Monday, May 11, 2015

Farm Update: Spring 2015

It seemed like winter would never end, but Spring is finally here! With it, we finally have a string of wet, rainy days that gives us a break and some down time to write a Spring update for you all to see what we've been up to!

In the Garden

Farmer Figgins has been busy starting seeds in the greenhouse this Spring. We've started tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries, peppers, sunberries, herbs, kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery, cucumbers, summer squash, melons and watermelons. We've dedicated a bed in the greenhouse to our first cool season planting, with lettuce heads, cut lettuce mixes, arugula, swiss chard, turnips, radishes, and some new greens tatsoi and mizzuna. Soon we'll be transplanting tomato, pepper, and cucumber seedlings into the greenhouse. 

Outside in the garden, we've been busy planting a new perennial area. We've transplanted wild red raspberries and black raspberries and red currant bush from our wooded area, as well as a new berry we're trying called Jostaberry. We will be growing them in permaculture guilds along with onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, kale, and more early season greens and root crops. As soon as the soil dries we'll be adding herbs, strawberry and asparagus plants to this perennial area. 

We've also seeded our second planting of cool season roots and greens. We're glad to say that with this most recent rain we are finally seeing our peas sprouting! We had a string of 70-80 degree days last week that kept the soil dry and the seeds below the soil. Next up for planting will be green beans, cucumbers and summer squash! 

Apple tree in bloom
Elsewhere on the farm, Farmer Figgins has been putting in more perennial plants. We purchased a few new trees from Gurney's, two Mulberry trees, a Pecan tree, and a hardy Almond tree. From the Ionia Conservation District tree sale we picked up a bunch of highbush cranberries and hazelnut trees (super cheap! check them out!). These we've planted to fill in gaps in our hedge by the road, and to start a hedge along the west side of the farm on top of the hill, as well along the steep downhill of our pasture to capture and hold some of the water that runs downhill. We should see our first harvest in 3-5 years! In total this year we've planted around 25 trees and 40 berry bushes! So far, Pippin has only eaten one of them. 

In the orchard, our apple, pear, and cherry trees are all in bloom. Last year a series of heavy rain storms knocked off most of the blossoms, giving us no fruit. We're hopeful the weather will hold this year and we'll see fruit again this summer. There's nothing better than homemade, homegrown apple pie and apple sauce! 

In the Field 

Reunited and it feels so good!

Out in the field, our pastures are now grown over 6" so we've set up our electric fencing for the cows and pigs. The cows are glad to be back on fresh pasture, and are gaining back any lost winter weight quickly. Pippin will likely be with us until the end of this fall, at which point he will be ready for the freezer and the grill! We've set up their pastures to make rotating them quick and easy, if only the deer would stop running into the fences and breaking the wire! We're going to try stringing another wire along the outside of the pastures with CD disks attached to them, to catch the light and alert the deer to the fence. 

We have 7 piglets this year, of Berkshire and old spot breed, from Eden Farm in Greenville. 5/7 are female, the other 2 are male. We're running out of shows/books that have so many female characters, so we've named this batch of piglets after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We'll likely be keeping a female out of this bunch as a sow so we can raise our own piglets in the future. If anyone out there has a Duroc boar or knows of one, please let us know! That would be our preferred breed mix because the Duroc are very winter hardy and don't get sunburns like most other breeds.  

Our woodland pasture area

Right now we have the piglets started in Pippin's winter pasture area. They are rooting and mixing up the soil and the accumulation of 6 months cow manure, straw, and hay. We'll move them off this area in a few weeks to the woods after the morrell season is over, and then we'll reseed the area they kindly turned over for us with pasture seed. Thanks pigs! 

Our new flock of laying hens are laying quite nicely, and our old flock of hens are still quite reliable, giving us over a dozen eggs each day. Not bad for 20 2 1/2 year old chickens! We've moved them into a mobile coop (made from our old livestock trailer). This way we can move their coop around the farm and concentrate their activity. We've had them clean up the hugelkulturs and the berry patch, and now we have them in a compost area, eating the grass and turning the compost for us!

The mobile coop for our old hen's retirement

Our meat chicks are now 3 weeks old, they are feathering out nicely and growing well. We did loose some to the cold weather and snow that occurred on their first day on the farm, thankfully our hatchery sent us free replacements the next week. We're trying a different breed for our meat chicks this year in hopes that we have more healthy growth, and so far we're pleased. They will be going out on pasture in probably a week or two, until then they've been enjoying sampling dandelions and clover in their run-in area. 

New Additions to the Farm

We've had a new addition this year to the farm, a livestock guardian dog! She is only a young puppy now, but we have high hopes that she'll keep deer out of the garden, and varmint out of the compost piles and away from the animals. She is a Great Pyrenees, and likely to grow quite bigger than our guard dog Ender, probably around 120 lbs when she's fully grown! We named her Korra, after the tv show character in Legend of Korra. She's already comfortable and friendly with all of the other animals; she was bred and raised by a CSA member of the farm who keeps farm animals too, so she grew up around them. She is also very friendly with kids and people, and very calm compared to our hyper guard dog Ender. We've been working on training her and mostly trying to stop her digging habit! 

We also had a large batch of kittens in late winter, we have 7 kittens that are a few weeks away from an adoptable age, so if anyone is interested in a kitten for their home or the barn for rodent control, please let us know! They are free, we'd just like to find them a good home. 

Monday, March 16, 2015


You Can Compost! 

Why make compost? For one thing, its cheap. You can make your own compost from your garden and kitchen, recycling the nutrients back into the soil. Second, it's great for your soil. Adding compost increases soil aeration, water holding capacity, soil structure and texture. Amending your soil with compost rather than synthetic fertilizers can save you a bundle as well. 

As soon as we moved out to the farm last November we started our own compost piles. While we had to wait impatiently until the spring to start growing our own food and getting most our livestock, we were at least able to start composting. We have 3 compost piles that we framed with pallets. Now we're letting them sit and mature and starting 3 more piles! 

You can compost all your kitchen scraps (save dairy and meat), cardboard, non-glossy paper, hair, dryer lint, grass clippings, pine needles, weeds and fallen leaves from the garden. Doing so cuts your garbage output by easily 1/3! Check out what all you can compost at this helpful site, and what to avoid as well. Make sure to shred or tear up the paper and cardboard and compost into smaller pieces  so it composts more quickly. 

You don't need a fancy bin to compost, there are plenty of cheap and easy ideas out there, from recycling pallets, to using chicken wire or a 55 gallon plastic barrel. 

Now for the how-to. Making compost is all about gathering the materials in the right ratio (called the C:N ratio, or Carbon: Nitrogen ratio), then providing the aeration and moisture needed to let these decompose. The preferred ratio for composting is 25 or 30 to 1. This means you need farm more Carbon-rich materials in your compost pile than nitrogen. Here's a handy dandy C:N chart that breaks down common ingredients. 

Carbon-rich ingredients are often called the "browns," and include items like leaves, wood chips, pine needles, and cardboard. This will make up the bulk of your pile. The Nitrogen-rich ingredients are often called the "greens," these are your kitchen waste, garden waste and grass clippings. 

Now to aerate and moisten you pile, we recommend flipping every 1-2 weeks with a large garden fork, spraying down the pile as you do so if it needs to be moistened. Your pile should be as wet as a wrung out sponge. The more often you flip your pile, the faster it will mature, but you can leave it unflipped and do passive composting, but you won't get a finished product for 1-2 years. By flipping, moistening, and managing you pile, you can get compost in 4-8 months! 

Still Don't Think You Can Compost?

Having lived in the city, in apartments and houses with landlords who shudder away from the phrase "compost pile," we understand that not everyone has the space to start their own compost pile. We weren't able to for years because of where we lived. Every meal I'd find myself looking sadly at scraps of vegetables and wishing for some way to make some thing useful and productive out these inedible bits, a compost pile or a pig or something! 

Which is why we are opening up our compost piles to your trash! Want to compost but don't have the space/ability? Buy two 5 gallon buckets and collect your scraps and compostables every week, you can drop off your 5 gallon bucket with us at the Farmer's Market, at your share pick up, or drop it off with us at The Shire Farm. Use your second 5 gallon bucket the next week and we'll swap you! 

Yes, you can vicariously compost through The Shire Farm, and feel assured that your waste and scraps are being put to good use, fertilizing and improving the soil for your vegetables!


Our Pallet Compost Bins

What You Can And Can't Compost

Carbon: Nitrogen Ratio Chart 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New Crops and Varieties for 2015 CSA Season

Hello Hobbits! 

It's finally March and we're getting excited to get growing again! We'll be starting the first seeds of the season today in the greenhouse and we wanted to share what crops and varieties we'll be growing on the farm this year. We're getting our seeds again from Seed Saver's Exchange and Johnny Seeds. 

If you are interested in any of these crops for your home garden, please let Farmer Figgins know by emailing and we can grow some plant starts for your home garden! Plants are sold in 1 gallon pots for $3.50 each , or 3"x3" pots for $2.00.

If you're interested in our CSA and meats, get in contact with us. We need to order chicks and reserve piglets soon! Please get in contact with us before April 1st!

Produce from The Shire Farm for 2015:

Brussel Sprouts

We'll be growing much of the same crops as we did last year, for cold season crops we'll have turnips, radishes, lettuce heads, lettuce mix, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, beets, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. New varieties this year are golden beets, mustard, and tatsoi and we'll be trying for those fractal broccoli romanesco again! In the fall we'll be having celery, parsnips, and a new crop this year, brussel sprouts.

Golden Midget Watermelon
Next to mature in the garden, we'll have green (and yellow and purple) beans, summer squash and cucumbers. Last year, the cucumber beetle took a particular fancy to our variety of pickling cucumber, so we'll be trying a different variety of those this year. We'll be having regular slicing and lemon cucumbers, an old favorite, again this year. We'll also be having onions and trying for better results with shallots and potatoes and carrots again this year. Our soil has not favored those crops so far, our garden sits on what was a hay field for decades so is very compacted. We're going to do some deep soil plowing for compaction and adding our own aged home-grown cow manure for the first time this year. We're very excited to see how productive the soil will be this year.  

Ground Cherries

For warm season crops we'll be trying orange and purple bell peppers this year. We'll also be seeing cayenne, jalapenos, anchos, and some new Italian sweet frying peppers. We'll be growing ground cherries again, and trying a cousin of garden huckleberries instead this year, called Sunberry or Wonderberry. It is a specially bred crop related to garden huckleberries but edible to eat raw! We'll be growing eggplant (less than last year!), green tomatillos, more cantaloupe and charentais melon, and moon and stars watermelon of course. 

Hill Country Red Okra

We'll have jack-o-lantern and pumpkin pie pumpkins, luffa again, and those colorful acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut and the delicious delicata squash from last year. Other new varieties this year are Golden Midget Watermelon, Hill Country Red Okra, zephyr summer squash, and a sweet variety of snacking peppers called Lunchbox Pepper Mix.

Black Cherry Tomatoes

Last year we lost our tomato crop to late blight just as they were starting to mature, so we really missed out on our favorite crop. This year we'll be growing a lot of the varieties from last year--Black Cherry, Black Krim, Kellogg's Breakfast, Amish Paste, Brandywine Suddith's Strain, Wapsipinicon Peach, and Riesentraube cherry. This year we'll also be adding Wisconsin Tomato and Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato to the mix!

As for herbs, we'll be seeing much of the same as last year--chives, dill, catnip, sage, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil, lemon basil, and tarragon. We'll also be trying stevia and chamomile again, let us know if you're interested in dried chamomile or stevia.


New this year, we'll be adding some perennials to the farm! We will be turning some of the garden into a permaculture area for the CSA herbs. We'll be transplanting wild black raspberry and red raspberry bushes and currant bushes that grow around the farm. We'll divide and transplant more rhubarb from our old plants, and take cuttings from our own gooseberry bush. We  also purchased some everbearing strawberries, a jostaberry bush, and asparagus for this area. 


We also will be putting in some trees this year. Trees are wonderful for providing shade and shelter for livestock, as well as a possible source of feed. For these reasons we're going to be planting a walnut tree, pecan tree, and two mulberry trees! It will be a few years before they're producing a crop, but we'll be adding much of this to the Produce CSA Shares. 

We're especially excited for the Mulberry trees, these are fast growing large trees that bear huge crops of mulberries, dark large berries much like blackberries, great for jams, preserves, wine. We're looking forward to mulberry ice cream and pie. They also are great feed for chickens and pigs, and I know ours will be glad to have it added to their seasonal menu. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 Photo Review of CSA Shares

2014 CSA Picture Review

Want to see just what our Produce CSA is like? Here is a week by week look at everything our Large Produce Shares received. Our Small Produce shares almost always receive the exact same items, but in half the quantity. Don't think you can handle this much produce? Many of our CSA members can, freeze, or dehydrate throughout the season, that way they can enjoy all this bounty for the entire year, even in the depths of winter. 

Share 1

2 Heads of lettuce, 2 bags of mixed greens, 2 bags of Arugula, 
1 large bunch of Kale, large bunch of Catmint, and 3 stalks of Rhubarb

 Share 2

4 heads of lettuce, 2 bags of lettuce mix, 2 bags of arugula,
large bunch radish and turnips, 2 cucumbers, large bunch lemon basil, 2 bunches of kale, 4 kohlrabi

Share 3 

2 heads of broccoli, 2 heads of lettuce, 4 cucumbers, 4 kohlrabi, 2 bunches of kale, 2 bunches of Swiss chard, 2 bags of lettuce and spinach mix, 2 bags of arugula, italian basil and cilantro. 

 Share 4

2 Kohlrabi, 3 summer squash, 4 cucumbers, 2 broccoli heads, 2 lettuce heads, 2 bags of arugula, 2 bunches kale, large bunch of herbs including parsley, thyme and oregano

 Share 5

2 Large Broccoli heads, 4 small broccoli heads, 6 cucumbers, 8 summer squash, 1 large summer squash, 3.5 lbs of green beans, 1 large bunch turnips, 2 bunches green onions, 2 heads of spinach, 2 heads of lettuce, 2 lbs of green's mix, 2 bunches swiss chard, 2 bunches kale, 2 bunches herbs (catmint, lemon basil, italian basil)
Share 6

1 bunch turnips (full share only), 4 lbs green beans, 4 lemon cucumbers, 2 large zucchini, 8 summer squash, broccoli, snap peas, 2 heads spinach, 2 bunches kale, 2 bunches herbs (Italian basil, lemon basil)
 Share 7

Potatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Cauliflower,  Lemon Cucumbers, Snap Peas, Green Beans, Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Broccoli, Kale, Herbs
 Share 8

Onions, Jalapenos, Beets, Eggplant, Swiss Chard, Lettuce Mix, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Arugula, Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Lemon Cucumbers, Green Beans, Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Kale, Lemon Basil, Parsley, Dill.  

Share 9

Okra, Onion, Broccoli, Cabbage, kale, Green Tomatoes, red tomatoes, Peppers (jalalpeno, ancho, bell), Eggplant, Swiss Chard, Tomatillos, lemon Cucumbers, Green Beans, Summer Squash, parsley, dill, oregano, lemon basil, and Italian basil.

Share 10

Large bundle carrots, ground cherries, large bundle green onions, 2 bags of lettuce mix, 6 spears of okra, broccoli florets, onions, jalapeno, ancho and bell peppers, 4 eggplant, tomatillos, lemon cucumbers, 2 bags of green beans, summer squash, slicing cucumbers, 2 bunches kales, garlic chives, fill, Italian basil, and lemon basil

Share 11

Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Summer Squash, Eggplant, Okra, Peppers (Jalapeno, Ancho, Bell), Ground Cherries, Garden Huckleberries, Kale, Onions, Lemon Basil, Dill, Tarragon, Italian Basil, Parsley
Share 12

Arugula, eggplant, garden huckleberries, okra, kale, melon, onions, peppers, summer squash, tomatillos, tomatoes, catnip, sage, Italian basil, lemon basil.

Share 13

2 acorn squash, 2 delicata squash, 2 bunches of japanese turnips, 2 bunches of kale, 2 bags of ground cherries, 2 bags of garden huckleberries, 6 eggplant, 4 large sunflower heads for sunflower seeds, okra, peppers (ancho, jalapeno, anaheim), tomatillos, Swiss Chard, Tarragon, dill, Italian basil, and lemon basil. 

Share 14

2 watermelon, 2 spaghetti squash, 2 delicata squash, 2 pumpkin pie pumpkins, 2 melons, 2 bunches kale, 2 bags of lettuce mix, 2 bags of arugula, 4 eggplant, 2 kohlrabi, large bundle kale, jalapeno and bell peppers, rosemary, thyme, italian basil, and lemon basil. 
Share 15

2 butternut squash, 2 spaghetti squash, bell peppers, jalapenos, 2 watermelon, 4 eggplant, 2 cayenne, 1 bag of garden huckleberries, 1 bag of ground cherries, 2 bunches kale, 2 bags of greens mix, large bunch green onions, parsley and lemon basil. 
Share 16

2 heads of celery, 2 spaghetti squash, 3 delicata squash, 3 eggplant, 2 cayenne, 2 bunches of kale, beets, carrots, 2 bags of green's mix, 2 bags of arugula, ancho, jalapeno, anaheim, and bell peppers, parsley, Italian basil, and catnip.

Share 17
2 head of celery, 2 bunches of leeks, 2 spaghetti squash, 2 acorn squash, 4 eggplant, 2 bags of ground cherries, 2 bunches of kale, peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, anaheim, bell), 2 kohlrabi, lemon basil, italian basil, and tarragon. 

Share 18
2 Jac-O-Lantern pumpkins, 4 pumpkin pie pumpkins, large bunch of green onions, 2 bunches of kale, 2 bags of green's mix, a large Luffa, large bunch of parsnips, 2 heads of celery, jalapeno and cayenne peppers, eggplant, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

2014 CSA Share 14

2014 CSA Share 14

More fall favorites and a late summer one this week. We have more squash coming this week; and lots of greens including lettuce, arugula, kale, and kohlrabi.  We also have the long awaited watermelons.  We made a miscalculation and tried just starting these outside this year, but due to the late start to the season in general, they have been behind. They are here now and we brought back the Moon and Stars Watermelon which was our favorite last year.

Acorn Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Delicatta Squash, Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin, Watermelon, Eggplant, Green Onions, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce Mix, Arugula, Cantaloupe Melons, Peppers, Kale, and Herbs


NEW THIS WEEK!  Our Watermelon are finally here! We brought back the Moon and Stars watermelon, which has a dark green rind with bright yellow moon and shaped spots on it.  We also have a small standard looking watermelon that is very tasty and perfect for our small shares who don't want to eat watermelon night and day.  

Pie Pumpkin

NEW THIS WEEK! These small pumpkins are ideal for pumpkin pie.  If you'd like to save this for a thanksgiving special, we'd recommend making the pie filling, and then freezing until the big day.  Of course you could always just have a pumpkin pie just because they are delicious!  


Spaghetti Squash

NEW THIS WEEK! The Spaghetti Squash is a very unique vegetable, a cross between string cheese and pasta, with a mild flavor.  When you roast the squash in the oven, cut it in half and roast flesh side down for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees, you can then scrape the squash and it separates into spaghetti like strands of squash.  These can be then eaten with pasta sauce as a delicious meal!

Acorn Squash

These beautiful squashes are as good to eat as they are to use as a fall decoration.  The acorn is a rich squash that is ideal as a side dish along a nice roast chicken as part of a fantastic family dinner.  It can also be used to make a delicious soup.  Or by roasting with maple syrup can be a dessert like dish, which in Farmer Don's book means you get 2 desserts because a vegetable can't count as a dessert.

Acorn Squash Soup

Delicata Squash

The Delicata Squash is a variety of butternut squash.  It is an easily prepared vegetable, no need to peel this squash, with a rich taste that is ideal for Roasting or being caramelized.  The roasted squash recipe below is absolutely delicious and super simple!

Roasted Squash Recipe



 These are a mix of Cantaloupe, and the small melon with big flavor, the Charentais Melon!  We will have watermelons in the next few weeks so keep looking forward to that! 



Kohlrabi may be a new vegetable for some of you, but we promise it's one you'll be glad to try! The word Kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip, and it can be eaten raw or cooked. We usually eat them raw, just peel off the skin and slice them like an apple and sprinkle with a little salt or dip in your favorite dressing and enjoy! They're also great raw on a salad, or roasted, or baked. Popular in Indian food, in dishes like Kohlrabi Curry.

Kohlrabi Curry

Roasted Kohlrabi

Butter-Braised Kohlrabi 


Lettuce Mix

This week we have a return of the lettuce mixes!  A combination of  green oakleaf, red oakleaf, green romaine, and red romaine. Enjoy some late fall salads this week, and pray for more sunny days to prolong these fall greens.  


Arugula is a pungent, peppery flavored green originating from the Mediterranean. Spice up any salad, sandwich, or pizza with some Arugula! For a pizza topping you can add it just before baking or immediately after. Also eaten raw, coarsely chopped in pasta in Italy. With salad--try it with some mozzarella cheese, pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes!


Peppers- Jalapeno & Bell

We have Jalapenos and Bell Peppers for everyone this week, as the season gets later we should see some of these peppers start changing colors.  We've heard that it also corresponds to an increase in the heat of the pepper, but not sure if there is any truth to that.  Let us know what you think! 



 We have a dark purple variety and a white variety, perfect for ratatouille or eggplant Parmesan. Raw eggplant can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. The flesh is smooth and meaty, capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes and making it a great meat substitute for vegan and vegetarian dishes!


This green became a favorite for us at the farm Farmer Don certainly came to love it.  There are many great ways to enjoy this super food, which is loaded with vitamins.  You can of course eat it raw, or throw it in a juicer.  We really enjoy throwing it in the cast iron with  butter, salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes and sauteing for a few minutes for a great side to any meal.  It is also a great healthy snack when you bake them into Kale Chips.  

Kale Chips

Fresh Herb Bundle

We've got  bunches of rosemary, thyme, Italian Basil and Lemon Basil this week, enjoy!  

Can't use it all? Here's a simple How-To on drying your own herbs

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Farm Update 2014-2015

Winter Farm Update

It's been another unusually mild winter in Michigan, much like the winter we had two years ago. We had a snow storm around Thanksgiving, then it melted and we didn't see snow until New Years! But now we're locked in and in the single digits on the thermometer. 

We were very glad for the mild winter, because it made keeping the pigs longer much easier. The pigs took longer to finish this year, we had 3 males and 1 runty female. Our female, Penny, didn't reach her target weight (250 lbs) until right before Christmas! So we were very glad for the mild winter because it made loading them in the trailer much, much easier on dry ground rather than snow. 

To the left is a picture of our runt Penny, eating breakfast with some of our laying hens. You can see how we fence our hogs, we use plastic step in posts with fi-shock polywire rope and a portable solar energizer. Next year we're planning on having the pigs in the woods more, and we're hoping to find a breed with a shorter snout that doesn't root up the pasture as much. Otherwise it means we have to reseed our pasture every year. 

New this year, we build a run-in shelter! Most of the wood for the siding we got very cheap from an Amish sawmill north of us. We built this with Pippin in mind because even though he's almost a year old, he still can't get enough of his mother's milk! We still have to keep them separated if we want milk from Rosie, so Pippin has his own shelter and about 1/3 of an acre to himself. We milked Rosie this year in the Once-A-Day Milking Style, where you milk once a day and the calf takes care of the other milking. 

This worked wonderfully for us, less work, don't have to be on the farm all the time, and we can get away for a short vacation if we want and Rosie won't stop producing milk. Only one problem. We did it a tad too long. We should have separated them completely and weened him off before he was 9 months old, to help him kick the habit. Instead we kept on with the Once a Day milking and then tried weening him after he was 10 months old. He mooed and bucked and moaned for him mother for a solid week, then quieted down. Farmer Figgins left for a short vacation over the holidays, and we let the cows spend that time together, to see how he'd do, and if he'd drink her milk and keeping her producing while the farmer was away. Turns out, he wasn't done with milk yet. 

In a way it worked out for us, Farmer Figgins was able to take a vacation and Rosie kept producing milk when she got back, but, it means we also have to keep them separated all winter if we want milk for ourselves. Another negative we found to Once-A-Day Milking is that the cow often holds back quite a lot of her cream from us and saves it for the calf, which makes making butter and ice cream much harder. 

In the greenhouse we planted some cool season crops and have been enjoying fresh salads all winter, here it is January 5th and we can still get fresh greens from the greenhouse! We planted arugula, kale, lettuce heads, carrots, spinach, green onions, radishes, kohlrabi, and turnips. The carrots, green onions and kohlrabi are still not harvestable yet, but we've been enjoying the rest for some time now! To give them added protection from cold winter nights we put a row cover of agribon over the crops. 

Meanwhile in the barn, Rosie has a new set up for her stall. Using pallets again, we've built it so that she has a run-in stall from her outside pasture, which is about 1/3 of an acre. 

 We built Rosie a milking stanchion this fall too, Farmer Donnie based it off of a stanchion found online here and we adapted it to work for us. It's been working wonderfully, milking has never been easier! Then again, during the summer Farmer Figgins would milk Rosie in the pasture, not tied up to anything, so most anything is easier than that! 

As you can see, simply lead the cow in, close the boards next to her neck so she can't back up, lock them in place, then start milking! We had her A.I.ed with Swedish Red semen from Northstar Collective last week. We'll see in a few weeks if it took! We were hoping to inseminate her with Dexter semen, but had trouble finding a local source. Luckily, the Swedish Red is a similar dual purpose breed, though not a miniature cow. If it took, she'll be due in September, around when Pippin will be leaving us! We will only be keeping a 1/2 for ourselves, so if your interested in a 1/4 or a 1/2 of grass and milk fed, pasture raised beef, let us know! 

Now some of the older laying hens have been hanging around the barn at milking time to eat any grain Rosie drops. 

Or to steal any milk that the barn cats leave. 

 Last, but not least, we started a new layer flock in October. They are fully feathered out now and taking the cold well. We're trying out some new breeds this go around--Australorp, Buff Orpington, Speckled Sussex, Rhode Island Reds and more Ameraucanas this year! 

We'll be releasing our 2015 CSA information soon, check with us on the blog and facebook!