It's Anarchy on the Farm

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Faces on the Farm

     The kids have been begging me for ducks for over a week now. Apparently baby chicks have lost their appeal. But, who doesn't love a little duckling? So off we went to town. We stopped by the library to pick up some books on ducks before heading for the feed store. Z-Man said the library was awesome. According to him it's like going to the bookstore but everything is free. Kids have an awesome view of the world!
Learning About Ducks
Use Your Local Library as a Source for Information 
Taking the Little Ducklings Home
     We bought 4 ducks and the kids named them Twinkle, Diamond, Ray Blaster, and Zap Zap. I was going to steer them towards different names, but naming your pets ridiculous names is part of childhood. After all, I had a cat named Whiskey for 18 years and never regretted it. 
     We had no more than walked in the door and the phone rang. It was my mom calling to inform me that the first small livestock sale of the year was happening at our local market. It was starting in only 30 minutes, but alas, guess who is only 30 minutes away from the market? We are! So we settled the ducks in with food, water, and a heat lamp, I loaded up the chicks from the last hatch to sell and grabbed an extra $100 for good measure. We're still looking for a nanny goat or two, a buck rabbit, and maybe a few more Easter Egger hens if they were cheap. The market was packed with standing room only and the prices were very high. Rabbits were bringing $25-45 per head. Maybe that doesn't seem expensive to everyone, but considering that last year a doe only fetched $2-10, it was high for these parts! Hens that went for $3-8 last year were running $15-25 last night. I was eyeing a day old goat on a bottle thinking that no one would want to bother bottle feeding it. He went for $75, so we did not buy any goats last night. High prices at the market are not a bad thing; it signals that there is re-surged interest in agriculture which is heartwarming. I hope these prices keep up so I can make some money off of our chickens and rabbits this year. Wouldn't it be nice for small farms to do better than break even? Of course it would! Small farms help preserve heritage breeds when factory farms abandon them for new crosses. Take chickens for an example. Dual purpose breeds were snubbed by the egg and meat industry for White Leghorns (eggs) and Cornish Crosses (meat). Cornish crosses have became the industry standard for meat production. Breeders boast that they grow quickly and reach slaughter weight in only 7 weeks. But what they don't tell you is that this breed cannot live a healthy life for very long on the farm. Without careful restriction of their diet they will grow to heavy for their own bodies. Their quick growth results in heart failure and leg problems, sometimes the sheer weight of their bodies just breaks their underdeveloped legs. These animals are not my idea of sustainable farming so we choose to look for dual purpose breeds so that they hens are kept for laying and the roosters are destined to be broilers. Everyone has their place in the food chain. If food production was left to factory farms our children would never know the beautiful stripes of the Barred Rock or the chocolate eggs of the Maran.
     I was so happy to see such a diversity of breeds at the market last night. There were Silkies, Ameracaunas, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Brahma chickens available. And San Juans, Californians, New Zealands, Flemish Giants, french Lops, and even Lionhead Rabbits for sale. Although we were looking for a nice New Zealand buck for meat production we bought this guy instead. His fur is so soft and he seems pretty sweet so we're happy with him.
Meet Simba the Lionhead Buck
We also picked up a nice black New Zealand later in the evening. They didn't say whether it was a buck or a doe so I took a gamble when he went relatively cheap. It was another buck but we needed a one for breeding since I don't think Lionheads are renowned for their meat production.
And Nebulous the Black New Zealand Buck 
Oh, and did I mention that someone brought peacocks to the sale last night? Well, actually two sellers did and I bid on all three lots. I lost the first two pens but this lot of two males didn't sell until late in the evening when the place had all but cleared out. I've always wanted a peacock, and since I have a birthday coming up this week, I now have two! We're still considering names but I have a feeling I might name these guys instead of the kids.
Newly Acquired Handsome Young Peacock
Much Love from the farm,

P.S. This post is linking to 2 awesome blog hops. Check them out for more fun farm blogs!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicks are here!

We've spent a lot of time debating on what to do with the house. We've been researching earth sheltered homes, cordwood, cob, strawbale, and earthbag construction methods and trying to weigh the pros and cons of each. The idea of building with these low cost natural methods is very romantic but just putting a foundation under it and a roof over it pretty much breaks the bank. We want to have every aspect priced out and added up before we commit to anything so back to reading and researching I go! 
But first I wanted to share some good news. As I sit here typing, I have a box of 10 little fuzzy peeping machines cheering me on! Out of 11 eggs set, 10 were fertile and 10 hatched successfully. They are healthy and doing well so I thought I would share a few pictures.

Little Chick Working His Way Out

And Here He Is All Dry and Fluffy

Aren't They Cute?
Since spring is here we'll need to decide about the house soon so we can get to building. Before we found our land we did a lot of research on cordwood building and other green building methods so fortunately I have quite a few books and info on it at my fingertips. I'll post about our housing decisions soon, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Busy Days and Big Decisions

          Oh my, life has been so busy lately! All winter we've been planning out new projects; cooped up waiting for good weather to come. The project list has grown and grown so now we're prioritizing all of our various projects and finding that some are moving to the next summer list. Last week we bought a 30 feet camper. This will make it easier to spend weekends working at the homestead. We can keep food cold, heat it up, recharge drills and such, and give the kids a place to get out of the sun and and nap. Hopefully it will make it easier to spend entire weekends working there.

Our "Summer Home"

          My husband's cousin bought it and didn't need it anymore so we jumped on the opportunity. He got an awesome deal on it and passed it along to us for the same price. I'm so thankful for the awesome community of friends and family we have here. It's amazing how much easier life is when you have love and encouragement surrounding you! He even delivered it to the homestead for us since we don't have a gooseneck hitch.

The Camper Making its Journey Up the Long Windy Road
          The chickens have been busy laying! And I've been incubating a few when I have extras. We absolutely LOVE incubating eggs! The kids love to candle them and see the baby chicks developing inside. And as the hatch date nears you can actually hear the little babies cheeping from inside their egg! When the first one hatched my husband kept telling the kids that we had hatched a dinosaur. He almost had them going. They do look so awkward when they first come out and they haven't dried and fluffed yet! So far, only two have hatched out and we're waiting on the last nine. I'm not confident in  my candling abilities, so I left all of the eggs in the incubator. Around day ten I estimated that about 8 out of the 11 were developing. I could still hear cheeping in the incubator after I took out the 2 that had already hatched, so I'm hoping more break out tonight.

Everybody Loves Hatch Day, Especially Roxy!
This Little Guy was Helping his Buddy Break Out

          This winter was mild to say the least, but it's ending with fury. Record breaking storms have came through our area and brought tornadoes to surrounding states. Tornadoes are unusual here and they usually don't go far after they touch down due to our mountainous terrain. We were very lucky that everything missed us but we did have a lot of water and high winds. We spent a day trying to assess the damage on the hill and clean up. 

Winter is Going Out with Crazy Weather!
          In assessing the damage to the house we have been faced with some very hard decisions. We have found that the house has more rot and termite damage than we had originally thought. Also, a trip down to the basement/cellar has revealed more damage. What was a small crack just last spring has now become a major break/gap in the wall. After being in the same place for 100 years, part of the wall seems to have shifted. I guess it's better that it did it now instead of next year after we finished remodeling it. We are considering all of our options right now but things aren't looking good for the old house. If we do have to start from scratch we'll need to dismantle the house piece by piece to salvage what we can for a new place. It seems like that task alone would take all summer. We spent all of our savings buying the place last year knowing that the house was not livable as it stood. Remodeling it seemed feasible if we could do the work ourselves and find salvaged building materials, but we just don't have the money to build a new home. If it was just Mike and I, we could move into the camper and save money until we could afford something, but it just isn't feasible with the kids. We are very thankful for the place we rent down the road right now. Mike's cousin rents it to us cheaper than we could live anywhere else. Without her offer to rent it to us we would probably still be living in Akron. Yikes! I can't even imagine how unhappy we would be on our tiny city lot in the ghetto there. But this place isn't our home and we just want to be on our homestead. I have moved 29 times in my life, which averages to more than once year in my lifetime. My daughter, only 6 years old, has moved 4 times and my son, only 5, has moved 3 times. They were both born while I was in college and then we picked up and moved for graduate school. I was doing what I thought would benefit us in the long run, but our priorities have changed and I am ready to put down my roots and stay in one place the rest of my days. I want the kids to have a place that they recall as their childhood home instead of always moving around feeling like they don't really belong anywhere like I always did. But for now, we will continue to rent the place we are at do a lot of thinking about how we can make our dream of living on our homestead a reality.
The Beautiful View from our Front Yard