Since it has been three years since I've updated this, figure it was time to play catch up!
I won't bore you with alllll the details - just a few highlights of the last year.
June-ish 2022, we sold our farm of nine years in Weirsdale. What a wonderful place it was while we were there, but it was time for a new chapter. The market was favorable (aka insane!!) and we were ready to step back from the busyness of the location.
We discovered moving all the horses, goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits was not for the faint of heart. Even with extra time on the closing to be out, we begged and borrowed the time of family, friends and hard working strangers (literally!) to make it out, mostly, on time. Sanity optional.
We moved into my childhood home my parents still owned, downsizing by a good 1,000 sq ft., a bedroom, and bathroom. I found a wonderful barn, empty for the summer, to rent for the three horses in Weirsdale. The pigs went to a friend's while the five goats (two pregnant), chickens, rabbits and ducks went with us to the "Lake House".
Whew. Reliving the chaos, even in minimal detail, is exhausting.
Fast forward to July-ish. A property in Summerfield, within the budget and reasonable driving distance of my parents, pops up. Call our amazing realtor who promptly makes an appointment to see it with me. Husband is working nights and I haven't seen him in a month of Sundays. We go look. It's questionable, but not bad. Scads of work - fencing to be replaced, unlivable mobile home to be removed, lots of bush hogging and clearing to do, a "shop" brimming with junk, but also a working tractor and implements. A flock of semi feral peacocks is included. But - it is off the beaten path, square (the old place had wonky property lines), high and dry, and within budget. Call the husband. Without seeing it, he says, "If you think it will work, make an offer". I do. They counter, we counter, they accept. Wow. Just bought a massive project! It's laughable.
May the projects commence.
Sounds logical, yes?
Here we are, a slightly more than a year into this.
Fencing is a perpetual work in progress, the barn has had power for less than a month and the janky, rains-inside-when-it-rains-outside mobile home is still there. Presently it houses turkey poults, but I digress.
If I listed all the lateral projects ongoing while we still work towards a house, it would blow your mind. So read on with caution.
Again, without too much detail, we have added -
1. hogs (Purchased and "acquired")
2. Emden Geese flock
3. Coturnix quail
4. Beef heifers
In the process, we have doubled the size of the duck flock and rabbitry. Chickens are their own bailiwick. And I bought a foal. You know, thinking to the future.
Oh, and eldest child is going into another homeschool year. She has her own interests with her pony, 4H chapter steer and archery. She is also writing and illustrating a book.
I could wallow in the details of this insanity. And that will take place in later posts. Until then, it is only fair to glow with gratitude for all the people that have helped in this next chapter of life. Our parents, their friends (special thanks to the Buzzard Brigade), family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, the list goes on - to everyone who has made all of this possible, Salud!
We just finished up our very first kidding season!
::Cue the excitement and relief::
Now that we have four happy healthy babies goats on the ground and our numbers went from three goats to seven overnight, I feel like we can all breath a little easier.
Bonus points is that all four of our new additions are doelings!
Looking ahead our plan is to retain two of the four and reinvest into an additional senior doe for the coming season.
For anyone looking for two ADGA registered doelings from good milking lines, check out this page as it will be updated shortly with pedigree, photos and purchase info.
<< ALL our animals are well socialized. :)
Baking bread is one of my favorite things to do. There's something in the sweet simplicity that by mixing together a few basic ingredients you get a deliciously hearty food to use for a wide variety of meals.
This recipe from the book Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin has become one of my standbys. It is simple to make, has good flavor and has an assortment of uses.
From Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin
5.5 cups bread flour, plus 2.5 tbs. for sprinkling
1 envelope (2.25 tsps.) active dry yeast
2.5 tsps. salt
2 cups cool water
2 tbs. cornmeal
3 cups ice water
Mix 5.5 cups flour, yeast, salt and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook attachment mix for 2-3 minutes on low speed or until the dough becomes elastic.
Leave the dough in the bowl and cover. Let rise in warm place (approx. 70 degrees) until doubled in size or for roughly 4.5 hours.
After the dough has doubled, scrape the edges of the dough away from the bowl and into the center, gently releasing the air inside. Sprinkle your work space with 2 tablespoons of flour and remove the dough from the bowl, forming it into a ball. Shape it into a rectangle then divide into four equal strips using a dough cutter or sharp knife.
Roll each piece to about 18" in length. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat (I use a couche cloth and gently fold it to create four "wells" in which to place the bread) and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Cover, and allow the baguettes to rise in a warm place (at least 70 degrees) for one hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a small pan in the bottom to preheat. This will be used to create steam during baking.
Using a sharp knife or bread lame (I've also been known to use scissors) make four diagonal slashes in the top surface of each loaf.
Place the baking sheet with bread in the over, add 3 cups ice water to the preheated pan and quickly shut the door to create steam.
Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly brown with a good crust.
Remove and cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes before slicing.
Our garden is in full swing...and so are the weeds. Somedays I feel like I garden more weeds than flowers and vegetables. I guess that harks back to perspective on what actually is a weed. By definition, a weed is any unwanted plant. I know this, in part, because I took a complete course in Weed Science at the University of Florida in my third year there. Yep, Weed Science is indeed "a thing".
Anyways, I digress...
In combatting these thorny, creeping, aggravating interlopers of the garden, I have a few favorite tools to help keep them at bay.
Item 1. The Ames Action Hoe - This is another gem I learned about while at university thanks to Dr. Buhr. Unlike a conventional hoe that is basically a shaped, non moving piece of metal at the end of a long handle, the action hoe has a hinged double edged blade like the shape a stirrup that the user can shuffle just under the soil surface to remove small weed seedlings of the roots. By lopping off the leaves from the roots you are eliminating said weeds' ability to grow in most cases. This tool works best for removing weed seedlings rather than mature plants. It also provides minimal disruption to the soil as compared to a conventional hoe.
Item 2. Mud Gloves - I first discovered these at one of my favorite local seed shops. Sadly, the owners retired and closed just this past year. Thankfully, these gloves have withstood all my abuse and have not needed a replacement. They are cool, keep most of the dirt out and the loud colors are hard to miss when I set them down, then forget where I left them. They are fairly thick, nice for when I accidently disrupt the fire ants, but stay cool. The synthetic leather palm safeguards against the extra thorny weeds. I have also tried their cotton/latex gloves and the Gauntlet Gloves, used for rose trimming, both of which have held up well and fit great! Hands down, Mud Gloves for the win.
Item 3. We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines and Kids. This sweet narrative from Jo herself is a wonderful reminder that as gardeners, though we may be alone in our gardens, are not alone in our challenges as gardeners. EVERY garden has weeds. But, just as we all have challenges, we also have the triumphs too every time we get to harvest the fruits of our labor. We Are the Gardeners is a delightful read for young and old whether you have a few patio pots or many acres.
Of course in the long game, it will be great to find the same "balance" in our part of the ecosystem as those in the new Hulu documentary The Biggest Little Farm, but, until then, I'll keep ripping my weeds one at a time.
We have all been there - to that kids' sporting practice where a parent just can't keep their mouth shut and let the coach do their job. They are driving much unnecessary attention to themselves, probably embarrassing their kid and definitely irritating the coach and other spectators.
Newsflash - don't be that person.
Today I want to offer up some riding lesson etiquette for parents. I've had the privilege of being the instructor of many students over the years. In this last year, I have also had the privilege to hand my own kid over to her instructors.
This is the first of a multi-part series designed to help parents new, and not so new, to "Horse-ing" and all it entails.
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As a lifelong horse person, it was really tough stepping back to the be the "Barn Mom" when Olivia started lessons away from home. Our once a week trek has blossomed into a ritual that I guess every parent experiences once their kiddos are involved in activities outside of school.
As I have grown into this new found position, there are some pieces of equipment I have learned make the job of "Barn Mom" easier.
1. Insulated water bottles - This is a no brainer. Especially here in Sunny Florida, it's hot and hydration is key. Bring one for you and one for your kiddo. This one offers two lids, one with a straw which makes it easier to grab and go while still in the tack.
2. Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses - Again, also probably an obvious one. Shade ringside is sometimes a commodity and no one wants to leave looking like a blinded lobster. Sunscreen for the kids is a must, especially in the summer months. Light colored arena footing has almost a reflective quality that amplifies the sun on exposed skin. Avoid those UV rays and cover up!
3. A comfy chair - Most barns have a comfy place to sit, but just in case, bring your own. Pick something lightweight and collapsible Better to have and not need, rather than need and not have.
4. Snacks - Some for parent and child. Let's face it - all said that lesson takes a solid three hours from the time we get in the vehicle to the time we get home. Avoid the hangry and take some goodies. Protein bars of all sorts live in our truck. Cookies for the pony aren't a bad idea either if the barn rules allow treats.
5. Barn appropriate footwear - Leave the cute shoes or anything open toed or heeled at home. While some barns may have a lax safety policy about footwear, it's better to follow US Pony Club protocol and wear a decent pair of paddock boots. You never know when you will get asked to hold a pony and trust me, a cute pedicure just does not cover up a pile of broken toes because you insisted on wearing something besides boots!
6. Camera - You never know when you will get to witness that "lightbulb" moment where something clicks for your kid. (Or the blooper that could win $10K on America's Funniest Videos.) Bring along a decent video camera to capture all those moments. Of course, cell phones always work in a pinch, but having a good optical zoom is really important for handling cross country or those bigger rings. Plus video is one of the best learning tools for when your kid can't be at the barn. If you are looking to splurge, check out this automated camera - handy for when you can't be there or when you want to soak in all the action without a screen in the way. Another smaller and budget friendly option is this little camera. This one is great for handing off to the kids and at under $50 won't hurt so bad when it bites the dust.
What else do you find yourself grabbing as you head to the barn? Let us know in the comments so we can ad to this list! Want to make sure your aspiring Olympian has all they need? Check out this post.
So, your kiddo has pestered and pestered and you have finally decided to give in and get them started in riding lessons. Congrats! Welcome to the club! This is an exciting time, that done well, can lead to a lifelong passion.
First things first though - you need to find the right barn! Good instruction can take on many shapes, sizes and financial inputs. Bigger and glitzier doesn't always equal better. Some of the best instructors I have ever had worked out of functional, frill free farms with few, but dedicated and successful students.
If you are new to the farm/horse life, know that dust, dirt and (a certain amount of) manure are all part of the game, but never feel like a barn needs an exorcism from its filth. Safety should be top priority. Finding a barn that supports a US Pony Club program is an excellent choice! Read on for some guidelines to finding the right instructor for your child.
1. - Ask you child what type of riding they might like. - Start with the easy question of English or western? Beginner lessons are generally pretty similar no matter the type of saddle, but some kids might have a predisposed "vision" of what they want to do. The great thing is, they can always change it up later!
2. Google it. - This is an easy one. Google search riding lessons in your area and see what you get.
3. Check the reviews. - Most trainers worth their salt are well known. Ask around, check Google, see if they have a Web site and social media befitting the environment you want for your child.
4. Do some research. - Make a phone call, check out their web site/social media and make a visit yourself, potentially without your child initially. Ask LOTS of questions like...
4a. Do MORE research. - Go and take a lesson or two yourself. See what your beginner child will experience first hand. Ask yourself some questions, like...
4b. Keep doing research. - When you visit a barn, take a look around. What kind of atmosphere does it offer? Is it organized? Do the horses look healthy? Are the other riders kind and seemingly well educated about their horses and sport?
5. Ask questions!! - Any instructor should be open to explaining a theory or practice they are using in their teaching. Bonus points if they refer you to additional resources either through books or online.
6. Allow for a trial period. - After you have done your research and selected an instructor you like, discuss a trial period before paying for a ton of lessons. Explain you want to make sure this is the right fit before making a long term commitment. Most trainers are super open to discussion, so be clear with your communication.
7. Get started! - The big day of that first lesson is here! Time to sit back and see what happens. Your world will be forever changed!
If you had told me where I would be right now going into 2020, I would have laughed you out of town. That's pretty fair I think as earlier today I sat on a semi retired 4* horse, pregnant with kiddo #2 watching kiddo #1 canter around on her own pony.
The whole of it all is mind-blowing.
Waaaaay back in December 2009, David and I were both just graduating with degrees from the University of Florida. Our wedding was planned for June 2010 and we both had fledgling careers in our respective fields lined up and ready to go.
Thanks to my undergraduate advisor, for whom I am forever grateful, I canned my thoughts about a masters degree and decided to get on with life and follow my "dreams".
Work started, David and I married in June and together, we jumped off the deep end of life.
By the end of 2011, my job as a marketing manager was winding down and I was gearing up to start my own business. Enter Copperfield Farm LLC.
We started Copperfield with the vision of all things horses and went forward full throttle from there. I was actively competing and training over a dozen client and personal horses, loving every minute. Teaching also took up a good bit of my time. It was amazing!!
April 2013 kiddo #1 made her debut and life took another major shift.
In our first three years of marriage, we "rented" a 1920's cracker house in need of upkeep. Let me tell you, it was less than glamorous - no central heat or AC (ugh!), quirky, ancient wiring and equally as aged plumbing. It was barely a step above camping. The glory of that, however, was multi fold - it enabled us to save, taught us a lot about each other (for better or worse, Haha!), taught us many valuable lessons about property ownership and tested our ingenuity.
In any case, with a kiddo on the way, we needed a safer house which brought us to our current farm. Oh and by the way, we bought it out of a foreclosure situation and aside from the house, the rest of the place hadn't been touched in ages!!! Yehaw.
So, there I was, 7 months pregnant, mowing, hacking weeds, bleaching and digging out a filthy barn and tearing out random bug and vermin infested small structures. It was awesome. Thankfully, the house was more or less turn-key. Whew.
Eldest Kiddo arrived and within two weeks, we had our first boarder join us at the farm. Sometimes I wonder why those first daring clients put their faith in my humble barn, but they did and it was the beginning of a great business that I grew for the next five and a half years.
Part of the value in our new farm was the fact we were also able to enter into a five year lease with an adjacent property. In 2018, that lease expired and caused yet another shift that required us to step away from the boarding and training business altogether.
To be completely honest, it was and is a good change as I needed to recalibrate. One of the biggest learning curves to owning your own operation is how much time and flat physical labor it really takes. Burn out? It's real. Profit margin? Pretty much non existent in the horse business. It may look glamorous, but the reality is rather different when you are in charge.
So, now as we enter into 2020, I have a bare minimum of clients, and the chance to refocus on why I ride and keep horses in the first place. The "career" aspect is venturing off in another direction almost entirely.
The plan for the next ten years is to play an active role in educating (homeschooling!?) my own two children, staying focused on my riding and the interests of the kiddos, and developing a working life with my husband around those broad spectrum goals.
Easy peasy. :)
With the dawn of a new decade it seems appropriate to talk goals. I don't really get into the "resolutions" thing, but instead aim for more of a checklist with steady improvement being the target. So, our farm oriented goals for 2020 look something like this...
1. Add more poultry. Much of our flock is on the aged side, so it's time to add some new cluckers to the crew. I've also had the hankering for some time for a solid flock of "guard" geese. If you have ever been chased by a ticked off goose, you know why these feathered creatures are nearly better security than any dog or donkey.
2. Learn this amazing Leclerc loom. Back in October, I found a great deal on a Leclerc floor loom. We brought it home, unloaded it and it has sat sentry in my living room daring me to start warping it since then. Definitely a conversation piece, but one that needs to be more functional.
3. Promote our Angora rabbit fiber. Last summer, we invested in a pair of English Angora does with the intent of harvesting their wool for marketing to spinners and other fiber enthusiasts. They are glorious little creatures if you like an overwhelming amount of fluffy, functional cuteness. Fluff aside, they produce some amazing garden compost too! Secondary goal with them is to expand the rabbitry as we start earning sales.
4. Have a successful goat kidding season. We finally bred our Nubian does to our junior Nubian buck and look forward to our first kidding season about early April. If all goes well, we expect to be enjoying all the benefits of fresh goats milk in 2020 and will have some lovely kids for sale.
5. Get that garden growing! Our winter garden is well underway, but we have three more large semi-raised beds to revamp and cultivate for the coming season. This will take a lot of elbow grease, but I can't wait to enjoy all the benefits of fresh, homegrown organic produce and cut flowers with a better plan for the 2020-21 growing season.
6. Homeschool 2020-21. This is a biggie for us! After lots of consideration, homeschooling seems the best way forward for us. We lead a rather unique horsing/homesteading/working lifestyle and I can only think the Kiddo's education will flourish being made more a part of that environment than a traditional classroom. Wish us luck!
7. Join our local Farmers Market. For years we have enjoyed the benefits of shopping our local farmers market, but this year I would like to take it to the next level and become a vendor ourselves. Our vegetables, free range eggs and cut flowers aside, I see lots of opportunity to capitalize on our artistic talents and take the opportunity to utilize materials (lumber, architectural reclaim, paper crafting, jewelry making etc.) we've had stashed for years.
These are the "Big Goals" so to speak. We won't even discuss (now) all the peripheral small goals around the house and with the horses that will keep us going too. What's that thing about no rest for the weary? So, onwards y'all! Here's to 2020!
Remember that intro a few months back for my awesome little mare Rose Colored? Ya know how we planned on going to MD for the Young Event Horse Championships?
Well, those plans got derailed with a new addition...
David and I are expecting!
We are thrilled and Olivia is ecstatic to finally have her very own "sibling".
Check back a we keep you up to date with the journey.
Hey there! I'm Katie. This blog was launched in 2019 to help other families in their horse-ing, small farming, and homeschooling endeavors. Join us on this amazing journey!
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Please note, these are experiences that have worked for us and do not represent the opinions, knowledge etc. of a professional. Please view full disclaimer here.