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Just starting this journey. Can you give me a few words of advice?  RSS feed

 
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Hello permies
I'm new to this forum and embarrassingly naive about all things agricultural. I grew up in big cities and my husband grew up in small towns. We've lived in a small town for 10 years now. For years now we've been changing and simplifying our lives and just love it. Recently we made the leap and signed on to purchase a farm house on 5 acres. I'll continue to work full time while my husband is going to be a stay at home dad. It'll be more of a hobby farm but we're so excited to start this journey. We have so much to learn. Can you offer me some advice on what it takes to start a hobby farm? What are some good resources? How do we even start? We need to set up fencing and the barn and purchase all the necessary equipment. Since we're buying the farm in September we'd like to start setting up the property this fall to acquire some animals next spring. I know we have a lot to learn and a lot to plan so I want to give ourselves enough time to do it.

Our plan is:
-Have a large garden for personal use.
-want to eventually can and preserve food for the winter
-have chickens for eggs
-goats or sheep for milk (which should we choose)
-2 horses for riding
-or 2 mini cows for milk
-apple trees
-grape vines
-bees for honey

We live in the Midwest. I would appreciate any and all advice. Thank you in advance
 
gardener
Posts: 1222
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Hi Madeline, welcome to permies!

This is a great resource, and full of quality information and good folks that know a lot about pretty much everything in the broad spectrum of homesteading and permaculture. The very first thing I recommend doing is sending a soil sample off to a lab for analysis. With this information, you can improve your soil and grow a bountiful garden. There's a little more to it than just a soil analysis. Adding compost and other organic matter is important too, and by all means mulch your garden. The second thing that I may suggest is plant your fruit trees this fall. Walk around with a compass to get some idea of where the sun arcs across the sky, fruit trees (and your garden too) need full sun to perform their best. Fruit trees will need years in the ground to get established so they can bear quality fruit. And one more thing: start a compost pile. Composting isn't difficult, it does need time to break down, but it will yield fantastic stuff to put in your garden or dress around the fruit trees as the years go by.

These are my suggestions for first steps. I'm a gardener, I love growing my own food, it's what I've done for many years, and I'm still learning. I don't know anything about raising livestock or bees, but others here do! I'm more than happy to answer any questions you have regarding growing a garden and hopefully help you avoid mistakes I've learned from and help you and your husband achieve garden success.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1130
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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My general advice is to....
....Read everything you can about the topics you're interested in. Veggie growing. Sheep. Goats. Etc.
... Take it slowly, getting comfortable with one thing before expanding to another.
...Expect lots of failures while learning and use them to your advantage as a learning opportunity.
...Anticipate lots of work.

I've seen many failures in my part of the world with people who tried to do everything at once, but never got good at any of it. One thing after another failed ....goats died, veggies failed to thrive, machinery broke and didn't get fixed, fences got erected poorly and were too weak, etc. I suppose they had bit off more than they could chew, so to speak. These people last a couple years then either give up or move away.

In my own case, I took on a majorly huge project but tackled it one tiny step at a time, rewarding myself as each small project got completed. I told my inner self that creating a homestead would be enjoyable work, not drudgery. So I looked forward to each new challenge.

If I were in your situation, I'd get soil tests done. I'd plant the fruit trees and grapes. Then I'd spend the winter getting things planned out. Plus I'd read everything I could get my hands on about the livestock I'm interested in. I'd be willing to make lots of mistakes in my veggie garden, but I'd be upset if I killed my livestock because I failed to learn about animal husbandry.
 
Posts: 66
Location: Columbia Missouri
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James gave you some very good advise.  As for finding that lab for your soil test most states, especially in the Midwest, have a land grant university. These universities will usually have extension offices in each County.  They can steer you to the local soil lab.  If you really want an in depth understanding of soil tests and how to interpret them read "The Intelligent Gardener" by Steve Solomon. 

As for fruit trees, they do take several years to bear fruit.  So, planting them is something to be done early.  Over the years I have planted and replanted apple trees several times.  These days when choosing fruit trees my first priority is disease resistance. There are several regions that produce a lot of fruit.  These are California, and upstate New York.  There are two universities that have lots of good information online on the subject of producing fruit.  Theses are the University of California - Davis and Connell University.  Bear in mind that they are concerned with industrial agriculture and their recommendations will reflect this.  You will need to decide for yourself how much of that advice you are willing to follow.

Keep us updated on how the farm is going.
 
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Generally take it slow....it's exciting and all to have land and ideas for what to do there when you are young enough to accomplish them...but you soon might find that you've made some miss steps by taking off too quickly.  We were usually limited by money and/or time...in many cases this was very fortunate as the 'project' we thought we needed badly was totally unnecessary in the end.

Go slow especially with animals....we were some of the early seventies 'homesteaders' and did things like plant fruit trees and then traded the truck for some goats and a horse (or two?, not remembering everything ) and of course we weren't fenced yet so they ran the valley.  The goats were a success in the end and kept us in meat and milk for years....the fruit trees long gone
 
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I would recommend starting a garden and getting a few chickens.  Those things are the easiest in my mind.  Start close to the house and work your way out in the zone method rather than starting everywhere at once like I did
 
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Having just purchased five or so acres last summer and jumped in head first (albeit we had 40 plus years of gardening experience and chickens and goats already), my advice is this:

- find a free short course on permaculture that includes learning the twelve principles of permaculture ... they can give you a base for making all of your decisions for your homestead
- don't do anything more than you absolutely have to do to live for the first year, spend that time observing your land and planning
- read, read, and read some more ... so many people have so many opinions and thoughts on this subject but you need to form your own
- don't get animals until you are ready to be tied to the homestead 24/7/365 ... even when you think everything is taken care of for a short weekend away nothing is predictable
- best advice I got and modified to suit our needs ... don't be married to trees, if one is in the way of where the barn needs to go then cut it down and use the wood for something else, you can always plant more
- good fences make good neighbors but remember, when you have more than you need build a longer table not a higher fence
- time is your friend and nothing is ever completed, just a work in progress
 
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Hello Madeline,
   I also grew up in the city.(Akron, Ohio) and 13 years ago moved to the rural mountain of WV. (near Flat Top, WV) Awesome and scary all at the same time. Here is my advice, and the advice I give anyone getting into rural living. ( I'm transforming my B&B, Farmstay to an Education Center because of all the questions I get., Super excited)


1.) Start Slow and Small. 
2.) Get to know the creatures you will be interacting with on a daily basis. (Chicken are super fun, Bee are neat with their patterns) but always back to #1 you need time to know your bees and chicken separate.
3.) Read, Read, Read and then read some more. You're farm, animals, weather will not do what the books say they will do, so by reading you be able to take chicken advice and adapt it for growies.
4.) Get to know everyone around you. I mean everyone. You animals WILL get out and run over to their house. Trust me, it will happen. That is not the best time to meet them. (Eggs are magic, give them away to nosy, or grumpy neighbors)
5.) Find something outside the farm to enjoy. A park, a hobby, a meetup club, flea market. Something you can look forward to. You WILL want to leave the farm during burn out phase, having a place to go that will recharge you it NEEDED.
6.) Stay smaller then you want to stay. ( The Gods/Source will give you creatures to rescue) If you're small you can find room for it.
7.) But a VET book on each animal type you plan to have. ( This includes dogs and cats) sometime you CAN'T make it to the VET, you will be treating the animal yourself, why not have access to the best info. (Not the internet because people shame you for not taking animals to ER Vets, and wont believe you that your to far away from an open one)
8.) Understand some days you will HATE the farm and dream of living in the city again. That will never go away, but the great days will balance out the terrible days. It's takes a while to get use to being a Feral Human on the Factory Farm of Society.
9.) Most of your friends will think it's cool, but secretly think you are bat shit crazy.
10.) You will rarely be really clean again. (It's ok, you will change what clean means., dirt without poop in is, is now clean dirt)
11.) Plant Trees yesterday, and since you can't time travel, plant them as soon as possible, way more then you think you want. Tree that produce something you want. Plant them before the fencing, before the barn, before the equipment.
12.) Observe the season. Find a spot and take a picture every month from that same spot.
13.) Document the weather. I personally do an instagram #outthewindowweather so I can look back and see the weather and share with my friends. This make it easier for you in the future years to plan for the chaos and find the patterns.
14.) Map out your master plan, each season to see if the weather pattern change it.
15.) Know that it's going to be fun, crazy and rewarding.

If you guys setup a FB, Twitter, or IG I'd like to follow your adventures. @xdrfirefly is me. (on all of them)  

Should be a great lifetime adventure.

-Justyn
 
gardener
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Start with patience, which is the most difficult thing you'll ever cultivate.  Get to know, really know your land; take notes and take pictures especially after large rains or snow melts. Learn where the ebbs and flows of your property are, where you can drop a pond or 2 (aka where it's already holding water) which will be the 1st landwork I would do - your animals and your garden will thank you.   Start with the land long before you add in livestock (other than chickens which can easily be set up to be mobile).  Put in a small kitchen garden to serve you & possible a few customers.

Get the land really prepped with berms, swales, ponds & paths before you begin to plant.  It's easy to add that layer and have it successful if the land is planned first.  yup, patience is where you start...observe, observe & observe some more.  The land will make it clear where to begin with the foundation.
 
Madeline Carter
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Justyn Mavis wrote:Hello Madeline,
   I also grew up in the city.(Akron, Ohio) and 13 years ago moved to the rural mountain of WV. (near Flat Top, WV) Awesome and scary all at the same time. Here is my advice, and the advice I give anyone getting into rural living. ( I'm transforming my B&B, Farmstay to an Education Center because of all the questions I get., Super excited)


1.) Start Slow and Small. 
2.) Get to know the creatures you will be interacting with on a daily basis. (Chicken are super fun, Bee are neat with their patterns) but always back to #1 you need time to know your bees and chicken separate.
3.) Read, Read, Read and then read some more. You're farm, animals, weather will not do what the books say they will do, so by reading you be able to take chicken advice and adapt it for growies.
4.) Get to know everyone around you. I mean everyone. You animals WILL get out and run over to their house. Trust me, it will happen. That is not the best time to meet them. (Eggs are magic, give them away to nosy, or grumpy neighbors)
5.) Find something outside the farm to enjoy. A park, a hobby, a meetup club, flea market. Something you can look forward to. You WILL want to leave the farm during burn out phase, having a place to go that will recharge you it NEEDED.
6.) Stay smaller then you want to stay. ( The Gods/Source will give you creatures to rescue) If you're small you can find room for it.
7.) But a VET book on each animal type you plan to have. ( This includes dogs and cats) sometime you CAN'T make it to the VET, you will be treating the animal yourself, why not have access to the best info. (Not the internet because people shame you for not taking animals to ER Vets, and wont believe you that your to far away from an open one)
8.) Understand some days you will HATE the farm and dream of living in the city again. That will never go away, but the great days will balance out the terrible days. It's takes a while to get use to being a Feral Human on the Factory Farm of Society.
9.) Most of your friends will think it's cool, but secretly think you are bat shit crazy.
10.) You will rarely be really clean again. (It's ok, you will change what clean means., dirt without poop in is, is now clean dirt)
11.) Plant Trees yesterday, and since you can't time travel, plant them as soon as possible, way more then you think you want. Tree that produce something you want. Plant them before the fencing, before the barn, before the equipment.
12.) Observe the season. Find a spot and take a picture every month from that same spot.
13.) Document the weather. I personally do an instagram #outthewindowweather so I can look back and see the weather and share with my friends. This make it easier for you in the future years to plan for the chaos and find the patterns.
14.) Map out your master plan, each season to see if the weather pattern change it.
15.) Know that it's going to be fun, crazy and rewarding.

If you guys setup a FB, Twitter, or IG I'd like to follow your adventures. @xdrfirefly is me. (on all of them)  

Should be a great lifetime adventure.

-Justyn



I'll definitely have to look into starting an IG and I will give you the link. Thank you!!
 
gardener
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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E Cochran wrote:- find a free short course on permaculture that includes learning the twelve principles of permaculture ... they can give you a base for making all of your decisions for your homestead



I think Oregon State is doing their free permaculture online classes every 6 months so there's a chance there will be another one this fall.  OSU Introduction to Permaculture Design

And there's a ton of great advice already given so I won't add to the pile.  Good Luck!
 
Posts: 199
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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I skimmed the replies, and they all looked good. Something I might add to the several suggestions to "read and read some more". Also spend lots of time talking to your neighbors and especially the farmers. They know what works, and they know the popular local animal breeds. On various forums I have often read many people going on and on about the perfect breed of ...whatever. But, if you get the "perfect" Guernsey milk cow and you want to breed her for calf and milk but all the locals raise Jersey's, you're either going to settle for breeding your cow to a different type or you are in for a long drive to someone who has a Guernsey. You might have been better off to get the popular local breed in the first place.

....Now on to my actual first thing we recommend you do. --Pray.

We have lots of people come here to live and learn. We always tell them to do "nothing" the first day. Just walk around and look at things. Try to feel the vibration of the place. Try to get a feel for what the land wants. Breathe, before you start chopping away at "something". Lay down somewhere and clear your mind. Try to listen to the heartbeat of the land. Listen to the birds and insects. Speak from your heart, out loud or silently, to the Nature Spirits and Fairies. Ask them for guidance. The land you are now standing on deserves respect. It has been there for millions of years. Listen to it. In time it will tell you what it wants. You will only be there a little while. The Earth, and All her creatures, has its own ways. Listen to them. And live and work together. Then All will be much happier. The land you have been temporarily given to care take will care for you if you let it.
 
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