This ain’t no disco

Scottish Highland

The season is in full swing and we have more animals on the farm then we have ever had before. So many chicks, turkey poults, ducklings, and lambs its hard to keep count. We are also without help again and doing it all on our own for the most part. We tried interns for a third time and just didn’t work out. Every time we start with high hopes that we are bringing people onto the farm and into our lives that really want to farm. We pick people specifically because they say they want to start a farm of their own but the one thing we have been successful at is showing people they don’t want to have a full scale farm. Maybe they want a little homestead, or just a garden, but they sure don’t want the kind of responsibilities that we have taken on. We are thinking about and working on the farm 24/7 at this point. There is still infrastructure to build, also a learning curve figuring out how to manage a much larger group of animals, and also experimenting with value added products to make the farm financially sustainable. Everyday is different and full of chances to learn, adapt, and adjust what we are doing. Lets be honest doing this kind of work with a busy family life is not for everyone. The ability to juggle lots of different hats and also do a job that isn’t always going to be laid out for you and may require some critical thinking is a tall order but really a must if you want to start your own farm.

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The most disappointing thing about not being able to successfully have interns isn’t just the much larger work load and not being able to do all the projects we wanted to do this season but the fact that we wanted this farm be a place where people could learn about grass based farming and also give them a chance to see how a farm is built. We have been planning and building fencing, irrigation, ponds, and shelters for almost three years now and its the kind of thing that many young new farmers would also be faced with because your not going to necessarily get a farm that has all of those things and the amount of land you want handed over to you. So for now we will try to teach people through our blog when we have time or if people want to come visit the farm we will teach them as much as we can but we won’t be taking on any interns anytime soon.

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We have been getting by with the help of friends and neighbors lending a hand when they can. I also have a friend that is going to work in the garden once a week in exchange for some veggies so even though the season isn’t working out they way we hoped we still feel good about the future. I have also enjoyed working more one on one with Farmer Matt. Our first summer on the farm I was pregnant and last season our son was just a newborn so as you can imagine I had a hard time taking care of three little boys and getting actual work done on the farm. Now I try to wake up before the older boys and Malcolm and I will start doing morning chores near the house, I even have a sitter coming a couple mornings a week so I can help Matt move larger projects forward. We also try to split up and get things done by one of us taking one or two of the boys and vice versa. Its not perfect, things take a little longer, the house is a little messier, and many nights we eat nachos for dinner but we are making it happen. We are also taking copious notes for how we want to do things differently next season. There is always room for improvement, especially in farming. You can’t control the weather or the animals most of the time but you can create the best possible environment for them to thrive.

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On a happier note we found out the breeder that we got Lulu, our Great Pyrenees, from just had another litter so we will be going to pick out another puppy in about a month. Lulu, Bella, and our soon to arrive puppy are and will be  integral members of our farm team. Lulu spends time going between the sheep and the chickens day and night keeping prey both in the sky and on the ground away. Bella still officially a pup helps us heard the animals even the chickens, although that is something we have to work with her on on a daily basis so she just herds them when we ask and doesn’t chase them for fun. Both of them alert us if something is amiss and I really appreciate Bella always wanting to be by your side especially those night time runs out into the pasture to check on animals or to lock the chicken tractors up. The second Great Pyrenees will help us cover more ground especially when we have groups of animals on separate sides of the culvert and also give Lulu another companion. She spends much more of her time out in the pastures and could use another dog to keep her from getting bored. Lulu was an amazing puppy and although she was and still is  harder to train basic commands to, unlike Bella the border collie, her strong guarding instinct plus her incredible gentle way with the kids make her the perfect dog for our farm.

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8 thoughts on “This ain’t no disco

  1. Great blog….I feel for you.
    I can see you guys talking this over at the kitchen table. I’m 55 and we have been doing this for 15 years (though with more plants, less animals). Building the infrastructure is the hardest. Once that is done then a work routine starts to emerge. And Spring is the always craziest time of year. I wish we could spread the work through the year, but we can’t. Hang in there. Your heart is in the right place and the work you do is important.
    Ann/Cottage Gardens

    • Thanks Anne, it is a huge relief that we have most of our infrastructure done. I feel like if we get through this month and the craziness of raising so many chicks things will start to become more routine. We really didn’t think going into this one of the hardest things would be to find other capable hands to work on the farm. It feels like more people are in love with the romantic notion of farming than the actual work.

  2. Hi Christina I was wondering how you manage to pasture your chickens – besides having the wonderful portable coop – do you also feed them grain or layer mash? Do you plant anything special in your pasture specifically for them to forage? My rural neighbors and I are always curious about better, more sustainable ways to raise animals.

    Thanks for your inspiring blog. I think it’s amazing that you manage to do IG, blog, & FB communication along with all your other work!

    Rachel

    • Thank you Rachel! All the poultry get a locally grown
      Whole grain soy and gmo free feed that is pelletized. The only other supplements they get are ACV in their water and oyster shells. During the growing season when there is grass we rotate the chickens behind the cattle and sheep and so they supplement their diet by scratching apart the cow paddies and any other bugs they can find. We do notice a drop in feed consumption when we start rotating them together so it must be a significant part of their diet. It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship that helps the manure fertilize the ground more quickly and makes the eggs more nutritious.

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