The Dixie Henhouse Homestead at Ellis Farms

The Dixie Henhouse Homestead at Ellis Farms

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Discovering Life and Loss

Where do I begin? So much has happened over the past several months. I feel like we're going a thousand different directions. Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that you can only do so much. You must prioritize and go from there. Another "live and learn" moment.

So where are we? Neck deep in pastured chicken and pork. THAT is for sure. The community has welcomed us with open arms as a local provider and meat is flying out of here faster than we can process it. We may have found our "nitch" in the world. We are so blessed that the reception has been good and we are working hard to continue improving on what we've built so far.

Our two goat mamas gave us gorgeous babies. Cocoa, the pro, gave us a set of twin does, which we have named Dottie and Gidget. They are now 4 weeks old and doing very well.

 Tillie, surprised us for sure on her first pregnancy. She gave us a gorgeous set of triplets, a doe and two bucklings. Our daughter named the little doe Chloe. We named the boys Oreo and Domino.
Domino and Chloe came into this world struggling from the get go. They ingested some of mom's birthing fluids and were treated for pneumonia and wore "sock sweaters" for over a week and slept under a heat lamp so that we could keep their temperatures up. They both seemed to be doing much better and then it appeared that Chloe wasn't getting as much to eat as her brothers. We began bottle feeding her but she never came out of it.
Chloe passed away this past Saturday. She was 3 weeks old. It is our first loss since we began raising Nigerian Dwarfs three years ago. My heart just broke and I felt like such a failure that I couldn't make her better. But I'm a realist. I know it comes with the territory when you decide to raise farm animals. Domino and Oreo continue to thrive and already have new homes waiting for them where they'll go in another 4 weeks. They are beautiful boys and will make wonderful herd sires.
 We just brought 7 new piglets to the farm to add to our pastured pork program and we have 70 new Freedom Ranger chicks that were moved to the mobile chicken tractor in the field for the meat bird production.

Farmer's Market season has begun and we are busy every Saturday morning. I look forward to market every week and enjoy meeting new people and telling them about what we're doing at Ellis Farms. Things are going well and we continue to be blessed by our customers in our farming adventures. As always, thank you for supporting us. We couldn't do it without you.

Until next time,
Audra AKA Head Farm Mama at Ellis Farms.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Now On To 2015!

I haven't posted a blog in over 3 months but that should give you some indication of just how busy things have been for us. We moved into a solid fall/winter farming season with winter greens and other goodies for market. We made over 100 gallons of molasses and those have been selling like hotcakes!
We processed our first set of pasture raised chickens and the response has been wonderful from our buyers. We participated in our very first Cat Square Christmas Parade and had an absolute blast!
In November, we transported the goat girlies, Cocoa and Tillie, to FLG Farms in Taylorsville where they stayed with their boyfriend for two weeks. We are crossing our fingers for Spring babies. Over the holidays, we discovered a wonderful use for Christmas trees after folks were finished with them....goats LOVE them! It's a wonderful and nutritious treat. What a great way to recycle and give it back to nature.
Right now, things on the farm are moving pretty slow. It gives us time to rest and recoup. But we are gearing up for the next growing season. Rick has been working to ready the greenhouse for planting spring seeds. A wood stove has been installed to keep it nice and toasty to help them grow on these cold winter days. Our pigs are ready to be processed. Our butcher appointment is set for mid-February so we are excited to be able to add pasture raised pork for our customers.
We continue to be blessed beyond measure at the support that we have received from the community as we have pushed our family farm to the next level. It's not all been perfect. There have been successes and failures, highs and lows. We continue to learn new things on a daily basis. All in all, 2014 was good to us. Looking forward to 2015!

Til next time,
Head Chicken Mama at Ellis Farms

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Business Is Booming!

This post may be short and sweet but that's the nature of the game when you're running a farm and still working a full time job and a part time job at the same time. People say to me all the time, "I don't know how you do it." Truthfully, I don't either but it just gets done and that's the main thing. We have been super busy which means we are super blessed. Harvest Moon Grille is now open in our home town with well known Chef Cassie Parsons at the helm. Her menu features complete farm to table awesomeness and it has brought something completely new and fresh to the area. Reviews have been great and this means greatness for us because we've been supplying produce to the restaurant on a weekly basis. Cassie and her staff have been awesome to work with. We couldn't be happier. You can check our their website and menu HERE.
Our Farmer's Market sales have really done well. We were very nervous about stepping in to that unknown territory and the other vendors have been extremely welcoming. We are in the midst of transitioning from Spring crops to Fall so we have lots of things in various stages of growth. We are getting ready to butcher the pigs and we have added Freedom Ranger meat chickens to the menu. We hope to be licensed to be able to sell pasture raised chicken, with no hormones and no antibiotics, as well as pasture raised pork to the public. We are extremely excited about this addition to what we can offer to the community.

And, of course, September at Ellis Farms means it's molasses season, so cooking begins this weekend. We have enough planted to probably be cooking for the next 4 or 5 weekends. We will be selling quarts and pints. We will have enough to sell from the farm, at the market, and also to the restaurant who has been using our molasses in some of their menu items.

The other exciting thing happening this month is that we were invited to be a part of this year's Charlotte Area Farm Tour. It takes place the weekend of the 27th and 28th and includes 15 farms. From 12pm until 6pm each day, folks can visit as many of the participating farms as they can fit in. Each farm offers different activities and things to learn, as well as items to purchase directly from the farmer. We are extremely excited to be a part of the tour this year. We'll be doing a hay ride tour of the farm, a molasses making demonstration, and meeting all of our animals. We will also have a produce stand set up with molasses and other goodies for sale. If you'd like to learn more or to purchase a ticket, click HERE.

Last but not least, we have a new family member. We traveled to Trade, Tennessee a brought home a new puppy. The kids have decided to name him Cotton. He is a Great Pyrenees and is a livestock guardian dog and will live with the chickens and goats as their protector. We are busy getting him adjusted to his new home and learning the "rules" regarding the animals that he's to take care of. The kids absolutely love him and his fluffy soft white fur. He is going to be a big boy and we are happy to have him.
Til next time,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Busy and Blessed

It's almost August and things are still hopping on the homestead. We have had a wonderful first month at the Lincoln County Farmer's Market. Everyone has been extremely welcoming to us and we've been very successful each Saturday that we've been there. Even though we are in the midst of the summer season, we have already begun planting produce for the fall. I've had lots of fun looking at different varieties of things that we can try to grow.

We've brought 7 new chickens to the farm (3 Australorps, 2 Rhode Island Reds, a French Black Copper Maran, and a Black Jersey Giant). We are looking forward to the additional eggs that they will provide for us. Our four pigs are growing and getting fatter each day. They are enjoying our fresh produce also! They are so funny to watch and so very smart! If they hear us coming, there is a good chance we have something for them to eat and boy do they come running as fast as they can. We are hoping to be able to sell our pork at the farmers market this Fall. We are also doing some research into the possibility of adding free range meat chickens to our farm and then selling those at the market as well.
Our produce has done so well and we've taken care of sharing that with the community, but we've saved some for us too. We've put up bell peppers, corn, and tomatoes for this coming winter so we can have fresh, healthy veggies on those cold winter days.
Before I leave you for today, I want to assure you that it's not all work and no play at our place. We were able to take a few days and head for the mountains of North Carolina and cool off for a pit. We had beautiful weather and the kids enjoyed catching crawdads in the creek.....which were quickly used for fishing purposes. :)

We hope everyone is enjoying their summer and being safe. Hopefully your own gardens have provided you with lots of goodies for your own families enjoyment.

Until next time,

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Non-Stop Activity On The Homestead

What can I say? I've been slack about blogging but there is no slack happening on the farm. We have been busy busy busy. Cocoa and Mandy, our Nigerian Dwarf does, each had a set of twins in April. 3 boys and a girl. We have retained the female and named her Trixie. One of our boys went to a buyer in Charlotte, another went to a buyer just across the state line in South Carolina, and our third made a long trip to his new home in Florida. We are able to keep up with the two in South Carolina and Florida via Facebook and they are as happy as can be with their new families. Both will be herd sires when it is time to breed them. I'm so happy that we were able to find good homes for all three of these gorgeous boys! So since we moved 3 out, of course that means we had room to bring some in. :) We are happy to announce the additions of "Tillie" and "Opal".
Tillie is from FLG Farms in Taylorsville, NC. She was owned by my goat soap guru friend, Lee Ann Ferguson. She will be a year old in July and is the sweetest, most loving little girl.
Opal is from Past Ur Time Farm in Rutherford, NC. She is naturally polled and blue eyed so we are very excited to add those awesome genetics to our heard. Opal is still a baby, so we won't be breeding her until the Fall of 2015. She is a very vocal little girl and makes sure everyone around knows when she wants attention. We love her to death already!
It's pickin' time on Ellis Farms! So of course, evenings and weekends are spent in the field gathering what we are blessed to have sown this spring. We planted a total of 3500 veggies of various varieties and things are hoppin'.

I'm very proud of how beautiful our produce has turned out so far. We are set to make our first appearance at the Lincoln County Farmer's Market this coming weekend and we are also working with Devine Farms in Catawba County in a farm share opportunity to sell our produce at their farm stand. We also added four feeder piglets to the mix. We plan on raising them for meat for the family and possibly using one as a breed sow. Things are coming together and it is alot of work. We are still learning as we go, but we are enjoying it.

Til next time,
The Ellis'

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Learning From The Pros......Piedmont Farm Tour 2014

This past weekend we decided to send the kids to the grandparents and head towards the eastern part of the state and take part in the largest farm tour in the United States. It's sponsored by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. I've learned quickly that these folks have a wealth of knowledge and really want to help up and coming beginner farmers. We spent two days visiting a total of 6 farms (there were a total of 36 farms to pick from).

On Saturday, we took part in a special bus tour that was only for beginner farmers. We were able to take notes, ask questions, and really get up and personal with the owners and workers at each location. Our first stop was to Perry-winkle Farm. They have sustainably grown vegetables, and cut flowers. They have a crop rotation system to insure a healthy environment. They had two chicken tractors with two different types of meat birds. We also got to see their Hebel Block passive-solar greenhouse. They also have an onsite brick bread oven. The smells coming from that thing were mouth watering!

Next stop was to Granite Springs Farm whose future plan is an interesting concept. They grow vegetables and have pastured laying hens. But the very cool thing was their 95 foot long hoop house where they grow vegetables and oyster mushrooms that are grown on straw in bags and suspended in the air. It looked very complicated to me! They also practice vermicompost using earthworms. This is a 140 acre farm and their eventual plan is to create an intentional agrarian community where all of the homes will be together on the property and everyone farms and works together.

Our last stop on Saturday was to Cozi farm where they raise Jersey dairy cows, sheep, and meat chickens. They also had some beautiful Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs.

On Sunday, we got to choose the three farms that we most wanted to see, so we really tried to pinpoint places that were of interest to us as far as similarities in produce and livestock.

First stop was to Chapel Hill Creamery. Here they turn soil, sunlight, and grass into delicious farmhouse cheeses. They had a beautiful herd of Jersey cows. We got to ride a wagon pulled by draft horses. We saw some pigs who eat the whey left over from making the cheese and we got to see their team of oxen that they use to plow the fields on the property. Of course, I bought some cheese. No way could I pass that up!

Our second stop was to Fickle Creek Farm. They had egg mobiles where you got to pick your own fresh eggs. They also raise sheep and lambs, steers, pastured pigs, ducks, and Freedom Ranger broiler chickens. They also have a market garden. I came away with some fresh country sausage!

Our last stop was to Minka Farm where I got to love on some meat and dairy goat babies. They also raise pigs and beef cattle. I met a new donkey friend as well.
 We came away with lots of new ideas and things we'd like to try and implement at Ellis Farms. Wish us luck!

Til next time,


Monday, April 14, 2014

Babies, Plants, and Everything In Between

It's been a crazy busy time at Ellis Farms in recent weeks (hence the reason I have not updated the blog in forever). Our new website has launched and we've had wonderful response. You can find it HERE. Plants in the greenhouse are popping everywhere and we are busy moving them to the ground. We can't wait to see what comes of the many varieties that we are adding to our lineup this year.
Last week, we also had some new additions come to the farm. Our goat babies are finally here! Mandy kidded with a gorgeous set of black and white twins (a doeling and a buckling) that we named Trixie and Domino. Trixie will be retained on the farm and Domino is available for sale after weaning the first week of June. Domino is naturally polled.
Cocoa, our registered dairy goat, also kidded with twin bucklings. We have named them Java and Butterscotch. They will also be available for sale the first week in June. Butterscotch is naturally polled and blue-eyed.

We have had the best time this past week watching these four navigate their new world. They are running, jumping, and playing all over the place!

Our next additions will be four piglets in May that we will be raising for meat for our own personal use. I'm doing lots of research and reading to plan. Pictures of the pig homestead will be posted soon.

Hopefully you all are planning and prepping your own gardens and enjoying what pleasures come from that. It's been a blessing to us for sure. We enjoy spending that time together as a family creating food that is healthy for our family.

Til next time,
The Ellis'