Welcome to Independence Homestead’s website! This site serves our two main goals:
1. To Provide Health-Promoting Food & Farm Products
We believe in the importance of nutritious food that contributes to health and fights disease, and we seek to provide such food to those in our community. We also offer various other products that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, such as the best soaps ever. Please join our mailing list so you’ll be the first to know about new offerings, sales, and events!
Want to learn more about our products? Click through the description pages, and read our blog posts.
Ready to order? Order Now! Visit us on the farm by appointment or when we have farm hours. Have any questions, contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we get a chance between farm chores!
2. To Help The Homesteading Community
Homesteading can be tough, and we’re here to help others succeed. We maintain a blog here to contribute to the collective homesteading knowledge available. When the internet isn’t enough, we offer how-to classes on a variety of topics. We also offer quality, healthy livestock for sale.
Posted in Animals, Farm, Food & Beverage, Health | Tagged homestead | Leave a Comment »
In anticipation of Loudoun’s Fall Farm Tour, we’re updating the farm store with some new products. Today I’ll highlight the farm-themed magnets we’ve made! These magnets were made ourselves from wood we had leftover from various projects. We cut the wood into squares, stamped them with fun farm stamps, sprayed a sealant, and attached magnets.
The magnets are a perfect gift for the person in your life who values buying local! We have a rooster, rabbit, sheep, and “Seasons Greetings” deer, all available in red and black. Mix and match the different farm animals and colors to make a set uniquely yours! Magnets are $4/each or 3 for $10.
We’ll see you at the farm tour this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm!
Posted in Household, Uncategorized | Tagged farm tour, homestead | Leave a Comment »
We are excited to be a part of Loudoun’s Fall Farm Tour this year! We have participated in the past two spring farm tours, and we think this year’s fall farm tour will be just as fun.
As always, we’ll conduct tours of the farm so visitors can learn more about local agriculture. There will be opportunities to feed and pet the animals, too.
In the farm store we will have an assortment of local, healthy products. In the freezer we’ll have a lot of rabbit meat and chicken. The fridge features our duck eggs and chicken eggs, plus goat milk for those who’d like to sign up for a herdshare. We’ll have organic soaps and bath products, scented only with healing essential oils. Beeswax candles and other housewares round out the offerings! Swing by to get healthy groceries for your family and start your Christmas shopping, too!
This year we will expand our offerings of food and drink to consume here. We’ll have several drinks and baked goods to sustain you as you tour Loudoun’s farms! Join us Saturday and Sunday, October 15 & 16, from 10am-4pm.
Posted in Chickens, Ducks, Farm, Food & Beverage, Goats, Hogs, Rabbits | Leave a Comment »
It’s been so busy recently, I haven’t had the time to post about all the amazing things we’re doing! The posts will come, I promise. Still, I wanted to spend a few minutes sharing some homestead things I love right now.
Roll Out Nesting Boxes
If I could go back in time, I would have made roll out nesting boxes for our chickens and ducks. Here are a few examples (1, 2, 3). Imagine the time I would have saved by not having to wash eggs! Plus, we are currently dealing with an egg eating problem in our duck flock, and roll-out nesting boxes would have likely prevented the issue. Now we’ve added “create roll-out nesting boxes” to our never-ending to do list.
So those of you just designing your coop or duck house. Make roll-out nesting boxes. You’ll thank me later.
As I was sprinkling DE in the coop today, I was thinking about how awesome it is. We use it for all kinds of pest control! Put on the ground of livestock pens, it helps with fly control.
Having an issue with flies on goats? We put DE on their brush, and then brush their coats. They like that, and they hate when we use fly spray. Plus the DE will help kill any mites or lice!
Simple Pulse Milking Machine
There’s a really awesome blog post series about home dairying, but it exists only in my head at the moment. This fall, I’m thinking I’ll get those posts up! Until then, let me share how happy we’ve been with our Simple Pulse Milking Machine.
This machine has made my milking quicker and easier. My milking time has decreased by about 25%. We have 3 goats, and the efficiencies of the milking machine would be even greater for a larger herd.
Catahoula Leopard Dogs
We have the best farm dog. Whiskey is a Catahoula mix, and she is amazing! Learn more about Catahoulas here. In short, it says Catahoulas are amazing farm dogs, and everyone with a farm should have one ;-).
Whiskey’s a rescue, yet she is a wonderful livestock guardian dog. You don’t need a purebred Maremma or Pyrenees to do the job. Here’s an article I wrote previously, in which I sing Whiskey’s praises.
Recently Whiskey’s amazed us all with her squirrel hunting skills! Squirrels cause all sorts of trouble around here. Somehow Whiskey has learned how to catch them, and is taking ’em out! Here she is with one of her catches:
If you’re in the market for a farm dog, please consider rescuing a Catahoula from one of these organizations:
I want to adopt all those adorable Catahoulas!
Freedom Ranger Meat Chickens
This past Saturday we processed a batch of 26 Freedom Rangers. We LOVE this breed of meat chickens. They free ranged amazingly, they were healthy and sturdy, and they looked so tasty when we processed them! I can’t wait to roast up a chicken this week.
We bought the chicks from the Freedom Ranger Hatchery. We love this hatchery! We’ve always found the quality of the chicks is very high, and the loss rates are very low. Plus the birds ship from Pennsylvania, which means they get to us in Virginia in just a day. This is faster than the midwest hatcheries.
Thanks for Reading!
I imagine you’re crazy busy this summer, too, so thanks for taking a few minutes to read about what I love right now! Hopefully this article will give you some awesome ideas for improving your own homestead. Stay tuned for more posts about milking, meat chickens, and how we’re solving our egg eater problem! Now, go rescue a Catahoula and fall in with one of the sweetest farm dogs you’ll ever know.
Posted in Animals, Chickens, dogs, Ducks, Goats, Layers, Uncategorized | Tagged chickens, dogs, ducks, eggs, food, goat milk, goats, raw milk | Leave a Comment »
Today we continue our piglets series with some insights on feeding and watering growing pigs. Pigs grow so fast that any missteps in feeding and watering can have dramatic consequences. Too little feed can permanently damage a pig, while too much can lead to plenty of issues, too. That being the case, there’s a lot of leeway in the correct amount to feed a pig.
When we first started with American Guinea Hogs, we had a hard time finding guidance on how much to feed this pigs. With their smaller size and slower growth rate, the advice for conventional pigs wasn’t relevant. We found the best advice for feeding these pigs was to watch the pigs. If you’re over or under feeding, you’ll quickly see the problem as the pig will be too fat or too thin. Using conventional pig free feeders is not recommended with AGHs. They’ll overeat, and the excess weight gain will cause problems. They can break legs, etc.
The conventional feed for pigs is grain. Corn, oats, and soy are main components. This feed works well for growing fat pigs! With American Guinea Hogs, a little feed goes a long way. From my conversations with those who grain feed, one 3qt. scoop will be split between piglets, and the max an adult boar would get is two scoops. The biggest negative to grain feeding is the cost. Over the life of a pig, it eats a lot! Those feed costs can add up. The big benefit is pigs grow well on this feed, and it’s supplemented with everything pigs need.
AGHs will also eat hay. We have heard this from others, and seen it ourselves. In winter we bed their house with hay, and found we’d have to replenish the house weekly as they’d eat all the hay! Now we keep a round bale of hay in the pig pen for them to eat. They seem to prefer eating some hay and other food, not exclusively hay.
Historically, pigs were useful on homesteads because they converted waste food into edible food (pork!). The idea of buying special food for pigs would’ve been considered crazy! We are blessed to have a resource for expired groceries, so we can follow in this frugal and environmentally friendly tradition. The bulk of our pigs’ diet is produce and baked goods. They eat a wide variety of these products, based on what we’re given that week. It appears that the pigs are getting the nutrients they need as we’ve had no growth or fertility issues with the pigs. In the photo below you can see them chowing down on produce, including mini peppers.
One of the challenges with feeding waste food is not being able to measure out the amount of food to give the pigs. As we’ve grown more experienced with pigs, we can see if the pigs are getting too much or too little food based on their actions. If they’re mobbing me in the morning when I go in the pen to feed them, I know they need more food. If they take all day to eat the feed I gave them, that’s probably more than they need. Their behavior coupled with their body composition tells us if the pigs are getting the correct amount of feed.
At some point the piglets will start drinking so much water, that using rubber pans will no longer be sufficient. At that point, we love our 55 gallon waterer with pig nipples. Here’s a picture of it from last winter:
We bought the pig nipples online. We installed two in the barrel, one at piglet level, one at adult pig level. This is a great waterer that works unless the temperatures are below freezing, and the nipples freeze up. In freezing temperatures we revert back to using rubber pans for water.
In the heat of summer, with 8 pigs in the pen, this waterer gets empty in about 5 days. Last fall, we had 3 pigs on the waterer, and the lower demand and cooler temps meant this lasted about 3 weeks.
Some people make their waterers even more awesome with a hose hookup and float that automatically fills the barrel. We don’t have a hose near our pig pen, unfortunately.
Hopefully this provides you some ideas for feeding and watering pigs! We love how our pigs make sure nothing goes to waste on the homestead, and we love the delicious meat they provide! Please read the rest in our piglets series, too.
Posted in Hogs, Uncategorized | Tagged american guinea hog, homestead, meat, rain, rain barrel, water | Leave a Comment »
With so many animals and only two farmers, we are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient with our farm tasks. Efficiencies in daily tasks such as feeding and watering pay huge dividends. A customer recently shared a poultry feeder design that we’ve implemented with great success! Here are a couple links (Link 1, Link 2) explaining the feeder, and then a video of our setup in the chicken yard:
We have pretty large flocks, so we used a trash can for our feeder. For small flocks people use smaller containers, such as a Rubbermaid tote. One other note is that in the video you can see we set the trash can on bricks. We found the height of the PVC pipes (based on the instructions in the links) was a little low. So we elevated the can on bricks to address the problem.
We’ve used a lot of different poultry feeding methods over the years, from PVC feeders to fermented feed to feeding fodder. There is a perfect example of how there’s often not one ideal way to do something, rather the best choice is based on a person’s given situation. At times these other options were great for us. Right now, with so many animals, a baby, and one person doing the daily chores, saving time is a top priority. That makes this self-feeder the best option currently. We still value fermenting feed and fodder, but the benefits are not worth the time for us right now.
Posted in Chickens, Ducks, Farm, Layers, Meat Chickens, Uncategorized | Tagged chicken, chickens, ducks, eggs, feed, feeder | Leave a Comment »
For the month of August we are offering a FREE kombucha SCOBY or milk kefir grains with any purchase! We love making and drinking kombucha and kefir, enjoying the nutritive qualities of each. Here are our instructions for brewing kombucha andkefir.
Contact Us to setup a time to come by and shop.
Current Farm Fresh Offerings
It’s a great time of year for a beautiful drive out to the homestead and a visit to the farm store! Here are just a few of our current offerings:
- Chicken Eggs $5/Dozen
- Duck Eggs $7/Dozen
- Goat Milk Herdshare
- Sweet Italian Sausage $9/Lb
- Pastured Whole Rabbit $10/Lb (3-4 Lbs/Each)
- Chicken Feet 4/$1
- Handmade Organic Soaps & Bath Products
- 100% Beeswax Candles
Contact Us to setup a time to come by. We look forward to seeing you!
Posted in Food & Beverage | Tagged chicken, eggs, goat milk, rabbit meat | Leave a Comment »
Goats 101 Class Saturday August 13th, 10am!
This month we are again offering our popular Goats 101 class! We’ll focus on goats as pets or dairy, land clearing, and proper fencing. This class is family friendly, with opportunities to brush the goats, and get a squirt or two of milk out of the does, too!
The class will cover handling goats, goat health check, trimming hooves, basic goat care, milking, and fencing. We will share the materials we’ve developed such as a goat health checklist, goat care calendar, and a list of suppliers.
The class is Saturday, August 13th, 10am-12pm. The cost is $20/person or $40/family. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class.
FREE Chicken Processing Class, Saturday, August 20th, 9am!
Come join us on August 20th for our Chicken Processing day! We have about 25 freedom ranger chickens that will be processed, allowing you to participate and learn the entire process. We will show you what you need to know so that you can raise your own meat poultry and process them. This includes dispatching, plucking, cleaning, packaging, and chilling. Don’t worry if you are uneasy about some of the steps, there are plenty of ways to participate and learn.
We are really excited to share our experience with this batch of meat chickens with you. We tried something new this time with them by having them be completely free-range (no portable pens) in our goat pastures in the woods and the results have been incredible! You’ll definitely want to see the results and learn how you too can raise your own delicious free-range chicken with very little feed input.
The chicken processing will be Saturday, August 20th, at 9am. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class. This class will fill up quickly so get your reservation in soon!
Rabbit Processing Class,Saturday the 27th at 10am!
To help get you prepared for rabbits, we are also offering a Raising Rabbits class Saturday, August 27th at 10am! Mark your calendars and reserve your spot for the Raising Rabbits class! You’ll want to attend if you are considering raising rabbits or would like to gain insight to improve your existing rabbitry.
In the class you’ll have all your rabbit rearing questions answered. We’ll cover health care, feeding, housing, pasturing, breeding, and even have an optional hands-on dispatching and processing session! Our class was sold-out last time so make your reservations early!
The class is this Saturday, August 27th, 10am-12pm. The cost is $20/person or $40/family. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class.
Posted in Goats, Meat Chickens, Rabbits | Tagged chicken, chickens, goat milk, goats, homestead, meat, rabbit meat, Rabbits | Leave a Comment »
A major part of homestead life is eating nutritiously, and for us that includes drinking kefir! For the month of August, we’re offering a free kombucha SCOBY or milk kefir grains with any purchase. Processing milk into kefir increases its nutritive qualities. If you’re new to milk kefir, you can use it wherever you use milk! Our favorite use is to put it in smoothies.
Here’s our milk kefir recipe:
You Will Need:
-Milk Kefir Grains
-2 Glass 1 Quart Mason Jars
-1 Quart Raw Milk
-Dish Towel & Rubber Band
-Small Glass Jar with Lid (to save kefir grains)
- Pour milk in a glass jar. Add in kefir grains (usually about 1 teaspoon, but a bit more or less is fine).
- Cover jar with dishtowel, and rubber band in place.
- Set jar in a spot that will maintain a normal room temperature and is out of direct sunlight . Let jar sit for 24 hours. At that time, check if kefir is done. Signs that kefir is done include if it smells different (sweeter) than milk, and is thicker than milk. You may also see it separate into curds and whey, which indicates it’s done.
- Now it’s time to strain out the kefir grains so the kefir is ready to drink. Place the strainer on top of the empty mason jar. Slowly pour kefir through strainer into the jar. The grains will get caught in the strainer, and drinkable kefir will be in the jar.
- Take the grains and use them to start a new batch of kefir, or save them for later use. To save them, put grains in a small jar with milk. Store in the fridge.
- Put a lid on the jar, and place kefir in the refrigerator. Once chilled, enjoy!
-You can use more than a quart of milk at one time. I often use a half gallon. In that case, I put in a more grains and I let the kefir process for 36-48 hours.
-Your grains will multiply with each fermentation. Give the extra grains to friends so they can make milk kefir!
Posted in Food & Beverage, Health | Tagged food, health, probiotics | Leave a Comment »
A major part of homestead life is eating nutritiously, and for us that includes drinking kombucha! For the month of August, we’re offering a free kombucha SCOBY or milk kefir grains with any purchase. To that end, here’s our kombucha recipe:
You Will Need:
-Kombucha SCOBY in starter tea (1 cup total)
-1 Cup White Sugar
-1 Gal (minus 1 cup) Water & Pot (with Lid) to Heat It
-1 Clean Dish Towel & 1 Rubberband
-1 Large Glass Jar that holds 1 gallon
-1 Small Glass Jar that holds 1-2 cups (use at end of brewing)
- Boil water in pot. Take pot off the heat, and add teabags. Let steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove tea bags using long-handled spoon. Add 1 cup white sugar. Stir to dissolve.
- Cover pot, and let cool to room temperature. This will take several hours. If needed, you can speed the process by creating an ice water bath in the sink and setting the pot in there.
- Once tea is cool, pour into glass jar. Add SCOBY and starter tea.
- Fold dish towel in half, and cover jar mouth. Rubberband the towel over the jar mouth.
- Place the jar in a warm place (80ish degrees) away from stove, trash can, or other places where airborne bacteria are likely to occur.
- Wait 1-2 Weeks. You can sample the kombucha to determine if it’s done to your liking anywhere in this timeframe. Or you can be like me and process it whenever you have a spare moment.
- Once the kombucha is done, remove the SCOBY and 1 cup of liquid as the starter tea for your next batch to the small glass jar. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it to brew another batch.
- Store the remainder of your kombucha in the fridge and drink! You can store it in the same large glass jar you used to brew, or you can pour it into smaller glass jars if you want to immediately reuse the large glass jar to brew another batch.
-As you brew, your SCOBY will multiply! You can separate these SCOBYs that are created, and use them to brew multiple batches or give to other people.
-To brew faster, split the tea into two smaller jars with a SCOBY in each. With a half gallon of kombucha in a jar, I’ve found it brews in 5-7 days.
-Your tea must be no warmer than room temperature when you add the SCOBY. Be patient and wait for the tea to cool.
-Once you are a pro at brewing kombucha, it’s fun to play around with secondary fermentation! Look into that in the future.
-Mold: in all the kombucha batches we’ve only had one mold issue. That was when we first started, and we had the batch brewing on the counter near the stove. Keep the jar in a cleaner zone, and you should be just fine. Mold is easily identifiable because it’s fuzzy. Any variations in your SCOBY that aren’t fuzzy should be just fine.
Posted in Food & Beverage, Health | Tagged food, probiotics | Leave a Comment »
Many people have come to the homestead to visit the American Guinea Hogs. Those with small acreages or new to homesteading tend to find the breed more approachable than conventional pigs.
Recently I found this article by Mother Earth News that provides a lot of insight into American Guinea Hogs. For those considering the breed, I highly recommend thoroughly reading it.
A shortcoming of the article is that it focuses exclusively on the positive aspects of the breed, and fails to mention any drawbacks. I’ve noticed this is a common shortcoming of many online articles related to homesteading. This is poor journalism, and does all homesteaders a disservice! In this information age, people should be able to find a well researched article articulating the strengths and weaknesses of a subject.
Since the article highlights many of the strengths of AGHs, I thought I’d balance it out by sharing a few challenges this breed presents.
A defining characteristic of AGHs that many find attractive is their small size. This gives them the potential of being easier to manage. I highlight the word “potential.” An AGH is still 100-200lbs of muscle in a compact little body, meaning it’s a handful if it wants to be. All pigs will be wild and impossible to manage if they’re not handled properly. Do not get complacent with conditioning your pig to human interaction simply because it’s a smaller breed. Pet the pig while you feed it. Walk in its pen daily. Raise the pig so that it’s used to your presence, and is friendly. Do not take the pig for granted just because it’s smaller.
Another possible negative to its smaller size is that you’ll get less pork when you take the pig to the processor. That will also make the pork more expensive per pound. Processors charge a flat fee for killing the pig, which in our area is $40-50. You pay that same amount whether you get 50lbs of meat from an AGH or three times that amount from a conventional breed. Make sure that trade-off is worth it for you.
The article highlights how delicious AGH meat is, and boy is that true! The pork we enjoy from our AGHs is the best pork we’ve ever eaten. The reason it’s so delicious is because the breed grows more slowly than conventional breeds. Unless you’re doing a specialty item like a small pig for a pig roast, an AGH is at least a year old when it goes to the processor. Conventional breeds usually go at about 6 months. That means you’ll take care of your AGH for twice as long to get one third the meat.
I also want to take a moment to say I think the breed is great for cross breeding. An AGH mated with a conventional breed pig could potentially retain many of the positives of both breeds while minimizing the negatives.
We love our American Guinea Hogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best pig breed choice for everyone. I view them as a great pig for those who absolutely cannot have larger pigs for whatever reason, and for those who really want the best pork.
Posted in Food & Beverage, Hogs | Tagged american guinea hog, food, hogs, homestead, meat | Leave a Comment »
I thought it was time for another Friday on the Farm post! Here are some highlights from this week at Independence Homestead:
Goats Enjoy New Goat Pasture
Last Saturday we fenced in two more sections of our woods as goat pasture. The milking does moved to one of the pastures, and our buck Champ and his wether friend Storm moved to the other pasture. All the goats are loving the abundance of trees and shrubs on which to munch! Here you can see the lush buffet enveloping Champ and Storm.
I am amazed that we were able to fence in two sections in one day! We have come far in our fencing skills since we first started, that’s for sure!
Now that we have a milking machine the does and I have settled in to a new routine. All three does have taken to the machine very well! I’m thankful for the machine as my hands were getting pretty sore from milking into a pail by hand.
We are greatly enjoying all of the milk we’re getting! We use the milk as is, and we also make cheese, yogurt, and kefir with it. The yogurt sometimes get utilized for frozen yogurt, too. We are thankful that we now buy barely any dairy products, and we are eating delicious homemade dairy instead! (We do have some milk to spare if you’re interested in a herd share)
Upcoming Goat Class
If you’re thinking about goats to clear out your woods, or to get goat milk, sign up for our upcoming Goats 101 class on Saturday August 13th, 10am-12pm. Just contact us to sign up!
Tanning Rabbit Hides
This week we are moving along with tanning the rabbit hides from the rabbit processing we did in our Raising Rabbits class two weeks ago. Since the class we fleshed the sides, soaked them in an alum and saltwater solution, and this week we tacked them up to dry.
They’ll take about a week to dry, and then we’ll use the hides to make a stroller blanket for Rebecca. That will keep her warm when she’s out “helping” with farm work this winter!
Our barn cats have been working hard keeping the homestead free of vermin. Here’s a picture of Hunter with a wild rabbit she caught!
The cats spend plenty of time relaxing, too. Here are a few photos of them enjoying themselves!
That’s the highlights from this week on the homestead. I hope your week went well, too!
Posted in barn cats, Friday on the Farm, Goats, Rabbits | Tagged barn cats, food, goat milk, goats, homestead | Leave a Comment »
We continue our piglet series where we highlight the care of piglets. Today we’re talking about ear tagging piglets.
Why would you want to tag a piglet? Because you don’t want to tag a full-grown pig! If you think you may ever want a pig tagged, tag the pig as a piglet. Trying to hold and tag an adult pig is not something I’d ever want to do.
Why put an ear tag on a pig in the first place? Ear tags identify pigs, and there are several reasons you may want to do that. If you’re planning on keeping the pig as a breeder, the ear tag will allow you to track that pig. You’ll be able to keep records on that pig and its breeding: when it farrowed, the number of piglets born, etc. If the offspring will be registered, ear tags are invaluable in ensuring accuracy on the pedigree.
If the pigs is a feeder pig, destined to be meat, the ear tag can be a helpful identifier at the processor. Sometimes you want different pigs processed differently. Maybe you want one to be primarily sausage, while another is destined to become roasts and bacon. The ear tag allows you to communicate to the processor what he or she should do with which pig. If you’re selling half or whole hogs, the ear tag allows a buyer to claim a certain hog and get that selected animal’s meat.
First, get your supplies. We use an Allflex Total Tagger from Jeffers. Since our American Guinea Hogs are smaller than conventional hogs, we went with Allflex Sheep/Goat Ear Tags. While there are all kinds of personalized tags possible, I just went with basic numbered tags. That’s enough to tell the animals apart, which is all I need. I chose yellow tags since it’s a bright color that’s easy to see.
Now that you have your tools, you’re ready to go. Compared to castrating, ear tagging is a piece of cake! It is still a two person job, though.
First, use feed to distract the piglet. One person then grabs it. The other person uses a tagging gun and tag, holds the ear, and tag! Then release the pig. While it’s simple enough, it doesn’t give extra hands for picture taking, so sorry there are no pictures of the job!
In the picture below you can see one of our piglets with his yellow ear tag.
I wish I had started ear tagging when we first had piglets. We ended up regretting it later when the pigs were adults. Hopefully this little post shows you just how easy it is!
Read all of the posts in our piglets series here.
Posted in Hogs, Uncategorized | Tagged american guinea hog, food, hogs, homestead, meat | Leave a Comment »
We are offering a Raising Rabbits class this Saturday from 10am-12pm. Come learn all about raising rabbits! This class will be relevant if you’re interested in having rabbits as pets, showing, doing 4H, or raising your own meat. Get hands-on experience with handling rabbits and performing basic care. The class will include an optional rabbit processing component for those interested in the meat aspect.
We also have a selection of recently weaned rabbit kits available. We have a diverse genetic mix as they’re from 7 litters, and they’re a mix of black, blue, and chocolate kits. Kits are $50 each, with 10% off purchases of 4 or more.
To learn more, to sign up for the class, or to reserve rabbits kits Contact Us today.
Posted in Rabbits | Tagged food, meat, rabbit meat, Rabbits | Leave a Comment »
While we have all these lofty reasons for having a homestead, at the end of the day what keeps us going is that we get to eat amazing food. We produce some pretty delicious stuff! This quiche is one of our favorites in the spring and summer as it’s quick and easy, which is exactly what we need when the farm chores are never ending! Plus it highlights so many of our farm fresh goodness: duck eggs, goat cheese, goat milk, and produce.
- 7 Duck Eggs
- 1-2 Cups Chopped Veggies (some of our favorites include mushrooms, spinach, onions, and asparagus)
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Paprika
- 1/2-1 cup Goat Cheese
- 1/2 cup Milk
- Butter to Grease Pan
- Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
- Grease 9″ pie pan with butter.
- Put chopped veggies in pie pan.
- In a large bowl, crack eggs. Add milk and seasonings. Whisk.
- Pour egg mixture over veggies in pie pan. Top with goat cheese.
- Bake in oven about 30 minutes, or until eggs have set and top is golden.
Enjoy your quiche!
Posted in Ducks, Food & Beverage, Garden, Goats | Tagged cheese, ducks, eggs, food, garden, goat milk, goats, milk, raw milk | Leave a Comment »
This is the second post in our piglets series where we detail how to care for piglets. Today’s topic: castration!
One tough thing about raising pigs is the meat from males may get boar taint if the male isn’t castrated. There’s mixed information as to whether or not American Guinea Hogs develop boar taint. Even if you are willing to run the risk, some processors won’t process uncastrated males. So we have found it’s worth it to castrate the little guys. This takes scalpels, antiseptic, and mostly a lot of determination. We get our scalpels from Tractor Supply (not the castration kit- just a pack of scalpels). Antiseptic we have in our animal care kit. The determination, well, we muster up enough of it.
Here’s a photo from our latest castration, where you can see the supplies:
Let’s just pretend our castration process is as effortless as in this video:
Our goal is to castrate that well someday! We’ve found when we castrate larger (older) piglets, the only drawback to the method shown in this video is the piglets are heavy, and holding them upside down is tough. Plus a lot of energy is spent suspending them rather than restraining them. For bigger piglets, we lay them on their backs on the ground, cover their heads, front legs, and belly with a towel, kneel on the towel to hold it and the pig down, and then hold the rear legs down with our hands. Oh yeah- castrating is a minimum of a two person job, three is better. Hence the lack of photos of the adventure!
Our recommendation for castration is to watch a few videos, make sure you have all the tools ready, and pick a time where you’re not rushed. The process itself is stressing, so stay calm. The mental challenge of cutting into a piglet and castrating him is half the challenge, really. Be prepared and you’ll do fine!
Read all the posts in our piglets series here.
Posted in Hogs, Uncategorized | Tagged american guinea hog, hogs, piglets, pigs | Leave a Comment »
Tick season is in full swing here, so I thought I’d repost a review of the best tick protection that we’ve found for our dogs. We’ve continued to use these collars with great results, and they’re the best value, too. We get them on Amazon for $21.50, and that’s 6 months of protection!
Product Review: Scalibor Tick & Flea Collar
Posted in dogs | Tagged dogs, ticks | Leave a Comment »
We recently added 5 piglets to the farm, so we’re starting a short series of posts on how to raise piglets! Read on for the first installment.
We had 3 pigs born in September which will be harvest size this fall at 1 year old. We wanted more pigs, though. One reason was that we are given spoiled produce and bread to feed our pigs, and we were getting more food than our pigs needed. We enjoy that this food doesn’t go to waste, and that our pigs convert it into delicious pork. So more food meant more pigs.
Another reason we wanted more pigs was to fill the void the older pigs would leave when they are processed in the fall. Pigs are part of our program here, and they provide jobs such as tilling up the earth. If we had no pigs, we’d have to do those jobs ourselves, meaning more work for us. By getting piglets now, we ensure they’ll be big enough to do the job when the older pigs are no longer here.
Piglets are so simple in terms of care: food and water mainly. Shelter’s good, too. A fence to keep them where you want them. That’s it! They don’t need supplements, trimming, shots, etc. They just need food, water, a place to get out of the sun and rain, and a pen. As I mentioned above, we feed them spoiled produce and bread, plus our own kitchen scraps. On the rare occasion we run out of spoiled food, they get pig grain. Piglets are so little, they can use a rubber pan for water. On hot days we check it a couple times per day since its holding capacity is low.
This is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect when it comes to piglets. These adorable little piglets will soon be BIG and STRONG. You need to train them NOW when they’re small.
Our main strategy for socializing pigs is that we go into the pen and pet them every time we feed them. At first, they’ll run away when we start petting them. After just a few days, they’ll stay there happily munching away while we give them pats and talk to them. Soon they’re running to the fence when we walk up!
One quick note on this: don’t try to feed pigs from your hand in an attempt to make them friendly. They have bad eyesight and strong jaws, so that’s asking for trouble.
Read all the posts in our piglets series!
Posted in Animals, Hogs | Tagged piglets | Leave a Comment »
In running our breeding rabbit operation, we’ve found that having an environment where rabbits can feel safe and relaxed is important to success. We must remember that living creatures are not computers! The inputs of food, water, shelter, and mating do not necessarily equal the output of rabbit kits. As with all living creatures, the equation is a bit more complicated.
We have had pretty good success with our rabbitry, and I believe a large part of that is because we create an environment where the rabbits feel safe enough to relax and reproduce. Reflecting on our operation, here are some aspects that I believe contribute to our success.
We try to keep things the same as much as possible. Feeding is always done at about the same time daily. Rabbits are kept in the same cage or pen as much as possible, with moves minimized. While of course changes happen, like feeding at a different time on a day where we have a conflict, change is the exception because consistency is the norm.
We give the rabbits living quarters that are spacious, clean, and free of undue stress.
Each breeder is kept in her own breeder cage all the time. We don’t bounce her to a small cage when she’s pregnant, and then move her back to a larger breeder cage when she’s going to kindle. She gets a breeder cage to call “home” all the time. We have experienced rabbits that are excellent mothers, but once moved even to a new location in a similarly sized cage will have problems with a couple litters until they are moved back to their “home” spot.
Clean living quarters are key for healthy rabbits, which contributes to their emotional wellbeing. For our breeders, we use wire cages suspended over trays to collect waste. This keeps rabbits off their droppings all the time. We empty those trays every week, so the stink, flies, and disease potential is minimized. We’ve been in rabbitries where the poop’s been sitting under cages for a quite a while, and that has to affect the rabbits! This has the added benefit of producing valuable manure for our gardens and orchard!
Weather permitting, our junior rabbits grow out in “rabbit tractors” on pasture. The tractors are 3ft by 5ft, giving the rabbits plenty of access to grass, and space to run around. We pull the tractors forward to new pasture every day. This keeps rabbits off their droppings, and gives them new forage to eat. To help boost their growing we will supplement them with a cup or so of rabbit feed pellets once a day.
We have all our rabbits housed in quarters where they’re not stressed out. They don’t have loud children shrieking and poking them all the time, or dogs barking at their cages. They are subject to plenty of noises, including barking dogs, but the noise is never directed at the rabbits. They wouldn’t feel attacked by the activity. So a lively environment can be fine, as long as the rabbits feel like they’re bystanders.
We handle our rabbits on a regular basis, which yields many benefits.
First, by handling them we can see if something’s wrong with them. Maybe a rabbit has dry skin, or isn’t keeping itself clean, or has some other physical problem. By handling the rabbit, we can find the issue early, before it’s a huge problem.
Regular handling also teaches the rabbit that being held is normal and not threatening. That way handling the rabbit isn’t a stressing situation. This means when we take a doe to a buck’s cage for breeding, or perform a routine health check, we’re not putting undue stress on the rabbit. This is especially important since we’re handling the rabbit if something is wrong with it. We wouldn’t want the act of handling it to make the situation worse!
Rabbit kit, less than three weeks old
Socializing the rabbits
Posted in Animals, Rabbits | Tagged breeding, homestead, Rabbits | 2 Comments »
If you currently cook bacon in a skillet on the stove, I am about to rock your world. Are you ready for a new way to cook bacon that’s easier and cleaner? Where the entire package of bacon cooks while you prepare the rest of breakfast? Here is the secret to tomorrow’s breakfast success: cook the bacon in the oven. It’s so simple, you’ll never go back to your old ways!
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Lay the bacon on the top of a broiler pan & put in oven
-Cook 15-20 minutes, until desired doneness
–Carefully remove pan from oven (bacon grease is in bottom portion, you don’t want it to spill!)
-Using tongs, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels
-Remove top of broiler pan, then carefully pour grease from bottom of pan into a container and refrigerate.
Here’s the bacon ready to go in the oven:
Here’s the bacon after cooking:
Enjoy your bacon! We eat some immediately, and use the rest over the next few days. One of our favorite recipes to use leftover bacon is Potatoes with Bacon and Liver. It’s a delicious way to eat liver, too!
Bacon is a treat in so many ways! In addition to the deliciousness of the bacon itself, we love using the bacon grease for stovetop cooking. Just use the bacon grease in place of oil in the pan.
I hope this saves you some time and effort when you’re making breakfast tomorrow morning!
Posted in Food & Beverage, Hogs, Uncategorized | Tagged american guinea hog, breakfast, food, pork | Leave a Comment »
The worst part of keeping pigs is moving them. It seems there’s no perfect strategy one can implement to have hassle-free pig moves. We have some strategies that help, and some that were recommended that were a waste of time. We’re sharing what we’ve learned so you avoid moments like this one, where Harley has a pig in a lasso and is being shown who’s boss:
First, a note on fencing. We use electric fencing for our pigs, and it works great! As very strong animals, using physical restraint would be a challenge, but the psychological restraint of electric fencing is highly effective.
If you use electric fencing, you may be told that having non-electrified gates is an important part of easily moving pigs. The thinking is that if the gate is electrified, even when the gate is open and the power is off, the pig won’t want to cross that line. From our experience, I’d say that part’s true. The idea that if the gate isn’t electrified, the pig will waltz through when it’s opened isn’t quite true, though. It depends on the pigs. We cut panel fencing into short sections and use those sections for gates. We do not run any electric wire on the gate. We’ve had pigs cruise right through those gates when opened, and we’ve had pigs refuse to go through the gateway. For us right now, this is the toughest part of moving pigs. They do not want to go through the gateway and leave the pen. We’ve found they have to be really hungry, and have the lure of food, to cross over the gateway and leave the pen.
Our general moving strategy is to hold off on feeding the pigs for a day or two, and use food to lure them from their current pen into their new home. Some foundational work that will help here is if you always feed the pigs out of the same container (we use a white bucket), and if you have a phrase you say when you feed them (we say “feed”). Here’s Harley using a bucket of feed to lure the pigs to a new pen.
These pigs were very hesitant to move, so Harley ended up having to lay down small pieces of food, ET-style, to lure them every step of the way. Did I mention moving pigs is tough?!
Once they’re in the new pen, give them lots of feed to distract them and make them happy. This is really handy if you’ve only succeeded in getting a portion of the pigs into the new pen. It keeps those pigs occupied so they don’t leave, and may help entice the remaining pigs to come join in the feast! Here you see pigs enjoying pears and tomatoes in their new pen.
An important point is to never try to use physical intimidation or pressure with pigs. They are stronger than you are. I don’t care who you are, the pig is stronger than you are. So your best bet is to outsmart them, not outmuscle them. This is why you’ve been petting and handling the pigs since they were young, right? So they trust you? Don’t ruin it by trying to scare them during the move. It will not work, and it’ll make your next attempt that much more difficult.
Consider the difficulty in moving pigs when planning their living quarters. A great setup is to have adjoining pens, where when pigs walk through the gate, they’re in a new pen. We’ve used this setup before with great success. If it’s not possible to move pigs between adjoining pens, have the distance between pens as short as possible. We’re talking like something measured in feet rather than yards. The shorter the better.
When we absolutely must move pigs longer distances, we like to use our “pig taxi”. Sadly I don’t have a great picture of it in use, as its use is an “all hands on deck” affair with no one free for picture taking. Below is the best photo I have:
The “pig taxi” is two hog panels clipped together with three sturdy clips per end, with the panels curved to form an oval shape just wider than a pig. In this picture you can see it on either side of the pig, as she’s been transported from her pen to the wood ramp leading up to the truck bed. To use the taxi, we open the pig pen, put one end of the taxi well within the pen, unclip that end so the panels are open (the panels form a V), and dump food in between the panels. Ideally, the pigs walk right in, start eating, and we close and clip the panels behind them. While the reality is usually a bit more exciting, this method is successful enough for us to continue using it.
Once the pigs are locked in between the two panels, we lift/slide the “pig taxi” toward our destination. The pigs pretty much walk along with the panels. Shaking a bucket of feed at the front helps motivate them. Once the destination is reached, the panels are unclipped at the front, and the pigs have arrived!
Now if all this seems a bit overwhelming, and you don’t think pigs are worth it, remember one thing: bacon. Our pigs make the best bacon.
Posted in Food & Beverage, Hogs | Tagged american guinea hog, hogs, meat, pork | Leave a Comment »
Taking on the task of bottle feeding goat kids can be a scary endeavor. Advice on the internet is conflicting, and it seems like a lot of work. Once you take the plunge and have a bottle baby, you’ll see it’s surprisingly easy and enjoyable.
We’ve had great success with this feeding schedule:
0-1 Days: 2-4oz, 6 times/day
2-14 Days: 6-8oz, 4 times/day
2-4 Weeks: 10-12oz, 3 times/day
4-8 Weeks: 16oz, 2 times/day
That first day of bottle feeding is a little rough, as feeding 6 times in a day requires one feeding in the middle of the night. After that, though, the kids can last overnight. So then the workload really isn’t bed. For the 2-14 days interval, we feed as soon as we get up and right before we go to bed, plus 2 mid-day feedings. Once they’re down to 3 times/day, we start to slowly lengthen the time they go between feedings overnight. The morning feeding becomes part of our morning routine, and the evening feeding happens at sunset when we lock up our poultry.
One tip to make feeding easier is have the kids as close as possible in those early days when they need frequent feedings. We had a kidding pen in the garage for when the goats gave birth, and we kept the bottle babies in that pen for a few days afterward.
This feeding schedule is a guideline. Most goats want to drink as much milk as you’ll give them, so the important note is don’t overfeed. Occasionally we’ve had a goat that doesn’t want to drink all the milk offered. That’s okay, but monitor to confirm that goat isn’t sick.
We use baby bottles. They’re easy to get, cheap, and work great. I went to the store and bought the cheapest 9oz bottle multipack there. I took the bottles home, and used scissors to cut an X on the nipple, making a larger opening. When the kid needs more than 9oz, I simply use more than one bottle. For the 2-4 week period, I’ll have 2 kids split 3 bottles.
If you have goat milk to feed the kid, of course that’ll work. If you don’t have goat milk, or you want to keep the goat milk for yourself, whole cow milk from the grocery store is fine. We’ve used that several times with no problems.
Once the goat kid is a few days old, he or she should have access to water and hay. Grain and minerals are good, too. We’ve found that chopped hay works well for these little guys. We mix chopped hay with some grain in a bucket, and the kids will often start munching on that from an early age.
As the goat gets closer to 8 weeks, which is the minimum age for weaning, you should see him or her foraging more. From the very beginning of a bottle baby’s life we always have the kid “help” us with farm work. The kids are free from their pens and follow us around as we work. This gives them ample opportunity to sample weeds and other delicacies, developing their rumens and preparing them to be weaned. It also provides us much enjoyment as we get to watch their goat kid antics!
At 8 weeks you can stop offering bottles. You should see the goat kid eating other food at that point. You can also continue to offer bottle(s) for a longer period of time. Offering milk for longer may lead to faster growth, and will help to continue bonding the goat to you.
Bottle feeding goat kids is a farm task we enjoy. It uses simple, inexpensive tools, it’s easy, and it gives us time interacting with the animals. We have found it really bonds the goats to humans, and in the goat’s eyes we are part of the herd. Part of that is the feeding process, but part of it is also having the goat with us whenever we’re working outside.
Posted in Goats | Tagged goat milk, goats, raw milk | Leave a Comment »
Goats 101 Class Saturday June 18 at 10am
We are offering our Goats 101 class again! Come get hands-on experience with goats, and learn about daily care, health care, milking, and more.
Raising Rabbits Class Saturday July 9 at 10am
In the Raising Rabbits class we’ll cover all the basics of raising rabbits: housing, feed, breeding, and more. With a focus on raising meat rabbits, the class will include processing rabbits with both a demonstration and the opportunity for hands-on learning.
Classes typically last about 2 hours, and cost $20 for adults or $40 per family (2 adults and their children under age 18). Classes will have between 2 and 10 members.
If you’re considering raising goats or rabbits, or you have some and want to learn new management practices, you will find the class useful. Contact us to reserve a spot now!
Posted in Goats, Rabbits | Tagged goat milk, goats, homestead, meat, rabbit meat, Rabbits, raw milk | Leave a Comment »
We have a lot lined up for the Loudoun Farm Tour this weekend! Our ducks will be out front to welcome you upon arrival. Ducklings will be showing off their antics in a pen. Then we have goat kids and piglets that are ready to be fed and petted. For the daring, the adult pigs and goats would enjoy some attention, too! Take a moment to learn about our farming practices, and how they translate into better tastier and healthier food.
Once you’re done meeting the animals, come in to the farm store and stock up on the bounty these animals provide. This weekend’s food offerings include duck eggs, chicken eggs, goat milk herdshare, pork products, rabbit meat, and homemade drinks and snacks. We also offer a selection of premium organic soaps and bath products, and 100% beeswax candles.
Come visit, we’re open 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday. We look forward to seeing you then!
Posted in Food & Beverage, Goats, Hogs, Layers, Rabbits | Tagged chickens, ducks, eggs, food, goats, homestead, Rabbits | Leave a Comment »
For all the diversity in this world, some things are universal. Like how children rub their eyes when they’re tired. Or how the minute they see a flock of chickens, they’re chasing after the birds. We have ducks in the front, and the minute children step out of a vehicle they’re tearing after the ducks.
On the surface, chasing livestock seems harmless. After all, the children rarely catch the animals. They’re not really hurting the creatures, right? In truth, there are some significant problems caused by this chasing behavior.
One fundamental issue is we want our livestock to trust humans, and every time animals are chased by children they trust humans less. Livestock are prey creatures, not predators. Their instincts tell them to flee danger because they have no chance if they stand and fight. So when they’re running from a child, they think they are running for their lives. This is not a game for the livestock. They are being pursued by a loud creature several times their size. In their minds they are being pursued by a predator that may kill them. Do you think it’s good for an animal to feel that way? Do you think that creates an environment where they trust us and it’s easy for us to handle our animals? Every time a child chases one of our animals, it makes it that much more difficult for us to work with that creature.
Another big problem with chasing livestock is that it causes stress to the animals, and stress is a major detriment to an animal’s immune system. Two aspects are key to an animal’s health: stress, and diet. If you keep an animal relaxed and eating good stuff, you keep an animal healthy. They’re just like humans in that way! We are purposeful in setting up living environments that do not put undue stress on our livestock. As a result, we enjoy healthy livestock. Chasing undermines our efforts in this regard, and poses a health risk.
If you have your own livestock and your children are chasing or otherwise stressing your animals, that may be the cause of behavior or health problems you’re experiencing.
While chasing chickens, ducks, or goats seems like innocent fun for children, it’s not innocent or fun for the animals. So please teach your children to respect animals, and not chase them.
Posted in Animals, barn cats, Chickens, Ducks, Goats, Hogs, Layers, Rabbits | Tagged chicken, chickens, chicks, children, ducks, goats, health, hens, homestead | Leave a Comment »
Goats 101 Class
We are holding another Goats 101 class this weekend for those who couldn’t make it last weekend. It’s this Saturday morning (the 14th) at 10am. The cost is $40. We’ll demonstrate routine goat care so you know what goes into the day to day of caring for goats. You will also get a chance to learn all about milking and try your hand at milking a goat!
Contact Us now to reserve a spot in the class.
Buckling for Sale
We also have one buckling for sale right now. Buddy is a mini-Alpine, meaning his dam is an Alpine and his sire is a Nigerian Dwarf. Full grown he should be about 3/4 the size of a fullbred Alpine.
Buddy has been bottle fed from the beginning, so he is very friendly. He follows us around the farm every chance he can get!
Buddy was born 4/25, has been disbudded, and has received his CDT vaccine. He is ready to go to a new home. He must be bottle fed until he is 8 weeks old (June 20). The cost for Buddy is $75. Contact us to purchase him today.
It’s not too late to join the goat milk herdshare! Read about the herdshare here and contact us to sign up now. Interested in having your share made into goat cheese? We can do that too! Talk to us today.
Posted in Food & Beverage, Goats | Tagged goat milk, goats, homestead, milk, raw milk | Leave a Comment »
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