Too much time on my hands…
With all the nasty weather, and drawn out thaw, then back into snow again, I’ve had time to think about more ways to make money on our little farm.
Each of us have projects we’re working on. If they ever all come together, we could generate a little income pretty much year around.
Of course, the largest project (in terms of time and money invested) is the hoop house project. Bev and I are shepherding that project. When the opportunity came up, it was just matter of filling out the government paperwork. Two years ago, we applied for an EQIP grant, so we could cover our little garden with one or two hoop houses. The whole idea is that it would extend our garden season for the current June to August, out to at least April to October, and maybe even longer.
The requirements of the grant included becoming Certified Organic, so that’s what we did. It was a matter of completing our “Organic System Plan”, paying our fee, and being inspected. That was pretty much a no-brainer for us, as we really couldn’t afford commercial fertilizers.
The second project is our livestock. We’ve had sheep since the first year, even when we had no idea what we were doing or what we were doing with them, as in breed, raise and sell for a profit.
Over the years, we’ve traded out older ewes and bought/raised more ewes, until our little flock now numbers 16 ewes, and one ram. We’ve developed a couple of markets to sell whole or half lambs, and have the “fall back” of going to our local auction.
Cindy’s been designing and working on an aquaponics project. First she constructed a “barrel ponics” system. That gave her a lot of information, and knowledge. Last year, she extended the system to a large IBC and actually raised several different kinds of veggies and herbs. This year, she will be completely re-building the system, enlarging it to take over the 12×20 foot hoop house. We have a pellet stove to install, which will keep heat in the house all winter.
That has left me free to imagine about what else could we be doing.
We’re already planning to make cheese in 2014. I’ll be obtaining my cheese license, and we’re building a cheese make room in a 40 ft container. It will be fully insulated, and have the necessary equipment to make both fresh and aged cheeses. I’ll be concentrating on fresh goat mozzarella as there is a high demand within our family, as well as in Cedar City.
I’m also thinking about making Cajeta (that’s the goat milk version of Dolce de Leche). This is a traditional Mexican sweet caramel sauce. I can promise you that once you try it, you’ll want more, and more, and more.
Of course, with goat milk from at least three does, we’ll have more than enough milk, so we can make a few batches of soap. So, I’m now researching that. Around here, we don’t just jump into something, we have to do the “due diligence” and that includes the financials.
In addition to Cindy’s aquaponics (I’m not at liberty to talk about her main crop except to say it’s legal), she is also the main rabbit herder. We’re raising a few meat rabbits for ourselves, and also to have available for the local population.
She also has an interest in tanning hides. So far, we have a couple of rabbit pelts, and a couple of goat hides in the freezer, awaiting better weather. I’m thinking we could sell those at the Farmer’s market.
On the veggie side of things, Bev is keen to try different kinds as well as different varieties of vegetables. I’m lobbying to add “cut flowers”. That would certainly make our Farmer’s Market booth pretty.
On the “meat” front, I’ve been thinking about whether it’s cost effective to get our meat processed at an inspected plant. The plant is quite a ways away from us (200 miles round trip), and we’d be initially making two trips get the entire batch ready to sell, one to deliver the animals, and one to pick up the meat. I’m also concerned about the market impact. Our pricing would come in right between the other two suppliers in our local market.
I also have to hunt down the regulations on butchering and selling rabbit meat to the public. I’ve no idea what it will take, if it can even be done.
With all these ideas, it’s time now to ask for your feedback. You tell me, in addition to our Certified Organic produce, what else from the above ideas would you like to see us market?
Some things, like the veggies and the meats (lamb, and maybe rabbit) can only be sold locally, as it’s just not practical or in some cases legal to sell across state lines. Things like the Cajeta, soap, and tanned skins can be sold both locally and over the Internet.
This is all a part of our research… if you don’t want to buy it, why would we want to make it?
Please, make use of the comments section below and let us know what you think. Share this post with as many folks as you can, whether local to Cedar City, or anywhere else in the USA. We can’t make good decisions in a vacuum.
Thanks for your time and thoughts,
The Four Country Gals,
Mom, Cindy, Bev, and Shari
Enough with this weather! We have goats due to kid about February 14 with lambing starting in March. We still need to finish the two hoop houses and then have to rebuild the aquaponics system.
Besides that, we’re getting cabin fever.
- Sheep are ready for breakfast.
Throughout the bad weather, our animals have made us look bad. The sheep insist on sleeping under the stars, even though they have shelters. When we go out in the morning for chores, there they are, laying in muck. They get up and shake the ice crystals off their warm wooly coats and head for the feed.
More often than not, our heifer has spent the night outside although she has two covered wind breaks. She sleeps really close to her feed area, in case she wants to snack.
Zena, the Alpine goat has really frustrated us. She hates the snow! She’d spend all her days in her shelter if she could. We put water out for her, but she doesn’t want to put her feet into the snow. Never mind she’s content to eat the snow. She’s also the first doe due to kid around Valentine Day.
Our Nubians aren’t quite so snow resistant, although they really like it when we feed in their “straw bale goat house”. We do that so they get used to being in there. That’s where we’re kidding this year (except for Zena).
The rabbits seemed to make it through the miserable weather, with one doe having a litter New Year’s Eve. As long as the kits were in the nest box they were nice and warm. We waited until day 20 to tip the box on it’s side. That day the high was about 15 degrees and the low was -10 degrees. We brought the little bunnies into the house and let the spend the night in a dry aquarium. Once back with Mom, they’re really getting along great, nibbling on feed and drinking water.
The chickens didn’t to badly. For the most part, they stayed inside and huddled under a couple of heat lamps. At some point, “Roo” got pushed away from the lamp as he has a frost-bitten comb and wattles. Not sure we can catch him to put any creme on him.
As for the hoop houses, they’re in the same state as we left them the weekend before Christmas. There’s a 2 foot drift on the south side. And, the snow is still too deep to be able to access the channels if we try to install the plastic covers. Our NRCS contact was out yesterday (he got bored in the office) to see how we’re doing. He was pretty impressed with the work we’ve done. Most folks hire a crew. Not us… we do it ourselves, even if it takes longer.
It sounds like we’re going to take advantage of the warmer days to butcher a half dozen or so rabbits. I sure hope Mom agrees to fry up a couple of them. The rest can go into the freezer for later.
Next up will be to start moving the ram and buck out of the pens as we get ready for babies.
We’ll also gather together and discuss all that happened during this extended deep freeze. We’ll cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of the whole month. Then we’ll plan for changes when the next big freeze occurs. Our goal around here is to make things as safe and comfortable for our animals as well as safe, comfortable, and streamlined for us.
Incoming search terms:
- are we done with snow 2013
- are we done with winter for 2013
- are we done with snow for 2013
We’ve reached that point in the hoop house project where we can now see the end of the beginning.
The end in that the power company has now switched our power to the new service panel, and we’re within a couple minor tasks of being ready to install the double covers. That signals the “end of the project” and we can get paid.
So here’s how the past several days have gone.
I pretty much finished my part of the trench just before my right shoulder said “that’s enough out of you for a while”. I’ve dug to a point that is 4 ft away from the outgoing lines. Now we’ll wait for the power company.
We had a couple of neighbors over last Sunday to assist us with finishing the “overhead” stuff, like securing the bow sections with self-tapping screws, and helping install a couple of the frames on the ends. The neighbor’s wife and I built two large raised beds using straw bales and dirt. These beds add an extra couple hundred square feet. One is dedicated as the new garlic and onion bed, while the other has not been designated. Each of them will be covered in plastic using the old PVC irrigation system lines as bows for low tunnels.
Nothing is used only once on this farm!
The pressure-treated wood has been installed around the bottom of the hoop houses, as has all the channel. The channel is where the wiggle-wire gets installed that secures the hoop house skins without puncturing by nail or staple.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the supervisor from the local power company showed up to check our work and see when we wanted to switch out the panel. I told him “yesterday” and he asked if Wednesday would be soon enough.
Also on Tuesday another neighbor came over to again help with “overhead” stuff as the channel strips had to be installed (as in screwed down) to the end bows. Cindy’s shoulders are about shot, too, so he was a huge help.
About mid-day Wednesday, the power company showed up as promised. First they fixed the base of the transformer that sits in front of our house. Over the past 50 years, the weight of the oil in the transformer has caused the fiberglass base to break. Our transformer was listing better than 20 degrees to the north and we had become concerned about the underground lines being too stressed.
They opened the box and proceeded to shovel out about a foot of sand which had built up over the past 50 years. With their trusty crane, they lifted the whole thing and replaced the old base with a new one which should last at least 50 if not 75 years.
Once that was finished, it was time to tackle the other job… move the incoming electric service from the old pedestal in the back yard to the new service panel on our north wall.
Wouldn’t you know it. The trench and hole I dug weren’t big enough for the skinny-assed guys. I mean, really… I was down in that trench and had enough room, and I’m twice as wide as any one of them. They slapped a “team dig” thing and soon had the space they wanted. This is one of the really neat things about living in a rural area.
They also installed the incoming lugs, something that most “citified” power companies would never do.
The whole process took a couple hours, so they took time for lunch in the middle (after the digging session). When they returned, the fun began.
First they cut the power from “down at the corner”. At least I think that’s where they did it. They took a truck. Then they proceeded to cut the incoming line, and bend it up to form the “outgoing” line to the old pedestal. We’re keeping that one, as the heat pump is hooked to it, and we’re not interested in disturbing the back yard yet.
It took all three of them to bend the wire, shove it into a conduit, which goes down the wall, and into a pocket under the wall. Once that was done, one guy started working on the new wire going from the cut (soon to be splice) to the input side of the electric service. He used some pretty neat tools to strip the cover from the wire and then crimp the twisted ends down tight.
I heard them say that they were using one size larger on each of the wires in the splice. Must have something to do with the new code.
The guy down in trench repeated the same process with his end of the old incoming wires. Strip and clamp. Once the splice wire was firmly attached to the meter box, the guy in the trench slipped a sleeve over each of the wires. He then clamped each of the wires to each other, being careful to keep hot-neutral and ground going to the right ones. After clamping, he slipped the the sleeve in place and used a blow-torch to shrink it snug over the wires. His job was then done.
At the same time, another guy was in the back yard working on the pedestal. He removed the meter and handed it over the wall. If they had been carrying a new one on one of the trucks, they would have swapped ours out as it has a pretty fair amount of sand in it.
He put big jumper wires across the terminals and installed a “frisbee” to cover up the meter hole.
With the connections completed one of the guys drove back to the corner and flipped on the power. We all held our breath as things powered up. I heard the heat pump kick on, and the water pump kicked on in the greenhouse (aquaponics project).
Neighbor Ray has since been back to finish up the outlet boxes in both hoop houses and the chicken coop. We still have to finish the aquaponics greenhouse power.
Next project: Cover both hoop houses with their two skins, and inflate the air space.