What a year 2020 was! In spite of the global pandemic, we made quite a few things happen over the last year. We’d like to take a moment to celebrate some of these accomplishments:
We purchased our first ever BRAND NEW tractor
We doubled the size of our laying flock
We were awarded a grant by the Food Animal Concerns Trust
We constructed a 30’ x 50’ quonset hut all by ourselves
We moved all of our hooved animals into the new barn
We began accepting soap orders directly through our website
We have so much to look forward to in 2021. Here are some of the exciting developments that are to come:
The addition of livestock guardian dogs to our farm
The installation of permanent fencing to provide our goats with approximately six acres of pasture
A brand new raised bed garden
The opening of a new farm-to-table restaurant in Malone that will feature some of our products
Regularly scheduled farm tours
A round pen for exercising our horse
New products at the farmstand (our own and from our local partner farms)
We have several other projects underway but they may not be complete until 2022. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we believe we are taking our farm in the right direction and that it will all pay off in the future. Stay tuned for updates along the way!
Once we finished assembling our quonset hut, the next step was to build the end walls. We opted to build our own, rather than purchase them as part of the building kit, so that we could completely customize the size and placement of the doors and vents.
First, we screwed pressure treated boards to the cement to form a sill that we could build off of. We used our own rough cut lumber to frame the walls, doubling the boards in some places to reach the quonset hut’s 14’ peak (our sawmill only allows us to cut 10′ logs). Deciding how to secure the upper part of the wall to the curved metal structure was a bit tricky. We ended up putting roofing screws through holes that we drilled in the drip edge, which can be seen as little green dots in the photo below.
For siding, we used upcycled roofing steel. To get the steel to match the shape of the quonset hut, we had to carefully cut each piece. Brandon would stand on a ladder on the outside holding a sheet in place, while I stood on a ladder on the inside to trace the curve of the drip edge. We then cut along the line using tin snips.
Although you can see some light along the right side of the wall, the drip edge overlaps the cut edge of the roofing steel by a few inches, preventing water from leaking in. We will evaluate whether spray foam insulation is needed to fill these little gaps, and if necessary, we’ll tackle that project in the spring. For now we’re just focused on getting the building closed in to keep the animals out of the wind!
Since our quonset hut is now more than half assembled, I figured it was time to share an update!
We started out doing things the VERY hard way. First, we tried standing up a fully assembled arch, with the help of Brandon’s father and brother. We quickly learned that the arches have a propensity to twist. We abandoned that method before we did serious damage to the building and/or one of us. Next, we began standing up sections of arch by standing on ladders and scaffolding that we strapped into the bed of our truck to gain some additional height (I’m sure this is completely OSHA approved).
Construction wasn’t moving along as quickly as we would have liked, and it was still incredibly challenging to put up a full arch with only two people. With winter looming just a few weeks away, we decided to rent a scissor lift to get the job done.
With the scissor lift, the two of us can assemble an arch in a little over an hour. We’ve developed our own method: we stand up the side pieces (there are two pieces on each side), we bolt the side pieces in place, and then we tie the sides together with the center piece. We made a timelapse video to share on our new YouTube channel. Check it out: https://youtu.be/COXFMZD_jLI
The biggest mistake we made when we ordered our DuroSpan steel building kit was NOT ordering the hand welded base plate along with it. I don’t know what we were thinking. The base plate may not be necessary to install the quonset hut, but it definitely makes it 1,000% easier. Had we ordered the base plate at the same time as the building, we would have saved close to $1,500 in extra freight charges and would have been able to erect the building six weeks earlier. But life is all about learning from your mistakes, right?
Once the base plate arrived, we set to work installing it. First, we laid out all of the sections so that we would know where the holes were. Then, we used a hammer drill (98 times!) to make 3” deep holes in our concrete pad. We coated the bottom of each base plate section with roofing tar to prevent water from seeping underneath the base plate. Finally, we bolted each section in place.
While we were waiting for the base plate to arrive, we started assembling partial arches. (I strongly recommend getting a head start on this if possible; your hands will get tired after putting several together because there are SO MANY BOLTS!) Often, it’s just the two of us working on the barn, so we opted to stand it up in sections as opposed to full arches. I will be sure to post again as we begin erecting the structure.
I’m sure there will be a bit of a learning curve with this next step, ha!
Over the past several weeks we’ve slowly but surely been working to prepare the building site. We started by running mason’s line to determine where to build the forms. We then built the forms using leftover lumber from our sawmill, which involved cutting and driving LOTS of stakes. Once the forms were constructed, we leveled the ground beneath and added fill to make the pad a uniform 4”.
To reinforce the concrete, we laid a grid of remesh, which is similar to panel fencing used for livestock. We set the remesh on 2” patio pavers, so that it would be in the middle of the 4” thick pad. Our barn is 30’x50’, however, we decided that it would be easier to pour the concrete in two sections. We drilled holes in the form boards that divide the two sections, and inserted short pieces of rebar every few feet to tie the two slabs together along the joint.
Finally, on Saturday morning, we had a truck come and pour 10.5 yards of cement. It took our four man crew just under an hour to get it all poured and screeded. We ended up with some extra cement, so we used it to make an apron where the barn doors will be.
Before we can pour the other half, we need to finish the installation of our driven point well (more on that later). We plan to house the well pump in a small, heated room inside the barn where we will also have a slop sink for washing eggs. We are really looking forward to having a water source in the barn, as we have been lugging buckets from the house for the past three winters.
First thing’s first: I need to apologize for the delay in making this post. Earlier this year I wrote about the importance of sanitation and testing when it comes to raw milk, and then I never got around to writing about what we do on our farm.
Let’s talk about sanitation!
We use a closed milking system to prevent dirt, hair, feces, and insects from contaminating our milk.
During milking, we wear gloves, use teat dip, and use a clean towel to wipe each goat’s teats.
After milking, we bottle and chill milk immediately. Milk is poured in our clean kitchen, into glass bottles that have been sanitized with diluted bleach.
We wash all of our milking equipment with soap and hot water, followed by an acid rinse, after every use.
We soak all of the critical components of our milking system in diluted bleach after every use.
We regularly clean our goat’s pens so that they’re always laying on clean bedding. This helps to prevent mastitis as well as fecal contamination from dirty animals.
I’ve spent the past few months brainstorming the best ways to aggregate and present all of our milk test data. We run standard plate counts and Coliform/E. coli tests on a bi-weekly basis. I decided that, for simplicity’s sake, I am going to make available the averages for each test that we run. The numbers for the current year are a rolling average, updated in real time: Milk Test Averages
So what do these numbers mean?
The standard plate count (or aerobic plate count) is a quantifies the amount of bacteria in our milk. This test counts both beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria. Although the state limit is 30,000/mL, we aim to keep the overall bacteria level of our milk under 1,000 cfu/mL to reduce the likelihood that harmful bacteria may be present.
A Coliform count lower than 10 cfu/mL is indicative of excellent sanitation. While we always strive for excellence, our average may not fall below 10 this year, as we had a few slightly elevated Coliform counts at the beginning of the milking season. We’ve since made adjustments to our sanitation procedures to meet our goal. 2020 is our first year testing and selling milk, so we are still learning!
We also use a weekly CMT (California Mastitis Test) to monitor the SCC (somatic cell count) of each of our does throughout her lactation. An elevated SCC indicates the presence of mastitis (an infection of the mammary glands). If one of our goats tests positive, we can immediately begin milking her separately and discarding her milk until we are certain that the infection has cleared.
It is possible to test for specific pathogens, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria. However, doing so is usually unnecessary so long as the APC and Coliform counts are consistently low.
Our DuroSpan steel building kit was delivered this past week! We opted for a classic Quonset hut style building, which is constructed of a series of arches that bolt to one another. Pictured above are the pieces that make up the arches. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit daunting to see multiple buckets of 600 bolts, knowing that my husband and I are the ones that have to put this whole thing together.
Over the weekend we began working on building forms so that we can have a concrete slab poured. The slab is arguably the most important part of the whole project, as the building draws its strength from being bolted to it. It’s crucial that the concrete is level and that the corners are square, so we are double (and triple) checking every move we make, using line levels and mason string. Once the forms have been completed, we’ll use our tractor to level the ground beneath so that the pad is exactly 4” thick.
Hopefully the cement work will be done soon so that we can get started assembling and erecting the arches!
Over the weekend we opened our brand new farmstand, conveniently located at 189 Ragged Lake Rd, Owls Head, NY 12969. The stand is stocked with our raw goat’s milk (for animal consumption, sold by the half gallon in returnable glass bottles), fresh eggs, and a variety of our handmade goat’s milk soaps. We will be adding seasonal produce and baked goods as the summer gets underway. We are big believers in the importance of local food, therefore, we will be partnering with other North Country farms to make it easier to eat locally in Owls Head. Our partner farms and their products will be listed on the Farmstand page of our website; be looking for updates on what we will carry.
Happy Monday! I figured I would share this recipe while everyone is stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for something to do.
I’m a big fan of dishwasher pods. To be honest, I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t use dishwasher pods. Unfortunately, though, they’re fairly expensive, and of course full of chemicals that I don’t necessarily want to use on things that I eat off of. My solution? DIY! (Seriously, when isn’t DIY my solution?) I found a super simple recipe on Pinterest, that only requires 4 ingredients: salt, baking soda, white vinegar, and dish soap.
Start by combining 1/4 cup of salt with 1 cup of baking soda in a medium bowl.
Mix in 2 teaspoons of a dish soap of your choice. I use my own, all natural dish soap, the recipe for which can be found here.
Add white vinegar until the ingredients form a thick paste. The instructions in the original recipe say to start with 2 tablespoons, adding more as needed. I always use about 3 tablespoons.
Spoon the paste into a silicone ice cube tray (or in our case, a silicone soap mold). Once each chamber has been filled with roughly the same amount of paste, use a spatula, spoon, or a finger to pack it tightly.
Allow the pods to harden for a few days, then pop them out of the silicone, and store them in a jar or other container.
My only complaint about these dishwasher pods is that they sometimes leave our son’s bottles looking a bit cloudy. After doing some reading, I found that our dishwasher doesn’t rinse the dishes as well as it should, because we have very hard water. To overcome this, I started using diluted vinegar as a natural rinse aid, and problem solved! Adding straight vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser isn’t recommended, as vinegar can cause the rubber seals to deteriorate.
Today we put the roof on our farmstand, despite getting caught in the rain. We are so excited to be bringing fresh, local food to our little community. Hopefully we will have things up and running in just a few weeks!
We received a generous grant from the Food Animal Concerns Trust to help cover the cost of having a utility pole installed at the new property to power our farmstand, and eventually, our barn. We are very grateful for these funds, and we hope to share the wealth with other local farmers by marketing their products through our farmstand. We already have several partnerships in the works, but we’d love to hear what you’d like to see! Goat’s milk lotion, maple syrup, honey, beef, pork, chicken, and a greater variety of produce are all possibilities.