What makes a farmer a “farmer”? I’m not exactly sure, but I’m pretty sure that simply buying abandoned farmland does not. As Athletes to Farmers, we were ready to prove that we are more than just talk!
For weeks since arriving in Montana, on our new 220+ acres of land, we’ve been busily unpacking, cleaning, settling in, exploring the property, thinking, dreaming, planning, and getting our feet under us.
But, at some point, you have to pull the trigger and commit to something that truly makes you feel like you are living the life you set out to live — in this case… farming! And, at some point, you have to set perfection aside, and work with what you’ve got!
So, despite not knowing what exactly we’re doing, and despite not yet having the perfect structures we hope to someday build, we decided it was time to go for it … it was time to take on some real farm animals and put this homestead to the test!
A couple of old barns — probably a hundred years old — have sat vacant on the property for who knows how long. An old chicken coop with falling insulation, broken glass, and rotting wood snuggled up next to a small livestock barn with a few crooked stalls.
We decided that with a little work, the livestock barn would be a great temporary shelter for chickens and pigs so that we could get our feet wet and take on our first farm animals!
With gloves, masks, and goggles, we made it a family affair to get in there and clean up the mess, move the nesting boxes into the bigger structure, and lay down fresh straw.
… And, so it happened. Just over a week ago, we bought our first pigs and chickens from our cousins around the corner! Some may suggest that we ended up with those low on the totem pole — the practice critters — the rejects, of sorts — but, we couldn’t be happier to welcome them to the farm. I think they are just perfect!
Two young mini pigs (we aren’t sure of the breed), who may or may not be pregnant, were “wrastled” into a “to go box” by my husband and trucked a mile down the road to their new digs. We affectionately named them Pearl (with a white stripe around her neck) and Petunia (with a pink nose).
Fifteen Araucana chickens were also flung into a dog carrier (it’s amazing how many chickens can fit into a very small space!) that same evening while calmly roosting. We have thirteen beautiful hens and two handsome roosters (named Commander and Lieutenant).
Slowly, but surely, the chickens are getting used to the pigs, and the pigs are getting used to us, and the barnyard is taking on a life of its own!
Upon arrival, the pigs and chickens were kept in the barn for three days and three nights so they could adjust to their new surroundings and gain trust in their new caretakers.
After their brief lock-down, the doors opened wide and they were released into the great outdoors, excited to explore and do what they do best… rooting and pecking for food, and helping us take first steps towards soil regeneration!
These little nuggets have brought us our first legit farm chores, greater purpose, and more attention towards the rising and setting of the sun.
Not only do the critters seem happy, but so do our boys. Even on cold mornings, or windy nights, they love to volunteer to check on and feed the animals. In fact, they are probably more proficient at it than I am.
Bringing down food scraps and winning over the pigs is their favorite (Pearl and Petunia are starting to eat out of their hands) . The roosters let the boys pat them and they’ll even roost on their arms from time to time.
At the end of the day when we close the barn back up, the boys are full of fresh air, a sense of accomplishment, and stories to share.
While the adventure has just begun, each of us already feels a greater sense of fulfillment, and baby steps closer to the commitment we made — better stewards of the land and more connected with mother nature.
We are in this together!