The Farm at the Little Blue House

Before I start, I’d like to apologize to my readers for being absent for so long. In the summer I contracted COVID 19, and soon after recovering found out I was pregnant with baby number two! It was a very difficult first trimester with severe nausea and food aversions. Juggling my symptoms along with raising a toddler and running our backyard farm made little time for me to sit down and concentrate on my blog! Now that I am firmly in the second trimester with our baby boy, and the craziness that is summer and fall is over on our little farm, I have finally been given a minute to catch up!

First, let’s talk about our wonderful flock of chickens! We bought chickens this past spring and now have a laying flock of 16 hens and 1 rooster. We lost one bird out of the original 18 to what I assume was some sort of predator, because one day she was just gone! However, the rest of the flock has blossomed. I get between 12 and 16 eggs per day. I often let them run during the day and have a few girls that get in the habit of laying outside somewhere instead of in their nesting boxes. We get some egg loss due to that. When I start noticing a significant difference I keep them in their enclosure for a few days to remind them where their nests are, and it seems to do the trick. I have had a fair amount of success by setting a sign in front of our house to sell the eggs we don’t eat. I’ve been making enough profit to pay for their feed from selling eggs for $3/dozen or $5/2 dozen. We also have had enough leftover to gift to our friends, family, and neighbors!

All of our hens lay brown eggs. We have 1 Black Australorp, 5 Plymouth White Rocks, and 10 Rhode Island Reds.

In October, the old run collapsed. This made it so we had to spend the next couple months with our flock out full time during the day until my husband had time to build a new one. It was well worth the wait. The new run is now built to stand for a long time! Along with rebuilding our run, we have prepped the inside of the coop for winter. We’ve dropped a heater in the water bucket and added heat lamps to roosting areas for night that are below freezing. I kept one heat lamp red because the birds prefer the dimmer light to sleep by at night. But the other heat lamp is the classic yellow light. Having this light on at night will trick our birds to lay through the the short days of the winter months.

Our new and improved chicken run!

During the summer months, we had a decent yield from our garden of berries, lettuce, broccoli, peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet corn, and basil. The vegetables we grew were able to sustain us for the summer with enough to share with our family. Our peach yield was so good I was able to can a batch of peach jam! It turned out delicious. I also started several okra plants from seeds. However, I failed in hardening them properly. As soon as they were exposed to the weather they shriveled and died. Getting COVID and soon there after getting pregnant, made late summer and fall harvest in the garden near impossible. So by the end of the season, my wonderful garden fell by the wayside. Hopefully we will have better luck next season!

A basket full of food.
Garden yields from July.
Peach Jam!

As summer ended and the fall grasses began to sprout, our little pony Clarabelle took it upon herself to gorge as much new grass as she could. This of course caused her to get rather full around the barrel and eventually leaded up to her contracting laminitis. This is a disease where the tissues called laminae in a horses hoof begin to degrade. It causes separation of the hoof wall and rotation of the coffin bone in the hoof. It is very painful and if not caught in time, deadly. She can now no longer be on full grass. This event forced us to build a separate dry lot and to renovate the water and electric in the horse barn for Clarabelle. To say that she is not pleased with the new diet plan is an understatement.

Clarabelle’s new digs

As an eventful summer and fall come to an end, we as a family are looking forward slowing down and spending time together this holiday season. And I look forward to having more time for sharing our experiences with you all.

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Future Farmers

The future of food security belongs to our children. Many of which believe their food comes pre-washed and packaged from the grocery store. It is important now more than ever, to educate both children and adults about where their food comes from. Agricultural education is a key factor in providing future generations with quality and sustainable food sources.

As we begin to remove ourselves further away from our roots, ignorance is beginning to negatively effect today’s farming community. Bills are passed by officials that have inadequate knowledge of the intricacies of farming and of our environment. Marketing knowledge and regulation is so sporadic that consumers have no clue what they are purchasing to nourish their families. Lack of education and transparency by our schools, government, and agricultural companies have people grasping to ideals about food that they don’t fully understand.

The wide world of agriculture was an obscure part of my life growing up as well. When we moved to a small farming community and I started high school, I discovered a little club that some of my readers may know about. This group, along with it’s accompanying classes changed my future as well as cultivated my interests in agriculture.

The Future Farmers of America or The FFA, provides endless outlets for students to inquire and pursue interests in all fields of agriculture. It also gives young adults the chance to lead, speak, and volunteer in local communities. Though agriculture programs are not offered in every school, I believe it should be part of all school curriculum. In the interim, there are other outlets to gain knowledge about food and where it comes from. Many communities that don’t have an FFA program offer out of school 4H programs, community gardens, and cooking programs. So if you or someone you know might be interested in learning more, ask your school or city council about programs that involve our youth in learning where their food comes from!

The future is in farming!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Summer

As we turn the corner into the summer season, we are beginning to see yields on our little farm. The chickens are days away from laying, and our garden is producing delicious fruits and vegetables. Here are a few photo updates of how the summer is panning out this year!

Our rooster loves to show off his beautiful red comb and wattle
Our daughter tending the plants
Yummy sweet strawberries
Yellow pear tomatoes
Picked early to fry up in some bacon grease!
Grandma Williams with a head of broccoli. We ate the bloom and fried the greens
We planted our basil in a cattle feed tub to ensure proper soil quality and reduce the possibility of pests getting to it.
Washed lettuce and basil ready for salad

How is your summer going so far? Let me know in the comments!

Wagyu, the new Angus?

I have been slacking in recent weeks with blog posts as the spring season has got our little homestead abuzz with chores! We had a short break to wander around local markets last weekend, and a trend within the beef industry in our area has become apparent to me. So I decided to crack open the laptop and make a few comments.

In the past few years, Wagyu beef has been in foodie news and articles because of its unique fat marbling qualities. If any of you have heard the term Kobe beef, you know what I am talking about. However, just because a product may advertise having Wagyu beef does not mean it is to the same standards as Kobe. The term Wagyu consists of four strains of cattle with breed origins from Japan. Kobe beef comes from a specific breed of Wagyu cattle in Kobe, Japan. These cattle are raised in a very specialized manner in order to earn the status of Kobe beef. If anyone is interested in this process let me know in the comments!

So, back to the markets. As we were strolling, shopping, and tasting our way through the city center, I encountered niche market products with the labeling, “Wagyu Beef”. This discovery, along with other observations such as farmers buying up more and more of these animals, made me realize the popularity of this strain of cattle is on the rise. My prediction is that the term, Wagyu, will soon be on the same level as the term, Angus, in the U.S. beef marketplace.

This post is about my personal observation. Please let me know if you are interested in more information like breed details, requirements, meat market niches, etc. There are a lot of rabbit holes to go down on this topic so tell me which way you are wanting to turn!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Adopt a Pet Spotlight

Who remembers our girl Sequoia from a few weeks back? She had been at the rescue since fall of last year and has recently been adopted! Congratulations to Sequoia and her new owners!

Adopting animals can be as rewarding for pet owners as it is for their new companions. If you are looking for a new friend please consider this route as an option. Longmeadow Rescue Ranch has so many wonderful candidates for adoption it is crazy! If you are interested in browsing their adoptable animals feel free to visit their website. Please be sure to read their adoption requirements as these animals will only be adopted out to responsible and committed owners.

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Our Gardening Adventure

The first spring bloom from our new peach tree

As spring begins to warm the ground, my winter planning sessions are finally coming to fruition. We have begun our gardening adventure on our little farm! My wonderful husband fenced in a triangular portion of our yard. Though our fence is not pest proof, it is toddler proof. I can let my little girl run and play in the dirt while I work the beds. He also lined the fence with flower beds to give our garden a finished look. I planted several varieties of flowers that attract pollinators and supposedly deter pests. We have quite the variety of wildlife here on our little piece of land so I will take what I can get!

The layout of our garden is as follows, one small vegetable bed as you walk through the gate, a container of herbs directly to the right side of the gate, and a tomato plot as you move past the herbs. When you come to the end of the tomatoes the fencing comes to a point as you round the corner. If you continue along the fence you will see three berry bushes: One blueberry, one blackberry, and one raspberry. And finally as you come full circle you will run into the peach tree we planted last fall. All of my fruit producing plants are self pollinating so I don’t have to worry about planting more than I can handle. I decided to plant the tree near my plots in hopes of left over fruit falling into the beds and fertilizing future garden plants. I left plenty of space if I want to expand my beds in the future, but as of right now it makes a wonderful play space for our daughter!

This picture was taken before I added the herb container

I have done several container gardens over the years but have never singled handedly managed an in ground garden. With this in mind, I consulted with a few experienced gardeners within the family and decided to start small with things we eat every day. My initial grow list consisted of romain lettuce, basil, tomatoes, okra, and sweet banana peppers. Now, after a couple of impulse buys and some gifted starter plants, that list has grown to include golden bell peppers, cabbage, and broccoli. I also purchased a small hanging strawberry plant for my daughter that now resides on our back porch. I am slowly adding plants to the beds as the days warm and frost becomes less of an issue.

My romain lettuce was the first to go into the ground in late March.
My peppers, tomatoes, basil, and of course a couple salvia plants. They are my favorite flower.
The hanging strawberry patch

I placed our plants directly into tilled soil and used a spray attachment that waters and fertilizes for the initial water session. I have plans of repeating this fertilizing method weekly. I also plan to use the compost I make from our kitchen scraps to spread over the garden. I have not needed to worry about pest control at this point, but I do see issues with moles in our future. They are all over our yard and it is a matter of time before they figure out where the good stuff is.

Our final garden additions included a bird house and a bee house.

And thus concludes the most recent updates to our gardening adventures!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Adopt a Pet Spotlight

Truffle

This week’s Spotlight features Truffle the pig! She is a sweet girl currently residing at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch.

Here is what Longmeadow’s staff have to say about her:

“I am a spayed female, black Pot Bellied.
Shelter staff think I am about 3 years old.
I have been at the shelter since Dec 16, 2020.
Truffle was surrendered to Longmeadow when her owner could no longer provide the care she required. She is a sweet pig that enjoys spending her time napping in a pile of hay or playing in her water bowl. She is a very laid-back piggy that is mostly litter box trained! In her previous home she lived inside but had access to outdoors! She even lived with dogs and got along with them very well. (although pigs should never be left alone with dogs) She does not know any tricks, nor is she trained to walk on a harness. However, like most pigs, she is a quick learner and could easily pick up the skills!”

If you are interested in Truffle or in checking out the other wonderful animals looking for homes at this ranch feel free to visit their website.

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Chicken Brooding 101

It’s that time of year where people start seeing sweet little chicks at the store and end up with the cutest impulse purchases! This year, there has been a huge increase in demand for chicks as more and more people are thinking about raising their own food. Unfortunately with new chick ownership comes mishaps and failures that can end up with sickly or dead chicks. Nobody wants that to happen! So as a poultry owner myself, I thought I would share a few tips with my readers on proper brooding care!

  1. Brooding in a plastic tub is not ideal. It tends to get too warm for the chicks.
  2. Make sure your brooder has enough space for your chicks as they grow.
  3. Don’t get just one chick. They are social creatures and need friends.
  4. Don’t brood ducklings and chicks together! The ducks make a watery mess and get the chicks all cold and wet!!
  5. Have a back up heat lamp!! This is especially important if you are brooding chicks outside of your home in a coop. I keep a secondary heat lamp on in case the main one goes out.
  6. Make sure you have 4 designated areas for your chicks. A warm area under the lamp, a cooling area in case they get hot, an area for watering, an area for feed.
  7. Place a thermometer under your heated area so you can keep ideal temperature. I have a hangable Producer’s Pride thermometer that works great. It even has marked spots for the appropriate temperature at each growing stage.
  8. Try to keep cool drafts to a minimum.
  9. Make sure bedding is clean and most importantly DRY.
  10. Place flat cardboard pieces under your feeders and waterers to prevent bedding from getting into dishes.
  11. Don’t limit feed your chicks or laying hens unless told by your veterinarian. Only think about limiting rations if you are growing broilers as they can and will overeat.
Example of a small brooder. The heat lamp should go on the left side of the container.
Red heat lamps are said to help with the natural cycle of laying hens as it is highly dependent on light. My opinion is as long as they are warm it doesn’t matter what color you have.
This is the brooder in our coop. I waited a couple weeks to move them up to this larger brooder. Feed is on the right, water is on the left, and heat lamps are in the middle.
Another brooder picture before we added chicks. Be sure to do your best to proof your coop from predators.

Another great resource for information on your chicks’ health is at cacklehatchery.com. It is where I ordered my chicks from this year. They have great articles and YouTube videos on proper chick and chicken care! I’d love to hear any questions or comments about your brooding setups or about raising birds in general. Feel free to comment below or contact me!

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Adopt a Pet Spotlight

This week’s Spotlight is on Patrick the rooster! From what I hear he’s got quite the personality. He may be a little vain but who can blame him? He is a pretty boy! He loves to supervise the horse lessons at Longmeadow Rescue Ranch and make sure everything is as it should be. Patrick is a year and a half old and has been at the ranch since September of last year.

Patrick the rooster helping teach riding lessons

If you are interested in Patrick, feel free to check out his bio on the Longmeadow Rescue Ranch website! Be sure to check out their adoption requirements before inquiring about an animal.

Until next time…

The Ag Wife

Adopt A Pet Spotlight

Sequoia

This week’s Adopt A Pet Spotlight star’s a sweet girl named Sequoia! She is about 12 years old and is broke for an intermediate rider. Here is what Longmeadow Rescue Ranch staff have to say about her:

“Sequoia was surrendered to Longmeadow in the fall of 2020, when her owners could no longer provide the care for her. From day one Sequoia has stood out to the staff and volunteers with her beautiful paint markings and bold blaze. Sequoia is a kind mare that greets every person with a whinny. She has been evaluated by our trainer, and is currently being ridden at the walk and trot. She is still green under saddle, thus she will require a confident intermediate rider at this time. Sequoia will need to continue her training with a rider that can properly communicate verbal and leg cues. We have found that Sequoia needs front shoes. She is tender footed without them. She is easy to catch, deworm, and stands nicely for the vet and farrier. Sequoia gets along with everyone she is paired with, but does not do well turned out by herself.”

If you are interested in Sequoia or any other animals at Longmeadow, please check out it their adoption requirements and other information on their website. They are having specials this month on horses and pigs!