Stocking up

Been spending some time recently getting stocked up on products we sell at Christmas time.  Today, that meant a batch of beeswax lip balm and hand balm.

I started making these for one simple reason … I don’t like waste.  When we started keeping bees, we all of a sudden had a large supply of freshly rendered beeswax. What to do with it?  Some quick research found a simple recipe for lip balm.  A minor tweak to the recipe also produced a nice hand balm, and here we are.

 

Melting the rendered wax before adding the other ingredients …

Filling the lip balm tubes ….

Beautiful, finished hand balm.

Christmas order forms will be up on the website this week!

Part-time farming

We’re coming up on another holiday season, and it just occurred to me that I haven’t written a single post in almost a year.

I can explain.

It can pretty much be summed up with this – pretty terrible weather, combined with full-time off-farm jobs, combined with a commitment to spend less time working and more time with the kids has meant terrible communication on my end.  Thanks for bearing with me.

In spite of a tough farm year, we are okay.  Never have we been more thankful to have off-farm jobs than we have been this year.  If we had been relying solely on farm income … yikes ….

Here are a few of the challenges our farm has faced this year:

January and February brought bitterly cold temperatures – right at the same time our goats started kidding.  That means we spent most of our free time checking goats, breaking water, hauling hay, and warming up baby goats inside.

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I lost count around eight – the number of baby goats who were born during freezing temps that we had to bring inside to try to save.  This one is Belle.  Her story was one of the few successes we had.  You may remember her story from Instagram … after hours of working to revive her, her mama wouldn’t take her back.  However, we successfully paired her with another mama whose baby had died the night before.

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Anyway, kidding season was gut-wrenching.  It was hard work and emotionally exhausting.  We ended up with 26 healthy babies.  About 1/3 less than we should have.

In April we picked ourselves back up, shook off the winter losses, and got to work planting the garden.

In early May, this happened:

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I’m standing in the garden in this picture.  Yes, it’s covered with water.

Then in late May, this happened again ….

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This picture is of our front pasture.  The flood waters have nearly covered it.  During this flood, we evacuated half our goats and all of our hogs.  The garden also got it again.  The flood waters rose even higher the second time.

After the flood waters receded and things dried out a bit, we had to go into the garden and destroy all of the produce the flood waters had touched.  The garden rebounded for a bit, but didn’t come close to producing what it usually does.

This summer, instead of scrambling like crazy to catch back up after the floods, we just …. didn’t.  We went fishing more.  We took a vacation.  We drank a beer or two on the porch.  In short, we took some time to enjoy life.  There was still plenty of produce picking, processing and selling, but this summer, we didn’t let it run our lives.

This fall, we’re spending plenty of time doing what we want to do.

Playing with the puppy …

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Playing in the sand we bought for a patio project (that we haven’t gotten to yet)

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And enjoying the beauty of fall.

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There is lots of work to do around the farm.  But there always is.  For now, we’re happy in the knowledge that the pigs are happy …

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The goats are happy …

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And most importantly, the farm kids are happy.

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Raising Cashmere Goats

We have been growing and developing our herd of cashmere-producing goats for a number of years now.  When we bought our first four goats, we had no idea how much we would end up enjoying them.  We now have close to forty with more babies on the way.

And there is nothing cuter than a baby goat.  I mean, just LOOK ….

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Goats, we have learned, can be very smart, are highly sociable creatures, and are prone to get into mischief.  We have been investing in lots of good goat fencing on our farm, as they are gifted escape artists.

So what is a cashmere goat?  Rather than being a particular breed of goat, cashmere can be produced by any goat.  That’s right – dairy goats, meat goats, all goats can produce cashmere.

Our little heard of goats are Black Spanish goats.  We have been selectively breeding and increasing our herd to favor good cashmere producers.  We have some beautiful cashmere producers in our herd right now.

Goats actually have two types of fiber – guard hairs, which are coarse outer-hairs, and the downy undercoat, which is the cashmere.

You can see in these pictures from last spring, the black goats are sleek, shiny and mostly black.  (You can also see their tendency towards orneriness).

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This next picture is of our goats just recently.

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These are the same black goats from the summertime, but you can see the fuzzy grey cashmere sticking out from under their guard hair.

Goats begin to lose their cashmere during mid-late winter.  Shearing would mean taking off all the guard hair along with the cashmere, which means our poor little goats would freeze for the rest of the season.  Which leaves combing.

Yes, that’s right.  You have to COMB the cashmere from each goat.  Which might be why we have yet to do it in all the years we have had goats.

But a few weeks ago, I noticed that one of the goats’ cashmere was beginning to come lose.  I had some time on my hands (usually unheard of!), so I thought I would give it a try.

After more than an hour of combing … and combing … and combing … this is what I had.

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One bag of cashmere fiber that weighed in at 0.6 ounces.  I have not done the math to figure out how much cashmere it takes to make a sweater, but I guarantee it is a lot more than a measly 1/2 ounce.  This is probably why cashmere is so expensive.  (Admittedly, I was probably pretty inefficient at harvesting the fiber and would get better with practice.  But still ….).

The one goat I have had my eyes on all winter is this one.  Shelly, the Cashmere Queen.  After my first try at harvesting cashmere, I coaxed her up onto the stanchion to work on her lovely fiber.  Only to find she was not ready for harvest.  *sigh*.  Maybe this weekend!

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Regardless of the fact that we still have yet to truly harvest cashmere (and in reality, may never harvest cashmere), we still love the goats, and have the benefit of their brush-clearing skills.  (I will post “before and after” pictures of our wooded areas soon.)

2017 Holiday Gift Packages

December 19, 2017 Update:  We have had TREMENDOUS support for our holiday gift packages this year!  We want to thank everyone who has helped make this Christmas sales season a huge success for our farm.  We are no longer accepting orders for Christmas 2017.  We look forward to serving our customers in the new year!

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Last year, we had so much fun launching our first Christmas gift packages!  We have been working to make some tweaks to the products and process this year to make things even BETTER.  Our local flower shop, Timber Creek Floral and Gifts has been awesome at helping us prepare the packaging, and we are really proud of the way they look AND taste!

We have two basic packages we are offering this year, but we can customize a package for you if these aren’t exactlywhat you want.

Our Large Holiday Gift Package includes: one 2 pound local, raw honey, one pint local salsa, two local fruit jams/jellies, and one beeswax lip balm from our bees, all in a cute buffalo plaid crate.  Cost for the large basket is $36.

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The small package includes: a 1 pound jar of local, raw honey, one pint local salsa, and one jar of local fruit jam/jelly for $18.  Increase the 1 pound honey to 2 pound to make the price $24.

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In each gift basket, you can specify the following:

Salsa:

Mild, Medium, or Hot

 

Jams and Jellies:

Spiced Tomato Jam (sounds gross, tastes amazing! trust me!)

Elderberry Jelly

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry Jalapeno Jam

Apple/Grape Jelly

Grape Jelly

Aronia Jelly

Mixed Fruit Jelly

Point of clarification – jelly is made from fruit juice, so is therefor smooth and with no pulp.  Jam is made from the whole fruit, so it will contain chunks of fruit and seeds. All of our jams and jellies are made with produce from our farm, or from our friends’ farms nearby.

We can also change the gift tags to say Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays or whatever message you choose.

To streamline things this year, we have an online order form here –

Werner Creek Farm Holiday Gift Basket Order Form

We would also love to sell individual products, if that is more your style.  We have three sizes of honey – 2 pound for $12, 1 pound for $6, and half pound for $3.50.

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Pint jars of salsa are $7

Quart jars of salsa (mild only) for $12

Half pints of jam or jelly are $4.50.

Beeswax lip balm is $3

We also have 1/4 pint jars of beeswax hand balm available for $10.

The individual items aren’t on the order form, but just make a note in the instructions if you want to add on any of these items.

Please contact us with any questions you might have!  My email is slwerner8@yahoo.com and my cell is 620-222-5821.