Most people are surprised to see what we do here on one acre. We have other acreage but our homestead is just one acre.
The garden and house takes up roughly 1/4 but I have fruit trees (3 kind of apple, heirloom crabapple, and pears) and berry bushes ( current, quince, elderberry, and I’m working on a raspberry patch but it’s struggling). I’m working on a food forest throughout the whole property. Something I wish I had of started intentionally years ago but we do the best we can where we are at the time. It’s never to late to start.
Our goal (okay my goal, the reluctant farmer is on board however I am the big, hairy idea person of this team) is to use every square inch to grow more of our own food, to benefit the land, and all the animals on it, to establish better systems for self sufficiency, and raise brood stock before moving them to pasture at our other locations.
One advantage to having a smaller acreage is that we have really fertile, dense soil. One thing people neglect to think about is manure management. We practice good manure management- piling our manure very high into piles and turning it and then removing it at least twice a year. Put simply, all of those nutrients from the manure from the animals go into the ground. It fertilizes our ground and fertilized ground holds water better so in all of the years that we have lived here we have never had our well go dry. We actually have really great water full of nutrients that water our gardens, and nourish us.
You also have to work with the landscape you are given-we live in Stoney Island-what do you think we have the most of here?? Fence posts and pasture are a challenge. Sheep do well here however there is little grazing land on this island.
Another great advantage to having a smaller acreage is we that we dry lot the few animals that stay here year round. Dry lot means we bring in pasture grasses for them to eat. It’s an expense and to make sure this isn’t just a hobby, we find ways to make sure all the animals earn their keep. The sheep and horses take up 3/4 of an acre and are fed a very beautiful hay made up of all the nutrients that they could possibly need. It also means we are able to see any problems in health or behavior fairly quickly. The chickens, and ducks are all part of the system helping to turn the manure piles, eliminating bugs, and eating parasite eggs. The rabbits provide a beautiful manure for the gardens as well. We are transitioning to meat breed rabbits.
Our homesteads should never be static, just like us. Being good stewards of the earth means we produce and not just consume. Our homesteads should change to fit our needs where we are at right now. Never be scared to add a little more, or take away what’s not working, to dream of a place where we are more self sufficient than we have ever been, to learn a little more, and to always leave things a little better than when we found them.