Welcome to Home Shalom!

Welcome to Home Shalom and Shalom Farm. We pray your visit here be blessed. We are learning to walk in the Ways (Torah) of our Father YHWH and follow Y'shua, His Messiah until He returns to "set things straight". We call it a "Messi-Life". Our walk is neither tidy nor perfect, but it is filled with passion, devotion and desire to serve our King. We are learning to be humble servants, and to be good stewards of the things that He has entrusted to us: His Word, our marriage, our children, our family, our community, our health, and our farm. Hitch your horse and stay a while--our door is always open!

Our Farm

Visit our Farm Website:  www.ShalomFarm.net

We were featured on Real Food Forager who has a little homesteader's interview spot light called Home on the Range.  That is what inspired this little page.  I thought it might be nice to describe our farm in more detail than the interview would allow (as it is today July 13, 2012) and maybe update it as it grows and changes.  We share of our life when I can get time to document it (which has not been for a while!) here at Our Family Jots and Tittles.  

Welcome to Shalom Farm!  We purchased our farm in August of 2009, in rural TN.  We moved here from Lancaster County, PA.  We have 85 acers of rolling hills and woods.  It is about 60% pasture and 40% surrounded in woods.  When we first purchased the farm, some dear friends of ours visited from PA and were planning to come back to spend Sukkot (Biblical Feast of Tabernacles) with us at our place.  They figured they would run back home, get some affairs in order and come back and stay with us (in their camper) for a month and lead the effort to tare off our roof and put up a second floor!!  He said, "Heck Ben, you and I can do this."  He designed it and had experience in construction, my husband did not...but we said SURE! So we turned our tiny 2 br 1bth house into a 4br 2 bth house within about a month's time.  We brought our last load of stuff down in the last week of November officially moved into our farm in December 2009. (The baby was born that later that month.)   We were willing to 'rough it' for the sake of the vision of the farm with 8 of us in 2 br, but we were very excited and thankful for our dear friend's sense of adventure, hearts of service and desire to help! They were hear for over a month, Ben fell through the roof and injured himself and was out of commission.  This left Jacob alone with my (then) 10 yr old son to finish the job.  (I was pregnant.)  His wife and a couple local friends helped in a few crucial moments...it was such a beautiful picture of community and friendship.  We it STILL blesses our sock off when we think of it.

We border an Amish community, which is very nice because we are building relationships with them and learning a lot from them.  We are able to get our raw milk from them (until we get our own cow) and use their services (as the community vet, furrier, construction and additional farm labor).  While we enjoy and use electricity, it is our hope to be able to live well without it by making sure our basic needs and tools are not dependent on electricity. We are putting alternative things in place on our homestead to make that possible. Having relationships with others, who already live that way, is very helpful in that process!

We have 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys, whose ages range from 2-14.  We have two adopted daughters from Haiti, who have been home since 2009.  They were 2 and 5 years old at the time of coming home. They did not speak the language and it was a very large adjustment for our family.  We doubled our size from 3 children to 6 in that year.  That was also the year the baby was born (at home - like all the rest) and we bought the farm and moved from PA to TN.  We home school our children. 

Our faith is very important to us, it is the central focus which all else revolves.  We meet in “home fellowship” with other families who have also taken the responsibility to raise their children up in the ways of the Bible, instead of relying on a “church” to do it for them.  This is a humble yet joyful and rich life and community for which we are very thankful.  It too is organic in sustainable in its nature – just as it was originally designed.

Our homesteading goals are to be able to produce 95% of our own food from year to year without having to purchase it with a minimum of 10% to give.  This will require a good bit of diversity in our farm and our knowledge/skills.  We are developing these things now.  It is hard for us to see ourselves making an income from our farm yet…just the idea of self-sustainability for a family our size that is ALWAYS hosting company, can be an overwhelming thought, but maybe one day we will.  My husband works from home, but is still employed.  It is our ultimate goal to have a store on the farm which would be very much like an old fashioned general store, so pappa could become fully independent.  His current employer is a blessing, it provides him with a strong income and the flexibility and freedom to work His own schedule.  We are truly thankful for that!

In addition to the house renovation listed above and the animals listed below we have accomplished a few other things in our three years on the farm so far; planting a 10000 sq foot Back to Eden Style Garden , a small orchard with apple, cherry and peach trees, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, a perennial herb garden (still in progress), a root cellar and food storage shed with workshop, a well that is solar set up and simple summer kitchen.  We dug a well and set it up to run on a solar panel.  We put up fencing – fencing and more fencing, rainwater collection and securing animal transportation. With Amish help, we built a garden shed unto the barn, a wood shed, equipment shed, turkey brooder house and the pump house (which also doubles our summer kitchen for now).  We have acquired a tractor as well. We have tapped maple trees for syrup, foraged for food and installed a wood stove for heating a cooking.  We have also made co-operative arrangements with another local farmer to harvest our hay and yet another one to trade food for services.

1.                   What led you to become a traditional, urban or suburban homesteader?
I (Pamela) became a vegetarian when I was 18.  This started my interest in food quality and diversity.  It you are interested in whole food quality, it doesn’t take long until you get to the “root of food” and find yourself connecting with the source of it…which is farmers!  During my first pregnancy (at 26), I craved meat so badly that I stopped being a vegetarian (much to my husband’s delight!).  However, it was still very important to me, to eat clean whole nutrient dense food.  In my “defense” of (my previous) vegetarianism, I learned there was a big difference in how meat and dairy was raised.  We moved to PA and our food selection changed from the plentiful California fair I was used to.   In the first few years of my (then) two children’s lives, they never had milk, because I didn’t trust even the organic store bought (homogenized pasteurized) stuff.  .  I found myself hunting for good food.  I started a health food co-op and became very connected with my local farmers.  We lived in a very small house in town, my yard was about 40x40 feet, but I had a big garage so this turned into a weekly food co-op for over 50 families!  J  I think the desire to homestead was seeded then.  It came out of a love for food, family, and community, but what tipped the scales was probably reading The Little House on the Prairies series aloud to my young children!  

2.                   What do you love about your homestead?  EVERYTHING!   It is still and out of the way on a dead end road.  We hear sounds of life here; Birds chirping, the donkey braying, an occasional cow mooing, roosters crowing, children calling out (and you don’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors!).    It is spacious and beautiful. 

3.                   What would you change? The biggest thing we would like to change is to be “debt free”.  So we are working toward owning our farm outright…but we do not yet.  It is also part of our vision to allow a couple other families on our farm to give them that very advantage that we did not have.  It might be nice to have a few less insects and spiders…but we have learned how to live together (outside), they are still not tolerated inside!  

4.                   What new skills have you learned and how have you applied them?  We are learning EVERYTHING as we go!  It is ALL new.  Having not been raised in an agrarian lifestyle and having lived in cities and suburbia most of our lives at age 40+ we are learning everything from scratch.  Hunting, butchering, preserving food, animal husbandry, growing food, sewing, carpentry and DIY, you name it.  Homesteading requires ingenuity.  There are always problems to solve and things to overcome, be they big or small.  You learn to think on your feet.  For example, as I type this, my husband has taken a baby bottle brush, that was too fat to fit in my new batch of bottles, that we use to make our Kombucha soda in.  He has taken the fat factory handle off the bottle brush, and screwed it into a thinner wooden dowel.  The end of the brush had a sponge that was too fat to fit in the narrow neck.  But now…it work perfectly.

5.                   What skills would you like to learn? I would like to be more proficient in all the things that we are learning.  That awkward “beginner stage” is always the worst.  We fumble in insecurity and we make mistakes. These mistakes are usually costly and or timely.  It will be so nice when experience takes its place and spares us some of that!  We are always looking for others who have gone before us, so that we may benefit from their experience.  However, there is a certain amount of “earning one’s stripes” that is inevitable!

6.                   What animals or plants do you have?  At the time of this writing, we have 50 turkeys, 81 chickens, 8 sheep, 3 donkeys, and 4 beef cows (that we keep for someone else).  We also have 6 farm cats and a dog.  We will breed our sheep to increase our flock (considerably) and will also get a couple more donkeys to go into each sheep field (they act as guardians to the sheep).  We also plan to get meat goats and our own beef and dairy cows. We plan to increase our planting and to also raise bees.

7.                   What makes you happy with your life as a homesteader?  So many things!  We quickly learned the simple life isn’t so simple…but it IS worth it.  There are so many things that we gain from it that makes me happy.  We gain life-skills that we simply would not have if we were living in suburbia or the city.  We have gotten connected with the cycle of life and creation so much more intimately.  We watch the cycles of the sun, moon and stars and are seeing the amazing patterns that God has put in place, like the mechanics of a clock that work together and run flawlessly and with great purpose.  We have become aware and are growing in knowledge of the wild things around us that can be used to sustain ourselves, such as taping trees and using bark and roots, and using plants that most people call weeds for food or medicine.  We have gained a greater respect for nature which has made us better stewards of it.  We work together as a family, without so many of the distractions and noise of the crazy world around us.  This creates strong bonds and relationships in our family and spills out into our community.  This “home based” life helps us to establish a lifestyle we love so  that we can walk in our faith freely, which is very very important to us. The homestead is a safe place which gives us lots of opportunities to be challenged and to strengthen our character and exercise our values.  ALL these things make me very happy with my life as a homesteader. 

This is our home.  When we moved three years ago, it had no front porch, gutters or second floor. It still had a green tin roof, and when it rained we had to walk through a rushing waterfall to get in and out of the door!    I much prefer our porch and gutter system now.  J Peppermint plants are on either side of the door.  The cabinet holds our kindling and the black can next to it is our “ash can”.  We have had many a sweet moments on this porch with family and friends even though we have only been here three years.

This is what my wood cook stove looks like in the warmer months.  I call it my fermentation station.  J  It is where I put my cultured veggies and kefir whey based ferments.  (I separate my Kombucha Ferments in a different room.  I learned - the hard way- that they my kombucha will interfere with the kefir ferments when set side by side, even when I have lids on them!)
Here the children are working together to plant our new grape vines in the fruit patch.  I was excited to learn (from Sandor Katz) that grape leaves will help my lacto fermented pickles!! By reading further, I also learned that you an use oak or maple leaves just the same!

Here is the main “Back to Eden” garden.  It is doing so much better than last year’s planting straight into our soil.  We have only watered it when we initially seeded.  The soil is rich and full of warm activity.  We still have to weed a little, but very little in comparison to before.  When we do weed it is very easy, the weed come right out of the rich loamy soil.  There is another Purple Martin House over here too.  (I've been meaning to post about them!) The purple buckets you see, house our worms.  Its about time we double their space…they should be multiplied by now…I need to go check that! 
These are our new breed of sheep in which we are specializing in now.  They are St. Croix Hair sheep.  These are our 6 ewes that will start our flock.  They are more docile and friendly than the (formerly raised)  Black Belly Barbados (but not as cute, in my opinion).   They follow us a round when we enter the filed they travel together, much like a school of fish.  They are really neat animals to raise! They are heavier (so you get more meat) and they were used in dairies in Europe at one time.  We hope to try to milk them one day.  They do well in our warm climate and very parasite resistant.  We are very please with them so far.
I leave you with the picture of Shomare, our “guard donkey”.  He lives with the ewes and it is so fun to watch.  He herds them and sounds an alarm in times of concern.  They are deadly to predators.  He has stolen my heart, because he is very affectionate.  When I went out to see him today (which I don’t do as often as he would like!!), he sounded a loud and long donkey bray on my approach to the gate.  Then he came running toward me like an excited dog.  He stopped short at the gate, stuck his big nose through it just like this, and froze so that I could love on him.  When I do pet him, he reminds me of “pig pen” from the old Charlie Brown Cartoons.  Clouds of dust poof off of him, because he rolls in the dirt to keep cool and deal with bugs.  (Which is why I don’t go out to him often… I am always dealing with food or people…and he IS rather dusty.)  J   However, He is such a sweet heart…if you have never seen a donkey bray in person, you are in for a treat when you do!  It is very animated, dramatic and drawn out.  You just gotta love’ m!
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our farm.  Shalom! (May peace be with you!)