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Post by SteveMaxwell on Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:23 pm

Hello Everyone!

Just a quick note to introduce myself and my family. My wife, Mary, and I began homesteading in 1985 and we're still at it. We have five kids now – four biological and one adopted from South Africa in 2008. We live in a stone and timber home we built on 90 acres of farmland and forest on Manitoulin Island and both Mary and I are thankful we've been on the homestead to raise our kids together. The brood ranges in age from 23 to 6. Our 19 year old daughter got married in July and she's expecting our first grandchild at the end of April. We keep chickens, grow a garden, heat with wood and graze some cattle. I earn what money we need from my workshop, creating how-to articles and online videos. I've got decades of experience in just about every aspect of homesteading, from raising animals and gardens to building, woodworking, machinery repair, plumbing, septic systems, water wells and others. Just ask and I'll help.

I began as a cradle Catholic but Biblical Christianity became my own in January 2000. I handle the homeschooling at our house and we have a weekly home church group on our homestead.

I'm thankful for this forum and look forward to getting to know you all better.

Bye for now,

Steve
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Post by 12acrehome on Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:40 pm

Welcome Steve, proud to have you with us. 90 acres is a lot of land to tend to. How do you manage that much ground? (over all plan)

I work off our little 12 acre spread, and am setting this place up more for self sustainable food growth (fruits and veggies, with plans to add chickens), and a small hunting preserve. The family farm is a 300 acre spread about 10 minutes away, where we raise "White face Herefords" crossed with Angus (The bulls are Angus). 20 minutes in the other direction is an Amish community where we trade for pork, and some feeds.

Hope you enjoy our little virtual community, and welcome again.


_________________
Proverbs 28:19  He who works his land will have abundant food...

Genesis 1:29  Then God said,"I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it..."

http://christiancountryramblings.com/
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Post by SteveMaxwell on Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:48 pm

Thanks for your warm welcome! Half our land is forest and half cleared. I've re-established the century-old cedar rail fences on our property, so we use most of our land to pasture cattle. The land takes up as much or as little time as we like, depending on how we manage it. This coming spring I hear that our first Amish family will be moving into the neighbour, on a 300 acre farm about 2 miles from our place. I'm really looking forward to that. I've always felt an admiration for the Amish and a longing to learn from them. What has your experience been like with them in your area?

Thanks again!

Steve
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Post by 12acrehome on Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:16 am

The Amish are very much "keep to themselves", at first. After two years of being simply looked at when I would wave as they drove past our property, they started to wave back. The third year we were here I grew pumpkins to sell at our roadside. The men would stop and talk to me, but not DW (dear wife). Likewise, the women would not even acknowledge my presence, but were warm and friendly with my wife. The local ones are of Germanic decent and are shrewd bargainers. On the other hand, once they accept you, and understand that you are not out to hurt them, they are great neighbors.
I do not agree fully with how they treat their livestock, most look under fed, and overworked. Then again, so do the men.

_________________
Proverbs 28:19  He who works his land will have abundant food...

Genesis 1:29  Then God said,"I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it..."

http://christiancountryramblings.com/
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Post by PATRICE IN IL on Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:41 am

Welcome to the group Steve, glad to have you join us. Smile

You'll find we are all in different phases of homesteading on various size spreads. I am on a 60'x167' lot in a suburban subdivision. I'm in an unincorporated area so I don't have all the city zoning rules.

I am increasing my orchard this year as well as adding to my raised bed gardens by growing in containers. I have made a bunch of self watering bucket planters from 5 gallon buckets. I'm planning to grow potatoes in grow bags sewn from landscape fabric.

Look around and ask any questions you may have, someone will probably have an answer for you.
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Post by Farmfresh on Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:12 am

Welcome! 

I have three acres in bad need of care that I moved onto last fall.  Before that I homesteaded a tiny city lot for the last 27 years.  You are fortunate to have so much space.
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Post by dizzy on Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:36 am

Welcome. Where in Canada is Manitoulin Island located? My mom is from Canada, the Niagara Falls area, but it's been many years since she came to the States.

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Post by mountainmama on Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:21 am

Welcome! Sounds like you will have lots of valuable input from all your experience. We are a homeschooling family with two teenage girls.

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Post by SteveMaxwell on Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:35 am

Hello Everyone!
Manitoulin Island is along the north shore of Lake Huron in Ontario. The Michigan border is about 50 miles south of us, running out in Lake Huron.

There's always lots to learn about homesteading, but we have picked up a thing or two since we moved from the city in the 1980s.

Is there any place on this forum where people are most likely to post questions? I'd like to be of service as much as possible.

Bye for now,

Steve
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Post by 12acrehome on Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:01 am

I could create a place for Q&A, but normally they are posted in the appropriate topic area.

_________________
Proverbs 28:19  He who works his land will have abundant food...

Genesis 1:29  Then God said,"I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it..."

http://christiancountryramblings.com/
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Post by SteveMaxwell on Wed Apr 02, 2014 8:15 pm

Good Morning!
A specific place for Q&As would definitely help me. My main reason for joining the forum was to help people live successful homestead lives by answering their questions. Trouble is, I only have so much time to devote to answering, and it can take a while to find actual questions on the forum. I also think that a dedicated Q&A section would prove quite popular.
Just a thought.
Bye for now,
Steve
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Post by Farmfresh on Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:16 am

I have found that by belonging to a forum I learn the most when I am least suspecting it.  Usually I don't have a specific question in my head to ask.  I too have been doing this for a long time.  Then I am visiting and sharing with other forum folks and we get talking about something and someone with have a little nugget of insight that starts me thinking.  Suddenly... I get that WOW moment and out of a little friendly conversation I have learned some new wisdom that I have never dreamed possible. 

A Q&A section would be faster, sure, but it is usually more enlightening to drive down a back road than it is to zoom down a highway.   Very Happy
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Post by dizzy on Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:10 am

I don't think we need a Q&A section either. If I have a question, I just post it in the appropriate forum. If anyone has an answer, they're sure to give me an answer.

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Post by Harvey_Birdman on Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:54 am

dizzy wrote:I don't think we need a Q&A section either.  If I have a question, I just post it in the appropriate forum.  If anyone has an answer, they're sure to give me an answer.

True, but questions could be asked in a Q&A section, then after a few weeks moved to the appropriate sub forum.
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Post by Harvey_Birdman on Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:55 am

Steve it sounds like you are living the dream. How much of what your family eats comes from your land?
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Post by SteveMaxwell on Sat Apr 05, 2014 10:56 pm

Hi Harvey,
Thanks for your note. We're very thankful that our crazy modern homesteading dream is working out for us. I often feel like Abraham when he moved to a new land that was strange to him, yet was blessed with God's provision.

As for food, we probably produce or locally-source about 30% of what we eat. That's not nearly as high as I'd like it to be, and it has been higher in the past. One of the challenges we faced is moving to a property with no buildings at all. We live in a tent and built everything ourselves from scratch, and that takes a long time when you're committed to using natural materials gleaned from the land, following designs and craftsmanship that will last for centuries. I built our 3000 sq.ft. home from limestone I quarried myself by hand, and that takes a crazy amount of time. You can learn more about our homesteading story here: http://www.realrurallife.com/our-homesteading-story/

I'm also helping my 23 year old son build his own cabin on our land right now. He's marrying a fine Christian girl in September, and they both want to share in the homestead life on the property.

After being on the land for almost 30 year, I'm surprised to discover that while home-grown food is the very best, there's a limit to how much of it I can "afford" to produce. When we get a barn built we'll be able to produce more than we do now, but the fact remains that a bushel of home-grown carrots costs me more than the time it takes me to earn the money to buy a bushel of organic carrots. We always do put food down in our root cellar, but my long-term aim is to produce more ourselves directly.

So tell me about your set up? I'd like to learn.

Bye for now,

Steve
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Post by 12acrehome on Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:16 am

I'm curious how you calculated the cost of production for your carrots Steve. Every time I put a dollar figure on the foods I grow (both from saved seed and purchased seed) I break even with the sale price of "factory farmed" or imported veggies from unknown sources (wal-mart produce).

I include the depreciation and operating costs of the power equipment, the propane used for canning (approximated), costs and depreciation of the freezer, and even my time. For time I use my "bring home, net, hourly worth" instead of my "bill out" time value (which is $145 and would blow the whole argument).

_________________
Proverbs 28:19  He who works his land will have abundant food...

Genesis 1:29  Then God said,"I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it..."

http://christiancountryramblings.com/
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Post by SteveMaxwell on Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:17 am

Hi Keith,
I'm committed to growing as much food as I can, and I like the process and the results. As for costs of producing home-grown stuff, I've calculated it a couple of times, and I've always found the same thing, more or less:

The cost of my time harvesting alone would cover the cost of buying the produce through the usual channels. Potatoes are a good example.

About 20 years ago I made a dozen wooden crates for produce storage in our root cellar. I can load them in the garden, then stack them in the cellar. They work great and hold about 40 lbs of potatoes or carrots. You can see an image online, and if anyone would like free construction plans and instructions for my crates, you can get them here:

http://www.realrurallife.com

It generally takes me about an hour of digging to fill one crate, and at $20/hour that works out to $5 per 10lbs bag. That's about what it costs to buy potatoes in the grocery store. But more importantly, this calculation doesn't consider the time and cost of prepping the soil, buying the seed potatoes, tilling, planting and hoeing. Home-grown potatoes are very "expensive" at least as an economist would view them.

I'm certainly not making the case against growing one's own food, it's just that it is expensive in terms of the time it takes to do, compared with spending the time earning money.

I noticed the same thing when we used to grow pick-your-own strawberries and raspberries between 1991 and 1998. Most of the berries were sold as pick-your-own, but sometimes elderly people or those with busy lives asked for pre-picked. We hired people to do this work, or I picked the berries myself. But even if all I had to do was pick the berries, all I could pick was about $15 worth of berries per hour. The actual cost of me producing the berries also included buying the plants, tilling the ground, planting, weeding, mulching and irrigating, too.

Even though I live in the country and almost everyone around me has access to great soil, almost no one grows a garden and produces any significant amount of food for themselves. I know most of these people have never run the numbers to determine cost of production, but I think they just intuitively sense that a garden really does take a lot of work compared with the relative easy of buying food.

I realize that supermarket food is of lower quality, and the hidden costs of energy use and environmental degradation aren't included in the price you pay at the check-out counter, but the financial numbers are still a big part of the reality of producing own's own food.

From a practicality point of view, the most efficient way I've found to make food is by buying a 400 or 500 lbs. steer in the spring, set him loose on our grass to graze until October, then slaughtering the animal. It's about 800 lbs by then, so we get 300 or 400 lbs of beef with no work and at pretty much no cost.

Does any of this make sense? Are there any other ways you've found to make your own food in a way that beats the supermarket and the limitations of a 24 hour day with a family to raise?

Bye for now,

Steve
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Post by Farmfresh on Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:51 am

Personally I find fruit trees one of the most efficient forms of growing my own.  Once planted they take minimum annual maintenance.  Other than a bit of pruning, thinning and harvesting you do very little to them.  They produce for many, many years and retail prices for fruit and fruit related foods (jams, pie fillings etc) are very high indeed.  That means you get a high money return on time invested.

Then again, I believe that most of the food I raise saves me money ... even counting the time I spend doing the hard work.  I am disabled, so for years I have worked to garden smarter and work less.   I no till, use lots of free mulch and do a lot of permaculture in my garden.  I get a lot for little work or investment other than seeds... and sometimes I save the seeds.
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Post by 12acrehome on Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:50 am

at the risk of sounding like I am bragging, the cattle that I get a share of keep our meat prices pretty stable between about $4 to $7.00 a pound...that's roasts, steaks, and ground all at about the same price.

The fruits, well my grandfather's orchard is dying out, and I just planted the beginnings of mine so that is "to be determined", but we rarely buy apples, plums, grapes, blueberries, etc. The cost of my little start of an orchard (using dwarf trees for ease of maintenance) was $200.00 including shipping (the blueberry bushes were free from a friend).

As for the veggies...I spend 6 to 8 bucks on gas tilling and turning the soil on the 3/4 acre garden areas (approximate size of 4 garden areas combined). The weeding is handled with the wheel cultivator and mulch (leaves from the woods, and grass clippings). This year I spent 40 bucks on a heavy lime application. The tiller is 10 years old (and therefore depreciated out, but at 500 dollars over 7 years it was $71.43 per year) The Tractor cost $1,000.00 even, and is a 1951 model. It's use in the gardens is limited, but deep plowing prior to liming was considered to cost $100. Seeds, I bought 7 dollars worth. The propane use was calculated as 1/20 a tank (42 bucks) and from the freezer sticker it costs $12 a day to run the freezer. So with time and utilities all added in, we spend about 5,000 bucks a year for top quality foods. (and the stress relief I get from doing what God sent us out to do has to be worth some credit Wink ) Even with all that expense ours works out to feeding two for about $2.50 a day, plus the cost of flour, salt, pepper, etc.


Then between myself, my Dad, and my brother we swap and share our excesses every year and still give around 250 pounds of various produce to the local food pantry. Our neighbors are also well fed while there is excess Wink


_________________
Proverbs 28:19  He who works his land will have abundant food...

Genesis 1:29  Then God said,"I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it..."

http://christiancountryramblings.com/
12acrehome
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