Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. If you have followed along with us on social media since we moved to the farm at the end of 2018, you may have noticed that we have recently been cutting back on some of our homestead projects. I have made the choice to slow down, in order to grow with more intention. During this process of setting new intentions, I thought it would be fun to share a farm progress report to bring you up to where we are today.
I’ve shared numerous times about the history I have with this farm and how my husband and I ended up purchasing the land and building a home here, so I won’t get into all of that again. Instead, let’s talk about the progress since moving to the farm in November 2018.
In two and a half years we have fully embraced the homesteading lifestyle while working full time offsite. Reduced our grocery store purchases by establishing a garden, raising livestock for harvest, wild foraging, and learning various DIY skills and projects.
During that time we have also fully moved into our living space, and feel at home. We are still sorting and organizing the outbuildings to fit our changing needs and will continue to do so as we grow and adapt.
Landscaping is also an ongoing project. We have seeded grass three times without much success and I have plans for flower gardens, but the vegetable garden has been a priority thus far.
During the first spring at the farm, my bee gums were stored in our barn. An apiary was one of the projects I had planned for a later time as I wanted to create a special place for the hives out of the way of my husband (who is allergic to bees), with space for a bee garden nearby.
Surprisingly a wild swarm moved into the unset up hives in storage. Not exactly planned and definitely not in a convenient area, but they blessed us with a bountiful honey harvest that year. Since then, I have been able to get the occupied hive moved to a more suitable area outside of the barn.
Goats were the first livestock we introduced to the farm. I chose goats first and foremost to assist with pasture management. Years of only horses grazing the fields, had led to forbes and weeds taking over. Adding livestock diversity helps to keep balance within the pasture, and we all know goats are the best for weed control!
I started with three goats. Two nannies, and a wether. Things started off rocky with the goats. First was issues with loose dogs, and having to contain the goats in a small lot to keep them safe. Not the life I wanted for my goats, but their safety was priority. Then introduce Bruiser Joe, the billy.
Bruiser Joe destroyed the small lot within a week. The four goats were now free-range on the large pasture, but Bruiser would charge any dog within sight and proved to be a good protector. However, we lost our youngest nanny when she put her head through the fence and a dog got her from the other side.
Several weeks past and the presence of dogs entering the fields lessened. My guess is they became fearful of the goats because of Bruiser Joe’s strength and massive horns and learned to stay away. I’m grateful to Bruiser for that reason, but that leads to another problem. Bruiser wasn’t just aggressive with dogs. He was becoming increasingly aggressive with people as well. After a few close calls with Bruiser Joe, I made the decision to let him go back to his original owner.
Other projects went more smoothly than the goats. I raised quail for meat, from incubation to harvest. Although the hatch rate for quail isn’t as good as chicken, they were a joy to raise and an excellent source of meat. Rabbits also proved to be a reliable meat source, our family even requested rabbit stew for Christmas dinner.
The first year’s garden didn’t produce much more than a handful of beans and a couple undersized carrots. The following winter we amended the garden soil heavily with composted manure from the barn stalls that hadn’t been mucked out prior to purchasing the land. Our second year garden produced wonderfully. We were even able to share with family and offered up small quantities at our roadside pop up market.
I have to say, I am most excited about adding sheep to the farm. I grew up with horses, goats, cattle, pigs, chickens… okay you get the idea. But, sheep was completely new to me. Before getting sheep I joined a sheep and goat club and attended a lambing workshop put on by that group. My first hands on experience with sheep, I was hooked.
Sheep were the perfect addition to my farm. I was searching for a livestock option that I could raise on a slightly larger scale in order to serve my community. It had to be something that would fit into regenerative farming practices, something I could manage on my own as the sole farmer, and preferably multi-purpose. Sheep checked all those boxes.
During these first couple years at the farm, I have had the chance to get to know the land and experiment with a few projects. This time has helped me shape our future farm plan. With a clear picture of what we are raising and growing to provide for our own family versus what we can produce to serve our community.
Moving forward our community market will be focused around the sheep, providing meat, milk, and fiber. The flock will also play a key role in our pasture and land management around the farm. I’ll continue to diversify on a small scale to provide for my household and immediate family in ways that fits into a whole system approach with sheep at the center.
I like to think of the farm as its own little ecosystem and enjoy learning how one system can help sustain another. I’m very excited to continue on this path. This year, I have stepped back from some projects in order to make repairs to existing infrastructure and to grow our flock. Expanding what works, changing what doesn’t, finding connections for sustainability, and networking and finding our place in the community.