Our little farm was born in 2012 when our family transplanted from the suburbs of Minneapolis to the Elk River area. We had dreamed for years of moving out to a piece of land where our children could have space to roam, and where our family could learn a little more self-reliance, practicing the down-to-earth homesteading skills known to our grandparents and great grandparents.
Just a few months after moving to our 8-acre plof land, we acquired meat rabbits–our first farm animals!–and began the incredibly rewarding process of raising our own food. We had owned pet rabbits for many years in the suburbs and were familiar with breeding and caring for them, but having an end purpose that allowed us to humanely and sustainably put healthy meals on our table was a revelation to us. We LOVED knowing exactly where our food came from, how it had been raised, what it had eaten, how it had been dispatched, and how it had been butchered. From that point on, we were hooked on learning as much as we could about providing for ourselves, with the eventual goal of having enough to share with friends, family, and customers.
Shortly after setting up our meat rabbit operation, we added adult laying hens to our little farm, and, again, we felt the absolute joy and delight of having more food–eggs!–being produced on our own little land, in front of our own eyes. It felt like pure magic. For years I had dreamed of sending my children outside to gather eggs for our breakfast, and when this miracle did happen, I could not have been happier.
The farm work was quickly divided among all of us, and Gero and I shared chores with our six children–as they became old enough to handle various outside work. As our poultry flock grew to include many chickens and ducks, our oldest son, Nick, was generally in charge of their daily feeding and watering. Over the years, we spent many evenings around the supper table together, trying to convince Nick to entertain us with his chicken sounds. After so many hours and hours of time spent with those silly and adorable hens out in the chicken yard, he had an absolutely killer impersonation. We sometimes laughed until we cried as he mimicked the annoyed sounds of the hens being forced to go into the coop before they were ready on warm summer evenings or being shooed off their nests so that he could collect eggs.
After rabbits, chickens, and ducks, we decided it was time to add in larger animals to the menagerie. We had lived on our farm for three years when we brought home our first goats in 2015. Mazie, Leopold, and Clementine, beautiful little pygmy goats, were the perfect addition to our homestead. We learned so much in the first year with goats and found our animal knowledge both challenged and strengthened by our new livestock adventures. That very next spring, our first sheep, Francine, joined us, and when she gave birth to twins, (Prince Charles and Camilla), just two months later, our little operation began to look like a real farm.
In the next couple of years, we added a mini donkey, bee hives, more sheep and goats, a mini horse, a full-sized horse, pigs, and two large gardens to our land.Though in some ways we have struggled to find our farming niche (losing some of our ruminants to barberpole worms before figuring out how to manage that parasite effectively; deciding that goats, as much as we loved them, were not the best fit for our farm; struggling to keep our bees alive through the Minnesota winters; dealing with predators who killed our valuable, purebred chickens in a midnight raid on the coop; learning to care for baby animals rejected by their mothers or needing an extra boost to get going), we have loved the process and continue to learn as we go, admitting that we can’t do it all but striving to do well those things that we pursue.