As promised, here is what is happening on our little farm these days.
As the weather continues to hold in a weird not quite fall, not yet winter pattern things are pretty much in stasis. It has been too wet to till the garden but we really need to. With luck we will get a couple of dry days and I can get the tiller going. This upcoming Spring will be our third here and we have high hopes for the garden. The first spring we had just moved in so we didn’t do much and weren’t terribly successful. Last year went much better but we still found that the truth is there are no short cuts to gardening. If you don’t take the steps you are supposed to, it doesn’t work. That is especially true in a dry year last 2012. I plan on investing a lot more time into the garden as well as the handful of fruit trees we have (to my embarrassment I didn’t even realize we had apple trees in our yard). Certainly it is cheaper and less time consuming to just buy stuff from the store but we really have a desire to have more of our food come as the result of the labor of our own hands rather than from mass produced “farms”.
My wife is getting the knack of making butter. We have so much cream in our milk thanks to having a Jersey cow that we can skim a ton of cream off and combine the rest of the milk pretty easily. She is still using an old blender that I am pretty sure we got as a wedding present almost 22 years ago (and have packed and moved a dozen times!) so I am thinking about getting her a new blender for Christmas. I know, I know. I am a hopeless romantic. We don’t get as much milk as we could but we get plenty so we are not trying to push the cow’s production. At some point we need to breed her again, since she had so much trouble the last time and lost the calf we are looking for a smaller bull that throws smaller calves. Don’t want to risk losing a very expensive milk maker plus we want the calf to raise and butcher!
For some reason we decided to hatch some baby chicks. No idea why the ladies decided to do that at the start of winter but we have had a decent hatch so far. We are using incubators that are pretty old but they still get the job done. As an experiment we have been hatching them in our workshop which is not heated and it has been working fine thus far, something that really surprised me. We still plan on ordering some meat birds this spring, I would like to raise quite a few to butcher and freeze so that we have our own supply as we buy most of our chicken at the store still. Our big hurdle is space, we have a full sized freezer but a few whole chickens will fill that up quickly so we are planning on cutting the birds up rather than leaving them whole for the sake of space and ease of cooking later on.
The pigs are growing like crazy and as pigs are wont to do they are making quite a mess. Trying to slop them is a sure fire way to get mud and other less savory material on your clothes no matter how careful you are. Two of the barrows that we have been raising from the get-go are almost big enough to butcher. Two others that an Amish friend bought from us and raised for about a month are substantially smaller so they will not be ready to slaughter for at least two more months. You can really see the difference that proper feeding has on growth rates. The fifth hog is a gilt so the plan is to keep her and breed her to a neighbor’s Tamworth boar. The Tamworth is a heritage breed so by breeding a more traditional, commercial Hampshire gilt to the Tamworth boar we are hoping for a somewhat slower growing hog that is a bit fatter (i.e. better bacon!) than the commercial breeds.
The horses? Meh. We need to figure something out with them. We have more than we should and we do less with them than we want. We mostly are just feeding and watering them at this point. I am not sure what we want to do. Having a giant draft horse stallion is a pain as he cannot be kept with the rest of the horses and that limits our flexibility. We like him however so we are not quite ready to sell him. The horse situation is one we need to think about, if we end up not doing much with them next Spring it will be time to thin the herd down.
The Jacobs sheep and our couple of goats are just kind of hanging out. We have bred our ewes as well as the lady goats (to a buck named Big John) so at this point we just wait until spring lambing/kidding time.
So that is what is going down on the farm. Winter is supposed to be a quiet time but with our cornucopia of livestock we always have plenty to do!