Farm Happenings

Logging Plans

When we first bought our 26 acre property, we had planned to have the entire parcel logged to make pasture for our goats. We postponed logging until winter to mitigate our environmental impact, but as winter drew closer, we started to reconsider…

When it comes to goats, 26 acres is a LOT of land! One acre can support 6-8 goats, provided that there is good quality forage. Clearing all 26 acres would mean that we could potentially carry over 200 goats, which we have no intention of doing. We envision our herd growing to 30-40 goats, but no larger. There’s no denying that large farms are efficient, but sometimes they lack adequate person to livestock ratios, and health issues go unnoticed, or the staff are too overwhelmed to address them. We never want to put ourselves in a position where we have so many animals that we can’t interact with each and every one of them on a daily basis.

So what do goats have to do with logging? Goats prevent regrowth. If we don’t have enough goats to stay ahead of the regrowth, the land won’t remain clear. We aren’t prepared to brush hog that many acres of rough terrain. Not to mention, having stumps removed is very expensive.

Because we don’t feel that we could keep up with maintaining 26 cleared acres, we have decided not to proceed with having the property logged by a logging company. Instead, we will slowly work toward clearing the lower portion of the land ourselves, processing the trees into firewood. We’ve already begun cutting where we plan to build our chicken coop. By spring, things should look noticeably different at our farm, although it may take us a few years to get everything cleared the way we want.

Farm Happenings

What’s Coming in 2021

Come springtime, this area will be fenced and

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
  • A brand new chicken coop
  • The opening of a new farm-to-table restaurant in Malone that will feature some of our products 
  • Regularly scheduled farm tours
  • 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!

Farm Happenings

Quonset Hut End Walls

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.

Framing the back wall.

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.

Cutting roofing steel by hand is harder than you would think!

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!

An almost completed back wall. We’ll be installing a man door and vents shortly.

Farm Happenings

Halfway Done With Our Quonset Hut

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:

Farm Happenings

Base Plate Installation

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.

We applied tar to the bottom of each base plate section before bolting it into 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.

Partially assembled quonset hut arches.

I’m sure there will be a bit of a learning curve with this next step, ha!

Farm Happenings

Barn Progress Update

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”.

Brandon and his helper securing the form boards to the stakes.

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.

Before pouring.

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.

Spreading the cement as it comes off the truck.

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.

The finished product! (Half of it, anyway.)
Farm Happenings

The First Steps of Our Barn Construction

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!

Farm Happenings

The Farmstand Is Open!

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.

Farm Happenings

Progress On Our Farmstand

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.

Farm Happenings

Goat Milk: For Your Pets?

Today is a big day for us here at the Cook Farm. Our pet food license from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has finally arrived! (We had been checking our mailbox religiously every morning for the past month waiting for it to come in.) What does this mean? We are now authorized to sell raw goat’s milk as a nutritional supplement for dogs and cats (or other species). We will begin offering milk in returnable glass bottles as soon as we can get our farmstand up and running this spring.

So, what’s the deal? Why on earth would anyone sell goat’s milk as a nutritional supplement for pets? Here are our two big reasons:

1) We love our goats! We love them so much, that we made milking them our business. You may have tried one of our goat’s milk soaps before (if you haven’t, check them out here). We really enjoy making and selling our soaps, but we think that our goats have a lot more to offer. Goat’s milk, goat’s milk cheeses, and goat’s milk frozen yogurt are all delicious and we would love to be able to sell them for human consumption, but there’s one BIG problem: becoming a Grade A dairy is incredibly cost-prohibitive! For us to do so, we would need to construct a brand new milking parlor, separate milk house, while navigating an incredibly complex series of regulatory hurdles. (Don’t even get us started on NY’s raw milk regulations!)

2) Goat’s milk is actually GREAT for your pet! If you don’t believe us, check out this article from The Dog Bakery (based in California) on all of the health benefits that goat’s milk has to offer your pet. Our friend Rosemarie has noticed that her dog Molly’s skin allergies have improved since she started giving her our raw goat’s milk, and she believes that the RAW part is key. Pasteurization was designed to kill harmful bacteria in milk, but unfortunately, it also destroys many of the beneficial probiotics and vitamins, alters the structure of healthy fats and proteins, and deactivates important digestive enzymes. Organic Pastures (a family-owned farm in Fresno, CA) posted a handy chart on their website to illustrate how raw milk, pasteurized milk, and plant-based milk substitutes compare, which you can find here. Dogs and cats really seem to love the taste, and look forward to their daily milk treat!

You will notice that each bottle of our milk states “WARNING: NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION – THIS PRODUCT HAS NOT BEEN PASTEURIZED AND MAY CONTAIN HARMFUL BACTERIA”, but rest assured, we regularly test our milk to ensure that our SCC (short for somatic cell count, which is the total number of cells per milliliter) is low, reducing the likelihood that harmful bacteria may be present. We will post our test results here on our website when we receive them.

Hopefully this post has been informative, and you are now curious enough to try giving some of our goat’s milk to your pet! We will be sure to share updates as we approach the completion of our farmstand and have milk available to sell.