One year ago we purchased and moved to our little farm. I remember feeling very unsure that day of what lie ahead for us, but we both clung to faith that this was where we were being led. Looking back over the past months, I can attest that only good was in store for us, even amongst the hard work and bumps we’ve experienced along the way. Our ideas of needs and wants have been challenged, humbled and sifted. True priorities and simple blessings have emerged. We changed and grew right along with this farm and we look forward to another exciting year.
Raising rabbits for meat was something we started when we were on a city lot in a neighborhood that restricted all livestock. We were determined to begin taking control of our own food production so we began a small garden and brought home a pair of rabbits. When we moved to the farm, we were suddenly able to raise traditional livestock so we no longer had a need for rabbits.
Our bunnies were the cutest thing on the farm and we enjoyed them thoroughly, but when the time came to butcher them, nobody wanted to mess with it. We had our schedule full with projects and chores involving other animals so we made the decision to sell the rabbits and no longer raise them on our farm. We were thankful for the extra time this created for us to focus on other livestock. I still highly recommend raising meat rabbits to someone wanting to gain control over their food on a city lot.
This year we plan to add honeybees to our farm. This will be a whole new world for us, one we’ll navigate as we go. We’d like to begin with two hives, which must be ordered this month, and set up sometime in spring. We would like to raise our bees as naturally as possible. While we do have some crops within our future bees’ expected flight range, we are also blessed to have an abundance of natural areas. In the spring we see numerous wild crab apples blooming throughout the countryside and all summer long we enjoy the ever-changing color display of wildflowers scattered around the farm. This is in addition to our own garden and fruit trees.
Our hope is this will give the bees plenty of natural, pesticide-free sources of nectar. With the health of bee colonies declining and the rise of systemic pesticides (pesticides that are engineered to exist inside seeds and the resulting plant cells), we want to ensure our bees will be safe and the honey we ultimately feed to our family be free of harmful chemicals.
A New Calf
This past summer we brought our Dexter heifer, Pearl, to a farm to spend a couple of months with a proven, purebred Dexter bull. Getting her loaded into the trailer was one of the most stressful things we have done on our farm so far. We tried luring her in with hay with no luck. She was very skeptical of that trailer and wouldn’t be led astray by her belly. We ended up having to muscle her big body in, despite her best resistance. I thought somebody was going to get a hoof to the face or possibly trampled. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and she was transported safely to the farm for her “summer vacation.”
She’s back at home now – safe, sound, and assumedly “with calf.” Come June, we should have a newborn calf on our farm. If all goes well, it’s sure to be a highlight of our year.
We have a few farmhouse projects slated for this year, but I’m very excited about one in particular. We plan to convert our useless, unwelcoming, uninsulated side porch into a well-insulated, functional winter storage pantry. This will be in lieu of our previous idea of digging a root cellar. It was so frustrating bringing in the harvest last year and working to preserve our produce only to realize we had nowhere to put it. The side porch will be gutted and rebuilt with lots of insulation to ensure the temperature stays above freezing, with shelving to hold all my canning equipment and those priceless jars filled with garden goodness.
Underneath the shelves, on the floor, will be built-in bins to contain produce like potatoes, pumpkins, squash and apples.
The winter pantry will be such a great use of the currently dysfunctional and messy space. I plan to put in a frosted glass pantry door that I can open and close to help control the temperature of the pantry, if needed. There won’t be any windows as the produce keeps best in the dark. Because this room is located right off the kitchen, it will be much more convenient and accessible, not to mention more affordable, than a new root cellar. As the shelves and bins empty over the winter, I will have temporary space to house the piles of summer produce as well, keeping my kitchen island clear and retaining its original intended function.
The Poultry Flock
We’ll be making some changes to our poultry flock this year.
We’ll be thinning our flock a bit to reduce our hen population, keeping the most efficient layers. We’ve also been discussing trading in our heritage breed ducks for the larger, meatier Pekin ducks.
Pekin ducks are ready to butcher at about 8 weeks of age, meaning we won’t keep a year-round duck flock for eggs. The main reason for this change is because how dirty the ducks make the pond water. The chickens and turkeys use the pond for their drinking water so we’d like the pond to be clean. With ducks, it’s very tiring to keep clean what they insist on dirtying. What’s more, without the ducks, we could purchase a pond filter to clean the water for us, eliminating the task of bucketing it out on a weekly basis. Pond filters don’t work with ducks because they will clog it up and cause it to break down. Focusing on the Pekin ducks will allow us to still enjoy ducks on our farm for a couple months (before we send them off to freezer camp!) without having the year-long issue of filthy water and a labor-intensive pond.
We’ve learned a lot during our first year on the farm. Through trial and error, we’re discovering what we enjoy, what works with our current set-up, how we can increase the functionality of our homestead and what’s simply a drain on our time. I expect nothing less for year two.
Thank you for reading our updates and following along through our first year on the farm. We enjoy recording our experiences and feel so blessed by those who’ve taken the time to tell us they are enjoying our story. Whatever is happening on the farm is made that much more enjoyable for us by being able to share it with you.