Where We Round Out Our Herd
Time and experience are great teachers. I've been fiber farming for almost three years now, and the scope of the business plan has continued to stretch and evolve and shape-shift as the seasons have passed. And when you start raising animals, the amount you have to learn - sometimes the hard way - boggles the mind. But you take it one day at a time and by Grace, continue to learn and make decisions.
Ok, so where am I going with this? Well, my spinning pals have been great sounding boards as I become enamored with all kinds of animals and potential farming avenues. They all have opinions and are happy to express them. I say that with gratitude, because they have given me lots of wise counsel. My husband, too, has kept me from making lots of impetuous mistakes. For instance, no one whose opinion I trust will allow me to get goats. A part of me really wants either angoras or milk goats. But the consensus has been a deafening, "NO." Fine. I'm sure you're all right.
The farm plan that continues to sharpen in focus is two-fold: Fiber and Eggs. That's it. And that's plenty. The chickens, for instance, are totally paying their own way, plus some.
We have three more Gulf Coast Native wethers who will join the farm in May when they are weaned. They have great fiber and are ideally suited to this climate. Good decision. We have five alpacas (ok, one is half llama) who provide very nice fiber in lovely natural colors. Good decision. I have a Babydoll ram, a Barbado ewe, and two hay-burning donkeys. Questionable decisions. The donkeys haven't actually shown themselves to be great guardian animals which was why we got them in the first place. They are the hardest critters on the pasture, and they are also the most expensive to keep because of the farrier and vet visits. It will rip my heart out to sell them, but I may be at that point. And Zacchaeus - he's such a doll, but the time and money necessary to start a breeding flock would distract from the main missions: Fiber and Eggs. And little Lucy the Barbado - well, she's really just a lawn mower here, and that job is pretty well covered by everyone else. She probably needs a new home as well.
These are really tough decisions, but I have to have ninja intensity as I build our Fiber Farm. Which brings me to my Big Announcement:
Jacob's Reward (The Hands-On Fiber Farm) will be welcoming four young alpacas in June. These are the boys currently owned by Ann Mayes in Auxvasse, MO. Two will be boarders, owned by Mary Berry of Fancy Fibers, and the other two will be ours. This will do two things. The boarding income will help offset some of our expenses, and the white(ish) suri fiber will be a great supplement to our yearly Fiber Harvest.
I need to accomplish several big projects before the new alpacas and the Gulf Coast Natives come - the north pasture needs to be fenced, and I need to get the property across the creek into hay production. The fencing isn't rocket science, but the hay may take some creativity. More stretching and evolving. Is this a great gig or what? Whew.
So what do you think of our plan?
Coming up this week: Friday is my visit with second graders (not fourth graders - I misspoke in an earlier post) where I will demonstrate spinning and fiber farming at a local elementary school, and then Sunday is the big alpaca shearing day. Gorgeous fiber, here we come.
Now, shifting the subject for a moment: I just want to take a minute to thank all our shareholders - the folks near and far who have supported us and become family to the farm. We are building real community as we work and play together, and it is such a joy. If you've thought about being a part of our "fiber fellowship," give our website a look and jump in with a CSA share. You won't regret it! The fiber harvest just keeps getting better, and the fun we have working the farm together is beyond price.
I've featured here some of the great photos taken by Shareholder Chris at Saturday's Herd Health Day. Ain't we got fun? Thank you so much, Chris, for the great shots!