Life without milk: a year-long experiment

In the immediate aftermath of this spring’s goat troubles, we were disturbed and disappointed to face a year without abundant fresh milk. We’ve come to rely on this for so many aspects of our diet, using 2-4 gallons a week in season for cheese, yogurt, custards, cream sauces and more, while preserving it for off-season use through freezing it whole, and freezing or aging cheeses. Yet replacing this amount of milk & dairy products from off-farm sources doesn’t fit our budget or lifestyle. Discussing this, we also began to realize that an enforced change in diet could be a really interesting opportunity to broaden our cooking horizons, in a way we’d never choose on our own. Continue reading

Home maple production

In a rare moment of insanity this winter, we decided we weren’t doing as many different things as we could, so invested in some maple syruping equipment. For the past month or so, we’ve been learning maple management on the fly and generating multiple useful products that improve our on-farm food diversity. Here’s a quick look at how this useful homestead project went. Continue reading

March to-do list

We made good progress on our last to-do list until events of late February threw all sorts of wrenches into the works. Joanna was thankfully never called for jury duty, but we both came down with a strong and long-lasting cold/virus that really cut into our productivity. Two major winter storms will have short- and long-term effects; tending to goat health issues was another unexpected drain. Here’s what we expect to be up to in March, as we enter the true beginning of the vegetable season. Much of this is dependent on the snow melting with reasonable speed, and the ground not remaining a muddy mess all month. On the other hand, we don’t want to see another absurdly warm spring like 2012, with all its attendant concerns. Continue reading

Recent goat miscarriage: possible causes & implications

In the background of all else going on this winter, we’ve been quietly considering and addressing some concerns with the goats, which came to a head on Thursday night with a miscarriage of three kids. We’re writing up a long description and discussion of these events and our analysis of them for multiple reasons: for our own records and use, for the openness about our successes and problems that is quite important to us, and for the use and reference of other small farmers seeking the same answers online that we so often do. We know that such openness has the potential to make us look like bad managers, but the reality is that sometimes bad things happen in farming. Analyzing the situation and reflecting on things we might have done differently is one of the ways we learn to do better in the future. And if this is helpful to others in a similar situation, then we deem it to be information worth sharing.

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Bird list & natural events, Februrary 2013

Well, February will certainly be remembered around here; it was quite different from last year’s absurdly warm & dry month. After a  first three weeks of stable, moderately moist, unremarkable weather, winter remembered its existence for the first time in two years and dropped two major winter storms in our laps within 5 days. The remaining week of February was quite memorable, not least because of the excellent birding produced by so much snow. Though the short-term damage and inconvenience are real, in the long run we’ll be very grateful for this much moisture added to the soil as we hopefully begin recovering from last year’s drought. Read on for this month’s extra-long bird list and some fun photos taken at our feeder. Continue reading

Handling winter storms on a homestead farm

Two strong winter storms over the past week offer an excellent chance to examine how a farm like ours can both benefit and suffer from winter weather. While these storms created a variety of problems for us, our long-term focus on diversification and self-sufficiency in both business and personal life really paid off under these conditions. Here’s a look at what happened, and how it’ll affect us in both the short and long term. Continue reading

Organic re-certification decision

Back in November, we wrote about the political uncertainty surrounding organic cost-share funding, and its potential impact on the farm for this (and future) years. Harvest Public Media did a story on organic certification & its cost in December. In the chaos of the fiscal cliff mess at the turn of the year, the old Farm Bill was renewed, but without funding for organic cost share. This is precisely the situation that we feared, and it is forcing us and other organic farms into a difficult decision of whether to continue to pay the costs associated with the legal use of that word, as reported in this Harvest Public Media story featuring Happy Hollow Farm.

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CSA event: Backyard Bird Count Saturday Feb 16

This coming weekend, we’ll be taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, and CSA members are invited to join us. This fantastic event is a joint effort by various organizations to crowd-source data on wild bird populations across the country; last year over 100,000 checklists were submitted with over 17 million birds counted. It’s a great chance for outdoors enthusiasts of any birding skill level to enjoy a morning on the farm and take part in some worthwhile citizen science. We hope some members can join us; details below. Continue reading

February newsletter & to-do list

February effectively marks the beginning of the 2013 farm year for us, with a wide variety of things to do from starting the first seedlings to firewood cutting. Last year’s post on winter farm work covers many of the same things we’ll be fitting into a busy month this year, but here’s a look at what’s on our plate for early 2013, along with a quick look at our January road trip. Continue reading

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Bird list & natural events, January 2013

We missed part of January on the farm, taking a road trip to the Louisiana coast, but still recorded the normal suite of winter birds (very similar to last January) The month was seriously dry until the 29th, when strong storms quickly dumped 2.27″ of rain, almost as much as we received from Hurricane Isaac last year. Ironically, given the dry soil and low, drought-stressed vegetation, a lot of this precip turned into runoff. Our stream started flowing for the first time in almost a year. We also had some erosion of roads and other hard-packed surfaces. But at this point, any rain is welcome. Not much else to report during what was a fairly stable and unremarkable month here; even our trail camera didn’t catch anything beyond a few deer and coyotes. Read on for the January bird list. Continue reading