Friday, March 7, 2014

A fresh start at Fresh Egg's Farm

It's official, I'm a full time farmer and house wife. My contract ended with my last employer and since I wasn't willing relocate, my job ended mid-January. It's strange to not have be at the laptop all day. I still haven't adjusted and its been a month. Sometimes I get that panic feeling of having to check my emails or phone calls - but then I remember that I'm not currently tied to that lifestyle. It's a good thing that I'm not working too, with all that has been happening around here. The Snowmageddon - Polar Vortex (is it Vorti, since there is more than one?), has given as a winter that will go down in history. It has been such a rough winter. The past two days have finally offered us a bit of a warm up - which is wonderful.
We've had a bit of sadness around here too - Steve, our favorite ram, passed away recently. He was such a good boy and an incredibly beautiful sheep. We all miss him dearly, including his pen-mate, Jester. Although he is surviving and keeping on, it's obvious to me that he misses his buddy. We are working with the farm (Marushka Farms) that we originally got Steve and Jester from, to see if we can purchase two lambs, from this year's stock. More sad news came this week - with the excitement of a pending twin delivery from our first timer, Ethel. She was in labor and I realized, as time went by, that she just was not progressing the way that she should. It was time to call the vet. We love our vet - she came out immediately and told us the bad news that the baby was likely dead and that the momma was too small to deliver the baby. We would need to do an emergency c-section. We took her into the vet office and they got to work. We were able to be present for the procedure - which gave us and the kids a learning experience, although sad, it was quite interesting. As the vet progressed through the section - and cut open the uterus - dead tissue began to ooze out of the uterus. It quickly became obvious that the baby had been day for more than a day and she was simply trying to abort it. Also, there was no twin. What we thought was a twin on the ultrasound must have been a dual image for the same kid. Finally, there was now a significant chance that we would lose Ethel too. Due to all of this dead tissue and a mess of a delivery - the chance for infection is great. She spent the first night in the vet's office - and amazed the vets at how much she improved overnight. She came home the night before last and we have antibiotics for her. We also have her separate from the others - but where she can still see them - so she doesn't get too lonely.It seems that she is coming out of the woods - but it's hard to get too positive with this one. I know that loss is all part of having a farm - but this has just been a long, tough, sad, winter. We continue to try to look at the positive though.
My company offered me a healthy severance package, which will allow us to plan and purchase for the future. We have a huge wish list and have been trying to prioritize what we need, when.
:: Chickens
We ordered another round of meat birds - 25 were ordered, 27 arrived. Currently, they are living happy and healthy in a brooder box that we built in our basement. However, they are quickly outgrowing this space and we will need to, hopefully, get an outdoor space ready for them this weekend. We keep changing what we want out of this space for them - so it's time to decide and get it going. We have five layers, along with the two turkeys, currently in the hen house. They are just starting to get back into laying - the first several eggs we got were cracked (stepped on? dropped? too cold??) and had to be tossed - but yesterday we got three beautiful eggs! Uncracked and ready for eating :-) We have an order for several more layers to come in April - this will be a great addition for our family. I'm hoping that we can learn to preserve the eggs better and have less time without eggs or having to buy store eggs (ewww). We are also hoping that momma turkey will get it together and hatch some babies out for us. Wouldn't that be awesome!!?? Turkey babies born and raised on the farm for Thanksgiving dinner!?!?!?!?!
:: Bees
Yep - we are jumping back into bees this year with a vengeance. Last year, if you remember, we started with two hives - a good start for newbie ("new bee" har har har) keepers...but this year we are doubling that. We've been able to purchase 4 nuks from Don Popp's Honey Farm, along with some extra bee boxes, to get us started. The boxes will need sanded and painted...but are good and sturdy. We expect the bees sometime around mid- to late- April. I know that this year's pick up will go better than the last - I will be prepared!
:: Trees and Bushes and Food, Oh my!
I know that we keep saying that we are FINALLY done buying fruit trees etc for the property and I've come to the conclusion that...I just really like the idea of fruit trees and bushes growing on the property. If we have the space, why NOT grow as much as we can?! I mean, if there is too much for us...then there is always trading and sharing, right? So we've put in an order for the following items:
-Two different elderberry plants
-6 grape plants - the nursery refers to them as "red, white and blue" grapes, because each set comes with a set of three plants - Glenora (blue grapes), Lakemont (white grapes) and Reliance (red grapes) - and we got two sets. The arbors will be set for these along the driveway, between the peach/pear/cherry trees and the road.
-Tangerine tree - this will grow inside, during inclement weather, along side of our Meyer Lemon.
-Issai Hardy Kiwi - KIWI!? Did Fresh Eggs Farm just say Ohio????? Welll....these are a type of kiwi that grows on a vine, similar to a grape (you arbor/trellis them, as you would grapes). The fruit is hairless (unlike the Kiwi you are probably used to seeing at the grocery) - inside they are green with black seeds and you can just pop them in your mouth! YUM!!!!!
:: Rhubarb - we found out that our kids are HUGE fans for rhubarb and the couple stalks that we are getting from our one plant, just don't seem to be cutting it. So we are adding another.
:: Asparagus - we got seeds for these last year and they didn't really seem to grow well. We ordered another packet of seeds; however, then I read that it was better (easier) to get asparagus starts that are already established. So we ordered some from the nursery.
:: Walla walla onions - YUM!
:: Brown fig tree - I've never tried growing figs, nor have I even had a fresh fig before; however, these seem to be a staple in the self sufficient garden.
:: Pecan Tree - we already have a pecan tree, but she is old and doesn't produce the way we'd like. We are hoping to get this tree established, before we lose the other one completely.
:: Other Plants - we've also placed and received our seed order for this year. The list is as follows:
  • Amish Paste Tomatoes
  • Pink Ponderosa Tomatoes
  • Cantare Beans
  • Bull's Blood Beets
  • Calabrese Broccoli
  • Catskill Brussels Sprouts
  • Brunswick Cabbage
  • Danvers Half Long Carrots
  • Giant of Naples Cauliflower
  • Utah Tall Celery
  • Stowell's Evergreen Sweet Corn
  • Delikatesse Cucumber
  • Boston Pickling Cucumber
  • Luffa Gourd
  • Birdhouse Gourd
  • Bushel Basket Gourd
  • Tom Thumb Lettuce
  • Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Blacktail Mountain Watermelon
  • Tennessee Red Peanut (thought these would be fun to try)
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • California Wonder Pepper
  • Butternut Squash (Waltham)
  • Early Prolific Straightneck Yellow Squash
  • Table Queen Bush Acorn
  • Zucchini (Black Beauty)
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
  • Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin
  • Riesentraube Cherry Tomato
  • Asparagus (I'm not sure what we will do with these - maybe still try to grow them?)
All of these seeds were purchased through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -  this is an heirloom seed company, not affiliated with Monsanto. I think it's important to support these companies, as much as possible. We need to keep our seeds untainted from that GMO mess. Soon, we will be building a seed starting rack - so we can keep them out of the basement, safe from cats (who like to compete for window sun space) and control the amount of light they get (we are hanging florescent lights above the seeds, on each level). I'm really excited about this part! We've needed racks for a LONG time - I've got it planned in my head - just need to do it!

We've got our maple trees tapped and slowly but surely, they are starting to fill the buckets up. Yesterday was really our first warm day... and we should continue for the next week to have nice days and cold nights (hopefully, the perfect combination for a nice sap flow). We have to tweak our boiling process - I believe we are boiling too long, or too high or...I'm not really sure.

So what else have I been working on? Flooring and woodwork. UGH - I pulled all the carpet from our living room and parlor - we are working on refinishing the floors in these rooms. It's amazing how much gunk, dirt and dust collect in carpets. The floors underneath are beautiful wide planks - and will be amazing, once we have them all sanded and sealed etc. As part of this room redo - and due to some playing with the budget, we were able to work out getting a pellet stove installed in the parlor - WHAT A DIFFERENCE THIS STOVE HAS MADE IN OUR LIVES! I can't say it enough. It has saved us money - we were spending $90-$180 per week, just on oil...and that was barely enough to keep it so our pipes didn't freeze and we weren't completely miserable (but with the polar vortex stuff I mentioned earlier - it was still so rough). The stove gave us a warm house, yes, but it also gave us an extra warm place to warm up in front of, after doing animals or spending any time outside. That toasty flame was the only thing that kept me from cracking this winter. Love.

I apologize for not posting in a while - but we've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride here and busy busy busy. Hope all of you are doing well in blogland.


  1. Welcome back Shelby and so so much interesting stuff going on. So sad to hear about your news but this is life on a farm, as you know. I truly think you just might have enough trees now, OK. This is getting a bit obsessive. So glad that you are going to have the time to manage all of these projects. Its not always forever Shelby. Just try out this new lifestyle for a while. Who knows what the future holds. I would give anything to be in your position, minus the polar vortex OK. Though i would like to see snow again, its been about 15 years. So this is the start on regular posts right?

  2. I hope that I can keep up with blogging!! That's the plan...and I know farm life, without another income source (other than Mark's income), isn't a long term reality. It will be awesome while it lasts though!! Yes, my name is Shelby, and i have a tree problem lol. Oy!!