Look – We KNOW our property is super duper windy. BUT we once again tricked ourselves into thinking we could stake something down real good and it would be ok.
Last summer I bought one of those make it yourself green houses with the metal rods that you screw together and drape a plastic cloth over top to make a green house. We just got around to building it as its time to start sowing those first vegetable seeds for the garden. This thing did not have any pop in place rods. They were ALL screws. Took Stephen almost a whole day to build. That is a lot of time to designate to something here. It has to be worth the time to do that. Spoiler Alert. It wasn’t.
Not 3 days later did we have a torrential down pour and wind storm. I was on the phone with my sister telling her that Stephen built this greenhouse while peering out into the darkness trying to look for it. It wasn’t there. The darn thing was allllll the way down the field. Metal rods broken, plastic tarps caught on some of the t post fencing (that doesn’t yet have a fence on it). I get off the phone and go inside to get Stephen. Who is in fact pisssssed that he spent a whole dat building this now destroyed green house.
We tredge out in the rain and wind and carry this thing into the garage where it sat for a week while we tried to figure out what to do with it. Eventually we came up with a plan to hang some remaining rods from the tresses in the barn. We drape the now ripped plastic tarp over top of the salvaged metal rods. We find our old grow lights that we used to use. Find an unused space heater in the house. And now we have an in-barn green house. Not exactly the eco-friendly, outdoor, sun utilizing green house I wanted this year. But this is what we are going to be using. Probably for a couple years.
Until we can afford an actual structure, this is what we will have to use. The fact that we have anything at all, we are grateful. Not everything works out the way you want it to. Some things come from something else that failed.
We have A LOT of dogs! Our two Boston Terrier mixes came from our neighborhood days. When we first got them as puppies they did great in our little neighborhood backyard. Eventually they started jumping our little chain link fence and we had to upgrade to a 6ft privacy fence, no problem, we planned on doing that anyways. When they started digging under the 6ft fence we put some ground blockers in so they couldn’t dig. THEN they started JUMPING the 6ft fence. At that point we called Jarid with Loyalty Canine Services LLC and he trained our two Boston mixes (Marshall and Andre). He did a great job and we didn’t have to worry about them anymore.
Jarid trains with E-collars and we are totally cool with that. The boys learned some simple commands with him that we continued training with at home. We chose Jarid after reading some good reviews and that he was based in Gloucester, where we were planning on moving to. We knew he would be local to our new location.
After we moved and purchased some more chickens from our favorite chicken man (and mentor) Jeffrey Klaiss with Fresh Start Farm, he very easily convinced us that we needed some Livestock Guardian Dogs to take care of flock and ever-growing inventory(?) collection(?) of farm animals. At that time, we purchased two unrelated puppies from him, a male and female that we plan on breeding in the future. These two puppies are now almost a year old and are known as Curtis and Missy. Side note: is anyone following the theme in names of the dogs yet??
As Curtis and Missy grew through their first year they have become more and more adventurous. We never thought that they would get to the road, or think about crossing it. Marshall and Andre are a different story – they have no car sense; they were in the road from the get-go. Jarid came over a couple of times to help us work with them on the new property to help them learn their boundaries here. Curtis and Missy never got formal training from Jarid, but they do have the same E-collars that Marshall and Andre wear.
These collars barely phase them. Now before they started getting to the road is when we got the E-collars and had our first consultation with Invisible Fence out of the Newport News location. Charlie came up and met with us; talked about the in ground system and the GPS system that they offer. Neither Stephen nor I were ready to put out that kind of money for the system and went ahead and got the E-collars for Curtis and Missy.
As Curtis and Missy started approaching a year old, Curtis became super wandery. At first, he was going over to the elementary school and we’d get calls in the morning when children were about to come to school. So we started kenneling him in the morning.
Next, we were having people call Stephen’s number a couple times a week, saying they have Curtis. Now, to be fair, most the time Curtis was still on our property – but on the side of the road. So he was a tornado watch, not a tornado warning. Until one night. Or should I say morning? One morning at 3am there was some loud banging on the doors. It’s the po-lice. My kids are too young to be brought home by the police. It’s Curtis. Curtis was brought home by the police because he was crossing the road at 3am. Coming home (sober) at 3am. Curtis lost his roaming privileges. He was been kenneled unless we are outside with close eyes on him. That is not his job. That is not his purpose in life.
We now have two more puppies that need good guidance and training from the older members of the pack. We need Missy and Curtis to be able to train them, with free range of the farm. They cannot train them if they are kenneled most the time. Especially if they are kenneled at night. The two new pups are Kimberly (Kimmy) and Calvin.
I called Charlie with Invisible Fence the next day to start the process of getting the GPS System installed on the property. (Appointments and install times, this is not an immediate thing). We wanted the GPS System so our LGDs are still able to roam and chase off and predation threats, but not get across the road. At this point they should be restricted to behind the fence but have free range of all our acres.
GPS Systems do fail. But I hope it doesn’t ever fail with Curtis (or anyone else) on the wrong side of the road. All we can do is our best, and this is the absolute best system on the market. We are glad that our pups that we have worked hard training to protect our livestock and poultry investments are going to be free to roam the property once again.
I hope to be able to report back in a couple months or a few weeks that all is well and sound with our system and our pack of dogs.
Loyalty Canine Services
Fresh Start Farm
**I receive no loyalties for the links shared here.
Where did our slogan come from??
Growing up every time we went to our family vacation home, a lake house, we would ask my dad how his day was going and he would answer "just another day in paradise." He didn't say this at home. His life was stressful. Full of employees who didn't do their jobs, constantly stealing or complaining. Coming in late, making excuses. The lake house was his escape, his paradise. That's half the story.
When deciding what direction Stephen and I wanted to take in our lives it came down to: are we going to stay in a home that is a little bit too small for our family and eventually have a vacation home on a lake or at the beach, or get a larger more comfortable home with some land and build a life that we love waking up to everyday? We chose the life we love waking up to. We didn't want to have an escape. We wanted our everyday life to be the escape. What we are building IS our paradise. We do not have to go to the beach to find paradise, we live it, everyday of our lives. And there our slogan was born. Just another day in agricultural paradise. Thanks, Pops.
Actually written on 8/30/2022
We have had 3 dispatch days so far on our beautiful farmette. The first dispatch day, we told the kids what was going to happen, kept them informed while it was happening, and then gave them the option to watch after the 'deed' was done. Our first dispatch was a large and aggressive goat, and for the large animal, we did not want the children to watch the actual cull. We did four pekin ducks on that day as well. Despite our efforts to make sure the children weren't involved during the first dispatch day, they made their way to us. Very interested and inquisitive. The family that we did the goat for was present and wanted the skin on. So Stephen was literally torching this goat with the two older boys watching. Torch, scrape, torch, scrape, for what felt like forever.
At least the boys did not see the castration! The goat was immediately castrated following dispatch to ensure the meat did not get a taint after cull. Often referred to as "Boar Taint" and is known more in the hog world. Boar taint is something that only about ten percent of the population can detect in their meat (from hogs), but if you can taste it, it is apparently wretched. This is why in America, most pork that is found in the grocery store is from barrows (castrated pigs) or gilts (females that have never farrowed). It is more accepted in the UK that some of the pork will be boars. This is something that I just cannot wrap my head around. People go wild boar hunting and not once have I heard of someone complaining about their wild boar meat. But alas - we are ALL snowflakes in one sense or another.
For about a week afterwards our three-year-old told us that he missed the "mean goat" and stated that he was "sad for those white ducks." We consoled him each time he brought it up. The other kind of funny part was as every meal he asked us "is this those ducks" before he would eat anything. The answer was always no. We did not want to overwhelm their little brains with feelings, making them eat the first farm culls. He also for at least a month liked to ask us if we remembered that time when the "goat got dead."
Our second dispatch day we did after the children went to bed. Two broad breasted white turkeys. We mostly did this after they went to bed so we would not have to look after them and were able to focus on the task at hand. The next day the two oldest (5 and 3) asked us what happened to those white turkeys. We told them that they were dispatched in order to cook for Mico's 1st birthday party. They insisted on looking at them (they were in the fridge at the time). Oxley (3) still tells everyone that "Daddy killed them." Little does he know that it was actually Mommy. Daddy had to hold them down (strong little suckers!) and had no extra hands for the knife, so I did the deed. We each plucked one and prepped it. Those turkeys were SO good. We actually ended up brining them in last year’s left-over pickle juice.
This cull taught us that the dogs needed to be kenneled during the processing of animals. During the first dispatch they were still much smaller puppies and posed no actual interference in the process. If it wasn't the complete animalistic behavior of trying to drink the hot blood directly from the turkeys neck, is was that at any larger a size, they have to potential to be dangerous. Had they gotten ahold of one of those birds, there would be no way for us to get it back from them.
Our third cull day consisted of eight pekin duck. This dispatch we could not keep the boys away. I told Finn (5) the night before, what our plans were. Before we started I asked them to stay inside and they refused. After we took the ducks to the cull pen, here they came, running out to make sure they did not miss anything. While we were all plucking Oxley kept telling us that he had never had duck before, and he was going to try some. Stephen even got them to carry the heads and the feet over to a tray after cutting them during the gutting process. They fully understood that we were keeping them separate to boil up for the dogs to have treats afterwards. And by the way, eight was too many. Six would have been a perfect number but we had two left
from our previous batch that we did not get to. So eight it was.
Finn and Ox were present for the entirety of the dispatch. Well that's a lie. Oxley got bored and went into the house, stole some chocolate pudding out of the fridge, and watched TV for the last hour or so. I came inside during the final cleaning and gutting in order to shower and get the youngins up from their naps to cook an early dinner (late lunch) for them. There's one thing I really hate about a poultry dispatch day. That smell. It lingers on your body, your hands, and seems to hang out in your nose for days. Even with a shower directly afterwards, that smell is just there. Half imaginary. No one smells it but me.
FIRST HATCH- Actual Date written 9/1/2022
I did not plan on getting an incubator this first summer on the farmette but I didn’t plan on a lot of things. I purchased a moderately sized incubator off of Amazon. One of the companies where the instructions are translated so poorly you cannot even read them. I did this because a couple of our golden comet hens had gone broody – despite the fact that their breed is not known for it. They were sitting on eggs for a while, but once Stephen and I went in to candle them (see how far along they are in the sitting process) the hen’s abandoned those eggs and made a new nest. Now I had to buy an incubator. It was totally my fault that those eggs were half incubated. Had I not gone in there to candle they would still be sitting on them, right?
So as a perfect animal husband, I went online and bought our first incubator. And shoved as many eggs as I could fit into it. I took all the eggs that were half sat (and then some) and started it right up. The first few days I had no idea I needed to add water to it to make sure the humidity stayed up in the 60s. The next few days I added way too much water and the humidity was way too high. So much for the directions that came with the machine. Of the 24 eggs that I put in there, at least some had to hatch. Chicks are resilient.
The problem with taking half sat eggs from the hens was that I had no idea how long I needed to incubate them for. Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, but some of these had been sat on. Our first eggs started pipping (cracking a small triangular like hole) at about 2 weeks incubation. Guess what? I was a away on a work trip, across the country. I was so disappointed that I was missing my first babies! Five chicks hatched while I was away.
When I came back we still had more eggs to hatch, and another 5 days max in the incubator. I was going to be home for these! When day 21 came around those eggs started pipping and I did not want to miss a second of it. I even abandoned my phone during the workday to record what I was going to miss. My phone was recording for over seven hours.
If you are wondering what that does to a two (almost three) year old iPhone, well, it basically shuts it down. I did not have an extra twenty-two gigabits available on my hard drive to support this video. I can forget about trying to edit it down into smaller videos until I get the mess cleaned up. I deleted old text conversations and old pictures, attempted to get all my pictures on the cloud (unsuccessful). For being in the tech industry one would think that I would be a little bit more tech savvy. Eventually I was able to get a seven-minute video saved out of the huge file and then moved it to warp speed, which was actually really cool.
From the second hatching of the first-time use of the incubator, we got another seven chicks! The most surprising thing about all these chicks is that they were a million different colors. I figured with the Rhode Island red rooster and golden comet hens, they would all be similar but with pattern variations. Not true. We have some white, some buff and a few all-black chicks! I did some digging online and found out that Rhode Island Reds have Maylan in their genetics which is where the black comes from.
Hatching chicks is one of the coolest things I have done to date. Especially the first time around. It is just so amazing that chickens can lay these eggs, you put it under heat (and humidity) and twenty-one days later a real live chick starts pipping out of the shell. The pip into the zipper is also fascinating! How do those little bird brains know that after they pip they should start going in a circular pattern in order to break out? I really just cannot put into words how fascinated I am by the whole process. Did you know that chicks are born with what is called an “egg tooth” that falls after a couple days of life? This egg tooth helps them pip and zipper out of the shell. After the zipper, the chicks start to push with their legs and eventually flop out of the shell with wet feathers looking a mess.
After this first bath was finished hatching and they spent their first 30ish hours in the incubator in order to dry off and fluff them up to a point where they look like what you think just hatched chicks look like, I got right to cleaning that incubator in order to put a new batch in. I am immediately addicted. Incubator is cleaned and in goes another 26 eggs.
The second hatching was just as cool as the first, but easier since I now know about the humidity, and all my eggs are fresh oppose to the half-sat eggs I used the first time. Something about knowing when your eggs are supposed to hatch makes the process a little less nerve wrecking and predictable.
This time around I was able to candle the eggs seven days in and remove the unfertilized eggs from the incubator. There were six unfertilized eggs; Now I am down to 20 eggs in the incubator. Often fertilized eggs will start to develop but will stop, for about the same reasons that us humans might suffer from a miscarriage. Something is just not right, and that chick was missing something that would allow it to develop any further. Of these twenty remaining eggs, I am not expecting all of them to hatch, but still hoping for a good hatch rate! Over the course of the next three days, I patiently waited and watched several chicks hatch. There was a point that I could no longer count how many were already hatched in the incubator since there were so many! I moved a pile of them into the brooder after the first thirty hours to make more room for any more late hatchers.
What I did not foresee was the humidity in the incubator dropping suddenly after removing the hatched chicks. I believe this affected the remaining eggs and I only got one more hatch. There was one chick that had pipped and failed on the zipper from what I believe is known as shrink wrapping. With the drop in the humidity, the membrane inside the eggshell can dry out and stick to the chick, making it incredibly had to get out of the shell. In this example, the chick did not make it out even though I started to give him sprits of water to rehydrate the membrane. I just did not catch it in time to help him get free.
I got seventeen chicks from this second round in the incubator. Seventeen! Out of twenty-six eggs going in and six unfertilized, I’d say this was a pretty great hatch rate on my first full round of incubation.
From the first batch that went in I decided to give seven of them to a friend who has wanted chickens for quite some time. As soon as her coop was ready, she came by and picked them up. I didn’t charge her, instead I asked her to bring the roosters back after they announced themselves. We currently have one rooster for our twelve laying hens. Roosters need to have a bare minimum of four hens, but six is better. One rooster can service up to twelve hens. On a hatch you will usually end up somewhere around that 50/50 mark on roos to hen ratio. That is too many roosters for the bunch. We plan on sending the roosters to freezer camp to help feed our family and bringing them back is what I think a fair trade is on giving the chickens away. She will have to feed the roosters until she knows who is who, which costs money.
For our first post I want to give everyone a big picture of what we are trying to accomplish. We have big goals. Huge dreams. This is just the surface but I want to get something out there without too much time spent perfecting it, because then it would never get posted!
MAIN GOALS IN THE MOST CONCISE LIST IMAGINABLE:
1. Support the local Food Movement
2. Homesteading and Providing for our family off of our land
3. Education for ourselves and our community
While part of what we do is in fact to make money in order to fund everything we want to accomplish, (but trust me we are not taking or planning on taking in millions of dollars) our larger goal is education to our immediate community on what they can be doing to help themselves live better, sustainable, fulfilling lives, and eat the best food possible while doing so.
If we can take all the families in Gloucester and get them to grow one fruit tree in their yard and have them trade their yield within their neighborhood, how much money would each of those families save each year in the grocery store? How many chemicals would they keep out of their bodies from home grown fruits that weren’t factory farmed and sprayed with pesticides and herbicides? If one family has an acre and they grow 4 trees instead of 1, imagine what they could provide and trade to another family that has chickens? If they canned their excess and made pie fillings and sold that to locals for thanksgiving pies so that family didn’t buy canned pie filling for thanksgiving dinner? The families with even larger properties raising sheep or swine, trading another family with no acreage for vegetables that manage to grow in their front yard. See where I’m going here? There is so much growth and by growth I mean so much that our grandparents used to do, that we could all start doing again.
There has been such a surge for homesteading and self-sufficiency in the past few years and what we really want to push here is sustainable living for a whole community. It is near impossible to do and make all the things you need alone or with your partner. You need support, we need support. We need mentors, we all need people to teach us things we don’t know.
We want to help the community to come together and teach each other what they know about food preservation, about sewing, about making butter, a sour dough starter, dried pasta, foraging in their own backyards! The possibilities are literally endless and if there is something that you want to learn about, we can make it happen.
***I do want to mention that although you might see some things on our website or social media, it does not mean it is for sale or available to the public. We do have to follow rules and laws about what we are able to sell and share with the community. Many things we do are intended only for our enjoyment and our family. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share our experiences, good and bad, with our community. On the same note, we do love visitors but our property is our home! Even for porch egg pickup, we do ask that make an appointment so we know you are coming!