Monthly Archives: May 2015

Fridays on the Farm: Ambassadors for Green Roots Living

I like to strut my stuff (Maverick)

Ambassadors, yes that’s what we are. We are ambassadors for the hardworking, plant and animal loving hobby farmer ladies out there. We animals of The Shepherd Hobby Farm serve to protect and teach the ways of living off the land (at least between Wal-Mart and Rural King visits), appreciating the bounty God has given, and collaborative living with hobby farmer ladies, fellow animals, and nature.

My name is Maverick and I am a rooster. A really amazing rooster. I’d like to share our day with you in hopes of continuing education to the masses about the importance of all things farming! It is our duty to teach others where their food comes from so they appreciate our sacrifice and thank God for the gifts they are given in us.

A few of us had the incredible opportunity to visit a local school where about 60 kids and adults were dazzled by our brilliance, educated about life on The Shepherd Hobby Farm, and practically fell in love with our clever antics and splendor.

In attendance on this trip of epic proportions were the following:

Maverick: Prettiest rooster on the whole planet. Big fella (not fat, very muscular) who likes to live life on the edge and laugh in the face of authority at every opportunity. Technically I am a Partridge Cochin rooster but that barely scratches the surface of who I am as an individual. I’m like an onion… many layers… but I don’t stink and I’ve never seen the movie Shrek.

Hilda: My (Maverick) main squeeze and one of the best layin’ girls on the farm. Hilda’s lineage taps deep into German roots… so she says… we have yet to confirm her story from

Sweet Clementine: This girl is a real sweetheart and has just started her layin’ on the farm. A barnyard mix of something black and white speckled with smooth legs Sweet Clementine keeps the hobby farmer lady happy with her cuddly chicken ways.

Jessie and Pat: Two brave juveniles who volunteered for this trip. These boys (or girls… too early to tell yet) are at the top of their class in scratching and pecking and look to grow into invaluable members of the poultry brigade at the farm.

Various chicks: These kids refuse to be named as they were playing hooky from chick school this day and mother hen would have had their tail feathers if she found out they jumped in with Jessie and Pat at the last minute! They missed their lesson on dust bathing so they will surely grow into the dirtiest chickens on the planet.

Scipio Africanus and Julius Caesar: Twin Nigerian dwarf buckling goats known around the farm as “Trouble 1” and “Trouble 2” or just plain Scipio and Caesar. They are the sons of Ella and the late Mike, turn heads on every stroll, and tend to bring the party with them wherever they go.

While at the school we explained the lifecycle of the chicken, why there are goats and other animals at The Shepherd Hobby Farm, and the importance of supporting all farmers; hobby and professional. There were some remarkable questions from the kids and we even got some fan mail with questions upon returning to the farm! I’d like to take the opportunity to share a few of the questions from that day and after, as well as the answers with you all…

Q. Do you need a rooster for hens to lay eggs?

A. Nope! Though I am amazing and beautiful, hens will lay eggs whether I am around or not. Laying eggs is what they do. Even meat chickens (raised for meat) will lay eggs if you let them live long enough. A hen is hatched out with EVERY egg she will ever lay in her life already inside her little chick body. She grows, and after about 5 months of age, each day one of those eggs gets bigger and bigger, creates a hard shell, and is laid by the hen. When her eggs run out she will never lay another. What do you need a rooster for? If you want to hatch any of your eggs into chicks then you need me, the rooster, to fertilize those eggs while they are still inside the hen.

Q. Why do you have goats on your farm?

A. We have goats because we like for them to eat down our poison ivy and other brush in the woods. This way us chicken can easily go through and scratch the ground for scrumptious worms and bugs. The hobby farmer lady milks these goats and makes some astounding soaps and lotions as well but I’m quite sure their main job on the farm is to help us get to those worms and insects.

Q. Are brown shelled eggs healthier than white shelled eggs?

A. Not necessarily. It all depends what the individual hen eats. Some breeds lay white eggs, some lay brown and there are even some chickens who lay pink, blue, yellow, or green shelled eggs! If a white egg layer eats the same thing as a brown egg laying chicken then the two eggs will have an almost identical nutritional value. The best diet for a chicken is one in which they can free range and eat plants, insects, worms, fruit, vegetables, and everything else that looks good to them. Personally, I like those Easter color shelled egg layin’ hens… they tend to be a spirited bunch of ladies always ready for an adventure.

Q. What is the difference between a hobby farm and a real farm?

A. In my opinion a hobby farm is one where the hobby farmer lady has time to talk to us, hold us, and spend some extra time each day to make sure we are happy and are living an enriched life. I often hear Mr. hobby farmer guy say a hobby farm is one which takes your money instead of makes you money. Maybe a real professional farm makes money? Yes, I’m sure that’s it. A real professional farm makes a profit and has to put in very long hours on a tractor with animals as far as the eye can see. Oh and professional real farms have cows… we have no cows. Pigs, yes a real farm has pigs. We have no pigs. Why don’t we have pigs? Another question for another day because I need to ask the hobby farmer lady why we don’t have pigs. I think we want pigs. Do you support our want for pigs?

Do you have any other questions you would like me to answer? Feel free to send them to my secretary at . She will be sure I get them and I promise to answer quickly and precisely with all my knowledge swimming around in this handsome head of mine!

I took some unbelievable pictures of this day but the hobby farmer lady says there is an issue with attachments right now on the blog and she will have to upload them another time. I will be sure to remind her, no worries. She likes to be reminded of such things by me crowing at about 2 a.m…. it seems to be her favorite reminder time.

~Maverick, the rooster, the best rooster ever.

5 Things Ya Just Gotta Have for Your Hobby Farm…

Seeeeeeee! I want what the Millett's have, an Est. date!

Seeeeeeee! I want what the Millett’s have, an Est. date!

So when I started this endeavor in 2009 I knew next to nothing that would serve useful in the way of hobby farming. What I did know was this… The prayer and hard work combination could move mountains… or in my case, build a hobby farm.

I didn’t start out wanting a hobby farm. Me, my husband, our two sons and our one German Shepherd (Katja) moved to this house in the southern Indiana woods. We had come from California (via a couple month vacation in Wisconsin) and I was overjoyed to be back in the Midwest… my old stomping grounds.

Within a week of moving in to our house a stray cat had kittens in our garage. She was quite tame and let us interact with her and the kittens as much as we wanted so naturally we weighed them every day, gave them names, did our own little “vet checks” with them (lifelong dream as a kid was to be a veterinarian AND a lawyer AND Presidents of the United States AND a teacher), and made ourselves the biggest nuisance ever to this poor mama and her kittens. One kitten went to family in Wisconsin, one passed away just last year, and the rest we still have and care for here on The Shepherd Hobby Farm, including Mommy Cat (yes, that’s her name, forgive us as we were new to the whole “coming up with great names” thing).

Rabbits followed, and then there was this goat that we got Jackson for his birthday in 2010. Elliott (his goat) needed a buddy so there was Pedro and since then we have gotten a few more (yes,, we are up to 25 goats now).

I went to pick up a baby goat at a farm a couple years back and came home with two lambs… one is getting ready to be a first time mama at five years old.

There were more cats and kittens adopted/found, vetted (by us and professionals), spayed/neutered, and loved.

My lifelong dream was fulfilled the day I brought home my first horse, Mercedez, a Tennessee Walking Horse mare who I ride only bareback and feel completely at home on despite any lessons or training in horseback riding (she and I did go to a workshop once and it was fun but we never really got around to riding, just groundwork). She was joined by Yoda, an old quarter horse who was a great guy. Since then he has passed (EPM) and we got Pepsi, a young mix of a horse from a great horse rescue.

There were more dogs… two more German Shepherds, a Great Pyrenees, and a golden retriever to be exact. Oh and the chickens. Yes, early on we got chickens. And ducks. Ooh and guineas! There were more rabbits and some guinea pigs.

Now, well now we have a hobby farm… The Shepherd Hobby Farm. When did we become a hobby farm? I don’t know, probably around the time of cat #6 or rabbit #4… possibly goat #7 pushed us into hobby farm status. Maybe the chickens? Yes, definitely when we got the chickens.

#1 “Established On” Year

Why do I go on and on about all of this? Well, it’s quite simple really… I want to make an “established on…” sign. Ya know, the year we were established as a hobby farm to display on the barn or a neat The Shepherd Hobby Farm sign at the top of the lane! But every sign has to have an Est. XXXX entry… what would ours be? The first thing every hobby farm has to have is an “established on” timeframe.  This provides some focus (whether it me narrow or quite loose is totally up to you) as to how your life will be run.

Maybe it’s the day we drove down our long curvey lane and knew instantly we had found our forever home.

All I know is that we are certainly a hobby farm today and every day we move forward in a steady progression towards a more satisfying life for us and our animals. How do we do it?

One…Foot…In…Front…Of…The… Other

Every day. No exceptions. There’s no days off on a farm. There’s no day of complete rest. God graces us with work to keep us healthy, humble, and moving. He blesses us with animals to keep us subservient to something other than ourselves. These animals are a constant reminder that we are to serve, to care for, and to provide for their every need.

Working alongside my sons not only on the farm but in their newly found interest in my dog training business I am filled with hope for our future generation. A hope that they live to serve and help other others, man and beast.

yup, gumption!

yup, gumption!

#2 Gumption

According to Encarta Dictionary (and I’m guessing Miriam Webster would agree) gumption is “the courage to take what action is needed and practical common sense and presence of mind.” Yes, that is totally what you need to be a hobby farmer. When I have a goat that is in trouble while kidding I have to have the courage to take what action is needed whether that be waiting things out a bit to see if the doe (female goat) can do it on her own or  go in and give a helping hand. Do I help that little chick hatch out of its tough egg shell or let it do it on its own knowing that the tough survive far better than those helped along in that case?

buckets! Pretty buckets!

buckets! Pretty buckets!

#3  Five gallon buckets

Seriously, just as one cannot survive without food and water I don’t think a hobby farmer would last long without their five gallon buckets. I know here on The Shepherd Hobby Farm we like have to keep things simple either because we want to or we don’t have the funds at that time to upgrade. Would I love running water up at the barn? You betcha! Am I going to pay someone to do it for me? Heck no (at least not at this moment). Am I going to learn how to do it myself and then go ahead and do it? Sure, when another 15 hours get added to the day and I don’t have about 400 others things far more pressing to do. I fill 5 gallon water buckets with water and haul them to the various places they need to go. The goats, the sheep, chickens’ waterers etc.  Hauling feed is also best done in five gallon buckets. The horses know the sound of their oats and pellets just as the goats know the sound of their pellet mixture. I think even the cardinals and blue jays have their “sunflower seeds in a bucket” sound memorized. When a goat’s on the milking stand nothing makes a better seat than a flipped over 5 gallon bucket. Need to haul compost soil from the compost pile to the garden? Enter the 5 gallon bucket! Gathering worms for a fishing expedition? Hello 5 gallon bucket, will you hold my worms? You will? Awesome, thanks! The chicks escaped out of the brooder and are running everywhere… QUICK, GRAB A FIVE GALLON BUCKET TO HOLD THEM AS WE GATHER THEM UP!

take out the broom... we don't need no stinkin' broom!

take out the broom… we don’t need no stinkin’ broom!

#4 The quartet of garden tools: Shovel, post hole digger, rake and hoe.

I’m cheating slightly here by putting four in one but it’s my blog and I can do what I want to. Shovel, yup, kinda obvious. Killing dangerous rattle snakes or other poisonous critters (i.e. any spider that I see and most crickets because they give me the heebie jeebies) and also great for digging holes in the garden, shoveling rock and mulch anywhere and everywhere, shoveling horse, sheep, goat, chicken, and rabbit poo into empty 50 pound feed sacks to let compost and then sell as fertilizer (your welcome for that awesome idea). The post hole digger is an often overlooked necessity. If you are going to have a garden or animals you are going to need fencing. Every critter, foreign and domestic, known to man wants to come eat your garden the minute you look away. Some crazy hobby farmers like me don’t yet have a tractor with one of them fancy post hole diggers so we do it the old fashioned way and call it “bicep and tricep workout day” when we dig post holes with our trusty post hole digger. It works really well and does a perfect size deep hole for posts! Rake, ummm yup, another basic one but utilized almost continually on a simple hobby farm. Raking poo into piles to shovel into wheelbarrows or empty feed bags.The hoe, my favorite. I’m a “no till” kind of lady in the garden. Like my arthworms to keep as many homes as they can so I just lightly hoe the weeds and the rows where I need to plant and heavily mulch the areas in between with my composted material or mulch that we have the local tree service drop off for us.

The trailer... epic in nature. From dump run to hay run and everything in between.

The trailer… epic in nature. From dump run to hay run and everything in between.

#5 Pickup or a small trailer

Yes, I am that mom you see driving a minivan pulling a trailer with a huge roundbale of hay in it. Don’t judge me and stop staring! Trips to the dump, getting hay, picking up a great deal on a new chicken coop, whatever you need to haul a truck or a trailer is a necessity! Doesn’t have to be pretty but it has to have good tires and a bit of gumption of its own.

Bah, sorry for the novel but I gotta say with these 5 things you too can run your very own hobby farm. Throw some pallets and cattle panels into that mix and you have our farm today! There’s plenty of things that would make things easier and faster but I kinda like the simple speed with which we run here… it helps to slow me down and lets me watch the plants grow.

Keep on keepin’ on my friends!