Why I Homestead: Jenn Campus


Since I was small, I have always loved animals with horns and hooves, mainly goats and sheep, but also as I have gotten older, members of the cervidae family, like elk, reindeer and whitetails, all ruminants similar to their domesticated cousins. If there is a family of animals that I feel a kind of kinship and draw to, it would be ruminants. Yes, I love my dogs – they are pretty much kids to me, but the ruminants have always held deep fascination for me. Goats for example are the second domesticated animal after dogs, so the human race has a long history with them, as well as the cervidaes who have nourished and clothed humans for centuries. It is stored in our blood and DNA, and theirs too.

My whole life, I have loved working farms and petting zoos – where I could go and watch, get close to and touch domesticated livestock animals, always dreaming that one day I might have my own flock of sheep or mixed herd of sheep and goats – a modern day little bo peep, who always loved the black sheep! I have had some wonderful experiences working with these animals and they have left their hoof marks on my heart. For many years now, I have had a dream to be a dairy maid. First it was making artisanal ice cream, and then turned to cheesemaking, which has been my focus for the past few years.

Now that we are committed to and living the homesteading life, something we have both wanted to pursue for years, and made the decision to raise livestock animals ourselves, the reality of that, and what it all entails has really hit home, no longer in the fantasy world of my child’s mind.

Not growing up on a farm nor having any family members or friends living on farms, I am the first to admit my ignorance about dairy animals. I will admit without embarrassment, for example, that it was rather recent on the grand scale of time, that I realized that goats need to have babies in order to produce milk and in turn, that then there are those babies to deal with. I say without embarrassment, because like so many others, I was raised apart from my birthright as a human being. This was not my parent’s fault, but that of some many stronger, sinister elements which have made so many of us estranged from our food and where it comes from. Since the industrial age, children have been encouraged to leave home and the farm for a better way of life in the cities, getting “good jobs” and “making lots of money” – more fantasies. This shift in culture has removed us from our humanity, one that has lived and worked with livestock for millennia.

Responsible homesteaders who have animals under their care, must always look to the future, there is a lot of pre-planning that comes into play – like where to house them, how to keep them safe from predation, disease and parasites, when to breed your animals, how you are going to do that (there are several options), how many animals your land can support (and if it can’t support the mammas and all their offspring, how will you handle that) and where and with what equipment you will eventually milk them. These cannot be last minute decisions, as the survival of your animals depends on your ability to care for them and to look after their welfare. As much as these animals can take care of a lot of their needs themselves, as humans, who have been domesticating and breeding livestock to have certain traits (to the detriment of others) this is our greatest responsibility when we bring livestock animals under our care.

I felt that although I spent the year before we got our sheep and goats preparing by reading as many books as I could, talking to other farmers, reading blogs, etc, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for the next steps. Raising them to have a nice life is one thing, but when you plan to use them to feed your family, there are other considerations.

So for the 5 weeks of June this summer, I took a Farm to Table course of study at Sterling College and learned a lot about the ins and outs of running a farm, the little details of how various animals and plants work together to make a sustainable system. I read countless articles and book excerpts from amazing pastoralists, all with their different perspectives on sustainability, certainly a lot of fodder for homestead applications.

Then we learned how to make food from a variety of animal products, dairy and meat. But the food business entrepreneurship class was the one that really got me thinking about our animals, and our future together. There are some major stumbling blocks that appeared and started crashing in on my little fantasy world – hard decisions to be made.

It has not been an easy time. But these are the times for the greatest growth, understanding and compassion, and at the heart of it all, my love and deep respect for the animals under my care.



Hey Giz! Thanks! Great to hear from you! 🙂 – you can check out everything going on at the homestead on my other blog gotgoats.com – hope all is well with you!

I hear you Anne! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

I loved this post!! I haven’t touched base since San Fransisco and look what happens!!! The goats are beautiful and you definitely haven’t taken the easy way out. Love the pic of the goat on Roberto’s back hahaha

I have sheep. There is something so peaceful and satisfying about watching them eat. Now after reading your article it makes sense- it’s in my DNA.

Thank you so much @Betty – having mentors is very helpful. I have a goat mentor – the farmer we bought our doelings from, but he lives almost 2 hours away, so I haven’t had a chance to do any work for him. There is a woman nearby who raises goats for goat milk and I am trying to schedule a time that I can come and learn to milk. You are so right about being drawn to Gene’s writings. Makes so much sense! I would love to be a mentor to another sheep or goat farmer one day!

Thanks richardgrossman – Thank you so much! It is true, you can tell who really loves their animals! 🙂 I (obviously) just love my goats and sheep and try to do the best I can by them – I am thinking little improvements and tweaks every year. Yes, the hard part will come with the culling, and dealing with bucklings, but it is all part of the process.

This is a great and honest post! When I learned to keep bees, I had a mentor. He had learned from a mentor whom he called “Brother Bob” with input from “Brother Bill” and “Brother Edwin”. (Beekeeping used to be a boy’s club.) I was cheap (free) labor for my mentor for years and when he died, he passed on his bees to me. I had my own hives by that time but hadn’t really planned on having a real side-line apiary. I’ll have to say another level of learning came at that time!

People used to learn to farm or ranch by working for their parents or another farmer. You learned by doing, by a sort of apprentiseship. However, good mentors with practical knowledge are few these days–that is why we are all so drawn to Gene’s writings. Would-be farmers prepare and research the best they can and then jump in. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s when the real learning begins! I admire you for working so hard to make homesteading real for yourself. Maybe someday you’ll be passing on some practical knowledge to another would-be goat herder or sheep rancher!

The best reason to raise livestock is because you love that particular animal. I grew up on a farm in dairy country, and I can generally tell in a few minutes on a farm who really loves their cows.

I am also partial to dairy goats. The toughest thing about them is culling does, but that is the essence of breeding— to improve a species and leave the next generation with something a bit better.

I wish you much success.

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