A J Stevens

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since May 22, 2020
We have a 43 acre homestead with all kinds of animals including milk cows, sheep, chickens, goats, and pigs. I recently completed a my PDC and am working on turning this beat up farm into an example of what permaculture can do for people in all kinds of situations.
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Recent posts by A J Stevens

We moved to Texas county Missouri last year from Oregon and bought 43 acres. If you are interested in this area, I can recommend a realtor, he’d cover a several surrounding counties too. Send me a purple moosage if you want his info.

Also if I can help answer any questions, please let me know.
2 months ago
Brandon, I literally just had an identical idea this morning. As I was getting ready to milk the cows I was thinking “I wonder if I could offer outsourced homesteading?”. There are a few differences I was thinking of that may or may not be a good idea.

For the regulation part that someone mentioned, if you (or me as I was thinking about it) offering management services or a homestead extension, you aren’t selling meat, eggs, veggies, milk, etc. that makes regulation void in my opinion, but you’d have to market it that way. I’m not selling you a pig, we all bought the pig and it’s my job to raise it. When it’s done, we decide if we want to send it to the butcher or do it ourselves to save money and gain the community building experience. Don’t want to or can’t make the butcher date? I’ll charge you a small fee for my time. Again, I am not charging you a butcher fee, it’s an hourly rate because you asked me to do something for you or maybe I’ll take some extra cuts- which I don’t think could be successfully criticized by a regulating body.

Outside of the management contract, you can raise extra things for sale, which they can buy and as a member they get a discount. Non members pay a higher price.

I’m not sure if this is a good idea, but you could also say it takes me xx time and XX money to raise 50 birds at a time. If we raise 100, the time increases by xx  and the feed by xx. We pass on the feed cost, but now I can be more efficient in my time and so instead of charging 10 people $2/hr for my time ($20/ hr total for me), I can charge 15 people $1.75. You pay less, I make more. Win win. Kinda like economies of scale. You’d have to identify sizes of things to see where those points are where it doesn’t take much more time to produce more as that would be the only place it’s applicable. A completely new batch of chickens for example with a separate butcher date does not really create time savings.

I’m not sure if this would fly, but as far as refunds and such, I’d say there are none, except in the case of gross negligence on my end. You are paying me to do the work for you. If you back out, I still had to do the work to that point. Feed costs would be calculated and deposits based on this would be collected. The rest would be a monthly payment. If there is a disaster, we all share the risk. I think this is similar to how early the early csa model was in many cases. Because we are sharing risk, you aren’t paying retail prices and where it makes sense, you aren’t paying for food by weight or volume. If we do well, we all do well. If we don’t, we are all there too. If you don’t want to take risk, you can buy things at a different, retail price. That’s one thing I took away from my days in the finance world, we get paid for risk. If I take the risk, you pay. If we take the risk collectively, that’s different.

I was also thinking there needs to be an ROI component in there so that infrastructure and investment needs of the homestead/farm are funded by the business, not by my wages. Large purchase could be crowd funded among members. “If we raise money to buy xx, we can do this thing that we can’t now or we will save XX much time, meaning we can produce more or decrease what we charge you per hour for management”. They don’t collectively own the infrastructure, but they derive benefit from it in this model.

My goal, and I think your goal, is to figure out how to make a stable, living wage while doing what I love and and to help other people enjoy the advantages of homesteading/farming while building community.

I’d love to hear any follow up thoughts from anyone as I am kind shooting from the hip here
2 months ago
We have 28 hens and 2 roosters that we rotate around the pastures in a mobile coop. They just started laying in July. We have black Australorp, speckled sussex, buff Orpington, silver laced wyandotte, whiting true blue, whiting true green, and white rock.
3 months ago
I built a 1,500 sq ft freestanding shop, dimensions are 30’ wide by 50’ long, walls are 12’ high. Studs are 16” on center and trusses are spaced every 2’. A partition wall was built at the back, creating a 22’x30’ living space that I am currently finishing out.
3 months ago

S. Bard wrote:Thanks AJ and John for your input!

How many goats could be put on this land without risk of overgrazing and how would you go about it? Divide the land into two or more strips so the goats can be rotated? Just use it as a single pasture? What trees/ shrubs should I consider planting? What kind of fencing would you suggest that could work both for goats as chickens/geese?


If I have done the math right, you basically have .22 acres. How many goats will definitely depend on management and breed. For example, 2 Nigerian dwarf goats eat a lot less than 2 boer goats. I feel it is better to understock an area than overstock it, unless you have the ability to remove animals at will. I’d start with 2 and see how it goes. You don’t want a desert.
All my goat experience is in a farm situation as just brush/weed control, not milking. I use electric netting to move them around. Someone with smaller acreage and milking goat experience would probably be better qualified to weigh in, but
personally if I had an area like this I would split it into at least 2, but 4 would be better. Any rotation is better than none.  I’d set up a small shelter in the middle if possible. I’d deep litter the inside so that I could use that in compost creation. If predators are an issue, they would get locked away at night, this would also ease manure load in the paddocks, which could be a concern. If I had 4 paddocks, I’d have a door in each wall or something creative like that. From the shelter I would run my different fences out to the perimeter so the shelter is the hub. Then every week they would go to a new paddock, that gives 28 days between grazings. But this has to be monitored. It might be too long with such small paddocks.

Always fence to the most specific requirement. A chicken tight fence will also be goose tight and if strong and high enough, be goat tight (which is a bit of a contradiction haha). Electric poultry netting would work well with dwarf goats.

My goats eat anything that isn’t poisonous. They will really appreciate shrubbery.

A properly written lease could address all of these issues and more if you wanted. I have seen leases that spell out things like access to water, how often animals are to be rotated, fertilizer applications, fencing, etc. A good lease should also provide provision for dispute resolution and be no more than 1 year at a time. It can always be renewed or extended. It may and a good idea to include something like either party can terminate the lease at any time with 60 days notice. The way to approach this is that everything is agreed upon at the outset and everyone knows the rules. This will help avoid conflict as neither party can say “I didn’t know.” Try to make it specific enough to address as many core issues as possible, but not so specific that it becomes too big. Your neighbor should absolutely be a co-creator of this so that there’s no feeling of “you made me agree to all these things.”

Having said that, the first thing I would do is meet this neighbor and see what he is all about. Perhaps invite him over for dinner to get to know him. Don’t bring up him keeping goats on the land unless he does so that you avoid having to tell him no straight away if you get a bad vibe from him. If he brings it up, say you’ll have to think about it and ask what his plans are, why he wants to keep goats, experience, most inspirational thing he has seen/read about keeping them, etc.

I hope this helps.

Anne Pratt wrote:
I’m a little extra sensitive to the predator question. Since March we had a bear tear the door off the coop at night (got one of my four) and a coyote or fox take one from the edge of the woods in the daytime. With only two left we just got two more. And the coop has mega bolts on everything and we installed a long 2” x 4” bar across the door that goes in every night. Never had a predator all the first year. Mine free range in the daytime and (1) they love it and (2) they eat all the ticks. We aren’t willing to change that.

Sorry to hear about the predators. It’s a hard thing to deal with! Have you considered putting electric netting around the coop? You could open the net during the day and then close it and energize it at night. That way they still free range in the day. Premier 1 says it deters bears, but I don’t have a personal experience with that predator.  
3 months ago

Anne Pratt wrote:I spent some time trying to figure out how critters would pull off their heads.  I guess that the wire on the bottom is 1" X 1"?  I think conventional wisdom is that half-inch, heavy gauge hardware cloth will protect them from almost anything, but I wouldn't use 1" x 1".

Heat is another interesting question.  Insulating the ceiling seems pretty difficult and awkward.  I would vote for shade, but then what's the point of a mobile coop if you have to move it to the shade?

But I love the design!  It looks quite nice, seems like the hens would be comfortable, and could be weatherized a bit more for our cold winters (it just needs windbreak on the ends, I think).  What are the dimensions?

Those bars across the floor are for the girls to roost on?  Mine prefer to be elevated (instinct tells them it's safer).  That would also be a big improvement in my book.

Nice coop!

Thanks Anne! Yes, the bottom is 1” x 1”. The first version started with 1/2” mesh on the bottom and it was clear real quick that the manure was not going to fall through. It was a week before I had the time to fix it. That was NOT a fun job haha. The only thing I can think of that can breach both the electric netting and the 1” mesh is something from the weasel family, but I have never had one get in. I kinda expected they’d eventually find a way, but maybe it’s too awkward for them to or I have been incredibly lucky?

Agreed on insulating. If heat was ever observed to be a problem, I’d probably try to add shade cloth somehow. It just sounds cleaner. Past versions have not seemed to have a problem with the cold as at the chicken level there are 3 solid sides. I try to be mindful of orientation so that if there is cold or wet wind, it’s hitting the solid sides and not the door side. But I did make the door larger this go around (3’ x 3’) so when closed it gives a partial 4th solid side. Maybe I could make some inserts to go on either side of the door in the winter to give them 4 solid walls at chicken level.

Inside footprint is 6’ x 6’ and the height is something like 42” (I don’t remember off the top of my head). Total length is 10’ when the handle is included and I’s say the wheels add about 8” - 12” to the overall width.

Yes, the roosting bars are across the floor and are about 15” off the ground. Making them higher is an interesting idea. I’d have to come up with a way to do that without adding too much weight since part of their function is to have more area to staple the mesh floor to. But if I could come up with a good design, they may be more comfortable and it would provide better predator protection. Thinking a raccoon could only reach so high through the mesh floor. That may open up the possibility for using it without the netting if one were so inclined. Let me know if you have any ideas. I’d probably need to be careful not to make them too close to the roof otherwise my heat observations may no longer be true. It would be interesting to put in a thermometer at various locations and see what looks like.
3 months ago

S Bengi wrote:A total price of $600 with 1/3 of that for your labor/profit and the other $400 aka 2/3 for the cost of material, sounds very reasonable.

I wonder how hot it gets.
I wonder how easy it is for critters to rip off there heads from inside the coop at night.

Thanks, your pricing method makes sense. I just may put out an ad locally and see if I get any bites.

Heat has not been observed to be a problem so far and we have had several days in the mid 90s. I think the reason for this is that the there is pass through ventilation at the peak of the and so nowhere for the heat to build up. The area above the nesting box is 1/2” hardware cloth and the same goes for the entire area around and above the door. I believe the light color of the metal is important too as I am not sure i’d Her the same performance if it was dark green or something like that.

I close the coop every night as extra protection. I have yet to lose a single bird to predators at night in the 6ish years since version 1 began. Whether that would hold true without being used in combination with electric netting is unclear. I had to take the netting down one year for about a week due to a large snow storm, but it didn’t seem like much wildlife was out and about so I don’t consider it a good test.
3 months ago