We have had snow on the ground, it has melted, snowed again, rained, turned to ice, snowed, and on and on. The snow was mostly gone this last time it snowed. Now we have a ski slope instead of a driveway. It makes for some tough chores! Just walking to the barn feels like running a mile in 6 minutes. Takes our breath away. We are learning about living in a cold climate one chilly day at a time. More often than not, we feel very comfortable in the cold. It's really just an issue for my fingers and my toes!
While the short days and colder temperatures keep us warm and lazy - holed up indoors, we are trying to get organized for the year. There is much to plan and prioritize. This is a moment where I am doing as much financial planning as I can, knowing what I know at this point. I am also taking this time to put a lot of things on the calendar, like: possible farrowing dates for sows, possible kidding dates for does, incubation & egg collection for incubation dates, slaughter dates, the entire planting calendar, when to separate the males from the females for the births (where that will be and who gets what shelter), and on and on. I need to apply to a few farmer's markets, as well. We should have tomatoes for sale by July 1. I imagine at that point, I will also have lettuces, and whatever else I plant should be bursting by then.
If I could grow this and have 16 tomato plants, a full-time job, and city traffic (ew!), surely I can handle 165 tomato plants.
Planning a market garden is surprisingly intimidating for me. I grew my own veggies for 8 years before the pandemic. Since then, being that we had no home for a while, I haven't had the opportunity, other than some hydroponics. I think part of the issue at hand for me is that we have so much to do for the livestock. The other aspect may be a combination of intimidation of scale, and knowing it will be all me. Harvesting 165 tomatoes sounds like a lot. But as I write that, I realize that I never expected Milo to be so involved in the day to day aspects of the farm. I knew he would be integral in getting all the infrastructure built, but I didn't expect him to meet me half way. He takes as much care of those animals, and does chores as often as I do. Sometimes we do them together. Sometimes we do them on our own. He has taken on the role of lumberjack, as well. He splits the wood today. But tomorrow, he will be cutting down next year's firewood, and possibly some lumber, and definitley some roosting poles for the hens. I'm sure he will love picking tomatoes. I do not know how much more I will get set up, but hope to put at least 5 rows outside the greenhouse, as well, and grow some things for us, but to scale. That way, I can have extra goodies for the market, get my feet wet, but not feel the pressure of a full-blown market garden. After this season, I will reassess and we will decide where we want to take that, and if we want to expand.
We have multiple shelters that can be mobile, but will need some shoring up before the spring, so they will be easy to move. Our chickshaws need to be adapted before going out. I also have plans to build a bigger, mobile coop at some point as our flock grows. I still haven't figured out how to get water around the farm. It's so blocking for me that I wish there were someone I could pay to come figure it out for me. That's not going to happen. I am going to reach out to my mentors in Europe from my regenerative agriculture masterclass, and see if they can help me strategize. I want to be able to pull from the pond, but I saw how shallow it was in summer, and I know it won't be sufficient. We need another pond. There's a stretch where the forest edge meets the road that goes around the area that we are currently fencing. On that road, as it turns a corner, you can always see a small pond-swamp-like area, even from a satellite. Now we have seen it with our own eyes. It fills and drains, but it wants to be a little pond. If we could somehow clear that area of brush & baby trees and line it with some bentonite clay, I am sure it would serve well as a pond. It is downhill from the other one. I bet I could connect them via pipes. Add that to the to do list!
Duke is as sweet as can be. He is huge, and just turned 8 months old. We love him, and look forward to having the perimeter fence up, so we can have more time with him, having him follow us around as we do chores. He takes his job very seriously, and is finally starting to listen to his training. I know he will protect our flocks. We also need to make this house mobile, or come up with something else that is mobile. He will eat anything, so it's tricky making him a house. Once he's older and has more to do, I imagine he will stop eating tarps and whatnot.
We need a perimeter fence so desperately. That said, our animals stay in their electric fences, and seem to not want to go anywhere. Possibly, that is beacause there are no greener grasses to move to, as there is no grass. It's all covered in snow. Whenever the ground thaws, those last posts are going in. In the interim, whenever Milo & I get motivated to work in the cold, we will put up another big farm gate, and we can stretch some fence along the front, where all the posts that lead to the next gate have been installed. It's over 2000 feet of fence, but I know he and I can get it done before the pastures are ready for the animals.
Our pigs have been doing the nasty. They currently all live together, and are happy as a mob. We miss hanging out with them. I look forward to long, summer days, when we can lay in the grass with them. They climb all over us; we love them so much.
The goats seemed "active" a few weeks ago. I'm watching to see if anything happens in the next week or two. If it doesn't, I can assume all 3 does are bred. I can't even think about little kids running around. Oh! It is going to be so fucking magical! Our newest breeding buck is a Kiko named Marble. He is 3 years old and proven (that means they know his sperm is good & he knows how to do his job). And we got to see him at work. We never saw any success, but we were not watching all day. We added him in December, and we love him. He's very lovey. Goats are not the hardiest of animals, but we love the way they work the land and they are such a hoot.
We have a piglet we will trade for a cow. She is half highland, half mini-belted galloway. She's a yearling, so we can breed her when she's 2, and a year after that, when she FINALLY gives birth, I can have my own milk! I will drink goat milk, but I prefer cow's milk, especially for cream and butter. I am looking forward to making my own. We look forward to welcoming Maizy whenever she finally comes. We are waiting for the trade, since we really want our fence up first. I think about her often, and wonder when she will come home. I can't believe I will have my first cow. What an exciting life!
Maizy with her mama @ her current farm.
We have had a couple different farmers who have both, at more than one point, come over and helped us inject our livestock, and trim hooves. We built a stanchion for the goats a few weeks ago, and it is very helpful for trimming. I will use it to milk them one day, as well.
We had a wonderful moment the other day. Our first customer, a woman I met at the Lunemburg Farmer's Market, came to the farm and bought a dozen eggs. The chickens we raised from incubation have started laying eggs. This beautiful moment opens doors. We have product to sell, albeit very little today, but it means I can now collect their eggs for hatching more so we can grow our flock. Hazaah! It is ON!
We butchered our first 2 cockerels. They were delicious! And their bones made wonderful broth. I'm saving the feet, offal, and heads. Yikes! I'll be using them to make broth and paté. Mmmm. We did pretty well for a first time. We will butcher the other 3 this coming week. Then, we have to wait for the next batch to incubate & hatch in March.
Make sure to check out youtube (the potty-mouthed farmer) if you want to see what we are up to. I occasionally post videos. They are just there for our family and friends to be able to see our daily goings-ons. Enjoy!
Until next time...