Archive for the ‘Now Available’ Category

As Autumn Begins and a 12-Hour Road Trip

I picked the first ripe bright orange pumpkin from the garden today and brought it into the house. As I set it down on the edge of my dark brown wooden dining table, my eyes caught the two warm fall colors together for the first time. Very autumnish. Just at that moment I thought how the land is now signaling that we are officially headed for fall. It is funny how the plants and animals here seem to know this even before I became aware of it. The summer season had changed her gown before I even noticed. I just started to be aware of the fact that in the last two mornings it is still dark when the alarm goes off at 6 am. This is one of the first things that brings my mind to the awareness that the summer season is officially winding down and will began giving way to autumn.

The equinox was actually on the 23rd of this month (at 9:04 if you’re counting). All across the nation, folks will be wrapping up their growing seasons as they say goodbye to their summer gardens. Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of this passage for most of the United States. I guess it’s time for me to toss my white sandals into the back of the closet, and start to look for some of my sweaters now.

We are lucky here in parts of California, as we will still be able to plant in the fall, and coax at least one more round of summer veggies before the winter frost sets in. I am always thankful we live here in Ventura County because we can grow at least some veggies and herbs year-round! Onions, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, garlic are great for planting this time of year! We currently have bell peppers coming out of our ears, and much squash still going strong. Some years past we have had long “Indian summers” where the warm weather has remained – one year we had ripe tomatoes up until November!

The roses are all putting off a lot of red growth right now as they gear up for their fall blooms. These are the blooms they will set their winter hips with to save energy in to get them through the winter months, so these blooms will be large and longer lasting then most of the spring blossoms. I like my rose gardens in fall.

The poultry are about through molting, and it has been a real chore to keep ahead of raking up all the feathers every week. Egg production is still strong, and we are still getting a lot of nice chicks hatching in both incubators every few days. The game bird season is over, but we did have two turkey poults that hatched very late this year. We are still getting a few quail chicks.

In the goat yard, we have weaned the babies, and it has gone well this year. I think the moms were ready for this to happen, even though the babies complained a bit.

We welcomed a new face here a month ago – a young herd sire to replace the two older bucks we lost over a year ago. Desert Sun’s Royal Demand came to us all the way from Desert Sun Pygmies in Klamath Falls, OR. Linda Colville has been a breeder and pygmy goat judge for many years and has a beautiful herd of animals there. I had owned a buck from her for many years and already know that this bloodline mixes well with mine. Although young at 8 months old, Royal Demand has already done well in the show ring, has good structure, strong caramel genetics in his pedigree, and to top it all off he has a sweet personality. What more could we ask for in an upcoming herd sire! The only trouble we had with this buck was the actual act of getting him from Klamath Falls, OR to Ventura, CA. The airlines charge over $300 to fly an animal in the baggage compartment so we decided to try a different way. Linda had a friend who lived about 3 hours away, and she was headed from Oregon to a pygmy goat show in Watsonville, CA on August 19th. We would be able to pick him up there the next day on the 20th. Watsonville is about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Ventura. Woo Hoo- ROAD TRIP! A very dear friend of the farm learned about our plans and decided to make it an exciting adventure for us. We were provided with a beautiful new rental SUV to use, and enough gas and food money for our journey. Christy and I packed up a cooler full of food and drinks, and we hit the road at noon on Saturday. We drove all day, stopping along the way every two hours or so. We took Mandy (Christy’s dachshund) with us and enough CDs to keep us entertained the whole trip. We left right around noon, took turns driving and oddly enough, got back to the farm just about midnight-twelve hours later, even after being a bit lost once or twice. We made very good time. The new guy has settled in to the farm well, and we are enjoying this new addition to our herd.  Welcome to Blue Hill Farms, Royal Demand, we hope you will be very happy here!

Summer daze and a few very lucky chicks

The Summer Solstice is the day of the year with the most hours of daylight. In the Northern Hemisphere, it always occurs in June between the 20th and the 21st. The Sun will reach its highest position in the sky on this day north of the Tropic of Cancer (23o26’N). Even though we have been experiencing a certain amount of “June gloom” in our area, my thoughts are starting to turn towards long, warm evenings, mint ice tea brewed by the sun and setting up the hammock for lazy naps.

We spent this last weekend working diligently in the vegetable garden, digging competing weeds, planting out starts, watering all the crops in well and then applying a thick, heavy layer of mulch from the goat barn to keep all the root systems moist and cool. It looks like we will be getting a bumper crop of plums and grapes again this year and the pomegranates, bursting with their bright red flowers, are keeping the hummingbirds very busy these days. Most of the roses are repeating their blooms and the house is filled with their beautiful colors and fragrant essences. The smell of the Scotch broom in the riverbed behind us, blooming in its full bright yellow splendor comes across the back field on the evening breeze, sending our senses reeling. The plums from the trees are so sweet they almost hurt your teeth to eat them and we have even caught the dog raiding the blackberry patch a few times.

Summer daze is upon us!

All the poultry pens are in full production now and both of the incubators are running with full trays of eggs. We are hatching many nice chicks, turkeys, and pheasants and selling dozens of hatching eggs to people who want to try their own hand at it. So far all of the new poultry families that have bought our birds have reported success and here are some photos of some VERY lucky chicks that became members of the Shahin  family a few weeks back – what great digs they ended up with! WOW!!!

The e-book- dreams, hard work, and much gratitude

Click image for more information.

Today we launched The Blue Hill Farms Guide to Basic Chicken Keeping (for now as an e-book, we will most likely get it out in hard copy as well.) I like that it is called a “guide,” as I really don’t like telling anybody what to do. I would rather teach people what to expect, and then let them do things their own way, at their own pace, in their own time. I would like the seekers of this knowledge to be able to plan ahead, to avoid common problems, to be able to tell when everything is going along as it should be and to know what to do when plan A does not always work out (and the first rule of farming is – plan A does not always work out.) It is best to be prepared.

The guide is taken from the class we teach here in the spring – Poultry Keeping 101. This class is for anyone new to chicken keeping and/or people who are thinking about chicken keeping and would first like to see what they are getting themselves into. We bring them to our “outdoor classroom” on the farm where they can experience for themselves the sights, sounds, and feel of this new adventure they are undertaking. They get to see the chickens in action – see a hen taking a dust bath, touch a fluffy little hatchling, or even watch an egg pipping in an incubator for the very first time. We teach them the beginning basics of what it will take to keep their new charges happy, safe and healthy.

We like our classes to feel like people are sitting down and talking with a good neighbor or friend so that they feel comfortable to ask any kind of questions, even if they think the questions seem dumb. My grandfather always used to say that the only dumb questions in the world are the ones people don’t ask. Hey, if you don’t know something – ask. Better to find something out ahead of time than after it has become a issue. In fact, a lot of what is included in this guide is what our students have taught us with their questions. We have heard a lot of frequently asked questions from our beginners and it has helped us to help them learn the basics and dispel much misinformation that is floating around out there about poultry keeping.

We only teach these classes in the late spring/early summer months, but found that we were getting many inquires year round about many of the same issues. So it was time to write it all down, get it in a format that is easy to understand and use, and make it available everyone who needs it year round. It is truly my sincere hope that this guide becomes a useful reference and source of information for everyone who reads it. It always makes my heart glad to be able to pass on my experiences to others with the hopes that it will benefit and reward both the new keepers, and their chickens.

As with anything of this nature, this guide took a lot of time, effort and some plain old-fashioned hard work to bring into fruition, so I would like to take this moment in time to thank the two people without whom this guide would never have happened.

First, my thanks to Christy Shay, Editor, co-worker and good friend, who took all of my random e-mails of information and put them into a useable format. She put hours of time into this guide and has corrected miles of my horrific spelling and errors in grammar along the way. She has put up with my stories, endless questions and my fear of modern technology with patience and grace. I could have never done this without you Christy, you are truly a blessing in my life.

Also my thanks to Meredith Newcom, Illustrator, co-worker and friend, who brought color and life to these written words with her beautiful artwork. I watched in awe as she took her brushes and colors and blended them into these beautiful illustrations and whimsical portrayals of chickens. The illustrations and layout of the guide exceeded my wildest dreams for this piece, and her talent is a true gift, as is her friendship. Thank you Meredith.

I find it very apropos that the first chicks of spring hatched today; on the very same day we launched this guide.

New life and new beginnings in a new season. It just does not get any better than that!

Dreams realized, hard work paying off and recognizing their value is great way to start a project! I wish everyone success in their chicken keeping adventures, and welcome all of the farm’s new friends in poultry!

Vegetable Starts Available Soon

Plant Starts

Heirloom tomato plants, squash, herbs and more. Watch for our prize-winning produce at the Ventura County Fair!

Fiber


Nikki checks out Libby before her haircut.

Home grown angora yarn now available. Also many colors of raw alpaca fiber, perfect for spinners and felters. Please contact us directly for availability and pricing.

Chicks! Chicks! Chicks!

Organic Poultry and Eggs

Sexed pullets available just in time for Easter – Gold, Red and Black Stars. Will be excellent layers of large brown eggs. Can begin laying as early as 18-22 weeks old.

We also have heirloom breeds – Morans, Speckled Sussex and more – inquire for pricing and availability. Please contact us if you need laying hens or have other poultry or gamebird needs.

Farm fresh chicken eggs available and duck eggs (seasonally.)

Pygmy Goats

Pygmy Goats


Please contact us directly to be placed on the waiting list.