Monthly Archives: February 2016

Hard Numbers

Here on our little farm, we are lucky to have full time jobs to pay the bills (though on nice days we sometimes regret it) while we experiment with what makes sense for our space and our family. While we have a legal obligation to use several acres of our property for ‘farm’ use, our particular county in Oregon is relatively relaxed about what that means financially. And since it’s farming, after all, there’s no requirement that we actually make a profit.. but it would be nice to get there someday!!

In the meantime, 2015 was a year where we were very busy as a family, and our farm business suffered for it. 2015 was the second year we kept careful records of our sales and expenses.  Here on the farm we have five separate lines of production: Eggs, Veggies, Turkeys, Sheep, and Laying Hens.  In 2015, we didn’t actually make a profit selling to customers in any one of those lines!  But, our own family ate eggs, veggies, turkeys for Thanksgiving, and lamb, too.  Thanks to us, the business made a small profit in 2015.

We knew at the start of 2015 that we should probably raise our price for egg dozens, but resisted because it felt like a lot to ask.  Then feed prices went up nearly $1/bag, and the heat and age of our hens meant we actually had fewer eggs to sell during the year (we made more money selling eggs in 2014 than in 2015).  Comparative dozens in the store cost $7, and at least one well respected local farm (using the same feed that we do) is charging $9.50/dozen.

Although we charged our customers $5/dozen in 2015, after our costs, the price for the remaining dozens would have worked out to $15/dozen: obviously something needs to change with the eggs.  We’re making several changes in 2016, including thinning and updating our flock, setting aside space to plant chicken food to supplement their commercial (expensive) feed, and, raising prices for dozens to $6/dozen.

We are honored to be able to provide food to our customers, family, and friends, and we look forward to continuing to learn and grow our farm business!

Waking Up

We’ve had an incredibly busy February, lots of packed social weekends and travel and generally not a whole lot of sleep for the adults in the family.  But the winter months are fading away already, and the increased daylight is telling us it’s time to get serious about spending time on the farm, too.

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Sunrise over the garden and the new greenhouse!  Lovely to have clear mornings again.

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Our first lamb of 2016 was born this past weekend, making time spent on the farm cuter than before, too!  This is Eureka’s little boy – she always throws singles, but they’re huge!

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The new light and the warm February days are GREAT for the garden..weeds.   Our overwintered crops of brussels sprouts, collards and kale are getting ready to sprout rapini (my favorite spring dish), and the aisles have more green than the beds!

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Our first seedlings in the greenhouse!  So excited to see these babies poking up their heads. Welcome to the world, little eggplants.

Rat Hunting

Over the past year or so, we’ve noticed a significant increase in rodent issues in our barn, especially rats. We’ve increased the number of traps, both hand built and purchased, and while we had some initial success (20 rats in 2 months!), coming into the dark barn after lights out would still reveal several in the turkey coop, where the messy turkeys create many a delicious snack amid the bedding even when we raise the feeders at night. A few times a year we’ve knocked them back by trying to gas them with exhaust from the farm truck, thanks to a clever weld on the farm truck exhaust pipe that allows us to fit a garden hose on, and run into the coop floor. But because we have so many animals around, poisoning the rats was never an option.

So when we had the chance to have a crew of trained rat hunters come visit us, we were excited to give it a try!

The first thing we learned is that we made a mistake when we built our chicken coop floor. When we moved in a floor was already in place, and we enlisted family help to tear the rotting floor up and replace it. But when we built the new floor, we just put it at the same level as the old one, which is pretty much perfect for a rat castle, and not so great for ever allowing us to get in there and kick the rats out. Oops. This limited the hunting team’s ability to really go after the rats, as they were safely settled into the middle of the floor under the chicken coop, and unreachable. Glad we’ve put off building a floor for the turkey coop til now, so we’ll know to raise it up high enough to be able to get under it and make it less hospitable.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t catch a few! It was so much fun to see the dogs do what they were meant to do, and they clearly enjoyed it.

Guess we know what’s going on the task list for 2016… new coop floors!

Greenhouse!

Here in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, a garden without a greenhouse has limited function.  According to our gardening neighbor, the last frost date here on the hill is May 15th, which means there are a LOT of things we can’t start by direct-seed until mid-May (and who can forget the horrible June hail storm that demolished our garden back in 2013)

Our first spring on the farm, we attempted starting seeds in the house, but the location of the windows and the angle of the house really do not work in concert with one another (this is what comes of putting a pre-built house down at the only angle with enough flat land to support it), and the effort was a fail.  Since then we’ve been resigned to direct seeding quite late, or, just purchasing starts.

Thaddeus obtained glass windows to re-purpose several years ago, but distractions, travel, and other priorities have kept them from turning into a greenhouse long enough for us to realize that planning the greenhouse before the actual Future House really wouldn’t be a good idea anyway, since we don’t know yet exactly what Future House will look like, and whether we’ll be wanting to make significant earth modifications to that area during construction.

And then, this past fall, Megan’s stepfather Rich handed down to us his old tent structure, which he previously had used to tent a boat while working on it.  Thaddeus saw the opportunity to put up a quick temporary greenhouse using the tent frame poles and some greenhouse sheeting.  A little elbow grease with the tractor to flatten a spot, a trip to the supply store for the plastic and .. voila!  We have a greenhouse!


The greenhouse is between the road and the house, a good reason to wait to design it until we can make sure it doesn’t look horribly out of place as the first thing you see when you turn in the driveway!

The completion of the greenhouse brought home one of the truisms of farm To Do lists, which is:  for every crossed-off item there are at least two more new tasks to be done.  The greenhouse exists, but now we need (1) tables to support the seeds in order to (2) actually start some seeds, and I’d love to add (3) some new earth pots to hold peppers.. wish us luck!