In 1993, the year Keith and I married, we owned one steer, one horse, a few pet goats, a handful of chickens. Over the next twenty-two years we added milk cows for our state licensed dairy, which led to many more steers for our own meat and extra to sell to others. At our largest Keith was milking forty cows and we raised about twenty steer each year. We phased out the goats and added hogs, raising sixty to a hundred of them every year. The chickens were joined by ducks, guineas, and peacocks. More fowl than we could ever count. Barn cats were everywhere. I added more horses and at one time we had four. We opened a retail store on our farm where we sold raw milk, eggs, frozen pork and beef and then expanded our sales to four grocery stores and ten Chicago area restaurants.
We were often so exhausted supplying decent certified organic food to everyone else, we ate only ate fast food and processed food for weeks at a time because who had the energy to cook?
Talk about insanity.
Then we got smart, sold the big farm and moved here. Over the last two years on The Poor Farm we have steadily sold off our livestock leaving just enough--we hope--to feed ourselves and a handful of family members who appreciate what we produce here.
So, as of today we are down to four steers, two milk cows, one heifer calf, three hogs, two dogs, three cats, three ducks, fourteen ducklings (as of yesterday) two roosters, one horse and EXACTLY twenty-nine hens. Last week we had many more poultry but we cleaned house by putting an ad on Craigslist, and selling ten redundant roosters and fifteen ducks.
It's beginning to feel like we might have control of this livestock thing.
The steers are a variety of ages. One goes to the locker in a couple weeks, two will go in 2018 and one more in 2019.
Of the two milk cows, Mucca and Liz, we've decided to keep Liz . She is older but so gentle and loveable I can't bear to part with her. Mucca has been listed on Facebook and Craigslist and we hope to have her sold soon. She's done well after calving for the first time a couple weeks ago but we don't need that much milk and can't afford to feed both of them. Besides, we just love Liz a little more. We may keep Mucca's heifer calf as a possible replacement for Liz in three or so years.
|Mucca's Craigslist Photo $1500 or best offer.|
Keith demonstrating Mucca's gentle nature
Liz babysitting Mucca's calf
Keith and I are a bit at odds regarding the number of chickens/ducks we need to keep for eggs and pest control. He wants more in order to keep bugs/flies and mosquitoes at bay but I want less as tired of chasing them out of garden, mulch beds etc...The breed we have, crested cream leg bars, are good for egg laying but not for eating. Too small. We'll order some broilers soon to butcher specifically in the fall like we do every year. Probably thirty or so.
The three cats are static, one neutered male, one neutered female, one Tom cat with no one to breed. Sucks for him but he uses his pent up energy to catch mice and moles!
The two dogs (one great Pyrenees and one Shepard/Huskie mix) are livestock guard dogs and will remain here till they die. We could not run the farm without them.
|Fannie and our cat Tiger|
The horse, Ennis, is purely for pleasure, but since I've done very little pleasure riding the last two years, her gig may be up as well. Keith says we should keep her, he knows how much I love to have a horse, but I say if she isn't ridden this year BY ME, she goes bye-bye in the fall too. No, we won't eat her, likely I'll give her away to some young person whose always wanted a horse. But the goal...is to start riding again. Wish me (and her) luck.