Jun 2, 2009

Awaiting Spring

Hello All,

So things on the farm are finally starting to pick up. There's a possibility that the worst of winter is behind us and Spring is around the corner. Of course when I look outside of my window at the three plus feet of snow on the ground it looks more like spring is down the block and it will be a while before she gets here. Never-the-less preparations must be made, and in that sense we are in full swing around here. After agonizing for hours over what animals we're going to add to the farm this year we have concluded that Chickens, Goats, Rabbits, and Bees will be joining Snowbound Farms. This decision was based both on our current financials as well as the amount of time we have to be invested in animal care this year. In future years we hope to be able to add larger livestock but that prospect is just not feasible this year.

So, the breed of chicken we thought best suited to our climate and conditions in Maine was really a no brain er for me. I spent quite a lot of time going over which breeds of birds can raise their own young, and call me crazy but if the chicken doesn't have the brains to sit on it's own nest and hatch an egg than it's to stupid to be on this farm. I understand that broodiness was a trait breed out of most types of chickens because farmers wanted their birds to continuously lay eggs instead of always trying to nest, but for me I want a breed that can replenish itself without me having to incubate each an everyone. So naturally I choose a Bantam Breed. Apparently this breed is the only one left with any brains. We choose the Silkie variety, because of their ability to be broody, forage for their own food, and they have a higher tolerance to cold than other Bantam varieties. The only downside to this variety I can see is that their skin is a bluish color instead of buff. I can't quite see eating a blue chicken dressed on the dinner table. So needless to say these will be our layers and luckily for them they will be spared the axe. We are not going to add a additional variety of chicken this year for us to eat. The extra costs of additional fencing and another hen house is not something I want to invest at this time. So we will have eggs and chickens to sell but none to eat this Spring. Our Silkie Bantams will be joining us the last week of May.

The goats, for me at least, was a much harder decision. There are two types of goats and countless varieties in each type. A milk goat or a meat goat. Both types require a large investment of both time and money so keeping them cannot be entered upon lightly. In order to keep goats at Snowbound Farms we have to build a structure of sorts to keep them in and fence in an antiquate pasture. Not to mention the production of their food must be added to what we already grow on the farm so as to make a maximum profit on them. After careful consideration of both types we feel that the meat goat variety would better suit our needs. Don't get me wrong, the milk goats are great money makers but I would have to market my cheese here at home and I think that in such a rural area I would have to do a lot of merchandising that might be done in the future but with an infant is impossible for me to do now. Meat goats can be sent to slaughter as a group and sold to a producer or "middle man". This cuts down on my profits but it eliminates the time and effort of marketing we would have to do in order to sell directly to the public ourselves. I can however sell stock from the farm which is of course another plus. After talking to many goat owners and breeders I found that a Boer/ Nubian Cross might be the best way to go with our goats. With the Boer Goats I can have a goat with more muscle who as an adult can reach 360 lbs. With the Nubian Goats they have some of the highest content of butter fat in their milk making it excellent for cheese production. So when you cross the two you get kids that finish at a higher weight, faster, and with less stress on the Nubian mother than if she were a Boer. Sounds logical to me, but we shall see. Our goats will be joining us some time in June.

The decision of rabbits can from my love of rodents as my husband Steve calls them. I'm the kind of person that loves guinea pigs and hamsters, and that will feed the birds outside and set up another feeder "just for the squirrels". Steve on the other hand sees them as varmint and feels they should be executed on sight. Needless to say he thinks rabbits are a waste of time and money. So rabbits are a venture for me and my eldest son, Vincent, only. I think it will be a good learning experience for him and will teach him so good old fashioned responsibility. So he's apart of it weather he likes it or not, and as of right now he's really excited about it. How excited he'll be when he's got to clean a wall of cages remains to be seen, but oh well. As I previously stated I am a lover of rodents so no meat rabbits for me. We are going to have the Angora variety. They are truly the most adorable puff balls I have ever seen, and I am so excited to have them on my farm. The fur which is plucked in hairballs ( the rabbit is not harmed at all) is worth a nice amount of money out here, and if all goes well I may look into other fiber animals for Snowbound Farms next year. Our Angora Rabbits should be joining us at the beginning of May.

As for the Honey Bees, that was a decision made because we put in a 48 tree apple orchard last year. We have 8 trees each of Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Granny Smith, Stayman Winesap, Gala, and Honeycrisp. This spring makes them 3-yr-old trees. 3 more years and we should be getting some apples. That's the thing about a farm; everything moves so much slower. It's all a process, nothing happens right away. Everything is a wait. Anyways, we're adding 2 10 frame bee hives to our orchard in the hopes that they will survive. Bees in general aren't doing very well around the world. But, if they make it they will help pollinate our orchard, market garden, corn field, potatoe field, and our bush fruit that we are also planting in June. The bees will be arriving mid July from North Carolina.

Well, that about sums it up. Anyone wishing to see pictures of our new arrivals should Check back often in May and June. It will be a busy time for us here and I should be doing updates all the time. I will be posting picks of their arrival as well as their progress. Everyone's excited about the coming Spring. Now if it will just ever get here.

Thank You and God Bless.

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