Kauai, Hawaii – The year started off with a two-week vacation in late January to Kauai. We celebrated our 30th anniversary, rented/shared a gorgeous home on the ocean with family, and went swimming, snorkeling, golfing, horseback riding, and ziplining. While there, we also toured a small dairy goat farm that produces local cheese and honey for the island – it was very farm inspirational. And, of course, we enjoyed all the wild chickens!
Goats – Springtime brought eight baby goats, and they were absolutely the cutest things around. Tinker Bell, Jewel Box, and Bit ‘O’ Honey all delivered kids without issues and were excellent mothers. We kept a watchful eye on the new mothers and kids via the goat cam, and it was fascinating to see them wake the babies (every two hours) to make sure they nursed regularly. We learned a lot about goat kids and deliveries; and nearly lost Dillinger (that’s him in the photo) when Jewel rejected him. But, we quickly learned how to tube feed a goat kid, and it all came out fine in the end.
We let the goat girls raise their kids for the first four weeks, and then started separating them during the day so that we could milk. Randy quickly decided that machine milking was the way to go, and we haven’t regretted that decision. After eight weeks the kids and their dams were separated permanently, and milking started twice a day. The kids sold to wonderful homes quickly, and we ended up retaining only Honey’s doeling, Ruby. All three girls did well in the milk department as first fresheners, but Tinker Bell was the star – she was up to 3 lbs of milk a day. And, we confirmed that our Nigerian Dwarf goat milk tastes great – everyone who tastes it loves it!
In early fall, we had the opportunity to purchase 3*M Old Mountain Farm Hot Tea 3*D AR, and also participated in ADGA Linear Appraisal for the first time. Everyone did pretty well, but I hope to see scores improve some as the girls mature. In late November, the girls were bred again so we’re anticipating kids in late March (see Kidding Schedule) and are accepting reservations (no cost to have your name put on the list) for kids.
Chickens – In early spring, we ordered 25 Golden Buff “pullets” from Amish country. We were expecting 25 hens ready to lay eggs, what we picked up were 26 day-old chicks! So, we ended up getting another chicken coop to raise the chicks in, and all 26 of them matured into beautiful hens. We kept 12 of the hens (sold 14), and they’re now giving us around a dozen eggs daily. We also reduced the number of Buckeye chickens down to 10 hens and 2 roosters, and hoped that some of the Buckeye hens would go broody again this year – but, it never happened.
Honey Bees – Our first honey was harvested from the two original hives in early summer, and we extracted 85 lbs. I thought it would be difficult to sell that much honey, but it was gone in no time. And, when we entered the honey at the Medina county fair, the Bramblestone honey took the blue ribbon! After hive splits, a new package, and collection of our first wild hive; we ended the year up three hives for a total of five honey bee hives. Looking forward to more honey next year!
Garden – The garden suffered a bit in 2012 – goat and chicken babies in the spring distracted me so that I didn’t get the usual number of transplants going, and we were in a drought for most of the summer. The sugar snap peas, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, and raspberries all produced ok; but we didn’t get any beans, brassicas, or cucumbers. The salad greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula, beets, etc.) were also absent until fall. So, as compared to last year, the root cellar and freezers aren’t nearly as full – definitely need to do better next year in the garden.
Farm – As mentioned, with more chickens, goats, and honey bees, Bramblestone Farm grew a bit. There’s a second chicken coop, three more bee hives, eleven new fruit trees, a terraced wall, grass in the front yard, and the barn expanded. Based on what we learned about goats and their housing needs, we added four goat pens to the barn and reconfigured to give more options for housing/separating kids and dams. This also gives us room to build an additional loft – need it for all that hay.
2012 is the second year that we’ve sold sufficient farm products to qualify for the “Current Agricultural Use Value” (CAUV) program in Ohio. One more year (it takes a total of 3 years to get in the CAUV) and Bramblestone Farm should qualify for reduced property taxes because the land is being used only for agricultural purposes.
Finally, Better Hens and Gardens continues to grow – thanks so much for reading. There are typically over 500 views of the blog per day, and we’re being featured in Chickens magazine (March/April issue) in the spring!
Here’s to another happy, healthy, productive year in 2013!