On the 1st of August 2014, my wife Connie and I spent the morning signing reams of papers for taking possession of our five acre farm in the wilds of northwestern Missouri. On the farm is a two stall barn with a lean-to addition for farm equipment, a two car detached garage and our new three bedroom home with a half basement garage. We now have a thirty year mortgage. Please understand that when we pay it off, I will be ninety-three and my blushing bride will be eighty. Either we are the most optimistic people in the world or we are betting heavily on a zombie apocalypse.
So, what is five acres? Historically, an acre is the amount of land you can plow with a brace of oxen. Oh by the way; a brace of oxen is two. So we bought ourselves the amount of land it would take five days to plow with two oxen. That would suppose I had two oxen, the appropriate plows and tack to harness them to the plow, any experience at all plowing with cattle and any motivation to plow the whole place to begin with. I have none of the above.
Let’s use a comparison maybe we can understand. An acre is 90% of a football field. So we now own four and one half football fields though it would be hard to play a decent game on them because of various buildings and cross fences.
So there you go. Both Connie and I love animals, outdoors, independence and doing things ourselves. Oh, we also love each other. So now that we have our five acres, what are we going to do with it? That has been the subject of much conversation and a little action since August. Having moved in so late in the year we both decided no live stock or gardening until spring. That will give us time to plan and prepare.
Most of the farmers in our area grow grains, corn and/or soy beans. I could fill the whole place with any combination of these crops, grow a bumper crop of them, sell it high and still not make enough for us to catch a bus to town if a bus ran out this far.
Every family in the area has their kitchen garden. In the first week we were here, we were almost buried in an avalanche of good will and tomatoes. There are some chickens, cows and goats in the area. A little further down the road you can find all sorts of live stock from sheep to pigs to lamas.
Goats: Connie wants to raise goats for fun and profit. The poet Carl Sandburg’s wife was a breeder of prize winning goats. Remember that if you are ever on Jeopardy. My Connie wants to raise goats and I told her that was alright but don’t expect me to rope them. It is not that being called a Goat Roper upsets me, but have you ever tried to rope a goat? They got some serious quick going on. So sometime towards spring I am going to have to cross fence around the barn and we will need to get a goat or two.
Bees: I want bees because bees make honey, and I have a raging sweet tooth. Also, bees are just cool. I remember as a little boy helping my grandfather with the bees; watching him gather honey, sneaking around behind the hives to put my ear up against them and listening to the hum of the bees cooling the honey in summer. Bees are really great little critters. However, I am not certain Connie is particularly thrilled. Got a feeling I will be robbing hives by myself.
Chickens: We both think you just have to have chickens. Chickens mean eggs and meat and I am fond of anything that can provide two kinds of food, ergo the goats. Any sustenance farm is going to have to have some kind of fowl, chickens or guineas are the best candidates. I expect we will try both within the first couple years.
A garden of course: A family of four can easily provide itself with the necessary vegetables, tubers, greens and such, ‘maters, tatters and beans, on a half acre. I have one picked out. We will also be planting berries and fruit trees.
Those are our goals for our first year; along with that maybe, just maybe, a couple of pigs. After that we will look at some grains, maybe a cow or two, pigmy cows are interesting. As time goes by, I am certain we will fail at some things and find successes we never even thought about. Raising mushrooms is intriguing and growing worms goes right along with composting.
Then there are matters of self reliance like production of our own energy, getting that old well back in action and seeing what comes from that and learning to recycle, reuse, repair and simply restrain ourselves.
The central theme of this blog is living simply, sustained by the earth each other and ultimately our God. What we intend to share with you is not how we GOT there. We intend to let you watch while we GET there. Allowing our readers to learn from our mistakes and profit from our successes as they happen, is our goal. The fact that I am old enough to remember when dirt was young should add to the entertainment value. Connie? Why she’s still an eighteen year old girl and as beautiful as she ever was. Why do you ask?