Country living, contract or do it yourself?

To me a major reason to live in the country is to take part in outdoor activities, so fencing, landscaping, pruning are all jobs I would rather do myself. On the other end are jobs that require many specialized tools, heavy equipment, significant knowledge or major ramifications if it is done incorrectly. For those I’d prefer to hire a contractor. Another consideration for contract or do it yourself is what you enjoy and what irritates you. And of course safety, I don’t want to do jobs where I have to be on the roof.

In our first 6 years we have:

Done ourselves Hired a contractor
 pellet stove repair central furnace repair
 exterior painting first story
painting above first story
 spraying weeds haying (for DWs horse)
landscaping/pruning/mowing  driveway gravel
minor plumbing major plumbing
 tractor repair/maintenance
 concrete for pole barn
barn/outbuilding repair
 septic maintenance
  fencing
gutter cleaning  
Haying, concrete, gravel and toilets

Haying is one I thought we could get the equipment for and do ourselves as we already have a tractor and a pasture. But it made no financial sense. The equipment is expensive to buy and maintain. One year we had a guy cut our field but it dragged on with the tractor left in our field for a week. So now we just buy hay with delivery included, and they even stack it in our barn. For one horse we paid $6.50 a bail delivered or $340 total plus a tip. Well worth it. We had concrete poured in our pole barn when we moved in. Very happy about that decision, no way I am getting into that big a job. Same with 3 trucks of gravel spread in our driveway. I am comfortable installing a toilet, but I recommend a flexible waxless seal rather than wax if you do it yourself. For a pro they can get the toilet set the first time perfectly so wax is fine. For me it takes a couple of tries and a wax ring might get damaged. The pellet stove manufacturer has videos for maintenance on their website.

Country living, contract or do it yourself. concrete pour
Professionally poured concrete floor in the pole barn
Zen and the art of homestead maintenance

It’s a good idea to start jobs when you are fresh in the morning. Make sure you have good lighting and you have your tools set out. Have a nice work surface, maybe a piece of cardboard layed down with rags handy. Maybe a rubber matt for kneeling is in order. Have a container for screws ready. I like to have my cellphone handy so I can look at youtube videos or other howto info. I typically research (google) how to fix things before I start and print instructions. If you are taking something apart have your cellphone camera ready to photo as you go. Label with tape if necessary. Penetrating oil is your friend, sometimes it’s best to add some to a corroded bolt and come back an hour later. In many cases if you try something new and it doesn’t go well it’s not a problem. If I fail at the pellet stove I’ll just call someone. But over time as you learn more, you build skills and confidence. DW now does most of the fencing herself, but had no experience when we bought the farm.

Summary

What would I do differently? Well I would not have even entertained the idea of doing my own haying or shopping for hay equipment if I knew what I know now. Otherwise I think we have made good decisions. A nice thing about country living is for outside jobs you don’t have 5 neighbors watching you do a job for the first time and blow it. Relax, enjoy the fresh air and get after it.

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