This past week – Mary and I had the opportunity to sit down with a local feature reporter for a story about the growth of our little farm and website, and our goal of a more simple life.
I have to admit – it was fun to stop and take a little time to talk about it all – and think how the farm has gone from an overgrown field just a few years back – to providing most of our food and a healthy lifestyle.
The blog meanwhile, for reasons we still are not sure of, has taken on a life of its own. Going from a few followers – to a few hundred – and now suddenly, as we pass the 2nd year anniversary of the website, our 47,000 follower and 3.3 millionth visitor.
As we thought about it though – maybe it’s because our story is something that more and more people around the globe seem to be interested in doing every day – and that is slowing down, being dedicated to living a more simple lifestyle, and becoming responsible for the food that is on their family’s table.
The Simple Life
We started the dream of our farm with just four simple guidelines – and they still hold true today and into the future:
1. Build a sustainable farm, garden and homestead with zero debt.
2. Be responsible for the majority of the food we eat through growing, canning and preserving.
3. Use salvaged and recycled materials wherever and whenever in our buildings and projects on the farm.
4. More than anything else – have FUN doing it.
So we thought for today’s Sunday Farm Update – we would take a look back and share three of the major highlights of the journey thus far:
The Barn Project
Probably the most difficult in terms of labor and thought was the barn project. The new farm needed a barn – the struggle was how to do it on a tight…well, okay…non-existent budget. Oh yes – and we wanted it to have character! (See: The Barn Project)
The answer was looking to the past – taking down two old barns to build ours. Making it even more special – one of the barns was that of my dad’s – who had torn down the very same barn 40 years prior to build his on a budget. The other was a barn we found free for the taking if we were willing to dismantle.
It wasn’t easy. It was hard, physical work. But we did it – and we had fun doing it. We built the barn for a little less than $500.00 – using old roofing for the bottom siding, and re-planing boards for the board and batten sides. There was more than one time we were completely lost in the process – but somehow – that barn stands proud today – and is definitely the centerpiece of our farm.
Since that initial building – we have been able to add our patio and outdoor kitchen – again using reclaimed bricks and more left-over wood. We also use the barn’s roof to collect water into our rainwater collection system – which supplies every single drop of water we use the farm – for free. ( See : Our Rainwater Collection System)
The Chickens And The Coop(s)
The chickens have become the stars of the farm – and one of our favorite ventures.
Since the beginning – they have provided family and friends with an endless supply of eggs – and of course, our garden with some of the best compost around. They are always a favorite of any visitor – be it a child or adult!
Our very first coop was built almost for free from pallets and shipping crates – a theme that we have used time and time again to build whatever we need at the farm on a budget. (See : Building Our Farm With Pallets)
When we outgrew that coop for a larger flock – we created our second and permanent coop from recycled lumber and materials as well – while our original coop found another life a few miles away on another start-up farm.
I have to admit – maybe the craziest we ever felt was trying to raise the new chicks at our house before they were old enough to take to the farm. We built a small brooder from pallets (Shocking, isn’t it? ) – and kept them in the garage of our suburban house – getting more than our share of strange looks from people passing by seeing chicken in the neighborhood. 🙂
The garden is the staple that provides most of our food – and where we love to be! We opted for all raised bed rows – a system that is not only inexpensive to create – but extremely efficient and productive. (See:How To Create A Raised Row Garden)
Most find it hard to believe that we don’t own a rototiller – and that we spend no more than 15 minutes a day keeping it up. But it’s true. The garden provides us not only with fresh food in the spring, summer and fall – but is the basis for all of our canning too.
Home made salsa, pasta, hot pepper mustard, picante, ketchup, pizza sauce, and rows of corn, green beans, diced tomatoes and tomato juice fill our canning cabinet each year – and provide great tasting food the year round for our family.
That alone is enough to make the garden our favorite!
Setting Goals And Finding Time:
There is always one question that comes up during any interview about the farm – How do you find the time?
And our answer is the same every time. It’s never hard to make time for what you love – and we love the farm and everything it represents to us. From the get-go, two things have kept us focused – our yearly goal setting list – and a 15 minute a day approach.
As each year winds down in December – Mary and I take some time to plan out 24 goals to accomplish the next year. Putting it down on paper has really served well to keep us on track. (See: 2014 Goals List)
As for the 15 minute approach – we try to spend at least 15 minutes at something for the farm every day. It keeps things manageable, keeps them moving, and quite honestly – works for us! You can always squeeze in 15 minutes of your day to do something you love.
Sure, there are times when we are lucky enough to get in long days working at our dream…but the real key is to always do a little something every day – as with almost anything – persistence trumps all.
So – with that said – we still have a long way to go…and honestly, I hope we always do. Some people look at us in disbelief when we say it – but it really is the journey that makes it fun. As for that immediate future – we still have a lot of dreams to finish off. The grapes are heading into their 3rd year now – and hopefully we can be making our first home-made bottle of wine soon! The self-sufficient cabin will go up this summer (See: The Cabin Project) – and hopefully, if everything goes to plan – someday, we will finally build our house at the farm.
Thanks to everyone who has followed along on the journey – we truly enjoy sharing the entire OWG Farm experience – and hope we have many articles and projects to share in the coming years!
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Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms