A Year of Work on the Homestead, Part Two

Blossom holds a kid born last winter

I was hoping to post this last week, but we rented a skid-steer loader and root rake over Thanksgiving weekend that kept us quite busy accomplishing our list of to-do’s before returning it.  Then we had an energy crisis when all our generators went “kaput” almost at once.  They weren’t made to be used as hard as they’ve been used this year.  So everything else is on hold as we work hard to get the rest of the solar panels up this weekend, and, finally, live mostly generator free!

Recently I posted Part One of an overview of our first year here on the off-grid homestead concerning our power system, drilling a well, laundry methods, and greenhouse.  Now I’ll focus on the living things on our little homestead.

Our three Nubian milk goats had kids early in the year, making it necessary to streamline the milking area and provide a secure pen for the kids and their mamas. With coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and other wildlife around we didn’t want to risk accidents. Our two dogs, Hershey and Laddie, are a great team in guarding our livestock at night. They are quick to notify us of anything unusual going on. But we would hate to invite trouble by not having proper accomodations.

Our oldest goat, Jody, had triplets

Kids enjoy kids!

One dream that came true this year was buying a milk cow! Buttercup is a gentle Jersey cow who supplied us with lots of milk for kefir, cheese, sour cream and butter for several months till we dried her up in anticipation of the calf she was to have in July. She was getting quite large and ready to “pop,” but the calf never came. The former owners thought there must have been a mistake and she was probably bred by the neighbor’s bull a few months later than they thought, making her due in December. Sigh. How discouraging to discover we dried her up several months early and missed out on all that milk! We had stored lots of extra yummy homemade butter in the freezer, but we’ve long since run out and have resorted back to buying less-than-superior store-bought butter again. Bummer!

December was almost here and Buttercup was looking rather lean, so a friend of ours who grew up on a dairy stopped by to check her. He discovered she is carrying no calf! Either she was never properly bred or she miscarried out in the woods somewhere and we never found out. This is a sore disappointment!! What do you do with a wonderful milk cow that is dry and there is no hope of getting more milk from her till she calves again at least nine months from now?!? Our next door neighbor has a bull that we put her in with to see what happens. But if you have any good advice, I’d love to hear it. Should we try selling her, hoping she is bred this time, so the next owners will fare better (who will want a cow that didn’t take last time?) and look for another milk cow, or should we just focus on other things this year and wait for her to calve again? Our goats will kid again soon so we will have their milk, but it is much harder to separate cream from goat milk.

Buttercup in her new milking stall, unfortunately not in use now that she is dry

Anyway, the little milking barn connected to the chicken coop that we moved out here last year needed upgrading for all the new activity. The goat milking parlor area was securely enclosed to double as a newborn pen, another goat milking stanchion was built, and a larger milking stall built for Buttercup. The barnyard area got a fence built around it with a runway to the back acres which will one day have several paddocks to rotate grazing areas.

The enclosed milking parlor area which doubles as a newborn pen

That leads to the fencing…for months it seemed we were constantly building fence, trying to stay ahead of the sneaky goats who managed to find the end of the newest fencing or some other way to get out. They were constantly trying to find some way to our living area to eat our juicy young trees and plants, and they succeeded a few times. As long as the fences were not secure we did not dare buy the fruit trees or anything else we hoped to plant.

Finally the back eight acres had fence all around them, and a new fence was built on the north side of our living area and in the front acres so most of our fence issues are solved. Occasionally the ornery goats still find their way around the field fence near the back of the property where there is still only barbed wire, but now they can’t get into the middle section where we live and are planting all sorts of things. We have a nice board fence in front of our house that completes the enclosure around our garden and orchard area. Ha! Let them try!

Part of the fence that encloses the barnyard area and runway to the back paddocks

Another fence that encloses our living, garden, and orchard area

Lots of field fence and barbed wire were put up through the palmettos

As for our other animals…two setting hens hatched a batch of chicks together this summer, and we recently bought some meat chicks which will be ready for butchering in later this month. From the batch of 12 keets (baby guinea fowl) we raised last spring only one bachelor is left. He makes his rounds socializing with our other animals and squawking at anything unusual. Maybe we’ll find him a wife that won’t get eaten by a fox, now that the fences are built. Evensong’s rabbitry has grown this year to include meat rabbits, fiber rabbits (angoras, etc), and pet breeds. Now she is adding guinea pigs to her collection. As long as there is a market and she can sell the offspring, it is a worthwhile venture.

Chicks with their mamas

The ten meat chicks with Mr. Guinea standing guard. He always sounds the alarm at anything unusual which is a great protection for our animals.

Both dogs and guineas have alerted us to dangers, including this eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which is rated by some as the most dangerous animal in North America.

Evensong has expanded her rabbitry

The babies are always so cute!

Riding on the back acres

As far as our orchard is concerned…we now have one! It’s small but we hope to make it bigger. In September we were finally able to purchase trees at a great end-of-summer special…six trees for $100! After months of clearing the graveyard and hauling in horse manure to build up our sandy soil, we were ready to plant! I’ll post more details about our orchard later, but the trees are thriving in their new homes. So far we have seven citrus trees of various kinds, some papaya, banana, fig, Florida peach, avocado, mango, coconut palm, pomegranate, mulberry, and moringa. We can’t wait to eat their fruit. More patience needed!

The fruit trees waiting to be planted

Planting the Florida peach

Farmer Boy waters his Myers lemon tree

We emptied many loads of manure

In addition to the orchard we have the beginnings of our edible and medicinal landscaping in the front and back of our tiny house. While we were still building the deck it was difficult to put anything in the ground, but now things are slowly taking shape. So far there are a few blueberry bushes, various medicinal and culinary herbs, around fifty pineapple plants, elderberry, aloe, hibiscus, and more. We’re trying to follow some good advice about planting trees first, then perennials, and then seasonal crops for the most long-term benefits. We also laid a pallet of sod to replace the hay-covered sand under our clothesline and part of the back yard. Grass may not be viewed as a luxury until you live without any for nearly a year. It’s lovely!

Spreading dried manure in the front yard to prepare for edible landscaping

Starlett “helps” with the landscaping

We planted over 50 pineapple plants from someone’s discarded tops

Grass under the clothesline!

Looking back over the year, we see things that didn’t get done that we hoped would, but the Lord has graciously provided for what we have and has helped us to do some things that weren’t part of the original plan. And we have been greatly enjoying our homestead. We have goals for completing several more projects before the end of 2012. I’ll try to keep you posted.

Gratefulness for our First Year on the Off Grid HomesteadBlessings,


20 thoughts on “A Year of Work on the Homestead, Part Two

  1. Hey, you mentioned something about the advise that you got about what to plant first and I want to hear more about that… sounded like someone told you to plant the biggest and most expensive things first, if so why?
    n I love love love the pictures wish we could visit now!!!


    • Hey, please come visit any time…the camper is waiting. 🙂

      The advice about trees first was not connected with expense, but with starting out with longest-term items. The advice was from someone who had a great garden but wished they had started out with a better plan. They recommended starting with structural things, like layout, irrigation and drainage, then plant trees, then perennials, then finish up with seasonal plants. The trees take longer to get established but are long-term producers. If you start with seasonals you can spend all your time and space on those but they do not yield long term.


  2. If you ever asked, “Jealous much?” (though I doubt you would because it doesn’t seem to fit your personality :)) I would slowly raise my hand and say yes! Love the pictures! This just makes me the more impatient for my family to start our homesteading journey! Hopefully, one day off grid.


    • It’s so funny…I love it when folks like you would actually consider being jealous of our lifestyle…so often I hear comments like “I could never do that,” as if we have a horrible existence. 🙂 I sure hope you let me know when you start your homesteading journey, especially if it is off grid. We don’t know many families doing that, and it doesn’t feel quite so lonely to know of others doing the same.


  3. I would so love to have the setup you do, Don’t think I could handle that many children :), but can’t get my hubby on board with some stuff, although when we met he had alot of ideas for homesteading. Now I think he’s stuck on the money to gte it going and I can’t really do anything about it. getting a chicken pen in our 1 building, a portable tractor, and expanded greenhouse is hwo far I’ve gotten. we can’t afford another property as too much needs done to sell ours so I’m working on getting it my way with what I have now. A farmer had been farming 2-1/2 acres of our land and I’m trying to convince him I want to reclaim it and seed it with pasture grasses to cut and use as litter in the chicken pen during cold weather. Then plant some of it with trees, mostly maple from the seed heads that float down each year. Would love solar panels and such but probably not. Love reading all your postings and have learned a lot. Didn’t know there was a big market for guinea pigs. I love them, had a few as pets. Good luck to all your ventiures. I will continue to read your postings.


    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Deb. Living like this is not for everyone…it does not make a person better than other people, or make one more righteous, etc. If the Lord wants this for you He can prompt your hubby that way…pray about it, rejoice in where He has you right now…be a help meet to your hubby and work together to fulfill the Lord’s calling for your family. Starting from scratch like we’ve done and adjusting to living off the grid has some huge stresses…if you are not totally agreed on things it will be even much worse…don’t know that many marriages could survive it (I’m dead serious about that!).

      So I say enjoy the chicken pen, tractor (we’d LOVE to have a small tractor some day as well), greenhouse (you’re ahead of us in that one), and the progress you make as a team, little by little. That is really much more ideal than having to cram everything into one or two years as we’ve had to do. The Lord provides for things that are His idea…no need to stress over that one, though that is much easier said than done. He has provided so many things for us that we had absolutely no money for when we moved here! He is faithful!

      Meanwhile, keep us posted on how things are going at your place…it’s always so encouraging to hear about others trying to live more sustainably, whether it’s in town or out in the boonies.



    • This past year has been very stressful in some ways, especially trying to juggle Silver Oak’s work in town with work on the homestead, but overall we are definitely having fun. We learned that the tops cut off of pineapples can be stuck into the ground and will grow new pineapple plants. My parents have grown many that way. So hopefully in a few years we will have our own pineapples (why does it have to take so long???). 🙂


  4. Wow! What a wonderful post. I just adored the photos of the animals and find all of your gardening amazing. I love tuning in and learning from one another. I found your blog through Homestead Revival and would love for you to link up to our hop as well. I think folks would love reading about your adventures. ~Melissa


  5. Rose Petal I adore your posts, it’s such a delight to read up what you have been doing each week. Sorry to sound ignorant, but what is a skid-steer loader? I love the image of your baby bunnies too:-) Thank you so much for sharing this with us at Seasonal Celebration Sunday! Rebecca x


  6. hi. i’m new to the blog hop. my husband and i have a cattle farm in alberta. i also own and operate a small paper shop from the farm. the shop like my blog is call Black Ink Paperie. my blog features stories about the farm and growing up in small fishing village in nova scotia. i would love for you to visit my blog and follow if you like it. i did a guest post last week called “a cow’s tale” which tells the story about one of our cows and her exciting life.

    thanks and i can’t wait to visit all the other blogs
    new follower bev


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