Things have been a bit crazy here on the farm and I've not had a great deal of time to post anything here on the website. So a very quick update and then some words of wisdome.We've had some losses with the death of Flower the sheep and Ollie the goat, but also a great deal of gain. Sophie and Faye both had twins, we purchased a few more goats, a couple more pigs, some ducks, turkeys, guineafowl, rabbits and one cow - oh yeah and my mother bought my daughter a mini horse.... We also have A LOT more chickens! We are probably close to 200 chickens at this point. Our bantams started laying early this summer and have already hatched out more. Our first batch of cross breed meat birds are going to slaughter in early September - we are just taking them to the Amish because no one had expressed any intrest in buying any. We also had to take Toony to slaughter due to her injured leg getting worse. She lived a good life and made excellent bacon. I'm not impressed with the place we brought her to for butcher. Next time we were planning on using a different place anyways, so we can sell some of the meat. Niles is out in the pasture with the girls and is hopefully doing his duty. I've noticed that his leg seems to be giving him some trouble as well. Hopefully he improves. If not one of his sons may have to take up his position and Niles and the mother of our replacment boar will be sent to auction.Our gardens are doing horribly. They didn't get planted until late due to a late spring and it taking quite awhile to get the soil ready for planting. The weeds are the only thing really flourishing at this point. The soil need to be heavily limed this fall and fertilized with some manure. Hopefully next year the gardens will do better. That's my update, now for some words of wisdom or "10 things I wish someone had told me when I first started farming".I've had a few people contact me lately asking for advice on starting to farm. I really don't have much advice to give as I'm still working on setting up our business and getting out tax exempt status. But there are a few things I would have liked someone to tell me when I was first starting out.
- Contact your local extension office. Here in NY it's Cornell, but I think most states have something similar. They are a wealth of knowledge and love to help out those just getting started.
- Also contact your local small business development office. They normally offer free services and will help you write up a business plan - which is something you will need if you want to get a loan.
- Be flexible, but focused. Find your market, but also have other option in the wings. Can you make a living selling eggs alone? Maybe, but you will probably do better if you also sell chicks or meat. Find out what is popular in your area. Is their a large immigrant population? You might do real well selling goat meat - goats a real popular meat in many parts of the world, but not so much here in the states. Many immigrants looking to make traditional dishes will buy your goat or goat meat for top dollar.
- Don't set your heart on anything specific until your look into it more. You want to make cheese? Well there is quite the process to go through to sell dairy products. Canned goods? Pickled eggs? Well now you need access to a certified kitchen and an approved recipe. If you really want to do something go for it, but be aware of the hoops you need to jump through first. If you don't want to deal with all the regulations but still want to do something with dairy, look into making non-edibles like soaps and lotions. Still want to sell canned good? All you need to sell jams, jellies and marmalades at Farmer's Markets in NY state is a certified water test.
- Don't do more than the land can handle. With produce you are pretty flexible. Using intensive permaculture methods you can grow a lot of food on a small portion of land sustainably, but if you get into livestock you need some acreage. So if you only have two acres and you don't have a neighbor who lets you use his land like we do maybe focus on produce and small livestock and keep away from raising a large herd of beef cows.
- If you keep larger livestock don't be afraid to call the vet. Modern medicine is your friends. If you are against the overuse of antibiotics in commercial livestock operations, it doesn't mean you can't give some to your animal if they are actually sick. We've had to medicate our calf we bought from auction when he came down with scours and the pigs all got a does of ivermectin when we noticed they had hog lice (I still have no idea how a closed herd of pigs got lice, but they did). Your goal should be to raise your animals as naturally as possible, and to only interfere when absolutely necessary - but don't let an animal suffer or die just because you don't like using modern medicine. Apple cider vinegar can't fix everything, even if it has the "mother" inside.
- Don't listen to everything you read on the internet, especially forums. I'm convinced half the people on some of them don't actually own or have never owned livestock or grown a tomato. Find real farmers in your local area to talk to, go to farmers markets, get out there! That doesn't mean you can't make some great connections over the internet, just be cautious.
- When speaking to farmers realize that everyone has their own opinion and their own way of doing things. Listen, learn, and find out what works for you. You don't want to castrate your piglets? Then don't. But still be respectful to the farmer that does. You are not likely to change anyone's opinion by talking - especially a farmer's opinion.
- Have fun! Be passionate! Don't let the hard times (and if you are farming there will be hard time) get you down. Animals will die, crops will fail, but never let that discourage you from doing what you love. As our vet said after we had to put Ollie down, "If you have livestock, you have deadstock".
- Don't expect to make a profit right off. If you are into produce you might manage to make something in your first year, but with livestock it's going to take a few. Keep your day job and start out slow. It's going to take awhile to build up a customer base and get your name out there.
I hope some future farmer out there find this helpful and as always if you want to chat contact me! I'm always willing to talk farm.
It's Winter Time here in Western NY and while it may not get nearly as cold here as it did back in Plattsburgh, it's still cold enough to make staying indoors enjoyable. So as I sit cooped up in my home, staying warm by the fire, I have plenty of time for planning. Once spring comes and thaws the ground we have quite a bit of work to be done.
This is our barn. Ignore the junk.
I'm moved! And we have decided on a name for out little farming operation. "For Peate's Sake Homestead" It's a play on our surname. All the animals are moved in and we even sold Faye's two little bucklings. The pigs got loose initially but Jeff put a strand of electric fence up to keep them in their pen and they haven't escaped since. Also they are HUGE - the pigs I mean. More pictures and details about our new place after the jump.
I have been too serious lately so here are some interesting things I have learned about farming so far. :)
A playful pig is only cute until it exceeds your own body weight then it’s utterly terrifying.
Don’t think if you build a shelter your sheep will actually use it; they much rather be outside. Invest in shade and wind-brakes.
Before you decided to hatch out chicks in winter first figure out where you are going to house them. Basements don’t make good chick brooder.
Rams are called such for a reason.
Dogs can get fat eating chicken poop.
If chickens don’t know what something is their first instinct is to peck it, whether it’s a string on the ground or a temperamental old cat, it makes no difference to them.
Chickens have a bad rap for being stupid, but ducks are worse. They can figure out how to fly out of the yard but not how to fly back in.
Chickens + Dead Frog = Hours of Entertainment
Pigs are smarter then dogs, they know to wait until your back is turned to body slam you.
Don’t ask your pigs if they want an apple unless you actually have some apples to give them, they aren’t stupid and they hold a grudge.
Goats know the best places to stand/walk so they can trip you.
An otherwise quite and late rising rooster will always start crowing at 4am on the days you could sleep in.
Plucking a duck is one of the 9 levels of hell.
The smaller the size of your male goat the larger the attitude.
Never stand directly in front of a male goat; you risk getting peed on.
Male goats can *cough* take care of themselves if you know what I mean.
No matter how much it may suck going out in below zero temperatures to feed and care for the animals after you've had the day from hell; by the time your done lugging buckets of water and wrestling with the animals to get from the gate to their food dishes, you have a smile on your face and you've forgotten that you can't feel your toes.
Jeff wants meat goats…. which I’m fine with, but I like sheep better. I LOVE my Shetlands
, but raising the breed just for meat doesn’t make sense and I have no idea what to do with their wool. (If anyone knows how to shear sheep I will give you their wool in exchange) So I have found a breed of sheep I think would work great for us. They are a larger sheep, are naturally disease resistant, birth easy, you don’t have to dock their tails, and they shed in the spring so no shearing! Unfortunately there are only a handful of them in the US. They are called Wiltshire Horn Sheep
and they are super popular in Australia, and gaining popularity in the US. Because their coat adjusts to the climate they are in they can be raised in cold and warm climates. The Wiltshire is an ancient British breed of sheep that nearly went extinct in the early 20th century. The breed was exported to the US where they were used to breed the modern Katahdin sheep
I would love to get my hands on a small herd of these sheep, but it looks like if I want them I am going to have to travel and pay out the noise for the real deal and not a hybrid. Most of the other heritage hair sheep breeds are smaller and used primarily for trophy hunting, so they have big horns but their bodies are smaller and they are more adapted to warmer climates. If anyone knows of where I can find a few of these beauties either leave a comment below or send me an email KaylaP@theimpulsivefarmer.com
You know how I said the mallard had been pardoned well....
I changed my mind. So the deed is done; the ducks are in the fridge and it only took most of the day. We are never doing ducks again! De-feathering them was a giant pain in the rear! I had to take the tweezers to them... and then I ended up just skinning 2 of the mallards and one of the Pekins. I can't wait to cook them though! I found some really good recipes and I will be sure to post the recipes and how they turned out.
UPDATE: Well, my friend and I went down to the county on Friday and it appears that there are no restrictions on my family’s property (so far) we still have a few more deeds to pull.
On a more negative note, we completed the goat/sheep house on Sunday with the help of Jeff’s family and a friend. We were able to get it all set up and the males and females separated; all that is left is to finish the roof (we have a tarp over it right now). Anyways, we figured that the codes and zoning officer would be getting some calls saying we are building, so we sent him an email to forewarn him. We may not have gotten a variance for the barn, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t construct a small 8x12 building for the sheep/goats. We got a response from the code enforcement office on Monday saying that while they appreciated the heads up that they HAD gotten numerous complaints and they still had to go out and check it out to make sure we are in compliance, which it turns out we are so :P to all those people that complained. I really don’t know what those people expected us to do, it’s getting cold out and the shelter that we originally put up was just not sufficient for the winter. Did they expect us to just let our animals freeze? I can understand not wanting us to start some huge farming operations, but I don’t see what the issue is with building shelter for the animals we already have on the property.
Oh, before I forget kudos to Shirley and Sue for standing up for us during the Zoning meeting! You made the whole nightmarish meeting more bearable!
This past Sunday me and the hubby attended Upstate NY ChickenStock 2010! Which was AWESOME. Now going into this Jeff said that he would NEVER help me process our animals when it comes time to butch, so I said yeah, sure what ever. At ChickenStock there was a processing demo and now Jeff is all, "That wasn't bad I could do that" :rollseyes: So these past few days we have been looking into what type of meat bird we want to get, and from all the feedback we got from the people at CS we decided to go with Freedom Rangers
. They don't grow as fast as the Cornish Crosses that you would purchase in a grocery market and they don't get as big but they don't drop dead at 12 weeks either. Cornish X's tend to not move much so they have to be babied, they can over heat easily in the summer and they tend to lay around allot and get stinky, dirty and disgusting. The Freedom Rangers are capable of being raised on pasture and will forage for food therefor bringing feed cost down.So today at work, Jeff called me to ask me if I knew how much they where, so I looked them up and gave him the pricing for 25, 50, or 100..... then he is like ok lets get 100.... uh huh yeah, ok great idea and where are we going to put these birds? The field has yet to be fenced and we can't just let them roam free, the local predators would end up eating them instead of us.
So I think I have talked him out of getting that many to start out, for now at least.Then while we
where at ChickenStock Jeff saw some Blue Laced Red Wyandotte
and if I hadn't of had the foresite to NOT bring our carrier with us we would be plus a few chickens right now.... I don't know how this happened I used to be the impulsive one and he was the voice of reason! Oh well. On the other hand I got an incubator at CS and it currently has 3 eggs in it just as a test. It was used so it didn't come with a thermometer, so if this batch doesn't go well I have to go buy one and a hydrometer. They are due to hatch on the 24th but I should know if the eggs are developing by tomorrow or so.