February, the most challenging of the months to spell, has arrived. With it we dust off our hopes and dreams of phenomenal Spring gardens and strive to bring the dream to life. Seed trays and supplies are awakened from their slumber and told of the glorious growing prospects on the horizon. Truly, no one is more hopeful in February than the gardener, the farmer, or the homesteader. Those hopes are built not on unfounded fantasy but on prayers, planning, & execution. Its our own PPE. Let’s review some of the PPE over the last month.
In our December blog we talked about planning quite a bit. Its one of the most crucial areas we find in having even a mediocre success. Haphazard farming and gardening will surely lead to a massive loss of money. Of course if that is something you do not mind then have at it. For us as start up small business owners it is not a risk we can stand to take. There are digital files and notebooks full of plans for our corner of the earth for up to the next five years! It may seem to be much however those five years will pass by quickly! With each passing year we hope to implement our plans effectively.
Our planning for the Spring and Summer seasons usually begins around June of the year before. We prefer to begin with our bulbs. These include our garlic, onions, and leeks. This year we chose to do some onions and all our leeks from seed. That process went better than we could have hoped for! The data from that trial, however, will be inaccurate as we lost much of the onions in the Winter storm. We will have to scrap the data and try again Fall 2023. We did learn a valuable thing. In the future we will plan to plant our onion starts in beds that are already set up to have a cover secured on them. This will preserve them despite any freeze. Next we focus on potatoes. We study the season before and examine our results to determine if the same varieties will be included in our beds or if there is a need to change it up. This year we are sticking with Beauregard as it has been successful for us in previous plantings. As for seed potatoes we are more limited for space so we are only trying one variety for now unless things change and we are able to purchase more Olle raised beds. That variety is Caribe. It is purple skinned with white flesh. I love purple but have not had the best success with the Adirondack Blue seed potato so changing it up this year.
Once the aforementioned things are ordered we move on to seeds. This takes longer since a deep dive of what seeds we currently have will determine what seeds we need to secure. As we file through our collection we make notes of what is low or out of stock completely. That list is then compared to our garden notes from the previous season to determine if the variety was successful or not. Stick with or change it? This is a process that is on repeat when it comes to everything, even our chickens!
We have long been fans of the Jiffy pest pellet starter trays. They have always just seemed to work for us. However, as we expand our operation to include more for the community and our own family, its has become less sustainable for us fiscally. Also we have found that certain crops perform better when started in cell trays instead. Adjustment was needed. We have been following the Bootstrap Farmer company for a while. It seems that many farmers hold them in high esteem. With no real sustainable options out there we have decided to give them a try. We executed a small order initially to get our planting started and as funds became more available we did a larger order. So far we have been pleased with the quality of the products we have purchased. Time will tell if this really is a sustainable option for us. This will be determined by how well these trays hold up for us. We have secured cell trays, air pruning trays, microgreen trays, as well as pots. So far we have used them for planting flowers, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tomatoes, brassicas – basically everything! These trays have been moved to the growing station in the high tunnel and are doing well. The plan is to build our store of cell trays, pots, humidity domes, and etc over this next year. By 2024 we will not have the overhead expense of purchasing these items which should set us up immediately for a more fiscally successful year.
This year we have also executed more items from the five year plan for the property. That is installing more fruit trees. This year so far we have planted two pear trees and two apple trees. Before December we hope to have planted our Elderberry seedlings that are growing well now. We are also investigating cherry tree varieties compatible with our zone. Soon food will be everywhere! That is the aspiration anyway!
Recently we lost one of our silkie chickens to some sort of predator. It was sad but thankfully it didn’t go to waste as the animal ate mostly all of the remains. We only found a small piece of the intestines and a wing. At this time we decided we would need to get another dog. Our dog Athena moved in with our son and our dog Duke died last year of intestinal issues. We have had no real security protecting the birds and we knew what we had to do but just didn’t really want to open our hearts right now. Not to mention the commitment involved in raising and training a dog. It can be a load! To counter point, however, we have been also entertaining the idea of getting me a service dog. This dog would go with me shopping and be with me outside while farming in case of a fall or other issue. This would preserve my independence and keep the family from feeling like they needed to babysit me or better yet, keep me from feeling like I needed to be babysat.
Enter Facebook. While scrolling through some of the pages we follow I saw a post with the cutest puppy EVER! After inquiring and more communication we took a drive and picked up my baby – Brady Smore. He is a Catahoula Leopard dog and true to their history he is very intelligent. These dogs have a history of being farm dogs and hunting dogs. We kept contact with the farm that put us in contact with the breeder. As it turns our their male dog was used to stud the female of the breeder. They also obtained a puppy, a female. While conversing over email we found out the most delightful news! Brady’s father is a service dog! I squealed and just said prayers of thanks. This dog seems to be exactly what this farm and I, personally, need. Brady has been immersed in pretty intense training. I am no dog trainer to be sure. We have been researching all over YouTube for the best techniques. We’ve also put out feelers for tips from trusted sources. A friend of ours, who owns a German Shepard and has a long history of animal husbandry, suggested the book, “Mother Knows Best” by Carol Lea Benjamin. It explores the way the mother dog trains the pup and translates that to human use. Many of the ideals we have already put into practice. So far he has mastered several commands, knows his name, and is learning the names of the family members. This dog has nudged his little self right into our hearts. He goes nearly everywhere with us and has his own personalized bedtime lullaby that he looks forward to each night. We’ve even noticed he rests longer when he get his bedtime snuggles and song. He’s our new baby. We will keep you up to date on his training and development.
New Life – More New Adventures
We have kits! Yes we have been successful in breeding two does to the same male. Our Giant Chinchilla, Cher was mated to our Giant Chinchilla buck Sonny. Cher had 13 kits! As it stands today 8 are alive and have full bellies. Sweet Pea, our Angora Lionhead doe was mated to Sonny as well and has 5 fluffy kits that are doing well too. Because her fur is so thick, Sweet Pea required shaving prior to her kits being born so that they can actually find the nipples. That was quite the undertaking for us ALL!
We hope to be able to sale these kits to either the public directly or to pet shops locally. If we are able to do so then we will be able to put this money towards feed and other costs associated with the rabbitry side of BHG.
There is more new life in the future for us. We have been planning on learning the ropes of incubating and hatching our own chicks. After much research and many videos (and more still ahead of us), we finally ordered the Nurture Right 360 incubator. Although it was at Tractor Supply we found it cheaper on Amazon and purchased it there. We have eggs on the way and are excited to see what breeds we can hatch out right here on our own farm! Our goal is to get Black Copper Marans, Legbars, Whiting True Blues and maybe even some Showgirl Silkies later on. This will definitely prove to be a fun project and it will definitely make us more sustainable as we will be able to hatch our own layers and sell extras to the community.
Farmers Market Season
Oh that time of the year is upon us again! Last year we dusted off the cob webs and got back into the game. This year we are more ready than we ever have been to get back into the swing of things! So far this year we will be participating in two farmers markets local to Dothan, AL One is the one we participated in last year the Poplar Head Farmers Market and the other is not really a farmers market per se but it is an opportunity to get our brand out there and meet the community. It is Market on Foster. Both of these markets are widely known to the local communities as well as surrounding towns. Since we are people, people, we are ready to go!
We will release official dates that we will be attending on our social media platforms and/or on our “Where Are We Now?” page early March.
This season we will continue to bring you our homegrown produce along with our bread varieties, homegrown tea blends, infused oils, infused vinegars and let us not forget the precious butt nuggets!
Just like last season Shima will be there in all her furry glory. This year she will have dino masks, tails, perhaps some art pieces, and even slime up for grabs!
We look forward to seeing you all soon! Take care!