Last weekend, we hosted our first Farm Day.  We have attended similiar events at other farms, and once we moved out here and then realized how interested folks were, we decided to host our own.  We would love to make it an annual event.  We had roughly 35 people show up, and tried to have farm-related activities and educational sessions throughout the day.  The biggest challenge was the fact that there was just S and I running the thing.  We really only had 1 or 2 volunteers to help out.  We had also hoped to have a lot more activities, but since we were funding it all out of pocket, we decided to save a few things for next year.  We hope to really improve on everything next year, based on what we learned this year.  I did recruit one volunteer, who I noticed happened to have brought a camera.  I asked him to please take some photos for us, since I had no one else to do it.  I later found out that he was a professional photographer by trade–and, I must say, a good one at that!  I was quite honored when he handed me a CD of the 300 or so photos he took of the day, complete with permission to post them here!  So, all the photos below were taken by Ted Mehl (http://abetterimagephotography.com/).  Thank you very much, Ted!!

The day started with JR helping park the traffic, and M greeting folks and handing out instructional flyers.  For our extra-shy little girl, it was great practice being independent and social.  I was very proud of her for giving it a great effort! 

Next introduced our visitors to our farm day chores.  First, a check of the nest boxes for eggs, followed by the “release of the hens” and a short session on keeping laying hens. 

 

I’m not sure who was more enthralled–the children witnessing all this for the first time, or the inquisitive parents wanting to learn all they could about coops, chicken housing, and having your own egg source.

Notice in the photo directly above that we put up pink twine.  One observation we have made is that, for some reason, kids like to chase chickens.  We decided to create “safe zones” for the chickens, so we roped off their two favorite areas–the coop on one end of the yard, and their favorite set of bushes on the other end of the yard.  Except for this one time, when we invited those interested inside the ropes to help release the hens, the area was off-limits for the children.  Any chickens not in a safe zone were fair game (no, we did NOT announce that!). It actually worked surprisingly well, and I never found anyone in the roped off areas. The chickens never seemed stressed at all, and, to the contrary, the older layers were often found begging the kiddos for tidbits of food.

Next on the agenda was the morning goat milking.  Because we always have people who want to actually try milking, I decided to limit the invite to 4 adults (2 per goat), AND, they had to practice on a glove first.  I had done some experiementing, and found that a rubber glove with the fingers slightly altered, then loosely filled with water, actually required the same type of squeezing technique as milking a real udder. After discussing the ins-and-outs of milking (as I have learned them), I brought out Lilac.  One volunteer jumped at the chance to milk her.  Then, it was Sara’s turn, and I had 2 volunteers try to milk her.  I finished milking both while answering questions and talking a bit about goat housing and nutrition.

Some children got a little bored during the adult Q&A, so S had JR take them into the goat pen to play with Lilly.  They loved the hands-on, and so did Lilly! 

After the milking was complete, I invited interested parties to join me in the house to bottle-feed the baby bunnies.  I allowed a few of the most interested children to assist me with this unique chore.

Then, we moved on to making some vinegar cheese and yogurt. 

While the milk heated for the cheese and yogurt, we discussed some of the health aspects of this lifestyle, raw milk and raw milk products, food preservation, and other nutritious homemade foods.  People were so curious and full of questions, I wound up pulling out whatever I had in stock and passing around for folks to sample–raw milk, fresh yogurt, chevre’, homemade fermented granola cereal, and even freshly dehydrated herbs.  I was again very surprised at how many people eagerly tried everything! 

Finally, it was time for a short devotional that would lead us into the potluck lunch hour.  S had prepared a lesson on the story of our personal journey, and what we had learned about the Biblical principals involved in our current lifestyle choices.  He discussed how and when God had given humans permission to eat different types of food, how he expected the land to be managed, and how work is a good thing.  Some of these were principles we only recently began to understand, as we had started studying it during our own family worship times.  Most of our visitors that day seemed very interested to learn some of these facts themselves.  I can only hope it drove them to pull out their Bibles and study the principles for themselves!

We attempted to make even the lunch itself a bit unique, by cooking up a batch of goat and a batch of rabbit meat for people to try.  Most of it was eagerly devoured!  After lunch, S had planned to harvest a selection of animals for anyone who was interested in learning about harvesting home-grown meat.  We had devised what we thought would be a great plan for crowd control, and set up the harvesting stations inside our back-yard brooder pen.  We thought it would be a good, private location where those not interested wouldn’t have to see what was happening, and the fence itself would keep curious youngsters away from the knives and blood.  As it turned out, though, EVERY person that came to Farm Day wanted to watch, and many wanted to experience it hands on!  S demonstrated the poultry killing, and then allowed another guy to actually do one.  Then, we allowed volunteers to come in the pen and help with the plucking.  Even some of the more squeamish ladies and teens decided to at least give it a go and take advantage of the opportunity.  

It was great fun as a parent of youngsters, watching JR and M really step up to demonstrate, instruct, supervise the plucking.  It was so rewarding to see them taking an ownership and a great amount of pride in the work being done on the “their” farm. 

Once the harvest was over, with the result of 1 turkey, 2 chickens, and a rabbit in my freezer, the Farm Day officially ended.  Most folks asked a few more questions before heading out.  With the day over, clean up began.  Exhausted as we were, though, we really felt like God had given us a real opportunity to give others a chance to learn about and experience firsthand, a part of His grand design for this beautiful land.  We all had a great time hosting, and pray that our visitors had a great time participating. 

In closing, here are a few more random pictures of Farm Day 2011:

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