Another year on the farm has flown by. As I am writing this, snow is falling outside, the kids are watching TV and TS is on his computer job-hunting. Circumstances have changed with his current remote-work situation, so he is looking for an off-the-farm job. Try as we may, we have not been able to create enough income from to fully support our family. We are always growing and improving, but additional income is still necessary, even just part time. It is difficult to plan exactly what we’ll be doing on the farm this year without knowing if TS will be working elsewhere full time, but these are the current plans:
MEAT & EGGS: We have made the decision to go back to the original plan of raising our own meat for ourselves. Raising meat chickens to sell is very time-consuming and hard work and the profits are not great. We raised somewhere around 400 chickens last year which we sold from the farm and at the Yancey County Farmers Market. We have sold out of everything (other than what we purposely kept for ourselves). Raising pastured meat chickens is definitely a viable business option for small farmers, however it would take a lot more pasture and time than we have to make it worth the effort. We definitely could have sold more chickens if we could have raised more, but we just aren’t able to raise enough chickens to meet the demand. I hope that the new chicken vendor at the market has great success and is able to fill that need for our community. We plan to raise a few batches this year for ourselves and to sell from the farm, but we are planning to fill our freezer first. I do want to raise a few Pekin ducks for ourselves as well. We sold every duck we had left before Thanksgiving right off the farm, so we may do a few extras of those as well. We recently made the tough decision to sell all our laying-breed ducks. I do not like duck eggs. Sorry not sorry. I think the texture is totally gross and I’ll choose chicken eggs over duck every time. I wanted to like duck eggs since I love ducks and they lay more eggs during the winter than the chickens do, but I just don’t like them. TS loves them and would prefer to eat duck eggs over chicken eggs, but he just doesn’t eat that many eggs. We will still have lots of chicken eggs for ourselves and to sell.
SOAP: I’m done making soap. I enjoy making it, but I don’t have time to sell it at any markets or really promote my soap online. There are LOTS of people around here that make soap and I never did feel passionate enough about my soap to try to compete. One of the main reasons I started making soap was that I thought we were going to have dairy goats and I could make goat-milk soap. But dairy goats are definitely NOT in our future. Also, the supplies were taking up space all over the house. Now that I’ve sold or given away what was left, I feel like a weight has been lifted.
GARDEN: We ARE planting a garden this year!!! I am hoping to buy starts from friends or local farms. We don’t have the space to start seeds, at least not this year. We will be growing beans, tomatoes, beets, lettuces, collards, peppers, and chard. I don’t know what else, but I’m excited to garden again. We didn’t do much last year cause we were so busy processing chickens. Also we FINALLY will get to harvest asparagus!!! I planted it the first Spring we were here, but it takes a few years of growing to be established enough to harvest.
HATCHERY: We have major plans for the hatchery! We are hoping to hatch more than double the amount of chicks we hatched and sold last year. I plan to offer over a dozen breeds/varieties of chickens. Even though we hatched a lot of chicks last year, I sold most of them as chicks and at the end of the Summer I didn’t have enough laying hens to meet the demand. I also did not keep as many hens as I should have for us! I plan to be much more efficient and organized this year.
RABBITRY: We are selling all our meat breed rabbits. I have spent almost 5 years breeding, raising, and processing meat rabbits. In the beginning it was the only way we could raise our own meat since we were living in the city. I will forever be grateful for the experience of raising meat rabbits – it in part led us to the farm life, it’s one of the main ways we promoted our farm the first year, and I sort of became the local go-to rabbit person. However, I’ve grown to dislike the processing more and more. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just unpleasant and I’m tired. I would rather take 2 days to process chickens 2-3 times per year than have to process 8-10 rabbits every other month. Most of my Crème d’Argents left the farm yesterday to go be the beginning of East Fork Farm’s meat rabbit program. I am very happy that they will continue on with the breed. It took me a lot of time and work to create a genetically diverse herd of such a rare breed and I am so glad to have been able to pass them on. We are still going to continue raising and selling our French Angora rabbits as well as fiber and yarn.
And of course BENGALS! We have a litter due soon and also will be taking three of our cats to a show in February. I haven’t shown since 2011 and I am very excited to get back into it!
So I think that’s what we have got planned for the year. The kids are now 6 and 8 and love to help on the farm when they aren’t in school. They are both very interested in the various chicken breeding programs we have going on – matching different breeds to get different colored eggs and traits, that sort of thing. They love to help with taking care of the animals and I’m excited they’ll be able to help with the garden this year too. SJ is great at hand-pulling weeds and loves helping plant starts too. HS has a special gift with animals – they seem to know how gentle he is and not fear them. It’s amazing to see. We are all still loving this farm life! It is more complicated and difficult than we could have predicted but we are blessed to be living the life we love.