Saturday, May 13, 2006

This is Not a Hobby Farm

While the boys and I were on our trip east we visited some friends. The boys were asked to play some of their bluegrass music, and they were more than willing to oblige. Afterwards one of our friends said something like, "I think I see why so many famous musicians came from farms; they had nothing else to distract them, and played music all the time." I had to bite my tongue not to dispute that statement, but thought I would do so now.

I don't think people realize just how much work it is to live on a farm. I am busier now than I ever was, even busier than when the boys were younger. Sometimes I feel badly that we keep the boys so busy they fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow at night! It is a good kind of busy; not busy work, but actual getting something done type of busy, when you really feel at the end of the day that you have accomplished something worthwhile. I remember a friend's reaction when I first told her that we had found our "place in the country;" she told me I didn't know what stress was -- just wait until you move to your land! And she was very right.

When people would ask us what on earth we were going to do with 160 acres, Jim would tell them we were going to farm. Even I thought he was crazy, as neither one of us were raised on a farm. Jim is a visionary, and knew what God had in mind for us well before I could catch the vision. I guess I was too caught up on the details of packing and moving. How do you jump in and start farming when our 160 acres was raw land, with no buildings, utilities or even a road in? It really wasn't until we met our friends Paulette and then Steve (Mountain Fire Keeper) that Jim's vision began to take shape for me. I began to see the possibility of raising our own food, and becoming more self-sustaining in other ways. We are seeing progress, but have a long ways yet to go.

We do not have goats just to give the boys more chores to do, but to actually use the milk and maybe eventually the meat. I want to use the milk to make soap. The chickens that are coming soon will provide us eggs and meat. If everything goes well we will have our own honey, and may even have some home grown grains to work with. Our garden is huge this year, and we will be busy come harvest time. I better find more canning jars at garage sales! Can't wait for our raspberries to produce enough to make jam; the boys are more anxious than I am, since last year's supply barely made it through the winter (they like a little bread with their jam). I've always wanted a horse, but the horses we'll have over here will be work horses. Jonathan will purchase an extra deer license this fall -- not just for the sport of the hunt, but because we love venison.

Anyway, this is what the Lord has in store for us. I guess it's time for me to take out my mountain dulcimer and get practiced up.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn!

Great post! I find your views of what has been happening on your farm to be very fascinating---from your 'used to be' ubran perspective.

I grew up on a diversified farm so all of this seems fairly normal to me. As for your farming operation, YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET!

Did you know that Jim and I are hoping to get Chris and his tractor mounted tiller to break up enough hayland to double the size of the gardens for next year?

'Micro' farming on an grand scale!

Large orchard, tree, shrub and perennial nursery, expanded small grains, production garden, culinary and medicinal herbs--the list goes on....

I hope to get us all started into horse farming to work your additional fields. You ready mentally to see your boys drive huge draft horses? Horse logging, maybe a portable sawmill.

The fun and learning experiences never ends.......

May God guide our steps and bless our efforts!

Anonymous said...

Excellent points Lynn! We are truly not a hobby farm, and are not doing this only for the fun of it. When I mentioned that we were going to do some farming after moving out of the city to a pastor friend, He commented synically, that very few can make a living by farming in our day. I then mentioned that we are not farming to make money, but to save money. In the back of my mind was the realization that federal reserve notes are not real, Biblical or tangible, money, but a fiat (false) appearance of money and that God must have a better economic system.

Anonymous said...

I think I know that friend that made the comment re: stress? Was she right or what?! :) But isn't the grandest stress you could ever wish for. I wouldn't change it for the world! Wait until you get that first mule or horse! They don't come, delivered in a box, for a long ride in the back of the van, like chickens do. HA! Great post. Your farm sounds so perfect-I love it.

Lynn said...

Hi Steve,
Well, I've seen plenty already! Now for the weather to cooperate. I better figure out some quick and easy meals to make for everyone, as it sounds like I'll be feeding a crowd all summer long!

I figured if you read this post you would know I was talking about your comments on life in the country! Good to hear from you! (And by the way, Lewis and Cluck are still happily living a few miles from us with about a hundred other chickens. Thanks!)

Anonymous said...

Re. the comments on horses. Actually the smaller drafts are able to do more and haul more weight per lb than the large animals PLUS having the distinct advantage of eating far less than a huge draft horse. Draft crosses also are more economical than actually utilizing something like a Belgian, Percheron, Suffolk Punch etc. And the smaller drafts or dual purpose animals can also be ridden, pull wagons etc.
When it comes to feeding them, if you are going to produce all your own hay by hand or horse, you will definitely appreciate how much less hay is necessary to sustain them, especially when you won't be using them for work half of the year. (unless you guys are planning to eliminate your cars all together) A Belgian eating a good 40lb bale a day hurts when you don't utilize or need all that power. :)
Plus the smaller ones are not as intimidating :) Although my experience with Belgians has been nothing but good (they came from well trained homes!), just their size is enough LOL. And again, I love recreational riding and that is hard with a Belgian (ouch, you almost do the splits, although it can be done).
Belgian x QH, Norwegian Fjords, etc are very nice alternatives that eat far less and are very easy to keep. Upkeep healthwise, hoof trimming and so on are also much easier on the smaller ones when you do it yourself
You certainly have a lot of work ahead of yourselves. I enjoy farming and becoming more self sufficient, but have no desire to try to become completely self sufficient. I don't see it as a Biblical mandate and like to support others in the Christian community via purchasing or bartering for excellent products from them. While our desire is to get back to community produced things, my desire is not for ME to produce everything myself - I want to be able to enjoy life also and will happily exchange or purchase some things from others who excell at what they do (whether it is producing honey, growing herbs etc. :) Not that I didn't enjoy working that hard on the farm, but I got to the point where I needed a break from working so hard all day long just to get by. And I found that it was very hard to excell at everything I did. It is time consuming and very very hard to do everything well - I didn't have enough hours in the day! So I supported those who liked to specialize a little more in the things I didn't have time for or as much of an interest in. I would have liked to do it all, but it was overwhelming - where was I to draw the line. . . Thinking of adding sheep or goats to spin wool and then a loom to make bolts of cloth for clothing, how was I to go about providing shoes etc. . .
I love community supported agriculture - I loved gardening and provided for those who loved having bees etc. It left me with time to do what I did well and still be an integral part of the wheel or body of Christ without being an island unto myself and not being "forced" to rely on somebody else.
Soapmaking - what fun and satisfying work. It doesn't take much to make an entire year's worth of soap once you get going. I made soap one year and am still working on the remnants of it 5 years later. Because of the soap's tendency to separate you won't find you are able to add much milk to it - when people tout goat's milk soap, it is a very tiny percentage added. I don't think you will use even a gallon for a year's soapmaking needs.
BUT feta - oh so good!! - mozza, cheddar, swiss, colby, farmer's cheese . . . I love cheesemaking. And I always wanted to try making feta with goat's milk the way it was supposed to be made. Cheesemaking has got to be one of the most time consuming projects (there was a reason I had huge pots and tried to make 5-10lbs at a time), and after you spend 3 hours making a wheel of cheese the family can eat in one sitting you may wonder why you do it. But it is so much better than anything you could ever purchase from a store!!
I think I'm rambling and the dogs are needing to go out.
Oh, and if you want to produce some of the best soil and not have so much work digging up new ground, get yourself some pigs to turn your garden soil for you! I used pigs to expand my garden area and they could churn up a patch of grass 16x16 every day! Talk about a happy chore for those pigs and they do it soooo well. I couldn't justify raising a sow because of the grain she required, the hassle of getting her bred etc but I did purchase weanlings and put them in portable fencing to dig up the garden. They will churn and dig up your soil (soil needs to be fairly dry), and also add lovely fertilizer and organic matter to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

I certainly agree with the last comment. One person or even one family just can't do it all. My dream is to work towards getting mostly self-reliant on a community basis---say within a 25 or 50 mile radius.

We are blessed with many talented and skilled people within our small community.

Gotta close and get some rest.

May God bless........

Emily said...

Hi Lynn! You know, I always visit your blog with expectations: what are they going to be up to next? ;^) Seriously, I can't tell you how much I admire you and your family. You are shining examples of what it means to be faithful stewards of the Lord's blessings. As for working your boys too hard....poppycock! :) Consider what an excellent education they are receiving in preparation for manhood and family headship. May you all continue to grow and thrive on your farm. God bless you with wisdom and fortitude!

Lynn said...

Hello Anonymous,
Thanks for all your comments. I know we could never be totally self sufficient -- I have trouble juggling normal daily tasks with the addition of gardens, animals, etc. We have a growing circle of friends who have walked this road for longer than we have, and it is a blessing to learn from them as well as have them help us with what they excell in. Just today a friend stopped in to help Jim check our 2 bee hives, and discovered one hive was gone. Now we have to figure out what happened. We so appreciate learning all of these new things. I appreciate your input regarding work horses. The first ones we have will belong to a friend, and we will pasture them over here. I myself have always wanted a Norwegian Fjord Horse, but that is way in the future, if at all. I agree with you that it's important to enjoy our life and work so hard that it becomes a burden to us or our children. That happened to my Mom's family, and most of them left farming and never returned. I appreciate your comments! (PS -- cheese making is in the future, as I need someone to coach me on that one.)

We are learning as much as you are! I just read your blog about receiving your chicks. It is all such a learning experience. I have wondered lately why the Lord seems to have us doing crash courses in so many new areas all at once. My prayer is that we don't overdo with too much too soon, and miss what the Lord has for us. Thanks for all of your wonderful comments.

Benjamin said...

Hello Lynn, I just realized that I forgot to sign my name when I posted- wasn't trying to be anonymous, the internet connection wasn't the best that day and I didn't bother logging in.

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