Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Self-Sufficiency vs. Inter-Reliability

Since finishing our farm class, we spent a lot of time talking about our goals and plans.  We added 24 chickens and a goat to the farm.  We bought a tractor.  We are moving forward and have clarified a general direction for that movement. 

We've settled on a 15 year plan for leaving corporate America.  In 15 years, theoretically, all of our children will be through college.  We are hoping that reducing our income at that point will be possible.  We are also hoping that our farm will have passed beyond the self-sufficient stage and be income producing.  It's hard to picture that right now, looking at so much empty space and wondering where we'll start in filling it.

As a result of the 15 year goal, we've decided to start with self-sufficiency.  This year, year 0, is devoted to education and small steps.  We are starting chickens, bees, gardening and now, a goat.  We are making our property ready for future endeavors.  We are trying to figure out what self-sufficiency means to us.  There are definitions and degrees of self-sufficiency.  As the Daycreek website states, in it's purest form, self-sufficiency is impossible.  Rather than shoot for the ideal, we are going to try to establish what we feel would make us self-sufficient.

Water we've got covered, sort of.  Our water is from a spring.  We don't make it but we don't have to pay for it either.  We do need to put in place a system for getting the water to the barn and storing it.  Right now all the water comes to the house.  That won't be adequate when we increase our livestock.

Our energy requirement is not something we are interested in addressing yet.  Electricity and propane are necessary evils at this point.   There has been talk about solar panels and a wind mill but that is just talk.  It's not in the top priorities.

Food is our primary focus.  We have chicks, 24 of them.  Some will be layers and some will be dinner.  We should be able to harvest the meat beginning in August and the eggs in October.  We also have a goat and while she could be dinner, she won't be.  We may use her to start a herd but none of us are certain that we could eat anything that cute.  My son is convinced that Dexter cows are our answer to the meat question.  My daughter thinks we need to become vegetarians.  It will be interesting to see where we fall out at the end of that debate.  The normal meat producing animals are all possibilities.  We have the required resources for growing just about anything.  Sometimes, too many choices are just as limiting as too few.

Our garden feels like a daunting task right now.  Last year I had a real garden for the first time.  It was a 3X4 square foot raised bed garden.  I enjoyed most of the experience but was thankful for the local farmers market and grocery store for food.  We had plenty of cucumbers, mint, basil, peppers and egg plants.  We also had plenty of green tomatoes that never turned red.  I learned afterward that putting the green tomatoes in a paper bag and letting them sit might have helped them turn.  I'll try that next time.

This year, I want to be more deliberate about the garden.  I want to actually grow most of what we eat.  That means I'd need to plant what we like and figure out how to  keep track of it all.  I know it's possible.  Other people do it and make it look easy.  I want to be one of those people and I don't want to have to work to figure it out.  One of the things I'm learning is that self-sufficiency requires lots of teachers.  Somehow, that interdependence seems like the opposite of self-sufficiency.  Maybe what we are really trying to achieve is reliance our ourselves and those we consider reliable.  So maybe, what we are after is inter-reliability.

As we move more deeply into the life on a farm, I want to enjoy the journey.  I don't want to loose my mind or become bitter and hard.  I want to great each day with a smile and a thankful heart for all the blessings God has given.  I want to know my neighbors and benefit from their knowledge and talents.  I want to share mine with them.  I want to be able to let a carrot grow to maturity without feeling the need to check on it's size. I want to grow what I can and use it to take care of my family.  I want to learn new skills.  I want to learn old skills.  I want to wake up each day with the man I love and be content with our place in this world.  I think that inter-reliability is definitely what I'm trying to develop.

Wordless Wednesday: The New Tractor

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chick Day at The White House Farm

We've been working the last few weeks to clean out our hen house and get it ready for our newest project on the farm.  After hours of shoveling, scrubbing and refurbishing, the hen house was ready for it's new tenants.

Today for school we calculated the cost, based on a local advertisement, for our chicks and our supplies.  We also figured out how much space we'd need for our chicks under the brood lamp.  After the math lesson, we took a field trip to the local feed store to pick up our chicks.  We'd planned to get a straight run of two dozen chicks.  I was hoping for Plymouth Barred Rocks.  When we arrived at the feed store we learned that they only had pullets.  That was  real disappointment for S9.  He had his heart set on a rooster and with a straight run there was a good chance we'd have gotten several. 

We also had to compromise on breed.  All the Barred Rocks were spoken for.  M6 fell in love with the little Rhode Island Reds and H12 selected two each of several other breeds.  We picked three extra Goldens and three extra Reds to round out our number to eighteen.  S9 is holding out for the roosters so we'll be traveling to two other feed stores tomorrow to search for a straight run or roosters.  I can already see that these chickens may not be the mixed group of roasting and laying chickens that I'd imagined.  We may have to wait for a later group in order to have any chickens to eat.  M6 has already announced that her red chicks will be great at laying eggs.  I have no doubt she's right.

After we brought the chicks back to the hen house, we spent several hours watching them closely.  The children were fascinated by chick behavior.  I think the biggest surprise was how active the tiny chicks were and how they bickered with each other.  They also liked the way their downy feathers felt.  I'm hoping the chicks survive the level of handling they'll be getting for the next few days.

I'm praying that everything works with the brooder and that the chicks stay warm through the night.  I'm also praying that we made the hen house as safe and secure as we think we did.  I never realized how much effort went into each and every animal on a farm.  Surely, sometime, something is going to be easy and take care of itself.