Them that's Doin': Creating a Homestead

The Hammer family learns more about vegetable farming, raising goats and chicks, and foraging for wild berries while creating a homestead.
By Roberta Hammer
September/October 1970
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The exciting things around here lately are the wringer washer, the month-old chickens and the wild black raspberries and blackberries!

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We've been on our homestead for three months now. After renting one farm and trying unsuccessfully to grow a commune, we finally found these 24 acres that we can (?) afford.

We haven't had a lot of success with 1 1/2 years of farm living but we feel a lot smarter. For example, we couldn't tell when our goats were ready to be bred so we currently have three lovely, dry goats . . . and we pay about 60¢ a day for milk. They still eat a lot of grain and the fence has to be patched every time they find a place to sneak out . . . but we've learned not to be so dumb. Also, we've located an old couple with goats (including bucks) who said, "Bring 'em on over. We'll keep them around 'till something happens."

Well, anyway, the goats are great animals to have around.

The exciting things around here lately are the wringer washer, the month-old chickens and the wild black raspberries and blackberries!

My mom will never believe it, but the wringer washer is so much fun that we're even washing clothes that are clean . . . and pushing and shoving to get in the wringer-feeding position. Weekend visitors just marvel and we sometimes have men, women and children all standing around watching the phenomenon of the agitator jerking clothes clean and the rollers of the wringer grabbing them and squeezing out the water . . . sometimes in your face!

I'm no sociologist so I don't know why running the wringer washer is so much more enjoyable than punching buttons on an automatic machine. But as soon as somebody takes off a shirt or socks around here, I snatch it and run to see if I have a whole load yet. My mother just shakes her head sadly.

The chicks we ordered and received a month ago are growing fast and eating a lot of mash. There are 69 left (of 75) and all they do is drink and eat all day. We were lucky to find a 25 year old brooder that had been lying around an uncle's farm for ages. It worked great and we only needed it for three weeks.

The organic farmer we consulted said that hatchery chicks need commercial medicated mash for at least a while before being switched to grains. His farm-grown chicks need no special care, no brooding, no starting mash, no nothing. Our old farmer friend also advised us that it was most important to get our chicks out into the sun where they could forage.

We ordered assorted heavy breeds so we could have brown eggs and big fryers. However, we're thinking about becoming vegetarians rather than kill any chickens.

The black raspberries are gone now and the blackberries are just turning ripe. They are GOOD on our homemade ice cream!

We have acquired a beautifully polite and sedate old sausage-shaped dog that understands people talk. She lies around a lot but stirs to one or two barkings at the pony across the road and one rousing (though short) cat chase a day. The cat has new kittens somewhere and, very wisely for a first-time mother, she hid them from Ann and Aaron.

One of our gardens (the one in the old pig pen) looks great! We'll probably set up a stand to sell surplus tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and pumpkins. The bushy green plants are beautiful over the yellow straw mulch. I never dreamed it would feel so good to eat a meal of vegetables raised with my own sweat. Fantastic!

The other garden is on worn-out soil and ate all our plants except the sunflowers. Any ideas on sunflower seed shelling?

We would like to tell all Earth People about A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. We'll review it soon. For now, take our word and get it.

We're thinking about building dome barn—or two connected ones— for chickens and goats so we're looking forward to more on domes in MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Also articles on various little money making projects since we'd like to depend on several sources of sporadic income rather than an all-out effort in one direction.

Well, on into this green Missouri summer . . . peace to you.

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