Saturday, December 31, 2011


It's day ten of my very first attempt to hatch chickens.   Of the thirty-four I started with, candling indicates 27 are still viable and progressing nicely.    Can't wait to see how many hatch.   So far the mix includes seven serama eggs, one d'uccle, two sizzles, splash marans and some of my "mutt" eggs.

Eggs in the 'bator.  Marans to the right.

The tiny serama eggs are hiding under the guts of the machine and right over the water well so they get plenty of humidity.

The splash marans are a very pretty and lay dark brown eggs.  This particular group came from a color project so the depth of color in the eggs still needs work.   I plan to purchase a black copper maran rooster in the spring to get deeper brown eggs and possibly blue wheaten marans offspring.

The seramas were not originally part of the plan but a bonus batch of eggs.  After doing some research on this breed of chickens I became fascinated.  Serama are a tiny pet chicken roughly the size of a parrot.  They are very friendly and strut their stuff with a cocky attitude.   If you'd like to see pictures here is a link to the Feathersite page on  Serama

I will also be adding a pair of Cream Legbar chicks from Greenfire Farms as soon as the Virginia permit is granted after the new year.  Also ordered to accompany those two peeps will be a straight run group of Marraduna Basque chickens (Euskal Oiloas)  The Legbar is a British breed of auto-sexing chicken that lays blue eggs.  The Euskal Oiloas is a friendly farm breed developed in the Basque country (between France and Spain in the Pyrnees.)  They are supremely suited to free range husbandry.

Bantam white silkies are also on my list of chickens to acquire for 2012.  They are a small breed that don't fly, are considered "lap chickens" and best of all, they are broody.   Silkies will be my natural hatchers.

The remaining breeds on my wish list are Lavender Orpingtons, Barred Hollands and White Laced Red Cornish.  I will also add Narragansett turkeys, but I suspect that might not be until 2013.   An additional coop will be required for them which takes time to build.

Wishing you all a safe, prosperous and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Bee Journey Begins!

The hive and supers arrived on Thanksgiving morning compliments of my in-laws who were kind enough to pick everything up from Dadant's Chatham location.   It is an 8-frame hive with two deeps, a cypress base and a copper topped "garden style" hive cover.  Absolutely beautiful. 

A beehive in multiple boxes

While most people were slogging to the mall at the crack of dawn or earlier, my Black Friday was spent staining the hive bodies.  At first I tried making a pattern of large diamonds but I discovered that stain isn't the best medium for that so I ended up making a huge mess on the edge of the first hive body and covering the diamond pattern.  You can still see it if you look.  I think it looks pretty cool so I'm leaving it.   The second hive body went much better.  Only five medium supers left to stain!

Two deep hive bodies stained and drying.  Yes, they are both the same size.
Of course I had to put the whole thing (except the frames) together to see how it looks.  Pretty smart I'd say :)    I'm still debating on whether I am going to stain the cover green or just polyurethane it in the event the copper top ends up oxidizing to verdigris.  What do you think?  Going to leave the cypress base its natural color.  Also purchasing a screened bottom board that will be stained green too.  Can't wait to bring the bees home in the Spring!  

Assembled hive

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A New Roo

One of my neighbors is getting rid of her excess roosters so I brought one home.    This is the little guy I chose.  He is a six month old Silver Penciled Leghorn.  The girls are already sizing him up.   Hopefully I will get some fertile eggs to try incubating soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autumn Artistry

Sunday was a beautiful day to enjoy the autumn weather.   Here are just a few photos of nature's artistry.

Mushrooms on an old oak stump.  Beautiful striations.

Golden maple leaves.
Pixel watching the dogs play.
Miscanthus zebrinus.

River Birch hybrid.  Love the colors in the bark.  Photo doesn't do it justice.

Hope everyone is taking the time to enjoy the little miracles all around us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Official...

We are no longer Shepherds.   The last of our flock left for upstate NY on Sunday.  It's been awfully quiet around here.   Our LGD was so miserable we gave him a bunny to watch.  Boy, does he love his new bunny!  No more competition for his dog food, no more butting ram or little lambs climbing all over him --- just one quiet rabbit that is always where he left it.   Too funny to watch him race back to the rabbit to make sure it's safe.   He is the BEST livestock guardian dog ever.   No matter what he has to guard, he does it well.

A farm is much like a garden, always evolving and never done.   In the upcoming year we will be focusing on heritage and rare breeds of poultry - chicken and turkey.   Honeybees will be arriving in the spring as well.  Can't wait to move on to this new phase.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apple Harvest

Last weekend we picked the first apples from our orchard.  It was only three Enterprise apples, small but tasty.   We then purchased an assortment of Gala, Empire and Stayman Winesap from the Chesterfield Berry Farm Market.  After taking enough apples to make two delicious pies, we prepared the rest for apple butter.

When I make apple butter I quarter them, and toss them in a big pot with a bit of  apple juice or cider, whole allspice, whole star anise, whole cloves and lemon peel.   Simmering on low heat, the quarters gradually reduce and take on the spiced flavors.

Phase I - Apple quarters start to reduce.

Phase II - Almost ready for puree.

When preparing the puree I use the old fashioned method, by hand.  Instead of the Cuisinart or blender, I use a chinois and wooden "pestle."  It's messy and labor intensive, but I think the flavor is much better.   The mashing allows the skins to add their flavor without the bitterness of pureed skins in the mix.  The spices also release their flavors without adding grainy bits.

Chinois, metal collection bowl and jars for processing.
 Once the pulp is pureed, it's time to add the secret blend of powdered spices - including cinnamon then it is into the roasting pan in a cool oven for a long, slow, simmering reduction. 

Blending in the cinnamon and spices.
Ready to reduce.

12 pounds of apples reduced down to four pints of smooth and creamy apple butter.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Looking back...

There are only two times in the year when I am bit by the cleaning and organizing bug.  The biggest bite comes in Autumn.   Something about the start of school, end of harvest, or perhaps simply the changes in daylight, day length and temperature, makes me think about all that has been accomplished and what is yet to be done.  

So much to do and so little time!  This year we are visiting colleges for my youngest who will fly the nest next year.  Of course Senior year brings its own brand of craziness.   By this time I have usually given the greenhouse its washdown, pulled all the trellis and begun breeding the sheep.   This year I am far behind, and of course we are trying to sell the sheep instead of increasing the flock.    Hopefully we will have some or all sold at the Chicken Swap this weekend.

On the bright side, I finally got to upload photos on my phone to the computer.   Pictures from market last year, holiday events, summer snapshots and even a recent sunrise have all been saved.

Here is one of our booth photos from the Goochland Market last summer.

June 2010 - Goochland Farmers Market

And a few photos from a Christmas Event at the Governor's Mansion.   I would have loved to get more pictures of the architecture, holiday decorations and art which are all quite lovely, sadly it was too crowded.  Didn't get to do more than shake hands in the receiving line but the food was fantastic.

Facade of the Mansion

Govenor McDonnell

Fantastic Buffet

As some of you may know, Tuckahoe Plantation is an historic landmark and the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson.  What many people don't realize is that it is also a working farm.  Emily and Daniel are two of the tenant farmers who raise beef and sheep (Border Leicesters and Cotswold) along with heritage poultry.   In June we picked up our summer quarter of grass fed beef.  I'm a definite aficionado of grass fed!  If you are in the Richmond area, visit their booth at local farmers markets or their website here:
This picture is an outbuilding I found particularly attractive.

Outbuilding at Tuckahoe Plantation working farm.
Of course, Virginia is full of historic places.   Colonial Williamsburg is one of our favorite weekend trips.  We've done the tourist thing several times already, now we go to have lunch or dinner - particularly nice on Christmas Eve - walk around enjoying a nice day, and enjoying the shops at Merchant Square (Wythe Candy) or the Kings Arms Bake Shop for rootbeer, ginger cookes, queen's cake and cider.  We also like to look into the gardens for the tried and true.   This year we saw natural plant supports that we are going to try in 2012.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thoughts on Farming

With all the recent outbreaks of food borne illnesses, we have decided to re-evaluate all of our farming protocols and come up with a formal food safety plan.  It will definitely help to have the sheep gone as well.  Though we believe in the benefits of utilizing composted manures for fertilizer, it looks as though there are greater risks associated with it.  While we were assured the heat of composting should kill harmful bacteria, we want to be certain what we use on our crops is 100% safe.  Like many market gardeners and farmers we know, our families eat what we produce too so we're not going to grow tainted food!

On a more upbeat note, we've adopted a new barn kitty.   He's an adorable little black shorthair with white mittens and boots.   We've named him Pixel.

Pixel and the pumpkins.  Both grown here on the farm.  On the top step is Big Max and on the lower step, Knucklehead.

Pixel looking for more belly rub!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shearing Day - September 18, 2011

Today was shearing day for Selene and her twins.  Thankfully the threatened rain never materialized.  Once we were finished, Jasper was banished to the top pasture apart from the girls.  He's been complaining all day.

Prepped and ready to go

The waiting in the holding pen

Emily starting with the ram lamb.  He's not looking so happy.

...and finishing up with Selene.

Naked black sheep.  The BFL is shorn only in the spring.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Still have sheep for sale...

With everything that's happened over the past few months, we REALLY need to sell the four remaining sheep.   Now is a great time to add some nice ewes to a breeding flock.  Information is on the farm website.  All reasonable offers will be considered.    I would prefer not to sell such nice girls as market sheep.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Last of the Harvest

Growing Season 2011 was definitely one wild ride.   From heavy rains and cold temps in the spring to high temps, tornados, earthquakes and Hurricane Irene by season's end.  We learned what, when and where not to plant for future years and have re-evaluated our goals.  

Sheep will be departing and honey bees will be arriving.   We're also going to focus more on small fruits for canning and preserving.  As always, flavor and nutrition will be key factors in determining what crops to go, but we are also going to aim for those that preserve well.   We're still proponenents of eating fresh, seasonal and local; but the fact is we still have to eat in the winter and we'd rather not shift back to the produce grown for shipping conformity over food value.

This weekend we finished the last of our fingerling potatoes.  These are definitely a 'do again' item.   I loved the creamy golden texture and the size is perfect for grilling or slicing for potato salad.   The make pretty good mashed potatoes too, especially with roasted garlic!  MMmmm!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene Quick Post

Just a quick post to let everyone know we survived the storm.   Not that bad out our way, we were at the outer bands of the storm.   Sheep continued to graze right through the wind and rain like it was an ordinary rainy day.

Hope everyone else fared well and if you don't have power yet...may you have it soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fall Cleaning

It's that time of year again; time to take stock of our successes and clean house on the failures.

As I have posted previously, I have decided to cease shepherding.  The past eight years with sheep and goats have been an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.  I've met some great people, learned a lot and enjoyed the peace and harmony working with animals engenders even as we suffered the heartache that also comes with raising livestock.  Unfortunately, 5 acres of cleared land just isn't enough for raising the number of sheep needed to be profitable while simultaneously growing sufficient crops.

So what will the new focus of Laingcroft be?  We will continue raising laying hens for those fabulously flavored eggs.  We are also considering an expansion of the small quail flock for both eggs and meat.  And last, but certainly not least, we are exploring the possibility of adding a hive or two for pollination and honey.

As for our produce, we will be scaling back a bit on the diversity in order to focus on better meeting the needs of our community.

How can you find our goodies?  We are excited about the Powhatan County Farmers Market and plan to sign up for 2012.  We will also be investigating the Center for Rural Culture's Local Roots Co-op.  Watch our website for more information!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Early Harvests

It's been so hot that several crops, particularly the pumpkins, are ready too early.   Still beautiful to see them!
Smaller than they should be, but still beautiful!

Green Machine Melon

Limelight Hydrangea in the garden.
Limelight bouquet

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm melting....melting....(said with the best Wicked Witch of the West voice)

I don't know how folks in the midwest have stood for 28 days or more of this heat.   It's only been the second day over 90 degrees and already I can't take it.  Of course the air conditioner in the car decided to call  it quits and my commute is an hour and a half.   All the animals are suffering.  The sheep are panting in the shade and the livestock guardian dog is alternating between digging huge pits and soaking in this kiddie pool in an effort to stay cool.  Even the chickens and quails are panting.

The corn is gone.  Squash, pumpkins and melons are all wilting even though I am hand watering each morning.   Beans look like they're ready to call it quits too and the tomatoes have petered out.   Unfortunately we put them in a bad location this year.

Only four more days of this they say...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some days things just keep getting worse...

This morning I found three of our quail dead in their cage.   It was obviously the work of that masked marauder....the raccoon.   I knew the dangers of living in a rural area with small critters when we moved to the farm over a decade ago, but this has NOT been a good weekend. 
I'm truly losing the heart for keeping livestock; we've suffered so many losses this year.

Initially I had planned to reduce our sheep flock to just the smaller Coopworth, but now I've decided to stop shepherding altogether.  Three sheep remain, two registered and proven ewes; one ram lamb.   Prices and pictures available on our sale page:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sad News....

Our Border Collie Lena, crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday.   Lymphoma.   She had a rough start in life, but it improved drastically when she was rescued and trained to herd.  That was her calling.   Even though she slowed down quite a bit over the past year, she still had her hollowed out spot under the trees near the pasture gate where she would lay to watch the flock for hours on end.   Unlike the LGD who never leaves his flock no matter what, we knew if she found us before she was called in, there was something wrong in the pasture.   Though we only had her for the last half of her life, I'd like to think we provided her with a happy retirement home where she spent her days doing what she loved best.

We'll miss you Lena...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 4th Weekend

We've added five Coturnix Quail.   Our goal is to bring both meat birds and fresh quail eggs to discriminating gourmet shoppers.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July weekend! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hot and Humid

Some of the plants are loving it.   The iris in the water garden trough finally bloomed.  What a beautiful flower!

We even have a couple of figs starting on our Brown Turkey.   Can't wait to get a ripe one.

The rosemary is quite as happy with this weather.   I think it likes things a little more dry.  However, it is sending up fragrant shoots and tonight we're eating pork roast with a dijon and apricot glaze with rosemary.   Side dish - rosemary and red potatos.   MMMMMmmmm!

Here are some other pictures taken around the gardens.  I love the solidago (golden rod) in the first picture.  Have to find more of this plant or divide it a few times for a nice bed.

And just one of the butterflies that visit our buttefly garden.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's new on the farm...

First I would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend; with a special thank you to all our military members - Airforce, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy.   No telling where or who we would be as a nation without them.

Now for the news!  We had a surprise lamb - a natural color Coopworth x BFL ewe lamb.  Her name is Dove and she's a keeper.   Picture will be posted as soon as I find my camera :)   Giselle, our last BFL ewe is still available for purchase.  Selene's natural color ram lamb, Laingcroft's Jasper, is also available as a spinner's flock lamb.  He is a Coopworth x BFL lamb with some nice fleece and a well muscled conformation - pictured below.

If you have been looking for us at the Goochland Farmers Market this year, we didn't sign up.   Apparently there was rift among the market organizers.  With all the claims and counter-claims, flurry of emails and discord, farmers made other plans and the market was cancelled for 2010.  With this event hampering our market efforts, we have decided to look for new opportunities in 2012.   If you miss our delicious eggs and specialty produce, please let us know.  We might be able to arrange a local delivery.   If you would like to see a CSA program, let us know that too.

The bunnies are busy doing what bunnies do.   The last litters before "summer break" are starting to arrive.   We still have two youngsters available from our March litters.  If you are interested in a white rabbit, follow the bunny link from our website.