Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Farm Additions

Two Columbia ewes Halley received as a scholarship from the Columbia Ewe Association.

200 Buff Orpington chicks to raise for meat.

A red front door and matching chairs.

Two pairs of hens and chicks.

Four chicken tractors for the previously introduced chicks.

A trailer for hauling sheep, cows and who knows what else.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Feeling Like Farmers

We reached two milestones on the farm so far this summer.  First, we cut, raked and baled our own hay with our own equipment.  Second, we used our own generator to power our necessary items during a recent power outage.  Neither of those things may seem like a big deal to those who do not live on farms.  They also may not seem like a big deal to those who have lived on a farm their entire lives.  To those who moved into the farming life, I hope you will be able to recognize our excitement and share in it.

There are many time we move about the business of our farm feeling like frauds, posers not farmers.  Putting up our own hay and dealing with loss of electricity on our own made us feel like farmers.  It's good to recognize those milestones and take note of those successes.  It's especially important to take note so we can remember that feeling on a day when we want to feel like a farmer.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Turkey Time

 Our turkey project was a success.  We were able to hatch six of our turkey eggs.  Currently we have nine turkeys, six poults and three adults, in our turkey house.  It appears that three of the poults are toms and three are hens.  We are still discussing the future prospects of our birds. 

We will be purchasing more incubators over the winter and expanding our turkey space.  We all agree that turkeys are one of our favorite animals so far.  They are engaging and interesting to watch.  Plus, the toms are really cool looking.  That they are also tasty is a big bonus. 

Commitment to Chicken

Two hundred chicks are now in residence on the farm.  We are going to be raising meat birds for sale.  For the past two years we raised chicken just for our own consumption.  This year we are expanding.  We are also investigating how to out-source the harvest.  None of the butchers in our area process chicken.  We hope the Amish community nearby may offer some good options for us. 

Our chickens will be technically free range and grass fed.  Rob is working on a new design for our chicken tractors to make them lighter and easier to manage.  The new tractors are looking great.  As soon as we have a completed model I'll post a picture.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recognizing What Things Are and What They Are Not

This morning as I was making the rounds I was thinking back over the last two and a half years.  There is  nothing like wet grass, cool air, and animal noises of all kinds to get a person thinking.  When we bought this farm it was a bunch of empty buildings, nothing more.  We had a sketchy dream of what "being farmers" might look like.  We had fleeting thoughts of chickens pecking happily in the sunshine and lambs frolicking in the grass.  We liked the idea of a farm but we really had no clue what that meant.  We were kind of like kindergartners on career day when all the boys want to be police officers and all the girls want to be nurses.  We were clueless.

Fast forward and being farmers looks nothing like we thought it would.  Or does it?  We now have 16 chickens, two roosters, two sheep, three cows, 10 turkeys, two dogs, a cat and an undisclosed number of bees.  We experimented with planting alfalfa this year.  We ditched the vegetable garden.  Our first cut of hay is baled and in the barn.  We are doing the activities of farmers.  Our buildings are full.  We struggle with feeling more clueless now than we did when we had all those empty buildings.  There's nothing like experience to let know know what you don't know.

When we took our farm class back in early 2011 we talked about what we wanted in our farm.  The dream is still there.  Some of it is hazy, maybe hazier than it was originally.  Other parts are coming into focus, crystal clear.

In the beginning we decided that our goal was self-sufficiency.  We wanted to grow food for ourselves and our animals.  We wanted to invest in the future by raising heritage breeds.  We wanted to find a niche market that would enable the farm to support itself.  Ultimately, we hope that the farm will become our source of income.  That's a lot of dreaming.

Sometimes in the drudgery of daily feeding, catching the cow, drenching the sheep, walking the dogs, we lose sight of the dream or forget it all together.  As I said in the beginning, there's nothing like a quiet morning on the farm to remind me why I am doing what I am doing.

This morning the quiet brought a few realizations.  First, we are realizing our dream.  We now raise heritage turkeys.  Last year we purchased a dozen bourbon red poults.  Four survived.  We enjoyed one of the four at Thanksgiving and kept the other three with the wild hope that we'd have a breeding pair in the spring.  We now have seven bourbon red poults, hatched from our own eggs.  We also have one crazy broody turkey that keeps making nests but doesn't really have the concentration it takes to sit on them.  We've got a lot to learn about turkeys, especially about incubation but it's a start.  It's an amazing start.

We now eat our own meat.  We have a freezer full of chicken and beef, raised on our own land, by our own efforts.  If you'd known me pre-farm you'd have an idea of what a miracle that is.  By any standards it's a pretty fabulous accomplishment.

We have plans this year to expand our chicken operation and will be selling birds for the first time.  That a frightening and exciting prospect.

When everyday feels more like routine than celebration it's important to acknowledge the successes.

This is a more random thought, but another realization I had is that sometimes you don't have to know what something is.  You do have to know what it's not.  I think this is true of gardens, ideas and dreams. 

When I walk into  my garden, I don't have to know the name of every green shoot growing.  I just have to know what the desirable shoots look like and what they do not look like.  If I'm growing strawberries, it matters not one bit what every little thing growing in that patch of ground is called.  It only matters if it's a strawberry.  If it's not a strawberry, it's not where it belongs and it must be removed.  It might be the most rare and wonderful plant in the world but it's not what I'm after.  I'm growing strawberries and the rest matters not a bit. 

There are lots of times in life where I get distracted by a desire to know everything, do everything, be everything.  Perhaps the more admirable skill is being able to distinguish the necessary and valuable from all that is not and move forward from there.