So, Jim and I have had a few questions about our plans right now. Well, really we’ve had a lot of questions. Alot!
How can you live in a house that is under 1000 sq. feet with 3 kids? Why are you doing that? Do you know anything about farming? Why do you want to farm? Farmers can’t make any money. How can you? Why put your family through that? Isn’t farming too exhausting? Doesn’t farming take up too much time? Won’t it ruin your marriage? Won’t your kids be miserable? Aren’t you sacrificing their childhood? You get the idea here. Lots and lots of questions.
Honestly, I can’t remember all the questions and concerns. And I certainly don’t have all the answers. But, please let me say that I do understand all these questions. And honestly, we have thought about them all and questioned most of them ourselves even. We really don’t take offense to the questions as we know we are taking a different path right now. So….
We are very open about the fact that this is our dream. And dreams take hard work, lots of hard work and patience. Then more hard work and more patience. And sacrifice. Lots. Of. Sacrifices. Well, that’s where we are right now. We are sacrificing a nice, big house with lots of space so we can live our dream and live on our farm. We are sacrificing a lot of our time so we can afford our dream right now. We might be sacrificing some of our kids childhood to make this work, but I would probably debate that. Our kids are learning about hard work right now. They are learning how to make a plan and work toward it. They are also learning about life, that plans change, and how to be adaptable. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fun, for us or for them. But we hope in the end our kids respect and appreciate what we are trying to do. We would love for them to have an active part in this farm and one day take over our dream. And if they choose another dream in life we will fully support that as well, but they will know how to work for what they want in life.
So what is our dream with this farm? Hmmm, do you have a few hours?????
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that we have LOTS of plans for this farm. Lots and lots of plans! Plans that seem so far fetched right now they almost seem silly. But they are our ideas and dreams and hopefully, some will eventually be a plan we work toward. So, I thought I would take some time and write down some of our plans now so I can look back one day and see which plans actually happened, which ones changed and which ones fell apart or were scrapped before they ever got started. None of these “plans” are written in stone or blood. They are just plans right now as we grow and develop the areas we want to be in and the areas that work for us.
From the beginning, we knew we wanted to raise grass-fed beef. So, cattle are definitely in our plans. I really love dairy cows and would have loved to start a dairy farm but that seemed a little extreme to Jim. My grandfather actually had a small dairy so it must run in my genes I guess. We currently have a very spoiled dairy cow that we raised from a calf and I would have loved to have a few hundred more. Give or take a few. I love cows. And their sweet eyes and long eyelashes. And the cow hugs are kisses are soo sweet! Even though Jim doesn’t like the idea of a full-scale dairy, I still have the hope of having a few dairy cows on the farm to provide organic milk for our family. And homemade butter. And endless amounts of cream. And the cheeses and yogurts I could make….Sorry, I got a little off track there!
Minnie Moo doesn’t know she’s a cow. I think she fancies herself as part elephant. She always throws her hay on top of her back and then eats it from there. I’ve seen elephants at the zoo do that before so she must be related to them somehow. Or she thinks she is. She is also part lap dog and will not step foot in the rain. She would much rather you sit in her stall and stroke her ears while singing her lullabies. Did I mention she is spoiled??
From the beginning, Jim wanted to raise grass-fed Hereford cattle. He loves the brown color with white faces. Yep, that is his only reason for liking that breed of cattle actually. That and the fact that they are naturally polled (born without horns). Hey, who am I to judge? I would take virtually any animal regardless of how they look, so I am the last person to judge him for choosing a breed of cattle based on the color of their coat! At least he wants healthy cattle where I always go for the sick or injured ones. The plan here is to let Jim pick the cattle, because I will always, always pick the sickly, weak or crippled cows because they need a home with someone to love them, of course. So, Jim is going to be in charge of picking the healthy, sound cattle that can be our foundation herd. Left up to me, the cattle might all have 3 legs, or some other weird and crazy thing.
We also want to have pasture-raised pork. We figured with a farm as large as ours we should be able to set aside a large enough pasture for a small number of pigs to forage for food. We plan to supplement with vegetables and herbs from our garden, but we want to try to stay away from grains and all antibiotics. We would love to become certified organic but that is waaaaay too complicated for us right now. Little pigs are the cutest though and we would love to see them scurrying back and forth, squealing at each other. If you’re thinking that taking them to the processing plant will be Jim’s responsibility….well, you might be right. I have been known to get attached to animals before…
We definitely want free-range chickens again. Once you’ve tasted a fresh egg you will never find the grocery store eggs tasteful again. Spunky needs friends after all. We have also toyed with the idea of pasture raised meat chickens and turkeys. We have raised some meat chickens before and they were delicious. The only problem was me when it was time to take them to the butcher. I hugged and kissed every one of those birds while crying my eyes out. I couldn’t see to drive them to the butcher and poor Jim had to do it. I tend to get overly attached to animals…and I hadn’t even named those cute little birds. Where did I go wrong??? You should know that my Dad asks himself that very question ALL the time.
The girls want to raise goats and sheep. Why? Mostly because they’re cute! Maleah does like to knit though and really wants to try her hand at raising and shearing her own sheep for wool. Why not? As part of her schoolwork, she does a paper every month on various animals and ways to make them productive. Some of her research on sheep and wool gathering was very informative. Yes, I am a proud momma! She has found a few Fiber Festivals that offer free classes on everything from sheep shearing to spinning wool into yarn. So I think next year she will be learning to spin wool into yarn. I just think that is the coolest!!
This was Maleah’s sweet rabbit, Possum. Yes, her name was Possum. It’s a long story…
Maleah also loves rabbits and would love to raise Angora rabbits for fur. Maylin loves anything that is cute and cuddly and would gladly help Maleah with any animal for a short time. After that short time, Maylin is ready to take charge. She kinda resembles a bull in a china shop. She might just rule the world by the time she’s 10 or so…. We laugh at our house that Maylin will rule the world one day. Maleah will be her peace maker and Camden will be her enforcer. Sounds about right to me.
Another plan we have is for hay fields so we can cut and bale our own hay for the animals. Hay can be expensive. Good hay can be outrageously priced. We have always been fortunate enough to know good people that have good hay for sale for our animals. Now that we are talking about having a lot more animals it makes sense to have our own supply of hay. Oh yeah, spending summers in the hay field. My kids will hate me, but they will know what hard work really is!
Our future hay fields. Get ready kids! You haven’t survived a summer until you’ve survived baling and stacking hay in 100 degree heat. Whew!
The girls have also expressed interest in one day opening a bakery/coffee shop one day. Our farm is located on Hwy 64 between Rutherfordton and Morganton and has over a quarter mile of road frontage. That’s great exposure for a business and easy access. Maleah loves baking and coffee drinks and talks quite a bit about opening a small shop. That is totally new territory for us, but I guess we are always ready for new adventures! Maylin is only 7 but she loves ice cream and is determined to open an ice cream shop beside Maleah’s shop. Trust me, when I say that if anyone can make that work it will be Maylin. Determination is her middle name! I can’t see that happening any time soon, but it’s a plan that the girls talk about all the time none the less. It will be fun to see if this is still their dream in a few years.
Our farm has multiple creeks and we have talked to soil and water conservation about using one to fill a pond stocked with fish. Jim would love to have his own fishing hole! I’m sure that Camden would too. What am I saying??? I would love to have my own fishing hole!! Just walk down to the pond, rest a while and reel in a nice trout! Yeah! Now, to find someone to clean the fish for supper….Anyone?
The kids love growing flowers. Let me say that again. The kids LOVE growing flowers. They also love picking flowers. Last year, they grew sunflowers and really looked forward to picking them each day. We had vases of sunflowers in every room at one point. As an experiment we saved all the seeds and have kept them in the freezer all winter. We pulled them out a few weeks ago and plan to replant them this year. Maleah has mentioned the possibility of growing flowers and selling them. I don’t know how that works or if it would produce an income, but if not, it would certainly make the farm more “purty” to look at.
I love blueberries and had half a dozen bushes in our backyard. I would love to eventually plant an acre or two in blueberries and have a pick your own blueberry patch in the summer. The kids and I love picking our own blueberries every year and I think other people would really enjoy it as well. In my experience, blueberries are quite hardy so they might make an excellent side crop for us. Jim is not as on board with this idea yet. That’s okay, I guess. You can’t win them all…
I’ve learned that multiple sources of income are the key to making a farm support itself and blueberries could be a way to help do that.
I love my blackberry and raspberry bushes as well. They are also quite hardy and could provide a variety of berries for people to choose from.
My grapes have been an adventure. I love Muscadine grapes, but my kids hate the seeds. So, I had the brilliant idea to plant seedless grapes. Well, now. In my experience, seedless grapes are not very hardy and the bugs love seedless grapes just as much as my kids do. Without spraying chemicals, we only end up with a fraction of the grapes. The bugs get the rest. A muscadine grape vine smells lovely, would be easy to care for and easy to let people sample if they came to pick berries.
I love my apple trees.
And my peach trees. I would love to plant several around our house and around a rental cabin so that everyone who comes could walk outside and pick fresh fruit. Plus the bees would love it! I’ve been trying to talk Jim and the kids into getting bee hives for years. It hasn’t worked yet, but it’s still on my list.
One of the highest knolls on our farm has beautiful 360 degree views. That knoll is where we would like to eventually build our final house. A house that is a little larger than the one we are building right now. The whole idea of building the smaller house was so that one day we could turn it into a vacation rental. A farm vacation rental. Sound crazy? Well, it is us, ya know. We know and do crazy quite well!
Agritourism is a booming business right now as people desperately want to reconnect with nature and their food supply again. The whole Farm to Table movement is really catching on and people want to go back to the farm, even if it’s just for a day or two. So our idea is to take a country vacation and make it a farm experience complete with horse back riding, collecting eggs, milking a cow, bottle feeding a calf, herding cattle, cuddling baby animals, fishing, hiking, picking berries, etc. Let people decide what they want to do on their farm vacation. Maybe even plant a garden especially for the rental cabin to pick and eat fresh vegetables during their stay. We have a lot of ideas for this vacation rental but only time will tell which way we go with it.
I love planting small raised bed gardens like this.
Small gardens are easy to plant and easy to take care of.
Plus, small bed gardens don’t feel overwhelming and the variety of vegetables really keep the kids interested. Wouldn’t it be cool to rent a cabin during the summer and get to walk outside and pick fruits and veggies for your supper and dessert? I love that idea!!
It seems the possibilities are endless for us out at Antler Valley Farm. We have so many ideas! I would love to start on them all…RIGHT NOW!! Yes, I do know I have a slight patience problem. Admitting your problem is the first step though, right?