Sunday, November 16, 2014

Old Man Winter

Looks like our least favorite season is upon us. Not that we don't appreciate winter, we love the slower pace and the excitement of the season. 

Things don't stop here just because there's snow and that's the tricky part. The animals still need fed and watered and the wood still needs hauled in even if there's 2 foot of snow. We still are grazing some of the livestock and the weather means we have to move their pasture much more often, the plants have officially stopped putting on any regrowth. There are many things I wished I had gotten done, like processed all the apples and pears, painted the hay shed, rototilled the garden one more time...  

Now that winter has come, we do have another shot at the indoor projects we've been putting off so that's what we are focused on now: painting the basement, restaining baseboards and doing some fun holiday crafts!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Values and Mission

I have been working in large organizations for most of my work life. In just about every one of them, there are a set of values and a mission that is presented to every new employee. The problem that I've always had is that those items are only mentioned again at the yearly evaluations. I've watched co-workers violate the values and mock the mission statements. I've rolled my eyes when the ideas presented by management clearly do not match up with what the employees have been told to hold dear. I've thought about how the values and mission paint a pretty picture, but are not very realistic.

However, I have been thinking about values and the future a lot lately. I've started to think that I would like to develop these ideas for myself in relation to farming and our future. I want to move ahead thoughtfully and make decisions that I hopefully will not regret later.   It would be so easy to go crazy and buy whatever whenever for things for my new life.  Do I want to go with cheap and readily at hand, do I want to make a plan about what specific breed of chickens I want or do I want to just buy what comes up on Craigslist, etc etc?  I know that in the past my decisions were made spur of the moment and with convenience being the foremost thought in my mind.  From the food I fed my family to our living situation to the clothes on our back, I was in survival mode. Never believing that I had a choice in buying situations or that we deserved to have the best I could afford. Why was I like that? I think I was so overextended and stressed out that I was just trying to get through the day and was taking what looked like the easy way out. But this is not what I want to be like moving forward.

Tami is way ahead of me in these thoughts. Her family has made decisions with their values in mind and with an eye towards the future. They make decisions about what to grow and how to grow it. 
The more I think about it, the more I realize I want to set specific goals, a mission if you will, that will be my guiding idea. I know it may change, but I want to set down what I want my overall ideal situation to be and to work towards that. So I've been thinking about values and a mission. It may not be something that I will print out and post around my house, but it will be interesting and hopefully insightful to think about.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Starting the Flock

This week we added some animals to the farm. Last year we were given 2 lambs, a wether and a ewe.  We decided to have the ewe lamb bred so we took her to an Amish neighbor, where she's been for the last couple of months. The neighbor also agreed to sell us another ewe lamb so now we are up to 3 sheep...almost a flock! 

The ewes are getting acquainted and re-acquainted with the surroundings for a few days. The wether gets to hang out with our steer on the pasture of clover and barley. We rotate the pen every couple of days, as you can see, they munch it right down in those days. 

We hope to turn them all out together later this week and we can't wait for some lambs this spring!

Don't forget to visit the other 30 day challenge bloggers!

The Ag Blogging challenge arranged by Holly Spangler is going strong. Make sure to read herAgriculturalists Who Influence blog series!

30 Days Bloggers

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Questioning myself??

I'm sure it's normal, but this week I've found myself questioning the decision to move.
I am really the one who has led the charge on making the decision to move. My husband is on board, but sometimes I wonder if he just agreed to do this to appease me. 
Don't get me wrong, I am very excited get this thing going and can't wait for next spring to get here. However, I also worry about how this is going to affect so many people. From leaving my best friends and family that live close now, to Tami's family opening their home and lives to us, to my husband agreeing to move to a place he has never even seen, to my college age daughter still living with us and what she is going to do. If it doesn't work out I am going to feel a whole lot of guilt and responsibility.

I'm not sure of the best way to silent the questioning voice. I'm not sure that I actually want it to be silent.  I would not want to rush blindly into a complete and total life change. It's allowing me to focus more clearly on where we want our little family to be in the future and how our lives can hopefully impact others for the better.  I frequently check in with Tami and my husband (hopefully not irritating them in the process) to make sure that the plans and how things are progressing are in line with their ideas. The questioning part of me makes me want to strive to work hard, do as much pre-planning as I can, and to really commit myself to the success of the Holbrook Honey and Hop Yard.


Don't forget to visit the other 30 day challenge bloggers!

The Ag Blogging challenge arranged by Holly Spangler is going strong. Make sure to read her Agriculturalists Who Influence blog series!

30 Days Bloggers



The first year we lived here we bought a lamb for our daughter to show for 4-H, there's a big story for another time about that lamb, but one thing we gained from having him was 10 heritage raspberry plants. We planted them and I promptly killed 3 of them by burning them with organic fertilizer.  The ones that survived are doing really well, we have harvested berries all summer. 

This week we rototilled beside them, in the direction we want them to spread.  Then we spread manure on the spot we tilled. In a few weeks we will cut them all back and put straw and manure over the plants. This variety likes to be completely cut back each year. I love that we don't have to worry about only pruning the canes that produced this year.  Raspberries are a wonderful, productive, and delicious berry. They are also fairly easy to grow and tend.  Look into growing your own raspberries, you won't regret it!

~ Tami
(bonus points for those of you who can find the creeper in one of the above pictures 😏)

Don't forget to visit the other 30 day challenge bloggers!

The Ag Blogging challenge arranged by Holly Spangler is going strong. Make sure to read her Agriculturalists Who Influence blog series!

30 Days Bloggers

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 4 of 30 Days of Preparation: Purging a suburban home

My husband and I are in a huge purge cycle at our current home. We raised 3 kids in a 2700 square foot house and have the stuff to prove it. 2 living room areas, 4 bedrooms, an office, a rec area in the basement, a large storage room, a full size kitchen plus a mini kitchen area,a 2.5 car garage--all of it occupied with stuff we thought we needed.

As we prepare to sell our house and downsize significantly I find myself acting like a 'stuff' dictator--walking through the house and deciding what gets to stay and what has to go.  We are not packrats, in fact I have a pretty heavy hand when it comes to getting rid of stuff already. But it's amazing how much there still is to go through.  We won't be moving for 6-7 months, but we do hope to really get through most of the downsizing in the next few months.

We plan on moving with a pickup, a small trailer (6'x10' or so), and a small car. That will really limit what we can take with us. My husband has several big garage items that will have to go, I have a wood buffet that belonged to my mom I can't leave behind, an old rodeo trunk that I refurbished when I was 16, and there is one double size bed set that I want to take. That's it for big items. And that will probably take up most of the room in the trailer. Luckily, we will have a place to store the large items when we get to Michigan.  Our other bed sets will be sold. Our living room furniture is old and we want to get rid of it anyway so all of those pieces can will be sold or thrown away. I guess that's the one good thing about all of the old stuff we have, it will feel good to get rid of it.

and just because I feel the need to add a picture--here's an embarrassing shot of the storage room. Ugh

Don't forget to visit the other 30 day challenge bloggers!

The Ag Blogging challenge arranged by Holly Spangler is going strong. Make sure to read her Agriculturalists Who Influence blog series!

30 Days Bloggers

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tucking In - Part 2

As we wrap up the growing season here at the hop yard, it's important to remember the soil. Winter is a good time to spread compost, leaves or manure onto your worked ground. This week we cleaned the pens and spread two loads of manure on our fields. We don't own a manure spreader so we improvised.

Since we only have a few animals, this method actually works fairly well.  We load the manure on the trailer and then we drive slowly through the field throwing pitchfork loads onto the ground. Thankfully, the manure in our pens was fairly aged, making the job easier and less stinky.

We've also been cutting firewood for winter prep. We use the tractor to skid the logs to a landing area.  Then we sort the logs into sawmill logs and firewood logs. The sawmill logs are loaded on the trailer and taken to the Amish sawmill. The firewood logs are cut and split and stacked into a shed for use during the winter.  We have a geothermal heating system but we like to supplement with wood. It's a good way to get some use out of the ash trees that have been dying due to the Ash Borer.  Ash is a good hardwood that burns great and splits without too much trouble.

I can't say that we are looking forward to winter, but having some of these tasks done makes it a little less scary!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Preparing for the future: day late already

Well, we knew when we signed up for the 30 day blogging challenge that this week would be rough first couple days.  And we were right.

Tami and I loaded up our respective families in Michigan and Colorado late last week and made a 10+ hour drive to meet in the middle of Iowa for my oldest son's wedding.

Of course it was beautiful and emotional and all the good things that are at the core of weddings and it was also in a internet dead zone so that meant no blogging for us. But just look at this round barn! The ceremony was upstairs and it was amazing.

My family just rolled into the driveway about an hour ago after a 2 hour delay in western Nebraska for a fun (not) little snowstorm that dumped a few slick inches of the white stuff.

 We are ready to get going on this challenge and can't wait to read everyone's blog!

The Ag Blogging challenge arranged by Holly Spangler is going strong. Make sure to read her Agriculturalists Who Influence blog series!

30 Days Bloggers

Day 5: preparation book

I love books. A lot. My idea of a fun night is to curl up with a good book and read for hours. I've been this way my whole life, and one of the books I remember reading when I was probably is Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills by Readers Digest press. My mom had the yellow cover version that I think was published in 1981. When I saw a copy at my local library sale I snapped it up. Even though Tami and I grew up in a household that used many of this skills, I still find the variety of topics hard to resist. 
If you want to learn the basics from setting up a homestead, to butchering, to growing food, wind and solar power, baking, weaving, etc  then you need to take a look at this book.

You can get your own copy for less than $20 on eBay, and I think it is well worth the money.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tucking In - Part 1

It's fall here in Michigan and it's beautiful. It's amazing to live in a place where there really is a fall, as in 2 solid months or more of crisp cool weather without the snow. However, the seasons are quickly changing and we are in tuck-in mode.

New for us this year was the late summer meat chickens. It never made a lot of sense to me why we would buy chicks in the spring when it's cold and then butcher them mid-summer when it's hot as blazes. So, this year we bought them mid-August. We still used a heat lamp for a couple of weeks, but it was minimal and mostly due to the damp weather, not the cold. Also, as they grew, we didn't have to worry about them being too hot. We had shade in the pen and they were happy and we didn't lose any to heat. Thankfully, we didn't lose any at all!  We delivered them to an Amish neighbor last week and now they are in the freezer. It's good to have that job done as the weather gets colder, none of us wants to be out in the snow and wind trying to get chickens to come in the barn!

There are many more things happening here to get ready for the cold!  Stayed tuned for Part 2!

~ Tami

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30 day Challenge accepted--again

Hi all,
If you're a repeat visitor this page looks a little different than before. The 30 day challenge introduction was accidentally written over. And being the newby bloggers that we are, we somehow deactivated the original post that the challenge linked to.

We will keep putting posts up and apologize for the confusion. :)
 1) Tucking in Part 1
2) Day Late
3) Tucking in Part 2
4) Purging a Suburban Home
5) Preparation Book
8) Raspberries
9) Questioning Myself
10) Starting the Flock
11) Values and Mission

Don't forget to visit the other 30 day challenge bloggers!

The Ag Blogging challenge arranged by Holly Spangler is going strong. Make sure to read herAgriculturalists Who Influence blog series!

30 Days Bloggers

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Welcome to the first blog post!
Holbrook Honey and Hop Farm is an owner owned and operated small farm in the Thumb region of Michigan. We have some big changes coming up! 

Introductions are in order.

I'm Tami, I live in Michigan with my husband. We raise hops, 2-row malting barley, hay, sheep, chickens and our 3 kids.  I have spent the last 25 years in various agricultural operations both small and large and have a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wyoming.  Here on our farm, I am involved in the day to day tasks.  The children and I make sure things run smoothly and that things are taken care of.  I am also head product tester at the moment and have the sticky floor to prove it!  Our farm is located in the heart of an Amish community and we work closely with our Amish neighbors.  Their work ethic and the pride they take in their work is something we admire and try to aspire to.  Our entire family is personally involved in the growing, nurturing, harvesting and marketing our products. I look forward to sharing our lives on the farm!

Hi! I'm Tami's sister Tanya. Right now I am living in Northern Colorado but that is soon to change!  I am in my 40's (ugh) with 3 kids quickly leaving the nest and a husband who is currently working in the oil industry. I work for a call center in a health care setting and previously spent 10 years as a 911 operator. Yes, I have tons of crazy, and sad, stories from that time in my life.
With any kind of luck, next spring we will be selling our home in Colorado and moving to the Holbrook Honey and Hop Yard farm. It's a big, scary move. We will be downsizing from a 2700 square foot home to a camper trailer! But I am really looking forward to it and am excited to get back to a more basic way of living and to get rid of tons of stuff that feels like a weight around my neck.  I'm sure I will have many crazy experiences to share about this upcoming life style change.
For now, I will be helping with product research, social media development, and creating products to sell on our soon-to-be Etsy storefront. In the future I am hoping to help expand the farm with some pigs, bees (considering the 'honey' in the farm name this might be important), and mushrooms. And who knows what crazy things Tami and I will dream up between now and next spring. I can't wait to get to Michigan and get my hands dirty!