Update 30May17

Homestead Update – 5/30/2017

Update

There has been a lot that has happened since the last time we updated everyone about our homestead.

Broilers

Freedom RangersWe started our first batch of broilers in February of this year (2017).  After researching the various breeds of broilers we decided to raise Freedom Rangers this year as we have mentioned in other posts.  We knew when getting these birds that they would grow slower than Cornish crosses but they have grown even slower than we anticipated.  We are now processing birds pretty much every week.  We have found it best to process on Thursdays to have our birds ready for pick up on Fridays for our customers.  We do our own processing and are processing under the 1,000 poultry limit exemption and had USDA (US Department of Agriculture) inspect our processing operation.  So far we have received lots of positive feedback on our broilers.

American Guinea Hogs

Our hog herd has grown here at Forever and Always Homestead.  We now have a breeder trio consisting of one male and two females. We also have a few feeder pigs we are growing out and are hoping to have them ready early winter.  We are really looking forward to the the pork from these American Guinea Hogs.

Goats

Hope doelingKidding season this year was a bit of a rough one but we did end up with some beautiful doelings after it all.  We came under attack by a microscopic enemy which caused early abortions and a weak kid.  Our goats showed us no signs of being sick or distress they just went into early labor and aborted their babies.  Unfortunately there was nothing we could do for the early abortions but we were able to save our weak kid.  We believe she was born early.  She was not able to maintain her body temperature so she slept on our chests for almost a weak until she was strong enough to go back out to her mom.  There were moments where we didn’t know if she would make it.  We appropriately named her hope and she is doing great now.  We are selling our doelings from this kidding season which includes two kinder doelings and a mixed doeling.  If you are would like more information on the doelings we have available please send us an email on our Contact Us Page or message us on Facebook.

Farmer Veteran Coalition  Fellowship Fund

This year we applied for a grant through the  Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Fellowship Fund.  We were hoping to get some top of the line processing equipment for our broiler operation.  Unfortunate we were recently notified we were not selected to receive the grant this year.  Although we were disappointed it was a great learning experience applying for our first grant and now we are that much more prepared to apply for next years opportunity.

Education

When my wife and I decided to we wanted to pursue a career in small scale farming I immediately began trying to learn as much as I could to ensure our success.  Neither one of us comes from farming family so we have had a lot to learn.  Sure we learned a lot from reading books, searching the internet and watching YouTube videos but I also have been going to school for Animal Science.  At the beginning of this month I completed my Associate’s in Animal Science Technology am now pursuing my Bachelor’s in Agriculture Education and a second major in Animal Science through NC A&T State University.  It has been such a different experience going to school for something you are passionate.  There is always something new to learn living this life and I look forward to be a lifetime student in this field.

Chicken Egg CSA

2017 Chicken and Egg CSA

Our Chicken and Egg CSA

Forever And Always Homestead is offering a chicken and egg CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for 2017.   It will operate similar to a vegetable CSA simply instead of vegetable you will receive chicken and eggs.  If you are not familiar with a CSA it is where you are able purchase a “share” from a local farmer.  Our CSA share will run for 26 weeks from May through November.  We will be offering three different CSA options for 2017.

  1. Full CSA Membership – These members will receive 26 chickens and 26 dozen eggs.  Full CSA members will also receive an additional 10% off other farm product purchases.  A Full CSA Membership is priced at $572 and requires a deposit of $143.
  2. Half CSA membership – These members will receive 13 chickens and 13 dozens eggs.  Half CSA members will receive an additional 5% off other farm product purchases.  A Half CSA Membership is priced at $305 and requires a deposit of $76.
  3. Quarter CSA membership – These members will receive 7 chickens and 13 dozen eggs.  Quarter CSA member will receive an additional 5% off other farm product purchases.  A Quarter CSA Membership is priced at $191.50 and requires a deposit of $48.

If you do not want to commit to a membership level we will be offering individual chickens for pre-order. Our chickens will be priced at $5/lb with our average broiler weighing 4 pounds.  If you are interested in pre-ordering an individual chicken please let us know due to the limited amount and we know they will sell out quick.

If are curious about why our chickens cost more than you may be typically used to check out our post Why Does Our Chick Cost More?

What Members Will Receive

We raise multiple breeds of layer hens here at Forever And Always Homestead which will provide you will a variety of eggs in both color and size.

Our broiler chickens will be provided to our member as whole chickens.  The breed we have chosen to raise is the Freedom Ranger breed.  This breed grows slower than the typical Cornish Cross breed which makes it a more flavorful chicken for you.

Self-Sufficiency Challenge

Self-Sufficiency Challenge

Our Challenge

There have been many challenges posted over the internet recently and here at Forever and Always Homestead we want to make our own challenge to you.  We want to challenge you to take a step this year to becoming more self-sufficient.  So what do we want you to do you ask?  We want you to select just one thing to either grow or raise on your own.  No matter if it is a small garden bed of greens, a few tomato plants in pots or even taking a shot at raising some laying hens to produce your own eggs.  Our hope is some people will take this challenge together and be able to exchange some of the items they produce as well as begin building a more self-reliant community.

We All Start Somewhere

Before we had our property we started with just some hot pepper plants on the balcony of our apartment.  Starting with just a few plants ignited the passion we have today.  We want to share that passion and hope you will join us for this challenge.

Challenge Others!

Please share this post and challenge others to join us in becoming more self-sufficient.  We would love to hear from those of you who accept this challenge.  Please comment below or leave a comment on our Facebook page letting us know you have accepted the challenge and what you plan to produce this year.

2017

What Is In-Store For 2017?

2016 was both exciting and humbling here on Forever And Always Homestead and has us excited about the new steps we are taking in 2017. If you are interested you can read more about 2016 in our Successes And Lessons Learned For 2016 post.

So what is in-store for 2017?

  1. Our Market – So first and foremost one of the things we are most excited about for 2017 is that we will be officially operating as a small-scale meat and egg producer.  We will be raising and selling broilers, ducks, eggs, pork and of course our goat milk soap.  All our animals will be raised on grass utilizing a rotational grazing method in order to properly manage our property and feed non-GMO supplemental feed as needed.  Our primary method of sales will be through a Chicken and Egg CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and presales.  We also plan on emailing our “Market Update” stating what all we have available that week so our customers can let us know what they want.  If you are interested in signing up for our Market Update please click on the link and sign up.  We would love the opportunity to provide you with fresh and delicious food.Market
  2. Hogs – We ended 2016 and began 2017 with the addition of hogs.  We chose the American Guinea Hog due to its smaller size, ability to forage and its meat quality.  Our goal with the American Guinea Hogs is to maintain a breeding trio (2 sows and one boar).  We will breed for both meat and breeding stock.  We will choose the best of the liters as future breeding stock for us or to be sold.  The remainder of the litters will be sold either as feeder pigs or raised here for meat.American Guinea Hogs
  3. Broilers and Ducks – As mentioned above we will be raising broilers and ducks this year for meat.  We chose Freedom Rangers for our broilers and Muscovy for our ducks.  We wanted to choose breeds that will forage well in our grass based system and have reduced inherent health issues.  Our broilers and ducks will be raised on grass utilizing a tractor style enclosure to house them and protect them from predators.  Throughout the day they will have access to small paddock areas in order to forage for a percentage of their diets.
  4. Blog Updates –  We have certainly not been as diligent in our blog posts as we would like.  Our plan is to set a schedule of posting a new blog every Monday and every Friday.  These blogs may include updates about Forever And Always Homestead, breeds we chose to raise, some of the methods we use and some DIY tutorials.  If there is something you would like to see us post about please let us know by commenting below, contacting us by Email, or contacting us through Facebook.
  5. Infrastructure – We are planning on doing a few improvements to our farming infrastructure this year.  First we have a 30/32 foot garage / shop we are planning on converting to our barn.  We will be building bay areas where the animals can go during extreme weather conditions or that we can use for isolation reasons as needed.  We will also put some kidding / farrowing areas in it as well. The other infrastructure improvement we are planning is put in a strong perimeter fence.  This is extremely overdue and necessary.  It will protect our animals and allow us to fully utilize our land for our grazing management.

As you can see there will be a lot going on this year and I am sure the learning curve will be steep but we are up for the challenge.  We are also kicking around a few other ideas for 2017 and still doing some research whether they are feasible.  We will know more about these ideas in future posts.  We are so excited about this life, these next steps on our journey for 2017 and sharing them with everyone.  Thank you for following us and if you have any questions or comments please let us know by commenting below, contacting us by Email, or contacting us through Facebook.

Successes and Lessons Learned 2016

Successes And Lessons Learned For 2016

We tried a lot new things here at Forever And Always Homestead in 2016.  As with anything new sometimes things go right and sometimes things go wrong.  Here we will go over some areas we really feel were a success and other areas were we learned some lessons.  We will start with some of the lessons we learned the hard way so we can end on a positive note.

Lessons learned the hard way!

Nothing ever goes perfect and no matter how much we research and we plan sometimes things just don’t come together like we planned.  Sometimes we fall short and are the ones at fault and other times there are unforeseen factors like weather (in our case Hurricane Matthew).  We have come to look at these situations as lessons learned and not failures.  I heard a great quote on the Grow Farms Podcast which said that in farming you only get one chance a year to get it right, so if you have been farming for 20 years you have only had 20 chances to get it right.  This lifestyle is very different than others where you can use trial and error 20 times in one day in order to succeed.  Many thing in this lifestyle you will not be able to know if what you are trying is a success or a failure until the season is at its end.

Some of our lessons learned for 2016:

  1. Our biggest lesson learned came from our rabbits. For 2016 we decided to try a colony system versus the cage system we have been using.  We just did not like our animals living their lives in cages and not being able to display any of their natural instincts.  When we first started out it was great watching our rabbits running around on the ground, playing and even burrowing.   Were we had our problem was when it came time for the litters to be born.  Utilizing the cage system we never lost a rabbit but with the colony system we were losing a bunny here and there.  Our last straw with the colony system came with Hurricane Matthew.  Unfortunately we could not get to all our bunnies before they got wet and bunnies do not cope well with getting wet.  This was a hard lesson learned but we are happy with the new system we have come up with and will tell you more about our “Rabbit Tractor system” in the future.
  2. Next we have our chicken tractor experiment. We have our stationary coop and saw a lot of people using “chicken tractors” for their chickens.  The idea behind the chicken tractor is that it is mobile and allows you to move your chickens to fresh grass.  We loved the idea and thought we would give it a shot.  We planned to have the chicken tractor for a new set of chicks we hatched so we planned it out on paper and put it together.  Unfortunately we did not account for one key element of the chicken tractor and that was its weight.  Our chicken tractor while mobile is extremely heavy which makes it inconvenient to move and we know the more inconvenient something is the less likely it is to be used the way it is intended.  We learned a lot from this chicken tractor and will benefit us in 2017 as we are planning to use chicken tractors quite a bit.Chicken Tractor
  3. One of our weakest areas here has been our gardening and as we continued to experiment we learned more lessons in 2016. First we were still trying to identify were will work best for our garden and when it comes to land use for our animals.  Unfortunately the areas we chose for 2016 did not turn out to be the best place.  We have adjusted out plans for 2017 and are feeling positive about our 2017 gardening season.  In addition to the placement we also experimented with square/hay bale gardening.  Unfortunately while researching this technique again we missed a critical element which is to condition the bale prior to planting.  To condition the bale it needs to be watered and then let it sit while the inside of the bale begins to break down.  While it is breaking down the inside of the bale increases in temperature like a compost pile.  We ended up planting in the bales immediately and basically cooking our plants.  We did manage to save a few plants which did flourish very well just too late in the season.

These are just a few lessons we learned.  We learned many more throughout the year and accept we will be learning many, many more lessons in the years to come.

Our 2016 Successes!

While there were several areas where we learned lessons we had several areas where our plans came together and we believe them to be successes.  Here are some of the successes.

  1. Our first kidding season went great and resulted in three beautiful baby goats. We had two fresheners (first time mothers) that had no issues birthing or nurturing their kids.  We did have one doe that was a much more attentive mother but the end result is we have 3 new healthy additions to our goat herd. Even though this was a success it was our first kidding season and we learned a tremendous amount.  We even were able to watch one of our does give birth which was a great experience!Chip, Belle and Nala
  2. With kidding season came our first milking season. Again both of us are completely knew to this type of lifestyle and it was our first time milking any animal.  We built our milking stand and began milking our first doe (our Kinder goat Nala) after the kids were weaned.  We were able to milk her fine but we did want more milk than our Kinder was producing so we ended up adding three Nubian does into our heard (two of which were still in milk).  Soon we were overflowing with milk.goat milk
  3. In finding ways to use all the milk we had on hand we began making our own Goat Milk Soap. After some experimenting we found a recipe we like and began making enough to sell.  We have had a lot of positive feedback regarding our goat milk soap and are happy to be continuing our goat milk soap sales into 2017!Goat Milk Soap
  4. 2016 also brought an overflow of eggs produced by our chickens and ducks. With this overflow we were able to begin selling some eggs to our friends and acquaintances.  This was a very big step for what we are planning for in 2017.Eggs

The end result for 2016 was a great year here on Forever And Always Homestead.  It has been such a meaningful year to us and we are looking forward to what we have in-store for 2017.  Please continue to follow us and our journey through 2017.  If you have any i questions or comments please let us know by commenting below, contacting us by Email, or contacting us through Facebook.

Goat Milk Soap

Make Your Own Goat Milk Soap

Items Needed To Make Goat Milk Soap

  • 13 Ounces -Goat Milk Soap – It is best if your goats milk soap is frozen to help prevent it from over heating while adding the lye.
  • 15 Ounces – Olive Oil
  • 12 Ounces – Coconut Oil
  • 13 Ounces – Lard / Shortening
  • 6 – Ounces – Lye
  • Bowl to mix your soap – we like to use glass or stainless steel since we are using the lye
  • Ice for ice bath
  • Scale to weigh the ingredients
  • Immersion Blender
  • Soap Mold
  • Pot to melt you oils
  • Personal Protective Equipment – Goggles / safety glasses and gloves (It is very important to use safety equipment while using lye.  If you find yourself to be sensitive to the fumes you could make your soaps outside.)

Steps To Make Your Own Goat Milk Soap

Step 1

Measure your goat milk soap and place it in your bowl.  Next place your bowl in an ice bath.  The ice bath is important because if helps prevent your milk from overheating which will result in off colors.

Weigh Ingredients

Ice Bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2

Measure out your oils.  Place them in a pot and begin warm them up in order to melt your hard oils (lard/lye and your coconut oil).

Mixed Oils

Heat Oil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3

Slowly add and stir the lye to your frozen milk.  This tends to be one of the longer parts of this process but it will prevent your milk from overheating and ensuring a nice white soap.

Add Lye

Mix Milk LyeMelted Milk And Lye

 

Step 4

Now we slowly add our warmed up oils to our milk.  Once it our milk / lye solution and our oils are together we use our immersion blender.

Mix Oil and Milk

Immersion Blender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5

Continue to use your immersion blender until you are able to some trace of where you spoon moves through the mixture.  It should begin to remind you of a thin pudding.  For easy pouring you do not want your mixture to get to thick.  This is also the point were you can  get creative and scent or color your soap.

Stir SoapSoap Mixed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6

Pour your mixture into your soap molds.  We have used several different molds but like the consistency of the silicone molds.  After your soap mixture is in your molds tap in on your working surface in order to get and bubbles out which may be trapped in your soap.

Pour Soap Mold

 

Step 7

Okay well I lied,  this is the longest part of making soap.  Now you have to let the soap set in your mold for at least 24 hours.  After that remove your soap and place somewhere it will to cure for 4 to 6 weeks.  As you can see below we use a wire rack we created to ensure the air circulates all the way around the soap.  Ensure you store you soap out of the heat and humidity.  It is best to maintain the temperature around 70 degrees.

Soap Rack

Some Of Our Soaps

Here are a few pictures of our soaps.  We have tried many different scents, molds and even some color.  We enjoy experimenting and trying new things.  If have any questions, tips for us or you try to make your own goat milk soap from our tutorial here we would love to hear from you.  You can either comment below, contact us on our Facebook, or email us through our Contact Us Page.  
Labeled Soap Colored Goat Milk Soap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Cost

Why Does Our Chicken Cost More?

To understand why our chicken cost more than the chicken you find in your grocery store you have to understand how both our chickens and their chickens are raised.  Before I begin I want you to understand I am not here to bash the commercial farming industry.  I am simply detailing the equipment and processes they use which allows them to raise their chickens at a lower cost and at an increase production rate.

Chicken Housing

Most commercial chicken farmers utilize chicken houses.  This technique allows the farmers to house approximately 20,000 – 25,000 chickens in a small area.  Many of the farmers also have multiple chicken houses.  With this many chickens being produced these companies can reduce the profit per chicken due to the increase of production.   These chicken houses also have integrated systems such as feeding and watering systems as well as temperature control.  This helps reduce the labor required.

Our chickens are raised in a mobile “chicken tractor.”  These chicken tractors are designed to be light and simply protect our chickens from predators.  They house approximately 50 chickens in each tractor.  These tractors are also routinely moved to provide fresh grass as well as evenly distribute the chickens waste over our property.  These tractors allow our chickens to demonstrate the natural behaviors as the can forage for bugs and grass.  This system allows us to monitor our chickens very closely since there are only 50 in each tractor and operating a limited number of tractors at a time.

Broiler Breeds

The breed of chicken we chose to raise is also different than most commercial chicken farmers.  The Cornish Cross is the typical chicken we find in our grocery stores and raised by many farmers.  This breed of chicken grows extremely fast and is ready for processing in six to eight weeks.  Due to the rapid growth rate of these birds there are some inherent health issues with this breed.  Due to these issues we chose the Freedom Ranger as our broiler breed.  The Freedom Ranger grows slower than the Cornish Cross.  It typically takes 10 to 12 weeks to reach its processing weight.  This breed is also more active in its foraging behaviors which makes it a great breed for our system of raising chickens.  These extra weeks require more feed as well as the additional labor.

Other Factors

There are also other factors which increase the cost of us producing our pastured chickens.  Many chicken companies work through a contract system.  The chicken companies contract or own each part of the chicken raising process including the feeding, breeding, raising, and processing allowing them to operate on closed system.

As a small-scale chicken farmer we need to outsource for a number of these steps.  Some areas we outsource are for chicks and feed.  We do no have the ability to breed our own meat chickens so we must order our chicks.  We also love that our chickens are raised with the ability to forage for grasses and bugs but they also do require some additional feed which must be purchased.  These additional expenses raise how much it costs our farm to produce a quality broiler for you.

Final Results

While both our farm and commercial farms produce chicken, in the end they are completely different and  we know if you try our chicken you will see and taste the difference.  Take a minute and check out the image below developed by the NC Farm School.  It is a great illustration of what all goes into pasture raised chicken and the costs associated with it.

If you have and questions or comments we would love to hear from you by commenting below, commenting or messaging us on Facebook, or emailing us through our Contact Us Page.

Pastured Chicken