Hi and welcome to Possum Lodge Ranch!
How I decided to grow my own food is a convergence of several paths that happened over the last six years along with a life long dream to have my own place in the country. I grew up both in the country and city and when I turned 17 joined the Army, right at the tail end of Vietnam. I stayed until I finally retired after returning from Iraq in February 2004 with the 101st Airborne Division. Several months after that my wife and I found this property that we now live on but at that time the listed price was higher than we could afford so we did not pursue buying the property. A year later my father had passed on and I was again looking through the local real estate listings and noticed that this property was still listed and the price was now reduced to where we could afford it. We bought it and in August of 2005 we moved here. Since it was late in the year and we had only looked over the entire property somewhat quickly all we accomplished that year was to move in.
2006 saw a change in jobs and two, count ’em two tropical storms, downgraded hurricanes, pass through and I was busy clearing fallen tress for a year. We also had the state forestry commission do a survey and sold some timber for a selected thinning of the trees leaving us with a predominantly hardwood forest one of my early goals to manage for wildlife.
2007 saw more trees being cleaned up and some ideas starting to form about what I was going to do with this land. A small garden did get put in and fenced to keep the food on our plates rather than feed the local deer population which at this time would wonder up to the house even in daylight.
2008 saw more storms and more cleaning up of fallen tress, may never get that chore completed, and a survey of the pasture fences. We also decided on what breed of chicken we wanted, Barred Rocks. And plans for a chicken coop where made and location decided upon. My daughter had enlisted in the Air Force and a trip to Orlando was made where somewhere near Lakeland we left our transmission scattered along about a half mile of I-75. We went forward with a rental and returned with a vehicle and a new transmission.
In 2009 the chicken coop was completed, chickens ordered, received and saw our first eggs near the end of the year. In April I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes requiring some life style changes. In the fall I built a new pasture fence, dividing the main pasture into two separate sections, one mostly wooded and the other with the open field and wooded spring fed pond and hopefully ready for some cows.
2010 saw a set back as a storm came through and on pasture that was to receive the cows saw one of the larger oak trees on the property fall and crush a corner section of the fence and a deer stand that the previous owner had erected, also a tree had fallen across another section of the fence only a hundred feet away. I was back to fixing and rebuilding fences for the year since this was an older section that had been built over 50 years ago and I decided I might as well do it right. It took longer to rebuild the fence then I had planned for as I started to stumble over old 50-60 year old barbed wire that was just lying around under the leaves and not far from the fence line indicating that at least once the fence had been rebuilt or repaired. I wound up doing a lot of poking and cleaning up of this old wire to clean it up before I could re-do the fence. I still to this day find pieces of old fence in places where a fence no longer exists.
2011 finally saw the introduction of our first two Dexter cows, two heifers which at one week later found the break in the fence from a herd of deer that came through for several days in a row and I was in the woods looking for them. Later that day a neighbor called to say the wondering beasts were in his field and I was on my way with a bucket of grain and a rope. As a boy I had worked a little with cattle though the herd was allowed to roam on large tracts of leased acreage and you saw them only several times a season. Well once I tricked one of my heifers into the rope I remembered why I wore gloves when working cattle! 600 pounds of animal on a rope that does not want to be on a rope will teach you quickly and no horse either! By evening the fence was fixed and the cows back in the pasture. In July we introduced our bull to the heifers as our plan was to allow the heifers to age a little and get to “know” the place before we bought a bull. During the last two months I started to build chicken tractors and made plans for several other hopefully quick building projects. Just before New Years a family came driving down our driveway, 1/4 mile long driveway, while my son and I were clearing some cedar trees and shaping future fence posts asking if they could see the place. Turns out that the older gentleman with them had lived on this property back in the 1930’s and had farmed the place, so I agreed to show them the property and let memories and stories flow. A little coincidence as just about an hour earlier I had found an old piece of what looks like an old horse drawn plow(?) lying under a large cedar tree, near where I cut another smaller one down.
Now that 2012 is here with the chicken tractors complete, except for the hanging hooks for water and feed, we are moving onto building a grain and hay feeder for the cows then bins for composting. Rabbit hutches are also planned along with having to fence in an area to be used as a paddock for when little cows arrive, as far as I know at the time of this writing the heifers are still heifers though I know the bull has tried to do what a bull is meant to do. My over all idea is to build/repair/change something major every year till what is needed for the farm to become productive is in place.
After 2012? A cold storage room, smoke house, garden shed for the wife, Build the out building to a barn………