Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Meet Cooper and Yeti!!!

Guarding the Farm

Over the past few years, we have been gathering information about successful chicken production.  I have seen SO many "what-ate-my-chicken" blog and Facebook posts.  We want to try and be as proactive as possible about keeping predators away.  Right now, we know our predators at our farm include a large pack of coyotes that live behind our house and hawks and owls.  I am not as worried about the owls because we will be putting the chickens in at night and we plan to use hawk netting over the top of the run and paddocks to keep other flying predators away.  We really need something to keep the coyotes away.

My friend, Dennis, had a livestock guardian dog.  He said the dog was a great deterrent to predators.  In fact, it was a full 2 years after his dog passed before the coyotes even attempted to come back on to his property.  He also said that one day, he watched as his dog had a staring contest with a bald eagle.  The eagle was eyeing up his chickens.  Eventually, the eagle just flew away.

There are many different types of livestock guardian dogs.  Most of them originate from Turkey where the dogs were used with a shepherd to guard sheep when they would graze in the mountains.  The use of guardian dogs is a relatively new concept in the United States.  A true guardian dog is fairly independent and remains with their charge at all times.

I knew we wanted a dog to help deter the coyotes.  A couple of years ago, my brother's family sent me a book about different farm dogs (thanks Dale and Andrea).
It explains the difference between using dogs for guarding, herding or general protection of the farm.  Our chickens will not be free range.  They will have access to pasture any time there is not snow on the ground but they will be safely behind electric fencing.  We do not want our dog to be "in" with the chickens, just around the area so they could keep predators away from our farm.

A couple of years ago, I saw a vlog in which a farmer got a Great Pyrenees from a rescue.  I really liked this idea.  I immediately "liked" several livestock guardian rescue Facebook pages.  I had narrowed down my preference for a dog to a Great Pyrenees or Akbash.  

A couple of months ago, I filled out the paperwork to be considered for adoption of a dog.  I explained that we wanted the dog to stay outside to help fend off coyotes.  Our entire property had to be fenced.  We had worked on that this past spring - check.  The last thing to do was put a gate up.  We got the gate put up (hence, our living in a gated community now).  I was hoping to get the dogs in September and wanted to know if they had any dogs that had been around chickens.  They sent us Cooper and Yeti's information.  We were not expecting to get 2 dogs.  We only have 4 acres so I didn't think we would need 2 dogs but these dogs had been raised together.  They had been with their foster dad for the past 3 months in Montana.  The story is the Yeti was abandoned by her shepherds (in Utah) when she was a pup and someone rescued her and put her with Cooper and they grew up together as pups.  I have a feeling they were on some type of farm for the first 6 years.  Then, the family moved and did not need the dogs so they were given to the Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana. (GRPM)
Hi, I'm Cooper!

I've spent my whole life living on several acres with my buddy, Yeti. We are primarily outdoor pups that sleep in the garage at night. We'd love to find a similar scenario to go to! We don't have to stay together but we sure do get along well.

I'm 6 years old, neutered, and UTD on shots. I'm a friendly guy that does well around chickens, cats, and the majority of dogs. I've also lived around kiddos my whole life, too! My perfect home would have plenty of room for me outdoors, lots of snuggles/pets (I'm a pretty loving guy!), and a nice secure fence.
Meet Yeti!

Yeti is a spayed adult female dog (guesstimate is approx 6 or 7) who is looking for a relaxing home to grow old in! She's currently located in Helena, MT and GPRM will help with her transport to a forever home.

Yeti has lived happily with another male Pyr, watching chickens by day (and roaming her property), and sleeping indoors at night. She loves the outdoors and is friendly to anyone visiting her property. She loves affection and gives the Pyr paw!

This sweet girl would like a relaxing home to call her own (with or without chickens, livestock) and a cozy bed at night.

The GPRM really wanted to get the dogs placed right away so other dogs could be fostered.  On August 4th, Cooper and Yeti were transported from Helena, MT by 3 different sets of volunteers to our home in Moscow, ID.
Volunteers that drove down from Coeur d'Alene with dogs.
Within 30 minutes, they were out patrolling the property and barked at an owl in a tree until it flew away.  We still hear the owls at night so I don't think they have totally left the property.
Henry petting Yeti.
Denise petting Yeti.

They both LOVE to be petted...

Yeti got out the first couple of days.  She could go through where we closed the gate so we had to put some wire in the opening.  Cooper didn't seem interested in leaving.

It got hot the first week that they got to the farm.  Here is Cooper trying to keep cool.  He also likes to hang out in the forsythia bush.  I thought we might have to start another GoFundMe to help pay for the dog food but they actually don't eat as much as you might think.  Because they lay around and watch things most of the time, they are really calm dogs and have a lower metabolism.  Therefore, they don't eat any more than our black lab that we used to have as Mark's service dog.  Don't think that you are going to play fetch with these guys...they are definitely not retrievers. 
The first 3 nights, Yeti barked from like 10:00PM to 3:00AM NONSTOP.  Do you know what nonstop means?  I understand that they bark to keep the predators away but this was a little bit too much.  She was used to sleeping in a garage and she would be quiet if she was in a garage/barn.  However, it defeats the purpose of having a dog to guard the property if she is locked up in a garage.  GPRM suggested that we get a citronella collar.  It sprays a nasty smell when the dog barks.  We got one and it seems to be working.  She will still bark a couple minutes but not a couple hours.  Fingers crossed and prayers that it keeps working.
Cooper hanging out by bird bath (which they think is their water dish).
Yeti likes to hang out in front of the basement door.  I read in another book about Livestock Protection Dogs by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims that Great Pyrenees were often found lying across the doorways of their peasant masters and became known as "mat dogs".  They are both great guard dogs, sleeping most of the day and patrolling the property at night.  There is no way those coyotes are coming near here.
I could go on and on about these amazing,beautiful dogs.  We are so lucky to rescue these guys and have them on our farm.  They will be working as more "farm" dogs than livestock guardian dogs and they seem to be filling that role just fine.  Farm dogs are half pet and half guardian.  As I mentioned earlier, a true livestock guardian dog is left to independently care for the animals that they are protecting.

Our neighbor was out of town when we got the dogs.  We were able to introduce our dogs to their dog.  Luckily, they are friendly with the neighbor dog and know he is their friend.  This was a big concern for me.  I was hoping that everyone would get along.  Yeah!

It is great having dogs and not puppies.  I just don't have the time to devote to training a pup.  I had read that most guardian dogs do not really "guard" until they are about 2 years old.  Having two dogs allows for one to rest while the other one is on patrol.  When one passes, hopefully, we will be able to get a younger rescue and have the older dog train the new recruit.

I am also glad we were pushed to get the dogs early so we have time to spend with them and do some bonding before all the poultry come.  It seems to be working out great!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Kansas visitors and update on Mark's Coop Construction Campaign...

On the Farm

Denise's parents, Dennis and Terry, came to visit last week from Kansas.  Dad worked on the duck pond and used the chainsaw to clear a small tree near the fencing.  Mom helped with processing broccoli, green beans and beets!  It seems that the garden was so slow going and then all of a sudden there are WAY more vegetables than we could ever eat.  I realized pretty quickly that I planted too many beets.  I gave away beets, canned beets, pickled beets, fermented beets, dried beets, stored some in wet sand in our fridge for future use and made beet ketchup and we still have beets in the garden!  A good problem to have...

We also did some fun things!  We went on a jet boat ride down the Snake River through part of Hells Canyon.  It was amazing!  We all really enjoyed it.  Here are some pics of what we saw (please, realize that I am not a professional photographer...these were just taken with my iPhone...)

Wild sheep...this is a heard of females and their babies (they stay separate from the rams)
 Mark seemed to really enjoy the boat ride.
 A bear!!!  We actually saw 2 different bears.
 Mom taking picture of bear on the rocks.
Mountain sheep ram herd.
We also saw white pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, chukars, mule deer, and more!  The boat captain also gave lots of history about the area.  We also saw Native American pictographs (painted) and petroglyphs (etched into stone) symbols.  It is hard to believe we live so close to such a beautiful area.  Who needs the Grand Canyon when you have Hells Canyon?

We went huckleberry picking and through a puzzle escape room.  We did not make it out in time but it was the first time we had ever done anything like that so it took us some time to try and figure it out.  It was still a lot of fun!

We also went bowling and for a walk through the Arboretum at the University of Idaho and for ice cream at Ferdinands at Washington State University.
Terry, Mark and Dennis at arboretum.
And on Saturday, my parents helped me at the Farmer's Market.  It was a busy week!  I am really grateful for all their help!

ReMARKable Eggs Update

I have heard from the contractor that ground breaking for the chicken coops will be some time during the very last week of August!  We have raised over $7500 through the GoFundMe!  We are thankful for all this support!  It will be used to buy the building supplies for the coops.  As it gets closer, we will have lots of updates about the coop construction!

Lastly...we now live in a gated community...more on this to come in 2 weeks...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Comfrey Chop and Drop and Fertilizer

In the Garden

Things have been super busy so this will be a brief post.  I want to grow the sunflowers sustainably.  I am looking for ways to add more natural nutrients/fertilizer for the flowers.  The sunflowers on the end of my row were looking a little scrawny.  I decided to try some chop and drop around the sunflowers to help keep the weeds down and provide a little fertilizer for the flowers.  I cut back this comfrey plant.
Before picture of comfrey plant ready to cut
After picture of comfrey plant that has been cut
Side note: If you don't know about comfrey, there seems to be ALOT of uses for this fast growing perennial from medicinal uses for people and animals to using it as a fertilizer or compost activator in the garden.  Here is a nice little article on 12 Uses for Comfrey Plant in the Garden and Homestead.

Okay, back to the chop and drop...I loaded the comfrey into a wheelbarrow so I could chop it up...
Comfrey in wheelbarrow waiting to be chopped
I used a machete to chop up the comfrey into about 6 inch pieces.

Then, I took it over to the sunflowers and placed it around the base of the plants.

I had a good amount of comfrey plants to chop and drop but I also made some comfrey fertilizer.  I found some good instructions for making and using comfrey fertilizer in this article: 7 Ways to Feritlize the Garden with Comfrey.  Basically, you chop up the comfrey and put it in a 5 gallon bucket.  I used a brick to weigh it down and then filled the bucket with water.  Then, you let it brew for 3 weeks.  Mine is ready to use but I have been SO busy that I haven't gotten back to it!  I did open the bucket to sneak a peek last week.  It smells really bad and I think that is a good sign. 

Although you need to dilute the fertilizer, I think the fertilizer will go a lot further than the chop and drop.  I plan on diluting the fertilizer about 10 parts fertilizer to 1 part water.

I did this chop and drop last month and the comfrey plants have already grown back so I will be able to chop and drop some more!

The bumblebees and butterflies love the comfrey flowers.  This butterfly is hanging upside down on the flower so it can get a drink...
Okay, I am off to pick more raspberries and huckleberries so I can make more jam this week!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Spring recap and new addition to the farm!

On the Farm...

If you have followed the blog or our Facebook site at all, you will know that this past spring has been quite a roller coaster for our family...

Just before the "official" start of spring when Denise took Joshua down to Utah on March 18 to go into a residential treatment program.  This was heart breaking for us to do.  The good news is that he is sounding really good.  He has now earned the privilege of making 5 phone calls a week so we are getting to talk with him more.  We are planning a trip down to Utah to visit him in the fall.  Release date is October 2020 (yes, that is next year and this is only if things keep going well...).  

In April, I (Denise) was pretty much sick the entire month.  It was very strange.  I would get a really intense headache and then I was just completely exhausted most of the time.  Then, the coughing.  On and on it went for about 3 weeks of absolutely no energy.  I coughed so hard that I "hurt" my lung (I think I may have had a viral pneumonia).  It's like the lining of my lung got out of place.  Kind of hard to explain but it is CRAZY painful.  I actually did this twice.  The first time, I thought I had literally pulled a muscle in my back from coughing so hard and it hurt but I could manage it.  A few days later somehow it "corrected" itself and I was completely pain free again.

In May, I had the worst case of allergies I have ever had.  The sneezing and coughing continued and I, again, "hurt" my lung but this time it was completely debilitating and I immediately went to the urgent care.  I was given a shot of an anti-inflammatory and some strong pain medication.  The doctor explained that it was called pleurisy.  It only took about 3-4 days before I was back at full speed.

We enjoyed a nice flush of migrating hummingbirds in May.
Mark went to his Senior Prom!
Our mushroom patch did amazing this spring and we have dried WAY more mushrooms than we will probably even be able to use.  I highly recommend making a mushroom patch in your garden!
The transmission went out on our lawn mower so we had to buy a new one.  This has helped immensely.  I used to have to mow about 1-2 hours a day and I could hardly keep on top of everything.  Now, I can pretty much do the entire property in a couple afternoons.  I did not opt for the bagger and I LOVED collecting the clippings to put in the compost bin, but it is just so much faster when I don't have to stop and unload constantly.  I just make a point to collect a 5 gallon bucket of weeds each day and add it to the compost.  No shortage of weeds here on the farm between the sunflower patch, berry patches, food forest and the garden...

Mark graduated from high school!  
 Somehow amid all the sickness and celebrations, I did manage to get the garden planted!

Mark continues to do well with lowering his blood pressure and weight loss.  His last blood pressure reading was 110/80 and the cardiologist said he did not need to see him anymore (I would say at the highest it was around 135/95 when we started).  We have been working to lower his blood pressure by losing weight.  We have not started any medications.  Mark's weight is down to 237.  He started at 270 last November.  He is probably even lower now.  I really cannot take any credit for the weight loss.  He just doesn't seem to have much of an appetite lately.  In fact, it is actually starting to get to the point that it is concerning me that he is not eating much.  We FINALLY have an appointment with a GI doctor in August.  This should have happened months ago but hopefully, we will start to make some improvements with his constipation issues at that time.

Henry and I took a date night to Spokane to see the movie, The Biggest Little Farm the end of June.  On the way home, we hit a deer with our minivan and this totaled out the vehicle.  I had this van for 13 years and it was definitely showing it's wear.
This gave us a good excuse to get that farm truck.  It came with a towing package!  So, welcome to our new addition to the farm...this is my new ride now.  
Mark seems to really like it too.  He woke up the other day and the first word out of his mouth was "truck" (usually, it is "pancakes" or "cheeseballs").

Hoping the roller coaster is coming to an end...

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunflower Surprises

Sunflower News

I have been wanting to get an update out about the sunflowers but I have just been busy with Mark's graduation and getting things going for his business.

Usually, I would be doing a spring summary (since it was just the summer solstice a couple days ago and I try to do a recap of the previous season whenever we change seasons).  BUT, I am going to put that off for a couple of weeks and get this Sunflower update done.  I have a couple of exciting little surprises that are happening with the sunflowers.  

I started planting sunflowers on April 15th.  I plant a couple of times a week and I just completed planting yesterday (June 20th).  I planted roughly 2400 sunflowers.  Some of those are black oil sunflowers which we will be keeping for seeds to feed to the chickens/ducks.  

I have planted 15 varieties.  I want to narrow the varieties down a bit but I never seem to get around to taking notes on which varieties I like.  Again, I have failed to take note of how the flowers grew.  As I write this, I have come up with an idea to something to try new for next year.  One thing I can tell you is that the slugs seem to really like the red sunflowers!  I had to replant them many times.  Also, the "lime" varieties (Sunrich Limoncello Summer and Sunrich Lime), seemed to struggle a little bit.  I think the Limoncello is probably my favorite so I will keep growing it. Also, I just like saying Limoncello...
Sunrich Limoncello Summer - see how it has dark yellow on the inner petals and then the color gets lighter!  I just love that!
The slugs were still a problem this spring!  Ugh!  I used a combination of wood ash and eggshells to help keep them at bay but still had to replant several times.

The past couple of days have been cool and WINDY.  The flowers did not like that much.  Bring on the heat!!!

Sunflower Surprise #1:  When I was opened my seed order earlier this year from Sunflower Selections, I got 200 free seeds of a brand new sunflower.  It is called Procut Horizon.  The sunflowers are upward facing (this makes them extra special) and I am so excited to try them!  As you can probably guess, the upward facing quality will make these excellent for putting in vases and on your table!  Now we are back up to 16 varieties planted this year.

Sunflower Surprise #2:  A couple of weeks ago I went to a party and happened to meet the Moscow Food Co-op manager.  She was super nice and suggested that I try to sell sunflowers at the Co-op.  She said to contact the Produce manager and get it set up.  I contacted him a couple of days ago and got the ball rolling!  

The great thing about selling to the Co-op is that less flowers will be wasted.  Remember earlier when  I said I planted 2400 sunflowers.  Well, if a flower blooms on a Monday, I can't use that flower to sell on Saturday.  So, in past years, many hundreds of flowers have been totally wasted because they bloomed at the wrong time (actually, they were not totally wasted because they got composted).  I probably should have pursued something like this a long time ago but I just haven't had the time.  I'm glad that things seem to be working out now.

I am really excited for this new opportunity and hope it works well.  Now, you should be able to purchase ReMARKable Farms sunflowers at the Co-op!
Sunflowers getting ready to bloom!
I added a Sunflower page to the ReMARKable Farms website too!  There is a lists of all the previous blog posts that talk about sunflowers on the website.

I may regret this later when I am trying to harvest flowers but I wanted to try something new.  I planted 8 different types of winter squash down the center row of the sunflowers.  I was wondering if they might help keep some of the weed pressure down.  Also, I just want to have a lot of winter squash to store and feed to the chickens over the winter so this seemed like a good place to plant some.

There, I think you should be all up to date about our sunflower saga so far...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Mark's Graduation! and HUGE shout out...

2019 Moscow High School Graduation

I have already posted much about graduation but just wanted to summarize everything here in one "spot"...mostly for our own future reference!  Make sure to scroll down to the bottom of this blog post for the SHOUT OUT...

On Friday morning, Mark and I headed over to the Kibbie Dome for practice.  Mark's current Community Support Worker, Ashley Murphy, met us there.  She was to be Mark's "escort" for the evenings activities.  I was really worried that Mark might not be able to sit through the graduation.  He likes to be on-the-move a lot...
Mark waiting for graduation practice to start
Toward the end of the practice, he was starting to get a little antsy.  The practice was 95 minutes long so I could understand why he was getting restless.  I was having a hard time sitting there myself.

Finally, we got to leave and went to the store for some last minute supplies for the big graduation party the next day.

That evening, Mark did a great job walking in to the ceremony.
He REALLY enjoyed looking at all the people in attendance at the graduation.  He spent the entire time looking over his shoulder at all the people.  He didn't care to wear his hat while sitting through the ceremony and I can't blame him, it was a really tight fit.
At least it kept him occupied.  At one point, the graduation speaker had the class stand up and turn around to say Thank You to parents and people that supported the graduating class.
Mark really enjoyed that...he could see everyone better!  I was worried that he might just want to stand there and look at everyone but he did finally sit back down (and kept looking over his shoulder at everyone).

Then, it came to walking across the stage and he did a great job.
They did not practice actually accepting the diploma at the practice earlier that day so he didn't know that he was supposed to take it.  Then, when he went to get his picture, he said, "I want a drink, I want a drink."  Overall, he did an amazing job!  The actual ceremony was 75 minutes long and he did great sitting through it.  

The next day we had a celebration at our house and I want to say a big "Thank you" to everyone that came out.  It was so amazing to have you at our home and support Mark.  He liked the party but was happy to just hang out in his room.  I got him down for a picture but the lighting was really bad so the pic is not too good.  
So, there it is!  Mark is officially a graduate of Moscow High School!
Now, time for the big SHOUT OUT.  A huge Thank You to Ashley for supporting Mark at graduation.  Ashley is a year older than Mark and was involved with Mark while in high school through the Buddy Club.  She worked with Mark last summer and then went to college in Mississippi to play volleyball in the fall.  She is back for the summer and is supporting Mark again before she heads back to college.
Ashley has been invaluable in helping Mark to get through graduation successfully!  We appreciate her so much!  Thank you Ashley Murphy!

We will slowly be going through Mark's graduation cards over the next couple of weeks and adding any gifts to his GoFundMe to count toward his Coop Construction Campaign!  Thanks for your support!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

What kind of chickens and ducks will we have on the farm?

ReMARKable Eggs

Recently, we made a big decision regarding the chickens that we will have on the farm.  For many years, we were planning to use heritage breeds of chickens.  Heritage chicken breeds have slow growth rate, can mate naturally, and live long, productive lives.  At first, I thought we would have Dominique chickens.  Then, I got excited about Speckled Sussex.  Lastly, I started learning more about "sex linking" and I decided we would want Delaware hens and Speckled Sussex roosters to produce eggs that hatched out sex linked chicks.

I got really excited about sex linked chicks.  Chicken sexer's must go to school for 3 years to learn the trade.  BUT if you cross a "white" Delaware hen with a "reddish" Rhode Island Red rooster, the females (pullets) are red, while the males (cockerels) are yellow at hatching so you can separate the chicks.  Therefore, we could separate out the roosters and raise them up for meat.

The heritage chickens that we chose are "dual" purpose breeds.  These are breeds that are good for eggs and meat.  There are also certain breeds of chickens that are just raised for meat (mostly Cornish Cross) and breeds of chickens that are egg laying (like a Leghorn).  The dual purpose breeds fall in the middle for egg production and meat production.

Then, as we started working with Vocational Rehabilitation, I started crunching the numbers.  I spent 3 hours last week updating the business plan.  I am meeting with someone from the Small Business Administration on Tuesday to review the business plan.

It's expensive to start a business from the ground up.  We want our farm to be sustainable but we won't be here long if we can't pay for our start up costs.  I was looking at incubators and hatchers that cost several hundred dollars each.  In addition, we would need extra pens/housing to raise the roosters.  Trying to find a processors is about non-existent so we would probably have to do it ourselves and you don't even want to know how much a plucker and a scalder costs...

This is an egg business and what will make us successful is selling a lot of eggs.  We started looking at hybrid egg laying chickens and ducks.  Delaware chickens may produce anywhere from 200-280 eggs/year.  A Red Star hybrid chicken can produce 280-300 eggs/year.  Can you see the difference?  Egg = money.  My calculations in the business plan is based on poultry producing 260 eggs/year.

Red Star hybrid chickens
I started looking and found that there is really only 2 hybrid ducks that produce about 300 eggs a year.  They are basically the same but one breed is pure white and one is colored...we will go with the Golden (colored) ducks.

Golden 300 Hybrid Layer ducks
We are not permanently giving up on the idea of raising heritage poultry breeds.  I know that some "lines" of certain breeds have been developed to be better egg layers and we will take more time to explore this.  BUT to start, it is more important to get the business profitable and that means keeping costs down (no incubators, no hatchers, no processing equipment, etc...) and selling more eggs.  According to my predictions, Mark will not actually make a profit until the 4th year.  IF Mark's Coop Construction Campaign is successful, we will probably see profits on the 3rd year.

Of course, the breed of poultry is only one part of running the egg business.  We are also committed to providing high quality feed and forage opportunities to the poultry to make sure them have healthy, active lives.

Mark's graduation is 12 days away!