If you have read this blog or the old website or even checked in on Facebook, you may have noticed me mention that we were working on renovations. It seems like there are always renovations and improvements on a farm needing to happen. And they are usually many and varied. Probably two of the largest farm improvements you can make are the barn and fencing. It may sound silly, but deciding where and how to fence and cross fence or where to place the structures you need is intimidating. Having a good master plan for progress can help you think through many of your on site challenges and can save you from costly mistakes.
In this and the next two posts I will tell you about some of the mistakes I made. I will explain my struggles with the picture perfect farm in my head versus our farm reality. And I will tell you the steps I took to master plan our farm and carry out improvements that will save us both time and money.
First off, like most people, we didn’t start with a master plan.
We just went with what we needed at the moment. For us it was the barn. It’s a good barn, solidly built with wood we cut after a hurricane and when we built it the location made sense for us. We have since made many changes to pretty much everything. But the barn remains. It is no longer in, what most people would consider, the ideal location and it is past due for some updates and a reconfiguration.
But instead of scrapping everything and starting over (because, really who can afford to do that?) or just cobbling some more semi-permanent projects together to meet our immediate needs; I decided that I wanted a plan for our projects.
I wanted to have a drawing or list or picture or whatever and know what I needed to do next. Specifically, I wanted a plan for a more efficient pasture rotation system. But I also wanted a plan for the gardens, chicken coop and future everything.
When we originally fenced in our property we had just a couple of horses. The easiest and cheapest method for us at the time was to install the perimeter fence and one cross fence. Basically, one big fence all the way around the pasture and one fence dividing it in half. This worked fine for 2-3 horses.
When we got our first couple of goats we willy-nilly added a small enclosure with some leftover fence. When we had our first goat kids we willy-nilly added on to that. We wound up with two pens not much larger than dog runs inside our perimeter fence.
Our willy-nilly ‘improvements’ aren’t so great for 30 goats.
Especially when those goats need to be divided into breeding age does for 4 different bucks, junior does and kidding areas. Not to mention we still need chicken areas and pig space. And with the visitors to the farm increasing it would be amazing to have a meet and greet area. Somewhere visitors could see specific animals or collect eggs without getting swamped by the herd. Oh, and I would love, LOVE, to be able to carry feed and hay to the barn without falling over the goats. Or going around the 8 feet long pig.
Seriously, the pig is every bit of 8 feet long and has the turning radius of a 4-wheel drive dump truck. It’s like waiting for the 18-wheeler to move during those home improvement shows. It takes forever and then just when you think it might finally be the moment of reveal…commercial break.
Sorry, I digress.
Let’s talk about the first step I took to master planning our farm. Ya’ll this one is fun!
Step 1 – Make a Wish List
I know it sounds too simple. But I promise you, this is a critical first step. Once you start making a list of all the things in your head you’ve thought about doing or changing you will be creating actionable items that you can accomplish. Some of them may be huge goals but that’s okay. Write them down. Even if you can’t do everything right this moment put it on the list. It’s important to know why you are doing this and what your end goals are. In the next several posts I will show you how to break those big goals down into smaller bite-sized pieces that you can more easily accomplish.
My list started on a scrap post it note stuck in my calendar book but soon evolved into its own page in a farm planning notebook.
The Fainting Fox Farm wish list – v.2016:
1-more, smaller pastures (paddocks) that able to be used for each of the boys and their does
2- paddocks that can be combined into mid-sized pastures so the boys can hang together when breeding season is over.
3-a paddock near the barn for does and kids or really anyone that needs monitoring
4-a way to block the barn from the animals so that I can more easily move hay, feed, etc.
5-a way for the human-kid to get to the chicken coop to collect eggs and feed her hens without being chased down by the afore-mentioned pig/dump truck.
6-an area where visitors could sit or visit with one or two animals at a time
7-a catch area and chute for vaccination, worming, hooves, etc. This would make my life so easy!
8-all set up in a way that allows for a pasture rotation system to improve forage quality and ultimately herd health.
9-oh, and we needed a new chicken coop, really badly, like the chickens were bigger than their pen and if we didn’t get them out soon we were going to have hunchback chickens.
Simple, right? So, get going and start your own list. And, if you don’t mind sharing, I would love to see what the rest of you are wishing for.