April 28, 2015
We're working the soil here at our little Tully farm.
On Saturday Todd took the tractor and scraped off the sod. This is our attempt to avoid the grass we had growing in 2014.
Yesterday outside, the boys dumped old manure from our barn on the garden bed.
The manure was really breaking down! It was hot (about 90*) and so stinky!
Jakob texted me this picture.
Today they will finish moving manure.
My goal is "loamy" soil (new word thanks to Jason-- I'm sorry I doubted your vocabulary!)
My friend Jason says he tills his garden three times before planting- he's the loamy king.
He recommends I till in the manure, 10 bags of peet, 5 bags of 10-10-10, and one bag of 30-30-30.
We are renting a tiller on Saturday.
I need to do some research before then to see what 10-10-10 and 30-30-30 is and whether it is something I want in my garden.
How do you prepare your soil?
We are having 20 yards of mulch delivered on Friday. So, we're still trying to clean out our landscaping beds so they are ready. Garden and landscaping outside after school... Closets inside.
Oh my!! Somehow I lost my organization this winter. My toys are all mixed, my cupboards are messy, and my closets are screaming for attention. I have 500 coats waiting to be washed and stored, and my garage, basement and Tupperware all need my attention. I can't stand it any more!!
Yesterday inside, my goal was to sort and organize Ben's clothes, my closet, and Leah, Lily, and Eve. I never made it to the little girls. But, I did get all my active paper stuff organized with a new system and I went to a neat book group.
My house is a mess of odds and end piles of To Donate, Too Small, To bring to the basement, Random Goodness. My to do list is prolific.
I hate the little piles at the end of an organizing project.
But, I LOVE THAT I'M ABLE TO DO!!!
Today I'm off and running!!
Wish me luck, I'm a cleaning machine.
Oh, Spring is good. Life is good.
I am busy and happy!
April 27, 2015
Nothing beats farm-fresh eggs. They are wheat bread eggs to the store bought white bread eggs. They are beautiful, healthy, and so REAL. Every egg is different. I love that.
My 13 year old daughter, Anna, loves chickens. She had a hard time when her 4h lamb was sold for meat and was certain she didn't want to care for animals that we would kill for food. She got chicks for the first time Spring 2014.
We are so lucky that my father is a skilled carpenter who built us a beautiful coop. We get a lot of snow here in NY, so we built the coop attached to our barn and cut a door so we can access it from inside the barn. Our coop is a big room with two windows and a little door that leads to a screened in porch area. We close up the coop at night to protect the chickens from predators and we open all the doors and let them free range during the day.
I absolutely love looking out my window and seeing little chickens throughout our field.
We were lucky to make friends with another family who was also starting up a family farm. My friend Bryn blogs here and she is an expert on the organic, heritage, and financial side of farming. She does a lot of research, knows many local farmers, and basically talks me into most of our crazy adventures.
Bryn's husband Tom is an adorable Englishman who shares Todd's business mind. So, Bryn speaks business language, which means she speaks my Professor's language. She says words like "heritage turkeys can sell in Ithaca for $100" and my husband is on board. Food and money are his love language.
She gets me hooked when Jakob gets excited about raising turkeys, I hold the cutest gangly turkey poults, we drive two hours through dreamy farm land to meet the kindest small business hatchery owners, and I see pictures of beautiful turkeys. Pretty farm animals are my love language.
Bryn is braver than I am, she pastured our pigs and agreed to pasture our turkeys when they get bigger. She has also built a barn, fenced in pastures, bought and bred two miniature cows, and helped her son run an egg selling business.
I'm not sure we would ever have been brave enough to get our first animals without her encouragement and support.
We also have a friend who is a large animal vet who has made a few stops at our farm to offer tips.
They both laugh at my desire for a pretty farm, but the pretty part is in my genetics.
We have LOVED our chickens.
Amber links are the backbone of our flock. We have 6. They are big, white, and they lay light brown eggs. They are great egg layers and laid straight through the winter. We have 10 chickens and get about 8 eggs a day. Amberlinks lay HUGE beautiful eggs. We have a hard time closing our egg cartons our eggs are so large.
Barred Rocks are black and white heritage chickens. They are beautiful and kind, and good layers. We had four and just got four more.
Ameraucans are "Easter Eggers". They are brown and lay blue and green eggs. I love to see the beautifully colored eggs in my pile of eggs. But, these chickens are not great layers. Their eggs are smaller and not nearly as hearty as the other eggs we collect, and they don't lay as many eggs. I'm SO glad we have two of these chickens because they bring the most oohs and ahhs, but I'm glad we only have two. Next year I'll probably get one or two more.
Welsummer chicks were a fun surprise in an "ornamental mix" that we bought from our local Ag store. We have two. They look like chipmunks and they are supposed to lay chocolate brown colored eggs!! So cool!
Silver-laced Wyandotte was a gift from the hatchery we bought our turkeys from. This is a beautiful bird who is also a good layer, so we look forward to having her join the flock. I think I'm going to love having pretty chickens.
We buy all pullets and don't have a rooster. Bryn inherited a rooster and he is SO cute and cockle-doodle-do-y. He protects her flock from predators. He almost makes me want a rooster someday.
This year we are also raising 24 chickens for meat.
Freedom Rangers were our top choice for meat because they are a heritage breed that forages. They are ready to process in a few months and I just felt good about them.
We plan on building a tractor for them to live in once they get wings. A chicken tractor is like a covered wagon without a bottom. You just move it through your fields daily so in addition to food and water, your chickens have access to pasture without fear of getting eaten by predators.
I'm still not sure what our tractor will look like. I want it to be cute-- with a cool door. There are so many designs online.
I need to go in and link to these sources (which I can't do from my phone).
Here are my favorites...
I would like to do another batch of chickens in the Fall, but we'll see. We will probably sell some to family and friends. But, I hope to have a freezer full for my family.
These chickens are not cheap. They cost $2 each to buy, $3 to process, and eat a lot of food. We are planning $200 for a cute chicken tractor but hope to spend less. We have bought bedding, heat lamps, feeders, and waterers.
With all the work that goes into these chickens I know why local farmers sell real pasture raised chickens for $20-25 each. You get what you pay for. Honestly, I would rather my family eat these good chickens than loose money selling them to others.
The first few years of setting up a homestead is expensive. I wish I had paid more to always get metal instead of plastic (our plastic have broken). I really think that every year it gets easier because you already have some supplies and confidence.
We also bought 15 heritage turkey poults. I wrote the breeds in a previous post. We really don't know how to do turkeys, but we're SO excited!!
My time is up. I'll come back later and add some links for you. I didn't check if I spelled the chicken names correctly. Honestly, there are hundreds if not thousands of internet resources out there for you. I'm NOT an expert! We really don't even know what we're doing.
Hope this was helpful.
Happy Monday!! I am spring cleaning today and SO excited!
Life is good!
April 26, 2015
I'm getting my masters degree in Family Farming from U of Moss here in Tully. Today I want to talk a little bit about the hours and hours of learning and discussion, budgeting and planning that goes on behind the scenes.
Boy, I really love to learn new things and even so, sometimes I feel like I'm drinking from a fire hydrant. The internet is both a blessing and a curse for knowledge seekers like me.
One of my greatest blogging goals has always been to be very real. I constantly evaluate how closely my internet presence resembles my reality. Recently I've noticed that my funny quips about happening to get a new animal every time the Professor is out of town, might be entertaining but they are not reality.
Rebecca wrote a comment on my last post asking for more of the background details. My response to her was so long I felt like it needed a post all it's own.
You know me pretty well. I came pretty close to dying two years ago and while I was recovering we moved to an 11 acre horse farm with my eight children. When my son asked for a cow for his birthday I laughed. My soul said, "Life is short!! Get a cow!" My mind began learning, asking, talking, planning, praying, and waiting to see what felt right for our family. Cows just came to us.
(Our friend is a cow vet and he talked to a friend who gave Drew two dairy steers. This was a beautiful gift for our family and one of the best decisions we have ever made.)
My husband, The Business Sustainability Professor, was and is all about raising our own food. His biggest concern is usually the financial feasibility of a new animal and the added work load.
In general, he ALWAYS starts with a no. I start with a maybe. He is won over by thoughts of a good meal or financial profit. I get gooey holding cute baby animals and I melt when I see that twinkle in the eyes of my children. I love to see them being independent and taking responsibility for parts of our little farm. I love the little people that this life is growing.
We are not raising animals. We're raising children. Honestly, I chose this life because I can't think of any other childhood I would like to create for my children. I wouldn't trade these life experiences for anything in the world.
We feel ridiculously blessed.
Although Todd worries more before getting a new animal, I am the one whose heart holds each new animal. I feel them, I pray for them, I orchestrate their care, and I love them. That isn't to say that I do the most work for them, either. I don't. My kids do 90% of the farm work. Todd does the big hay moving, building, tractoring. I do the babies, nursing, and planning.
I think Todd would agree that I love the animals and he loves having them. He says he's grateful for them but he doesn't love them. I think we have a great partnership.
Here are my tips for starting a family farm...
1. Make friends with everyone, especially people who have what you want.
My talent in life is learning from others. I could never do what we do without a community. I ask questions constantly. Local people teach me local wisdom and our little farm is built step by step by a community. My little smarty friend, Bryn, researches everything! She tells me the best chickens, the best hatcheries, what to do when our chicken is sick. Kelly from Tully hardware invited me to her cute barn to see the coop her husband built. Anna from the library food co-op was on speed dial when our first cows wouldn't drink from bottles. And, my nurse anesthesis friend actually castrated our bulls for us after Sunday dinner. Haha. Everything we know we've learned from other people. It takes a village.
2. Start slowly, but don't be afraid to start.
I'm just not someone who worries. I am brave. If we feel good about trying something new, we do it. I have eight kids, I have already surrendered my life and so what's one more donkey? We have done well getting one new animal at a time and building our farm slowly. I love the months of planning and research that my kids do before we agree to a new adventure. It's fun having so many possibilities.
3. Let them live!!
The best thing I have done as a mother and as a farmer is to give my children space to live! I really let my kids care for their animals-- even when they let the chickens run out of water.
I let Drew take care of STEERS! He did it. If he had a question, he asked me and I'd ask around. He told me when one was sick, he told me when we needed more food. I'm actually the wise farming assistant. My kids are the farmers.
Animals are tough!! Tough as in hardy. If you are a fairly intelligent, hard working, kind person, you can raise animals. Really, animals are living creatures who know how to survive. Life and death are both natural. It's not that hard to care for living things. Being a farmer is like being a mother. You learn as you go and you trust your gut.
We lost a few chickens because our dog chased them and carried them around in his mouth. I love my chickens, so I was sad. But, it was just part of life. I have spent hours thinking about how to train Rocco not to chase chickens.
Here is an example of our life...
Jakob wanted a dog.
He did hours and hours of research (I picked out books for him from the library, we watched youtube, we scoured the internet, etc.)
We went to every pound in the area, talked to everyone.
Jakob didn't want a golden retriever or a lab.
He wanted a med sized dog.
I wanted a good farm dog that wouldn't eat chickens.
Todd wasn't thrilled about a dog that lived inside.
I convinced him that it is inhumane to keep a dog outside in upstate NY.
After months of deliberation, a pound called me to tell me they were getting a big shipment of puppies.
We brought a smarty friend to help us choose.
Jakob picked a puppy.
We teased that this was a spur of the moment decision, but it wasn't.
We felt good about this puppy and we got him.
He has been a lot of work.
He chases our chickens.
He tracks mud into my house and he jumps fences.
But, we love that dog so much.
He's good and he's ours.
For better or for worse.
We live on 11 acres so that we can have problems like him.
I don't ask myself if we made a good choice (although I still think we made the best choice).
I ask myself how we can help Rocco get along with the chickens.
We just got the BEST remote control shock collar that has saved our life and really helped us train our puppy.
Our puppy has helped us train our children.
Our life is better because our little ones have a puppy to chase.
He will die someday and we will be sad, but we will have lived today with great love and great memories!
I should add that the dog is BY FAR the hardest animal we've adopted so far.
Boy, this was long and philosophical and had nothing to do with Rebecca's comments. This was the background-- how we roll. Tomorrow I'll talk more about chickens and tractors.
April 25, 2015
Ahh! My little family farm is expanding ad so is my big mother's heart.
I spoke yesterday at the most lovely luncheon to honor Red Cross Blood Driver volunteers. These are the nicest group of retirement aged people ever! Honestly, if you are looking for a great cause and would be able to volunteer, call your local Red Cross. I don't mean to overuse this term, but speaking to these good people was another holy experience for me. We cried together, we loved and appreciated together, and I was once again just inspired by the raw goodness of people. There are so many good people in the world.
After the luncheon we drove to the coolest hatchery. Again, we met really neat people who love what they do and are SO inspiring. This place was not just a hatchery with healthy, heritage chicks and poults, but they sold home-grown organic foods, homemade fudge, homemade maple syrup, homemade honey... I love these people. They are truely the salt of the earth.
We picked up a bunch of Narragansett turkeys.
I didn't even think I liked birds-- but seriously, look at these beautiful things!
I'm nervous, turkeys are hard to keep alive! We'll see how this goes.
The plan is for me to raise the babies and then my friend agreed to pasture them for us. I'm trying to figure out a way for us to pasture them, so I have 6 weeks to convince Todd we want to keep them here.
We also got 24 Freedom Ranger chicks for meat. I call them Chicken Nuggets.
Unlike Cornish X who freak me out a bit because they are bred to grow so fat so quickly that they die because their feet break and heart explodes (perhaps this is not always the case, but I read enough stories that I knew this breed wasn't for me.) Freedom Rangers are a bird good for meat that also forages and acts like a real chicken. We are building a chicken tractor for them that we will pull through our fields.
Here are some designs we like...
We will probably pay someone to process them for us. These chickens will be ready to process in late June. So, this is a temporary experiment. I feel really excited about it.
It's funny to me that raising my own food feels so ethical and healthy. (So many people tell me they could never eat animals they raise and I'm surprised that I prefer eating animals I've raised or supporting local farmers.) I love knowing where my food has lived. I just know my family farm chickens and turkeys will have a good life even if it is short. I'm actually glad that my family will feel sad as we eat these creatures we love. We should feel that. It is REAL.
Another thing I love is the beauty and non-conformity in these heritage breeds. My eggs and my garden vegetables don't look uniform. There is absolute beauty in variation. It is natural and feels so healthy to me. Can you tell that I really love this farm life of mine?
I got the cutest blue flowered generic muck boots for $30 at Tractor Supply and my favorite $9 clearance at Walmart blue gingham shirt. Honestly, I love these two articles of clothing more than any high-end high-heel or designer dress. This is ME. It feels SO good. (I wore my blue shirt three times this week just because I wanted to!! I change out of my regular clothes and just wear my plaid when I'm driving to a hatchery or tractor supply, my farm-girl uniform. I am compelled to match my boots. Ha!) I laugh at how happy pretty muck boots make me. I think I have a country girl heart.
Isn't that a COOL bird?! I'm afraid I might really love collecting beautiful chickens.
The owner's favorite chicken is a blue-laced Wyandotte (but they were all sold out). Look at this cool bird!!
I definitely like the animal part of my little farm more than I like the garden part. I really need to get my garden planned and my kids' closets organized this week.
Life is good!
Spring is marvelous-- even if it snows on your daffodils.
Yes, I'm wearing my blue shirt again today. I think I need to go to Walmart and get 5 more. Check your Walmarts for me, it has only 4 buttons tunic style. I need this in green and red, purple? Size M. Ha! Thanks.
April 24, 2015
Yes, we got almost 3 inches of accumulated snow. The little daffodils sagged over and huddled together. They looked like I felt.
My little ones LOVED this gentle, fluffy snow. Ben knows snow, after a snowy winter here in Upstate NY, but I'm not sure I have ever let him play in the snow while it's snowing. He marched around with cute giggles escaping every now and then. Eve announced that this snow was delicious!
(Yes, I know I spelled strangers wrong. This is an early draft of the poster...)
My laundry is not folded.
I'm a bit nervous about a Red Cross presentation I'm giving today, and the fact that I'm getting a big bunch of day old chicks and turkey poults.
Yes friends, life is good!
I pray that your homes are peaceful, Spring is in your soul, and you have someone you love beside you.
April 23, 2015
This little guy has come a long way.
Yesterday, I was feeding him lunch and he said, "Cheese!"
He is not a big talker and this is his first self-initiated word.
I am trying to plan a blood-drive in June to pay back the blood donated by 200 strangers who saved our life.
I'm speaking at a luncheon tomorrow to Red Cross volunteers.
Is it odd that I'm SO sentimental and grateful?
Friends, donate blood!
Save someone's life.
Everyone should have the privilege of hearing the first "Cheese!"
Life is a gift.
I'm SO grateful for ours.
April 22, 2015
We live on 11 acres of beautiful fields and woods. When we adopted Rocco from the pound he was just a puppy and we had dreams of him running and exploring with our kids out back. Honestly, we live in a dog paradise.
Rocco loves to play. He is a well-trained dog inside and outside IF there are no other animals around. When he sees another dog, his tail wags and he darts to them to play chase. He also chases chickens. He has never eaten a chicken, but he chases them and carries them, and kills them. (Two so far.) They lay dead on the ground while he nudges them with his nose. I may be naive, but I think he is shepherding them a little too rough.
He behaves well on a leash, but off the leash he darts. We live off a busy road, he is not afraid of cars and is going to get killed in the street if we don't figure something out.
Because he is unreliable, we leave him fenced in while we work and play in the yard or barn, which is tortuous to him. He wants to be with us. He wants to play with the dogs that go for walks in our yard. We want to be able to trust him.
After two years of trying unsuccessfully to train him off-collar, we bought a remote control shock collar. I really love it.
Rocco knows the word "no" and "come". When I take him out to the field, I let him run, but I can tell when he hears something in the woods and wants to bolt.
He stands at the edge of the woods with that look in his eyes. I call for him to come. He bolts into the woods. I say "Rocco Come" loudly and beep his collar. He continues into the woods. I say "No", and shock him. He stops, looks at me, tail still wagging, and runs away again. I say "Come!" and shock again one degree higher. He barks, turns, and runs back to me.
He really understands.
I love watching his choice process.
I love watching the instinct vs training war in his head.
He almost shakes with desire to chase the chicken or deer, even as he knows I'm telling him not to.
My favorite part is feeling how absolutely happy he is when he runs back to my side, with his tail wagging. He feels how proud we are of him, and he is happy.
Last night our whole family went for a walk in the field. We all played catch and Rocco ran safely with us. Because we have a way to keep him safe, we can take him with us when we walk.
He comes when I call him now. His incentive to listen has become greater than his incentive to run.
I guess what I love most about this story is that we can enjoy him so much more because he has learned to obey.
This reminded me about a story we taught for Family Home Evening.
We all memorized Alma 37:35.
35 O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 37)
We talked about Dandy, President David O McKay's horse.
I believe that they are happiest when they learn to be obedient to my voice and to keep the commandments of God. "In this there is safety and peace."
I know it.
I saw that again yesterday with my puppy.
Life, with boundaries, is beautiful and safe.
I love my job.
April 21, 2015
My little Dino likes big messes.
His communication is still limited to a few signs, animal sounds, and crying.
I am not a "better" mother with my eighth than I was with my first, but I am a more confidant mother.
I don't stress over spilled cheese puffs.
I laugh and take pictures, gently teach, and love more.
I love being a mother.
These little ones keep my life so fun.
April 20, 2015
Anna got 6 more chicks this weekend. These chicken will be egg layers. They are an ornamental mix, I think the black with yellow spots on their heads are four more Barred Rocks or Plymouth Rocks that will grow to look like this-
And, I think the chipmunk chicks are two Modern Black Breasted Red Game hens that might look like this- haha! Little weird chickens.
I think I love them because Anna loves them. Homemade eggs are the best. I'm absolutely addicted to fresh eggs.
It was going to get cold last night so I suggested that Anna bring the tub of chicks inside. She went out the big barn door with a large Tupperware of chicks and a heating lamp. When she opened it, Chuck and T-bone (the steers) pushed by her into the barn and knocking the tub of chicks onto the ground.
Anna was panicked trying to protect baby chicks from big, clumsy cows. The bedding, food, and water she had just cleaned spilled everywhere and the silly cows were focused on eating the chicken food not returning to the field. She got everyone gathered and headed to the garage. For some reason she opened the garage door and Rocco was in the garage, so he ran out and Anna screamed again. With all the animals we have, the dog is the absolute hardest.
We laughed about our crazy life as we cleaned out the tub and tucked our chicks in bed for the night.
This Friday we are picking up our turkey poults and baby chicks.
My friend and I (well, Jakob actually) are raising heritage chickens to eat and sell. I think I get the better deal. We just have to raise them for the first 6 or 7 weeks until they get their feathers and then she is going to pasture them until we pay someone to process them for us. I'm really excited.
I can't even tell you how much I love raising my own food. The health, taste, life lesson and even the ethics of this life really feels right to me. It is such fun, and REAL, hard work.
Yesterday was an inspiring day. I loved a lesson on The Power of the Word (Teachings of Ezra T Benson, chapter 8).
Here are two of my favorite quotes--
“The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.”
Oh, my brethren, let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts He has given us. I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings. Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them. Then prayerfully and in counsel with others, seek every way possible to encourage the members of the Church to follow your example. If you do so, you will find, as Alma did, that “the word [has] a great tendency to lead people to do that which [is] just—yea, it [has] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which [has] happened unto them.” (Alma 31:5.)
I also went to the most enlightening meeting of Women Transcending Boundaries. This is a local interfaith group of women that was started by a Christian and a Muslim woman following 9-11. In a room bustling with powerful, kind women, we were taught about sex and slave trafficking right here in Syracuse.
My eyes were opened to the grooming and predatory intent that goes into kidnapping or luring young girls into a life of prostitution and drug addiction. I feel a strong responsibility to be aware, to teach my children, and to do something.
We listened to women, modern-day abolitionists, who have worked to end slavery on international, national, and local levels. Perhaps the most poignant remarks came from a beautiful young abolitionist who said those trapped in these lifestyles are still beings of light. Some will not choose to leave, but some just need an option and they will choose a better way. She asked us to pray because only prayer has the power to make a difference against such evil.
Here in Syracuse they arrested a 12 year old for prostitution and sent her to a detention center. They pointed out how ridiculous that is. A 12 year old prostitute is a victim not a criminal. Often parents sell their children to support their drug habits. Sad.
The more I learn the more I realize my ignorance. I continue to see why Christ says,
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (New Testament, John, John 8)
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (New Testament, John, John 8)
I hope much is lost in this telling of the story. I imagine He hugged that woman, or at the least that he touched her and healed her soul. I imagine that as the woman went to leave, she was enveloped in the arms of the female disciples of Christ who would feed her, clothe her, and help her as she changed her life.
I want to be more like that. I think awareness is the first step. These hurting people are in my town, my family, my church. What can I offer?
Life is good.
We are loved.
Happy Monday friends.
I hope you're safe. I hope you're loved.