2013 Review of Willow Creek Farm

It has been quite a year! There have been successes, failures, a natural disaster and subsequent evacuation, injuries, births, deaths, plenty of learning and tons of adventure. We really enjoyed writing this post and looking back at a full and somewhat crazy year at the homestead. So let’s dive in and share it with you all…

First, some statistics…

Chickens:

  • We had anywhere from 8-52 chickens on the farm at any given time this year
  • We had as few as 2 adult laying hens all the way up to 19 adult laying hens at once
  • All told, 1,541 eggs were laid at our farm this year
  • 56 dozen of those eggs were sold
  • 72 dozen of those eggs were used by us
  • 20 chickens were sold as layers for other people’s flocks
  • 14 chickens were butchered for meat for us
  • We successfully hatched 25 chicks, we had quite a bit of unsuccessful incubation of eggs
  • 1 chick was lost within the first 48 hours of hatching
  • 1 bird (a pullet) was lost to frozen legs and 1 pullet was lost to cross-beak

Considering the fact that we only had 2-5 layers the first half of the year, in addition to the fact that the birds were evacuated for the flood and thus stopped laying for several weeks, and that we have no record of what they laid while evacuated, we are very happy with these numbers. The cost to us to buy the amount of eggs we ate ourselves, and the meat, would more than cover the gap between income and expenses, so we are fully expecting the chicken project to go into profit-mode next year. And we feel that the losses in the chicken project were very small compared to what they could have been, so we are thankful for that.

Rabbits:

  • We had between 3-6 adult rabbits on our farm at any given time this year
  • 44 kits were born
  • 1 adult doe was culled because of production issues and bad temperament
  • 1 adult doe died with kindling complications
  • 3 does were added to the breeding program
  • 1 buck was added to the breeding program
  • 70 lbs of meat were sold for pet consumption

This year has been quite a struggle with the rabbits. We had A LOT of pregnancies not take. We had A LOT of kit deaths and/or small litters. While there was profit, we are not very satisfied with these statistics. We know they can produce better than this – they have in the past. We are hopeful that next year will prove to be a more productive year for the rabbits.

Cows:

We did not keep milk production statistics on the cows over long periods of time this year. However, we had plenty of milk for our family’s needs, including to make cheeses, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. So we are happy with that. They produced well.

We butchered our first steer (a full bred jersey) and ended up with 110 lbs of meat for us, 34 lbs of soup bones, and 22 lbs of dog food.

Sheep:

The sheep produced 3 fleece for us this year for a total of 12 lbs of wool.

Garden:

We did not track or weigh produce this year because of the flood in the middle of the harvest season and the evacuation.  However, considering our major problems with the soil we bought, we are very happy with what we were able to get from the gardens, and are hopeful for an even more productive garden next year with the amended soil.

With the help of all the animals we have produced large amounts of very rich compost this year that we will be using on our garden (and sharing with our friends) next year. We consider that a wonderful product of the farm as well.

Heritage Arts:

  • I knit 4 baby hats, 1 pair of fingerless mitts, 2 pairs of kids socks, 1 boys sweater vest, 1 pair of adult socks, and a girls poncho.
  • I sewed 2 single sized bed quilts, 4 baby blankets, 2 knitting needle cases, 3 crochet hook cases, 1 DPN case, 4 pairs of pantaloons, 2 girls dresses, and 3 ladies skirts.  Not to mention mending innumerable items.
  • I crocheted 12 dish scrubbies, 4 cherry pie hot pads, and numerous granny squares for an afghan.
  • I learned to tat and tatted 3 bookmarks.
  • I learned to spin and spun about 350 yards of double-ply yarn.
  • We did our first batch of hand-dipped taper candles and ended up with 40 candles.

In the Kitchen:

I don’t have exact stats from the farm kitchen, but A LOT of dairy products and home canned food came out of there this year. Not to mention bread, daily meals, and treats too.

And now for some highlights from the homestead in 2013:

In January we purchased 27 chicks.  They all survived, and one turned out to be a rooster.

February brought very cold weather.  We made firestarters for the woodstoves, and built a new rabbitry.  We banded our calf, Charlie, and began building the upper coop.  We trained the chickens to use the “chicken nipple” water spouts and moved the chicks up to the partially finished upper coop.  I finished a scrap quilt for my youngest daughter, and my grandmother passed on.

March brought us warmer days, and we used them to enjoy time outside.  Our son started his rabbit business, selling meat for pet consumption.  I learned to tat and tatted some bookmarks.  We battled scaly leg mites in the adult chickens and decided we were going to start a chicken breeding program.  I made knitting needle and crochet hook storage cases for my daughters.  I also learned to make my own condiments, including mayo, ketchup, and BBQ sauce.

In April our dairy cow, Charlotte, bloated, and thankfully survived it.  I started some garden seeds indoors.  And we had a spring blizzard.

May started with a bang, as we had a blizzard that dropped 18 inches of snow in 24 hours, and we lost electricity.  We celebrated our one-year anniversary of living at the farm.  We built a strawberry patch, onion patch, and the raised bed vegetable garden.  We tried out a compost heap pumpkin patch.  We started our first incubation with a few of our own eggs as well as some purchased hatching eggs.  We decided to sell our Jersey cow, Charlotte, and instead get a miniature cow to save on feed costs.  We canned quite a bit, and tried out re-useable canning lids.  And we built the hay lofts.

In June we butchered our first chicken for meat after our young cockerel attacked our 8-year-old daughter.  Our first hatch was a sad failure, as only one chick survived it.  We bought some chicks to brood with the sole survivor, and planned to try again.  We loaded up our lofts with hay for the year, and decided we were going to add sheep to the farm.  We realized, after planting our entire garden, that the garden dirt we bought was very poor soil and very much like clay.  We butchered our steer (that was a first for us).

In July our two sheep joined the farm, Stella and Fiona.  And our Jersey cow, Charlotte, was sold and left the farm.  Our garden made good progress, despite the soil disaster.  And, sadly, our second incubation was a failure.  We began researching high-altitude hatching, and found someone who was experienced with hatching at our altitude.  We started our third incubation with our new knowledge, but with high anxiety after already having failed twice.  We built trap nest boxes, and started free-ranging our chickens in the barnyard.  We washed our first fleece shorn from Stella.

August brought Violet, a JLow cow (miniature Jersey x Lowline) to our farm.  We dealt with her having mastitis in one quarter her first few weeks with us.  Later in the month we struggled to, but succeeded in, grafting a calf, named Ferdinand, onto Violet.  We finally had a successful hatch with 23 chicks surviving.  Our garden continued to make progress and we started harvesting and did more canning.

September started well, with our local 4H group touring the farm, and with the construction of our herb garden.  But beginning on the 11th our world was turned upside-down as flood waters tore through our community, taking lives and homes with them.  We evacuated 71 animals from our farm, in addition to our family of 6.  Our animals were spread to several different “foster” homes to live until we could bring them back home and we lived with my in-laws.  Toward the end of the month we moved ourselves, and the smaller animals, back into the home off-grid, while utility crews and disaster crews worked long hours trying to fix the destruction.  With the loving financial help from family, friends, and strangers we were able to build a water system so that we could have running hot water in large quantities (as opposed to the 5-gallon buckets we were using).

In October we felt ourselves strengthen as our farm, and our community began to overcome the disaster.  Rebuilding went forward at unexpected speeds and by the end of the month we had running town water, flushing toilets, and safer (though still scary) road access to our homestead restored.  The mild weather kept our spirits up and kept us outside focusing on moving forward with projects around the farm.  We also had our first hard frost.  We kept ourselves busy making soap, harvesting the garden and putting it to bed, canning chicken and beef stock, and I started knitting Christmas presents and finished making my son’s quilt.  While evacuated from the farm the sheep and cow were bred.

In November we were able to officially label our homestead as “mostly back to normal” when our sheep and cows finally arrived back home.  The community around us was far from “back to normal,” but it felt nice to have our homestead mostly back where it used to be.  We successfully weaned Ferdinand with the Quiet Wean device.  We built part of the barnyard fence, as well as a wall around the water system in the mud room.  After years and years of wanting to, I finally learned how to spin yarn.  We added some “refugees” from the flood to our farm for the winter, a cat and her kittens.  We ended up bottle feeding two kittens after she rejected them.  We kept one as our own pet, named him Nicholas, and our friends took the other one.

December brought a big winter storm with it.  After the snow was done we went into a deep freeze with temps not going above 9 degrees for several days and going into the negative teens each night.  We fought to keep animals safe, warm, and alive.  We struggled with frostbite on the chickens and lost one bird to the cold when her legs froze repeatedly.  I continued with knitting Christmas presents and we made a bunch of yummy treats.  The sheep were shorn.  We did blood tests on the cow and sheep to check for pregnancy, the cow came back pregnant, the sheep not.  We butchered many cockerels and did our first ever hand-dipped beeswax taper candles.

It is just amazing to look back on a year so full of activity.  We had some of the hardest days of our lives, and yet the blessings overshadow them completely.  Goodbye 2013!  Hello 2014!

2 thoughts on “2013 Review of Willow Creek Farm

  1. Sounds like 2013 was a sucessfull year! I have had the same problem with rabbits not taking, it has been a bigger problem in the meat breeders than the miniatures, possibly due to inner body temperature during the summer. I am having the same problem now during the winter with them not breeding at all. We had highs in the single digits a week ago, so the cold may be part of the problem. Best of luck,

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