The Highland Hustle
Cows brought us to this property, to these 15 acres with a 2000 square foot, 100 year old house and an old, slightly broken down barn. The property tells us lots of life has happened here- milking stalls in the barn, random slabs of concrete here and there leaving questions of what it held, what seems like miles of soaker hose left in the front pasture the previous owner had used to irrigate organic hemp, and in the home handwritten labels in closets (in the font that guarantees the writer is a woman over 70), identifying whose linens belonged where.
Before establishing life here, we lived on five forested acres with a small, 1000 square foot manufactured home just a few minutes away. We had dreams of building our dream home and thinning the thick fir trees there to create a lightly forested grassland. We dreamt of harvesting the old black oak that stood tall just a few feet out the back door and littered the backyard and driveway with leaves late summer. We envisioned using the slabs for a handcrafted table, and weaving the remaining into a new home. My favorite tree, a mature Norway Maple, was home to our wooden swing, an anniversary gift from Jason, my husband. We nestled in with our growing family, each spring and summer squeezing in tighter to accommodate either a growing belly or the newborn nursing in the warm summer air.
As our family grew, we realized our need for a larger home was becoming imminent. We began planning the next stage, and then COVID hit and the world stopped. We witnessed supply chain issues, local businesses booming with business, quality of accessible food decrease, and our own security became questionable. We couldn't sustain our family here, and it became evident through this time.
A dream was born to self sustain our own high quality beef, poultry, and as much of our income as possible. The search was on for the right property. The requirements were 1) Flat, usable land 2) cross-fenced property 3) large, livable house 4) 550K and under 5) good water source 6) 15+ acres. Much sooner than we expected, an RMLS email arrived that met all of the requirements, and I was giddy.
Jason was out of town for work for a month, but with the current real estate climate there was no waiting. With the help of our community, I toured the home, made an offer, oversaw the inspection, listed and began packing our first home- all solo, all with four children. Jason got home to a giant pile by the front door and a frazzled wife who had packed up the house with a six month old, and two, four, and six year old in tow.
A whirlwind of a month later we were moved, the existing critters were in their new homes, and we had the infrastructure needed to begin building our dream. Almost exactly one month later our first Highland heifer was delivered- Maribel. We rapidly grew our herd to include two angus steers for butcher the following fall, Cotton and Smiley, two Highland steers who will be butchered in another year, Sven and Sunny, another Highland heifer, Daisy, a Highland bull from another line of cows, Duncan, and a mama Highland cow who was bred before purchasing, Rosie (fingers crossed we'll have a baby coo in the next 4-6 weeks).
I intended for this post to give the details of why we chose this breed, and what our plans are for the future of our herd. As I began writing, it became clear the history of our home and our story needed to be told before we can begin sharing our knowledge and lessons learned. In our next post I'll be diving into the details and logistics of why we've prioritized what we have and how we've done it.
In our first year we butchered two homegrown steers (RIP Smiley and Cotton, thank you for feeding our family!), 75 homegrown chickens, and harvested many, many buckets of spray free flowers. We had a monumental first year and crossed so many big goals off our list!
We are headed into our second year, having recently celebrated our one year anniversary in our home, and we have so many goals and plans ahead of us. They include doubling our chicken production to allow for outside sales, doubling our flower production, having a large garden, and moving into renovations on the property.
In my spare time (haha! Just kidding, this writing time is intentionally created for mostly my pleasure) I'll be sharing with you our methods and thoughts as we pursue these goals. We welcome you along for the ride, and thank you for reading with us as we navigate this life!
Rugged Roots Fam