Ah, the beauty of a Michigan farm in autumn! This is one of our favorite times of the year. The leaves are going golden, the animals are getting shaggy, and the scents of apples and squash beckon comfortingly from the kitchen. We've had an extremely busy summer, finishing important projects (hello new barn roof!!) and finally hosting our wedding and adoption reception. We also had some fun additions to the farm - each with their own learning curve for us to conquer! Read to the end to hear about the latest critters to join The Buck Family on Dancing Feathers Farm.
We have a limited supply of Autumn Citrus soaps available right now in our online farm stand. They are absolutely delightful, suds up beautifully, are gentle enough for everyday use, and are made without preservatives, artificial scents, artificial or mica-based dyes, and manmade fragrance oil. Check them out here!
We are moving away from the over 30 different scent options we previously had for our balms and sticking with a few tried-and-true choices:
- Tea Tree
- Essential Oil Free
Sticking with 2 essential oil choices allows us to capitalize on bulk supplies so we can use the highest quality essential oils in the market. We have a few jars left with alternate scent options - grab them here before they're gone forever!
Art Print Updates
We're in the process of updating our farm print photo options. Jen took a few lovely shots this summer and early fall and can't wait to share them with you! Our farm art prints are printed by a family-owned print shop with exceptional quality and attention to detail. Find our art prints here!
Kitchen Witchery Updates
Our fresh-baked sourdough is currently unavailable for purchase. While we loved sharing our handmade bread with you, recent supply chain issues and shortages are causing great difficulty when it comes to procuring flour and sea salt. We hope to offer our loaves again very soon!
Our jam and syrup season went beautifully this year - be on the lookout in the next month or so for some exciting new products coming soon to the online farm stand.
What's Growing Update
Our flowers are coming to a close and Jen has hundreds of blooms and herbs hanging in the kitchen for wreaths and teas this winter. We learned our soil isn't well suited for seed crops and requires yearly compost amendment; sadly a lack of home grown pumpkins, one of our favorites, was the sacrifice required to learn that lesson. Our cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, kale, beets, eggplant, ginger, sweet corn, zucchini, and herb gardens did fantastic! We've canned hundreds of jars of fresh fruits and vegetables and hope to fill more before the frost hits.
This year's garden was a trial, to ease us into large-scale growing on this property. We're so happy to see so many foods thriving with little to no intervention from us - means we have a real shot at taking the front south-facing pasture and turning it into a 2-acre plot of perennial cut flowers and fresh, delicious vegetables.
We'd like to introduce you to Rooster, an American mustang, and his beautiful long-eared burro buddies, Hocus and Pocus.
Rooster was adopted by our family from Operation Wild Horse, a program Jen participated in back when The Bucks lived in Illinois. OWH's mission is to match rescue mustangs with veterans to create mutually beneficial bonds that allow both the veteran and horse to overcome anxiety, stress, and PTSD.
America's wild mustangs and burros are horrifically overpopulated due to the human-inflicted extinction of apex predators throughout the country. Every day, hundreds of mustangs and burros, mostly foals and elderly, are lost to starvation and disease as the wild horse and burro population explodes out of control. The Bureau of Land Management is tasked with trying to control herd populations through systemized rounds ups. Rounded up mustangs and burros are sent to holding facilities to await auction or adoption events.
We believe Rooster's mother was rounded up while pregnant and sent to a program that matches prisoners with mustangs. Rooster was born in prison and later purchased from auction by a "rescue" organization in Michigan. They raised funds "for" him for six months before taking him back to the Shipshewana Auction in Indiana - a place heavily frequented by kill buyers (you read that right - the horse meat market is STRONG in America).
Patti Gruber, Director and Lead Trainer at Operation Wild Horse, spotted Rooster and outbid the largest kill buyer in the nation to bring him home to her barn. Jen was one of the first veterans in the OWH program to ride Rooster, named for his flashy tail. When we decided to move out of Illinois and were searching for our future farm, Rooster was always in the forefront of our minds. Jen knew she could give him a good home and lo and behold, her childhood dreams of owning a horse finally came true.
Jen and Rooster are learning more about one another every day. Jen's goals with Rooster have moved beyond trail riding and fun in the saddle - she now seeks to simply create a healthy and safe environment for Rooster to happily live in until he chooses to take his leave of this world.
Hocus and Pocus are an absolute joy to have here on the farm. They are somewhat shy guys, around 10 years old, born in the wild, and previously unhandled very often. Anya, Annabelle, and Jordan work every day to earn the burros' trust and we just recently graduated them to being halter-free while at pasture! We're also able to pick up all four feet, groom, and lead them. They bring us so many smiles with their sweet faces and long ears. We're so glad they're here!
Jerry and Promise are currently housed together in the hopes we have little baby goats this spring. Jerry is in rut, and if you've never seen a goat in rut, we can attest it is something you can likely live happily without! He stinks to high heck and does the weirdest things to try and attract Promise's attention.
Maggie and Mable, our two goat kid does, are doing well. We received results from our second round of testing - Maggie came back negative, but Mable is still showing positive for CAE, a destructive, incurable virus that requires responsible euthanasia. We aren't willing to put Mable down without knowing for sure, however, and with Maggie testing negative and the two sharing the same space since birth, we think the last test results show there's a chance Mable might test negative at her one year mark. We'll be waiting until then to make any decisions about these two beautiful girls.
Our new laying flock of 20 is doing fantastic - we're getting at least a dozen eggs a day! If you're in the Southwest Michigan area and are looking for fresh, truly free-range, non-GMO feed supplemented eggs, please let us know. We do purchase and pickup right here on the farm.
What's Next Update
We're overjoyed to share that our application with the USDA for a hoophouse and other cost-sharing programs is submitted - we're in line! Jen delivered the farm's updated business plan to the USDA representative just last week and the conversation was promising. We have a number of improvements we're looking to make over the next five years; plans include:
- Seed Starting - Building a large-scale, weatherized indoor seed starting space, including shelving, lights, heat mats, ventilation, a water source, potting-up tables, and trays
- Composting - Developing a compost and manure setup, with a concrete pad and turn barrels to allow for turning/mixing
- Equipment - Purchasing a used tractor and ATV, both for property clearing/maintenance, planting, harvesting, and farm chores like manure removal and moving wood for winter heating
- Rainwater Collection - Establishing a rainwater collection system, complete with cisterns for all 3 of our large outbuildings, pumps and hoses for irrigation, and a filtration system for insect and disease control
- Rotational Grazing - Building new pastures for rotational grazing, including substrate for drylot water runoff, gates, electric fencing, ground rods and ground wiring, solar energizers, rain shelters, and water and feed access for all 4 equines and a maximum of 10 dairy goats
- Raised Beds - Rebuilding the raised beds so we can plant herbs for a u-cut herb garden
- Hoophouse - Securing a grant from the USDA to cover part of the cost of a large-scale hoophouse, including doors, frame, skin, fans and heaters, electric supply to the structure, water supply to the structure, trellis equipment, shelving, and metal storage containers
- Field Crops - Installing deer fencing, a mulching system, new perennial cut flower and heirloom vegetable rows, irrigation system using rainwater collection, walk-behind seeders and weeders, and perennial starts
- Pollinator and Sensory Garden - Removal of all invasive plants, seeds, starts, plugs, and tubers to plant natives, securing a cost-share contract with the USDA for pollinator garden, and maintaining pathways through the sensory garden
- Dairy Goat Production - Installing a water source in the barn, investing in a milking machine, storage for hay and feed, separate, designated refrigeration for dairy products, containers for milk storage, cleaning station for equipment and birth kit, equipment for pasteurization, birthing kit and medical bags, cheesemaking equipment, soapmaking facility with water and stove/heat, labels and supplies for milk products
- Layer Hens - Creating a designated egg washing station, egg carton station, refrigeration exclusively for eggs, and storage area for layer feed
- Agritourism - Establishing parking, restroms, ramps, signage, saftey fencing, legal documents (including a waiver), promotional materials and tools, and an indoor shop with shelves, cash register, bags/baskets, and visitor tracking
We want to become a staple in our community, a source of year-round, healthy, farm-grown products and produce. Every purchase you make from our online farm stand helps us get one step closer to these goals! Thank you, as always, for supporting our farm. We couldn't do it without you!
~The Buck Family
Dancing Feathers Farm