As you’ve probably figured out by now, we love multi-purpose items.  Over the years, we have found that items that are not limited to just one purpose can potentially save a lot of money.  Some purchases may be more expensive up front, but in the long run, save a bundle and may often be of higher quality.  Take our “farm” minivan for example.

We bought our little Toyota Sienna as a year-old, used car back in 2008.  Thanks to my husband’s practicality and frugality (aka, sometimes he can be a complete tightwad!), we were looking for a very cheap, basic model.  God knew our future needs better than we did though, so He provided this vehicle.  It was a little more van than S had wanted, but it was exactly what I wanted, seeing as how we had 3 children and were planning at least one more adoption at the time.  It came complete with auto-roll down rear windows, auto-rear window vents, spacious rear cargo area, luggage rack, rear seats that folded into the floor, and center seats that were removable, lots of cup holders, and several other extras that I never dreamed existed.  S agreed the features could be worthwhile on our long driving trips to Red Gate, allowing us plenty of room to tend to the children’s needs while on the road, so we bought it.  We had no idea how useful it would really be. This van has allowed us to continue to be a one-vehicle family.  We have been that way since I sold my horses and pickup back in 2006, which has certainly saved us a bundle in extra vehicle maintenance and insurance over the years!  Even since we started this little hobby farm, this van has served almost every need. 

Here are just a few roles our little van has played:

Standard family hauler for 5 kids in 5 carseats, plus, if you look closely in this photo, you will also see a new little goat in the rear cargo area. In addition, on this particular trip, we had our 80 lb dog, 8 lb. cat, and all the luggage and food needed for a 2 week vacation.

Animal hauler–just collapse/remove the rear seats to expand the cargo area, cover the front seats and floor, add shavings to absorb any “unwanteds” and VOILA!

Stallion in our mini-van/livestock hauler

I can also easily load up a few kids and my large dog crate in order to haul up to 20 full grown chickens home.
Hay/Straw hauler.  By simply collapsing the seats and covering the floor (it does help, believe it or not), we can load up enough hay/straw for several months.  S recently loaded 18 bales into our little van ON A SINGLE TRIP (pictured)! 
As if that wasn’t enough, you should see the doubtful looks S gets when he goes to Home Depot for lumber and plywood! He has it down to a science that never ceases to impress the folks standing around laughing at him when he first drives up!  He has learned that 4×8 sheets of plywood and 8 foot long pieces of lumber will perfectly fit laying on the floor just behind the front seats.  10 foot long lumber slides neatly under the center table between the 2 front seats.  12 foot lumber fits nicely when propped over the front passenger seat (which is collapsed), and rests its extra length on the dash.  All this and the rear door still closes! 
Dairy Wagon:  I used to haul milk for a dairy share, and could easily fit everyone’s coolers with room to spare, plus always take 1-2 children along for the ride.

View from the front

As if that wasn’t enough, we have hauled 8 foot folding tables, furniture for moves, 8 foot fence post logs, huge rolls of fencing, and more!  Every month for the last year, I have used it to haul our monthly co-op foods, which often include up to 1,000 lbs. of bagged feed in one trip!
Now, I will admit, this type of use is hard on a van.  It’s also hard on a vaccuum cleaner, seeing as how we wind up cleaning the carpets on a very regular basis.  It can also be difficult, and take time, to get rid of smells (like the day I hauled Stallion home!  Not my brightest idea!).  It’s a good thing God blessed us with those automatic rear windows and vents!!  They’ve come in quite handy!  All in all, though, I would say we made the best choice for our circumstances.  For once or twice a month hauling like we have done in the past few years, one vehicle will more than suffice.  Now, however, we are finally reaching a point where we are disassembling, cleaning, and re-assembling for different jobs on weekly, and sometimes multi-times-weekly basis, and therefore, we feel we have reached a justifiable point for purchasing a pickup truck.  Truck beds do have their advantages for sure (like the ability to simply hose it and be done!)  Until we save enough, though, we have no worries that our trusty little multi-use van will suffice just fine!