From dream to reality

Welcome...we invite you to follow our journey to build our dream farm/homestead, God's Blessing Farm. From where we were, to the birth of the dream,to the search for land, to the land purchase,building the infrastructure and each step along the way.We invite you to watch comment and advise. If you are new to the blog you might want to start at the begining post. Be blessed and enjoy the ride with us

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cutting the grocery store umbilical cord....

Well its been a while.Three months to be exact but work and the homestead projects dont leave much time for blogging......
First some housekeeping. I always refer to my wife here as "TLA" (The Lovely Angelia). Henceforth she shall be referred to as "TCGL" (The Crazy Goat Lady). Not just a new nickname but hopefully a new brand. She is hard at work launching her new line of goat milk soap and skin and hair care products.Plus she has a new concept for upcycling empty animal feed bags into wallets, handbags and more...but that is my next post.You can get a preview by checking out her new blog and her new website

Pictured below is TCGL hard at work hand milking one of our American Alpine Dairy Goats

But the name of my post today is "Cutting the grocery store umbilical". When we set out on our Homestead Voyage one of the primary concepts was to be more self sufficient. This was more of a emotional concept than a detailed plan.At first I thought the process would take many years. Amazingly 8 months into our life here at God's Blessing Farm we are much closer ,to a now defined goal, than I thought we would be. As in all new endeavors some things have been easier than expected and some have been harder. But the most important thing is the emotional concept has become a defined strategy.

In our situation Goats have become the linchpin of our food independence game plan.Our goat herd has grown to fifteen goats. Nine does, two weathers (castrated bucks) and four bucks.Like everything else we seem to like variety.Our herd now includes American Alpines,French Alpines, Nigerian Dwarfs, Nubian mixes, Nubians (our freezer bound weathers) and a new Myotonic (Tennessee fainting) buck. Pictured above is one half gallon of hand milked raw (unpasteurized ) goats milk from here on the farm.Goats milk is an incredibly healthy product with benefits over cows milk that would require an entire post of its own. The goats are much more than just milk producers and the milk itself is so much more than just a way to cream our coffee. The milk is used to produce a variety of hard and soft cheeses,yogurts,cottage cheesess, we drink it, we feed it to our dogs and pig. TCGL also makes killer ice creams with it. The whey produced from cheese making is a great tomatoe fertilizer and the dogs and pig love it too. Pictured above is our main goat barn. We clean it out every few months.The bedding (and manure contained in it) is the best natural fertilizer I have ever seen. We actually got over run this year by our tomatoe plants becasue they grew so fast. We planted them and mulched with goat bedding and werent ready with stakes and cages because they shot up so fast.

You can see some hard cheese wheels curing in this home wine cooler I bought.The ability to control humidity and temperature while the hard cheeses cure is critical . The wine cooler seemed like a cheap solution and it was.TCGL has made soft Goat Chevre,Goat Mozzarella, Goat Cheedar,Goat Pepper Jack and several other varietys of goat cheeses. Below you can see Taylor who is the star milker on the farm now. If you "push" Taylor she can easily produce 1.5 gallons of milk a day. By pushing I mean that you milk her twice a day and load her heavy with high protein feeds from the grain store. But as we have progressed cutting the grocery store umbilical has come to include cutting the feed store umbilical. We are blessed with 25 acres almost completely covered by natural goat foods. We have modified our milk strategy to focus on using as little feed store grain as possible and focusing on natural hays and the abundant feeds here on the farm. I am planning another post with more a more detailed layout of our goat breeding and milking philosophies. But farm fed and  milked once a day Taylor still gives us better than 1/2 gallon a day. But milk cheese and some good garden fertilizer is a far cry from true grocery store independence. In our case cutting the umbilical doesnt mean buying nothing at Ingles or Kroger. However it does mean that grocery stores become the place where we augment our core food sources with items that are impossible,impractical or undesireable to grow here on the farm. These would include things like coffee,exoctic spices,salt,orange juice and some grains. But that means we are comitted to growing or sourcing from our farm enough of the major items to feed us year round. That means we have to do more than mutter sustainability and hum kummbaya incessantly to meet this objective.Like anything else we need to define our goals and generate a strategy to achieve them. So what do we need
  • Milk and Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Meats and Protein Sources
  • Vegetables and greens
  • Starches and Root Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Herbs
  • Wine and libations
Well we already solved the dairy and cheese with an animal that we can feed with products growing natually here on the farm.An animal that is a multipupose part of our farm eco/food system. That is of course the goat.

Here you see a box of eggs.Different sizes,different colors but with one thing in common.They come from our free range little egg factory.

And yes here is the "Egg Factory". Home to our 38 chickens of various breeds. We have a number of laying,multipurpose,bantam and game breeds to give us chickens that lay in various light and climactic conditions and give us a sronger chance of replensishing the flock (and adding a meat source) naturally.

Here are a couple of the girls at work.

Here is TCGL with part of a days haul. The bulk of our layers are coming to maturity.Currently we get 14-15 eggs a day on average and yesterday we broke a "team" record with 20 eggs in one day. Yes we have eggs for breakfast ,more than the occasional quicheand we love egg salad.But how does a household of three consume 15 eggs a day? They dont.But eggs are another great livestock food and we sell some to offset chicken feed costs.

Milk...Check....Eggs ....Check

Now there is an old saying that you would get sick of steak if you had to eat it every day.And its true. TCGL grew up on a beef farm eating it every day and really doesnt care for it anymore. Pictured above is Reece. A 7 month old Myotonic (Tennessee Fainting ) Goat. Pease note how well muscled and stocky he is.Reece is a future herd sire for our meat goat breeding program. You see we love goat meat.We prefer it to lamb or beef. In many cultures it is a delicacy and worldwide more goat meat is consumed than beef (goats milk is number 1 also). We would like to have a herd of 12-20 breeding meat does.They could produce 24-40 offspring to stock our freezer and also add another revenue stream. But goat meat alone wont keep us out of Ingles.

Meet "Pig". Pig is a Guinea Hog sow we bought as a squeeling sub 50lb piglet about 7 months ago. She has been fed goat milk,cheese way,eggs,corn and grains and soon she will be transitioning to our freezer.I suspect she is 180 plus now and that should translate into 65 pounds plus of bacons hams etc.Pig also fertilizes and turns the soil (by rooting) in her pasture.Thus improving future soil quality.In the future(a term generally defined as when I retire and be here full time) we may consider breeding a few hogs. But now buying feeders and slaughtering them in the 180-200lb range is the plan.

And now we are introducing Ricky and Lucy. They are our two rare American Blue Rabbits. Along with Gracy an American Chinchilla Rabbit they are our current breeding stock for our meat rabbit program. They also contribute to the fertilizer program. Goat and rabbit manure can be transitioned to the garden without composting. Both Lucy and Gracy produced one litter that we successfully raised and transitioned to the freezer.However the next two breedings for each doe didnt take.The intense heat this summer may have contributed to that.If their next breeding doesnt take we will be rethinking our base breeding stock. Once again we love rabbit meat also.

In addition to our current domesticated meat sources of goat ,rabbit and pork our land is blessed with wild game. I have been a fisherman for as long as I can remember. But I have never been a hunter.But to be more sustainable I intemd to become one.Our land has deer,rabbit,squirrel and I suspect some Turkey. In addition we are looking at adding both Chickens and Turkeys in to our home grown meat program.Alas our plans to have guinea hens as part of our meat source failed on the first try.The wide ranging guinea hens were picked off by coyotes and dogs. Our 22 bird flock has been reduced to one with none of the departed 21 making its way to our table.

Pictured above is the last leg of the protein plan.It is our catfish pond.It is one of two ponds I constructed when we got here.This one (the smaller one) has functioned flawlessly.It is intended as a "stock,grow and harvest" source of catfish. The larger pond has been plagued by leaks and is holding at about 1/4-1/3 of full pool.When I finally get the leaks licked it will hold a sustainable fish population including Bass,Catfish and Bluegill.
Meat in variety and abundance.....Check

Here is our winter greens garden. It utilizes a basic hoop frame system and netting to keep our chickens from munching down on the greens before we get them.In the next few days I will replace the netting with painters plastic and we will have a mini greenhouse to produce lettuce and other greens well into winter.Notice the goat bedding covering our upper garden area. I will detail how to build these cheap and easy hoop frame houses in another post.

This year was a year of rookie mistakes in our gardens.Too big,too much,too spread out and not properly prepared for irrigation when the drought hit. Despite that we had some great crops of peppers,tomatoes ,okra,beans and feed corn (sweet corn is still the bane of me). TCGL ordered a book "Gardening when it counts". The title captures the concept that for us its not a hobby garden any more.Its a food source whose success determines the quality of our diet.Going forward we are going to focus on a strategy of garden size,garden location and plant varietys which are disease resistant and require low hands on maintenance. But becoming a farmer and not just a gardener will also create a "reconnect" with food realities that you lose track of shopping in the American Supermarket.That is you can walk into Kroger and buy a tomatoe 365 days of the year.That is not a sustainable food reality.While we intend to expand and improve our "winter garden" techniques grocery store independence requires crop management and food storage techniques to have food 365 days of the year.

Here are the shelves in our workshop garage that house TCGL's canned goods.Among her other talents she is a crack canner.She makes her own stocks , ketchups,barbecue sauces and so much more.Canning,freezing and dehydrating so many things for our winter consumption.

Vegetables...not a full check but on our way.

That leaves fruits. For that we have two great wild blackberry brambles.In addition I have planted fig trees (doing well) ,fruit tress (fruit hardiness TBD) ,blueberry bushes (may have been lost to the drought ) grape and muscadine vineyards (this will be the wine source too).But these plantings will take 2-3 years to become productive in "independence" quantities.
Finnaly while we planted a few potatoes and sweet potatoes in the immediate future we are relying on large farms in our area which produce and sell these so cheaply we have decided to move them to the back burner.
The front of our house now is home to TCGL's herb garden that we both utilize when cooking.
So we have a plan.Before moving here I had to budget $350- to $450 per week for household food.We were demanding consumers who wanted quality food and we had to pay for it.Today we spend about $100 every 2 weeks at the local grocery store.Now we also spend about $150 every three weeks at the feed store but all in all the umbilical is being pinched down to where soon(about 18 months) it should be cut.
Wish us luck...
Be Blessed...
The Bald Man


  1. Awesome, great progress I guess you know you have a Proverbs 31 wife, I can't believe all she does and still looks great doing it. I do miss her crocheting thought.

  2. And I shall praise her in public for what she has done....