We bought our "Sweetness of Home" Farm in May 2007. We have 8.8 acres nestled between rolling hills and train tracks. Since that time we have opened a business in town and are now expecting our third baby in three years, making a total of five children so far; which starting in June 2011 will range in age from newborn to eleven years old. Neither my husband or myself grew up on a farm. We are both "town kids," though he is an Eagle Scout and both sets of my grandparents had gardens/farming backgrounds. My father did do gardening off and on through my childhood, but I did not acquire any gardening/homesteading skills outside of a willingness to try new things in life.
So, why did we buy a farm thirty-five minutes away from our new business when we had a beautiful house that is only five minutes away from where the business is located?.....Our beautiful house was originally "my house" and I had remodeled it the way I wanted it completely-there weren't any "projects" that my husband could complete on it....we were in desperate need of an "our house." We also were in the city completely surrounded by shade trees-I only had two small areas where we could have tried to grow any veggies-and we definitely would not have been able to feed our family from those two areas. So my husband found a beautiful "our house" with land and we were able to sell our house in the city right before the housing/economy crash....though I will admit now that in hindsight I experienced depression for the first year that we lived on the farm. I hadn't realized until we were packing how much of my personal identity I had "emotionally invested" in my prior house's remodeling project.
Our first experiment with raising animals other than ancient house cats, dogs and children was with goats. I saw that an acquaintance had posted "saanen dairy goats for sale" and talked my husband into getting them when we did not have fencing or housing built - huge mistake!!!! Thankfully a group of college students "adopted us" for a day and helped my husband put up fencing for the goats before they were delivered. Our goats could escape faster than Houdini though - no matter what type of fencing we tried to use-we ended up calling them "free range goats." Eventually we sold the goats after having a broken car windshield caused by the goats pushing their way into the car as our oldest children were trying to get out of the car. Three goats inside a black dodge stratus does not equal out to a happy daddy day - though everyone else laughed about it....:)
Next my husband brought home chickens that he saw during "Chick Days" at a certain national farming store - but again the housing had not been built prior to their arrival. Our dogs managed to eat the first two sets of six chickens and then the third set of twenty five baby chickens got stolen and eaten by a rat less than twenty-four hours after we brought them home. A neighbor then lent my husband a brooder to raise the baby chicks in and in March 2011 we enjoyed our first homegrown eggs! At this time we have twenty-four Buff Orpington chickens. During the New Years weekend of 2011 my husband brought home Muscovey ducks that he found off of Craigslist. The ducks should help eat up fly larva and are good hatchers, so they could hatch any chicken eggs that we might want to raise ourselves. At this time we also have five Cornish Cross chickens, six more layers, four mallard ducks and two peking ducks growing in the borrowed brooder to add to the previously mentioned chickens and ducks. My husband built our chicken coop from salvaged plywood and tin roofing from the goat shelter and pallets. This month he built a "chicken tractor" by reusing wood from last year's attempt at raised garden beds. I am so happy not to have anymore free ranging chickens pooping on our porches or in the kids play area! (A little detail not mentioned in "romantic" raising chicken essays found either in books or other blogs.) This first chicken tractor is really heavy though, so he has plans to build a lighter model and then will make the first chicken tractor into two smaller chicken tractors. He is planning on being the first farmer in our local area to have an organic pasture poultry set up.
Note regarding our dogs and chickens: we did have to find a new home for our boxer jack russell mix. She was the main culprit behind the killing of the chickens and any barn cats that tried to adopt us. We found a good home for her, which though hard to do emotionally was the right thing to do for us so that we could work on growing our farm....we wanted chickens and we were in desperate need of barn cats for rodent population control. We were blessed this last week to receive a pregnant momma cat and when my hubby put her in the barn we had finally been adopted by another cat! So far our six year old golden lab hasn't killed a chicken or cat since we got rid of the boxer.
We did have a Dexter heritage breed dairy cow briefly this February that died most likely from tetanus. We are looking into getting either another Jersey cow or some tethered dairy goats sometime during this coming year. Right now we are focusing on getting a one acre garden started so that we can produce enough food for our family of seven plus my husband's mother and grandmother with enough left over to sell at the local farmer's market. We will also be putting in a prefab house this spring/summer on our property for the previously mentioned mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.
I look forward to sharing our adventures in homesteading, remodeling, homeschooling and adjusting to the new multi-generational living together arrangements. Later posts will probably also focus on distributism and the "Frugal Luxuries" of life (trademark belongs to Tracey McBride) and my attempts to "downsize" our many possessions in life....I have been a "Flylady flybaby" for almost nine years now.
To learn more about frugal luxuries please see: http://frugalluxuries.blogspot.com/
To learn more about the flylady way of life please see: http://www.flylady.net/
I look forward to your comments....and remember that there is nothing better than returning to "the sweetness of home...."