we had Barred Plymouth Rock. Those birds didn’t do well with our heat here and I prefer not to raise them.

Eggs

We have also kept large numbers of Americauna chickens. For years we would pack a blue egg in the front right of every egg box. But we stopped. Americauna seem to stop laying entirely in October and don’t pick up again until April. Their eggs tended to be medium, they don’t do well with the heat…not worth the novelty.

Housing

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Our recent chicken house is, I humbly submit, a work of genius. We insulated the top and left the upper two feet open, wrapped with chicken wire. That is a cool structure for the birds to sleep in through the hot summer nights. Dad even wrapped the top in plastic over the winter to keep the birds warm in sub-zero weather. It worked very well. Predators seem to be reluctant to climb the ramp up to the chickens too. It’s a win all around.

It beats our other chicken housing attempts in every imaginable way. We have tried to close the birds up tight and they suffer in the heat. We have tried to leave them completely open to the elements and predators and they did a little better, though owls would pick them off as they roosted on the roof. The wheeled chicken house is highly portable, convenient and safe. 10/10. Would chicken house again.

Those are a few of my somewhat random thoughts on keeping chickens. Even if you don’t agree, please comment with your thoughts below. I can take it.