Spring on Our Farm

Goodness gracious!  I’m such a bad farm blogger!

chicks on perchWe’re thick into Spring around here, even though the weather is somewhat uncooperative.  We’re hatching chicks, for one thing!  Each year, we hatch a new flock of layers, plus the birds we need for our freezer and for our shareholders, and also some extra chicks for sale.  Chick sales are really good this year, I’m happy to report, and since our Megan will end up doing most of the chicken care for the summer, she gets to be the primary beneficiary of those sales.  Seems only fair, don’t you think?

We’ve also, hopefully, got two of our five cows bred for late fall calving.  They’ll be born later than I’d like, but we’ve had the hardest time getting them pregnant this year!  I don’t know why, but I’m glad those troubles seem to be behind us.  We’ll breed the other two in May and June for calving next spring, and our fifth heifer is spoken for and moving to a new home in May.

We got a bit of a late start with our seedlings this year, but that seems to be working out alright, since the weather is all over the place this year.  Some nights, it’s 50 or 60 degrees, and others, we fall into the 20s.  It’s very hard to work with that!  I’m not surprised, though, after the mild and equally unpredictable winter we had, and I imagine that, eventually, we’ll be able to plant tomatoes.

We’re getting a lot of interest in herd shares at this time of year.  Last year, everybody wanted their shares delivered, and we’re just too small to do that, so we didn’t pick up any new shareholders.  So, for the winter, I only kept two cows in milk – enough for us and our current membership.  Alas, I expected to have more cows calving by now, and so have shares available, but it hasn’t worked out that way.  (See paragraph above.)  It’s all for the best, I’m sure; we have a human baby due any day now, and it’s probably best that we slow down for this season and just let things ride.

Signing off for now, but I’ll try to write more often here, okay?

Scenes From the Feed Mill

8x10 grain bin 8x10 jon and meg loading feed 8x10 string ties at feed store

Funny story: Jonathan is fourteen now, and he is, rather miraculously, becoming quite the manly man.  Meaning he can lift two 50# feed sacks effortlessly and toss them several feet without even trying.  His physical attributes are frequently admired at home and abroad.  We women, though, we consider ourselves pretty strong, too, in spirit, perhaps, if not necessarily in body, though a 50# sack is no match for us, either.  So Megan was watching her brother toss sacks into the trailer, and she thought to herself, “If Jon can do it, so can I.”  She grabbed her sack, walked to the trailer, and launched it.  Except, instead of sailing through the air and landing on the far side of the trailer, it plopped unceremoniously right in front of her.  Perhaps we’ll just leave the tossing to Jonny from now on.

Farm Babies and Other Things

I haven’t written on this blog in quite a long while!  Since August, it seems.  My bad.  In my defense, middle-aged me is happily pregnant with our ninth child, but quite exhausted.  Even keeping up with the daily must-do list has been more than I could manage.  Thankfully, I’m coming into the second trimester now, and feeling quite a lot better.  It also helps that we have sold or butchered all extraneous livestock as we come into the winter season, so there are fewer bodies to tend around here.

If you’ve visited, you’ve probably noticed that all of our chicken crates are empty!  The children helped us process them in three pretty easy sessions, and then we were done.  We’ve set aside a laying flock of about sixty hens.  Around fifteen of them are already laying, and we’re hoping to have a good egg supply for our shareholders through the winter.  Our last crew gave up laying in early August, for some reason.

But we have more important news, oh, yes, we do.

IMG_0995

On Saturday morning, just after 1AM, our heifer, Sunshine, delivered her fist calf!  The birth was uncomplicated, and mother and son are both doing fine.  We’ve named him Oliver, and he’ll be in the barn for the rest of the week.  He’s very sociable, and he’d love it if you’d say hello when you visit the farm.

Sunshine’s training has paid off and she’s milking relatively well.  She’s got a bit of settling down left to do, but her issues have been minor thus far.  Her milk should be in by Wednesday, for which the children are very grateful.  They’re used to drinking about 30 gallons a week, but we’ve been milking just one cow for a month, and supplies have been tight!

Also, I miss ricotta.  A lot.  I dream of warm, sweet bowls of cheese…

Little Explorers

IMG_0547

I noticed the little piglets up by the near fence yesterday, and so I brought the baby over to see.  We startled them, and the whole lot of them ran squealing up the opposite bank.  That’s when I noticed the mama in the water.  She grunted and heaved herself out of the pond to chase after her brood.  “Sorry, Mama,” I said, genuinely apologetic. “I know how you feel.”

Today, they have managed to escape their pen, wee rascals that they are, and they’ve been exploring the bank of the pond and a little of the yard.  I took pictures.  The dog sat patiently waiting for some sort of sign that she should round them up.  I have no idea what commands are needed for shepherd dogs, but I think I’d best find out, because it’s what she loves to do!

Later the kids ran to the house, shouting, “The piglets are in the yard!  Can we pet them?”

“If you can catch one, you can pet it,” I replied.  They never did catch one, but they had fun trying.

Asparagus Ferns After a Rain

asparagus berries asparagus ferns rainI stepped outside to do my evening chores and the asparagus patch, with the sun behind it, looked almost frosted, as if this was winter instead of summer.  It was so beautiful.  My photos, of course, do not do it justice, but they will have to suffice.

We have piglets!

Sorry for posting twice in one day, but this news was too exciting to hold till tomorrow. Miss Piggy had a litter of thirteen last night, and they all seem to be doing well. Dave, our resident pig-tender, is quite proud of his babies. They’re not even a day old, but they’re all walking around, hiding in the tall grass, getting under mama’s feet… You know, just like any toddler. 🙂

Click on any picture to enlarge and scroll through!

A Good Life

I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and the closest I ever came to a cow in my youth was petting one through the fence at a neighboring county’s annual agricultural fair. Our people were not farmers. Our people were businessmen who commuted to the city each morning, or teachers, or, well, the sort of people who didn’t get their hands dirty.   Manual labor was frowned upon. Our high school education prepared us to go to college, and from there, we were expected to move into business or computer science.  What can I say?  It was the eighties.

I, personally, was not interested in either of those career paths. I happily married my young soldier and gave up trying to do whatever they expected of me. I settled down to raising our family and helping my man be all he could be. We were happy, and when it came time to retire, Dave fulfilled a life-long dream of mine and bought us a little farm near Fort Knox.

My dad was not pleased. He grew up on a farm with eight brothers and sisters, and he strongly associates farming with poverty. He tried mightily to discourage us, and I must admit he has a point.  Any sort of agricultural endeavor is a lot of physical labor, a lot of time spent managing and troubleshooting, and a lot of time spent trying to market your product, with very little cash coming in to make up for it. It’s really helpful to have some other kind of income.

daisy glam 3

I don’t want to discourage anybody, though. It’s some of the best work a person could choose to do. Although we dabble in many things, our bread-and-butter (well, just butter) is a small-scale dairy. We milk those cows twice a day, every single day, no matter the weather, or the importance of the holiday on the calendar, or even our health. You’d think that would get tedious, but it doesn’t. It’s just part of the routine, like morning coffee, or taking a shower, or changing the baby’s diaper. We just do it, every day, no matter what.

In exchange for our dedication, we’ve gained physical strength and improved overall health, nutritious and relatively inexpensive food, and an excuse to stay home. (I will admit, though, to occasionally longing to travel! The Army life dies hard.)

I thank God every day for this little piece of Earth, for the beautiful cows He so graciously provided at just the right moment, and for the family I live this life for and with. I wouldn’t change a thing.

But if you want to help improve our cash flow a little bit, we have herd shares available and a year-old heifer calf for sale.  I’m just saying.  😉

blog not annabelle lizzie