I’m going to ignore that I haven’t made a blog post in some time, so I am going to just dive right in.
I have always been the type that if I want to do something, I just do it. It has finally caught up to me that I can’t do everything, and it’s been heavy on my mind and heart. When I bought my farm, I wanted a new fence, so I put up a fence. I wanted sheep, so I got sheep. I wanted chickens, so I got chickens. I have always managed to make it work. The only reason it has worked is because of my city job. I’m thankful for it because it has allowed me to succeed in making my dream a reality, but it also takes away much of my time and energy that I could use toward the farm. My dad constantly tells me that I need to work towards growing a career. The career I want is to farm sheep, but the career I need is being a chemical engineer.
Lately I have been listening to the Thriving Farmer podcast. It is probably the best podcast I should be listening to right now because Michael has said numerous times that beginners try to do everything, but nothing is successful since all their time is divided between all the projects. Listening to this podcast has also been super inspiring as I want to become successful and grow my farm. I just need to pick a few things I want to specialize in and focus on them. It’s so tough though! Here’s my list of goals:
-Herd shares with my milk goats
-Run a mini mill to process wool
-Raise and show Dominique chickens and heritage turkeys
-Breed and show Shetland sheep
-Raise and process meat chickens for wholesale
-Obtain Animal Welfare Approved certification for all animals
-Obtain Non-GMO status
-Obtain Re-generative status
-Obtain Grassfed status
-Sell organic feed in retail stores
-Sell at farmer’s markets
-Run the Grain Exchange with New Country Organics and local Ohio organic farmers
-Run a CSA program for the community
-Produce and sell natural made soap
-Grow a giant garden and can excess produce
-Manage a blog.
There are several things on my list. I would love to do all these things, but I don’t have the time, energy or finances. I need to pick from my list of things to do. I should just focus on the farm’s name sake Fleece & Feather, so sheep and chickens.
I focus too much on what I can do, I’m a dreamer and goal setter. I should focus on what I can do, and to me the sky is truly the limit. Farmer Chris also has his goals and they are lofty just like mine. He has gotten his hands on some decently priced farm equipment including a corn planter, pull-behind combine, hay baler, and some other things that I can’t remember. He just brought the corn planter home yesterday. I didn’t tell him, but I loved it the moment I saw it. The farm is full of opportunities. We’ve been talking for a while about buying more land (this is a long-term goal, several years down the road). There is a small four-acre lot that backs right up to our property. Currently it is rented out for commercial corn to a large farming business. I’m sure four acres is nothing to them, when they have hundreds if not thousands of acres that they farm. The word is out to both the property owner and the farmers that rent it. Chris really wants to plant organic corn, but I think it would be neat to plant a giant pumpkin patch. Everyone has commercial (cheap) corn out here and no one wants to pay the extra for the chemical free corn. I don’t really know of any “pick your own” pumpkin patches that are right in our community though. Lots of places have pumpkins already picked and set out, but I haven’t seen many that are pick your own right in town. I think that would be a lot of fun. And if it flops, the animals can eat the excess pumpkins or we can use it for compost. We do have to consider that we can’t call anything “organic” from that property as it would have to sit chemical-free for three years. We also have no idea what the soil is like, and only a soil test will be able to tell us.
Also along the lines of the farming equipment is that Farmer Chris wants to grow hay on his grandparents property out in Cambridge. Again, we don’t know the condition of the soil and this property is nearly two hours from our farm. I’m not sure there is enough time during the year for any of this. One of us needs to quit our job, and as much I want to, I can’t. I need the farm to sustain itself financially first.
My new year resolutions for 2020 were to focus on the garden and chickens. I did successfully manage to do that. We had a pretty excellent garden (seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds), although there were still a bunch of weeds. We grew potatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, carrots, onions, celery, leeks and beets pretty well. We had planted cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, corn, brussels sprouts, kale, peas, and beans, though they didn’t do too well. I think I planted the corn, beans, and peas way too early. Cabbage, lettuce, brussels sprouts, and kale struggled with the numerous pests that would eat the leaves. The peppers never managed to grow, and the tomatoes would rot before they were ready to pick. This winter I will investigate reasons for the tomatoes, and I think I may try the peppers and tomatoes in the green house next year. I’m assuming it would help control the pests.
We’ve also got berry bushes planted in the garden as well which I am super excited for! I tend to focus more on vegetables rather than fruit. We now have strawberries (I think there are nearly 100 plants in the ground), blueberries, raspberries, and black berries. The funny thing is that all the berry bushes were eaten by the goats, but they came back great! What we thought was the demise of our berries may actually have been for their benefit! It is so interesting how things work out like that. Maybe we will get runners from the plants that we can sell to the community… there I go again thinking of more plans.
With the goal being chickens, I managed to hatch, raise and sell numerous chicks which was exciting. We also found three additional coops to add to the property, though at the moment half of them sit empty. We had Grey Rangers and Cornish Cross meat chickens that we processed. We sold quite a few and even donated 10 for the local church’s Chicken & Noodle Dinner. It was a huge hit and we will likely continue to do it for years to come! I did want to show the dominiques this year had started focusing on breeding groups rather than breeding willy-nilly. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 this year, we were unable to attend any and many of our pullets and cockerels went missing (due to predation). Many people heavily involved in the chicken community have said that you won’t get anywhere without keeping the flock safe. Some have suggested keeping the birds penned up or in a netted run, but I can’t do that when I have always been a firm supporter of pasture raised chickens. The large turkeys and loud guineas have been excellent deterrents of predators, though we do have a few flying ones that aren’t seeming to get the hint. Fencing in all but one acres of the property has also been a help with the walking predator