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Just thought that I should pop back in and update this thread!
After taking Chowan and Gordo’s advice I have taken a look at several pieces of land. Although I haven’t found what I am looking for yet I have found plenty of examples of what I am NOT looking for.
In evaluating my needs, wants and personal desires I have come to realize that living by yourself is one thing but living without neighbors is something else entirely different. I have come to the realization that while I do need a bit of acreage for myself I do want neighbors. Quality neighbors. With that said I think I need to look not only for good land but good land that is near the type of self sufficient people that I want to be around and aim to become myself and that revelation should help me focus my land search quite a bit.
Speaking of revelations it turns out that I am capable of doing quite a bit more than I thought I could. I went and visited a few different farmers over the last couple of days and I have learned quite a bit about self sufficiency.
The first farm I visited wasn’t really a farm in the traditional sense. The only thing this farmer grew was cotton. I guess it was a plantation and not really a farm but they did have a barn which they used to store the cotton bales. During this visit I learned the valuable skill of cotton textile manufacturing. I took part in a workshop and I learned how to turn cotton straight from the fields and turn it into thread and yarn. I learned about how to use and to make your own cotton gin and how to turn the cotton into what is known as a rolag ( a MUCH fluffier piece of cotton ) by carding it with hand cards which is a bit of fun but tedious and hard work. I learned how to take those rolags and spin them with a spindle to turn them into usable thread and yarn. Needless to say I now have a much greater appreciation for the clothing on my back! I plan on going back to this plantation for another workshop on calico making.
The second farm I visited was a livestock farm. It is a small, family run operation that raises cows, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, horses and ducks. My reason for visiting this farm was to get a first hand look at how hard it is to work on a farm. I arrived first thing in the morning and I worked my tush off! The farm didn’t look all that big but it certainly was more hard work than I expected it to be. I was up at four in the morning feeding the chickens while the farmer’s sons collected the eggs. There was this mean hen who didn’t like me very much and chased me around the little fenced in area. She kept trying to peck and bite at my shoelaces. The farmer’s wife who was out there with me thought that this was just hilarious. She explained to me later that this particular hen was blind and must have thought that my long shoe laces were a worm of some kind. I took a look at her shoes and she didn’t have any laces, only a pair of slip on shoes. Clearly I needed to wise up and fast! She showed me how they took their kitchen scraps and fed them to the pigs, how to clean horse stalls and even how to mend a small tear in their wire fence. This was all before noon! After lunch however came the coolest part. I got to milk a cow. It is alot harder than it looks but once you get into a rhythm the time flies by pretty quick. I was told that a single cow can produce anywhere from six to nine gallons of milk every day! After this it was time to feed the sheep their food. The farmer and his sons were out there with us and he explained that sheep graze in the morning and around sunset and that the best time to feed them their supplements was during the heat of the day so you won’t disturb their grazing patterns. They had these HUGE merino sheep. The animals themselves were tiny but their fleeces were the thickest and fluffiest I have ever seen! Apparently the farmer’s wife taken the wool and turns it into yarn for use in her online hand dyed wool business and makes a bundle. I had a really good time overall and from what I have learned I think I could handle a cow, a few sheep and maybe even a chicken or two.
The day right after this I went on to the next farm. Here they grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits for their roadside stand business. I have been buying from their little stand for at least four years now and they have the sweetest, juiciest corn on the cob you can imagine. Unfortunatly I didn’t get to pick any of that because the crop has already been picked and sold and tilled under for the winter. I did however get to pick the beginning of their apples! I took home a whole barrel of these huge, crunchy, juicy and bright red apples home with me and I plan on turning them into an apple pie. Picking apples wasn’t as easy as I thought it was either. Some of the apples didn’t want to come off the tree just yet and the farmer had to instruct me on the pull and twist method and I still couldn’t get some off because I was just so sore from all of the farm work from the day previous. Lessons learned there! On the brighter side the farmer took me into his little shop and taught me all about what was planted on the farm, what grew well here and what didn’t. He also taught me a bit about crop rotation and guarding against pests. Alot of detailed information was gained here but just too darn much to type up!
Evidently I missed the honey collection for this year but next year that is something I want to learn more about. Although I am alergic to bee stings there are some kinds of bees that produce honey that are incapable of stinging and honey is a valuable sweetener, additive and preserver on top of having anti bacterial properties and I would be thrilled to learn how to keep my own supply.
Maple syrup production is also something I want to have a look at since not only is the syrup tasty but you can boil it down and create maple sugar for baking and other purposes like creating my own jerky ect. However maple trees take 30 – 40 years before they can be tapped for their syrup so I either need to plant my own stand and let my future children have it or find land that has this resource already.
Now if I can just find out how to produce salt I think I might be completely self sufficient in terms of renewable food sources. I know there are certain plants that have alot of salt but as for taking the plants and extracting the salt and turning it into granules for storage and use in rubs ect. I have no idea.
I figure I can handle a single cow for milk, a couple of chickens for their eggs and maybe even small flock of sheep for wool. Sheep also prefer to eat clover and if I could plant clover fields it would be perfect food for bees to make clover honey too. However I also need to consider how much more land I will need as well as how much it will cost to care for these animals.
Anyway there is my update. Hope the rest of you are doing well too!