Have you ever wondered how people “did it” back then?
No, I’m not talking about hanky panky (git yer mind outta the gutter!). I’m talking about how they actually survived, without phones or stores or an app to tell you that your Amazon package was just placed on your doorstep? (Because who has time to walk to your door to check for new deliveries?!)
Have you wondered how our ancestors even survived with the huge responsibility of growing their own food?
I’d be all, “I’m SO tired of making dinner! Find something in the ice box…”
And my kids would be all, “Mom! But all that’s in there are 3 pounds of butter and a sourdough starter!”
I used to be amazed at the thought of our ancestors growing their own food, but now, as we’ve lived the urban farming lifestyle for about seven years, I totally see how they did it.
They did it through SUSTAINABLE farming.
You see, the one thing that every hobby farmer thankfully discovers, is that SO many farming problems are taken care of when you own a variety of animals on the farm.
Sustainable farming is sustainable simply because you’re caring for your animals the way nature intended. In a way, you’re creating a mini-ecosystem right in your backyard.
Here are four different animals, each allowed to roam freely on one acre, with their own unique purpose.
- Goose – Her job is to eat the grass (she loves taking care of all the edges for me) as well as ants and other bugs. Her droppings will re-seed the grass naturally and because her droppings are high in carbon, they’ll help increase the amino acid production. Which will, in turn, increase the protein content of our grass for our other animals. She also happens to hate everything in her presence, but what can you do? Gooses gonna goose.
- Sheep – They are grazers, and can eat grass every day of their lives without complaint. Her droppings are high in potassium, which is the main nutrient plants need to grow. Without potassium, they can’t properly utilize nitrogen.
- Goat – They are browsers and will try to eat anything BUT grass. They’ll take care of weeds, bushes, sticks, and even trim your trees if they can reach them! Their droppings are also high in potassium, being a ruminant animal (animals with a fermentation system for a stomach).
- Chickens – Chickens are notorious for keeping your bug population down, and they love to eat grass too! Their droppings are high in nitrogen, which means that while it’s great for the garden, it needs to hang out with some soil and break down for a few months before you apply it to plants.
The home-grown fertilizer happens to be great for our new banana and mango trees we planted, as these aren’t indigenous to Arizona and need a little help now and then to survive.
Did you know that a big downside to having fruit trees…
Is that the fruit drops to the ground and as it rots, will attract rats and other rodents? But there’s no worries over here on our backyard farm! Our chickens and goose keep watch for us and devour the fruit that falls too early, taking care of the problem and saving us a chore to do.
Having a garden means food for the entire household (animals included).
We’ll eat veggies, and the animals will devour the stems & leaves.
I happen to know a goat or two that’s been eyeing these flowers.
Every living thing plays their part on the farm, even the bees.
We haven’t dove into beekeeping yet, so these are wild bees enjoying corn pollen without payment. This is another HUGE reason why we do everything organically on the farm. Organic gardening isn’t just a fad. It’s an effort to get back to the way it SHOULD be, and creating an ecosystem that is harmonious with nature.
It makes me feel good to know that these bees are collecting pesticide-free pollen, while at the same time, pollinating our corn (corn cannot grow without bees to pollinate them).
We let our animals experience motherhood because not only is it the most adorable thing in the world, it saves us the job and it produces healthier and well-behaved animals.
And each morning, as we gather eggs that have been laid dutifully from our free-range hens…
And as we obtain fresh-squeezed milk from our goats, with our tired eyes and disheveled hair…
We get to experience a glimpse into farm life. Complete with happy goat smiles…
And happy animals.
(Plus, a dog that insists on wearing a bow tie for a collar.)
Hi DaNelle! I am so happy I found you! I have dreamed of having a very small little “farm” since I was really young and I have never given up on that dream. It has taken way longer to get there than I hoped but it is still my goal. Your site has just given me so much hope! I have really been feeling the pull over the last couple of years that it is what I am supposed to do and what I need to do for my kids. We are military and move every few years though so it has never been something we thought was possible. We are coming up on the last 9 years of my husbands career and we hope to only have to move at most 2 more times, once from here and then possibly one more before retirement. I hope to make it happen before then especially because my kids are starting to get older, 12, 10, 7, 2(almost 3). Even if we were willing to buy a trailer and move the animals when we have to move that last time do you think this would be absolutely crazy for us to do? We know we will be moving next year to our new duty station (yet to be determined) and we will be there at least 4 years. That is when I hope to start our small farm journey. I never even thought about having a little farm on only 1 acre of land! I love everything I have read so far, thank you for sharing your journey!! You are very inspiring!
That’s great you want to start a small farm! It is definitely great for kids and an amazing way of life. However, the work is hard and time consuming, but your end result is so worth it! As for moving your farm it can be tricky. It takes a lot of planning b/c you have to move animals, supplies, etc. and hope you have a good location that accommodates your farm. So, if you plan well in advance and can know where you are moving to, it may just work out pretty darn well. Here is a video DaNelle made that explains a few things about homesteading which I think you will find valuable: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=weed+em+and+reap+youtube&view=detail&mid=289534C977EAF094AEF2289534C977EAF094AEF2&FORM=VIRE
I hope this helps! Best of luck! -Bobbi (DaNelle’s Assistant)
Thank you so much!!
Thanks again for another glimpse into the more “fun” side of urban farming!
I love reading your stories and watching your videos! Your family is adorable. We rent a very small house on an acre in California. We have 2 goats and chickens. The animals have been such a joy to live life with. We didn’t do nearly enough research before we got them so I enjoy learning from your experiences. Like have someone else debud the next goat for us! I had a hard time watching that video. Lol! Anyways thank you for sharing your farming with us. You are giving your children the best childhood! I pray for you all because I know we see the best parts but know it is not always easy.
I have been binge-reading your blog in between doing my work today, and I love it! Your writing is so funny but informational. We have always been big gardeners, and this year expanded to chickens and ducks. Within the next few years, we hope to add bees and goats (and you inspire me to try a more exotic fruit tree–we love lemons, oranges, and avocados but they don’t really like our cold winters!)
I wanted to tell you that I love that picture of you holding your basket of carrots. You, and everything in the shot, is just breathtaking! It’s like it was made for a magazine cover!
DaNelle Wolford says
Sarah! This just made my day! Thank you so much for those kind words:) I definitely had to dress up for that pic.
I love this. We have goats and chickens and turkeys too but ours are totally separated from our front and back yards which always get overgrown with weeds. I would like to let the animals at it but then I’m afraid they would eat the garden and flowers etc that I don’t want them to eat and poop allover the patio. how does that work for you? Do you fence those areas off?
DaNelle Wolford says
Hi Christine! Your only options are to either fence it off very well, or hold them on a leash as they eat:)
Love your farm ! so cute! We own a rent house on four acres and actually live on a small lot a few minuets away from it. On the four acres we have two horses, and here we have 3 chickens and a dog. I wish I had goats though 🙂
DaNelle Wolford says
I have noticed that since adding 6 chickens and 2 ducks to my in-town yard, I have less mowing to do! In fact, I haven’t mowed the back yard in over a month, but the front gets done weekly whenever possible. The next addition will be 2 Nigerian Dwarf doelings for future milk and general amusement. We’ve been surprised as it is to find so much amusement in the chickens and ducks. Who knew?! Every year we add another step in our plan to get more sustainable and less dependent on commercial factory farms for both our produce and our meat. Whenever possible, we get our things from local farmers. One day, WE will be that local farmer who gets to supply their community with pastured and humanely raised and slaughtered, hormone and antibiotic free pork, eggs, chicken, goat meat and milk products. Can’t wait!
Mama Natural says
Love this look at your beautiful farm! And you’re right – that’s one happy goat!
DaNelle Wolford says
Love your site