Grit Blogs > Back to the Land

The Beginning of the Niles Journey

A photo of MalisaWell, I did it. I milked a goat. I thought it would hard to do, but it was more of a mental block than it being a difficult chore. It wasn’t so bad, well until the goat stepped into the bucket.

In my family’s move to be more self-sufficient, there have been many such obstacles. The knowledge is there but there is sometimes the question of “can I really do this?” surfaces. My family started this move 1 ½ years ago. My husband, Rick and I had purchased an old (1890) huge rectory house that sat on 8 acres in July 2009, but due to the purchase agreement we waited until July 2011 to move in.

Malisa's house 

In the fall of 2010, I had been a high school agricultural teacher for 14 years and was suffering from major teacher burnout and our home life was suffering due to my long hours and high stress levels. Rick and I sat down talked and prayed about what we should do. We, along with divine guidance, decided I should resign the following year (May 2011) and become a stay at home mom for our 3 daughters; Banion (7 yrs), Bethany (4 yrs) and Emma (3yrs) and work on our new farm growing and producing food for our family. Rick works for an area wind farm. Our family goal is to have a family farm similar in the 1940s/1950s; self-sufficient, but possibly produce a bit extra to sell.

The family moved in August 2011 to the country. By fall, the family included 2 rabbits, 1 pig (butchered in November), 19 laying hens and 1 self-confident rooster. We have worked hard in and out of house. Rick and I ripped out carpet and refinished the wood floors, remodeled the office and laundry room, and are currently working on the main floor bath. Well, was working on, but spring hit and that project is on hold as we work on outside projects. In the last month, the family has expanded by 5 rabbits, 92 broiler chicks, 13 replacement layers, 2 milking goats, and 3 goat kids, so fencing, building chicken tractors, and holding pens have become the new priority.

The plan is to raise the rabbits for meat. We will keep 3 does and a buck through the winter, but butcher the rest for meat and fur. I am a little nervous about how the girls will take it, but we have been honest with them from the start of the rabbit venture. I plan on having them chose the rabbits we will keep, hopefully that will help.

The layer hens are used for eggs. I pay Banion with 5 dz eggs a week that she can sell in exchange for helping with evening chicken and rabbit chores. She is saving up for an incubator. My youngest daughter Emma, now 4, is the official egg collector. However, I must go out with her to get them because she is afraid of Rusty, the rooster. I hope to remedy this problem when I move him to the chicken tractor after we butcher our broilers in early May. I built 3 tractors. I am using them for the broilers and young replacement chicks for now, but am going to put all of my birds in them during the summer to keep them out of my garden. I have ordered 4 guineas for insect control.

During my former life as an ag teacher, I taught about dairy cows, but had never touched on milking goats or any goat topic come to think of it. I have experienced a sharp learning curve. Luckily I have a couple seasoned goat professionals, I can call on or even text my questions to.  I even built a goat milking stanchion. 

goat milking sanction 

I tweaked the plans to include a flip down seat and ramp. I am thinking about applying floor grip to the floor since the wood seems a bit slippery when the goats climb up or down. Construction stuff I know, I am a seasoned DIY’er but I am still learning about goats.

In the next month, I plan on preparing my garden bed, building a cold frame using some old windows that we replaced on the house and recycled wine bottles, finishing the new rabbit hutch, butchering the broilers, finishing putting up the pig pen, and of course chores. We are expecting 2 pig weanlings in 2 weeks and are on a dairy’s waiting list for 3 bottle calves.

My eldest Banion (now 8) tells everyone she is now a country girl, since she lives in the country and has farm animals. I wonder when I will start feeling like one. I can’t say I have ever been a city girl. I grew up in rural Rapid City, South Dakota (pop. 60,000) and have spent the last 15 years living in Woonsocket, SD, population 750, but I thought I would feel different actually living on the farm. Not yet, maybe I am too tired from all of the chores, fencing, planning, and of course being a mom. 

malisa niles
5/23/2012 9:40:31 PM

Thank you for the warm welcome. I hope my postings will inform as well as amuse you:)

malisa niles
5/23/2012 9:39:43 PM

Her little sister is obsessed with collecting eggs. I think she would sit in front of the hen if I let her.

malisa niles
5/23/2012 9:38:48 PM

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I look forward to hearing from you.

nebraska dave
5/12/2012 12:26:35 PM

Malisa, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. It sounds like we will have much to read about from your new journey. I live in a city of about 400,000 if you count the surrounding communities but still manage to have piece of country in the middle of the inner city that I call Terra Nova Gardens. I actually grew up on the farm during the 1950s and 1960s but sped off to college in the middle sixties never to return to the farm again. I chose a career in the budding new computer technology industry and spent 40 years loving the challenges of technology repair. The seeds of farming never died in all those years but lay dormant and began to sprout again with retirement. It may be a challenge to live in the country but I happen to believe the closer to nature we can live the better life is. Being disconnected from the land has brought this country to a place of eating food grown hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Personally, I don't think it's a good thing to depend on that food supply entirely. However, it's virtually impossible to be self sufficient in every way in today's world. I kind of like Folger's in my cup every morning and a banana now and then. :0) I'm glad you decided to blog here about your new country life experiences. Have a great South Dakota day in the garden.

robyn dolan
5/11/2012 10:13:07 PM

Wow! what alot to accomplish in such a short time. Good that you let your little one sell the eggs for pocket money. Teaches them better than an "allowance". She can learn about dealing with having fewer eggs to sell sometimes, and about caring for the chickens so they lay better.

ilene reid
5/11/2012 10:01:48 PM

Welcome to Grit Malisa. I enjoyed your blog, and you are a very busy lady. I look forward to your next adventure. Enjoy being a stay at home mom. What a wonderful rewarding experience. Enjoy the journey.