When I lived in an apartment, sustainability meant growing some plants in pots on the front stoop, cooking a pot of beans for dinner instead of opening a can, or growing some kombucha on the counter. I even asked the apartment manager if we could grow a small garden in the landscaping beds. She looked at the two heads that I had suddenly grown and said that it would not be allowed by the company that paid her to manage the property.
When I lived in a traditional neighborhood (that was not in an HOA) self sustainability took on a new meaning. I grew most of the vegetables that we ate year round. I was able to keep hens that produced all the eggs that we consumed. I was able to raise rabbits for meat, tilapia was our fish source and the goats provided the milk and cheese that we consumed. Though it provided a better “sense” of self sustainability, it really was not.
I had to bring in most of the feed for my chickens, goats, rabbits and fish. Yes, I did feed scraps from the gardens, and mealworms that I raised for the chickens and fish. I even composted the poop from the animals. I enlisted my friends and family to save and freeze their scraps to bring to me for composting. I even had a local coffee shop that saved the coffee grounds for me. It still did not change the fact that I was bringing in more material than I was creating in my tiny little backyard farm. The truckloads of woodchips, that we had to haul from the driveway to the backyard, the bags of feed, the new chicks every spring, the mail order seeds. I will say though that I did the best that I could with what I had.
Then came the move to Steve’s house in the HOA. At first, I was ignorant of the rules and then I just ignored them and did what I wanted. Nobody really cared. My neighbors actually thought that it was adorable.
I really felt very proud of myself. I was in my kitchen; making cheese, sourdough bread and canning all the excess meat.
But now, I am living on 1.33 acres. What a difference a little land and freedom makes. I still get truckloads of wood chips delivered. But now I have the room for them to dump it and leave it there for as long as I want. I can haul it when I need it. I have so much out there from the last dumping that I can wait until he has chips from citrus and mesquite. That is what my soil loves. I do not have to be so desperate that I will even take thorny palm trees. or put up with eucalyptus ever again.
My chickens run free over the property all day, it is their job to eat the wolf spiders, scorpions and palo verde beetles as long as the palm of your hand. I keep two birds in the front courtyard to keep the spiders from walking in the front door with us at night. I have actually seen one of my 16 week old Cornish Cross chickens, that is as big as a turkey, chase and catch a dragon fly in mid air. I like the dragon flies, but I have been told that this breed of chicken will not forage or run. Not true. It does even my heart good to see these huge birds get their cardiovascular exercise.
My chickens are eating pasture all day, they get some food at night to get them to go to bed. But this little bit of food along with pasture and pests is providing us with meat, bone broth and all the eggs that we need.
I have a Nigerian goat who gives 6 cups of milk per day. I have a smallish Nubian that gives 1/2 gallon of milk per day. This is her first freshening. She should be up to a gallon per day by her 3rd freshening. I have a meat breed female sheep and a doeling Nigerian kid. They all have access to pasture. I move them to a new paddock every two weeks. I only feed the two milkers at the stand twice a day. They each get 1 quart of alfalfa-bermuda blend pellets and 1 quart of grain. That is it. I want them to be foraging for the rest of their food. So, this little bit of food, along with a pasture full of weeds and grasses, some salt, minerals and herbs for worming; keeps me in dairy. It will eventually provide us with goat meat and lamb for the freezer. To top off my dairy sustainability- I just brought home a Nigerian buck. That way I do not have to send my girls off every year to get bred. That will save me $300.00 this year in breeding fees alone. That boy loves the pasture. I will worm him and he gets minerals. We will see if I actually have to feed him anything else. Time will tell. Right now, all he seems to care about is getting his new job done. Happy, happy Bronco Billy!
When Steve mows the “no poop zones” or trims the trees, he puts the clippings and trimmings into the goat stalls. They poop and pee in this stuff. The following week, Gramma Donna scrapes it up with a flat shovel, being sure to get some of the dirt with it. She uses this to fill whichever garden bed is currently the compost bed. Now- pasture that the goats ate will have the second job of feeding the microbes. The microbe’s job is to turn the old grass and goat excrement into rich soil that will become the next planting bed.
But wait there’s more! I have old orange trees that need to be cut down and chipped or used for our fire pit nights. We have pine trees that provide needles to acidify the strawberry bed. We have planted many fruit trees, nut trees and grape vines that will soon be providing us with fruit, wood, wood chips and compost. We also have flood irrigation that waters the trees in a way that regular watering just cannot achieve. The pig should be coming home soon with a belly full of bacon seed,s and we have two bee hives that are producing honey by pollinating our gardens and trees. We also have room for Cody “The Wonder Dog” to run. He not only warms my feet while I am in the office, he protects the livestock by chasing coyotes away. They no longer come on to the property, they are afraid of him. He makes sure that intruders know that there is a big dog that lives here, and he keeps the monsters from making their appearance when Steve is out of town over night.
This morning while I was scraping goat poop, old grass and spongy dirt from the goat pens, it occurred to me that I am finally starting to comprehend the meaning of what a self sustainable farm really means. We still have a long way to go, but we are getting there.