It all really began sometime around the turn of the year. My mother has been retired out in Colorado for several years now, and had decided that she wanted to move to our area in northwestern Virginia to be closer to us, so we’d been on the lookout for suitable places in the area for her to live. She wanted a place that had enough room in the yard for her to do a decent bit of gardening, and the closer to us the better — within walking distance, if it could be managed.
For our part, we’ve been content in a 4 bedroom split level with 3/5ths of an acre on a suburban cul-de-sac. It’s a little snug with eight kids, but we’ve managed. We did some focused gardening once or twice with great results, but just haven’t put the time into it in the last year or two. Instead, we’d decided we wanted to try our hand at chickens, so we now have ten hens that peck around the coop and enclosed run we built for them last summer and give us a bountiful supply of eggs.
Well, sometime in early January, while we were keeping our eyes out for potential places for Mom to move in to, it somehow got stuck in our collective heads that it might be fun to find a much bigger place for all of us to live, with substantially more land, and do the hobby farm thing with an eye toward seeing how far we could go toward being self-sustaining. Mom’s got the gardening prowess down (and we’d like to learn), though perhaps not on the larger scale we’d be looking at; we’re all squared away with chickens, though we’d want to expand to meat birds as well and learn how to candle, incubate, and hatch the eggs to sustain the flock; and goats in general seem like a good idea. Some are good for meat, some are good for dairy, and they do well on field forage. Kind of like mini-cows. Huge unknown there, because none of us know much about how to raise, manage, and take care of them except what we can read online, but it seems like a worthwhile thing to pursue.
Fast-forward about six months. It’s June, and after walking away from lots of properties (some of which were clearly wrong, some of which were achingly beautiful) we’ve found the property that looks like a winner. Sixteen acres, a 4 bedroom house with an unfinished basement ( = space for more rooms), several fruit trees, an outdoor wood furnace (like this), a pond that’s dry now because it needs to be sealed (hey, the potential’s there, right?), and get this — not only is the land suitable for a goat farm, it IS a goat farm. The owner has a herd of meat goats (one Kiko buck and five Boer does, for those who might be curious), and is willing to sell them (and his utility tractor and various implements) to us as part of the overall deal to sell the house. It looks like a win-win — he doesn’t have to bother hauling the goats to auction and craigslisting the equipment, and we get an in-process farm ready for use, with a herd already on site.
We make the contract, and the next two months blur past. A few things become clear to us over this time, mostly that this was a broken family situation and the house and land have been…shall we say, less than tended. Even more so since it went under contract and therefore wasn’t being kept up for market appearances.
And now? Settlement was yesterday; the deal is done. The house, land, goats and equipment are ours now, and boy do we have our work cut out for us. The land is at best in need of a good mowing and at worst in need of some serious bush hogging; both implements are present with the tractor, but time as always is in short supply. The goats seem well, but the does have several kids and they’ll be ready for slaughter soon. In the meantime they need to be separated from the rest so they don’t start trying to mate with the other does. And one of the does either looks somewhat pregnant or seems to have a significant protein deficiency, we’re not sure which. And a couple of the goats got out tonight, after which I discovered (too late in the evening to fully investigate) that the electric fence seems to be turned off or malfunctioning.
Meanwhile the work on the house has commenced in earnest. First up is painting and flooring on the second floor (where the bedrooms are), and then the first floor. Once those are squared away the build-out in the basement will begin, in which we’re adding two more sleeping rooms (they’re not bedrooms, you see, because that would require us to add capacity to the septic system which already has plenty of capacity as it is), a bathroom, a sewing room, and a family/media room. Once that’s all done (which will take a month or two at least), we’ll actually move our family in and start to live there. In the meantime, we’ll be focused on trying to pack up a ten-person household while my wife is eight months pregnant and I’m shuttling back and forth between the house and the farm, trying to keep things moving on both ends while still reasonably holding down a full-time job. Surely we’re insane, right?
The thing is, we’re an adoptive family with eight, soon to be nine kids. I’ve learned that, at least for us, life is going to be crazy no matter what we do or leave alone. But I’ve also learned that if we can accept that as a given, we always have a choice — we can let the crazy bus take us wherever it will, or we can drive it ourselves. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather stomp on the pedal, steer as best I can, trust God with everything, and see where we end up.
That engine’s been warming up for a bit now, and yesterday we sat down in the driver’s seat. The motor’s running and it’s in gear. And the adventure begins…
I’m planning on logging the progress of our adventure here for the few of you who may be interested in keeping up. If you’d like to follow along without the noise of anything else I might happen to rant or rave or muse about in the meantime, feel free to bookmark http://joel.fouse.net/category/farm .