Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mennagerie Farm, In 2011

 Is it really 2011 already?!? Lackaday! ;) 

Overall, 2010 was a good year. Granted, it was a cool and wet summer, and my garden was a flop, but I sure learned a lot on how to get those veggies growin', even in unfavorable conditions. In 2010 we got another flock of chickens, got into dairy goats again, got our very first cow ever, and I learned how to "harvest" chickens. ;)

I am excited to see what 2011 holds for us this year, although I am already learning that it will be different that what I had hoped for back in autumn...

The Lord has shown me many things in the past few weeks.... What He wants for this farm, over what I want, when they might happen, over when I want them to happen. The farm will be put on a back burner this year. Instead of charging my way into the world of farming and selling our produce (be it chickens, milk or veggies), this year will be spent building flocks and herds, and experimenting with various things.

I had originally hoped to raise 100-200 meat chickens this year, but with feed costs at what they are, it's a little prohibitive. :-/ But instead of succumbing to failure before I've begun, I'm taking a detour in the chicken world. I have never liked using the Cornish Cross birds that are so popular today. Even when raised on pasture, they're kinda' tasteless. I would even venture to say bland. What I want, and maybe it's a pipe dream, is a bird that doesn't need the huge amount of grain that a Cornish X does; I want a bird that does well on mostly pasture, but still grows well. A Cornish X will reach harvesting age at about 7-9 weeks of age, Heritage breeds of chickens are considered ready at about 16 weeks; I'm going for a bird that will be ready at about 10-12 weeks. 

I'll be experimenting with different breeds this year, but my first crossing will be with a Standard Cornish hen, and a Buckeye rooster. The Standard Cornishes differ from the Cornish x's, as they grow veeeery slowly, will breed naturally, and live for a long time. Cornish crosses grow quickly, can't breed naturally and usually die of a heart attack before 1 year of age. 
I may try introducing other gene pools from various breeds, but I'm hoping to keep my "mutant" (Sorry, couldn't resist that term!) pretty simple, so other people can do it too. 

In the rabbit world, I will be working on enlarging my herd to about 10 does (right now I have two). The challenging part will be getting pedigreed stock. My two girls that I have now aren't pedigreed and while they are lovely does, I can't sell breeding stock to anyone unless I have papers that show that they are purebred. 

And then there's my goats.... :) I am hoping very, very much that Capri and Ivy will have at least one doeling each, so that I could keep them for future milkers. Heidi is rapidly rounding out and looking quite pregnant, and as much as I dislike February kiddings (due to temperatures), I am excited to have goat babies so soon. :D

Poppy will be bred this year, probably in October or November. Right now I'm leaning towards breeding her with a miniature Shorthorn bull; that way, the calf will be a little smaller for her, and if it's a heifer calf, she will be a good family milker, or if it's a bull calf, he'll be good for beef. Either way we would win. 

The garden is my main focus this year. I so badly want to have a better garden than last year! All my plants will be heirlooms, and I'm going to save as many seeds as possible. The Lord showed me an idea a few weeks ago, and I really like it, but I'm not sure when said idea will go into action. Basically I'm working towards starting a "seed library". Like a regular library, anyone can freely take the amount of seeds they need, but they will have to return the amount of seeds they "borrowed" with fresh seeds by the end of the growing season. For those who have never saved seed before, this may sound intimidating; but let me tell ya', saving seeds is dangerously addicting. ;) It is so fun and easy! Some may say that they don't want to have to give up a portion of their harvest for seeds (sounds kinda' like taxes after all!), well I have good news! Let's say you planted 25 tomato plants (yes I know, that's a lot, but let's be generous), guess what!? You would only need one (maaaybe two) ripe tomato in order to get the needed amount of seeds to return! 

Again, I don't know when I will get to call my library doors open, as I'm trying to get a good stash going first, but I'll keep y'all updated! I'm curious about what seeds people might be interested in. I would love to hear your thoughts/advice on this hair brained scheme of mine. ;) 

So, what are my overall goals for 2011? To follow the Lord's leading. I can't really say what my "goals" are, because they would be "my" goals. What "I" want to do. I'm learning that when "I" try and do things, they usually don't work out. So this year I'm going to just try and make this farm go where the Lord wants it to go....

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