Honey, I Bought a Farm

Honey, I Bought a Farm

That’s right – I bought a farm.  But more on that in a minute.  First, I’d like to explore how I got here…

The thing about retiring in your 30’s is that you have a lot of time on your hands.  And the thing about having a lot of time on your hands is that it gives you a lot of new time to think about serious things, like life, family, priorities, and culture.  And all that thinking, if you’re wired like me, can drive you really freaking crazy. Not stir-crazy or bored-crazy, just crazy in disbelief with how society operates.

It perplexed me.  It frustrated me at times.  And it even saddened me.  So I went into what I like to call “philosophy mode.”

Novalis, a famous German poet and philosopher, once posited that all philosophizing is instinctually driven by the desire to bring peace to the restlessness that drives the human mind.  And “wisdom”, within this view, is gated by our ability to transpose the alienation and fragmentation that characterizes life into a marriage of nature and spirit.  (Of course, this is real wisdom, not the “knowledge” taught in schools).

Or, as William Wordsworth once stated, wisdom is a wedding between the human mind and “this goodly universe.”  Unfortunately for me, our confused and misguided society is very much part of this “goodly universe,” and I was not doing well marrying my spirit to it.

And somewhere in all my philosophizing I reached the conclusion that my recent achievements of financial freedom and corresponding retirement weren’t enough.  These things were just steps along the path – but true and complete freedom still eluded me, somehow – although I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why.  Yet here I was, my restless mind had been unlocked by financial freedom and early retirement, and it ran wild.  This can be a good thing, although it’s not obvious at first.  Until now, school, careers, sports, hobbies, and recreation had all successfully managed to cage the restlessness of my mind, and gave it direction (whether that direction was enjoyable and positive, or not) – but freedom is a powerful and dangerous and even scary state to be in – it’s also an awesome opportunity for those fortunate and courageous enough to actually accept it. Let that be a warning to others seeking ERE.

Back to me and my farm… :)

In my state of semi-freedom, I turned to observation.  I watched the world and realized something that freaked me out: Either I’m going crazy or the world already is. So I hoped beyond measure that Krishnamurti was right when he so aptly stated:

It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted in a sick society.

And that’s all I could see (and still see) – a sick society.  People that have stopped working to live, instead filling evenings with mindless television and copious amounts of useless entertainment on the weekends so that they can continue to bear their jobs.  Governments that claim to be a democracy and yet keep secrets from the people that chose them as their representative.  Wars supposedly to achieve peace.  Cultures abusing other cultures, all in the good name of industrial expansion.  Growing abuse of non-renewable resources, as civilization goes on happily whistling in the dark as they march toward a cliff.  Parents outsourcing parenting.  “Food” becoming more and more a genetically mutated concoction of chemicals with a starter gene of a vegetable, rather than, I don’t know, a real vegetable?

Phones and computers becoming a replacement for the human mind, eyes, and ears.  Materialism and careerism and the mindless support of free-capitalism as a guise for the hopeless growth of industrialism (a practice that has long since past any benefits other than for the super rich to get super richer).  And then there are the ongoing “wars” on terror, drugs, poverty, etc.  You get the picture – with each moment of free time for observation I was becoming more and more jaded by what I observed.

This isn’t a political post, I swear.  I’m about as apolitical as one can get.  I think all sides of politics are equally corrupt and misguided.

I saw the poor in America working fast food, barely making enough to pay the rent, let alone buy any healthy food.  Instead opting for the fast food they prepared, completely unaware that this isn’t really food.  “Faux food”, as my wife likes to call it.

I saw the middle class fighting to be rich, as if that’s a magical gateway to happiness, completely unaware that they’re creating their own unhappiness in the process.

And then, of course, I saw the rich upper class.  Preachers of so much bullshit – whether it’s a republican preaching the righteousness of trickle down economics and the social harms of welfare (not acknowledging that their riches came off the backs of hard working lower classes – talk about welfare!), or a democrat flying their gas-guzzling charter jet to a private charity dinner to save the ice caps.

Greed, ignorance, abuse, and hate was all I could see.  And for about 3 months, it left me depressed.  Not clinically depressed, but pretty damned sick and tired.

This was my retirement, and I feared for my sanity.

But then I remembered Krishnamurti’s quote above, and decided that maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe my inability to adjust well to this sick society was proof of my own sanity.  But those are just words, it didn’t give me a path to follow.  For that, I knew my journey was just beginning.

Around that same time, my wife and I had been deep in discussions about what we wanted to do next.  Staying in Colorado long-term was never our plan, nor was the typical suburban lifestyle.  But knowing what you don’t want (e.g. knowing you don’t want to work forever in a job you hate) is a far cry from actually knowing what you do want.  My wife was fixated on our family’s health, natural food and medicine specifically, and I just wanted to be outside.  And above all, we both just wanted to give our kids the best possible life as they grow into adolescence and, eventually, adulthood.  And so we looked at being closer to family, maybe buying an acre or two in the suburbs so I could grow a garden and raise some small livestock.  We talked a bit about a farm, but finding land in an area near family that had sufficient space, while still having a good school district was proving to be difficult, so we mostly ignored that idea.

And then one day I was on a real estate website in Kentucky (home to my wife’s entire family) and stumbled across a beautiful barn on 12.5 acres in a lush part of Kentucky.  The school district was surprisingly good, and it was 9 miles from her parents house (35 from her sisters).  The house was 2000 square feet, the exact size I’d hoped for, and sat about 200 feet from a back road with no traffic, behind 2 acres of wooded hills with a healthy creek running through it.  There was a large pond in the farm pasture that sat just east of a natural and healthy water spring.  The house also had a 15,000 gallon cistern with a roof catchment system (and city water if we ever dried out), as well as a grey water system to ease the stress on the septic.  Self-sufficiency, here I come!

But lest you think it’s the boondocks, I assure you it’s not.  It’s a street full of doctors, pilots, and local business owners who happen to enjoy living on large acreages.

It was a new, exciting, and scary possibility.

Mostly scary.  Now, if you know me, you’d know that I’m not easily intimidated by new experiences.  I’ve never been scared of failure, but this was new.  For the first time in forever, I didn’t know what to do.  What was best for my kids, my family, and even me?  I was struck with indecision.  But it was at this time that I was reading a book by Wendell Berry (a Kentuckian himself, not to mention a personal inspiration) – when I came across his poem of the Mad Farmer.  And this particular excerpt screamed out as if it saw my inner conflict and wanted to ease my worries:

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and science,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

FYI: The rest of the poem can be viewed here.

It was clear to me that I was, or could be, the Mad Farmer.  I realized that if I stayed where I was, that it was my own choice to be a part of all the cultural insanities I mentioned above.  Or, I could choose to walk quietly away and create my own unions.  Union between mind and body, between spirit and nature, between health and happiness.  In other words, as Novalis and Wordsworth put it, I could put at ease the restlessness of my mind and find wisdom.  I began getting comfortable that this would be a good thing for both me and my family.

Fast forward about 6 weeks…  The house sat on the market for over a month before we were able to come out and see it, and by that point we figured there was something wrong with it.  But when we came to visit, we fell in love.  The kids had acres and acres to run around and be kids.  I had ample room to grow the fruits, nuts, herbs, and vegetables we’ve been dreaming of – not to mention the livestock if we choose.  We could have the small-town community we desired, while not giving up any of the other things we valued.

We met the owner, a single mom of three grown kids, and she literally cried multiple times upon meeting us – sad that she had to leave the house that her kids grew up in, and happy to see a new generation of kids coming in to enjoy the paradise she helped create. My wife is already Facebook friends with her. :)

And so we bought the farm!

I haven’t been this excited in a very long time. More than when I realized I was rich, more than when I retired, I’m excited for this brave new life we’re embarking upon.

The picture at the beginning of this post is an actual picture I took of our barn, which sits a few hundred feet from the back door of our new house.  Below I’ve included a few more pictures of my future farm and my main helper.  The third picture is a view of the sunrise from the balcony off the master bedroom. I’m not saying that to brag, I’m simply pointing out that the lifestyle of retiring in your 30’s can still be quite exhilarating!

futurefarmer mjwinter

Final thought…

If you’re tempted to comment that a farm is a lot of work and there’s no money in it, let me cut you off.  My answer is four-fold:

1. I’m not afraid of hard work, I simply despise unhealthy/bad work.  Sitting in a cubicle doing CAD and Excel is unhealthy and part of an unsustainable economy, but transforming soil and improving water management while eating good food is good work.  I’m excited for it, and I’ll enjoy not needing to spend hours in the gym every week to get my exercise.

2. There is money in it, but it’s not necessarily easy.  That’s OK though, because I don’t need the money. We’ll be content with the healthy food and healthy lifestyle that we can enjoy for ourselves, and share with our family and friends.  In my experience money comes when you get good at something, which I plan to do.  It could also be a great opportunity for my kids to make their own money as they get a bit older.  I’d much prefer they work our land for a good wage than learn to do menial and uncreative tasks for a global company at near minimum wage.

3. This is a small farm of only 12.5 acres.  Currently I plan to develop a permaculture food forest and grazing land for livestock on most of the land, and leave a bunch more wooded and mostly untouched. The rest will be where the work is, and I’m looking forward to it.

4. It has a rainbow barn!

 


121 Responses to Honey, I Bought a Farm

  1. My 15HWW says:

    Hi BNL,

    I have been a keen reader of your blog for a few years already even though this is my first comment. =)

    Your thoughts on the various paradoxes of the world resonate with me. And I am really happy for you that you have bought a farm and can finally begin to live the life and do the work which you feel is “productive”.

    All the best and coming from a city-state like Singapore, I do hope to be able to experience such a lifestyle at some point in my life.

  2. Yabusame says:

    Hi BNL,

    I’ve been waiting for you to post for a while nd this was definitely worth the wait. My dream has always been to own a smallholding of my own and become somewhat self-sufficient. I’m still working towards FI (though this is complicated by returning to college for a second career…). Maybe one day I’ll be a Mad Farmer too.

  3. Congrats on the purchase!

    I can’t help but feel excited when reading this… our plan for the next 2 years is very similar. And we too are Wendell Berry fans.

    Something about living on and working the land is as much a meditation as it is a chore. We can’t wait to get there ourselves, and we’re super excited to hear about your progress!

    Great time of year to buy, too! Still time for some planning before planting season!

    • Yes, I’m hoping to get our house sold here quickly so we don’t miss Spring planting. I won’t be able to start much of my trees until next year, because I want to spend time surveying the land in more detail over time to figure out where I put in keylines and swales for optimal water management. But as long as I get there in the next few months I should be able to have a productive veggie garden. I also have a lot of work to do to get ready for livestock – the most pressing will be some goats to clear the overgrown pastures – I’m sure not gonna mow it all.

      I agree about the meditative effects of working on the land. Where as I can’t stand tasks such as mowing a traditional lawn, I really enjoy growing food. Every day this past year I would go out to my garden and figure out what I could do. Unfortunately, with just two 4×8 raised beds here in Colorado, that usually wasn’t much.

  4. Shawn says:

    long, slow, firm clap…..With a big smile on my face!

  5. The Stoic says:

    Although I haven’t reached FI yet, I have achieved a certain amount of financial freedom to allow me plenty of time to read and think on issues that have led me to have similar views of the state of worldly affairs.

    Congrats on your purchase! I live in the Bluegrass State myself and depending on where you are located, send me an email and I would be happy to come and lend a hand on the various projects you have planned. Hospitality is still alive and well here. :-)

    All the best,
    The Stoic

    • That’s great to hear, Stoic. We’ve got some work to do before we can host guests, but I might just take you up on the offer. Our place is about 35 miles south of downtown Lexington in Boyle county.

      The idea of local hospitality and community support is something my wife and I are really looking forward to.

      • The Stoic says:

        I know exactly where you are. My dad use to live right outside of Danville in Junction City. He still owns about seven acres over there and still lives close by and I’m usually down that way a couple of times out of the month visiting.

        Seriously, don’t hesitate contacting me if you guys need help settling in and don’t think you need to have everything finished to “host” me. I’ve got a great sleeping pad and comfy sleeping bag and can do quite well spending a night in the barn if you have a weekend project you need help with. :-)

        All the best.

      • Wow, you can’t get much closer than that!

        I’ll be in touch after we move. Once we get moved and unpacked, which I hope is within the next two months, I’ll be starting immediately on some of the smaller land works. I’ll be saving the bigger stuff for after a few seasons when I can observe the land in action and see what should go where.

        You’re more than welcome to sleep in the barn, but the property also came with a small guest house that has electricity and heat, so that might be preferred. :)

  6. earlyFI says:

    BNL,

    Thank you for the insightful post. I agree with your thoughts “Materialism and careerism and the mindless support of free-capitalism as a guise for the hopeless growth of industrialism (a practice that has long since past any benefits other than for the super rich to get super richer)”.

    How have you come to terms with the fact that most of us can become FI by investing (purchasing stock in) these various companies that continue to produce items that make some super wealthy, pollute the earth, or take advantage of less wealthy populations in the form of sweat shops?

    This is not a criticism, but a sincere question. Thank you, have been waiting for a new post!

    • That’s a great question, and I wish I had the perfect answer – but I don’t. My short answer is that I’ve come to grips with 2 basic philosophies on this:

      1. Before you can fix the neighborhood, you ought to make sure your own house is clean. For me this means living within my means financially as well as ecologically, at least as best I can.

      2. Each day I try to seek progress, not perfection. When I get caught up on perfection, then I find myself asking questions like yours to myself and getting frustrated that I don’t have a better answer. But when I focus on progress, then I can take one positive step at a time.

      I’ll admit that I do feel like both of these things seem like a cop out at times, but until someone comes up with a better solution, it’s all I’ve got… If/when I find a way to live fully in a perfectly sustainable/local way, then I’ll gladly talk about it here and make the life changes necessary to pursue it. All I can say for now is that I feel I’m still moving in the right direction.

      In the meantime, that still means owning stocks in companies I’d rather not fund because I do need some income to pay things like taxes and insurance. Hopefully I’ll eventually find ways to invest the money locally and sustainably either in myself or others.

      • earlyFI says:

        Your 2 basic philosophies are great. They allow personal improvements to be made, instead of just spinning and worrying that we can’t do enough.

        I hope you will keep us updated on your adventures on the farm.

  7. JayP says:

    What a well thought out game plan. That sounds like an adventure to be sure. Thanks for the philosophical points about our insane world – haven’t seen it summed up quite that well. You are spot on.

  8. Lucas says:

    The pictures make me think of my kids, particularly my son who asks at least once a week to talk about what it is like to live on a farm. Congratulations and enjoy this next stage of adventure, and if you ever need a hand on any project, my son and I would be happy to come help out 😉

    I can very much relate to the cognitive dissonance that comes with the tremendous freedom of not having to play the part that society “demands” of you. As we approach FI I have been struggling with many of the same feelings. Ultimately for me this has been a realization that the “Purpose” that much of the world marches to is hollow, and a search to understand what is my purpose in life when I could do anything I want to do.

    For what it is worth I have found that true freedom is actually not freedom to do anything I want to do. But rather freedom from self, in order to actually love and care for others (family in particular), that has produced the most peace in my life. Timothy Keller’s short book (40 pages), “Freedom of self forgetfulness” sums this up far better than I could and is a $1.50 ebook on Amazon that I would heartily recommend.

    • Your last paragraph is very much in line with my own feelings and observations as well. I suppose it’s no coincidence that it’s a founding principle of so many ancient religions and philosophies as well.

      I’ll check out the ebook today. I could use a break from my stack of permaculture and philosophy books on this cold, snowy day in Colorado.

      As for giving a hand on a farm project, let’s stay in touch. I didn’t mention in the article, but the farm also came with a “guest house.” It has electricity and heat, and I hope to add plumbing to make it a nice place for visitors to come stay and enjoy the farm with us. Once we have our chickens and goats, it should be a blast for the kiddos.

      • Lucas says:

        Hope you like the book. it is a very quick read, but is a good reminder to anyone :-)

        I have been looking for an opportunity to get the kids on a farm (which they would love). Wishing i was FI right now so i could hop over and help with the plumbing :-) I am in the middle of a bathroom rebuild myself, but obviously a good bit of time between work and family. Got to hang out with MMM a couple times when he was out in Hawaii doing “construction tourism”, which I think would be a lot of fun to do and a great way to help people once we hit that point.

        I will hit you up with an email in a couple months once i get through my current construction project, so see if something might work out for spring/summer.

      • I enjoyed the book. I’m not particularly religious in the traditional sense, but I do like to read religion-based books because I find it really interesting how many of the old “religious” works are wise in their ways for just plain good living – whether you’re talking about Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, or others (of which I know a lot less about, admittedly).

        Yeah, hit me up in a few months and we can chat. I would love to get to the point where people can come on to the farm for a little farm-getaway, and I get some free manual labor help while everyone gets to sit back and enjoy some good old-fashioned, stress-free and inexpensive fun at the same time.

  9. Haha, I was just about to tell you that it’s a lot a hard work + no money it. However, that reality is based on conventional mortgage monocrop agriculture, which really is has economic (read zero) profits. You can realize much higher efficiencies (and actual profit) with your approach.

    I’ve been thinking about something similar on and off basis for several years now. Got deviated by a stint into finance, but small landholding is the likely future path for us too. I’m told that building good soil is a 5 year process. It’s not easy. Good news is that it’s challenging and asks for a different skill set than excel macros, so it will be interesting.

    BTW being FI I don’t see profit as a necessity but rather a measure of 1) efficiency, that is, a guideline; and 2) whether my “inputs” are valued by other people, that is, whether I’m promoting some social value.

    PS: Where in KY? North of South?

    • Ha! I added on those words to avoid the rat hole discussions about monoculture farming. But I would never suspect they would come from you! :)

      Fortunately for me, the soil on this property is already pretty good. I dug in the ground a bit, and the top soil was deep everywhere I looked. As far as I can tell from my own inspection, it’s never been overgrazed, and if it has then it’s been awhile. The previous owner had a few cows for 2 years, which should have helped build the soil quite a bit. I’m planning to do some high density rotational grazing to improve it even more, using methods similar to Joel Salatin in his books. Mark Shepard also has a great book in Restoration Agriculture with techniques I’m planning to use.

      I totally agree on measuring efficiency and social value, rather than financial profits. It’s a hard thing to get used to, though. Even as much as I say it, I still catch myself going “I bet if I do this right I could make X dollars.” Nothing wrong with making those dollars, I just have to catch myself when I talk like that to decide whether I’d being doing it purely for those dollars (which I don’t need, much like you), or whether the dollars are representing something else, like an appreciated product or service.

      We’ll be in Boyle county.

      Good luck with your own adventures in small landholding. I’m sure there would be many to benefit from you if you decide to go down that path.

  10. Ken says:

    This is so awesome! Wife and I are in the Denver area right now, and we LOVED living in North Carolina before coming here. And we still talk about moving to a small town somewhere back east with a bunch of acres. We’re in a townhouse now and absolutely despise our crappy neighbors on one side of us. We also miss the people from NC that actually have manners, unlike the ME ME ME attitudes that permeate every facet of life here in CO.

    I hope you keep us posted on your new life in KY.

    • Yes, the “me” attitude here in CO is sometimes strong – although we’ve met some incredibly selfless people too. Even while we were visiting Kentucky over the holidays, we had a neighbor girl checking in on our house and feeding our aquaponic fish. She called one night to report that our house was completely frozen because the thermostat had broken. Her dad came, another friend came, and a third neighbor came over. Together they fixed the thermostat, worked with the plumber to thaw out the house, and cleaned up around him as he replaced two busted copper pipes. I can’t even express how grateful we were for this. It’s great to know that there are people that will spend an entire Saturday at your house working with a plumber, just to turn a really bad situation into a slightly less terrible situation.

      We owe a lot of favors before we leave town. :)

  11. Jon says:

    Just when you appeared to go out on top…you go on to an encore for the ages. Well played, BNL. Your journey has been inspiring to follow…as it’s truly been a journey and not necessarily a “retirement destination”. Great job…and good luck!

  12. Michael says:

    I just read this out loud to my wife after reading it myself and we both loved it. It’s really interesting to me that the main components of FI are (1) stop consuming so much and find contentment, (2) earn enough so you don’t have to have an income, and then, as you have seen (3) find out what you want to do while FI.

    I think the only people who make it to FI are serious achievers, so I’m sure it’s a shock for a serious achiever who has spent so much energy toward this goal being able to turn their mind off and just relax.

    I suppose for me there will never be an end to the achievement, just a constant pruning of what achievement means when weighed against my values, amount of time for discovery, and financial resources.

    Lastly, thanks again for being such a great inspiration. I’d love to hear from you more often but I can see how that’s most likely not to be. :)

    • Yep. I thought my days of being a “serious achiever” would be done when I quit the corporate world. I’m coming to realize now that being a so-called achiever wasn’t ever a bad thing, it was how and why I did my achieving. I’m looking forward to directing that powerful force in a more positive direction.

  13. Dr. Doom says:

    So, first and foremost, thank you for sharing your plans for the next phase of your life. It sounds kind of scary and challenging, which is really just my way of saying exciting as hell. I’m sure someone with your intellect and drive will relish the new lifestyle and all of the learning and work that comes along with it. Plus, you’re still young enough to be able to handle the physical demands the labor places on you. Although you might no longer have time to go ultra-marathoning.
    I figured you’d find something else to get obsessed about, btw, i.e. your “next life.” Guys who get used to learning, growing, and striving can’t just sit still after leaving their day job.
    I think it’s fantastic that you can put your time and energy into this new life with your whole heart. Although I don’t plan on buying my own farm anytime soon, I will be joining you in the ER life in just a couple of months and I’m sure I’ll also need to find somewhere to place my energy. I’m just not sure where it’s going to be yet.
    Good stuff, BNL, I wish you the best. You’ve been an inspiration to me over the years.

    • Thanks for your kind words, doc. As for ultramarathons, it’s been a good 6 years since my last race and I haven’t had too much urge to return. I suppose it’s no coincidence that this was shortly after my first child was born… :)

      Good luck on your final strides towards an early retirement. And as for figuring out what you’ll do next, my advice from my own experience is that you shouldn’t worry about it. Most of what I thought I’d do, turned out to be completely wrong. I think some time to do nothing was the only thing I followed through with, and that time ended up changing my perspective on everything else. As Einstein said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

  14. Jordan Read says:

    Ha! Right as I find out there is someone else in COS of a like mind (you were mentioned by other Mustachians). That’s too bad (for me), but sounds like an awesome way to start the next chapter. I’d wish you luck, but we don’t really need luck to make the life we want. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.

  15. Gunhild says:

    This was a great post, thank you! I rarely find these gems of philosophy, but you did it really well. If you ever feel like writing more on that part, I will read it with gusto!
    Also, it sounds great with the farm and all. I just bought a small bit of land to grow thing in – could you possibly recommend some of those books on permaculture, you mentioned?

    Good luck with the farm.

    • Here’s a list of my favorites:

      One Straw Revolution (Fukuoka) – more of a philosophy book than a book on permaculture, but ties the two subjects together. When he talks about farming, it’s generally about rice in Japan, so it won’t be directly helpful to most people, but the ideas and philosophies will carry over.

      Permaculture – A Designer’s Manual (Mollison) – co-founder of the permaculture movement, and great book if you have $100 to spare. This is a textbook, and is used in many permaculture design courses. This is one of only two books I’ve purchased, rather than just borrowed from the library – it’s too good not to.

      Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (Holmgren) – From the other co-founder of the permaculture movement, this is his most thorough work

      Sep Holzer’s Permaculture (Holzer) – Sep is a guy that says “I don’t care what the books say, here’s what actually works” and I love his attitude. This is his best work in my humble opinion.

      The Rebel Farmer (Holzer) – I really just like the guy, and this is another informative book

      The Resiliant Homestead (Falk) – One of my favorites. Very educational, easy to follow. Ben is a young guy, and his books and videos are easier to connect to than some of the old school guys out there. If there was one expert I could choose to have come live on my farm for a few weeks and walk me through things, he’d be the guy.

      Folk, This Ain’t Normal (Salatin) – Salatin is a big beef guy, and I’m someone who has gone back and forth with the idea of being vegetarian. But he finally sold me on the ecological benefits of raising and eating meat in a positive way. His other books on beef (Salad Bar Beef) and chickens (Poultry Profits) helped me see opportunities for combining these animals and others into my land for more optimal soil restoration and upkeep.

      Restoration Agriculture (Shepard) – This is my favorite book about rebuilding soil, water retention, etc. Shepard’s videos all make him come across as an arrogant dude I wouldn’t want to share a meal with, but I’m really aligned with his way of thinking when it comes to working with the land.

      Gaia’s Garden (Hemenway)

      Also, most of these guys have videos on youtube that are very informative. In addition to the people above, Geoff Lawton has the most thorough compilation of videos. If you go sign up on his website, you’ll get regular new videos about transforming the land. He also sells a DVD collection I’ve heard is good, but I haven’t seen myself.

      • Gunhild says:

        This is wonderful! Thank you SO much! 😀

      • I’ve been working my way through this list and wanted to thank you for putting it together. Really great stuff, especially the Mollison and Falk books.

        Wanted to put in a plug for Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessel. While it’s a little New England focused, it’s a fascinating read on how to look at a forest and tell what’s been going on for the last several hundred years. I’m astonished at how differently I look at potential properties now that I can “see” the land so much better.

  16. Jamie V says:

    This. This is the reason why I want to buy a farm and move off grid and be more self sufficient. You said it beautifully, absolutely, and I am so happy that you took this step for yourself and your family. I’m in my late twenties and I honestly feel burned out, and I keep thinking it’s just my job (which I can get a new one), but I really think I’m burned out from society, from the ugliness of the world we live in as you listed above. I want that union between mind and body and spirit instead. And I think if we all focused on that a little more, like you have, we’d have more peace and harmony between us.

    I wish you and yours the best of luck with this new venture and I simply cannot wait to hear/read more!

    (I also wanted to ask you if you’ve considered this newish thing called Aquaponics? Mr. Money Mustache gave some good insight towards it, and I think it might also be a possible something to dabble in? Just thought I’d mention it. :) )

    • I have 2 aquaponics setups. One of the nice things about living in Colorado is that since weed is legal to grow, there are a ton of hydroponics and aquaponics stores to buy all the parts inexpensively…

      The first one I did was a tiny indoor one, only about 20 gallons and I use it for some herbs only. It’s too hard to grow anything else without big grow lights, and unless I’m growing weed it’s just not worth the money to power those things. Otherwise I’d end up with $5 tomatoes.. I also have a 100 gallon outdoor setup that I’ve been running for about a year.

      I may look to use my farm’s pond to have a future larger setup instead of the others. It would be interesting to see if I could reduce the water’s nitrate levels while feeding more plants and also increasing the fish carrying capacity of the pond. I would probably have to do a deep water culture setup rather than my grow bed media that I use today, since a large system is just so expensive for all the rocks (I use expanded clay pellets).

  17. Julia says:

    : I love the post and as an engineer I am especially intrigued by the water system on your new farm! I’d love to know more, and am sending you a longer email…

  18. Thegoblinchief says:

    This is really cool news! Thanks for the reading list in the comments before.

    I’m expanding my ‘arable’ land to about as much as I can next season, and homesteading is something my wife and I are both interesting in post-FI. Kentucky should be a great climate for sustainable agriculture. I’ll end up much further north, more than likely, but free land from a family farm cuts years off our timeline versus buying land.

    I love the rainbow barn and wish y’all the best moving forward. Over on the MMM forums there’s at least a handful of obsessed gardeners from that area who could give tips on specific varieties which do well.

    • Thanks for the advice, I’ll check out the MMM forums when I get a chance. I’ve been there a few times, but I don’t think I ever set up an account. I’m definitely going to be looking for some local contacts in the area, since there’s only so much I can learn from books, even regional ones.

      Good luck on your own homesteading. The season may not be as long up north, but there are plenty of successful homesteaders and permaculturalists up north. There are a ton in Canada, and one of my favorite authors (Ben Falk) is based out of Vermont with a really killer permaculture farm.

      • I lucked out and found someone wrote a gardening guide specifically to my current state (WI). Perhaps Kentucky has someone similar? Your ag extension service can sometimes help. A local Mormon group often has good advice about growing and preserving, since food security is a big part of their church.

        Another thing to read about is how to preserve what you grow. Dehydration (either solar or electric) is the best at preserving nutrients. My climate is too humid in the growing season for solar, so I’m saving up for a nice Excalibur machine.

        Freezing is the next best, followed by canning, unless the item you’re freezing is going to stay frozen for more than 6 months before eating. But canning has the plus of not needing to worry about power interruptions (just like dehydrated food). And eating canned preserves when it’s cold and snowy outside is awesome, nutrient content be damned 😛

        The books “Resilient Gardener” by Carol Deppe and “Independence Days” by Sharon Astyk might be worth adding to the “to read” list for those reasons, even though their climates (Oregon for Deppe and upstate NY for Astyk) are nothing like yours.

      • The county library near our house has an entire room dedicated to books about the state, a section for agriculture specifically, and a shelf or two just for agriculture in our county. So there’s a good amount of information available there.

        Food preservation is something we started exploring this year a bit, but we have much to learn. Some of our preservation failed miserably, but I will proudly say that I made some killer kraut!

        I appreciate your advice on some good books on the topic, I’ll add them to my Goodreads “to read” queue. That list is insanely long at this point, but I won’t complain about having massive topics I’m excited to learn about. It’s like homeschooling for adults!

      • Dawn says:

        On the topic of food preservation, also consider tools to extend your growing seasons. If you haven’t read any of Eliot Coleman’s books then I highly recommend them. Especially, The Winter Harvest Handbook which gives a lot of good information on extending the growing season. It is written from a market garden perspective but you can adapt many of the principles to a home garden scale. The focus is on vegetables that can handle cold weather with the protection of a greenhouse/hoophouse (carrots, onions, greens and more).

        My family has a small hoophouse (unheated, clear plastic cover) in our MI suburban backyard. Plants that tolerate cold weather can survive through the winter (herbs like rosemary, sage and lavender that would usually die back stay green and ready for use). The plants stop growing in January and February due to lack of sunlight. Seedlings like lettuce and beets (that were started indoors) are growing happily by the end of March while there is still a risk of snow on the ground outside.

        I, too, plan on buying a small landholding/farm as soon as finances will allow. A large greenhouse and/or hoophouse is something that I would not want to be without when it comes to surviving (thriving!) during Michigan’s winters.

  19. Cecile says:

    Excellent post, thank you!
    I hope we will get to see some pics and hear some stories of the permaculture journey, it will keep the ones like me who have not reached FI yet motivated 😉

    Good luck with the new life! You will probably experience a lot of good things.

    • Yes, I hope for plenty of both. I think maybe I’ll set up an instagram account for anyone that wants to follow along with pictures. I realize it’s not for everyone, but I know I like to follow some homesteaders on IG, I can never get enough pictures of free ranging chickens and goats. :)

  20. Lauren says:

    Congratulations! I have dreamed of owning a small hobby farm for a long time now. I can’t imagine retiring in my 30s and being able to buy one, and close to town. That rainbow barn is literally the things the dreams are made of, I love it! Best of luck in your new home!

    • When we met the current owner, I told her that the rainbow barn is what sold the place. She showed me a picture of the barn before she and her daughter painted it earlier in 2014, and it looked nothing the same. Just another worn down barn that you’d see along the interstate.

      I was half joking when I told her it sold the place, but honestly I don’t know if the listing for that house and farm would have stood out in all the listings otherwise. So maybe I wasn’t joking at all…

      • Lauren says:

        I honestly had a little book where I kept inspiration for life goals, and in one of the pages was a picture of a run down rainbow painted barn I printed off the internet! Also, I want goats on my hypothetical future farm, others disagree with me.

  21. Solexist says:

    I did the same thing about two years ago in Jessamine County, Kentucky, and regrettably, we were unable to establish the Permaculture Forest we hoped to establish and have since moved back to town. I’d love to catch up with you some time, very interested in establishing connections for FI/farmer people in the “greater Lexington” area. Send me an email!

    • Sounds like I need to pick your brain to see what went wrong. Jessamine seemed like a nice area, although I’ve heard the soil is a bit more rocky there as compared to where I’m at. I’ll shoot you an email, and once we move maybe we can get together in person.

  22. Sundeep says:

    This is a great post. I’m not FI, but I am on the path.

    Not being FI, I still have some of the feelings you describe. Like living in some sort of dream/nightmare world, but not really being able to do much about it since I’m not FI.

    Good luck with your farm and I hope you are able to keep writing about your journey post FI!

    • “but not really being able to do much about it since I’m not FI.”

      You might not be able to make the same exodus we’re making, but it really comes down to how you live. With enough people, we can transition a more sane lifestyle from the margins and into the mainstream. Or so I hope.

  23. Mr. Maroon says:

    How wonderful it is to read an article and feel in unison with the author.

    Mrs. Maroon and I have 155 acres, bought and paid for, awaiting us back in our home state of Texas. We call it our beach – that deserted little speck in the world where we want to maroon ourselves.

    I look forward to following your new journey as we continue to prepare for our financial independence and big move back home.

    • That’s great. I don’t know what I would do with 155 acres, but I’m sure I’d have fun trying. There are some people doing some really cool scalable permaculture designs where they can utilize that much land without massive upfront capital costs. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t get more land than I got within our budget, but if things go well I could see leasing out more land in the future. But I’m probably getting ahead of myself. :)

  24. Mr. SSC says:

    That is an awesome find! I grew up in KY and love that area. The more Mrs. SSC and I look for our retirement place we’ve decided what we don’t want. A commute, close neighbors, mini-mansion, etc… We’ve been leaning more and more towards land, a good view, small town, good community support, and good schools for the kids. Hopefully we can get as lucky as you when we pull the trigger in another 4-5 years. Congrats!

  25. Kali says:

    THIS IS AWESOME. I love it — and this is exactly what we’re looking to do right now. We’re in the process of searching for our own little homestead so we can practice our version of self-sufficiency, so it’s really inspiring to read stories like this. Thank you for sharing, and I wish you and your family all the best on your new farm!

  26. Saving Jenny says:

    Just stumbled onto your blog for the first time. What an inspirational article, and thanks for including an excerpt of that wonderful poem. You have a new reader here for sure-looking forward to updates in the future!

  27. nostache says:

    Congrats!

    But we will be needing some additional farm photos!

    Hobby farm is part of the 10 year plan.

    • Oh, I promise I’ll be providing plenty of pictures once I get moved in. I’m hoping to be out there by the end of February, but that’ll depend on when we get our house sold here (which isn’t even listed yet!).

  28. K60 says:

    Congratulations! Your post RE life has become very exciting, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. You might be interested in reading “The Good Life” by Scott and Helen Nearing about their homesteading life in Vermont. It’s a good read with lots of very practical advice.

    • BNL says:

      I read The Good Life a few weeks ago, based on this comment. I somehow hadn’t heard of it before, although I’d seen an old youtube video of grumpy old Scott chopping wood and explaining his life philosophy – and even then I knew I liked the guy.

      The book is a great foundation for the anti-capitalist viewpoint I have growing inside of me everyday – it reminds me that the good things in life have nothing to do with the complex economic system that seems to drive all of our day to day lives and decisions.

      Thanks for the recommendation.

  29. BNL, Congratulations! and good luck on this next step in your journey. I look forward to reading how the transition goes and how working the farm might be different from what you initially expected. I grew up with farming on both sides of the family and it can be a lot of work. But definitely fulfilling work!

    Similar to you, we are looking to move back closer to family early this year as well. We probably won’t be buying as much land or getting into farming as heavily as you will, but I am excited to be able to raise a few chickens and try my hand at an aquaponics setup.

    Once again congrats and as other people have said, more pictures please!

  30. dojo says:

    I envy you 😉

    We also dream about getting a small house somewhere in the country side, with some land ‘attached’ on it. It will take some years to do the work/saving for it, but we’d love to ‘retire’ there. So, congratulations and may you all be happy there 😉

  31. Bryan says:

    I’m surprised you don’t home school. The logical progression of the path you are on, at least the variation my family is walking, leads to home school in almost all possible iterations.

    Although right now we have an arrangement to send our son to public school only 3 days a week, and that is actually working out marvelously.

    • BNL says:

      My wife and I have talked about trying out part time school, part time homeschool. I think we both want to do it, but we’re both a bit worried about whether we’ll be good at it – although if we’re not I’m still somewhat convinced it would still be more beneficial than the industrialized public school system. I don’t know… We’re gonna register my son for the last few months of first grade in Kentucky once we get there, hopefully he makes some quick friends, and then we’ll figure out the rest over the summer break.

  32. Sounds pretty awesome! I wouldn’t worry about it sitting on the market for a while before you bought it. Rural land (or at least land with some acreage) doesn’t move as fast as commodified suburban houses. Less comps to know if it’s the “right” price and less demand since most are concerned with maximizing square footage often at the expense of any acreage.

    You guys will surely have your hands full getting the farm in shape and getting your agriculture on. And even if you take a break from farming later on, you’ll still have a nice place to live with plenty of land to play on.

  33. I just discovered your blog – so inspiring, and poetic. Enjoy the new adventure! Hopefully, we will be able to join you in living our own version of financial independence . . . someday :)

  34. Jackson says:

    Congrats! Good luck with the project.

  35. mike says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. How much this spoke to me.

  36. Thanks so much (again) for the book list you put upthread in the comments. I just finished “The Resilient Farmstead” and that’s probably my favorite book yet. I learned a lot from reading that, and together with the similarly titled “Resilient Gardener” by Carol Deppe is a really good 1-2 punch for those getting beyond basic gardening. I’d probably have never heard of it otherwise, but it’s now getting a spot on my permanent gardening shelf.

    Keep us posted on the move! I’m getting excited for gardening season here. Supposed to get a warm spell soon that might be enough to get some peas in but it’s early days for 2015. Also excited for later in the year when we have a trip planned to survey what could be our future homestead.

    • BNL says:

      Glad you liked the Resilient Homestead. I haven’t read any of Carol Deppe’s books, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen her name so I went ahead and reserved 2 of her books at the library.

      Also, congrats on your retirement(ish). I just read some of your blog for the first time (I think) and subscribed. Hopefully you’ll keep writing, I’m particularly interested in your gardening, homesteading, and homeschooling – the latter we’re still considering ourselves.

      • Oh yeah, you won’t see my writing disappear! It’s incredibly therapeutic even without comments which help/enlighten/encourage. Hope you enjoy the blog.

        I also keep a journal over on the MMM forums if you ever join. There’s even more commentary on that thread, and so many other journals that are quite interesting as well – far more than I can even devote time to read.

        On the Carol Deppe – definitely read Resilient Gardener first. The plant breeding one has some neat info, but it quickly gets overwhelming. I don’t think I have even finished it yet, as it’s just beyond my level.

        If you ever want to talk homeschooling, feel free to email me. We were at what ended up as a huge birthday party yesterday (easily 30 adults, god knows how many kids) where nearly all of the kids were homeschooled. No signs of any of the many stereotypes about homeschooled kids 😛

  37. Joe Mudd says:

    First off, welcome to the Bluegrass. I hope you aren’t moving in right now, we’re getting set for the coldest weather we’ve had in a long time. Double digit below zero for a least a couple of days. Yuck.

    We homeschooled our kids until they reached high school. We bought all our school supplies and lessons from Calvert’s. It worked out great for us. There weren’t many homeschooling groups back then. Now there are many and they get together and share learning and activities. There are so many resources now. Plus this Internet thing is pretty good for learning too.

    Our grandson now lives with us, and he is in the public schools here in Shelby County. He seems to be doing fine, so that can work out for you too.

    Good luck on the farm. Stay warm.

  38. Bob says:

    Thank you for your post – it reminded me of the writings of Ralph Borsodi. I’d really like to have a farm someday.

  39. Elizabeth says:

    Hi BNL, I’ve read your blog for a while now. Started at the beginning when I first found the blog and read your whole story. It’s very inspiring to see people achieving their dreams like you have.

    This post has been by far my favorite. Having a some land to have a farm and keep livestock, with a water source has been a dream of my own for some time. So I am very excited for you and your new place. I’m looking forward to reading more about the developments on the farm and hopefully seeing some pictures.

  40. BNL,

    How is life on the farm going? Do you have any recent developments on the farm? Have you decided to grow the fruits, nuts,and vegetables you were thinking about?

  41. The Alchemist treated me to Mark Shepard’s book. Damn is that book awesome so far (about 1/3 of the way through). I’m limited in what I want to invest in my current site because of our timeline (4-6 years) but it’s going to be a fantastic resource when we decamp.

    Just wanted to add (one more) thanks for a recommendation.

  42. Mr. FSF says:

    Hello BNL,

    How is the farm working out? Hope you are able to settle in a bit. You must be busy as can be right now.

    Hope to read about it in your next post?

    Cheers, Mr. FSF

  43. Chris says:

    I really hope you provide some updates on the successes and learning experiences associated with starting a small-ish farm. I would like to do the same one day.

    Thanks and congratulations.

  44. Jamie V says:

    Hi BNL, I just wanted to stop in and say that I hope everything is going swell for you and yours on your farm. As others have stated above, I look forward to reading an update about how things are going. Take care!

  45. Bryan says:

    BNL,
    I just recently found your site and now a first time commenter. I really love your posts! :)

    It has only been in the last 9 months that I discovered your site. It is a bummer because I get to Pueblo all the time to visit family. I grew up in Southern Colorado and lived in Denver and the Springs years back. It would have been nice to meet you.

    I find it fascinating to hear stories about people attempting to and actually leave the rat race. You have proven that by your lifestyle and now by “buying the farm”. It seems to me that the common theme is that we get to a point that we are sick of the status quo, we start to align ourselves to a big goal, we save and/or start a side hustle to finance this goal, and then we ultimately jump in with both feet.

    My wife and I struggle with this last step of leaving our jobs behind. Financially we can do it now but we just seem to think we need to wait just a little bit longer. We are working on that fear of leaving our steady paychecks and believe we will be in the same spot as you and your family by next year.

    It would be great to hear how you are doing.

  46. Stockbeard says:

    Sad to not see more updates from you!

  47. Nate says:

    Great post and great story. We do a lot of homesteading on 17 acres. We eat better, we feel better AND we save money.

    • Right on, Nate. I’m still getting the homestead up and running, but we’re swimming in fresh healthy vegetables and now our eggs have begun to come in. I’ve been eating like a king, and that alone has been worth the effort so far. Soon we’ll have enough excess to begin canning and other forms of preservation so that we can continue this through the winter.

  48. Bobby says:

    Hi I just got linked here now. Curious as to if you’ve changed your mind on “genetically mutated..” foods by now? Seems like you may have had some accidental ignorance regarding that. “Chemicals” is sort of a meaningless buzzword since everything is.. you know.. chemicals. (eg “dihydrogen monoxide kills hundreds of children every year” sounds a lot scarier in “Big chemical” ways than “hundreds of children drown every year”)

  49. Henk says:

    Great decision, and I can report back from Europe that many people are thinking about the same plan (how to escape this crazy world and become sane again). We decided also on a farm, but in Hungary, where the air is still fresh, you have good land and water, people are still friendly and really interested in each other, we there is space and not many (governmental) rules. I do realize how privileged we are, not everyone makes this mental decision (to really act) or feels they have the financials to support it.

  50. Camille says:

    It’s been a while since you posted… how is life on the farm? Did you have a summer harvest of any vegetables this year?

  51. Valerie says:

    BNL – I hope all is well. I’m currently reading through your blog, starting from the beginning and working up to the present, but I’d love to see a real time update from you as well. I know I’m not alone! How is post FIRE life on the farm? Please endulge us!

  52. wkumtrider says:

    Nice post. I’ve lived in KY all my life and there is a lot of awesome land out here. Hope you are enjoying your farm!

  53. Dave says:

    It’s a shame that you have stopped writing. I have enjoyed reading your blog.

  54. Tracy says:

    Hey Mr BNL! We’d love to hear more from you!

  55. Jake says:

    An awesome ending to this journey! I managed to get through all of your posts over the past week. I could see a definite change in you from beginning to end. Although I’m not financially independent, I have come to find the sickness in our society you bring up in this post. Over the past couple of years I have become a little depressed and lonely as a result of these realizations. A friend of mine (a newer one, who is like-minded) spent 3 yrs in northern China studying eastern philosophy. He says often the journey to find truths is lonely, most of the world doesn’t want to take that trip. Every like minded person I find makes it less lonely, so thank you for sharing all of this!! You’ve also motivated me to create my own financial independence… running the numbers now. Luckily, my realizations about society and the lifestyle changes that have come as a result created a money surplus already. You started looking for financial freedom and found sanity. I think I started to find sanity and eventual financial freedom will come as an inevitable side effect. If you ever plug back in to this blog, give your fans an update & a picture to place a face to all of this! Thanks again!

  56. lady fru fru says:

    This is really part of my dream…I am 51….so I am vicariously enjoying your achievement. Beautiful. Hardiest congrats and thanks for the inspiration

  57. Eric says:

    Love the blog but it would be great to have an update! It’s been well over a year now…how is everything going?

  58. JKC says:

    BNL,

    I am binge reading your blog now. You write so well, I would love to hear your thoughts about farm life and how the reality of living it (almost two years later) compares to your thinking when you wrote this post.

    Your words have been very valuable to me.

    I would love to have more of them.

    Hope all is well in your Brave New Life!

  59. Eric Pemper says:

    How’s the farm life so far?

    Wow, if I would be as brave as you I would have bought a farm myself! :)

  60. Sam says:

    How about an update?

  61. Smith says:

    Sorry to see you go at such a young age. RIP. You’ll be missed…

  62. jargon says:

    Thats the end folks…..

  63. 7yearcountdown says:

    What happened to BNL?

  64. K J says:

    I’ve been a follower of this blog since the beginning and always really enjoyed it, and would like some type of closure. What happened??? Anybody know that can share??

  65. Marc says:

    What a great adventure!

    Don’t listen to people who discourage you. A farm is only as much work as you want to do. If nothing else the quiet land around you and your family is enough of a reason. Start small. Learn as you go. Meet good people and thrive. Kentucky is beautiful!

  66. Bob McNabb says:

    Retired corporate insurance broker. Soon to be age 90…..am truly a happy retiree (retired at age 80) but in the early 1960’s ‘dropped out of the ‘grey flannel suit’ crowd to live the ‘simple life’. After attending a bunch of Krishnmurti talks (oak grove in Ojai) I had the honor of having dinner with him…..one question I popped at him, and his answer, actually turned my life around. He said that one’s mind had to be free from dominance and control and the only way to that is financial freedom. It gave me focus, it eventually resulted in my being in love with my routine in an office.

    I’d like to be on your blog list

  67. Alex Rule says:

    THIS IS WHAT I WANT!

  68. I like the idea. It’s awesome that you can live how you wish and not worry about others or money.

  69. Honey, Are you still Farming? I have thought about you a lot over the years. You have inspired me to shop for a farm here in PA. I would love to hear about the day you disappeared off the grid. I am guessing from the day you let go of your cell and then you laptop battery died, that you liked the freedom. If you do get bored. I invite you to watch me copy you, but unlike you coming from Finance, I came from Hollywood. Here’s my Youtube Channel: Kelly Granite
    https://www.youtube.com/user/kellygraniteful

  70. This is awesome! Congrats. Also, thanks for sharing the idea from Novalis. I’ve never heard of him before. Gotta do some research now!

  71. Jacob says:

    Hey,

    I love your blog, been following for quite a while now. You have inspired me to create my own new finance based blog, http://www.bloggingformylifeuk.wordpress.com . Please feel free to check it out, i have only just started but i hope i will be able to create something similar to what you have, except mine will be UK based rather than US.

    keep it up,

    All the best

  72. My wife and I may well do this too one day. I come from farmland, and there’s a wisdom about rural life–the landscape forces you to engage it–that’s impossible to replicate in a city full of people. (That Mad Farmer poem illustrates it, to an extent.) I get out to the country regularly (and fortunately, have a place to do so); I don’t know how I could live full-time in the city otherwise.

  73. Mrmoneybanks says:

    Well done – realise I’m a little late to the party but seriously, well done! What a brave move! Let us know how it’s going!

  74. ndemi says:

    What an adventure!good luck.

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  76. I have a friend who lives on a farm and earns his living by cultivating tomato fields (and other fruits and vegetables, but mainly tomatoes).
    Living costs are low, although his business does ‘eat up’ a big chunk of money (equipment costs a pretty penny and so does paying someone a salary to help out during peak season).
    Overall, living on a farm is definitely worth it! I can only dream about having one of my own.. Maybe someday :)

  77. James says:

    That sound great!
    Good luck in the adventure.
    All the best!

  78. Gabby says:

    This is a great story, thank you for sharing! And I hope you have the best time on this new adventure!
    -Gabby
    http://www.orcuttfamilydentistry.com

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