I’ve been blogging for a bit now and realized that I have been always mentioning the positive things about the lifestyle. Although there is a lot of postive things that happen on our little farm there is also a lot of sacrifice, disappointment and hard decisions.
I mention this as my young daughter and I were joking about it yesterday about the financial aspects of the lifestyle. How every single penny we have seems to go towards feed, the farm, the cost of maintaining it, dog food, cat food, the list…really is endless. Perhaps living in a modern home, with modern conveniences, makes it that much difficult and expensive. I say this because we do live in a modern home with modern conveniences. We have a huge mortgage payment and a huge property tax bill.
Often… I wonder if it would be smarter to more country setting just to lower those costs. Then…I think of all the effort we put into the property already. The three years of garden prepping, the three years of fence building, the three years of trying to convince customers to find us on our back road and think to myself that I do not want to start over again.
As we hear on the weather report that winter is going to keep going and going and going.. it makes me realize realistically the money I wanted to spend on new seeds will probably go into the oil barrel. I understand better how much it costs now to run our little operation but it really does not help when there is next to nothing on your return for your efforts. I really had to start looking at the cost of our feed as being savings on our grocery bill and the cost of starting my plants in my house would save me from having to buy them for double the cost in the Spring.
So.. we sacrifice..we go without. There is a saying in our home that cheese is for rich people. But by making some sacrifices and doing things like building stands out of recycled lumber, we are making it happen. I may get frustrated that I can’t find 60 cents in my purse for a pack of gum but I’ve learned to go without. Ive learned that it is much more important to know where our food came from. It became much more important that the animals we eat are treated well. It is a lot of hard work, sacrifice and disappointment but it is worth it, We may not have as much variety in our garden because we had to put oil in the barrel, but we will have a garden.
We are Christmas tree, Chickens, Ducks, Pigs, Rabbits, Turkey and vegetable farmers. Part of our challenge since we started this life style was to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we physically can. I often look out on our little farm and see the art pieces that are starting to form. One being our tee pees for the chickens, turkeys and rabbits. I left out the ducks because they moved into the straw bale structure
at the beginning of the year and do not use the tee pees.
This was the first year we built the structure as a tee pee. We had built a chicken shelter as an igloo and it worked out perfectly. The snow and recycled tree structures provided a very adequate shelter. As you can see from the picture next to the igloo the hens are healthy and feathered very nicely. This is the main reason we went back to this system for this winter. Drafts and Wind are the chickens worst enemy,so as long as you build a structure that protects them from these, they fair better in the winter than they do in the coop.
In Canada we have the aid of snow to help build the shelter. Once the snow comes, naturally it builds all around the structure. This provides extra warmth and makes them draft proof. We stuff hay into the shelter for the bedding which then gets packed into the ground. We generally do not have to do a whole lot of maintenance to keep the shelter fresh.
Our animal pens, tee pees, igloos etc all are built where our next year garden is going to be. All winter the animals have been providing the soil with some much needed soil conversion. WE have clay, unworkable soil which we are slowly turning into organic gardens,with them help of our critters.,
Einstein & Suzy
Einstein was our very first farm animal. I seen this funky rooster on the Internet and decided if we were going to have chickens, then we may as well have funky chickens. We drove an hour and a half to retrieve him and his two hens. Chicken life was a lot of fun when there was only the three of them. it amazed me how they would go back to the same stick every night and roost. Once they has settled in for the night we could go up to them, pat them, handle them. Our meat chickens arrived a few months later and then they still would go back to the same place to roost every single night. The following summer we had lost one of the funky hens in the Spring and unfortunately lost the last one a month later. It was sad as they had just started to lay their teeny tiny eggs and we were hoping that their natural instinct would kick in and we could breed some of our own. Endless searches later we have still not found some more hens for poor Einstein and the other Roosters on the property will not allow him to have their hens.
Suzy arrived at our farm as a day old. I was petrified of birds and had very little to do with the ducks other than watch them play and grow and have fun on the yard. Suzy is a Muskovey duck and her flock was scheduled to be culled the Thanksgiving weekend. Prior to the cull, I was having second thoughts about the ducks. They had begun to follow me around and beg for ripe tomatoes. Suzy in particular had gotten very smart and had begun to tap on the patio door for fresh bread and water. We had a predator attack just before the weekend and fortunately for Suzy she was spared. Her and two others, a male and a female. The other two ducks decided to pair up immediately after the attack. There was a definitive mating pair and Suzy was alone.
Einstein had taken to calling and calling and calling for his hens. Fortunately his cock a doodle doo was not painful to the ears, it was just sad to watch him look for his beloved hens. I am not 100 percent sure when exactly it was that I noticed that Einstein and Suzy had located each other but I did notice one day that he did not cock a doodle doo for endless hours. I started to notice that whenever I seen one, then the other was not too far behind. I called them the odd couple but for some reason they found comfort in each others company. It went on like that for the rest of the summer and into the winter.
Winter brought some new challenges as EInstein had moved into the coop last winter and continues to retreat there every night. We moved Suzy into the garage as the other pair is still not accepting. It will be interesting to see if this unlikely pair reunite this Spring. Although we are still hoping to find Einstein some hens and I am pretty sure we will look for a mate for Suzy as well.
Let’s talk about my new passion.. turkey..
This was our first year raising turkeys.
I just liked the taste of turkey and wanted something other than rabbit and chicken so we decided to add some turkeys to our little sustainable farm. I have to admit when we first embarked on this journey I was not 100 percent sure how I would feel raising the animals and then culling them for the freezer. I guess by starting our journey with cute little rabbits, it made everything else fall comfortably into place. Turkeys and ducks seemed like the logical next move for our one acre sustainable farm.
We bought the turkeys as three week olds. They cost us $12 a piece and were a cross between a wild turkey and a tame turkey. My husband was sure we were going to lose some so we ordered 10. The supplier must have thought we were going to lose some as well because they sent us a couple of extra. All 12 survived and turned into Hundreds of pounds of meat. In five months we were able to fill our freezer with more turkey than an average family eats.
I think the thing that surprised me the most is the diversified meat of the turkey.
Before we grew our own, I would buy the odd supermarket turkey and try to get creatative with it. I would make hotsandwiches, cold sandwiches, pasta and soup. A supermarket turkey with the right Planning could give us about 5 meals.
We had our first homegrown turkey at Thanksgiving. I remember it was a fair size. I think he was about 27 pounds. I was shocked about how easily I was able to bring the turkey in from the outside and place him into the oven. We had possibly the best tasting turkey dinner in our lives and I sat there looking at all the meat that was left over. I cannot remember exactly how many meals we were able to get off him but I think it was about 12.
We culled a turkey the other day. We had the full intention of just cutting him up into parts but my husband carefully dressed him. Had he been actually able to fit into the oven we probably would have kept him to roast. However at 40lbs, he had no chance of fitting in the oven.
We are just settling into winter and have decided to take some of our turkeys into the winter with us. Our hopes being that the two hens and the two toms will successfully breed and make our farm a little more sustainable with regards to our animals.
I have to say I really enjoyed raising the turkeys, aside from the huge amounts of feed they would ingest each and every day. They interacted with us enough to entertain us but kept a certain amount of distance as well. My husband could handle them but for the most part they had a you can look but you cant touch policy. They were friendly enough to co-exist with but kept enough distance we didn’t make pets out of them. I am beginning to find that a very important factor in the “raise our own food” adventure that we are on.
It is funny that I started my blog at the very moment that I
decided to increase the animals on the farm. Little did I know how much time they would occupy. It is not the time that it takes to care for them..but the time that I enjoy them. The small moments like the one captured by the pumpkins. Such beautiful happy ducks. I find that I cannot wait to finish supper so that I can rush out and watch them take their bath in the pool before they look to me to put them back in the pen for the night. How smart they were when the night that the coyotes were howling that they broke into my tomatoe patch to hide. I am going to miss the ducks and the turkeys. There time on this earth was well spent. They got to eat, relax, play and rest.
They like many of our animals are meant to be raised for food. We had to really work through the process. We had to come to terms with the reality that they all would face at the end of the summer. We made their time here though as happy and comfortable as we could. We had a big butcher day last Sunday. I am not really sure why we chose Sunday..but we did. Each Sunday marked off in our calendar as a day we process our meat. I am not sure why it has made the process easier but it has. We have a plan and we are sticking with it. Following through on the decisions to raise our own food, process our own food and enjoy the bounty of of journey.
I really wish I had been able to capture more moments on film and video. This journey that we are on is enlightening. One we never consciously chose when we picked our home out. (Otherwise I am sure a barn would have been on the list of must haves.) Our journey with the ducks is coming to an end..next up…
I was a herbalist in a past life. I am not sure exactly why I think that, but I do know I have always been lured to herbs mystical qualities. As a little child I would take a plastic pail with the shovel still attached and walk around for hour collecting little pieces of leaf. I remember it had to be a certain kind. I have no recollection of what it was that I w collecting but it remained my passion to this day. I have every book available for identifying plants. I have been seed collecting since I grew my first plant. I only learned in the last year that you can dry your collected goodies in the microwave, I used to bundle them all together and hang them to dry. I have to ad it they would get dusty before I got around to storing it. Even then the stalks were a pain to pick out. I learned this technique from an educator and I have it a try the other day. I could not believe how easy it was and how little stalk was left in the mix.
I find it quite funny, that I have become such a meat snob. I can honestly say that I have only purchased chicken a few times since I watched Food Inc on Netflix. Even then it was begrudgingly. Yesterday as I went to work I informed my 11 year old daughter that she was going to help with the culling today. She said that she knew that this day was coming and was prepared for it. I was impressed at her maturity. I explained to her that John needed her help so that the ducks suffered little to none, It was our responsibility to make sure this is done properly. I have been telling her for the last year when we were very much vegetarians because I could not participate in inhumane raising of livestock. We ate very little meat in the last few years.
It was a lesson she approached with strength and maturity. It will be her generation that relearn a that meat doesn’t come from cellophane packages. Upon reflection of the day, she was very proud of her accomplishment. She helped to ensure that the animals were treated respectfully and lovingly . I am very proud of my children and their leap into this journey with us. I just wish I could convince my sister who lives in ignorant bliss about the protein she ingests.
Farming has quickly become an every moment thing for us. We are in full swing raising the ducks, turkeys, chickens and rabbits, I have grown quite fond of the ducks, I didn’t want to get the ducks and my husband didn’t want to be the turkeys, We decided that we would try both to see which would mesh better with our rabbitry. We decided that we would get a modest amount to experiment with. I have found that, like the rabbits, the animals value is so much more than the food they provide. By creating a comfort for them, the pool, they are creating an ease in our gardens. Providing a source of nutrients to the soil when we dump the soiled water onto our plants. Each day we live more consciously, each day we realize how much less we need to maintain a sense of balance. This summer has definitely been one of discovery.