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How one Countryside contact "share" ad worked out.

Almost every issue of Countryside has a few ads from people looking for a place to share in the country, or someone who has a place they want to share. About two years ago, I placed such an inquiry in the magazine and a couple came and joined. I thought you might like an update on just how that turned out.

Neglected for 20 years

We have a 120 acre place that my mom inherited from her father. It's in central Arkansas about 18 miles from where my husband and son and I live on six and one-half acres. The old farm had been rented to a man to run cattle, but was otherwise neglected for more than 20 years. I wanted to put the place back into use for crops and cattle, but living 18 miles away made it almost impossible. The neglect had left the fences overgrown and falling down and various renters had left literally tons of trash on the place, the old house was gone (burned) and the barn was literally falling down.

Frank and Judy answered our ad and came to visit us for a week, during which time we went on with our usual chores of gardening about 10 acres of the farm for table produce - peas, beans, okra, melons, etc. They really got a chance to work up a sweat.

They had come to visit us in May, and went back home to get their house sold and their belongings packed. That was quite a chore since Frank is a packrat and has about every tool known to mortal man! They bought an old moving van, planning to leave most of their stuff packed until they could buy a trailer to put up on the farm at the old house site and hook into the existing well and septic tank. Great idea!

But, unfortunately that didn't quite work out. The weight of the stuff Frank had carefully packed (like a Chinese puzzle) was too much for the old truck and a wheel fell off in New Mexico - in four degree below zero weather. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they had to rent a truck for the rest of the trip, and that meant that everything had to be unloaded and stored on this end!

We filled the garage, barn and house with it, then started looking for a suitable trailer. We finally found one and, got them situated - in July. In the meantime, we were planting crops, harvesting them, selling them, and taking care of the livestock here on the six acre place. To say nothing of canning and freezing enough for both families.

Judy was a city girl, but fell right into rural life and chores, and dug right into it all. Not long after she arrived I butchered 22 roosters that I had saved for her first "project" - now she is an old hand.

Frank had some experience working on a large cattle farm in the past, but he too got involved in several new experiences. I thought he would pass out the day we castrated the pigs! Dehorning baby goats with a hot iron still bothers him, but he too just dug right in and does what is necessary, however distasteful.

The old barn has to go

With an old farm you have the work of tearing down old overgrown fences, barns, etc. in addition to the expense of building new ones from scratch. It was heartbreaking for me to finally decide that the old barn that I had spent so many happy childhood hours in had to go - it was beyond repair. We salvaged some of the lumber though, to repair an old shed that was still solid. (That helped solve some of the storage problems).

Of course, everything has taken two or three times as long as any of us anticipated, and four or five times as much money, but we are just taking it "like the cat ate the grindstone, one lick at a time." It is all slow going, but we can see progress from month to month, and sometimes, day to day.

Judy has re-enrolled in nursing school and is making straight A's. She will graduate next May.

We have a nice little herd of milk goats and some market for fresh milk in the neighborhood. (It is now legal in Arkansas to sell 100 gallons per month directly off the farm.) We also sell a few "organic" eggs, and raise our own pork off the surplus, as well as sell "organically grown" hogs on the hoof. We're pretty self sufficient as far as food goes.

The money pit

The farm is still a "money pit" requiring much more cash input than it returns, but much of it is capital outlay that won't have to be repeated. We are currently using electric fencing for the livestock, which we can easily move as we need to, but plan to fence the front 40 acres in field fencing with electric top wire.

Since the soil here is very acid, and the land requires about $50 per acre in lime, we plan to plant 30 acres to loblolly pine which likes the acid soil. Even with the lime, that land is so marginal that it wouldn't even make good grazing, so pine will be a very "friendly" crop to that soil. The only drawback is that the harvest is 25-30 years off.

Judy and Frank have fit right into the community, one that is traditionally very suspicious of "come-in-ers." They did experience some culture shock upon arriving... we don't lock our doors, etc., but they seem to have fit right into the community.

My mother had lived away from the farm for 45 years, but has even renewed her interest in the restoration project since Frank and Judy have come. A highway widening project forced my mother out of her home, and she and Daddy decided to build their new house on the farm. Mother was very suspicious, at first, with me "mail ordering" someone to live on the farm, but since she has gotten to know Judy and Frank she is glad that they are here.

We plan to take the house that she moved out of and move it to the "back 40" on the farm, so hopefully, we will also be living up on the farm by the end of 1993.

An experiment in tick contol

We are also planning on trying an experiment in tick control and we will keep you updated on our success (or lack thereof). When I was a kid and DDT was commonly used on livestock for tick control, there were few ticks in the area. When that was discontinued, the tick population came back with a vengeance. The abundance of wildlife, especially deer, has increased the spread of ticks. Up around the living area we keep chickens roaming free, and the decrease in the number of ticks we get on us (and the livestock) is significant. So, we plan to use "satellite" chicken houses with 10 to 20 chickens each, scattered over the farm. These will be small houses built on skids for easy moving, and with wire bottoms (floors) and solid walls and secure doors to close out dogs and other night creatures that might like a chicken dinner. We will keep feed and water near the houses and close the chickens up securely each night. The chickens we have (eight large Buff Orpingtons) roam over about eight acres and would rather "scratch" than eat the feed that we throw out for them. We are hoping that the scattered houses will do as well. My engineer husband is designing battery operated doors for the houses that work on a light sensor that will open them at dawn and close them at dark, so that we don't have to do this manually every day. In preparation, we have hatched out about 75 baby Buffs which are growing by leaps and bounds every day.

Through a barter arrangement we have acquired 70 wild turkey eggs and are incubating them. In order to sell them we will have to obtain a license as I a "game bird farm" but that will be no problem. There seems to be quite a reasonable market for domestic-wild" turkeys in this area. There is also an annual "exotic" auction held in the area which will be another avenue to sell the turkeys through.

Bear gets a partner

We are still using the Great Pyrenees, Bear, that I wrote about (75/5:1 7). Bear has continued to keep our flocks and herds safe from all forms of predation.

He has been joined by Bandit, an other Pyrenees that was given to us by another Countryside reader who read the article and selected us for Bandit's new home after they could no longer keep him. Bandit has proven to be an excellent guardian dog and was immediately accepted by the goats that are very fearful of strange dogs. They obviously knew he was not Bear but decided that he was a Pyrenees, and therefore okay. Any non-Pyrenees dog, including our house dog and Judy and Frank's house dog, has never been accepted, even after long association.

100 projects in the works

We have a hundred projects in the works, and what we don't finish this year, for lack of money or time, we will work on next year! Spring is already here and with planting underway, the goats still kidding, and canning season not far off, we will be looking forward to Fall before we know it.

Just thought you might like to know how at least one "share" ad worked out. We are really happy that Frank and Judy have joined us and become "family." Thanks, Countryside, for putting us in touch with them.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:two families run a successful homestead farm
Author:Hetrick, Joyce
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Good friends, good family, and a good neighbor helped make our dreams a reality.
Next Article:A longhorn adventure: doubling the herd - from one calf to two - didn't double their trouble: it quadrupled it!

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