All of us are always learning. It’s a part of life. But on occasion we are given an opportunity to truly educate ourselves. In the past two months I was given four unique opportunities from customers and visitors. to learn something new, and expand my knowledge on topics I new a little about already.

My first customer had questions about soy and corn as feed for our livestock. Specifically our chickens that are raised for eggs and our broilers. I had heard about alternative feeds but never looked into it solely because of the price. However, when a customer asks, I should have the answers, and if I don’t, I’ll do my best to find them. I had already known that a healthy chicken is an Omnivore. Chickens eat seeds, berries, vegetables, insects, mice, voles, and snakes. In truth if given the chance chickens will eat any meat. The most common pelleted feeds for chickens have corn, and soy in them, Chickens need a lot of protein and soy beans are a cheap easy to grow feed. After looking into soy and corn free feed for the chickens my initial conclusion was right. It’s just too expensive for us to feed and it would make the cost of our eggs and meat too expensive for our customers. My farming goal is to be sustainable and reasonable. That’s not just sustainable farming practices for us, but also sustainable and reasonable costs for our customers.

My next lesson came from our neighbor and the principle/science teacher of Laconia Christian Academy.  He was teaching his students about animal behavior and reached out to me about bringing his students over for a field trip. It was a great excuse for me to refresh myself about sheep and horse behavior. I opened books I haven’t touched for years, found interesting articles and put together a lesson plan for students. We gave students a chance to observe the sheep and write down behaviors using an Ethograph. An Ehtograph is a table that lists specific behaviors one might see the animal, in this case sheep, doing. Then every 2 minutes one tally is put down for the behavior the sheep did. One group of students got to “herd” the sheep and use team work to bring the flock to a certain location. They had to observe the sheep body language to see which way they want to move and also use their own body langue to move the sheep the right way. After wards the students got a quick demonstration with JD and they got to see his body language and behavior when moving sheep and when he was near the horses. Finally students got to get a quick demo of Daisy, one of our haflinger horses. They got to see how we can move horses with our body language and the students got to take turns coming up and seeing Daisy and moving her with their body language with my assistance.  Their questions and attentiveness throughout the day were enthusiastic and made the few hours they were there fly by. I learned so much from these students and their teacher. I’m so glad they came to visit because it gave me a really good incentive to up date my self on animal behavior.

Later in November a contact from last spring finally had time to come visit the sheep. He and his dad already have a small farm. They got a small starter flock and wanted to visit us. It was great, We talked for hours, they had questions for me about raising sheep, feeding, breeding, lambing, meat production, selling products and more. In the end I was the one asking questions and I got to learn about the pros and cons of feeding brewers grain, establishing new pasture, electric grease guns, and more.

And finally I have learned the most from ALL my wool customers. I had two women come up to meet the sheep. One was thinking about raising sheep in the future and wanted to see our horned dorsets. Her friend is a fiber artist and they were wonderful visitors with extensive knowledge. The praise they gave my raw wool and roving gave me so much pride for my flock. Then a few weeks later I had a visit from another fiber artist and her husband. Again we spent hours talking about wool, sheep and spinning wheels. They were able to give me details about a new spinning wheel I got, and how to care for it. I was told a new method for washing raw wool. They shared websites and sheep and wool festivals I should go to and so much more. Then after their visit they sent me magazines and copies of articles and a sample of the raw wool she had cleaned.

Farming is all about growth and learning. Each season we learn something new and with fantastic customers, visitors and friends it makes learning and growing so much more fun which in turn makes farming not so hard. I love my flock, my farm and the land we live on, and I love networking and making new friends just as much.