Fall is here and winter is coming!!

So with everything that was going on this week I decided I needed a break.  I am sick of politics for sure.  Winterizing the farm is a pretty large undertaking, and work has begun.  For only the 2nd winter we decided to keep raising chickens without taking a break.  It is harder (and a little more expensive) to raise little chicks in the winter.  We add heat sources to the brooders, and they eat a little more feed.  We currently have 200 chickens on pasture, 100 chicks in the brooder, and 100 more coming on Dec. 7th.

All of this is made possible because of our LGDs.  They are still puppies, but they have taken well to the chickens.  They do chase and play, but have never even come close to hurting one.  The mainly protect against 4 legged predators, but they are also a huge deterrent to the flying predators a swell.  During the 1st week of December they will be permanently residing with the entire flock.  Currently chickens come and go thru the goat pasture, so they get plenty of chicken time already.  They are growing like weeds and eating like small horses as well.  Here is a picture from a few days ago.  Willow on the left and Misha on the right.

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Lastly, we soon will be launching our newest venture.  McClung’s Microgreens….a very original name.  We have had requests in the past, but finally decided it was time to start growing.  We will have an indoor grow for the winter months, and continue to grow in the warmer months outside.  All of this means I will probably have to build another greenhouse similar to the one I built a few years ago.

All of this and it is hunting season too.  Busy, busy, busy. Just like we like it.  Soon it will be the Holidays!!!  Until next time…..Happy Homesteading.

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Winds of Change @ McClung Farm

So as the story goes my wife brought home a goat (well 2).  That was over 5 years ago, and we have had dairy goats ever since.  Well to a certain extent that will be changing.  After years of waiting for the legalization of raw milk sales we decided to sell off the herd.  We just don’t believe that in VA the sale of raw milk will ever be legal.  As such we just cant make any money with out dairy goat herd.  We love goats, but the are time consuming.  We give up vacations and camping trips because of the milking schedule, and it is all for no cash return.  All of this years kids were sold, and today finalized the sale of Chewie our herd sire.  Chewie will be leaving with Skip his pasture mate on October 15th for a life in MD.  For now we are keeping Mocha and Gidget,  although a farm in Northern VA wants both of them if we sell.  We are keeping them to help train the new LGD puppies.

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So these are 2 of what will be many of our new interests.  We will be raising at least 2 specific breeds of chickens. Chicks and hatching eggs will be available in the spring.  These are 2 of our Lavender Orpingtons.  The 2ns breed we are still undecided about.  We will hatch these birds and any cockerels hatched will go into our meat bird grow.  We are excited to start this new venture.  I am keeping the 2nd breed hush hush until we nail it down for certain, but I am very excited.  Stay tuned for more updates over the next month.

With all the chickens running around you can see why we decided to get Willow and Misha.  Speaking of which…Misha is fitting right in now.  She was not happy about sleeping outside.  It seems her original owner brought her in every night.  That wont work here.  Owls are one of our main problem, so the girls will be staying with the flock 24/7.  After less than 1 week these 2 are now getting it done.  I noticed they already take turns patrolling the fences.  It is pretty cool to watch these pups.  Yes they still play and act like puppies, but then they will work for a bit.  Truly a smart breed.  They currently live with the goats and about 4 or 5 chickens.  The chickens actually have taken up resident in their dog house, so I guess I don’t need to worry bout them harming the chickens.  Needless to say they are getting more and more unsupervised time with the poultry.  Good thing too since 220 6 week old chicks are headed to pasture this weekend.  Wonder if they will look like friends of little chicken nuggets??  We shall see.  Here is the latest pic of Tweedle Dee and Dumb.

Enjoy!! and Happy homesteading!!

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Meet Misha!!!

So I guess I new LGD puppy wasn’t enough.  After a week of floods and water problems we got a new puppy.  We got a call from a friend that Willow’s half sister was in need of a home.  She is about 2 weeks younger.  After about 5 seconds of debate we decided why not.  Misha is a lot different.  She is a ton more active.  Neither girl chases chickens which is nice.  We have been giving them supervised time with the poultry, and then something interesting happened.  Six or seven chickens flew over the fence and now hang out with the pups ALL the time.  We decided to leave it be and see what happens.  Well so far so good.  They really don’t pay them to much attention.  I will post some update pics in the next few days.  We had 18 inches of rain this week and major flooding.  We live in a 500yr flood zone and we flooded.  We had about 12-16inches of water in the front yard.  4 acres of pasture was under at least 6 inches of water.  The only dry spot was one of the goat sheds.  We had 5 inches in the entire barn and even our garage got flooded.  However, it could have been worse so we feel pretty lucky. Misha wasn’t here yet, but Willow had to be brought in.  There was no where for her to stay dry.  She hated being in the house.  The next day she went running back to her dog house.  Needless to say everything is drying out now, and life is getting back to normal.

Until next time….Happy Homesteading!!!

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Holy Crap!! Where have I been???

So I haven’t blogged in FOREVER!!!  I am such a slacker.  In my defense we had some illness in the family, and I was traveling in August.  Not a great excuse when you do this from a laptop.  LOL.  Well a lot has changed in the past month, so I thought I would bring everyone up to speed.  I also want to let everyone know where we are going from here. So lets get started!!!

Well it was another frustrating milking season her on the farm.  We don’t raise animals for fun here.  They have to make us money or out the door they go.  That being said, we have started selling off the dairy goat herd.  Presently we have just 4 goats remaining.  Milking is a thing of the past.  The VA State Legislature isn’t budging on raw milk sales, so we are done.  Plus it will be much easier to take summer vacations going forward.  We will keep and breed the current goats for a different purpose which I will explain in a bit.

We are back to full production on meat birds….sort of.  We are ramping back up to our 2014 numbers slowly.  We are contracted to provide 60 processed chickens a month starting in Oct, and that number will rise slowly and peak at around 120 birds per month by March or April.  We incurred HUGE losses last winter due to aerial predation, so we had to come up with a plan to combat that problem.

…the solution

Meet Willow!!!

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Willow is a 9 week old Pyrenees/Akbash mix.  Both her dam and sire guard large poultry flocks. As you can see from the pic she is already taking to her new job.  Currently she gets 3 hours a day of supervised poultry time.  The other 21 hours she will be in with the goats.  Our pasture is designed in a such a manor that she can patrol the exterior perimeter of the chicken pasture anytime she wants.  Once she is around 4 or 5 months old she will move in with the chickens FT.  However, even then she will be supervised heavily.  I feel good about this since she doesn’t even show signs of playfulness around them.  Hopefully this is the answer to our hawk and owl problem.  The pic is funny.  Currently she is guarding about 40 chickens and a few turkeys..LOL.  By March there will be over 400 in that pasture at any given time.

SO now that you met Willow you will be interested to learn that we will be raising and training Livestock Guardian Dogs starting in about a year.  We have another pup on the way soon, and will begin that adventure in the future.  These LGDs are a vital part of urban farming now that coyotes have expanded into cities.  Also, the aerial predators are overly protected (and they should be), so their numbers are only increasing as well.

One last mention.  Since farming is my way of life as well as my income source we will be launching a few different things to drive some additional income.  My wife is a trained chef, so cooking ideas and recipes will abound for a VERY SMALL fee through Patreon.  She will offer recipes and ideas for anything and everything we raise from poultry, pork, lamb, dairy products upto and including venison and bear recipes.  Also, from time to time you may see links in the blog or on our website for products I use on the farm.  I will never hide the fact that I make a few bucks off of it.  I also will never lie about the product either.  If it is good it is good, and if it is bad I wont use it. LOL.

Until next time…happy farming !!

 

Rule #3…..Track every expense and every bit of income

I must start by saying that I am not a tax expert or financial guru.  This part is easy.  Track EVERYTHING!!!  I had no clue what the farm was doing until I started this.  I have spreadsheets for everything.  I know how much each egg, broiler, and gallon of milk cost me.  I also know how much I spend and make daily, weekly, and monthly.

This one is short and sweet.  Read about and understand the tax implications.  Even if you rent your farm there are huge tax savings that you may be able to use.  If you are uncomfortable with taxes consult a CPA.  They will usually do a one time free consult.  Also, just because you are a small urban hobby farm doesn’t mean you aren’t a farm!!!  These days farmers come in all shapes and sizes.

Rule #4 coming soon..until the Happy Homesteading!!

Rule #2: Every expense had to be scrutinized by both of us.

So this one is straight forward.  Every household expense had to be reviewed and approved by both myself and my wife. I mean EVERY purchase.  I give most credit for this rule to my wife.  The 1st thing she did was start using coupons.  She was able to cut the monthly grocery budget by 40% or more.  When you can buy used over new. If you don’t use and item for over 1 year it is time to sell. Craigslist and Ebay are your friend.  If you want to farm on a lower income you can not hoard.

One of the hardest things for me was automobile purchases.  I must admit I was spoiled.  I usually got a new car every few years.  Not anymore.  Our last purchase was a new hybrid for my wife. The research was endless and it was finally decided upon.  Now I am a big fan of used cars.  New cars are a terrible investment.  However, there is not a hug market for hybrid vehicles as of yet.  In order to approve this purchase it had to save us money or at least break even.  Gas was $3.00 a gallon and her Chrysler 300C (HEMI) got about 16mpg around town.  She had a 36 mile commute round trip.   With traffic she was using about 3 gallons of gas a day which was $9 per day.  The new hybrid uses less than a gallon a day.  We figured the daily savings was around $6.33 which translates to $190.00 per month.  We also saved about $14 a month on auto insurance.  That meant our savings per month was just over $200.  In the end we didn’t break even but we came very close.  The 0% financing and trade value of the Chrysler put us in the area anyway.  What put us over the top was the idea that we would be lowering our carbon footprint…even if it is only in a small way.

The bottom line is every penny does count.  Think of every dollar saved as a dollar the farm is making in income.  If you approach every purchase in this manner you can win the game. I promise!!!  LOL. One last thing…some purchase have beneficial tax implications.  Always keep that in mind when making large purchases.

Thanks for reading and happy farming!!!

 

 

Rule #1

Every animal or plant had to benefit the farm and our budget.

The first thing we decided was that if it didn’t serve a purpose it didn’t need to exist.  It all started with chickens.  My wife wanted to get her own eggs.  Cheap enough I thought.  Then I tracked feed costs and time spent.  I decided that it certainly was better  than buying eggs from unethically kept chickens, but remember the end must justify the means.  We cut feed cost by giving the chickens kitchen scraps and by free ranging.  We got our total egg cost down to less than $.04 per egg.  Worth it for sure.

Then we moved to meat chickens.  After a few trial and error batches of birds I was able to get the cost down to $2.40 per bird at processing day.  Those same birds sold for $11-$15 each depending on the size.  Worth it??  Maybe not highly profitable, but certainly better than losing money.  Overall the meat chickens and eggs bring us a small profit every year.

I personally believe chickens can be the single most profitable animal on the farm.  You can hatch your own, eat their eggs, and eat them for meat.  They will eat anything, and in summer can get up to 85% of the feed just from free ranging.

Then came goats….not so worth it, but lets take a deeper look.  We maintain a small herd of dairy goats.  There is one buck, one wether (neutered male), and 4 does.  We spend over $1000 a year on feed, and we make $0 a year on anything they produce.  We do save on milk costs for 8 months a year.  We also save on gas. We mow a lot less.  The goats pretty much keep the pastures in check, along with the wood lined edges.  This saves me on gas for my equipment as well as my time.  In the long run the goats do contribute to the farm.

Over the past few years there have been other animals that just didn’t make the grade.  Sometimes the reason is feed cost versus return.  Sometimes it is simply cost to get started, and sometimes it is just a time constraint.  Whatever the animal or process is if it doesn’t contribute in a positive fashion it doesn’t live or grow on our farm.

In wrapping up Rule #1 it is important to remember the big picture.  Growing produce might not make you money if you don’t sell it, but if you eat it your monthly grocery budget will shrink.  Not every endeavor will put cash in your pocket, but at the end of the year it may still be profitable.

Keep a lookout for Rule #2 Blog.  Hopefully posted by early next week.!!