This winter, I have been planning for my Spring activities on my land. Having hobbies is not as cheap as one might think to get going. I do already fish on my pond which is about $100 start up for supplies, I garden in some metal cattle troughs ($300, after a failed attempt in the ground. Weeds and Bermuda grass won), I tried having chickens but the raccoons and other predators finally won ($400 total after many tries), and I work out regularly in my outdoor gym, once basketball season is over (about $500 and counting). But, I still have bigger plans such as planting and maintaining an orchard of at least ten trees, having some bee hives, and finding a way to water my garden when I am away for a week here or there in the summer traveling (teacher life rules!). I also one day would like to dig a well, go off the grid in every way possible, and try some small scale cattle ranching (3-4 beef cows).
So, to start out, everyone has a different idea of what frugal is. To make things simple frugal to me is anything that is less than $50 for a hobby. Some garden seeds at $0.89 a pack, a bag of soil for $3.99, and a large pot for $9.99 is a frugal little gardening project. I grew some Israeli Cantaloupe like this, and actually got some production and knowledge. My original fishing pole and a few starter lures were about $26, and it has grown since then to include a $50 pole and more lures and supplies than I need (Bass Pro Shop is too close).
Now, This Fall I got bees ordered at the feed store, and I don’t have a price on those yet ($100? maybe), but I have gotten two hives ($150 each), and some honey extracting supplies ($8). A bee head net ($10), a little honey tool ($8), and a book ($15) for about $500 was my estimated budget with the bees. It will take years of successful honey harvests to get my money back, but on the plus side my book says that keeping bees only takes about 10 hours of work a year. Once you get them going you just have to check them a few times a month, and the real work is getting the honey once or twice a year for about an hour for the two hives. So, fresh pure honey for 10 hours of work a year is a win for a hobby. (I don’t like time intensive hobbies over the long term.)
My other hobby of gardening, in my overpriced metal water troughs, are being improved
this Spring, in that I am trying to add Ollas to help the soil stay moist longer in the Texas heat and allow moisture to go deeper. Ollas are unglazed terra cotta pots that you bury in the ground and leave the top above to surface to fill with water. It is an ancient way (4,000 years old) for Northern Africans to water crops, and you don’t lose water to evaporation. People around the world still use ollas in dry areas of the world. I researched online, and it turns out that many are well over $50 for one small one or $100 for a larger. Plus shipping too. So I found that I could make some by getting two cheap terra cotta pots and gluing them together with liquid nails or some silicon stuff. So, I got 4 pots at $2.99 each and a tube of liquid nails for $1.79, and a couple of $1 rubber stoppers for the holes in the bottom and glued them together and glued a rubber stopper to the bottom of one side. I now have a hole left to fill it with water. I haven’t buried them yet, but they hold water and it appears moisture is slowly going through the terra cotta pots, so we will find out if they work starting in March. If this is a success I can use less water, vacation without worrying about the garden dying, and I can make some more for a future garden expansion.
Now for the ten tree orchard… I have found the supplier about an hour away who has a bunch of fruit tress designed for Texas climates and rainfall from Texas A&M. I can get small 1 gallon trees for $19.95 each, but I don’t want to have to water these things. I am trying to figure out how I can get nature to keep the fruit trees watered, so there is almost no maintenance or time on my part exempt some winter pruning. I could try to use my septic grey water, but that grosses me out even though lots of people do this. I was researching planting them next to my pond, and the roots might tap into the moist pond soil. This could cause root rot from too much moisture, and they would all die. I was researching bigger ollas for fruit trees, but those are really way too expensive, and I would need ten of them (over $1,000). I also looked into making some larger ollas and that could work, but requires me filling them. So, I will research some more, and maybe one day I will have a nice frugal ten tree orchard that pays for itself.
I figure if I do one or two new hobbies a year, and try to keep the costs low as I go, then one day when I look outside, I will have a thriving fun hobby farm for next to nothing and a wealth of new knowledge. The goal is for the hobby to not be so time intensive, and still allow me to travel without worry too. It could also be a good bit of passive income in my early retirement. I could be selling honey, fruits, vegetables, eggs (if I can figure out predator control), maybe some grass fed beef one day, and many other items as I slowly and frugally expand my hobbies.
What do you have going for your hobbies? Do they pay for themselves, or could they be a side hustle for you one day? Comment below!! Give me some more ideas.