Our newly remodeled home wood shop. It is already in use but still being modified.

So the question that I have been pondering for the last year and pondering even more intensely the past few months is…”Can a family earn a sustainable income on one acre?”  My musings have taken my thoughts along another path as well.  In our research (because our youngest daughter has also been investigating this thought), we have discovered that it is more difficult to find jobs working for other people at our own house than it is to start our own home based business.

Things have been moving so fast around here since Gramma’s surgery.  She has Physical Therapists that come to her house.  That is so wonderful for all of us.  Other sets of eyes to check on her and to be sure her mobility is getting better and that she is staying hydrated and is safe.  We help her out with a couple of meals a day and keep her dishes and vacuuming done.  She convinced herself that once she had a “new” hip, all the pain would be gone.  There was no talking to her about recovery time, incision pain, pain from muscles that she hasn’t used in several months or anything like that.  Now, she is so discouraged that she still has trouble moving.  Her stubbornness is what allows her to live as independently as she does but it is also what makes caring for her so difficult.

In these last several weeks we have also moved Cameron home from his apartment in North Dakota.  It is wonderful to have him home again.  The extra house furnishings were a little frustrating to work through but I think we now have a home for everything.  We also partitioned off part of the garage and built him a wood shop and put more shelves in the other part of the garage to make room for my pantry items and dishes that were stored downstairs until the flood last spring.  It really has been a year of life changes in our household.  All of these things are exciting and scary all at the same time.

Is it possible to earn a living from home?

The area where we live has always had very few job opportunities just because of the low population.  As we were driving in the early morning before sunrise, I was thinking about the very few lights on the horizon.  I was wondering how many other places in the continental U.S. has a horizon like that.  When Cameron brought me here the first time, I knew this is where I wanted to live.  “But there aren’t any jobs here!” he exclaimed.  “We will make them”, was my response.  So after the Navy and college, this is where we settled and at “finding those jobs” he has done so well.  Many of them involved Cameron traveling for work.

The idea of living and working on the same property is not new.  It is, in fact, probably as old as the idea of putting a shelter on some land.  In our wanderings, we have met people who have lived where they work.

Some Examples of Home-Based Businesses

The first of course are the farmer and the rancher.  How about the baker whose family lives over his shop?  That was a pretty great idea because as heat rises the heat from his ovens kept his babies warm all the time.  There are families that have “truck gardens” and earn much of their income selling produce or plants.  The mechanic that used to take care of my mom’s car had his shop behind his house.  Many people have taken on sewing, mending or ironing projects for customers.  I bet if we thought about it, we could write an entire book about folks around the world who live and work in the same place.

Now the world is so different.  There are so many occupations that didn’t exist even 30 years ago and many that have fleshed out to totally different careers than they were.  Many careers depend only on internet access so earning a sustainable living without traveling to work or living on a lot of land is possible in just one room.

Pros and Cons of a home based business

  • There are different expenses that go along with owning a small business than if you work for someone else such as business licensing, perhaps zoning, equipment expenses, and so on.
  • A person must have developed characteristics that will help them to succeed.  You must be able to work independently, have a good  work ethic or an inner drive.  It stands to reason that the only way to make money, or even manage it if you happen to find yourself independently wealthy, is to spend time on the endeavor.  If you can’t do that without someone pushing you along then this idea might not be for you (I had to seriously consider this for a while-can I do it?  Yes, I can).  You must learn the balancing act of self-confident enough to do your best work and humble enough to listen.
  • Are you up to wearing all the hats this endeavor will take?  Can you be the accountant, the repair tech, the maid, the cook, maybe the IT guy, the advertising representative?  If not, do you have a support system in place?
  • Quite often, it doesn’t cost as much to start a home business, simply because another property does not need to be purchased.
  • If you love your home, then working from there would be heaven.  If you don’t then it will be prison.
  • A fear that keeps creeping into our musings is, what if no one wants the products and services we have to offer?  We have done trial runs and customer surveys to help us decide the businesses we want to start.
  • One of the pros is that you have the opportunity to do something you are passionate about all the time.  It is fun to go to work.
  • How about flexibility?  The work hours can change daily if needed.  In the blog “Coping With 5 Common Caregiver Frustrations“, we listed flexibility and income as two of those five.  If by working from home, work can happen around baby schedules, doctor appointments, and small and large emergencies on a daily basis then so much stress can be alleviated.  Whoa!  Let’s do that!

So now here we are.  We have about 1 acre outside town.  We have a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, one level, ranch style home where we live, a garage with an attached apartment consisting of a bedroom, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, and utility room where Gramma lives, 2 small sheds, chicken house, gardens, a few fruit trees, and an internet connection.  What can we do to earn a sustainable income?

Where do we begin?

  • We started with a list of our talents, hobbies, and passions. What do we know we can do well and would be happy doing day in and day out?
  • We have carved out areas of our real estate where these activities can happen and yet we can leave our work as we need to and come back to find it the way we left it.
  • Next came listing our expenses so we know what we need for a sustainable income. How much do we have to make in the beginning?
  • We have figured out our assets and how much we can put into starting up our business.
  • A step-by-step plan is helpful so that we aren’t trying to do everything all at once. That isn’t doable or even sane.
  • We are taking classes to help us bridge between a hobby and a business.
  • We are finding other professionals to help us with the “hats” we either choose not to wear or do not have the knowledge to wear.

For us, our pros have outweighed our cons. We are willing to put in the work necessary. We LOVE the opportunity to work together every day and the fact that we do not have to give up the opportunity to care for our family while we earn an income. As we move forward in this adventure, we will share our progress.


Rhonda Brown lives in rural eastern Montana, surrounded by her family, chickens, gardens and dog. When she isn't writing or weeding, she loves spending time with her family, baking, and all things CHOCOLATE.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: