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Alone in Alabama? An Introduction.

Brendan Getchel


Joined: Mar 26, 2012
Posts: 23
Location: North Alabama
SOME BACKGROUND -- As City as City-Folk can be:

I was born in Boston and have lived all of my adult life in Connecticut, commuting on-and-off to downtown NYC to work for the last ~20 years. Exactly five years ago, when I was 39, my wife and I decided to "retire," purchasing a small farm in NE Alabama (Boaz). For the first 2-3 years we did nothing but enjoy Southern Country living. 2-3 years ago my wife was given one heifer (Red Angus) and we purchased 12 hens of various breeds and one Buff Orpington rooster.

Fast-forward 2+ years later and we now have 10 cows - a couple of Angus, two Jersey and one Guernsey which my wife hand-milks daily, a Holstein bull calf coming of age, and my 4-legged daughter: a gorgeous Charolais named Charlie (pronounced "Shar-Lee"). Charlie looks like she might be a Freemason -- yes, I got it wrong on-purpose -- but she writes poetry, plays the piano, paints like Picasso, and adores me (the first 3 might be slight exaggerations), so she gets a pass on having to be useful in some "farmy" way. I wanted to make her an indoor cow, but my wife vetoed my plan to dedicate a spare bedroom for her.

Our 12 hens, though we tried to instill a sense of morality in them, have been given over to unbridled lust, and have grown to over 100 illegitimate little fornicators that know no modesty. They may be unrepentant sluts, but they also produce 30+ eggs per day, and now that Spring has arrived that number seems to be increasing rapidly. We also slaughter 5-10 roosters per month without remorse. Once they form gang-rape squads they are marked for death, and the hens love to watch as justice is served. We hold a fair trial, but as judge, jury, and (sometimes) executioner, any Rooster-dreams of reprieve quickly fade and the hens cluck for joy as the bloodbath commences.

We have a few turkeys, but their insistence on playing “chicken” with the occasional horseless carriage that comes down our country road rarely ends in their favor, and their numbers continue to drop as a result. We have two Toms and one hen remaining, but a number of turkey eggs are being set-on by various chickens, so we hope to replenish their numbers soon (fingers crossed).

My wife just picked up four piglets a few weeks ago. She'll have to tell you what they are, but I do know they apparently represent two countries -- Poland and China. There's a "rock" in there somewhere too, but I could be making this all up, which is a character flaw I expose frequently and without shame. We hope to breed them and, with some divine intervention, perhaps even sell some of their offspring for actual US dollars in return, which is the financial equivalent of holding an umbrella in a Tsunami.

We've wisely chosen the path of "learning from experience." By "wisely" I mean employing as much stupidity as nature will allow one person to exercise, and by "experience" I mean making every mistake humanly possible, paying the most for the least amount of return, and maximizing potential damage in the process. We have proudly cut our financial jugular and have hemorrhaged tens of thousands of dollars to sustain animals worth a fraction of that amount.

Now that we know there is a different (i.e. "right") way to do things, thanks to Permies (and just about every other carbon-based life form converting oxygen into CO2) we're hoping to actually invert our current trend and turn this into a sustainable lifestyle, even if it is only a "break-even" proposition on the balance sheet.

Right now, a healthy, sustainable pasture is of critical importance. Ultimately, we would like to get ALL of our animals off commercial feed, which costs us dearly. Chicken Scratch is $14/bag, plus Layer Pellets at $10/bag, plus Dairy Feed at $12/bag, plus Calf Starter at $12/bag, plus cattle feed at $300/ton, plus hay at $30/roll, plus pasture maintenance at $5,000/year, plus (now) Swine Feed at $11/bag.

We go through many bags of each per week and, believe it or not, our pasture **is** capable of sustaining our livestock!

If we could eliminate or substantially reduce our reliance upon commercial feed and pasture treatments / fertilizers, and migrate many of the alternatives here on Permies into our overall lifestyle, which is now a fundamental goal of ours, we may actually be able to sustain ourselves indefinitely.

That's us in a nutshell. If you're in/around/near North Alabama, give us a shout. We'd LOVE to hob-knob with some local(ish) Permites.

Yours truly,

Brendan (The Idiot Farmer).

I only know what I know, and don't know what I don't. So if I sound ignorant, trust your instincts.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1385
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
Hi Brendan, I am in middle South Carolina. Similar growing climate to yours but you have a bit more tropical edge. I say 'edge' because even though I can grow year round, you can grow the stuff that I am just a bit too northward for such as Lemon Grass, Meyer Lemons and such.

Do you plant winter rye in the winter and millet in the summer? Those will both help with forage for the animals. I used to use a lot of millet - both brown top and silver when I raised horses years ago but apparently so does everyone else now becuase it has gotten crazy expensive. I still may put in a patch just to start for my own seed this year.


1. my projects
Rebecca Brown


Joined: Nov 25, 2011
Posts: 21
Hey Brendan,
My partner and I currently live in Huntsville. We own some land in Tennessee and hope to be doing what you're doing in a couple of years.

You might want to try adding some seed mixes designed for pastures to your acreage. Peaceful Valley has several different mixes.

Another thing you might want to try is an intensive paddock rotation system. It works for a lot of people, but does require a lot of fencing.

It's nice to "meet" another Alabamian!
-Rebecca
Brendan Getchel


Joined: Mar 26, 2012
Posts: 23
Location: North Alabama
Jeanine Gurley wrote:
Do you plant winter rye in the winter and millet in the summer? Those will both help with forage for the animals. I used to use a lot of millet - both brown top and silver when I raised horses years ago but apparently so does everyone else now becuase it has gotten crazy expensive. I still may put in a patch just to start for my own seed this year.


Hi Jeanine! Yes, we (literally) threw down a few bags of Winter Rye seed, as our pasture is comprised mostly of wild Bermuda. When the Bermuda comes in, as it is now, the pasture is relatively thick and lush during the Summer. We have done a LOT to the pasture to get it into shape, and our most recent soil sample says we need to add nothing unless we're going to seed, and then it's only a maximum of 50-100# each of N and K. Our pH is 6.6 (was 5.6 last year, so we put down over 1-Ton/acre of Dolomite). We provided a molasses tank, feed, and good quality hay this winter for the cows, and I think they actually GAINED weight over winter. We may have gone overboard, but the year earlier was our first winter with cows, and we had no idea what we were doing and they didn't fare well.

I was *thinking* of drilling a blend of 15% Alfalfa, 15% Clover, 30% Bermuda, and 40% Fescue to provide year-round forage and other necessary nutrients, as well as natural N for the soil from the incorporation of Alfalfa and Clover interspersed.

I was also going to put down organic Potash and Chilean Nitrate in minimal quantities -- say 200# per acre -- just to supplement, and spray an organic foliar fertilizer from California Organics (All Purpose 434).

These are my "plans" anyway, but that's why I'm here, to run these things by people which know more than me -- which is just about everyone with a pulse.
J D Horn


Joined: Jan 23, 2012
Posts: 131
    
    1
Welcome to Sand Mountain! I grew up down the road (Anniston) but currently live on the east coast for work. I anticipate returning in a few yrs once I get things situated, so I am slightly envious of your learning experiences. Roll Tide!
Brendan Getchel


Joined: Mar 26, 2012
Posts: 23
Location: North Alabama
Rebecca Brown wrote:Hey Brendan,
You might want to try adding some seed mixes designed for pastures to your acreage. Peaceful Valley has several different mixes.

Another thing you might want to try is an intensive paddock rotation system. It works for a lot of people, but does require a lot of fencing.

It's nice to "meet" another Alabamian!
-Rebecca


Hi Rebecca! My wife and I are in HSV twice weekly (Sunday / Wednesday). We should all get together sometime. I'm growing more and more fascinated with all aspects of permaculture, and we have some friends in TN that turned us onto this site. I like both the concept and potential long-term implications.

I checked out PV. Some of that stuff is pretty pricey, but there is some that looks like it could be a good addition.

Our pasture is separated into three fenced areas, plus another that has yet to be fenced in, so it would not be difficult to isolate a given area. Total area once all fencing is done is around 18 acres, so we're pretty small fry compared to the much larger farms that surround us.

Brendan Getchel


Joined: Mar 26, 2012
Posts: 23
Location: North Alabama
J D Horn wrote:Welcome to Sand Mountain! I grew up down the road (Anniston) but currently live on the east coast for work. I anticipate returning in a few yrs once I get things situated, so I am slightly envious of your learning experiences. Roll Tide!


There is certainly a lot to be envious of here on "The Mountain." Since we've been down here, family and friends have come to visit and "discovered" why we moved here. Everyone always asks "Alabama?! Why on earth would you move to Alabama?!?!" We just tell them to keep that attitude so them Yankees don't move down here and spoil it for us

After visiting, one of our friends and my wife's sister and brother-in-law have bought homes and a farm here in Boaz and now live here. It's the best-kept secret in America! I can't imagine ever returning to the Northeast. Ever.

And to the Mod(s). Thanks for putting this in the right place. I'm a noob and still learning the ropes.
 
 
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