Bought a 50 acre farm!!!!

Megan Venturella
Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

I haven’t been able to keep up with much on here for the last month or so because my husband and I decided to leave the California suburbs for South Carolina. I have lots of family here, but we are all transplants. We took two and a half weeks to drive across America and then another 3 weeks to find our new home. It was an incredible experience.

We planned to buy maybe a house with 3 bedrooms on 5-10 acres, but we fell in love with some land instead. 50 acres with pasture and an 11 stall barn. The barn has a loft, so we will remodel half the barn into bedrooms (we are a family of 4). We are VERY excited, but while I have experience with gardening, goats, and chickens, I don’t know a thing about larger animals or pasture.

I’m assuming that I need to start reading everything written by Joel Salatin, but if anyone has any advice on, well, just about anything, I thought I’d put it out there!



  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin

    I can help you out with chickens & other birds, & cows (beef & dairy). We've had & have some other animals too. I'd just jump in if needed for other animals that I am familiar with.

    Revamping a barn loft is super cool. Friends of ours have done this & they say it is a lot of work, you need lots of patience & time, and it can be expensive. They told us never to take on a project like that. lol But if it is a dream, what else can you do? 😉

    Keep unique features if possible! If there are interesting pieces of hardware (possibly the pulley system or parts), I'd work it in as a decorative piece of the grand plan. I recently bought part of an old work harness. Its leather shows its age and is not in great shape. The metal pieces have some rust (no big deal), but it will look great hung up somewhere. We also bought an antique ice saw that same day. It will also become a display piece.

    When we talked about redoing a barn that we were looking at, we talked about keeping most features as true as we could, and since it was dark inside & I love large houseplants (hello, high ceiling!), that we would put windows not only where the large loft doors were, but also some into the roof on the south side (barn ran east-west), not on the highest parts, but into the first part of the roof. I'm not sure how to explain what I mean.

    This barn had a second, more plain barn off of one part, making a beautiful open space. It was off the middle, making a "T". I could have seen a grand entrance there. Oh the dream was fun to "walk"...but the place was sold to someone else, which is just as well.

    What will you do with the bottom? I dreamed of possibly using it as a country store carrying local, handmade, local & hard to find unique items or something, to bring in income of some sort. I think our dream was too big...but I still enjoy that one from time to time.

    Can you post pictures of your lovely pics (love those!), main floor, outer pics? I am very excited for you!

  • dottile46
    dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭

    Congratulations!! Super happy for you guys.

    @LaurieLovesLearning dormer windows? They aren't in the ends but come out the sides of the roof?

    I had the dream of having a half barn half home at one time in my life so I did read a great deal on it. This was before the internet so the local library and magazines were my sources. A couple of things that come to mind from that are to be sure you have adequate structural support for this and a vapor barrier between human and animal spaces is essential. I think the magazine Western Horseman carried an article on someone who did just that.

    A great resource is the university extension in SC. They will have info that is specific to your state, maybe even bio-region. I don't know the ages of your children, but the 4-H program has been helpful to many families.

    Here's a link for the university extension I found half an hour ago. I had to read a bit of a couple of them. lol

  • Brindy
    Brindy Posts: 212 ✭✭✭

    Congratulations! That is so exciting! I love the barn idea and can't wait till you post pictures. We are a family of eight and decided to move to a small farm and convert a big 14x40 shed into a home. I still haven't taken updated pictures, but it looks like a home inside. We love it. I how you enjoy the journey!

  • MelissaLynne
    MelissaLynne Posts: 205 ✭✭✭

    Congrats @Megan Venturella!! That is so exciting!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,517 admin

    Congratulations @Megan Venturella. That is a very nice sized piece of land. What an adventure you will be on for the next few months getting this all ready to move into.

    After building two houses and watching my daughter build a tiny house I can tell you that you will have struggles. There will be days where absolutely everything that can go wrong will go wrong. You will wonder if you were mad to start this project. There may be stressful, heated conversations with family members. But once you are in your new home, you will look back and remember all the fun you had doing it and the struggles will seem much less after the fact. So keep the light at the end of the tunnel in sight.

    You will also get a great deal of satisfaction out of doing this. It is a good feeling to be able to stand back and say "I built that". That will also help counter any difficult patches. You will be able to put your own touches on everything and make your home function for your individual needs.

    Your children will learn so much during this project. I know mine did. when we were building. Geometry comes alive when you have the ability to calculate the run of a roof or the angles on peaked windows or algebra to figure out how many board feet vs lineal feet in a sling of 2x4s.

    I'm with @LaurieLovesLearning on saving any bits of history of the place. In one house, we had glass insulators from the old telegraph lines that had gone through our property, mounted on a board and used as coat hooks.

    For your pasture, you should get your soil tested so you know what you are starting with. Take several samples from around your acreage as you probably have pockets of different soil types depending on the moisture or what has been happening on the land in the past.

    Pieces of advice about larger animals. Shetland ponies are escape artists. Weaner pigs are escape artists. I haven't been around dairy cows in a long time but my choice, if I were to get a cow, would probably be a Guernsey. When we had goats my preference was Nubians. Sweet temperament. If you get sheep, get a good dog; Komondor, Great Pyrenees or other sheep dog.

    I am excited for you and your family as you move forward. Please keep us all posted.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella Congrats. What a challenge.

  • naomi.kohlmeier
    naomi.kohlmeier Posts: 380 ✭✭✭

    Congratulations @Megan Venturella! That is so exciting!!! I know about chickens and cattle although I haven't had cattle for several years; my daughter raises them now. Hopefully the pasture has been managed well up to this point, if not, spend a little time getting it back into shape. Go slow, as it's easier to take on one or two projects at a time rather than jumping in and trying to do everything at once. :) Also, get to know your neighbors as they can be a great asset in helping you understand the lay of the land and where to get the best of whatever you're looking for. Blessings on your new adventure!

  • Tave
    Tave Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Congratulations! If you have experience with goats, the larger animals shouldn't be a problem. We had both, and the goats were escape artists, while the larger animals seemed to be more content to stay in the pasture. Hope it all goes well for you, South Carolina is beautiful.

  • burekcrew86
    burekcrew86 Posts: 248 ✭✭✭

    Congratulations! What an exciting and wonderful journey you are about to take! Keep us posted with updates, as well as the good, bad, and the ugly. We can all learn from this type of experience. Can’t wait to see pictures!

  • lewis.mary.e
    lewis.mary.e Posts: 225 ✭✭✭

    Talk about a leap of faith! Congratulations! The only advice I have is have patience and believe that it will all be worth it in the end. :)

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin

    @dottile46, no dormers. We wanted to keep the look of the barn if we got it, so wanted to keep them flat, like skylights. We wondered if putting a row of solar panels on the next section up would work as it seemed to have the correct slope.

    Interestingly enough, housebarns were once common to Mennonite families. There are preserved examples of this historical construction in the southeast area of my province. They were structured differently than what @Megan Venturella is talking about.

    @torey We looked into getting a Guernsey but decided against it, even though there is a herd only a couple hours from us. They are not good at converting carotene, which explains the color of their milk. Jerseys can convert it so that it is useful to the cow & to humans. They are smaller and have excellent feed conversion, also, they have a higher butterfat content (thicker, richer cream). They are easy calvers because of their hip structure and generally do well birthing even calves crossed from larger breeds.

    I agree that you should get a reliable farm dog. Dont just take anyone's word that their pup that they are going to sell you is great, purebred or whatever. I find that many aren't honest or really aren't well researched about what they think they have.

    Always keep the dog on the property as a working dog (except for vet visits) and don't allow anyone else to bring their dogs onto your property. This will keep it from accepting other dogs which can end up being the worst predators. You want an independent minded dog, not one that is "easy to train." We know people with labs or golden retrievers. Those are not good guards, nor are they bred for that line of work.

    Considering that you have kids, you will want it to be good with kids too.

    Our best and most reliable dog all around was a purebred Norwegian elkhound. We have learned that for anything to be reliable in traits, they have to be pure.

    She just didn't fetch she tried playing soccer), but she was super reliable, naturally herded, hunted her own food in the summer, protected from bears, coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons, mink, etc; could easily be used for hunting, was always gentle with all kids, independent, barked only when necessary, loved guarding animals and we could have trained her to pull. She learned very quickly what was acceptable (including not helping me pick peony blossoms, lol), and only did things if she saw a purpose to it. She was fast and energetic. They love cold & snow. I am not sure how they would enjoy heat as their double coat might pose an issue.

    Anyway, of course I am biased after experiencing all that this breed has to offer, but you need to choose what best fits your family & situation.

  • frogvalley
    frogvalley Posts: 675 ✭✭✭✭

    What a great journey! Congratulations on taking the first step. Just getting to cross the country is amazing, but now, getting to start a whole new chapter is the best.

    Joel's (Salatin) place in Virginia is close to your new home, so you might want to plan a visit sometime.

    If I were you, I would start making gardening mistakes as soon as possible. By that, I mean plant a few things here and there so that you have something coming up in the spring to welcome you. Some of these may stay where planted, but then again many may deserve a re-do when you find the spot isn't as sunny as you thought, the wind whips up from the wrong direction, or it's too dry. I love my mistakes because I find plant wisdom in them.

    Take a notebook out and map the plant treasures you find. Remember that finding a gazillion pennies is certainly treasure while you might overlook the singleton that is an indicator of something hidden below. One doesn't have to know all the latin terms, but by acknowledging they are there, you are on the path to enlightenment of all things great and small available to you.

    I'm reliving all that I felt when we started anew just by thinking of all the fun you're going to have creating your new life. Enjoy the journey!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,517 admin

    @LaurieLovesLearning My choice of a Guernsey was because of childhood experience, not due to any good milking or calving traits. :) We had a Jersey as well. Her name was Bossy and she was aptly named. Very independent and would push us around as kids. Our Guernsey on the other hand was like a lap dog. She would come up to you and hang her head on your shoulder wanting pets. I remember having a Holstein for a short period. No personality to that one at all but a lot more milk.

    While I do remember the Guernsey producing a darker milk, I did not know that about the conversion of carotene. Good to know.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin

    @torey They all have their unique personalities. I can see why you'd want another if given the choice.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,091 ✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella Congratulations! And thumbs up to a great adventure!! I would love to hear how everything is coming together,

    positive as well as negative. We have a place in Texas, and plan to start building in the near future. (Excited, yet nervous lol)

    Keep us posted!!

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,423 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella I'm so excited for you! What a blessing and adventure! I look forward to hearing all your success stories!

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella You said 11 stall barn. Are those 11 box stalls or just standing stalls? Gives me a better idea of the barn size. Also, what about water and power? What's your status on those?

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin

    @RustBeltCowgirl What a great question. Box stalls make for interesting options to work with too.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning Thanks. I was at a barn sale where the owners had converted a box stall into a bedroom with woodburner in order to stay in the barn with a terminally ill horse. A 10X10 box stall makes a decent size bedroom or a very spacious bathroom.

  • bcabrobin
    bcabrobin Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    We've have Holstein, calm for the most part milker, great calving, good mom, again for the most part, we've had a few with attitudes they don't make for great on your farm. And they are large, can be hard to handle, if you have never worked with large animals go for something small.

    Angus - even ----- Angus cross can be VERY mean - stay away from these!

    Guernsey are all around nice would go for this, any day! Lots of milk, rich creaming, lot's of fat for butter. Good moms, calm great with kids.

    Contact your local 4 - H group they will have great info

  • Annie Kate
    Annie Kate Posts: 680 ✭✭✭✭

    Congratulations @Megan Venturella! What an exciting time for you all.

    We used to move lots and I've found that the most important thing to do is to find friends. With them, everything will go better; without them bad days will feel much worse.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin

    Thinking about breeds of animals, do your research. But be aware that any cattle/horse can get very protective at birthing time. We are always careful even with the most gentle of our animals and approach them with respect...and without the dog. That is very important!

    You might want to look into Highland for a smaller beef. They are supposed to be quite gentle and do well in both heat & cold. Our luing (originally a cross between highland & beef shorthorn) is very gentle (except for her short sharp kick backward) and so very calm. She is short too! Short can make for easier handling, but not always. Remember that these animals are heavy & if their personality is stubborn, have fun moving them. Haha

    Stay away from popular small breeds like dexters, as they have issues with dwarfism. Just beware of these types of things if you wish to go mini breed.

  • NarjissMomOf3
    NarjissMomOf3 Posts: 113 ✭✭✭

    Congratulations!! I am so excited for you. Enjoy the ride!

  • beel.sara
    beel.sara Posts: 15 ✭✭✭

    That is great! My only advice would be to not burn yourself out by taking on everything in the first year.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    @Megan Venturella what wonderful news and a great journey about to start for you and your family, very exciting. The only sound advice I could offer is, don't rush in. Think about infrastructure, you want to do it once and do it well. Water is the number one thing, without it, you your plants and animals are in trouble. Draw plans, work out where you want/need your water to go.(keep a map of underground plumbing, comes in handy if you want to dig or extend existing supply) Also tree lines, fences etc. Trees are important to get in for protection and shade for your animals.(which direction does the wind usually blow from) Fences are important to keep stock where you want them and also stress free handling.

    You will get to meet locals with knowledge, agronomist, vet, produce store. What is your aim? To grow healthy food for your family, raise your kids in a rural environment where they learn different skills. Be chemical free? Be sure to get a history of the land, did the previous owners use chemicals, fertilizer etc. Have fun, don't stress and take your time.

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,842 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Congrats @Megan Venturella what an exciting adventure!

  • Silkiemamuska
    Silkiemamuska Posts: 99 ✭✭✭

    Congratulations!! Reading the responses from everyone, you are in very good educational hands covering construction, farmland evaluation and integrating yourself into the local life. Enjoy every minute especially the challenging ones. If you can keep enough energy to document this journey you will have memories for lifetimes - yours and your children.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    I am so fortunate to have this kind of community to go to!! Thank you for the responses, I’m going to read through everything at least 3 or 4 times!

    I think patience and going slowly are two huge themes, and I couldn’t agree more. There are times you have to just jump in, and times to slow down. I’ve probably done enough jumping this year.

    I love the community, people have been so kind here. I’m willing to do my best to discover the South!

    I don’t even know what kind of barn it is, lol. I never gave a thought to what type of stalls they are. In a week we close and I’ll put up pictures, but tonight my internet won’t let me post any. Ugh. Maybe tomorrow!