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!