Once again, I find myself struggling to set aside time to write in the blog! There's much time pacing between each posts; for that I apologize. One resource I'm finding there is always a shortage is time. While we're accomplishing so much every day here, it seems like we are never caught up. So what has been going on anyway?
A local friend of ours was planning on getting rid of her Jersey cow and we just happen to be
in the market for a Jersey. Why a Jersey? Because Amber likes the milk better than all other breeds, that's why. While our ultimate goal is to get a miniature Jersey, we can't complain about picking up a large Jersey for minimal cost (I should note that a "miniature" Jersey was actually closer to the real size of a cow back in the day. Over time, Jerseys and many other breeds were selectively bred with large size in mind. Large size equals more milk which equals more profit.) She just happens to be pregnant also! Come next March, we should have a Jersey/Lowline Angus calf, but more importantly, we'll start to get milk! Being as large as she is, we'll probably get at least six gallons a day. We'll
drink at most a half gallon. Most of the rest will go to our other animals. A miniature Jersey will produce a much more manageable 2-3 gallons a day.
Our acreage has approximately 12 acres of lush, sub-irrigated grasses. In order to get this cow, I had to install some sort of fence to contain her. Being that I'm not too experienced on the subject of livestock fencing, putting up the fence was a learning experience. I fenced a half acre in our backyard for our cow to browse on. I figured I'd make it out of field fencing and "T" posts. Field fencing works well for many different farm animals and it's inexpensive. The "T" posts I chose because of cost and the fact that this pasture will end up being just one of a few paddocks in the overall scheme.
I learn the hard way, always have. While I tried to spend time researching on the internet how to best install a fence, I couldn't learn everything. The first mistake I made was installing the fence on the outside of the posts. I thought "I should put it on the outside so predators have a harder time getting in". Wrong. There's much more to worry about from the livestock pressing on the fence from the inside and eventually wearing it down.
The second mistake I made was not making the paddock square. I made it more into the shape of a half pentagon, if that makes sense. Anything besides 90 degree corners don't work unless you use "H" bracing--which I didn't have. I didn't realize this was a mistake until I started to try to tighten the fence and posts were bending all over. Yeah, that fix was not fun. Thank goodness a friend of mine had a "T" post puller. My back is still thanking me.
Not two weeks ago, one of our awesome neighbors called us up and said they know a guy that can cut and bale all of the grass on our pasture. He would do it for free, but keep two thirds of the bales. Since we had about four acres of prime grass not doing anything, we jumped on it. All
said and done, our land produced about 1.5 tons per acre.. Pretty amazing considering we've never fertilized or watered any of it. We received two tons as our cut which is the amount we were planning on buying to keep our pregnant Jersey happy thru the winter. As a bonus, our girls learned how to drive the truck and I received a nice full-body workout.
The garden turned out pretty good. While not everything did as well as I wanted, it's not bad for the first year. The corn is around 7 feet tall now and it's almost ready to start harvesting. I found that insufficient water at the beginning of the season stunted the first planted rows. Some of the corn randomly blew down--not sure what's up with that. Another problem I see with the corn is many stocks don't have any ears growing on them. Nearly half our garden is planted in corn so the problems it has is frustrating. We'll see how harvest goes....
We've been harvesting raspberries, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, potatoes and peppers. We've had good success with every one of them. Potatoes, next to raspberries, excite me the most. Rip the plant out of the ground and then dig around for huge potatoes, It's like a treasure hunt! Nothing beats raspberries though. Our plants were full grown yet they produced sweet berries from late June to early August. Nothing better than strolling thru the garden and throwing a couple sweet raspberries in your mouth.
Finally the garlic is all done! I though harvesting was tedious. No, harvest was simple compared to processing. Each of the approximately 11,500 garlic bulbs was individually hand cleaned, cut, weighed, and sorted. I figured it took an average of 20 seconds per bulb to do all of that. That comes out to around 63 hours of work...if my math is correct. I've never had so many blisters on my hand. We use scissors to cut the roots off and they rapidly wear away the skin. Wising up a little, we started wearing gloves while handling the scissors. We cut so much that the scissors even w
ore holes thru the gloves! But now our hands have so many callouses, it seems like overkill to wear gloves on the normal farm chores. Lots of hand moisturizer this winter! Anyway, the garlic turned out great. In all cases, our harvest exceeded my conservative estimates. Being that we're first year garlic growers, it'll take time for sales to happen and for people to get to know us. But already, folks from over 40 states and five country's have been visiting our website! Sales are being registered both online and at the farmers market. Everyone is satisfied!
We've already been prepping for next years garlic harvest. Crucial to planting, we had to go down and purchase 100 straw bales. This becomes our winter mulch for the garlic; four bales for each of our 25 garlic beds. The straw regulates the ground temperature, keeps weeds down, keeps moisture in, and keeps frost heave from ripping the garlic out of the ground.
No homestead is complete without chickens! We put a bit of research into which breed we
would get. We settled on Icelandics due to their cold weather tolerance, strong foraging capabilities, and beautiful colors. These are the same birds the Vikings brought to Iceland way back in the day. They have never been crossed with anything...which makes them a land race. Icelandics can be nearly 100% free range birds...and that's important because we won't have to buy as much feed. They also keep laying eggs thru the winter, at a slightly slower pace.
We actually just received our two dozen week-old chicks today. All are doing well so far (knock on wood).
The season has kept us busy and the wood pile is completely empty! We start burning wood in the stove for heat some time in October so that doesn't leave much time left. We'll getting the chainsaw and log splitter out very soon...
We've just about accomplished all the tasks we set out to do last winter. The only big items left are to get the garage finished and plant next years garlic. The garage has been a frustrating waiting game on our contractor. Word is he'll be out here next week...we'll see if that actually happens. Garlic needs to be planted about two weeks after first frost so we'll likely be planting mid-October again.
This fall/winter after everything else is completed, I'd like to ramp up my leatherworking LLC that I've kept on idle for the last year: Last Stand Leather. I have a website ready to go and I maintain a Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/Laststandleather/) I haven't done anything with it since I have nowhere to work. But once the garage is up, I'll have a space to start working. While I've done a big of everything in the past including knife sheaths, belts, patches, and collars, I'd like to get into holsters. I have a few unique ideas that I believe people will like. So yeah, that will be my work for the winter hopefully!