Meneer (Mr.) from the blog of www.meneerenmevrouw.com dropped me an email this weekend. He had read our 5-year plan and commented on the fun fact that he and the Mrs. had been considering some of the same ideas. What ideas you might ask: buying an detached house with a large plot of land (i.e. usually an old farm) to grow your own produce while perhaps also doing some (Air)B&B on the side for some extra income. This got me thinking, what about a FIRE barn? A what?
The FIRE Barn
We have obviously been looking at old barns already and have found a couple that might even be interesting too. However, most are a bit too expensive for us right now, especially when you consider the costs for renovations and preparations for the vegetable yard/permaculture setup. We could sell some of the Real Estate, but would rather not due to the nice cash-flow it is currently generating. However, there is another option, what about doing it with likeminded people from the FIRE community? Yes, a FIRE Barn 😉
The idea is really simple actually, you share financial and human resources to purchase, renovate and setup a barn and associated yard/garden. You share the joys and work to assure you get the maximum yield on your time, efforts and money. You can obviously also implement a system where you become completely self-sustainable (i.e. no utility connections) too. Think septic systems, solar power, geothermal heating system, heat exchangers, etc.
Subject to the amount of people that are joining in, and the size/space of the property, you have various options (here are just a few):
- Small FIRE barn: two or three families/couples. Each a section of the house or barn. Communal yard with shared efforts to maintain.
- Large FIRE barn: 3-5 families/couples. Still each with their own private areas. Communal yard with shared efforts, with perhaps some private sections.
- Extra large farm house/barn/barn extension: up to 10 families. Likely private quarters but communal kitchen(s) and/or living areas. This really starts to look like communal living.
In all scenarios you share the expenses of the farmhouse/barn equally among the parties (i.e. taxes, maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc.). Guess you can setup a system where you “buy” or “sell” your share of the expense depending on the amount of work you do around the place. Subject to yard size/regulators, you might have the option to create camp sites/chalets/converted barn for some (Air)B&B income to limit overal expenses.
Lot’s of option here to benefit from each others knowledge, skill sets and the property.
Bed and Breakfast?
I hate and love B&B’s. On the one side they are a good way of creating some extra income, but on the other side they are far from passive income generators. You really have to work hard at keeping the place clean, booked and running. Also, social contacts are very important for most humans (including me), and having a B&B definitely provides that interface. I’ve actually done this for 3 weeks in the USA as a favor in exchange for free accommodation and meals. It was great fun, but I’m not sure how long it would have been an interesting activity.
Guess part-time B&B-ing is not a bad idea. Just run the B&B for the summer months and close it down for the winter ones (so you yourself can travel to warmer places). That being said, I have to admit that an farm/barn is a great place for a B&B. You usually have a lot of space and it’s not that difficult to make some guest spaces available for additional income. You also tend to get the easier going/older people at these types of locations who like nature, limiting the amount of work (read: cleaning, maintenance).
The jury is not out on this one…. albeit it is a good opportunity to cover some of the farmhouse/barn expenses for sure.
What is permaculture, why do we (think we) like it and why is it perfect for farmhouse/barn living? Permaculture, by wiki’s definition, is ” a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems”. Huh, what? It is pretty much optimizing the natural world as much as possible and efficiently using all the resources it provides.
Why is the interesting? The primary reason most people like this is because it actually is the most sustainable way to live (ethical living). But for me as a lazy person (and an engineer) it is also nature engineering to the highest degree. If you setup your permaculture garden well (and this does take time), you can have a 4 hour work week with a massive amount of garden produce (and potentially much more). It would almost be passive income, and we like that!
If you do it right, It might even make you self sustainable from a food perspective and provide additional savings in energy usage. Now that is cool. Why is a barn such a good place, usually it comes with a large plot of land. Albeit you don’t need much, a larger plot does give you more options and a bigger harvest/larger variety in resources. It also does require more time and efforts to implement, obviously.
This post is way too short to list the amazing things one can do with permaculture. Can highly recommend reading up on it, if you can deal with the high hippy content.
Many people in the FIRE community would like to travel, perhaps even long-term when FI. In a FIRE barn setup this should be very much possible. Because you already would have a relatively low cost of living with a FIRE barn setup, leaving for the longer term is not a big problem. More so, you have the option to (Air)B&B out your livingspace and have your farm friends help out with the management. The extra income would likely cover your expense requirements, leaving you with no or very little fixed costs at home while you travel. This would obviously only work if you have a good system in place and mutual understandings of how life on the farm/barn is managed. Lot of opportunities here!
Ok, perhaps you now think I have gone completely mad (you’d be right). You might think I want to start a sect (close) or have become a hippy (heck, even I don’t know in what “box” I fit anymore)? Not to fret, it’s not that bad (yet).
Perhaps I might change my mind, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon, for one main reason: privacy. I like my “me” time, which is already hard to get these days with the little one. But in this case it is also the fact that you can’t really get away from your fellow farm friends. Despite the fact that you would have your own space, and you are free to go as you please, you would still have quite a few people around all the time.
Considering all the benefits this setup might provide, it might still be a good idea. I would just have to find a way to get my privacy/peace-and-quite time. Not impossible at all, but I need to really want it (i.e. being self sustainable with added benefits) before I would put the (mental) effort into it.
There is a second component that is critical and that is that all members are on the same page with their thinking/attitude. This might be the most difficult part as every human is unique and has different options and ideas during different stages of life. While you might get along now, you might not in the future. This could cause issues and strife, which always ends up costing money one way or the other. Personally, I like to do my own thing and also make decisions on my own (read: making compromises with Mrs CF only). But then again, this is also a risk that you can manage!
So dear readers, what do you think? Would this be something you would even consider? Or are you to attached to your privacy like me? What other pros and cons do you see?