Friday, January 29, 2010

January kids

 Big blue eyes and a snotty nose, mmm.
We've been having some warm weather. It has been above zero and pushing twenty degrees almost every day this week. The kids have gotten out for some sledding and visits to the chickens daily.

The kids love feeding each other. Here Avery is feeding Noah some egg salad for breakfast.



This is Avery's favorite new place to play, Noah's bean box. It is interesting that Noah has played with this tub of rice and beans for a couple years now and has never tried climbing into it. Avery, on the other hand insists on sitting in it and mostly likes to scoop and dump as opposed to her brother who has always viewed it as a place for machines to push material around.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feed Costs

I wish I could say that I've saved all of our farm receipts from the entire year, but I can't. I have gotten better about it though. We have saved all of our receipts starting in September. I have added up costs for the last four months of the year for goats and the chickens. I am guessing that our hay and grain costs are higher than anywhere in the country, so if you live elsewhere you are probably going to think we are crazy for paying these high costs... or crazy for raising animals at the end of a supply chain.

In town there are two feed stores that I know of and their pricing on bags of feed is competitive. We shop at one over the other based primarily on location. Walmart carries a few items such as cracked corn, scratch, sunflower seeds and even wheat berries (although they've never had the later when we've looked). Their prices are the cheapest, and possibly for this reason they are often out of stock. The health food store in town also carries bulk grains, some of them organic. We have purchased bags of wheat berries and beans from them. Last I checked their prices were higher than the feed stores, but they have more variety when it comes to finding grains in bulk like amaranth or quinuoa.

I have looked into ordering bulk grains on my own but shipping is outrageous. I tried to join the one coop that I know of that orders through Azure Standard but they are not taking new members. I have thought of starting a coop myself. The main obstacle is figuring out how to rent or pay for a train car to bring grain or hay up from wherever (WA probably) and then find some other individuals with enough money at the same time to make an order and follow through. While I have not followed the proper channels to make this possible, maybe this year, right? 

So without further adeu, here are some numbers:
First here are our main purchases and their prices (fifty pound bags unless otherwise noted):
  1. Cracked Corn 15.99
  2. Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries 54.99
  3. Whole Oats 9.99
  4. Whole Barley 9.99
  5. COB (corn, oats and barley, rolled) 15.99
  6. Fishmeal (AK salmon meal) 54.99
  7. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS) 24.99
  8. Alfalfa Pellets 19.99
  9. Kelp Meal 81.99
  10. Flax Seed 59.99
  11. Alfalfa Meal 18.99
  12. Alfalfa Hay 90-100 Ib bales 39.99

We are feeding nine goats total; one full size buck and two bucklings under a year, four grown does, three of which are bred and two doelings. We have been milking two does this fall and they eat as much grain and BOSS as all the other goats put together. We have been feeding the following:

Bred or milking does: 2 Ib COB, 1 cup BOSS, herbal vitamin supplement on daily grain.
Doelings and unbred doe: 1-2 C (less than a pound) COB, handful BOSS and herbal supp.
All Bucks: 2 C COB, handful BOSS and alfalfa pellets, herbal vit supp.

In addition to grain the goats also receive twice daily feedings of Brome Hay. We try to give the does one to two flakes of alfalfa hay daily but we don't always have it. This time of year we feed it more than in the summer or fall, because we are trying to increase the amount of protein and nutrients the bred does are receiving. If it was less expensive we would feed it much more often. The goats get a number of additional supplements and vitamins depending on the time of year. They always have access to baking soda and sweetlix loose mineral supplement for goats. We feed an herbal wormer weekly. We also some other herbal formulas, tinctures, probiotics and vitamin supplements on hand if needed. More information on why we feed what could take up an entire post itself and may at a later time. I also intend to write an entire post on hay, hay costs and calculating hay needs for the winter - coming.

With that said, we spent two hundred and thirty-six dollars on grain over the course of four months. That breaks down to about sixty dollars a month. I'll add that we are feeding the chickadees with that money as well, (BOSS). So I've got a pretty close idea of how much we spend on grain. Figuring out hay is a little more challenging because we buy most our hay in the summer. However I have kept all of our hay receipts since June, so we'll just have to see how long the hay lasts. Hay and Grain are the biggest costs in raising goats. Other costs include electricity, vet calls, vitamins and supplements. It is not cheap, but do I need to keep nine goats to have milk for my family? Certainly not. If my goal was just milk and cheese for my family all I would need are two milking does. I could pay eighty dollar breeding fees in the fall, sell the kids in the spring, and have significantly lower feed costs. However, in addition to supplying our family with quality milk and dairy products here are some of our long term goals for keeping a small herd of goats.

  1. self sufficiency
  2. a healthy disease free herd (which means limiting contact with other goats or livestock, which means keeping more than one buck)
  3. being able to sell show quality goats who are disease free and great milkers
  4. having the goat numbers and genetic diversity to some day transition into a larger herd with a small dairy in mind.
We made an investment when we purchased six goats and shipped them all the way up from Washington. Could we cut corners and find cheaper hay or feed less grain? Yes, but I not without jeapardizing the health of our herd. It is important to me to provide our animals with the diet they need to live healthy and happy lives.

I do have some ideas which may slightly decrease our dependency on hay and grain. We could fence larger areas of our woods as the goats love to eat bark, moss, spruce branches, grasses and dried rose hips, dried birch leaves and other dormant vegetation which is still available above the snow. I am also planning on growing more root vegetables with the intention of storing them, then slicing and feeding to the goats as an extra source of nutrients and vitamins. Both of these practices would add variation to their existing diet. At some point I'd like to have pasture where we could grow all of our own hay and grain, but even that takes money and lots of hard work. Nothing is without cost.

The chickens diet is comprised mostly of a whole grain feed that I mix in hundred pound batches. The chickens also receive daily kitchen scraps along with home brewed kombucha or raw milk kefir. They always have water, free choice grit and oyster shell. Because I make my own chicken feed there are some ingredients that I use in small quantities for example, I purchased a bag of kelp meal and flax seed last February when I first started mixing my own feed, and I just ran out this past December.  This fall we purchased six hundred and fifty pounds of chicken feed grains and ingredients and spent three hundred and forty six dollars. Which breaks down to forty nine cents a pound. Hey that is not bad considering that a bag of layer crumbles last I checked was seventeen dollars a bag or thirty four cents a pound.

I thought I'd take it one step further and I took each ingredient that I am using, figured out how much it cost by the pound, multiplied that by how many pounds I am using in the recipe and then added up all the costs, which gave me sixty four dollars and thirty nine cents for a hundred pound recipe, thirty two dollars for fifty pounds and sixty four cents a pound, ouch!

I have known that our feed was costing a significant amount more than processed crumbled or pelleted feed. I think that the real number is somewhere in between my two figures. As wheat berries are my biggest expense, I need to find a cheaper source or find another grain that can take the place of a portion of the berries. Another conclusion I've come to is that I am going to stop eye balling and start measuring when I am mixing feed. I have also started looking into other ingredients I can add to the existing recipe which will provide more variation. I will most likely do a follow up post on the individual ingredients and why I'm feeding what I'm feeding.

On a side note, I can't help but point out that even if we were feeding our chickens crumbled layer feed at seventeen dollars a bag, and fed the same amount of pounds of feed as we did our own mix, we still would have spent fifty five dollars a month feeding our twenty - twenty four chickens and ducks (we've eaten a few since Sept.). That is still fairly expensive, especially if you are trying to save money on eggs and meat by raising chickens.

We often exchange eggs and other farm products for farm labor or help with the kids. I've sold ten dozen extra eggs since November for about fifty dollars. I use to buy two dozen eggs a week at the Farmer's market for five dollars a dozen. At that rate I was spending thirty five to forty dollars on eggs a month. I'd like to keep better track of how many eggs we are getting. Currently I am supplying three families including our own with eggs. We also enjoy giving people eggs when they stop in for a visit. Beings that we are getting an average of six eggs a day, forty two eggs a week, fourteen dozen a month at five dollars a dozen makes seventy dollars a month in eggs. If we could bring down our feed costs and sell more of our eggs, maybe we could break even on feed, but that is not counting supplies or labor. We keep chickens because we enjoy them, their eggs and meat. I don't ever see myself not raising chickens.

I remember my mom use to charge around two dollars a dozen for eggs. I also remember paying four dollars for a bale of hay. Those days are long gone, at least in Fairbanks. I think that in Fairbanks farmers have seen a drastic increase in feed and hay prices over the last couple years. I'm sure that farmers all over have experienced this but with shipping costs already adding on a lot to feed costs they seem even more exaggerated. I'm sure that eggs and milk prices have increased at the supermarket as well but I've hardly noticed, but I have to admit, I'm not buying either.

"Headed back to our roots", is where I've claimed we are trying to return to. We are also lacking a lot of the information and practices of how common folks homesteaded before factory farms took over. The way we are raising animals is not the ways of our great grandparents. We are rather impetuous and impatient. Buy animals, buy food, buy lumber, build structures, get eggs, meat, milk, now! Now is better than never. I am looking forward to spending some slow winter days doing some research on traditional farming and livestock raising practices. Looking into providing more of my animals food from our own land and resources. If you have experience or ideas to share, please do so. Thankyou.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Ever Evolving Garden

Three summers ago we hired a guy to do some dirt work for us. What we had requested and what we got were two different things. We had envisioned three levels of contour terraces that wrapped around the shape of the hill with short banks in between. We ended up with two levels with an extremely steep huge bank in between. We ended up hiring the same guy to come back out the following spring and just smooth it all back out. I thought that since the error was both his for not doing what we'd asked and mine for not being there to supervise, he should give us a deal when he came out to redo it. I was mistaken. However, we were much happier with the finished result which is a gradually sloped hill leading down to one long flat stretch which greenhouses and compost piles are situated on. 
The dirt work was finally completed mid June 2008. We have a short growing season so I was pretty bummed to get such a late start. Then we had a super hot sunny June and the poor little seedlings had a rough start. Then it rained for the entire month of July and we thought the hillside was going to wash away. Our ground is so hard and rocky that we can't even run a tiller in it. Most veggies do better above the ground anyway where their roots are warmer. I had a few boxes that I'd used in previous years so we moved those into place. We had one load of peat dropped off the previous year. We mixed that with old horse manure to fill boxes and mound crooked raised rows.  Above the bank that boarders the flat strip and the sloping hillside we pounded rebar and put in boards for raised terraced beds.  In the top two photos you can see how barren it looked. We planted a low growing white clover everywhere there weren't beds. I wasn't sure if it was going to take hold, but by this past spring it came back up fairly well.
 These two pictures are of the garden at the end of May 2009. You can see the old boards from the year before. The newer beds we had just put in have fresh boards. This coming spring we plan to put in a few more rows continuing up the hill. In the top photo I am standing in the lower right corner of the garden. To my left are compost piles and the greenhouses. In the distance you can see our screened tent which is where I milked all summer. The glass greenhouse up in the trees was one of our first fun projects on the property. I plant greens in the beds in early spring as it gets great spring and fall sun. We've talked about keeping turkeys in there in the winter. I've heard of a lady who keeps heritage turkeys here in Fairbanks. She says that they spend the winter perched in trees above her barn on all but the coldest nights.
 We have a road that comes up and boarders the garden and makes a loop. I'm standing on the road looking at the center of the garden. We haul water and pump it into garbage cans and a two hundred and fifty gallon tank which are to my left along the edge of the road. We have hopes to put gutters on most the animal shelters and start collecting more rain water. We also might rig up a tarp for the sole purpose of collecting rain water.
Here is a late summer picture from the same vantage point. 
Here is a nice picture of the clover which has finally taken off. We chose this clover because it's roots work to loosen the soil and if I remember correctly it fixes nitrogen. Also, it keeps other taller weeds from taking hold. It is nice to walk on, until it flowers and the bees come out. But even that is a good thing as the wild bees are drawn into the garden and pollinate the clover as well as the other vegetables and flowers. 

So far there is a lot of extra space in the garden for new beds. In addition to more vegetable and flower beds,  I was thinking of planting some fruit trees on the lower terrace, but I only have room for a few. I also want to start a nice perennial strawberry and raspberry patch. Followed by asparagus, blueberries, more rhubarb, currants, sea buckthorn berry, medicinal herbs, and the list goes on and not enough room for everything. I still haven't even gotten close to producing all the vegetables we need to feed ourselves through the winter. The only thing I came close to this year was garlic. I still have enough of our own garlic for a couple months. 

I have refrained from getting into any perennials (other than herbs and flowers) because our soil is so poor. As far as improving the soil, we've planted some buckwheat and oats in addition to the clover as cover crops. Last summer we moved a small poultry tractor with ducks in it around on the flat strip. This spring instead of putting all the goat bedding into one pile I am thinking of spreading it over the lower strip of barren hard ground and maybe just letting it sit or maybe trying to plant a cover crop under a thin layer. I am thinking of planting raspberry canes this summer where our compost piles have sat for the last two years. I am going to dig a big trench and fill it with compost and amendments and go from there. I hope to get a similar strawberry patch started as well. 

So far we have had no need to fence in the garden. Generally the biggest pest up here are moose who tend to stop by and eat all the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower heads at harvest time. We think that our male goats are keeping them away with their strong bucky scent. I think the best reason to fence the garden in would be so that I can let the goats graze on the banks while we are close by. If the garden was bigger I'd fence it into a couple sections and let the goats or chickens take turns fertilizing it. We've come a long ways over the last couple summers, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much more we can grow this summer.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Doelings, pros and cons of early breeding

Here are some pictures of our two doelings. These pictures were taken last June. Nia (short for Zinnia) is on the ground and Zuri is on the platform. I am looking forward to kidding season. Unfortunately ours is a long time off, so I've been going back and looking at pictures from last spring. You can view Nia's birth here, and Zuri's birth here.
Both photos above and below are of Zuri. When she was born she was bigger than Nia, even though she was a couple weeks younger. Nia and her mother are both smaller and more petite, whereas Maggie was my tallest, longest and strongest doe. However, since losing Maggie, Zuri has slowed down and now Nia is a good bit larger. I shouldn't be surprised, as Nia at eight months old has had several more months of nursing than her counterpart. As orphan of the group, Zuri is our most affectionate doeling yet. She has a special place in my heart. 

I naively envisioned our goat kids romping on green pasture in their early days, even though we've never had pasture to begin with. I thought to make their start in life more pleasant we'd breed to kid in late spring when it is warmer and more pleasant to be outside. Going into our third kidding season my goals have changed and I would prefer to stagger our breeding over the course of a few months, beginning in February and finishing up in April. Well, despite my best intentions all three of our senior does are due to kid in April. Here are the pros and and cons for us when it comes to early vs. late breeding.

Cons of early kidding:
  1. It is cold. Need heatlamps. 
  2. Kids spend a lot of their time indoors and goat housing is extra crowded.
Pros of early kidding: 
  1. Early doelings have a better chance of growing large enough that they may possibly (depending on many factors) be able to be bred their first year. 
  2. Early boys have a better chance of being able to breed if they are bucklings, or if they are whethered males, might actually be large enough in late fall, early winter to be killed for their meat. Dairy goats are not very meaty, but there is a big difference in a seven vs. eleven month kid.
  3. In our case we have more summer facilities than winter. So weaning would be an easier matter in the fall before we need insulated shelters and heated waterers. 
  4. February is a rather uneventful month here whereas May is extremely busy. After kids are born, a number of chores follow such as disbudding, tatooing and whethering. It would be nice to have all these initial practices finished by the time we are dealing with chicks and a garden to put in. 
Finally, it would be nice to stagger breeding so that we are never without a fresh milk supply. We have dried off does when they were first bred, and we've done it about half way through their five month gestation period. This year we were hoping to breed five does, but we lost one, and then our yearling has been tricky to catch in heat. So I decided to breed all three senior does, two of whom are in milk. Xoe has slowed down enough that I've stopped milking her as of the last week. Rose, however, is still nursing her daughter Nia. So it seems as though either we get the milk, or Nia gets it. I have been milking just a couple times a week in an attempt to dry her off, but with her daughter nursing as much as she is I don't see her drying off anytime soon. I do have a freezer full of milk and a couple bags of frozen chevre. But I start to panic at the idea of not having fresh milk for the next three months. It would be nice to avoid this issue by either staggering breeding, or not needing to breed everyone yearly. Next year I think we will try milking one doe straight through and not breeding her at all.
Meanwhile, I feel good about keeping Zuri and Nia as dry yearlings. There is much controversy in the goat world over this issue. My first hand experience was with four doelings who were about nine to eleven months when I first bred them. I had weighed them and supposedly they had "made weight". Well our two larger framed does had no issues, but our two more petite does both had some stress to their front legs. I ended up wrapping their front legs during their final weeks of gestation as they were hobbling around and their legs were starting to give out under their weight. Kidding resolved the leg issues.

I've also noticed that one of our does who escaped breeding last year has moved from last place in the group to most dominate doe. She is much more robust than the does who have been bred every year. Our first doeling, Yin, remained dry her first year and is now larger than her mother (who she still tries to nurse off of). This being said, it is not always easy to refrain from breeding a doe who you know is in heat. I can be torn between my desire for more milk and kids, and what I know would be the better decision for a doe's health.  From a financial standpoint, waiting until their second year is a long time to feed them and seems forever till we'll get to see them freshen and produce kids and milk. When we have early kids I may try and breed them their first year but it just depends on how they look. For now, as long as we have late kids they will remain dry their first year.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January Days (retitled)

Our computer is on it's last leg. We spent the last week without it, (both going through withdrawels). Dustin managed to get it working yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up on my favorite blogs. It is about five degrees below zero this morning. Over the last week our temperatures in the hills have ranged from zero to twenty below. I've come in from chores on numerous occasions with "its warmed up out there." To which Dustin sarcastically comments about five below being considered warm. When heading out for an hour of chores half of the work is getting dressed. I tend to brace for the cold and think it is going to be just bitter, and once I'm walking up the hill I am often surprised at how nice and refreshing the cold air feels. 

As long as I'm moving I don't get overly cold. I like to start chores with a hike up the hill. I save sitting and milking for last, as my toes usually get cold no matter how much I wiggle them. How certain temperatures feel is all relative of course. After twenty below, five below does feel like ten above. Our cold is a dry cold with hardly any wind, so it sounds bad but could be much worse if we had high winds or humidity. This week when it got up to zero I was doing chores without a face mask. Once it gets to ten below I really enjoy the comfort of a face covering with just my eyes exposed. At twenty below this is even more important as my nose hairs start frosting up and it is chilly on my teeth to breath through my mouth. The face mask helps with my air intake in addition to keeping the cold air off my neck, chin and cheeks.

The animals are all doing well. We've been turning on the bucks heat lamp at about ten below. Their stall is not as well insulated as the does. They spend a lot more time outside than the does do. I have a feeling that it is because there is less of a difference between their indoor and outdoor temperatures. We still haven't used a heatlamp with the does stall. It is already close to thirty degrees warmer at most times than the outside temp. If we turned on a heatlamp I'd fear that they'd start to lose their warm coats and never go outside. We've been using a heatlamp in the main chicken coop. Otherwise most the eggs would probably freeze before we got to them. 

Indoors, we are staying warm. Towels and blankets line the bottoms of our doors and we have one set of french doors covered with a clear plastic that helps keep the draft down. In kitchen news I've had a couple successes this week. I have been making Kombucha tea since last spring and I've been meaning to write an entire post on this endeavor. For now I'm just going to say that I made my tastiest batch by mixing the finished tea product with a half a cup of homemade raspberry syrup and then letting it sit out for a few days to carbonate. The result tastes like homemade raspberry soda and I can barely tell that it is Kombucha tea. Yesterday I made fruit leather with some green grapes that needed used up. I added homemade applesauce (apples from a friend's crab apple tree), and a few wild blueberries for added flavor and color. I've only made fruit leather on two other occasions and I over dried it both times. This time it turned out soft, leathery and tasty and the kids love it. 

So far this week I made a big pot of beef stew with some local beef. I made a batch of pumpkin cranberry muffins with one of the sweet mama squash that I bought at the market last fall (one left). Last night we had copper river red Salmon that my brother gave us. I bought our first bag of carrots and potatoes since last winter. We have finally run out of most of our stored vegetables. My garlic is beginning to grow so I need to blend the rest of it up with some olive oil and stick it in the freezer. I have a few remaining golden beets in the fridge and some frozen and canned veggies, herbs and fruit. This is the only time of year where instead of feeling guilty that I'm buying out of state veggies, I am proud that most of my cart is whole foods instead of processed boxed foods. 

Today I am going to continue my deep cleaning mission and tackle a couple cupboards that Avery has figured out how to open. We are going to make a fresh batch of playdough, another batch of fruit leather and possibly some cheddar or graham crackers. I pulled out some meat to thaw. I am gearing up to make some jerkey. I've been taking the easy route lately and feeding the kids a lot of white flour lately in the form of tortillas, noodles and sandwiches. I'm hoping to devote my creative urges into making some non- flour based snacks and meals. Heres to creative January urges. What are you making or baking on these short winter days?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Twenty Below

The thermometer is reading twenty below zero this morning. Sounds like with wind chill it may be closer to thirty below in the hills, about as cold as it is in town. Tonight's forecast calls for thirty to fourty below zero in town and twenty below in the hills. The highs for the week are around ten below zero. Brr.

I exchanged the regular light bulb in the top chicken coop with a heat lamp yesterday. I'm thinking of doing the same for both goat stalls tonight. Other than that, Dustin did all the farm chores before leaving for work this morning. I have no plans to leave the house except to take a walk and check on everyone and get eggs when Avery takes her afternoon nap. Thankfully the woodstove has been keeping the house in the seventies during the day without any help from the Monitor Heater. Sounds like a good day for some bread baking.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January updates

Noah and Avery are doing pretty well for playing inside the same four walls day after day. This week was above zero and both kids got outside to play several times. Noah has his own play area indoors where he builds machines and houses for his lego men. He has recently started working with paper, paint, glue, crayons and glitter making mixed media art. He is not much into detailed drawing. His pieces are more abstract and layered. Much to our delight his art supplies are keeping him occupied for at least an hour or more a day. Avery spends most of her time trying to get across the baby gate into her brother's play area. She has figured out how to get into the cupboards and has also learned to push chairs up to the counter to get at whatever she is not suppose to have.  Her vocabulary is growing daily. She uses her potty when she feels like it and when we are paying close attention.
My Cymbidium is in full bloom. I put it outside in the shade in the summer and don't bring it in until the nights have gotten cool. I put it in my coolest window in the winter and try not to let it dry out. It usually blooms this time of year. I love the waxy pastel flowers.

Here is a picture of some of our eggs. The dark brown eggs are the first of our Welsummer pullet eggs. We've gotten a few more since I took these photos, and they are getting darker and bigger. We are getting a few Ameraucana eggs, which are the blue eggs. Our sole female Khaki Campbell has also started laying white eggs the size of our large chicken eggs. The odd thing about the Welsummer pullets is that one of the girls was a month and a half older than the other two. I purchased two from a friend, as I lost all my Welsummer pullets but the one. However, it looks as though they all started laying this week. They group together so the older pullet cycling must have triggered the other two. We are feeling rich in eggs. We usually have three to four dozen eggs in the fridge at all times. The health food store pays $4.75 a dozen. So I've sold four dozen eggs on two occassions now, making almost fourty dollars, not bad.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

At peace with the season

I am enjoying winter. I am at peace with the fact that it is the ninth of January and we still have months of winter to go. November and December are the easy months of winter. While dark and snowy, the days go by quickly, filled with holidays, special meals to plan, craft making and good eating in general. In early winter I am content to be back inside with the wood stove burning and the summer's harvest surrounding us. The biggest decisions being what to make for dinner, carrots or beets, potatoes or squash? 

Early winter months are well below freezing and often sub-zero, but usually our coldest months are January and February. This year we have had milder temperatures than usual. We have had a few cold spells, but they have been short lived. We have it easy in the hills. As I've said before there is often a thermal inversions and our temperatures can be a good twenty degrees warmer than in town. When it is twenty below zero in town and zero here, that's huge! Another big difference between our location and town, is that town is plagued with terrible air pollution due to wood smoke and car exhaust. This time of year when we drive down the hill we can often see a blanket of ice fogs stretching out over the town.

By the time I've recovered from the business and excitement of the Holidays, we are noticeably gaining light. January is the time of year when I let out a big sigh. I relish the slow pace for a change and look forward to tackling those projects I put off all year long, just for these slow and numbered mid-winter days.  This year my long procrastinated chores are dusting the ceiling fan, deep cleaning the house and completing online goat registration paperwork from last spring. My most anticipated January hobby is some couch time with my favorite seed catalogs.

I enjoy planning. We have been discussing what kind of poultry we want to raise this year. We are going to purchase a small incubator and hatch some of our own eggs. We are looking forward to raising a few turkeys again and more breeds of ducks. So far we have three does bred. I was hoping to have earlier kids this spring, but again it looks like we'll be waiting until April for goat babies. Thankfully this year's official letter for naming is A, after X, Y and Z, I am so excited for A names! I've been drawing out the garden and planning what to plant where. Noah and looked through a seed catalog yesterday and we were both discussing what we want to plant. He is most excited about corn, followed by potatoes (wants to make potato chips) and then carrots. I am looking forward to raising more and bigger everything. I'll probably be writing numerous posts on garden plans here soon.

I am delighted to have all of January and February for planning and dreaming. Eating and sleeping. There are always farm chores to get us out of the house for a couple hours of the day. The rest of my day is spent watching the kids play and planning the next meal. March will come soon enough, with its eye blinding sunny, snowy and possibly warmer days. March will be time to put all the planning into action with seed starting and chick ordering and hatching.  For now I am ever so content to relax into these sleepy days of winter and dream of chicks cheeping in the hallway, baby goats to name and the smell of soil and green starts in the house once again.