Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 In Review

I’ve been waiting for the weather to act a little more like spring so that I could get out and get some farm inspiration. I can't review farm goals from inside. Yesterday, and the first part of today, were just what I needed. The sun was bright yesterday and warmed me nicely as I did my work. No sun today, but moving manure will warm you on the coldest of days. It’s time to get the garden tidied up and the last of the “fresh”

compost into the beds
to give it time to mature until the first planting. Looking at the brown grass and trees it's hard to believe that this will be verdant and green in just 3 more months. This is the same patch in April of 2010. What a difference! While I worked the county tested the tornado sirens...that's springy.
The most pleasant thing of my day was feeling Mabelle’s baby kick for the first time. Don’t hold me to it, but I’m guessing that this little one will arrive sometime in the next 2-6 weeks. We are hoping for a girl so we can add a second milk cow to the line up (which we need like a hole in the head). She (if she is indeed a she) will be 5/8ths Jersey and should make some delicious milk. That dream will take two years to become reality due to the fact that she must be a year old for breeding, and the gestation is 9 months long. Farming is some pretty slow stuff.
It was hay delivery day today, and the pasture pets were very happy. Our hay is delivered by Mr. Warren Brooks of Nicholson. He is a sweetie and reminds me so much of my Dad. We nearly lost Mr. Brooks to back-to-back heart attacks last year. It is so good to see him back in the cab of his pickup. I don’t know who loves him more, me, or the critters.
With regard to farming lots of things that I had hung my hat upon did not produce as promised in 2010. Primarily these: the garden, the milk machine, seven goats in milk, and finding a market for our milk. The problem with milking machines is that they are exceedingly heavy and must be cleaned within an inch of their lives every time you use them – unless you want to make someone very sick. Seven goats in milk is nice for households where at least two people are available to milk. Oh it would be fine if the lone milker didn’t have a job, homeschool her children, run a small beef business, go to college, or want much of a life (what do I use for a brain?). The farmers’ markets are fine if you have more than, say, three customers who drink goat milk, otherwise it is an exercise in futility to care for the animals, milk the milk, bottle the milk, and then sell only three gallons per week (I’m tapping my foot impatiently here). Customers who are willing to come to the gate and purchase are grand if they are serious, regular milk drinkers. Usually they are neither. Our experience is that people want to shop while they are passing through Athens, or taking a Sunday drive with the grandchildren. That means you end up giving the speech about how the animals are cared for and how the milk is bottled over and over again. Very low return on investment.
This year helped us to determine that our milk is best for our family, friends, and animals. To go beyond that, for us, is to spin the wheels and waste good resources. Milk into beef and milk onto table is good money.
It is very easy to get caught up in the locally grown, farmers’ market, back-to-the-land, omnivore’s dilemma. Heritage breed associations promise that the old breeds of animals are better -not necessarily, but they are more expensive due to the claims. Hobby Farms magazine tells you that it is just that, a hobby -don’t get me started. Here’s my advice to those who would aspire. Raise animals and plants (whatever kind) that thrive where you live. Breed those and then pat yourself on the back when you develop your own heritage breeds and species. Your grandkids will talk about them one day and, *poof*, you will have yourself a heritage. Grow for yourself and share (or sell) the overabundance. Do. not. go. into. debt. Fortunately we have followed that last piece of advice and our home with 10 acres remains a very inexpensive, and very productive, place to live, BUT, we are just starting to break even on the animals’ expenses after 5 years. It takes time.
In review let’s evaluate last year’s New Year plans. This is what I said in the post on 1/1/10, let’s see how we did.
Things we look forward to in 2010: (Outcomes are in black)
We anticipate new birth in the spring. Our Great Pyrenees (Gus and Bo Peep) appeared to be whipping up a fresh batch of puppies today. That puts them here some time in March. We had two beautiful puppies, one girl, and one boy, who survived Bo Peep’s first birth. Bonnie went to live with the McPherson family and guard her own herd. Baby G (for gigantic) lives at home with his folks here on the GBF. He is even bigger than Gus (his father). We spayed Bo Peep after she nearly severed a toe climbing the gate during her heat cycle this summer. So no more Pyrenees puppies for us…for awhile.
  1. Our first goats are set to arrive then too. They did. We had three sets of triplets this year! I had plenty opportunity to assist with some very goofy birth presentations…those labor and delivery skills came in handy here at home. Altogether we had 10 bucks and 6 does born in the spring. We had one delivery that Dr. Mike came to help with. Unfortunately the kid was lost, but the mother has recuperated very nicely. I learned to trust my gut and call the vet earlier on that one.
  2. Our cow Mabelle, is expecting her firstborn some time in March or April. She gave us a lovely bull calf who is growing big and strong…very meaty looking ;)
  3. We are looking forward to the 2010 goat shows. We will be attending our first national show in Lousiville this summer. Yup, Enterprise won Grand Championship in June in the Georgia Dairy Goat Breeders spring show, and Buckets won 3rd place in her class at the Georgia National show, the nationals were very interesting to witness.
  4. We have been offered the use of an electric milking machine in exchange for weekly milk deliveries this year. My hands and arms rejoice. This offer didn’t work out, but we bought one. I haven’t been happy with it, but I’ll get back to you when I make some alterations to it…I’m still hopeful.
  5. Nic's cabin is to receive its siding as soon as we finish staining it. That will hasten him toward completion of the interior. Just interior work to be done still. It is adorable….almost there!
  6. We are looking forward to a garden again this year. With the wedding this past spring it just never got done. I received some heirloom corn from a friend in South Carolina almost two years ago. I have never seen ears so massive, just look at 'em! He has been selecting for firm stocks that do not blow over so easily, among other traits. In a time when ninety eight percent of our corn is genetically modified I cherish this small store of untouched vintage seed. Fortunately no one around us grows corn that could contaminate it. As for gardening, there is such a thing as too “intensive” a gardening design. Why must I always think that more ( in this case closer planting and more plants) is better?! I was nearly carried away by grape and plum size tomato plants this summer. They grew, and grew, and grew some more. The squash were, I think, too close together and fostered a moist covering which created the ultimate squash bug nursery. Mother and father squash bugs from everywhere heard that we had on-site daycare and brought their babies to my garden so that they could drop the kids off and go to work – ON EATING MY SQUASH PLANTS! My garden was, in a word, completely unmanageable this last season. I did do well with potatoes. Potatoes are my friends. Here’s to MORE potatoes in 2011. We grew no corn. You know what else? The heirloom seeds from Bakers’s were a dissapointment. I’m trying Johnny’s this year.
  7. Oh! We will be adding two beehives too. I can't believe that I almost forgot about the bees. Nope. No bees yet.
  8. More than anything we need a permanent solution to our driveway debacle. Please deliver us Dear Lord. *sigh* Praise be to God we added a road to this humble estate this year. Our neighbors, the Lanes, built it for us for a right handsome, but fair, price. It stretches one quarter mile from the house to the main road and is covered in gravel - sometimes. We were kind of sad about having to “deface” the pasture with a road, but have actually become a bit charmed by it thanks to Jen Carter’s logo design in which the road has a bit of a starring role. The illustration helped us see its value to the landscape.
  9. One thing that wasn't on the list last year but happened anyway was our farm logo and milk label. That's nice too.
  10. And we collected all the mess-makin', free-range chickens and put them in movable coops, which were built by our friend Marty. We now have two, with a third on the way in February. They still get to eat what's under their feet and we move them to a fresh patch daily. Each coop holds between 10 and 12 chickens. They are tall enough for me to stand in, which makes several jobs inside the coop much easier to do.
Now for the new goals...coming soon.

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