After reading John Seynour's book and doing a lot of thinking and talking with Tammy and my folks I am forming my own ideas of what self sufficiency means for me.
We have quite a bit of the mortgage left on the house so we won't be quitting our jobs anytime soon and relying on the homestead to provide us with any money we might need. Self sufficiency at this moment is about food. I would like to be able to install alternative energy equipment and get off the grid but that won't be for some time. We use our wood furnace instead of the LP but we do not have our own woods. I look at it as semi self sufficient because it is up to us to get fuel for it. Whether we clear some out of a neighbors woods or just cut up slabwood.
We have almost 1 1/2 acres that we can garden or graze. I think that dividing 1 acre into eighths and rotating those should work rather well. And if we use the yard in front as pasture it may work better.
So the plan is to rotate the acre as outlined in Johns book and also have a good sized extra garden for tomatoes and corn and other goodies. We have 2 or 3 apple trees and plan on adding a couple of cherry trees this year. We also have a nice strawberry bed and raspberry patch.
For animals I plan on a Jersey cow, 20 or so laying hens, some meat birds, and a couple of feeder pigs. I'm sure that there will be other animals wandering around as well. Ducks and geese have been mentioned as well as rabbits, bees, guinea hens, and goats. Unfortunately I'm a sucker for animals so even if they don't actually have a good use I probably will try them out just to have them around.
The cow will be kept on pasture for as long as the grass will take it. Half an acre plus the front yard and anywhere else we can tether her should be good and keep the lawnmower parked for most of the summer. She will be confined in a stall in the garage for the winter and fed on whatever I can grow in the garden. I am sure I will have to buy in hay and straw but if I look at it as buying in fertilizer it doesn't look so bad. She will be quite an initial expense but over time as we consider not having to buy milk or butter and the money saved by using her excess milk as feed for the pigs and chickens it will eventually balance out. As we refine our gardening techniques and learn which fodder crops work best for us her feed costs will probably go down. Overall just having a cow around is worth the hassle and extra feed costs as far as I'm concerned.
We will brood the chicks in the cow stall after she is moved outside. There will be a run outside for them. The layers will be moved to the coop and the meat birds will stay until butchering. The layer coop is well insulated and has electricity for heat lamps. I have a run set up for it and plan on having 2 or 3 extra areas set up as in the Balfour method. I've found that the CornishxRocks do not do well as free range chickens but they do like to get outside once in a while so the meatbird run should be enough without any extra areas.
The feeder pigs may have to wait until next year so I can have some feed for them without bankrupting myself at the feedmill. The ultimate plan is to keep a sow full time, keep 2 pigs to fatten and sell the rest as feeders. But that will add to the feed needed for the winter. And until I see how things go it would be best to wait on her.
The only animal that may turn a profit at the start will be the chickens. The eggs are in demand at Tammys work and they pay for their feed with a little extra left over. I am thinking about
custom raising some meat birds for people that want them but I have to crunch some numbers to see if it's worth it. Later as we get a sow and have feeder pigs to sell that will
cover a lot of feed costs. Almost enough for me to take the plunge and get a sow right away but not quite, the market never stays where I want it. I don't see much profit if any from the cow. Jerseys are not much in demand because they milk less
than Holsteins and the bull calves are not really sought after for beef purposes. This isn't about profit anyway but I thought I'd lay out my thinking for anyone who was looking at the profit side.