Wednesday, March 30, 2011

End of the March Recap

This month hasn't been terribly productive. While we have gotten new livestock in the form of 4 rabbits, 4 ducks, 2 geese, 6 turkeys and 3 barred rock chicks we haven't really done anything. I'm adding in some photos of how the garden looks now, at the end of the month so I don't have to do a separate post. I know, I'm totally lazy.

 Right now we're in a waiting phase. Waiting for the animals to grow, seeds to sprout, plants to start producing, Christmas birds to start laying. This week is wet (yeah! the first in over 2 weeks!) so even watering is on hold. Today the rain came down in buckets. I felt a pang that we didn't have the rain barrels set up.

What we have done

-butchered and froze 2 of our meat birds (by our little ol' selves)
- planted, planted, planted
- finished the garden fence
-set up irrigation
-planted most of the Big Field with corn, amaranth, quinoa and sunflower (that hasn't sprouted after three weeks but we got to use the new seeder)
-planted more stuff
-sold a couple dozen eggs
-build a dog house and brooder for the larger baby poultry out of pallets
-canned pears
-cleaned rabbit cages
-sheared a rabbit

Really, nothing much happened.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bunny Workshop

We have decided to do an Angora Workshop on May 21st which will correspond with the three rabbits we will have for sale.
I know you want one.

We have decided to do it this way because we are very concious of placing these little ones with homes that understand their unique care requirements. The workshop will start at 10am at our home out in Fort White. We'll proceed with a 2-2.5 hour seminar on care, housing, feeding, grooming, nutrition and breeding.

Everyone will have an opportunity to handle a baby as well as an adult Angora and practice grooming. After, we'll have a light lunch provided from food from our farm with various books available to peruse. We will have places available inside and out for anyone that is interested in bringing a spinning or fiber project and for those that would like to learn more about them.

There will be three slots for the workshop that will include the price of a rabbit you will take home that day and three (or four) slots for those just interested in the workshop and good times (price sans the rabbit).

Currently the two white and the one off-whitish-gray will be available for adoption. I will be sexing them later this week.

Please email me at for more information.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


The past few weeks I've driven down the county road on my way to the Farmer's Market the next town over. On my way there's a little hand written sign advertising Tomato Plants U-Pull.

U-PULL? I have never heard of such a thing. And each week I drove by curious but restrained from driving my van chock full of kids down some lonely dirt road just to see what I'd find.

Yesterday, I checked the Farm section of Craigslist and found the U-Pull tomato guy's ad. According to it, the plants were .10 a piece, you hand pull from the ground. With the garden mulched and the man taking a break from fencing the garden for lunch, I decided to take a trip over by myself to see what it was all about. Even if I only got ten plants I'd be beating my current price of .50 a seedling over the head with a shovel.

I now wished I had taken photos but to be honest the lonely dirt road then lead me to a large property with various trailers and buildings in disrepair, rusted out trucks, sun crisp fields of grapes and a little patch of PVC skirted earth crowded out with thousands of seedlings. There was no one around and according to other various hand written signs the plant pulling worked on an honor system. A little handmade lock box with a slot was designated for payment and a warning not to dig the plants "hand pull only". A table set up with a bucket of water and newspapers under a brick served as a processing point for keeping moist the freshly pulled roots.

Chickens squaked but I couldn't see them. Dogs barked from inside various buildings. No one was around and I expected to hear banjo music at any moment. I kept the car doors open and keys in my pocket.

The delivery was poor but the concept was genious.

All it would take would be a lay out of pvc to denote the different types of plants and a few seed packets or left overs from planting. It was heavily seeded, overcrowding was prominent but I was able to hand pick the plants I wanted, carefully extracting them from the soil.

I ended up with two hundred plants that have been transplanted into my garden. As of this morning they have almost all (save maybe 5-8) perked up. I got radish, broccoli, tomato, kale, zucchini and carrots (not holding out on the carrots since they don't like to be transplanted, I only got 10). They had many other varieties like mustards, hot peppers, other types of tomato and collards.

This might be an interesting venture to make a little money on the side with very little work. And a good lesson on following curious signs.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Garden's growing

Bareroot Heirloom Raspberry planted 2 weeks ago.

The garden is coming along nicely. I'm trying not to think too hard about being nearly 4 weeks behind on planting. It's starting to get H.O.T. down here in the South and with that comes a host of wonderfully destructive pests. Already the flies are buzzing and I'm fairly certain a couple mosquitoes have flown by.
A butterfly visiting the onions.

The weeds are poking through everywhere. I need to get down some mulch to help deter them and for water retention, the summers gonna be a scorcher. It always is. There are huge patches of land that had been tilled (and tilled and tilled) that are just covered in a thick green blanket of Bahaia (have I mentioned I hate this grass?) that now needs to be rototilled yet again. I could do it by hand but I will probably kill myself and someone has to be around to watch the kids, so that's out.

First teeny tomato.

There is still a lot of ground to get planted. After more than 2 weeks the quinoa, amaranth and strawberry popcorn haven't made a single sprout in the Big Field. I'm not holding out much hope for them. Which means if we want to have any of those I need to replant them (translate- buy more seeds) in the Garden. And for some reason everything that sprouts in the cold frames has been dying. One day they're out there and the next poof! gone.

Pole beans

Lack of seed sprouts means more money spent on seedlings. The whole debacle of loosing every seed we owned and having to replace them is now being lost to whatever reason. The leeks never came up, 40 basil sprouts died, most of the cukes are going but very, very slowly. While I've been getting good deals on the sprouts (6 pack for $3 usually, some of the tomatoes have been over 12" tall) it's still more money out the door. I'm just running too far into the season to start things from seeds again.

Rows of potatoes and peanuts.

There are still some good things going on. The 100' of potatoes I planted from a $2 batch of locally produced red potatoes four weeks ago have just about all sprouted with some exceptions. The 100' of peanuts is doing equally well. I put approximately 10lbs of potatoes in the ground. If I can get 25lbs back I'll mark that a success. Now I will start mulching and building up the hills around them.

New sweet corn starts.

I'm still learning, now into my third year. I haven't ever attempted anything to this scale. My garden last year had 3 tomato plants, this year I already have close to 60. It's an investment all around. One that I hope will start repaying us very soon (my budget can't take much more "investing"). I'll be pleased to get enough food to can and eat multiple meals a week fresh. If I can sell a little on the side to put back the money out, I'll be even happier.

Double tomato flower.

I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Verify it's cherry

The landlord said it was a cherry tree (she also said we can have goats and we all know how that worked out). Can anyone tell me for sure if it's a cherry? I'm trying to hold in my excitement if it is. I've already planned out how I would can them...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Week update.

Last Thursday the world was graced with seven new Angora rabbit babies.

That first day I was sure there were seven. Friday there were definately just six. Saturday five and Sunday only four remained. It was sad loosing those babies even though 1 and 2 were more than likely eaten by Flora and I had to only dispose of the one frozen little thing that wiggled out of the cozy nest.

They still haven't opened their eyes but they have nearly doubled in size and now have short white fuzz.

They are ridiculously small and cute. They make little squeaky noises too that makes you just want to squeeze them.

We got our initial rabbit, Duncan, after reading Jenna Woginrich's book Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. She talks about Angora's being a good investment for small city ventures that can't have traditional livestock. They are small, inexpensive to feed and provide some good things. We've used the manure in the garden for over a year. I've been keeping bags of wool since the first shearing and hope this year I'll be able to blend it to make yarn.

One reason we haven't bred them yet is because we wanted to be responsible with breeding and plan to market the rabbits to people that knit or spin their own yarn, not just to anyone that wants a rabbit. Since they are higher maintenance than a short hair or meat rabbit, we want to make sure they have a good home that understands the commitment required. We won't be selling these as Easter Rabbits. I was also nervous about breeding and not being able to sell and having a barn full of very cute but high maintenance animals.

Thankfully, in our area Angora sales aren't saturated, there actually quite rare. I travelled over a hour each time I purchased my rabbits because there were so limited in the area.

Since this breeding was so successful, we will be selling our purebred English Angora buck in the summer after his winter coat is sheared along with the babies from this litter.

Though I may keep one for myself. They're just so cute!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pallet Brooders

We've used pallets in a lot of farm projects. We've made a deck, a compost bin, a goat mountain and now brooders. We're lucky to have a two stall open air barn but the 10x10 size is a little too large for baby birds. I've made two brooders, one in each stall. The first I made yesterday for the ducklings, goslings and poults.

 The far right pallet is attached to the wall using L brackets which makes it easy to disassemble. I've wrapped one side with chicken wire nailed in place using U staples for fencing. I had a few spare hinges I used to attach the pallet on the left to the stationary pallet on the right.

The shorter wall I used some salvaged IKEA laminate flooring simply screwed into the pallet to prevent poultry escapes. Then we secured a rubber strap (again we had lying around) to keep them closed.

Close up of the wire on the pallet.

Cozy poultry.

This is the smaller brooder made with the same concept. L brackets secure this pallet to the wall and hardware cloth is tacked on only the bottom half of the pallet. 

 The second side is secured with a fence kit I bought for some project years ago and never did.

Inside the chicken brooder.

The lock on the chicken brooder.

Total cost for all these projects was very reasonable. We got the pallets for free or $1 a piece. The chicken wire was a gift from my mom (when she gave us the 10 chickens at Christmas) but would have cost approx $10. L brackets cost approximately .50 a piece (we used 6, so $3). Rubber strap was about $2.

Chicken brooder costs roughly $8 for 16 square feet of brooder space. (fancy lock)

Turkey/Duck/Goose brooder roughly $6 for 32 square feet of brooder space. (less fancy locks)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Making your own meat

In January I posted about our need to butcher a mean rooster and my inability to then eat it afterwards because of emotional barriers I didn't know how to get around. I had almost convinced myself that going back to vegetarianism was probably the better way. But to me* it wasn't taking responsibility for my food source, it was hiding from reality.

I won't lie to you and say that slaughtering animals is an easy thing.

It's not.

It shouldn't be.

But that initial experience has opened me up to the ability to butcher our own birds with -well, I wouldn't say detachment because that's the whole reason we're doing it ourselves- perhaps more understanding.

They are prey.

I am a predator.

I'm just smarter than other predators and take care of my prey. But they still have value beyond my dinnerplate. They are still Life in one of it's majestic forms. Even as I choose which bird's life will end, I still mourn for it and thank it for its sacrifice.

The dog that killed my bird for sport more than food has helped opened my eyes. If I don't eat it, something else will. It's what I choose to eat and how I care for it before hand that tips the scales, in my opinion, to what is responsible and what is not.

Yesterday we butchered two of our Red Broiler roosters. I was able to assist on the entire thing from start to finish, even capturing the live birds myself, and I did not waver. Other than the initial kill, the children were able to be present and asked questions. We thanked the birds aloud together for the food they provide us. I showed them the insides and labeled the parts for them as we took them out. Leeloo happily ate the heart and liver of one of the birds. We tried to make as much of the bird as we could with little waste and what we couldn't eat, we composted or left deep in the woods for the scavengers. Even the blood will be mixed with water to feed the fig trees.

My progression from only touching boneless, skinless white meat neatly packed in a styrofoam tray to grabbing a clucking rooster by the feet and an hour later vaccuum sealing boneless, skinless white meat in my kitchen has been a huge travel. But I know it's the right one, since I posted on our facebook wall the photo of the neatly wrapped package and have three people eager to purchase our homegrown chicken.

I'll have another post about the actual process, my experience with the different breeds, slaughtered weights and stuff in the next few days. I just wanted an initial post about how I feel about the process now since it's such a dramatic change from where I was at a few months ago.

*I stress that this is a personal choice. I do not look down on those that cannot or will not eat meat because of the fact of slaughter, that one life has to end to satisfy another, that is a different kind of sacrifice, but these are my feelings about the issue. I have been a vegetarian in the past, I don't feel for myself that is the right choice at this time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning in our Etsy store

I need to move out this inventory so I have room to make new things. Starting today until next Friday, everything in the store is 25% off. Just ask for a revised invoice at checkout.

Spring hustle

Since December I've been sitting around twiddling my thumbs itching to get started on our first year on a farm. The set backs have only made me more anxious to get going.

Yesterday was a busy day. A very, very busy day.

It was overcast in the morning, the sky was gray and threatening but Tractor Supply had confirmed their order of ducklings and chicks had come in so we went out to the store anyway. I had been calling for two days but they hadn't gotten them yet. I'm glad I went when I did because, out of fifty chicks they ordered, only about a dozen were left when we got there at 11:30.

I picked out four what I believe are Peking ducklings. I grabbed the most energenic and spry of the day old bunch.

We came home, set the ducklings up in the rabbit house in the bathroom and moved out the week old chicks to brood with the three weekers already established in the barn. The rabbit's cages are housed in the same stall and I've been eyeing Flora for nest making signs. This would be her week to kindle. I was getting disappointed since it didn't seem like the breeding had taken.

I glanced in the nest box in her cage and saw there was some fur. When I came closer the whole pile of wool moved! Flora gave birth to six healthy, pink baby rabbits while I was out getting the ducks. This is our first litter of Angora Rabbits and I'm so excited. I left mama be after snapping this photo of the babies.

And here is a very hagged looking new mama watching over her babies.

While we were getting all the new babies settled the postman came with a box I completely forgot about. Nine year old heritage raspberry plants were delivered and needed to be planted ASAP. The storm last night made the ground mud which made planting...interesting.

Then it was off to the farmer's market the next town over. It only happens once a week and we were in need of some fresh food.

While we were down that way I stopped into a different feedstore looking for higher protein game feed for the ducks. Tractor Supply only had a 15% mix for general poultry purposes. We're picking up poults today that can use up to 29% so I wanted to make a mix of both varieties for them. They were out of higher protein feed but they did have goslings!

I've always wanted a mating pair of Toulouse geese. They're mild mannered and are great flock protectors. Since the dog attack I've been even more interested in getting them. Plus they lay huge wonderful eggs.

They're brooding in the bathroom with the ducks. Apparently, they will follow ducks around as their leaders. They are also good weeder geese to help in the garden. They couldn't sex them and I couldn't even find a vent hole to try (it's there somewhere) so I just picked two of the best behaving ones. Cross your fingers we have at least one female.

After they were settled I went out and planted 6 Amish Paste tomato plants, 24 zucchini, 6 crookneck squash and 12 pepper plants. The garden has a way to go but it's getting there.

I hope today isn't quite as full.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Since my neighbor's dog killed the chicken and I got a nice size area tilled for free, I decided to move some of the larger crops out to the Big Field. In order to accomplish this wonderous feat of seeding an area three times the size of our house, I got this Earthway 1001-B Precision Garden Seeder with 6 Seed Plates.

For some reason it took forever to ship but I finally got it Monday. We're scheduled for 50% percipitation on Thursday (anything about 20% down here you can just about count on it raining) so I thought today would be an ideal time to get some of these seeds in the ground.

I planted Ornamental Strawberry Popcorn and Snacker Sunflower seeds. I'm taking a few minute break before getting the quinoa, amaranth, and a package of mammoth sunflower. I purchased oil seed sunflowers which I feed to the rabbits but Bountiful Gardens ran out of stock and sent me Oilseed Radish instead. I have to look these up and see what they are and if I want to even bother planting them. If not, we might have our first give away on HeartSong Farms!

The box came from Amazon a little beat up and retaped...poorly. But it looks as if everything is inside.

The picture on the box is pretty but the instructions will make you want to stab someone.

It took me about 25 minutes to put ot together and considering 10 were spent in search of a wrench that's not too bad. But I have a good working knowledge of how it should look since I checked out the put together model at my local True Value. I had a little trouble figuring out how the plate worked inside. But I finally got it in the right way and went on to plant about four 100'+ rows in a matter of minutes.

Once the seeds start getting low you have to ride the wheels on the side to get them to pick them up. I did have some come out doubles and some blank slots but when you're doing that kind of area missing a couple feet isn't the end of the world. I just went back and hand seeded those places with the dregs the discs couldn't pick up. It helps to have a little one walk behind you to let you know when the chain didn't completely cover the seeds too.

Well, back to the grind to get these crops in the ground. If you have any info on the oilseed radish please share!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Broke 100

Our three laying birds have been hard at work. In two months they've communitively laid over 100 eggs.

One of One Hundred.

When I first started with four little day old chicks impulsively bought from the feed store, I never realized the road I'd be travelling down. Four seemed like a huge number of birds. We had just about doubled our farm animals with them at the time. They're amazing little things able to forage nearly exclusively for their food and then deposit payment for our letting them in the form of beautiful little eggs.

Hard at work.

The three girls left from the original flock of four are the only egg contributors at this time. Imagine that, 3 birds, 8 weeks and 100 eggs. Considering they're also only 7 months old, its pretty impressive. We've also had the opportunity to share our eggs with others. It makes me proud to hear back how delicious they are. We have five more Amerucaunas just over two months old that will be joining the laying flock. Add in the eleven 2.5 week old chicks and the three .5 week olds and we'll have a veritable egg farm come fall.

Next Generation.

We're raising some up for sale. I'm sure some of these will end up roosters. We seem to have back luck that way. The feedstore only guarentees 90% pullets from the sexed birds we bought. Either way, we've come a long way from 4 birds in the back yard just seven short months ago.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Around the Garden

I've been working hard at getting the garden done. It was originally going to be 50x150' but the grass just is making it impossible, so I've reduced it to 100x50'. Some of what I wanted to plant were going to go out to the larger, unfenced field, like the corn and possibly some of the squashes so reducing the plot isn't such a big deal.

Here are the tomatoes. I'll be adding in some basil and carrots around them as soon as I can.

The cucumbers I planted two Sunday's ago have already sprouted. I'm looking forward to pickling this year for the first time.

The broccoli isn't doing as well as I'd hoped. A frost and the delay in getting the garden done prevented me from planting them in the ground and they suffered for it.

I'm hoping the 12 peppers I planted do well. I picked up some sproutlings from a local nursery to go along with the six that made it out of the seeds I started. They look pretty healthy and I have some interesting heirloom varieties I can't wait to try. Again, this is another for the canning squad. I'm hoping to get a good supply of sundried tomatoes and sauce out of these plants.

And another part of the garden that isn't doing as well as I'd hoped -the lettuce bed. Again, the delay in gardening to plant the sprouts and a frost I didn't expect stunted much. Those two large ones are arugula I grew from seeds last year that was still growing when we moved. I yanked it up about 4 weeks ago, threw them in a grocery bag and hauled them 150 miles North and they're doing just fine in the new garden. Since they're so hearty I let them go to seed hoping I can save some for future planting.

Other than that, I have about 180 seeds I'm waiting to emerge from some flats on the porch. I'm hoping to make a couple more cold frames this weekend to transfer them to. I ordered Precision Products GS2005 5-Pound Capacity Garden Seeder off Amazon last week and hope it will arrive this week so I can start the sunflowers, quinoa, amaranth and corn in the West Field. I won't be able to do the burn like the neighbor suggested so I'm just going to plant in the 2 large swaths he made for a fire break.

Much, much more to come!