Thursday, May 7, 2015

End of Summer Plans

I can't help but be a planner, and I'm always prepping for the future.

One big thing on my list, on my list since I was 5 years old and in love with horses, is to have my horse at home.

I got older and wiser, and while I no longer want to board Moon 24-7-365 at home, I really would love to have him at home for the summers, to enjoy our sunny pasture where he's a 5 minute walk after work and reach that huge dream for me. And then share the work of the summer with my girlfriends and enjoy the good life of trail riding away the winter blues.

My life until this point, has been 100% house. Get the house built. The house is now built, and pretty much finished.

Our backyard...just need to put some parging on the bottom of the house...
...and wait for spring to finish green-ing everything up!

The next goal is wedding. 100% get married. Fix up the yard for our wedding. Fair enough. From now until September, that's like 90% of where all of my energy goes.

But what about September 6th, when that wedding is all over, our yard is pretty well fabulous, our house is 90% finished and ???

And what??

I've got a couple months before winter hits, and I need a project. A big project.

We won't be ready to build a garage for at least a couple years. 2017 maybe?? I need a small scale project that can eat up my time, that matters, but doesn't cost a lot of money (because getting married is expensive).

What does that mean to me?? It means I want to build my pasture and paddocks :)

The start of our "road" to the back field, as we add fill and gravel to transition it from a bumpy dirt path to a nice drive in my car :)

I know that we have about 3-4 acres of pasture space, and I know for sure that I want to rotationally graze it. I spent 4 years in university and countless dollars wasted on a degree in Agriculture. That's right. I have a bachelor's degree in agriculture and I don't do any farming. I don't even work with animals anymore. Some people would shrug, "Meh, you never work in your chosen field." and point out that I have a good job that I love and pays the bills.

But the thing is...

...I REALLY love farming. I love it. I'm passionate about it. Agriculture isn't just some missed career path. It's me missing out on something that I LOVE. Feed formulations, plant density calculations, rotational grazing, stocking rates....these are things I truly love doing, and I don't get to. And as a career, probably never will.

For that reason, more than just being 5 at heart and really wanting my pony in my backyard, I want to have a farm. I really, really, really want to have a farm. It doesn't need to be a commercial farm or even a hobby farm that sells some odds and ends to the public. I just want...

I just want a little self-sufficiency like my parents had when I was a kid. I want enough space to have a garden that feeds our family over the winter, space to hunt a few prairie chickens, eventually raise some poultry for meat and maybe eggs, keep my horse, and at some point, I really, really, want a few goats. I don't care if we kill them all every fall so we don't have to over-winter them, I just know that I really, really want to raise livestock for meat production. I want to trim hooves again, and assess my stocking rates, and fix fences, and walk them checking for gaps. I love raising livestock.

That's what I want. I want a miniature, self-sustaining little homestead. Just enough to keep me occupied.

Our pasture in the late fall; just trees and grass. 

I love the idea of no overwintering because it means if we want a family vacation, we can take one in the winter. And go somewhere warm.

Okay, so here I am, and I know a few things for sure about our farm:

1) I want to keep my horse on pasture
2) I want to eventually be set up for a small herd of goats (we're talking 3 maybe 4 max)

I know that goats are great for our place because they love brush. Contrary to what a lot of people think, goats are not grazers. They don't love a big grassy pasture (okay, the new well-bred high producing goats do, but I'm talking your homesteading goat). They love brush. They love poison ivy and sticks and all the debris that grows under the trees.

We have a LOT of that. And we spend A LOT of time clearing it by hand, which sucks.

On the other end of it, we have 5 acres of grassy pasture.

My dream, is to build a small horse shelter, that would fit 2 horses, and have it tucked right at the edge of the wood and the pasture. Fence in the pasture area, so that we have 1 sacrifice pasture for when it's rainy, 3 pastures for grazing rotationally, and then a space that's open for our garden (which I'd like to slowly enlarge over time as our family grows).

I'd like the run-in shelter to be split in half, so that half of it is on the wooded side, and can used for our goats. And then I'd like to fence in 3-5 acres of woods for our goats, into two paddocks. Just let them go to town. With a small herd of goats and those smaller sized plots, we could easily see a nice reduction in our underbrush, without (if my research is correct) loosing so much that it's not regrowing. And that means we get a good number of these buggers in our freezer for the winter too. Most sheep raised for eating will dress at about 50% of their live weight, and say slaughtered somewhere at the 100 lb mark (based on how long we're able to raise them). A healthy market goat could get to 80 lbs in 3 months, and we'd probably have a few more months then that with them, though our forage quality is less than a hay and grain diet of a feeder operation.

Pasture early this spring...after the road was improved enough to drive my (dirty) car down it!

So even with a small herd of just 2 goats to start, raised to about 80 lbs, That's 80 lbs of meat at the end of the summer. Considering the cost of buying a whether (castrated male) is about $100 at birth and we're not paying much to feed them (add in some dewormers and such), that's about $3 a pound for the meat. That's awesome.

It of course didn't take much convincing to get my G on board with this goat plan. I think he knows how much I love farming, and since it also benefits our family, he's fully behind it.

At the moment, that's our plans. If we can start getting some fencing up this fall after our wedding, in the spring we should have a month or two to finish up and build a run-in. I'm waiting to hear back from our local lumber yard on my "dream" run-in shelter:

Enough space if we divide the run-in in half, to have goats on one side, and horses on the other. Horse. Horse. G reminds me that I've only got Moon ;) I'm okay with that. Until he's ready for retirement lol.

And that's our farm plan :) I wouldn't mind adding the chicken tractor to the goat pasture as well as the horse pasture depending on the season. Again, I don't want to really be housing chickens over the winter, but I'd like to have some to add to our freezer every fall.

So for us, something like 3 chickens, 2 goats and a horse. That's a fine little farm to me.

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