As of March 31st, I quit my off-farm job, in order to pursue farming full time. Robert is still working as an engineer full time, and he is enjoying his job. But with the way things have been growing at home, we figured having me available more often would be best for the business, and our animals.
Way back on March 18th, our Jacob ewe Haiku gave birth to a happy little ewe lamb which we named Verse. This little lass is quick on her feet, and loves running around with the goats and the chickens. She has learned that the geese are to be avoided, and if anyone gets in her way, she can easily dart around them.
We’ve been waiting since then for our other ewe, Tanka, to have her baby. We came home last night from Fiber Expo, and visiting family, and she had done just that. She gave birth to a beautifully marked ram lamb, who unfortunately was born too early and didn’t make it. If it hadn’t been so cold and wet last night, or if he’d had just a little more time in the womb, things may have been different. However, we cannot dwell on things we cannot change. We can learn from them, and hopefully be better prepared for next year. We talked to our sheep mentors, and after a lot of reassurance, we will have better plans in place the next time around.
This whole ordeal was a huge blow to my confidence. I want everything to be perfect this year, since this is the way I will be contributing to our household. But the only thing I can control is the way I react to things. I am trying to be really objective with everything, but it’s difficult. We have made a decision on what to do with the baby that didn’t make it, and hopefully that will work out. Either way, we will be sharing it here.
We have so many projects planned for the next few months, and we are looking forward to pushing forward and gaining momentum. Our first batch of meat birds is arriving this week. We have thirty brown leghorns in a brooder that are due to head outside any day now. Keep an eye out for more regular blog posts now that I am home more!
Spring is finally starting to show up, and everyone on the farm is very happy. Grass is sprouting, wild turkeys are roaming through the yard, and the birds are ramping up their egg production. We have started getting several goose eggs a day, and a turkey egg every couple days. But, we are dealing with mud city pretty much everywhere, especially in the bird yard. We knew we had to do something about it, and Robert found the perfect solution.
Two round bales of oat hay/straw. The farmer had an issue with getting the field harvested, and the seed heads ripened a little too much. This is PERFECT for our situation! The straw will soak up some of the muck, and make it less slippery, and the seeds will become food for the flock. And then any seeds they embed into the muck will sprout, providing food in the future.
Rolling the first bale out was hilarious. We cut the net wrap off, and just started pushing and hoped for the best. Luckily, we had it in the right direction, and it worked for us on the first try. I ran ahead shooing chickens and getting feed pans out of the way as Robert continued unrolling the bale like a giant roll of toilet paper. So far, the birds have thoroughly enjoyed every moment. They immediately took to scratching through it, looking for all the yummy oat seeds, and bugs. They have also really helped with spreading out the straw itself.
We also threw a few piles over the fence for the geese and ruminants to snack on. They were pretty excited with this new source of entertainment.
Overall, we are quite satisfied with this purchase. It was a small investment which will definitely pay off. Happy birds with full bellies and busy scratching feet make us very happy farmers.
Since acquiring our hodgepodge of goats, one of the little guys has amassed quite a fan club. Taco, a tiny little thing, has captivated so many people. He is small. Like really, really small. And I think that is part of his appeal!
We decided to work with our friend Nicole Lapointe, who we’ve had do some custom art for us in the past, to design something special to honor Taco and all his tiny, goaty goodness. She is awesomely talented, and perfectly captures the subjects in every piece she creates.
Her art was sent to StickerMule where we had stickers made. Their pricing is great, and the quality is top notch. So far, we have just this one design made, but we will have more stickers made in the future with other awesome animals! If you are interested in getting your own stickers, check out StickerMule!
This time of year, there isn’t a whole lot going on here, but that doesn’t mean we are sitting around all day. Our fifteen fuzzy hay eating animals still need hay and snacks brought out to them at least once a day, and the birds still need their feed and water taken care of.
We have shifted the way we do our chores slightly this winter. We were both getting home after dark some days, so we moved all of our poultry feeding to the mornings. One fifty pound sack of feed is divvied up between several feeders, and they seem to be fine with that. If one of us is home, we will go out a couple times with Luna and throw some “snackies” out for the birds. Snackies are scratch, kitchen scraps, or whatever else we might have for them. This keeps them entertained, and allows us to check on them periodically.
As for the fuzzy hay eating animals, we still occasionally feed them twice. They get at least one full bale of hay in the morning, which is sometimes brought out in a wheelbarrow. The smaller goats seem to enjoy when that happens. If they eat most of that, we give them another half bale of hay in the evening. We don’t like to give them all of it at once, because they just like to make a mess of it, and leave it all over the ground.
The nice part about them making a mess is that it’s great for them to bed down in. This works well for us, until the hay and poop piles up. We have been managing to stay on top of things, and we scoop out the spent hay pretty regularly.
The wheelbarrow loads of dirty hay get hauled around the pastures and are dumped into low spots in the ground. These holes are mostly caused by chickens taking excessively aggressive dust baths. I don’t know what their issue is, but they apparently think bathing for 45 minutes and tossing every speck of dirt three feet away is absolutely required. Filling the holes means we fall less frequently, which is always a good thing. We also toss some of the hay into the bird yard for them to scratch through. It soaks up some of the gross mud we have been dealing with for a while, and gives them a little more traction when the ground freezes. If we have any hay left after, it gets piled on top of our compost pile.
This is the bulk of what we have been doing all winter. Soon, we will begin ordering our seeds for the vegetable and flower gardens, as well as ordering chicks to raise. We are looking forward to working back into our daily routines.
This is going to be a little different than our usual content, but I hope you don’t mind. I promise there are cute animals!
My birthday is January 4th, and I turned 30 this year. Robert decided to make this birthday an extra fun one. We exchanged gifts for Solstice, and he had told me ahead of time that my gift was going to be an experience, instead of physical things, but he got me something to open and it was representative of what my gift was. I opened my gift, and immediately started crying. This is what greeted me.
I knew I would be petting sloths for my birthday! I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t stop crying, and Luna had to help me calm back down. If you’ve seen that Kristen Bell sloth video, that was basically me, but she’s prettier.
So fast forward to my actual birthday. Bob let me sleep in, and went out to do animal chores. Unfortunately, one of our Jacob ewes, Tanka, knocked off one of her lateral horns and was bleeding pretty heavily. We got in touch with our sheep mentors, and they basically said “Well, it’s cold out. She will be fine.” So on we went with our day! And a week later, she’s still alright. We headed to Hillsdale to look at a potential farm truck. Spoiler: it was worse than a rust bucket. So it was a big fat NO. We ended up getting breakfast at Coffee Cup Diner which was AMAZING! Surprise Thai food for breakfast? Yes please! We both loved our meal, and we are planning on heading back there soon.
Post breakfast, we drove to Ann Arbor for my birthday present. The Creature Conservancy is an amazing non-profit educational organization. They started with surrendered pets that people realized they couldn’t take care of anymore. Who’d have though an alligator or an arctic fox would make bad pets? We met up with our guide Patricia, and we talked about what they do there.
Our first stop was the outdoor area where the black swans live. Being that Bob and I have experience with large waterfowl (our geese) we knew we didn’t need to get any closer than necessary. They are cool looking, but a whole lot of NOPE!
After that, we went indoors and through the kitchen area where they prep food for all the resident animals. They get a large portion of the fruit and vegetables donated by the Whole Foods that isn’t far from them. The animals are getting a large variety in their diets at basically no cost to The Creature Conservancy, WF doesn’t need to pay for waste disposal, and it’s keeping good food out of the landfill. Everyone wins! We may be donating some extra produce to them this summer, depending on how our gardens do, and if we cannot find something closer to us.
We walked through the indoor animal enclosures, which included some gigantic tortoises, a shy eagle, and an adorable kangaroo! We learned that kangaroos are super soft. Imagine a chinchilla, but… better? She was so chill. Petting her was awesome.
After the kangaroo, we watched the resident cougar with her new toy, a paper mache “deer”. The staff added some meat to the top of it so Quinn would be able to find it. She was really cool! Bob was really excited to find out that cougars can purr.
After seeing the cougar, we headed out to see the little goats. There are five little wethers, who were absolutely adorable. They all still have their horns, which was a little bothersome for me, because I am so used to ours who mostly don’t have horns, and these little guys were spoiled as babies, so they are exceptionally needy. Two of them chewed the ends off my shoelaces. However, I still love goats of all attitudes.
We wandered through a few more animal areas and ended up in front of Bed Head and Lady Gaga. This was the second most exciting animal encounter for me. Porcupines are an animal that makes me go mushy inside. I think they’re so silly and adorable looking, and I found out we would be feeding them sweet potatoes. We also learned they are basically garbage disposals and they love almost any produce that Whole Food donates!
Post porcupine perusal, we walked through the larger indoor area where the majority of the animals live. They had Macaws, which were loud, warthogs, who were kind of terrifying with their tusks, binturongs (that I didn’t get close enough to verify if they smell like popcorn), and many others. Finally, we went up some steps to where the most important animal encounter would occur.
The first sloth to come out was Poco. He was huge, much larger than I thought a sloth would be. I don’t know what I expected, but he moved faster than I thought possible! But we had grapes for him, so I totally understand his excitement He eagerly gobbled them off the straws Patricia shoved them on. Shortly after, his girlfriend Annie came moseying on out. She had a baby a few months ago, and it’s so stinking adorable, I almost cried.
After the sloths, we headed back to the car and I promptly started crying. I was just so overwhelmed with all the amazing things I’d just seen, and couldn’t hold it in anymore. Bob was actually surprised that I didn’t cry while petting the sloth. And for those who are interested, sloths feel sort of like grey hair does.
The rest of the evening included a visit to TeaHaus in Ann Arbor for macarons and tea. Which were both tasty. We also had No Thai for dinner, which was honestly the perfect way to end the evening! Nothing fancy, just something that would fill our bellies.
This was possibly the best birthday I’ve ever had, and I am so grateful we got to spend the day together. The weekend continued the festivities, and we went to Detroit and partied with many of our friends. Nothing will ever top this weekend!
Now that the rush of summer is gone, we were truly hoping that autumn and winter would be a little easier and calmer. So far, we have been wrong.
Our final batch of chickens for this season was brought to the processor last week. They are now in the freezer awaiting their new homes in the ovens and soup pots of our customers. This batch of chickens finished a little smaller than previous batches. We aren’t sure if it’s due to being later in the year, and the pasture not being quite as nutritious, or something else. That being said, they are just as delicious as the previous birds sent to the processor. We had to acquire an additional freezer to store these birds in. We are hoping to have it emptied out by the end of the year. Or at least have one of the meat freezers emptied out by then.
We have acquired several new animals recently. We have three Jacob sheep that we purchased from Sweetgrass Jacobs back at the end of October. One named Limerick, who is a two horned ram born in April of this year. We also got one two horned female and a four horned female, named Haiku and Tanka respectively. They are all quite skittish, but they are slowly warming up to us.
In addition to the sheep, we’ve acquired five goats. They came from a farm that was downsizing. We have three wethers and two does. The wethers are named Taco, Milkshake and Nugget, and the does are Curry and Fudge. Yes, we named them all after foods that goats can be made into. But we don’t plan on eating these ones any time soon.
Our chickens and ducks have slowed their egg production. We are still getting a dozen or two a day, but that’s a far cry from the overflowing baskets we were getting for most of the summer. It will pick back up in the spring. Everything has a season, and egg season is definitely early summer!
We will be processing our own turkey for Thanksgiving, and we are really looking forward to that. We have two really large males that we will choose between. The second one will be served up at the December holiday dinner. We hope the rest of the turkeys will lay eggs for us to hatch and raise up for next year’s holiday dinners.
All of our tasty products, and some of Nicole’s knitted items will be available at the Marshall Farmers Market at the B.E. Henry building. We hope to see you there! If you can’t make it, feel free to send us a message to make arrangements to get some eggs or chicken. Happy almost-winter!
One of the frustrating things about starting seeds is that many of them need to be babied while they are sprouting. Watering with a regular hose nozzle is too strong of a stream and can disrupt the seeds, or break the fragile stems. We found these amazing misting nozzles on Amazon, and we knew they were a game changer.
The Fogg-It Watering Nozzles come in a pack of three, or can be purchased individually. We decided to go for the three pack, as it would give us more options for different tasks. We are very glad we did! We use the 1/2 gallon per minute (GPM) nozzle to water our seed starts. The other two are used for watering the animals. A couple weeks ago, it got unseasonably hot for a couple days, and all of our animals were panting and struggling with the heat. We ran a couple hoses out to our chicken tractor, and ran the 1 GPM nozzle over them for almost an hour. They absolutely loved it! It was hilarious watching these meat birds drink the water running down the walls of the tractor. We also sprayed down Faith and Galahad, who seemed to really have fun with the water. They had just gotten their hair cuts a couple days prior which also helped keep them cool.
We also used the 2 GPM nozzle to mist the laying flock. We had it strung up in the tree to mist the shady areas, and the drips filled up a pool we set on the ground under the tree. This is an easy, relatively hands-off way of cooling the flock when it gets way too hot out. The hose can be left like that for a while and we can go and get other things done.
Overall, we are so happy we purchased these nozzles! They have several other sizes available, and they can also be purchased individually. If you get some of these for yourself, let us know what you think!
We purchased these nozzles at full price with our own money. We did not offer to do a review of this item, but we seriously love them so much we had to share them. The links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase through them, we get a small amount of money in return. Thank you for supporting our farm.