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!!!

willow92316

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!!!

willow92016

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 !!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!!!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quit your job and become a farmer??

So I get a lot of questions about what I do for a living.   The answer is very complicated.  My wife and I used to be business owners and we SOLD OUT!!!  She went back to work after  few months and I was designated to be the “stay at home” dad.  At the same time we moved from suburbia to a small 4 acre hobby farm.

At first my role was to take care of our son, and keep monthly costs low since we had only 1 income.  Slowly over time my role evolved to small acreage farmer.  With that evolution came increased monthly costs.  That’s when my wife and I sat down and came up with a few guidelines for our farm.  Following these guidelines might make the difference between success and failure. They were as follows:

  1. Every animal or plant had to benefit the farm and our budget.
  2. Every expense had to be scrutinized by both of us.
  3. Track everything..all income and expenses without exception.
  4. Don’t be ashamed to utilize alternative income methods.
  5. When in doubt….SAY NO!!!

I have decided to write a 5 part series touching on each of these.  Within the series there will be links to pages and sites I found useful as we grew.  Some processes and ebooks were free, and some were not.  However, using rule #2 kept us from useless costs.  In the end I will tell you exactly what we do today on our farm, and what we could be doing better.  Over 5 years in and we are still learning everyday.  Throughout the series if you have additional questions please feel free to ask.

The series should start June 10th and finish by June 16th.  Enjoy and happy farming!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cut your chicken feed cost…

So Summer is upon us, and I thought I would write a quick Blog about how we feed our chickens for under $1 a day.  That’s right….we feed 20 layers and 15 soon to be layers (teenager hens) for less than $30 a month.

First of all our small farm is just over 6 acres.   The chickens have access to about 4 acres of that which includes some woods.  From April thru October I feed them 100 lbs of feed from our local granary along with 100lbs of corn.  Total cost is $30.  I let them out every morning around 8:00am.  They spend ALL day free ranging.  In addition they get all our kitchen scraps from the day before.  In the evening around dusk we feed them 1 scoop of food in the coop.  The chickens all come in to eat and roost for the evening.  Rinse and repeat.

Now many people claim that doing this will result in less eggs.  We have 20 layers.  One of those layers is 3 years old (family fav).  Currently we get 18 eggs per day.  It is the same number of eggs we got when we were feeding 3 times as much bagged feed.  Interestingly enough we also feed 15 pullets that are not laying yet.  Once they start laying our egg production will actually be higher.

Lastly, we know that in the winter and early spring our feed cost will go up.  This is where the eggs help out.  From March thru October we hatch over 160 eggs per month.  These chicks replace any hens we lose, and the remainder are used for meat.  Yes we process chickens for sale 6 months out of the year.  However, in the winter we do not hatch.  In those months we have a bulk buyer for all the extra eggs.  It brings in about $50 a month, but that buys almost 200% more feed.  That extra feed is just the right amount to make up for the lack of fresh greens and protein provided by free ranging in the summer.

In closing I want every reader to remember the reason he/she is homesteading in the first place.  A more sustainable lifestyle was our reason.  Let your livestock do what they were bred to do.  Feeding grain to livestock isnt self sustaining….unless you own a  granary.

 

Until next time…happy homesteading!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment