After working on the Sustainable Earth Farm project for the last couple years, I finally achieved an ultimate understanding. While permaculture and raising animals on grass is sustainable, feeding livestock packaged, shipped grain is not.
The time and money invested in caring for animals cannot be forsaken when accounting for the amount of human and fossil energy required to raise fresh, local animal products. Having humanely birthed, hatched, raised, bred, and butchered rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, wool and hair sheep, milking and meat goats, herding dogs and bees, my family has been enlightened by the amount of effort it takes to fence, water, sanitize, pasteurize, euthanize and harvest animal products.
As a humanoid omnivore, I am humbled by how dependent we are on other life forms. The vegetable garden and orchard are amazing, and feed us breakfast greens and dinner salad almost all year-long. But, they do not substitute the primal craving for meat or fish. We need fats that can be easily assimilated, and other essential amino acids that cannot be found in plants alone.
From my experience, smaller herds produce more tender meat, and lighter flocks produce more nutritious eggs. No animal should be subject to small confined cages, or be kept from performing their instinctual behaviors. If they are expected to sustain our lives, the least we can do is provide them an enjoyable one while they are here.
Farming is a full-time job, best left to those who work the farm full-time. There is nothing better than farm fresh eggs, your own raw honey, protein dense rabbit meat, and raw goat milk. When these duties encroach on time spent with family and friends, it’s best to lighten up and start supporting your local farmers. They need all the support they can get! You may pay a little more up front, but if you consider the fresh, nutrient dense organic food part of your insurance package, you’ll be way ahead in the long run.
As for Sustainable Earth Farm, I’ll continue to farm the garden and orchard while my partner tends to the bees that pollinate them. The 2 ducks will give us a few eggs and perform slug patrol, while the surviving farm hatched chickens will eat the bugs and lay a few eggs as well. We rehomed the sheep, goats, turkeys, most of the chickens and herding dogs (well, maybe we kept one puppy). My children will raise the rabbits for show, pets, meat and fur. They know where their food comes from, and how to care for another life. They will never take food for granted. It will be so wonderful to be able to take vacations without frantically searching for a friend who might milk a goat, or face off with a large angry rooster. And, I don’t have to say a prayer before walking in to hay a 200 pound ram who has it out for me. This year, I’ll be hunting for a deer that eats what nature provides, not Eastern Washington Grass and Oats.
My intent is not to deter you from trying the homesteading lifestyle out. It can be a sheer joy! I can only recommend to do your research, and visit farms first. Track your expenses, and profits. If you come out ahead, it could be a tax incentive. There is nothing better than local, humanely raised organic food.
However; if you can, take a look in your backyard. Those weeds you’ve been pulling are probably more nutritious than the greens you’ve been growing…but that’s another post. Whatever you do, may you enjoy your adventure.