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When I first started blogging, at a simple family style blog, we were living in a 23 foot camp trailer in Northern California. The summer before that we had purchased two acres of bare land in Wyoming. Thinking it would take some time for our Oregon coast home to sell we put it on the market planning for a sale and move to Wyoming the following spring.
Imagine our surprise when two weeks later we received an almost full priced offer. We were faced with a dilemma of rejecting that offer and keeping it on the market until the timing was better for us. Or taking the offer and making the move before we were ready. The idea of moving to Wyoming with no house to live in at the beginning of winter had little appeal. We considered renting a Wyoming home but at that time (and still to some degree) rental homes in the area were hard to come by, overpriced and very challenging with pets.
We did have a 23 foot tow behind camp trailer and considered moving that to our Wyoming land but feared freezing to death. The solution to our problem came when we called Joe’s grandma and asked if we could park our camp trailer at her place for the winter. She had an acre of land in Northern California (where Joe grew up) already set up with a septic for a trailer and power. I loved our winter in N. Cali! It was during that time that I began a blog to be able to keep track of our camp trailer experiences. While we were camp trailer living we also started very slowly on our transition to real food.
On May 1, 2009 we left our N. Cali winter home and headed to Wyoming. In many ways, moving to Wyoming was a bit of culture shock. My youngest daughter really missed trees. Even though it was early May it was still cold and would snow sputtering little pellets. And the wind blew– a lot! My husband came in one chilly, sputtery, windy morning claiming that he was ‘freeze dried’.
We lived in our little 23 foot camp trailer for almost eight weeks while we had a used double wide set up on the property. We were very happy to be able to find this home. The price was right and at almost 16oo feet it is quite spacious. The carpet everywhere and the brown paneling was not overly appealing but those things could be fixed. I shared many of those early days and our excitement on my family blog using it more as a journal than anything.
When we bought this two acre parcel we didn’t intend to have any sort of homestead or mini-farm. We liked the location (about 10 miles from a large Wyoming town) and the view (on a hill overlooking the town and a mountain and in the other directions the prairie) and the price. The land already had a well and a septic installed which were also great selling points plus the sellers were willing to carry the contract. Our only plans for the two acres was to have a few chickens (we had those in Oregon) and a small garden (also had that in Oregon). All of this was really a big change from our previous life.
While did have a few chickens and a small garden at our Oregon home, we had lived there for only two years. When Joe and I were first married he moved into our city home that was in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. We were all city girls! Moving from there to the little house near the Oregon coast was a change. Moving from the coast to Wyoming was a bigger change. While I had grown up on dairy farms and ranches as a child, I’d lived in the city for 20 years. My girls were all born and raised in the city. They were used to me having a garden off and on over the years but that was the extend of my ‘homesteading’ adventures. And I never took the gardening too serious. It was just something fun to do. Big changes were in store for them.
We put in a small garden that first summer and nothing grew. Wyoming gardening is different than Oregon gardening. After four years we still struggle to get the hang of it. We also built a small chicken coop and got 6 chickens for it. One of those chickens turned out to be a rooster who eventually loved to terrorize us. He would wait until one of us girls went out and then pounce. He never bothered Joe so Joe thought we might be overreacting. Funny thing, the day Fred the Rooster went after Joe was the day that Fred was signed up for freezer camp. During that first winter I added a second blog since the family blog was being taken over by food things. That blog was the blogspot version of Real Food for Less Money. Eventually, the family blog was not something I took the time to keep up with and I shut it down.
Little did we know that those chickens would begin a whole new adventure. Because we had become focused on our food and where it came from (as we were transitioning to a real food style of eating) we decided that raising our own poultry for not just eggs but also meat made sense.
I’d been reading about Joel Salatin and his pastured poultry methods and was very enthralled. I convinced Joe that we should raise our own pastured poultry. He built two chicken tractors for the purpose. Somehow, we also decided to not only raise chickens for ourselves but also for others. Through a combination of pastured poultry (raised in chicken tractors) and also free range poultry, we raised and processed somewhere around 300 birds that year. We could have raised many more but I ended up turning people away. We processed all of the birds by hand so it was a big job. That year my husband worked four 10 hour shifts giving him a three day weekend every week. That was when we did birds. By the end of summer we were really tired of bird processing!
But that summer was also an amazing learning experience. We learned that we weren’t the only ones concerned with finding high quality, unadulterated food. We had found a ‘community’ of similar minded individuals also on a quest. We also learned how much work went into providing that high quality food.
And it taught me a lot about myself. A couple of years prior to that if you would have told me that I’d learn how to process a chicken I’d have fallen over laughing. I was of that mind that chicken came from the store in plastic wrap. I never would have thought that I could raise chickens from the beginning and see them through to the end. Remember, I was a city girl for a long time! I never look forward to chicken processing. It is not something that I enjoy. But it is important to me to know my food. To know that it had a good life being a chicken. That it was not raised in poor conditions and then processed in horrible conditions. Truth be told, if we didn’t raise our own chickens I wouldn’t eat chicken knowing the conditions that commercially raised chicken is subject.
That summer went a long ways toward shaping our next steps. I’ll share more about those steps and our intended future steps in additional posts.
Are you doing things now that you never would have imagined yourself doing a short time ago? What brought about your change?