This one has been going on or a few years now and I figured it’s time to write some stuff about what my wife and I have been up to (Ok, my crazy ideas and building of stuff – the fun part, her dedication and caring EVERY day for EVERYthing including having to deal with me!!!). So, first a quick brain dump to get everyone up to date on where we are at…
We wanted to start a small hobby farm and have ZERO experience with farming. So we decided to get going slowly and work our way up to more and more complex or commited farming slowly.
We started by clearing about 2 acres of land. I rented a 30ton excavator to clear trees. I cut the big trees and removed the wood and then pushed, ripped and dug all the stumps out of the ground. There was a lot of ledge so I also brought in 6 triaxles of top soil to help get things started. We planted a pasture mix of grass seed and have been letting that grow for about 2 years now.
Using Cattle Panels we fenced in around 400 feet of pasture. We decided to start with chickens. We originally got mixed chickens, Americano, Leghorns and Rhode island Reds. Americao’s lay green, blue and pink eggs which is cool but they are not very consistent layers. The leghorns are by far our best and most consistent layers all year around. We learned how to integrate new chickens and add about 12 chickens every spring.
After doing that for a little while we decided to get some goats. We did not want to milked them because we still like to go on vacations, so they are just for fun and experience. We started with a lean-to for the goats which did work pretty well but was not easy to clean. We had pigmy goats and it was only 6 feet high in from and 4 ft high in the back – not a good design for cleaning.
Since my last update we have added more pasture and have about 3-5 acres now, only 1.5 acres are active and ready for foot traffic. We added two Low Line Angus — Beeeeef! We have also put an order in for 36 Meat Chickens! The hydroponics have been working great for Vegetables & grass for the animals (fodder)! We have also planted fruit trees, potatoes, carrots, beats and parsnips in an interesting way… Oh, and we have more bees too! Below are some of the details on each of these updates. Visit our Hidden View Farm website for more info and to see the details of what’s available -> Hidden View Farm
Fodder – Hydroponicly grown grass for our animals! We have tried Barley, Oats and Wheat. Our best luck has been with Wheat and has the added benefit of being popular as a juice and not just as food for our animals! So what is fodder? We purchased a system from Farmtek. We bought a Standard Mini which is capable of producing 125lbs of grass EVERY DAY in our BASEMENT, in a 12×8 area!!!! That allows us to reduce the consumption of Hay buy 50%-25% (still experimenting). 2% of the animals body weight is provided in fodder we sprinkle trace minerals for each animal, goats, donkeys, chickens and the cows to be sure they all get the nutrients that would normally get from grain – which we no longer need – just hay and fodder is needed now. We are still feeding the Goats, Donkeys and Cows 1.5% of hay to keep the rumen systems functioning properly. Since we do not have enough pasture to do pasture feeding alone the fodder is a much healthier way to feed them at a slightly lower cost. Farmtek will tell you it is 50% cheaper to feed fodder – that has NOT been our experience. Seed prices in New England have made cost a non beneficial factor 🙁 We are still looking for a really good germination rate from a cheap to ship seed provider – it is going to take time. We will need about 1-2 tons of seed per year.
Cattle – We decided it was time to get our beef cows. Why now? Basically we found a deal that was too good to pass up – 2 for the price of 1! We choose Low Line Angus. Angus beef is well known to be excellent in quality and marbling. The scary part for us is we never had cows before and Angus are HUGE – 1,800 to 2,300 lbs — Pretty intimidating for your first cow!
Low Line Angus – are a naturally smaller / miniature breed of true Angus. They is NO genetic manipulation or dwarf genes – these are completely normal angus where the smallest are bread with other small angus from other hears over and over without breeding back into the same line which naturally produces smaller cattle. Our mom is about 900lbs and her 9 month old cafe is about 450lbs there should height is under 48″ Basically, they are a pile of meet on short legs. They are known for 3 other critical points for our small farm. 1) they consume 60% of the food and water of a full size Angus 2) They are very docile 3) they produce up to 30% more RibEye than a full size Angus – DUHHHH my favorite cut, that made Low Line Angus a no brainer for me!
Bees – We now have 2 hives going and one of them has already filled out 7.5 of the 10 frames so we had to add the 2nd box. The 2nd hive will need the box added this weekend, so they are about a week apart from each other. Both hives look very healthy with good activity and GREAT honey production. I am expecting ~80lbs of honey this year. We make a lot of products with our honey and bees wax which you can see here -> Hidden View Farm. After all our reading on the net it became very clear what the right way is to raise bees; what works for you! There are SO many conflicting opinions on bee keeping or Apiary that it is over whelming… The best approach is choose some things, have two hives and watch and learn. I use the two hives to have one to look at to see how things are going, as a new bee keeper, how do you know if something is wrong if you don’t know what good looks like… I recommend that everyone should start with 2 hives. It should make it easier to tell when something is wrong.
Potatoes, Beets, Carrots and Parsnips – Since the hydroponics are doing well, we figured we should grow things outside that you can’t grow well in water alone. So instead of doing it the normal way…. (no surprise right) we wanted to do something different. So we are doing Trashcan Potatoes and Tote box Beets, Carrots and Parsnips… The hope/plan is that we will end up with a garbage can full of potatoes – hoping for 10 pounds + per can! We went to home depot and picked up 2 rubbermaid garbage cans, 6 (2 for the potatoes) bags of organic potting soil, 1 bag of play sand and seed potatoes (Yukon and Red). It’s simple, we drilled drain holes in the bottom of the trash cans, put 8″ of potting soil mixed with 10% sand, 45% native soil and 45% organic soil. We cut the eye off the potatoes with about a square inch of potatoes with it. We buried about 6 of them 3″ into the soil in the bottom of the can. As the potatoes grow, you will get green sprouts, when they hit 3″ tall cover them in your soil combo again! That’s it do it till the can is full and or the leaves start to wither…. Dump your can and see what you have!
For the Beets, Carrots & Parsnips we used 20 gallon totes. We drilled drain holes in the bottom and added 18″-20″ of our soil combo. Only difference is we added sand directly onto of the carrot seeds – my my-father-in-law said carrots need to be covered but need a very east escape so just cover with sand.
We will let you know how this all works out!
Oh and for ALL the farm stuff the WE is really my awesome wife Debi! She recently quite her job to do this full time! I build it, she runs it and does the daily work – which is a lot!!! Love ya!