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Never enough

hours in the day! We are SOOO SORRY for neglecting our blog duties. We have been very busy around the farm but I promise we will do better.

In case you haven't heard, it's hot! And in case I forgot, I have text message weather alerts that come to my phone that love to remind me. As if reporting the upcoming temperatures wasn't enough, they add fun descriptors too - "Thu: Hot and Humid 102/78; Fri: Hot and Humid 98/68". My phone may end up somewhere in the pasture, depending on how far it flies when I throw it.

We are keeping a closer eye on our critters with the heat. The ones we need to watch the closest are the boars. Right now we are pasturing them and there is no natural shade around. I have some shade structures set up which may or may not be sufficient but since they can't really sweat they probably need something more. Mud wallows are ideal but I don't really want a bunch of mud holes all over the farm, since we move them fairly often. So, I'm trying a Pig Pool:

This was Max's pool but I gave him a bigger one. I put this out yesterday afternoon but I've already swapped the pools again this morning. The bigger pool has taller sides so we'll see if they can get in/out but at least all three would be able to fit.

Here is a random pic of a cow. She hasn't calved yet, hopefully soon though. Our cows are looking skinny so I was out taking pictures of them and testing the Brix levels of the grass. I need to calibrate our refractometer since this is the first time I've used it but I was getting readings of 4-9 Brix readings. Which I thought was low but Jamie thinks that is not bad. She's probably right.


Farm Update Part II

Before we started in this endeavor, we had decided that the first year would be a trial and error year. Where we would try a bunch of different things and see what worked and what didn't. We are starting to compare and evaluate those "things" but it's not as cut and dry as I had hoped.

Currently, we are both working full-time and with a baby on the way, we will be spread too thin. So we either need to develop a new system that takes less time or we need to eliminate/consolidate some of our individual enterprises. Sounds simple enough, right? I'm not so sure. We are also hoping that someday in the near future we will be able to work on the farm full-time and only work off the farm part-time. Having established enterprises in place when we are ready to make that transition will likely be the key to our success. So now what? To cure the time issue, we could do away with all the poultry and the pigs. Allowing us to focus on the cattle, fixing up the farm and spending time with the family. Which sounds quite nice actually, but it has to be for the right reasons. I don't want to do it just because it makes my life easier, I want to do it because it makes the most sense for us and for our farm as a whole. Holistic Management was a big part of our Farm Beginnings class. It can be applied to everything we do in our lives and it is extremely handy when making decisions related to the farm. Here are the "testing questions" from Holistic Management International to ask yourself when you are trying to decide whether to do something:

  1. Cause and effect: Does this action address the root cause of the problem, or merely a symptom?
  2. Sustainability: If you take this action, will it lead toward or away from the future resource base described in your holistic goal?
  3. Weak link:
    • Social: If you take this action, will you encounter or create a blockage to progress?
    • Biological: Does this action address the weakest point in the life cycle of the organism you're trying to control or promote?
    • Financial: Does this action strengthen the weakest link in the chain of production?
  1. Energy/money source & use
    • Is the energy or money to be used in this action derived from the most appropriate source in terms of your holistic goal?
    • Will the way in which energy or money is to be used lead toward your holistic goal?
  1. Society & culture:
    • How do you feel about this action now?
    • Will it lead to the quality of life you desire?
    • Will it adversely affect the lives of others?
  1. Marginal reaction: Is there another action that could provide greater return, in terms of your holistic goal, for the time and money spent?
  2. Gross profit analysis: Which enterprise contributes more to covering the overheads of the business? (Use this test when comparing two or more enterprises.)
SO, we're going to see how each enterprise (i.e., the chickens, ducks and pigs) plays out and we will run them through these questions to decide how to proceed. I have a tendency to oversimplify but for me, the most important factors will be - time consumption, profitability and how it fits into our Holistic Goals. Of course, it would be nice to think that we could keep them all around regardless. But for us, everything has to contribute to the greater good of the farm in some fashion.


Farm Update

Sorry we haven't posted much this week. They're having issues with the new equipment they installed for our internet. It's been down half of the week and it's down again as of yesterday afternoon. I still have faith that they will get everything ironed out and we, eventually, will stop having problems. Thank goodness we have a backup internet source, albeit a slower one.

Let's talk about... ACCOUNTING! I know, I know. I'm sure you're jumping up and down with excitement. We cracked open our Quickbooks Pro software this week and started setting it up for our farm. There are a lot of neat things on there but it can be a bit overwhelming. I wish there was a common accounting program that catered more towards farming. But when I searched online most people recommended Quickbooks, along with a book called The Quickbooks Farm Accounting Cookbook. I feel like we're automatically going to get audited by the IRS for buying an Accounting "Cookbook". I hear they don't like folks cookin' the books. Regardless, it should show up today or Monday so we'll see what it has to offer.

The first few months were chaotic enough that we didn't do a very good job keeping track of our expenses, so it will take us some time to get everything sorted out. Luckily, I started using a farm checking account and logged everything in the check register (which I haven't done since high school). After we get the farm sorted out, we need to do the same with our personal expenses. YIPPEE! :p

Before we started in this endeavor, we had decided that the first year would be a trial and error year. Where we would try a bunch of different things and see what worked and what didn't. We are starting to compare and evaluate those "things" but it's not as cut and dry as I had hoped.

--And I'm going to leave it at that for now. I have to get going but let's pick up this discussion again tomorrow morning.



Here are some storm pictures that Jamie took on Monday night. She was having "technical difficulties" earlier in the week and didn't have a chance to get them posted.
We'll get another post in for the weekend.


How farming can be soul crushing and uplifting at the same time...

It was one of those nights last night.

You know...the one where you work your butt off and everything unravels in front of your eyes.

We needed to move the cattle across our driveway and into a new paddock.  Jon had everything set up to go and the cattle were hollering to move.  We had made an alleyway for them to come back and get water, because we don't have water access on that far pasture.  Well, all it took was one heifer to unravel everything.  She went straight through our wire fence, snapped it and the rest followed suit.  Thankfully our lead cow kept following me with the bucket and we were able to get them into the paddock soon after.

"Thank the Lord...we are done..." were my thoughts.  And I was wrong...it was going to be a late night!

The bulls then decided that they were going to move themselves.  Our big bull, Wooly Bully, hopped right over the fence and was helping himself to some grass.  Jon quickly went to get some more polywire so we could round him up.  Then our little bull, Boy George, decided it was time to kick up his heels and charge after Jon.  I am so thankful that bull decided to stop at the polywire, otherwise Jon could have been hurt. 

With some quick work, swearing, sweating and some running, we quickly got another DOUBLE polywire paddock around them.  And they were just as happy and content as ever.  Our fence hasn't been as charged as it should be, so that was another aggravating thing last night. 

What's the soul crushing part?  The fact that no matter how prepared you are with animals, they will find a way to destroy what you've set up.  The cows got out AGAIN last night and we just left them. Sometimes you just have to call it a day.  It also sucks to see your husband put his head down on the four wheeler in a defeat.  THAT my friends is the soul crushing part.

What's the uplifting part?  A thunderstorm rolled in last night cooling us off.  We were able to get all the animals secure and not a couple minutes later it broke loose.  Sitting on the porch, watching the thunderstorm, while my husband is in his underwear and I'm wearing his work pants....now that's uplifting.  (May I remind you that I'm four months pregnant and if you want to see a crabby lady, just try and squeeze me into my old work pants.  It's just not happening.  So, I wear Jon's!) 

I once described farming as a roller coaster.  In town, your life can also be a roller coaster, but on the farm the highs are much higher and the lows are far lower than you can imagine.  But somehow we dig deep and carry on.

I always like to imagine what God's thinking at that point in time, when my husband is swearing at the cows and all I want to do is take my hot sweaty pants off.  I imagine it goes likes this..."Okay kids, you've had enough.  Here comes a thunderstorm to cool you off since I know you don't have air conditioning.  Sit down, relax and enjoy the show.  And for goodness sake, before you go to bed go turn the generator on...you numbskulls are about to run out of power."

God has such a great sense of humor...


Organically Raised, Pastured Duck

I wanted to let everyone know that we are getting ready for the last of our Pekin Ducks and we still have some available. Please help spread the word.

Our Pekin ducks are pastured so they get to spend their time outdoors eating grass and bugs. What they can't get on their own, we supplement with organic feed that we have made for us. We're anticipating 4-5 pounds of succulent goodness per bird and we are asking $5 per pound. Some great-tasting duck would be the perfect addition to any event this summer! We will include some delicious recipes as well, including Roast Duck and Peking Duck.

If you would like a live bird, we are asking $3.40 per live weight pound.
Discounts available when buying five or more birds at a time.


My dog is officially a chicken killer.

And it is very frustrating.

I should be more exact...a turkey killer.  Somehow he has managed to kill ALL of our remaining Bourbon Red turkeys.  Only one or two chickens actually met their demise. 

He's not getting into the pen with the turkeys....no...he's just waiting for them to fly out!  I'm tired of going out to the chicken coop and finding dead birds in the yard.  Even more so, I'm tired of yelling at my dog and trying to resist the urge to hit him.  I would never beat a dog, but ooooh boy, he pushes me to the limits.

Yesterday, we let him out for ten minutes unsupervised.  I couldn't hear his tags anymore and I just knew what happened.  It's just like when a little kid is being quiet and you know they are getting into mischief.  And sure enough, when Jon and I came walking up there was our last Bourbon Red.  He was still alive, but not for long.  The absolute most frustrating part was that as soon as Max saw us, he put his head down and started slinking to us.  We hadn't even found the bird to yell at him yet.

So, any advice?  If it came down to the chickens or the dog, I would pick the dog hands down.  He was here first and chickens don't make me feel safe at night.  We've heard of tying the dead carcass to the dog and leaving it on them until it rots off.  The problem is that Max absolutely loves anything dead and stinky.  He will roll on an ity bity dead bird, just for the heck of it.  I really don't want to have to go to a shock collar, but he is petrified of our electric fences.  The only other thing Jon and I thought of was to get a guard bird.  Not a guard dog, but a guard bird.  We are on the hunt for the meanest goose or turkey that we can find.  Max is afraid of the cat, so maybe we just need another animal to put him in his place. 


Don't mix first trimester pregnancy and a brand new farm...

...it may drive your husband crazy...

So, that probably explains the lack of posts on my end.  I'm currently 14 weeks pregnancy and keeping my fingers crossed that the nausea, superman smell and exhaustion are close to being done. 

Like I said, new pregnancies and new farms are a difficult mix.  Thank God my husband is a superhuman, because he was doing it ALL for awhile.  And he never complained...not once.  He's my hero!

My husband and I are extremely grateful for this pregnancy.  It was quite a long road for us filled with many tears...mostly on my end.  It took us well over a year to even get a positive test and that's only after we went to see the fertility specialist.  Literally two weeks after seeing the fertility specialist, I was pregnant with no interventions.  I know God has a sense of humor, because he must have been chuckling over my reaction to a positive test. 

But onward with more farm stuff.  Since I actually feel well enough to get out of bed and do some chores, I took some pictures this morning.

First up, the dog and I are both on the same medication again.  I think he just gets my sickness just to sympathize with me.

See those spots on his face?  That my friends is what we call ringworm...it's great!  Max has a face that only a mother would love right now.  I have two spots and I'm pretty sure that we both got ringworm from the cat.  Whenever I put a little Lotrimin on me, I just call Max over and dose him up good.  He walks over to me with his head down, ears back, like I'm about to serve him his final meal before the electric chair.  It's pretty sad and pathetic at the same time.  But darn it if I don't love the crap out of that dog!

One of our newest calves.  I can't remember if this is a boy or girl, but I've named him/her Pal.  That's short for Palomino, because he reminds me of a horse.  So, we have a cow named after a horse.  That's typical in our household.

Here are three of the calves.  Bam Bam's getting a good lick from his mom.  Marty/White Chocolate is staring us down and the third calf has no name.

And this is what happens when my husband has the camera.  I'm curious to know what was going through his head when he took these pictures.  Was he practicing his camera skills?  Was he letting a little OCD out?  Quite an interesting pictures, don't you think?


Times they are a changin

I was showing my coworkers pictures of the farm (via webex) and I thought I would share a few with you.

Here is a picture of the farm last fall when I first came to see the place:

Here it is as of last week:

I know the picture above isn't, necessarily, a scene of beauty but I hope it reflects a small portion of the effort we've put into the place. Continually thinking about the daunting list of things left to do can skew your view of how far you've come. It's always good to take a step back.

I also like to convey the change in lifestyle we are still adjusting to. Here is a picture of our house in town (after we had painted the exterior and landscaped the front):

And here is a picture of the farmhouse:

Here is a picture of our kitchen in town (after we had completely remodeled it):

And here is a picture of our kitchen in the farmhouse (after we slightly remodeled it):

Our instinct is to remodel the farmhouse but we don't own it and without a long term lease in place, it would not be a wise decision to do so. Besides, it's a good dose of medicine for us - To realize that it's OK for things to be "good enough" and not perfect. There's more to life than STUFF. Luckily, all of our money is wrapped up in livestock, feed and equipment so we couldn't afford to do anything if we wanted to! WE ARE OFFICIALLY FARMERS! :)



Jamie and I would like take this time to thank all of our family for being so helpful in everything we've done with the farm. They have helped us move stuff out of the farm house, clean up the farm house, move into the farm house, clean up our house in town, help fix fence, butcher chickens, bring us food, did our laundry, the list goes on and on. So a big THANK YOU to all of you!!! You know who you are, so we won't list everyone.

Other news:
WE HAVE FASTER INTERNET. FINALLY!!! We were hooked up and ready to go Friday night. Which was about a month late but I'm just glad to have it.

Also, we're up to 5 calves! I haven't gotten close enough to confirm but we may have 3 bulls and 2 heifers.

It's upper 90's and I'm OK. I was worried how I would cope with working from home in a house without air conditioning when it got really hot. But to be honest, I'm fine. We left the windows open overnight and I closed them when it was hotter outside then inside. I have a fan on me and it's not too shabby. I have to make sure all my paperwork doesn't blow away but it's a small price to pay. I'm talking to the landlord about a whole house fan. I've never had one but I've heard great things. If it gets unbearable, we may get a small a/c and just cool one room. For now, we're OK.


Butchering ducks

So, we butchered 8 ducks on Monday.  And boy was it interesting!  Pinfeathers suck...enough said.  We thought we had timed it right so that our ducks would not have any, but we were wrong!  Next time we've decided to try duck wax to help with those ity bity pinfeathers.  I won't get into all the details of butchering, because there are many websites out there that do a great job.  Here are a few highlights...

Our table setup

The ducks waiting patiently.

What bright fun buckets! 

For such a sinister use...

Jon and his dad getting the turkey frying/scalder to heat up.

This here is a duck plucking hat....Goooo Big Reeeedddddddddddd!  (I was frying in the sun, as evidenced by my pale skin and needed a good hat.  And the only one I found quickly was Jon's Herbie Husker Hat.  Have you ever seen Jon dressed as Herbie Husker?  It's priceless!)

That was one exhausting day.  Thank goodness for awesome family!  Jon's dad and stepmom came up to help and worked their butts off.  Without them we would have probably gotten two ducks done in the same time.  Thanks Kirk and Wanda!

I definitely have a new found appreciation for what it takes to put meat on the table.  It is hard exhausting and emotional work.  It's difficult to reconcile the feelings of caring for animals and then killing them, but we are not vegetarians.  I wish more people would be able to take part in butchering.  I think we would appreciate our food so much more.


Farm Update

Good Morning All,
The two day Greg Judy conference was GREAT! We learned a ton and are even more inspired to move forward with our farming operation. Most importantly, we are starting to get a better idea of the direction we're headed. Our "direction" will continue to evolve but we definitely have a clearer view of it, then we did before the conference.

We accomplished quite a bit over the weekend, thanks to help from our family. I won't give it all away because I think Jamie is working on a post to show you some of it. But I will say that we were able to put a door back on the machine shed and repair a couple others. It has made a vast improvement to the function and aesthetics of the farmyard. Hopefully, I can get the rest of the doors fixed in the near future.

I was checking on the cattle this morning and noticed that one of our cows has a HUGE udder. I mean two-three times the size of a large udder. I would almost think that she had some sort of hernia that caused the calf to drop. She doesn't seem distressed so I'm not sure.


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