My husband and I have been feeding ourselves for a few years now and have learned so much in the process! A few years before we began this adventure, we stocked up on how-to books so had some good book learning and reference materials on hand. I've been putting food by and making soap for many years and have always had an herb garden so had a tiny bit of a background but no clue what we were getting ourselves into. It's probably a good thing! Our farm had two horses and a donkey with a very poor fence and small barn when we bought it. Good fencing was one of our first expenditures, followed by a big barn built to our specifications (hay storage, feed room, tractor bay and lots of shelter space) a few years later.
As far as farm animals go, we thought we'd start with chickens but actually found ourselves with two guardian dogs and three sheep one fine afternoon. Two tiny goat kids came along a few months later. Here are a few of our breeding stock.
Our border collie Jack helps work our sheep. He's trained to both voice and whistle commands. He's amazing. See the fading orange dots on the sheep's foreheads? They all got vaccinations, hoof trims and health checks last week. We corral them all together then mark them with stock markers as each is done to make sure no one was missed. Having large animals means you have to learn to do a lot of things yourselves, it's not easy to get them to the vet. My husband and I were both EMTs so have been comfortable splinting broken bones, administering shots and assisting with deliveries as needed.
We recently got a great pyrenees puppy Lizzy, who will grow up to be about 120 pounds and will guard our animals some day. Right now, she's just a ball of energy.
We keep a few dairy goats that I milk and make cheese from. My husband built my milking stand. Before we started this adventure, I took a three day farmstead cheesemaking course at NC State U and I learned a lot about cheesemaking from just reading books. I also purchase milk from the grocery store for making cow's milk cheeses. Not having a dairy breed of sheep hasn't kept us from trying to get sheeps milk, but it took three of us a half hour to get about a quart so it's only been attempted once.
Here's a long range view of our garden. We're up to 14 raised beds now plus 4 inside the greenhouse. We try to grow just enough of each thing for ourselves, and also try to keep all of the beds planted Spring through Fall. The garden is surrounded by a fishing wire fence to help keep deer out. We also have a separate in-ground area for potatoes and asparagus. We save a lot of things to replant every year, like garlic, shallots, potatoes and vegetable seeds. We also have an orchard with apple, peach, cherry, apricot and pear trees but have yet to get one piece of fruit out of it so have kind of given up. Stoopid deer!
The greenhouse is used as a season extender. We're able to start tomato and pepper seeds indoors in January because we know we'll have the greenhouse available in April to move the plants into. We've also overwintered cool crop vegetables such as carrots and kohlrabi with great results.
Here's a view of a typical daily harvest from last Summer. Tomatoes, hot peppers and shiitake mushrooms which we grow on logs.
This is what I harvested this morning. A half a bed of shallots and some pickling cucumbers.
We also grow microgreens year round inside the house. We've dedicated a room just for that adventure. This is our fifth year for those. Of everything we do here, it's the microgreens that keep us at home for the most part. They have to be watered twice a day.
We have two hives but lost our bees over the winter. We plan to order more in December so should be back in business with honey next Spring. Picking up bees is a pretty exciting day! You drive ever so slowly with tens of thousands of bees in the back seat of your car.
As you can see, we did eventually get chickens. They arrive in the mail as 2-3 day old chicks and get moved into a brooder under lights until they have enough feathers to stay warm. It's a pretty exciting phone call from the P.O. when chicks arrive.
My husband built a chicken tractor to raise chicks on pasture. The goats think it's a toy.
If anyone would like advice on anything we do, feel free to shoot me a PM. Or if you would like to know of a good book on a particular topic. We still have that extensive library and refer to it often.