|Beiter and Sons' Farm||
The “Ides of March” are upon us. We have goats freshening in the barn producing seven babies to date (3 doelings, 4 bucklings). I relocated our bucks to their shed and pasture by the creek to allow my does to freshen in peace and to prevent that “buck smell” from being present during milking. Our chicks will be arriving next month and we will raise these organically from day one. Hemlock, spruce, and elderberry saplings will be planted this spring, while our laying hens will be turned onto pasture soon.
I’m writing a Nutrient Management Plan currently that will address the manure concerns on our farm. The plan includes composting our manure and bedding material to a near soil quality before spreading it onto our pasture. We have minimal manure management concerns due to the solid nature of goat and chicken manure. Any manure that isn’t directly dropped onto our permanent pasture is mixed with bedding material and then piled and composted for a year before we turn it to increase aeration. Once it has been turned we then allow more time to pass before it turns into soil. We then load it onto the trailer and spread onto our pasture.
This summer we plan to create walkways for our livestock to tread on when leading them to pasture everyday. Gravel will be delivered to create these paths, and we will clean up the milking parlor and barn entrances by constructing adequate drainage. We only have small distances to lay these paths, about 200 feet total. Therefore, our summer will entail a greater effort in milking a larger herd and making dairy products, rather than improve our farm’s infrastructure. My goal in the next two years is to learn how to perfect my yogurt and cheese recipes before contemplating moving forward with a potential cheese making business.
Our farm is growing and slowly etching out a purpose in this world. This passed May (2010) we bought 60 chickens (unsexed) and were given three baby ducks. We raised the baby chicks in our 100 square foot shed with heat lamps for about eight weeks. Two “pasture pens” were built and used for our laying hens once they were old enough to be put outside at around eight weeks. Once the chicks were around 13 weeks we butchered all the roosters. At 13 weeks the roosters started practicing their calls early and we didn’t want to cause a Rooster Ruckus in the neighborhood.
Our baby ducks were raised in a utility sink indoors until they became too big to fit. Aidan and Reece had a great time feeding them, changing their water, and cleaning out the sink everyday. I would fill the sink once a day to give them their duckling bath. Right around the time our chicks were put in their “pasture pens” we were able to transfer the ducks to the chicken shed for the summer. The ducks were trained to walk a few yards to the Buffalo Creek, where they’d spend the day. At dinnertime, they walked back to the shed with a little help using a long 2x4 to guide them. I was able to find a permanent home for the ducks in the fall of 2010, because we weren’t able to keep them over the winter due to space constraints.
The summer of 2010 became hectic quick. At the end of June (2010) when 1.5 acres of permanent fencing was installed to allow our goats to graze rotationally. We then built and installed a solar powered, water system to pump creek water to all of our pastures using a gravity fed cistern. We also dug up our backyard to lay piping and installed two frost-free hydrants to address winter water concerns in our barn and shed. All of this work was completed by September of 2010, right on time for everyone to go back to school except Mom. I stayed home to milk the goats and practice making cheese and yogurt. I kept myself very busy selling eggs, doing chores, and working part time at a local horse farm in the fall of 2010.
Soon winter was upon us, and we had to buy and store our winter hay, move animals around, and prepare for my bi-lateral foot surgery that I was scheduled for two days after Christmas of 2010. The surgery went very well, I recovered sooner than I believed possible. During my six-week recovery, I was able to hunker down and fill out a lengthy application to have our farm “certified organic.” Believe me, I had my doubts whether foot surgery was possible while transitioning our farm to a “certified organic” operation in 2011. But in hindsight, I’m glad I did it now, rather than later. Our future will soon bring much excitement and haste that I couldn’t dream of scheduling elective surgery a year from now or even five years into the future.