This was one of my favorite Februarys for so, so many reasons. The weather dried up. Yeah! Even better our fields dried up which allowed us to return to fencing! Whoo-hoo! (You can imagine that my excitement was not met with any great love from my family. But, that’s okay. I had enough excitement for all 5 of us! Haha!!) We managed to get the fencing all the way along the creeks and over behind the chicken coops. It’s almost done, baby! We lack a few hundred feet and we will have almost 35 acres completely fenced into 4 pastures. I can’t even believe it! We are getting cattle. And soon!!!
Aside from all the fencing we tried to squeeze in, we were also able to complete multiple online training events and even attend a few conferences. We even had a date night! Yeah, baby. Jim and I had an actual date night that involved a dinner out and a movie. Well, sort of. We actually rented a movie and went home because we are old and tired. Okay, maybe not that old, but when the opportunity arises for us to catch up on some alone time and some extra sleep. We definitely don’t turn it down. So, maybe not older just wiser? Yeah, I’m going to go with that one since it sounds better.
I think I skipped the part where we applied and were awarded a Food Business Scholarship through the NC Rural Center to attend training classes and seminars. Did I already mention that? I don’t think so. The scholarship is awarded individually so after I applied, Jim applied also. It was great to get the scholarship and have extra money to attend so many great events this year! The NC Rural Center even put us in touch with several other agencies to help our farm.
We started with the Small Business Center at ICC and met a lovely lady who quickly decided she wanted to be an egg customer. For years, we have given eggs away to friends and family. Let’s face it. When the hens are happily laying in the spring, we are quickly overrun with eggs. Well, this sweet lady would not hear of us giving her our extra eggs and proceeded to place a standing egg order for herself, her son and her secretary. The kids were so happy to be selling eggs and making a little money. So, the deal is that if they take care of the chickens and buy the food, they can keep all the egg money and split it. They think they won the lottery! It’s so cute.
While ordering eggs from us each week the kind lady at the small business center also walked us through tax advice and even how to register our farm as a business at the Registrar of Deeds. That seemed a little premature but it was fun to do! And of course, while we were in there, Jim met some people he knew and even picked up a job while we were there. That’s always a good thing.
From there we were put in touch with the Cooperative Extension Agent of Rutherford county who helped us with soil samples and possible pasture grass combinations. He then referred us to the FSA, the USDA, and the NCRS who completely rocked our world by helping us apply for a lot of grant money to put in wells, build ponds, and finish the interior fencing among other things. I thought I was just going to go in and talk to them about complimentary grasses and left with about 450 pages of information on every program under the sun. I will admit that I’m more than a little intimidated by all of the things they are talking about, but we will take it one day at a time I suppose.
While there, we met with a very nice Mr. Moore who is going to help us develop a grazing plan to keep our pastures and cows healthy. He has some really great ideas, even if he doesn’t like our fencing. Ha! He prefers only 2 strands of temporary electric fencing. Needless to say that he does not have cows like Minnie who are extremely talented escape artists. Minnie would crawl over, under or through 2 strands of electric fencing and laugh at me while doing it. (She has done this before while I was standing there yelling at her and she was completely ignoring me.) So, while I very much respect Mr. Moore’s advice on fencing we will continue to put up a little more substantial fence than he recommends.
By February I had finished the BQA classes, the Beef Basics class through Auburn University and the Beef University class. I had also signed up for multiple Sustainable Agriculture classes and organic farming classes. I even found some bee keeping classes online but at this point they may have to wait until I have a little more free time. Whew! I don’t seem to have much spare time lately to achieve all that I want to. Any one else have that problem? Oh, good. I’m not alone in that category.
The first conference that Jim and I attended together was the Business of Farming conference in Asheville through the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program. Now that’s a mouth full. Thank goodness they go by ASAP instead. Their name may be long but they put on excellent, informative classes in a very welcoming and down to earth atmosphere.
I learned so much. Jim even enjoyed most of the classes. Yes, I said most of the classes. The second class was a little boring and Jim was done with it after about 10 minutes. He kept yawning. Very loudly yawning!! However, he wasn’t the only one. I saw one guy actually take a nap! No kidding! Other than that somewhat boring class, it was really a great learning experience for both of us. And better yet-we got to do it together, which was awesome.
Valentine’s day was also in February. Well, our romantic Valentine’s involved taking the kids to play practice. Oh, yeah. That’s about as far from romance as you can get actually, but we were all together so I won’t complain. Once I show you the adorable pictures of beautiful Poppies, precious munchkins and fierce winged monkeys, you’ll understand why I didn’t mind spending my Valentine’s Day at play practice. I would gladly spend any day of the year with my loveable family though.
Well, the other big thing that happened in February was that the barn plans got changed. Again. Boy, it’s a good thing I’m working on being flexible, right? Yeah. Ask Jim about that sometime and watch him laugh himself silly.
Anyway, we moved the location of the barn to up by the road. We had originally hoped to build it where the Old Homestead used to be. I had this vision of building the barn around the old chimney for nostalgia really. It’s not like I would want to light a fire in a barn. That would not be very sensible, obviously. However, I loved the idea of saving the old chimney and having it look cool in the barn. Well….
The weather has provided us with so, so much rain in the last year that we are starting to see even more wet weather springs pop up out of the ground. We thought we knew where all 289-ish underground, wet weather springs were on our property. Nope. Two popped up not far from each other on either side of the Old Homestead. It was incredible really! However, it was not so incredible for the guy trying to take down the Old Homestead. He was wading in running water over his ankles for weeks. Not fun, I assure you. It would also not be so much fun to build a barn on that spot and have the barn flood in years when we get catastrophic rain like the last year or two. I know we might never get this much rain again and we might never see those wet weather springs again. But, I can promise you that if we build the barn in that spot, those springs will never dry up and I will have a river running through my barn because that’s just the way my luck goes. So rather than having a slip-in-slid or a playground for ducks in my barn, we sadly decided to move where the barn was going to be.
We thought long and hard about where to move the barn and decided on a spot at the beginning of the driveway. It is not the ideal location because it’s up by the road and AWAY from our house, which means AWAY from me! But it will work great with the cattle shutes and transporting animals out of the fields. It will also save our driveway some in time from wear and tear of vehicles. It will also allow us to share a well with Jim’s future shop and save us some money there. It was also a fairly level spot so it didn’t take as much grading work as another spot might have. Jim did a great job prepping the site for the barn and he even made enough room for his shop and for me to have my round pen next to the barn. That was an exciting surprise for me! My husband sure does know how to make me happy. 🙂
The old homestead is almost gone and now that our plans have changed some we can see that moving the barn site was a good decision. The amount of nails that are on the ground around the old house is staggering. The clean up is going to be a nightmare. We have toyed with the idea of concreting part of the site (the part that doesn’t have wet weather springs) and making it a camper spot. We could then build a raised deck around the fireplace and have a really cool hang-out for friends and family. Time will tell what we end up doing there. Our checkbook will likely have the last vote as it normally does though. Ha!
For now, here is the Old Homestead pictures. A before and after.
So, now that I have revealed all the demolition photos of the Old Homestead I must excuse myself while I find the Kleenex box…. Silly me. I can’t believe I still cry over theses pictures….