Saturday, March 30, 2013

Egg FARMING

My quest to find a way to eventually be able to quit working outside the home and be able to support ourselves off our little homestead is in the works.

After a lot of research time I can semi-comfortable say, "I HAVE A PLAN!"

(remember this is all still in the planning phase, but perhaps my audience may have some 2 cents to share with me while I am in the planning phase)

drum roll...

...enter the Grobarek family business...
"Chicks Gone Wild"
a local, family owned, small scale,  free-range egg enterprise!

(thank you Meaghann for the great name idea!)





The target Market: Smaller locally owned grocery stores, restaurants, B&Bs, and mom and pop shops in the lower Kenai Peninsula.

Potential business growth opportunities: move further north and supply local eggs to similar market on the upper Kenai Peninsula. 

Some findings from my research thus far:

There is only one other farm in Alaska already in this business:  "Alaska Hens" based out of Wasilla.
The owner of the business has been more than gracious and has answered all of the questions I had to ask.  His farm has 2,000-2,500 laying hens (the state of Alaska limits you to 3,000 layers before you need to have inspectors involved).
He produces about 100 dozen a day (about 36,000 dozen a year).
Sells his eggs to two big grocery store chains (3 Bears and New Sagaya) and 5-6 smaller mom and pop shops within the Anchorage area.
He told me which breed he is using, what he likes and dislikes about them.
He told me how much he is paying for feed from Alaska Feed and Mill (infinitely useful as they are not willing to divulge wholesale prices to me without having a business license).

I have run a lot of numbers to see what scale I need to start off at in order to be profitable.
However, I have not decided how small we will start or how big I want to get.

I have talked to the marketing lady at the state run program "Alaska Grown" about my business idea and she was very excited to hear it.
She was able to re-assure me that "Alaska Hens" is a profitable business venture, and that if I choose to undertake a similar business, with the proper planning and management, mine should be feasible as well as profitable!


Last week I attended a very useful workshop called "Managing Your Farm Business" in Palmer, AK.
Some of the things I learned are how to write a business plan, conduct a feasibility study, access the risks of your business venture and be able to manage those risks, and financial planning for tax, profitability, and managing purposes.

Right now I am having a little bit of writers block on the actual business plan writing thing.

Once I write the plan I will start doing some market research studies.

Finally, I must say that learning all this business stuff has been a challenge.
I wish I would have taken a business class or two in college.

I would love to get some feed back from you all!
What do you think?
 

"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Most of you know that our house has been "de-gutted" since before Emil was born.
The walls were taken down to wire the whole place after our dreams of living off the grid were shattered by the acquisition of a size-able amount of moose meat a few falls ago. 
We have not been able to dedicate enough time to the house to put it back together in a timely way.

This weekend is the first time actually SLEEPING in our house for almost two years!
Reason?
Last week, with the help of a very good friend who loves our family so much, I mudded and taped the sheet rocking Brent had slowly put up over time in the master bedroom...

Either way, the result has been our ability to put some carpet in, bring the spare mattress down and have a clean, acceptable room to sleep in with the kids so we don't have to spend all our house project funds on weekend cabin rentals so Brent can work on the house.

Brent mentioned something on the lines of "I am really glad we decided to stay at our house...sometimes you don't know what you are capable of doing until you do it."

I think it has been so long that he was doubting we would ever get things wrapped up enough to stay here again.
 
"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."
Lao Tsu 

Maybe Brent just needed a little of my Gena motivation to get the ball rolling again.

The end of March marks our one month countdown to move-in week (first week of May) and the arrival of  the baby chickens. 
May 3rd to be specific. 
I can't remember what else is coming on May 3rd, the ducklings or the baby Guineas...
...must look it up.

Much love to all our love ones out there.
AND remember...

...for those of you struggling to get the motivation to undertake a project:

In order to provide enough motivation to get any project started, you should visualize in detail all of the benefits you will acquire from successfully completing the venture you have in mind (and maybe write some of the benefits down on a list you can see).
Feel the excitement of putting your heart and soul into your project.
This mental picture should provide more than enough momentum for you to get any worthwhile project underway. Put your best to the test, push yourself well beyond any self imposed boundaries.
Then once the project is complete, you should savor the moment as you bask in the limelight, experiencing the unparalleled exhilaration of victory!

NOTE: I know a lot of you wanted me to post pictures of the progress, but I forgot my camera so you will have to have patience for another week.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Yesterday I felt like supper mom.
I had a LONG list of things to do and a lot of things got checked off.
Very efficiently. 

First stop - the library.  Purpose:  get our taxes done!
It took me an hour and a half to file online. 
YAY Turbo Tax.

Second stop - the post office to mail Oliver’s little friend his 2nd birthday present.

Third stop - Cadree Feed Supply store in Soldotna to order chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
We ordered and paid for 5 Araucana, 5 Black Sex-Link laying pullets and 20 Freedom Ranger meat pullets - all arriving May 3rd.
We ordered 2 Bronze turkeys, 5 Kacki-Campbell ducks, and 6 Guineas fowl - all arriving on May 22nd.
(The turkeys and ducks still need to be paid for since we ARE on a budget and MUST keep our children in their diapers and well fed.)
YAY for getting our bird order placed!
This gives us a deadline for working on the house…
…which is what we took care of next.

Fourth stop - the Home Depot. 
We bought enough paneling to cover all the walls downstairs now that the wiring is all done (Thanks papa Grobarek).
We bought the big picture window that will replace the double door we are taking out in the living room (we decided it was poorly placed and does not allow for the best use of the little space we have.)

OUT with the door IN with the window.

Finally…we bought the floor for the living room!!!!!!!
(for those of you familiar with our house and its never ending list of things to do you will understand how exciting this is.)
It is a beautiful dark colored wood laminate called Kingston Peak Hickory.
We picked out, but did not purchase (due to space issues) the vinyl that we will put in the kitchen until we have funds to put a nicer floor in. 
It is called Sentinel Stone and is a random stone design in a tan to gray coloration (I would say earth toned).
I picked out this vinyl because I thought it complemented the wood laminate in the living room. 

I am sure you can see why I felt so accomplished today.
The only thing currently stopping us from moving back into our beloved little house on our farmstead are the exposed walls and a decent floor on the main floor for the baby to crawl on.
CHECK.
CHECK.

Now…time to work.
See you soon.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Dreaming of a greenhouse

Since out hoop house is a passive solar system it works in our favor by extending our regular Alaskan growing season both in the spring and fall by providing protection and warmth when it is too cold outside to grow anything.
This passive solar system will not work if we want to grow some winter vegetables. 
The temperatures are too cold and heating an area 30x96 would be entirely too expensive.
This is why I would like to build a greenhouse.
Nothing too big. 
Just enough space to grow some fresh cold-tolerant greens, and have space to start seeds in the spring. 
We have a small woodstove that is intended to heat our wall tent, but we could use it to keep the greenhouse warm during the colder winter days.
I don’t foresee our diminished daylight being a problem, but if need be we can put in some lights to keep the plants happy.
This past summer I had two 4x10 foot garden beds full of lettuce, spinach, carrots, and kale.
We could not eat enough greens to keep up with how much we planted. 
If I had just ONE of those beds full of these delicious cold hardy veggies, I know we could have fresh, homegrown side salads all winter.
With this in mind, I would like to make the green house a simple 8x12 feet.
For those familiar with construction: as big as 3 sheet of plywood.
Since I don’t have a lot of money to spend, I hope to make it with as many re-claimed materials as possible. 
On the “keep your eyes out for” list are old windows.
Here are some pictures I found of the most adorable little greenhouses - all made with re-claimed windows and doors. 



Who said thrifty can’t be beautiful?
Be kind to our planet - learn how to reduce and re-use!
I will blog further as this project takes shape! 


ALSO....
What a neat idea...
using willow as a living fence.  MUST look into this:

Like promised, I will share with you last summer’s projects.

 
Since I love flowers I decided that the lower cabin needed a little pick-me-up.
My solution: a flower bed.
We decided to collect local rocks and use them to build the flower bed.
My great idea turned out to be a LOT of back breaking work.


 
Most of which … ok… 99.9% of which Brent did.
Unfortunately moving rocks takes much longer than I thought.
The beautiful bed was completed towards the end of the summer, which meant no flowers.
I think the little rock wall looks fantastic with the old log cabin.


 
This spring when the ground is thawed and there is no danger of frost I can finally put lots of beautiful flowers in it.
I better get started starting starts. 
(Say THAT ten times fast!)


We re-claimed an old garden up the hill in front of the upper cabin.
We had to cut little birch trees down because the garden had lacked love in so long.
We rented a rototiller, made some hills, and planted potatoes.
As the summer days came and went I weeded, added more dirt to the hills, and watched the potato plants grow like crazy.


 
In the fall we dug those little roots up and got a fifteen gallon return!
We rented the rototiller again, made the garden bigger, and planted some garlic!
This summer I plan on adding some onions to the existing garlic. 
Why onions and garlic?
Since I will be at home tending to our garden and livestock there, I won’t be able to baby the re-claimed Moose pens garden.
Onions and garlic are both plants that will do well with the better weather up here and that my husband can keep an eye on while he is here for work. 

Finally, I would like to share some other pictures from last summer.

First - I would like to share a picture of our family addition:

 
 Emil Thomas!

Last summer we raised 5 baby moose - it was a lot of fun. 

Oliver must be about the same weight as this BRAND NEW baby moose in this picture!


Taking the moose for a swim in the lake behind the cabin.

Hello piggy!

Oliver eating a carrot from the garden and dreaming of winter...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I'm back....

"Good morning starshine - the earth says hello."


After almost an entire year of NOT writing, I am back.
...and a tad embarassed!
Last April - on the 16th - I had a second baby. 
A boy. 
We named him Emil Thomas.
Because of our brand new addition, I took a break from the homestead thing.
I spent all summer at the MRC with my husband.
We did some projects.
(I can do a post showing you what wonderful things we accomplished - but none of them really had anything to do with our home sweet home.)

This summer I will be back at the homestead. 
Full time.
with two kids - ages 2 and a half ish and 1 ish.
I am sure it will be another WILD adventure, but I am totally ready to take it on...
...and to include you by blogging about it!

SO - it is early February and I am in PLAN mode.
In my opinion this "plan" mode is the best part of winter.
You know - that time when you can dream up all the projects you want to do in the summer.
Usually you dream up way more than you could ever do
- but HEY -
it doesn't hurt to set your standards high.

Brent and I have really had our thinking caps on.
We have been discussing what we want to accomplish this summer.
We have decided that we don't want to get in over our heads
(oh wait...that is what we say EVERY summer...)
We will only be raising our own food.  
We will be sharing some with a special family that did us a HUGE favor
- for the Karma -
...of course!
As much as it is tempting to raise a few extra birds to cover our own operating costs - we feel it is not worth it this summer.

The plan: 

30 Freedom Rangers (pasture meat chickens, purchased at 3 different times to ease on the labor of butchering all at once), 6 turkeys, 3 pigs, and a couple "guard dog" geese to defend the poor chickens from the hawks that always steal some.

How we are implementing the plan:

We intend to raise all these delicious animals by allowing them forage and roam free in large fenced in pastures and feeding them minimal supplemental grains. 
I also intend to record our intensive efforts in order to get an accurate idea of how much it really takes to raise these animals - including labor.

What we would like to accomplish:

Build movable tractor coops for the turkeys and chickens to be used this summer.
We would like to build 4 different pasture pens on the front 5 acres of our property (each approximately one acre - leaving an acre for the house and garden).
The pens will be used during the NEXT summer for the production of pasture raised poultry and pigs to sell.
Build a permanent butchering station with a concrete slab and a roof.

It does not sound like much - but with TWO toddlers I think we will find ourselves in way over our heads once again.

Keep posted.  I plan to update often.





Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring is here!

Ok, I have no excuses. 
Maybe one.
Hibernation?

It has been a long winter, but break-up is officially here. 
Yesterday we had 50 degree weather.
The road ice is starting to melt.
There are lots of puddles and gravel is visible in some spots!!!
Hurray? 
Yes and no.
I cannot wait for summer, but I have a feeling break-up will last a long time this year do to all the snow piled up on the side of the road.  I hate break-up.

Translation:  When we tried to plan baby #2 "better" we ended up with baby due right in the middle of break-up. 
I am officially 37 weeks along.  3 more weeks to go before we have another baby boy to snuggle with.
I keep telling myself that having to ride 3 miles in the six-wheeler while in labor (as we are going to have to start parking our car at the gravel pit 3 miles from the cabin in order to not tear up the road) with a 15 month old and hubby in tote will have to be chalked up to another great adventure of living in the woods in Alaska.

With spring comes dreams of summer. 
We were going to take our high tunnel plastic down to Anchor Point this weekend, but we overloaded the car with some firewood and it is just too much weight with mushy roads.  It will have to wait till after the baby is born.

I have no idea what is going to happen this summer as far as growing projects are concerned.   
Realistically I cannot spend the entire summer at our house alone with two babies.
The plan now is to automate, automate, automate!
We have fans and vents and a humidity/temperature controller that will turn on fans and open vents at whatever temperature we set the thing at.
We need to figure out a way to do some irrigation on a timer as well.  Which I am telling myself will be a small project...
This year we will plant all sorts of legumes in order to do some nitrogen fixation in order to improve our soils.
 1
Now, does anyone want to put bets down on when the snow will be gone at our place?  I am putting my money down on early-mid June!

GG

P.S.  Sorry there are no pictures as our camera broke.  We have a replacement camera but now we are just waiting for the memory card to arrive in the mail.