Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wiped out 3 times in 3 years!!! A bit much don't you think?

On the 10th of July, which happened to be my 31st birthday, we suffered a serious setback to our plans for the farm and nursery. Our beautiful greenhouse was flattened by a microburst/possible small tornado with winds which bent steel in half and tore the building to shreds, picked it up and slammed it into the ground again. It was devestating, but there was also a miracle among the ruins-as there so often is when Heaven is in charge- more than 2000 berry bushes which I had spent all of the Spring and early Summer transplanting, were fine after I re-potted half of them.

So, I have $10,000 worth of nursery plants and pots sitting pretty on my south lawn, and a poor broken child's toy of a 40 foot greenhouse which I must rebuild.

Good thing my husband is a brilliant inventor! He has designed Oklahoma's first UNDERGROUND greenhouse...yes, that's right -hobbit style!!! It will be easier to heat and easier to cool and we will keep the plants aerated with two giant fans on either side. The greenhouse will be 40ft X 40ft and it's walls will be made out of concrete with steel trusses to hold up the greenhouse plastic. Only the top half will be above ground, so baring a direct hit by an Ef3 tornado we will not suffer the same loss again.

Now, to start saving our pennies so we can begin building it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Is it Naptime yet? Please!

 Our Springtime goals for the farm:
1) Plant 4 acres to blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, marionberries, blackberries, and boysenberries, for a pick -your own operation.
2) Design and build a 40 ft X 28 ft greenhouse & open a nursery for business by May 11th.
3) Transplant 1000 strawberries and 1600 blackberries, raspberries, marionberries, and blueberries into pots for sale in the greenhouse.
4) Keep 54 goats and sheep alive, and sell most of the goats before there is no orchard left for them to destroy!
5) Hmmm...let me think, nope! That's it. Not much to do this year, I think I am going to be bored!

Accomplished as of 07/05/2013

1) Planted 5 two hundred foot rows of Blueberries, Marionberries, and Blackberries, and five rows of Strawberries, laid about a mile of drip line. Am now attempting to plant 7 more rows of blackberries and raspberries in 100 degree heat. Needless to say, we get up before dawn around here!

2) Jay designed and with the help of a friend we built our greenhouse and framed it out with lumber and tree posts we cut from out own forest! It is gorgeous and so far has whithstood 90 mph winds easily! Missed the deadline of May 11th by a month and two weeks.
3) Transplanted 1000 strawberries and watched all but 25 die from a fungus which I could not control being an Organic growing farm. I am still transplanting the 1600 other berries which have been residing on my front porch while I waited for our greenhouse to be finished. They are doing great and are super healthy!
4) Sheep, goats (and my husband and me) surrvived the Spring wih our sanities intact. Happily have sold most of the goats and will be only keeping 7 which are black and white dapples. Love our new two Bucks, Neelix, and Eustace. Sheep are doing great and are due to lamb next month, as is the pig.
The Horse is also pregnant, and will foal next Spring!

Other news:
The Greenhouse is now open and we have thousands of potted berry bushes for sale. Come and see!

One of our friends asked Jay to fix his tractor and then once it was fixed offered to let us have it on loan for a full year, along with all the implements. It is making our lives sooooo much easier!!!

We are planning a new flower cutting operation! This Fall into next Spring we will plant 100 peonies, sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, roses, celosia, dianthus, and many many other perrenials and annuals for people to come and pick for their special moments and occasions! We are so excited about this new phase of our farm and will be thrilled to be able to share it with you all come next Spring!

That is all for now!
-Jenny Bingham

Friday, February 8, 2013

Goats are the bane of my existence!

Goats really are the bane of my existence! I like sheep; they are so bidable, so gentle, so willing to please. There is a reason that in the Bible the Lord depicts the goats as being on the left hand of God, and sheep on the right.

The reason goats are the bane of my existence?

-They are brilliant, yet stupid...dumb is when you do something idiotic and don't know any better, stupid  is when you do know you're being an idiot but do it anyway...make sense? It will.

-They are NEVER content with what they have; they are always looking for -and finding ways to circumvent the fence and escape to greener my orchard,...or garden...or the neighbors hay meadow.

-Out of sight, out of mind; In the warmer seasons when they give birth out in the field we are constantly having to hike across the 60 acres to find their babies because their Mamas wander off, forget to feed their hungry offspring, and eventually forget they ever had kids...until they get back to the barn and start lowing their heads off for their babies...who are 60 acres away, about to become coyote food unless I take a flashlight and start beating the brush for them, usually in a thunderstorm.

-Goats will always pick the most bitterly cold night of winter to have their babies, who of course become hypothermic -so we blow dry them out in the barn and rub them all over with hay for three hours, then have to sit on Mama so she will nurse them.  She, of course conveniently forgot she ever had them! While one of us sits on Mama (Jay) the other (me) teaches the babies how to walk so they can get some comforting -and essential- sips of milk from Mama. If she still rejects them, we take them into the house and they become bottle-babies. We feed them every four hours from their spot in front of the toasty fireplace for several is exhausting, but worth it if they survive...there really is nothing sweeter than a kid goat who loves you and thinks you are Mama.

-Goats are not hardy! They are pansies who up and die on you if you breathe on them can do everything right, and spend hours and days, and many a sleepless night fighting to save their lives, but 9/10 times there is nothing that can bring them back, and so you have to say goodbye...and it never get's easier to do because goats are very good at taking a large chunk of your heart and occupying it...much like a puppy who is exasperating but also so very lovable and fun.

- A goat's only redeeming quality is that most of the time they are affectionate...the way they show great affection is by jumping on your back if you have the misfortune to be crouching down...when small, this is cute, when it is a 250 lb doe...that's different, and you will be walking a bit crouched over for a few days.

Yesterday reminded me why I am trying to persuade FSA to lift the restriction on our operating loan which requires the same number of animals on hand for collateral as we originally started with. I would like to sell most of the goats and focus on raising only spotted colored Boers and St. Croix sheep. Not an option at the moment, and last night reminded why that is a problem. Yesterday it rained, and thundered, and blew...and in general was cold and miserable...goats being goats they chose the height of the tempest to escape the fence and head straight for my orchard. I was lazing on the couch in front of my toasty fire after cleaning the house all day, and was enjoying a book. Until I heard a baby crying outside the door...and there they were...all 30 of them, in my orchard...again. I ran out into the rain and with lightning arcing across the sky started herding those idiots out of my orchard...this took a while, until I picked up a long broken off length of hose and started swinging it. To my credit I didn't hit any of them, not even when they refused to go back through the gate into their a warm dry barn...idiots!....and instead led me on a merry chase back and forth across the four acres around the house. Round and round and round we went, I am sure that my guardian angels were highly entertained as they watched me stagger through the mud after those goats yipping like a dog to get them to move, and shouting Hiya every few was sooooo much fun, let me tell you. After 20 minutes of this they eventually gave up on their game and filed neatly...with me swinging  a hose at their the gate.

Another chapter in a daily saga.
Time to check on them again.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What a Year!

It has been almost a year since I last posted. What a year it has been!

       As you might remember Jay and I decided last Spring to not put all our eggs in one basket with our livestock we bought 4,800 berry bushes, cleared off 4 acres, and planted them by took thousands of hours, especially since we decided to put in a 214 fruit tree orchard at the same time. We expended blood, sweat, and tears to do it, but everything was planted and shipshape by May 2012. We forgot three things in our zeal to build a Berry and Fruit Orchard U-pick operation; We forgot that a field of Bermuda grass hastily tilled under and planted to strawberries, blueberries, raspberrries, and blackberries...will revert right back to bermuda...and no matter how you attack it with that hoe, you will be lucky if you can see your plants within two months. The second thing we forgot? We forgot just how brutal the weather can be in Oklahoma. Last year was our third consecutive year of drought, and it was the second consecutive hottest Summer on record with temperatures hitting a blistering 118 F on the farm, and the temp for more than three weeks was around or over 110 F! And then there was the weeks of strong, hot winds which roared and dried up every plant to a husk. We had drip line set up, but our two water wells were too shallow and could only provide 15 minutes of water each day. Needless to say, with temps so hot and the winds as just evaporated before it could get to the plant. The third thing we didn't take into account when we planted? I was scheduled for a colon resection surgery in July, and expected to be all healed up and on my feet, ready to work within three weeks of the surgery....that did not happen. My auto-immune disease Behcet's Syndrome took great exception to the surgery and as a result I spent 9 days in intensive care, and another 16 days in a regular hospital ward. And this would become the pattern as I battled infection and infection. In total I spent more than 70 days in the hospital over the period of five months (7 hospital stays). When I came home from the hospital after the surgery I found that row after row of my beautiful plants and trees were dead, thousands of them...I laid on the ground and wept, mourning for a future and dreams which had turned to ash, for the thousands of hours of labor- the joy and satisfaction which comes from a job well done, from taking nothing and building it into something beautiful, and seeing it all wither and die...I felt like my heart had splintered along with it...but time passed and by the grace and tender mercies of God, we were able to salvage almost 500 plants which we dug up in the fall and re-potted to over-winter...

       And so here we are! February the 7th 2013. A New Year! And yes, we re-invested about half of what we did last year to try to replant our berry farm and orchard. And this time we will do it the right way! The ground has been tilled and the weed barrier fabric has been ordered. The plants will be arriving shortly and we are ready to begin again. As if we didn't have enough to do, we are also designing and building a greenhouse and starting a nursery. We saw the need for a nursery because there is not one for more than 40 miles on either side of our farm, and since we are located on a highway, it seemed a wonderful idea. We will be raising chemical-free berries, fruit trees, and vegetables, and selling them and our farm fresh eggs, holistically grown lamb meat...and perhaps my line of original botanical cosmetics, perfumes, and creams...should I ever have the time to make them again!...

      And our Sheep and Goats have been busy giving us babies... love lambing season around here! To date we have 17 new lambs from our beautiful St. Croix Ewes, and five kid goats from our Boer Does. We would have had 14 kids but 9 of them were bottle babies and died due to an overdose of Selenium...yes it was heartbreaking.

      The children are doing well in their new school and are loving their teachers. Jay is working from home for Dell fixing people's problems with servers over the phone, and is loving that he can go to work in his bathrobe! I just love the fact that he is home and no longer has an hour-and a half commute to work everyday. I am slowly getting my strength back, and as my husband puts it "over do it every chance you get!"...I can't help it, it's not in my programing to sit still when there is so much to be done every day!

      That about wraps it up! Signing off