Chickens and Ducks
We had NO chicken or duck deaths this month that I'm aware of! Unfortunately, we've also had little or no eggs as well. Right now we're getting about one egg every other day. Most of the time, the eggs freeze and crack down the middle before I can get to them. That's okay by me- I just wash them like I normally would, with a final rinse after the shell is off.
One thing about frozen eggs: the yolk texture is kind of hard, like jello. If you are going to intentionally freeze eggs, make sure to whip the yolk and white together.
And the last good news? MY DUCKS HAVE FINALLY STARTED LAYING EGGS!! I bought those suckers from my brother in September, and I was beginning to give up on them. But just yesterday I found a nice white duck egg on the floor of the chicken coop. Yay for duck eggs.
Strawberries & Garden
Hubs and my brother-in-law put straw on the remaining uncovered strawberries this month (we put leaves on some of them last month). I'm interested in seeing how the leaves vs. straw experiment turns out.
Indoors, I replanted my three-year-old amaryllis bulbs, as well as some garlic bulbs that sprouted. I originally purchased just two discount amaryllis bulbs ($2.50 each after Christmas), but in the last two years they have grown five little additional bulbs. I put these in a third pot to grow. This is why I think plants are a great investment. You pay for them once, and they will produce for you year after year... AND multiply! I have seen this time and time again with all kinds of plants. When I was a teenager I started an orange tree from seed, and I still have it!! The thing is six feet tall now and over ten years old. While the tree unfortunately hasn't produced any oranges, it has provided me with green foliage to use for flower arrangements in the dead of winter, plus it's an interesting conversation starter. The orange tree isn't the only thing still around from my teens. I've also got roses, herbs, raspberry canes and ornamental grasses from those years as well, still making food and flowers for me. I wish more people could experience the abundance that comes from developing a green thumb (green thumbs are made, not born!).
So guess what... this is THE YEAR for honey bees. I have literally bugged Hubs for our entire marriage about getting bees, half joking but half serious. I contemplated getting them last year, but after finding out I was pregnant I decided to wait another year. 2018 will be a perfect year to start, because 1) I got rid of my goats, freeing up money and a lot of time in the spring/summer, 2) I have strawberries this year that will benefit from pollination and 3) I don't have morning sickness or worries about "hurting the baby". Not only that, but additional income from my produce stand should cover for the extra expense of bees.
That being said, I made my first bee purchase in December. It was a book about beekeeping. Even though I've read a fair amount about beekeeping and watched some Youtube videos, I think it will be helpful to have a refresher, especially before I purchase any equipment.
As with other years, we made some big changes in 2017. Namely, I had a baby and sold my goats. Below are some of the notable successes and failures.
Success #1: Ducks
My brother successfully incubated a LOT of my duck eggs this spring (this is important because our 2016 fall incubation was a complete bust). He made a decent amount of money on them by selling the best to his brothers as 4-H ducks (he also took some as his own 4-H ducks). Then the 4-H buyers returned the ducks to their original owners (most people don't know what to do with ducks, plus the processing facilities won't take them). After that, he bought the ducks back from my brothers for less than he sold them for. This was a great deal because everyone made money on the ducks. The only problem? My brother still had 15-20 duck flock left at the end of the summer that he was still feeding. He sold some to neighbors, sold two to me. I offered to buy all of his females, but apparently there were only two females in the whole lot. He ended up butchering the rest of the ducks himself.
Success #2: Strawberries
I think we can call this a success, anyway. After an initial spray of the field with Round-Up (I know, I hate it as much as you do, but it was the best option at the time), my hubby tilled up a big square of our "back 2" and I put in 300 strawberry plants. I was able to pay for the plants by picking strawberries for our neighbor, who sells them by the road and helped me get started. I had Hubs till between the rows every 2-3 weeks, after which I would go through with a hoe and/or 5 gallon bucket and get the rest of the weeds by hand. I also picked off all of the flowers this year, so more energy could go into the plants. I largely stopped weeding the patch after Baby Girl was born, although Hubs ran the tiller through one last time at the end of October
After hearing about how wonderful evening markets are, I signed up for one in June. You can read all about it (and watch a Youtube video!) here. To make a long story short, it was a complete bust and I actually lost money. That was the nail in the coffin of my farmers market career- mostly because I lost money but also because I was getting too pregnant to be hauling crates and setting up tents by myself. This year I have Baby Girl to tend to, so I'll not be doing any markets. Instead, I'll be focusing on our roadside produce stand.
Failure #2: Butchering Roosters
This wasn't exactly a failure- it's just something I've decided not to do anymore on a regular basis. I dread the task, plus some of our roosters last year hardly had any meat on them.
Profit & Loss
Book Royalties- $3.32
Shelled corn- $10.00
Layer mash- $22.00
Beekeeping book- $15.63
Total expenses: $47.63
Net profit: $(44.31)
Year-to-date net profit: $280.20
So, I declare this year's hobby farm a success! Of course, the ONLY reason I ended the year profitable was because I sold the goats. That's okay with me. I'll be harvesting the $280.20 from 2017 and start 2018 at $0.00.
Goals for 2018
1. Income: I hope to earn a small profit or at least break even in 2018. I'll probably be spending $500.00 or more in January on bees. Thankfully my massive strawberry patch was paid off last year, so most of the money I earn from that will be pure profit. I expect this income to pay for the bees and possibly another strawberry patch.
2. Chicken sustainability: I want the chickens to pay for their own keep. In 2017 it was difficult to estimate chicken feed costs because the shelled corn was being split between chickens and goats. According to my records, I spent $312.00 on feed and earned $188.00 in egg money. That means I only sold enough eggs to pay for 60% of their feed (though some of that feed did go to the goats).
3. Farmers market book: I don't know if this is a hobby farm goal or an author's goal, but I want to rewrite my farmers market book for a wider audience. Right now I'm only making about $3.00 per month on it. With updated content, a new cover and better marketing, I think I could triple or quadruple that number. Having $10.00 or $20.00 per month to add to hobby farm income would be wonderful.
Goals for January
This month I hope to (finally) finish building my chicken fodder system. The sooner I start saving money with this system, the better. I also want to finish reading my beekeeping book and find out where I should purchase supplies and bees. Lastly, I need to purchase seeds for the garden.
Til next time,