Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Agrarian Home-Based Lifestyle, Part 3

Or, "How is This Ever Going to Work"???

Here I'll be getting into the nuts and bolts of our homestead operation, or "the nitty gritty" as our son would say!  How exactly do we plan on being able to live off our 20 acres, you might ask?  Well, from a combination of factors, which I'll list here, in no particular order...

1.  GET OUT OF DEBT!!!  Being debt-free will be so wonderful!  We are very aggressively working on paying off our loans.  Thankfully, we are finally done paying off our last house, which we had to sell as quite a large loss due to the sorry state of the housing market.  The good side to the real estate situation is that we were able to get our house and 20 acres for an amazing price last March.  We are blessed that Dan has a very good job right now, so our plan is to be very aggressive in paying it all off.  Our goal is to be debt-free in under three years.

2.  Grow/raise as much of our own food as possible.  This summer we'll be experimenting with several things, including chickens and possibly beef, primarily for our own use.

3.  Garden like my life depends on it.  When I think of the pioneers (the true "homesteaders"!) I know that they had to have a successful garden, or they didn't eat any vegetables for the whole year.  If I'm going to be serious about making this work, I have to look at it that way.  It used to be that if my garden got overrun with weeds by July or burned up by drought, I would just say, "Oh well, I'll try harder next year."  While I'm not really interested in running a market garden for profit, I DO need to work at learning to plan better and be more diligent tending our "food supply"!

4.  Pastured Poultry.  Assuming we do ok with raising chickens this summer, we anticipate this being one of our primary sources of income.  Quite a few people are already doing it, but I really don't believe the market is saturated yet!  There is such a huge difference between the quality of pastured poultry and factory-farm, mass-processed poultry.  I want to feed my family the best and enable as many other families as possible to do so as well!

5.  Courser Deer Processing.  This is another major source of income for us, and could be even more when we get to the point where Dan can be at home full time.  As you've probably already read from previous posts, we will be moving our deer processing operation from Dan's parents' house to ours.  This past season we processed around 320 deer.  Through some advertising and marketing, we're hoping to push that number to 400 next season.  I'm also planning on experimenting with making sausage.  Currently we send it out to have sausage made, but our profit margin could be much higher if we did it ourselves.

6.  Soap and candles...which is still in the "experimental" phase!  I'm playing around with making some different blends of deer tallow soaps.  We'll see how this goes...if you would like to be a "product tester" please let me know!

7.  Other value-added products, such as all-natural jams, jellies, preserves, granola, baked goods, and the like.  Unfortunately, without a licensed kitchen I cannot sell these items online.  I'll have to stick with word of mouth, local food co-ops, and maybe selling at the Farmers' Market.  We'll see.  That sounds like a lot of work.  But I am a little compulsive when it comes to preserving things...I can't stand to see resources go unused!  So, I may as well make a little money from it too, right?

8.  Pastured beef and/or pork.  This may still be a little ways down the road, but would be a great compliment to our farm.  And I really love to eat beef and pork:-)

Well, there's the gist of it!  I'm probably forgetting something.  Of course along with all of that is just being generally thrifty.  Dan and I feel an increasing sense of urgency to be out of debt.  Maybe it's the economy, or political state of things, or just our itch to be truly free in regards to our resources.  At any rate, we would love to hear your suggestions and comments!  Have a brilliant idea for us?  Let us know!  And watch for an exciting post coming soon, including an unofficial "launch" and announcement of our homestead's name!

Just for fun...some nature study artwork from last summer!  Clockwise from top left: mine, Percival (age 3, impressive, right?), Lancelot, age 8, and Galahad, age 6.  (I change my kids' names on here to protect their privacy!)

...and the inspiration for the artwork above!  Did you know that those teenie little hooks were the inspiration behind Velcro?

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