It’s been a wonderful, fruitful year at Iron Oak Farm. The garden is coming along nicely, I’m picking ripening cucumbers every day and adding them to our refrigerator pickle jar.
We also just finished kidding season, one of the most joyous times of the year. Our last pregnant doe gave birth to triplets last night. That makes seven kids this summer!
If we’ve done one thing right this year, it’s that we’ve spaced the timing of baby animals being raised on our farm so that there’s not too many at once.
It can be so exciting to discover new breeds, new babies for sale. But when the actual workload sinks in of taking care of all these growing animals, it can be a real shocker. Especially if some animals have special needs.
We had a really nice system with our poultry this spring. We raised many breeds of chicks, ducks, guineas, turkey poults and geese. And while it was constant, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I could focus on our poultry, one or two breeds at a time. We have two large cattle troughs that work perfectly as brooders. They are easily cleaned and can be taken outside after brooding season is done. The galvanized metal means they can be stored outside rather than taking up precious hay-space in our barn.
We started with chicks a little later in the season then we usually do, which was helpful because I could move teenage chicks outside without the fear of cold temperatures.
I also made sure that no babies were due to come into our home until the previous ones were old enough to be safely moved out to the coop wing.
The coop wing itself is a great help as well. It has two divided rooms that we can separate breeds until they are old enough to join the large flock.
Everyone is off baby feed so that makes things less expensive at the feed store, and now I can set my focus on our goats. All the squabbling of teenage chicks is over with, everyone has worked out their respective place in the flock. And for once we have time to enjoy our farm.
We can sit in the evenings with a glass of lemonade and watch the ducks root through the mud, or pick a basket of broccoli and actually have time to blanch and freeze it…not just throw it in the fridge and hope it doesn’t rot before I can get to it.
Our first cutting of hay has been neatly tucked away in the barn and thanks to all the rain we’ve had lately, we’re sure to get a second cut, maybe a third.
The girls are going strong with their egg production, and the turkey poults are getting larger and larger each day.
Right now, the only maintenance that the chickens require is daily feeding and watering, letting out in the morning and closing up in the evening, egg collection and the weekly cleaning/freshening of the coop. Which is wonderful because with seven baby goats to take care of, I need an open schedule.
The goats gave birth late this season. We are lucky to have Nubians, an African breed, that comes into heat several times a year rather than just the one time in the fall like some of the northern breeds.
With the late births, we don’t have to worry about the kids being cold, chick days are well behind us and the garden is planted, and just needs upkeep.
Milking will begin in the next few weeks, along with cheese, butter and soap making. Then it will be tomato season, picking, stewing and canning.
Before long it will be time to shear the fiber goats again before fall!
If I’ve learned anything from working a farm, is to take the time to be present. I tend to be a perfectionist and often I miss out on the beauty around me because I’m so busy trying to make everything perfect. I’m trying to correct that.
To not concentrate on the weeds, but instead on the deep green zucchini, and prickly cucumbers growing just beside.
To just sit…I’ll say it again. Just sit… and let baby goats climb on me without worrying that there’s stalls to be cleaned, or hay to be baled.
To hand feed the geese, pet their soft feather and listen to them garble back and forth to each other, not just dump the food into the feeder and run off to the next chore.
With practice, a little planning and the willpower to keep slowing down, it’s been a very happy summer. We haven’t accomplished anything more this year…anything less. But what we have has been enjoyed. And that’s the good life.