Growing Home Again


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Smart Bumps

Like all people, I made plenty of mistakes growing up. That’s how we learn. My mom taught me that these were just bumps in the road. After I hit one, I could either learn from them and it would become a “smart bump” or not learn from it and repeat it again – a “dumb bump”. I’m sure I have had a few more “dumb bumps” than “smart bumps”.  As a city girl turned farm girl, I’ve hit plenty of bumps and endeavored to make them “smart bumps”. That’s why I started this blog – so others can learn from my failures and not make the same mistakes.

bump in the road 2

Even “smart bumps” can be quite painful. I picked up my first buckling back in January. I asked all the right questions, checked the right paperwork. Had a vet check. He looked like the perfect little Alpine/Nubian herd sire for my herd. He was too little to be checked for some of the nastier stuff in life – like Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE). He just turned seven months old and has been in with my herd.

I did my due diligence and had my herd tested (yearly). Guess who has CAE – my buck and (former) herd sire. CAE is mostly spread mostly through milk and blood. Saliva, urine, mucus, and feces are also transmission conduit. Most kids contract CAE from their mother’s milk. There’s no cure and no treatment. Infected goats are doomed to a life of separation or with other infected goats. Knowingly breeding an infected doe is, in my opinion, unethical.  On this homestead, everybody has a purpose. My buck’s new purpose will be to feed our family.

Did I do anything wrong? Not really. I asked all the right questions, looked at the right paperwork and frankly, somebody lied to me. So now my buck is on his way to freezer camp tomorrow morning.

One of my older does also became CAE positive – just a little. She’s in quarantine pending testing at 30 days. Hopefully, her numbers will change.

Be smart, do your homework. Ask the tough question and understand that sometimes – people mislead and provide false information.

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Can you harvest natural resources?

Running a homestead is an expensive hobby. I get it, it’s not really a hobby, it’s a way of life. Farming, homesteading, whatever you want to call it comes with awful hours, no days off, no medical or dental and the money isn’t that great either. One thing to consider when purchasing a homestead or spinning one up – how are you going to pay the bills? Will you have an off-farm/homestead job? (Probably) If you’re lucky though, you’ll have enough natural resource on your land to sustainably and ethically harvest and sell.

What resources are available to you? piggy-bank

  • Hay fields
  • Woodlots for timber
  • Wind and solar power
  • Hiking or Biking Trails
  • Land clear via goats

Get creative! Check out what the USDA has to offer or call your extension and see how they can help you build up your resource to make more money and pay those pesky bills while your homestead is growing into self-sufficiency!

Next Lessons Learned series post: What’s your living situation going to be?


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Will you raise livestock?

You will probably raise livestock – unless you are a vegetarian or vegan. Why? It’s food! Where else can you get some delicious bacon then from your own pig? Eggs with bright yellow yolks! Fresh honey! Milk from your goat or cow.

Some months back, we had our first dairy goat in milk. That night, I sat at dinner and watched my children drink that fresh, nourishing liquid and could not have been happier. I know what BB-8 (We’re a Star Wars house) ate, I know what she drank and now – I had complete confidence in the healthful food my boys were drinking. Parenting win!!!

Raising animals for food is no small matter of logistics.  They need adequate space, the right healthful foods, strong and safe shelter, illness prevention and treatment. The list goes on and on. What you will raise highly depends on what you will eat and what your environment is or is not. Our area is very cold in the winter and fairly warm in the winter. There’s about 100 square feet of flat ground and everything else is either a rock or some degree of a hill. I recommend sitting down and making another grid again with your homestead team.

  • What do you like to eat?
  • What do you not like to eat?
  • Will you butcher your own livestock?
  • Do you know how to butcher and process livestock?
  • What kind of land do you need?
  • How much land do you need?
  • Will your livestock perform double duty (i.e. goats love poison ivy and give milk)?
  • Are there any medical concerns for your livestock?
  • Where is the closest large animal vet?
  • How and where will you house your animals?
  • Where will you get their food?
  • Will you pasture or confine or a combination?

That’s not even a full list! Each question is going to lead to more questions and more. Whatever you do – start reading now! Start asking questions from your great uncle that’s been farming since 1902. Search the internet – just make sure you do your due diligence on your sources. Join a few Facebook groups and start reading. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great uncle who’s been farming since 1902 but I do have a computer and a love of reading. I highly recommend investing on “Storey’s Guide to…..” nearly everything raised on a homestead series.

There’s also a new book that’s on my short list to acquire: The Independent Farmstead: Growing Soil, Biodiversity, and Nutrient-Dense Food with Grassfed Animals and Intensive Pasture Management

Facebook groups are also a wealth of knowledge that should be leveraged. Other folks have already made the same mistake you’re about to make. Speaking of mistakes – one new addition to this blog will be “Smart Bumps”. I’ll explain more about that later!

What other groups, dear reader, have you found helpful? Any books that are a must read?

Next Lessons Learned series post: Can you harvest natural resources?


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Do you want to garden?

If your answer is no – you probably don’t belong a homestead. Growing your own food  – mobile food or not is the center of a homestead. Do you have experience raising food? If not, you should get started BEFORE you buy your homestead.

Wait…what?

Unless you live in a hole in the ground with zero access to sunlight, you read that right. Start growing your food now. Why? Because it’s hard! Really, really hard. Very rarely can you just toss a seed in the ground, walk away, and a few months later have something edible. You might luck out, but your chances are pretty slim. Just some herbs in the window will teach you so very much, and you are growing something yourself!

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… ” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Do you want to garden?

Yes. You want to garden. You need to garden. Planting a garden is growing your own money; however, as I pointed out before, it isn’t always easy. There argardene a lot of factors to consider when thinking about what you will grow one day. I recommend referencing my earlier post on what experience you have. It plays a huge part in what your first year, second year and tenth-year garden will look like. Sit down with your team and ask and answer questions honestly. These questions are just the jumping off point. Write down your answers in your notebook. A notebook? Did you start one yet? Might be a good idea. Homesteading is about learning and improving from year to year, and unfortunately, our memories rarely improve year to year.

  • Have you ever planted a garden before?
  • How big of a garden did you plant?
  • What have you planted before?
  • What do you like to eat?
  • What do you hate to eat?
  • What’s the soil like where you live or will live?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • How will you protect your food?
  • What will you do with your food after you harvest it?

New to gardening?

Plan to start small and work your way up. There’s nothing more tempting once you sign the deed to your homestead then to start tilling up land to garden. We did that. Nearly half weareinthegardenan acre and our first garden and second were gigantic failures, and I wasn’t a complete novice at gardening. Going in, the best I had managed was a 20×20 community garden plot and helped my parents in their small garden in our back yard growing up. So we had to shrink back and build up – slowly. We spent a lot of time in the garden.

If you haven’t already bought your homestead, invest in some books and spend a lot of time on the internet searching. If you already have your homestead – winter is around the corner. I highly suggest you start reading up on gardens. There are a lot of schools of thought when it comes to gardening – read a few and see what resonates most with you. Below are the three I use that have yielded quite a bit of success

Also, consider where you live or will be living. I live in Northern New England and without a lot of input and infrastructure, I’m not going to grow pineapple anytime soon outdoors. Look at the USDA hardiness zones and determine the length of your growing season.

Next Lessons Learned series post: Will you raise livestock?