Busy Summer

What a summer we have had!  This is our second year of farming; but I think of it as our first year.  Last year we did a lot of research, learning, and investing to prepare ourselves for the growing pains of the farm life.  We have acquired/purchased animals, we have lost animals, and we have worked tirelessly in between our busy work lives to ensure that our farm is taken care of.  We have gained customers, built relationships, and continue to figure out this world: farming.

We are approaching our “second” kidding season with our goats.  We are very excited about this because we are now going to get to see our goats that we have purchased for the farm produce more baby goats for our farm!  Dustin can not wait to see the size, width, etc of the baby goats.  I on the other hand- want to see the colors, the behaviors, the cuteness, the stubbornness, the nurturing, etc.  Night and day right?!  I always tell our goat farmer friends that it’s quite comical when we go to goat auctions!  Here is a typical dialogue:

Me:  “OOOOHHHH, Dustin!  She is absolutely gorgeous, you need to bid on her!”

Dustin: “Janelle, she doesn’t have the size, width, height,blah, blah,blah” haha

Me: “Dustin, seriously, she is gorgeous!  Look at those eyes and those spots, on and on.”

Dustin: “Janelle, I’m only looking for certain genetics, blah, blah.”

Me: “Dustin, you better not raise your bidding number, that goat is up to $5,000.  That’s too much to bid on.”

Dustin: “Janelle, that goat has really impressive genetics.  Do you not realize how awesome those bloodlines are?”

Me: “Ummmm…”

So as you can see- night and day!

Although we have different views, I do think that this is our strength.  Dustin and I get along so well and I am very thankful that he is my partner to walk through this crazy adventure and life with!  I think since we do have those different opinions about goats; we will be able to combine color, gorgeousness, big, hardy, healthy goats to our farm.

But most of all: pretty goats! Right?!?!

We have 15 girls expecting in the Fall, so we will have a busy late October/early November… no cruise/vacation for us on Fall Break this year!  You will find us in the barn preparing the labor and delivery unit in the case of a birthing emergency.

Switching Gears:

We were able to purchase a professional incubator!  This has made me extra excited, because this means I can incubate 257 chicken eggs IF I choose to!  Ok, ok, I may never have the business or demand for that many chicks… but it never hurts to upgrade and be prepared!  With our new incubator, I have had the opportunity to incubate some of our silkie eggs.  I am so very partial to my Silkie babies!!  They are the sweetest birds, and they are “so ugly they are cute”.  We are expecting 32 Silkie babies to hatch out any day!  I will update as soon as the hatches happen!

So as you can see, our summer has been busy, with no sign of Fall slowing down.  Our plans for the Fall include, and this list could grow:

  • Get our goats ready for our first goat sale as a consignor!  We are excited about the Appalachain Kiko Invitational Sale in September!
  • Getting everything ready to go for kidding season
  • Expand, renovate the chicken compound to accommodate a large number of hens with free-range/pasture raised/forest raised access. We hope to have 100 laying hens by the Spring.  With the increase of our flock, we will be able to keep up with the egg demand that we have currently.

         WE LOVE OUR CUSTOMERS!

  • Design, plant a garden full of nutrients for our laying queens to enjoy, in addition to their free ranging!  We plan to plant herbs, veggies, and berries for the ladies!
  • Get all of the essentials for our Apiary.  Plan on the locations of our hives, how many hives to maintain, research how to keep bears away. YIKES, yes, bears!  We are truly ecstatic to have our first year of beekeeping in 2017!

Told you!  We have a lot going on at the farm… how does that saying go?

…there’s no rest for the weary…

Until the next adventure, hopefully will have more pictures,

-Janelle.

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Farm Update

Whew!  I haven’t been able to update the blog in over a month.. a MONTH!! My apologies… farm life continues to be a busy life!  When I last blogged, I blogged about my new incubator/hatching experience.  I am happy to say that we were able to hatch some chicks!  It is the coolest experience seeing a chick develop inside the egg to the whole hatching out process.

The most amazing part of the hatching process for me was that I was able to share that experience with a group of very special individuals.  Most of you know that full time I have the role of doing speech and language therapy.  I love all of my kiddos, but our Special Education Inclusive Pre-K classroom has most of my heart!  I just love that room and love working with those kiddos!  When their teacher asked if we could hatch out the eggs in their classroom, I was like why not?!?!  So we decided that we would hatch them out in the room; that way the kiddos could experience hatching chicks!  I was a nervous wreck if truth be told… I was so worried that the eggs would not hatch and that the children would be let down.  I was very thankful that the students got to watch FIVE chicks hatch!!!  I was ecstatic and loved seeing the faces of the children when they got to experience baby chicks hatching!  It was truly a wonderful experience.

Here is an after picture of our sweet chicks:

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I plan to update more on the past adventures that have happened in a month of farming-

Stay tuned!

Until the next adventure,

Janelle.

Broody.

Spring time is coming and if it isn’t evident by the weather (still very inconsistent), it is definitely evident by our animals on the farm.  Our hens are picking up their load and giving our customers on average 3 dozen a day and our ducks are giving close to 3 dozen a week!  Plants are coming up, puppies are venturing out, and our goats are enjoying the new grass that is popping up!  Along with all of the changes, we now have a broody hen!  This is our first experience with a broody hen and we couldn’t be more excited!

Broody.  What is broody?  What does it look like?  What do you do with a broody hen?!

Well, I am slowly figuring this out.  Broody is a term used to describe a hen that is preparing to sit on eggs.  Our broody hen is currently “sitting” on 16 eggs.  This means that hopefully in 21 days she will have 16 healthy chicks that have hatched and we will have more new life on the farm!  As I have watched our broody hen, I have been nothing short of amazed to see how nature works in this small example.

Disclaimer: I may have had a year of farming under my belt, but I assure you; our first hatching experience is an awesome thing to observe!  I find myself constantly checking on our broody hen and tending to what I think are her needs.

First off, when a hen is broody, she is definitely moody.  She has posted herself on her eggs or the eggs of a nest and refuses to leave them.  Her body is telling her that it is time for her to hatch out chicks.  She sits on her eggs all day with the exception of getting off of the nest to eat, drink, stretch, and relieve herself.  Luckily for us, she decided to become broody in the place where 95% of our hens lay their eggs!  Actually that was sarcasm.  This is problem #1.  The problem is that our broody hen is not discriminative.  This meaning that she will lay on any and every egg laid in that nest, whenever the eggs are laid.  So when the broody hen decides to get off of her nest, a different hen can lay a new egg in the nest.  To solve this problem, we have doodled in pencil on the original 16 eggs.

Now I would like to share with you why this experience is so amazing to me.  Apart from having a broody hen; in my last post I talked about how I am trying out my new incubator.  In this incubator we currently have 16 healthy chicks developing.  Incubating eggs is more than just putting eggs in the incubator and letting them sit.  You have to turn the eggs every day even if you have an automatic turner.  You have to make sure that the temperature stays consistent.  You have to make sure that the humidity is at the right percentage, if not, your chicks could drown in their egg.  You also have to discard the bad eggs.  The last thing you need is a rotten egg to burst in your incubator and ruin the other eggs.  So as you can see, incubating eggs is work.

Back to the hen.  Nature and being on the farm amazes me.  This broody hen will sit on her eggs for 21-28 days.  She will naturally know when and how to turn every egg underneath her.  Her feathers will provide warmth for her eggs and she will maintain that consistent warm for the eggs to be able to develop and grow.   She intentionally plucks out some of her chest feathers to make sure that warmth is maintained in the front of the nest as well.  She will also kick out or discard the “bad” eggs by moving them out of her nest.  Oh and if you get near her, she lets you know that she has eggs and is not happy at all with you.  The natural instincts and the complexity of this process is truly amazing.

I found out how important her eggs and her nesting spot was to her yesterday.  I have been thinking of ways to move her and her eggs to a better place since she is in a “high traffic laying area” if you will.  So I did my research, I followed the steps, and I was ready to move her.  I recruited help from my brother’s girlfriend, Amanda.  She puts up with my crazy ideas so well!  First, we made a brand new, fabulous nesting spot.  Next, we picked her up, gathered her eggs, wrote on them, transferred those eggs to the new nesting spot, and set the hen back down on them.  We thought- great!  She will just love her new space!  Wrong.  She hated it and refused to stay with her eggs there!  So what did we do?!  We moved her back to her original spot; but added fresh hay for her.  She hated that too!  She would not be quiet and was honestly telling us how displeased she was!  So finally, we decided to take the hay away and to revert back to the original setting.  Guess what?  Yeah, she was very happy and sat right down on her eggs.  So we decided that she will stay there until the chicks hatch.

Back to nature.  After she hatches her eggs, she will continue to provide warmth and a safe haven for her chicks.  Her chicks will be able to hide under her and stay warm under her. She will also teach her chicks how to forage and free range, as well as every other aspect of life.  When I watch our broody hen and think about the complexity of the process; I can’t fathom the thought of someone not believing that God’s creation is simply amazing.  There is something so serene when thinking about this tiny, but important example in this huge, complex world.  Some may find it crazy that this astonishes me; but I find peace in knowing and seeing the small miracles in this life.  I hope that I can continue to find and appreciate those miracles.  I also hope that when I see our new baby chicks that I will cherish the reminder of new life and the symbolic meaning that it means to me.

Until the next adventure,

Janelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Math

As many of you know, I have chickens.  I have what is called the chicken math syndrome.  What exactly is chicken math?

Well chicken math goes something like this:

I started out with 6 chicks.  Those yielded me 5 hens and a rooster.  6 chicks turned into 73 with one negotiation.  Negotiation.  I am TERRIBLE at negotiating.  I am the one that is very literal and definitely am not the “wheeler and dealer” of the group!  My brother and husband are great at that, me… not so much!  I wanted to prove to them that I can negotiate.  So when I contacted a guy about chicks, I did not know my negotiation skills would get me into trouble.  I was texting him and asked him how much he wanted for his chicks.  He gave me an amount per chick.  I was contemplating that amount and decided that I would use the negotiation tactic of “How much will you take for all of them?”.  The seller gave me a tremendous price drop off and I decided I would get all of them.

*Sidenote: make sure while negotiating a deal that you know the exact number of items that you are purchasing. *

I get to the farm, purchase all of the chicks he had.  The magic number? 67.  Yes, 67 chicks.  Wow.  What am I going to do with 67 chicks?  Needless to say, my drive home with 67 chicks was interesting.  The 73 held steady until I sold 23 roosters, so then that made 50.  My 50 became 100 when I went to purchase chickens and couldn’t stop at just 10… Please keep in mind that I have 10 ducks, 12 silkies and 3 sizzles not included in that total.  I have recently sold some hens and do not know an exact count.  I currently average 36 eggs a day including duck eggs.  Not too shabby for my hens!  As I am maintaining my flock, I am thinking that my chicken math syndrome has halted some.  That was until my husband purchased me an incubator.  Yeah, my husband bought a crazy chicken lady an incubator.  What was he thinking?!

The incubator.

I have not had a good track record with incubators.  I did not do a good job at maintaining the temperature in my previous incubator and my brother threw away the instructions.  Without instructions, I did not know to add water to the bottom… yeah you can guess the rest of the story.  Janelle’s hatching total to date: 0%.

Since I have a new, improved, and more expensive incubator; I decided to give it another shot!  I made my mind up that I would try to hatch out some ducklings- my ducks are the absolute prettiest!  Eight ducklings is what I would try to hatch out.  That was until my chicken math syndrome creeped up again…

So I’m putting all of the duck eggs in; then I start thinking, it might be cool to have chicks as well.  What about chicks?  Chicks would be so cute with the little ducklings…

I couldn’t tell myself no!  So currently I have 24 chicken eggs and 13 duck eggs (I found 5 more yesterday) in the incubator!  Time will tell if they will hatch- don’t worry, I kept the instructions this time!  I call my eggs my X’s and O’s! That is how they are marked!  The X represents the top of the egg and the O represents the bottom of the egg.  These eggs are on an automatic turner, but the eggs must be turned by the hatcher every day from top to bottom. Now that I am learning about incubating, it amazes me the work that the chickens have to do when they are hatching out these little ones!  God truly knew what he was doing when he created everything!  I hope that I will be more successful this go around!

Stay tuned!

Until the next adventure,

-Janelle

Puppy Preciousness!

If you haven’t figured out yet, our life on our farm is nothing short of sporadic craziness!  This ever changing structured schedule allows me to be reminded every day how blessed I am and how this thing called life is so beautiful.  I never knew how much this adventure would heal, shape, and teach me.

Enough of the sappiness…

So recently we have been having some behavior problems out of our adult female Great Pyrenees, Mya.  She wasn’t playing well with others and was secluding herself- and being very “ill”.  My husband and I were getting very frustrated with her behavior to the point of separating her into her own pen.  One of the main behaviors she showed was holding a massive goat shed hostage.  She refused to let any of our goats into the shed!!  What?!  We could not have that continue… Who builds a $1,000 goat shed for a single dog?  That was the scenario we were in.

We knew (or hoped) that she was pregnant and so I began “taking up” for her as my husband likes to say.  See, I have the biggest heart for animals, and I do tend to take up for them….but I thought I had built a pretty good case for sweet Mya!  When my dad and I agreed on the date of conception (to our best estimation), we added up the gestation time and I put it on my calendar as her due date!  Her due date was planned as January 26th, 2016!!  Here is my proof picture:

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So, we had a date…I am not a vet nor do I claim to be a farming veteran; but I hoped that we were accurate!  Now, getting back to Mya and her behavior.  She was awful!  She loved for us to pet her, but she only wanted the attention, nothing else.  She didn’t really like our male dog, Pancho as much either.  My husband and brother kept saying that she wouldn’t have her puppies until February.  I still had that due date in the back of my head, you know that gut feeling?  Yeah, I had that.

January 26th comes.  I had a snow day off of work and decided to volunteer to pick up more hours at my Dressbarn job-so off to work I go!  Usually when I work, my husband takes over the feeding duties- we are definitely a team and for that I am extremely thankful!  I knew Dustin was feeding and thought absolutely nothing about puppies- who does that? Me.  Then our work phone rings, it is Dustin!  Ok, I have to admit, I’m usually an optimist; but given my recent past, bad news seems to find me.  So I’m prepared for the bad news; but then I hear Dustin say “You want to hear some good news?”.  Good news?  What is good news?  Yes, yes!!!  Dustin then informs me that Mya has had her puppies!  What?! Puppies?!  Oh my goodness!  How many?!  What color?!  Do they have badger markings?!  Do they look healthy?!  How is Mya?!  Yes- all of those questions Dustin got all at once!  I was beyond excited, but bummed and jealous that I wasn’t there at that exact moment!  Enjoy our new photos of our new bundles of fluff at Crooked Oak Farms!

So I am happy to say that we have a bunch of healthy Great Pyrenees puppies.  They are gorgeous and have badger markings like crazy.  Mya is an excellent mom that is protecting her babies at all costs.  When we were reflecting at her behavior, we realized that she was keeping our goats away from the shed because she was about ready to have her puppies.  We were thankful that we had a separate shed built and in place to be able to put her in to raise her babies up in.  We are also thankful that Mya was able to have all of them on her own without assistance.  We also felt like irresponsible farmers that didn’t pay attention to the signs!

Next time we will be more prepared.  Next time we will know.  See, farming is a learning experience in EVERY aspect and in EVERY experience.  Farming is farming and it teaches you much more than you thought it ever would.

Until the next  adventure (I think we will have more baby goats any day),

-Janelle

 

 

 

 

SNOW!!

Snow.  The four letter word that I’m pretty sure farmers hate hearing.  Almost as bad as the three-letter word Ice…almost…  Well, this week we have been dealing with snow and ice!  It has crippled our state and region.  Yesterday, since I had a snow day (day off) from work, I was the one of our team (Dustin and I) that the animals had to depend on to feed and get them prepared for the weather.  When I went to check on the animals yesterday, I found that we had a goat, we call her the red goat, kid.  Long story short, the kids did not make it.  All I could do was say sorry to the red goat.  She was calling for her babies to find that they were not there.  It was seriously one of the saddest things that I have had to experience.

Now, we knew the snow was going to hit, and we have one more heavily pregnant doe that we do not have at the barn.  We needed to get her to the barn to make sure that nothing goes wrong during the labor and that the kids will make it.  After all, we are dealing with a business and we can not afford to lose kids.  So, when my husband came home from work, I had already fed the animals, but we needed to make arrangements to get our heavily pregnant goat to our barn.  Dustin usually has a hideous contraption that we call his goat cage that fits in the bed of his truck.  Our plan was to get the pregnant goat, put her in the goat cage, and bring her back to the barn.  Simple right?  Ha!  Here is where my typical life is anything but typical…

Turns out, Dustin’s goat cage is in the back of his dad’s truck which is currently at the repair shop.  So, guess what??  No goat cage, how in the world are we going to get the goat?  Well Dustin has a four door extended cab truck, so the decision was made to put the goat in the back of the truck…say what???  Yes, you read that right- we decided to put a heavily pregnant goat in the back cab of our truck.  I think I failed to mention that the state of Tennessee is currently under a state of emergency and that there is ice and at least 5 inches of snow everywhere.  Here is a picture showing the road where our farm is located:

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So, what do you do when you are tasked with “bodyguarding” the pregnant goat?  You watch closely, pray that she does not go into labor on the ride, and take pictures and videos of the experience.  Enjoy the pictures!  I am thankful that at the end of the day, we are home, our goat is in the barn and has a stall fit for a queen to kid in!

Until the next adventure,

Janelle

 

 

 

 

 

Why Farming?

Looking at me, you would never in a million years think that I am a farmer.  I am usually found dressed appropriately and fashionably.  I am currently in love with my new Michael Kors wedges and my Bourbon and Boweties bangle collection that grows daily!  I love shopping, it’s one of my favorite exercises!  You know you are a shopper when your husband calls and says “Uh Oh.” when referring to if the shopping day was successful or not.

My life has really been a fairy tale life for the most part.  I had a supportive, loving Christian based family that supported me with whatever my dreams and decisions consisted of.  My parents emphasized the importance of an education, so college was an expectation for me.  I met my husband when I was 19 years old and we have been married for 7 and a 1/2 years now.  He is truly my best friend.  I graduated, got my dream job, happy marriage: life was good.

That was before we heard the “c” word.  That word that everyone hates to hear.  My mom was the chosen one.  She was diagnosed with the word that changes and traumatizes every family that it introduces itself to.  My mom decided that she was going to fight.  She fought a long battle, a courageous battle, but ended her fight in September of 2014.

My mom was my best friend.  She was my shopping partner, lean to, advice giver.  She was everything.  No one thinks that they will live in their 20s without one of their parents.  Her death completely devastated our family.

I have always thought that baby goats were adorable and my mom had always said that she wanted goats.  I am a lot like my mom; I am finding this more truer every day.  See, we never had the time and we were too busy to get goats.  So, after her death, struggling to understand the reasoning why, I decided that I wanted to get some goats.  This is where our farming adventure begins….

This is where I begin to learn, begin to heal, and begin to live the life that I was given.

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howdy!

Welcome!  I am happy that you have chosen to explore my blog!  My name is Janelle and I am currently a full time pastor’s wife, speech/language therapist in an educational setting, full time fashionista, part time volunteer, part-time DressBarn Stylist, and newly adjusted farmer!  I have contemplated for a long time about creating a blog.  After having multiple people tell me that they love to live vicariously through my experiences, I decided to jump in and do the blog!  Life is just too short, right?!

More about me:

I have a wonderful husband, Dustin, whom I have been married to for 7 and 1/2 years!  He is an amazing person, and I am extremely blessed and proud to call him my husband!  A year ago, we decided to start a farming adventure.  This adventure includes many animals that I’m sure my blog will get into.  Little did I know, this adventure would help to heal me, motivate me, help me, and show me life.  I also have a wonderful family that is very supportive and loving.  I am blessed.

I hope that you will enjoy my blog and that you will find yourself experiencing and living the life that you have.

~Janelle

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