The Way Plans Change

IMG_0540We had big plans for this little farm when we moved in. Over the last few year the plans have changed and expanded. We also experimented and learned.

We have learned a lot about our land and have had to rethink how we house animals and where we can plant certain plants and trees.

img_4767This year we decided to scale back a bit and refocus our plans, refocus them closer to the original plans. We had always dreamed this farm would be mostly self reliant, at this point it is far from self reliant.

Yes, we have our own eggs, and we still have pork and whole chickens from those experiments, but we still have to buy most of our food.

So Vince and I spent several months deciding our priorities and what changes we wanted to make this year. With another baby due in July, we decided to downsize in certain areas and take the year to finish half-finished projects and reset so we could start fresh in 2021. We decided no new chicks, but to breed the goats in the fall for a Spring 2021 kidding. We decided no vegetable garden but to fill out the flower/herb garden and plant a few more berry bushes and fruit trees. Basically to take a break without sacrificing those long term goals.

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But sometimes outside forces cause you to change plans.

In the midst of remodeling our old rental for my grandparents, Vince started reading things about a virus sweeping through China. The terms epidemic and pandemic were being thrown around. Instead of using this as a forewarning, I kept going about my life as usual. Actually I did something worse, I ignored my normal preparedness mindset and  relied on already prepared foods letting ingredient stockpiles dwindle.

When the first cases were reported in the U.S. I still didn’t take it serious. By the time I realized the seriousness so had everyone else and the food shortages had hit. I normally buy certain staples in bulk, and since I hadn’t been baking/cooking much I was under the mistaken belief that we were good.

We were not.

So things needed to change.

Quickly vegetable seeds were started, a male goat was acquired, and an Azure bulk order was placed.Kids Playing on Slide at Bona Terra Farm

 

Its funny, I repeatedly told Vince I wanted to use 2020 to get back to the original plans we had for this farm, but it took a pandemic to actually get me to head in that direction.

We are still far from where I’d like to be, but we are finally taking steps to get there.

Elle

 

Mini Pig Fiasco of 2019… and Puer the Pig

Mini Pig Fiasco of 2019… and Puer the Pig

After the Great Pig Fiasco of 2018, I thought we were done with pig fiascos, but February arrived and so did the Mini Pig Fiasco of 2019.

When we sold off the pigs back in October, we were left with a pot belly pig, and male and female mini pig. The seller had told us both the pot belly and female mini pig were due to have piglets on Christmas. Well, Christmas came and went and no piglets. New Year’s came and went, no piglets. February arrived and no signs of piglets, so we assumed the seller lied and there would be no piglets. We also assumed that since there were no piglets or signs of piglets, that there would be no piglets, ever, as in someone was sterile.

Mini Pig Fiasco of 2019. new born piglets

Then came the cold rainy morning, when Vince found piglets. It was probably the coldest day all winter, it had been raining for days so the pig pen had standing water in areas, and the female mini pig gave birth to five piglets and walked away and left them. By the time vince found them only two were still alive.

This was the last straw, I already disliked the mini pigs because they were extremely anti-human. Mini pigs are meant to be pets and these hated humans, so they were useless as pets. Then she abandons her piglets to die, I was through with her.

We took the two piglets, warmed them up as best we could and began feeding them, every two hours…

Mini Pig Fiasco of 2019. black and white new born piglets

Mind you during this first week with the piglets, Isaac had his tonsils removed, so that was fun. Well, for him it actually was, he had fun playing with the piglets as he recovered.

I was worried the boy piglet wasn’t going to make it because he refused to eat, it was a huge battle to get him to eat, but then one day he started eating and never looked back. However, the girl piglet began to take a turn around a month old and she didn’t make it.

Thankfully the boy, who we called Puer (latin for boy), was thriving and playful.

Mini Pig Fiasco of 2019...Puer the Pig

The kids loved him, he ran around the kitchen and living room squealing and would chase sock feet.

But the question arose, what does one do with a mini pig?

Puer the mini Pig on blanket

As I said earlier, they are meant to be pets, but they are also pigs which means they root and tear things up. He would get big and eat a lot of food. Which means on a small farm, he would be a big waste of money. Yes, you can argue they love he brings would be worth it, but the reality is, the kids lost interest in him quickly and he got annoyed with them quickly, so I didn’t foresee years of love and affection between them.

Puer the mini pig and baby girl

So when he was weaned, we put him up for sale. I was still a little on the fence about it, I was worried he might not be bought as a pet. I didn’t want him as dinner, I wanted him to be happy and loved. The lady who ended up buying him, was the kindest lady, who had owned a mini pig in the past. Her daughter wanted another pig and she had told her once she was down with nursing school they would get one. So Puer was renamed Wilbur and went to home to make one little girl very happy.

And our kids? Vivienne didn’t mind one bit, and while Isaac was sad for a minute, he was happy Puer made someone else happy.

Elle

 

Just a Quick Update

Just a Quick Update

It’s been a long time since I have updated the blog, where have I been? Here and there, swamped by projects, and daily life.

When Vince and I discussed our goals for 2019, we realized the farm and our lives were moving in one direction, while we were still trying to push them back to the direction we “thought” was the best. When we took the time to step back look at things, we realized the direction things were moving, was actually better than the direction we thought we wanted.

Changes have been made. Priorities have been shifted. So far for the better.

We have spent the last few months finishing up some big farm projects, traveling to Paris, organizing the house, finishing some house projects, and trying to update our plans for the future.

Thankfully these busy months have left me with lots of posts, now to just sit down and write.

Elle

 

 

 

Yearly Goals Printable

Yearly Goals Printable

*Edit: I added two new versions. What can I say, I got bored with the dots.

Each year I like to write down my goals for the year. I like goals more than resolutions, resolutions feel restrictive, goals seem motivational.

I try to break it down by big goals for the year, then smaller monthly goals that help achieve the larger yearly goals, this year I also have a list a projects we need to finish.

Monthly GoalsSince I’m a bit of a nut, I tend to spend a ridiculous amount much time designing the page for the goals, it’s a relaxing “me time.” This year, in order to make myself feel a bit better about the time I spent, I decided to share it.

Projects PageI hope your 2019 is as productive as you desire!

Click here to download yours!

2019 Goals - Dots2019 Goals – Dots

2019 Goals - Plants2019 Goals – Plants

2019 Goals - Flowers2019 Goals – Flowers

2019 Goals

2019 Goals

It’s that time of year again, time to set goals for the next year!

Is it just me or is anyone else trying to figure out where 2018 went?

Oh good, I’m not alone!

This year my top goal is Joy.

I’ve gotten a bit bogged down by all the projects that need to be done around here that I lost sight of why we wanted to do all this.

Right after the pig fiasco, some of Isaac’s friends came over for a play-date. Seeing his pride in his animals and the looks on their faces as they played with the animals was a wonderful reminder or why we did this.

So, this next year we are slowing down and cutting back in areas. This means we are going to finish up projects that we have been putting off, and being more efficient with the time we have. In case you are concerned about the cutting back, this means roosters and extra hens, not completely getting rid of animals. This year we plan to add far less animals to the farm and mostly through purchasing hens from a hatchery to ensure we do not have an overflow of roosters like this year.

Its funny because as I was thinking how I needed to find joy in this farm, one of my favorite bloggers, Parisienne Farmgirl, started sharing how she was focusing on Joie de Vivre. I was scrolling through Instagram one day and saw her introducing her day planner and discussing Joie de Vivre and it was like she read my mind! And yes, I preordered that planner and not so patiently waited for it to arrive in the mail. It is beautiful!!! Its almost too pretty to use, which is perfect because I got it to write down all the life events and milestones from this year.

Her planner leads me to my second big goal for the year, be organized!

Last year I tested out The Happy Planner and loved it, so I had Vince get me another for Christmas and lots of fun stickers to decorate it with. I have to have routine and structure, but I also need color and whimsy. I sit down once a week and plan and decorate the upcoming week. Isaac likes to help place the stickers which is fun, with just a hint of stress to keep me on my toes. Its taken all year, but I finally found a system that works for keeping everything organized… at least in the case of my planners.

My house is the third goal of the year, it needs a major decluttering and reorganization, among other things.

We don’t have much closet space and our kitchen cabinets are useless and the attic is mostly unreachable. Yeah, I’m at a loss of what to do, but I am determined to fix that this year. I’m going to be honest, I won’t be surprised if I see this on my goals for the next ten to twenty years. I’m assuming that eventually my kids will stick me in a nursing home and then I won’t have to figure out the storage issues with the house.

I decided to join a home organization challenge that should help me get my home organized in 14 weeks… we shall see about that.

So what are your goals for 2019?

 

When All is Said and Done

When All is Said and Done

We are finally done with The Great Pig Fiasco.

We kept trying to make the best out of a bad situation, but in the end we had to step back and be done.

Nothing was as “advertised” and a complete disaster. The docile pigs who “cuddled” and “came to their names,” were so stressed out they were about as docile as an angry mama bear, and most certainly did not come to their names. On top of it some of them were in fact angry mama hogs because the seller sent moms to us while babies were still running loose at her house. She “never found” one sows piglets, so I am sad about their fate.

There was also conflicting information all around. Such as, They supposedly only got out because she was in the hospital and her helper let them out. But then she said one had been out for three weeks… two weeks before she was in the hospital.

I could go into more of the chaos but I am over it and don’t want to drag it back up. We learned our lesson and will not do business with her type again.

So when all was said and done, we sent three hogs to the butcher for us, kept the Potbelly (Jelly Belly) and the two micros (Lilibet and Philip,) and sold the rest.

Last Saturday was the Oxford Maker’s Market, while I was there, Vince and our buyer were at home loading up the pigs. The ease with which they loaded them up was a relief as well as a comment about the previous situation.

Since I was alone at the market, I took the time to get caught up on my Bible Study. I had gotten a couple weeks behind and apparently Someone … ahem God… had known I would need those lessons in that moment and not when they were originally scheduled. Funny how He knows just what we need and when.

When I got home, the dust had settled, and kids were asleep, Vince and I discussed the plans for the farm and what we wanted to do next.

This time we did what we should have done before the pig fiasco started, prayed … and we haven’t stopped since.

We aren’t giving up on the farm, but we are shifting our focus a little bit. We are going to step back from trying to force this into a business and focus on letting it bring joy and grow at its own pace. I’m not quite sure fully where we are headed, but this time God is guiding the way.

When All You Can Do Is Laugh

When All You Can Do Is Laugh

At the end of August we put a downpayment down on a ridiculous number of pigs (57 to be exact.) Several of them were pregnant and for some reason we thought this was a good idea. The plan was to pick them up at the end of September/beginning of October. Then we would try to sell off the ones we didn’t want to keep for breeding and separate the ones for meat.

Since we also decided to turn our rental house into an Airbnb, and have two kids, the pig pens were coming along slower than we hoped. But no worries, the Airbnb was finally up and running and we could spend the next week finishing everything up.

Then the baby gets sick, then I get sick, then Vince and Isaac get sick, we were struck down by a nasty stomach bug.

So here I am nursing the baby, who still doesn’t feel great, while Isaac and Vince try to get some rest after being up sick all night. Then the phone rings, Vince answers, Vince makes a confused face, “Well as I told the lady, I would pick them up at the end of September or the first week or October. We aren’t set up for them right this minute.”

Turns out the lady is in the hospital, the pigs keep getting loose, she told the sheriff’s department we had paid in full and they were ours, so we get a call from the sheriff’s department about “our” pigs getting loose and “destroying” neighbors property.

Vince gets himself up and dressed to go over there and try to figure something out, two of her neighbors help him, and in the end he comes home with three scared pigs, and a somewhat plan to get the last of the fencing done tonight and start bringing the rest of the pigs home tomorrow.

This is clearly some kind of test and all I can do is laugh and give it to God.

The best part is as I sit here and write this I glance over the tabs to see I have a Facebook notification, my mom commented on the photo of the pigs… She laughed… I mean what else to you do in this situation.

We will see how tomorrow goes, and for now I’ll be the crazy person in the corner laughing.

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 9.15.27 PM

 

 

End of Chick Season

End of Chick Season

Our last batch of chicks just hatched, and since Mama Hens (two hens are Co-parenting) will raise them it’s time to start focusing on the next farm project.

Over the past 6 months we have hatched over 100 chicks and bought 28. To some that sounds like nothing and to others it sounds like way too many!

I expected we would loose more chicks than we did, they lived. It evened out in the end because a good portion of the chicks were roosters. To give you perspective of how many roosters, out of the first 85 chicks, we only got 22 hens. Since most of our chickens are slow maturing breeds it will be a few more months before we get a final hen count.

I’ve learned a few things this chick season. The most important lesson: Mama hens are the way to go!

Give them eggs, wait 21 days, check to see cute babies, and walk away.

Mama hens have a much better hatch rate than incubators, since God, you know, made them perfect for that job. They also feed, water, and heat the chicks perfectly.

The Chicken Lady, who I’ve bought eggs from, said she gave up on incubators and just lets mama hens do their thing. Here’s to hoping we get some good mama hens!

Thankfully I’m done with the hard work of chick care and get to enjoy the fruits, or should I say eggs, of our labors. The new layers are showing off and we are getting lots of colorful eggs.

So since the chickens are settled, what’s the next farm project? Pigs, more pigs.

We learned a lot with the last group, so we felt we knew enough to purchase breeding sows and boars… did you hear the sarcasm in my voice.

For now we are putting up lots and lots of fencing for the ridiculous number of pigs, who will be joining our farm in just a few short weeks.

Goodbye, last bit of sanity I had left, fare thee well.

Just a few thoughts

Just a few thoughts

When I was little, I wanted to be a vet.

I loved animals and wanted them all.

Then I volunteered at a vet’s office for a morning and a dog died. I realized then I didn’t want to be a vet.

It wasn’t really the dog dying that made me realize it, but it was the way the staff handled it. I remember sitting there as they made jokes and laughed. Someone then jokingly said, “we should be more respectful, this was someone’s pet.” My thought was, ‘YES YOU SHOULD!”

Years later when it came time to make the hard decision about my sweet Girl dog that I’d grown up with, the decision was easy. She was in pain and she was ready.

In the past few years I have spent more money and time taking animals to vets when most people would have given up. Yes, I’ve taken a chicken to the vet for a sprain. Yes, I’ve driven to multiple vets in a desperate attempt to save a goat. Yes,  I had spinal surgery, and months of rehab on a dog with only the hope of her maybe walking with assistance (guess what… she now runs around the fields like she is a puppy.)

What is my point with all this?

Well this was our first year raising our own pigs for meat, and this was our first time to butcher roosters, and it made me realize how it all fit, despite seeming contrary to my love of animals.

It goes back to that thing about being respectful.

If I am going to eat meat, which I am because I physically need meat in my diet, I want to know they were well cared for and lived the best life they could.

Our pigs were happy and got lots of yummy food most pigs never get to taste, in fact they got exotic and organic foods I’ve never eaten thanks to a local grocery store. When it came time to find a butcher we made sure they would do it as humanely as possible.

We had hoped not to have many roosters this year, so we could keep a few. Then someone messed up and we ended up with 25 roosters instead of pullets. Vince suggested we sell them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that again. Last year we ended up with 7 Lavender Orpington roosters, I tried for weeks to sell them. They ended up all being sold for $10 , and the way they were handled and transported saddened me.

Nope, if I put as much care into these roosters as we did, I wanted that same care and respect all the way to the end.

So when it came time to dispatch the roosters, we gave thanks for their sacrifice, we asked for the strength to do this right, and we did one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do.

It is never easy to say goodbye to a life, even one so small as a chicken. I am so thankful to know the quality of life they had.

I may sound sentimental, but these are the same chicks that happily cheeped in the background when Vivienne was born, so I am a bit sentimental towards them.

Home Processing

Home Processing

This Saturday, we set about the hard task of processing, aka butchering, all our extra roosters.

This was our first time and it was certainly a learning experience.

We had hoped to get it finished quickly, but 26 roosters took us about 8 hours. (If TSC hadn’t given us roosters instead of the pullets I bought, we would have been done after the first 6.)

Our only knowledge going in was a few vague memories from family and the internet. Thankfully there are numerous blog posts and YouTube videos to walk you through the process if you are new to this.

Most people pluck the feathers to leave the skin on, which is what you get when you buy whole chickens at the store. Without a plucking machine this is a very laborious task. My mother-in-law said her mom always just skinned them, since it was faster. So that was the method we went with. It sounded much easier than it really was. It requires muscles that I don’t really have, and those muscles let me know it the next day!

Since we had never done this before, and we weren’t sure if we could physically/emotional handle this, we started with two roosters that had to go for their own good. One of them had a beak deformity that made it harder and harder for him to eat and the other was crippled and was not eating either. They were so small and skinny that it helped to know they were out of misery.

After those we found our strengths and weaknesses. Vince took over the actual dispatching of the birds and removing heads, wings, and feet. I took over the skinning and gutting. As the day wore on his mom came to help me skin, and things went a lot faster.

Vince’s sister was tasked with the hardest task of all, watching Isaac and Vivienne.

After all the crying, screaming, and general craziness, I would completely understand if she never wanted to watch them again!

Twenty-six was a bold number to start with, but we wanted to get it over with. The only way I’m doing that many at once again is if there is a plucking machine involved.

One of the biggest issues was one I didn’t foresee. The overly long day took its toll on the tiny people and they let us know by having foul moods Sunday (Happy Father’s Day) and Monday. We are all still trying to recover!

Because of the nature of the day I don’t have any photos to share, so I leave you with a photo of our spoiled rooster Perceval. He is a jerk , but he was the first chick we ever hatched… and he’s beautiful!

(He has his own house, since he doesn’t play well with others)