Brooding On

Relocating a Farm

For those who feel like our decision to launch our egg production operation seems a little sudden, allow me to give you some backstory.  A few weeks ago, John was introduced through a mutual acquaintance to a family that had attempted to upstart a farm very similar in scope to the one we have envisioned.  Unfortunately, a series of accidents left the farm's primary caretaker unable to continue the farm.  This left them with some very nice equipment and animals that were only a few months old and only gently used. 

For essentially 1/2 of retail, they were trying to liquidate their farm.  So, while we were planning to construct our large chicken wagon in the spring, here stood a good-quality one, ready for use.  BUT, it couldn't be sold without the chickens it currently houses.  And, they are great, productive breeds that are just beginning to lay and have been raised free-range.  It was an offer just too good to pass up.

Additionally, we purchased from them a load of fencing, some feeders, a goat care/corral system, various other items, and Molly, a 7-month-old Great Pyrenees who has been serving as guardian to both sheep and chickens. (Yes, the kids are VERY excited!  More info on Molly later this week.)

The liquidating farm was two hours away in Yellville, Arkansas.  So, we caravanned there early Saturday morning and began the loading process.  There's really no conventional way to haul a chicken wagon this large, so the guys constructed this plan that got the job done!

A couple hours after arrival, we were all loaded up and ready to head back to our farm.  The whole load consisted of 3 trucks, 2 trailers, 1 chicken wagon, tons of equipment, 100+ chickens, 1 giant dog, 3 adults, and 3 children.
(Thank you to the best father-in-law ever for his great help with all this madness! If you ever need to haul a chicken wagon 2 hours along all kinds of road, he's your man!)
We were quite a spectacle.
As crazy as this day seemed, the real excitement came once we got home to the farm.  Sam backed the trailer carrying the chicken wagon into the temporary fencing we'd constructed for it.  Then, we just had to figure out how to get it off the trailer.  Unfortunately, we were on a little bit of a decline, too.  We decided that the three of us could probably control its weight and steer it off the wagon as its momentum brought it down.  We were wrong.  John and Sam were on each side of the back of the wagon, and I was in the middle, doing my best to steer it as it came down.  The sheer weight of the wagon coming off the trailer was more than we expected, and it just came barreling off the trailer pushing us back into the temporary fencing we'd erected.  In the madness, I got tripped up and was going to the ground.  Because I was between the other two fellas, I was headed under the out-of-control wagon.  That's when my amazing husband shoved and kicked me aside so that I rolled out of the wagon's path.  Though John and Sam were able to stop the wagon, John was unfortunately injured in the process.  The top of his foot is swollen pretty badly.  We thought yesterday that it might be broken, but he wanted to ice it and see how it felt the next morning.  Now, it's still pretty tender and swollen but is better than it was last night, so he's thinking it's not a break.
The whole incident shook us up pretty good.  And needless to say, the kids were pretty freaked out.  They each needed some extra attention last night, and we decided to treat ourselves to a family dinner out once we had everything  unloaded.  I don't really want to think about what might've happened, but I am surely thankful that we were protected from what could've been.
Seriously, there's never a dull moment around here!
Now, to clip the wings of 100+ chickens . . . .


A Fence-Building Weekend

Brrrr.  It's cold out there today.  Looks like the cooler weather may now be upon us for awhile.  This just makes me even more thankful for the weather we had this past weekend. 

We were able to make use of our long weekend together by stringing up about a half-mile of electric fencing at the new farm.  It was our first attempt at working with these new fencing materials, and we had a lot of fun together figuring it all out.
We were able to make use of these cute little pigtail posts (can you see the tops of the white posts?)

And these reels of electric wire and polywire

And, of course, the solar energizer that makes it live.

Here you can see the pigtail posts as they await use in the garage.
This fencing is designed to be temporary.  We put it up along the road and property line until we can get the permanent fencing complete.  We're steadily working on that as well, but with corner posts that need to be 4 ft. deep to accommodate high-tensile fencing, it's a slow process. :)
Of course, the three youngest of us bounced between helping with the fence and exploring the farm.  I wonder if I'll ever get over the sight of them coming up over the hill toward us with their hands full of walking sticks, binoculars, field guides, and hand-drawn maps of all their secret trails. 

The New Chicken Wagon

Here's a sneak peak at the new chicken wagon we'll be bringing home next Saturday (along with the 100+ chickens who sleep inside). 
This amazing contraption is large enough to provide sleeping/egg laying space for nearly 200 chickens and is easily moved from place to place so that we can allow them constant access to fresh foraging ground. 

These chickens are happy and healthy and on the cusp of egg-laying age.  What a very exciting enterprise!  Brood Farm egg production.  Ready or not, here we go!

Brood Farm is Growing . . . to Include YOU!

Yep, we're growing . . . big time!  While we've been producing eggs in our backyard for about 2 years now, we're about to REALLY expand that operation so that we can make these amazing eggs available to you, too!

In about 2 weeks, our new farm will be home to over 100 pastured egg-laying chickens, and we couldn't be more excited about it! 

We've done our homework to find out what we have to do to legally sell our products and are pleased that we now have a marketing plan. 

Basically, eggs have to be refrigerated up until the point of sale.  Luckily, we're in a pretty handy location for people to stop by and pick up a dozen.  We plan to make it even easier for customers by having eggs available in a mini-fridge on the front porch.  You won't even have to feel like you're interrupting us -- just drop your $3 in the jar and grab a dozen farm-fresh eggs! 

We are also toying around with a small-scale CSA so that local folks could sign up for once-a-week delivery.  (I'm open to suggestions about how this ought to work.)  So long as the homes we're delivering to are close enough to our home/refrigerator, we're cleared to do this.

Additionally, I can arrange to bring eggs to the many folks I see throughout the normal course of my day (school, dance, sports practices, etc.).

For now, we plan to reuse as many store-bought cartons as possible.  So long as we make a clear attempt to black out the previous markings on the cartons, this is acceptable practice.  Additionally, we plan to affix our own sticker, claiming the eggs as ours. 

That said . . . ALL DONATIONS OF USED EGG CARTONS WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!!!  Drop them off on my doorstep, gather them for me in your classroom, bring them in big bags to me at church!  Seriously, we need them all! 

So, to recap:
1.  We need egg cartons ASAP.
2.  We'll have eggs available in a couple weeks.
3.  Do you have any thoughts on the weekly delivery idea?

Farm Find

Last night, as they were "exploring" at the farm, the kids found this guy.

Through the walkie talkie, I heard, "We found a BIG spider!"

"Is it a tarantula?"

"I guess.  It's brown and black and hairy."

Immediately, I remembered that Little Boy was caught playing with a dead mouse in the backyard earlier this week.  And, just in case you're not keeping up with us very well, Little Boy is my 4-year-old son, not the backyard cat.  When I expressed my disgust that he was touching it, he said, "What?  It's dead,  I guess I can get my gloves."

Anyway, as the girls were describing the spider's physical attributes into the walkie talkies, I could hear Little Boy's excited voice in the background and all I could picture was him swooping in and picking up the hairy fella.  Since I wasn't physically present to swat it away, I just blurted into the walkie talkie  "Stay back!  They can jump!"

You should've heard them all scream.  Apparently, the idea of a giant spider was great, but a potentially-jumping, giant spider is just plain SCARY!   These kids are so funny-- never a dull moment, I tell ya!

Follow-up Friday: Fun at the New Farm

Last weekend we went ahead and started moving some of the most important things over to the new farm . . . .

Yep, we're starting a pallet pile.  What will I do with all these pallets (and the many more we've already collected but haven't moved yet)?  I plan to create an even better system of compost bins, and I have a multitude of other ideas on my Pallet board on Pinterest.  :)

Our little explorers set off with backpacks, binoculars, field notebooks, hiking sticks, and water bottles to explore the "new land" while John and I cut back some tree limbs.  I love seeing how much fun they have out there.  Hours after we were back home, Girl 1 just kept remarking, "That was SO much fun today!"  :)

How Many Times Will We Move This Hay?

Last week, John went and picked up 40 bales of hay and piled them into the truck.  Last year, that amount got us through just fine.  How much we will need this year is really anyone's guess, seeing as we don't really know whether we'll be here all year or will move the animals to bigger fields soon.
As we stacked it up in the backyard lean-to and shed, I couldn't help but wonder, "how many times will we move this hay?"  If we're able to sell the house quickly, we'll be moving it over to the new farm before we use it all up.  

I've discovered that it's difficult to be a backyard farmer while the house is on the market.  As I was planting the fall garden this past weekend, I couldn't help but wonder whether I was planting veggies that we would get to enjoy or ones that would make their way to someone else's dinner plate (or, worse, ones that would die off, not being cared for by anyone).  John keeps telling me the gardening issue is a win-win scenario.  Either we get to enjoy garden veggies OR we've sold the house -- both are good results.  :)

Follow-up Friday: Meeting with our Architects

Wednesday John and I traveled to Little Rock (I told Girl 1 over breakfast that day that we were headed to "The Big City."  "You're going to New York City today?!") for our first in-person meeting with the architectural team that will design our new home.

We'd done our homework and were weighted down with post-it noted coffee table books, iPad with organized Pinterest boards, and my binder titled "Home Design" that I've been adding snippets to for years.

I won't get into all the nitty-gritty of the meeting, but let me say these few things about it:

1.  I am feeling so very blessed to be working with the folks we're working with.  Their firm's designs tend toward the modern, but they are completely on board with our desire to create the Modern Farmhouse that we have in mind.

2.  They are very well-versed in green construction and home systems, and we are very excited about talk of passive solar, geo-thermal systems, solar panels, and greywater harvest, to name a few things.

3.  I am going to absolutely love the process of watching them work their magic as they take all of our weird little notes and preferences and fashion it all into a neat little home.

4.  What they come up with will be just right for us and the way that we strive to live.  You, however, would probably rather stay put than move into the house we will build.  It's just going to be so us.  You may walk through it and wonder Why is there no closet in this bedroom? or Why is there no freezer in the kitchen?  or Why is there a shower outside?  or Is this a pantry or a room?  If you know us at all, though, you know that these design choices are made quite deliberately in an effort to create a space that fits the way we live.

5.  I'm excited about sharing this process with you.   I hope you don't get bored with it because I intend to document each little step of this amazing journey.

Follow-up Friday: The House is Officially on the Market!

Yep, we've taken the next step and listed the house!  

As excited as I am about our new farm and what lies ahead, I must admit -- seeing the sign in the yard gives me pause.

This house has been a great one for us, and it holds so many, many memories.  Thankfully, those memories will not be sold along with the house;  we get to pack them up and take them with us to whatever lies ahead.  Our life as a family thus far has taught us that our identity and security are not tied up in our things.  

As I stood back and took this pic of the house, I was reminded of the video I made of the house when we were buying it.  I stood way out here on the road and talked excitedly as I scanned the yard about all the ways the house would be perfect for us, as Girl 1 toddled around in the driveway.  For over seven years, we've called this house home, and it has turned out to be perfect for us.  

Now that we feel a calling to move on, we pray that this house will become someone else's perfect place.  

Oh, and don't miss tomorrow's post!  Here's a teaser:  an old college buddy is the guest blogger!

Arkansas' Interesting Milk Law

As we're dreaming up our new farm, there are some things that  we ought to consider before we erect any structures.  We do hope that our farm will produce enough of certain items that we can sell them to the public.  We knew that the Arkansas milk law had recently been revised but weren't sure what that might mean for us in terms of our milking facility.  Additionally, we know that there are regulations in place regarding the kitchen prep area used to produce "potentially-hazardous foods" such as the cheese, yogurt, and frozen yogurt we've considered selling.  So, we set out to research it.

What we found are some seeming inconsistencies in Arkansas law.

Our milk must be sold from the farm.  And, the law limits us to selling no more than 500 gallons of milk per month.  That's a whole lotta milk, so that shouldn't be a problem!  The law also mandates that we . . .
"Post at the point of sale a sign that is no smaller than two by four feet that includes the following information in large, clear text:
(A) The name and address of the farm with seller’s contact information; and
(B) The following statement:  'This product, sold for personal use and not for resale, is fresh whole milk that has NOT been pasteurized. Neither this farm nor the milk sold by this farm has been inspected by the State of Arkansas. The consumer assumes all liability for health issues that may result from the consumption of this product.'; and affix a label to the bottle or package that includes"  all the same information as is posted on the sign.    And, "A farmer who sells fresh whole unpasteurized milk shall permit inspection of his or her cows and barns by his or her customers upon request."

This all sounds pretty straightforward, so basically, all I'd have to do to start selling Razz's milk tomorrow, is put up a sign and make up some labels for the jugs.

If I'd like to sell the cheese sitting in my refrigerator, though . . .

I'd have to first have an inspected and certified kitchen that is built to code for the production of such foods, AND I have to use milk from a certified Grade A dairy. So, I can sell my backyard milk without having to jump through many regulatory hoops at all, BUT if I want to turn that milk into cheese before it leaves my house, I have to have a certified dairy first.  The fellow John spoke to about these codes said that we'd be looking at $15,000-$20,000 in just equipment for the milking parlor.  That doesn't even include the costs involved in building the parlor and kitchen to code.

Since we've got plenty of other goodies we can market more easily (eggs, chicken, honey, fruit, veggies, and milk -- to name a few), we plan to bypass this large upfront expense and not plan on selling cheese.

I know, I know.  I can hear a few of you grumbling.  Of all the products I make at home, cheese is the one that garners the most interest.  Lots of people have told me to contact them when/if we start to sell it.  It is sad because this stuff is SO good, but you'll just have to come on over and have some now and then.  You know I'll always have some made up in the fridge!

Follow-up Friday: The Road is Complete!

The road on the new farm is complete. . .

 . . . and completely beautiful, if you ask me!  Mike Hatfield and crew did a phenomenal job, and we were so pleased to get to work with such great local people sourcing local materials.  

Once you turn off Cypress Lane, it winds around for about 1/2 mile and dead ends about 20-40 yards from where we think the house will eventually sit. 

So, we can check Step 1 off the list -- road is complete!  Now, it's on to the next couple of steps, which we'll be working on simultaneously:  have power and water run out to the house site and get some fencing and housing up for animals.  Once these are complete, we'll list the house and hope for the best.  (Know anyone who may be interested?)

We've had an initial meeting with the architects we intend to use and are so very excited to be working with them.  They really seem to have a feel for the kind of living space we hope to create.  We will meet with them (with all our ideas, Pinterest boards, and post-it-noted pages in hand) in a week or so to talk in greater detail.  I just cannot wait to see how they will combine all the elements we bring them!

Over the Creek and Through the Woods

It's not entirely finished, but there is now a road where once there was none!

Here's a look at the giant culverts used to create the creek crossing.

And the giant dump trucks used to haul the fill and road materials.

We can now cross the creek! 
Though it's not completely finished, the land is now accessible by vehicle.  I could probably even get my mom van up there!  :)  Progress!

A Beautiful Morning on the New Farmland

It's hard to think of a better way to start the day than the way today began.  John and I got to go traipsing through the new farm, talking with the gentlemen who are working on our road about how exactly it'll wind through the fields and woods and arrive at the house site. The cool, crisp morning air, the scent of wild, the sunlight streaming through the leaves, and the promise of all our farm will be -- it's almost just too exciting to describe!

I've had several people ask me where exactly it's located.  It's a little hard to describe, but it's basically behind the high school football field.  We'll access it from Cypress Lane (when, at the end of Johnson you're forced to turn right, you're turning onto Cypress).  This land is basically perfect for us.  It's essentially in town, but when you're out there, you feel like you're in the middle of the boonies.  We'll still be able to get to the bank or school in 5 minutes' time.  With John working a full-time gig and trying to farm a bit on the side, he doesn't need to spend too much of his day commuting.  Plus, our proximity to town will be great for ballgames, practices, and dance-- something I'm sure we'll come to appreciate even more in the coming years as the kids get increasingly involved in after-school activities.  I guess, for us, it's like the best of both worlds -- the convenience of living in town and the peacefulness of living out.

The road to the house site will end up being about a 1/2 mile long.  Our hope is that it's construction will be as low-impact as possible.  We don't mind for it to wind around a bit if it helps save trees, and the fewer materials used to build the road, the better.  Based on our drive through today, it's looking like we may only have to take down 3-5 trees over the course of the 1/2 mile.  That's pretty good!  The ones that do go down will be put to good use, though -- either milled for lumber or cut for firewood.

We're still not sure how long the road will take to complete.  The rainy weather has definitely slowed things down, there are several low spots that will need some extra attention, and it'll take a lot of dump-truck beds full of materials to build a road of this length.  But, we are loving every step of this process.  And, I'm excited to get to share it all with you!