Homestead/small farm: Where to start?

Freestep(Chico, CA)June 27, 2005


Hello everyone,

I just found this forum and I hope it is a good place to ask these questions.

I currently live in town, and am thinking about trading up to a larger piece of property in a more rural zone.

I have always felt that I would be at home managing a small farm, but I'm not sure what to raise. I've always been good with animals, so I'm thinking maybe poultry, sheep/goats, something like that. I am a single female, 37 years old, healthy, no kids, and I work full time. Basically, I want something that is relatively simple to raise that doesn't require a lot of specialized equipment or that is extremely labor-intensive, so I can run it myself if needed.

As far as things of the plant variety, is there a crop that can be raised for profit on a small farm, just for people who do not have a green thumb? I have tried keeping a garden and just couldn't keep up with weeding and maintenance. I seem to be very good at raising weeds, ivy, and privet trees. Is there any type of fruit/nut tree, vegetable, herb, grain, etc. that sort of... grows itself and isn't particularly needy? This is all relative, of course... for example, I imagine sage would be less labor-intensive than saffron.

I'd be willing to devote more time to a crop if it allows me enough profit to quit my day job.

I am a dog groomer by trade and, ideally, would like to run my grooming business on the property as well. That way I think I could better tend to things.

I keep thinking back to animals. Rabbit? Alpaca? Emu? Bees? I have had a small backyard flock of chickens for several years now that seem to be easy keepers and provide me with an bumper crop of eggs.

I live in the Northern Sacramento valley of California. Our area is renowned as prime agricultural land. Almonds, walnuts, olives, rice, all kinds of crops grow extremely well.

I eagerly await your ideas and suggestions!

Carla Freestep

"Freestep Farms" .... I like the way that sounds.

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Brad549(southern IN)

I like hogs myself they really dont requie to much. They will trive in a small space but I prefer to give them lots of room cuts down on the manure smell but small space does make it easyier to collect manure for compost. Once you eat a pasture raise pig youlll never want any other pork plus you can get a premium from the people you sell to. I get 1$ a ppound live wieght for a pasture raise hog usally 250 to 310# plus they pay to process. I drop it off they pick it up works good for me. One note of caution if you do raise them make sure you plan well in advance how to load them out when they are ready. My first year I had a disaster. Rained for like 2 weeks hog lot was knee deep in mud and I was unprepared. My wife sure got a kick out of fit when she came home and saw me but at the time I sure didnt see the humor in being the muck monster. As for making enough to quit your job good luck with that if you happen to come up with a way drop me a line

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 9:39PM
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joel_bc(z6 BC)

Brad, have you been able to balance your life so that full-time or all-year-round wage work is not required? I agree that making the cash income a household needs is not an easy prospect on a homestead. Off-homestead jobs seem generally to be required. But quite a few people I know have been able to obtain much of what they need directly from their own efforts on their place and to minimize the expenses of month-to-month living, allowing themselves some free time.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 11:32AM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

Just realize too that while very rewarding you will end up working three times as many hours than if you were employed in a regular job...especially starting out...It may be a "great" life or as we so often hear...."the good life" but it is and will be a 24/7 job for you.....I think a good rule to apply to starting out is like they tell you when you are starting a new should save your wages until you have at least one year of monies set aside...and truthfully if you can do it in one year you'll be damned lucky.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 6:30PM
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Carla, Take time to look at other Ag related business both big and small in your area: the organic rice cake family, the honey wine peoples, the farmer's markets and CSA people. Talk, talk, talk to them about their business, how they started, any trends they see, any future plans. Then see how that applies to you and your desires and dreams. How tied to the land/homestead do you want? Do you want vacation times? What are your expectations and goals for five years? ten years? Does Chico state or Butte College offer classes that might give insights (practical practises)? What limiting factors are there (everything from weather, personal health, extended family health, zoning changes/development/property access -- if you size up? Do you want your homestead to be seasonal supplimental to your existing business or to slowly ease out of your existing line of work?
I'm not trying to put you off :) Far from it! We are in this process ourselves and these are some of the things we have followed while just in the planning stages. I have a dh and 3 kids we homeschool. DH has a good paying job outside the home. I'll give you an example of my girlfriend because she's a single working mom and working at getting out on her place (now in town but has a place in the country). She has a regular job at a nursery that's a little over part time so she get's medical benefits. She has a greenhouse at home where she grows houseplants and leases them out to businesses (and she cares for them on a scheduled basis) in a tri city area. She also does seedings (veggie and landscape shrub/trees) and cut flower arrangements from her garden for farmer's market. Some of the native plants she offers are thinnings/seedlings from her homestead piece. She also does flowers for weddings. At the end of farmer's market there is the holiday crafts fair where she sells some dried arrangements and other botanical related crafts. All this revolves around her love of plants and flowers that she loves and cares for and would probably have anyway (but maybe not as in excess!). She doesn't have alot of free time but she loves what she is doing and being around the peoples. She is very likeable, gives the broken or short stemmed flowers to children as they pass, has a smile and cheery 'hello' for everyone. If she hears someone is ill, she sends a arrangement on to that person in care of a friend. Because she loves so many, many in turn love her and support her businesses. It is hard work but she enjoys life.
The idea is to connect ideas/inter related avenues to fill niches and needs. The need to love what you do, I think, is one of the most guiding principles in the whole process.
Good Luck with Freestep Farms!! Keep us updated

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 6:19PM
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joel_bc(z6 BC)

Carla, you've received a lot of wise words already here. I'll add a few things.

Reference books and advice from neighbors have become standard in any back-to-the-land adaptation. Check out your local library.

I know your area a little, and your assuming the soil on your specific land is decent, or can be made decent without undue expense, many, many things will grow nicely there.

I would recommend volunteering if you can with the various sorts of tasks (gardening, greenhouse, water systems, construction or maintenance, fencing, food preserving, etc) until you get your own place. There's nothing like hands-on.

There are a large number of good handbooks for rural living. One that I like a lot (as a single handy volume) is Grow It! by Richard W. Langer. might not be in-print anymore, but I'm sure can be located used (Abe Books or whatever). I'm putting in a Web link that you might find useful, as it mentions some other valuable literature. Good luck.


Here is a link that might be useful: Helen & Scott Nearing, homesteading authors

    Bookmark   July 6, 2005 at 12:04PM
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Carla, I don't have anything to add that hasn't been said already. Just want to say that I like the way Freestep Farm sounds too, and this sounds like a nice life. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2005 at 9:29AM
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marooned(z9 Ca)

Here is a book I've found to be very helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 2:53PM
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You might wish to checkout Badford Angier's books he wrote a lot on the subject including "How to Live in The Woods on Pennies a Day" . You can find a lot on raising poultry at . Find any end user for any crop you are thinking of raising before you grow it and are stuck with it . Also the USDA HAD A BOOKLET " So You Want To Be a Farmer " or something like that check with your local county extension service FOR PAMPHLETS free and otherwise.
my own interests go to breeding new strains and "creative genetics" .You may wish to raise : heirloom strains , rare seeds, wild game from wart hogs and wild boar to bison ,antelope and deer . exotic strains such as the "mule footed pig" the barbirussa, the bearded pig , nursery plants, birds from ostriches to cage birds , breed expensive pedigree breeds of cats and dogs , breed llamas, yaks, camels . ginseng herbs,fruits, nuts, vegetables . Whatever gives you the most profit . Check your local gourmet stores se what they are willing to pay for what is in demand and what has the highest profit for you . If you are going to raise poultry for example start off with some cheap chickens even mongrel birds, before you move up to the more expensive breeds , small money invested , small mistakes ; big money , BIG MISTAKES ! Once you get good at it , exotic poultry such as peafowl, pheasants , jungle fowl , game birds are also possibilities . Good Luck and keep us posted .

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 4:59PM
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The turnip or rutabaga is the easiest to grow, once you get them 4 inches tall they grow faster than the weeds . they do not sell for much though. The quickest crop is radishes 19 days for some types . I believe there is a book "security from 5 acres". Goats can be used to clear brush they will eat any vegetation including stuff you may want . If you can legally do it you may wish to put up a boarding kennel .That can pay well, per day per dog .How have you made out?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 11:59AM
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Hello all, are there better areas of this country to homestead, and are there groups or homesteads that need help in this venture out of packaged debtom.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 9:13PM
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Southern USA is the best because then u can have year round produce.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:11PM
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That is some good advice, and I would also like to know how she is doing at this time. I was a little worried when she mentiond that weeding got out of hand. Most people that head for the hills have this idea that out in the country you can just sit back and enjoy the good life. Now there is plenty of good life out there, but there is also way too much to learn to just go for it. I would recommend starting where you are, and get some skills under your belt first. You can learn canning, bread making,cooking from scrath, grow your own herbs and harvest and dry them, bee keeping (unless restricted by zoning), gardening on a small scale like a flower bed, grow something simple and save the seed. In fact if you can't master home cooking and canning in the city because your too busy you will never have time to plant, harvest and prepare the food that you grow in your garden. You can also start thinking what you would do during each season, and try eating mostly in season foods and foods that you canned or put in the freezer. If you start small, and get the skills, it is way easier to expand or relocate. As for making money, I would stick with the dog grooming until you could figure something new out.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 6:14PM
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PALEEZE do NOT advise anyone to breed dogs to make $. There are thousands & thousands of people doing that VERY BADLY already. It takes years & LOTS of $ to acquire the right kind of stock to raise high class dogs.You can NOT eat your mistakes or throw them in the garbage or feed them to your chickens, etc. This is especially true of large breeds. People with the BEST do NOT sell them to whomever has the price; only to people who have proved they will do right by them. It also requires an "eye" to
see if a dog is hamonious and moves properly and to choose the male that will complement the pedigree of your female.
aND ON AND ON. Only 1 male & 2 Fe from 6 litters from the BEST stock will produce anything that will benefit the quality of the breed. A pup must be at least 4 months before a preliminary idea of it's ultimate quality can be guessed at. Older pups are harder to sell if you don't keep one you thought looked really nice that then turned sour for breeding. TOO complicated and difficult for most. The average stay in dogs is 5 years. Or you raise, train and make up a Champion female that NEVER produces ANY puppies !! TOOOOOOOOOOOOO Much.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 6:46PM
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Boarding Kennel? Do yourself a favor and don't. People are TOO much to deal with. Most of the dogs are difficult too: either lacking in confidence so they are afraid and also won't eat or nasty. It is expensive to build a proper boarding kennel and your taxes go UP. It is a 12 week steady business at best : summer vacation time and holidays. The rest of the time there are only a handful off and on but you must be there all the time. People come early, late, not at all. fORGET TAKING CHECKS : You will get cheated ! You must heat the building in winter even if it is empty due to water pipes and deterioration due to freezing of materials used in construction. ETC. I had one for 45 years because I was a pro ( NOT commercial) dog breeder and had to be home anyway. I never made a profit on breeding so needed actual income to live on. When the economy is bad the kennel is virtually empty while the bills keep coming : taxes, electric, heat, advertising in the yellow pages, maintenance etc. FEW customers appreciated my facility and expertise. People actually think the best place to board is at the VET. WRONG. The vet does NOT care for your dog : minimum wage people do that and are NOT professional dog people with VERY FEW exceptions. One owner even thought it was part of my job to be bitten by his Dalmation. Hired help is mostly a nightmare. For peace of mind do something that is a MUST for people and the least amount of interaction with people.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 12:52PM
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