Sunday, December 30, 2012

Our new mobile home

[Please keep in mind. We pick a topic and then write independently so we don't know what the other is writing.]

Karen:  She's a beauty, isn't she?  I mean the trailer, not the truck.  I'm sure that's what you thought I was talking about.  They're very similar, rust and all. 

Oh the possibilities this stock trailer offers.  We don't have a tractor (yet) or a log splitter or mulcher or......., but this trailer is something a "farmer" would have, isn't it?  Last year we had to borrow an inadequate horse trailer to take our hog to the butcher and breeder, AND we had to rely on a friend to arrange this loaner.  

Not only will we haul pigs, we'll haul donkeys to trails and use it as a moveable shelter for the goats so we can rotate pastures or use it as a portable milking room sometime.  The possibilities are endless. 

I'm super excited about this purchase (actually, it's a Christmas gift to me from James).  Rust and all, it's ours.  Maybe we should paint it and put our farm logo on it.  Oh, yeah, we don't have a farm logo.  Anyone have any ideas? 

JamesAll farmers have tractors, except for those who don’t. We don’t. Well, maybe we aren’t real farmers. I’m not going to argue that one, but I aspire to the title. A fine farmer is a Renaissance person, knowledgeable about meteorology, mechanical engineering, automotive mechanics, geology, chemistry, biology, botany, anatomy, veterinary medicine – the list is endless. Some day I’d like to feel comfortable posting this sign: “Elk Cliff Farm/Karen and James Pannabecker, Farmers.”

In the meantime, we and our homestead will gradually grow. Today we added a livestock trailer, bought from friends who, like us, are “moving up.” Why do we need a trailer?

“Need” is a loaded word. “Want” might be more accurate, at least until we hang that sign.

We wanted the trailer for two main reasons. First, we’d like a dependable vehicle of our own. A year ago we borrowed a trailer to deliver Velma the pig to an abattoir. Velma was too much for that trailer until we stopped en route to retrofit it. See

Second, we’d like to implement the rotational grazing promoted by the likes of Joel Salatin (Polyface Farms). To do this, we need a movable animal shelter. Our new trailer will protect our goats from wind, wet and sun as we rotate them through our 25-acre pasture.

Someday maybe we’ll add a tractor. Or not – perhaps our mammoth donkeys will train us to pull a plow instead.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Karen:  James and I decided to keep a blog together about our journey to a self-sustainable lifestyle.  Instead of having to agree on what we'll write, we thought it would be fun for each of us to give our own perspective on whatever the topic at hand may be.   As you'll figure out quite quickly, I focus more on the animals at Elk Cliff Farm and James is the gardener.

JamesWe hope to share with you our joys and disappointments developing Elk Cliff Farm into a sustainable homestead, where we provide as much as we can for our table and maybe eventually for other tables as well. Karen is the livestock manager, I focus on plants, and we both help each other. Some people think our roles are reversed from the usual, that Karen is the handyman and I’m the lady of the manor, but we don’t buy into stereotypes. We get things done as a team, trying to leverage what each of us does best.

Note: A recent article in Mother Earth News asked several homesteaders a few questions about their lifestyles. We're going to begin this blog by answering one of those questions. We prepared our answers independently, as we did the welcomes above. Here's today's question.

1. What motivated you to choose a self-sufficient, homesteading lifestyle? How did you get started?

Karen: It happened little-by-little, really. I'm not sure I chose it. I love raising animals and James loves gardening so one thing led to another. We got chickens for eggs but then of course we couldn't keep all the roosters so we began using some of them for meat. The dairy goats came next, then turkeys, pigs and rabbits, etc. The gardens continue to grow larger every year also.

JamesTwo signs pointed me toward self-sufficiency, a class in simpler living and two towers falling. Then I began to notice strange things, like rain gutters rushing water away from where it falls, and a four hundred dollar electric bill to warm or cool nearly five thousand square feet, much of which three people did not use. I noticed that we spent weekends in a rustic log cabin, away from our swimming pool and hot tub. I had to ask what was wrong with this picture.
We started by shedding the big house in the “country club” and moving to the rustic cabin. We fixed up a small neighboring cottage, which made more sense for winter living, and I began gardening again after fits and spurts over many years. The shaded garden in the woods left a lot to be desired. Two years later we bought a small homestead, Elk Cliff Farm, four miles down the road, which we drove past whenever we went anywhere. The farmhouse needed a lot of work (Karen’s job). I built a compost heap and started digging in bright sunshine.