The latest Mother Earth News grabbed my attention last night:
“Start a self-sufficient One Acre Homestead” the cover proclaimed:
I bought it, because I’ve had an interest in growing as much of our own food as I can the past couple of years.
Now I grew up on a real working farm
Small dairy herd
I know how to milking the cow by hand
farm fresh eggs
Pitched manure by hand
filled the silo
The whole enchilada, so I’m not stupid when it comes the basics of living on a farm.
The article had this cute little diagram :
Having tried to grow as much food as I can on our little acreage the past couple of years I have to say there are some major gaps in this article.
Tilling the soil
They talk about “plowing” the sod every 4th or 5th year…that means you will either have to invest in a tractor and small plow or borrow your neighbors…unfortunately, they are not cheap, and most real farmers today in my neck of the woods, farm 100’s of acres, their equipment is too big to use on a small patch of ground. Their rigs can’t even fit through the opening in the fence, let alone just plow a small swath.
If you use just a regular tiller to break up un-plowed ground, you’re going to end up with a lot of weeds and grass because you can’t turn it over enough to smother out the grass roots.
If you do spread manure on the ground (to give it fertilizer) you really do need a plow.
If you don’t have a tractor and manure spreader, you have to figure out another way to get the manure out to the field. (wheel barrow?) Ever done that with more than a couple of trips? You will sleep like a baby after a day of that :-)
Then you have the whole battle with the other creatures of the wild that have a keen interest in your crop.
Rabbits. they love your garden as much as you. Unless you have a fence fine enough to keep the rabbits out, they will nibble off your beans and other hard earned crops in short order. I don’t care how much you respect the earth and earnestly desire to go green.
If you do invest in a rabbit fence, better figure on spending several hundred dollars if you intend to fence in 1/2 acre of ground.
they are thick here in Eastern Iowa. You’ll need a fence that is 8 ft tall to keep them out. A few years ago, we planted 40 young apple trees..they were looking awesome that first month…long luscious branches…then the deer found them, and in 2 nights they ate 80% of the new growth, stripped them right down to nothing. We did invest in an electric deer fence that does a pretty good job of keeping them out. Probably had $900.00 invested by the time we fence around just the apple trees.
We currently have (3) chickens. We get two eggs a day, which is about right for the two of us. We have to buy the chicken feed @ almost $10.00 for a 40# bag. Those eggs are not cheap if you do the math.
As much as I would like them to be “free range” they wouldn’t last a month. Chicken hawks and owls would make short order out of our little flock. Lost several chickens several years ago to a raccoon that kept breaking into a locked chicken house.
The article discusses whether or not to have a house cow, pigs, chickens. You better be prepared to spend a lot of $ keeping your 1 or 2 critters with feed because you are not going to be able to raise/ keep enough food to get you through the winter. It is not cost effective to own a tractor and hay baler for 1 cow and 1/2 acre of hay :-)
We had (1) pig a couple of years ago. Tried to get by just letting her forage off the pasture. Didn’t put on any weight, and as we got into Winter, things were tight financially, I really hated to start buying feed..stopped by a pumpkin patch after the Halloween season was over and hauled home 4 pick up loads of pumpkins. That got us by into the middle of Winter. Then I was able to get some ear corn from a couple of farmers who hadn’t gotten their crops picked before the heavy snow. A lot of busy work trying to keep one pig supplied with feed on a shoe string budget.
It averages $30 a month per heater to keep the water thawed for out door livestock. That is a major drain on your budget if things are tight. I did come up with a couple of ways around the water heater issue. If you’re interested, let me know.
So here’s my question..is there anybody out there on a small acreage, able to raise 90% of their own food for the year, that hasn’t spent thousands of dollars on fancy hobby farm equipment?
Talk to me…I want details
I would love to give you some space on the blog to write a series of “how to” pieces.
Close with a picture some of you have seen more than once..its a picture of Winston our pet pig and myself, taken last year:
(The reason I have such a serious look is because I knew the next day, I was going to have to load Winston up on a trailer and send her to the locker. We had donated her to a local camp for the handicapped and they were going to have her butchered. :-( )
Update June 2014. This blog post continues to be the most popular post on my farm blog. For an update on our goals/ thinking, etc. since I originally penned this, feel free to check out this link.