Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Opportunity vs Principle

First off I'd like to say I have neglected the blog something fierce these last 3 months. Life got busy and I let it fall by the wayside. I have spent much of that "free" time working on the farm's Facebook page, which has been received with such positivity by more people than I would have ever imagined. Today I pledge to get back on track and start writing again, especially since being busy gives me a plethora of things to talk about and we all know how I like to talk.

Yesterday we, as a farm, were presented with a very generous opportunity, but after mulling it over we have decided not to proceed with the venture. I think everyone can relate to this story on some level so I'd like to share it with you today.

As many of you know we are a growing poultry operation. We consider each hen in our flock to be part of our little family, with her own personality and spirit. Demand for our eggs has grown much faster than we anticipated and much faster than our golden girls can keep up with. Our little ladies are almost 12 weeks old so they should start laying in the next month or 2 which will be great when it happens, however we really need laying hens now.

We've been looking at several different options to growing the farm. We really want to do it in a way that is both economical and adheres to our core principles as farmers and people. In a perfect world, with unlimited funds, we would just incubate our own eggs and grow our flock in a way that is 100% controlled by us. The problems with that are; 1. We don't have unlimited funds 2. Baby chicks take 18-20 weeks to mature into layers, that's not going to help us have more eggs in the short term. So we looked into alternate ways to meet demand.

We heard about a local chicken operation that is closing down. Patrick contacted the owner and he invited him down to see his operation. He has his chickens set up to free range during the day and roost and lay their eggs in these super sized chicken tractors. It really is a neat operation. He would even be willing to work with us on the payment arrangement if we purchased one of his flocks of birds (100 hens per flock) along with one of the trailers to house them. The price was right. Monetarily we could swing the transaction. We would have a place for the chickens to safely roost at night from predators and would have the benefit of having 100 established layers added to our flock. They are heritage breed chickens and seemed to fall perfectly in with what we were trying to do at our little homestead farm. It sounded like the perfect opportunity. As Patrick toured the facility and got closer to the chickens he realized they didn't look like our chickens, they were debeaked. This became our conundrum.

I am a firm believer that happy chickens make better eggs. To me "happy" means nutritious, grain and vegetable diets, supplemented with treats, table scraps, oatmeal, oyster shells, bugs, grasses and whatever else they can scratch out of the ground. It means having roosters, to fertilize eggs to make future itty biddies. AND it means they have their beaks.

When we first got the idea to start raising chickens we really did put a lot of thought into the whole operation. We did a lot of research on the different breeds, different coup designs and the different styles of raising backyard chickens. We really wanted our chickens to be more than egg machines. It was important that we take good care of them, and hopefully they would return the favor and lay us beautiful eggs. They have definitely kept up their end of the bargain and we have tried to keep up ours.

Some people believe that you can't have a large chicken flock without debeaking your chickens to prevent them from pecking at one another and possibly injuring each other.  From my own personal experience and from much reading on the subject I have concluded that debeaking is unnecessary if your chickens have adequate space. Do my chickens peck at one another from time to time? Yes, it's called a pecking order for a reason. Have they ever injured each other doing so? No, if they get into a squabble they have room to run and get away from one another.

As Patrick and I mulled over the decision on whether or not we would purchase these birds, I got an overwhelming feeling of Ick. No, we didn't debeak these birds ourselves. Yes we would give them good homes.They would have no way to defend themselves against our ladies that retained their beaks, but they should have enough space to get away from our ladies. We went back and forth about the decision because the numbers say it would be a great opportunity. We would have more eggs, we would expand our flock and we would be able to expand our growing business. But it's not all about the numbers.

In the end the overwhelming feeling of Ick won out. And after making the decision I am at peace with it. No we will not grow our supply as fast as demand would like, but we will stick to our guns and raise our chickens with our original principles intact. We will work hard and stick to what we believe in, and in the end I believe another opportunity will come along. One that will sit right and allow us to be the farmers we want to be.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What do you do?

It's a common question that comes up frequently in polite conversation. "What do you do?" The answer is much more complex than you would expect. I still don't know what the right answer is, or if there even is one in my case. What I do know is what I DON'T do and what I DON'T want to be called.

I don't sit in an office all day. I no longer occupy a cube and do mind numbing repetitive tasks day in and day out. I no longer feel that my creativity is squelched. I also do not have a steady income and a weekly or biweekly pay check I can count to be there consistently. I guess you can't have it all. Was it worth giving up the security of a promised amount of cash in my bank account every other week? For me it absolutely was.

I am a small business owner. I am an Etsy seller. I am shop owner, designer, head stitcher and unstitcher, rotary cutter queen, princess of quilting and goddess of binding at Lulu Belle Quilts. I am chief egg gatherer and secondary rooster disciplinarian at Thaddeus Farms. I am chief financial officer of our family's finances. I am primary pig wrangler on days Edgar gets frisky and escapes. I am director of bovine health and happiness as well as mistress of sweet feed distribution. I am in charge of hay rationing and some days I herd cats, literally. I am subject to every whim of a sweet bulldog. I am rabbit food intake manager and duck water analysis. I am the primary cuisine developer for our home and I make a mean macaroni and cheese and a pretty amazing peach preserve. Oh yeah, and I attempt to blog.

SO I do all of those things. For those of you that want a simple answer, don't expect me to say sewer. A sewer is where poop and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live, not what I do for a living. I like quilter but when I say quilter I think most people get a mental picture of an 80 year old lady with little round spectacles on the bridge of her nose sitting in a rocking chair hand stitching. That is definitely not what I do. I recently learned the word "Sempstress" which is an old word for one who sews. I like it. It sounds sassy, like me, and it's a little different. If I had to put one word on a business card it would probably be this one and then I could explain to everyone else what it means, which or course I would love because it means I would get to talk more.

But really when you think about it, "What do you do?" can mean so many things. I think people tend to look at it as a simple question meaning "What do you do for a living?" or "What is your job?" Does what we do to make money really make us who we are? Is being an engineer or a dancer or a doctor what defines you as a person or is it what you do when you are not at work? I would hazard to say that most of us don't define ourselves as what we do to make money but as much more than that. I just feel lucky that what I do for a living as well as what I do as a person can not be whittled down to a one word response. I like to think I am a bit more complex and interesting than that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hi Internet! It's me, Lindsay. Are you there?

"You should write a blog" they said. "People will LOVE to read your stories" they said. "We'll just see about that" I said.

So I have about a million ideas for blog post topics, however this first one is a bit more difficult than I expected. I want to come out the gate profound but approachable, funny but thought provoking, knowledgeable but entertaining. Since I have no idea how to do all that I guess I will just introduce myself and let my witty banter woo you all into loving me :)

I am Lindsay. I live on Wadmalaw Island, SC. We are a sleepy little island outside of Charleston, SC. Oh yeah, they also make Firefly Vodka and Moonshine here. Like .3 miles from my house. Not a bad place to be! I live here with my boyfriend, Johnny Cash Man Nurse, Pirate Gardener, Bearded Wonder - Patrick. Also there are some animals. Quite a few animals. I'll introduce you to the whole cast of supporting characters another day, but rest assured they are all well fed and bring much joy to our lives.

Why Fabric.Farm.Food. you ask? Well that is an excellent question my darling reader(s). The answer can get really complicated, but to prevent my wordiness from getting the best of me I will keep it simple. I sew. Not just for the fun of it or as a hobby, but for a living. I LOVE it. I have a tiny farm. We call it Thaddeus Farms after my grandfather. It's an ever evolving venture and we are excited about where the future is taking us. I eat, judging from my rounded physique, too much :). We had our first garden this past fall and Patrick is hooked! The more food we grow and make ourselves the more we want to do in the future. There is nothing better than preparing something you grew yourself. It always tastes better than the store bought ones.

As a side note - I LOVE glitter. If there was an F word for glitter it would have made the blog name, unfortunately I couldn't figure one out. I almost went with Fairy Dust but it didn't make the cut.

My goal is to share my thoughts and stories and this journey I am on with you all through this blog. I would love to promise that I will write once a week or twice a week, but as you that know me well know, I have never been on time to anything in my entire life. With the exception of my birth, I was born early, that was the LAST time I was ever early for anything. So let's be realistic and say I will write bi-weekly and see how it goes from there? Feel free to ask me questions, leave me comments filled with kind words and encouragement or curse words and Grammar Nazi critics. Whatever blows your dress up.

I am excited! Let's hope I stay that way and this becomes a new thing. Buckle up and enjoy the ride y'all!