Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Security on the farm...home, electric, and feed...

Security On the Farm and Home

Technically, we live in the county and our property borders the city limits but we are not in the city but VERY close.  We have a long driveway that is almost a quarter mile long.  We share this driveway with our one neighbor.  Both of our mailboxes are at the end of the driveway right off A Street.  

You canNOT see our house from the street.  The driveway winds around the side of a large hill.  There is one straight part when you first come in and then you go over a cattle guard and turn left and head west for a small bit and then turn right and head north again.  The driveway literally ends at our house and that is where the gate is located, right where the driveway ends into our property.  

I hope that all makes sense.  The only reason I bring it all up is because several times, we have had people come onto the property and "mess" with things.  Again, you cannot see our house from the main street so you really have to come down the driveway about a quarter mile to get to our house.  

Here are some things that I can remember happening:  

The first time that we went to Salt Lake City to visit Joshua, someone came into our home.  The neighbor was feeding the dog and cat at the time.  On our last day away, he called and said that the front door was wide open when he came over.  There was a cigarette butt on the floor in the entryway.  It doesn't appear that anything was taken.

Several times, we have heard someone knocking on the window at like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning (or maybe that is a ghost).

December 2020 (I think), we had just had a good size snowfall and someone walked down the driveway in the middle of the night and broke our keypad (for the automatic gate) out of the holder.  It is plastic and they must have used something to break it.  Luckily, when the snow melted, the neighbor found the keypad at the end of the driveway in the melting snowbank, a quarter mile from where the keypad holder is located.  

The ghost has also moved our full trash cans from the curb, where they were waiting to get emptied, back to our mailbox area (so then the trash did not get picked up).

Just a couple weeks ago, the driveway was frozen and icy and someone was coming to get duck eggs.  I told them I would put the eggs in a cooler at the mailbox so they would not have to come down the slippery driveway.  Luckily, the neighbor decided to walk to get his mail and as he came around the corner he saw someone at the cooler and they ran off.  They had already smashed some eggs and broke the egg carton.  You cannot even see the cooler from the street so they would have had to walk into the driveway to see it.  

After the person walked down and smashed our keypad, the neighbor put up a game camera along the driveway and someone sprayed sealant on it and basically ruined it.

Last spring, the ghost opened the valve on my full rain barrel and let all the water out.  I thought Henry had done it because he kept telling me that I should leave it full of water over the winter but he said he hadn't touched it.  

So....we have been wanting to put some type of security system in place for a while.  I did put some of my game cameras up along the driveway but I had to turn them on and off each day and that got old after a while.  Finally, last weekend we put up automatic cameras that sense motion detection all around the house!  Let's see if this helps!  Ghosty...you have been warned!

Electricity security

Speaking of security...another project we are working on involves planning for power outages.  Luckily, we have not had any major power outages yet since moving to the farm.  BUT it has been on my mind since we moved here.  First, we have a well and we need electricity for it to pump so we have water.  I would not want to be without water with all the critters depending on us.  I am not too worried about heat because we have a nice wood burning stove to take care of that in the winter.  The wood stove can heat the entire downstairs of the home so we would not spend a lot of time upstairs which is no big deal.  We just need to keep a good supply of firewood.    

I was listening to a podcast and the lady talked about how they could plug their generator into their electric panel in the home and power their house that way.  This intrigued me.  I called up the electric company and they came out and installed wiring from the breaker box to an outlet that they mounted on the outside of the home.  Now, we can just plug in a generator and run the refrigerators, stove top and some outlets and lights!  However we still need to purchase a generator.  I know which one I want and I guess we will wait for our tax return to purchase it.  Fingers crossed we don't need it before then!  Joshua would LOVE for us to get solar panels.  It is something I have thought about but not ready to dive into yet.

Feed security

This past week, we took a big plunge with providing for Mark's egg business.  We bought a 3 ton portable grain bin!  Up until now, we have been buying 40 pound bags of feed for the girls.  We have been buying it from a farmer.  He buys bulk feed and then puts it into the smaller bags to sell around the area.  We always get our delivery of feed on the first Saturday of the month.  Last month, we got 25 bags of layer feed and 10 bags of chick starter.  In March, the chicks will be switching over to the layer feed.  If you do the math, this is 1400 pounds of feed.  All in small bags.  That is a lot of bags to lug around.  

It is most cost effective to buy feed in bulk (like the farmer does) and we are finally at a level of production that warrants us getting our own bulk feed directly from a grain mill or farmer.  But to do that you have to have some way to haul the feed around!  The feed bin was expensive but the cost of the feed is going to be lower by buying in bulk versus little bags.  This is going to be a real game changer for Mark's business and will allow him to be more profitable!  It should pay for itself in about 2 years...ugh!
We drove up to Post Falls to get the grain bin.  I decided to see if we could get some feed since we were going to be up near Coeur d'Alene and Spokane.  There is only one farmer that mills feed in our area and they are not taking new customers.  Luckily, I found a mill that was not too far out of our way so we stopped there and got a ton of feed on our way home.  
After getting the feed and starting our drive back home, I got a message from our feed dealer saying that he was ending his feed business.  Talk about timing!  He was having trouble buying feed...remember that drought last year...it is affecting the feed supply...
The chicks have been eating chick starter and we usually keep feeding them chick starter until they are getting ready to lay which will be in March.  I did a little more research into the protein requirements for young chickens.  The most important time for high protein feed, aka chick starter, is the first 7 weeks.  The chicks are 11 weeks old so they can be put on a lower protein feed now.  We will probably just start feeding the chicks the layer feed when our current chick feed runs out.  More good timing.  If we get to a point that we can fill the whole 3 ton grain bin, we have feed security for the girls for several months!
Working hard to keep the farm safe and secure...have an eggcellent day!
~ Denise

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Using wood ashes and charcoal with poultry and on the farm

In the Coop

We have been enjoying the wood stove a lot this winter.  Every now and then, you have to clean out the ashes.  Then, the question is...what do I do with these ashes?  Luckily, there are lots of uses for ashes on the farm.  

Here is a pic of Beck (cat)...she loves hanging out by the fire...with all the wet gloves, hats, and shoes!

Nutrition and Detox

To begin, wood ash contains important minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. Sprinkling a pinch of wood ash on the feed nourishes the girls, especially egg-laying chickens. They need these important minerals to lay eggs!  Wood ash also works as a detoxifier and removes toxins out of the chickens and ducks bodies.  I usually use a sifter to screen the ashes and remove the charcoal pieces.  (I even have some charcoal pills that I bought and take from time to time to help detox my system.)
I put the charcoal pieces into a small rubber tub and let the chickens and ducks "peck" at them.  Putting a little charcoal in the waterer is helpful in avoiding harmful algae and bacteria from developing. Side note: this will make the water a gray color which is not visually appealing.  

Pest Control

The fine ashes that fall through the sieve are mixed with sand and used to make a dust bath for the chickens.  Dust baths are great for keeping parasites from "bugging" the chickens because the ashes suffocate fleas, lice, and mites.  Ducks prefer to swim in water and preen to control pests so they do not use a dust bath.

Odor Control

Wood ash can neutralize coop odor. I just sprinkle some wood ash on top of the bedding on the floor.  The chickens like to scratch through it and will eat little pieces.  Wood ash reduces the amount of ammonia in manure by preventing fumes from forming. Wood ash is alkaline and mixing it with manure in the coop helps in regulating its acidity.  The ashes are absorbent too so they help to keep the coop dry too.

Natural De-icer

Another use is to put the ashes down on the ice to provide some traction.  There was a slab of ice forming in front of the door to the new coop so I spread a thin layer of ash on the ice and voila! No more slipping!  I wouldn't put ashes on the doorstep of your home because that would cause you to bring in lots of black yuck on your shoes but it is great for this situation because I always take my boots off first thing when I come back into the house...

In the Garden

Ashes are great in the garden for plants that prefer alkaline conditions such as asparagus, beets, tomatoes, and fruit trees.  If we have a bunch of extra ashes then I also add them to the compost bin and mix them in.  

In 2019, we got a new wood stove and it is so efficient that we do not get many ashes!  Luckily, we also have a large burn pile that I can harvest some ashes from in the summer.  I still wish I had more this winter.  I am using them as fast as we create them!  

Have an eggcellent week!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Christmas 2021 and Looking forward to 2022...

 Tis the Season...

Last winter, I decided to get a head start on making Christmas gifts for 2021.  I made hats using a loom.  I don't know how to knit but I watched a YouTube video to learn how to use an e-wrap stitch to make the hats.  It was simple to do and a great way to spend the evenings by the fire in the winter.  I am trying to teach myself a more sophisticated stitch this winter but it is not going so well and I am losing motivation.
Along with the hats, everyone got a mug from ReMARKable Eggs and a little jar of preserves.  Also, the women got Pumpkin seed brittle and the men got Smoked pumpkin seeds.  Mostly homemade gifts this year.  Here is a pic of my brother and his family enjoying some hot chocolate (I am guessing) in their ReMARKable Eggs mugs!

Small Reflection of the Past Year for ReMARKable Eggs

In regards to Mark's egg business, I just wanted to make a couple of notes.  Last summer, we switched from cardboard egg cartons to plastic cartons.  They are not recyclable at our local facility so that is a bad thing BUT we can reuse them multiple times.  When we were using the cardboard cartons, we would have to recycle 3 or 4 every week because they would just break down over time.  Since we have started using the plastic cartons, I think that we have only had to throw out one carton in 6 months of use!  The plastic cartons are also great because they don't fall apart if they get wet.  This just makes the plastic cartons SO much more economical.  Also, it is super fun to open the fridge and "see" all the eggs!

We are working hard to decrease business expenses so that profits are bountiful.  On that note, we are looking forward to 2022 and really getting Mark's egg business to a brand new level!  

2022...the year of the egg!
As you probably know, in early November, the double chicken coop was finally getting close to being completed.  It is finished enough that Mark could purchase some new chicks.  We put the chicks in the east half of the chicken coop.  He purchased 75 new chicks and 77 came and they all lived!  They should start laying in March.  It is amazing how fast these girls can grow...
Along with the current chickens, there is now a total of about 162 chickens (I think there are 85 of the older chickens...it is challenging to count the older girls...about half of the older chickens are 2 years old and the other half are 1 year old).  The older chickens in the barn will be moving into the west side of the chicken coop in spring 2022...probably around March or April.  I may be able to get a better count when they are moved.  Once the chicks start laying, this will double the egg production for 2022!  

There are about 48 ducks and we will use the 4 khaki campbell ducks and the drake (Dudley) to raise some ducklings to add to the duck flock in the spring.  The ducks have been laying well this winter and we seem to have plenty of duck eggs to sell so we don't need a lot more ducks.  We will process the drakes and possibly have some duck meat to sell which is a new venture...
Now...the original plan is to have yet another small chicken coop with another 75 chickens.  It has been just such a struggle to get the duck coop and the double chicken coop built that it is discouraging to think about starting another coop building journey.  Obviously, we are NOT going to use the contractor that we had been using.  Henry thinks that we should just keep using the barn as the 3rd coop but I don't like the set up of the barn for the chickens.  We have just been using it to make the best of a bad situation AND I have plans for that barn for some other type of poultry...to be announced at a later date...

Once the chicks are full grown, in a couple months, and they start eating "regular" chicken feed (they are eating chick starter now), we will be able to source a "big" bag of feed.  This should help with decrease business expenses more!  Currently, we buy 40 pound bags of feed but once everyone is eating the same feed, we can buy a huge 1000 pound bag of feed.  This is where economies of scale fits in to make the egg business more sustainable.  Buying in bulk really helps the bottom line.  So eggcited that we are finally at a level to make this happen!

To wrap up 2021, Mark has just over 200 poultry now and the goal is to have close to 300.  We will get there but it is going to take longer than anticipated.  Mark is turning 21 years old on January 11th so we have time!  Building up his business is a marathon and not a sprint...and we are working hard to make his business profitable and sustainable!

ReMARKable Farms Review and Expansion???

My farm business is mostly selling preserves.  I have also planted sunflowers to sell in the summer.  I am thinking of ways to expand the flower business and I want to plant more perennial flowers.  I know where I want to put them but I just have not had the time to move ahead on that project.  I am always thinking of other "food type" items that I may be able to sell at the Farmers Market that fit within the Idaho Cottage Food Rules.  I have decided to move ahead with making flavored vinegars.  Mostly because I can use items that we are currently growing to do this.  For example, we have a patch of raspberries so it would be easy to make some raspberry infused vinegar.  I could also expand to more "exotic" vinegars like nasturtium or pine needle.  I just need to really ramp up the apple cider vinegar production so I have vinegar to flavor!   Side note:  I also considered making some pumpkin seed brittle to sell.  I may still do this...just thinking it over more...
I know I have listed off these items that I want to do and it seems like a pretty straight forward list but it has taken MONTHS to put this list together...the ideas sometimes come quickly and more slowly at other times...working to have balance in my life!

Last note...we have gotten a lot of snow!  Enjoying the beauty of the season!
Hope you have enjoyed these random thoughts and Happy New Year!