For the past 8 years, our family has been working to develop and manage a 45 acre farm 3 miles away from our old farm. This summer we will be selling the larger farm and moving back home.
We insisted on keeping our old home when we bought the large farm, and this is why.
Over the past 8 years, we hosted families for camps, ran a private school, and started a dairy. It’s been exhausting work, and we’re looking forward to returning to a quiet, private life.
On January 5th, we opened Michael Family Dairy, the first herdshare dairy in the Charlotte area. We will be offering our neighbors the opportunity to purchase 200+ shares in our herd, each of which will provide a gallon or more of raw milk every week for pickup or delivery. Shares are selling very well, and we’ve begun making home local deliveries on Fridays. We’ve been invited to join the vendors at local farmers markets, since we’re the only dairy around, and will begin attending the Waxhaw Farmers Market with our friends from Windcrest Organics in February.
Thank God for the opportunity to do what had been a dream of ours when we started farming. We have a beautiful, healthy herd of Jerseys that give us nearly 40 gallons of delicious mik every day.
When we moved from central New Jersey to rural North Carolina in 2005, it was quite a change. Decisions we made at that time were radical, but I believed they were rooted in Scripture and good philosophy: teaching the classical liberal arts, returning to the Catholic Church, learning about self-sufficiency, home-schooling. We were swinging for the grand slam of modern craziness.
Fast forward 13 years and we have ten children–four teenagers living in the house. They have all been home-schooled–and will continue to be. They have all been raised on the farm–and will continue to be. They have all grown up in the Catholic Church–and will continue to do so. They have all studied the classical liberal arts (to varying degrees, of course)–and will continue to be encouraged to do so.
Our three oldest children have been provided with excellent jobs as soon as they’ve been interested in finding them. Our oldest son was first hired to help a neighboring farmer, a good Christian man, work his sawmill on Saturdays, and then twice a week. He was later offered a full-time job at our local hardware store, which is owned by Catholics. Our eldest daughter was offered a job at an organic greenhouse just across the street and was recently offered a job at a local horse farm. Our next eldest son took his brother’s place at the sawmill and then was offered a part-time job at the hardware store.
All of the worries and criticisms have proven to be false. The kids have had no problems finding great jobs as soon as they’ve sought them.
In God’s providence, we have been given the opportunity to start a dairy here at Michael Family Farm.
First, on October 1, 2018, the law forbidding the sale of raw milk in North Carolina was removed. It’s funny because I’ve always told my family that law is going to change one day and I’ve kept an eye on it.
Second, at the same time the law was changed, we decided to pray and start looking for a Jersey cow and we met a 70 year old dairy farmer interested in selling a small herd–10 registered Jerseys, 9 in milk–at an excellent price.
Third, friends, helped us gather the capital needed to buy the cows and all of the equipment and supplies needed to start the dairy.
So, after the holidays, we’ll be in the dairy business.
Thanks be to God.
Enjoyed this beautiful event out front tonight…
Loads and loads of leaf mulch.
Once we’re through the holidays, it’s garden season here in North Carolina, so we’re getting ready to plow. The local lead collector dropped off 5 truck loads of leaf mulch last week and the boys have been collecting manure from the pasture and barn, and the chicken coop will be cleaned out soon, so we’ll have some big, new compost piles starting for next year, while also plowing and tilling a few inches of leaf mulch and manure into all of the gardens to sit until March. I plow a good 8-9″ deep each January and bury all this mulch. The following year, when I plow again, it’s dark and broken down and pulled back up to the top, improving the soil year by year. With the cows’ manure and chicken litter, we don’t need any chemicala fertilizers.
One issue I’m looking into this year is water quality. I’ve joked around in past years, saying that when it rains, the gardens are visibly improved and I haven’t thought much about the negative effect that our well water may have on the gardens. I’m planning to pump water from the pond to the gardens this year and see if there’s a difference.
This summer, we added a new 3 acre pasture, cleared and well-fenced. Big project for a family, but we got it done and it looks great. We put up a 39″ woven wire fence, an inch or two off the ground, and then added a barbed wired at 48″, creating a 48″ pasture fence that can keep any livestock in or out. I also arranged so that a strand of electric fence can be run around the top, middle and/or bottom of the fence if needed. It took our Great Pyrenees (Clovis) two days to find a way out of it, so I know it works well (he had to climb the gate). Definitely not a cheap fence, but the money we save from buying hay will pay it off over time.
I designed the fence and did all the detail work. My teenage sons dug the posts, cemented the posts and built the braces, which was amazingly helpful. My wife made supply runs as we went along and brought ice pops out to us as we worked. My daughters and younger sons helped me as I stretched the fence and barbed wire, made splices, and fastened it all and made water runs. Can’t guess how many thousands of dollars we saved and I think we did a better job than a fence company would do because I was able to make sure every spot was tight and clean.