This morning at 6:30, I got the call that the chicks were here. Each spring we order a new little flock of chicks. They are shipped from Murray Mc Murray hatchery in Iowa. As soon as they are hatched, they are gathered up, sexed, checked for health and placed in a shipping box. From there they go to the airport and are whisked off to their new homes. Once they arrive at the airport in their hometown, they are then transported to the post office. Then the call comes and off we go to bring them home. It is an exciting time and one I look forward to each spring. At our farm, it is like signal that spring has truly arrived.
On a different note, last week was very busy. We added a new product to our line. We are now making lip balm. The principal ingredient is beeswax form our hives. At this point, we have four flavors, Berry Cherry, Fizzy Pop, Iced Pineapple with Tangerine, and Sangria. We debuted it at the Flower and Garden Market on Saturday. The Lip Balm was received very well.
We will be at the Flower and Garden Market again this Saturday. It is at 6th and Main in North Little Rock, from 8:00 tilL noon. There will be a St. Patrick’s Day Parade as well. We look forward to seeing everyone!
As spring approaches, we look forward to so many new beginnings. Our farm always has lots of new life. The first arrivals are always the kids. It’s exciting to witness the births and then watch the antics of our little additions.
The chicks follow the kids. This year’s flock will fly in on March 12th. The call from the post office will come early in the morning, and off I will go to pick up the little peeps. It is so much fun to watch them grow.
As the days grow longer and warmer, we also know that it is time for the Farmer’s Market. This year we are doing a Flower and Garden Market in March, to be followed by the traditional market from April until October. Each Saturday morning about twenty farmers gather in the lot at 6th and Main in North Little Rock, for the Argenta Farmer’s Market. All of our farmers are Certified Arkansas Farmers. This means that we must produce what we are selling on our farm. We go through an application process, followed by a farm inspection. This is to insure the integrity of the market. We only sell what we grow or produce on the farm, so you will not find pineapples or mangos at our market. The selection varies from week to week. Since we are a locally produced market, we always have what is fresh and in season. As we open, there will be lots of lettuces, greens, strawberries, carrots, onions, radishes and even vegetable plants. Every week we have eggs, cheese, meat, honey and of course our soap and lotion. It is very rewarding to be part of this market. The farmers involved are extremely particular about what they produce and how it is done. We have farms that range from about forty acres to only 1/8 th of an acre. The Capital Hotel catering arrives each Saturday with a daily special. No two weeks are the same. We have had shrimp grits, goat cheese bruschetta,ham and biscuits, plus we are always treated to a luscious drink, and the most wonderful bread. The baquettes are baked before dawn and delivered to the market. There are some vendors that are not able to be there every week, but arrive at least once a month.Two of our favorites are the fresh milled rice and the Shitake mushrooms. Directly across the street from the Farmer’s Market is the Argenta Market. This market will transport you back in time. Small,friendly, a regular gathering spot for the neighborhood. You can order breakfast or lunch here, as well as pick up fresh cut meat, local fruit and veggies, plus all the staples you need from day to day. The market offers fresh baked goods and pastries from Boulevard Bread also. If you are so inclined, there is indoor and outdoor seating to enjoy your meal or a cup of great coffee. If you have not ventured to this location on a Saturday morning,consider doing so, you are in for a delightful time.
For the past few days, we have been regularly monitoring “Oreo”, one of our foundation does. We knew she was close to kidding and that is exciting as well as tense. We always expect the best, but prepare for the worst. This weekend, in doing some research, we came upon some interesting tidbits about goat farming. One of the statements was, ” If the weather is 20 degrees an wet your goat will have two does. If the weather is 45 degrees and sunny you will have two bucks.” Does are far more valuable as they produce the milk. That just seems to be the way it is on the farm. Most difficult things happen at the most unfavorable times…. Back to my story… When I arrived home this afternoon, our chocolate lab was at the fence having a fit. He was barking running in circles and was genuinely upset. When I got to the gate and I opened it, he charged past me. Well I figured I better follow him to see what had him in such a tizzy. Joe runs directly to the goat yard, sits, and stares at the hay loft. Lo and behold, there stand two brand new kids. Somehow even being in the house or yard all day he knew that we had new kids. Now it’s up to me to see how they are and what we have, bucks or does. As I enter the pasture, my first question is are they getting nourishment? In just a few minutes, they are greedily suckling from their mom. Upon my quick inspection I discover we indeed have two precious does. Wow, easy birth, great weather, and two does! Life is good.
Saturday morning 11:20, my daughter, Chris and I are in the kitchen preparing for a baby shower. My husband runs to the door,”We have a baby on the ground.” Now this could be considered an issue in some households, but it is just spring at ours. We have goats and it is kidding season. The baby shower we were preparing for was not for a goat, but for our first grandchild. Preparations will have to wait.
We ran out to the goat house and lo and behold, we are blessed to witness our first kid of the season. We have a little doe. She is cappuccino in color and still very wet and wobbly. Her momma is Double Stuff, the baby of Oreo. This is Double Stuff’s first baby. She is a young momma and we are surprised at how well she is handling her new role. The most important thing when a new kid is born, is to make sure that nourishment is acquired quickly. We always have Nutri-drench available to give that quick boost. This is a cocoction of vitamins and electrolytes to help a new kid after the difficult birth process. Within thirty minutes, our tiny doe is on her feet and looking to momma for precious colostrum.
By the time Chris and I must leave for the shower, our new arrival has not had her colostrum. Today it will be my husband on kid duty. His job is to make sure she gets nourishment. Waiting for the little ones to get that first nursing session done is quite tense. Usually it takes a bit to make sure that there is a connection. This is a very important step. Animals are very adept at hiding if they aren’t well, so it can be difficult to tell if kids are well or hiding symptoms of dehydration. He is very diligent and really keeps an eye on her. While we are at the shower, we are keeping up with the events on the farm. Baby is trying. Momma is trying. Baby is staying close. Momma is pushing her back to her teats. But still no visual success of nursing.
As we arrive back home, baby seems strong, but there is still no evidence of her having nursed. Our daughter is a veterinarian, we had her do a physical and it seems she is the perfect specimen of health. We all utter a sigh of relief. As I said animals are very adept, and it seems she has found nourishment without our help. And so the kidding begins.
This is our fourth year in business and we have to deal with increases in our raw materials as well. When we started this venture, the economy was not at it’s best and we had no idea if our products would even move. At first, I was not able to buy my ingredients for making soap from wholesalers, so I was paying retail prices for items. We really had a hard time making a profit on each bar of soap. My idea was to produce a quality bar, made from quality vegetable based ingredients at a reasonable price. I wanted everyone to be able to afford good soap. Soon people were purchasing our bars and we were having to look at making more, lots more. The process in which I was buying raw materials had to change. I began looking to wholesale sources for the oils that go into the soap. These oils were affordable but not the quality I was looking for. We had several batches that were complete losses! Not good at all for your bottom line. As time passed and we studied more, we were able to find suppliers with the quality we desired. However, in order to keep our costs in line, we had to start receiving larger orders of oils and butters. This in turn meant making more soap so that we could use the oils in a timely fashion. If the oils are not used, there can be an issue of spoilage. More soap provided us the opportunity to reach more potential customers. Which in turn lead to a greater volume in sales. As we have gone through this transformation we have been able to keep our cost per bar reasonable and yet offer a rich emollient bar of soap at an affordable price.
We are pleased with our products, and are very grateful to be able to offer them at such a reasonable price, while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
Today is soap making day. I thought I would share the experience. When we make soap, we usually make seven batches. Each batch is seven pounds. First, all of the ingredients must be assembled. We use several different oils,frozen cubes of goat’s milk, lye, scents and herbs or spices. The soap is processed in the kitchen. Once we have gathered all of the items needed to make the soap, we get all of the tools ready to begin the process. This consists of a large, heavy stainless steel pot, silicone spatulas, silicone mats, thermometers, a scale, gloves, measuring cups, an electric emulsion mixer, wooden molds, and a scale. One bat
ch is made at a time. The oils are measured out and placed in the pan, which is on low heat. While the oils are gently warming, the cubes of milk and the lye are carefully mixed. At this point you must get the oil and the milk mixture to the same temperature in order to blend them into your soap product. Once this is accomplished, you can add herbs, additives and scent. The next step is to emulsify this until it thickens to about the consistency of thick gravy. When this happens, the soap is poured into the molds. It will remain in the molds for several days. Once the soap has set a few days, it is removed from molds and cut into bars. From this point, it drys a couple of weeks, then it is trimmed and sets a bit more. In about another week the soap is tied and tagged and ready for market.
This past year was an amazing one for our little enterprise. We had the best year yet in terms of return on investment. As we look back, we are able to observe how far we have come from our humble beginnings. In the past twelve months, we have been able to double our happy flock of chickens, our spunky herd of goats and our buzzing beehives. The past year also saw great growth in the orchard as we harvested our first plums, peaches and pears. In December we harvested a bumper crop of lemons out of our enlarged greenhouse. The heirloom veggie plant sales and production were a bit down, however, we can attribute that to the unusual weather we encountered.We attended more Farmer’s Markets and Craft Shows than in past years and made lots of new friends. We are seeing an increase in the online Farmer’s Markets sales as well.
As we look forward to and ponder our plans for 2012, we are looking at expansion. At the present time we are building on to the goat house. Our plans call for new triple section sink and to be able to meet the requirements for a Grade A Diary. This is the loftiest goal in front of us at the time. We are also enlarging the chicken yard and adding more nest boxes to the house. We are going for a condo effect.We have thirty little peeps arriving on March 12 to inspect the new digs. The heirloom veggie plant production will double this spring. We have added new heat mats, tables, lights, and of course a larger greenhouse. On the soap side of the business, we have made a shampoo bar and are in process of making a shaving bar as well. The lotion we introduced last year took off like gangbusters, so we are adding new spring and summer scents to that line. We are also ramping up our participation in the online markets.
So much to accomplish and still only twenty four hours in a day. The long range plan is to be out of day jobs and doing this full time in three more years! Whoo-hoo!
Here we are late in June. It seems like it has been forever since I’ve had time to sit down and post an entry. The past few weeks have just been a blur. School finally finished on June 7. It was the year that went on forever as we had many snow days to make up, and a day for an electrical storm as well.
The first morning out of school, I got to get up bright and early to head to the UAMS Farmer’s Market. What a great joy to be up at 5:00 am and out the door thirty minutes later on my inaugural day of summer vacation. Combine that with making a couple of wrong turns and not being able to find the right place to park, I was off to a terrific start. This is a new market with few vendors and a growing amount of food traffic. The benefit of this market is, that it is indoors. A true blessing in ninety plus degree weather. For the first week, do had a modest turnout. It will grow.
For the next couple of days, it was time to get back to the basics of soap and lotion making. I really needed to catch up and get my stock up again. So a plan was hatched. Each week I would make at least seven batches of soap and five batches of lotion. That way by the end of summer, I would have enough stock to bridge me into the fall market and show season. Now this has to be planned out well, as we are doing three live markets and week, four online markets, and also need to make cheese to build the stock up for fall. One day a week is needed to handle basic outdoor chores. You know the little things that catch up with you. So in order to accomplish all these things we must plan a basic schedule. Well with all good plans, there is always a hitch. But hey, two weeks in and fourteen batches of soap and ten batches of lotion.
Week three equals a much needed vacation. We are off to the Caribbean for some fun in the sun! It is a glorious nine days with no cares and people waiting on us hand and feet. Luscious food, awesome company, a great deal of adventure and just enough rest. We are relaxed and ready to go!
So here we are week four, time to conquer the to do list at the farm. I’ll get back to you and let you know how that goes!
It is another week.We have had so many events in the past couple of weeks. Let’s see if we can catch up.
First and foremost, our daughter is a newly graduated veterinarian. She will be relocating to Mountain Home, Arkansas and be their newest vet. It has been a long road for her to travel. As Christina pointed out to us, she has been in school for twenty one years and this will be a shock to her system. It is hard to believe that the journey of her formal education is finally finished. Now she and our son in law are about to embark on a career and home ownership. We are very proud of them and can’t wait to watch them in their new life.
Another event worthy of making note of, is that our son has gotten married. He has found the girl for him. We are very excited for him and for Jackie, our new daughter in law. They seem to be very happy and it so wonderful to see our son content.
Life on the farm has also been in full swing. We have had a couple of more additions. Nabisco has had her first little doe. She came into this world with a struggle. Both of her back legs were not functioning when she arrived and it was quite the struggle for her to get up and get going. We taped her legs with vet wrap and with time she is getting stronger. At last check she was bounding around like she had springs under her feet. Two days after Nabisco had her little one, Stormy blessed us with her little doe, Misty. She is the spitting image of her aunt Ellie Mae. With the last two additions we now have seven little bundles of joy from our spring kidding adventures. In all we have twenty one goats now. And to think it all started with just two little kids, Bonnie and Clyde.