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Author Topic: Considering moving toward a "simpler life"  (Read 7344 times)
specialkayme
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« on: January 15, 2012, 02:58:45 PM »

My wife and I have been toying with the idea of heading back toward a more rural lifestyle. The idea of growing most of our own food appeals to both of us, and since we moved onto two acres of land it makes heading in that direction a little more possible and a little less theoretical. If my wife had her way, we'd have a dozen chickens and three milking cows today, and I'd be the one taking care of all of them.  rolleyes

I'm an attorney, and my wife will soon be enrolling in massage therapy school. Neither of us have the ability to devote 60+ hours a week to living off the land. So instead, I was toying with the idea of heading in that direction, slowly and progressively, over the next few years. I was wondering if anyone on here has any experience doing that. Here is generally what I thought we would do.

1. Spring of first year: Start off with a small (8'x4') vegetable garden. Stock it with items we use most often already, with the idea of cutting down on living costs somewhat.
2. Fall of first year: take the remaining vegetables that we have grown and haven't used and can them. Being able to can (or jar) our vegetables will really make this closer to a 'year round plan', rather than a vegetable garden.
3. Year two: repeat the first year, only with two or three small vegetable gardens, improving on what we did wrong the year before. Additionally, plant a few apple trees and blackberry/raspberry/blueberry bushes to be used in the future.
4. Year three: Obtain a few chickens, and one duck. Consider growing grains. Repeat the successes of years one and two, and learn from the failures.
5. Year four: expand the chicken coop, if necessary. Repeat the successes of years one through three, and learn from the failures.
6. Year five: reassess our situation, contemplating the usage of goats and/or a cow.

My goal would be to try something new in odd years, and build on the knowledge in even years.

Obviously on two acres of land we won't be able to feed ourselves, but the idea is to become a little less dependent on the market and to become a little more self sufficient.

Anyone with experience in this area that would like to critique?
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kathyp
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2012, 03:21:51 PM »

one thought on the cow....if there are only two of you, consider a mini-milker.  a full size cow will give you way more milk than you can use.  even a mini can give you up to 3 gallons a day at peak.  other advantage to the mini breeds are that you can keep more on smaller acrage, and the mini beef will give you a nice bit of meat without it being to much. 

not a huge fan of goats personally, but that's just me  smiley

canning is good.  consider a dehydrator also. 

chickens are great value.  they are relatively cheap to feed and reproduce and you get not only meat from the bird, but the eggs.  rabbits also. 

small acreage is hard because you really can't grow enough for you and your animals, but if you think small and plan carefully, you can do well cost wise.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 03:32:54 PM »

Canning taste best, but never over look the deep freezer for foods.   Also, if time is short, network around to get people to pick you goods on halves.   Plant way too much and get people without land to work it for you.   Also what you can not use or have time to put up, sale.   We sell blueberries all summer, you pick, put the money on the porch, don't bother us operation.   Same with the bottles of honey.    We place the veggies that we can not use on the porch with everything else.   If it is a couple days old, free or pay us what you wish.   Not much labor on our part since we work all the time.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2012, 08:45:29 PM »

Chickens are low maintenance.  If you put out a feeder that holds a bit and a waterer that holds a bit (and has a heater so it doesn't freeze) you can actually leave for the weekend.  Milkers are high maintenance.  You have to milk them twice a day, rain or shine, no matter what.  Unless you have some like minded neighbors who would be happy to milk them for the milk or some other trade, its very limiting on your life otherwise.  It's a real crimp on your social life to have to leave early to get home to milk the cow, who will, of course be very cranky if you aren't right on time.

Bees are also low maintenance.  You can spend a lot or a little time.  They aren't tied to a particular time of day and really don't care if you don't show up at all.  Smiley

>Obviously on two acres of land we won't be able to feed ourselves

I wouldn't say that, if you really are intent on feeding your selves, I'll bet it CAN be done on two acres, but that doesn't mean you have to do that...

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Michael Bush
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iddee
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2012, 09:37:33 PM »

Start with a small garden and canning. You can often find neighbors with gardens who are quite generous. We canned 18 pints of greens last week from a neighbor's garden. I agree with MB. A cow is too intensive. You will find that she requires imediate attention every time you plan to do something.

No fun thinking about drinking the milk as you are washing the udder after she has laid with it in her own excrement.
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"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me . . . Anything can happen, child. Anything can be"

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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2012, 11:12:13 PM »

Due to my oldest son having all sorts of complications with infant formula, I finally tried goats milk on him and it worked wonders. I had a French Alpine that would produce a gallon a day. I still have all my SS milking equipment just in case I ever decide to do it again. Time wise, it really didnt take that long. From putting her on the stand to finish (I hand milked) maybe 20 minutes at the most. What we didnt drink, we made cheese out of it, banana pudding, the best ice cream, etc. I would still drink it if I had it. To me it tasted a lot better than cow. A goat would be more bang for your buck than a cow. Far less input for a pretty good output.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2012, 06:56:01 AM »

Timewise, milking isn't so much of an issue, but look at it this way.  You usually milk twice a day, you have a job, so it's scheduled around that.  You try to keep it the same everyday so let's say it's before you leave for work, at 6:00 am and you sometimes have to work late so you milk last thing at night at 9:00 pm.  You go to a party and you get into a good conversation, but you have to leave by 8:00 to get home in time to milk at 9:00... if you don't you have a very upset animal with a very full udder...  that's not counting when you want to go visit your grandkids or your parents for the weekend...

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Michael Bush
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D Semple
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2012, 10:08:05 AM »

Seeing as you have 2 acres I would think bigger and accelerate your garden plan. Maybe start with a 8' x 16". It won't take much more time than your 4' x 8' area will and you will have 4 times the space. I keep up with a 20' x 32' vegetable garden with just a couple of hours a week devoted to it.

Don't forget the herbs, home gardening is all about putting flavor first.

Don

 
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lenape13
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2012, 10:23:39 AM »

Pam and I have been working toward this for a couple of years.  Right now, she's down to 11 chickens, which provide more than enough eggs for us.  She sells the excess to family and friends.  (She had 40, but it was just too much for her to keep up with.)  My bees give her all the honey she needs, and a nice little income on the side.  Fruit trees keep getting added each spring.  I've been transplanting berry bushes each year to make it easier for Pam to harvest.  Seems she doesn't like fighting her way through all the briars and brambles and prefers the bushes in nice, straight rows.  The grape arbors also keep expanding yearly.  This spring I plan to root some blueberry cuttings from the best producing bushes and at least double our supply.  The soil here is poor, so any gardening is done in raised beds, which also make maintenance easier.  All this on 1.5 acres.  It can be done, it just takes some planning.
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deknow
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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2012, 05:02:56 PM »

...I'd also go with the bigger garden (if you haven't, you should read any book by ruth stout...they are all essentially the same....mulch mulch mulch), and add chickens ASAP.

We have 6....in a city lot (a 3 family house) with a bunch of bees.  We are urban enough that there aren't many predators, so the chickens roam the neighborhood (often getting their pictures taken on cell phones).  They were pretty ok in a 4x8 coop with an upstairs roosting and nesting area...could probably keep hens comfortably in a 4x8, and could probably find enough scrap wood around to build one.

They really aren't much work, and if you have an easy way to harvest eggs (like a door from the outside), you can probably find a neighbor who will grab them if you are not going to be around (less work than milking a cow).

Setting up a small garden, a good work area for canning (or a deep freeze), and a few chickens is a good ways towards your goal!  (and not that much work)
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specialkayme
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2012, 05:43:33 PM »

Thanks to everyone for the replies. They are very helpful.

Perhaps I should expand a little on why I came to the conclusion and plan that I did, and it may change some of the suggestions (although perhaps not).

As I stated earlier, I'm an attorney. I don't have the luxury of daily time, or weekend predictability. It isn't uncommon for me to work from 7 a.m. till 8 or 9 p.m. If I have to work a weekend, I usually don't know until Friday, if I'm lucky. In the coming years things will get more flexible, but being the low man on the totem pole, you don't get to make those decisions. For those reasons, I would prefer to start (at least the first year or two) with low maintenance items. The remainder of the chores will likely fall on my wife. While I love her to death, she does have some limitations. She grew up in a city in Europe, and she knows little to nothing about rural lifestyle. If it was all up to me, I'd probably stick with the bees alone and buy the rest of my food. I like the idea of a simpler life, but due to student loans and other various bills, I've got to pay it off so working is a requirement. She has agreed to take the bulk of the work on the homestead. So keeping that in mind:

Garden - last year I built her a small garden. I told her she could plant anything she want, and we went and picked out some seeds. She chose a boat load of strawberry plants, grapes, black berries, and watermelons. The watermelon got so large that it turned the rest of the garden into a bramble. A snake was once found in there, and my wife wasn't seen in it again. Smiley At least until I killed the watermelon plant. I reminded her that she could have as many strawberries as she wanted (she's a big fan) but the majority of them just rotted on the ground. She never touched the grapes, and the blackberries were my treat when I came home from work. We discussed why I'm reluctant to do a garden again, if she isn't going to help, and she promised she would be better. For that reason I would like to start small, to build responsibility. A 4'x8' bed would be large enough to let her plant what she likes, but not so large as to consider it daunting. If I built one four times as large, and spent the money on a fence & plants only to have them die, I would not be a happy camper.

Chickens - my wife has never had a pet . . . until our golden retriever two years ago. She's an animal lover, but not really too good about keeping them. For that reason, I'd like to show her the responsibility of plants before I dive into the chicken area. I agree chickens today would be more beneficial than in two years, but an alive chicken two years ago is better than a dead one today Smiley

Cow - 100% behind everything you guys mentioned. I'm not a fan of the cow idea. But it's my wife's dream. Dairy products are very big in her country, and many of them arn't available in the states. She would like to be able to try various fresh dairy products, and she really likes cows (not that I can question it, I'm a big fan of a bug, lol). If she want's it, and really wants it, she can take care of the garden and chickens to show that she's used to a schedule. We can take it from there. That's why it's on the five year mark, not sooner. I think once she has chickens, dogs, a garden, a job, and a family, her goals may be different.

Its nice to see that so many others have done similar things. I was weary that I'd get a bunch of puzzled responses, or worse.
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kathyp
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« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2012, 06:56:09 PM »

on the cow thing, look and see if there is a co-op or someone around who has a milk cow and to much milk.  you may be able to help out/buy a share and not have the whole cow for yourself.  that way,  she learns what's involved and still gets the product.  she may find that crawling under something big and smelly that likes to crap often and wetly, will not be her thing.

learn what grows well in your area and try some smaller sets of those things.  if you have limited space, things like watermelon and squash take some planning.  other things like onions, carrots, broccoli, etc. can be planted in much smaller patches densely, and you get lots of product for your work.

critters and digging around in the dirt, go hand in hand.  she'll have to learn to deal with it.  again, you may find someone around who can teach her what she needs to worry about and what is harmless.  handling a snake gets most people over their fear pretty quickly....and knowing which are poisonous and which are not, is not to hard. 

gardening successfully takes some experimentation and some work, but it need not be overwhelming if you have a good plan before you start.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
AllenF
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« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2012, 09:24:25 PM »

Chickens are great.  I fed mine twice this summer.   Have not put them up since March.   They spent most of the time hanging out with my puppy in his run.   They eat anything.    Goats with feathers.   Eggs everyday.    With the garden, don't overlook vegetables.  Beans, peas, squash, okra, , tomatoes, in the summer and greens, cabbage, broccoli  in the cooler weather.   Strawberries are a lot of work if you do not lay down plastic (or like) under them.   And you can not let them sit when ripe.  I find that the bushy tail tree rats eat my corn so I plant the corn in rows seen at the house for target practice on the buggers.   
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iddee
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2012, 09:25:45 PM »

specialkayme, I think you and wife should ride down some saturday or sunday and see me. I can introduce you and her to chickens, rabbits, canning, freezing, drying, sewing, and a host of other "country" living. It's much better to visit and talk than spend money and watch things die.
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"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me . . . Anything can happen, child. Anything can be"

*Shel Silverstein*
kathyp
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2012, 09:54:13 PM »

ooh, don't pass up that offer!  iddee is a great teacher.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
annette
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2012, 10:23:11 PM »

Check out this video.

http://www.wimp.com/livingland/
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LoriMNnice
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« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2012, 07:29:23 PM »

I have chickens and if I were you I would just make a big coop and not bother with expansions. It will save you time trouble and money. I would not just have one duck two would be better they like to have other ducks as company. I have six ducks

I started with a big garden and kept it that way

I had goats with the intent of milk and making other products but found with 2 little children and just me to milk the goats and take care of the goats it was just to much of a hassle and here in MN in winter it was hard to bundle up my children and take them to the goat barn and listen to them whine etc. and leaving them alone in the house was just asking for trouble. I will get goats again when my children get older. Also if you get smaller goats you can actualy get by with milking once a day.

I won't consider a cow, to expensive to feed, vet costs for AI etc.(I grew up on a dairy farm) also you might want to factor in where the cow will graze and how you will maintain that area. They are herd animals and will need comapny like another cow or goat something like that.

Start getting canning jars in the off season cheaper that way.

You can make things as complicated or as simple as you want, I try to make things simple and easy for example I don't have time to weed my big garden nor do I want to spend hours weeding it so I put straw down and it keeps out the weeds and I am fine with it looking that way and not 100% weed free, I do things like that.

I enjoy my life here on my little farm and hope I get to keep it this way Smiley
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BabcockFarms
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« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2012, 09:21:13 PM »

I'm not going to tell you what you should or should not do as far as gardening and livestock. There are more opinions out there than stars in the sky.

This is what I have found gives me the centering I need.

Eight years ago we sold everything we had of any monetary value. A house in the city, a cabin in the mountains, and a rental property were the big ticket items. That gave us the opportunity to chase our dreams. We moved to Nebraska without a place to live, a job to earn a leaving, or or any idea of what would come next. We learned a great lesson that the lighter we travel the easier it was to reach our goal.

We purchased some land and I started to build our home. Probably the most ambitious project I ever took on. There were many days that I questioned my judgment. My wife found work and supported our family. We lived very thriftily.

Now I have everything that we need. I am a very rich man, not financially but the wealth I have far exceeds what I perceived just 10 years ago as important and what then drove me. I have great health, a roof over my head and we have modest jobs that support the lifestyle that we love.

We have a garden that is 50’ X 100’ which provides a great portion of the food we eat on a daily basis. More than half of the meat we eat is harvested from or property.

The only thing we can control is our choices, that is what defines who we are and who we will become.

I neither miss the material things we had or the lifestyle we left behind, this is the best part of my life and am truly richer for what I no longer desire.

Enjoy what you have and figure out what you truly want. Then go for it!

Time is the enemy. Live for today with no regrets!
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Ron Babcock

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Lone
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« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2012, 08:12:58 AM »

Quote
critters and digging around in the dirt, go hand in hand.  she'll have to learn to deal with it.  again, you may find someone around who can teach her what she needs to worry about and what is harmless.  handling a snake gets most people over their fear pretty quickly....and knowing which are poisonous and which are not, is not to hard. 


SpecialK,  I think this will be a VERY useful tool for your wife in determining what is poisonous or not.

 http://isthispoisono.us/


Glad to help,

Lone

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Country Heart
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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2012, 07:05:40 PM »

Check out this video.

http://www.wimp.com/livingland/


Enjoyed the video.  It's amazing what you can do on just a small plot of land.
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