We've moved around to different states, which felt normal to me as I am a military brat. However, that also means that you can't enjoy the long-term rewards of your efforts, such as planting fruit trees. It also complicates owning larger animals. While living in California, we decided we wanted to settle in Oregon, so we made the move.
At first we rented so we could get a feel for the area. We learned that we love the ocean view, but the sound is really what was relaxing. We weren't interested in paying an arm and a leg for a view, and we'd have to sell our firstborn to get a building lot that had good ocean sounds (and wasn't sloughing off into the ocean). So, we opted for something a little more inland and a little larger. We came across a lot that was 4.26 acres with a river running through one edges. It was an instant love connection. We commented to each other that we had no idea what we would do with so much space.
The land was a bit wild. It had been used as a pasture before and there were remnants of barbed wire fence here and there. There were old trees along the river. Like much of western Oregon, it was becoming overgrown by wild blackberries. We were reluctant to spray to kill them back, especially so near the river. That led us to eventually decide we needed a couple of goats to eat the blackberries down. That idea evolved, as they all do, into getting a female we could milk for our family. We ended up with a bred Nubian-Boer cross and a yearling Nubian. It was nice to feel more self-reliant, and it was a feeling that led to other projects and expanded our homesteading.
As first-time goat owners, we learned they climb on everything. They can jump, especially Nubians. Kids are AMAZING and cuter than we imagined. Goats are so smart and social. Goats also don't like getting wet, a big deal in our part of the country where winter is rain. We also learned they poop and pee where they sleep and mucking out the goat barn is disgusting. (It's now something we carefully plan around so it can be done by tractor with no hand-work at all.) We also learned they eat things that people have written they don't like to eat (such as baby hemlocks).
Milking goats can be a bit of a headache if she knows how to harass you. She knew my young daughter was a better target as I'd hobble her (humanely) right away. We also learned that we could taste the difference between store-bought cow milk and farm fresh unpasteurized goat milk. They're supposed to taste different, but some of us never got used to it for drinking. All of us loved it in ice cream and cheese. We also learned how to have a milk goat with kids and not be tied down to milking twice a day every day of the week.
In the course of homesteading, we also learned that we love chickens. My husband developed a "problem" with chicks ... every time he hears them chirping in the store or sees an ad online, he wants to buy them. They are so cute and there are so many neat varieties. We also tried out a Dexter cow and her heifer calf, which we realized we couldn't eat (way too cute) and we didn't end up milking her before we sold her because we didn't have enough pasture. But, we liked the little cows.
Homesteading is a lot of fun, but it's also loads of work. Our children learned to work. I'd say less than 5% of children I've met know how to really work. They learned about planning ahead for harvests, which they loved. They also learned that sometimes bad things happen. For example, you plant 300 or so little onion bulbs and just as you're done, a crow comes along an pulls them all out. Not to eat them, but just to be a crow. Stuff like that just happens. Now we know and try to do things to prevent it from happening again.
When needs of extended family and some local circumstances changed, we realized we needed to move. We also decided to scale up beyond homesteading. After all, gathering eggs from 35 chickens doesn't really take much less time than gathering from 135 if we have properly designed coops that collect the eggs for us ... it might even be faster and cleaner. Pouring grain for five goats doesn't really take more time that graining forty. Haying them does, but with properly designed food dispensing, it shouldn't.
The real push to change from homesteading was when my husband decided what he wanted to do - make artisan cheese and bread. Two weeks into his first job after completing six years of college, he decided it wasn't for him. He's good at it, but he wanted to figure out what sounded more fun. If we wanted to make good cheese, that means no pasteurization and we needed not just cows, but also sheep and goats. We also like ice cream, gelato, and good frozen yogurt, so that's easy to include. It's such a horrible job to sample new flavors ...
We also wanted orchards and berries and gardens, so we're more than just a dairy. We love soft fruit (berries) and trying new things, so we are eager to grow some unusual fruits. It works wonderfully into a system that uses the manure and soiled bedding to enrich our soils. When we cut back our berries, the thorny branches are treats for the goats. The sheep help eat down the understory of the orchard. Chickens keep bug populations down around there.
As many Northern Idahoans and those of Norse descent, we think of the end of things as we know it. Even if it never happens, it is a nice feeling for people like us to recognize we have meat, milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and honey. We have plenty for our family and to trade for things we need. That probably sounds like crazy talk to most people, but it is comforting for us.
That's how we ended up scaling up from homesteading. It's very expensive and labor-intensive, so I really understand why more people don't get into farming. Just getting a loan for land or a home on more than five acres that will produce an income eliminates almost all loan programs. We found only one special farm lender in our area. Insurers are also more likely to not want to insure you, but there are some designed for farmers.
Homesteading was a fun way to connect with the real world around us. It was a healthier lifestyle for us and we were compelled to work. We also worked on things together as a couple, which strengthens relationships. We've tried to keep the diversity and holistic approaches we used in homesteading in our small farming, and it's still rewarding and a lot of work. We look forward to sharing things we've carefully produced with others who appreciate it. We look forward to having a beautiful productive farm full of happy animals and visiting wildlife.
Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.