Some Place Where I Can Lay My Head: Seeking Farmmate(s)

Sharon June 23rd, 2009

For the last year or so, I’ve made a couple of mild stabs at finding someone to share our property with.  We’ve had inquiries, even taken some basic steps, but I’ve not pushed the situation hard, on the assumption that sooner or later the right arrangement might fall into my lap like a ripe fruit.  No such thing has happened, to it is time to get out the apple picker and try harder ;-) .

My family is seeking other people to share our home and land with.  We always have potential takers “if things get terrible” – but that’s not really what we’re looking for – we’re looking live with people who simply want community, family, friendship, company, shared work, and who want it whether the zombies come or not.  For us, this place has always been about community – from the first it was to be shared with Eric’s grandparents, and we feel their loss more acutely, not less, as time passes on – both the loss of them as beloved family members, but also the loss of companionship and the sense that our home was richer with more people in it. 

Our very large house has plenty of room for more people. Eric’s grandparents built a 1000 square foot, well insulated apartment that consists of one large bedroom, a bizarrely enormous bathroom, a large open living room/dining room and a small galley kitchen.  There are several very large closets and a porch, as well as shared laundry facilities.  The area has radiant floor heating, and is completely separate from the rest of the house, for privacy.

Down the hall, there are two medium-sized bedrooms, with a full bath in between them that could go along with the arrangement, or not.  We can comfortably move entirely upstairs for sleeping quarters, since there are three bedrooms there at present.  This part of the house is technically in what would be “our” section, so there would be less personal privacy, but the rooms can be shut off, and you don’t have to come out to pee ;-) .

Besides the in-house space, the property includes a fenced front yard (8 foot board fencing) with an enormous playset, plenty of garden space, a woodlot to cut heating wood from (and I have an older Baker’s choice wood cookstove that could be installed in the apartment), and about 6 acres of pasture and hayfield for livestock.  We are most interested in people interested in sharing the farm and making it more productive and sustainable, and are happy to enable your projects.

The housemates include me (I’m 36, mouthy and occasionally short tempered, but mostly good natured), Eric (39, incredibly easy to get along with and very funny), and four boys Eli, 9, Simon 7, Isaiah, 5 and Asher 3.  Eli is autistic, and all the kids are loud, so any serious candidates should be tolerant of young kids and noise, and also some tolerance for kids who aren’t developmentally typical (we have those things, if you have loudness, kids or special needs issues ;-) ).  We are early risers, just fyi, so expect the noise to begin early ;-) .  We are homeschoolers, so the younger three kids (Eli goes to school) are around most of the time, and we’re Jewish, so any shared meals must be kosher or vegetarian. 

We are slobs, so don’t expect a super-tidy house, although we try to keep it minimally under control.  If we add more people to the house, the chaos level will probably rise, so we’d probably try harder on that front, and it wouldn’t hurt for you to be tidier than me (which isn’t that hard ;-) ).

We live in the town of Knox, NY, on a rural street with 8 houses.  The local school district is pretty good, the culture is rural/exurban, with lots of small farms and lots of people who commute to Albany or Schenectady for employment. Both towns are between 1/2 hour and 45 minutes drive away, depending on which end of them you need to go to.  The economy here is better than many places, but still not perfect.  You do need a car to get most places, there is very minimal public transportation, although some carpooling and ride sharing. My husband commutes 3 days a week  There are lots of great local food options around here, but nothing walkable.  However, if you were somewhat flexible on diet, you could definitely eat really well entirely locally here – it is a great area, IMHO.  Winters, btw, just in case the words “upstate NY” don’t mean anything to you, are cold and snowy, and wintery ;-) .

We are seeking housemates who are truly interested in community – we don’t demand that you swear to move in forever, but we’re not really interested in people just passing through.  We would welcome people with kids – the place is pretty much a child’s paradise, with lots of animals, a creek, woods to roam in and the aforementioned giant playset.  We also welcome people without kids, but be sure you are accustomed to the sound of childish voices – and the pitter-patter (er…thunderous boom) of little feet. 

Pluses include people who are handy (we’re not, especially), friendly, easy going, Jewish (this is absolutely not at all necessary – and just fyi, you cannot walk to any shul from here, unfortunately- just pleasant, who play mah-jongg or scrabble, talk politics or like to make music, like dirt and like to share meals, gossip and time in the garden.  Must have some measure of commitment to keeping your ecological footprint low and to preparing for tougher times – you don’t have to share all our priorities, but some would be nice.  We are NOT interested in freeloaders – you know what I mean, the kind of people who don’t participate and are just looking for cheap accomodations or someone to do the preparing for them.  That does not mean that you have to be young, strong and able to pull the plow when the mule falls down – remember, our last housemates were 80 and 94, and we felt they were excellent contributors.  Sure, strong young farmers are great, but so are other folks – it is the compatibility and friendship that matters most.

Eric and I both have experience living in housemate situations and enjoy it – we would love people interested in sharing the work and pleasures of this piece of land and this place.  In the longer term, it may be possible to either renovate the house to create more privacy or to optimize space, or even to have some kind of shared ownership, but that would be after considerable time together.  Ideally, we’d have some communal meals and some private time for each family, as well as share some responsibilities, to be negotiated individually.

Rental cost – for the apartment alone $400 monthly, plus a share of the utilities and any shared food.  For the apartment plus two extra bedrooms and extra bath – $650 plus a fair share of utilities.  We could also negotiate for one bedroom.  We would be open to barter for some percentage (or possibly all, depending on what was offered and the quality of the match) of the rent in labor doing childcare, farmwork, home repairs or building or whatever else needs doing.  If we hit TEOTWAWKI, all bets are off, and we’ll probably happily take the rent in barter ;-) .

If you are interested, please send an inquiry, with details about yourself and your family (if any) to [email protected].  All inquiries will be answered, although bear with me.  If they are successful, a period of “dating” involving correspondence and phone discussions with all involved parties and at least one visit will be required.   Rather like dating, if it doesn’t work out, it probably isn’t you, so please don’t be offended ;-) .



30 Responses to “Some Place Where I Can Lay My Head: Seeking Farmmate(s)”

  1. Josephon 23 Jun 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I’d apply in a heatbeat but…I am in Oregon and looking for such a thing here. But I bet you will get offers from some really good people.

  2. jasonon 23 Jun 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Wow, if I could write my own, “I want a dream place to live” the way the kids in “Mary Poppins” wrote their own ad for a nanny, this would be it–but for three things: location location location. I am all about “community”–specifically the one I am in, the one that includes my extended family. So, if you would kindly pick up the whole kit-and-cabootle and move it to NE Kansas, that would be great.

    Otherwise, good luck to you and I envy the people that win the date.

    You should make it a reality TV show (not)!

  3. [email protected]on 23 Jun 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Good luck with the search. It’s nice that you’re able to be so upfront about yourselves. The lack of whitewashing will put some off, no doubt. But those are exactly the people who would never make a good match anyway.

    There are probably a lot of people who would take you up on the offer to apply, if only you were in their neighborhood.

  4. Ailsa Ekon 23 Jun 2009 at 4:09 pm

    *whimper* Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish. I doubt I could convince Adam to pull up stakes and move out there, though.

    handy – Check
    friendly – I try
    easy going – Ditto
    Jewish – Check
    who play mah-jongg – Love games and willing to learn
    talk politics – Check
    like to make music – Check
    like dirt – Check
    like to share meals, – Check
    gossip – Check
    and time in the garden – Check

    I love community cooking, too.

  5. risa bon 23 Jun 2009 at 4:13 pm

    As I lay in bed last week with a sudden bout of kidney disease, listening to the poultry clamoring for assistance and the peas screaming to be picked (and with my Beloved 2,000 miles away at the time), similar thoughts crossed my mind! And, Joseph, we ARE in Oregon! :) We tried it in the 70s — and again in the 80s — and we’re inclined to think we’re too ornery to pull it off, except perhaps under duress.

    When the time comes, we’ll probably skip the apple picker and go for the apple press! Hope it works out, Sharon, we’ll be thinking of you …

  6. Sharonon 23 Jun 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Joseph, I know – that’s the issue for almost everyone, who has some reason for being where they are. Ah well, maybe it will all work out anyway ;-) . Jason, I have the same issues – that’s why we’re here. Ailsa, it would be cool, but we are not exactly in a place with an eruv, and it would be one heck of a walk to shul – but yeah, that would be nice.


  7. Abbieon 23 Jun 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Sharon- Have you thought of the possibility of your boys and their children sharing your home? I know it is a while away, but my parents would tell you it comes faster than you would think.

    My husband and I lived in an apartment half that size on my family’s farm for five years. It was a wonderful experience, and now my middle brother lives there. He’s remodeling a house nearby, and when he moves, my littlest brother will move in to the apartment. I’m sure at some point it will be empty for a while, but they’re offered it to my cousins or to their (currently non-existant) grandchildren someday.

    My parents lived in an apartment over my great-grandmother’s house when they were first married, until they could build their own house on the farm. And so it goes.

    It is a wonderful way for the older generations to help out the younger, as you know from your experience with Eric’s grandparents.

    My husband and I hope to do the same with either our parents or our children someday. Good luck in your search!

  8. Moon 23 Jun 2009 at 6:26 pm

    I only wish I could convince my hubby and I would apply in a flash but alas, that is not going to happen. I am not being negative, just realistic.

    I hope, and feel sure that you will find the perfect candidates very soon.

    Good luck! :)

  9. Sharonon 23 Jun 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Abbie – Well, that’s certainly a longer term possibility, but it is a minimum of a decade away. All of our parents are fairly young, too – my parents both are in their late 50s or just 60, and Eric’s are in their mid-60s, so they don’t need it. We’d hoped Eric’s grandmother would be with us for a long time – she was only 80 and her own mother lived quite a long time, and then maybe use the space for adult children or parents but it didn’t happen, and a decade is a while ;-) .


  10. New Mamaon 23 Jun 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Oh, man, would I love to do this, but like others have said, I don’t think we could move away from our family and friends. You did have me thinking about the possibility of my husband transferring to his company’s New Jersey division, however. I can dream…

  11. Crunchberrieson 23 Jun 2009 at 7:24 pm

    It’s those two little words that make it impossible for me: “upstate NY”. Otherwise, you’d have some contenders on your hands.

    We have LOUD kids who are developmentally different with a major penchant for potty talk. So, if you don’t mind a constant stream of conversation about Buttcheek Guy and Vagina Girl (I’m still trying to figure out who has the better superpowers with these two), then you have more patience than I.

    I only get cranky if my blood sugar is low, which can be far too often, but you can always set me out to forage in the yard if I’m getting snappy. I’m moderately handy, but prefer naps on the couch, and my husband is a fantastic pastry chef. The result is that there’s the risk of major weight gain if he moves in. Otherwise, we fit all other criteria except the Jewish part. Oh yeah, I’m allergic to cats.

    Either way, I have no idea what a shul is, but I don’t think that’s what would disqualify us…

  12. Caton 23 Jun 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Oh man, Sharon…you are a little over a year too late. If we hadn’t invested so much in setting up our place over the past year, we’d totally have considered sharing yours!

    Or, at least, I would. My southerner husband would freak out at the possiblity of a ‘real’ winter. ;-)

    It sounds like a fantastic opportunity for a lucky family. Here’s to hoping that you find your match!


  13. homebrewlibrarianon 23 Jun 2009 at 7:44 pm


    I seem to recall a number of folks who were trying to figure out where to park themselves to best live the lives they wanted. I’m not sure if they were commenters here or on one of the Yahoo groups. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest posting your offer in the Yahoo groups you started.

    I’m a little better off than you in that I share a building with others including the owner and that we’re all working on making sure that the house will not disappear out from under us. It’s a form of community but we’re not all sharing the same floor space. We don’t have the land we’d like for true subsistence gardening even if I keep wedging more plants and beds on it but we do care for what’s there and keep an eye on each other. We’re using the braille method of developing community – feeling our way. It’s coming along, if slowly.

    Good luck! You have many more connections than through your blog so I am optimistic that you’ll be successful.

    Kerri in AK – indigenous and sending down roots

  14. Sara: in northern rural Alabamaon 23 Jun 2009 at 7:47 pm

    blessings on the journey, Sharon. i’ve lived in some kind of co-operative housing most of my adult life and i love it. i’ve been in the intentional community i live in now (Common Ground, Alabama) for 22 years and it just gets better. we are definitely family now. in fact our community is hosting a Communities Building Gathering over the weekend of the 4th, for folks to network with each other, and to build skills in intentional living.
    you might consider hosting a similar event in your area. it’s a great way to check our prospective folks.
    look up the Fellowship of Intentional Communities and see if they are doing any kind of event in your area, or maybe they could help you set one up.

    again, blessings on the journey. it’s a good ride!


  15. Tovahon 23 Jun 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I would be seriously interested if not for being stuck in the middle of a school program that won’t be over for another 2-3 years. I would STRONGLY consider that you e-mail this to the folks who run – They might crosspost this to their blog. It seems like their readers would be right up your alley, lots of farmers and wannabe farmers and eco-conscious people.

  16. Rayaon 24 Jun 2009 at 2:35 am

    How about 6 bedrooms? – actually that is the only big challenge with our little homestead is the fact that the house was designed by city folk with a small family and we are country folk with 5 beautiful children (4 oldest are all boys). Otherwise we have big play set, the bountiful garden and even are preparing for chickens :)

  17. Greenpaon 24 Jun 2009 at 7:08 am

    Well, you’ve done it before, so you know what you’re getting into.

    My first Spouse and I started a co-op house for grad students after living in our own apartment for one year.

    It has its good points, but the potential for crazy-making roomies is pretty high, too.

    One story for you, not as a cautionary tale, since I don’t think you need cautioning, but for entertainment.

    20 some years ago, we helped a neighbor find people to live as caretakers in his vacant farm house. We screened applicants. Wound up with a couple from the city who were SO SO eager to move back to the land. They couldn’t wait to get started on their huge garden, and restoring the log-cabin portion of the farmhouse. Chomping at the bit. Smart, strong, young.

    3 weeks later, they showed up on our doorstep, with the keys to the house, and tears behind their eyes. They were giving it all up.

    “We just didn’t realize! With all the gravel roads around here… you just CAN’T keep your car clean!!”

    I kid you not.

  18. Sharonon 24 Jun 2009 at 7:21 am

    LOL, Greenpa – that’s great.


  19. Heather Gon 24 Jun 2009 at 8:06 am

    Sharon, best wishes on the search! Greenpa, thanks for the story! OMG, we’re lucky if we remember to clean the car once a year (and not in a car wash either).

  20. Jenon 24 Jun 2009 at 8:44 am

    Well we just found our new house on 1 acre w/no restrictions and 8 minutes from our downtown mid-size metro. We have looked for over 6 months, but needed fast internet for dh’s job. I emailed you months ago, but never heard back so either we were “rejected”:) or lost in cyberspace.
    We are former mid westerners who can handle a bit o’winter,
    but my dh is now happy in the south. We would have been good candidates… I think;)
    36 SAHM (English lit/writing major) & 40 (ABD) online (English) instructor
    -we homeschool
    -3 kids: 5 3/4 & under AKA loud little beasties
    -home brewers
    -future bee-keepers
    -not so handy though…
    -very into community cooking!
    -love dirt, but pretty tidy indoors:)
    -used to canvas for a living, (remember the original proposed single-payer system?) so a big check for political.
    -I reduced out water/heat/consumption/gas, etc. to 30% this year, so yes to conservation.
    -I’ve dreamed about co-housing for years!
    Um let’s see, read your blog everyday and bought D & A last year as well so I seem to like what you have to say, mostly, and that always bodes well:) Good luck finding mates… I wish we could have dated!

  21. Sharonon 24 Jun 2009 at 9:16 am

    Hi Jen – I’m sorry if I didn’t respond – I don’t think I got your email. I did get several inquiries, but I thought I’d responded to all of them. Sounds like we would have been good – I’m sorry if I screwed up.


  22. Taraon 24 Jun 2009 at 9:39 am

    Cars are supposed to be clean??

    I’d lobby my husband really hard for this, but my concern is finding paying work. We both have day jobs (although I work from home) and would need some income coming in from somewhere. We both work for small companies and our jobs aren’t portable (at least not that far). We’re in Texas, and it has been in the triple digits all week, so an upstate NY winter sounds delightful right now! Other than that, we pretty much meet all criteria, except we’re not Jewish (we’re not religious in any manner, actually). We don’t have kids, do have dogs and could bring our own dairy goats and poultry. We’re about the same age as you two (37 and 40) and sounds like we manage a similar level of housekeeping. ;-)

  23. Ailsa Ekon 24 Jun 2009 at 5:07 pm

    We drive to shul now. I aspire to Orthodoxy, but we’re Conservative.

  24. Anonymouson 24 Jun 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Sharon, I wonder if you are having trouble finding takes here not because we know you too well (hem, hem) but because many of us came here PO, GCC, etc. aware, looking for information on how to get themselves, their lives and their places for Camp TWOTWASKI.

    I wouldn’t suggest tooking for housemate among the newly shocked by the news, however, for them might cling to you like a lifebelt, and be unable to make a clear judgement.

    It’s a shame there isn’t a job center for newly ousted farmers.


    (yeah, who also started the courtship dance with Sharon, and even had a hand at being a renta yenta)

  25. Sharonon 25 Jun 2009 at 9:05 am

    Ah, Ailsa ,that’s good to know. I think orthodox Jews would be miserable out here, unfortunately, since there’s no community but us ;-) .


  26. curiousalexaon 26 Jun 2009 at 9:41 am

    Ya know, I was really *really* tempted when you mentioned this earlier in the year. Except for the pitter-pounding of 8 little feet… [g]

    I lucked out – I just moved to Maine to join a friend who’s house I helped build. One child, two large dogs, an ever-increasing number of meat rabbits, and plans to get brush-clearing goats. Plus a community of like-minded friends who share fresh eggs, butchering, and trade off kids!

    It’s hard leaving behind everyone I know in the Midwest, but the opportunity to live life the way I feel it ought to be (mine anyway, if not everyone’s) seemed foolish to pass up.

    And if New York doesn’t have enough snow for anyone, there’s a 40 acre parcel available next door! (Edge of White Mountains, where snowfalls are sometimes measured by the foot. eep.)

  27. Besson 26 Jun 2009 at 2:32 pm

    You know we’d be there in a hearbeat if we could convince certain others…. sigh. Would have moved out there years ago, in fact, if I could have been that convincing. 10 more years….

  28. bluebarnfarmeron 27 Jun 2009 at 12:16 am

    I’m very interested. Let me give it a day’s thought at the farm I’m at in Montana…if I don’t write back, you’ll know the bears got me.

    Peas, Max

  29. Nature Devaon 29 Jun 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I know the perfect family for your situation and they are actually looking for something like this. They currently live in the Phoenicia, NY area so are accustomed to the winters! Extremely like minded and food preserve (she teaches classes on fermenting everything), garden, raise chickens, eat local deer, etc. They have 2 kids one who is 5 (girl) and home schooled, one who is 12 (boy) goes to a cool alternative school near Woodstock and the hubby does construction. My friend also does plant medicine and sews. And is a mellow, cool chick to boot!

    The only issue she may have is uprooting from their town which I’ve seen she may need to do (in a reading I did for her). They just moved for the summer to someplace local to them but hopefully she will see my email about your offer and contact you for a visit! I feel it would be a great fit from reading your blog for a while and knowing this woman since I was a kid. Really good integrity people, kind hearted & hard workers. My friend, Randi, is Jewish (father was a cantor) but not her hubby.

    Good luck w/your search and I hope my friend Randi contacts you soon!

  30. [...] so much to Sharon Astyk for this great cross-post from her blog Casaubon’s Book.  Sharon is a writer, teacher and subsistence farmer and [...]

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