December means it’s time to reflect on the last year. 2017 has been a great year for our little farm. We more than doubled our growing area from the previous season, attended 2 weekly markets, started selling pork at the market, had our first goat birth on the farm, and dipped our toes into mushroom production. We sold more produce and meat than ever before and learned a lot along the way. Here’s a little snapshot of our year.
In our second year growing for market, we attended 2 weekly farmers markets in Scottsville and Charlottesville. The highlight of the season was getting our farm Certified Naturally Grown. We grew about 1500 lbs of produce. Lettuce and salad mixes were the number one crop, followed by tomatoes and sunflower shoots. We finally found a variety of lettuce we liked for the summer and hope that means we can have lettuce all summer long next year. This was our first year growing German Johnson tomatoes and they blew us away – such healthy plants and the flavor of the tomatoes was the best we’ve ever tasted. We will definitely be growing those again next year.
Related to the garden, we installed a walk-in cooler. The walk-in was a major step for us, providing much better and more reliable cold storage for our produce. Getting our produce, greens especially, colder faster means it will last longer in your fridge and retain more of its quality and freshness. We also made improvements to our wash station and wash procedures to ensure that the produce you get from us is clean and safe to eat.
We also had our first flush of shiitake mushrooms this fall. The logs were inncoluated in January and started producing in October. Hopefully we’ll see another flush in the spring. We’ve got about 30 logs waiting to be innoculated this week which means even more mushrooms next fall! We also innoculated a bed of wood chips with Wine Cap mushroom spawn. We’re hoping to see some production out of the wine cap bed in early spring.
This was our first year bringing a full range of pork to market and it was a big hit. We sold over 500 lbs of pork and I probably don’t want to admit to how many pounds we ate ourselves. Chops and bacon were easily the most popular items with sage breakfast suasage coming in third. Being our first year with selling pork, we didn’t quite get the butcher schedule right and ran out of meat a couple times over the summer. We hate disappointing folks when they come to buy some pork and we don’t have any. Next year, we hope to dial in our planning and schedule to make sure we have a consistent supply.
We took 6 hogs to butcher and have 2 still here through the winter. Five more are arriving next week, to hopefully be ready for butcher right before market opens in April. The majority of our pigs have been Gloucestershire Old Spots, but we also had 2 berkshires. Although the berkshires tasted great, they were not our favorite pigs. It’s so hard to beat the laid back, friendly nature of the Old Spots. And we think they taste just as good, if not better, than the berkshires. So it’s Old Spots from here on out.
We had our first goat born on the farm in February. I was there to help pull Milkyway out when he arrived. He was a cute, sweet little buckling who has grown into a smelly, forceful buck. He’s been in with the does now for a couple months and we’re hoping to have lots of cute goat kids come February. Four of our goats are mini lamanchas, and we added one full sized lamancha this summer. Creme Brulee was a great milker who kept us in cheese and yogurt for several months until she accidentally ripped her teat open. The vet stitched her up and we’ve been tending her wounded teat, but it seems she may lose that half of her udder. Thankfully, she seems otherwise fine, but we will be sad to lose her as a milker. Hopefully she will give us a doe or two who can carry on her great milking genes.
We started the year with a full rabbitry with the intention of bringing some rabbit to market by mid summer. But it turns our that rabbits were just one thing too many to manage, so we got out of the rabbit business. We still have one little guy left – Piccolo – who has always been just for cuddling.
It’s been a great year for Heart & Bones Hollow! Stay tuned for our plans and goals for 2018.