It’s hard to believe, but another year has passed and it’s time to reflect on what’s happened in 2016 and what we have (or have not) accomplished on the farm.
I continue to enjoy retirement from the corporate world and work on the farm (this was year 3 of retirement for me). Besides caring for the gardens, chickens, honey bees, and goats, I’ve continued to do fun things like author articles for magazines, write books, volunteer, and manage the farm.
One of the big goals in 2016 was to begin selling the first ebook in my series on Nigerian Dwarf goats on the website and on Amazon. And, Nigerian Dwarf Goats 101: Background & Basics – What To Know & Understand Before Committing To Nigerian Dwarf Goats has been available from Amazon (link here) or this website (link here) for $4.99 from the beginning of 2016. It’s a short, introductory ebook about Nigerian Dwarf goats that has sold better than my expectations and has gotten great reviews!
I also wanted to complete the second book in the series, Nigerian Dwarf Goats 201: Does & Wethers – How To Choose & Prepare For Your First Goats in 2016. It’s turning into a longer book, and it’s not quite complete yet. I’d rather spend more time to make sure it’s great and will provide the information that new Nigerian Dwarf Goat owners need for an awesome start with their goats. So, this one will move into goals for 2017.
In 2015, the Bramblestone Farm website and Better Hens and Gardens blog were combined into one site with an updated look. In 2016, goals on the new site were to 1) upgrade old blog posts to fit the new design & improve SEO (65% updated), 2) send a weekly email of blog posts to website subscribers via MailChimp (100% complete), and 3) grow daily page views to 80,000 or more (94% complete).
Another objective for 2016 was to continue writing paid articles for national magazines, and that has gone well. One of the articles (Bringing Back The Buckeye) even made it into the 2016 “Best of Chickens” magazine!
At the beginning of 2016, our chickens were at an age where egg production had slowed significantly, and we intended to incubate/hatch Buckeyes as well as raise day-old Golden Buffs. We did get the day-old Golden Buffs and raised them, so egg production from them is excellent.
However, our first attempt at incubating Buckeye eggs didn’t go too well. The incubator was an old manual model, and only one egg hatched. Of course, the one that hatched is a rooster. I’m really hoping the remaining Buckeye hens will produce eggs in the spring (they’ve quit for the winter) so that we can we hatch them and re-establish the Buckeye flock.
On the farm, the big goal was to finish the interior of the new barn addition (wiring, interior wall, & buck pens), and then move the bee equipment, farm implements, and the Nigerian Dwarf bucks in. Happily, wiring, lights, interior walls, & buck pens are complete (with a lot of help from Randy’s brother). Everything except some of the bee equipment has also been moved in, and we’re loving the flexibility the additional room is giving us! The barn siding on the new addition looks like it’s the wrong color in the photo below; however, it’s the same color as the original siding was before it faded.
The new buck stalls have been designed so that the bucks can free range on 2 acres during the day, and the pasture fencing has been rearranged so the buck pasture is not contiguous to the doe pasture. Randy designed and built the stalls with strong panels that are reconfigurable so that it’s easier to accommodate the herd as it grows in spring and summer (freshening does) and then shrinks again over fall and winter.
Water run-off from the driveway and buck pasture became a problem after the barn addition, so additional concrete was poured to extend the driveway and a basin drain was added. A new foundation bed and perennial planting were completed around the back side of the house.
After attending the local Home and Garden expo., the old electric farm vehicle was traded for a new one. It has more power and can handle the trip up and down the hill to the garden and farm field even in snow and rain! A portable barn heater was added for heat during those cold winter kiddings and fans were added to help cool things down in the summer heat.
Another farm objective was to investigate having an intern or student help out part-time on the farm. And, we were very fortunate to find some hard-working helpers! Hiring help has been a win-win that helped us complete projects, and we’ll be continuing in future years!
We ended up with a very productive garden this year. Incorporating composted animal bedding each spring and fall seems to be making real improvements in the soil.
The green beans (Fortex), potatoes (Caribe, Yukon Gold, Yukon Gem), peas (Sugar Snap), Chard (Rainbow), summer squash (Vegetable Spaghetti), zucchini (Costato Romanesco), eggplant (Black Beauty), and watermelon (Sugar Baby) all performed exceptionally in the garden and have become favorites so we’ll certainly grow those varieties again. The sweet potatoes were huge, but I’ve got to figure out what variety it was that I planted! I think I’m honing in on a couple of tomato and pepper varieties that really do well too.
This year I tried to devise systems that would make the garden less work – like covering beds of heat loving crops with black plastic to minimize weeding and covering the walkways between beds with mats to eliminate weeding. One of the tools that helped immensely was a Hoss Double Wheel Hoe (see writeup here). It has become a favorite tool, and I hope to use it to further improve efficiency next year.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
We started 2016 with eight mature does and three mature bucks (11 goats). The mature does produced 19 goat kids, the most we’ve ever had in one year on the farm. Calligraphy had quintuplets and they all survived – another first on the farm. However, there were two losses – one of Amethyst’s kids was born with a birth defect (and didn’t make it) and Avalon was not able to deliver her single kid (emergency vet visit saved Avalon but not the kid).
Fifteen of the kids were sold to loving homes, while we retained one of the buck kids (Bramblestone Gandolf) and three of the doe kids (Bramblestone Ostara Quinn, Bramblestone Caramel Corn, and Bramblestone Harle Quinn).
Wild Wind Farm Cal Avalon joined the herd as a mature doe, and three of our foundational does (3*M SG AR Old Mountain Farm Hot Tea 3*D, *M SG AR WildWind Farm R Bit ‘O’ Honey *D, and 2*M AR WildWind Farm R Jewel Box 2*D) left to help start young herds out West. Dragonfly HLJ Calvary *S left to become a herd sire for two herds out East. Bramblestone Pal Chai Tea returned to the farm and Old Mountain Farm Springloaded joined the herd from Maine. So, we ended the year with seven mature does, two mature bucks, three doelings, and two bucklings (14 goats).
We participated in milk production testing and linear appraisal again in 2016, and although the remaining goat does were only first or second fresheners, they still did quite well. As second fresheners, OMF Taylor Quinn earned her AGS milking star and an 84 in linear appraisal while Buttin’Heads Calligraphy earned both her ADGA & AGS milking stars and an 85 in linear appraisal. As first fresheners, Bramblestone Amethyst earned both her ADGA & AGS milking stars and an 84 in linear appraisal, Bramblestone Sun Tea earned her AGS milking star and an 88 in linear appraisal, and Bramblestone Charm Box earned an 83 in linear appraisal. Avalon and Chai Tea joined the herd too late in the season to participate in all the fun.
We also attended a couple of shows where Bramblestone Celtic Quinn was Grand Champion buck (1st leg), Bramblestone Mighty Quinn was Champion Junior buck, Bramblestone Sun Tea was Grand Champion Senior doe & Best of Breed, and Bramblestone Amethyst was Reserve Grand Champion Senior doe.
The mature does were bred again in late fall so we’re expecting lots of goat kids again next spring (the kidding schedule is here). We’re taking reservations for spring goat kids! The herd was tested again in late fall of 2016 for the deadly diseases to avoid in goats, and the entire herd was again negative!
At the beginning of winter there were ten honey bee hives, but it was another tough winter for the honey bees. Only four hives made it through winter. So, Randy ordered and installed three packages of honey bees in the spring. Hopefully, the losses have taught us how to better manage the hives during winter, and we finished the year with seven active hives.
Honey production was around 250 pounds this year, and we entered the honey at the Medina County fair again. This year the Bramblestone Farm honey won 2nd (red ribbon)! There are many highly experienced and master beekeepers that enter their honey at the Medina Fair, so I’m always surprised when our bees do so well.
We continue to supply eggs, milk, honey, goats, and goat milk soap into the local economy. I worry that we’ll have too much but it always turns out that we’re running out. I guess that’s a good thing.
The pace of farm life in 2016 was a little slower, but still rewarding as we enjoyed the peace of Bramblestone Farm and our family, friends, customers, and critters. Thank you for helping us have another great year!