I have been in the planning stages of this sustainable farm for about four years now.
It sounds like a long time, but it isn’t, not really, considering we started with an empty piece of land. A charming, rolling hills, lush forest, creek at the ends and pond in the almost middle, but empty piece of land.
There was a well to dig, a road to build, a place for chickens to live for a summer, and then the big stuff. The workshop, the barn, a permanent chicken coop, and a movable shelter for goats and sheep all had to come, eventually, to this empty bit of land.
I admit, as I write this, it sounds like it’s going to clutter the place up hideously!
That’s where the planning comes in.
For a city girl, it was initially an enormous concept to grasp. My mind nearly exploded with really big ideas. We’ll have cows, and lama’s, goats, sheep, pigs, turkeys, ducks, geese, peahens, and peacocks! Maybe we can raise Reindeer or Buffalo!! But as with all really big ideas, the reality check comes right away and kicks me in the butt.
So the city girl got herself some books.
I have gardened, organically, for my whole life. I knew I could do that. And for the first time could make a garden as big as I could handle, which I knew also meant it would get bigger than I could handle at least once. What a thrill to be able to spread out to have a vegetable garden AND a flower garden and not try to smudge them all into the same over-crowded-to-the-point-of-stunting garden plot. My dream! Or at least half of it.
The rest of it will come with the animals, I know, but the preparation started four years ago. There are fences that need to be built. Lots and lots of fences. I bought a book on fences. The decision seems to boil down to a. do I want to lay my money down now for a really good sturdy fence that suits its purpose and won’t blow over or be pushed over by an aggressive goat, and will keep out predators while keeping safe our animals? Or b. do I want to spend a little now, experiment with electricity and know that occasionally I will have to chase a hog or goat over hill and dale to bring it back home where I will have to repair said fence? I’m liking “a”.
I guess the upside to the latter is that I can also experiment with where the fence goes. I can start small and grow a pasture as my flock grows. So, more accurately, I’m liking “a” with a bit of “b”.
It makes sense to me to build a fence that is secure for our largest animal, and will also work to contain and keep safe our smallest animal.
Goats need a high fence. They jump. They climb on things and then jump from there.
The ideal fence for a goat is six feet tall, woven wire with sturdy sunken posts about every twelve feet. If you have dwarf goats, the fence only needs to be about five feet tall but for the occasional olympic qualifying goat, I figure six feet won’t be a waste. Also, we may decide to offer a very nice retirement for a few draft horses and while they don’t require the woven wire, a high fence couldn’t hurt.
The woven wire fence will also be ideal for turkeys and chickens to free range. They keep out predators very well and the birds can cover more territory for bugs and grass, making for very happy turkeys and chickens.
The combination of fences will come in with the hogs. There are a few very old apple trees just up from the pond where the forest has been over-growing for about ten years. This would be an ideal spot for hogs but difficult to fence since there is so much brush at the base of the large trees. Hogs love shade and they love to dig for roots and, you guessed it, apples! The apples on these trees are about forty feet up so I won’t ever pick them, but the pigs would love to find apples dropping at their feet. This area has some low areas, which would be great for mud, but also high areas to keep them dry and warm when they want. A pig house on the edge of the back woods would make it far enough from the road and neighbors so as not to bother, and ideal for the pigs in any weather. A large band electric fence is visible to the pigs poor eyesight and is portable enough to move their pen as the ground is worked over. Fresh pasture can be as simple as moving a few stakes every week or two. Combined with the permanent fences surrounding large pastures, this should work nicely!