By now you have surely heard about how important it is to regain and maintain the health of your digestive tract, or gut. It is important to limit caffeine and sugar as well as highly processed foods. Adding homemade bone broths daily, increasing your intake…
Back on 29th April, the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Brian and our son William began bending hoops from which to build a long-awaited production greenhouse. A little over a week ago, our oldest son, Jack spent two days here building the end walls and helping his Pa and brother cover it. With the generous donation of plant tables made by our long-time friends and fellow farmers, we now have the means to nurse cuttings and small plants, mainly lavenders and other herbs for medicine, cooking, and dyes.
It isn’t large enough for growing off seeds and seedlings, we will still need to hire that out. We are blessed to have that service available from another farm not too far from here. This small production greenhouse is a significant step forward for us and we are grateful for this great blessing!
Ever since we bought the farm in 2011 – even before the purchase was final – we have striven toward a permaculture model. There was (and still is) a lot to learn and to try. But this winter, I (Nissa) completed a permaculture design certification program from Oregon State University under the instruction of Andrew Millison, and simultaneously completed a comprehensive design of the entire farm. I am currently working on detailed designs of each element. I will be offering classes on Permaculture Basics and developing a permaculture design course. We will also be offering hands on projects primarily for those with some knowledge of permaculture. These projects will include earthworks, plantations, and natural building projects. And of course there will be ample opportunity for hands-on learning in the daily operation of the farm. All of these and more will be posted to our learning page. Be sure to join our mailing list for information on when these and other classes, workshops, and events are scheduled. And we sure would be tickled if you supported some of our upcoming fundraisers to defray the costs of materials, and to offer scholarships to prospective students.
(for more detailed description of this design, click here)
Today, we completed the dispersal of all our animals, our herd of Oberhasli dairy goats and a handful of sheep. It was bittersweet. These girls became part of our family in the Spring of 2011, shortly after we purchased this farm. Every day for almost 6 years (2,000 consecutive days), one of our family spent time with these creatures, making sure they were fed, watered and milked. Each of our kids had their favorite (actually, I think they all had the same one) and excitement ensued when they grazed in the back of the house at meal time. We nursed some by bottles after rough births. We nursed some back to health after surgery. Some we assisted birthing in the wee hours of the morning. Cleaned them, cared for them, LOVED them.But it became apparent last year that we were fighting a losing battle in making them financially viable. Most significantly, the 1980’s era cattle barn they were housed in, is really showing its age. The milk house, having been stripped bare by previous owners, still needed thousands of dollars in renovations to get it up to current health standards in order to obtain a milk license needed to sell the raw milk on-farm. Sections of the roof were coming off from years of withstanding winter winds. Entire sections of roof supports had been snapped under the weight of wet winter snow a few years ago. And after almost 40 years of aging, timber frames and building parts were just breaking and rotting.
Besides the impossibility of keeping up with capital repairs, the last two years saw us without the ability to bring in our hay. So we had to buy it for the winter months. That on top of the hundreds of dollars a week required in grain. And the constant movement of fencing and a hundred other little things that need to be done to properly care for animals. All of this time and money was being invested without a way of bringing in some income. So, we chose to change directions.
Farmer John just left with the last of them on the back of his truck. We are sad to see them go after all the blood, sweat, and tears we put into them. But hopefully, a long needed respite is at hand as our daily chore regimen just left with them. I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to our two boys, Jack and Will, who spent many hours with these girls when I couldn’t, or who just lent a hand when needed. And Cate and Carrie who jumped in when needed even after spending all day helping tend to our own little ones. This is not the way we intended this to end when we bought those first 8 does. But we have learned a lot and will use that knowledge as we go forward on a new adventure here on the farm. We have not surrendered; we will find a way to steward this farm, hopefully for generations to come.
Please do not feel sorry for us. This is the way of small family farms today. We knew that when we started. But please do know that this is the way of small family farms. It is entrepreneurship of epic proportions. We collaborate with our Creator to make something out of nothing for the most important of reasons – the very sustenance of humanity. Keep us in mind every time you eat, every time you go to the grocery store. Know that we undertake this voluntarily for those we don’t even know. This is our labor of LOVE.
New Years are always thought of as a time for new beginnings and resolutions. Our farm is no different. In farm life, winters are a little slower. Short days and long nights mean the goats are not being milked. Gardens are covered with snow so do not need to be tended. Not warm enough yet for maple sap to be flowing. So it is a good time to reflect on the year past and make plans for the coming year. Here at the farm, 2017 is going to be a year of significant changes. After 5 years of raising dairy goats, we are calling it quits. The does are part of our family. Many a late night were spent milking them, or monitoring labor. Some of them were bottle fed. Our oldest son Jack, spent the two years we lived off farm driving out to take care of them – every day.
It is not an easy decision. But it is apparent after this long that even though they are part of our family, that commercially, they are not viable. Our old dilapidated barn and milk house was not designed with the current health code requirements in mind. And the two previous owners, both faced with foreclosure, stripped anything of value out the the place. So after five years of renovations and a significant sum of money and we still are not able to pass a licensing inspection. So we will be making changes this spring. After kidding this year (which began December 28th by the way!), we will begin dispersing the herd and we will begin preparing the farm for sheep. That way, we can focus on wool and lamb while we continue to renovate the barn and milk house (that’s right, we will be milking sheep!). So if you know anyone looking for Oberhasli goats, let us know or point them to us.
We also have some big news about our newest plans for 2017…but you’ll have to wait for the next post for that news.
Twenty years ago, we took a weekend trip from our home in Woodditton, England to Norfolk Lavender Farm in Heacham. We were smitten with the historic house converted to a gift shop and café, the demonstration garden, the distillery… and the fields of lavender just as far as you could see.
More than ten years ago, we began looking for a farm of our own. Lavender was always part of that plan. We studied everything we could find on the cultivation and uses of lavender. In 2011, we purchased this farm and began restorations, working toward a time that would be right to plant our first lavender plants. This weekend, that day arrived.
5400 plants were delivered to the farm from Sequim, Washington, with a small number of additional plants yet to come. The nearly three acre field is being prepared. This week, we hope to be getting all of our plants into the ground. In two more years, we should be rewarded with a full harvest of fragrant purple blooms which should return every season for many years to come.
The whole family is excited about all of the wonderful things we will be offering to our customers – all made with our lavender.