Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cold Work

Farming isn't all outdoor work, though a good bit of it does take place in the weather, regardless of what that means. Chores go slow, this time of year, despite the diminished population. There are rabbit water bottles to defrost, fresh bedding to pile down, plenty of grain to haul, fences to check, water buckets to chop through. Then there is the fire wood to haul, the meals to plan (nothing quick to grab from the garden, it all must be cooked) and... the office work.


I both enjoy and hate office work. This time of year it's dipping my toe into tax preparations (undoubtedly my least favorite task),  drafting, editing and paying for advertisements, checking on orders placed, writing budgets, ordering supplies, plotting fence lines... it's almost as endless at the battle against frozen rabbit water bottles. But it does allow for a bit of dreaming. We're getting ready to expand, pretty substantially for next season, and finally in a place where I can set up things the way I think will work best. Of course I fully expect to be totally wrong about what's going to work- that's usually how it goes. But i thought curious folks may want to see some of the dreaming we've been doing. So here are a few of the projects we're currently scheming. Also, if you're nearby to the new farm, and run a biz that could help with any of these, shoot us an email. Maybe we can work together.


The Rabbitry-

We're going to be setting up a completely different rabbit structure this year. We'd like to get all of the stock out on pasture. Previously, we have put the meat growers out on grass, in moveable pens, and rotated the breeding stock in and outside. We'd like to open up space and fencing to be mimic more of a natural set-up, where the does have a more natural breeding environment and their own pasture to raise kits on. Bucks would be let in when appropriate, but kept in their own range.  Everything will likely still need to be under cover, and the fencing will be a challenge since rabbits love to dig. But we think it can be done.

Chicken Brooders-

I have long dreamed of brooders with built-in thermostats. I worry constantly about the temperature of little chicks, and finally think this is the year that I will actually wire in thermostats to the heat lamps. I'm hopeful that this little control will also reduce our losses even further, since chicks are so temperature sensitive. Along with this, we're going to try and pipe in most of our watering systems at least indoors, so that chicks never run out of water.

Processing-

This is the BIG one. We need to put in a state certified processing facility for our poultry and rabbit operations. It's a major reason we moved, this is not going to be a cheap or short term project. In fact, it will be a giant undertaking, a ton of paperwork, and definitely a few headaches. BUT in the end, we will be able to process our poultry on-site (really important to us), sell rabbit wholesale and at markets, AND stream line our operation while keeping with our ethics. Right now, I'm in the midst of re-reading regulations, figuring out a project budget, and finding a few contractors to help. We've also had the unfortunate add-on that during our move we had a horrible electrical failure that blew one of the main well pumps. So, as part of our season's work we must get the well up and running- fast. The farm as two wells, but we had to plumb the house to the back-up well, which really is better suited for farm work- it's mighty- sulphur-y!

Frost Seeding, Pigs and Rotational Grazing-

Fencing, Fencing, Fencing. We've chosen a few pastures to be our primary grazing sites for the next season (or two) depending on grasses planted, location, and ease of fencing. Based on this, we'll be running various livestock over them, and frost-seeding with specific species in mind. For example- the pigs will be getting pastures that will have squashes, peas, and melons planted within their grasses. This will keep the flavor we're looking for and keep the pigs happy. Poultry just so happen to love the same things, so we can use those same pastures for them as well. It's exciting to have so much more control over the variety of foods for the livestock!

It's hard to imagine, especially in this mighty January cold- that a few short weeks we will be getting the first delivery of chicks, and it won't be long until the work days stretch late into the evening. Until then, it's nice to imagine all the ways we'd like to see the farm develop- and take steps to make it happen. It's going to be a big year! (Don't forget, meat-shares are still available! Check out the link to the right!)

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