It is mid-February and we are just about ready to start our nursery season. We thought it would be nice to take this opportunity, before the busy season, to give a quick review of 2016 and a look ahead.
Chickens: In 2016 we took over 12 semi retired layers and started 25 of our own old-breed flock. The chickens started in the house and moved out to a mobile house and have lived there ever since. I cleared a foot of snow off of their house yesterday. With some luck and a lot of electric fencing, we were able to move them all over the farm from the yard, to tilling in the planned perennial garden, to then meet up with the goats to follow them in their path of foraging. They are totally pastured, fed a locally grown and ground blend of grains. It was really fun selling eggs this year. We produced a lot of eggs and quickly had to develop a way to distribute them. Luckily a loose network of hip families helped us find homes for our eggs each week. (Thank you!) We have already started another 60 chicks so we will have even more eggs this year. Very exciting.
Ducks: Our ducks are absolute chaos compared to the chicks. They don’t come in at night. They don’t consistently lay in a nest. They stay up all night playing in the pond, laughing their maniacal laughter. So they are a kind of a wild element on the farm. We love to watch them and we feed them once a day to keep them around, but they are happily outside in all weather, usually taking a swim and filter feeding. For the first time ever they have started to move upstream into the goat and chicken area.
Goats & Sheep: We have absolutely fallen in love with caprids. They are always doing something new and weird. They are curious and they make great stand-in friends when moving to a new area. “Pass the tea, please” “MAAA!” We’ve been drinking fresh goat milk everyday since June and experimenting with making different types of cheeses and soap. Fresh raw goat milk tastes so different from what you can buy in the store, it’s mild, creamy and so so tasty! Two of our does will be kidding in March, so look out for extra cute pictures of baby goats, or stop by to buy some plants and meet the herd.
Pigs: The pigs are more “Bob’s thing” but all of us have been amazed by them. Their ability to root up a field and eat the perennial weeds is unbelieveable. They have cleared a huge area of a field over time as I move their house and fence. We look forward to planting a cover crop in that area, possibly grazing the caprids on it and then the following year use it as a growing area. But other than tilling the fields and converting our garden scraps into protein, the pigs are bringing us into the world of community meat raising. We plan to raise a few pigs each year and sell them in chunks to friends and family. It feels right raising meat not just for us but for the community. It is a taste of the feeling of bringing a wild boar back to camp on my shoulder, no explanation needed. “Dinner served!”
The Place: We have torn down three structures, including the ghost ship greenhouse, and installed electric in six structures. Also we replaced the heaters, fans, and plastic sides on our three greenhouses, and completely revamped greenhouse four to be a germination room and an in ground year round bioshelter for some winter greens and a place for some semi-tropicals to hide out for the winter.
Our community: Everyone has been extremely welcoming and very glad we didn’t close the nursery. We have carried on a tradition here in Brush Valley for “a Spring drive with the family” to a local plant nursery to pick out bedding plants. Rather than have to drum up business we are thankful the customers keep coming back.
Us: Our plan all along has been to get a farm, run the nursery for a season and then get hitched. We did it all and it was hectic, but amazing, and all our guests just couldn’t stop talking about the possibilities of hosting other people’s events on the farm. It’s a small farm but it really packs a punch with views, animals, water, a functional barn dining area, and the whole farmette experience. So keep us in mind if you are planning an event.
In the Garden: We reached all our goals in 2016 to run an annual garden, in which we grew all our favorite vegetables. We were able to preserve a lot of the produce through canning, freezing and storing roots in the cellar. We’ve been able to eat solely our homegrown produce all through the winter and are very proud of that. We started a perennial garden for education, herbs and useful fruits, and a back field for potatoes, garlic and onions. We had an unbelievable amount of weeds but it’s understandable since a lot of the ground was unused in recent years. We had an overflow of vegetables and flowers, so we joined the Indiana Community Farmers Market and met a lot of great shoppers. We’re planning on selling produce, eggs and cut flowers at the farmers market in 2017, so keep an eye out for us!
Flower Field: We had a lot of fun and success with our cut flower operation this year. Cassandra planted over 1000 sq feet of flowers. Very quickly she came up with some awesome bouquets and it was not long before we realized that they were our hottest sellers. Very quickly folks started asking us about doing flowers for events. So far we have supplied our flowers for a baby shower and our own wedding. We look forward to doing more events next season.