The Beginning

I thought I knew what I was doing when I bought my land, but I didn’t. I bought it because I fell in love with the veiw from the building site. I could see most of the 40 acres from standing on top of the hill and it’s perfict view of the big  pond with lots of geese and this is were I came up with the name “Milligan’s Gander Hill Farm”. The eastside of my land butts up against 5 thousand acres of Stephens State Forest and I couldn’t see  another house in any direction I looked. It had the views and solitude I was looking for.

View of pond from building site

I also bought the land as a investment in 2009 during the economic recession. Farm ground and gold was about the only thing that wasn’t losing its value. It also had some income of 2000.00 a year from CRP.  The government pays this money for the land owner to plant lots of trees along a watershed like the creek (Brush Creek) that runs along the north boundry line of my property. It help stops eroision. This propety had 1200 little seedlings planted all along both sides and all the property owner had to do was mow around the trees a few times a year so the weeds don’t block the sun light of the trees. I was told you only have to mow the first three years and then the trees would be tall enough and they wouldn’t need mowing after that. It had already had been three years since the trees had been planted, so with me still living in Chicago I wouldn’t have to worry about mowing around the trees.

Brush Creek

With the CRP payment 2000.00 a year, (which was much more then the banks were paying interest on my money) and with farm ground value  always going to keep rising, I thought it was a no lose deal. It didn’t turn out to be as good a deal as I hoped.

Lesson # 1,  Walk all of the property before you buy it.

The first thing I did after closing on my property, Sept. 2009 was go down to the bottom ground to check out the land. It had not been mowed and the weeds and brush were as high as my chest. The previous owner had  obviously  not mowed and taken care of the trees. I looked around but I couldn’t tell where the young trees were planted. some of the weeds looked like they might be trees, but I was not sure. So I called the county forester who’s job it was to look after such projects for the FSA (Farm Service Agency) and see if he could help find the trees.

He agreed to meet me there the following spring when the little trees were to begin leafing out and the weeds wouldn’t be that tall yet, to make it easyer to spot them. We walked around and we didn’t find one tree that was planted in 2006. I was bummed, this meant for me to keep collecting the 2000.00 a year, I would have to replant. Hiring a contractor to plant your trees and buying new seedlings from the state nursery was going to cost about 2 thousand dollars. This was money I was not planning to spend.

I was so mad, the seller should have disclosed this. I called the realitor who listed the property and told them of the situation, they gave me the sellers number and I called him and I told him if he would pay half the cost of the replanting I wouldn’t take him to court. He agreed and sent me a check for 1,000.

Next Post planting the trees.

About Gordon Milligan

I am a retired conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I now live in and have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I have built from the ground up. My wife and I are trying to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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19 Responses to The Beginning

  1. purlygirl2 says:

    Very heartfelt story

  2. Sandy says:

    Gordon, this is exciting! (Not the seller’s deception but your endeavor and your blog.) I eagerly await the planting the trees post.

  3. David Glover says:

    Milligan–this is great looking space but where is my steer going to be graziing?? I am looking forward to the next stages of planting and building.

  4. Jewels says:

    Aside from the issue with the tree seedlings, this is so exciting! The possibilities are endless! Having land = a dream. I recently moved into a small apartment after living on 6 acres, and I miss it so much! My current garden is planted in my mom’s yard and is only 4×8 feet, but it’s something to get my gardening fix. 😉 I wish you the very best luck with this land project ~ and with your new blog as you journal about the journey! And thanks again for stopping by my ramblings. 🙂

  5. John Liming says:

    First of all tthanks for reading my blog, “American Liberal Times.” I am honored and pleased and grateful to you.

    When you get your organic farm going good, remember there is a huge market for natural foods out there and you might want to consider branding something unique and selling it on the internet or something – – – I can almost see “Gordon Milligan’s All Natural Blackberry Jam” with berries picked right there on your own land.

    I have some friends who did that – – -They started a farm and started selling fruits and vegetables from a roadside stand a few years back and now they have this huge sprawling complex complete with a restaurant, gift shop and everything.

    You probably already know the story of Bob Evans Farms, right?

    Anyway, I really appreciate you coming to read the blog and I wish you every success and happiness with your job, your retirement and your farm.

    Respectfully yours,

    John Liming

    • John, I want to thank you for your kind and generous comment. I am the one who is honored and pleased that you have read my blog. I wish I was half the writter you are. Your blog is one of the few we have on the political left, that helps stem the tide of the corporate misinformation. They pay many right wing bloggers to keep spreading their lies and propaganda. It is a up hill battle as you well know, like Moe says on her blog, “it is much easyer to fool people then to convince them that they have been fooled”. I wish we had more like you. Keep up the good work.

      Best Regards,

  6. Kathy & Dennis McDonough says:

    We met you on the train downtown the other day. You noticed my husband, Dennis, was a UTU member – retired, as it turns out. We are glad to have met a future farmer – someone we can buy pasture-raised pork and beef from. Only 3 more years!

    • Hi Kathy and Dennis, glad you checked out my blog. I will be more then happy to be your pasture raised pork and beef provider, and what will be cool about this blog is… you will see how they are raised. It was a real pleaser to meet you two.

  7. Mark says:

    Its looking great. We just completed our shell pole building home. The hard work is worth it. I agree planning is the future to come.
    Mark & Bev

  8. calvert / glenda pitchford says:

    great story gordon, i see you took the time and planed your every step. i think making a plan and sticking to it is most of the work . having someone by your side that cares about you to help make it come true is a bonus. as you know i plan to retire and build our home and the state of mississippi no framing for me for i’ll be RETIRED just 3 acres with fishing pond and flower and veg. garden IT’S GREAT TO SEE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE

    • Hey Cal, glad to see you on here. Yes this dream of mine wouldn’t even be a dream with out my wife to share it with. I wish you luck when you retire to Mississippi, you can do a lot with 3 acres, you know… gardners are small scale farmers. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. swede hamilton says:

    thanks for the good words for shirley and me we also enjoyed nicki and you

  10. farmer_liz says:

    Hi Gordon, thanks for your comment on my blog. Choosing land is so difficult and you never truly see everything until you’ve had a good walk around and even then you need to experience all seasons to see how the sun angle changes and where the water flows! We were caught out with out with our 8 acre property, thinking that it had a nice big dam that we could use for all the animals and the garden, and then when we had the water tested it was too salty to use for anything but the cattle, this is a common problem in this area that we had no idea of at the time of buying. Even on our new place we are finding small problems that we didn’t notice at first
    (the dams are as good as rainwater though! we knew to check that one this time), but its nothing that can’t be fixed, and like you, we fell in love with the place, so now we just have to make it work! I look forward to reading more about you and your farm. Cheers, Liz

    • Thanks Liz for stopping by, you are right you don’t see everything when you first walk on to the property when you are looking to buy. We sure didn’t. Good luck with your new farm, you will see me there from time to time.

  11. Hope says:

    Thank you for introducing me to your blog Gordon! My father recently started farming out in Mexico . I was curious to see how one starts farming! This is going to be a great read for me!

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