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Hobby farms, small scale farms


Meriwether
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Dh and I will hopefully be buying an acreage in the next year or two. We both grew up on farms, so it isn't completely foreign to us. I want to make good use of any land we have, though, so I want to research efficient methods. We will be looking for 10-40 acres. I'd love recommendations to good articles, forums, blogs, books, etc. We are interested in animals (chickens, goats, sheep, etc.), gardening/hoop houses, an orchard, bees, and, oh, anything else that we might be able to do.

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Ooh.

 

The one caution I want to give is ... don't jump into too many projects at once. This is a great way to get yourself burned out. I strongly recommend no more than one new type of animal per year or possibly two if closely related and can be penned together (e.g. sheep/goats, ducks/geese). I also recommend keeping an eye on the number of projects you're committing to per year. For livestock, I think starting with poultry is best, because the rewards are more immediate and the upfront investment is lower.
Even if you're familiar with them, it can still be a bit of a shock.

 

That being said, reading material! There's a book called In One Barn by (I think) Lee Pelley which we found very useful for planning multi-species housing rather than a poultry shed, a cow shed, a goat shed, etc. I'll post some more later when I can check my bookshelf.

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Ooh.

 

The one caution I want to give is ... don't jump into too many projects at once. This is a great way to get yourself burned out. I strongly recommend no more than one new type of animal per year or possibly two if closely related and can be penned together (e.g. sheep/goats, ducks/geese). I also recommend keeping an eye on the number of projects you're committing to per year. For livestock, I think starting with poultry is best, because the rewards are more immediate and the upfront investment is lower.

Even if you're familiar with them, it can still be a bit of a shock.

 

That being said, reading material! There's a book called In One Barn by (I think) Lee Pelley which we found very useful for planning multi-species housing rather than a poultry shed, a cow shed, a goat shed, etc. I'll post some more later when I can check my bookshelf.

We've been debating whether to have all of the animals in the same barn or in separate outbuildings, so I will definitely look into that book. We've had chickens before at our last location, and Dh grew up with sheep. My dad has cattle. He gives each of the grandchildren a heifer when they turn 10. Whether or not we have the cows on our place will depend on the situation. Dd13 wants to keep bees. That will be her responsibility. She is going to visit an apiary next week. Hopefully, I will be able to find someone local who will let her get some hands on experience this summer. Ds9 has been saving all of his money for goats for the past 1-2 years. We told the kids we would double any money they saved for animals by the time we get a place.

 

But we will start out with a small garden, berry bushes, and fruit trees and work our way up to a larger space. I'm sure the animals will keep us busy enough the first year.

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For chickens, we made awesome moveable pens with scrap lumber and plastic chicken wire. Each panel is about 3x8, made of a square with diagonal cross-braces, and covered in the chicken wire. This leaves one half-covered spot at the top which is covered with rain-retardant cloth so they have a shelter and a sun shelter. The panels are zip-tied together so in winter they can be stacked and stored, and it is light enough that two people can easily move it. The chickens have access to fresh bugs daily and love it.

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One of the classic books of this type is "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It" by John Seymour.  It's a British book, so some of the direct advice is more applicable to their climate, but it's a really enjoyable read and gives a sense of what is possible.  (And actually, one of the things I like is that it talks about techniques that have been forgotten in much of the New World, like coppicing, but which probably are something we should begin to think about.)  He is a bit of a character too.

 

 

I get a magazine that is small farm based, called Rural Delivery - it is local to me and that is the focus, but it actually has quite a wide readership, people seem to enjoy it even in very different climates.  At various times I've tried most of the small farm type magazines, (Small Farm, Mother Earth News, Harrowsmith) and gave them all up.  They had the same set of articles introducing the same things, every year - just different authors.  Rural Delivery is not at all like that.  Their website also has a books for sale section that has quite a few good books for the small farmer.

 

A book on veg raising I like, which is rather more technical, is called How To Grow More Vegetables.  The focus is really on growing enough to meet your needs, but doing so without bringing things like, manure, etc, in from outside. Not many pictures, lots of calculations. 

 

ETA - on the webite, the books I'd recommend are:

Sucessful Small Scale Farming

Keeping Warn With An Axe

The Family Cow

Getting Rid of Alders

 

 

Others which I haven't read are probably good as well, and the Storey guides are all worthwhile if you are interested in the subject.

 

Edited by Bluegoat
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You know, I would be inclined to go, garden then animals, rather than the other way around.  That way you can use your garden waste to help feed your animals, or even think about growing specifically for them.  Animals seem more exciting, but dealing with housing and fencing can be so time consuming at first that the garden gets neglected, and it is probably going to be more productive in many ways.  (If you have fencing and good grass already, that might not apply.)

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I'd do animals and cover crops first, to build up my garden soil, so that when I got it put in it would be less work. :gnorsi:  Not being contrary Goat, that is just how I have always done it ;)

 

But OP, your course of action will largely be determined by the property you end up with! Plus your family's proclivities and goals...There's no way to really predict what you'll need to do, or in what order.

 

Salatin swears some people are animal people, some are plant people, some are neither, but most (farmer types) need to dabble in both :-)

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AMAZING! I was just going to start this thread! Meriwether, we're planning on doing the same thing -- we're planning to relocate from the West Coast to Wisconsin in the next few months. I'm totally spending time with the resources recommended in this thread. Thanks for starting the conversation! 

 

 

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Mommymonster, I don't even know which state we will be buying land in! We get transferred with Dh's job every few years. There is a possibility that he will be transferred this year. If he isn't, he will either look for another job or we will look for land in this area and stay put for the rest of his career. We could never buy more than 5 acres until now, but we are looking for something permanent now. I am so excited.

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I'd do animals and cover crops first, to build up my garden soil, so that when I got it put in it would be less work. :gnorsi:  Not being contrary Goat, that is just how I have always done it ;)

 

But OP, your course of action will largely be determined by the property you end up with! Plus your family's proclivities and goals...There's no way to really predict what you'll need to do, or in what order.

 

Salatin swears some people are animal people, some are plant people, some are neither, but most (farmer types) need to dabble in both :-)

 

yeah,, I suppose that is a way to look at it. 

 

In the end, I agree a fair bit will depend on what is on the place you happen to get.  I would hate to waste a whole year of starting a garden because I was caught up in fencing.  But, if the soil is crap, that might be better.

 

My main thinking is that ideally, I would prefer to grow most of the feed I needed.  It isn't easy here to get feed that isn't very much commercial, even if you don't care about organic, and that is so even though we have a larger number of small mixed farms than many places.  It is just very expensive, at which point you aren't going to save much on your livestock.  And we have significant periods in winter without grazing of any kind, even going out of the barn can be touchy for many days, so your stock will be indoors and really dependent on what you can feed them rather than grazing.

 

If you really wanted to be independent, you would need a years' haying before you brought in any livestock other than chickens, or you would have to buy hay in.

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Is The Family Cow about a milk cow? My sister's milk cow just died. She was sad but also a little relieved. I wouldn't mind milking a goat for short periods of time, but I'm not ready for a milk cow.

 

Yes, it's about a milk cow.  I think he might have a beef one as well.

 

I've kept goats in the past, but never a cow.  I think the responsibility aspect is similar, you just have to do it twice a day.  So - it can really be limiting if you don't have someone who can take over.  Goats are very hard to fence, but they are funny and also you get a better amount for a single family.  You need access to a buck though, they are too gross to keep for fun for a single doe and the fencing is even more of a problem. 

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One possible option is finding a job near my parents. If we do that, Dad will give us 40 acres. The downside is that Dh will make less than half what he makes now. Regardless of where we live, Daddy (I don't usually call him that but it seemed applicable here.  :laugh: ) will bring me hay he put up if I need it.


ETA: My parents are very generous, but in case anyone thinks I've got the pampered princess thing going on, I spent 6 or so weeks in the hayfield each summer when Dad was still using small square bales. The 40 acres would be getting my inheritance early, but we would be right next door to my parents and Dh and I would be able to help Dad keep farming longer.

Edited by Meriwether
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Think about ducks instead of chickens.  Their eggs are the same size but richer, they are quieter and smarter than chickens, and you can turn them lose briefly every day or two into your veggie gardens where they will preferentially eat all your bugs for you.  (You do have to put them out as soon as they turn from bugs to the veggie blossoms and shoots.)  Plus if you are willing to butcher, duck meat is rarer and more expensive than chicken meat, giving you helpful variety.

 

Also if you will butcher, consider rabbits.  You can hang their (chicken wire bottomed) cages four feet above the inside part of your poultry run, and their poop will be mixed in with the poultry scratching and everything will compost more quickly.  It's a great combo.

 

Also think about how often you are at risk for fire and flood, and how you would deal with that with your farm animals.

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Dd13 was talking about raising rabbits to eat. (Gag. I'd have to get used to the idea.) I'd let her do it if she wanted to research it, raise them, butcher them, cook them and eat them herself. I'm not sure I'd want anything to do with butchering or eating them. I own this is my hang-up. There is certainly nothing wrong with eating rabbit. They are just a bit too pet like for me. Maybe after she gets her apiary going.

I love having chickens, but I wouldn't mind adding ducks (and geese and guineas) once we had the basics under control. Really, we may end up with quite the funny farm. I'd even be open to peacocks.

Edited by Meriwether
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It is so much easier to eat something that you have raised knowing that it will go to be butchered than to eat a pet. You do not take the meat animals out to play with them. You do not give them names like 'Mr. Fluffles' but rather names like 'Lamb Chop'.

 

I'd still investigate local butchers. For meat that my family sells, we go to a local Amish-run place that does a beautiful job and will do anything legal that you bring in (for example, don't bring in a dog).

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Mommymonster, I don't even know which state we will be buying land in! We get transferred with Dh's job every few years. There is a possibility that he will be transferred this year. If he isn't, he will either look for another job or we will look for land in this area and stay put for the rest of his career. We could never buy more than 5 acres until now, but we are looking for something permanent now. I am so excited.

 

One thing I'm realizing is that we currently live on a postage-stamp sized lot in the city. For us, even having a few acres is going to be a big jump. I'd love to be able to drop our food costs and get the kids eating more wholesome foods. My goal would be to start with a garden, then try our hand with chickens, then pigs. (Well, it sounds good in theory!)

 

I'd love to find a critter that could "mow" the lawn for us. There's a farm we drive by that has a cow that is staked out in the yard in the summer and the cow just "mows" the lawn... gosh, it would be nice to not have to deal with mowing lawn all the time. That being said, DS10 is allergic to dairy, so a dairy cow isn't in the equation. A steer for beef would be nice, but gosh it would be expensive to feed them throughout the winter. I'm continuing to think about the mowing options. 

 

Can't wait to see how it all turns out!

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You have to be very careful about mixing poultry and hooved animals. Poultry carries the coccidia bacteria. It causes all sorts of digestive (diarrhea to the point of scours) sicknesses.

Could you please expound on this a bit more? I know of lots of people who have both chickens and other animals like cows or sheep.

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One thing I'm realizing is that we currently live on a postage-stamp sized lot in the city. For us, even having a few acres is going to be a big jump. I'd love to be able to drop our food costs and get the kids eating more wholesome foods. My goal would be to start with a garden, then try our hand with chickens, then pigs. (Well, it sounds good in theory!)

 

I'd love to find a critter that could "mow" the lawn for us. There's a farm we drive by that has a cow that is staked out in the yard in the summer and the cow just "mows" the lawn... gosh, it would be nice to not have to deal with mowing lawn all the time. That being said, DS10 is allergic to dairy, so a dairy cow isn't in the equation. A steer for beef would be nice, but gosh it would be expensive to feed them throughout the winter. I'm continuing to think about the mowing options. 

 

Can't wait to see how it all turns out!

 

Sheep are excellent mowers. Portable electric fencing (polywire) and you're good. The thing about the cow is the poop. It's very messy and flies get bad. Yes, I've put both on the lawn before, and sheep are my preference for right up next to the house grazing.

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Dd13 was talking about raising rabbits to eat. (Gag. I'd have to get used to the idea.) I'd let her do it if she wanted to research it, raise them, butcher them, cook them and eat them herself. I'm not sure I'd want anything to do with butchering or eating them. I own this is my hang-up. There is certainly nothing wrong with eating rabbit. They are just a bit too pet like for me. Maybe after she gets her apiary going.

I love having chickens, but I wouldn't mind adding ducks (and geese and guineas) once we had the basics under control. Really, we may end up with quite the funny farm. I'd even be open to peacocks.

I've farmed for years and don't butcher.

 

My dh does the few chickens we've had to do.

 

We pay a butcher to do our cattle. I was quite clear from the start that I wasn't interested in butchering.

 

But I have no problem eating what others have butchered for us.

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BTDT, can't wait to get back to it.

 

My favorite forums were:

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/f/ (They also deal with other poultry)

 

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/ (Some small commercial farmers here, lot of preppers, and homesteaders)

 

 

I agree and disagree with kiana about not getting too many at once.  I would advise make plans for everything first, so you know the needed tools/feed/etc.  So, for example, you know eventually you want chickens, goats, and pigs.  You're not going to eat the chickens or the goats, but you're going to take the pigs to be butchered every so often.  So you need some sort of coop, feed, and maybe protection for the chickens.  What kind of coop?  Do they need constant protection or will they free range during the day?  Where will you get the feed?  Goats are a pain in the butt, fabulous creatures, loved them, miss them every single day, but they are fantastic escape artists.  I recommend electric fencing.  They also need a shelter or a barn, and what will you feed them?  They will also need a vet, fortunately, if you befriend them, you can take them to a vet in a car if needed.  Pigs need food, maybe worming, and you will need transportation to take them to the butcher.  Do you own a trailer or can you borrow one?  I HIGHLY recommend if you raise pigs and won't be butchering yourself, to back the trailer up to the pen and feed them ON the trailer.  That way, when they're 300+ pounds each, you're not literally taking your life in your hands trying to convince them to get on the trailer to go to the butcher....quite frankly, it's a miracle none of us got hurt doing this LOL.

 

Now, what are you going to do with the critters?  Chickens just for eggs?  Make sure they can't get in the pig pen, or they will be pig food in seconds.  Spare eggs can be fed to the pigs.  Goats for milk?  Spare milk, whey, byproducts are all excellent feed for the pigs.  Kitchen scraps (read up on this, not all scraps are recommended) for the pigs, we kept a 5 gallon bucket outside the back door for this.

 

For me, the logical order for my plan was chickens, goats, pigs, cows.  DH's plan was to wait and add animals slowly.  How it turned out?  My son and I built the first chicken coop while he was at work one day, hid it behind the shed, and DH came home to chickens from a neighbor the next day.  (This was less than a month after we bought the house.)  After the first egg, DH had the idea to turn the back of the shed into a barn and get more chickens, both for eggs and meat.  Son and I did that in a weekend, I ordered 75 chicks and on impulse 2 goslings.  Son and I built a hurried brooder for the new babies.  Chickens from the neighbor stayed in their pen an acre away.  40 something days after the chicks arrived, we put all the chickens in the new barn.  

 

2 months after we bought the house, on a Friday, DH took the younger boys on a Scout weekend camping trip.  I read something about a movable pigpen tractor an hour or so after he left.  An hour after that, I was at Lowe's getting supplies to build it.  Found piglets on Craigslist and made arrangements to pick them up Saturday afternoon.  (Trust me when I say NEVER transport pigs inside a vehicle, holy $#&!, the smell.)  Son and I put together the pig tractor at midnight Saturday night, but the pigs fit through the spacing, so I left them in the chain link fencing that was attached to the house near the master bedroom.  Sometime around midnight Sunday night, DH came into the kitchen with his shoes, asked what he was doing.  He said  heard squealing and something rattling the chain link fence woke him up....I grabbed a flashlight and introduced him to the three little pigs  :lol:

 

He thought the pigs were awesome, made me promise no more new animals while we adjusted.  I crossed my fingers behind my back, agreed, and didn't tell him about the dairy goats that were coming the next Friday....

 

Son and I built a stanchion for the goats on Thursday and hid it from DH.  Goats arrived Friday, 2 moms with their adorable babies.  One of the babies greeted DH in the kitchen when he arrived home from work.  He melted on the spot.  We went and bought movable electric mesh fencing that weekend so the goats could start working on clearing the woods.

 

Ask me where DH went first every day when he got home from work?  Yep, to see how fat his pigs were and to play with the goats.

 

A year later we got a pregnant cow.  2 days later DH made his dream promotion list and decided not to retire from the military  :patriot:

 

What did we learn?  

 

  • 30 days quarantine is not enough, we had to cull ALL of our chickens when they got a disease (it *could* have come from wild birds, we'll never know)  In the future, we will buy all chickens from the same source (and maybe ducks instead, like Carol in Cal. said...ducks should be like geese in not destroying grass, chickens will make a yard bare quick!)  
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  • Geese poop EVERYWHERE, but are so much fun, great guard dogs.  Will get some kind of netting or fencing to block them from getting on our huge porch before getting more.
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  • Pigs are a-holes.  Buy a livestock trailer before the pigs, feed the pigs on the trailer.  Homegrown pork tastes soooooo much better than anything you get from a store.
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  • Goats will probably be pets, lots of fun, but we don't like the meat, milk, or cheese.  They'll be working pets, they keep the woods cleared out.
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  • Cows are amazing.  I'll never use electric mesh again, though, our calf got tangled in it and died.  We will put up real fencing before getting a cow again.
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  • Buy a milker if you have bad hands, milking does a real number on arthritic/tendinitic hands!
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  • We aren't meant to butcher anything but poultry.

 

A garden first would have been awesome, was the wrong time of year when we got started.  Our garden the next year failed miserably, I'll do raised square foot gardening the next time.

 

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My sister raises pigs, so we won't be doing that. Dh is quite firm on that. I'm quite firm on getting guineas, so I'm good with that.

 

I think the pigs are what DH misses the most, we absolutely cannot stand throwing scraps away now.  (My mom feeds her scraps to her chickens, though, so you can find other critters to use them)  One other thing, I'd make tentative plans BEFORE you start looking, and make sure you buy suitable land.  We didn't do that, unfortunately, and we only have 6 acres, some of which is wooded, so we have to do a lot of supplemental feeding we wouldn't have to do if we had grazing land.

 

Why do you want guineas?  (Curious, I don't know much about them)

 

Something you might consider, if you end up near your sister, maybe she could raise pigs for you in exchange for you raising something else for her.  We sort of did that, we had 2 sets of pigs.  The first 3 were all ours, but we shared a little pork with friends and family.  The 2nd set, we raised a few pigs for friends and family, I just kept track of the costs on a spreadsheet and everyone paid their share monthly.  Maybe you could raise beef for your sister and she could raise pork for you.

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Think about ducks instead of chickens. Their eggs are the same size but richer, they are quieter and smarter than chickens, and you can turn them lose briefly every day or two into your veggie gardens where they will preferentially eat all your bugs for you. (You do have to put them out as soon as they turn from bugs to the veggie blossoms and shoots.) Plus if you are willing to butcher, duck meat is rarer and more expensive than chicken meat, giving you helpful variety.

 

Also think about how often you are at risk for fire and flood, and how you would deal with that with your farm animals.

 

I SO agree about the ducks!!! (though not about the rabbits).

 

Ducks are much, much easier for me to manage than chickens.

 

The minute these chickens are gone we are moving to all ducks and quail. No.more.chickens,lol. I hope the goats go too,to be honest.

 

Georgia

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We've been buying a pig from my sister for two years now. We will eventually trade them for eggs. Maybe rabbit. ;)  We travel to see them often enough that they will get their value back in eggs.

Guineas are bug eating machines. I'm especially interested in tick control.

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About the coccidia...you don't want the poultry roosting where they can contaminate the feed or hay of the other animals. Outside, not so bad, inside and more concentrated - not good. For example hanging hay feeders are great roosts....

 

I see. That is something to consider. I'm going to read the In One Barn book mentioned above. I've already got it coming from Amazon. But I'm imagining a separate entrance for the chickens. So the main door to the barn would be on one side and the entrance to the coop would be on another. I want the chickens to be free range, but we may have them fenced into one side of the yard. I can't really make plans until I own some land, but decisions should be easier if we have several if this...then that scenarios worked out ahead of time.

Edited by Meriwether
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I think the pigs are what DH misses the most, we absolutely cannot stand throwing scraps away now.  (My mom feeds her scraps to her chickens, though, so you can find other critters to use them)  One other thing, I'd make tentative plans BEFORE you start looking, and make sure you buy suitable land.  We didn't do that, unfortunately, and we only have 6 acres, some of which is wooded, so we have to do a lot of supplemental feeding we wouldn't have to do if we had grazing land.

 

Why do you want guineas?  (Curious, I don't know much about them)

 

Something you might consider, if you end up near your sister, maybe she could raise pigs for you in exchange for you raising something else for her.  We sort of did that, we had 2 sets of pigs.  The first 3 were all ours, but we shared a little pork with friends and family.  The 2nd set, we raised a few pigs for friends and family, I just kept track of the costs on a spreadsheet and everyone paid their share monthly.  Maybe you could raise beef for your sister and she could raise pork for you.

 

My kids gasp when they visit others and see the food waste scraped into the trash.

 

Cows eat lots of kitchen scraps. Anything vegetable or starchy (not large portions of bread, but the stale remnants of a loaf of bread are fine.)

 

The dogs get meat scraps and dairy scraps.

 

Chickens get anything else and we compost the unusual thing that nothing can eat.

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The Encyclopedia of Country Living will actually help you tons. She talks about choosing property, fencing, recipes, gardening. Even delivering critters.

 

BTW, can I recommend hair sheep? We LOVE ours. Even took a couple on vacation last week.

 

https://fruitsoflaborblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/ive-become-one-of-those-people-part-2/

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On a side note I would suggest looking into tractors and deciding what kind you will need and budget accordingly. Even if you don't have a garden, you're going to need a tractor for that kind of acreage. I can't even begin to tell you what all we use ours for.....mowing is the tip of the iceberg. But buying a tractor is definitely something to budget for. Even the smaller ones can easily get you over 20k with some attachments. We bought ours used on Craiglist from a rancher who was getting out of the business and got a good deal- anyway, just something to add to your to buy list as honestly the tractor and fencing were hands down our most expensive ventures when we moved to our current place. Fencing 10-40 acres is a substantial investment.

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I think your first step is finding a mentor and educating yourself as much as possible now and as your begin your adventure.  I'm a little jealous!  My parents have a small you-pick berry patch. Their focus is raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, but they also have apples, peaches, pears, lots of veggies, and flowers (they let pickers cut flowers for free.)  My dad would recommend learning all you can through your local extension agency.  They will know more about your area and soil and weather than any book you can read.  They will also help you meet local experts.  You can take the master gardener class even if you are not really a "master". My dad is on the phone all day talking to other growers and local friends who have questions. He has shown countless neighbors how to prune. My dad is happy to share his advice, and if he doesn't know something, he'll make it up ;)  I'm sure there are other old guys (and ladies - and not necessarily old...) out there just like my dad who are experts in sheep or chickens or apples or what ever you are thinking of doing.

 

My parents also attend a variety of "Farm Shows".  You would be surprised by what is offered in your area.  They mainly go to "Berry" shows, but there are shows for all sorts of farmers/ranchers with classes and booths with experts selling and teaching all sorts of things.  It can be nice to see and touch different tools and supplies at the farm show and talk to real people, even if they are trying to sell you something, rather than just the internet!!  Your county fair will also be a good place to meet local experts and attend classes.

 

Best of luck!!

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On a side note I would suggest looking into tractors and deciding what kind you will need and budget accordingly. Even if you don't have a garden, you're going to need a tractor for that kind of acreage. I can't even begin to tell you what all we use ours for.....mowing is the tip of the iceberg. But buying a tractor is definitely something to budget for. Even the smaller ones can easily get you over 20k with some attachments. We bought ours used on Craiglist from a rancher who was getting out of the business and got a good deal- anyway, just something to add to your to buy list as honestly the tractor and fencing were hands down our most expensive ventures when we moved to our current place. Fencing 10-40 acres is a substantial investment.

 

Oh yes, definitely on the bolded.  We have 50 acres and use our tractor just about every.single.day for everything you can imagine.  I lift DH in the bucket to pick apples from our wild trees, to pound in fence posts, trim limbs from trees, fix the roof, etc.  We use it to turn over compost, rototill our three big gardens, brush hog our fields, carry out equipment for fencing, snowblow, move heavy objects, bury our horses when they die, hang slaughtered pigs from to butcher, dig trees to transplant, move the chicken coops to new grassy areas....I'm not kidding, just about anything you can think of....we use the tractor.  It's an indispensable tool; the most important one you'll have on your farm.  In fact, we're more worried about that breaking down than the car!

 

We have a New Holland TC 35 we bought new in 2001 with the bucket and snowblower.  It cost $21,000 then.  Slowly we've added other implements (not a backhoe yet though).  The 35hp has been great for just about anything we want to do, but we would dearly love to upgrade to a 45hp.  They are just so dang expensive, it's hard to justify the cost when our other one still works just fine.  We hate debt or having to finance anything.

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I grew up on a farm, dh didn't though his dad was in an agriculture related job. The learning curve is still pretty steep.

 

When you look at your block really really look at the infrastructure more than the house. Water tanks, sheds, pumps, pipes and fittings, fences and fence units add up really quickly! We definitely underestimated how expensive it would all be.

 

Secondly try to get connected with people with a lot of experience with the kind of animals you are looking at as this is invaluable.

 

Don't work out your budget expecting to save huge amounts of money on food. You will probably eat healthier and better quality food but the set up costs will well outweigh savings in the first years unless you have a really really established place.

 

Also if you are a distance from town and activities be prepared for a big fuel bill.

 

That all sounds pretty negative. It's still worth it, I feel grateful every day for where we live and the natural beauty we enjoy but it's definitely harder than I imagined too.

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Oh yes, definitely on the bolded. We have 50 acres and use our tractor just about every.single.day for everything you can imagine. I lift DH in the bucket to pick apples from our wild trees, to pound in fence posts, trim limbs from trees, fix the roof, etc. We use it to turn over compost, rototill our three big gardens, brush hog our fields, carry out equipment for fencing, snowblow, move heavy objects, bury our horses when they die, hang slaughtered pigs from to butcher, dig trees to transplant, move the chicken coops to new grassy areas....I'm not kidding, just about anything you can think of....we use the tractor. It's an indispensable tool; the most important one you'll have on your farm. In fact, we're more worried about that breaking down than the car!

 

We have a New Holland TC 35 we bought new in 2001 with the bucket and snowblower. It cost $21,000 then. Slowly we've added other implements (not a backhoe yet though). The 35hp has been great for just about anything we want to do, but we would dearly love to upgrade to a 45hp. They are just so dang expensive, it's hard to justify the cost when our other one still works just fine. We hate debt or having to finance anything.

So true! I wish we had known and budgeted for a tractor right at the start.

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As far as lawn mowers our rabbits were quite good for that and they tend to pick a toilet spot and stick with it so they weren't pooing everywhere. Ours were pets and we only had two for a large space. I'm not sure how it would work out in a breeding scenario.

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Re pigs--pig poop is the absolute worst smelling poop I have ever had the misfortune of being around.

I would NEVER have a pig close to the house because of that.  It's absolutely horrible.

 

Sheep do eat grass, but they graze it down so far that they sometimes kill it.  Goats or cows leave a little more in the way of tufts to grow back.  Personally I like goat cheese, but not goat milk; although I have friend with a dairy sensitive child who can handle goat milk just fine and for them it is a boon to have it around.

 

If I were doing this, I would not want to butcher anything, so my animals would be ducks for eggs, maybe a goat if I had a lot of pasture and wanted to try making cheese and also wanted a movable living mower, and something for fiber, probably either alpaca or angora rabbits.  Llama fiber is pretty course and I'm not interested in it.  Alpaca is soft, and even though I'm pretty sensitive to wool I can work with alpaca without having trouble, and even wear alpaca hats and scarves against my skin--something I don't do with wool.  I feel much the same about angora, and it's easy to work with--you can actually sit an angora rabbit on your lap and gently tug it's hair and tufts that are loose will come off in your hand fast enough to spin.  I might consider a cow after I got all this going, but only for dairy, so it would be a fairly high maintenance thing to get going--I'm not sure whether I would ultimately take it on or not.

 

I would lay out my orchard first, and it would be a large variety of things--at least two kinds of apricot, maybe three, a pomegranate, a fig, Fuyu persimmons, a couple of Meyer lemon trees and navel orange trees, one each of Bearss lime, regular lime, Eureka lemon, Satsuma Mandarins, a couple of kumquat trees.  Then fruit basket (multiple varieties of the same fruit) versions of apples, peaches, and plums.  Asian pears.  A fig tree with lots of room to grow.  A cherry variety or two.  Probably a black walnut.  A bay tree with edible leaves.  Then out back (waaay out back) a carefully contained blackberry area.  Blueberries if possible also.  

 

Then I would plant a pretty big herb garden--oregano, lots of basil, lots of spearmint, plus at least 4 other mints, rosemary hedges, lavendar, thyme, Italian parsley, a couple of sages, nastersiums (edible flowers!), borage (ditto!), roses (ditto!), Japanese chrysantemums (edible leaves that change taste hugely upon cooking), chives.  

 

Then perennial veggies like asparagus and artichokes.

 

Only then would I start getting my veggies in, and the animals.  

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Another thing on the tractor- if you can find some neighbors or surrounding acreages that need mowing, you can make a pretty penny if you have the right rig for hauling your tractor or if the field is within driving distance. People here will pay you several hundred dollars to mow a few acres. That can help offset some costs if you have time. You can call commercial realtors you see advertising nearby properties to get started. Someone has to mow those fields. :)

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I'm totally getting a couple of alpaca, they are the coolest critters I've ever met.  (Played with some at the local SPCA)  I have zero use for them that I know of, I don't knit or do any yarn work, but oh my goodness they are precious.

 

(I think I need guineas now, too!  I think I need a bigger piece of property....)

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I SO agree about the ducks!!! (though not about the rabbits).

 

Ducks are much, much easier for me to manage than chickens.

 

The minute these chickens are gone we are moving to all ducks and quail. No.more.chickens,lol. I hope the goats go too,to be honest.

 

Georgia

Oh man I've had chickens for all of three weeks and I love them already. They have personalities!
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Hmm, I would not go all out with ducks unless you try them first, they do have little quirks, the main one being they poop copiously and grossly, so you don't really want them wandering around any place where that would be annoying.  And, they need some water which if it is not natural will need to be cleaned from time to time. I also found that it was really necessary to keep a handle on the males and butcher them early, or they would just harrass the females terribly.  And they are crappy mothers, just as Beatrix Potter said.  (Mind, some chickens seem to be as well, but I was spoiled, mine would go off and come back a few  weeks later with a bunch of chicks.)

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Oh man I've had chickens for all of three weeks and I love them already. They have personalities!

 

I love their personalities, it's the olympic levels of perseverance and the destructiveness that I hate. And the roosters...  Although, we finally have a nice roo! 

 

The problem is that the chickens belong to my middle dd and she likes heirloom lighter breeds that think they are freakin'  eagles or something. She raises them by hand and they are, I swear, 10 times smarter than regular chickens once she gets done with them. And now she's in college...so I have her chickens to deal with...and her turtles, and her dog...

 

Ducks and quail are so dumb and easy to contain (in comparison, it's not that it is super easy, lol)...and I like that!

 

12 years of crazy, smart, eagle chickens at this house and I am so done with chickens here. lol.

 

To deal with the duck poop thing we tractor them. We actually rotate every animal, including the goats. She also has call ducks which I think are calmer and dumber. Though that might just be my perception or my long lost optimism showing. lol.

 

ETA - the first year we had chickens they were fat, slow Buff Orpingtons. Much easier, lol.

Georgia

Edited by Georgia in NC
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Yup, confining I think is required for ducks.  But if people are thinking, say, about running them in an orchard, it's a good thing to realize that you may not then be able to use it as a kids play space, or want to have a picnic there.

 

ETA - the chickens I had that I liked best were Dorkings.  They were good layers and to eat, pretty calm, very good mothers and had good ranging instincts.  Also, they did not fly.  (Who would have thought that a chimney cleaning brush was a necessary tool to get a hen out of a tree in the night...)

 

Edited by Bluegoat
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The first thing I would do isn't animals or gardens.  Orchard first.  Your trees will need years to establish and grow well.  You need to research the history of fruit trees in your area and see what does well, what cultivars do well, and what is nearby the property (you don't want to be near someone else's badly kept orchard).  Orchard before anything. 

 

Second, at the same time, really...nut trees.  Nuts are valuable food, but the trees take years to get going, and most of them are large.  I would start with pecans and filberts.  Avoid walnuts, they mess up the ground and are filthy trees.  Chestnuts stink and smell like, um, not pleasant.

 

Third, before you start buying animals or anything for animals, you need to budget and make some decisions.  Is this a business or a hobby?  Do you want to make money or do you want to break even or are you willing to lose money?  All are legitimate choices, but you should make it deliberately so that you don't end up losing your shirt.  Most hobby scale farmers that I know are pouring a significant portion of someone's income into the farm. 

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