Each year we try to reflect on what worked for us and what didn’t, what we loved and what we would like to do without, and what goals were met and what goals need to be reassessed. But the thing I love most is looking back at how the farm has grown.
For the animals, here is the break down:
Meat Chickens: 700 ordered (that’s 200 more than last year)
Pigs: 22 piglets born; 19 survived
Cattle: 4 calves born ; 3 survived
Layers: 34 chicks hatched out to broody hens and 60 Delaware chicks added to the laying flock
1 barn cat and 1 livestock guardian pup added
That is A LOT of babies!
What didn’t work for the meat chickens was having so many. We were just soooo over butchering by the time we got to 600. Next year we are dropping back to 600 or maybe 500. What worked for the chickens was a brooder with a raised floor for extra bedding ventilation. What worked for the pigs–babies! Seriously, you can never have enough of that kind of cuteness. What didn’t work–babies. We had a hard time telling when the older sows were in heat and neither would go into full standing heat without a boar present. The cattle is pretty much status quo. Next year we should be AI-ing all 5 cows and the 2 heifers.
The layers…oh, the layers. It seemed like when it was a flock of 50 everyone was personable and manageable. At 100, they all lost their minds. They would follow me with an empty bucket while the feeders were full. There was always a handful that would roost AT THE OPEN COOP DOOR instead of walking inside. The good part of having so many is that they are cleaning up my garden very nicely, but I don’t think we will get more than 100 ever again.
I can’t stand mice. Even the über cute field mice we have. I don’t particularly like cats either. So how do we keep mice out of the feed and barn in general? Adopted an anti-social kitten that was dumped at our place with 2 siblings. Of the 3, Bobb, wanted nothing to do with us. PERFECT! He’ll do his thing and I won’t have to deal with a cat wanting attention. We adopted the other two out and now, well as I write this, Bobb is sleeping on the couch. So much for anti-social. He is a great mouser, and toader, lizarder, squirreler, and rabbitter. And much to my chagrin, snuggler.
Our last baby of the year was Zeke, our livestock guardian pup. He had a rough start with Maxie being less than welcoming, but they are best of friends now and are on duty with the layers.
Around the farm we have been making improvements here and there. The pigs were kind enough to till up a pasture so we could reseed it with a clover and grass mix for the cattle. We built new chicken tractors. We set-up the burr mill so we could grind our own feed. We received a grant to fence in our south pastures. We processed a hog for us on farm and did some ham curing. My cousin came to help us for 3 weeks and having an extra body around was a big help. I got to forage chanterelle mushrooms, autumn olives, and blackberries, too. Overall, all of our effort was put into the farm this year, and we are slowly making progress.
Thank you to all of our new and old customers and supporters. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to continue this life we love so much. In 2017 we are looking forward to having a farm day for everyone to come out, visit, and get to know one another. Wishing you a happy, healthy, and joy filled 2017!