2011 was another good year on the farm, as we tried to make progress on sustainability, self-reliance, and using real food:
Goats – The year started with the arrival of a third baby Dwarf Nigerian goat (Jewel Box) and we watched the three of them grow into beautiful young does. As they grew, we learned to trim hooves, give CD/T & BoSe injections, went through a scare on CL in goats, and learned about copper deficiencies & bolusing. At the American Goat Society National Show, we began learning about goat conformation and made plans to breed Bit ‘O’ Honey & Jewel Box to the buck that won RGCH (Reserve Grand Champion) there. The goats made farm contributions by keeping their woody pasture trimmed and providing manure for the compost piles. And, after several trips (for each doe) to the breeder, we believe they’ll also be contributing baby goats and milk next spring (see Kidding Schedule). We love having them around; they’re easy to care for, fun to watch, and affectionate – can’t wait for kids and milk!
Chickens – The first Buckeye chicks grew up, the hens started laying, and early in February we processed (butchered – for the first time) eleven excess roosters. We knew that farm fresh eggs were tons better than grocery eggs, but were surprised at how flavorful heritage chicken is compared to the store variety. Then, early in the summer, not one but two of the Buckeye hens went broody! We quickly learned how to build a broody box and help care for the chicks. Actually, broody hens are great because they raise the chicks – these were much easier than the first Buckeyes. The chickens contribute to the farm by supplying eggs, meat, manure, and keeping their own woody pasture trimmed; but, because they free range – we sadly lost 2 Golden Buffs and 2 baby Buckeyes to red-tailed hawks (one broody hen even lost her tail feathers trying to save her chick). In the fall, egg laying tapered off as the birds molted and we learned about culling slow molters. Now, molting is over, egg production is rising, and we’re hoping for more broody hens next spring.
Honey Bees – Two hives of honey bees were added in the spring; and initially, one hive struggled. However, we’re fortunate to live in an area with a strong bee keeping tradition (A.I. Root Company) so advice and a new queen quickly arrived. Now, despite a very rainy year, the bees appear to be thriving. We didn’t harvest honey this fall to ensure they’d survive through the winter; hopefully we’ll have spring honey – they’ve already greatly enhanced fruit and vegetable production through pollination.
Garden – With the garden fenced from deer for the first time, the use of soil blocks to start seedlings, a new multi-tier grow light setup, and the arrival of honey bees; it was a much more productive garden year. It started with a bountiful harvest of sugar snaps, continued with good harvests of beans, beets, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes, and finished with an unbelievable crop of raspberries. Actually, we didn’t plant as big a variety of crops as usual, and yet they produced more than we could handle (except for the tomatoes – must have been too wet for tomatoes). For the winter, the freezer is stuffed with casseroles (made from zucchini, peppers, or eggplant), soups, chicken, venison, and raspberries while the root cellar is full of potatoes, pickles, jams, and jellies.
Farm – For the farm, a new tractor arrived (making chores easier and allowing Lesa to do them too), a farm website was started (www.Bramblestonefarm.com), a hayloft went up, more venison was harvested, a goat stanchion got built, and our niece created a farm logo. Enough eggs, fruit, vegetables, wood, and cottage products (jam, jelly, etc.) were sold to begin qualifying for agricultural tax status; and we’re looking forward to selling more next year – including honey, dairy goats, and goat milk products.
There’s more that we’d like to have accomplished; but, looking back – it was a pretty great year. And, Better Hens and Gardens is still growing – thanks for reading & here’s to another happy, healthy, and productive year again in 2012!