winter in my little slice of heaven 017As November comes into view in the rear mirror, it’s time to turn our attention to December.

Welcome back to our farm!

I was reading a blog post and watching a video from The Elliott Homestead yesterday.  Fascinating!  Not only fascinating but very, very well done.  Seriously well-done.  The Elliotts are a young couple who are doing it right on their homestead/farm in Eastern Washington. Now that doesn’t mean they haven’t made mistakes, and it doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes in the future.  Anyone who has tried homesteading or urban farming will tell you that mistakes are just part of the game we play.  Still, the Elliotts are devoted to the homesteading lifestyle, and they beautifully embody the spirit of the movement.

Check them out!

AND WHILE CHECKING THINGS OUT . . .

Check out The Farmstead here in Olympia. This is a personal plug of sorts, because The Farmstead is run by our son, Matt, and his wife, Rachel, a goat farm of sorts where cheeses and yogurts are made, and pigs roam, and peacocks strut, and it is, once again, a great example of the “natural movement” so prevalent in this part of the country.

BACK TO OUR URBAN FARM

Rain!

That sums up our greatest obstacle/adversary this year.

Rain!

We had the rainiest October on record.  November was no dry walk in the park either. Thanksgiving Day was absolutely miserable, and the animals kept looking at me like I had control over it all, which I assure you, I did not.

Did I mention it was miserable weather?  LOL

But we move on, and moving on means preparing for the spring.

ONE WORD OF CLARIFICATION ABOUT OLYMPIA AND RAIN

Contrary to public opinion, Olympia really does not get as much rain as most people think.  Many cities on the East Coast get more annual rainfall than Olympia.  We perpetuate the myth about rainfall to keep people from California and Arizona from moving here permanently.

What gardeners and urban farmers need to be aware of, however, is the fact that, on average, Olympia only gets 85 days of sunshine each year.  Yes, I said 85 days.  The other 280 days are cloudy, so one has to be aware of that when choosing which vegetables, berries, and fruit trees to plant.

Just keep it in mind.  It’s not so much that we are waterlogged; a more accurate statement is that we’re sun-deprived here in Olympia.  Well, maybe this Fall we are waterlogged, but not usually.town_429

WORMS

I’m all ready to dive into worm-raising.  All I have to do is buy my first pound of red wigglers and my first thousand mealworms and then sit back and let them do their thing, and their thing should include great worm tea and even greater worm castings, both of which mean wonderful fertilizer for the garden next year and hopefully some supplemental income at Farmer’s Markets.  It also means a continual supply of treats for the chickens, and I can assure you they will be very happy about that treat.

Crossing my fingers!

Have you given any thought to raising worms?

It’s pretty darned simple.

You can raise about 100 of them in a 15-gallon plastic tote. There are only a few basic things to remember when preparing the worm home:  plenty of holes for air-circulation, moist bedding, and a constant supply of food scraps and other organic matter for them to eat.  Put some sort of mesh over the holes you drill so they won’t escape, and keep them in a cool, dark place.  That’s really all there is to is.  I’ll be raising ours in the garage for the constant temperature environment, and hopefully, in another month or two at the most, I’ll have a success story to share with you.

About fifteen minutes of care per week is all it takes!

If you are interested, take a look at this video.

QUAIL UPDATE

We’ve been selling off our flock for the winter.  We are down to about fifty now with another thirty to sell.  Then we’ll buy new fertilized eggs in February, incubate them, and have layers by April when the quail start laying eggs again, just in time for the Farmer’s Market.

And it all begins again!

In the meantime, the operative phrase here is “stay dry.”

CHICKENS

Tough night last night.  Bev and I both forgot to lock one of the chicken coops, and we were awakened by my son at 1:30, him telling us that three raccoons were currently wreaking havoc in the backyard. Sure enough, we lost three chickens from the one coop.  We did manage to find the other two from that coop, hiding off in the far corner of the yard.

Lesson learned the hard way.  ‘Tis the season for hungry predators. The nights are colder, and they are looking for a food source, and because of a lapse in memory, three of our flock are now dead.town_142

A day earlier we saw a coyote on our block, broad daylight, middle of the afternoon, he was just trotting down the sidewalk seemingly without a care in the world.

Anyway, a word to the wise: Be extra vigilant.

SICK RABBIT

One of the newest babies (from a litter of five) is sick and lethargic.  She is currently sitting on my lap as I type this.  Another word to the wise, anyone thinking of raising animals:  your heart will be broken on occasion.

RATS

Now there’s a hated word if there ever was one.

I don’t know a farmer who doesn’t have trouble with rats.  If you feed your farm animals outside then rats will appear.  It is inevitable, and it is annoying at best.  Feeding animals is expensive enough without feeding an army of rats too.

I tried being reasonable with them.  I tried capturing them in a humane way, but that didn’t work.  Now I’ve simply declared war on them.  I don’t like poisons but there really are very few options left, so the poison went out last week, cleverly disguised in some “out-of-date” meat we had.  It took a few days but the rat population is now under control . . . for now.

THANKS

I’ll talk to you again before Christmas.  Thanks for taking the time to visit us.

Bill

 

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12 thoughts on “Dealing with Winter on the Urban Farm

  1. You always seem to have something on the go Billy. So now it is worms! Did you know that worms are sold on e-bay for fishing and for composting? Wonder if they would make more money than the quail eggs!
    I was just reading this great article about a turkey farmer who has about 10 Alpaca guarding the Christmas free range turkeys. Apparently, this is common practice all over the world.
    I always love reading about your urban farm. If I had a little more space I would do have one of my own:)

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  2. Sally, I don’t know if the worms will earn more money than the quail. I’m content raising them both and combining the profits. 🙂 I had heard that about Alpacas. I’d love to have the space to raise those as well. 🙂 Thanks for being here and have a super weekend.

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  3. Homesteading. John and I were pretty much doing that a few years ago: it a’int an easy life. But a well-earned one with rich rewards. We might go back to it, but living in town (ours is about 10,000 big), we’re enjoying being able to bike and walk everywhere. 🙂
    As for the rain, could you just WILL that stuff to come this way, please? Those fires have burned these beautiful mountains all over the place. Luckily we got about an inch the other day – the first rain since August when the hurricane caused all sorts of crazy flooding.
    As for the chickens – that’s awful. Sorry that happened. And the wascawee wabbit? Too cute! Sorry that it’s sick, too. I hope it’s recovering. I sure do love those critters.

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  4. Hey Lil Sis! Believe me, if I could hasten the departure of this rain, I would. It has been a fall to remember with all this wet stuff. We are a bit waterlogged right now.

    The chickens…stuff happens, you know? It’s the first time we’ve lost a chicken after owning them for three years, so I guess we should feel good about that.

    Anyway, have a great weekend, my friend.

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  5. Whew! I’m tired just reading about all the things you have going on your farm. I am curious about the worm farming idea. I am constantly looking for ways to make a farm productive and lately I have been seeing more worm farms as I travel here and there. I was wondering if worm farming would be lucrative enough to provide a few extra bucks. Thank you for your information. I’ll go take a look at the video. Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. I haven’t had a chance to look at the video yet, but here’s my husband’s plan for growing worms on our farm:

      Step 1: Buy 500 worms.
      Step 2: Cut worms in half and put into compost.
      Step 3: Let them re-grow.
      Step 4: Repeat step 2.

      I’m still laughing!

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      1. Oh, I should refer to our high school biology class. Cut 500 worms in half to make 1000 worms. Why pay for 1000 worms when you can buy 500 and cut them in half? I’m still laughing at the logic. It’s biologically feasible, but so miserly. I’m all for saving money, but this is the ultimate case of being thrifty.

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      2. I started laughing last night and I’m still laughing about your husband’s approach. So simple, right? LOL Thanks for the chuckle. I’ll keep you updated on the worm production. Like many things on a small farm, it all depends on volume and counting pennies to make it profitable. We shall see, Marlene.

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  6. And those were most beloved three chicken (?!). It saddens my heart when some of “family members” leave suddenly without saying goodbye, shattering the value and quality of farming – a pleasure too. Maybe not. Your newly added farming adventures are certainly increasing gratification of your labor, which is delight to be participant in it everytime you are sharing your busy life with us. Thank you, and may you continually be blessed and prosperous my feriend.

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  7. Michael my friend, we become too attached to our animals. I’m aware, as all are, that there will be losses, but still we grieve when there are. Especially since this loss could have been avoided if we had been a bit more diligent. Sigh! Such is life, my friend.

    blessings always

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  8. This settles it, I can never be a farmer. I’d get too attached to the animals and they would become pets instead of working animals. And I don’t care for worms or rats. I’ll stick to flowers and herbs. Less heartache with those.

    Good to hear how far you’ve come over the years. Keep it up.

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