Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Unexpected Goat

Last Sunday, we had a surprise visit from the farmer down the road.  He has goats and horses on his farm.  One of the mother goats had given birth to twins and had abandoned one of the kids.  Normally, the farmer would have just let nature take its' course but this time he thought he'd offer the unwanted twin to us.  If we could keep it alive, we'd have our first farm animal for free.  I was out of town so my husband was responsible for this decision.  And upon my arrival home I got to meet the newest addition to our farm.

We are probably the most unusual farm in the state, home to a piranha, a potbelly pig and a baby goat.  I'm not sure that any of this fits in with our vision for the farm but how do you say no to children and orphans?

Truth be told, the goat is adorable.  A year ago I couldn't have imagined that I'd own a goat, much less a goat in the house.  I remember reading a blog a few months ago where someone was listing things they'd have done differently on their farm if they knew then what they know now.  One of the bloggers statements was something to the effect of, "I wouldn't allow animals in the house."  Having had a variety of house pets I thought that was kind of strange.  Now that I have a goat in my kitchen, I'm thinking that she might have been very, very wise.  Yet, how do you put a tiny baby goat out of the house knowing that the kid requires warmth and security for survival? 

Our hope is the goat will give us all a glimpse of the responsibility and energy required for real farming.  Our hope is also that this baby will survive.  We don't have a stellar track record with animals on the farm.  It would be good to have a positive example of our husbandry skills.  So far, so good.  We've made adjustments but she seems to be thriving.  Only time will tell if I'll have a goat in my kitchen this time next year but for now, it's working.  I'm not sure if that's good farming practice but it's what works right now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Of Piranhas and Pigs

When we bought the farm we talked about a variety of animal possibilities.  We've discussed, in no particular order and with varying degrees of seriousness, llamas, alpacas, bees, chickens, turkeys, horses, cows, dairy and meat, goats, also dairy and meat, deer, pheasants, beefalo, buffalo, sheep, ducks, geese, donkeys, emu, worms, peacocks, and rabbits.

Even before we moved we had two children, S8 and H11, campaigning for pets.  S8 wanted a piranha.  A red bellied piranha to be exact.  And he wanted it for his 9th birthday.  In February.  H was no better.  Her dream pet was a potbelly pig.  Preferrably a minature.  She really wanted it for Christmas, but like her brother she understood the wisdom of not pushing her parents too far and getting a permanent no.  It's better to lose the battle and win the war.  And they both did.

In February, our farm got it's first animal;  Rex, the red bellied piranha.  Last weekend we added our second animal; Paxton, the minature potbelly pig. 

I'm thinking we might be the only farm in the state that can boast both animals.  It's good to be unique.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Eye on the Future

When we started talking about a farm we were mosting thinking of a place to live and the type of life we would have in that place.  We weren't thinking about a mission statement or profitability.  Or at least I wasn't.  I didn't realize until after we moved here and went to our first Small Farm College class that R and I had two very different goals for this farm.

I was looking at the farm as a place to stretch and grow.  We could try new things, keep what suited us and let the other go.  We could learn about the world around us and learn about each other.  I envisioned us growing stronger and more loving as a family because of our mutual efforts toward a common goal.  R's eye was on retirement.  His dream was to quit his day job and farm full time.  Unfortunately, we both assumed that we were working with a common goal in mind. 

Finding out that our goals were so different was a real shock.  I felt that R moved me here under false pretenses.  If he wanted to retire right away, in my opinion, we should have been looking at much more modest places.  He felt that I didn't care about anything but his income.  If I really loved him, I'd be supporting him in the dream to farm.

Thankfully, we've worked through most of that.  We have a shared vision for our farm as a place to learn and grow with an eye on the future.  Our desire is to retire in 15 years.  R would add OR LESS right here.  When we retire, we will have the farm running in such a manner that we are self-sufficient and are able to earn what we can't grow or make by selling what we do grow and make. 

When I look back over the last 22 years I know that 15 years is going to pass way too quickly.  Our plans for this spring are to put in a vegetable and herb garden, start working with chickens and establish two bee  hives.  We'll also be working on fencing and preparing barn space for our next phase of farming.  Over the next five years we plan to experiment and see what works so by year six we are ready to begin getting serious about our farm income.  Years six through ten will be our growth and development years and years ten through fifteen are going to be our work to save years.  Hopefully, our plans with go well and our dream of a life on the farm will become a daily truth.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Small Farm College Graduates

We finished our last small farm college class last night.  Now we know everything there is to know about owning and running a small farm, right?!  In reality, now we know how absolutely clueless we are about owning and running a small farm.  We have as many or more questions than we had before we started class.  What we do have in our favor now is a starting point and a notebook full of resources. 

We started this process with a dream of a farm in September of 2010.  By December 2010 we had chosen the farm and registered for small farm college.  We closed on the farm on January 11, 2011 and began small farm college the following week.  Our first week of small farm college let us know how little we knew.  Since then we've learned about soil, livestock and crops.  We've heard various experts talk about conservation, ecology, botany and biology.  We've learned a little bit about the law, best management practices and marketing. 

To date we have the beginning of a farm business plan.  We have a boatload full of ideas to research.  We have a list of names for people that may be able to help us.  We have plenty to do.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that graduation from small farm college is just like any other graduation.  Graduation signals the beginning of something new just as boldly as it marks the end of something old. 

So, as we embark on life as small farm college graduates I'd like to thank everyone at the OSU Extension who made this possible.  I'd like to also remind myself and other that knowledge is power.  While I've come out of this program with lots of knowledge I also have the confidence that I am powerful enough to make this work and, if I can do this, anyone can. 

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
Helen Keller

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Farm Dream

Our farm dream began, as so many dreams do, with a fuzzy idea of a perfect life and an idle conversation.  We are always up for an adventure and in the spring and summer of 2010, we began exploring another life change.  Extended travel was taking a toll on our family life and something had to change.  Australia, Brazil and Amsterdam are all exotic and wonderful unless you are the spouse left at home to manage daily life with four children. 

The talks began and ideas were tossed about.  I was voting for a house near the beach somewhere in the southern U.S..  He had pictures of barns and fields dancing in his head.  When the job offers came from the middle of the country my beach dream became a distant memory and his farm dream came into focus.  The dream was aided by the fact that we were familiar with the area where we were relocating and we knew that a rural locale was our best choice.  We also had some very clear ideas about the school districts we preferred. 

In September 2010 the hunt for a farm began.  There are several posts on my family blog that detail our decision making and farm search:  A Step Back?, some highlights of farms we didn't buy, Bearing Witness to Blessing, Buying the Farm.

Our dream continues as we prepare to actually do something with our farm.  We are thrilled to share our dream with you.