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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Truth About Facebook

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...Take two.
Yes, take two. I originally wrote this blog yesterday and it came out far more angry and rant-y than what I would want it to be. Am I angry? Yes. But I had to step back, delete the original post, and wrap my head around the situation better in hopes that I could share this issue with you in a less angry way.
Facebook is a beast of a social media platform. And I say that as a user, but more so as a small business owner. Love it or hate it, it is hard to ignore if you have any kind of business whatsoever. Facebook is where people are, and where people turn to try to find you.
With that said, years ago, Facebook launched Facebook Pages... basically profiles for businesses, organizations, and what have you. They pushed it relentlessly under the noses of any business owner they could find on Facebook with the promise of helping you create, reach and expand your audience (ie customers). I jumped on with my farm page early in 2011 before my soap business existed. It was a page that was associated with my original blog website for our farm that detailed the day to day struggles and events on our homestead, and included my soap making hobby in the mix. When that hobby became a business, Facebook was there to encourage me to build my audience and create content for them to see.
For the first few years it was great: Free advertising on a free platform that was growing leaps and bounds every single day. Facebook worked for your small business if you put the time in to post content and engage your audience. You knew your audience was seeing your content. I did, because you told me. 
This is how I met and got the opportunity to interact with so many of you. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
But then something happened. At the height of it all, Facebook changed some things behind the scenes that most people were unaware of. Now these pages, like our farm page, that you specifically "liked" so that you could follow, slowly started disappearing in frequency on your news feed. Slow enough that you probably didn't even notice. Tidbits of instructions started filtering through that if you wanted to see content from pages that you followed, you needed to go to the page and click on this and that and another thing so that it would show up in your news feed. And so people did this and that and the other thing. And my page posts started showing back in your news feeds again. 
But, of course, Facebook wasn't about to leave it alone. They changed things again, and users had to change their settings again, so that the pages they wanted to see content from would come back to their news feed.
This has happened over and over during the last couple of years. So much so that I, and many other pages, stopped trying to tell you how to reset your notifications so that my page my content would reappear in your news feed. It was a losing battle.
Sounds tricky, but it gets worse. Now, and increasingly so as each day goes by, Facebook wants, approaches, and repeatedly asks pages like mine to pay money to get their posts seen. Seen by who? You. The same person who intentionally went to the page to begin with, "liked" it, and essentially told Facebook that you want to see their content.
If it had started this way, that would be fine. But how it started was by Facebook luring in businesses, thousands and thousands of small businesses, encouraging them to create content that draws people to Facebook, forming communities that interact on your page, and build your customer base through their platform... Essentially working and creating content FOR Facebook and creating interactive pages FOR Facebook, only to have them shut the door in the face of me, the small business owner, and tell me I now have to pay them to be able to reach the community I had built.
What does this boil down to? And why am I telling you this? Because as it stands, anytime I do a giveaway or a contest, a flash sale or have coupon codes to share with you, if I post that information on Facebook, only a small portion of you actually see it now. And I don't think that is fair. It's not fair if you are wanting to get in on the pre-orders for the BFF boxes each season and Facebook decides to hide that link from you, so you miss it. It's not fair if only some people see when I do big flash sales and not others. 
Over and over again, I have had customers tell me that they miss seeing photos of our baby goats, or updates about Snow our miniature horse, or the latest farm restoration project or what the new seasonal scents are. It frustrates me, and makes me sad when I have to tell them that I've been posting these things all along. Facebook is just not showing it to you.
One day, a couple months ago, I finally said OK. You win, Facebook. I chose something I had actually posted a couple months before that reached a lot of people (Pages get basic statistical information for each post, giving you a general idea of how many people the post reached). I copied the post, paid for it to be sponsored, and it ran for a week. I watched the statistical information and guess what? It reached and was reacted to by pretty much the same amount of people as it did when it was not sponsored a couple months before. Money... wasted.
I found it interesting, but marked it up to bad timing or too much other new stuff floating around on Facebook or whatever. It must have gotten buried by something.
Until I tried it again during the holidays a few weeks ago. I paid to sponsor another post so, as Facebook said, it would reach more of my audience in their news feed. I paid for it to run heavily for three days instead of one week, and in the meantime I also posted similar posts (unsponsored) of similar content.
The stats on the posts were all I needed to see: The sponsored posts that I PAID Facebook to show you weren't being seen any more than the ones I didn't pay for. In fact, the sponsored holiday post performed worse than almost all of the content that I put out during the month of December. Money, again, wasted. 
While I can't do much about you not seeing the photos and videos (other than to tell you that you can find us on Instagram and YouTube), the only way I see that I can make things fair is to release all of the important information like sales, coupons, product launches, giveaways and big announcements by way of my email newsletter. That has been the most reliable way for me to get this information out by far, and as long as you're not letting it get trapped in your spam filter, there isn't a social media platform out there hiding that content from you.  
This doesn't just go for my business, but all small businesses you follow on Facebook in general. They are up against the same beast, being backed into the same corner as I am. If you want to help them out, reach out and find them outside of Facebook.
As a side note, there is one major timeless trick that will help my content show up more in your news feed if you're dedicated to using Facebook: Interaction. Plain and simple. The more you like, comment and share my content, the more Facebook will show you stuff like my baby goat pictures and farm updates. And yes, they will still ask me to pay to have it shown more, but by you interacting with my posts, it opens the backdoor for it to be seen more for free. (Again, this goes for any small business page.)
If you've read this far, thank you. You're the reason I'm putting this out there and I hope it helps to shed light on what small businesses are up against. I have a virtual open door policy for thoughts and suggestions, and I'd love to hear what you have to say on the subject. Let's keep our community going, and growing, for free.
xoxo,

Friday, September 2, 2016

Snow Update: She's A Rock Star Circus Pony

Our original plan (with our vet) was to wait until this fall to test Snow for Cushing's Disease because the test would be more accurate. However, despite the diet change, supplements, restricted pasture access and constant monitoring, Snow has continued to have Cushing-type symptom issues, including increased hoof tenderness.

(If you're jumping in now and don't know the back story, we found our 30+ yr old miniature horse Snow having a seizure in her stall in July. You can read about it here.)

We have been consulting constantly with our vet through the whole ordeal and we made the joint decision that we should go ahead and test her as soon as possible as well as x-ray her hooves to look for the beginnings of any rotation. Of course we have Hurricane Hermine moving in on us, but Dr. White was determined to get this done sooner rather than later so we can start treating her with the medication she needs if she is positive.

[caption id="attachment_2071" align="aligncenter" width="300"]IMG_8305 Snow up on blocks. We actually had her up twice this high at one point, but did not get a photo.[/caption]

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Snow... oh little Snow. She's such a rock star (and Dr. White thinks so too!) We didn't even have to sedate her for the xrays. Little Snow let us put her up on blocks like a circus pony and shoot xrays from all directions while she just stood there. And yawned. At one point, with her front two hooves up on blocks, Snow let us move her whole back end over several steps and she never once attempted to step down off the blocks. We took xrays for probably a good half an hour, changing directions and views an trying to get the shots you would typically get in bigger horses but scaled way down to mini size (which, as I learned, is quite tricky). But Snow stood there patiently the whole time.

We hope to have the Cushing's results next week. The xrays will be reviewed and copies will be shared with our farrier, both for coming up with a comfort plan as well as to have on hand if and when we need to compare them to future xrays, should we need to.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Fall BFF Box Up For Grabs!

The countdown has begun and we are hours away from the Fall 2016 Beaman’s Fork Friends (BFF) Collection Boxes being released. Like I said before, this box quickly sold out when the pre-order link was posted but what I didn’t say was that I kept one box unclaimed for a giveaway.

I’m not going to make you jump through the hoops of following, commenting on or sharing any of our various social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc… although I would love for you to connect with us on those!)  This isn’t a giveaway to boost our ratings. This, instead, is a giveaway with the hopes of boosting someone’s day.

This giveaway is going to be different from most: Instead of randomly selecting and giving YOU the prize, I want YOU to give it to someone who could use a pick-me-up.

The rules are simple…

• Think outside of yourself. Is there someone around you -- a friend, a relative, a coworker, or someone you may not know but encounter regularly -- who you feel could use a pick-me-up? They may be enduring personal struggles right now or feeling down. Maybe it is someone who always gives to others. Or someone who just works hard and stays positive.


• Did you find that person? Ok, good. Don’t tell me who it is; I wish to respect people’s privacy.  Instead, shoot me an email (form below) and just tell me you have your person. Do this before midnight on Thursday (Sept. 1) IMPORTANT: When you fill out the contact form below, enter YOUR first & last name and YOUR email address... NOT your person's! 


• On Friday morning, one of those emails will be chosen at random and responded to. If it is your email, I will be contacting you to arrange getting the box to your person. You can either pick up & take the box to your  person yourself, I can ship the box to you and you can give the box to your person, or, as long as they are in the US, I can ship the box directly to them (with a personalized note card).


• If your email is not chosen, I will ask that you do something… you have a person. Go tell them that you are thinking of them.


I will not be publicly announcing the winner because I want to respect people’s privacy. That will be just between the winner and their person.

 

[box]Question: “How do you know that the winner will give the box away and not keep it for themselves?”

Answer: I don’t. All I can do is hold up on my end of the bargain in providing the gift, and hope that the winner holds up on their end of the bargain in giving it. That is the whole point of this. It’s a giveaway.[/box]

 

So that’s it! Stop what you are doing and think of a deserving person.  In the form below, enter YOUR NAME and YOUR EMAIL address (not the person's!) and in the message box, simply answer the following question...  Are you going to hold up on your end of the bargain and give the box away?

 

*** THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO ENTERED! Submission deadline was Sept 1 2016 at midnight. Entry form has been removed. ***

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Walking In On The Unexpected

This past Saturday was going like any other -- I had just gotten home from selling soap at the local farmers market, my car full of the stock I brought back with me, I was a hot and sweaty mess, and ready to relax. It had been a busy week and an equally as busy market day and I had been looking forward to putting my aching feet up for a couple of hours of quiet time.

I got out of my car and before I went inside the house, I remembered that the horses were in their stalls because severe storms had been threatening to blow through, but the weather was clearing and they could safely go out and stretch their legs for a few hours. I walked down the long aisle way of the barn to the stalls in the back where Pebbles was sticking her head over the gate watching me and quiet rustling noises were coming from Snow's stall.

And that's when I saw it.

Snow, our miniature mare, was facing the back of her stall, wobbling on her back end, and jerking her head rhythmically up in the air, almost as if someone or something was smacking her under her chin. I'm not sure what my first thought was, but I called her name as I unlatched her door and walked in the stall. I touched her back and she didn't seem to even register that I was there. Her muscles were stiff, her back legs continued to wobble and weaken and her head kept tossing at regular intervals like she was being shocked.

I ran to the house, screamed for my husband, grabbed the phone and fumbled my way into dialing the vet. "Something is really wrong with Snow," I told Dr. White. "I really think she's having a seizure."

Back in the barn, my husband and I could do nothing but watch. She appeared to be temporarily blind, confused, and occasionally it seemed like she knew we were there. She became very vocal, and cried out several times. It seemed like eternity, but realistically may have been 20 minutes later, she slowly started drifting out of her seizure, alternating between a moment of quiet and recognition and a repeat moment of lurking seizure activity. She was weak and tired.

By the time Dr. White arrived, Snow's seizures had subsided but she was still a little shaky in her back end. She had a complete physical and checked out perfect for a mare well into her 30s. We discussed several options, but because we had no idea what caused the episode, we were somewhat shooting in the dark. We could try to rule a few things out with blood tests, but the lab wouldn't be open to run them until Monday, which wasn't ideal.

So we made a game plan to monitor Snow around the clock for the next 24-48 hours and watch for anymore seizures. Dr. White gave us a sedative for her in the event that she did start seizing again, which would help take the edge off and hopefully settle the seizure activity down some until a vet could arrive. If this happened, we would immediately draw blood and send it off for a detailed analysis -- Dr. White instructed that we would get the most information likely if the blood sample was taken right after a seizure.

I has been five days now and (knock on wood) Snow has been acting normal. Luckily I work most of the week from home so someone is here with their eyes on her regularly all day long. We feel happy and fortunate that she's doing so well, but also paranoid and unsettled because we don't know if or when it will happen again. Regardless, I think we are better prepared. We have the vets on speed dial (and now they are also in my husband's phone), we have friends on standby to assist (even if its just to calm me down... haha), we have a sedative for Snow if needed, and we will remember to take a video (because I am kicking myself now that it didn't occur to me to video the seizure for reference for the vet and future comparison if needed... but in my defense, I could barely get my vet's number dialed at the time).

Right now, I'm just happy for time.

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This is Pebbles. Pebbles is my other horse, the one that didn't have a seizure on Saturday, and she celebrated her 31st birthday in March. Pebbles and I have been together since I was a young teenager and her a rambunctious filly. I believe I can honestly say we know each other inside and out better than anyone else knows us.

With that said, Snow is her seeing eye pony and anxiety relief companion. That is why Snow came here several years ago. When Snow was having her seizure Saturday in her stall, Pebbles stood calmly next door watching over the half wall, making sure she could see her. Normally Pebbles is the vocal one who loses track of Snow occasionally, gets frightened, and lets the entire neighborhood know until she finds her mini companion who just wandered off out of her limited eyesight.

However Saturday, during the seizure, Snow temporarily lost her own eyesight and became the vocal one. She whinnied and screamed and Pebbles was right there, being the quiet one, until Snow recovered and could see again.

Since that day, Pebbles has been noticeably seeking me out. She doesn't want to leave Snow's side, but she listens for me and finds me when I am anywhere near the pastures or barn, and just wants to touch me. She stands with me, and then tries to inch me back toward Snow, like she wants us all together.

These creatures tell and teach us so much if we stop and listen to them.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Behind the scenes

If you haven't seen already, we have a YouTube channel that has been pretty active lately...











Don't forget you can subscribe to our YouTube channel and keep up with all of our new stuff and silly farm shenanigans!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Creating 2016: My Plan For Making This Year Mine

Welcome to the New Year, to a new beginning, to a worldwide chance to regroup and restart. Welcome to 2016. My 2016.

My 2016? Yes. MY 2016. I'll first tell you about the past, and then you'll see what I mean.

I took the leap and turned my soap making hobby into a full time business with literally just a handful of cheap small molds (which at that point I had nearly already used to death), kitchen tools purchased at second hand stores, the encouragement of my husband, and my desire to create. After several restless nights and a (very) rough business outline scribbled on scrap paper, I knew I only had one shot at this.

[caption id="attachment_1261" align="aligncenter" width="300"]PHOTO_1343334836126 Some of my early soaps, when I was making them eight bars at a time.[/caption]

I knew I had to learn and grow and perfect my craft but I didn't know how... soap making - real soap making - is an incredibly old art but also an incredibly closely guarded skill that isn't shared loosely. You can learn the basic steps but that is only a very small part of the puzzle. It is your recipe and technique that is your gold. And a great soap recipe, my friends, is locked up tighter to a soap maker than your granny's "secret ingredient" in her prize apple pie.

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So I spent a lot of time with trial and error. And with this was a lot of money with trial and error. (Error being the more expensive part of the equation here) And after making $#%&@ pounds of soap, I had learned a lot, gave away a lot, cussed a lot, and I zeroed in on my gold.

I knew from the beginning that my gold wasn't complete, so in 2014 I made it a point to put myself through soap school - a curriculum that I had to put together myself. I invested in books and resources that taught me the details of technique and design and recipes as well as resources that brought me up close into the world of the science and chemistry behind it. I wanted to not only  know how to make a good soap, but also why it was a good soap.

[caption id="attachment_1263" align="aligncenter" width="467"]CYMERA_20130619_110429 My Oatmeal Goat Milk soap -- my first "gold" recipe that continues to be my best seller to this day.[/caption]

As it turns out, soap making is all chemistry. One hundred percent, beginning to end, like it or not, pure chemistry. You know that class that I couldn't follow worth a lick in high school? Yeah. Chemistry. So I had to bust my butt to wrap my head around it, but eventually I did. I spent most of 2014 and all of 2015 on doing nothing but studying soap chemistry and applying that knowledge to my gold.  I wanted to be able to build recipes and interchange them with techniques and understand start to finish what every single ingredient and step and temperature difference did to the final product. I obsessed myself with it. I dove into a world that was so foreign, yet ended up being so satisfying.

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Chemistry and math never came natural to me. Both are things I have to really work at to understand. So for nearly two years, day in and day out, I worked to comprehend this foreign language through soap. It will be an ongoing  learning experience that I will continue to  build on, but I am very happy with my benchmarks and for seeing my quite strict self-created "soap school" through. (Queue the graduation march theme here) On January first, I turned my tassel.

Which brings me to now. While chemistry and math may make my brain send smoke signals, art and design make my heart sing. Truly. I love to create. I love visual stimulation. I love putting my thoughts and ideas and emotions into visual objects and releasing them into the world. I love being inspired by people, situations, concepts, conversations. I love waking in the middle of the night with an obscure idea and obsessing over it day in and day out until I am teetering on insanity. I love allowing my brain to manically wrap itself around the minute artistic details even though it is physically painful to not act on them until I'm able to claw out of reality and find the time to eject it to make it happen.

 



Welcome, friends, to my 2016.

On January first, two thousand sixteen, I handed myself an imaginary, heavy, sparkly pink key (my favorite color, FYI) that opens the door into my own self-guided artistic journey through soap. Stocked with my arsenal of hard earned chemistry lessons and explored resources, I'm unlocking the dome over my soap studio and letting myself go. In that, I am welcoming you on my journey.

My theme for the next 12 months is Creating 2016, and I intend to do so every step of the way. I am taking my knowledge and now allowing myself to play with it in terms of color, design and themes. What does this mean? I have pared down my "Farm Favorites" line of soaps to my biggest sellers (don't worry!), I'm allowing myself the freedom to design and create soaps with an artist's heart, and I'm welcoming you on my journey.

[caption id="attachment_1269" align="aligncenter" width="861"]soap3 Finding inspiration and sharing my thought process.[/caption]

I'm going to use inspirations and themes to guide my artisan soap making, and I want to share the process. I am going to show you where the ideas come from, how the plan develops, my thought process and feelings, and the actual creation. You'll be let in on the techniques, the highlights, and the failures.

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Some of this will be done through photos and blogging, some is being done through video. Either way, I'm Creating 2016 and I plan to have a lot of fun with it. Hopefully it shows through my creations.

[caption id="attachment_1270" align="aligncenter" width="463"]soap4 Turning soap into art.[/caption]

Thank you, each and every one of you, for encouraging me through the years and for supporting our little farm with your purchases. From my art teachers from high school, college and beyond who taught me that art has no rules, to my friends, family, customers and online supporters who have encouraged me, I am so lucky to have learned from and been inspired by you. I am very excited about Creating 2016... I'm already having a blast. My entire soap studio has been reorganized, my calendar has been mapped out, I have several projects in the works, I'm tweaking my business plan, and I'm dedicating time to creativity on a regular basis. I will be updating you with more information about products and plans and goals for the year in a future post as details for them get ironed out.

I hope you're on your way to create Your 2016 as well. As they say, don't give up your daydream... Make it happen!

[caption id="attachment_1271" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]IMG_2442 Black Raspberry Soap inspired by a Japanese painting by unknown artist.  Bars available in limited quantities in late February.[/caption]

 

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Farms, That Sixth Sense & Jumping Ship

Well hello, World! Long time. Yeah, I know. Hush.

I would start off by saying that it has been a busy couple of months, but I honestly think that is always the case in some form. If it isn't bad weather, it's preparing for upcoming weather. If it isn't dealing with current animal issues, it's preventing future animal issues. If it isn't me drowning in a list of hundreds of pounds of soap I need to make THIS WEEK, it's cleaning up from making all of that soap last week. It is, as we all say on our farms, what it is.

But honestly, no one... and I mean no one... signs up for farm life because they want to be bored.

After recovering from the mudfest we had thanks to days upon days of torrential downpours in early October, The Boy and I set off for a rare and much needed mini-vacation away from the farm. Probably more so for my sanity than his, because it had been well over 18 months since I had spent a single night away. He travels some for work. Me, not so much. I travel from the bed down to the coffee out to the barn and back to the house to start my workday, possibly still unshowered and in my pajamas. Two days a week I set up shop at the local farmers market (showered, and in clean clothes, don't worry), which is just as much of an in-person much needed social outlet for me as it is my biggest platform for local sales. Even though I love my life, sometimes a girl has gatta jump ship and swim away for a bit.

And that, we did. We settled in our downtown Raleigh hotel (conveniently located two hours from home, just in case, because I need to ease into leaving the livestock in the hands of someone else again) and looked forward to a week of everything within walking distance, good food, and lots of lazy naps. Two days into our relaxing trip, I get a frantic message from our newly hired farm sitter. Something was wrong with our miniature horse Snow, who is a 30+ year old pasture mate for my almost 30 year old Arabian mare, Pebbles.

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Maybe I should take a moment to tell you about Snow.

Snow is a stubborn, hearty, constantly-on-a-diet, stereotypical "can't kill'em" miniature horse, even if she is well over the hill and happily trotting around on the other side spreading her shedding white coat like glitter on obnoxious Christmas cards. She falls into the same category as Chihuahuas and cockroaches, seriously. But we love her.

Snow came to us a few years ago from a friend who needed a retirement home for her. Snow taught lots of kids how to sit in a saddle. Snow pulled carts. Snow enjoyed a regular size horse life, until a regular size horse kicked her in her miniature face and removed an eyeball. (Gross! Sorry. True stuff, though: Queasy people won't last long on a farm.)

So Snow healed up and loaded into a trailer bound for our farm, where we were in dire need of a companion for my aging mare Pebbles who had quickly declining eyesight.

Ummm, yes. I know. Let the jokes commence... Snow and Pebbles have one good eye between the two of them. Truth is, Snow needed a pasture and someone to put her on a diet. Pebbles needed a bright white object she could still detect with her cataracts, who was enough of a brat to take charge and lead the way. Solution achieved.

Despite her age, and her now missing eyeball, Snow has had zero medical issues. Save from a minor cut on her butt (and that's just funny to say, regardless), she's been the least of our worries here on the farm. So when I got the message from Dee, our new farm sitter, at first I really didn't think much of it. But a few seconds later, I re-read her message.

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Wait... what? Snow didn't finish her food. Snot from both nostrils? Cue the instant panic. The blood pressure. The suitcase in the corner...

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I asked her to please stay there while I call the vet. She responded that she wasn't going anywhere. In fact, she spent her time waiting for my next contact by petting and calming my big mare Pebbles, who was not happy that her "mini me" seeing eye pony wasn't acting normal.

I sent the photos to my large animal vet, and a quick conversation led to the belief that Snow was choking. She had something lodged in her throat and couldn't swallow, so everything was then coming back out of her nose.

"What do I do?" I frantically asked my vet. "I'm two hours away and my farm sitter has limited horse experience."

I was told to sit still. A vet was on the way, with an assistant, and they would call me once they were on site with an update. I relayed this information to Dee, the farm sitter, who by that point had haltered and walked both horses into the barn and into their stalls. My mother, across town, was on standby along with a couple of horse-oriented friends I was able to frantically text with short messages of what was going on.

Short end of the story: The vet arrived, Snow passed the blockage, and Dee the Fabulous Farm Sitter oversaw her recovery around the clock until I returned home four days later.

Why am I telling you this? Well, one: If you have horses, know the symptoms of choke. I've had horses for 30 years now and never once (thank goodness) have I had this issue, but now I know how to handle it.

And two: Develop a sense, if you haven't already, of people who will step up when needed with livestock.

I like to think this comes natural to me, but I don't know if that is the case or if I am just overly paranoid and micromanage everything when it comes to the farm. Maybe a combination of both, who knows. But I will tell you one thing... I'm grateful for the contacts I have in my "livestock emergency kit" if and when something goes wrong.

In the end, I was able to calm down and enjoy my vacation, thanks to the constant updates from the farm sitter who left no stone unturned, and possibly a glass or two of wine afterward, I could relax, clear my head, and enjoy some down time with The Boy exploring museums, restaurants, and fun bars. We're already talking about another trip somewhere else, when I can jump ship again, since I survived this one and so did everything/everyone on the farm.

I need to swim more, now that I know I've left enough life jackets on the shore. Do you?

[caption id="attachment_1096" align="aligncenter" width="300"]IMG_1401 For local friends, this is my super hero![/caption]

 

Don't forget the nitty-gritty... if you wanna help support the daily workings and future growth of our historic farm, please consider our handmade, straight from the farm fabulous gifts this holiday season!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rain, rain, go away

  
We are on day 5 (?) of rain here on the farm. Honestly, I've lost count. But here in eastern NC we've had a very, very wet week, and now a cold front moves in and soaks us even more, and Hurricane Joaquin and his rain will immediately follow in the next couple of days. 

That's a lot of water, folks. 

We've prepared as much as we could but flooding is just going to happen. And is happening. There's nowhere for all of this rain to go when the ground is already completely saturated. 

We've got minor flooding in the barn this morning, which we expected, and we also expect that to get worse. It's pretty much just the back end of the barn but it still makes us be creative in caring for the animals and making sure they are doing well. 

The goat buck pen behind the barn is flooding some too so we moved Tick and his current lady friend Sage into the horse trailer to give them a dry place to hang out. They are quite content with a hay buffet in there and not having to get their feet wet. The rest of the goat herd is in the barn, staying dry, munching on hay. Luckily their big stall doesn't flood. 

I kicked the horses out of the barn for a few hours to stretch their legs. Rain or no rain, having elderly horses stand still too long in their stalls isn't a good thing in my book. And they don't really mind the rain, honestly. 

As for us, we are hanging out inside doing inside work stuff. I have a full day of boxing and labeling soaps ahead of me, The Boy is doing work stuff as well, and the dogs are snoozing away. Hopefully this mess will dry up soon, otherwise we may have to pull out the kayak in order to do farm chores. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seasons change: Summer, Milk, Fall, Breeding

  
This past Spring we invested in a milk machine that has proven to be a great addition to the farm many times over. Our milk production has increased from previous years and my arms just couldn't take the manual labor of hand milking any longer. I was spending my days with aching elbows and my nights tossing and turning because my inflamed muscles were causing my arms to fall asleep far more than I was sleeping. 

We've enjoyed the milk machine and didn't even mind the daily cleaning and weekly disassembly for deep cleaning anywhere near as much as we thought we would. (For those interested, the machine we purchased after a lot of research was the Simple Pulse, with the additional 6 gallon tank)

However now our milk season is coming to and end and we've dried up all but one goat. She's our highest producer and doesn't seem to fair as well with stopping milking cold turkey like the other, smaller producing does can. Abbie is living milk machine herself and will keep producing through breeding season and beyond, I believe, if we were to let her. 

So we've been slowing her down each day and letting her dry up slowly to avoid any problems. We are now back to hand milking since it seems silly to use the machine for a small amount of milk each day (right now about 1-2 quarts). 

I have to say even milking this small amount each morning really has me appreciating that machine investment though. My muscles aren't used to this work anymore after a lazy summer of machine milking... When before that I was milking 1-2 gallons each morning without even thinking twice. 

Our freezer is full of milk for soapmaking during the winter and early spring until we start up milk season again. Which means... It's breeding season for our goats. One season ends and another begins. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Life and Death on The Farm

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Spring has sprung into full life here on the farm in the form of baby goats everywhere (ten to be exact) who are growing fast and doing great. During the last few weeks we have begun the weaning process of separating them from their mothers at night and reuniting them after the morning milking.

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Some of them will be leaving for new homes in a few weeks, which will quiet things down in the barn a little. They all have different personalities and they are all happy to see me every time I walk into the barn even though they were dam raised, not bottle fed (I'll be elaborating on this subject more in a future post).

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Life is also moving along well with the new batch of chicks for this year, who are 8 weeks old now. They are still in a pen separate so that they can grow, but will soon be introduced to the free ranging flock. They are overseen by our very patient and diligent Silkie rooster Party who, for some reason, really likes raising baby chicks.

The gardens are being prepared for planting which happens really soon. Soon it will be full of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, beans and more... some starting from seed and some from plants purchased by a nearby chemical free farm. (I personally don't have the patience to start tomatoes or peppers from seed. I admire those who do, and gladly pay them for the headaches it saves me.)

We've opted to not grow lettuce this year since it always starts off well and then bolts without fail (no matter the type) as soon as our hot summer days set in. Its always such a disappointment when we harvest the last of our lettuce since we are big salad eaters here, so this year we are learning, instead, how to grow our own microgreens. More on this in a later post.

So yes, there is life everywhere we look here on the farm. Life that keeps us very busy but very satisfied at the same time. There's not much better than sitting down to a meal that was produced, start to finish, right here at home.

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With life on the farm, just as in many other situations, there is death. I think in many instances that living on a farm with livestock gives you a different perspective of death. It is never taken for granted here, and each life is acknowledged and appreciated from start to finish. These animals work for us and in return, we work for them. It's a beneficial relationship from both sides, whether its a old farm dog that we lost due to a tragic accident (in 2013) or a chicken that we raised from an egg knowing that it would one day be on our dinner table. They are all important and respected, and all part of the life circle that is this farm.

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We lost Jacques, our Black Copper Marans rooster, a couple of weeks ago, after he had served as our senior rooster of the free ranging flock for five years. He was excellent at his job and he knew it well. He foraged for food to feed his hens relentlessly all day long, and always made sure every single bird was safely in the hen house before dark. If something flew overhead you could hear him call for everyone to take cover. If something was threatening a member of the flock, he was the first on the scene to stop it. He was a damn good rooster.

With that said, quite honestly, he was also a son-of-a-bitch that I called Crock Pot on a regular basis. He was mean as the devil and I have a scar on my leg to prove it. Over the years he and I learned to coexist, but it was usually on his terms and I just played by his rules. I knew how to work around him and he knew to remind me on the spot if I had forgotten who was in charge. I always figured he was too hateful to die.

But he did. We don't know what happened, although we suspect he choked on food. He was supervising my morning barn chores (ie. "reminding me with his stare down look and wing flapping that he's watching me") and less than an hour later he was laying in the grass lifeless.

There's a common saying in the chicken world that life is too short and there are too many good roosters to put up with a mean one, but I don't think that's true. I think there is a difference -- a BIG difference -- between a "mean" one and a "bad" one. Was Jacques mean? Yes. Spittin' nails mean, especially during breeding season. But he was probably the best rooster we've had over our flock, ever. We've had bad roosters before, he was not one of them. Even though  I had regularly threatened to toss him on the grill and call it a day, I'm still going to miss him.

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It has been interesting to see the dynamics of the flock shift. He was one of three roosters in that flock, and now our big goof of a Brahma, Crow, is in charge. He's always been one to jump up on your chair for treats and follow you around to make sure you didn't drop any pieces of apple or raisins that he might need to pick up, so hopefully he won't let his new role as boss go to his little chicken head and decide I need to be on his hit list. And although T-Rex, our big Jersey Giant rooster is still scared of his own shadow (and everyone else's, for that matter), he's starting to put some work into helping out with the flock as well.

So that's life, and death, currently on the farm. It's an ever changing world here and we have learned to just do our best, respect life completely, and take what the day brings us.