View Full Version : Mini farm

March 4th, 2019, 01:49 AM
I need some info from you. We are about to put our house on the market and buy something else. I think we are the only “empty-nesters” that are buying a bigger house with more land!

The property that we are about to put an offer on is 25 acres, 6 bedrooms, 4 full and 2 half baths, salt water pool, a huge pool house with full bath and kitchen. Large barn, pole barn for hay, two fully stocked lakes. The house was built in 94. While it is huge it definitely needs a lot of cosmetic updates.

My question regards the “farm” aspect. I know what to do with the variety of fruit trees and vines. I have done a bunch of reading on chickens (current owners have close to a hundred chickens and said they would leave me some). They will be taking all the cattle with them and there is a huge herd of goats. They said they would sell me some goats if I was interested. There are also turkey, guinea, quail, ducks.

So, what do you do with goats? I should have asked what kind they were. The did seem small to me so maybe a dwarf or pigmy type?? I know that they eat a lot of grass but do they need some sort of feed pellets or grain? When they grow up then what? Do you eat the goats? Or breed and sell them? I suppose it all depends on what kind they are. I am seriously thinking of buying 5-10 goats but I would like to get an idea of what I could expect. I know somebody here has goats (toggpine I think?)

I’m also interested in raising meat rabbits. The reading I have done seems pretty straight forward and simple. If anyone has any experience with that I would love some info.

Please give me any hints, tips, suggestions or Things to absolutely not do.

I will have to buy a tractor.

The bulk of work will fall on my shoulders. So I do not want to start out to big in the beginning and get overwhelmed. That would not be fair to me, my family or the animals.

I am so excited and terrified about this new chapter in my life.

Let me know your thoughts!

P.S. If the thought of eating goats, rabbits, chicken, ducks, deer or pig is upsetting to you I truly am sorry.

K. McEuen
March 4th, 2019, 01:57 AM
My sister used to have a small herd of African pygmy goats, mostly to keep her pasture clear of weeds and briars. The grass grew in nicely because the goats ate the other stuff. I know she fed her horse some grain each day, but can't remember if the goats got feed as well as forage, probably did. When she got too many goats, there were usually some people that would come by and ask if she would sell one or two of the younger small ones for a goat roast. Other times she sold them off to people that wanted to start or add to their own herd. She had a couple turkeys, guinea fowl, peacocks that all ran loose on her property, and some chickens in a pen. Once in a while she would get a calf or a young pig and raise them to butcher for her family. All of that on 4 acres.

March 4th, 2019, 10:20 AM
Wow, that is definitely moving bigger. I don't know how old you are or your physical shape but this sounds like a big venture. It would be wonderful if you have kids or grandkids close by to visit or help. The house and acreage sound wonderful.

I will play the devil's advocate. Have you ever stayed or worked a farm before? I know from many of my relatives who do have farms, it's a lot of work, and if you have livestock, it's a 24/7 job, not a hobby. Will you have back-up help or hire when you may need to get away? You mentioned the bulk of the work will fall on you. Is your DH not as much of a willing participant?

I would start small with livestock, some chickens at first. They will produce eggs, so you can only use so many unless you plan on selling some. I would add other animals as you get comfortable and have more time, as you do say that you are planning some renovations. Whether you hire for this or do yourself, you will still be busy with this.

Good luck in your decision.

March 4th, 2019, 10:25 AM
That's a big change, and I'm no help with the farm aspect. I wish you well on your big adventure.

March 4th, 2019, 12:59 PM
My experience with goats come from a neighbor and my SIL. The neighbor's goats jumped up on the hood of my new car and left hoof dents all over it. Can we say pissed? They also got into the fruit trees and girdled them so bad the trees all died.

My SIL spends a lot of time with her goats. They have to have their hoofs constantly cut, shots, she won't let them raise their own babies so she always has a playpen full in the mudroom in the spring. Of course, a lot of that is because she is crazy.

I lived on 400 acres with my first husband. Around the house we had chickens, which kept the bugs down and provided eggs, rabbits who lived in the bottom of the pigeon cage which was huge. Turkeys which liked to jump on the hood of the pick up to sleep in the sun. They were the dumbest things and yes they actually do drown in the rain.

Do yourself a favor and don't get anything that has to be milked before the sun comes up, especially if the winters are cold. It's not a pleasant experience.

March 4th, 2019, 01:16 PM
Wow! I have absolutely no advice but I am in awe of your wanting to tackle this. You are right. It's exciting and terrifying and you are gonna have your hands full for a long time. I wish you all the luck in the world. (As for me, I would just turn that barn into a giant sewing studio and have lots of dogs running around. I would be in heaven.)

Carlie Wolf
March 4th, 2019, 01:37 PM
I had a mini farm in my 40's and 50's. I knew nothing when I started and most everything I did myself. Granted I had mainly sheep and angora rabbits and my specialty was the fiber as I was a spinner and weaver. I did have one angora goat at one time but didn't like it because it was a major escape artist, I called her Liquidwoman. I had some chickens when I was in Canada and they were easy. I loved those times of my life and would never regret it. Here's a few things I found helpful.

Get a good book as a reference guide. I had quite a few but there was one I used all the time. It covered all the farm animals with tons of other info. It's older, no frills but I found the info to work very well and it had good graphics. (came in handy at lambing time). Unfortunately I can't find it so it may have gotten lost over my many moves but I'll try to do a search on Google and see if I can find it.

Join the State organization for goats (sheep or whatever you have). They have many seminars and helpful information. The sheep organization where I was did a program one year, choosing 4 people who were new to sheep farming and taught them many of the various vetting techniques that are used on the farm. I was one of the people and it included 4 on farm visits where I was taught. Cost me nothing other then I agreed to teach a group on my farm with a hands on experience. I learned tons which was a cost savings. In later years I did give some courses in it.

The first year I selected 5 adult females and 1 male as a starter flock. My feeling was they had the experience of lambing and I did not, so at least they knew what they were doing for the most part. Granted not everyone gets rid of their best sheep so I figured I might have to cull about two after lambing season for problem lambers. That proved correct but the three good ones taught me a lot that first year. My first priority was to breed for easy lambers because that made my life easier :-) Once that was established I bred for twins or triplets per ewe. Yes, you had to harden your heart those first couple of years.

A friend of mine raised goats and the procedures were pretty much the same. I would have been just as comfortable raising goats but that was not my market. Grain was fed mainly during pregnancy and while the babies were young until weaning time. The nice part about giving grain even during the year was it made the animals more manageable. You need to bring them in? Go out with a bucket of grain, they'll follow you anywhere. In summer just enough to be able to jiggle that bucket and then give them a few pieces.

Her market was cheese, milk and she also had a Greek market for the babies she wasn't going to keep. There was a Greek holiday in the Spring around our Easter time where they would buy baby lambs for butchering for the holiday meal. It was a specialty item for them and the market price was very good. I believe there are other cultures that use goat meat but I forget now what they were.

Your more intense times of year are of course during lambing through weaning. But also you worm them at least twice a year with two different types of wormers. Once in the fall before breeding and once just before lambing. One type required a shot instead of a paste. You would do well to learn how to give your own shots and type of shots. You also need to learn how to trim hooves. While you can have a vet do castrations it's best if you learn and there are two ways to do that. I chose using a burduzzo (sp?) instead of the elastic bands which were easier to do. I found it cleaner, less chance of fly strike and overall it was actually less painful (after the initial shock), afterward they just jumped up and ran off.

You need to decide early if you are a farmer or a pet sanctuary. It will make a huge difference in your vet bills. Early on I had a vet come to the farm regarding a ewe who was having rear back problems. She needed to be put down. I asked how much and he said $250. I replied it would be easier to send her to the butcher. He said oh, your a farmer? I said yes and he did it for $25.

All in all, I think 10 per type would have been hard the first year or two. Remember if you breed them then you have 20 to 30 animals to take care of per type of farm animal that first year with the babies and they are also labor intensive. That's a lot :-) I really did find 5 manageable and fun. In the later years I dropped back to 5 because it does become hard on your back over time. At the height I had 25 adults and then what they lambed. Far too much and it was no longer enjoyable.

Hope this helps. I'll look for that book in the meantime.

Carlie Wolf
March 4th, 2019, 01:49 PM
Found it. Raising Sheep the Modern Way by Paula Simmons. (Obviously no longer "modern" but tried and true and very practical.

https://www.google.com/search?client=opera&hs=75Y&biw=1230&bih=594&tbm=shop&ei=J1Z9XJWJNaOCjwSz2ruACA&q=raising+sheep+the+modern+way%2C+book&oq=raising+sheep+the+modern+way%2C+book&gs_l=psy-ab.12...28031.36019.0.39144. .14j18j1.33.0....0...1c.1.64.psy-ab..2.38.3450...0j33i299k1.0.E5GkCaj5Coo

This one would also probably be a good starter: https://www.google.com/search?client=opera&hs=o6Y&biw=1230&bih=594&tbm=shop&ei=UlZ9XJuEJYTjjwSrr5DYBg&q=raising+farm+animals&oq=raising+farm+animals&gs_l=psy-ab.3..33i299k1l3.317319.319859.0.320849. 68178

March 4th, 2019, 03:34 PM
Your PS tickled me. yes, but life is life. good luck with your "new life". you will have lots to keep you busy!

MHG Winnower
March 4th, 2019, 04:07 PM
Sounds exciting to say the least with so much opportunity. One piece of advice, take it one element at a time. You want to raise rabbits then start there while you are trying to settle in and understand the maintenance of such a large piece of property and home. Being overwhelmed is what you "don't" want.
Enjoy and be happy!

March 4th, 2019, 06:21 PM
I'm going to assume (since you said recently an empty nester) that you are around 40-50. Lots of energy still. So at 60 that energy will begin to wain and 70 it is nearly gone. So , saying that, let me tell you about some of your questions.
The pool is going to take up 3 hours of your day to keep It pretty and swimmable. Chemicals, vacuuming, deck, etc.
Chickens don't take up much time unless you have to muck the chickenhouse. If you let them roam, you have critter problems like foxes and coyotes and possums, but that's a small dilemma. Rabbits, pretty easy if they don't get sick but you can always kill them off. Eggs are not cheap to get because the chickens need scratch feed and laying mash so if you think you'll save money...you're wrong.
Pygmy goats are fun. We had a herd of a dozen for years. They kept the forest from getting that tangly undergrowth but tried some larger goats (for about a month) and they were killing off the trees, stripping bark and basically hard to manage. Pygmy goats have a high content of butterfat in their milk so are excellent if you want to make cheese, but then..you have to milk them. You can sell the babies as pets. Don't plan on having any flowers if you have goats...they will eat them all.
Do I sound negative? I'm not...I just remember buying this 40 acres 40 years ago and ours is mostly woods. Mowing our 5 cleared acres in the good weather is a full time job. Can't imagine if we had more cleared land. We have the pool and a small farm house. Our first purchase was a used old tractor that needed tires. Tires cost more than we paid for the tractor. We have since had to buy an excavator, a four wheeler, another tractor and several trailers to haul stuff.
If something happed to DH, I cannot stay here. I cannot maintain the driveway , let alone the yard. The forest takes care of itself, unless a tree falls and needs to be cut up.
Oh yes, and how far will you be from town? You'll need to learn to stock up on supplies because if you are far you can't just run out for more bread. Also, will you need to burn wood when its cold. I knw Georgia doesn't get real cold but if your power goes out, are you thinking ahead.
I started writing a book once called "so you want to move to the country". I was 34 then. I've had to learn so much. But, if you are doing this on your own, I would look into an intern program of young people that want to learn to farm and will come and live on your farm and garden and plant and do animal work in exchange for mostly living room and board.
You are brave if you think you can handle this all on your own.
Again, sort of depends on how old you are and how well you are and how much money you can put into this project. It won't be cheap or easy.

March 4th, 2019, 08:22 PM
You can check with your local Extension office. Many times they will offer programs for hobby farmers etc.

March 4th, 2019, 10:09 PM
Wow! I have absolutely no advice but I am in awe of your wanting to tackle this. You are right. It's exciting and terrifying and you are gonna have your hands full for a long time. I wish you all the luck in the world. (As for me, I would just turn that barn into a giant sewing studio and have lots of dogs running around. I would be in heaven.)

I agree with everything you said!

March 4th, 2019, 11:41 PM
Farming is not for the faint of heart. It's a full time job which requires commitment. If you're empty nesters with the hope of traveling or enjoying retirement, forget it! One of the forum members here raises goats; maybe you could get pointers from her. It seems the internet would be the best place to start for info. on all the things you're interested in doing.

DH & I live in the city. Our property is ~1/3 an acre. When I was young, I could work in the flower beds for 3 hrs. in the a.m., eat lunch, take a shower, & go to work at the hosp. for an 8 hr. shift. Huh! Those were the days. Now I'm 76 & no longer have the time or energy to keep up with the flower beds. This spring I'll be getting an estimate from a landscaper to have some of them dug up & sod installed. You have to look years ahead.

My sis & BIL had cattle & sheep. They lived in OR on 20 acres. It takes constant vigilance, feeding, assisting with birthing of animals, vet bills, etc. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. I would think long & hard about taking on 25 acres & animals.

March 5th, 2019, 02:08 AM
It’s been said before, but you guys are awesome! Thank you for all the encouragement and advice!

Grammaterry - I do not think you are being harsh at all, everything you said are things DH and I have talked about.

A little more backstory for you....

I will not be on my own! DH and I are in our mid 40’s. While I joked about being empty nesters we will hardly be alone, at least not for several years. One of the big reasons we are doing this is to bring the kids closer. The pool house will be remodeled immediately so that DD and new husband to be (6/20/19) can move in. We are doing this to help them save money to get them set up for the future. They are both 23 and have been dating for 8 yrs. Plus I’m hoping with a “babysitter” just right across the walkway I might get a grandbaby! DS is 18 and this summer he is moving into the frat house at college. The school is only about 45 mins away, and with 2 fully stocked lakes plus the pool he will be home a lot! My mom moved in with me 2 yrs ago after my grandma passed. I also have my sweet sweet DH. He is not unwilling or uninterested he is just really busy with his full time job. While he does work from home he usually travels one week out of the month.

I will have a lot of help in the evenings and weekends, but during the weekdays it’ll mostly be just me.

Another reason for the purchase of land is to have something to leave behind.

Dealing with the “ugly” part of raising animals will not be a problem. We do hunt and I process what is brought home. So that is something I am already accustomed too. We do have great respect for the land and animals. We are not wasteful and do not take more than we need for our family.

We have had many family meetings to make sure that everyone is on board with this.

I definitely will be starting out small with the animals. I do not want to get overwhelmed!

Pool maintenance falls on future son in law. He has had pools his whole life so he gets that chore. Mom can’t do any heavy lifting, but there will be plenty of small things for her to work on. I will get the main animal care and most of the mowing. I can’t wait to go pick out a tractor! We were joking the other day saying I was going to be a little 85 yr old lady mowing in my air conditioned tractor. Can you just picture it?:icon_bigsmile:

There is a wood stove in the living room so yes we will be going through some firewood. We currently have a portable generator, but will be looking into installing a whole home generator ran of LP for emergencies. Also a windmill and/or solar panels is something else we will be doing at some point. Other than the pool house there are no major remodeling that Has to be done. Over time we will redo all the trim, paint, flooring, light fixtures etc. Those projects will be done as time and budget permits.

I have no illusions that it will all be rainbows and lollipops. I fully anticipate working my butt off! It will be hard, smelly, and frustrating for a long time.

Are you still there? Lol, sorry that was so long. Once I got started I just couldn’t stop!

P.S. Yes, I have considered turning the whole barn into my she shed!

March 5th, 2019, 03:54 AM
You’ve clearly thought long and hard about this and as I have no practical advice to offer, I’ll wish you and your family well in your new venture. Please can we see some me before and after pictures?

March 5th, 2019, 06:58 AM
Regarding the wood stove in the living room....

When I bought my house 25 years ago, it had a very nice Vermont Castings wood stove in the family room. Hardly ever used it. Last summer, my insurance agent was out to do a review of our coverage. He spotted the wood stove and wanted to get a picture of the UL rating. Turns out the stove didn't have a UL rating, as it wasn't a thing in the mid-80's when the stove was installed. But the insurance company now requires it, and my stove was not grandfathered in. In order to insure the property, I had to remove (or at the very least, disable) the wood stove. And it isn't just State Farm that wouldn't insure it; it's every insurance company.

So my advice to is to make sure the wood stove is up to code and blessed by your insurer before purchasing this property.

And my hat is off to you for taking on such a challenge!

March 5th, 2019, 11:37 AM
Oh yes, that pesky insurance thing. We are not in an insurance zone so no one wants to insure our house. USAA agreed to do it with a 225% risk charge (in other words, 225% MORE than if we were in the zone. But, we need insurance. Also, of course, the pool might be an insurance thing. Ours isn't since we have no neighbors, but yours might.
Before you sign the contract make sure the county doesn't have restrictions on making your property a multifamily dwelling.

Now, back to you....mid 40's makes a huge difference. So, it seems like you are bound and determined...DH still working so money isn't the issue and health seems good. Children living on the land will help and it will be an awesome experience for all of you.

March 5th, 2019, 03:40 PM
With everything that's been said< I can only add this...You have my utmost admiration for wanting to go thus with this endeavor. I agree with Melissa a really nice she shed has my vote. Good luck & you know we want pictures.