Last Wednesday marked the beginning of our fourth year of living in Wisconsin. (revisit year one here) We are still just as much, if not more, in love with Wisconsin, our farm and all of the fabulous people we’ve met. I figured this anniversary would be a great time for us to get caught up on what’s going on around these parts.
When we last left off, we were just kicking off our second season selling at Farmer’s Markets.
This year we doubled the size of our flower growing area and spent more time trying to figure everything out. Having planted a seed in the ground for the first time EVER three years ago, there is still so much to learn. And THAT is why we moved here. We are challenged every single day with learning something new, meeting someone new, or trying something new. It keeps us from becoming stagnant and Anthony and I have both learned that we need things like that in order to stay sane and happy. On to the updates.
New additions: We recently adopted 3 barn cats. If you are a fan of our Instagram stories, you may have already met them. We found a woman who is part of a foundation that re-homes feral cats. She has them vaccinated, spayed and neutered and does her part to keep the feral cat population down. We have had them for about a month and are keeping them in our calf barn until they get acclimated and comfortable on our farm. They are very sweet and they actually like humans, and we’ve had fun interacting with some new animals at our place. I’m really chomping at the bit to get more animals here – miniature donkeys, chickens, goats and rabbits are still on my list. But until I can figure out how to add more time to my day or how to balance things better, those animals are going to have to wait.
Chicken House: We have gotten some help on a few more things that need to be finished in the chicken house. This project has stalled over and over and over again because Anthony and I cannot agree on anything – from what to do or how to do it. So then, nothing happens. There are now only a handful of things to be completed in order for us to get chickens. We need to put some poles in the ground around the run and attach netting so that it is completely covered. Anthony is in the process of building a shade structure to go inside the run. After those two things are finished, we’ve only got to get some waterers and feeders, put shavings on the ground inside and we should be good to go. I’m going to throw a party when the chicken house is finished. Plus, it’s so nice inside, I think the party can be held in the chicken house itself.
Bees: The bees are packed up and insulated for the season. It was a weird season for our bees – lots of rain, failing queens and the honey flow was quite late. We only got about 95 pounds of honey this year, which is a bit less than what we got last year. We are going to add some additional windbreaks to the sides this year to help with the terrible winds that come from all directions. Three out of the five hives we now have looked like they had bee activity when we wrapped them up. There might have been some shrew activity in the front of a couple of them, and I’m not feeling confident in all of the hives surviving the winter. I traveled a lot this fall, and some of the things that should have been done to the hives didn’t get done.. All we can do now is hope for the best and wait it out. AND learn from our mistakes this year and adjust next year.
Flowers: The flowers were incredible this year. Again, it was a weird year weather-wise – it warmed up early, then cooled down. We went from not having any rain for a month to rain almost every day for six weeks. I had a few flower growing failures and the bug pressure was unbelievable. I’m so afraid of spraying anything – I don’t want to hurt any of the pollinators and bring toxic things to our farm, but I also cannot keep losing everything I’ve invested so much time and money into. It’s not even tolerable to walk out near anything that’s growing on our farm – the corn borer beetles are EVERYWHERE.
Farmer’s Market: We loved everything about participating in both the Boxed and Burlap and Fontana Farmer’s Markets this year. Being a market vendor is no joke – I was harvesting on Mondays and Wednesdays, prepping and arranging everything on Thursdays, selling on Fridays; cutting and arranging more on Friday afternoons if necessary for Saturday’s market. Then selling on Saturdays, cleaning everything up on Sundays and starting over again on Monday. And that was just the flowers – that doesn’t include everything else going on at the farm. We eventually stopped selling in Fontana on Saturday’s so we could get a better handle on things and keep up with everything else. Our end goal is to be able to sell from our farm, instead of taking everything to market. That way we can enjoy our farm while other people come to visit and enjoy it too.
Cow and heifers: All four of our girls were artificially inseminated in July AND all four of them were settled on the first try – which means we are pretty lucky. Our vet told us that he usually experiences about a 70% success rate, so 100% was a huge win in our books. We had them preg checked about 30 days after insemination just in case some of them did not get pregnant, so we could quickly inseminate again and keep all of them calving around the same time. The vet said he wanted to check all four of them again in about six weeks to make sure that they stayed pregnant. At that point in their pregnancy, ultrasound can be used to check pregnancy and reveal the gender of the calves. This was also exciting for us because then we would know and prepare for which babies would be raised for beef, and which ones would be kept for our herd. Dolly and Patsy are having bull calves, Loretta and June are having heifers. Translation – Dolly and Patsy’s male calves will be raised for beef (and no, they won’t be named) and Loretta and June’s female calves will stay on the farm and join our herd.
Greatest Dog of All Time – or GDOAT: Gigi turned eleven years old in November. She has definitely slowed down a bit, but still has lots of puppy left in her. She is our constant companion in most everything we do here, except when it comes to other animals. She wants to be the only one for us – which translates as the only animal that gets any attention from anyone.
Add in a ton of visitors, Nellie’s Barn Sale, some time out on the lake, watercolor painting, new fencing and random interior design projects and you’ve got our summer and fall all wrapped up.
This winter will not only be a time for us to rest and reflect, but also a time for planning the future of our farm. We are both ready to take the next step in transforming Lucky Break into a destination farm and further defining what that means to us. Our friend Rick has warned us, more than a few times, to dream carefully in the Winter. It’s easy (especially for me) to dream up a multitude of things to take on as soon as the weather breaks in the Spring. I’m going to do my best to be realistic and not turn our farm into some sort of forced labor camp. I can’t wait to see what happens as we work our way up to year number 5.