When I started this farm, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do here. Sometimes people ask me about planning a farm. I’m the wrong person to ask. I tend to be impulsive, operating on whims. Feelings. Cuteness and fluffiness. That doesn’t make a very good farm plan, but it’s not a bad one, either.
Farming is hard work. And forget about the money! (What money?) You’d better love it. As someone with little to no farm experience prior to owning a farm, it was difficult to know what I would love at the beginning. I always thought sheep were so dreamy. I love how they dot a pasture. Not that our sheep were good dotters. They were clumpers, I tell you, CLUMPERS. However, just because I’m reducing our flock to two pet sheep, that doesn’t mean I don’t still find sheep dreamy. I do! And that’s where they belong–in my dreams. A flock of sheep isn’t for me. Sheep are wonderful farm animals for many people, but not for me. I love sheep enough that I don’t want to be completely without them, thus Annabelle and Minnie Belle as pet sheep. But I don’t love them enough to keep a flock.
I’m not sure how I could have learned that without actually having a flock of sheep for a couple of years, at times as many as ten in the flock. Sheep can be elegant and hilarious, cute and scary, mysterious and down to earth. Sheep were not a mistake–they were an awesome experience.
The first animals on the farm (aside from dogs and cats, I’m referring to “barn” animals here) were the chickens. I discovered right away, and have continued to discover, that I adore my chickens. I’ve also discovered that I can’t keep my chickens out of anywhere and everywhere, so I’m allowing some natural attrition to reduce my flock of chickens as time goes by, and resisting the urge to buy MORE chickens (unless they are meat roos that aren’t going to stick around). I don’t actually ever know at any given time how many chickens I have. Not counting the meat roos, I probably have somewhere between two and three dozen chickens right now. I think something around 15 or so chickens is probably a better number, but over time that will happen and a day will even come eventually where I get to have the fun of starting a new batch of chicks. (That won’t be for awhile. My chickens are pretty hardy! Attrition doesn’t work too fast here.) I just think a smaller number of chickens would feel a little more manageable and involve a little less poop on the porch, but I’m not in a hurry about it.
I don’t have any more ducks, and I just have the one goose now. I don’t intend to get more ducks or geese. Or guineas. (The guineas are gone. Don’t get me started on how much I didn’t like the guineas.) It’s chickens all the way for me. That was a lesson that took a while to sink into my hard head.
I started out thinking I would have a herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. I added a herd of Fainters. Eventually, I got some sense and created the combined herd with my Fainter buck, Fainter girls, and Nigerian Dwarf girls to breed pure Fainters and Fainter crosses. So much more manageable on this farm. Just another lesson under my belt. What has remained strong for me is my love of my goats, but I’m also determined to keep a small herd. I have five does. I might, or might not, eventually add another doe if a girl is born that is so gorgeous, I can’t let her go. There is room for that possibility, but I wouldn’t want to keep more than six does here, I don’t think, so I’ll be pretty picky about keeping one.
I never in a million years seriously thought I’d have a milk cow, but I love my Beulah Petunia. Glory Bee is a bit of a brat, but she’s worth it. A cow is a big learning curve in a lot of ways, but my love for keeping my dairy cows only grows stronger. Meanwhile, I’m still in that learning curve with cows. I posted about BP and the pickle a while back, but shortly after that post, BP started bellowing! WHAT?! Was she in heat? Was her cycle off? Am I too stupid to be a farmer? So right now, I’m back to “not sure” if she’s pregnant. And thinking probably NOT! (Haven’t decided yet what I’m doing about this problem.)
With two sheep, two donkeys, two cows, and some more fencing, there is plenty of pasture on this farm to feed the animals in the summers. Sheep are such mowers that our sheep numbers were killing our farm, leaving nothing for anybody else. The goats, in the reduced/combined herd in the goat yard, will have plenty of grass there next summer, too.
Meanwhile, we’re still collecting pallets for a pallet barn. We’ve started buying hay in round bales. The “downstairs project” will open up a whole array of new opportunities for me to work on the farm. Babies keep popping out in the goat yard, and I’ve finally figured out how to get them sold. I have a milking machine for my cow. I make cheese well enough to teach other people. The list of things we buy from the store is shorter and shorter. I couldn’t list all the things I’ve learned in the past three years if I tried.
And I don’t know how long the list is of the things I don’t know.
I’m only on my second pair of chore boots.