The Studio Fund


I’m very serious about this project. I toyed with this idea at Stringtown Rising, but here, it’s all business. I have a perfectly-suited studio for a health department approved kitchen to open Sassafras Farm for a variety of farm-related events. On Monday, I had the health department inspector out here to go over my plans with me in the studio, together with my “guy” Dave who will be spearheading the project from the public water line to completion. It will be a total gut job to meet specs. The public water line work starts next Monday.

Re public water (in response to a question in the comments on a previous post), public water is not ABSOLUTELY necessary in order to achieve a health department approved kitchen, but it is extremely helpful. When I was looking into this at Stringtown Rising (where public water was not available), I learned quite a bit in conversations with the inspector. In order to have well water in an approved kitchen, the well has to be tested, and no well is perfect, so an extensive in-line UV water filtration system is almost always necessary (which can cost $1000 or more). Monthly testing of well water in approved kitchens is required, and they don’t provide the monthly testing, so first you have to go to “water school” and be certified to test your own well water on a monthly basis so you can submit monthly reports. Should I go on? Not that any of this was going to stop me at Stringtown Rising, but it was a big challenge, and would have been an ongoing expense and hassle. Since public water has already been brought to the property here, bringing the line over to the studio will solve a world of hurt and put a period to that issue. (Well water will remain at the house. The public water line will be brought to the studio only.)

For various reasons re the specs, the walls and floors of the studio must be torn out and replaced with approved materials. After that, I’m on easy street. For the studio, I have two fridges, two sinks (one triple-basin), and two gas stoves. If it weren’t for the fact that I already have the appliances in hand (and yes, for cooking workshops, I will be using them all, two fridges, two sinks, and two stoves), it would be a lot more expensive. Luckily, I do have the appliances, so it’s a matter of bringing in the public water line and replacing the surfaces (walls and floors) to meet specs and I’m there.

Why am I tearing into this project immediately?

This website is based on advertising income. My goal when I started this website was to find a way to give away my writing for free to readers–and get advertising to pay the bill. Good for readers, good for me. I can’t afford to devote full-time to this website, supporting the massive breadth of this website, including the forum and Farm Bell Recipes, without it. I can’t pay my bills with air.

I love nothing more than to write this website.

An income based on advertising is risky and changeable with the economy. The economy took a dive in 2008 and this website nearly had to close. Things improved gradually, and the past year was actually a good one for me, but 2012 has started dismally. The economy hasn’t improved as much as advertisers would like, and when the economic news takes a downturn, advertisers hide. They’re afraid people won’t spend money. They stop advertising, or they lower their rates. The ads currently appearing on my website are very low-paying ads. I will barely make enough money this month to pay my hosting bill.

I need to develop other income streams, or I will go bust. This is what motivated me to re-tackle my book project, and is what is motivating me to tackle the studio. I can hide in a corner with what little money I have at the moment, horde it for the rainy day I know is coming–until it runs out, or I can invest it in the future and make this studio fly.

I have never been one to hide in a corner. When I see a problem, I solve it like Jane from Mammy Jane–in other words, I work harder. I’m going to throw everything I have into developing new income streams that allow me to also continue to write this website.

If you want to contribute specifically to the studio fund to help me with this project, please do. You can find a donate button in the sidebar. THANK YOU.

P.S. I don’t normally ask for donations. I’m slightly disturbed by the dramatic income loss this month, which threatens my ability to continue to write this website as my full-time job. If you can’t or don’t want to donate, thank you just for being here.


  1. yvonnem says:

    I admire you so much. I wish I could send you a million bucks! :heart:

  2. BeppyCat says:

    I find it hilarious that right now all the advertising I’m seeing on your site are for my own homemaking themed t-shirts from Cafepress. I assume that’s because there’s something that monitors my web browsing and customizes the ads, and of course, I’ve been to my own designs before. I wish all your readers saw my t-shirts in the ads they see here, but I’d have way more sales, lol!

    Good luck with your studio, I’m sure it will be so excellent when you finish. I think diversifying income streams is a great idea and will really pay off. It’s what I try to do, and if I make any money with any of mine anytime soon, I’d be glad to donate to keep Chickens in the Road going!

  3. emeraldsunshine says:

    Good luck with the studio!

    Just as an FYI – I’d probably come more often if you had a more RSS-friendly website. I remember why you decided to close your RSS, but it actually has cut down how often I click through. A lot of times I just skip over your feed because there is nothing that draws me to comment and I’m also extremely busy with other things – my online time is precious.

    I’m not criticizing you; I’m just explaining why I don’t visit often anymore in case it will be helpful to you.

  4. perry says:

    One of the ads I have seen on your website is for kitchen carts. I purchased one from them a year ago and it is wonderful. Very sturdy and exactly what it says it is. I am looking forward to your book and hopefully things will improve soon for you.

  5. hollygee says:

    While our finances won’t allow me to make a donation of money, I’d be happy to send a painting to be auctioned off and maybe other artists and crafters would also like to donate something for an auction.

  6. JOJO says:

    I know from expenience, any renovation or building project, always be prepared to pay at least 30 percent than the estimates. Wish we could help, but we live on a pension as well.

  7. FarmGrammy says:

    Suzanne, do you have a dollar amount on the renovating? That would be good information to share. I know you will succeed and can’t wait to see the secrets in the book.

  8. easygoinglady says:

    Even though you havent seen a lot of postings from me, I have been following your website for quite a while. I did send a donation as a thank you for all i have learned from you, and hopefully i can send some more.
    I would like to suggest that you move the donate button up and make it more visible. When looking for it, i really had to look to find it.
    Also, another thing you can use and keep people updated on your progress of meeting your goal is a ChipIn event They dont have any fees and you can have multiple chipin events going.
    I think the idea of donations of things to raffle off or auction off would be a great idea. It is possible that there are skilled laborers out there that would be willing to donate time to help you and have your guy oversee the project.
    Many hands can help get the work done faster sometimes. Kind of like a barn raising, but instead its a get Suzanne’s studio up and running project.
    I just know there are many out there that are cheering for you to succeed and would be happy to help you. I know I for one, would hate to see this website shut down, and there are so many great things yet to come.

  9. Maureen Child says:


    I’m happy to donate what I can. I get so much from reading this website and living vicariously (which is as close as I want to get to a cow) through you!

    But a suggestion…there are a lot of us, (romance writers) who could donate signed books for you to raffle off…..just a thought!

    I’m glad to hear you finished the book….now I’m off to finish mine.

    Oh, and I LOVE Sassafras farm!

  10. Aedrielle says:

    I like hollygee’s idea – I have an Etsy shoppe and I could donate some items for an auction or whatever! That would be fun! :happyflower:

    Oh, and I donated just now! Thanks for all you do! :heart:

  11. Barbee says:

    Many years ago I was president of an organization which had a charitable arm for which we brainstormed ideas that would bring in an income. It turned out that different states have different laws regarding games such as raffles; ours required a gaming license which we didn’t have and didn’t get. Might should check on that before a raffle is started. A sale, or an auction, of donated items might work. Just throwing some thoughts out here.

  12. bimmy says:

    Question…I’ve gone from checking your blog from computer to looking at it on my android. Does that effect hits for advertising?

  13. beforethedawn says:

    The RSS thing, I’m glad you do not show full posts, you’d lose tons of ad views. I use Google Reader to read blogs, but it takes only seconds to click through to this website to read this blog.

    I hope you are able to accomplish all you want to do to bring in some income. Knowing you, you will! I would donate if I could, maybe sometime in the not so far away future, who knows. I at least do my small part in keeping adblock turned off here. Because you asked.

  14. bonita says:

    Suzanne: Any chance this Sassafras Educational Project (or whatever it’s name will be) could be designated as a not-for-profit? Or is that too much gov’t involvement?

  15. KarenAnne says:

    Suzanne, Have you thought of selling things on Etsy – soaps, jams, pickles, etc.? Their fees for listing and percentage of sales seem affordably low.

  16. KellyWalkerStudios says:

    I’m with Hollygee. I’ll be happy to donate a painting for auction. Wish I could send you all the money you need but I know what you mean about the economy – “It sucks!”…especially for artists trying to make a living. Just let me know if you want an auction items or two.

  17. TeaCup says:

    I think that Suzanne has her time & energy budget probably maxxed out right now. How about the folks that have things they could donate sell them, tell all of us, so we can bid on them, and then the seller donates the sale. Then, rather than finding yet something else for her to do, we can help her without also making more work for her?

    I’m getting ready to list books for sale both on Etsy & Bonanza. I have some farm related books to sell. I’ll donate 1/2 of my net to Chickens.

    Can we start a thread in the forum of “CITR” stuff currently for sale so that people have ONE place to go and look for links to what’s out there?

    Suzanne? What do you think? Everyone else? This would also avoid the possible legal problem I think.


    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      TeaCup, thank you–and thank you to everyone! Yes, I am a little (or a lot) concerned about taking on an auction for a couple of reasons. I have done this before (an online auction) to raise money for a cause (not mine) some years ago and it’s a pretty big project, and I’m also not at all certain of the legal issues.

  18. Lana says:

    Hi, Suzanne. I read your website faithfully – totally enjoy it, and am learning so much (miss it when you don’t post every 5 minutes!!). I lost my job a couple of years ago and have only been able to get part-time work, so my finances are very limited. , However, I want to do whatever I can to help, because I really do love your writing. Can you explain how the advertising works? Do you get “credit” from them every time I go to your website, or do I need to open the advertisers’ websites for them to recognize your visitors? Also, what is RSS, and what do I need to do about that (if anything)? I acknowledge that I am really computer illiterate, but I want to do whatever little bit I can to get you more advertising dollars. Thanks for this place to visit and enjoy!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Lana, if you don’t use rss, you don’t need to do anything about it.

      Advertising pays by the pageview, so when you click onto a page, that is a pageview. If you click to another page, that is another pageview. However, if you don’t have enough advertising to fill your pageviews (which currently I don’t) or the advertising is low-paying advertising (which happens when the economy dips) that doesn’t add up the way it might if the economy was better. But no, you don’t need to click on the ads.

  19. Leah's Mom says:

    Lana – Just FYI, there is a post in Farmbell Recipes regarding RSS feeds here:

  20. YelloJelloBelly says:

    KarenAnne beat me to it, I was going to suggest you sell some of the things you make. If you’re not ready to tackle creating an Etsy store, maybe Morgan would be interested in learning or expand your online store? You could sell the home-made soaps, etc.

    It looks like your art is sold through a SmugMug addin, does your hosting site provide a cart? Even if it’s a limited items cart you could sell different things each month and not try to list an entire inventory. You don’t have to develop the cart yourself, Google Checkout and Paypal both offer code to redirect to paying through their payment systems.

    Good luck, with all of it :).

    You could also label your soap, label your butter, etc, and sell it in the Chas farmer’s market.

    Oh, one other idea, could you include class credit as a thank you for each donation? For example, 10% of each donation will create a credit towards a future class. So if someone donates $100, you would send them a $10 coupon to use in a future class taught in the studio with the caveat that it may be a looonngg time before they can be redeemed.

    BTW Suzanne, no need to directly answer or respond to any of my posts, ever :), I take no offense. It’s a big site with a lot going on. 🙂

  21. quietstorm says:

    Suzanne, so if we click on more pages on your site, each page view generates more pay for you? Do the Forum pages count or just your daily published stories? Is the FarmBell site a separate acct with the advertising or is it also under CITR? I can certainly help by clicking thru more pages on a daily basis. If each of us clicked on 5-10 extra pages a day would that be enough to make a difference for you? Thinking back to the old Sam-E voting days…

  22. knititblack says:

    I can’t donate until my husband gets his paycheck (end of the week, I hope!), but when he does, I’ll be happy to contribute. I’ve been reading your blog for years and I get so much enjoyment out of it! I think it’s perfectly fair to pay some money for that. 🙂

  23. CindyP says:

    Quietstorm, that’s exactly how it works. And all the pages throughout the site (forum, FBR and CITR) are all under the same umbrella. What Suzanne was saying in the post is no matter how many page views there are right now, they aren’t making money…the advertising that are on the pages (when there is advertising, sometimes it’s a stock photo…if you see chickens and Chickens in the Road, those are stock photos) are paying very, very low to be on a site…good for the advertiser, bad for the blogger.

    Suzanne, I’m so proud of you that you finally have the property where your income can be diversified (don’t put all the eggs in one basket!)…now for the money to make it happen! It’s always something. But where there’s a will, there’s a way :hug:

  24. quietstorm says:

    Thanks For clarifying that Cindy. Is there any way we as readers can do anything to increase the amount of advertising at a better rate? What do they base it on? is it the readership/amount of members, pageviews, popularity/notority (SP?) Or is it kind of a catch 22? The bigger it is, the more it costs her, but the better they pay for the advertising? Sorry for all the questions, but I’m not familiar with how all of the this works to generate income….

  25. easygoinglady says:

    Suzanne, Just a thought. This is an important post that might not be seen if someone had not been on the website the day it was posted. I know i dont always go back thru for prior days posts if i happen to miss a day (which doesnt happen often). Maybe at least for a while, there could be a permanent featured link on the sidebar, like you have about the story of the little slanted house. Keeping it in the forefront for a while may increase donations to the cause. :happyflower:

  26. easygoinglady says:

    Suzanne, have you ever considered looking into grants that are available? Being a woman in Appalachia region, i assure you they are out there. I have some links to a few if you are interested in pursuing that. Let me know

  27. easygoinglady says:

    Here are some starting points to look for grant money. grants for women and minorities search for all kinds of grants micro loans to start business to run a ranch or farm loans and grants search ag grants for women Appalachian Regional Commision. All Appalachian, not just WV, lots of counties in neighboring states are included in this. How to write a grant proposal.

    Lots of stuff to look thru, I know. Maybe some of the folks out there that have some spare time on their hands, could help sift through it, and in the process they mind find some things they could use as well. And probably there are some grants that would apply to the farm portion as well as the studio.

    Anyone out there that has written a grant already? I am sure Suzanne would love to hear from you!

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