That's Crimson. She's new here. Relatively. She arrived in October when demand for milk far exceeded supply. Even after she came, the farm still struggled to keep up. Chad and Chrissy are hoping the customers come back this year, because once Crimson freshens, Hedy will follow within a week or so, and they'll be cranking out the milk.
Both of these cows are bred to Jersey bulls. If one of them have a bull calf, there is a chance that veal will be in the future. Keep your eyes open for more details.
If they end up having a heifer or two, the plan is to raise them for milkers. There isn't room on this farm for 4 milkers - really not for more than 2, so one will be raised as a replacement for Hedy, who is getting older and is prone to severe cases of mastitis, while the other will be sold as a family milk cow to some lucky person.
So be on the lookout in the email for updates on cow milk. The milk is registered with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to be sold as a pet treat. This year, the farm will be offering A2A2 milk from the beautiful lady pictured above. Pricing varies, and A2A2 will only be sold in one gallon plastic jugs ($14 per gallon).
For more information on Seven Seasons Farm raw milk, check out the dairy page.
Enjoy the beautiful spring weather. Things will be oppressive before you know it.
Isn't that the cutest thing? Most people don't truly understand the charm of a goat. But baby goats - it goes beyond charm - they have a cute factor that most other animals don't quite have. Chad and Chrissy get asked often why they take the baby goats from the dams and bottle feed them. Well, it adds to the charm of the animal when they are bigger. Now I'm not going to get into the argument about whether it's cruel or not - I don't think it is, but they really appreciate the adult animal that is created by bottle feeding the babies. Those babies associate food with Chad and Chrissy (and the kids), and as they grow, they will come running up to them in the field, even when they are grown. The bottle raised goats on this farm will come up to them and want head rubs, and generally just enjoy being close to them when they are out there. The dam raised goats (of which there is only one at this time) isn't quite as friendly. He's not mean, just a little more skittish than the others. Not something Chad and Chrissy really like. But aside from ending up with sweet adult animals, it also helps keep the milkers healthy. Dairy goats (like dairy cows) produce way more milk than the babies can eat. And if the babies eat it all, they can get sick. An underfed (slightly) baby goat is more healthy than an overfed baby goat, especially early on. The other issue is with the goats (and cows) is the lack of cleanliness around the udder when babies are constantly drinking. Mastitis in cows and goats comes from the introduction of bacteria into the udder from the environment. That can come from the ground (when they lay down) and from the mouth of the babies when they drink. The processes used when milking the animals is much cleaner and protects the cows and goats from mastitis.
So, that is why they take the babies.
Anyway, the freshening of goats means that goat milk will be available soon. Stay tuned for updates.
Pork will also be back in a couple of weeks. Lots of pork. Be sure to contact us if you want pork.
The family was so saddened at the loss of Sybil. But even before she was taken from them, they had plans in place to get a new puppy. Fitz arrived prior to Sybil's departure, and she had really taken to him. But, she was the kind of dog that loved all creatures, great and small. She was such a gentle giant with Fitz, and seemed to love him much. But while looking for Fitz, Chad tried to convince Chrissy to look at a different breed of dog. Great Pyrenees, as beautiful as they are, and as well as they do protecting livestock, have some vices. One big one is a propensity to roam. They tend to expand their territory as they see fit, and many times even the best fencing can't keep them home. So far keeping Paisley home hasn't been a problem. She tends to stay close, but they fear she may take off at some point and be lost for a bit. So they continue to improve their fencing around the farm to make sure she continues to stay home. Fitz is still a little guy (though he's growing FAST) and he stays in the same paddock as Paisley day and night. At the moment, all of our pregnant does who are imminently due to kid are in that paddock with them. Aiyla is also with them. She's the new puppy, an Akbash, who Chad ordered and had delivered from Michigan. Believe me when I say, it wasn't nearly as expensive as it sounds. Cause if it had been he wouldn't have done it. But the breed is hard to find, and after doing some research he really felt that breed would be a great fit for the farm. So far, so good. Fitz and Aiyla were born on the same day. That makes things easy(er). Fitz and Aiyla have taken to each other, and love playing with each other and chasing goats (until the goats get tired and take control by head butting the puppies). Paisley, still being a puppy, also likes to play with them, but being that she is closing in on 100 pounds at 1 year old, she sometimes gets a little too rough, and the puppies let her know. She backs off, and then goes back for more.
There's a lot of cuteness right there. Aiyla is the solid cream and Fitz has the markings on his face. These two are tight.
In other news, there are three goats traipsing around the farm that are past due. Yep, they are holding those babies hostage. Chad and Chrissy tend to get a little nervous when animals go beyond their due date, because babies in the womb grow at their fastest rate in the last couple of weeks. So the longer they go beyond their due date, the higher the chances of them having a problem during delivery. They are hoping for the best, and monitoring them constantly. Which isn't ideal for being productive in other areas. But they do what they must.
Stay tuned - there will be an update on goat babies once they arrive. Until then - the hostage standoff will continue.
I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. -Psalm 81:10
There are times when God fearing folks doubt their faith. That happens on this farm. Chad and Chrissy are believers; they believe the Lord works in all things and through all things for His glory, and for the good of humanity. But they struggle with their faith, as many folks do.
But over the last year, they have seen the Lord work in miraculous ways. This week marks the one year anniversary of the lock downs beginning, businesses being forced closed and people learning to live with a "new normal" due to the worldwide pandemic. There is no doubt that the last year has presented challenges, and we have managed to migrate them just like everyone else - the best way we possibly can.
When this chaos started a year ago, there were two pigs and a cow at the processor that were raised on this farm. Within a couple of weeks of the shut downs, there were reports of farms (large farms that supply the commercial industry with meat) having to slaughter market ready animals, and simply dispose of their carcasses because they couldn't sell the meat to restaurants. Chad communicated with one of these farms and considered purchasing some of their pigs at a very low price (because the pork they got back sold FAST). But, there were two big problems. First, the concern about biosecurity. Meaning you never know what other animals might bring to the farm - what parasites, bacteria or other germs (everyone was hyper-focused on biosecurity for a long while - and continues to be today). Second - processors for producers like this farm were booked out months. What used to be a simple phone call a couple of weeks ahead of when you wanted to take an animal for processing turned into months out, if you could even get in at all. The last thing they wanted was to bring pigs here that they would have to feed and care for and not be able to get them processed. So they decided to forgo purchasing these pigs and just focus on working the plan to provide the highest quality product they could.
When they began hearing about the backups at the processors, Chad called their beef processor to get an appointment before the end of 2020. In March (mid-March), the earliest thing they had was Labor Day. So he took it. But, the steer would only be about 18 months, and there was concern that he wouldn't be quite ready. So he called back two weeks later to get an appointment, and the earliest thing they had was February 8 of 2021. Chad kept both appointments, which proved to be a wise decision considering the dairy cow that didn't calve when expected. Thanks to an unexpected cow in the beef pipeline they were mostly able to meet the demand of pork and beef during the craziest times of 2020, they saw their customer base grow for milk, and purchased a second dairy cow to replace the one they had to process.
Though their feed costs increased significantly in 2020 (due to moving all animals except goats to a locally sourced, non-GMO feed), they maintained their pricing across the board while providing a much higher quality diet for the animals. It was certainly a year of provision - at least for this little farm.
As 2021 steamrolls past, there is excitement to see how things will shape up. They anticipate seeing the Lord continue to work, and they look forward to seeing the results.
Buckle up. 2021 is looking to be a fun ride.
Things have been slow around here since about mid January. It's always interesting to see how things ebb and flow on this farm. Prior to January, the cows were in milk. That was the tale end of the busy season for these guys. In the fall, the goats were in milk and changes were being made to the chicken's run and the garden. Earlier in the fall, there was prep for a goat show, milking goats, milking cows twice a day, and the closing of the gardening season. In the summer, it's full bore around here. The garden is in full swing, milking cows and goats twice a day, cleaning milkers, making sure jars are ready and available for the next milking, the list goes on.
Everyone around here enjoys the slow season. It gives the folks time to recharge, and the land time to rest - even if it is being drenched with rain.
There is much to do to prepare for the busy season, which has already began in earnest with plant starts. Three pigs are being taken to the processor next week (and pork is for sale - send a request if you want a half or whole hog). More pigs are due to arrive (via transport from other farms due to the loaning out of the boar for breeding purposes) and (hopefully) through the sow having a litter. Goats are due to begin kidding in the next week or so, and there is work to be done to get stalls ready for the onslaught that will inevitably come from kidding goats. Cows are due in late April, gardening will begin in the next few weeks - lots and lots coming up very fast. But while the slow season is nice, the busy season is what keeps things on this farm operational.
So, while each year is different, it will be interesting to see what this year will bring.
Seven Seasons Farm. I really like that name. It's what Chad and Chrissy decided to call me after moving here from the suburbs of Louisburg, NC.
Chad grew up here. I have many memories of his time here as a child. Boy - the stories I could tell. Maybe I'll offer some of those at some point. But, my primary focus for this blog will be to provide some insight into the goings on around here, but from the farm's (my) perspective rather than from any person's perspective.
So as you read these entries, you will better understand the perspective.
Chad's great grandfather purchased me in the early 1900's and sold me to Chad's grandfather (his son) in 1948. He lived here, without electricity and running water, for many years. He eventually built a house with his wife, Irene, where they lived until their deaths. George (Chad's grandfather) passed away in 2009. Irene (Chad's grandmother) passed away in 2019. They both lived long and relatively healthy lives. They were homesteaders through and through, raising their own beef and pork while also growing vegetables in several gardens. Chad spent many summers and school vacations with his grandparents, and though he cared nothing about farming or homesteading, he now has the desire to provide this lifestyle for his family, thanks in large part to his wife, Chrissy, who had the vision to create this little venture.
While they homestead primarily for their family, they also share their excess with others through on farm sales and drop locations throughout the area. This helps offset the cost associated with keeping these animals healthy and feeding them a high quality, locally sourced, non-GMO feed from Warren County.
There is much happening here at any given time. I'll do my best to keep you updated. If you enjoy the blog posts, feel free to sign up for the email newsletter (the popup on the main page). Chad will normally send out an update each week, especially during the busy season. When you receive that email, you can just reply to it to place an order.
Right now, though, they are in their slow season. They are sleeping in (until 5:30) and focusing on homeschooling the kids and getting things in order for the spring garden. Goats are due to start kidding in mid-March, which will kick start our busy season. Goats will have to be milked and kids fed. Soon the cows will freshen and they will have to milk the cows and feed the baby cows. So stay tuned. Things will pick up.
And thanks for stopping by. I look forward to keeping you up to date on everything happening here.
Seven Seasons Farm
Chad and Chrissy were never dog people. Ever. In their previous suburban home, they were often tasked with watching their neighbors dog when the neighbors were out of town. Just before they moved, they were gone a LOT. Baxter was an old dog, and he eventually had to be put down. Chad and Chrissy didn't care for him, but his owners did. He was ugly, He smelled like dog. And he didn't do much, other than look out for his humans. He loved them, and he would look out for them. Even when they were gone, whoever went in had to enter the house through the front door to let him out, or he would come after them.
When the Wilkins family moved here to the farm, Chrissy started looking for dogs. Within a month of moving, there was a new dog on the farm. Dolly is a Border Collie / Australian Shepherd mix. She was the first dog the Wilkins brought here, and they have bonded with her and grown to love her. She's a loyal beast - sticking with Chad whenever he is outside. She's a sweet, old soul for such a young dog. In fact, she's turning three in March. Sweet as she is, she isn't a working dog. She's lazy, and she pretty much hangs around the house as long as someone is home. And when no one is home, she still hangs around, but she does keep watch. She's not much of a deterrent to predators that would make a meal out of the laying hens. So they knew another dog was necessary - a livestock guardian dog, because they invested quite a bit of money in the laying flock, and they didn't want to lose them.
So they found another dog. She was 3/4 Anatolian Shepherd and 1/4 Great Pyrenees. She came home to the farm last January. She was a cute little puppy, and she puked on Chrissy the whole way here (she got car sick). She smelled, and she was a puppy (they hadn't had a puppy in almost 2 years, so they weren't prepared for that again, but they needed a dog to watch over the chickens). Since Chad and Chrissy were Downton Abbey fans, and the Downton exhibit was at Biltmore while they were there (they picked up the puppy on their way home from a weekend at Biltmore), they named the puppy Sybil. If you've never seen Downton - it's a character from the show. If you are a fan, they just liked the name - nothing specific to the character - just the name.
They began introducing Sybil to the chickens as a puppy, and it wasn't long before she was staying with them at night. If they were late going out in the morning, she would get restless and sometimes would chase the chickens, but she never hurt any of them. She caught on quickly. But one thing was obvious. Though they put her in charge of the chickens, she put herself in charge of their kids. Especially the youngest three.
I wish this tribute to this sweet girl continued with how much she protects the girls, and how Chad and Chrissy never worry about the girls when Sybil is with them. But, as life on a farm goes, sometimes bad things happen.
You see, as Sybil got older, she took her "charge" of watching over the family more seriously than she did the chickens. She would hide at night, and not come when they called. They would check all her normal hiding places, but she was no where to be found. So it got to the point where if she wouldn't come, they had no choice but to leave her out. On nights she was left out, they would find her the next morning laying in front of the house, right under the master bedroom window. Curled up and asleep. They didn't like that option, but they have plans early this spring to run a fence in the front yard along the road frontage, which would keep her safe from the traffic on the road. However, that took time, and they weren't quite at the point where they could get the fence up. She didn't venture out that far often, but she had started doing so a little more frequently. Truth be told, they think the neighbor across the street was disposing of deer carcasses somewhere behind his house, because Sybil kept showing up with random deer parts.
Since they dried off the cows, they typically feed the animals only once per day. But on Sundays, that happens after church. Well, this past Sunday, Chad went down in the morning to check on the animals, because with all the rain and cold temps, they needed some extra care. He keeps his boots in the garage, where Sybil would spend some nights, especially if it was super cold and / or wet. Dolly spends every night in the garage. Typically he will get his boots on and head to the barn. The dogs always catch up and meet him there.
But Sunday morning, neither Dolly nor Sybil met him at the barn. It was raining, so he didn't think much of it. He headed back and showered and left for church. About 7 minutes from the church, his phone rings. It's Christopher, the oldest of the children. Chad answers the phone, and Christopher's sleepy voice on the other end says, "Hey. Umm - Sybil got hit by a car last night."
Chad's heart sank. He was sitting next to Charlie (the 15 year old who was the one in charge of getting Sybil and Dolly in at night) and Ella, their extremely tender hearted 12 year old who was, as it were, getting baptized that very day.
Chad struggled to find something to say that wouldn't give away what Christopher had just told him. He finally just said, "I'm almost at church. Give me a few minutes to get Charlie and Ella in and we can talk."
Now, there are times when Chad and Chrissy wondered if this kid would amount to anything. But he is a freaking HARD worker. He didn't go to college, and they are ok with that. But he has a work ethic that would make most people look like pansies. And when he got home at 1:15 Sunday morning, he saw that Sybil was laying by the road. He knew that would be terrible for the whole family if they saw that on their way to church. So he went out, in the rain, and got Sybil loaded into the bed of his truck. He struggled. She was a big dog, and it took all he had in him to get her into his truck. He asked Chad what he should do with her.
Chad was so thankful, and proud of him for getting Sybil up that night. There was a time when he would have probably left her for them to find Sunday morning. But he loves his sisters and didn't want them to see that.
Needless to say, though Chad had no intentions of falling in love with Sybil, her personality and disposition won him over. She was a gentle giant. And she loved their three youngest girls. Ella had taught Sybil to raise her right paw and give a high five when anyone asked, "Can I count on you?" It was precious. And anytime the girls were outside, she was with them. At grandma's house, she was with them. At the creek in the woods, Sybil was there, watching over them. As sweet and gentle as she was, Chad and Chrissy believe that had anyone come after anyone of them, especially one of the girls, she would have snapped and eaten them alive. But, they never saw that streak - it was just a hunch (they don't have that feeling about our other dogs). She didn't have a mean bone in her body. Sybil had somehow taken over first place in Chad's heart. She was such a sweet dog, and her love for the girls was so evident, that they knew if she was with them, they were ok. Dolly and Paisley don't have that instinct (well, Paisley is still young, and seems a little slower to mature than Sybil, which is typical for their respective breeds). Dolly is more attached to Chad, so she tends to stay close to him when he's outside. If she is with the girls, and finds Chad is out of the house, she'll leave them and go straight to Chad. Paisley will take off with the girls, but she has the attention span of, well, an 11 month old Great Pyrenees puppy, which is similar to a gnat. She may or may not come back with them. If she doesn't come back with them, it's likely because she took off somewhere else, and will make an appearance a couple hours later. Sybil just stayed with them. She left with them, and made sure they got back home. So this has been heart breaking for the whole family.
Chad and Chrissy, and even the older kids all talked about how they wouldn't get attached to Sybil because she was a working dog. That failed. They all loved her dearly.
As much as Dolly didn't want to like Sybil, her and Sybil were buddies. Paisley and Sybil were buddies, too. Dolly and Paisley don't care much for each other. So they are both grieving (Dolly more so than Paisley, it would seem) because neither of them really has anyone to take Sybil's place (as if she can be replaced - she can't).
It was gorgeous outside today. With a break in the rain, the family finally had a chance to bury Sybil. Charlie, dug a perfect hole in a beautiful spot in the back pasture. They all went back and laid their sweet Sybil to rest. Tears were shed. Stories were shared. And they all talked about how much they missed her. Dolly and Paisley had been looking for her the last couple of days. Today, they let them both see her before they laid her to rest. Dolly whimpered. She knew her friend was gone. Paisley, the more carefree and still more puppy than dog Great Pyrenees, didn't seem too phased. But she knows her friend is gone as well. She has now taken to Fitz, her future husband. Though Dolly always seemed happier when Sybil wasn't around, she loved Sybil. They were playmates, always playing with each other when the humans came out to feed. They would rest and then go back at it several times throughout the day. Dolly misses her friend. It's evident in her body language and lack of energy. She's not the same dog she was when Sybil was around. I'm sure that will improve with time. Time is the ultimate healer. I've seen that take place many many times in my long existence.
Hopefully Dolly can bond with one of the other dogs. And they may end up getting another puppy soon. They will need one to watch over the chickens at some point. Great Pyrenees are not known for their delicate handling of chickens, so they will need to do something about getting them some protection. But for now, I expect they will take their time, and grieve.
Being Christians, they have always questioned whether animals go to Heaven. The Bible doesn't address it, but one of their favorite pastors (Matt Chandler in Texas) says that if God didn't want us to enjoy good food in Heaven, he wouldn't give it to us on earth - how much better will that medium rare tenderloin with a nice cabernet taste in Heaven? Well, I can't imagine God giving us animals - a life that is loved so much here - and not allow people to enjoy them on the other side. So, they've taken some comfort knowing that some day, they'll see Sybil again. She'll be running around a gorgeous pasture, and she'll come up to them, sit down in front of them, and raise that huge right paw of hers when they look at her and say, "Sybil, can I count on you?"
Yes we can, and now for all eternity.
Rest in peace sweet girl. We loved you the best way we knew how.
Not a great picture, but the last one taken of Sybil. As you can see, she was already teaching Fitz what she knows. She was protective of him, and would watch over him when he was outside.
We have learned so much over the last year. We have learned that farming is hard. You never get a vacation day. Most people around you doubt that you know what you are doing. Other's see you as a threat. And other's still, just don't think you have what it takes. We've had to persevere some things that we never thought we'd experience. Generally speaking, farmers don't want to help other farmers. And that was a discouraging reality.
We have sworn to be different. If we can help another farmer learn something that we had to learn the hard way, we will. If we are asked to expand our herd or flock based on what someone says they would like to have, we won't (another story for another day).
As we wind down our busy season, we now personally look toward the holidays. A time (for us) when we slow down and do less on the farm. The cows and goats will be dry until February (goats) and April (cows), meaning we can turn our 1.5 - 2 hour morning routine at the barn into 15 minutes or less. No milking means no milk to bottle, no equipment to clean, along with no animals to milk. Once dry, we can simply feed goats, pigs, rabbits and chickens (the turkeys will be gone and the cows are hay and grass strictly while dry - no grain whatsoever) and check water for everyone and we're done.
It's bitter sweet, for sure. While we miss the morning milking of the animals (we're much more connected to the animals during that time), we sure do enjoy not having to worry about baking that time into our day when we have to be somewhere early. And it makes taking a trip somewhere a little more possible.
So as we close this chapter of our farming year, we look toward 2020, and new things that we hope to see come to fruition. We hope the pigs will be at the processor by year end, but that may not happen until spring. We hope to have another steer ready for the processor by March, but we may not need the meat that soon. We hope to get into veal next year (because it would provide us some separation from other small farmers - no one is selling veal at local markets), and we are working on having Chad's grandfather's sausage recipe available in our line of pork products.
We are considering if we should add another cow to the mix, or any other goats. We do expect to have some doe kids in the spring, but it will be a year before they are bred. We are considering adding on to the barn (a little at a time - as we can afford it) to provide an isolated feed room and milking room, as well as to give our chickens a larger place to roost.So we have a lot to consider over the coming months. But for now, we rest. On November 16th, we will milk the animals for the last time until freshening. At that time, we will turn our focus to the Farmer's Christmas at the Old Cotton Gin in Warrenton, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then we will begin to throw some of these ideas around.
Until then, we remain thankful. Grateful. For all of you that have allowed us into your homes over the last 9 months. We've worked hard to learn all we can to make sure we provide you with the best products we can possibly provide. We've made mistakes, but we are striving for excellence. We pray you will consider us again in 2020.
Thank you. We simply cannot say that enough.
Chad and Chrissy