“Figure out what works for you and do it. Then do it again. But first figure out what works for YOU. To figure out what works for you, you have to move, you have to try, you have to fail, you have to look silly, you have to shine, you have to cry, you have to be on the edge of giving up and pull yourself back, you have to ignore how everyone else is doing it. You can’t figure out what will or won’t work by thinking about it forever and doing nothing.”—Christie Halmick
A good friend of ours posted this on Facebook and it rings true to what have been doing the past 2 years. And after much consideration, deliberation, and uncertainty, we are getting closer to figuring out what works for us. It has been a tough season for us. Crazy weather, major surgery for 2 family members, doubling our chicken production, haying, new animals, buying a house, etc. We made it through it all, but there were a lot of things we didn’t have time for…like my garden. And there were lots of times that crying and giving up was all I wanted to do.
One thing I have learned about having a business is the necessity of reassessing your goals and figuring out how to keep your work from feeling like a job. About half way through our season, we both started to feel a bit run ragged. So we reassessed. What is it that we want for us? For our customers? What can we realistically do and keep our sanity and not go into debt? One of the hardest things about trying to answer these questions is knowing all the awesome people we do, who are doing amazing thing. Things WE want to do as well.
You know so-and-so got ducks. AW, I want ducks!
Maybe we could get a couple of alpacas…?
He has a yak for sale?…I WANT A YAK!!!
And so it goes, making it harder to stick with what we want and what we can do at this point in time. Because seriously, I WILL get a yak some day. But the good thing about me and Fred is that we both mull things over. We ponder. A lot. No snap decisions here, that is for sure. So after a lot of pondering, we have good news and not so good news to share. First the not so good…
It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the downsizing our chicken production next season. We have loved providing all of our customers with healthy tasty chicken and being a part of the Bem General CSA. We doubled our production from last year and still sold out. With this overwhelming support from our community, it makes it even harder. Chickens are a lot of work, both to raise and process. Since we can’t bring ourselves to do the 2 things that could make continuing chickens easier..1- raising Cornish Crosses and 2- having someone else do the butchering…we have to downsize to make room for other ventures. We love raising chickens and will continue on a much smaller scale during the fall for family and friends. Raising fall chickens uses less electricity for brooding, keeps them from being heat stressed in the summer, and provides more pleasant weather for butchering. We will have some extras available, and I will keep that info up-to-date on the website.
AND THE GOOD!!!
This summer we bought our own farm and have expanded our livestock to include dairy cows and rabbits. The Milking Devon cow, Momma, is now milking and the calf, Clem (short for Clementine), is working on her oxen commands. Momma was artificially inseminated in November, and hopefully we will have a calf soon. We would like all our Devons to have oxen training to some extent. Once we are able to increase our herd, we will be offering Devon beef, as well. Our silver Fox rabbits will hopefully provide us with another meat source and allow me to try my hand at tanning.
The farm needs a lot of work. Besides cleaning out and fixing up all of the out buildings, we also need to get a good perimeter fence put up. Thankfully the pastures are in pretty good shape. We started cleaning up all the outbuildings and have great plans for restoring the old chicken house (maybe with the help of some straw bales or earth packed tires), making one into Fred’s workshop, and maybe offering a B&B in the “little house” that sits on the original foundation. We are still a long way from all of that, but each time I clear out a space, the vision of what we will have gets clearer.
While there is a lot to look forward to, we also got a lot accomplished this year.
– Even though we are trying to move away from haying towards extended rotational grazing, we put up approximately 900 square bales (that’s twice as much as last year and a HUGE thank you to the Halmicks for their help).
– We started our Milking Devon herd and tried out artificial insemination (thanks Kathleen and Dr. Koch).
– We built a 1/2 acre chicken oasis for our layers to have a safe place to roam.
– Our two steers were butchered.
– We made a new bigger chicken tractor and a brooder house.
– We participated in Gerald Mule Days processing sorghum grass into sorghum syrup.
– We had 2 hens hatch out 8 chicks.
– We produced a gallon of maple syrup.
– We started harvesting duckweed as a food source for our animals.
– We raised 4 Wessex Sadddleback pigs.
– After a great apple season, I canned apple butter and applesauce and dehydrated some (thanks John and Adele).
– Fred’s parents had a lot of tomatoes, so I canned about 2 gallons of rotel.
– We received a Slow Foods Grant to help promote heritage breed livestock.
– I applied for a SARE grant to conduct research on the farm.
I know I am forgetting other accomplishments, so let’s just say it was a busy and productive year.
And the BEST news…Fred and I are getting married! Christmas morning Fred surprised me with a hand carved engagement ring. We had talked about marriage earlier in the year, and I figured that started the pondering clock, so it would be another year or two before he asked. I did not need any time to ponder my answer.
Again, we would like to thank our family, friends, and customers for their support, help, and understanding throughout the year. We have big plans for 2014, so make sure you sign up for email notifications to be the first in the know!