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{a warm thank you}

01.30.13

Jane Johnson PhotographyI cannot say enough about how much all of your kind words & comments meant to me after my post earlier this week.  Beating around the bush wasn’t working for me any more; I needed to be honest.  I took a risk and so many of you welcomed me with open arms and spurred me on to keep sharing the real life of a city girl turned farmer.

Thank you.  All of you.  Truly.

My love languages are words of affirmation & gifts.  Y’all did both :)  I love the community that has formed here.  Here’s to the community’s health!

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{scenes around the farm}

01.29.13

Afton Field Farm

Here are some images {some newer than others} from around the farm that make me smile.  Happy Tuesday!

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

{gravel in the potholes}

01.28.13

Afton Field Farm

If you’ve been to the farm in the past 2 to 36 months, you’ve probably noticed the potholes running up our romantic gravel lane.  Some of you {probably our CSA members or those few faithful winter customers} have possibly even lost a tire a two, or at least had your fillings knocked around in your mouth as you bucked up the driveway and where tossed & thrown about as though you were riding an enraged bull.

Afton Field Farm

Well, as much fun as you’ve had riding a bucking bronco, you’re cowboy {or girl} glory days are now behind you.  And so are those potholes! And the mud!  And the slop that have plagued our enchanting farm entrance for far too long.

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm{the pre-gravel driveway.  the potholes in this one area have been filled in}

Afton Field Farm

Of course, Mr. Tobias was there to instruct and supervise.Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

{one load of gravel}Afton Field Farm

There are some people that completely shock you with a gift.  Well, that is what happened with this gravel.  A dear friend gave us the money to gravel our driveway, and whatever else we needed graveled.  This literally made me weep tears of joy.  It’s hard to justify the money for gravel when your animals are higher up on the “to spend money on” list.  But the lane needed gravel desperately, and giving such an obstacle course of challenge to the only entry to our farm, was no way to treat our guests or customers.Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

We are very thankful.

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

The boys did what they could this weekend and they’ll do more as this week unfolds.

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field Farm

We are all giddy with joy and looking forward to a smoother ride to and from the farm.Afton Field Farm

{quotable sunday}

01.27.13

Afton Field Farm

nights and days came and passed
and summer and winter
and the sun and the wind
and the rain.
and it was good to be a little island
a part of the world
and a world of its own
all surrounded by the bright blue sea.

Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Island

{The photo above is of our field the other night.  This is the image straight out of my camera, I didn’t edit it at all. This makes me happy.  I love my camera!}

{the grass is seemingly greener}

01.26.13

Afton Field Farm

Let’s be honest.  I’ve been struggling a little bit; and I’m assuming that you faithful readers have picked up on that the past 3, 6, 9 months.  This blog is a place that is an outlet for me- both creatively and mentally.  It is a place where I share about my experiences in this farm life.

Just as with the delicate balance between mixing the ingredients of dough just enough to blend them but not too much as to have a tough, flat end product; I have had trouble with balancing how much of the farm reality I share here.

winter sheep 2

I have chewed on these thoughts and contemplated what exactly to share or not share.  I am not a fake person.  I don’t hide my feelings very well {whether excessively happy or weighed down by burdens}  and I have found it incredibly challenging to know how real is too real here.

Then I realized one day, I have been overworking the dough.  I have vaguely eluded to the fact that I am having a hard time right now, but I haven’t just come out and said it.  I just keep working the ingredients, mentioning certain areas that have been overwhelming to me or explaining a certain encouraging moment I’ve recently had {which underneath says, ‘I’m going through a rough time right now, so that’s why this little encouragement was so huge to me’}

Afton Field Farm

So the end product I am trying to make {aka: the content I am producing on this blog} is turning out to be tough and hard, like a hockey puck.  Completely unappetizing and if you do choke it down, you are left feeling unsatiated and still hungry, wanting more.

This is a place for me to share the real farm life and how I am experiencing it.  I first have to be real with myself and my feelings before I start sharing here.  I’ve got to identify if I am making biscuits, pancakes, bread, or pizza dough.  If I’m just assuming what you want to eat, instead of figuring out what I’m fixing, it’s going to be unappetizing and frustrating to all people at the table.

 

winter sheep 1

Ok, so maybe I’m going too far with the analogy; and maybe I’m not making any sense at all {I’m long winded and my grammar may make it challenging to understand me :) }

Here is the point: I love farming. And I am really really really struggling with the farm business.  The details, the financial stress, the management, the cleaning, the organizing, the necessities, the marketing, the constant never ending demands & requirements of making a small business survive and thrive in the 21st century.  It’s all incredibly overwhelming and daunting and tiring to me.  It makes me emotional.  It makes me feel crazy.  It makes me look at others lives {via the “evil” social media scenes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Blogs} and long to be living differently and to be inherently different than I am.  It makes it hard for me to see the positive & beautiful things around me; even in the midst of the reality.

Afton Field Farm

And one day, recently, I realized that I have some choice in the matter.  I don’t have choice in a lot of my life, but I do have choice about my attitude and outlook.  I haven’t wanted to take pictures other than with my phone.  I was allowing the details of picture taking {the time to get my nice camera, go take the pictures, edit & organize the bagillion photos, post the photos, and to positively share about the photos and our life on the farm} to weigh me down and to just not take them.  Taking photos is something that soothes my soul like nothing else {except for dance, I love to dance} so it was sad that I wasn’t allowing myself to nourish my soul in that way.

I say that on this blog I am sharing “the good, the bad, and the cow-pies of this journey in the farm life”.  Well people, right now there are a lot of cow-pies.  And if my worst nightmares come true- I make people mad, people are bored, I lose followers, people say not-the-nicest comments {which hasn’t happened} or whatever else, all because I share more often than not how I’m really feeling, or because I’m not sharing “good enough farm material”, then that is totally fine.

I promise not to always have a mushy sob-story and I also promise to not make it seem like everything is super awesome for Afton Field Farm all the time.  I do promise to be real.  And right now the real is that we have a lot of land {that we don’t own fully yet} we have {farm related} financial struggle, we have huge demand for our products, time, and lives, all of which we don’t have enough of.  We are weighed down, but we are not defeated.  We are weary, but we will regain our strength.  We are overwhelmed, but we will not let that steal our youth.

You may look at our life through the lens of my camera and the words I write, and think, “Wow, they have got THE life!” Trust me, the grass is always seemingly greener and more appetizing and better and all that you don’t have, when looking at someone else’s pasture.   I’m on a journey of choosing to see that my pasture is wonderful and of worth- no matter the state of it.  May this encourage you to choose to open your eyes to the beauty in your own.

{layer lodging}

01.25.13

Afton Field Farm{Bubba & Gwedo, our guard geese}

When you look out over our pasture, you might think that you are looking at a scene from the Oregon Trail.  You see ‘covered wagons’ {aka: hoop houses} slowly moving their way around the field.  We’ve got them all over the place.  Most of the hoop houses we have are to house our various groups of layer chickens.  Some are used for wintering pigs.

The main ladies of the pasture now have another option to chose from when booking a night’s stay here at Afton Field Farm.  We recently purchased a whole bunch of poultry related items from a fellow farmer friend who was getting out of the poultry business.  With the purchase, came an egg mobile.  There are two main housing options for layers on our farm- 1) an egg mobile or 2) a hoop house.

Afton Field Farm

We have primarily used hoop houses to rotate our layer chickens around the field.  As you can see from the picture above, the ‘covered wagon’ has the nest boxes hanging in the middle where the girls access them from both sides.  The feeders and waterer are on the ground, and rotate with the flock.  We hadn’t added roosts to any of our hoop houses yet because we wanted to try something different with the hoop houses.

This type of layer chicken operation, allows the chickens to move slowly around the field.  They do not specifically follow any group of animals, they just move around the field getting the most they can from the pasture, and primarily focusing on egg production for us.  You cannot close the layers into the hoop house to then move the shelter quickly or far distances.  Like the sheep or cattle, these layers move one paddock at a time {every 3-7 days, depending on the season and pasture in that area}

As many of you are aware, Mr. Farmer Jones {my hubby} apprenticed under Joel Salatin for a year at Polyface Farm in Virginia ten years ago.   Joel comes and visits us every few years and Tyler and he keep in touch a couple times a year.

Afton Field Farm

Afton Field FarmWhen Joel told us about his Millennium Fowlkin that he had created for his layers, we decided we wanted to see if we could alter it slightly and use one of our hoop houses and an extra trailer chassis we had.

hoop house 2.0

Polyface’s Millennium Fowlkin runs on wooden/metal skids that allow the structure to easily follow behind the cattle as each animal group moves around the pasture.  We had this trailer that we were going to make into a “standard” egg mobile.  Then Mr. Farmer Jones’ wheels got a turnin’ and he decided to combine all of the layer operation options and create something unique.

I took the pictures of this egg mobile {which I will call here, Hoop House 2.0} as we were taking it out to the pasture for the first time this summer.  Once it was in the field, the nest boxes were hung down the middle, like the other hoop house.  The whole setup is awesome and working marvelously.  The only alteration we will make sometime this summer, is the addition of wider human-walking paths.  Right now you have to balance on the metal pipes.  And when you have mud or chicken poo on the souls of your rubber boots, the task of opening nest boxes or collecting eggs suddenly gets a lot more exciting.

layers

Below are the pictures of our brand new {to us} egg mobile!  This is the “standard” and original layer housing of Polyface Farm.  This is also made atop of a trailer like the Hoop House 2.0 so that it can move quickly behind the cattle herd as well as easily move long distances {also like the Hoop House 2.0}.  At night, you close the layers inside of the egg mobile and then you move their home wherever you need it to be that day.  Then you open the door and the ladies walk about, enjoying the pasture.  Both this egg mobile and the Hoop House 2.0 have roosts inside where the chickens sleep at night.  Depending on how many chickens can fit on the roosts, is how it is determined how many layers can healthfully be in one layer lodging model.

In this model, the nest boxes are constructed {verses the pre-made metal ones} and they are on the outside of the mobile.  There are little doors where the girls walk in, lay their egg, and leave.  There are lids on top of the nest boxes that we open from the outside and collect eggs or add new straw. Layers like to lay their eggs in dark places, but don’t like to be in dark places throughout the day.  This means less time fighting with chickens when trying to collect eggs, as well as fewer dirty or broken eggs {hopefully}

egg mobile

egg mobile 2

Afton Field Farm The purchase also came with some breed stock layer chickens.  They are Partridge Chanteclers.  They are beautiful! We are thrilled to be breeding some of our own layers this year!  I’ll keep you informed as that process unfolds ;)

In the mean time, hope you learned a little something about layer chickens and all the thought & design that goes into your pasture raised eggs.

01.22.13

20130122-085326.jpg
It’s been foggy and frosty and oh so cold around here for quite awhile. It’s hard not to have it effect your mood. When looking at the weather around the State, we saw that the coast was sunny and much warmer than the valley. So we packed up our car and headed to the coast yesterday. We sat out on a blanket and let the sun seep into bones and souls. There was no coastal wind and as we sat out on our blanket in our lightweight clothing, we were so thankful for this little escape from the daily grind of the farm and the tireless fog.

May your Tuesday be filled with some warmth and encouragement.