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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.