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.