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  #1  
Old 09-12-2016, 08:12 PM
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Default Uhhhh... How do we get started?

We've recently been presented with the opportunity to buy a small farm (26 acres). It's about an hour outside of our current city, and it's not our forever plan, as we really want to have a hobby farm on Vancouver Island. That said, we can't do that until our kids are older due to custody issues with us moving out of our province.

So this small farm is for sale, in an area that we are familiar with. However, we've never farmed before. So I think I have a few questions...

1. How many of you have to commute into the city/town for work, shopping, and children's activities? How do you find that routine? Is the solitude of the farm enough to balance the crumminess that is commuting?
2. How much work is a bore well and septic tank/open discharge plumbing situation?
3. We would want to start really small - chickens, sheep, and pigs. I think mostly for our own consumption, but if breeding went well, to sell the babies. Is there any reading we should do, etc. that will help us really grasp what that looks like?

the property has a good house on it, a working barn, and an older outbuilding (not sure if it's worth much). Most of the fencing is in good repair, and there's room for a hay field for straw and some feed. We don't want much for cows - maybe for our own eating, but that's about it.

Tell me reasons not to do it (I'm already in love with the idea, but before we commit, I want to really know the bad and the ugly).
~~~~~~~
The well and septic systems are there. I mean how much maintenance? What do others budget money-wise to cover repairs, etc. Does a tank need to be emptied?
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Last edited by Katiebear; 09-12-2016 at 08:13 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost by CDN
  #2  
Old 09-13-2016, 01:38 AM
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We don't own a farm but we are rural and surrounded by them. I can tell you that we have to drive 30 minutes to get into any of the bigger town around us and we have made it work though the kids don't have many activities these days. We love the solitude and quietness of where we live. We have a well and septic system, we don't ever touch the well, the municipal inspector takes a peep once in a while and the empty the septic tank every 3 yrs or so (750 gallons) and it costs around $225 to do that. I would never move back into the city and neither would DH.
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  #3  
Old 09-13-2016, 03:16 AM
Longfarmer Longfarmer is offline
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I'm with apathy partially. I'm rural but not farm. 1.5 hours to an urban centre. Commuting for kid activities is a huge PITA if the kids want to do anything with decent quality. Having to drive a distance for specialty items like fresh produce, bulk items, hippy dippy things, etc. Is annoying and troublesome when you factor in keeping cold/frozen stuff from spooling on the way home. I still do it and love being rural but it's a pain for sure.

Well and septic stuff is no biggie as long as you get it inspected and you do st least a little research to understand exactly what your system is and what the maintenance is. We need to shock our well yearly and we get the septic pulled every year in the fall. We also have to watch for particularly wet times (big rainstorms, wet year, etc.) because that causes some yard moisture issues and overflow problems if I go crazy with laundry. Hubby actually bypasses the septic for our grey water (sinks, tubs, laundry) sometimes so they flow to the yard. But that is a big no no in many municipalities.
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Last edited by Longfarmer; 09-13-2016 at 03:17 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost by CDN
  #4  
Old 09-13-2016, 07:05 PM
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We have about 3 acres a few miles out of a small town. Most shopping beyond basic groceries we have to go to "the big town" that is about 45 minutes away. I hate it. Mostly because I hate traffic and when I go, it's an all day affair and I have to juggle the kids and a mile long list of crap I need to do while "I am in town". Usually these errands are crowded around a dr. appointment, dentist appointment, etc. Keep that in mind. I may have 8 kids at home at the moment, but we have a local eye dr (yay!) and standard dentist along with a family dr and a very small ER. Orthodontist, specialists, broken limbs, tonsils out, etc. Always a trip into town. Which is hard - like when your 18yo is high on drugs from getting his wisdom teeth out and it has pissed him the hell off and he just wants to get out of the dang truck while you are going 70mph down the interstate.

And then there is going out on a date. Movies, decent dinner, yep. Gotta to "town" unless we just want to hit dinner at the local (very yummy....but really....I can only eat so much Mexican food...lol) resturaunt. And then....crickets. Going to town makes for later evenings and if you are paying a babysitter, more $$.

Another joy that can be found while living in the sticks is spotty services like internet. And I think our power goes out or blinks at least once every couple of months. Which means you have no water once the tank is empty (well pump runs on electricity). Which is kinda fun in the summer when the kids leave the hose running on the lawn all night and then the tank is drained in the morning when you wake up. (We store water now and have something installed on our well for emergencies)

Now for your acreage: We have 3 acres. Right now we are maintaining about a dozen free range chickens, a cow and 3 calves, about 8 fruit trees in various stages of mature and a decent size garden. Yes, we have 8 kids at home and dh works full time. And I didn't get a garden in this year because I had a kid graduating and homeschooling one child kicked my butt. We feed purchased hay through the winter. It is about all the homesteading we can do right now. I was able to harvest our apricot tree this year though - and have gallons of jam in our basement.

26 acres is pretty significant. Is some of it in pasture? Were you planning to do hay? If yes, does the property come with the equipment to do that? (Tractor, swather, baler, etc.) Is some of it wooded? I see 26 acres these days and go "ooooohhh......work. I am too lazy for that." that is my honest opinion. We have milked a cow in the past (and the cost of it wasn't worth it), we raise our own beef. One ds raises calves. Our family eats about one cow and one pig a year. A dozen chickens seems meet our egg needs for the most part.

Do you have experience raising animals? When you say "farm" what does that entail to you? If you are looking at this as mostly a hobby, then I think you may find that 26 acres is a lot to maintain.
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Old 09-13-2016, 07:11 PM
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I should add - I wouldn't change where I live for anything. We've been here 5 years now and have amazing neighbors - and by neighbors I mean anyone who lives within a 2 - 3 mile vicinity. The benefits are that my kids have space to roam, they are learning to work hard. The quiet IS nice. I can see the stars on a clear night. It all does come at a price though. It would be cheaper for us to just live in town and not have to keep up the yard and pasture. (I forgot to tell you about having good fences. Really, you can't do anything without good fences.) It takes about 3 years to actually settle into a place of that size and see the benefits turn up. You will NEED to develop good relationships with neighbors and learn to depend on each other. It's so worth it - if that's what you want in life.
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Old 09-13-2016, 09:04 PM
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Read every book you can find at the library in the species you plan on raising. Find people who are successfully raising those animals already and talk to them, incessantly. Ask them all of the questions you can think of and ask them to show you everything.
Then, after you read everything and gain some knowledge realize that knowing something is a long way off from experiencing it. Experience will be your biggest teacher and you'll likely learn some hard lessons.
We have 30 acres, 11 cows, 11 goats, 3 sheep, a pony, 4 pigs, 18 chickens, a duck and 30 or so rabbits. It's a full time job. I really need to fight to make time for myself between the farm and homeschooling. We never go on vacation because finding someone to watch the animals (that I trust) isn't worth it. Plus all of our extra income goes in to the farm. Machinery repairs and maintenance, vet bills, fencing, feed, fuel, seed and on and on. Something always needs to be done and there is never enough time.
The heartbreak I have felt is beyond almost anything. Finding a 6 month old calf near death on the ice, nursing her back to health only to have her turn around and die. Helping a cow in labor deliver her calf, finding the calf not breathing, performing cpr on the calf only to have it be for naught, walking out to the pasture to find your favorite goat dead for no reason; chipping ice out of water buckets in -20F temps; cows escaping their pastures, etc.
But the joy? The triumphs? Stacking hundreds of square bales in a day, knowing you did it and knowing your animals are fed for the winter; heading out to the barn during lambing season and hearing the bleat of a newborn lamb; pulling (during birth) a twisted, breech calf that you are convinced is dead, only to see it's tail twitch and have it born mooing and trying to stand; performing cpr on a calf and feeling the chest start rising and falling on it's own; harvesting your first tomato; eating your first meal grown entirely from your land; watching your kids bond with animals and gain confidence they didn't think they had; finding peace in the everyday and the hard work.
It's worth it. It's worth every broken toe, bruised rib, sore muscle, stitch, tear and drop of sweat. It's worth the 20 minute drive for basic necessities and 1 hr plus for anything more.
It's the only way to live, IMHO.
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Old 09-14-2016, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Longfarmer View Post
I'm with apathy partially. I'm rural but not farm. 1.5 hours to an urban centre. Commuting for kid activities is a huge PITA if the kids want to do anything with decent quality. Having to drive a distance for specialty items like fresh produce, bulk items, hippy dippy things, etc. Is annoying and troublesome when you factor in keeping cold/frozen stuff from spooling on the way home. I still do it and love being rural but it's a pain for sure.

Well and septic stuff is no biggie as long as you get it inspected and you do st least a little research to understand exactly what your system is and what the maintenance is. We need to shock our well yearly and we get the septic pulled every year in the fall. We also have to watch for particularly wet times (big rainstorms, wet year, etc.) because that causes some yard moisture issues and overflow problems if I go crazy with laundry. Hubby actually bypasses the septic for our grey water (sinks, tubs, laundry) sometimes so they flow to the yard. But that is a big no no in many municipalities.
~~~~~~~
Apathy = Paty apparently
~~~~~~~
Special offer lung = WTF autocorrect

Spooling = spoiling
I will have to go into the city every day for some time (approx 1 hour commute). We share custody with the girls' dad, so we wouldn't have the option of putting them in a rural school, or even a closer to us school. I know that I will also have to work (and desire to work) for a while still, so it will be a trip in to the city every day. I don't think I'll mind the drive - for me, it's not the amount of time that I have to be in the car, it's all the other traffic. For 60% of that, I will be on the highway, and there will be little traffic. The farm is about 15 minutes off paved highway, which is a decent amount - not too much wear and tear, but not on a major thoroughfare.

The septic system on the property is a two part system - it all empties into a tank, but then the water portion gets put out into the tree field. So that's all right - leaving us to empty the septic once every couple of years.

We're about half an hour from a decent sized city in order to do our grocery shopping, and there's a corner store/small market about 15 minutes away. So neither are bad things. I might just have to start keeping a cooler in my car for bringing home frozen stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otis View Post
We have about 3 acres a few miles out of a small town. Most shopping beyond basic groceries we have to go to "the big town" that is about 45 minutes away. I hate it. Mostly because I hate traffic and when I go, it's an all day affair and I have to juggle the kids and a mile long list of crap I need to do while "I am in town". Usually these errands are crowded around a dr. appointment, dentist appointment, etc. Keep that in mind. I may have 8 kids at home at the moment, but we have a local eye dr (yay!) and standard dentist along with a family dr and a very small ER. Orthodontist, specialists, broken limbs, tonsils out, etc. Always a trip into town. Which is hard - like when your 18yo is high on drugs from getting his wisdom teeth out and it has pissed him the hell off and he just wants to get out of the dang truck while you are going 70mph down the interstate.

And then there is going out on a date. Movies, decent dinner, yep. Gotta to "town" unless we just want to hit dinner at the local (very yummy....but really....I can only eat so much Mexican food...lol) resturaunt. And then....crickets. Going to town makes for later evenings and if you are paying a babysitter, more $$.

Another joy that can be found while living in the sticks is spotty services like internet. And I think our power goes out or blinks at least once every couple of months. Which means you have no water once the tank is empty (well pump runs on electricity). Which is kinda fun in the summer when the kids leave the hose running on the lawn all night and then the tank is drained in the morning when you wake up. (We store water now and have something installed on our well for emergencies)

Now for your acreage: We have 3 acres. Right now we are maintaining about a dozen free range chickens, a cow and 3 calves, about 8 fruit trees in various stages of mature and a decent size garden. Yes, we have 8 kids at home and dh works full time. And I didn't get a garden in this year because I had a kid graduating and homeschooling one child kicked my butt. We feed purchased hay through the winter. It is about all the homesteading we can do right now. I was able to harvest our apricot tree this year though - and have gallons of jam in our basement.

26 acres is pretty significant. Is some of it in pasture? Were you planning to do hay? If yes, does the property come with the equipment to do that? (Tractor, swather, baler, etc.) Is some of it wooded? I see 26 acres these days and go "ooooohhh......work. I am too lazy for that." that is my honest opinion. We have milked a cow in the past (and the cost of it wasn't worth it), we raise our own beef. One ds raises calves. Our family eats about one cow and one pig a year. A dozen chickens seems meet our egg needs for the most part.

Do you have experience raising animals? When you say "farm" what does that entail to you? If you are looking at this as mostly a hobby, then I think you may find that 26 acres is a lot to maintain.
I have no experience. I've been on a farm (my uncle's Charolais ranch), and I've done some horseback riding lessons. I would be searching out some mentors to teach us how to farm. I currently work for our provincial Agriculture department, and have made some good contacts here that I'm sure would love to show us the ropes. My thought is that we'd ride out winter, living on a very rural (giant) acreage). In the spring, we'd get some chickens, and start there, maybe a pig? My hope is to have some sheep (wool and meat), a couple of goats (milk? funsies?), and maybe a small cow/calf thing (for meat, not for milk). We would have to spend a crap ton of time learning proper husbandry techniques, and how to deal with livestock in the winter. Our "only" predators out this way are coyotes and foxes, so I have done a little bit of reading about that. I want to ease into it. If we go in all gangbusters right away, I know I'll burn out and I'll sell the farm and move back to my condo.

Mike won't live out there without a decent sized generator "just in case". So I'm not (at this time) terribly worried about power, however internet service might make me feel crazy if we can't get decent internet. I'll have to find out what services are available out there. Can't go back to dial up! Ha ha!

We don't "do" date nights At least hardly ever. We're way more likely to order pizza and watch a movie at home (which we won't be able to do any more... order a pizza anyway).

Quote:
Originally Posted by otis View Post
I should add - I wouldn't change where I live for anything. We've been here 5 years now and have amazing neighbors - and by neighbors I mean anyone who lives within a 2 - 3 mile vicinity. The benefits are that my kids have space to roam, they are learning to work hard. The quiet IS nice. I can see the stars on a clear night. It all does come at a price though. It would be cheaper for us to just live in town and not have to keep up the yard and pasture. (I forgot to tell you about having good fences. Really, you can't do anything without good fences.) It takes about 3 years to actually settle into a place of that size and see the benefits turn up. You will NEED to develop good relationships with neighbors and learn to depend on each other. It's so worth it - if that's what you want in life.
I desperately don't want to live in the city any more. I need some wide open spaces. We have an acquaintance who owns one of the next properties, and was out at his place over the weekend (that's how we found this property). He uses his 600 acres as his "recreational property" (he has put in a race track, a rallycross track and a small plane field). So they're not around a ton (although his farm hand who lives there is a fairly good friend of ours).

Fences looked ok, but will require maintenance. We will have to have the property inspected by someone who knows what they're doing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaerRuthryis View Post
Read every book you can find at the library in the species you plan on raising. Find people who are successfully raising those animals already and talk to them, incessantly. Ask them all of the questions you can think of and ask them to show you everything.
Then, after you read everything and gain some knowledge realize that knowing something is a long way off from experiencing it. Experience will be your biggest teacher and you'll likely learn some hard lessons.
We have 30 acres, 11 cows, 11 goats, 3 sheep, a pony, 4 pigs, 18 chickens, a duck and 30 or so rabbits. It's a full time job. I really need to fight to make time for myself between the farm and homeschooling. We never go on vacation because finding someone to watch the animals (that I trust) isn't worth it. Plus all of our extra income goes in to the farm. Machinery repairs and maintenance, vet bills, fencing, feed, fuel, seed and on and on. Something always needs to be done and there is never enough time.
The heartbreak I have felt is beyond almost anything. Finding a 6 month old calf near death on the ice, nursing her back to health only to have her turn around and die. Helping a cow in labor deliver her calf, finding the calf not breathing, performing cpr on the calf only to have it be for naught, walking out to the pasture to find your favorite goat dead for no reason; chipping ice out of water buckets in -20F temps; cows escaping their pastures, etc.
But the joy? The triumphs? Stacking hundreds of square bales in a day, knowing you did it and knowing your animals are fed for the winter; heading out to the barn during lambing season and hearing the bleat of a newborn lamb; pulling (during birth) a twisted, breech calf that you are convinced is dead, only to see it's tail twitch and have it born mooing and trying to stand; performing cpr on a calf and feeling the chest start rising and falling on it's own; harvesting your first tomato; eating your first meal grown entirely from your land; watching your kids bond with animals and gain confidence they didn't think they had; finding peace in the everyday and the hard work.
It's worth it. It's worth every broken toe, bruised rib, sore muscle, stitch, tear and drop of sweat. It's worth the 20 minute drive for basic necessities and 1 hr plus for anything more.
It's the only way to live, IMHO.
I have some pretty specific questions for you - as this is very close to the size of land we're looking at. Our land has a fair number of trees... I can fence this off and put pigs in there, or cows, even, right? As long as they have proper shelter? How many acres of hay/crops do you grow vs. how many acres you have pasture/barns/etc?

I know that you don't work, but does your DH work as well? i feel like he was a linesman - is he still doing that? We were trying to figure out how we'll afford it all, as we know our expenses will go up. Do you profit off your farm, or is it mostly a wash (covering farm expenses)? What do you sell? The price of the property is very close to what we'll get for our house in the city. Our extra costs will be fuel, and then any equipment we'll need. Our province is pretty good a start up grants, and agricultural loans, and we might purchase hay for the first year before worrying about growing our own.

How long does it take you to go through your daily chore routine, like feeding in the morning (do you put animals in the barn at night, that you then put out into the pasture in the day?), are there stalls to muck, etc? I hear you when you say it's a full time job, but discounting the work you do in your home, homeschooling, and general kid stuff, what would you approximate your time spent "farming" is? We were thinking that I'll maintain my job in the city for the very regular income that it provides, as I'll be taking the kids in for school anyway. Mike was going to find something that was much closer to the farm, and maybe work 0.75 or something like that instead of full time. The neighbour employs people to work on his cars, maintain his land, so Mike was going to approach him to see if he needed another mechanic (even if it's not a ton of money).

Seeing your list of livestock tragedies makes me well up, by the way. I'm a soft person, so that will be hard. It will be hard on the girls, too, but I think that it's also a really good lesson, and a wonderful way to learn compassion (my eldest lacks it) and "about life".

I desperately want to live somewhere that will challenge my kids into becoming better people. I think living and helping on a farm will really help with that.

My ultimate livestock wishlist is about 4 sheep, 2 goats, a couple dozen hens (I'd like to sell eggs), a pig or two, and maybe a cow or two. Not a ton of animals, but I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into here. Ha ha.
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  #8  
Old 09-14-2016, 05:33 PM
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Honestly, if you have pasture to support it, imo, cows are some of the easier livestock to maintain. Especially if you get a breed that is cold tolerant and calves easy. I hate pigs. They can be mean, they stink like no other animal I know and have been known to do some pretty rotten stuff. Mama pigs tend to not give a crappie about their young and the birthing process can get ugly. Goats don't like fences. And they eat everything. Literally....everything except the weeds you want to get rid of. Did I mention they hate fences? Lol - I have a friend who has the dwarf variety and has resorted to large dog kennel fencing to keep them contained. Totally cute, totally fun, but even she says they are more work than she has ever had to deal with and she has a lot of farm experience. Sheep are not very hardy, believe it or not. If you are tender hearted, you may want to keep in mind mortality rates for sheep is low. You just don't have a lambing season where none of them die. I'm not trying to be a downer here - just would love to see you have a successful go at this. If you've got an hr commute everyday - you want to keep it simple. We have had lots of trial and error - we don't have time to be "all in" like CaerRuthryis (you are my hero, btw.) And in our experience, cows have been pretty dang easy. And chickens. Yes - get a flock of chickens and start a garden in the spring. I would start there. If you've got existing pasture, and aren't sure about what to do with it or don't want to maintain it that first year or two, you can always find someone to lease it to. Just make sure you've got a good agreement that says they fix the fence if their animal gets out - releasing your liability if you aren't around.

And your potential neighbor sounds totally awesome. They are living my dream.
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Old 09-14-2016, 06:42 PM
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We'd keep the pig only for our own meat.

You make a good point about the goats. They're so cute and hilarious, but if I was going to add them, they'd probably be the last thing I'd add (due to the extra work).

I was reading about a breed of cows that are a bit smaller, but give good milk and meat (if we wanted to milk), but if you keep them pedigree'd... they're worth a fair amount as well. Not sure if they're cold tolerant (remember, we live in a fairly cold part of the world), or how well they calve, but that might be a possibility. With a little bit of tree thinning (which we could heat the shop with), there's a fair amount of land for cows. We were thinking we *could* also turn the hay field into an orchard, and the cows/pig (in separate areas) could go ahead and winter in the orchard... or spend some time there in the fall at any rate.

I love the idea of sheep. There are a few types that are recommended for Alberta ranchers, as they're hardier for our winters and general condition. I like that they're smaller livestock, they're decent meat, and they're more interested in being together than escaping. Ha ha. Being able to get wool off of them is a bonus - Mike thinks I'm going to spin it all myself! (he's wrong) Ha ha.

We have considered leasing out the front pasture, at least for the first year while we get settled. Good tip on the strong lease agreement re: fences, etc. If anyone is leasing the pasture, we really don't want to have to do anything with their animals... unless maybe they want to have some form of lease our land... teach us ~POOP~. That would be to our benefit.

I've romanticized the crap out of this idea, so I genuinely DO want to hear "everything is terrible and you will hate your life". So I am grateful for the honesty.
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Old 09-14-2016, 07:06 PM
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I will respond later today/tonight.
Anyway, is this smaller breed the Dexter by any chance? I am transitioning my here over to mostly Dexters, smaller and dual purpose. We have temps reaching in to the high 90's/low 100's and on down to the -30F range at night in winter. They do really well with adequate shelter (we have a barn, but a run in and windbreak would be sufficient).
I love my Dexters.
~~~~~~~
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Old 09-14-2016, 09:12 PM
MeganPaige MeganPaige is offline
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My mom has pasture land. She doesn't lease it but has someone come in and pay to hay it. She was going to allow hunters access to it but her husband made a promise to his daughter to never allow that. She's since passed and that land was her idea of heaven. That promise will stay in place as long as the land is in the family.

I also have a island mentor close to where you want to eventually settle. They say "never again" to pigs due to their level of meanness.
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Old 09-14-2016, 09:47 PM
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Good to know. The one dude we know with pigs says that he won't get in their pen without someone else distracting them with food. Maybe it's not worth it... how long do you have to have a pig before you send him/her to the abattoir?
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Old 09-14-2016, 10:31 PM
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Another thought popped in my mind - will you need to irrigate or do you get enough annual rainfall to support crops?
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Old 09-14-2016, 10:33 PM
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The farm would get more rain than we do in the city. It would depend on the crop - wheat, hay, grasses of most sorts... no, no irrigation required. Hemp, yes in the beginning; corn, yes, etc.

After more stuff came across my desk today (barn fires! Fire smart yards! Swine disease!), I'm already feeling stressed out. We've agreed to stop talking about it for the remainder of the week and see if we're still interested or if the feeling has passed by Monday. We're both impulsive, so we'll see how we feel then.
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Old 09-14-2016, 11:45 PM
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I actually love having pigs. I have found that they are only as mean as you treat them. If you are constantly beating on them and yelling they will be stressed and defensive.
When you raise them from piglets and are kind to them, they are awesome.
They are incredibly intelligent (more intelligent than dogs) and can get bored which leads to problems.
We buy pigs at around 8 weeks and then raise them to 6-9 months, depending on weight.
I am not set up to breed and breeding animals can be more aggressive because of the hormones. Pigs are also omnivores and will literally eat everything, so there is that.
I do not allow my children to enter the pig pens or feed the pigs. We are actually set up to feed and water from outside the pens, but we do go in the pens with them and we do pet them and scratch them.
I'm going to get on the computer and answer your other questions too. I hate doing long replies on my phone.
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