We usually do an update on all the things going on here at HiBar Ranch as it helps other homesteaders with their own seasonal rhythms which is so key to understanding. It is this seasonal rhythm that is important to develop to get things done on time. And it is what generates the great bounty of produce come fall.
I wanted to write quickly, before I get into our work and accomplishments for April and May, about this notion of rhythm. Rhythm and cycles are somewhat similar. And, it is a concept you become very fond of and end up loving as you take this journey into living closer to your home, land and life. There is a seasonal rhythm that is bound and motivated by intention. I wanted to share quickly how those intentions and motivations have changed over the years for us. It is a very interesting concept when we evaluate what – homesteading – really means. Because to me, as I try and exemplify below, homesteading is a JOURNEY, not a destination.
When folks ask us why we homestead/farm over the years it has been a really interesting answer. Our answers have evolved over the years. In the beginning over 20 years ago, our daughter had severe food allergies. We started this journey based on needing to raise our own food so she could be healthy. In 1996 no one really knew about gluten and corn allergies or how seriously they can take down the physical and mental health of a developing child. Over the years, being a 4H leader really called me to give back to the young ones along with our own kids who benefited from the communal atmosphere of livestock, farms and friends. As our daughter aged, it became more about teaching responsibility and accountability. And now, as empty nesters, my husband and I view our farm differently. Now, for us it is about freedom, independence, healthy eating and healthy living. Our focus is now more on our own bodies and assuring we are taking good care by staying active on the farm and eating really good food we ourselves grow. And, it is about our hobbies – animal husbandry and growing things for me and forestry, woodworking, mill work and craftsmanship for my husband. And last, it is about building a place/space that our kids and grandkids can be part of as a respite from their busy lives in cities all over the US. We want to try and leave a mark on our extended family that reminds them of where their food comes from and shows them how to stay close to the land even though they may live in a small plot of land in a city somewhere.
Our amazing experiences spanning a 20 year journey into farming/homesteading has taken us through so many different attributes and benefits of this unique way of life: babies of our own to grandkids, sickness to health, birth to death, seed to food on the table, tree to milled lumber now furniture in our home, lacking knowledge to true wisdom on so many subjects…the list goes on. What a journey, what a life!
AND THAT IS WHY WE HOMESTEAD!! It is a complex, multi-dimensional value stream of goodness that all boils up/down into the notion of – an amazing journey of living.
So, with that being said, what have we done over the course of April and what are we doing now in May?!
Let me just start by saying holy cow. Seriously. April was crazy….and always is. This is the month I think more than any other, that people are surprised by. It is probably one of the biggest months for work with little reward and critical to setting up the rest of the season. It is also a huge transition month.
April for us started with the winding down of BABIES all over the farm. Dont get me wrong. We still have babies. But, they are not in the tiny tiny category of serious concern in terms of mortality. That is what I mean by the transition month. For those of you who raise livestock, or are thinking about it, April is that month where the babies go from needing 24 hour supervision and awareness to out in the pasture and more independent. As you know, we had the following babies born on our farm this February and March:
- 9 Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat Kids
- 3 Nubian and Boar Goat Kids
- Purchased 2 new kids
- 5 Navajo Churro Lambs
- 35 chicks – Rhode Island Reds and Americanas
- 10 ducklings so far with more hatching as we speak – Pekin and Silver Appleyard
- 7 turkey poults – Chocolates, White Midgets and Bourbon Reds
- 10 Ring Neck Pheasants
- 2 Nuc colonies – Bees
That is 83 new critters on the farm this spring!! That is part of that HOLY COW I am talking about.
We sell our babies to other homesteading families, so April completed that process with the sale of all our baby goats to awesome customers that we can now call friends. We raise our lambs for our own freezer and other customers along with our beef, so all those critters will stay on the farm until December when they get trucked to the butcher.
So, now all of our larger livestock breeds are now successfully out on pasture and merged with the rest of the herd. All of our ducklings, turkey poults pheasants, etc. will be merged into nature the month of May. Our bees have been successfully established and are going crazy on our blooming holly tree. The tree is literally BUZZING. You can hear it. Bees love holly. I had no idea!
The other projects we completed in April are as follows:
- Sold all our 2017 livestock – for sale animals
- Successfully transitioned all other livestock on the farm out to pasture
- Finished new equestrian barn and riding ring
- Prepared the garden for all seed starts
- Had all our medical appointments – eye surgeries – so as to not interrupt the rest of our farm season
- Cleaned the beds, weeded, put down lawn seed, started new lawn where we escavated for the riding ring
- Bought our mulch for bed preparation
- Got 200 extra bales of hay to hold us over until first cut
- Harvested first herbs – dried them and are now infusing them in olive oil for soap and salve making
- Harvested chive flowers – made chive vinegar
- Milk out goats twice a day – get 1-2 gallons a day
- Bottle feed three babies still – twice a day
- Stripped half of all livestock stalls to use for hay overlay to lawn seed to assure lawn comes in well
- Tuned up all farm equipment – oiled, greased, fueled, sharpened blades, etc.
- Tilled all our fields for corn, okra and vine based produce
- Planted more fruit trees
- Wrote a dozen articles for magazines and blogs on these subjects
- Had company
Obviously, the above is a long list. And, alot of it is more of a chore than a pleasure. But, indeed it is the month of PREP! If you do not get the above done, you are completely screwed out of any sort of successful garden, field, yard, lawn or animal husbandry situation for the entire rest of the season. See what I mean? It is THE PIVOTAL month of the year!!! Everyone under-estimates April. I always say, do not plan vacations for April. Now, of course in a Northern climate like where we came from in the Adirondacks of Northern New York, this whole list of items moves out one to two months on the yard, lawn and field side of the equation. But, the livestock component is pretty much still the same.
So, here are the things we are planning to accomplish in May:
- Complete garden in for the season
- All fields planted with corn, okra, pumpkin, squash, sunflowers, sunchokes, etc.
- All ducklings in the water in our pond, turkey poults in their new outdoor pens we need to construct and pheasants successfully introduced and staying in the wild inside our farm perimeter
- All deadfall and tree limbs that have been cleared successfully burned/disposed of
- New fence around the remaining acreage for meat goats to forage – thats about 8 acres worth of fence!!!
- New barn extension off back of livestock barn for rain coverage
- First CUT OF HAY!!!! We are talking about 1500 – 2000 bails of hay we get at the field, load via hay elevator, and stored in the barn
- All beds and landscaping completely done – weeding, mulching, new plant additions
- Harvesting of garden produce and herbs for cooking, drying and freezing
- Wean final three babies off of bottle feeding
- Continuation of milking each day and beginning of butter making, ice cream, cheeses and soaps – using milk now for home use across the dairy spectrum versus for feeding the baby kids and lambs
- Adding supers onto the bee hives
- Writing several feature articles/cover stories for various national publications in the US and abroad
- Closely monitor the health of our grape vines, apple trees and pear trees we inheritated here on the property to assure optimal health
- Begin to provide natural pesticides – we are organic here – to manage worms in livestock and also manage invasives in our gardens and in our orchards
- Seed our pastures that have not been seeded yet
This is a rather extensive list of items. I would say that May is probably the second most busy month for the crappy work following closely behind April. But the rewards are entirely worth the efforts we put in.
June, July, August, September and October all benefit due to April and May. And THAT is what we call rhythm.
I will do a second blog this morning that captures our photography for the week as this blog is already quite long. We encourage you to enjoy the journey!
God Bless! L. Davis