Saturday, February 28, 2015

February on the Farm

February 3rd, Miriam who isn't even a year old yet, gave birth to a buckling! This was the first time wee missed the actual birth of any of our goats. Cait had walked out to the barn to get something and saw this!!  Only missed it by moments!  Meet Marley.  He's a cutie with those floppy ears.  

 We decided to invest in a furnace to heat our home.  It is also a boiler that will heat our water year round.  No more high electric bills in the winter months for heat!  And with 11 people using hot water for showers each day, and all the laundry that goes with 11 people, our electric bill will decrease significantly!  An investment upfront, but well worth it.

 It has been a cold month.  Being here 3 winters now we have experience February as the coldest month each year.  This is the month it always snows.  This was more of an ice cover.  We have never seen anything like it!  It was pretty in its own way, and even though there weren't snowballs to throw, the kids still managed to find a way to have fun with it!!

We purchased 5 new dairy goats!!  Since learning of what to look for in a dairy goat and experiencing too many fails, we have been very patient and taken our time to add to our stock.  Friends of ours who have been very wise in their own purchase of dairy goats, and who have built their herd thoughtfully decided to downsize.  They've had a good kidding season and some needed to go.  I am so grateful they called us!!  We got a saanen buck and named him Rambo!  A lamancha mama with 2 babies and named her Sage, the baby girl Chloe and still haven't named the buckling because we are not sure if we will keep him.  And another lamancha yearling that we named Bella.  
The mama in milk who we have named Sage came with her 2 babies.  These friends remove the baby goats the moment they are born and bottle feed them…this allows them to have complete control over the goat's milk production.  This has brought our care of and experience with baby goats to a whole new level…much more commitment!!  We have always left our babies with their moms for several months and only milked once a day for our own consumption.  Sage must be milked twice a day, and now milk must be bottled and fed by hand to the 2 kids.  Everyone is taking turns and actually enjoying it.  Having farm animals is definitely not something to take lightly.  It is a commitment on so many levels and requires lots of time and care and work.  Ben is feeding baby Chloe.
And this is what we have waited so patiently for!!  This is Sage's first freshening and she is giving us almost a whole gallon a day.  I'm confident her second kidding season will give us over a gallon a day! And those udders…they are so easy to milk!!  Finally feeling some success with our dairy goats.
This was Jesse's second kidding and her milk production is way up from the first time.  We still let her babies be with her during the day, but they sleep in a separate pen.  First thing in the morning we milk her, and from that one milking in the morning she is giving us a half gallon.  Her udders are smaller and bit harder to milk, but she is the same breed as Sage, a saanen, and the milk is supurb…no "goaty" taste at all from these gals!!  
I have wanted to have a farm sign up for when guests & customers come to visit.  Just for fun really.  I can't believe it has taken me over 2 years to get to making one, but Ellie and I finally did!!  Ellie painted every piece black all by herself!  I love spending quality time with my kids on projects!

On our journey to successful farming we have found the need for lots of freezer space.  You can't advertise your farm to a storefront and then run out of bacon by the second delivery!  Jason spent lots of time looking for a walk-in freezer and he found two!!  They need a little fixing up and putting together, but this will be a much needed addition that will allow us to grow!
We love kidding season!!!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January in Review

Well this shot is not from Janurary, but it has become a favorite of mine so I had to share it!  This was our Thanksgiving meal that we shared with a houseful of family and friends!  This was the day we processed her, and Christian was the turkey wrangler!  After defeathering and gutting she was 28 pounds!  Not too shabby for our first time raising heritage turkeys!

This picture is not from January either, but I have not updated our blog since August and I feel the need to catch up I suppose!  I think having 8 children is catching up with me…I am finding I cannot do the many things in one day that I used to be able to!  But no complaints here…I love my kids and I love pouring into them…and we're expecting another baby in June!  
This is our orchard, or what will eventually be our orchard.  Grapes, peaches, plums, cherries, apples, pears and blueberries!!  Can't wait to harvest some of that goodness!  After extensive research on Jason's part we decided to go with a company called Stark Bros.  They guarantee their plants for a full year.  All the trees came "bare root"…we had to soak them in water for a couple hours before planting, and they had to be planted right away…needless to say, since they arrived on an afternoon UPS truck we were digging holes and planting trees at 10 o'clock at night!  And it was in the 20's.  And I am pregnant.  Yes, a night I will never forget.  But those pink lady apples will taste good!!

I think we will call this cutie Wilbur!  We have a steady flow of pigs coming in to be raised for you!  You can still buy a half or whole pig, or if that's not your cup of tea we are stocked with packaged sausages in several flavors, pork chops, bacon, ribs, bratwurst, ground pork, keilbasa and fatback!!  All raised on pasture and in the woods, & GMO-free grain!  Email or Facebook us for details.

Caitlin has acquired 2 more meat rabbits.  She is still attempting to get her Californian doe bred to start producing stock for meat.  Hopefully this summer we can add rabbit to our inventory!

50 laying hens have been added to our flock of 70!  We cannot keep eggs in stock, they are in such high demand.  That's a good problem to have as farmers!!  These ladies will start laying in the summer for us…can't wait! 

The goats.  We have really downsized…some things you have to learn by doing.  We started too big too fast, and with milking goats that ending up not even being from good stock.  What a disappointment.  But now we know.  We know how to "shop" for a milking goat.  We have a couple of great farming friends who have been in the goat business for years, and they have given us all their wisdom.  And from having several different goats over the last 2 years, and birthing them here on the farm, we have learned a lot.  This is Jesse & Miriam.  They are our only milking goats.  Jesses was one of the first goats born on our farm in 2013.  She is from decent stock.  By that I mean, her mama who was a nubian mix was not a good milker.  We would get less than a quart every day, and that's milking twice a day.  But her papa was a Saanen, which we have learned from our friends and from experience, are incredible milkers!!  Her first freshening last year when her little buck, Joseph, was born was great!  A half gallon a day, milking only once in the morning. 
Both Jesse & Miriam are pregnant…this is a week ago.  This will be Jesse's second kidding and Miriams first.  Miriam's mother was one of our Alpines that ended up being a terrible milker…basically we got nothing from her.  But Miriam's papa was a Saanen, actually Jesse's brother!!  So he has the same milk line in him that Jesse has.  So fingers crossed, Miriam will be a decent milker.
Today, January 30th, was a big day for Jesse!  She gave birth to twins, and we were there to see the whole thing!!  The kids were intrigued!  The miracle of watching birth never gets dull!

Their God-given instincts are amazing to watch…right away they know where to go and what to do.

Meet Janie & Jonah!!  Now here's the deal, and what we've learned…Janie will be a great milker because she is from good stock.  Jesse has the Saanen bloodline, and by the way her milksack this time is a lot bigger than her first!!!  Partly, I'm sure, due to having twins, but also because it's her second freshening.  This time we are looking forward to getting a half gallon to a gallon a day, milking only once a day since we leave the babies with mama.  The buck Jesse was bred to is from a superb milk line…his mama gave over a gallon a day, and that was her first freshening!  This time next year when little Janie here is giving birth (hopefully) her baby will be an incredible milker if we get Janie bred to a buck from a solid milk line!  Do you see?  That's how it works.  Good stock.
This is exciting for us…we LOVE garlic.  We eat it raw every day on our dinner salad…mix a whole head of fresh minced garlic with some olive oil and apple cider vinegar and you have THE BEST dressing for a salad.  We bought some garlic for planting back in August at a farmers market in Virginia.  Ellie and I planted it in October.  They are all sprouting!  This is the first time we have grown food over winter!  It survived!!  We will harvest them all in May.
And this girl.  What can I say?!  She has my heart.  Don't know what I'd do without her.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Farming Around

We are still harvesting plenty of tomatoes here at the farm!  Have you ever wondered why farmers have rabbits?  Not only for their meat, but for their droppings…we ammended our garden soil this year with a couple trailor fulls of rabbit droppings and this is the result!…large amounts of tomatoes! And everything else is producing just as well!
Ellie is just smitten with her kitten!  Our cats have no lack of love and attention, that's for sure!
There is always a need for more laying hens when you own a farm that sells its eggs.  One big step we have taken towards being a more sustainable, self-sufficient farm is incubating our hen's eggs.  It has enabled us to step away from the need of a hatchery.  We currently have 11 chickens growing that we hatched from our incubator!  A few are visibly roosters, but they are needed as well to continue our ability to hatch eggs :)
We have 3 more piggies growing in our woods!  We have a couple different breeds this time, one being the heritage breed Tamworth. They originiated in England, and are a lean pig producing leaner pork!  We have researched and have learned that they do take longer to grow, but they truly forrage and have no need for grain supplements which we are excited about.  Again, another step towards being sustainable and self-sufficient!  We are also investing in a mamma Tamworth that is pregnant with her 2nd litter.  We visited the farm she lives on, and she is being raised the same way we raise ours…out in the woods forraging.  Can't wait to make her part of the family! 
Our turkeys are plumping up.  Their have grown in their beautiful feathers, and the males have already started puffing themselves up to show off around the females!  Can't wait to hear the first "gobble, gobble"!

Jason purchased a tractor for our farm!!  We have several projects it will be used for, but our oldest son, Nathan, has already put it to use a few times.  We move the hens around our property so they have new places to scratch and we usually have to push/pull these "hens on wheels" to their new place…not anymore!  Great job Nate!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Rob Your Bees of Their Honey

I must begin with a disappointment.  We lost one of our hives to moths…
"It happens to everyone," says our beekeeper mentor friend Mr. Dover, a local honey-selling, bee-keeping extraordinaire. He has over 70 hives on his property and he lost 30 this year to moths.  "Once they get in, there's no getting them out."  
We didn't even know we had moths until a few days ago when we went to rob the honey.  Last I checked, the hive was great…I spotted the queen, and our supers were FULL of honey!!  This was the one hive of our three that had 2 supers on it, both loaded with sweet honey.  Our other 2 hives only have one super. This was our strong hive as well!  I always was able to spot the queen, the bees were always plentiful, and there was always good larve production happening and the supers were well organized with honey production happening on all 9 racks.  Here are some pictures of what those nasty moths did to 18 months of hard work from this colony.

Well, at least our hens had a heyday eating all those moths and their larve!!
We were blessed to be able to rob the honey from one of our other hives!  This was quite the first time experience, as everything has been with farming!  We opened the hive and smoked the bees to calm them down.  I removed the   entire super box and took it with me to the barn.  There were still some bees on it, but as I took each rack out I gave it a good bang on the side of the barn…that got rid of the bees! We recieved council from our friend, Mr. Dover, and he taught us how to build our own honey strainer for less than $30!  No need to buy expensive extractors!  Very simple method:
2 five gallon buckets
 -one with a spicket put on the bottom and the top lid inner part cut out
 -one with 1/8th inch holes drilled all over the bottom
Method: put the bucket with all the holes drilled on the bottom on top of the other bucket and let it rest in the top that was cut out.  Into the top bucket cut out the honey from the supers.  Ben has taken an interest in the bees so he helped me with this.  These perfectly cut pieces of wax and honey we saved to put in our jars.  See all the white caps?  That's how you know the honey is ready to be taken!

Next, break all the caps.  Again, no need for expensive equipment…just a cheap pair of gloves and some good old fashioned squeezing!
 Put the top on the bucket and let it sit for 2-3 days to strain out of the wax.  See the comb we kept in the jars?  Yum!
 After a few days, fill your jars!  We robbed 9 frames from one hive and ended up with 2 gallons!!  Very thankful for every last drop of it!  The wax remaining in the top bucket is going to be placed in a homemade glasstop box where the sun will melt it and all the impurities will be strained out. 
This is considered raw organic honey because we did not heat it to purify it.  We didn't even filter it!  The more wax bits and pollen the better!…more health benefits with all that!    A bit of wisdom we have learned…honey cannot be labeled non-GMO because there is no way to guarantee the bees have not taken from GMO seeds.  Bees have been recorded to travel up to 90 miles to get pollen!  Their normal range to travel is 3-5 miles, but they will do whatever is necessary to survive!  If you are in need of supplies to make this contraption visit