Each year, I try to look back and sum up what got accomplished on the farm – because sometimes we just don’t give ourselves credit for what we’ve done. By looking back, it can also help us think about and shape what we might decide to concentrate on and accomplish in the coming year. These were our highlights for 2014:
Retirement Year 1 (Lesa) – Being retired and having more time to focus on the farm, blogging, and other interests has been very enjoyable. Even though we had more gardens, goats, chickens, and honey bees in 2014, it’s been more manageable to keep up with them. I also enjoyed new activities like writing articles for magazines, drawing and painting, volunteering, and doing most of the lawn upkeep. I do find that it’s sometimes difficult to stay motivated; as a retiree, it’s very easy to just relax and let things go until tomorrow.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats – We started the year with 9 goats (5 mature does, 2 yearling does, and 2 males (1 buck & 1 wether)).
The mature does all cooperated and freshened within about a week of each other in late March, so Randy’s Sister Julie (a Vet Tech), was again able to stay with us and supervise deliveries. Between them, the goat girls delivered 16 healthy babies (6 boys and 10 girls), and we retained 3 of the doelings (2 polled). The remaining kids sold quickly, and we were very happy that they all found loving homes.
We implemented the new procedure for disbudding goats that we learned from Wyl and Cheryle (from Old Mountain Farm), and it was a big improvement over the old technique using the Rhinehart disbudder. We didn’t have to redo any disbudding and had very minimal incidence of little scurs. We’ll continue to use and teach this new technique in the future.
We attended two goat shows, and at the first Taylor Quinn was Grand Champion Junior doe thereby earning her first championship leg. The older girls refused to drink the water at the show grounds, so had terrible looking udders, and didn’t do well at all. But, it was a good learning experience.
We participated in linear appraisal again in early June (we brought our own water this time) and everyone did well, but we were shocked when Hot Tea scored a 90 while Bit ‘O’ Honey and Jewel Box scored 89’s. Since they are only 4th and 3rd fresheners, I didn’t have any expectation that they would do that well. We’re elated with those scores. Based on her milk production, pedigree, and linear appraisal, Honey also earned her Superior Genetics designation.
Later in the year, we sold one of the mature does (to make more room for the 2 yearling does), but also purchased an additional doe (Buttin’Heads Calligraphy) and buckling (Wild Wind Farm Excalibur). They are actually half-sister/brother, and are both polled. Calligraphy is also the daughter of the 2012 ADGA National Grand Champion doe, and I just couldn’t pass her up when the opportunity to buy her presented itself (the photo below is of her dam after winning the National Grand Champion title).
We milked the remaining four does from four weeks after they freshened until just prior to Christmas. They supplied us (and a few others) with all the delicious milk we could want as well as yogurt and some cheese. We tried to breed all the does so that they would again freshen in late March, but it seems that three of the does didn’t settle, so we’ll also have a round of kids in early May. The kidding schedule for 2015 is here.
Space for the goats is becoming an issue, so we sold one of the yearling does, and Randy’s brothers helped start construction on two new stalls for the bucks. By completing the new buck stalls, we should have room for kidding in spring .
We finished the year with 12 goats (6 mature does, 3 yearling does, and 3 males (2 bucks & 1 wether). It seems that we’ve been very fortunate to have gathered some excellent goat genetics, and it will be tough choices from now on as to who stays and goes. I’m going to try to avoid buying new additions, and use the great genetics we already have to continue the herd.
We started the year with 11 Golden Buff hens, 12 Buckeye hens, and 2 Buckeye roosters, but Golden Buff hen egg production slows down significantly after two years so we began raising 24 day-old Golden Buff peeps in June.
We lost one Buckeye hen to a hawk and a raccoon also boldly moved into a den in the chicken pasture. It killed a Buckeye hen and had baby raccoons. Since we consider raccoons in the chicken pasture totally unacceptable, we trapped raccoons for several months to remove them all.
Around mid-summer, we began noticing that approximately every third day, the number of eggs the chickens produced declined dramatically (like from 18 to 3) and we scratched our heads over the mystery. Then I discovered that a black snake was visiting the coop and helping him or herself to a meal. We relocated the snake, and chicken egg production returned to normal.
One Buckeye hen decided to go broody late in the year, and hatched one Buckeye rooster. We retained 20 of the 24 Golden Buff peeps and replaced the old Golden Buff hens in late fall. The remaining 10 Buckeye hens decided to molt, but the Golden Buffs began laying eggs just in time, and egg production remains strong.
It was a good year for the honey bees. We went into the winter with 7 hives and came out with 5. Losing two hives over the winter might sound like a lot, but many of our beekeeper friends had much stiffer losses last winter. Randy bought 3 bee packages in the spring, and gave away two hives to help two potential beekeepers get started. He also split several of the strong hives over the course of the summer.
Being retired, I was able to watch the hives for swarms, and it was a good thing – they certainly did swarm this year. I watched and tracked five of the hives as they swarmed (that’s exciting to be in), and we recollected them.
We extracted 370 lbs. of honey, and again took it to the Medina County Fair to sell. We also entered it into competition (we’ve always brought home ribbons in the past) but were disqualified for entering it into the wrong color category (which we still haven’t figured out since it was the same category we’ve always used). Randy attended a queen bee rearing class put on through the Medina Beekeepers Association and A.I. Root, and says he’s ready to rear queen bees.
Our honey bee goals in 2014 were to increase to 10 hives, produce 400 lbs. of honey, and evaluate creamed honey, infused honey, and honey lip balm as new farm products. We ended the year with 11 hives, and nearly produced 400 lbs. of honey. We didn’t evaluate the creamed honey, infused honey, or lip balm as new product, but since 5 hives gave us nearly 400 lbs. in 2014, we need to get serious about selling honey and making additional products in 2015.
For the first time in a couple of years, the garden was not neglected. Seedlings got started indoors, they were transplanted into the garden, and the direct seeded vegetables got planted on time too. Overgrown areas in the garden got weeded, and by summers end, the garden was actually starting to look pretty good.
We successfully grew beans, soybeans, peas, cucumbers, carrots, beets, turnips, onions, radishes, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. However, the new cantaloupe varieties that we tried were pretty unsuccessful, and the cabbage and Brussel sprouts didn’t do well.
The raspberries produced well, we added three blueberry bushes, and one apple tree. We decided that the horse mats we were using in the goat stalls weren’t working, so they were relocated to the garden paths. That should make weeding the garden even easier next year, and I’m looking forward to an even better garden in 2015. Maybe the fruit trees will finally start producing too.
We looked at putting up an additional barn for processing honey, housing more goats, and storing hay, but decided that the cost was too high. So ,no new buildings went up this year, but we did add a generator, some stalls in the barn, and did a bit of interior redecorating. The generator should keep things running if we lose power on the farm, and the dining room got new paint, chandelier, area rug, console, and lamps. The main bathroom also got a new coat of paint and looks much brighter.
We finally qualified for CAUV to reduce the tax burden on the farm property, got the root cellar set-up for storing winter produce, and also set-up an area for starting garden transplants. We continue to harvest venison from the farm in the fall during hunting season – between that and the chickens that get processed, most of our needs for table meat are met.
I wanted to move both this blog and the Bramblestone Farm website onto a new professional theme, but only The Better Hens and Gardens blog got moved – the Bramblestone Farm website never did get updated. For writing, my goal was to write at least 12 paid magazine articles, and I did write 13 (they’ve appeared or will appear in Chickens Magazine, Urban Farm, or Hobby Farm). I also wanted to resell 6 articles into smaller markets and start on a book, but those items didn’t get done.
Blog readership continued to grow – thank you for reading along. If you have suggestions for topics or improvements for the site I’d love to hear them. I was just recently alerted to the fact that the site(s) don’t necessarily translate well onto mobile apps (how embarrassing) so will be working on getting that fixed.
That’s the year for Better Hens and Gardens/Bramblestone Farm – Happy New Year!