I don’t think I would call what we do farming, but most days I do love it. Our family lived in a typical neighborhood and did the typical things a family of four did. It was….boring; work/school, easy chores, TV, bed and repeat. There was a desire for something greater or less by some standards. At the same time I was learning more about a natural or healthier lifestyle. What was in our food? Where did it come from? Why did we always defer to an expert or official government statement (especially when it came to the most important aspects of life-birthing, nutrition, and education)? We knew it was time to be informed and accountable for our lifestyle decisions. Some might ask why not just buy and eat organics or products labeled natural? Because It would still be missing from our lives. It is different for everyone, but for us the excitement, joy, hardship and reward of knowing we helped make something on our own, with our own hands and sweat, wouldn’t be there if we just bought what was trendy at the moment. Hmmm, what were we thinking?
We are the new breed of homesteaders, self sustainers, do-it-yourselfers; never having been raised in or near a rural lifestyle we started out very green. On some days the “green” was literal as I suppressed the gag reflex that tried to overwhelm me during our first chicken butchering. Other days the lack of inexperience would have us running to the library, internet, or anyone (like the poor girl at the local fruit stand who just wants you to pay and move on w/out the incessant questions) that might know what to do or just more than us.
The first year seemed relatively easy. We built some chicken coops, had a nice little flock of reds and mixed, and an abundance of eggs. Farm fresh eggs anyone? I never understood what fueled the supply and demand, but sometimes I couldn’t meet the need and sometimes I was practically giving them away. Then a strange thing happened, friends (who must have secretly desired the freedom land brings, but didn’t want the work) started bringing us animals. A goat here, a pig there…We didn’t mind, right? Naw, the more the merrier. At least we had the time and help since we home (life) school, everyone is able to be a part of it all. The goats were lots of fun. They were breeding almost as fast as we were and the toddlers loved to run and prance around with the kids. What a joy to watch.
In the third year of this learning curve, we put our hand to the plow so to speak, and prepared our garden. I had know idea how wonderful and irritating a garden could be. I read all I could about the different types of gardening, soil needs/preparation, what works in my zone, when to plant, etc…. But I had stars in my eyes when I read about and saw pictures of the bountiful harvest of my northern counterparts – Oh, the lushness! When it came time for my Florida “harvest” it was sorely lacking; small, well everything and if it per chanced to grow larger than a ping pong ball it had sacrificed its self to the weird and unusual insect varieties. Not a problem, I was learning and there was always next season. Seasons have come and gone since then, some more plentiful than others, but I am always learning something new. On our most abundant year I was able to learn how to make jelly and can carrots. This year it will be raised beds for the house garden and I am keeping my fingers crossed.
It was nice to have our freezer and pantry starting to fill with food from our land and hands. When baby number 4 was born I started hinting how nice it would be to have something larger than myself lactating around the homestead. Hubby wasn’t quite ready for the time and finances a cow requires so got me sidetracked with beekeeping. I guess a land flowing with honey is better than nothing at all. I was hoping for milk and honey, but was appeased for the time being.
Our 14 yr. old had been showing pigs through 4-H for a few years and wanted a new challenge. I had just the thing. How about showing dairy heifers? Hehe… Off to the local dairy to pick one (or two) out. In this area being in 4-H is the only way they will sell off a heifer. Two sweet 1mo old baby girls mooing in their stalls to be fed was a great sound. Buttercup the Holstein took to us quickly, but Annabelle the Jersey X needed a bit more time. It was hard to keep everyone slow and quiet around her with all our excitement. Because they were to be show girls we were always cleaning them, touching them, and teaching them to be halter lead. They are 6 mo. old and so lovey. All four of our children go out to visit and brush them. I even find them resting in the paddock together. We made it through the show season having done nicely for grade animals. I am trying to research feed/pasture management as they get bigger and have been getting hands on experience with a friend’s milker. At this point we are unsure if we can keep the girls when they become cows as the dairy expects us to sell them back – sniff.
Little Amethyst would be the perfect girl for our family as one of us and for show with her pedigree. I would love to have the milk flowing along with the honey and be secure in the knowledge that she is ours. Are we her perfect family? We have plenty of love, time, sunshine, and SPIRIT for her here.
I love the life we are creating for ourselves and children. They are seeing what it means to be a part of life, not just take from it. This way of living is not easier or even simple most days, but it is far from boring. And the It that was missing is filling in nicely.
Before we moved, I always thought a farm had lots of land, animals, tractors, and food. There was always a big red barn in the background, and the farmer was holding a pitchfork while wearing overalls and a straw hat. When we moved to Myakka, FL my view changed entirely. I found that it wasn’t about looking like a farm, but about sustaining and taking care of ourselves.
We have lived here for almost 6 yrs, and I must say we have improved a lot. We have four goats, a yard full of chickens, a counter full of eggs, a small vegetable garden, and two dairy heifers. I enjoy the animals, the sunshine and quiet. Since I am the eldest of (almost) 5 I do most of the feeding and cleaning up after the animals, but I also get to play with them. I love that I have space to breath. I love that we grow and raise our food (even when it is not my favorite to eat). I can also do things I could not be able to do in a neighborhood, like livestock 4-H. I show swine and dairy. My two heifers are very good girls, although the little Jersey mix doesn’t meet the standards at shows. I still love her, but that is why I would like a registered Jersey for 4-H. I think it would be nice to have fresh milk someday as well.
I believe that Amethyst is a great looking heifer and that she would have a great home with us. We have 10 acres, a vented stall, and a large paddock area. I would be out with her everyday since I am homeschooled and even told mom I would help milk her someday. I can’t wait to see what the future brings us and our farm.
BY: Caleb A.
By Thaddaeus C., Age 6
I like feeding and stuff
I like emptying the wheelbarrow
I like cleaning the chicken coup
I like the kittens
I would like my own dairy cow.
“Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people”
Farming, if you ask anybody in a large metropolitan area like Chicago, which happens to be where I grew up, consist of iconic red barns, large gardens, apple pie, chickens scratching in the grass and cows mooing in the fields. Everyone knows what that farm scene looks like because the advertisers remind us everyday with their various colored packages on the store shelves.
I ponder, in my conversations with my friends from the city, if it is my job to replace the illusions that they live under. How do you explain to someone that most of the farms that they see on their drive down do not even have a garden attached to them? Is it my job to tell my city friends that most of my country neighbors get their chicken from the same place that they do, from the local Wal-Mart? Should I let them know that the price of their corn flakes might be going up this year because by current estimates up to 30% of the corn they see growing in the fields will be turned into fuel for their cars?
“Ignorance is Bliss” states my city living niece when she asks why the extra roosters are separated from the rest of the flock. I guess she did not like my invitation to come over for a chicken and noodle dinner tomorrow. While I can understand the concept of ignorance being bliss, and in fact some days wish for ignorance about how our food is processed, but I was raised under a different mindset, “You are what you eat” I guess that I just do not want to be a “hydrolyzed corn gluten, modified corn starch, autolyzed yeast, polysorbate 80, propylene glycol or mono-diglycerides and datem” (What is a datem anyway?) All of these ingredients and more are from a package of Homestyle Salisbury Steak. Homestyle? They call those ingredients Homestyle cooking? For whom, Frankenstein?
Farming for me is a choice, a choice to have control over what food we put into our bodies. A choice to truly understand you are what you eat. From putting in the compost and tilling the garden. Planting the seed and nurturing the plant, watering and weeding until it blossoms in full abundance for you to enjoy.
We started our first Homestead current Family Farm is now going on it’s second year. Gone is the rented status and now comes the expansion stage. More chickens, meat chickens, turkeys and someday a couple of pigs.on rented land about 8 years ago. Armed with years of yearning and learning we were ready to take the plunge. Horses, dogs, cats and chickens were the mainstay of our animals. Our
And a really big garden. Which is currently getting bigger.
Farming allows you to create anything from the land if you are willing to work for it. If parents can teach their children only one thing, this will rank up there with one of the most important.
Since this is a Family Farm everyone has some say in what we are going to grow. So at the end of last year out came the “Fund Jar” Only this time it became the “Cow Fund Jar”. So the race was on to get a cow. The time that passes while the jar starts to fill up is used to obtain the knowledge and resources that we will need. Books read, websites like this one found. My wife has been offered help if needed from the local farmer we get our wholesome very fresh milk from. Another that offers cow shares has even offered to come and walk us thru the entire milking process.
Imagine my surprise when reading the family cow forums to see this contest. Maybe we will not have to wait until the ‘Cow Fund Jar” is finally full. Maybe, by writing this essay I will be able to show the kids that once again, you can create anything you want if you are willing to work at it.
BY: Ken J.
Farming feeds ones soul like nothing else in this world. What a joy it is to wake up every morning and not have to rush out the door to spend the day cooped up in an office. The only noise I hear upon awaking is the rooster crowing at his hens to get up and begin their day of scavenging around the barnyard and fields. The dog and cats are ready to run outside and play and the fat Shetland pony is looking through the fence rail begging for more food.
What other profession allows one to be so in touch with nature, the seasons and the cycle of life? While farming does present a constant challenge you do get to be your own boss, you succeed or fail on your own terms. America started out as a farming nation, now it seems that most people don’t even know what a farm looks like. It is important to me to be able to keep our farming traditions alive and be able to provide my community with fresh vegetables, herbs and free range eggs.
The one thing missing from my small farm is a cow. My parents ran a dairy when I was a child and I loved to help them care for the cows, especially bottle feeding the calves. Now that I have a child of my own I hope that one day he can know the joy of working with cattle. The small farm I own used to be a dairy farm, the barn is still set up for cows and milking, there is over 3 acres of subdivided pasture and an alfalfa hay field all begging for the presence of a cow but most of all there is an eight year old boy looking for a friend, and a 4-H project, which this calf would be if we were lucky enough to win.
BY: Kristi S.
I grew up dreaming of living on a farm. We were then living in the suburbs of Chicago and it seemed an impossible wish, except for the fact that we all dreamed it together. A tide of events swept my family to a tiny town in Southeast Illinois about eight years ago where the dream began.
In the dream, I didn’t think to include having a stripe of bright red sunburn between shirt and jeans from weeding the garden, and getting chased by roosters or broody hens, which I think the latter are scarier! But it did include having my own horse in my backyard, something out of the question in the city.
There is a satisfaction in standing up after weeding, and seeing I had finished the row, freeing the plants. It is an incredible feeling to fall into bed exhausted from cleaning the barn. (And what’s even weirder, I thought it was fun!)
Our first large garden was at the rent house. As the tomatoes grew at an amazing rate, my Mom and I overcame our biggest hurdle: canning. People in the city are terrified of canning. The food businesses have convinced them you will never preserve food as good as them. After having our confidence raised by reading articles by a woman named Jackie Clay, we canned the tomatoes successfully. Not only that, we even purchased a pressure canner off of Craigslist and canned our own chili and beef stew. Even now, it is still a marvel to pick up a jar of something we preserved. I repeat to myself, we did that!
We knew something was still missing, and we found it when we purchased our own property. There was something so uplifting to move from dreary Grayville to the town known as New Harmony .
Our property has six acres, three of it pasture. We moved in December of last year, and had a five thousand square foot garden that spring. We laughed because it was larger than the house!
There was quite a conflict with the insects for that garden, but we still managed to put up many tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, zucchini and potatoes, but no cucumbers much to my dismay. We even had some sweet potatoes weighing at almost ten pounds. (We have not run out of those yet.)
My brother decided to raise hens for eggs. It was so exciting to get the chicks in the mail and watch them grow. He still has the first tiny egg shell. We raised one hundred meat birds for the first time last year. I learned that meat birds were vastly different from laying birds – they grew like weeds! Putting them up was a family affair. My Dad and brothers worked outside. Even my Dad’s brother helped with the processing. My Mom, sister and I worked in the house, cleaning and cutting up the meat as necessary. It was a very long, but rewarding day.
I can’t wait for us to get a dairy cow. Even though she will be the family cow, my sister and my brother plan to be doing the main care for her. My Mom and I will be learning the many uses for her milk. Homemade butter, mmm! Learning to make cheese is the leap that will be the scariest. But like using the pressure canner for the first time, I will get through it!
I can’t say there is one favorite aspect to farming. I love waking up to the sounds of the roosters, not sirens on the highway. The old red barn stands so proud, glad to be of use again. When I eat the chicken and eggs we have raised, I know they were produced by healthy and happy birds. The potatoes may not be pretty, but what a taste!
As the eldest child at twenty three, I know that wild horses cannot drag me away from this place. I know a farmer’s wife, who jokes that her husband married her for the farm. Perhaps I will say that of my own husband one day.
When you take up farming, you take up an adventurous and exciting life. There are so many things that are out of the control of your own hands. You can work and work and plan and plan, and still, you will not even know the gender of the kid your doe is about to birth. You can’t know which crops would do the best this year, because you have no idea if it will even rain once. You are totally dependent on God, and sometimes without even realizing it. This is the adventure, and then there is the excitement. When your doe gives birth and a little doeling plops out and starts “ma-a-ing” it gives you a tickle in the stomach that can put a huge grin on your face. You will know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever experienced it, and I am certain that it is the same with a cow birthing a little heifer. You go out into the chicken coop and pick up the eggs: how many were there today? What colors? Which hens are my best layers? There are always questions and you get the privilege of searching out the answers. You go out into the field and see the beginning of the crop just starting to bear its fruits, and feel a sense of awe that a tiny seed could produce this.
There is more. When you rise up early and go out to the barn to start milking, there is a peaceful feeling. Just sitting there with your cow or your goats, and enjoying the quiet calm as you milk. It is a restful and peaceful time, and the enjoyment is hard to surpass. I can still to this day not understand how someone could consider old-fashioned milking a chore. It is to me yet a privilege and I can only hope that it will stay that way. There is somewhat of a bond you start to feel with the animal you’re milking and it makes you love them more. When milking is done you leave the barn just in time to hear the birds just starting to softly chirp and sing, while most of the world is yet asleep. The air is fresh and it is delightful to take in a deep breath and just enjoy the feeling of it. These things cannot be bested by what most professions have to offer. And daily you are endowed with this privilege.
It is a beautiful thing to plant a seed, and watch it sprout. Even better to watch it grow and ultimately produce its fruit. To break up the fallow ground and watch the productiveness of the land increase compared to the ground adjacent that was not broken up, to see a bottle baby that you strove to raise become a impressive adult, to go to the kitchen and make a meal completely from things grown on your land, to see new lives born and new personalities form; these are the rewards of your labor that are sweeter than money. And the harder you work to this end, the greater your reward. Meanwhile, the hard work done makes the body feel good and also makes your sleep sweet and much more restful, which is a-whole-nother aspect of the rewards received.
Altogether, farming is just fulfilling. You never have to worry about monotony. If you start to feel that way, that may be the day you find a gigantic snake in the coop snatching eggs, or the day your cow decides to spill the milk bucket right when it‘s full… all over you. And if you can take this with a smile and do the little extra things with a grin, realizing that you are gaining experience in everything you do, and also realize that the greatest rewards will probably not be monetary, you will probably love farming too. Of course there are many things I did not mention, there are pros and cons to anything you do, but these are a few of my most compelling reasons why life on a farm is so enjoyable.
BY: Nicole G.
We live in a rural community, a small village surrounded by small farms. I was raised in the village. My husband grew up on 10 acres. His best friends parents are farmers. When ever we went there as teenagers I always headed right to the barn to chat with the animals they had at that time. I am sure they thought I was nuts. As time went buy we ended up owning a home in town and were raising 3 kids. We kept following farms for sale and placing bids. The summer of 2010 we finally got notice that an offer was accepted. I was on cloud nine. The barn is wonderful. The house, ehhh, but I plan on spending most of my time in the barn. All the while we were going through the closing process I was contacting people about the animals they had for sale. We kept the fact the we were buying this property to jut a few friends, incase it fell through. Well it went through and we got the keys!!! It is ours. Within a week I had chickens and the following week my Jersey cow was delivered with a freemartin foster calf. It has been wonderful ever since she has arrived. She was very thin and I bought her from a broker. Once I saw her I knew she had to come home. She was so unhappy at the guys farm. She refused to greet him or us. He had to grab her halter and pull her around. He said he bought two of them to feed a bunch of calves. It wasn’t working out so well. The other girl had mastitis and was drying up. She refused to even stand. I wanted to take them both but we were unable to afford it. He said he would sell us them for hanging weight. We had Lucky delivered to us that Sunday. Within 24 hours she was a different cow. It took her over 2 months to really become happy. She runs and kicks up her heals now!! Such an improvement from the hanging head and tired cow we bought. She loves to be brushed and pampered. She is a tad spoiled. I called the farmer a few weeks later when I had the money for the other girl but he said she was gone. I felt so bad for Lucky that I ended up getting her a Jersey Heifer and a bull calf(for the freezer) from another farm. We want her to have a long time companion. She is in a forever home. She just loves them and having a job as a momma. She is so patient with everyone. She is still a little to thin, but she is on a special diet and we are slowly getting her to gain weight. Once they are weaned we are drying her up and hopefully getting her rebred. She miscarried due to stress, we were told. Our vet and AI guy checked her and said she is perfectly healthy and ready to breed soon. Our goal is to be self sufficient and raise animals humanely. We are trying to be organic as much as possible and basically raise happy animals. Farming is a lot of hard work and if you truly don’t love these animals it would not be worth the time to do it. We are not making any money with our small hobby farm. It is just our passion. This summer we will finish putting the exterior fencing around our property, that way the animals can have rotation of all the property. I wish everyone would take the time to see and learn where the food they eat comes from. Homesteading is the basics of life and so many people are caught up in a materialistic world. I am so glad we are able to farm. I feel it is my purpose in life!! If you take the time animals can really teach you a lot. Thank you for holding such a wonderful contest and good luck choosing a winner. It has inspired me to do the same someday. Honestly,in my opinion, everyone is a winner to a degree if they have the joy of keeping a few animals.
Best of luck, Jennifer S.