Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Relative-ly Good Advice

We just returned from a fabulous family reunion up north. All of our family members were enthusiastic about our farmquest, and most had advice for us. Here are some of their nuggets of wisdom:

Uncle Ken & Aunt Inez: Ken and Inez are award-winning sheep farmers and raised and trained highly-coveted border collies that they sold all over the world. Inez recommends:
a) We need 10 or 12 chickens -we'll probably lose a few to predators,
b) We should get a pair of peacocks as an attraction for our pizza farm (she has a beautiful pair now),
c) Planting a border of spruce trees and highbush cranberry makes an excellent windbreak and feeds the birds (she told me about watching the the wild turkeys jump up and kung-fu kick the cranberry bushes last winter to eat the falling berries.)
d) Avoid genetically modified seed and look for heritage varieties. She offered me her own strain of buttercup squash she developed over the years -perfect for Squash Blossom Farm!
e) You can make a decent income raising certain breeds of dogs for pets. But it is much easier when you have kids, because the puppies get so much more people interaction.
Ken says:
a) Our Aussie dogs are probaby too old to learn to herd sheep, altho Cocoa might have potential since because was a pup on a working farm --if she had the opportunity to watch the sheep as a pup. Herding dogs learn how the sheep move by observing them as puppies.

Cousin John: John and Rachel had a 6-acre farm in SW Minnesota before they moved to Texas a few years ago. They raised Brittany Spaniels and several hundred pheasants each year--which they then released to build up the wild population. John says:
a) He would go in with several other guys and order pheasant chicks 1000 at a time- and then they cost about $.75 each. He fed them corn siftings from a neighboring farmer.
b) John mowed a little of his 6 acres every day, rather than spend 5 hours every weekend mowing.

Lyle and Teryl: Lyle, my brother, is the least-likely person I would have ever envisioned raising goats, but he is married to Teryl, a woman with farming in her blood. A couple years ago they acquired 5 goats when they learned they would consume the burdock growing on their 8o acres. Now their herd has grown to 30 Boer and Nubian goats. Lyle and Teryl advise:
a) Goats will do an incredible job of keeping the weeds down, especially burdock, and wherever horses have been will be burdock. But the goats will also strip the bark from trees. They love aspen leaves--when Teryl bends down an aspen sapling for them, all 30 goats are instantly there.
b) The goats will climb all over everything, especially cars.
c) They offered us Lucky, a goat they bottle-fed who doesn't know he is a goat - he acts like a dog. Were they serious? I don't know if they could really part with Lucky..Plus, if Lucky is a male, I don't think we want a billy goat...

Rita: My sister in Montana was not at the reunion (darn) but has just acquired two horses. She emailed me that a couple of big horses would look lovely grazing on that big lawn and would greatly reduce mowing.

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