I'm so proud and so thrilled that JJJ and Chad have now been on their farm for a year - and what a year its been! So many successes, crazy stories, and a few heart breaks as well. But these guys have done a great job getting their place up and running. JJJ and Chad are just regular people. They did this because they wanted to - they just had the gumption to give it a try. And wow! What a success!
As part of our continuing series to inspire wanna-be's to gettin' it done, I asked JJJ for an interview about their first year. Here it is, showing that regular people can really do this. Can you change your life? Yes you can!
OFG: JJJ, how about a quick overview, tell me about Tilton Hollow Farm.
We've been at Tilton Hollow Farm a little over a year now. We've accomplished a lot in that first year. We raise chickens for meat and eggs, heritage Gloucestershire Old Spot Hogs, dairy goats, and about every kind of poultry species you can imagine. We have launched a line of goat milk soap and herbal remedies. I've learned to make cheese, butcher a chicken, birth a goat, milk a goat, incubate eggs, make jams and jellies, can vegetables and meats among many other things. The list of things we no longer buy from the store constantly grows. There have been a lot of ups and downs in that first year, but I cherish every moment. I have found my purpose and have never been happier in my life. I have learned many truths about myself and found a passion I didn't know I possessed. I never knew that where you lived could change your life so dramatically. Our website is tiltonhollow.com. It's a work in progress. My blog that is going to get regular again is tilton1823.blogspot.com. We'd love you to follow our adventures at our sites or our Facebook page. We are often entertaining and at times, informative.
I lived in semi-rural areas when young and then again when I was a teenager. Chad lived in a medium sized city his whole life. I have a friend who moved to the country, and I just loved the peace and quiet when visiting her. That's when I started bugging Chad to move to the country. I even got him to look at a house, but that didn't pan out. It was always in the back of my mind. I'd occasionally look through real estate listings. In 2011, the Fabulous Beekman Boys aired on Planet Green. It was a reality series about two New York gentlemen who moved to the country and tried to make a living of it to allow both of them to leave the city. One of the guys also wrote a book, The Bucolic Plague, which I read and then made Chad read. That pushed him over the edge. He was willing to consider moving. The rest is history. We moved to the farm in May of last year. It's 6.5 acres and the house was built in 1823. It's nestled at the bottom of a cozy little valley, on a gravel road, with two ponds, two barns, an old springhouse, a creek, and some woods.
OFG: Aside from the logistics, what have you learned in the last year about "making your own food" and starting a farm?
Oh my! Where to start? We both have learned so much, some through reading an research, but mostly through trial and lots of error. Some of the most important lessons I've learned are that ingenuity often works out much better than store-bought solutions. I was quick to run to Tractor Supply (love that store) in the beginning and probably wasted a LOT of money buying this and that gadget. There's usually something that can be repurposed to fit your needs.
Another important lesson is that when dealing with animals, a lot of times you get what you expect. If you go into a situation thinking an animal isn't going to cooperate, it probably won't. They can definitely read your energy. I've learned that animals have a lot to teach us if we only take the time to stop and watch and learn. I learned that I'm not afraid of hard work. When people tell me how I like living on the farm, invariably I say, "I've never worked harder in my life and I've never been happier." I've also found that there are a lot of like-minded individuals out there who love to share knowledge. I've learned that there is a sense of community in the country that has been extinct in the city for a long time.
OFG: What have you learned about yourself?
I've learned that there isn't much I can't do. That's not bragging, that's just buckling down and doing it. If I don't know how to do something, there's someone out there that does know and has written the instructions or can talk me through it. I've learned that the things that I used to feel were important aren't at all. It's amazing how your priorities change when you try to become self-sufficient while caring for the land you live on. I used to look for activities to keep me from being bored. Now, I mostly detest things that make me leave my home.
OFG: What does your family/friends think?
Most of them are very proud at what we've accomplished in a year and tell us often. It's good to get that encouragement. Some of them get tired of hearing the 'farm stories' or can't imagine how we deal with all of those things that are so foreign to them. One of the comments that I get often and defend vehemently is, "How can you name the animals and then eat them? Don't tell me their names. I don't want to know." I say that naming them give them dignity and that one of the biggest problems with society today is that people don't take the time to know where their food comes from.
OFG: What is your best advice for someone who is hesitant about starting a farm?
Stop hesitating and do it! You will never do something more rewarding. There is an indescribable pride in being self-sufficient. Be prepared to work hard and love it. Prioritize what you need to get done, because you will NEVER get everything done. I like to arrange tasks into 'must be done's" and "nice to have's". Work on the things that have to be done to keep the farm going and keep a list of the other things you want to get done. Do those ones as you can. Talk to as many farmers as you can. There's a wealth of knowledge out there and most of them want to share it. Find a guru. It's immensely helpful. OFG has been a wonderful mentor to me even before we moved to the farm. Don't bring anything onto the farm until you're ready for it. We got more goats than we were ready for. It just ends up making more work for you. We didn't let the goats suffer, but there was some suffering on our parts.
Thanks, JJJ for sharing this with us. One of the things I loved best was that JJJ said that how being self sufficient gives you such a feeling of accomplishment and pride that what you thought was important before.. just isn't as fulfilling. We've found this to be true also. There is nothing like a freezer full of food that you grew and harvested yourself. That is the kind of wealth that means something.
So what do you think, folks. Is anyone on the fence? Do you yearn for this kind of life? Come on now, if we can do it so can you!
Happy Tuesday everyone! Now get out there and start a farm!
Note: For more inspiration you can read our interview with Insurgent Chicken here and also with the Gastronomic Gardener here.