Wednesday, August 7, 2013

So you may all be wondering how the farm is doing since the last post. Let me tell you, it hasn't been easy.
The husband was working an over night shift, I put both kids in bed and went to go hook the trailer onto the truck. I drove down the steep hill and loaded up Daisy in the dark. She's such a good pig. All 600 lbs of her hopped into the trailer for me. I backed out and drove her up the hill. The next morning, I took her to Producers in Mt Vernon. It's a livestock auction. She brought $0.64 a lb. I cried on the way home.

Patsy Swines' story is a little bit better. She is a 6 year old boys pet. They have big plans to breed her. I didn't cry that time.

2 pigs to go. They will be bacon in September. It will be the first time not having pigs through the winter in a long time. I'm kind of excited, but sad at the same time. We have all this milk Whiskers is giving us. We can only use so much. I'm hoping for some herd shares to help with the milk supply as well as a little extra income that makes going out to milk everyday a little more rewarding.

Manitowoc is going to Illinois the end of this month. (supposedly). He will have a herd of longhorn girls to keep him company. I'm sure he will be happy. But I will miss him.
After that, the 3 steers will go in for beef and we will be left with the girls, Whiskers and Dragon, and one calf for next years beef.

I am not yet decided on the pony. If someone wants her, I will probably sell, but as of right now, I am not actively seeking a new home for her.

Rozi, the new boar goat buck we have, decided to bust out and start his job of breeding the does early. Looks like kidding season will start in early Jan. Kidding season makes the bleak winter so much better. :-)

I kind of regret selling the chickens, only because store eggs are gross. I need to remember to go to a friends house to get my eggs instead.

I've kind of let the garden go. I just don't have it in me right now. I got so depressed from losing so much to the flood, I just have let the bugs and weeds take over what little did survive. We did get some beans and squash, but the cucumbers were destroyed by beetles just as they really started to produce.
Corn is like a freakin' weed. It can handle anything. We're expecting a decent crop of corn within the next week or so.

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's too much

You know what's hard? Being a mom. Do you know what's also hard? Being a farmer. Now put to the 2 together....yeah.
Now say, you are a mom of 2 under 2 and a farmer and are the wife of a man who works 14 hour days. Let me tell you, it's HARD. And it also sucks. It sucks real bad when you try to sneak out of the house to get chores done while the kids are asleep, you try to rush through as quickly as possible and, of course, the cow is at the other end of the pasture just to taunt you. You come into the house, already sweating and covered in poop to strain the milk and the kids let you know that you just weren't fast enough and they are PISSED. Really, it makes you just want to turn tail and run when you hear the infant crying like he's been starving for the past 6 hours but didn't realize it until NOW and a toddler who is screaming at you and does NOT want his diaper changed right now and needs food NOW but not THAT for breakfast and throws it at you and we start the day with a time out. Oh yeah....the milk. By this time, it hasn't been strained or chilled fast enough. That batch will have to go to the pigs.
Do you know what is hardest of all? Admitting that you can't do it all. I can't keep an epic garden, weed and flood free. I can't build the pig fences by myself. I can't drive the tractor to clean the barns and move 30 round bales of hay with 2 kids to watch. It's hard to admit that, even though I'm living the life I want, I can't handle it. I can't raise my family and keep my farm and juggle life. It's overwhelming and exhausting. Now add in that I just had a baby 11 weeks ago and you have the perfect formula for Postpartum Depression, also known as PPD.
If life isn't hard enough, throw PPD into the mix. Suddenly you have heart attack like episodes, suddenly, you are scared to drive for the irrational fear that the car will blow up, or pop a tire and you lose control and you flip over and the kids die and worse yet, YOU live. Suddenly, the baby is sound asleep and you lay awake wondering if he is still breathing. Suddenly, you find yourself irrationally screaming at your toddler like he just committed the worst crime in history, you know, playing with the kitchen drawers. Suddenly, you find yourself thinking your family will be better off without you. You suck as a mother, you suck as a wife, you suck as a farmer.

I need to take a step back. I can't do it all and everything is reaffirming that. Floods that haven't happened in 50 years, takes out the garden. Calves that you loveingly bottle feed morning and night die. Your favorite goat passes away. The pigs get out, the cows get out and I can't keep my cool.

Things have got to change.

The pigs. I love my pigs. I really do. You know what I love more than my pigs? Bacon. So we have been trying to provide, what I think is the absolute BEST bacon, to central ohio. (and WV if they want to get in on it!) But sometimes, bacon isn't worth it. It's not worth the hours put into the pigs, moving them from pen to pen for their pastured and milkfed goodness. I understand why the big pork producers leave them on concrete all the time. That would be so EASY! But because it stands for all I am against, instead of raising easy, plain, boring concrete pigs, I will have to sell my lovely, sweet, yummy, happy pasture pigs. And by sell, I mean the live ones. Daisy in all of her 600 lbs will probably end up as sausage links. It's not her fault she's so much work.

The cows. Cows are gross. Really. They lick their own boogers out of their nose with their tongues. They have 10 lbs poops and can pee a river. Not to mention they eat a, literally.
They are worth it for the milk they provide us. so we will just be keeping the milkers. After this round of beef in the fall, we will not be offering anymore. We MAY raise one up for us, and might sell off half, but it sure won't be every year. We started this year off with 9 cows on the property. By Nov. I want to be down to 2. That will take a lot of the load off.

The chickens are gone. They weren't a lot of work, but we didn't have a proper coop for them. They were in the barn, pooping on all of our stuff and hiding their eggs in placed I couldn't find. NOT WORTH IT!
So I sold them. We may get new ones after we build a coop and train the new ones to it. Until then, I will be buying eggs off of my friends.

The goats. You know what's funny? I look at all the animals here and all I see is work and stress. I look at my goats and I feel peace. I like to put my kids to bed at night and go out and sit with the goats. They come up to be scratched and they offer me as much or more, comfort as I offer them.
The goats will stay for now. If and when they become too much for me, they will probably go too.  I hope that time never comes.

I want to cry, I want to mourn losing what I've worked so hard for but I can't. I'm numb. I laugh and smile for my kids because I am supposed too, but I don't feel the joy I think and know I should. I have lost the ability to feel emotion it seems. That isn't fair to the kids. To have a mother who isn't really there.
I know I need help. And I have gone to professionals who can get me the help I need. But until I start feeling like myself and feeling like I am the super mom I once was, the farm will have to wait.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Welcome Summer!
Well it's finally here! It took a long time to get here, but the weather is finally decent and were getting some work done.

A few updates:

Update number 1)
Daisy had her piglets in March!

It was a long, grueling process. Taking over 36 hours to produce 13 piglets. Not all made it, but we were able to save 7 of the 13. Orders for pork haven't come in like we were hoping, we've only held back 2 of the piglets to raise for customers.

Update number 2)
I had my baby on my birthday!
We barely made it to the hospital on time! only 3 hours from first sign of labor, to holding our 2nd son.
Update number 3)
Allie the boxer had puppies!

Update number 4)
So far, the Epic Garden of '13 is growing rather nicely.
From starting out in little cups in the office,
To taking over the kitchen...
And the back steps
To now actually being in the ground!

It's such a rewarding experience to watch what you've put so much time and effort into, really start thriving. I will probably want to kill myself come harvest time when all 40 pepper plants, 50 tomatoes, 450 feet of beans and 10 cucumbers all want to be harvested and preserved or sold all at the same time.

Update number 5)

Our first ever beef cow went to the butcher earlier this year. We weren't extremely impressed with how he turned out. We are crossing jerseys off of our list of possible breeds for raising for beef.
Though the flavor was awesome, the size and the number of cuts just wasn't. 3 more calves await the butcher at half the age of the jersey, they are already bigger and more filled out than he was. That makes me assume that by the time they go in in Oct, they will surpass him in size, cuts, and flavor
Update number 6)
Daisy is pregnant again! (we hope)
If all goes well, her next litter is expected  on Sept 25th. Just 3 days before her first borns go to butcher.
Let me make it clear....there is no 'boy pig' AKA 'Boar' here at A Little Morr Farms. So when we want new piglets, we have to do it ourselves....with a little help from Daisy and a boyfriend in a bottle.
When artificially inseminating a pig, you will need a Boyfriend in a bottle, a Rod (corkscrewed, for her pleasure) some lube (olive oil works well) and a pig in heat.

Doesn't she look sexy?

I now must pretend to be a boar, sitting on her is the best way.

insert rod, and gently squeeze the boyfriend in a bottle while sitting on the pig.
And then you're done! Nothing to it! ;-)
So now, we wait. We wait for the pigs and cows and plants to grow. And we wait for Daisy to either come back into heat, or have babies. 
Trust me, that doesn't mean I'm sitting around all day twiddling my thumbs, there is weeding to be done, fences to be fixed, a barn door that 'someone' broke. Oh, and now 2 kids to feed, clothe, play with, entertain....sleep is for the weak!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Hopes of Spring

Happy Spring Everyone!
Ok, so maybe it’s not really spring yet. Nor does it even feel like it outside, but the first signs of spring have already started happening here at A Little Morr Farms. The first one happening in January with the birth of our first heifer calf! Very exciting!  

Other signs of spring are the goat kids I have in a muck bucket here in the office with me as I type this. I’m in a t-shirt while I type this because we have it set to 90* in here! The kids much prefer that to the -5* wind chill we have going on outside as we speak.

So, the point of this newsletter is to keep our loyal customers up to date with us. We will share are hopes and dreams, our struggles and successes. We don’t want to be a faceless farmer. We want to be your friend as well. Why? It promotes integrity. If I know you and you know me, we can take care of each other. I can provide you with healthy food you can feel good about eating and you can help provide me with a decent living. Can you get food somewhere else for cheaper than what I can provide? Sure. But will you feel good about it? The faceless farmer who is pumping out as many hogs as his operation can handle. They don’t see the light of day, they don’t get the chance to root up the rich soil, lay it it, smell it. The sows are kept in crates they can’t turn around in. The feeders have their tails and teeth cut out so they can be packed in tight to a pen and not hurt each other. And the poor farmer? He’s not making a decent living. Government subsidies are helping him pump out more and more pork and making it ‘cheap’ enough for grocery store sales. What you don’t realize is that, through your taxes, you are paying way more for that pork than you thought possible.
I’m not going to go to the government for a handout. I don’t have to ship my pork all over the country. I don’t want to. I don’t even want to go state wide. I want to keep our food local. Keep building our local economy as we take better care of our health and take better care of our animals.
You know, someone once told me, “Animals don’t understand QUANITY of life, but they do understand QUALITY” and I whole heartedly agree. So, even though, compared to our much longer lives, a pig, and cow or a chickens life seems short, as long as they are happy and living life to the fullest an animal can, their life is complete. What makes an animal happy? Fresh food and water would top their list. I don’t mean fresh as in, it’s topped off everyday. I’m talking fresh as in, verity!  Do you want to eat the same thing everyday? Do you even think it’s healthy to eat the same thing? I don’t. Even if it was our ‘favorite’, it would get old after eating it day after day. Well, the animals think so too. So how do we fix that? Well, for chickens, it means free ranging or a tractor like enclosure. A ‘chicken tractor’ is a mobile pen with no floor that gets moved to a new location every day or every other day. This gives the chickens a buffet of fresh grasses (yes, chickens love grasses) bugs, grubs, seeds.. anything they can find. This makes for happier chickens and much healthier eggs!

So now that you know a little about our philosophy, let me explain where we are now, and what we want to do this year.

This year we are feeling the growing pains in the Hog part of the farm. We are on the cusp of either really making a go of it and failing miserably. Last year was our biggest year for pork to date. Of course, it was only our 3rd year of doing pork. The first year, we only raised pork for ourselves and some family members. Those family members came back, wanting more pork so we did it again the next year, and sold to some friends as well. This year is make it or break it time. The last few years, our prices weren’t quite right, or our pigs were too small at the only time the butcher could take them…last year was pretty good. We didn’t LOSE money. We want a replay of last year, on a larger scale. So, instead of hoping to find decent piglets at a decent price in a decent time frame, we decided to raise our own little. Daisy is our Yorkshire gilt. She’s about 500# of love and is pregnant with her first litter. We don’t own a boar, and really don’t have plans for one soon, so I had to learn how to be a Daddy. Luckily, I had friends learning with me and that helped to make our failed attempts, at least funny memories to look back on.

So now that I don’t have to be looking high and low for piglets, I now need to figure out where to put an entire litter! Some will be sold as piglets for fair or other people to raise themselves, but most (hopefully, if we get enough orders *wink wink*) will be staying here. They will need to be separated from their mother so she can rest and then raise another litter for spring hams. I have the ‘Piggie Pasture’ staked out and we bought 2 bulk feeders. One for Daisy and one for the porkers. This way, they can eat as much pasture or grain as they want. They choose what they feel like their body needs at that moment. I feel this will make for healthier, happier pigs. However, this is where we start feeling the growing pains. All these things take money. We’re taking a leap of faith that we sell enough pork this year to cover it. 2013 is the year of Sink or Swim.

Beef! We bought our first cows last year with the hopes of having lots of milk for ourselves and the pigs and have some beef to raise. This year, our first jersey steer will be going in to the butcher. After him, we have a Jersey/Angus cross, a Shorthorn/Normande cross and a Shorthorn/Randall Lineback cross. I want to save a steak from each one, and compare. We’ll do a blind taste test of some sort. The winner, will help us determine what breed or breeds we want to raise here. Other factors include temperament and health. Not all breeds of cows are meant to live a life with minimal grain supplements. Not all breeds are heat and cold hardy. We are already finding that as far as being raised souly on grass and hay, the jersey is not fairing as well as the others. The jersey crossed with Angus, seems to be doing fine, so we will take this into account. If the Jersey wins the taste test, we will probably start working towards a cross that will work better for us. Because we have yet to put any beef on anyones table, we’re not really sure where we’re going with it. I do know that I like having the milk around. So it’s a sure thing that at least one cow will be staying into the next year to keep us stocked with milk and at least one calf for beef for our own family. You will decide if we start a brood cow herd and supply YOUR family with beef or not. How will you help decide? Simple, just order beef. Or don’t. If there isn’t a market for it, I see no reason to slave away with multiple cows for such low return if I end up having to take them to a sale.

Our last goal for this year is to have an EPIC Garden. All or most will be heirloom varieties, raised organically as possible. Why so epic? 4 different tomatoes, 3 kinds of cucumbers, 5 peppers, at least 6 different types of winter and summer squashes… not to mention the 2 pounds of beans and corn that will be planted…We want to sell started plants and ripe vegetables at a few local farmers markets. Either Mount Vernon or Chesterville…If you are interested, you could even call ahead, tell us what you want, and we can have your veggie order ready for you to pick up right at the market. You can’t get much fresher than that!

As far as poultry goes, unless I drastically raise the cost of my eggs, the eggs don’t cover the cost of raising the chickens. My eggs would have to cost $4 a doz at least. I’m not sure there are many people who would pay that much for eggs, enough to justify me keeping as many hens as I would need.

Meat chickens…The jury is still out. Tell us what you think? What is a free range chicken on the table worth to you? Can you order more than 20 birds at a time? Do you know friends that will? We haven’t tried selling our birds, so it would be totally new to us. Turkeys as well. Turkeys would be seasonal. But unless I get at least 20 orders for turkeys, I can’t justify it for only 5 orders. Again, let us know.

If you think or know that you can help us out, please message me. I don’t want to be the faceless farmer. Ask me anything! Make suggestions! We are open to comments.