Monday, December 23, 2013

If I can do it anyone can!!

It was not too many years ago I lived on a resort in the Caribbean, I had a nanny, a gardener and drove a golf cart to pick up my children from one of the top privet schools on the island.  I had a pretty fluffy life.
Eight years later I sit here  after coming in from morning chores thinking of that life and how I got to where I am now.  It is odd to think about really, I wanted to be self sufficient and provide healthy food for my family.  I had no farming experience really.  I had a few chickens  and a little garden but it was all in play.  I didn't produce enough to feed our family, in fact I had to buy eggs even though we had chickens.  How silly is that?
I read all I could get my hands on about homesteading and small scale farming.. I got information overload for sure.  All those talented people out there figuring how to use their land to it's fullest possibility down to the square inch.  All those beautiful romantic photos of farms and gardens.  Ahh how I longed to have that!

We bought our land and a 1,000 square foot house(for 7 of us) and set to work.  Our first garden was pretty good despite all the weeds.  I spent so many hours weeding and yet my garden was nothing to be proud of, but it fulfilled the propose and we ate beautiful fresh veggies all summer and I did can some tomatoes.  We also had to build fences that first year.  UGGH! what a challenge.  I pounded fence post.. hunky hubby pounded fence post...the kids that were big enough pounded fence post... I really thought we were never going to get done and my arms were going to fall off at any moment. Fencing is hard work!!  I don't remember any of the books saying that!?
  We bought a few dairy goats, paid way too much because I got talked in to buying registered does. I could of bought a cow for what I paid for two goats.  What a mistake.  I just wanted milk I did not need papers for them.  The goats were sweet and milking them was a joy.  The problem...we didn't really like the goat milk.  We decided to get a cow.  More wiring for the barn...a stanchion needed to be built. Things we had never done. Then we had to build housing for the chickens..nest boxes more fences.  Ordered 200 chicks, raised them to just starting to lay and the coyotes found out we had chickens.  Lost all 200 in a matter of weeks.  Again we tried and lost so many that I quit the chickens.
I love bacon!  Really who doesn't?  Let's raise some hogs!  More fences and housing.  Bought some feeder pigs from a local commercial hog farm.  The little cute pink ones.  Ya until they get big then they turn in to horrible farmer chasing,growling,scary hogs!  I hated those first hogs, they would bite me every chance they got, and I was scared to death of them.  I rejoiced the day they went to the butcher! Maybe I could live without bacon......
We have come a long way... made so many mistakes and our farm is FAR from those romantic farm photos in the magazines and books.  I worked long hours and probably have liver damage from all the ibuprofen I took that first year.  It has gotten better..not much fencing to do now. We are many years in to out farming journey, one that has given me many blisters, and still I feel that we are making progress, slow steady progress.
I used to sit on the beach reading Mother Earth news while the nanny watched my kids and cleaned my house. I was about as girlie as you could be.  Now I milk cows, raise heritage hogs, herd chickens, feed lambs, home school the kiddos and produce most of the food we eat.  I have come a LONG way.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Farm Fact Friday

It is about 450 feet to the milk barn, I milk twice a day so 900 feet in a day times 365 equals  328500 feet per year.  There are 5280 feet in a mile so in a year I walk 62.23 miles just to milk... Geeseh no wonder I am tired!

Wordless Wednesday

What?? You say it is not Wednesday? How did that happen?  I lost two days somewhere.
   I have been caning chicken.  We butchered 85 of the summers laying hens and I have been in the kitchen for days deep in the caning trance.  I have finished 106 quarts of chicken soups and stock, tonight I am caning just straight chicken to use in casseroles and such later.  I love to see all those lovely jars on the shelves but right now I am pretty sick of chicken!  We have three more batches of 85 and all the hens will be gone.  Hopefully I can get that done in the next few weeks if the weather cooperates.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I never thought about being a farmer......


No really.. I never thought that I would be a farmer.  You know that question everyone asks when you are young "Hey little lady what do you want to be when you grow up?"  I not once said farmer... now when I was little as my #6  my response was princess. As I grew "princess" seemed out of the question so on came the many "girlie" jobs.... teacher, mom, nurse....never farmer.  Well, here I am now a few... ahem... years from that princess answer, a farmer.
   I have been surprised in my farming by many things.. I am not overly concerned with the old farmers that really like to tease me or that the feed store and the vet think I am odd.  The biggest thing has really been my ignorance to farming.  Before we bought our farm I never thought about what the animals ate or how much medication had been given to them.  I thought that farmers who fed crappy feed to their animals were rare.  I thought that the growth hormones and such were just for some of the big farmers, Tyson and those type.  I was horribly shocked when we got our first animals.
  I went to the local feed coop to buy feed, and came home empty handed.  All of the sheep,chicken,hog and cattle feed had some sort of hormone,antibiotic or animal by-product in them!!  I had no idea that it was so common to feed these things.  I had a difficult time finding feed.  I called all over our area to find some good quality feed.  It took quite some time, but I finally got what I thought farmers fed their animals...grain that's it just whole grains.  Now almost 8 years later I have convinced the local coop to carry whole grains.( I think I am the only one who buys it) I wish I had been more educated as a consumer when I did not have a farm.  I have always tried to be healthy and give my kids the best..I just didn't know how bad the problem was.
I am still learning as a farmer and make more dumb mistakes than I care to admit.  One thing is for sure
after that experience it completely solidified my desire to provide safe healthy food for my children.
I am proud to say I am a farmer.   I am a farmer that works to provide healthy non medicated, hormone free,animal by-product and anything else creepy out of my animals feed.  In doing this I provide myself with peace of mind and a satisfied hunger, being a farmer is good.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Farm Fact Friday

We feed a mixture of whole non-gmo grains to the cows that I mix as I feed them.  We feed on average 50lb per day for the 5 cows.  In the past year I have carried an average of 18,250lbs of grain to the barn.  Who says girls are wimpy?!?!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Miss Ida sporting her new jewelry!

One of the problems we have had is the calves nursing all the cows. We work with the cows to be super friendly and we breed for temperament.  This has it's ups and downs.  I love that anyone can work with our cows, and you can really just sit down next to them anywhere and milk them.  The problem is that they let anyone or anything nurse... even adult cows, sheep... whatever.  We have tried every weaning device over the years and last year we found this one. IT WORKED!!   We had a dozy of time weaning Phoebe she was 14 months old and still sucking everyone.  She had a knack for disposing of all the other devices we bought.  I still haven't found  few of them.  One of the problems is that it has to be made in such a way that the calf can still graze but also keep them from nursing.  This one can be made to poke out ( like how Ida is wearing it) or turned around to poke the calf.  Phoebe wore hers to poke her, we had to train her not to want to suck everything in the pasture.  After a few weeks we take the device off and so far we have not had any problems with them sucking.
  Sweet Ida  figured out that that there were other cows in the pasture that had milk and was snacking away, to the point of making herself sick.  I moved her to a pasture by herself and she managed to convince one of the cows to stand next to the fence so she could have a snack that out came the weaning ring.  She is not too happy with it and certainly is unhappy with me. Today she finally took treats from me and let me pet her.  She can hold a grudge!  Hopefully she will be able to go back out to the big pasture with the other cows in a few days I want to make sure she is grazing well and drinking before I turn her out.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Farm Fact Friday

In the past year we have brought in an average of 13,440 lbs if milk from our sweet cows..that is almost 2,000 gallons!!  Whew that is a lot of milk!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I had a scary thought...........

I just realized that I had never milked a cow as an adult until we brought home our first cow Lola. Kinda hard  to believe it now when I think about it.  If I had really known all the hard work I might of ran screaming through the pasture.  That was over 7 year ago.  Tonight I milked late, the barn was dark and quite as I entered with all the various bits it takes to milk, the milker, the wash water, all my rags and the treats for the ladies.  Once I enter the barn I fall into a rhythm, I have done this so many times that my body seems to know what to do even if my brain is deep in thought as it was tonight. I prepare the feed for the girls tonight we had oats,barley,sunflower seeds,chopped apples and molasses, by far this is a favorite.  The cows are waiting and listening for that moment when I open the large sliding door to let them come into the warm glow of the barn lights.  Each cow knows where she belongs, they rush to their stanchions and eagerly begin munching.  I take a few minuted to brush them and then to give them a good udder wash before I hook up the milker.  When we were milking Lola we milked by hand, now with three fresh cows we are using the bucket milker.  I flip the switch for the vacuum pump the swish and tick of the milker is like a gentle slow dance.  I sit next to the cow that is being milked with my head in her flank listening to her breathing, watching the milker to ensure all is well.  I talk to the cows about anything and everything they are thoughtful listeners and will listen to me ramble along about life.  I have really come to love my time in the barn.  It centers me and gives me solace and peace from my very hectic life.  I am amazed when I think of how this all started with Lola, all the fear and questions  have faded with time and lots of hands on time milking.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to care for these gentle loving animals I get so much more than milk from them. Thanks Girls!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Egg problems again........

During the summer months  on average we have 500 happy production red hens running all over.  I love to see the girls chasing bugs and enjoying the freedom to scratch around.  We work to train the girls to go to a nice cozy barn at night, and usually they do a pretty good job.  Lately the girls have gotten lazy and decided to roost on the fences,trees and sometimes they just lay down in the grass.  With the colder weather coming the coyotes have needed to hunt.  We have lost about half the hens.  I really do not mind if a predator comes in and eats the chickens but when they come in and just kill them for fun it ticks me off tremendously.
We have spent about a week rounding up all the wayward hens and putting them back in their coop.  We also enlisted some help of a few Great Pyrenees dogs to run  night patrol. So far we have cut back on the losses.  I will keep the hens in the coop for another few days (much to their dismay) to retrain them to go in at night.  With the new lock-down the hens are not happy and not laying much so we go from 10 dozen a day to less than two... hopefully they will pick back up in a week or so.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Working working working...........

I love to be out with the animals. I can wait all night with a laboring sow or cow and yet when I set down to work on the blog I am anxious to hide in the barn.  Technology is a wonderful gift that I enjoy a great deal, the problem is that I am somewhat challenged in keeping up with how to change and create all these wonderful tools.  I am working diligently on updating and creating new aspects to our web presence.  I have worked for  just over 7 hours just to create the blog button... I know that is horribly sad.  See this stuff is quite a challenge for me, but I am pleased as pie that I got it done! 
So if in the near future you are here and see a mess of a blog, that means I am working to make improvements. Wish me luck....

Monday, August 5, 2013

Commercial Kitchen

I love to cook, well really I LOVE to eat great food.  I spend many many hours in our little farm kitchen dreaming of 6 burner gas stoves and stainless steel counter tops.  As the farm grows we are planning to add a commercial kitchen to our many farm buildings.  We have been asked to sell some of our signature jams and jelly to restaurants and stores, and we would have to process those in a licensed kitchen.  Right now I have access to rent one when I need to but it would be so much better if I could just go out and do what I need right here at the farm.  It would also make summer canning camp easier for me.  The cost of renting for camp is horrid which makes the cost of the classes higher..not good for anyone not to mention all the equipment I have to haul back and fourth.
  So being the visual person I am I started looking for ideas of how I would like the kitchen to be.  Pinterest is really a dangerous place...oh how the drool flows when I see lovey kitchens like this one.  Open shelves for all that beautiful canning gear, huge stove, lots of natural sunlight. Just beautiful!  I will be keeping this photo in my stash hoping for construction to start this next spring...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jam Session

With all that goes on here at the farm I still have some time to play around in the kitchen.  When I first started learning how to preserve food, jam was lesson one.  I love the ability to custom make jams to fit my taste and combine unusual flavors.  We have been making jam to sell at the farmers market and have been received well, I have been surprised that my jams have done so well.  I love all of them but what I like I am not sure others will like.. we did samples of our Rosemary Rhubarb jam this past Saturday and sold every jar!  In the three weeks we have been at market we have sold seventy two jars of jam, wow that is a lot of jam.  I will be busy making cherry jams this week.  I ordered three cases of lovely black cherries totaling a whopping 76lbs, that should make quite a few jars of jam and plenty to snack on as well.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eggs everywhere!!

We have around 260 laying hens. That many hens scattered around our farm doesn't seem too overwhelming in fact I love to see them running about chasing bugs and scratching in the dirt.  One of the many problems with truly free range laying hens is sometimes they lay their eggs wherever the need arises. Most of the hens go in to the coop and lay in the nesting boxes which makes collecting eggs a breeze, they stay nice and clean and are easy to get to.  Some of the younger hens have decided to lay their eggs in various places on the the bushes,under the trampoline, by the water trough... well you get the picture.  Once the ladies get a bit older they go and lay in the boxes but for now we have to hunt for all the pullet eggs.  The kids think this is great fun, I get rather annoyed when I find them someplace unexpected like on the front porch flower pots!

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Farm Baby

We have a sweet new calf!  Florence finally blessed us with a strong healthy heifer calf last week.  After weeks of worrying she had her calf with no problems.  Florence came to us from a grass dairy and seems to be doing well,  we have been milking for a week and she is producing well on very little feed.  We are transitioning to a full fodder feed system and I really think she will be our star producer.  Now to name this little one!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Finding my pot of gold...

If you look closely you can see a very faint rainbow in this photo.  Farming can be a bit like this at times, you really have to look for the beauty.  We have had our fair share of ups and downs in our journey.  With this life you never really know what the day will bring, I have gone in the pasture to find the blessing of new life and on the flip side I have left the pasture devastated from loss.  I always knew that this would be difficult, you always hear about how much work farming is, but someone forgot to tell me how heart wrenching it can be.   Since our arrival here we have lost 100's of chickens, lambs, a butcher steer and the hardest was when we had to put Gladys( the best milk cow in the  whole world) down.  I am faced with muddy lots, manure covered clothes, hay in my hair and dirt under my nails.  Even after all of this I am really the happiest farmer I could be, being able to be HERE to be blessed by my friendship with these animals is priceless.  I get to teach my children good animal husbandry techniques and see them really mature and appreciate those animals that they serve.  My children have a great respect for our animals and with that they teach  other children to see these animals for more than a furry thing to pet.  I love our lifestyle even when I really have to look for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Miss Florence

We bought this sweet cow from a grass dairy, she really seems to be quite calm and gets along well with the other cows.  Albert (the mini horse) pesters her to no end.  I am not sure why he picks on her so much but he loves to nibble on her ears when she is lying down and then when she gets up he nibbles on her belly.  He leaves the other cows alone but is always by Florence's side.  They are a odd site together to be sure!  I wonder how she will be when her calf comes, we should see in a few weeks.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Miss Lucy

                                                    Lucy enjoying the cool spring morning.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Piggie cuteness

Some of the young piggies out on pasture. So sweet to see them rooting about just like their mamas.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let me out!!

The egg crew

We managed to finally figure a way to keep the predators from carrying away all our hens. We turned one of the many grain bins into a hen house. So far it has worked beautifully. I go out in the morning feed, water and collect eggs. I let the hens free range after lunch and I collect eggs again, they get the afternoon to catch bugs and eat grass. We are still training the hens to go in at night about half of the 260 have the hang of it and the other get a nightly escort back to safety. We have been getting about 10-12 dozen eggs a day, the hens are just about 23 weeks old and are not at full production. I have been pleased with the eggs, so far we have a few hens in the old hen house that are producing double yolk eggs almost everyday. Hopefully the predators will stay away!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hog Heaven

Good heavens time flies by when you are busy. Things here at the farm are wonderful. We are sill milking cows, enjoying the sheep, cuddling baby bunnies, collecting eggs and homeschooling. We have added some lovely Berkshire Hogs in to the mix and I couldn't be happier with them. We are hog happy here on the farm!