Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And now we are farmers - Part Five

I'm sharing the story of how we came to live on our homestead. This is the final installment. If you missed the beginning, And now we are farmers - Part One, Part Two, Part Three,and Part Four.

And now we are farmers....or are we? Or perhaps we are homesteaders? Maybe just crazy people living in the woods with animals?

When we moved here we really didn't have much of a plan for what the farm would be, or really what we wanted it to be. We had dreams. We had ideas. We wanted animals, and gardens. We wanted to build homes; timber frame for mom and dad, earth bermed for us. We wanted to enjoy the land, the quiet, and a more simple life.

Yes, we had dreams, but we didn't have a plan to follow toward the goal. We came here with one rabbit. We added a dog that fall, and soon we were adding animals left and right. Now we have cows, horses, donkeys, ducks, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and pigs.

Many of our animals were added because people gave them to us. People gave us chickens, a sheep, and ducks. Some of our animals were purchased at the spur of the moment because we found a really good deal on them. In most cases, the animals came first, and then we figured out fencing and buildings for them.

My dad was a tinkerer. The buildings he designed and built are wonderful. We have a rain collection system tied in to a self water for the chickens. The system also can provide water for other livestock and the garden. The pig house is designed for easy farrowing for the sows, and easy loading at harvest time. He always had wonderful, and big ideas. He also couldn't pass on a good deal. As a result, there were always several projects going at once with pieces and parts of several more waiting in the wings.

I think when we moved here I saw us as providing for ourselves. I really never expected to become farmers selling our goods to the public. We quickly learned though that raising animals is expensive. We  like to keep our own breeding stock rather than buying young animals to raise for our use. (I think that desire comes from wanting to be more self sufficient.) For some animals, like pigs, keeping breeding stock automatically results in more meat than we can use.

Over time my thought process about raising animals has changed. I still want to produce enough for us. In a lot of areas we are doing that. We produce all our own meat. In the summer we produce  all our vegetables.  We are still working on getting a larger variety of vegetables preserved for winter, and adding fruit to our gardens, but we could survive on only what we grow here if we had too.

I realize now, though, that we really do need to sell some of our meat and produce to make it economical to raise our own food. Generally, I'd say that is where we are now. What we raise is mostly done with providing for ourselves in mind. What we sell is the surplus.

Putting our homestead/farm together has been a lot of shoot then aim. It has been a lot of figuring it out as you go. There has been a lot of learning the hard way.

I think now we are at a cross roads in many ways. We are still trying to figure out how to make what we have here work with out my dad. He was the main farmer, and none of us could replace the skills and labor that he put into this place. We have downsized quite a bit, but still have a hard time keeping up with everything.

At the same time, interest in locally grown food is on the rise. We've established a nice customer base, and I think that we could make a transition into raising more specifically for other people, while still providing for us, and perhaps making a little profit. We probably need to focus on a smaller variety of animals.We may need to change some of our garden crops. We might need to rethink how we get our products to the public. We definitely need some goals with a workable plan.

We certainly are crazy people living in the woods with animals. I wouldn't have it any other way. We are homesteaders who started with nothing but the land a mere five years ago, and have made it a place to live and provide for our family. And yes, now we are farmers selling our goods to the public, and contemplating where to go with that.

What will happen in the next five years? I really have no idea.I don't think we will be building houses. I do think we will continue to enjoy the land and the hard work that comes with raising food here. I do think we will still be selling to the public. I guess the big questions are what, where, and how much.

Thank you for joining me in my trip down memory lane, and my bit of reflection on the past five years. This weekend a friend of ours reminded me that there are some very good stories in the archives of this blog. Stories that he still shares with other people. That got me to thinking that maybe some of those stories need to be shared again. I plan to pull out some of my favorites to share with you. I'll be posting my Trip Down Memory Lane every so often. For starters, here are some pictures:


  1. stephanie,

    i've really, really enjoyed this series! you guys left pretty quickly after we came, so i never knew the whole story. it's been really fun to read!

  2. I have loved reading about this series too. I tend to romanticize farm living because I'd love to do what you have done. You do a great job of sharing the reality of it all, thank you!


  3. I always found myself in the same situation with animals on my hands and not all of the details like housing worked out, the cart before the horse so to speak, but I always managed to work it out as you have. It was a tremendous amount of messy dirty work but I loved every minute of it. I am back in the suburbs for now and dreaming of the day I get back to that life. Thanks for sharing your story, please keep posting more.

  4. I love what you say...are we farmers? homesteaders? or just people in the woods with a bunch of animals? I can relate. Although at this point we are down on the animals. God's blessings to your family in this time of transition.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I've loved reading it.

    I'm so sorry about the loss of your Dad. I'm sure his absence is felt daily still.

    So, what about the houses? Are you guys all still in trailers, or did you ever get the homes you were hoping to build?

  6. I'm so blessed to have met you, and to have the honor of calling you my friend!

  7. Thanks everyone. I am glad you're enjoying the story and I haven't bored you with my ramblings. :)

    Good question. We really intended to build houses, but they are really never something that got brought to the top of the list. Instead, we are always working on animal projects. We did reside our double wide with native wood board and baton style. it also has a new roof line. From the outside it looks like a stick built ranch. My mom is in a trailer, and my S-I-L is in a trailer with my niece and nephew. My great aunt also has a camper here. At this point, I don't see us building anytime soon. Maybe when the kids are grown and gone. I still love the idea of an earth bermed house, but time and money are limitations at this point.

  8. Great pictures! I have really enjoyed your trip down memory lane too. It let's you realize how people get to where they are in life.

  9. nicole Reeves1/1/11, 1:11 PM

    Can't remember how I found you, but I've so enjoyed reading about your life and how your family made such a leap of faith. You are writing a great story for your kids to build on someday. Thanks for the blog!

  10. Thank you for sharing your adventure!

  11. Thank you for the stories :-)


  12. I just found your "getting started" story and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recently read "The Dirty Life" by Kristen Kimball, about her journey to becoming a farmer, and you might be reflects some of the same insights on creativity and hard work that you live daily.
    Our family is very glad you are sharing your surplus with your community...thank you!