Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year End 2011: How are we doing? & Lamb Chops

I get this question all the time: How are you doing? And I don't mean psychologically or health-wise (although people are usually courteous enough to ask that too); I mean our business. So I feel close enough to all of you (and know most of you personally since that seems to be who reads this blog) that I'm going to share a little. 
It's been a rough year this year, as some of you know. We had 100% losses in our first two batches of broiler chickens and only about 5 layers survived from the 50 or so we started with. We also had TINY turkeys with an average weight of 8.2 lbs.
This is a picture of our milk crate hospital pen, there is a chicken in there in the middle of the shot, halfway into a cup holding feed. That's about as big as they got from that first batch. 
I know it sounds like I'm a little grim, sorry about that! I'm trying to be hopeful and look forward to this year when our brooder will be in our new chicken building!
This should help with the disease problems, which were a large portion of our losses. 

Ok, so now for some numbers. If numbers want to make you want to hurl, just scroll down a little for pictures of my first lamb chops and Hazel! 
2011 is the first year I was in charge of record-keeping and it's also the first year we're following the Schedule F form for taxes in our expense calculations. This is a HUGE improvement, so before this year's numbers I don't guarantee any of it (and I'm not really guaranteeing this year's either).
In 2008, our first year on this farm, we had $7800 in sales and $6500 in direct expenses for those sales. Then there's a bunch of supplies and fencing and capital stuff and all that rot for a net loss of $820. 
In 2009 we had $10800 in sales and $8000 in direct expenses. After all the other stuff including a $9000 fencing and water system (of which about half was reimbursed by Uncle Sam) we had a net loss of $8000. Actually, that's not too bad considering the capital expense.
In 2010 we had $17000 in sales and $13700 in direct expenses. After all the miscellany including $1200 for a tractor swap and $3000 in cows we come to a net loss of $4200. 
In 2011 we had $13300 in sales and $9500 in direct expenses. After all the other stuff including $5000 for the new building we have a net loss of $3000. 

So how are we doing? I'm not sure. I've never done this new business thing before. I know you're not really supposed to make money until at least year 5 if not year 7 or 8, but I certainly would like to be closer to breaking even than we are. Of course, this is without taking out truck mileage or accounting for labor (that's free, right?). This year I think we would have made money even with the building expense if our turkeys had been "normal" and our chickens hadn't died in droves. In the spirit of the end-of-the-year wrap ups, I'm going to try to put 2011 behind us and look forward to 2012!

Are you interested in this info? Or is it just TMI and everyone scrolled past it?

Now, as promised, here is a picture of the lamb chops I cooked up!
They were rubbed with a mint sauce/rub, and served with some golden potatoes. Totally completely awesome. They practically melted in our mouths. Ryan suggested I cook some because until now we've just sold them without ever having made them! He's right, of course. Here's the whole rack, in a less presentation conscious arrangement:
We may not be making money yet with our business, but I tell you the perks are un-freaking-believable!

And now for the Hazel pics of the day. We were folding laundry and tossed a Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) T-shirt on her. Ryan wears these constantly and has 4 or 5 of them. So here's our future practical farmer:
We're going to the PFI conference in a couple of weeks, I'll try to remember to report in on it. 
I think you are probably aware we just had Christmas. Therefore, we need an obligatory opening presents pic of the munchkin. 
Lucky you, we even got Nermal in the shot!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Dress, Edie's Quilt, & Giant Turnip

I decided to try my hand at making Hazel a Christmas dress this year using a tutorial on The Cottage Home. Success!
Love it.
I'll change a few things if I make this dress again to make it fit better, but overall I'm satisfied. Hazel did a little dancing for me to help show it off.
And some kitty chasing. I admit I did some photoshopping to make the horrendous mess that is my living room less obvious. Forgive me.
Here's the dress by itself. 
And the back. Satin really is a pain to work with! 
I made a little rosette embellishment using the tutorial at Craftaholics Anonymous and french horn button I have kept for at least 13 years. Apparently it was waiting for just this occasion! This embellishment actually pins on so I can wash the dress without the rosettes fraying. 

My next craft o' the month is the quilt for our quilt guild president. Every year the previous president of the guild gathers blocks from guild members and makes a quilt to show appreciation for the current president's service. So now that I've given Edie her quilt, I can show it here!
This is a wall hanging, and I decided to go a little funky on the profile. I'm not sure why, it just struck me as right. All those little inside corners are no fun to bind, though! I'm so glad there is an internet that I could look up how to do it, it wasn't immediately intuitive.
I asked for my guild ladies to give me earth tone blocks to match Edie's decor. I hope she doesn't think the funny profile is too strange!

So now it's quiz question time. What happens if you plant turnips in July, they are pretty happy all summer, and then you forget to harvest them until December?

Answer: You get this!!

Giant turnip! This thing was as big as Hazel's head. Apparently I'm not as horrible at gardening as I think I am.
Hazel was terrified of this thing. We got her to touch it once, but then she went and hid behind Mommy, like it was going to jump out and bite her. 
Killer turnip!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Handmade Gift Exchange and Xmas Wreath

Twice a year the sweet gal at Craftaholics Anonymous hosts a Handmade Gift Exchange. This is super fun, and this is now the second one I've done. My partner was from the blog Who Makes up this Craft, and she sent me a 9x13" baking dish with my last name etched on it! So cute! I didn't take a picture, but hopefully she will and post about it. If not, I may do so. So here is what I sent her (minus the creamer and sugarer, they are for scale)
 She told me she liked houndstooth, so I went with a traditional Christmas candle mat. 
This is actually my second attempt at this thing. My first houndstooth, while cute, was not houndstooth. The ratio of the small triangles to the squares was way too small, so I ended up with something very funky looking. The gals at my quilting retreat told me they liked it just on its own merit, but they agreed it wasn't houndstooth. I may post it in a later set of projects if I remember. The whole project is about 10" square, and I also quilted the outside border in gold thread. Doing that reminded me what a PAIN it is to quilt with gold thread! Some company really should figure out a better way to make that stuff, because it is such a nightmare. 

It must be Christmas craft time, because I also threw together a wreath from some cedar branches Ryan brought me when he cut down our Christmas tree. 
I'm pretty please with how this turned out, it's made just with wire and cedar branches, and a little ribbon for color. I didn't use a wire wreath frame so it's not the world's roundest wreath, but I'm OK with that. I will give a word to the wise: if you make your own Christmas wreath out of cedar branches, wear gloves! I picked tiny little bits of cedar needles out of my fingers for three days. This is one of those little things on my mental bucket list that also fits into my personal "things a farm wife should do" category. There's just a big part of me that thinks a traditional-minded farm should have a traditional Christmas wreath!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not Easy Being Green

The building has a new theme song. In soliciting advice on the building color, someone pointed out that in the grand scheme of things, we could actually work toward a cohesive farm color scheme. Now, that appeals to the organized, crafty side of me like nothing else has. So that left us with pink, yellow, or green if we wanted to use the colors in our logo. 
With this in mind, green actually made some sense. So Ryan took the little can of paint we had from painting our sign into Menards and had it matched. 
I think that was the way to go. I know, lots of people liked the blue, but it really was much bluer in the real world than the picture. Really blue. Crazy blue. Anyone who was here for Thanksgiving can back me up. 

We're also thrilled Thanksgiving is over. Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday (after Halloween) and I LOVE having people over. We had 11 here, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 
That being said, I'm always glad when the turkey season ends. Last Sunday was our delivery day and our biggest day of the year. We go to Picket Fence Creamery for their special "Sample Sunday" every year to have our customers pick up preordered turkeys. Here's Ryan helping carry turkeys to someone's car.
We bring the truck with two old chest freezers in the back to most of our drop offs, and this time they started out completely full with lamb, chickens, and (of course) turkeys. Here's what was left after the day was over:
A few chickens, a couple smoked turkeys, and a little lamb. One lady came and added two racks of lamb to her turkey order, bless her! We actually sold more lamb than I expected to, which was great. We get better at orchestrating that day every year, this year was the smoothest of all. The weather was pretty nice, sunny and not too cold. Last year it was freezing, windy, and drizzled all day long. Hazel also behaved very well and enjoyed chasing their farm cats around all afternoon. 

And now the Hazel picture of the day. The dryer was making a funny noise, so we were getting into it to clean it out. Turned out we had a broken piece of some overalls between the dryer drum and the support and it was scraping when the drum turned. But it all lead to another little engineer moment for our little one. 
Work those pliers, girl!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blue Dabba Dee Dabba Da

Ryan painted our new chicken building yesterday. Now, I'm not saying he has bad taste in color, because he doesn't. He just has trouble picking paint colors in a hurry. So he was thinking he could paint the new building approximately the same color as his grandpa's barn. I looked for a picture of that barn to show you, but Google Maps doesn't have streetviews in the middle of nowhere and I don't have any pictures either. Anyway, Grandpa's barn is light blue. Like robin's egg blue, but lighter. 

Enter Ryan's interpretation.

He calls it Pepto Bismol blue. When I see this building, I hear in my brain the song "Blue" by Eiffel 65 from 13 years ago (has it been that long????). If you don't know what I'm talking about, their music video is here. This building will have white trim, but right now it's just very blue.

I admit, it's actually growing on me. It's a landmark. But I'm asking you now. Do you think it should stay this blue? Do you think we should paint over it with a much lighter blue? Or should we go get a bucket of barn red paint and just paint it barn red? Ryan and I have decided to "ask the blogs" and see what you all say. So please comment below or on my facebook posting about this blog and tell me what you think! What color should this building be?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some things are hard to blog about

Some things are hard to blog about. I will tell you right now that, for your sanity and mine, this blog has no pictures. 
Ryan called me tonight while I was writing customer reminder emails (turkey pickups are almost done!!!) and told me, "I need the gun and the bullets NOW." He said he had a 'coon pinned with a stick. His words. So I rushed out there with these items and he had a raccoon half in and half out of one of our traps right outside the shop. He had a big dowel rod (broom handle?) and had it pinned against the wall.
It wasn't moving.
So while I held the stick to "keep it pinned" and Ryan loaded the gun, we contemplated this raccoon's current status. I released the stick a little, and the 'coon didn't move. I poked it. Still nothing. 
So yes, my husband called me in a hurry to grab the gun to kill a raccoon that had already had a heart attack or suffocated by the door of the trap or something. He shot it for good measure anyway. 
If 'coons weren't such destructive rascals, I'd feel bad about this. But since moving to the country I've realized the little devils are a menace. 
Ryan and I joked that this was not something we could blog about, but I decided to do it anyway. After all, this falls into the category of things I just never really considered before moving out into the middle of nowhere!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Farmsitting, Wiring, and Reupholstery Work

It's been a busy week on the farm! Ryan went on a boy's weekend starting Thursday, so I've been tending the farm for 3.5 days. I know that man is overworked and underpaid, but I'll say it again! I am going to give that man a new job title: Bucket Manager. I learned that the state of our 5 gallon buckets around here are dismal. Half of them can only be used for feed and not water because they have holes in them, and most of the rest are missing their plastic covers for the handles. There are 2 decent buckets on the farm and the rest of the time I spent trying to figure out what to carry in what bucket! It's nuts! So I went to Theisen's tonight and splurged on two new buckets for $6. I meant to take pictures of the various sad and sorry buckets around the farm, but I'm afraid I failed at that so you'll have to take my word for it. 

On Monday Ryan had a bit of a run-in with our ram, Hades. Apparently Hades decided he didn't want Ryan around, even though he's usually even tempered and not a problem. I guess Ryan looked askance at one of his ladies, and that was that. Ryan limped for a couple of days, but was otherwise unharmed. Our video baby monitor that was in Ryan's pocket however, now looks like this:
We miss it! 

My stepdad has recently been a huge blessing with our new building. It's now almost completely wired (except into the breaker panel), and he has been down here 4 days in the last week and a half working on it!
Here he is putting on the exterior lights. 
Here's Ryan fiddling with something, I'm afraid it's pretty cluttered in the building right now with all the tools scattered about. 
So now the building has all 4 walls, roof, doors, windows, etc! The soffits are still open and so Ryan is going to shove some foam board up there before we have a local company come cover the inside with spray foam. It's going to be awesome!!
I actually helped quite a bit with the wiring (the lack of heavy lifting makes it something I can do) and had more fun than I expected. Wiring a building was surprisingly similar to wiring a machine at work!

Lastly, every time Ryan leaves for a guy's weekend, I try to tackle something on the home to do list so he feels like he comes home to a house that's better than when he left and so he feels like he can leave when he needs to. So here's this weekend's project! 
Ryan has a favorite chair. This monstrosity was actually in the house when we bought it, and he loves it. I failed to take a good "before" picture, so here it is after I took the arms and back off.
People would come over to the house and we would run out of seating around our kitchen island, so I would have to have people sit in this chair. It was embarrassing!
You can see the faded fabric in this one. It's, um, dated. 

So here it is after I reupholstered it!
I didn't do much to it, but I just recovered it so that it's clean and fabric actually covers all of the foam. I know, big deal. But I know that he is going to love it! Not to mention, I won't be embarrassed to offer it to guests anymore. At least until he and the cats wear this one out. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Turkey Noises and Barn Quilt Progress

Turkeys really are interesting creatures. They're fun to watch, kind of like watching an aquarium. But one of the things that always struck me about turkeys is that they make a lot of noises, very few of which even remotely resemble "gobble." 
When they are really little, they predictably say, "peep peep peep peep!" Seemingly, always 4 in a row on the same note. Ryan and I now use this noise to indicate distress as one of our inside jokes; there was an occasion in Ikea where Ryan used that noise to mean "oh no, now what?!" and the rest is history.
But when they get older, the first adult noise they make is a bark. Then they make this contented little trill noise when they are content. In this video you can hear both of those noises.
They really only make a gobbling noise when they are in full adulthood, and even then it's rare. 
I took this video today, so you can see that the turkeys are growing well! It's been a very nice, mild fall and that has helped us. We process the first batch of these in a week or so! I think we're ready to be done with this season, Ryan especially needs a break from constant running around.
On the quilting front I have things in progress, as usual, but the barn quilt has looked like this for about the last two weeks:
 The yellow part is all painted, and the beginning of the pink is masked off, but that's it. It's not really an "I'm too busy" situation, more of a mood thing where I just haven't felt like finishing it. It's amazing how much dust comes down from our gravel road, it is well documented on the perfectly white paint. As a reminder, some day this thing will look like this:

Although the green is a little darker because it's what is left over from painting our sign.

And as is my recent habit, I end with a Little One picture (or two) of the day. Here she helps Daddy pick up fiberglass posts. The dog in the foreground is my mother's, we were watching it for a couple of weeks while she was traveling.
Our farm absolutely runs on these posts. Along with a little electric polyline, these things carry current all over the farm as well as hold the single wire to keep the cattle in (most of the time). Until they get too hungry and "storm the gate." 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cast of Characters: Nermal

Nermal is our farm kitty. He was raised on the farm where we buy our feed and he charmed his way onto our farm. In some ways, he's a totally normal cat.

He's a little destructive. Here he got ahold of an egg carton.
Suffice to say, there wasn't much of that egg carton left. 

He's also a bit of a climber.
Here he is on the top of the bathroom door.

Then, of course, he likes to be in the middle of any quilt in progress. Quilts I'm working on are there expressly for his pleasure.

Even barn quilts in progress apparently count, as evidenced by his actions yesterday.
As of tonight, I now have the yellow painted on it, but as soon as it was marked up Nermal climbed aboard.

Somehow, he just knows.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Date Night & Diaper Bag

A couple of weeks ago Ryan and I had date night. I was thinking, "Ah, we could go do something together. Relax. Get away from farm work for a couple of hours."
So what did we do for date night?
We picked up a hay trailer. From an hour's drive from home. And we had a babysitter for about 3 hours.
Sigh. Do you see the red thing in the foreground here? That's it. It really is pretty nice and well built, but we'll just chalk this up to things I never expected to do on date night before being a farmer's wife. 
On a related note, this picture is a little out of date and at this point we actually have steel on the roof of the building! You can stand in the building, in the rain, and not get wet. It's exciting.

Tonight I finished a new diaper bag for my daughter! I loved my old one, and I'm forever grateful a friend of mine made it for me, but I decided it was too small and was getting a bit beat up. So I got the pattern "Case Closed" from Stitchin' Sisters, and this is my result!
It might be too large, but I like it. After I packed it with what was in the other diaper bag, it didn't seem too big anymore... I modified the pattern heavily. The three pockets on the front exactly hold the pyrex 1 cup containers I use to transport her homemade baby food, which is a very custom need for us.
I tried not to go overly baby-like and not too floral, but Ryan may still feel it's a little feminine. Ah well, if he doesn't like it, he can make one!
I like the end result for a diaper bag, but I'm not sure how much I'd recommend the pattern. It needed a lot more diagrams, and the ones it had weren't very clear. I've definitely worked with better patterns, although this was my first bag I've ever made that had real structure and a zipper, etc. 

What do you think of it? Too feminine for any future boy babies, or OK?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Calves and Hot & Cold spots

It's calving season here, and as of writing this I think we're up to three.
I say I think because calves are kinda little. They're shorter than the grass the cows are currently grazing, and they have a tendency to wander off. Can you tell there's actually two in this picture?
I think.

The other night Ryan and I were walking the field right after dusk and it was perfect weather to find the warm spots and cool spots on the farm. 
This is one of those things I never knew was real until I owned 40 acres. There are noticeable warm and cool spots in the landscape! And I mean they're about 100 ft in diameter and are probably 5 degrees cooler or warmer than the ambient temp. 
It's really pretty cool. I kept getting all excited when we hit a warm or cool patch and I'm pretty sure Ryan thought I was nuts.

As usual, I'll finish up with the little one picture of the day. Ryan always wanted to throw dry ice in a bucket of water because he heard it was cool. We had some left over from our locker date, so we did.
Our little lady grabbed a stick and spontaneously started stirring. All I could think was "double double toil & trouble." Halloween costume idea perhaps?