The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Community => Introduce yourself => Topic started by: lionalsdad on March 21, 2012, 07:58:48 pm

Title: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: lionalsdad on March 21, 2012, 07:58:48 pm
Hi all  :wave: can anyone please offer advice please, we've just bought a property with 42acres (19 woodland) on the Quantocks.
The big question what can we do?
We'd like to self sufficient as far as possible we'd like to keep a few cattle, sheep and pigs with chickens.
Realistically would this be enough or would we be better of at looking at keeping something else as well? or would we be better of with starting with maybe sheep first then bringing in the others?
Please excuse the questions if they seem silly but we are complete newbies to this and any advice would be greatly received.

Thanks in adavance.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Sharnoak on March 21, 2012, 09:15:34 pm
Hi there, welcome from another newbie :wave:

How overgrown is the woodland? Pigs would love it there, and can prepare the way for sheep. At least that is my plan for here-different kind of woodland tho...sigh.

Cheers,
Susie
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Polished Arrow on March 21, 2012, 09:45:49 pm
Oh, and yet another Newbie here  :D
That's a whole lot of land you have there!  Pigs love clearing woodland, though... guess how I know!
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Fleecewife on March 22, 2012, 12:23:58 am
If it was my new place I would not dive in too soon with a whole lot of different animals.  It takes time to adjust to a new life and to learn new skills.  So many animals end up not being cared for adequately because people have acquired them without having some knowledge about how to look after them first and no idea of just how much work it is.  So choose something like laying hens and pigs or sheep, plus a vegetable garden, for your first year, and rent out your surplus land for a year.   That will give you time to work out just what you want to do. 

Self sufficiency is a huge concept and there are people on TAS who have opted for every level of self sufficiency, from a few eggs to a much greater commitment, providing all their own meat, eggs and veg, plus wool, building their own house, supplying their own power and so on. You need to get a clear idea of where on that line you want to pitch your self sufficiency.  This will enable you to think carefully just what you need to grow and what animals you need to rear to provide for your family.  My suggestion would be to start with less than you think you need and work up over a couple of years, so that you are not overwhelmed from the start.
In addition you may wish or need to make some sort of income from your property but be aware that selling vegetables and meat or eggs on a small scale will not make you rich but will increase your workload, so think carefully about that.

Good luck with it though - it sounds great and a good size.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Brucklay on March 22, 2012, 07:19:23 am
selling vegetables and meat or eggs on a small scale will not make you rich but will increase your workload.

So true - it's a good job I work for myself and from home as at sometimes of the year my animal duties take over!!

Saying that it is fantastic - Welcome Lionalsdad and hope you have a wonderful time getting your place up and running
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: lill on March 22, 2012, 07:36:54 am
Hi and welcome to the forum :wave:, as FW says start small and work up to other animals :pig: :cow: :goat: the choice is but don't get thrown in at the deep end as you may not be able to cope with the assortments of animals you stated from your post, everyone has to learn the farming way of life sometimes it is not easy, especially in winter when pipes are frozen and you have to carry water 2 or 3 times a day for your stock, I know I take it ill out when the water pipes at my place are frozen and it takes me 3 times longer to do chores that I normally do in an hour. We tasers are her to help, don't think your questions are silly, it is only silly if you don't ask them. Have fun with your new venture all the best. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: suziequeue on March 22, 2012, 07:58:07 am
Welcome to the site Lionalsdad. You have a lot to learn and it'll be the most fun and rewarding learning because it is all so creative.

First and foremost (I'm probably telling you what you've done already- so apologies if I'm teaching you to suck eggs!) have a good slow walk around the edge of your property and check all boundaries and gates. Is the fencing in good condition? Are the gates secure? Are you clear about which boundaries you have responsibility for and which boundaries your neighbours are responsible for? Are there streams crossing the boundaries?

I realise that this may have been done when you originally viewed the property but your mindset would have been different then. Now you do the walk thinking: Is this secure for me, my family, pets and livestock? What do I want to do with this piece or that piece of land? Etc etc. You'll have a different perspective now......
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: suziequeue on March 22, 2012, 08:02:02 am
And don't forget that the development of a smallholding that you are happy and comfortable with takes TIME. It's an evolving process and your ideas change as you learn more.

It's progress - not perfection. Mistakes are only a crime if you learn nothing from them......
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: tizaala on March 22, 2012, 08:38:51 am
Susieque is  spot on with the advice about the fenceline, and gates. otherwise you end up firefighting the situation everytime something escapes, and believe me they will, especialy goats and pigs . next comes the water supply , if you can afford to have a water trough in every field it is a huge benefit, housing and shelter   for whatever you decide to keep , and somewhere to keep all the foodstuffs , hay and straw etc.
Welcome to the madhouse, have fun.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Rosemary on March 22, 2012, 10:00:15 am
Hello and welcome from Carnoustie  :wave:

This is our second smallholding - first was an acre, this one is 12. Neither were smallholdings before we bought them, so we've been where you are. If you have a spare hour or so, have a read at the diary on the website - it charts our progress since 2000. There are also articles, based on our experiences, that might help as well.

And of course, this wonderful forum where lots of folk will be able to help.

I agree with FW and suziequeue, take your time, start small and work up. We started with the vegetable garden and three hens, then a couple of weaners, then a small orchard and more hens, then a few sheep. This was over seven years.

Since we moved here in May 2010, we've put in a veg garden, fruit garden, gone up to 60 hens, planted 60 apple trees, expanded the sheep flock a wee bit and bought two Shetland heifers and a bullock. We have three weaner pigs this year for the first time since 2009. By the end of this year, we should have the infrastructure in place, then we'll be consolidating the various enterprises. Sometimes it's important to decide what you're NOT going to do - like, we won't breed pigs, keep goats, waterfowl or turkeys  ;D

Good luck with whatever you decide - sounds like a wonderful challenge :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: sabrina on March 22, 2012, 10:50:32 am
Hello and welcome, whatever you decided to do your life with never be the same  :wave:
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Mad Goatwoman of Madeley on March 22, 2012, 11:42:33 am
 :wave:  Hi and welcome from sunny Shropshire.  What an adventure you are starting.  I think there's been some very good advice so far.  It's tempting to rush into things but better to take it gently.  Ask lots of questions on here.  There are some very knowledgeable folk around.  Read the posts.  I've been a goat keeper for nearly nine yeasrs, albeit on a very smal scale, but I've learned loads just by reading other people's questions and the answers.  I also ask my own.

Good luck - you're going to have a great life and in a beautiful part of the country.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Sylvia on March 22, 2012, 01:18:44 pm
And when all that grass grows and overwhelms you,as it will, get someone's cattle on it for a few weeks, then someone's sheep and lastly someones ponies. A couple of pigs or two three sheep won't keep it down. Or you will end up paying someone to cut and bale it.
We only started with four acres and thought someone would cut the grass for hay and keep the bales. They did.....and charged us £80 for doing so. AND knocked our gatepost down on the way out.
You could swap grazing for meat, hedge trimming etc. Good luck :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Sudanpan on March 22, 2012, 01:33:25 pm
Welcome to the best forum  ;D ;D

We bought our smallholding 5 years ago now - only 4 acres and we have only been fulltime since July 2009 but we still have not worked out what to do with all of it.

We spent the 1st 2 years prioritising the build of our cottage, but we did get hens and have some weaners. Last year we got the polytunnel up and running and this year we have invested in a small bale baler and grasscutter so that we can make hay from the 3 acres that we haven't done much (anything) with so far.

We belong to a smallholding association and there are several well experienced members - last year we had a meet at a 12 acre holding where the owners are, now, pretty much self sufficient in all food: lamb, pork, beef, chicken plus all their own veg - but it has taken them 10 years to get to this point.

The whole experience of smallholding is SUCH a different way of life that to try and do everything at once is just such a hugely problematic goal - get used to your land first and the way everything comes together. I would second all the advice thus far, sort out the boundaries and then start with only a handful of projects, then you can learn from your mistakes and gathered experience.

ENJOY! :wave: :wave:
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: chairmanphil on March 22, 2012, 07:55:33 pm
hi from Oxfordshire, i would learn to shoot with that much woodland. will be all sorts of delicious wild meats just walking around waiting for ya, and you will be able to keep the inevitable rabbit population down a bit too. but as said before by the wise and experienced start with a courgette or two and plan for next year now. i find more and more that i am dealing with circular events. the better you understand what is about to happen the better the results will be. there is always alot to do and failing at something can really dent your confidence especially at the beginning. have a good look around the woods for wild plums and crab apples, find the horseraddish and get to work. good luck!   
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Sharnoak on March 22, 2012, 09:16:30 pm
That is a whole heap of good advice. As a fledgling smallholder myself, I have learnt that everything takes longer than you think, especially fencing when you are trying to do it yourself and dig 3ft holes in rock hard ground  :-[
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Hermit on March 22, 2012, 09:20:06 pm
Lots of good advise there. I would start reading a lot as well, John Seymours Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency is a must read and so is The Veg Expert by Dr Hessayon.  Take the first steps by studying what you have and learning what to put where ( veg patch, hens etc). Then whatever you do do it right and well the first time such as chicken runs, rabbit proofing the veg plot is a must , water supplies, electric to sheds , fencing etc. Sort the basics out first and you wont be wasting lots of money and time playing catch up. We have the same amount of land( with no woodland as I am in Shetland) and it took us 6yrs to become  95% self sufficient including fuel. The very best of luck to you and Hi :wave:
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Polished Arrow on March 22, 2012, 11:34:29 pm
Some great advice. 

We are just 8 months in to our first year now, and although we did take training, and tried to prepare ourselves  pretty seriously for the animal husbandary, most of the first six months were spent just on farm infrastructure which we hadn't covered at all!  So I can empathise with the frozen pipes and water troughs and ground that's actually rock and the challenges of putting in posts and plants and setting up veg beds on rock faces!

Today we have been planting out our 'orchard' of 10 fruit trees.  That's 50 posts when all is done, including stock proofing the surrounds and making them rabbit and deer proof too.  We just hope the wild boar that have been truffling up the woodland 30 metres away from our gate stay at that distance, now....  Eek!  But our own lady pigs are probably what's bringing them so close.  That's another thing we didn't study for!

Hope it all goes well for you, and look forward to hearing more.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: lionalsdad on March 26, 2012, 06:55:23 am
Wow i can't believe the response I'm overwhelmed thanks everyone. :wave:

A few points as far as i see it.

The boundary in the woodland to the next property isn't that good however the field on our side of the property into the woodland is a very good fence.
A lot of people have confirmed what i thought was a sensible start, start with probably a couple of animals (probably sheep) and a hen house with a run and see how we go from there.
I love the idea of building a new property unfortunately the one we have bought is Grade 2* listed however we've applied for listed building consent for solar PV, solar h/w and also applied for planning for a wind turbine which i personally think will be rejected.
The property already had a vegetable plot with a few soft fruit cages we intend to try and continue this and maybe expand  with a few more fruit cages.

Thanks again  :-)
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Ina on March 26, 2012, 06:17:11 pm
Just had to check where the Quantocks are... That sounds so exotic, I thought it was somewhere overseas!!! :D

Ah well, geography.

Anyway, welcome, I can't really add anything to all that good advice! Personally, I think I'd start with a few chickens. They'd give you some return the soonest, without needing too much in the way of input.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Bramblecot on March 26, 2012, 07:15:02 pm
Hi!  And welcome.  I would join the Somerset Smallholders Association - lots of friendly advice and it might put you in touch with folk who can give you some practical help if you need it (or who know a man who can!).  We all need help even if we try to be self-sufficient.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Mad Goatwoman of Madeley on March 26, 2012, 11:08:28 pm
Hi!  And welcome.  I would join the Somerset Smallholders Association - lots of friendly advice and it might put you in touch with folk who can give you some practical help if you need it (or who know a man who can!).  We all need help even if we try to be self-sufficient.

And it's good to swap stories, seeds, plants, etc.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: LulaB on April 12, 2012, 11:56:42 am
Hi from the Blackdowns and welcome!

You've had some very sage advice from everyone on here.  For what it's worth, here's mine.

Fencing - If your boundaries aren't that great (or even if they are), invest in some electric fencing stakes, wire and as many 12v batteries as you can afford - One on the fence, one on charge and one in readiness just in case.  If you have vulnerable stock like poultry or lambs, electric is the only thing that will keep out the foxes.  You can get some quite good Solar trickle chargers, but have backup batteries.

Water - Most important thing for your stock.  It has to be clean.  Sheep prefer still water (a trough as opposed to a stream), pigs like a bit of a flow and somewhere to wallow and cattle don't like to walk more than 20m to get to it.

Livestock - We have sheep, pigs, cattle, ducks and chickens.  I would start with pigs and chickens.  They are low maintenance and a joy.  Sheep and cows are harder work.  Some people say that sheep's life ambition is finding new ways to die...!  Pigs are great to start with.  Get a couple of weaners to have over the summer (if you get some end of May/beginning of June, they'll be ready for slaughter in about November) and use as cultivators/fertilising machines.  We are using ours to clear some neglected orchards and you get a double benefit of amazing meat when you come to slaughter them.  You can double up with your chicken house in amongst your pigs and cut down on poultry feed and fencing.  They will live quite happily together and the pigs act as another fox deterrent.  You may have to hunt in the pig arc for eggs, but hey ho!  Pigs are the ultimate smallholder animal.  You can use everything from the carcass and, if you get fatteners, you aren't committing to year round care to start with.  They ease you in gently!

If you are interested, come and see our setup.  We aren't far from you and would be more than happy to show you around.
Title: Re: Hi from a complete newbie advice sought
Post by: Mel on April 13, 2012, 12:49:00 pm
Hi and welcome from Northants,Oh if only we had a few more acres,there is just so much we would like to do!Welcome to the forum ad we wish you good luck