Setting yourself up for post FI/RE success – Setting Goals

If you are a consumer of Financial Independence content on a regular basis then you can’t ignore that there has been a MASSIVE uptick in the people who have really struggled 2-5 years into their retirement. 

It makes sense though, depending on how you measure the growth of this movement, there is no denying that it has grown to a scale no one imagined. It’s also been around long enough that there is a sizable population that has been early retired for some large chunks of their lives. Nearly all of the earliest FI bloggers have been retired for years and many of them decades. Some of them are starting to admit online that they got slapped in the face that “money doesn’t buy happiness” still applies if you live frugally. People need a purpose.

I follow plenty of the bloggers who have been varying levels of happy and content with their choices, but the takeaway that I heard “was that burning your life energy away to reach that FIRE finish line at all costs is a miserable decision and might even be worse than the “normal” folk who work until 63”. I also took away that nearly everyone who seemed happiest among the FIRE Giants out there is that they all had some form of meaningful pastime that they pursued very purposefully. 

The fear of the post FI regret was all too real for me and in searching for guidance on that issue I found the Die With Zero book I wrote about. Elements of that book are exactly what I needed to guide my decisions with less than 5 years to go until our FIRE date. 

Invest in hobbies and interests I’ve always been interested in. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what would produce the most happiness in our family compared to actual dollar costs. Here is the current list to achieve:

  1. Spend as many clear nights as possible looking at the stars, when covid ends, reach out to astronomy groups, clubs and observatory in walking distance, consider volunteering there. I’ve spent too many years wanting to study astronomy and it’s so silly I never have. That stops; it’s time to live more intentionally.
  2. Invest in my health to ensure I never am the slow leg when taking our family on adventures.
  3. Show our children as much of the US as possible, every national park at the very least, and hopefully for months or years at a time. Anything is on the table to achieve this. 
  4. Increase our knowledge of homesteading, including doubling our growing capacity in the next two seasons.
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Some of these are personal and others are shared goals of our entire family. I expect that when we reach FI/RE and are truly comfortable while being able to achieve these goals that we will be giving our children a better childhood than anyone I’ve ever met experienced. 

In the end, all of these goals point back to the only goal that really matters. To make sure we give our children the best life we possibly can.

Building Raised Garden Beds – Efficiently

It’s no secret that our family dreams of a homestead where we grow our own food, raise our own animals and live a life more connected to our planet. These goals are very real for us and we plan to pull the trigger at full FI/RE in the next 3-5 years. In the meantime while we cannot have that full dream today we can take steps to learn in the kiddy pool before jumping in the ocean.


One of the big projects I wanted to do was figure out an affordable way to build raised garden beds. I’ve seen tons of people spend a lot of time on craigslist and get free materials. That is absolutely wonderful that you can do that. I, however, do not have the time and energy to track all that down. I also live about an hour away from most of civilization so it’s gonna be a big journey and then dealing with the craigslist curse that 50% of the time the deal dies or is gone when you get there when it involves free. Free is best, but my time has value and I wanted the project to be efficient and affordable. 

Instead of sourcing the materials on craigslist or facebook market I went to our local lumber yard. I made sure to not go to a chain, but the one that is locally owned and asked if they had any 1 bys that were warped or damaged that the contractors didn’t want. Sure enough I got a sizable discount on some slightly warped or damaged wood.

The next step in the process is to get some food safe stain since this lumber is not treated there needs to be some layer of protection from the elements and the soil it’s going to hold back. I know the research says that all wood stain is food safe when it’s fully cured but it’s only about $2 more for my entire project to get the food safe stain. Even if it’s an unnecessary precaution it’s just so cheap that you might as well. 


The other benefit of buying from a lumber yard is that they cut everything exactly to my drawings. I wanted my beds to be 3’x6’, two boards tall with cedar fence posts at 18” at 6 points. I was able to have a professional with a bad ass saw make all my cuts for this project in all of three minutes. Here is the picture of the finished product. I added shelves from some scraps to mount the greenhouse (we are already close to our first frost). 

Total cost of the project, including the 3.5″ deck screws that will last me a year
$109

Not bad considering that built three 3’x6’ garden beds and I have deck screws to last many other projects. On Homedepot.com you can purchase a 3’x6’ raised garden bed kit for $93.46 plus shipping and tax. That one appears to have no additional reinforcements whereas mine has the cedar fence posts which was a large % of the total budget. 

Do it yourself to save a bunch of money, have some pride and satisfaction that you designed  and built something for yourself then go use your savings to buy you and your sweetie an ice cream cone.

Here are the instructions if you wanted to copy what I did.

To make 1 bed
6 – posts – Cedar fence posts cut to 18″ each
4 – plywood, pine, cedar, whatever, just thin and 3′ long
4 -plywood, pine, cedar, whatever, just thin and 6′ long

Position the cedar posts flush with the 3′ boards and begin drilling decking screws from the outside into the cedar posts. 6 screws in a rectangle on each board will be more than sturdy.

In the middle of the 6′ boards screw the cedar posts to both the sidewall boards. Continue fastening the cedar posts to all sides and you’re ready to fill with soil!

We have a long way to go until we are growing 80% of our food, but these first steps of sustainability will provide for us on a small scale until we are ready to fully commit and will also teach us valuable skills and lessons that are much less costly on a small scale then when you are planting on a 50x scale.

Growing Our Own Food – Update September 2020

Learning to grow food – update September 2020

2020 is our year of learning the basic skills we need to homestead and inch closer to food independence as we can in the future. You can learn more about our long term homesteading goals here. Disclaimer: We are learning and know basically nothing. If you are reading this to learn how to grow food or homestead you are in the wrong place. There are countless amazing people on youtube and bloggers to follow if you are trying to learn. Some of our favorites are Roots and Refuge Farms MLGardner    Whispering Willow Farms

These people know their shit; we don’t.

What we started with

  • We started this project late, late June and July is when we really started getting serious about learning to grow our own food. We had been interested for years, but always put it off for whatever reason was convenient at the time (usually our environment which is pretty harsh for plants – 8,000’ elevation and 6-7 months of winter) 
  • 3 raised bed – 3’x6’
  • Fence planting space
  • 1 – build it yourself greenhouse (nothing planted currently)
  • A few misc beds and planting spaces we picked up from craigslist/FB marketplace
  • 1 indoor grow room with a seed starting LED light, HED grow light, Ebb & Flow hydroponic setup and a full set of nutrients to grow fruit/veg producing plants
  • No knowledge of how to grow plants for food

So far our small scale production has been pretty fruitful for a first year that started late. Our tomato plants haven’t been mega producers but every plant has produced edible and delicious fruit. The same with our strawberries which actually have 3 ripe fruits! We planted 6 berry bushes along our fence line hoping they will just take over in future years. This was just one of the plants we put in hoping it would yield in later years. The same goes for the rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries we planted.

 As we started to watch Youtube videos on homesteaders 100% of my favorite vloggers have said they wished they would have planted more perennials (I learned this means comes back each year on its own!) early on. They all also pointed out that the plants that take 3 years or so to mature and produce fruit are especially rewarding in the long term. Given that our plan has always been how to make this project scalable to multiple acres rather than our backyard we felt it was important to plant those now even if we don’t see the fruit the knowledge of how to keep them alive and healthy is reward enough.

Here are the highlights we have learned so far:

  • Tomato plants do not respond well to watering the leaves, you gotta water the base. Any step you take to keep water/rain off the leaves will yield a healthier plant.
  • Dead and dying leaves can go, pruning keeps the plant healthy. A tomato plant that looks healthy bushy is likely not. Airflow is important.
  • On any vining plant you want to keep leaves off the soil (especially tomatoes) if you can. We got a fungus from this. Google saved the day here.
  • Berry bushes are awesome. They are easy, resilient and thrive. I’ve heard people complain about berry bushes before since they can be hard to get rid of. I can’t imagine wanting to get rid of a beautiful plant that produces amazing tasting fruit. The people who bitch about an invasive raspberry plant are the same people paying $6 a pint at Whole Foods. Next year I’m seriously considering planting our entire fence line with berry bushes.
  • Tomatoes should be picked before a watering. If it’s going to rain today then spend the late morning picking any ripe tomatoes. The water goes straight to the fruit. Did you ever wonder why tomatoes at the store are huge and flavorless? Excess water is a main culprit.
  • Salad greens are the easiest shit in the world to grow. Seriously, go buy a kiddie pool and plant salad greens from seeds. It is truly amazing how fast they grow and how little effort is needed. From everything I’ve seen if we ever get to the point of participating in farmers markets then greens HAS to be where the money is.






  • Hydroponics is a lot of science. If you are into that sort of thing then it’s a lot of fun. If you are bored by a discussion about the parts per million of nutrient solutions, the best performing PH water, and fixing a browning of leaves with adding calcium to your nutrient mix then it’s not for you. Lucky for the family Firedad is a major science nerd finds this to be awesome.
  • It’s going to be years before we know if the hydroponics system pays off. I did a non-firedad thing when buying this setup. I didn’t go cheap since I tried hydroponic tomatoes about 10 years ago and failed miserably. This time I went to an indoor grow shop and bought what they told me to. Total cost was about $700, but could have been $70 with a DIY approach. My first DIY approach failed; I learned my lesson and went to the pros.
  • Modern technology makes hydroponics a shit ton easier. A few basic products have made maintaining the exact environment a breeze. Here is what I’ve bought, tested and my opinion:
    • Smart Plugs & Devices – $9.25 a piece – This is not the first or last time I recommend a Smart Home setup. These things have 100s of uses to improve your quality of life. When it comes to hydroponics I have the following things running on Smart Plugs
      • Exhaust fan – can turn on and off based on temperature readings
      • Intake fan – same reason
      • Wifi Temperature & Humidity – this thing reports to an app every 15 minutes with exact readouts of the room. I even have it set to send me an alert of the temp goes over 80 or under 55. 
      • Humidifier – It automatically keeps the room at the desired humidity based on the Wifi temp and humidity reader. (If humidity drops below 35% then the smart system turns this plug to “ON”.)
      • Grow lights – set a simple timer – currently they run for 18 hours a day. The plug controls that automatically.
      • Nutrient pump – I can schedule it to run whenever I want for any length of time that I want or I can simply control it remotely.
    • The most fun I am having is figuring out how to automate as much of the hydroponic process as possible. This has been a really rewarding thing to work out and I am still very much a beginner. 
  • It’s very enjoyable to be a true beginner at something. It’s been a long time since FireDad & Mom have tried something so incredibly new to us and it’s extremely rewarding. The initial progress when you are brand new to something, fix a mistake, apply a new technique has such high returns when you are brand new.
  • Food you grow yourself tastes a million times better than bought food. Every, single, time.

That’s the update on learning to grow our own food. It’s been a pretty fun experience and just makes us want to go full scale as quick as we can. We still have at least a couple years of this place until we can make the full jump to being full time homesteaders, but these years should arm us with all the skills necessary to make sure that life change is successful and fun.