My Virtual Farming Life

The #SecondLife #DigitalFarmingSystems game, or lifestyle, starts out with a simple “kit.” You start with a cow, a bull, 2 dirt fields, hay seed, tomato seed, and a water well.

The next thing you know, you’ve bought dozens of kinds of seeds, pigs, chickens, ducks, llamas, goats, gators, ostriches, 10 kinds of fruit trees, multiple kitchen tools and implements for processing what you produce, and hold at least 2 or 3 or MORE dozen fields of various kinds.

The DFS people work hard to bring out new products and new recipes, and they also produce “specialty” items each month that you pay extra for, in a kind of subscription box. The items can be re-sold, or used, and they come up with fun or kitschy seasonal items that can become collectibles.

There’s a lot of perceived social pressure to sell your stuff in markets, typically collections of stalls selling the same stuff for about the same price. Some landowners provide “community kitchens” with multiple sets of stoves, spinning wheels, carpentry desks, and other tools, so people can bring their produce and harvests to work on making batches of recipe items or final products.

Marketing your stuff to a community of people all trying to market THEIR stuff is pretty stressful, to me. You belong to multiple DFS-focused groups and several times a day, you make announcements, trying to sell your stuff. Other DFS owners run auction events, where people rent a spot to put their stuff out, sometimes grouped by theme or rarity, and other DFS players compete to buy the lots that catch their eye.

Every now and then, someone who’s reached a point where they’re tired of tending animals, watering fields, and pruning virtual plants announces that they’re shutting everything down and selling everything off. This can cause a kind of buying frenzy – people show up at a sky platform somewhere and descend like locusts. I’ve experienced this myself – but now I know what the prices SHOULD be and the “fire sale madness” doesn’t get me.

There are ways to check the “going rate” of things because one of the scripters that makes accessories for DFS – sales boxes and inventory systems – publishes the part names, prices, and locations where his subscribers are selling animals, tools, produce, and rare products. It’s very useful, but my own selling/inventory tool doesn’t provide this information as far as I can tell, so I’m at somewhat of a disadvantage in marketing my stuff.

I had taken 2 years off from Second Life, came back in to clear up my payment on file, and took right back up with the DFS stuff I had, because it was all still there, waiting to be watered and tended. All my “livestock” were safely hibernating in my Second Life inventory.

First I took out my “tiny coops” – basically immortal chickens that produce egg baskets but no meat. They can’t die but they do require feeding and care.

I had a huge backlog of ingredients and produce from before, and started “cooking it down” to the most concentrated forms, as there’s energy in the food and some products that you need to restore your “energy meter.” There’s a whole secondary market of “lunch boxes” that you fill up with food energy and with a set number of uses and maximum energy given. So my goal became to fill up my somewhat collectible 2 year old lunch boxes, and sell them at auction.

I’ve figured out which “core products” result in the highest amount of “EP” for the least amount of intermediary steps. I have lots of virtual beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and so on, and I’ve, yes, bought in to a Patreon support level where I don’t have to use my own energy to care for plants and animals – I just click a helper object. And I don’t have to run a big herd of bulls or sheep to produce fertilizer, I get more than enough compost for that. I also don’t have to run “windmills” or fill up water towers by pulling barrels of water from my well; I get plenty of barrels for my Patreon subscription.

Still, about a month in to my return to Second Life and virtual farming, I realized it was taking up all of my inworld time again – marketing to groups, updating my vendors, updating my vendor textures, etc. and I still wasn’t creating anything new of my own. So I joined a Blender study group and have been taking lessons and attending workshops, getting ready to update old products I created.

I “picked up” some of my fields and concentrated on the simple, core products that I liked growing and cooking with. I’m going to pick up more of my trees and plants that produce stuff that I don’t care to cook with, and I’m going to start selling them off. I stopped making marketing announcements in the groups. And yet I continue to pick up “bargains” so that I have multiple tools, because it’s more efficient to make animal food with 4 feed mills than with just one… because the kind of “cooking” that I like to do is simple and relaxing.

I’d never been able to sell any of the dozens and dozens of bags of “cleaned barley” that I grew 2 years ago; there was only 1 product that used barley then, Irish Whisky, which required a still. Now, there’s “Scotch” and a couple of other easy products that use barley, and for some reason, Scotch is made in the Fermenter tool. And I currently have 8 of those, because I used to rely on making yogurt, a fairly high EP food item that’s a precursor to “fruit smoothies,” a really high EP, popular food item. I’ll still make yogurt, but that requires milk and I was starting to run low… so I brought out 2 milk cows and a bull and I’m back to tending animals that can die if neglected, but at least give meat when they reach the end of their lifespan.

I used to sell batch boxes of smoothies to regular customers, but no more, because DFS changed the recipes and they now require a special freezer item that costs money, can’t be crafted, and only gives 10 uses. FORGET THAT. I have enough supplies to make a few smoothies, and then I’m retiring the product and dumping them all in a batch sale, or into a lunch box for auction.

As far as tending animals goes, I wanted more eggs (they’re required by some of the core food products I’m focusing on) so I bought more “coops.” And I have cows again, as I mentioned. Meanwhile, I finally found a use for all the wool that I had gathered and not sold from when I used to run sheep (yes, it’s a kind of insanity, virtual farming).

Second Life community kitchen for Digital Farming Systems

Digital Farming Systems community kitchen with looms, spinning wheels, sewing machines.

In the gap years I was gone, DFS introduced “sewing machines” (another tool to buy) in addition to the looms they already had, and they brought out a kind of rug you can make (that has many, many annoying intermediate steps that require 6 kinds of flowers and herbs). The rug gives EP if you stay within 10 meters of it, but I found that you couldn’t load the EP into a lunch box. So I went to a community kitchen (I have a stall there for the moment but not seeing a lot of sales), that has multiple spinning wheels, dye vats, looms and sewing machines, and in about 90 minutes “cooked down” ALL of my remaining wool into a couple dozen of these EP-giving rugs, which I now use after tending the “coops” to re-coup (heh) my depleted energy.

So all of this activity translates into maybe 20 or 30 minutes, twice a day doing “tending” and watering and feeding tasks, more if I decide to make a batch of something. It’s pretty efficiently laid out, but I’ve got more paring down to do in the next few months.

The alternative is to lay everything out on a platform and announce a fire sale and watch the locusts descend, but this slow drawing down to the essentials that I like, and retiring the products and crops I don’t like, seems to be more graceful to me. I’ve shopped so many different places that range from desperate looking, disorganized collections of boxes and fields, to showplaces with big houses and dozens of working stills and fermenters, with livestock stacked up in “feeding station” circles. That kind of “factory farm” is not for me.

I like the sound of the egg-laying chickens. I like how the cows moo. If I decide I need wool again, I’ll run a few sheep for wool, fertilizer and meat, and I like the sounds they make, too. I have some stuff to work on for updating my actual created products in the next week and I’ve been socializing more, which has been pleasant.

I’ll retire some older products (both my own and the DFS ones) and pull back from the stall rentals I currently have. I may keep the one rental just to have community kitchen privileges, so that I don’t have to buy any more tools just to make a batch of something. And I’ve got some “rares” to put together in a themed collection to put up for auction too. I’m aiming for reducing my footprint through Easter – currently I have 17 fields in crops, but as they are harvested I’ll pick some up. I think I’m shooting for 5-10 fields in production by June. That’s enough for feed crops, essential produce (sugarcane and wheat) and maybe occasional stuff for easy high EP food (potatoes, onions).

At some point I may be able to drop or reduce the Patreon subscription if I get a big backlog of water, energy “clickies,” and fertilizer.

DFS exists to provide a revenue stream for the creator and his staff, and that’s fine. Where I have a problem is with some of the changes that have been made over time to old recipes that now require new and harder to obtain ingredients, and with the constant pressure to buy more and more of the specialty, seasonal, and “rare” collectible items for the secondary sales market.

I’m not sure that a “smallholder” (casual, low volume farmer) like me can come out ahead financially with DFS, and the people that drop serious amounts of real cash for the upper Patreon levels, (like early access to new products) and the monthly subscription boxes can’t be making much money. I look at what they have for sale in their yards and stalls and think “why do you have 3 dozen ovens for sale at a drastically reduced price?” I have to wonder how much they’re paying for land tier for their big farms on top of the subscriptions for DFS. It’s some serious coin.

For me, I’m content to not worry about marketing, or constantly announcing “SALE SALE $1L Baskets!” I’m happy to do small farming, a little tending, and free up some time in world for creating, socializing, and photography again.


My Virtual Farming Life — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Yeah, About That Making My #SecondLife Simpler Thing… | Chameleonic Possessions

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