Chapter 33 – Choreographing

Moving onto a place without much building infrastructure was a blessing, but also a curse. We were able to keep our minds open because we didn’t have anything to get in our way, but that also meant we didn’t have much to work with. As we constructed the workshop pavilion, we could see how VERY expensive any sort of larger barn- type structure would be. Andrew did some estimates and it looked like a simple 20×48 pole shed would be at least $7,000, and that was cutting some corners and using cheaper surplus building materials. Yikes, where was that going to come from?

As we pondered the idea of getting into breeding pigs, starting with Rosie, we sketched out options for housing her and a boar year round, using the little old garage type thing that currently housed the goats. Then where would the goats go? I kept sketching out ideal scenarios for a rotation of gardens and animals, but it all kept coming down to a real barn, which we did not have. We also didn’t know for sure which animals we wanted to overwinter, and which would be added to the mix only during the growing season. The goats and ducks and possibly breeding pigs would be with us year round, but in the spring through fall we’d have young pigs, turkeys and chickens to manage on pasture. They couldn’t all be kept together, as we’d learned with the omnivorous pigs wreaking havoc on our too-inquisitive ducks. Turkeys and chickens were said to be a potentially bad roommate combination because chickens could transmit a parasite to the turkeys, leading to a fatal disease called “blackhead.” So to avoid this, we planned to combine the goat kids and the turkeys together in one pasture, separate from the goat mommas, then the chickens would be in a separate area enclosed in a spacious chicken tractor, while the pigs would continue on being rotated in their hog panel paddocks over the area where we’d be gardening the next year.

We took turns doing morning chores some days, just to let each other have a break and sleep in a bit. My chore mornings made me feel like sheerah, a superwoman. I’d rearrange the ducks’ paddock so they’d be going out to fresh pasture, milk the goats, feed the pigs, tend the baby turkeys who were now coming outside during the day, listening to the exuberant and joyful songs of the songbirds greeting the morning. In that lovely period after morning chores, before Andrew work up and the day began, I drank coffee and got caught up  on email, the farm’s facebook page, and our website. I also started working on some writing. I was working on an article to pitch to The Small Farmer’s Journal about raising turkeys.  I started email correspondence with a heritage pig breeder on the other side of the state who had a young Tamworth boar for sale, and when I inquired about his experience with eventually harvesting intact male pigs (there’s a boar “taint” possibility in uncastrated male pigs,) he offered to rent the young boar to us. The only problem was that his farm was over 6 hours away. We’d have to continue negotiations and see if this was a possibility. We had no way or time to drive that far for a boar pig.

My Grandma emailed to invite me to be her maid of honor for her wedding in August. The story of how she and her soon to be husband had reconnected after 40 years was absolutely precious, and I was SO happy for them….but they were getting married in British Colombia, a 1800 mile, three day away drive, if I really pushed it. This was the first time I really felt the farm’s “ball and chain.” I was her oldest grandaughter, and she was asking me to come in place of her oldest daughter, my late mother, but there was absolutely no way I could attend. The major downside of real farming had been discovered; I couldn’t be gone that long in the midst of our first real season farming together. We had customers who had prepaid us for products that I was a part of making happen. With a sad tone, I emailed her back to explain. She was so understanding and reminded m she had grown up on a farm so she knew how busy we were going to be in August. Plus, she reminded me, weren’t we also getting married around then. Oh my goodness, we had a wedding to plan for ourselves! My Grandma and new Grandpa would be driving back to his farm in Michigan after their wedding in BC, and so she hoped they would be able to come by to visit us briefly on their way back home in late August.

The first workshop held in our pavilion was organized by an herbalist group in the Twin Cities who wanted to incorporate a native herb-walk with a soap making class. It was a bit early in the season to see the full spread of native plants, but spring had sprung, so we went with it. We were pretty excited as we got 15 rsvps for the workshop, and at $15 each, this was promising for our workshopping future! Although only 10 showed up on workshop day, we had a wonderful time on our nature walk around the perimeter of the farm, searching for and identifying native wild herbal plants, and then incorporating lilac blossoms into the batch of cedar/lilac soap we made together. It was a wonderful feeling to have a group of people come out, see our farm, learn about our philosophies, and then get paid by them to do what we’d be doing anyways. Almost everyone bought extra farm goodies to take home too, so we were learned there was a potential for adding value to an added-value product, in an added-value situation; Workshop attendees bought farm products since they were already out, hile paying to learn to make soap, while I made it from my goats’ milk. A win-win for everybody. Pretty exciting.

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One thought on “Chapter 33 – Choreographing

  1. OK, that’s better, totally makes up for me having to hold my breath from the last chapter, wondering if you were going to make ANY money on this, or whether that first workshop would be a bust. I am sooo relieved. The value adding on value adding is pretty cool. Blackhead – it seems to be the done thing nowadays to raise turkey poults with chicks in a 1:5 ratio – Salatin does it (an idea he picked up from his daughter in law, whose family in Texas do it), and my hatchery catalogue recommends the practice. The idea is that the broiler chicks show the turkey poults where the food and water are and how to ingest them, decreasing the mort rate by a huge margin. So what happened to this big fear of blackhead I want to know?

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