How It Began
I have been obsessed with animals since I was little. Growing up we moved a lot and my dad suffered from allergies (I'm in denial about my allergies), which prevented me from being able to have a lot of pets in the home or outside. I didn't have anyone in my family or group of friends that identified as a homesteader or had livestock it was all a totally wild fantasy, it seemed totally inaccessible. Besides going to Petting zoos and volunteering at the dog shelter as a kid I thought I just had to follow the track of becoming a veterinarian to be able to work with animals.
When I started pursuing a biology degree and started shadowing veterinarians so that I could apply to vet school, I realized that it wasn't going to satisfy the vision for my life I had always wanted. The reality of shadowing the vets one summer was very depressing, I realized the majority of what I would be doing is dealing with people who may or may not care to for their animals to the extent that I would and that the interactions are rarely because everything is going well.
I decided working as a wildlife biologist might help me satisfy the desire to be around animals in the less invasive and sad way, which is very much not the case because of habitat loss and climate change and was even more depressing! but while I was pursuing that degree at Colorado State University I did find my love of being outside and got very comfortable being outside of my comfort zone and meeting more people some of which add a homestead lifestyle that was the perfect vision of what I had always wanted but didn't know how to get. Having no experience with livestock it seemed too big of a jump or too unrealistic for me to ever be able to have a cow in my backyard.
Over the years I was there I found a few places that were open to me trading labor for lessons on how to work with horses and other livestock and get comfortable around animals I really didn't have any experience with. At the time I was still very committed to wildlife conservation and continued my studies into graduate school at North Carolina State University studying invasive fish species in our fresh waters around North Carolina. this work centered around tilapia which were thriving in power plant reservoirs due to the warmer temperatures oh, I was assessing there influence on Native species of fish. of course the introduction of tilapia into these waterways came from the fact that tilapia are very popular aquaculture species so much of my work in the second half of my Master's research revolved around studying tilapia in an aquaculture setting.
While I was pursuing my Master's I finally lived in a city and in a house with a yard where I do been to getting chickens. It felt like the boldest and wildest thing I had ever done and my family thought I was crazy. I just thought I was practically living in the wild west having 4 chickens in a small coop in my backyard. I fussed over those birds so much and I still have a picture of the first egg that they laid and that was a little over 10 years ago.
I quickly became fascinated with aquaculture and saw it as a interesting career to be able to work In sustainable agriculture And state-of-the-art Technologies that are the future of farming. during that time I met my best friend who graduated around the same time I did focusing on the same things and we decided to build an aquaculture facility together. We both quit our jobs that we had after grad school and went all-in. we quickly realized that we weren't going to be able to get funding to invest in the aquaculture side of the facility right away so we decided to start with just Hydroponics which is growing vegetables with added nutrients instead of using the nutrients while raising fish. we built an amazing commercial facility and provided local baby greens and living herbs to well over 100 locations of grocery stores in our state.
It really flipped everything I ever knew about agriculture before upside down. understanding the reality of organic and local agriculture And expectations on farmers and producers shocked us. While I was working on Blue Thumb Farms building and growing this company with my best friend oh, I had to move closer to the land we had decided to put the facility on. While the reality of my working hours was that I was working way more than I ever did in grad school not having the obligations and deadlines and formalities of grad school and being my own boss as well as finally having my own land I started my home setting Journey then. This was 6 years ago and it started with some goats.
Although there have been several points along the way where the time I was able to put in abdin flowed and certainly times where I got in over my head and learned very hard lessons a lot has happened in those six years and I don't think I will ever take a step back from identifying as a homesteader. Everything I learned in graduate school and building my commercial Farm about vegetable production has helped me grow and learn about producing for myself and my family. I have also dabbled in meat goats, Dairy goats, fiber goats, meat sheep, fiber sheep, beef cattle, dairy cows, meat pigs, chickens, guinea hens, ducks, meat rabbits, fiber rabbits and of course we've had dogs all on this journey and had a wonderful horse and donkey. Some things fit and feel permanent, other things were fun to try and learn from but I don't think I need again, or Currently do not serve a purpose or do not fit in the limited time we have now. the reality is I have a toddler following me everywhere and we hope our family continues to grow so there may be some amount of time where we have to limit our time commitments or the safety of some types of animals on the farm.
Where We Are Now
Currently it's my husband and I, and our two and a half year old daughter. This is really my dream, my husband enjoys that my daughter gets to grow up in this environment, but outside of keeping me company this is not his passion and only gets involved at my request when I need him to help me manhandle some goats!
We are currently going through the process to get license to become foster parents with the state of North Carolina so we are waiting to settle into how that feels so that we can make sure we can do the best job possible for these children who Are coming into our lives. For this reason we are pausing on expanding any of our Homestead goals to focus on our family and providing the best homes possible for these children.
The stay-at-home mom child balance lifestyle Homestead set up that we have currently is 1 dairy cow with a nurse calf, three Dairy goats in milk, four fiber goats, and about six additional meat goats this year (that number varies wildly due to their purpose), chickens, a vegetable garden, a fruit and nut orchard, as well as a vineyard for a variety of grapes.
As someone who feels like they just jumped in the deep end from a life that felt totally inaccessible and foreign and just like something from a movie, to feeling confident and feeling like I can finally serve as a mentor that I couldn't find when I was getting started oh, I want to share everything I have learned to make other peoples journeys easier. I have learned a lot of hard lessons, I have wasted a lot of money, I have purchased a lot of equipment, I have asked all the dumb questions, I have read all the books, I have thought experts where I could find them oh, and I have learned first hand a lot of do's and don'ts. I found it almost impossible to find anyone who was willing and or able to give advice oh, and some of the people who I did get advice from I did not realize we're giving bad advice. there is a lot along this journey that has been really discouraging and challenging and I want to share with full transparency for anybody else who wants this lifestyle how to make it easier and more accessible.
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