Getting Serious About the Farm.

Moving to the “city” has been wonderful! I am only sorry that I didn’t move to Bangor sooner. I love the parks, the pools, the restaurants, the museums, the people, the shopping, the fact that I am within a 10 mile radius of anything I need or want (including an amazing hospital – something we sorely lacked in the “country”). But perhaps the reason I enjoy the city so much is because – on our 16 acres – we are still able to enjoy a country life as well. We have 16 chickens, 2 Nubian does, 2 Australian Shepherds, a pond, lots of land … and plenty of ambition.

We have lived here for 2 years this May … we have thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of living in the city (including opening my own photography studio in downtown) … and now we think it is about time to get serious about the farm. So, we are making plans, making lists, and dreaming of what can be. And here is a small sampling of our “to-do” list …

* Create a kick-ass veggie garden.

We just had some rich loam delivered. Halis is currently digging up some good soil in the backyard for our vegetable garden. We have dabbled in gardening before, but never on the scale we are about to try.

We participated in a CSA last year (Community Supported Agriculture) and thus received a weekly share of yummy veggies throughout the summer. It cost us $400 for the season … and we highly recommend it to all our local friends (see here). But because we have the resources to create our own garden … and likely at the same price or less … we are going to give it a shot. We also live on a very busy road and thus it would be quite easy for us to sell some extra produce to recoup our expenses (bonus!).
Our plans are for sowing the veggies that we love best: tomatoes, red peppers, squash, cucumbers, lettuces, and cantaloupe (a fruit). We are set on only sowing non-hybrid seeds so that we can re-sow the seeds from our produce year after year. For more info on why this is important, read this.

We have recently found moose tracks up and down our driveway … so keeping the wildlife away may become a challenge … but we at least plan to keep the chickens closed in for part of the summer (this is unusual for us) so that our garden has a chance to grow. Which leads me to the next plan …

* Maximize our egg production

We currently have 16 hens and a one-eyed rooster. 8 of our girls were chicks last summer and thus are laying almost daily now. The other half of our girls are fairly old and are laying when they can. Unlike many others, I don’t cull the hens when their production wanes … so our feed vs. output ratio will not be economical … but I am okay with that. I have found, after 5+ years of keeping chickens, that their life spans are shorter than I had previously expected (about 4-5 years), so keeping them that long is my way of saying “thanks” for jobs well done.

We are currently yielding about 3/4 dozen eggs a day. We consume about 1/2 dozen a week. So, we have plenty of leftovers. Because we live on the aforementioned busy road … I know we can begin to sell these eggs as well. Yet, we don’t have enough overage to sell to the public in any kind of meaningful way. The offerings would likely be too sporadic. So, in order to up the overage a bit, we are going to add a few more hens. We have placed an order through our local Blue Seal feed store for the following: Buff Orpingtons, Black-Sex Links, Red-Sex Links and Ameraucanas. We are adding 6 more to the flock … so next year our yield will be about a dozen and a half a day. We may add even more.

I have found that the hens are laying eggs in places other than their nesting boxes … and by the time I find them … they are too old for consumption. Which leads to another project … closing in their coop with a larger run so that they may have more comfortable outdoor accommodations without letting them destroy the garden or allowing them to lay their eggs where I can’t find them. We have extra fencing, so we will use it to give them a bit of a “backyard” … and then close them in till further notice. (Sorry girls!)

* Grow the Goat Herd

Well, two goats is not exactly a “herd”… but we are looking to change that. Our original intent in raising Nubian goats was to raise them for their milk. We got our two does last year and bottle fed them to adulthood. They are now more like pets than working livestock. But, as we believe everyone on this farm needs to earn their keep (all except for Isaac that is), it is time for these girls to give us some kids and some milk.

The problem is … do we buy a buck and keep him? Bucks are known to be stinky, mean, and hard to handle unless they are wethered. So, deciding to keep a buck is not easy. Some alternatives to keeping a herd sire is to rent a buck to impregnate your does (can be expensive), purchase sperm to inject (no thanks), or drive your does to a stud buck (requiring a horse trailer – which I do not yet own). So, I am leaning toward keeping an ornery buck … and studding him out myself in order to recoup my expenses. I have been shopping for bucks on Uncle Henry’s and throughout the internet. I have an appointment to check some out this weekend and am so looking forward to it.

Now we need to expand yet another livestock building. And so, while we are at it, I am thinking of getting more bang for my buck (pun totally intended!) and may purchase some more does for Mr. Buck to impregnate. More does = more kids & more milk.

* Stock the Pond

We have a pond in the front yard that contains some fish. What kind of fish? No idea. But, I recently found out that we could apply for a permit to stock the pond with native Maine species. I am not sure whether we will get permission or not, but for a $10 application fee, I am willing to give it a shot. Why stock the pond? Well, so we can fish for our own food, silly! Fresh fish = yum.

* Pimp the Dog Out

Jack is a stud. Truly. I mean, look at those eyes. He is a lady’s man. And it is time he earns his keep. He fathered a gorgeous litter two years ago … and we kept one of his “sons” as a pet. And although Jack is wonderful pet (Isaac’s fave), he is also a working dog … a purebred Aussie capable of producing gorgeous offspring with the instincts to work livestock. And I am sure he wouldn’t mind seeing a little action with a lovely lady.

Here is his personal ad. Interested?

* Add Some Sheep

Okay, so this is a big step. And I am not quite settled on it (nor have I seriously discussed it with Halis … oops). But we have plenty of land for grazing and plenty of need for it to be grazed. And heck, good wool is in very high demand. However, I know NOTHING about sheep. I have been too busy studying goats over the past year. So, I am checking out sites such as this, this, and this.

Any advice?

* ETC.

Oh there are so many other wonderful things that we want to try. Halis is becoming very interested in creating an apple orchard on the acreage in Lagrange that he shares with his brother. He is trying to grow them on his own … which may require that we build a greenhouse (hooray!).

I, as may be obvious at this point, want to build a small produce stand at the end of the driveway in order to sell our leftover wares … as well as some of Isaac’s pumpkins (a future post).

And I am sure that I could come up with loads of other projects for us to get into over our heads (just ask my husband 🙂

Meanwhile, our day jobs keep us busy … and we are looking forward to our May vacation so that we can spend the bulk of it working on getting serious about the farm.




Jodi Renshaw

About Jodi Renshaw

Jodi is a homeschooling Mom, a photographer, a wife, and a proud resident of the city of Bangor. She spends part of her time working at a locally-owned shop in the downtown area, part of her time homeschooling her favorite young man, and most of her time behind a camera lens. She often writes about adoption, family life, homeschooling, and community.