Monday, December 23, 2013
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 fencing...new 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
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
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
Monday, December 9, 2013
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. http://easywean.com.au/about-us/the-easywean-story/ 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 way...so 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
Monday, December 2, 2013
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!