One thing, of many, I have learned in our twenty years here is that it seems EVERYTHING is a priority! So...you have to determine which are the most life threatening and urgent and get it done, then move on. The animals are always first, then other chores and projects get done. You have to keep it in perspective or get burned out.... and you have to take some time off. If you wait until everything is done, you will never get a rest day, because it will never be done. Sometimes CA and I just close our eyes to the work all around us and walk to the bay or lay in the grass with the dogs. We HAVE to have those days. Keeps us smiling!...and ultimately makes us more productive.
Just planted our second crop of beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. Also planted a late bed of okra and carrots...everything is coming up nice! Running late planting some fall veggies but will get them asap! People have been asking for naturally grown bedding plants, so we are trying to get those started and will have lots available in the spring, along with some fresh veggies and microgreens for sale. We are also trying to conquer the messy, gone wild, center area and turn it into the beautiful cut herb area it will be by 2018. The gardens on the left of the house are going to be the woodland herb area for those herbs that like a little shade. I think I am going to start posting before and after shots of those areas on Facebook...should be interesting! What a mess they are now!
A short entry...too much to do! This has been the fastest season ever! I have kept up better than last year, but still want to do better, next year. Time sensitive items are so crucial...and what I am always screwing up! If you miss the window, then you have to wait a whole year to try again. Very frustrating! I am usually mad at myself for missing windows. So many duties at the farm are time sensitive. I am already looking forward to this winter when I will have some spare time to tweak things according to what I learned this year. One reason I have kept up better is finally admitting that I NEED HELP! Hiring some great young people to help me has been wonderful and very stress relieving! They have been priceless to me and even worked during that awful hot spell. I appreciate them sooo much! I need to get outside, harvest, weed and plant, but have to pay some bills first and look at the chicken and duck journal. I record everything there concerning them and I need to figure out when to move the new hens into the large coop and when will the ducks start laying. We also need to schedule the harvest of the old Hens and hatch another batch of chicks before winter comes. So much to do... but Life is good. Peace!
Summer is Here! We are so excited and a little tired, from all we have been doing at our mini-farm. We are officially open most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday now to the public, for Farm Sales and Sharing Sessions. We are not pros and haven't written any books, but do have a lot of practical experience in lots of areas for the past 20-30 years and like to Share our knowledge. See the Farm Calendar for details and updates. The Chickens are doing well...the chicks are almost big enough to move into the large coop and the ducks are growing so fast! Ducks are so interesting...very different from chickens. They are almost ready for a wading pool to swim in. Since they were incubated, the book says to wait until about 8 weeks before having access to swimming depth water, so their feathers will be mature enough. We have Khaki Campbells, a land duck, since we don't have a pond or lake on the property. These ducks will be happy with a small pool. We are building a permanent area for them near the small coops. It will have a nice pool that drains and fills easily. We are building a Rabbit area right next to them where we will raise rabbits, for meat and fur, naturally... in a colony manner. We are hoping to add a few pigs next year and turkeys too. Everyone always ask if we are going to get goats...we just don't have enough room or forage for goats. Our little farm would not be healthy for cows or horses either...no pasture. So...we work with what we have! We still have so much construction going on...the center garden area still needs lots of work and all the outbuildings and barn needs to be painting. Egg and plant sales are going well. Due to the mild winter, we saw a few whitefly in May, but handled it in an organic way. Contacted a company called Natures Controls and bought some Parasites and Predators which quickly handled the situation. These voracious bugs even eat aphids and other pest too! Very interesting....you will have to google the bugs you can release to handle things naturally without using pesticides. After much inspection, we don't see a problem anymore. Thank God! We still inspect every plant before selling it. I am putting on the calendar next year to order and release these garden heroes annually as a precaution against problems. I am busy working on all the potted plants and gardens...the battle against weeds is on-going! Sometimes I am losing, sometimes I am winning...I won't give up! Almost time to harvest, then the dehydrating/freezing/canning begins...love it! Dehydrating some dill right now...then will work on some lemongrass tea. Time to think Fall already...need to start seeds for winter veggies. I think I will plant some flats to sell containing bedding plants...collards, kale, swiss chard, spinach, etc. Per request we will be selling bedding plants in the spring too...hard to find flats of naturally grown veggies to plant in your garden. We can fill that niche! :) Out the door....catch you later...
I Promise to keep this website updated more regularly and to post in the Journal at least once a month! :) I cannot believe how time has flown since I last posted! We have been busy...to catch you up- we were playing catch up and keep up the entire year of 2016. We completed some big projects: built a new water pump house, with a hand pump for emergencies; installed Solar power and will be adding more panels and batteries this year too; built a feed shed; built a small barn in the back of the property near the chicken coops; installed new windows in the old 1902 house; resided the house; and had the old barn rebuilt. We still have painting and finishing touches to complete all over the place!...but we are very excited about the future. We are trying to get all the big projects done before C.A. retires in a few years and we have no money! :) We still have to finish the downstairs bathroom remodel also...but that will wait until Winter. No time for remodeling during the spring or summer...it takes all hands on deck to keep up with it all during the growing season. Planting, mowing and chick-ing has started! See you again soon!
Farm life is always a mix of good and bad. This summer is flying...we have the plastic off the hoophouse, repairing and replacing the 6 mil plastic that will enable us to grow food and protect tender plants all winter. We are on our 3rd hatching of chicks that we bred ourselves, using our best hens and our great Roo. This 3rd group will be meat birds, only living around 10-12 weeks before harvesting for meat. Our first two hatchings will be our new layers and we will keep one Rooster for breeding. The disappointments this season have been our vegetable gardens...we planted late due to all the rain in May, then it went from cold to hot. Just not our year for great veggies. The weeds are thriving though! Another disappointment is our honey harvest. Two years ago we got 150 pounds, last year only 30, this year-none. Nothing has changed except the bees. They seem weaker. I know some bee keepers who are still having some luck, but not us. As we lose hives at off site locations, we will presently not replace them. We will still keep hives at the farm, but can't afford to keep spending monies with no return of "honey money". We will not give up, we still have 8 hives...hopefully things will get better. All we can do it our best! A world without honey bees would be a sad place. Something I am excited about is the direction we are going with our little mini-farm. We will continue to explore growing and selling, culinary and medicinal herbs in 2017. We want to have rows of herbs to cut and sell to local restaurants, as well as inviting customers to our farm next year. We are still trying to figure all this out...looking forward to having time this winter to do so! For now...out to do some weeding and grass mowing...wow! it is hot!
Really behind this year due to 9 inches of rain in May and out of town trips to visit our Kids and Gkids...but really great to see everyone! We all live so far away from each other, so it is wonderful when we get to spend time together! We are still working overtime to get caught up, but we have had to realize that we just can't do some things this season...it is too late for beets, some cut flowers, etc. Time to move on...already thinking of starting seedlings for planting this Fall. We are on our second hatching of chicks to replace aging layers...then will do a third hatching of meat birds to fill the freezer for winter. We want to try hatching naturally with Hens, but it is so easy to hatch with the incubator...you pick the eggs, they incubate for 21 days and hatch on schedule....so convenient. We are using the Brinsea Eco Glo Heat table to warm our new chicks now. You can see pictures on the home page...it uses less electricity, won't burn your coop down or kill your chickens, and the chicks get under it like they would a hen...they love it! After experimenting with different breeds, we have settled on raising Rhode Island Reds. They consistently lay extra large brown eggs and handle cold and hot weather well. They can be a bit agressive, but like the honey bees, we find the more agressive they are, the healthier they are the better at surviving. Nature hates weakness. We have ten healthy hives right now...5 on our property and 5 scattered around Gloucester and Mathews Counties. We expect honey from 5 of them...the others are new and won't give us honey until next year. We didn's get a lot of honey last year...We are hoping for a better harvest this year....some "honey money" would be nice. We will extract the end of July and hopefully have fresh, raw, local honey available at the Farm Stand in August. Well...big storms cancelled the Farm Stand today, so heading out to weed and pot up some seedlings.
After isolating our big Rhode Island Red Rooster with 8 good laying Rhode Island Hens for the past three weeks, we have been collecting eggs to incubate for the past seven days. The eggs have to be large, a good egg shape and dark brown to qualify. We finally have 24 ready to go! We loaded the Brinsea Incubator last night and started the heat, humidity and rocking motion. It will rock for 18 days, then we will take it off the rocking cradle, increase the humidity and the chicks will start "pipping" or hatching on day 21. These will be our new layers...any Roosters will be meat birds for the freezer. This will be the first time I can use my lesson in sexing chicks when they are born. I can't wait!
We had our Solar installation last week...wow! What a feeling to know you can live off-grid. We are especially happy to have our two big freezers (full of meat and frozen veggies) and our Fridge/Freezer protected during a power outage. Now we will have access to water, etc. too. P.E.G. Alternative Energy in Ashland, Va. did a wonderful job at our mini-farm. We have six solar panels, 8 batteries and lots of displays to monitor. I will post their information on the "Naturally Interesting" area of the website. We recommend them highly...we plan on using them again in the future to increase our solar capabilities, hopefully to include the washing machine! :)
Almost April....just got our first package of bees in the mail today. Ordered them quickly to help a struggling hive in Gloucester. I will be getting three more packages in mid April. Beekeeping continues to be a challenge. They are thriving one day, dead the next. Some say there is a virus killing the bees....just what they need! :( Well, never give up, never surrender! All of a sudden...very behind in all farm areas. The whole 5 acres needs mowing too. This time of year you just do the best you can...that is all you can do. Breeding the chickens, soon to select eggs to incubate in the brooder. Preparing bee hives. Starting seeds...flowers, herbs and veggies. I am so late in starting some veggie seeds that I will start the gardens with purchased plants and then use my seedlings as a second planting. Still so wet around here. Went to "Coop Camp" in February for some much needed training....feeling better about how to keep my flock healthy. Going strong with herbs this year, culinary and medicinal. Very excited about this! Well...I am out the door, almost dark, the best time to install bees...got to get those bees settled in their new home. Oh...here are the directions for coloring brown eggs referred to in the picture on the home page. I will try this next year!
You can use regular food coloring. Mix blue and yellow to get the light green. Red and yellow to get a brighter red/orange.
1/2 cup boiling water+1 tsp cider vinegar and about 15 drops of food coloring. I love them. The color looks like paint!
Life is good,..Life is natural!
1997 CA&J Farm
Mathews County, Virginia