I definitely continue to enjoy being retired from the corporate world and being able to focus on the farm (this was year 2 of retirement for me). Besides caring for the gardens, chickens, honey bees, and goats, I’ve continued to do fun new things like author articles for magazines, draw, paint, volunteer, and do the lawn upkeep.
But, 2015 has been more challenging from a health perspective, so we didn’t get all that we’d hoped accomplished. Randy started the year recovering from a surprise surgery, I spent the end of year recovering from broken bones, and then Randy made a surprise ER visit. The good news is that we’ve recovered, and we’re more thankful for everything around us.
One of the things that I wanted to accomplish in 2015 was moving both the Better Hens and Gardens and Bramblestone Farm websites onto the same theme/site. In addition to moving to a single site, we wanted the ability to sell products from the site. And, with a little help, it’s done! It’s not perfect, and there are still many things to work through, but the two sites are now one and sales are happening.
Another new thing this year was writing my first book, Nigerian Dwarf Goats 101: Background & Basics. In owning dwarf goats over the past several years, I’ve often been frustrated by a lack of reliable information about them. So, I decided to write a series of small books that would cover the different aspects of caring for them. Nigerian Dwarf Goats 101 is the first book in that series. My hope is to get information to prospective goat keepers so that owning Nigerian Dwarf goats is a positive and successful experience for everyone involved. The first book is currently available from this site, and should be available for other ebook formats from Amazon, etc. in the coming weeks.
Not much changed in the past year with the chickens. The flock remains at about 25 hens, with 2/3’s being Golden Buffs and the remaining 1/3 Buckeyes (plus 2 Buckeye roosters). The Buffs are still laying pretty well, but the Buckeyes have slowed down. We intended to get an incubator and hatch Buckeye eggs last spring to start replacing the Buckeyes, but never did.
The chickens continue to free range and get all-natural feed, so everyone seems to agree that eggs produced by the Bramblestone hens are great. And, we’re fortunate to have developed a loyal customer base that have been purchasing all the eggs that the hens can produce.
The big farm excitement this year was the addition to the barn! After evaluating the options of building a new barn, adding satellite sheds, or adding on to the original barn, we went with a barn addition. There’s already electricity and water in the barn, so it just seemed to make sense to add on. The addition is 16′ x 46′ and will mainly be used for processing honey and storing honey bee-keeping equipment. A smaller area in the rear will be used for storing farm implements and housing the Nigerian Dwarf goat bucks.
Although it’s an addition to the existing barn, the exterior wall between the addition and the original barn remains (there are sliding doors to go between the two). That way, the goat bucks are isolated from the does, and the honey processing/storage area is isolated from the animals. Wiring, lighting, and buck stalls are currently in process, but we’re happy with the additional room. The bee-keeping equipment was beginning to take over our garage!
The new goat stalls have been designed so that the bucks can free range on 2 acres during the day, and pasture fencing has been rearranged so the buck pasture is not contiguous to the doe pasture. The number of goat bucks we’re housing seems to keep increasing, so hopefully these housing arrangements keep them calm and healthy.
In addition to the new barn addition, Randy designed and rebuilt most of the goat stalls with stronger panels. The new stalls 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.
Inside the farm, we replaced worn carpeting and continued to finish the downstairs. And, the farm finally got a sign!
I was certain that this year would be the best garden ever, since I had more time to spend on it both last year and this. Things got off to a great start and almost everything produced well – but then I was injured and couldn’t work in the garden. So, friends and family helped harvest, and kept most of the produce for their own tables. I still need to get compost on the beds and the raspberry canes need to be cut, but I’m looking forward to next year in the garden (which will of course be the best one yet).
We started the year with nine does, two bucks, and one wether, and ended the year with eight does and three bucks. Of the nine initial does, five freshened and produced 13 goat kids. Eleven of those kids we sold to loving homes, but kept two of the buck kids (Bramblestone Celtic Quinn (Old Mountain Farm Quentin Quinn x Buttin’ Heads Calligraphy) and Bramblestone Mighty Quinn (Old Mountain Farm Field Mouse x Old Mountain Farm Taylor Quinn)).
Old Mountain Farm Field Mouse returned to Old Mountain Farm, and Dragonfly HLJ Calvery came to Bramblestone Farm. He was bred to six of the does for spring 2016 kidding (here’s the kidding schedule). Old Mountain Farm Hot Tea is taking a year off from kidding, while Buttin’ Heads Calligraphy was bred to Old Mountain Farm Quentin Quinn again – since I would really like to retain a doe from that pairing. We’re still taking reservations for spring kids.
I learned how to better clip the goats for showing, and they got better at walking on a leash. We participated in linear appraisal again but only took the younger does since the older does were appraised last year. Both Calligraphy and Taylor Quinn scored 83’s as first fresheners and are maturing into conformationally gorgeous does. The herd was tested again this fall 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 a tough winter for our honey bees. Only three hives made it through into spring. So, Randy ordered and installed two packages of honey bees, captured two swarms, and made splits over the summer from the strongest hives. Hopefully, the losses have taught us how to better manage the hives during winter, and we finished the year with ten active hives again.
Honey production was down this year because so few of the hives made it through winter, but we again entered the honey at the Medina County fair – this time in two categories (light and dark amber). And, we were again shocked when the Bramblestone Farm honey won 1st (blue ribbon) in dark amber and 2nd (red ribbon) in light amber!
We continue to supply eggs, milk, honey, and goats into the local economy; but added goat milk soap into the mix. I had hoped to add creamed honey and lip balm, but just never got that done. We did start selling Bramblestone Farm honey and soap from a local retail establishment (Rittman Orchard) rather than just from the farm, so that was a step forward.
Last February, I entered Bramblestone Farm into the American Small Business Championship
contest and was proud to announce that Bramblestone Farm was chosen as an American Small Business Champion by SCORE and Sam’s Club.
The American Small Business Championship (championship.score.org) awarded the title to 102 small businesses, two in every state and the District of Columbia, for their sacrifices and dedication to the success of their business.
The prizes for winning were a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expense-paid trip to a training event, SCORE mentoring for one year, and promotion throughout the year to showcase each Champion’s story. Our training event (and award of the gift card) took place in Chicago on June 28th – 30th.
The pace of farm life in 2015 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!