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Topic: Living Off The Land  (Read 1848 times)
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MissingWillow
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« on: June 19, 2014 10:06:30 AM »

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.   Cheesy


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.   Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014 10:28:10 AM »

I recognized your sheep photo - so fun to learn what you do and how you do it. And I wish I was closer to sample that goat cheese and honey. And tomatoes! And eggs....all of it.
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« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2014 10:43:22 AM »

Having visited your farm, I can attest that farming is not for sissys! It is a lot of hard work and responsibilities...you can't really sleep in or take a vacation because animals need to be taken care of each day.  There are also lots of expenses from fuel to feed...

With that said, the rewards are the fresh foods...nothing like a newly laid egg for breakfast...your cheese and honey are so good...your farm is quiet and peaceful and beautiful...you have some pretty wonderful farmer friends...it was truly one of the best experiences in my life! (although how you get milk out of any animal is still magic to me!!! Grin)

Thanks for sharing your adventure and life changing choice to be farmers!
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« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2014 10:53:24 AM »

That's my favorite sheep photo, Smmarrt.  I wish you lived closer, too.   Smiley  You summarized it very well, alwaysinmyroom.  You need to come back for another visit!
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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2014 11:15:43 AM »

I am in such awe of your family's lifestyle.  I've been lurking through your blog for awhile now and I need a nap just reading about all your hard work.  If I lived close to you I might not have become a vegan.  Your love and care for your animals and your home shows in everything that you do.  So inspiring.
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« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2014 11:28:55 AM »

What a great oversight of Missing Willow Farm! It's truly a magical place.  Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2014 11:51:36 AM »

Thanks so much!  I forgot to mention that we are audited annually by Animal Welfare Approved, which certifies that we raise our animals to the highest humane standards.  It's something we're very proud of. 

http://animalwelfareapproved.org/about/
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« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2014 01:34:06 PM »

You guys are awesome!  Shocked  And I'm jealous of your farm.  My boyfriend and I daydream about having our own little farm someday. 
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2014 02:01:44 PM »

I admire you and your husband for doing this. It is no easy task to run a farm, but especially so when you were not raised in the environment. Kudos and keep doing the great job! Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2014 02:47:47 PM »

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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2014 03:38:27 PM »

Puppy_girl, start small and learn as you go.  I hope a small farm finds you some day. 

HSG and Kaz, thanks so much!  It's been quite an experience and keeps us busy.  We don't play golf so have found this to occupy our time.   Cheesy
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2014 07:11:46 PM »

This is such a cool summary of all of the wonderful things that happen at MissingWillow farm. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to bring the bees home Smiley.
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2014 07:43:29 PM »

Thanks for posting this. Very cool!
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2014 03:11:30 AM »

Wow, that looks amazing & an awful lot of hard work. 

I daydream about having a small croft and being a little self-sufficient, so it is wonderful to see a glimpse into your life.

Ps) I just LOVE that goats will stand on ANYTHING!  They really crack me up  Cheesy
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2014 04:04:16 AM »

Thanks much!  Trekky, I'd love to nab one of those giant cable spools for our goats.  Or a see saw.   Grin 
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« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2014 06:20:30 AM »

Thanks so much for sharing this with us! I love reading it all and going through the pictures makes it more alive!

My partner would love to live like this, but I'm not with him... Not enough space in the Netherlands (and way too many rules and restrictions) but I wouldn't want to emigrate to Norway (like he wants to) or Canada or so... I would get so homesick, I'm sure.

I visit your blog now and then, not so often last few weeks and I'm a huge fan of you and your farm!

You, your husband and all your animals rock!  Cheesy

And yes, I like goats standing on whatever too, haha!
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« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2014 06:35:15 AM »

So much awesomeness in one place!

I would love to bring elements of sustainability into my yard here in NJ. When we're ready, I know where to go for advice! Though we'll never approach the scale of your awesome!

Thanks for sharing and for being so generous with your expertise!
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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2014 07:25:15 AM »

I love that you check out my farm blog on occasion all the way from the Netherlands, wendiek. 

I'd be happy to advise you some day, Abbeeroad.  NJ has a great climate for gardening!  Do you grow vegetables or herbs in pots? 
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« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2014 07:44:33 AM »

I used to have an outdoor garden and some herbs in pots. We are kind of on a garden sabbatical at the moment, but definitely hoping to reinstate the garden next year! I don't have the greenest of thumbs, but I'm enthusiastic!

Thanks for being an inspiration! I'll be sure to shoot you a PM! Wink
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« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2014 03:52:12 PM »

Darn. Can I move in with you? I am a good cook and do laundry well  Grin Just kidding. But it looks like you have a wonderful life. And I love goats and sheep. Wonderful job, and I hope for you the best in the next seasons.

~T
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« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2014 11:02:17 AM »

I really admire what you are doing, it looks like a hell of a lot of work but seems worth it. I imagine everything is bursting with flavour.. unfortunately I live in the city, most of my veggies come from a supermarket, so I don't get anything near the produce that you do.
I've just enrolled on a wildlife & conservation course, I'll get taught all sorts.. everything regarding british wildlife/flowers, how to put fences up... apparently we get shown how to turn a sheep upside down and check their feet! I'm very much looking forward to the course and find this post very inspiring!
Maybe one day I will be able to live off the land, like you.... I would just be concerned about getting too attached to the animals!
Doing a great job, keep us posted!
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« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2014 11:54:25 AM »

Have fun!  Putting a sheep on it's hiney is tricky.  I wish I had a class in that before we got started!  If you want to impress your instructor, ask about the FAMACHA test for internal parasites.  It involves checking the color of their eyelid membranes and is easiest done while they're sitting down. 
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« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2014 10:00:24 AM »

I love checking out your blog MissingWillow and it makes me miss my goats.  Our hectic lifestyle just doesn't make time for dairy goat upkeep any more, but we still have our ponies and chickens. 

We're in the process of building on a 30 acre plot.  It's going to be a lot of work to get gardens established (with all the deer TALL fences will be necessary) and the property fenced.  However, it's GREAT work when it's all your own.
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« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2014 02:55:44 AM »

I've just enrolled on a wildlife & conservation course, I'll get taught all sorts.. everything regarding british wildlife/flowers, how to put fences up... apparently we get shown how to turn a sheep upside down and check their feet! I'm very much looking forward to the course and find this post very inspiring!

Oooh Chocolatebutton your course sounds very exciting!  Is it full or part-time?  I'm curious as I wonder if there is anything like this near me (I'm in the UK too).
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« Reply #24 on: June 24, 2014 03:54:39 AM »

UnRuli, I hope you'll post your garden progress here once you've got them started.   Smiley
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« Reply #25 on: June 25, 2014 02:04:02 PM »

Have fun!  Putting a sheep on it's hiney is tricky.  I wish I had a class in that before we got started!  If you want to impress your instructor, ask about the FAMACHA test for internal parasites.  It involves checking the color of their eyelid membranes and is easiest done while they're sitting down. 

It's funny because when they said they would teach us how to put a sheep on it's back, I thought it couldn't actually be that hard... but I suppose they are alive and they don't particularly want to be turned upside down. It should be interesting  Cheesy

I will definitely have a read up on FAMACHA, then casually bring it up in class as if it's nothing.. haha.. Thanks

Oooh Chocolatebutton your course sounds very exciting!  Is it full or part-time?  I'm curious as I wonder if there is anything like this near me (I'm in the UK too).

Hey Trekky, the course is full time but aimed at adults so it is only 3.5 days on campus. The college is in Winchester, I am actually moving from London to do the course as there is no where in London that has the course or facilities. I will PM you a link  Smiley
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« Reply #26 on: June 27, 2014 12:55:21 PM »

That is so awesome.  I grew up on a farm, but it was all veggie and we only had chickens once - my mother got tired of dealing with their upkeep as well as with us and the rest of the farm life and I think she gave them to the neighbours.  Your pictures and stories about it make me miss it - but boy, that is so much work!
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« Reply #27 on: June 29, 2014 03:10:23 PM »

A lovely story about my favourite farm, it really is a magical place!  I wish I had half the Missing Willow team's energy Grin
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« Reply #28 on: June 29, 2014 03:25:07 PM »

We're exhausted!   Cheesy
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« Reply #29 on: July 01, 2014 04:21:43 AM »

I will post photos of the gardens when they're finally, in, but we'll have our hands full until then.  We still have the interiors of the barn and shop, all the fencing and a bunch of major projects that are necessary to complete before we can begin.  Still, I can hardly wait!!

Until then, here's the old garden..
My husband's version.  He thought it was sufficient, but it was ugly and there was no gate to get in.  He is tall enough to step over the fence.I was not:


He was gone for a weekend and I did this (with no help.in the rain).  This is what it looked like when I first finished.  The flower gardens have filled out and matured so it looks much nicer now.  We were also having a dry spell then..we certainly are not this year (this year it's more like we're living in the tropics!).  The fence posts still need to be trimmed yet:
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« Reply #30 on: July 01, 2014 05:00:45 AM »

Oh wow, that's gorgeous!  I love the flowers surrounding the veggie garden.  You need to do a separate post on this so more folks will see this.  Love it!
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« Reply #31 on: July 01, 2014 05:58:00 AM »

Living within driving distance of MW's farm, I have pretty regular first hand experience with her fresh eggs, amazing cheese, delicious food AND her fabulous pottery studio!!!
Rock on girlfriend, you and Mr. MW are good people!
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« Reply #32 on: July 01, 2014 06:15:57 AM »

What a difference!  And as is true in my house regarding DH:  "If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself!"  It's beautiful!
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« Reply #33 on: July 01, 2014 10:54:18 AM »

That is a huge difference! I love it!  Smiley

You did (and are doing) a great, fab job MW! Thanks so much for sharing, I love, love reading it so much!  Cheesy

You rock!!
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« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2014 09:03:20 AM »

Wow!  Do you have a day job?  Because this sounds like a full-time job in and of itself!
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« Reply #35 on: July 04, 2014 09:54:08 AM »

That's a great question, dulcet.  Smiley  This is what we're doing in our retirement.  It keeps us busy!  We did work full time for the first few years when we got started but were only able to handle potted vegetables and a few sheep at the time. 

I would encourage anyone with no space wishing for a garden to consider growing in containers.  Here's our back deck a few years ago, it's full of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, herbs and citrus. 

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Hollie Hobbie
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Where the heck is MY easy bake oven!


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« Reply #36 on: August 28, 2014 06:23:15 PM »

What a beautiful place Smiley
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chocolatebutton
« Reply #37 on: September 01, 2014 03:32:40 PM »

Whoa nice job with the garden & fencing! Loving this post!
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MissingWillow
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« Reply #38 on: September 01, 2014 03:33:31 PM »

Thanks so much!
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My Farm Life Blog  
I'm a shepherd and have raw fleece.  PM me if you want to swap for some.

Craftster has gone mobile!  Read all about it here
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