Saturday, September 26, 2015

Not Here As Much

Due to circumstances at home, I am not able to be at the farm as much as I would like anymore. I have taken a full time job in order to provide my family with better healthcare coverage. The farm is now something I do quickly in the mornings and evenings, rushing through what once was something I had the luxury to take my time on and enjoy. This has been a difficult adjustment for me.

For anyone that follows this blog, sorry for the long silence, but I can't promise that I will be able to post regularly again anytime soon. To follow is an old picture of the farm when it was not much more than an idea. I'm posting it here as a reminder that big ideas start small and take time and hard work to grow into something tangible. But sometimes, life gets in the way.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Udderly Farmy ABCs

Over the years I've had a great time photographing the animals we've kept on the farm. They like to get very close to the camera and their expressions are pretty silly. So, I wrote a simple preschool age children's book to help teach the alphabet and also to share some farm facts. If you have or know a child that likes farm animals and needs to work on the ABCs, please order a copy of this book and enjoy the critters' antics.

Big, bright letters, extreme animal close-ups, fun facts about farm animals, plants, and soil make this book an easy way for kids to learn the ABCs and a little more. Hold onto your camera. These critters like to taste…

The book is available at and other major retail booksellers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Having ruminants means having to feed ruminants. Having to feed them, especially cows, means having to buy in a lot of hay. I'd prefer my cows, goats, and alpacas eat fresh pasture because if they were wild, that's what they'd do, but let's face it, this is Tucson, this is a desert.

Over the years I've been testing different ways to get pasture to grow. My challenges are doing so with minimal to no irrigation, and finding fodder crops that will tolerate this harsh climate. I've spread different types of pasture seeds all about, sowed fodder beets, fodder corn, alfalfa, and fodder vetch so far. This photo is the vetch. And it's growing everywhere now. The pods are quick to develop so my hope is that it will reseed and that the ruminants will like it and eat it.

Our "pasture" if you can even call it that, consists mainly of wild things like pigweed (wild amaranth) and wild arugula, Malva, and various grasses. The cows really go for the grasses, mowing them off on their walkabouts so the grasses grow in fuller. They do enjoy the wild arugula which is insanely prosperous right now. I had hoped for better with the alfalfa, but it has grown in well next to a garden bed and thickens when it comes back each year, reseeding itself.

This is the first year for fodder corn, and I'm trying Trucker's White, an heirloom variety. They're about 4 inches tall at the moment. Good sign. All parts of the corn plant are edible, and I know my cows like the leaves.

We have substantially less animals than in the past, so feed is not as crazy a cost as it used to be and I'm finding, when the weather cooperates and waters the land, there is so much food available that all I need to do is let the cows at it and they get filled up and happy. Creative solutions and supplements have been the annual surplus of Christmas Trees from tree lots and the tree recycling drop off in town as well as loose hay from the feedstores that often would end up in the garbage because it's not easy to sell. Most people in my area have horses, not cattle and cattle will eat varieties of hay with no complaints.

If you have any fodder seed suggestions that may work in our area, please feel free to comment below.


Friday, March 6, 2015

The Farm Visited a Local School

This morning I took Star the Nigerian Dwarf goat, Squeak the bantam Cochin rooster and Ruby the Bourbon Red turkey to visit the preschoolers at Wheeler Elementary school. This is always a big treat for the children as some have never seen farm animals before.

Every critter got petted and some kids even got turkey hugs in return. I talked to the children a bit about why we have goats, what people use goats for and passed around some goat milk soap so they could see. touch, and smell it. Squeak the little rooster was very tolerant of all the attention. He is our friendliest rooster and was on his best behavior. Ruby the turkey really loved all the gentle pets and rubs. She chose two special children from each class to cuddle up to. 

Thank you to Ms. Tami for inviting us again this year!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

From Hobby to Business

It has been seven years since we bought our semi-rural property. Seven years of regrets and waiting, hoping, anxiety and many moments of thinking we would never be able to realize our dream of building a home there. And seven years of work. We are hoping that this year will be the one we can finally put a home there and finish the life changing move we had planned so long ago.

Our priorities have shifted from McMansion to a Minimal home that will be just enough. Our children are older and have had the privilege of experiencing farm life with all of its ups and downs.

We have gone through nice neighbors and mean neighbors and learned many valuable lessons about grumpy neighbors and nosy ones. We have learned that privacy is very valuable. While fences don't make good neighbors, they can certainly make boundaries when we are not present to enforce them with words.

In order to move forward with this plan to have a home there, it's time for the little hobby farm to become a real farm that pays its own way and with luck, also turns a profit. If you follow this blog, please send good vibes our way... 2015 is going to present many challenges.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Goodbye Lil Red Hen

The majority of our laying hens came from Murray McMurray Hatchery in the mail and I believe it was 2011 that they came to us as day old chicks. We ordered 25 because that was the minimum and we ordered a mixed assortment because I didn't really know what I wanted. We knew there would be roosters in there and we planned to eat them when the time came. Most of them we did. A few were spared and we have one left from that batch--my son's favorite. What I'm getting at is these birds were kinda old for layers. A chicken can live a long life if very well cared for--I've heard up to 12 years, but they stop laying way before then. And our layers are farm hens, no question about it.

They began life here at home in a brooder then when they were old enough, they lived in a chicken tractor at the farm. That way they were safe from predators and able to munch on greens every time I moved the tractor around. Most survived. We only lost one pretty splash hen very young.

The chickens graduated to free range in the goat pen status and lived there quite happily until something realized they were there--probably an owl or hawk. We lost a few to predators and it didn't take long to realize the birds needed to be cooped at night. Later I made the tough decision to pen them permanently for their own safety. Chickens taste good to a lot of predators and they're a fairly easy meal--especially at night.

One of our old red hens, a Rhode Island Red, wasn't doing so well a couple of days ago. She appeared to be eggbound and looked very much like a bloated penguin. I'd seen this condition on the Dr. Pol show and also looked it up in several online forums for recommendations on what to do to try and save her. I cleaned her off and washed out her egg maker slot then put her in quarantine so she wouldn't get picked on. Honestly though, the odds were not in her favor at all. She was very full of stuff and when I came today she was declining and still unable to pass anything.

I made the tough decision to put her down and bury her on the property. I've never dropped the axe on my birds--just rattlers--so it was not an easy chore for me. I brought her to the garden and let her sit in the sun for a while. She looked pretty miserable. I petted on her to keep her calm and stayed with her until her last moments.

I think it's important to understand that when we go into the responsibility of having livestock pets--because that's what the majority of my animals are, we have to accept that we will likely outlive them. Because they are livestock and tend to be high production animals, their bodies sometimes give out too soon. The kind thing to do in this case was not to allow her to slowly waste away and suffer. She had been a good hen and gave my family many eggs over the years. So, goodbye sweet little red hen. You did your job well.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Snow in Tucson

New Year's Eve was spent at a friend's house near the ranch. We did chores later than usual that morning, knowing we'd be doing them well after midnight for the second round. Flakes of snow came fluttering down as we set off fireworks in our friend's driveway. For Tucson, this is a pretty big deal.

The snow stuck and had blanketed everything when we showed up to check on the ranch in the wee hours of January 1, 2015. I have learned not to fight too much with Mother Nature, so there is nothing covered with blankets to hold off the freeze. The plants need to go dormant for winter and be able to survive in our funky desert microclimate, otherwise it becomes far too much work and stress on me to try and baby them. Pictured is the raised bed with kale growing in it. And the kale, so far, has toughed it out.