If you follow us closely on Facebook or subscribe to our emails, you’ve heard the news that we are moving. This is due to a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is financial and physical exhaustion. When we first chose this location 3 plus years ago, we believed we could make it work by renting the small house that was also on the property and renting a portion of our pasture to board a couple of horses. As far as growing food goes, our primary focus was going to be on feeding our family and then selling our excess. After putting in 18 hour days for several weeks fixing up the house, replacing all the walls and the complete floor system, we offered up the cottage (as we call it) for rent. After a few potential tenants fell through and then a brief stint with a tenant from the netherworld, I realized that the caliber of person who was willing to live in such a small house might not the type of person I would trust around my family or our animals. Sure there’s plenty of folks who are moving into tiny houses, but they are few and most are wanting one to own, not rent. I also abandoned the prospect of pasture boarding horses as I met with those interested and found it wasn’t going to be compatible with our pasture based farming.
With these developments, we realized that we needed to farm more than homestead. At the time, the common pastured chicken practice was to raise commercial hybrids in chicken tractors, fed on a conventional feed of GMO Soy and Corn. The best thing we could say about the feed was that it was customized to not include antibiotics. The birds grew great and we made a decent profit selling them for $15 each. Then I started to learn. People started asking about the feed ingredients and if we would raise chicken without soy. The only way to do it was to mix our own feed or to feed a Soy-free organic feed. I found a Co-op that ordered bulk feed from North Carolina. When I spoke with the farmer who coordinated the orders, he talked me out of feeding organic saying he no long fed it because it wasn’t profitable. He was almost right. There is a number of folks who WILL pay the price of an organically fed chicken, we just couldn’t find enough of them.
I always wanted milk cows for my family and myself. I knew that if we were going to start providing milk to those who seek it, we would have to be 100% married to the farm. Milking a cow solely for one’s self and family allows for once a day milking and letting the calf take care of the rest. The only way to get a break or to be able to tend to other family business, if milk is going to be a product offered from the farm, is to have deeply loyal friends who want to farm one day and are willing to take care of the farm and milking duty. Fortunately we have been blessed with such folks as Tiffany and Korey Wood, Sandra Walker, Amanda Conner, Jill Hutchinson, and Mary Jo Beck who have also been die hard regulars for nearly every single chicken day as well as relief milkers. But it’s not just the milking of cows every morning, every evening, rain or shine, sickness or health. It’s learning about nutrition, breeding, training and buying appropriate milk cows. Just the search for a milk cow is arduous and time consuming. They’re not exactly being offered for sale on the Marietta Square.
The more I read on pastured pork, the more I want to raise pigs. I struck up a deal with my mother to keep a boar and sow at her place where piglets would be born and then I would grow them out. This just proved to almost be too much for my mom as these hogs grew to be several hundreds of pounds and while very tame, if they got it in their head to roam, roam they did. Sadly, early one morning, they made it into a neighbor’s yard who shot first and asked no questions whatsoever. We did raised up one litter and this past week we harvested the feeders and I see a much better profit margin than raising chickens or milking cows but we shan’t quit either. We’ll raise fewer chickens and for the time being, we aren’t going to add any more cows to the herd.
So we find ourselves very much at square one due to the loss of investment in breeding stock, a new cow who just had her first calf and has yet to let us have any of her milk, a change in ideals on how chickens should be raised, and then just realizing the fact that family has to be considered first. My amazing and incredible wife never dreamed of a farm with cows, chickens, rabbits, and certainly not pigs. She’s already a mother, teacher, and care giver to three children and she does it all on top of farming single-handedly every third day I am working a 24 hour shift at the fire station. I fear that I’ve asked too much of her.
So the news is we’re moving 30 miles west to family land, we have someone to lease the Cobb County farm for vegetable production and we will still be able to use it as a drop site. Our current farm members who choose to may still pick up just as they have been, or they may choose to pickup at our new location. While the winter is usually a time for slowing down and relaxing before the busyness of spring, we’ve much to do to get everything ready to move.
So there it is. We’re changing. We’re still the same, but we’re a little different. We’ve matured. We’ve undergone a metamorphosis.
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