“There is just a pure feeling of satisfaction when you wake up in the morning to this life and realize…OH my Gosh!! we did it…” Melinda, Cherokee Winds
Hey Homesteaders! I’d like to introduce you to a group of super neat ladies who are passionate about self sufficiency, homesteading, and providing for their families in a more natural way. Meet Deborah from Antiquity Oaks, Cheryl from Farmer in Odell, Melinda from Cherokee Winds, Janet from Eden’s Harvest, Kat from M2A Farm.
The ladies raise a variety of animals. Hens, goats, American Guinea Hogs, peafowl, rabbits, ducks, sheep, turkeys, horses, llamas, donkeys, dogs, cats, alpacas and bees. They use the animals to supply for the family but also to supplement income by making soaps, cheeses, honey, fleece and so much more. Many of them sell at local farmer’s markets and on their websites. Their farms vary in size and location but their stories are all inspirational. I took some time to ask them a few questions and will be visiting them at the Farm Crawl on August 17th (get your free ticket here). This is what they had to say.
P.S. Deborah is the author of one of my go-to books Homegrown and Handmade. Check out my reading list here to get a copy!
Mrs HH: How did you get started?
Deborah: In 2002 we moved out here with no experience in livestock at all beyond our two cats and a poodle. I read a lot of books and found mentors over the Internet. Then we dove in and started making a lot of mistakes! But we stuck with it, learned a lot, and had a lot of fun. I expect we’ll be learning and having fun forever out here.
Deborah’s buff orphington hen
Cheryl: In 1997 my husband, Keith, got a job far enough out of the suburbs that we were able to move out to the country where we’d wanted to be since before we were married. We actually moved in late ’98. Our main purpose was to be as self-sufficient as possible and we started out with a large vegetable garden plus ducks and geese for meat and eggs. We also started planting fruit trees.
Cheryl’s son Andrew
“Sometimes it;s hard to get moving, but once I’m out there, I usually get lost in what I’m doing and totally enjoy every minute.” Deborah, Antiquity Oaks
Melinda: My farm purpose is to grow, produce or make EVERYTHING I can from scratch..all natural. The least amount of store of factory prepared stuff. I make my own soaps..bath, Laundry, cleaning supplies..ect. We can and freeze everything we grow…we produce our own Honey, eggs, herbs, veggies, some fruits and berries that’s growing bigger every year. I got started officially in August of 2000 when we purchased our little farm.
Janet: We had wanted to live in the country for years. When we finally made the move we put our gardening experience to work and started selling our produce. We love it and everyday are thankful to be living in the country.
Sunset at Eden’s Harvest
Kat: By 2003, with the house paid off, on my second marriage (got it right this time), kids grown and self-sufficient, and with my mom living with us, I made up my mind to go after my lifelong dream of a rural lifestyle. Thankfully, Ron and my mom Lydia were up for the adventure. We finally found a beautiful place just west of Dwight, IL. It had a nice ranch house (easy for Lydia), that didn’t need to be painted (big plus for Ron), a stocked pond, large shed, and mature trees (we didn’t have time to wait for seedlings to grow). I wanted more than the almost-6 acres, but when your mom says she could die happy if she could spend just one night on the place, you seal the deal. We’ve never regretted it. Lydia got 2 and a half happy years here before she died. That alone was priceless. We also got some of the best neighbors ever.
M2A Farm Alpaca
“Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not, and since odds are you don’t know what you’re expiration date is, you might as well enjoy every minute!” Kat, M2A Farm
Mrs HH: Why is the Farm Crawl important to you?
Deborah: I like to let people see our farm so that they can see how food used to be grown and how it could still be grown. Educating people about their food is really important to me. They need to know that chickens can happily co-exist without being debeaked as long as they are allowed to live outside like chickens were meant to live. And mama pigs can raise their babies outside, and those pigs can be healthy and don’t need antibiotics in their feed every day to stay healthy. Knowledge is power, and when people lose the knowledge of basic food production it is easy for Big Ag to come along and convince people that animals need antibiotics daily to survive or that they are debeaking chickens for their own protection. But the reality is that animals survived since the beginning of time without antibiotics or debeaking or any of the other inhumane and unhealthy practices that are common in modern agriculture. The simple fact is that factory farming created a lot of problems that have to be solved with high tech answers — or simply return to raising animals naturally like we do!
One of Deborah’s little lambs
Cheryl: The farm crawl has been important in a few ways. First, we’ve been able to educate people on how you can do some homesteading on such a small piece of land. People think you need 10 or 20 acres, but we’ve been able to do a lot with a little land. The only downfall is that we have to buy almost all the food the animals need. But, we’ve learned that weeds make excellent goat and pig food. Free range chickens eat most of the bugs we get over the spring, summer and fall. Grass can be left to dry and then raked up and saved to feed to the goats or pigs later. The same is true for leaves in the fall. We can also grow squash for the animals, which they love. There are a lot of people that would like to do what we’re doing and this gives them hope. We’ve also been able to give them ideas on how to homestead in the yards they already have in the ‘burbs or the city, or even with an apartment balcony. Second, though we’ve been here 14 years, we’ve met very few of our true neighbors. Being half a mile or more apart means you don’t meet them when you happen to be outside together. Now and again we get the wrong mail or a dog shows up here and we contact its owner, but that’s rare. We realized a few years ago that we’ve been talked about by the neighbors and they don’t know what to think of us! The first Crawl gave them an excuse to show up and look around and find out what is really going on here – it was great fun to meet them and show them around. And, third, it has helped provide a little income for us. We sold a lot of soap and other bath and body products last year. This year we’re expanding what we are selling a little bit to test the waters and see what people want. Some of those customers have come back a few times to buy more soap, or told friends who then came over and bought a few bars. It’s not a lot, but business is growing a little bit. I suppose there is one more benefit. Our younger children were out there helping show people around, telling them stories about the animals and helping with the soap sales. That they’ve had that experience is priceless to me.
A few of Cheryl’s goat milk products
“I get to watch the kittens play while I am milking the goats or watch the piglets nursing. It’s so beautiful.” Cheryl, Farmer in Odell
Melinda: Farm Crawl is important to show people it CAN BE DONE, yes it takes work and dedication but it is worth all you put into it. It does not get any better than this…I was born and raised in Chicago and Hubby in McHenry..if 2 city transplants can do it..so can they. There is just a pure feeling of satisfaction when you wake up in the morning to this life and realize…OH my Gosh!! we did it…
Melinda’s Prince Harry
Janet: It’s an opportunity for exposure of our farm business. It’s also fun to meet other people of all backgrounds that are interested in visiting a farm.
Some of Janet’s turkeys
Kat: We didn’t know how we’d use the golf-course-like grounds, at least not for the first two months. Then a man from the county assessor’s office showed up and said they were going by the “current and best use of the land” to reassess us from “agriculture” to “residential”. WHAT??!!! We were surrounded by corn and beans and had specifically searched for land with an agricultural designation. I told the man we were going to get chickens and he said, “Chickens aren’t agriculture.” Suggested a horse, but he said it had to be a breeding operation. With both of us too old and broken down to breed horses, Ron declined my suggestion of “the expensive hobby” of miniature horses. Long story less long: the assessor said, “You’re not a farm.” So we got alpacas and told him, “Am TOO a farm!” Since our last name begins with “M” and two of us were the farmers, we became M2A Farm. (I leave the “dammit” part off for propriety’s sake.) We make every effort to treat our customers and visitors with the courtesy, ethics, and respect with which we would want to be treated. Family-friendly, educational tours in a small, intimate setting allow visitors the opportunity to enjoy a little time in the fresh country air, learn something, share experiences, and make new friends.
Kat’s guard dogs
My favorite part of homesteading is having a morning cup of coffee on the screened in porch with family and looking out to the fields and listening to the birds singing. My least favorite thing is when I have to leave home.” Janet, Eden’s Harvest Farm
Please consider visiting this year’s Farm Crawl with me. You can find more information on their site here.
You can also learn more about each of these super neat ladies by visiting their sites.
Deborah from Antiquity Oaks
Cheryl from Farmer in Odell
Melinda from Cherokee Winds
Janet from Eden’s Harvest
Kat from M2A Farm