It’s hard to believe, but another year has passed and it’s time to reflect on what’s happened on Bramblestone Farm 2017 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 4 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, and volunteer to help worthy organizations.
One of the big goals in 2017 was to continue 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 2017.
It’s a very short, introductory ebook about Nigerian Dwarf goats that has sold better than my expectations and has gotten great reviews! I was also an author in several bundles and it did well there too.
I wanted to complete the second book in the series, Nigerian Dwarf Goats 201: Does & Wethers – How To Choose & Prepare For Your First Goats in 2017. But, it turned into a much longer book, and it’s just gone to the editor. It’s all about how to choose, care, and prepare for your first Nigerian Dwarf goats. My goal is to have it on Amazon and this site by the end of January!
In 2015, the Bramblestone Farm website and Better Hens and Gardens blog were combined into one site with an updated look. In 2017, my goals on the site were to 1) upgrade old blog posts to fit the new design (86% updated), 2) generate more ad income (100% complete), and 3) grow monthly page views to 80,000 or more (73% complete).
Another objective for 2017 was to continue writing paid articles for national magazines, and that has gone well. In addition to a few other articles, I had an article on chicken nutrition published in every 2017 issue of Chickens magazine!
- Nutrition Matters – Food for Thought, Chickens, January/February 2017
- Nutrition Matters – Chicks & Pullets, Chickens, March/April 2017
- Nutrition Matters, Labels Defined, Chickens, May/June 2017
- Nutrition Matters, What To Feed Your Laying Hens, Chickens, July/August 2017
- Nutrition Matters, How To Add Supplements To Chickens’ Diet, Chickens, September/October 2017
- Nutrition Matters, Changes In Winter, Chickens, November/December 2017
We raised day-old Golden Buff hens in 2016 so egg production from them was excellent in 2017. But, the Buckeyes are getting old so we intended to incubate and hatch Buckeyes in 2017.
Brinsea was kind enough to send an incubator for us to use and do a review on; however, apparently, our Buckeye roosters were too old and no longer fertile. We attempted hatching Buckeye eggs three times and got nothing to hatch. I was able to find some new roosters from excellent stock and we now have three young roosters. We’re hoping the Buckeye hens will still lay a few eggs and will attempt to incubate and hatch them again in 2018.
We didn’t add any new structures or large equipment to the farm this year so it looks about the same from an overhead view. We did have some trees removed so we have a clearer view down to the old farm field and there are no longer any trees in it.
We began housing the Nigerian Dwarf bucks in the new barn addition (away from the does).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.
Another farm objective was to continue having an intern or student help out part-time on the farm. And, we were very fortunate to find some hard-working help! 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), watermelon (Sugar Baby), turnips (Hakuri), beets (Red Ace), and kale all performed exceptionally in the garden and have become favorites so we’ll certainly grow those varieties again. I’m still looking for tomatoes, pepper, and cucumbers that perform really well.
Last 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 write-up here). It has become a favorite tool, and I plan to use it to further improve efficiency next year.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
We started 2017 with 7 mature does (Taylor Quinn, Calligraphy, Chai Tea, Amethyst, Charm Box, Sun Tea and Avalon), 3 yearling does (Caramel Corn, Tara, and Harle Quinn), 2 mature bucks (Celtic Quinn and Mighty Quinn), and 2 yearling bucks (Gandolph and Springloaded) for a total of 14 goats. The mature does produced 16 goat kids, but Avalon didn’t produce any kids even though we thought she was pregnant at one point. We retained 3 doelings Eilis (Taylor x Celtic), Windsong (Cally x Mighty), and Sweet Tea (Chai x Celtic) and one buckling Sandstone (Amethyst x Celtic). The remaining kids were sold to loving homes and went as far as California this year.
Wild Wind Farm Cal Avalon also left to go to sunny California, Might Quinn left to be a herd sire in Illinois, Charm Box moved to a new farm in Ohio, and we sadly lost Celtic Quinn in a freak accident. So, we ended the year with 8 mature does, 3 doelings, 2 mature bucks, and one buckling for a total of 14 goats.
We participated in milk production testing and linear appraisal again in 2017, and the does continue to improve. As a third freshener, OMF Taylor Quinn added her ADGA milking star to her AGS star and moved from an 84 to 87 in linear appraisal while Buttin’Heads Calligraphy (who already had all her milking stars) moved from an 85 to 86 in linear appraisal.
Bramblestone Chai Tea freshened too late to participate in milk production testing but did earn an 88 in linear appraisal as a second freshener. Also as a second freshener, Bramblestone Sun Tea went backward a bit in linear appraisal going from an 88 to an 86.
The boys were also appraised this year even though they’re all quite young. Bramblestone Mighty Quinn scored an 83, OMF Springloaded scored an 83, and Bramblestone Gandolf scored an 82.
We attended tw0 shows and Bramblestone Celtic Quinn was Grand Champion buck and Best of Breed twice thereby earning his Permanent Champion status. Calligraphy was also Grand Champion doe (1st leg) but lost in the Best of Breed competition to her dam Paperclip.
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 fall of 2017 for the deadly diseases to avoid in goats, and the entire herd was again negative!
It was another tough winter for the honey bees. Only four hives made it through winter. So, Randy installed two packages of honey bees in the spring and made some splits. Hopefully, the losses have taught us how to better manage the hives during winter.
Honey production was down this year, but we entered the honey at the Medina County fair again. This year the Bramblestone Farm honey won first again (blue 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 2017 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!