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Goats:

Goats can be a great animal to add to your farm. They’re easy to handle and produce lots of delicious and healthful milk as well as low-fat meat. Plus, goat manure makes great fertilizer.

Should You Raise Goats?

One doe will produce 90 quarts of fresh milk every month for 10 months of the year, with two months off right before she gives birth. That said, you can’t keep just one doe – you’ll need to keep two goats, a doe and a wether, or two does, at a minimum, so they don’t get lonely.

Each castrated male goat, or meat wether, will produce 25 to 40 pounds of meat. And each bred doe will give birth to, at minimum, one kid annually.

Goats don’t need fussy housing, but they do require some serious fencing to keep them where they belong. They will graze pasture but are great browsers, who will eat bushes and other brush. Dairy goats will require some hay and commercial goat feed, though, too, so you’ll need to be prepared to feed them. Meat goats do well on just hay and browse, unless they’re nursing or growing kids.

Raising Goats for Milk or Meat

Like cattle, goats can be used for either milk or meat production. They can also be used for wool and hair production, although because these breeds have such thick coats, most farmers in Tennessee, where it can get very hot in the summer, still mostly use sheep for this latter purpose.

Goat meat is not a typical staple in most of Tennessee, and is not commonplace in the US in general. But there is a demand for it from certain religious and cultural groups who predominantly eat it, and it can be a profitable niche if you find the right market. There is in fact such a demand that goat meat must be imported into the US every year. It’s fairly easy to keep dairy goats and raise the bucks for meat, since you have to breed your does to keep them in milk and roughly half of all kids are male. However, the Boer is the main meat breed in the US, primarily raised for meat not milk. Another option is to breed your milking goats to Boers or another meat breed to produce crossbred kids for meat, while still keeping does for milk.

Housing and Fencing Goats

Goat housing is simple: just keep them dry and draft-free and they are happy. A three-sided structure is enough for mild climates. It’s helpful to have a small stall for isolating a sick or injured goat or for a pregnant goat to give birth. Packed dirt will suffice for a floor in the goat house, but it should be covered with a thick layer of bedding: wood shavings (not cedar), straw, or waste hay. Since hay is goats’ primary food and they tend to waste up to one-third of it, you can pitch the waste hay into the bedding area each day, saving money. Keep bedding clean and dry, spreading new layers on top and removing and replacing all of it as needed.

Fencing is a little more complex. Goats need a very strong fence that they can’t climb over, knock down or otherwise escape from. If there is so much as a tiny hole, they will find a way to get out. They use their lips to explore their world, so if a gate latch is loose, they can wiggle it open with their lips and escape. They also chew almost everything – rope, electrical wiring, and so on, are all fair game. And goats can jump and climb. Your goat house should have a climbing-proof roof.

High-tensile, smooth electrified wire is ideal if you want to take an existing fence and make it goat-proof. You can use a nonelectric fence at least four feet high, five feet for active breeds like Nubians. Brace corners and gates on the outside so the goats can’t climb up the braces. You can use wooden fencing, stock panels, or chain-link fence, or you can combine a wooden rail fence with woven wire.

Feeding Goats

Goats can be pastured on grass or browse in the woods, eating shrubs and young trees. It’s important to rotate goats to new pasture so that they graze it evenly and don’t foul it up, which can lead to a buildup of parasites.

Goats require additional hay even when they have pasture, as they can’t eat all fresh grass. You can feed hay free choice – give them as much as they desire. Young goats and pregnant or milk-producing does require some goat “concentrate,” or goat chow.

Goats are super fun to have around the farm, as they tend to have very definite personalities. We have three goats on our property. We had more, but the coyotes sadly killed all the babies one year and we haven’t had the heart to start another herd. Donkeys and mules are often pastured with other livestock, as they are an amazing defense against coyotes. Llamas are interestingly also good as anti-predator animals.

We are investigating the possibility of fostering a donkey. They could protect our kid goats and the feed can be tax deductible…a win win.

Goats are typically frisky and energetic, and have a great ability to forage and adapt to almost any environment. They are easy to manage and very low maintenance. You can raise them without any supplemental feeding, but as with cattle this somewhat depends on the grass mixtures on your property. Yes, goats will eat garbage, and could potentially eat the tin can they find lying around, but it won’t get any nutrients from it. They will clear the brush and clear your garbage, but you do want to ensure they are getting good nutrition as well.

One thing you need to watch out for is if you have hemlock on your property, goats will eat it and it will kill them. They will pretty much eat anything, including shirts (while being worn), hair (while on your head), and any stuff you have on your hair.

Meat Breeds:

Boer: We have Boer mix goats. These can grow to be very large (recall how beef cattle tend to have large bodies as well). Boer goats tend to have full white bodies, with darker heads, and long droopy ears. Just as an aside, it can sometimes be hard to goats and sheep apart. Goats’ tails go up, and wag upright, while sheep tails hang down. Goat tails are also typically longer, and sheep tails are what we call “docked.” This is because since they hang down they can get a lot of fecal matter on it, so their tails are cut at a very young age to prevent this.

Boer goats are probably the most popular meat breed in the world, not just in the US. They have a really fast growth rate, and high fertility, which is good both in terms of turnaround of investment and if you suffer herd culling from predators. The quality of the meat is typically very high and like many goats these have an increased resistance to disease. Vaccinating your goats is still optimal, but there is a lower risk of them getting sick than is the case with other animals such as horses and cows.

Goats are usually friendly, although they can be more territorial if they have a lot of kids around, in which case take a branch with you and smack them on the head if they get too belligerent. This might sound a little mean, but you have to show goats who is boss, and, in their eyes, be the goat who isn’t backing down.

 

Kiko: They are pretty common in Tennessee. Generally very Large-framed, all white, hardy and able to thrive under poor conditions, the Kiko was developed in New Zealand and brought to the US in the 1990s. They are a bit friskier than the Boers, and are known for substantial weight gain without any supplemental feeding.

If you have a lot of range available, Kikos may be a more economical breed than Boers for you to raise. 

kiko goat

Spanish:

Before Boer goats became popular in the US in the late 1980s, Spanish goats were the standard meat-goat breed, especially in the South. They are so named because they are descended from goats first introduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers. They were originally bred for brush and pasture maintenance, but then due to selection they became mixed with other breeds to become a meat breed. They’re medium-sized and lanky, mostly short-haired, and come in all colors. Don’t need a lot of supplemental feeding and can breed out of season. This means a higher production of kids (like, everywhere). They have long, often twisty horns.

Dairy Breeds:

The three most popular dairy goat breeds (though there are others) in the US are the La Mancha, Nubian, and Toggenburg.

La Mancha

These are friendly goats that come in a variety of colors and patterns, La Manchas usually have small ears (sometimes so small as to be unnoticeable) of two types: gopher ears, small and rounded, or slightly larger ears, shorter than two inches, that some people call “elf ears.”

This is one of the smaller dairy breeds, but they tend to be very high milk producers. They are very popular in Middle Tennessee, and you’ll find them at many county fairs.

la mancha goat

Nubian

Nubian goats are one of the most popular dairy breeds in the world, and the most popular American dairy breed. With their floppy, long ears and rounded, convex noses (called “Roman” noses), they are large goats producing a rich milk high in butterfat. Goat-cheese makers often choose Nubian milk because of this quality. They don’t produce the same volume of milk as the La Manchas, but they’re sometimes called “the Jerseys of the dairy goat world,” because like Jersey cows, they produce a milk so high in protein and butterfat.

One thing to be aware of that Nubians can be very loud, and they have a distinctive cry that may annoy your neighbors. They are also not quite as manageable as other more docile breeds.

Toggenberg:

Toggenburg goats, or Toggs, as they are sometimes called, are a very sweet-tempered, medium-sized breed, coming in a variety of colors: from light brown to chocolate. They are known for having attractive markings such as white-sided tails, white muzzles, white ears, and two stripes down the face. They are one of the only dairy breeds with erect ears, and tend to be a little shaggier than the other more straight-coated breeds. Spirited and playful, Toggs are average milk volume producers (lower than La Manchas, for instance), and their milk is lower fat than the Nubians. But they have extra long lactation periods, which means they provide milk for more days in the year.

Goat milk is very different than any kind of cow’s milk. It’s a different, stronger flavor, thickness and texture. Feta and goat cheeses are made from goat’s milk, as is the white queso dip you see at many Mexican restaurants.

The full pasteurization process (for both cattle and goats) is very involved and beyond the scope of this book. It is possible to drink unpasteurized milk, but its important to remember that there is a risk of bacterial contamination (from bacteria already present in the milk), which can lead to infection of us humans if you do this.

“Fun” Breeds:

Pygmy Goats:

Pygmy goats are highly domesticated and are mostly pets, but they are actually officially listed as meat goats because they have a compact and meaty body and are fertile out of season.   They are very energetic, and very entertaining to watch, and a lot of fun. They do tend to poop when and where they want, but the upside is their poop is pellet-like, and very easy to clean up.

pygmy goat

Tennessee Fainting Goats:

Tennessee Fainting goats are, in fact, from Tennessee and are also called myotonic goats, Nervous goats, Wooden goats or Stiff Leg goats.

When startled, these goats go rigid and “faint” or fall down. This is actually a painless genetic disorder that has been intentionally perpetuated by breeding (for reasons I can only guess being to serve the demographic that enjoys seeing goats fall over).

If you have these goats, you do need to keep them confined, because they are easy prey for predators (fainting and falling down is not a great survival strategy when the coyotes are coming). Myotonic goats are hardy, fertile, and have a long breeding season.

Standard Care of Goats:

Despite their general hardiness, goats can be susceptible to certain strains of Clostridium bacteria, and also tetanus and there are core vaccines for these.

As with other animals, you will need to worry about flies and ticks, as well as intestinal parasites. The number one intestinal parasite of goats is called Haemoncus contortus, otherwise known as the Barber pole worm. This is an almost ubiquitous worm that is found in almost every goat, and which can be fatal, so treatment must be followed per your local veterinarian.

Yes, there is a lot to consider when raising goats….

To learn more about farm animals and sustainable living click the link below:

Sustainable Living Farm Conference

Disclaimer:  We are not experts in the farm animal field.  We are providing some general information on farm animals, but you should always check with your local veterinarian prior to administration of any medical treatment (topical or oral) for your farm animals.
What would a farm be without its animals?  Even though we have a plant-based operation as the draw to our farm, we do raise chickens (and will try to reintroduce more goats, eventually, as well).

But your passion may require you to raise certain type of animals on your farm, and hopefully this information  will help to guide you in those decisions.

So here are some of the animals that we know a little about.  Again, it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully enough information to begin with:

Dog Breeds for the Farm

When having dogs on a farm, it’s important to know whether you want them as working dogs or pets.  Try not to mix these roles, as they will get confused.  Consider taking a training class on how to train a dog, and go through it with yours. You need to be the alpha, and have the bond with you.

Breeds good for farm:

1) Great Pyrenees: (the nannying dogs) Guard livestock, from pretty much anything (wolves to people). Pretty shy possibly even with owners possibly, ensure they are working dogs and not the pet. Big and woolly but do not shed very much. Can adjust to almost any temp and climate.  Good with all livestock. Love other animals (except for threats). Raised as herding and guarding dogs. Easy to take care of, very popular breed for farm work. Check out this video…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEXkHwQK8Es

2) Border Collie: More like a herding and gathering dog.  Very intelligent and energetic, so they need to be worked, otherwise they can get into mischief, need to be kept challenged. Very loyal, love to please.

3) German Shepherd: Mostly thought of as canine/FBI dogs, but actually raised as a shepherd (hence the name). These dogs are very good at guarding, not really herding type, but very good at keeping everyone safe on the farm. Can be territorial and very protective, so need to train them young on how to act to strangers. Can be very loyal and sweet as well.

4) Corgi: Don’t let their size fool you! Bred to snap at cattle heels and herd them, not at all afraid of larger animals. Because of general domestication of breed, which now has even shorter legs, probably better for small ruminants and perhaps chickens. Corgis are very smart as well.

5) Rottweiler: Not many people remember that these were actually bred as guarding, territorial animals since Roman times. Great nannying dogs, like Great P’s, but are very territorial and they need to be introduced to strangers slowly, and you need to be there, otherwise they may, probably not attack, but display their territorial nature, so Rottweilers while great at what they do, and potentially very gentle and loving, because of the “Cujo” mystique many people are hesitant to use them.

6) Australian Cattle Dog: Another really smart herding breed, not so much a guarding breed to scare predators away. Will keep livestock together and on the property. Very fast and nimble, typically only about 30-40 lbs. max.  Very fast and smart, another breed that you need to keep engaged.  In fact many of these breeds that can be used with effect on the farm do not do so well in urban settings/apartments, etc. and will tear stuff up because it is difficult to keep them active enough and their minds engaged enough. Really need to wear them out.

7) English Sheep Dog, bred to care for sheep, one of the oldest and well-known herding dogs. Also one of the most successful farm helpers due to their strength and agility, will stand up to almost any predator, but also a very sweet temperament and loving. Have a thick coat, but this is breathable, so they don’t get super-hot and can do well in hot summers.  Do not require a whole lot of coat management.  Will get shaggy if outdoors a lot, but a trim at a vet’s office once or twice a year should be enough to deal with this, and won’t cost you much.

Should you let your working dogs sleep inside? Depends on what you are working with, if you are keeping them mostly as herding animals and you confine your herd at night and don’t need dogs to protect against predators, then they can go in garage, for example. But if your livestock is going to be exposed to coyotes, hawks, etc., then you’ll want your dogs to be around, so that you (and your herd) will feel more secure.

8) Burmese Mountain Dog: Very similar to the Great Pyrenees. Bred mainly for guarding, very attentive to what they do, but perhaps not as agile as some other dogs. Can get very big (100+ lbs.)

Standard care for dogs:  Core vaccines as per state regs.  1 or 3-year rabies shots, distemper/parvovirus (1 or 3 year). Not state mandated in TN, but a very common one that protects against contagious diseases (especially as puppies)

Situational vaccines: Bordatella (for kennel cough) Lyme Disease and influenza.  We don’t usually give Lyme Disease in TN, as the tick vector is not found in this state.

Also need protection against internal and external parasites like fleas and ticks, heartworm (this is a mosquito-borne parasite and now a big problem in TN, especially since Katrina, when a lot of animals in Louisiana who routinely were exposed, then fostered up in Tennessee, and then mosquitoes spread it everywhere).

Need to check at least annually, because dog can be on a great prevention (Trifexis). Expensive, but if you document administration and dog contracts heartworm they will pay for it.  Heartguard is also great.  Differs from Trifexis in that it does heartworms and roundworms) Trifexis does heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and fleas (not ticks). You can do Trifexis and a supplemental flea and tick protection, and the extra flea prevention will not be a problem as it will be a completely different mode of action.

Sometimes, dog medicines, like people medicines, will have different names, but it’s the same medicine just made by a different manufacturer. But in the case of Advantage multi, for instance, this is very different from Trifexis and Heartgard.  Advantage is a topical, so when applied to the skin, it goes into the blood, so when a flea or tick bites, its going to be killed automatically.  The Trifexis actually goes into the subcutaneous layers of the skin after the dog has ingested it, and this prevents the fleas from even wanting to bite (a repellent, that is).

Any of the ingestion methods are going to be completely different in mode of action from any of your topicals, although much of the time the end result (killing of adult fleas, replant action, etc.) can be the same.

Getting animals spayed or neutered can not only prevent unwanted pregnancy, but can also prevent against certain sex-linked cancers. Studies are showing that animals spayed before three years can reduce the chance of ovarian and uterine cancers, and (if neutered) prostate and testicular cancers.

Vets always recommend spaying/neutering unless you know you would like to breed the animal (which can be another source of farm income, BTW) 6 months or older.

On the diet front…raw meat is not a good thing for your dog. Parasites etc. that are removed by cooking are in the meat, which has also been raised in a no-wild state can infect your dogs.

Animals, like people, are living so much longer now, largely due to better care, that the end result of most dog lives is now some form of cancer (as it is in people).  So cancer-preventive measures are a good idea. However, cancer treatments in animals, as in people, have also made great strides, which is something to consider perhaps in a younger dog especially.

Next week…more farm animals and their care.

To learn more about sustainable farming check out our “Simple Sustainable Farm Living” Conference:
http://stoneycreekfarmtennessee.com/simplify-your-life-sustainable-farm-living-conference-april-14-15-2016/

Homesteading can be accomplished Anywhere…

What is Homesteading?  According to Wikipedia… Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options including solar electricity and wind power and some even invent DIY cars. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and to raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make. [1]

Stoney Creek Barn

Stoney Creek Farm is a type of homestead where we teach others in our community (and beyond) how to start their own homestead and live sustainably.  Lost art skills, such as canning, bread making, and gardening without the use of pesticides, are taught on the   weekends, so that working individuals and families can participate.  Many of these lost art skills are simply not taught anymore in schools or passed down from grandparents…and it has left a large empty hole in our society.  How many of us can survive if suddenly, a natural disaster prevented grocery stores from receiving deliveries?  I’ve read several hypotheses concerning the amount of time it might take to deplete all the food…one writer said 10- 12 days, another guessed a little over a month.  Who knows?  I am certainly not a pessimist, but I do think we need to get back to some basics, so that we can take care of our family during a crisis.  So where do you start on your journey to sustainable farm living?

Homesteading can start in your backyard…

Did you know that you can produce a tremendous amount of vegetables in a 12′ x 12′ raised bed in your backyard?  A great read and reference book is “The Square Foot Garden” by Mel Bartholemew.  Mel covers all aspects of growing veggies and fruit in small, partitioned areas.  Mel’s garden mix is a healthy soil mixture that is hard to beat and almost impossible to overwater.

raised bed garden

Once you master the art of growing your food, then the next step is preserving the bounty for the winter months.  Canning, blanching for the freezer, fermenting and dehydrating are the four ways most homesteading families use to preserve their food.

canning

Homesteading is a state of mind…a lifestyle

Once you start growing and preserving your own food, then the sky’s the limit!  All of the sudden, you start getting involved in DIY things like making your own laundry detergent and cleaning supplies out of all natural ingredients.  Then you’ll want to culture your own milk into kefir, so that you can improve your gut with more antibiotics than yogurt.  Later you may start your own worm farm to use the castings to make some of the richest compost ever for your garden.  The options are endless and the greatest part of it is you learn skills for a lifetime that you can pass on to kids, family and others in your community.  Sustainable Farm Living does not mean you have to start with a farm with lots of acreage…homesteading can begin wherever you are now.

If you have an interest in learning more about Sustainable Farm Living and Simplifying Your Life, check out our conference on April 14 – 15, 2016:
Sustainable Farm Living – Simplify Your Life Conference

12 Herbs Every Gardener Should Grow

When I was a young girl growing up on the farm in West Tennessee, I remember relatives who would tell me about picking something called poke salad. They would cook and season it as they would turnip greens, and eat it with beans and cornbread. I never really cared for poke salad, turnip greens or collard greens while I was growing up because I thought they tasted strong and I didn’t really like the flavor.  Today, I can’t get enough of them, especially if they’re seasoned with ham hock and splashed with a little pepper vinegar!  I also remember talk of eating dandelions and other forage vegetables that we all had in our backyards. Even though I didn’t want to try it as a kid, I was fascinated that people could eat food that grew just steps from their own back doors.

I guess this made sense if you think about it, though.  When you live on a farm, it’s not like you are exactly convenient to the local supermarket. It’s a planned trip, with expenses of money and time just to get back and forth, not to mention facing food prices that are usually much higher than what you’d pay for food you grew yourself.  Farmers tend to be self-reliant folks, who know the value of a dollar, and who all too often don’t have that many dollars to throw around.  Making the most of what Nature provided right off your doorstep was simply a practical solution to the questions of how to save time and stretch dollars.

When I came back to the farm in my 40’s, I knew that I wanted to grow fresh herbs. Working for the Kroger Co. after college introduced me to fresh herbs, but I still didn’t understand why they were important. The introduction of The Food Network has given many people a general understanding of how to use herbs in cooking, but most of the recipes still use the standards of basil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with these. I knew I loved the flavor of fresh herbs but I wanted to know much more. I began to read the old Foxfire book series, which opened up a whole new world to me of learning how our ancestors used herbs in cooking, preserving and medicinally. (Olin’s Uncle, Dennis Mitchell, first introduced me to the series and I was hooked: if you can get your hands on any of these books, they are definitely fascinating!)

Another, often overlooked, reason that herbs are an integral part of a healthy garden is because many of them attract beneficial insects (“Beneficial” because they act as predators and damaging parasites on insects that will otherwise ravage your garden and your produce).  I’ll be writing about beneficial insects another time, but just know for now (if you didn’t already) that you cannot grow your food naturally (without pesticides/herbicides) unless you attract beneficial insects.

In 2010 Olin and I joined the Williamson County Master Gardeners Association (WCMGA) and we were introduced to Cindy Shapton, aka “The Cracked Pot Gardener”.  Cindy is herself a certified Master Gardener, herbalist, consultant and garden designer for commercial and residential clients, a writer and speaker. She was a past president of the WCMGA and a regular speaker, but more than that she was the most knowledgeable person I had ever met concerning growing and using herbs both for culinary and medicinal purposes. I was and remain fascinated by the sheer amount of knowledge she had on the history of herbs and their uses.

Cindy Shapton lavender

Cindy had written a book in 2007, called “The Cracked Pot Herb Book:  Simple Ways to Incorporate Herbs into Everyday Life” which has been very well received by anyone lucky enough to procure a copy. I still use Cindy’s book regularly for both the recipes and the background information and history she shares about herbs.   In 2011, when we opened Stoney Creek Farm to the public, Cindy Shapton was one of the first speakers we engaged to give a seminar specifically on herbs. She is a delightful speaker and uses humor to deliver all of her valuable information. Below are some nuggets that she has shared in her classes at our farm:

  • The Romans used coriander (the seed of cilantro) as a spice and meat preservative. They in turn adopted this practice from Eastern traders, especially those from faraway India, who had been using this herb as a preservative and medicine for centuries.
  • Dill also goes back in history to biblical times, where it was used as a medicine to remedy colic, flatulence, estrogen deficiency, digestive problems, and bad breath.
  • If you’ve never tried a small leaf of sage on a Ritz cracker with cream cheese, you are missing out!  It makes the greatest appetizer.
  • Oregano leaves makes a great tea that can soothe your throat during cold season.
  • Weeds are herbs. For instance, Chickweed is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. The Dandelions you may try to kill off on your lawns are a diuretic, great for weight loss and high blood pressure, and contain mega mounts of vitamins and minerals.They may also be beneficial in cancer prevention and therapy: Who knew?
  • Lemon Balm contains citronella in the leaves and works as an insect repellent when you rub it on your skin.  Cindy also has a wonderful lemon balm bread recipe in her book.

Herb tags

There are some basic herbs that I believe everyone should have in their garden and these are the ones that I grow for the public and myself:
1. Basil – this is my favorite just because it’s so darned tasty and you can use it in almost anything, especially fresh pesto. I also love basil because it’s a companion plant for my tomatoes. It helps deter evil insects with its smell.
2. Oregano – I use it in all my Italian recipes, but just a little goes a long way. I also use it in the winter during cold season, to brew in a tea and drink hot… helps sore throats.
3. Rosemary – in our growing area only the ARP variety will sustain through the winter. Rosemary potatoes, Rosemary chicken, and sprinkling Rosemary in salad all yield very tasty recipes.
4. Lemon balm – be sure to grow lemon balm with a barrier around it because it is invasive and left to itself will take over your entire garden. But I love lemon balm to flavor water or tea, in homemade bread, and to use as an insect repellent on my skin during the summer. (Mosquitoes love me.)
5. Cilantro – I am a salsa nut and you can’t make fresh salsa without it. It hates hot weather in the summer, but just know that it will reseed itself in the fall for more fresh salsa.
6. Dill – great in salads and homemade pickles, but best of all, a host plant for butterflies.
7. Mint – any variety is great (but also very invasive) and can be used in fruit salads, jellies, and numerous drink recipes.
8. Parsley – “the herb of champions” it compliments other herbs by helping balance out strongly flavored ones.
9. Nasturtium – beautiful flowers and spicy leaves that can be eaten in salads.
10. Sage – I love the flavor all year round…in appetizers, on meat dishes, stuffing and more.
11. Garlic – I know, I know, it’s not an herb, but I grow it in my herb garden, so I think everyone should have it.   I use it sparingly in most dishes for flavor. I’ve also read that it kills bacteria, lowers cholesterol, and is a natural antibiotic.
12. Comfrey – mostly medicinal, use externally on the skin as a natural Band-Aid.  Also, comfrey leaves in a bucket with water (compost tea) makes a wonderful liquid fertilizer after it sits a few days.

Bonus Note:  One herb that is particularly helpful for people with migraines is “Feverfew”.  I grew it one year, but I do not have migraines, so I gave it to someone who did.     It’s important to know that to keep many of your herbs growing throughout the summer, you will need to trim the flowers from the herbs on a regular basis.  This practice is especially important on basil and cilantro.  The flowers are the plant’s way of starting to regenerate itself for the next season by making seed.  Keeping the flowers trimmed will prolong the life of the herb.

Preserving Herbs for the Winter:   I don’t preserve nasturtium or comfrey, but I dry most of my herbs in a dehydrator or tie I them in bundles and hang them in the garage during the winter months.  If you do this, just make sure your garage is cool and dry, not moist, because the herbs will mold in a moist environment.  Two herbs that I freeze are Mint and Basil, because I think they taste better frozen than dried.  I simply pick the leaves off the stems, wash them thoroughly, pat them dry with paper towels and put them in Ziplocs freezer bags to store in the freezer.  To use them, just take out a small frozen amount and crush into your recipe.  The leaves will be crunchy, so it makes it easy to crush them.   By now you probably realize that there is much more I could say about herbs than I have room for here, but I definitely enjoy growing them, and get a lot of use out of them. If you aren’t yet growing herbs in your garden, I’d strongly recommend you start.  We offer cuttings at our farm that can help you do this.

If you’d like to know what a real expert has to say about herbs, I would strongly recommend that you visit Cindy Shapton’s website, http://www.crackedpotgardener.com to get an astounding amount of information on her beloved herbs, as well as homesteading and organic practices.  (You can also purchase Cindy’s book on her website.)

The Frog Prince

I was born in Biloxi Mississippi at the Keesler Air Force base, where my Dad was stationed at the time.  We moved to Seminary, MS when my mother got a teaching job there.  And by the way, yes, Seminary is the real name of that very little town, which is in Covington county, MS, and was named after the Zion Seminary which was formed in 1845.

Because both of my parents worked, my grandparents helped care for me on their farm until I was about two years old.  My grandparents raised dairy and beef cattle and grew soybeans, corn, and other row crops.  We moved to Santa Susanna, California, when I was two, because my Dad was promised a job by my uncle who lived there.  Not long after, though, we moved again because my Dad, Carl, felt called to plant new churches in California, and I guess in a way he was a farmer of sorts too, except his harvest was souls.

We ended up In Barstow, CA, which has a marine base nearby where Dad worked.   My Mom taught Home Economics at Bartstow High School while Dad started a church plant.  In the summers, I’d spend time back in Mississippi on my grandparent’s farm, and those of my aunts and uncles.  I really enjoyed those summers working on the farm and being close to family.

frog prince olin kid pic

In 1968, we moved to New Orleans, so that my Dad could attend seminary (for one year), and then he was called to a church in Brookhaven, Mississippi, which is about 55 miles west of Seminary. I still spent my summers back at the farm with my grandparents, helping them with the dairy and the row crops.  I was very close to my grandparents, and I guess because I loved the farm so much I became something of a favorite grandchild with them, which caused a certain amount of ribbing from my cousins.

In 1975, my Dad received a call to serve as a pastor in Springfield, South Carolina. Those summers, I worked with local farmers during the summers until I graduated high school in 1977. It shouldn’t be surprising by this time that I decided I wanted to go to college in MS, and live with my grandparents. So I started at Jones Junior College in 1977, where I completed my Associate’s degree.  My grandfather died from lung cancer in May, 1979, and I stayed on with my grandmother through the fall of 1981 to help her with the farm, and to go to school. frog prince olin college pic

My grandmother’s oldest daughter, Olene, came to live with her that fall, so I moved into an apartment with my best friend, Jeff Ford.  By this time, I was attending the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, attending college full time, while also working full time in an auto body shop to pay my way through school.  I graduated college in 1982 with a BS in Construction and Engineering. I worked for two construction companies in Mississippi during this time, and in the same period I got married.  All the while, I kept searching for other career opportunities, and ended up in Tennessee working for the THDA Housing Authority from 1987-1996.  Our family grew bigger with a great source of joy…our two sons, Lin and Landry.

Frog Prince Lin and Landry

In 1996, I was approached by a private construction company to develop additional  THDA opportunities, and I joined them for the next ten years.  In 2006, four of us who worked for this company, formed a partnership and bought the company we worked for.  Today there are three separate entities under this partnership: engineering, property management, and construction.

Life isn’t always smooth sailing though, and between 1998 and 2000 my wife and I separated and eventually divorced.  I met my current wife Leigh in 2001, through two mutual friends, Judy and Linda, who thought we would make a good couple.  I’d already dated a few women since my divorce, so was already interested in meeting Leigh, but she hadn’t had such a positive experience since her own divorce, and that negative reinforcement from dating a few “frogs” made her reluctant to meet me.

Leigh thought of “frogs” as men who, no matter how much you kiss them, don’t turn into princes. And like I said because Leigh had met a few of these it took a while for our two matchmakers to get Leigh to go out with me.  One day in January 2001, Judy came to Leigh’s house with a newspaper picture to show her what I supposedly looked like.  The picture was of Jeff Fisher, who at the time was the head coach of Nashville’s NFL team, the Titans.  Leigh thought Jeff Fisher was a pretty handsome guy (and I can’t argue), so she agreed to go to lunch with me in Nashville.

I called her the week before our date and to her surprise (Leigh later told me) we talked for 45 minutes on the phone. It became clear we had a lot in common, both our childhoods being spent on farms, strong among them. Two years later, we walked down the aisle together, soul mates then, and soul mates now.

Frog Prince family photo

When we decided to buy the property that is now Stoney Creek Farm, where we live, Leigh wasn’t exactly enthusiastic.  Although she’d been raised on a farm, or, maybe, because she’d been raised on a farm, she’d told her family when she left to go to college that she wouldn’t ever marry a farmer, or live on a farm, ever again.  Well, she’d already married me, so I thought the next step wouldn’t be so hard, but I had to get very creative to persuade her to take the leap back to the farm with me.

I guess even though it was, and is, hard work, I’d never lost my love of farming that I first had from those early years working on my grandparent’s and relative’s farms.  The respect I have for the land, and the deep satisfaction that only comes from a job well done through hard work, stayed with me all my life.  I could always see these same qualities in Leigh, and I always believed that once I got her “back to the dirt” that she would recognize where these traits really came from, and fall in love with the land again the way I’d always been in love with it.

I’d say maybe she has.

“How I Fell in Love with our Farm”

OK, I have to admit that I fell in love with the place immediately. A creek with a stone bed winds almost through the entire farm, and lends its identity to the name of our property: Stoney Creek Farm. In the spring we have about a quarter acre of yellow daffodils (otherwise known as buttercups) growing all around the creek.  In the summer the native Yucca plants bloom a field of white.  We are abundantly rich with native wildlife, trees and plants and it’s a beautiful and peaceful place to live.

buttercups

Our residence is actually a pole barn design, complete with steel beams and stained concrete floor, finished inside as a house. Olin has always enjoyed repurposing and recycling materials, and this barn/house was the perfect experiment for him. One of our biggest conversation pieces is the pair of 100-year-old barn doors lining the dining room wall. He also built two full 12’x60′ porches on the front and back of the barn for more outdoor living space, and a three car garage on the end of the barn with lots of room for a freezer, extra refrigerator and storage.  Later, Olin finished the upstairs hayloft into a large bonus room bedroom and third full bathroom in the barn.

barn picture for ads

This hybrid barn/house has proven to be comfortable, simple, and very sustainable. By building a pole barn with metal there is very little maintenance for at least 30 years. The only maintenance is replacement of the screws that hold the metal every 10 years.

The concrete floors are also very easy to maintain and keep clean. Olin also built a smaller barn and workshop with two more garage bays and horse stalls in the back. We determined that it was too much work and too much money for us to maintain our own horses, but sometime in the future we may be able to board horses as another source of income, so I’m glad we have the stalls.

We’ve experimented unsuccessfully with small fruit orchards (cedar rust and thieving raccoons) and meat goats (coyotes), but we still have a few goats for kids to pet when they come to visit, and may decide to breed again one day.

Goat and Olin

After these learning experiences, in 2011 we decided to offer rental gardens and a U-Pick Garden. In Williamson County there is a huge amount of people living in apartments, condos, and homes with small lots. We felt that many of these people would like to grow their own healthy food, and with our backgrounds in farming we were hoping that we could help them do so.
garden best

Our goal does not revolve solely around making money, it’s about helping people to see the benefits of sustainable farm living… benefits which I call less stress, more joy.  As a former part of the rat race, I know the value of healthy living with lower stress, because my blood pressure went down almost immediately when I left Xerox to concentrate full-time on growing our sustainable farm model.

garden2

The farm has been full of surprises, allowing me to stretch my interests and create opportunities to teach those things no longer taught in schools, or even passed down in family traditions, things like Canning, Making Sourdough Bread, and much more. I have also taken painting classes and now sell paintings and teach painting (occasionally) at the farm. All these things simply bring us a great deal of joy, and we want to share our joy with you, whether you want to learn how you also can permanently get out of the corporate rat race, or just need a break from it on the weekend.

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So stop by and see us, and see your kids laugh as they play with our silly goats, miles away from the nearest video game. Feel your body relax as you walk among the flowers and pick your own vegetables outside in the fresh air, and not under fluorescent lights while freezing to death in the air-conditioned maze of some anonymous big box store.  Maybe even take your shoes off, and dig your feet into the dirt wealth that nourishes so many people, on so many levels. Whatever the reason for the city scowl you might arrive with, you’ll have a country smile by the time you leave.

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Never Say Never…

A lot of people who visit the farm ask me what I did to prepare myself for a life of sustainable farm living. Some of my friends and visitors only know that I had a career in corporate America, most recently with Xerox, and of course it would be easy to be confused about how a sales career with Xerox might prepare one for a life on the farm!

Family Pic 1960

Some people would say that I had a tough childhood, but I know that God uses all circumstances for His good and His purpose. My childhood helped to make me stronger and shape me into the person that I am
today.  I was born in Humboldt Tennessee, but moved to Texas when I was 2 years old. My mother and father unfortunately had marital difficulties, which ultimately ended in their separation and divorce, and
my mother eventually moved my brother and me back to Tennessee so that she could raise us around her supportive family. Mom was the oldest of 11 children, with her youngest sister only 3 years older than me. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles were very good to us and provided wonderful role models for my brother and I to look up to.

During this time, we lived on a small farm rented to us by my mother’s sister and brother-in-law. My brother and I learned how to work on the farm in the large garden that we had behind the house. That garden provided a substantial amount of food for our family that we could not have done without. My mom’s job only paid minimum wage, so that garden made a huge difference in how well we ate throughout the year. We also learned farm work from Uncle Brance and Aunt Joyce who let us work for them by chopping weeds out of the cotton fields. It was hot, hard work that taught me the value of a dollar and kept me out of trouble.  It also motivated me to go to college so that I did not have to do farm work the rest of my life. I specifically remember telling my family “I will never, ever marry a farmer or live on a farm.” 

You never should say: “Never;” God has a way of making you eat your words.

As a typical teenager, I would have said I hated working in the garden, chopping weeds, or canning vegetables, but there are some things I remember now that bring back a lot of great memories… my mama’s candy pickles, canned green beans, purple hull peas, grape jelly, and peaches. If we hadn’t moved back to Tennessee I would’ve never learned all the wonderful things that my mother taught me, in the summers during the garden season. I still remember all the smells of pickling, blanching, and canning all the wonderful fruits of our labor.

In Tennessee I was able to make the deep-rooted relationships I’d missed during our nomadic days in Texas. Mom took us to church every Sunday, and I know that my faith has brought me through some difficult times.

My mother insisted that we go to college. She did not want us working minimum wage jobs, like she was forced to do after she and my father split up.  Since we didn’t have a lot of money, I knew that I needed to get scholarships to be able to go to college. So I worked hard and because of my grades I received several scholarships that allowed me to attend Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro Tennessee, although I still had to work (more than one job) during college. After I graduated. I had several job offers, and I took the one that paid the most, as a Kroger store manager trainee starting at $19,000 per year…Not bad money for the 80s. Kroger at that time was promoting women and diversity in their stores and corporate office so I had an eight-year career with them, first in store management and later in floral merchandising.

In Kroger’s excellent management training program, I learned how to cut meat, merchandise the store, ensure food safety, human resource skills, inventory control, and relationship management with the union. Retail hours were not fun but I advanced quickly and thoroughly enjoyed my career. One of the most memorable experiences I had was being able to visit all of the floral growing areas in California. I flew into San Francisco and the Wesco rep drove down the coast all the way to San Diego. I not only learned a lot about the floral business but I also learned a lot about produce being grown in California. I had never seen an artichoke or avocados growing in the field until that trip.

During my tenure at Kroger, I lost my mother to a sudden, fatal heart attack.  She was only 47 years old.  I cannot tell you how much that event has shaped my life from that point on.  I was very close to my mother, who had devoted her whole life to raising my brother and me in the best way she knew how.  I was 24 when she died and the void that was left in my heart could never be filled.  Time and faith has healed my wounds,
but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and her many sacrifices to make sure our family stayed together. I learned that every day is a gift from God and I want to honor her and our family by living life to the fullest and serving others…a meaningful legacy that she would be proud of.

Mom

Leigh in 1990 with Allison

Shortly after my mother passed away,  I married and five years later, had my daughter.  I realized that retail hours were not conducive to family life. Sometimes I would close the store at midnight and have to be back the next morning at 6 AM so it didn’t take long to get sleep deprived, especially with a newborn. So I started looking at some of the vendors for Kroger for possible job opportunities and found the plant manager position at a regional fresh vegetable processing facility. This position afforded me regular hours and a more flexible schedule with my newborn daughter. The food processing plant helped me to learn about production requirements, quality control, tight inventory turn and much more. After three years in plant management, I moved into a regional marketing director position, and learned valuable marketing skills such as branding, sales, and customer relationship management. I also had the privilege of rolling out a new product line, which was fresh fruit that would last 10 days with no preservatives. The process was unique and involved boiling the fruit (like cantaloupe and honeydew) for a specified amount of time to kill all bacteria on the fruit’s outer skin. The boiling time was critical so that it did not cook the fruit. It was a total secret because we could not patent the process and we didn’t want competitors finding this out.

During my marketing director term, I discovered that the owners of this regional company were positioning it for sale nationally, so I began searching for another career, and was eventually hired into a corporate sales position with Xerox. Xerox definitely had one of the best sales training programs in the country, and I was blessed to have the opportunity to work there. This was hard work of a different kind, but I stuck it out and developed a successful career path over the next 17 years. I started out as an account manager working with a local territory and ended up as a production sales specialist covering parts of seven states. The large ticket equipment I sold yielded a very generous compensation package…for which I felt very blessed.

During my 17 years at Xerox, I went through a divorce, continued to raise my daughter (with a lot of help from her father), then met and married my soul mate, Olin Funderburk, and, despite my earlier promise to never find myself back on a farm, moved with him, all but ‘kicking and screaming’, to a small 15 acre farm in Williamson County.

Leigh and Olin married

      The rest, as they say, is history.  (To be continued…)

 

                “How I Fell in Love with our Farm”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Farm Living – Simplify Your Life – April 14-15, 2016 Conference

The purpose of this conference is to educate individuals and families on the benefits of Sustainable Living/Farming and how to simplify your life without breaking the bank.

The SFL conference will include topics on:
sustainable housing
sources of farm income
growing healthy food (without pesticides)
preserving food
farm animals (their purpose)
composting and soil testing
marketing your farm
agricultural green belt
networking opportunities

A variety of guest speakers will cover their expertise on:
herbs – friends with benefits
canning and preserving food
healthy juicing and healing meals
farm animals and their care
sourdough and kefir
small scale greenhouse production

The Funderburk’s have spent 10 years developing their dream, a small sustainable farm, that produces five different income streams. Their mission revolves around teaching individuals and families to grow their own healthy food, by renting garden plots and offering a summer U-Pick Garden to the community. They also host Educational Seminars, farm tours, and have a venue for local events/parties.

Formerly in corporate sales for a multimillion dollar company, Leigh spends her days managing their 15 acre farm in beautiful Williamson County, Tennessee. Olin has been in the construction business for over 30+ years and working toward his eventual retirement.

The two day conference schedule is as follows:
– Thursday morning 8:30 am, overview of conference, lunch at the farm, networking dinner at the farm
– Friday 8:30 am start, lunch at the Farm, dinner at the Farm, networking and sharing, conference wrap up

Cost $397 per person which includes meals and all conference materials.  There is a BNI connection discount for people who qualify; feel free to call 615-591-0015 to ask about the discount.


Registration



Do you know what you are eating? You can know…by growing your own healthy food at Stoney Creek Farm in Franklin, TN. We have garden rental plots in multiple sizes to fit any families’ needs. Never had a garden? No problem…we educate you on how to grow a successful garden.

Garden Rentals (one price April – October):
10’x10′  $75
10x’20’  $100
20’x30′  $125 (best value)

For more information, visit our website http://www.stoneycreek.farm, call 615-591-0015, or e-mail us at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com.