All posts by Casey Hust

A Sign of Things to Come

If you have driven by the farm in the last couple months, there is a pretty good chance you might have noticed this summer project. In fact, having the passers by notice is largely the point of it, as it is the sign for our farm.

We talked for several months about what type of sign we wanted, and we got quotes from a few places. We looked at what it would cost to do a normal, alumalite sign that almost every business everywhere has (you really start to take note of such things when you think of purchasing one for yourself). We also checked in on what it would look like to do a large cedar plank as our sign. I will admit that we waffled on the decision for a while as none of the options really stood out to us as a clear cut winner.

But lo, as I worked on cutting all the boards for the new chicken coop, an idea began to form. I had a pile of wood scraps that was nearly tall enough to look me in the eyes. How difficult could it be to build our own sign? I shared this idea with everyone, and I had to use a silver tongue of persuasion to get them on the idea train. I reasoned with them that it would cost nothing, and with that, they agreed to let me try my hand at it.

I was fortunate that Rachel’s brother, Nathan, was staying with us for that particular week. I pitched my idea to him, and he immediately saw its potential. I gave him a rough design idea, and we brainstormed some of its finer points before going out to the scrap pile and setting up a working model.

With each step that we took towards completion, the reality of what the sign actually looked like outshone what it had looked like in my mind (This is quite rare for me, so I implore you to forgive me for, perhaps, enjoying the appearance of the sign more than is proper).

In my original zero cost budget, I had been planning on using the band saw to cut out letters from scraps of plywood. Once things started to come together, however, the other Hust roosters said it looked nice enough to warrant an investment in buying the letters. They would be more uniform, and I it would save me the time of handcrafting 26 letters from scratch. I was grateful.

As soon as the sign was up, we started hearing about it. The good people of Glen Aubrey had noticed. They told us that it looked great, and then they asked us when the store was going to be open… um… uh… let’s just enjoy the sign for a little while.

Finished with the Roof and Safe on the Ground

Fixing the roof started last year. We had glorious intentions of finishing before winter. Do you realize how much snow we got last November? I do. I had to go up on the roof and shovel it off so we could keep working up there. We finished the more difficult side of the roof around the snow, and we told ourselves we would come back for round two when the weather got nice again.

Before

By the time I got back up on the roof this summer (there were a few other projects… there are always a few other projects), I was racing to see if I could finish the roof before I became a father. Unsurprisingly, Eliza Joyce Hust arrived before the roof was completed. Let me tell you, Eliza is more beautiful than the roof, and that is saying something because that roof is a sight for my weary eyes to see.

 

After

When I look at that roof, my chief emotion is relief that it is done. That is one of the few store projects that we even thought about hiring someone else to do. But when you can save about $5000 if you do something yourself, you suddenly find yourself doing things that you don’t necessarily feel comfortable with.

I spent a lot of time on that roof, and I didn’t fall… until the very end. I was at the peak finishing the spot where the last of the trim all came together, and I was so determined to finish that very night that I worked until the roof was covered in dew. Whoops! I was thirty feet off the ground and the only way down was a wet metal slide with a ten foot drop-off to the ground at the bottom.

Dad offered to attach a rope to the truck and lower me down gradually with it, but I declined for two reasons. One, I wanted off that roof pronto. I didn’t want to wait for all that to go down. In retrospect, it would have added five minutes, but I had been looking forward to being done and off the roof for months. Five minutes was too long. Two, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could work my way down if I clung desperately to the tops of the roofing screws.

I courageously tried to get my foot on a screw head, and I let go. Immediately I knew that I had made the wrong decision. Eyes wide with terror, I picked up speed at an alarming rate as I watched the drill, which had unhooked itself from my belt, careen ahead of me and over the precipice. I looked at my father. He looked at me. Then I was airborne.

 

This is the side I took a ride down

It is remarkable how much can go through one’s mind in such a short time. Above all, I watched in my mind a commercial from years ago where a man pushes an old woman out of a train after he tells her, “You want to hit the ground rolling!”

My father thought briefly about trying to aid me, but quickly opted to sidestep me as I flew towards him. I’m glad he did. That would have hurt had he tried to catch me. As I first began to hit the ground, I let my momentum carry me into a forward roll. I popped deftly onto my feet as I declared that no one was going to make me go back up there.

Of course, Gramps had been coming out to see the progress when all of this happened. He got to witness the whole thing, and he thought it was just about the most entertaining thing he had seen all year. That’s good. After all, one of my primary jobs on the Hust Roost is to keep Grandpa entertained. Mission accomplished. Oh, and the roof was done, too.

Thankfulness List: Farmer’s Edition

I am thankful for all the sunny days, which helped the crops grow and made working outside pleasant.

I am thankful for all the rainy days, which helped the crops grow and made working inside pleasant.

I am thankful for the giant snowstorm this spring, which I can complain about for twenty years before we get another one.

I am thankful that our goats had successful pregnancies this year, which gave us a whole lot of milk to drink.

I am thankful for Nesquik, which tastes great in goat’s milk.

I am thankful that I am healthy enough to clean the chicken coops, which builds character.

I am thankful for all the times that I am not cleaning the chicken coops.

I am thankful for being able to see progress as we work on the farm and the store, which keeps me motivated to keep making more progress.

I am thankful for all of the people that encourage us to keep working on the store, whether it be neighbors or customers or the people who drive by with their heads turned toward the store. You all encourage me to keep making progress, too.

I am thankful for a very long, nearly unachievable to do list, which makes it so that I am never ever bored. Ever.

I am thankful that, despite all of the things we worked on, we did not have any serious injuries or dismemberments, which is why I am still able to type this thankfulness list.

I am thankful for all the people we met through various farming activities, including the summer produce program and the random people I get talking to and find out that they have goats too. You all are really fun to share things with, whether it be produce, baked goods, eggs, honey, stories, or laughs.

I am thankful for pie.

I am thankful to all of our customers, whose smiles remind me frequently why I like doing this whole farm thing.

I am thankful to my family, who either supports this farm venture or is waist deep in it with me.

I am thankful for the baby girl that God blessed my wife and I with this summer. It will really help to have another laborer on the farm.

BUT MOST OF ALL…

I am thankful for my savior Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in my place.

I am thankful for the Bible, which teaches me everything I need to know about life and godliness.

And I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, which works on my heart to overcome my unbelief and increase my ability to live more like Christ.

 

 

 

Summer Project Series (Pt. 1)

Wow! It has been a while since we last posted. Somehow the whole summer (and a frighteningly large portion of the fall) slipped by since our last blog, when I very accurately predicted that it would be a good year for apples. I guess that just shows that if you say enough things you will be right sooner or later. Anyway, while we weren’t busy posting stuff, we were busy making things happen on the farm!

On the left, the old chicken coop, and on the right, the new coop.

The first big project of the summer was a whole new chicken coop. In our exuberance to get back to working on the store, Dad and I told ourselves we would build the whole coop in a couple weeks. I guess I can still say I was right about it being a good year for apples.  I will also say that we made a nice coop. Our birds are happy. I am happy.

The sharp new coop…
….filled with happy hens

Hands down, the nesting boxes (see below) are the best part about the new coop. The boxes are slanted at just the right angle, so once a chicken lays an egg, gravity rolls it into the pad at the back of the box, making it safe from the perils of still being in the box with the chicken. In other words, the eggs are completely clean and never pecked. We don’t even have to go inside the coop to collect them. We have a door on the outside of the nesting boxes. I have to be honest with you… it really feels like we have moved up in the world.

Looking into the nesting boxes from the outside
From the inside
“What’s that? Someone gathering our eggs?” –chicken

We still have some plans for the new coop, but they can wait until next year. We intend to hang some rabbit cages in there and come up with better systems for feeding and watering. For now though, the coop is all set to go for winter… which is good… because it’s almost winter.

And if you are wondering if that is all we’ve gotten done since the spring, wonder no more. There is much more to tell and many more pictures to show. As it gets dark a couple hours after it gets light out now,  I fully intend to post on the regular again. That way we can relive the accomplishments of warmer days, find solace together as we struggle through the impending winter, and dream about what we will do when the seasons bestow upon us the favor of spring.

 

A Good Year for Apples

I must admit, I was a little sad last year. I didn’t cry or anything like that, but I was heartily disappointed. The reason for this, of course, was that it was a terrible year for apples in our little corner of the world.

The previous year the apples were raining down on us from the firmament, as well as the branches they were on because the weight of the apples was too much for the branches to hold them. I was happy that year. There was apple sauce, apple cider, apple pie, apple crisp, apples just to crunch on, and probably about nine other apple type things for all of us to enjoy.

The whole point of this blog post isn’t to live in the past, as much as I enjoy picturing myself repeatedly throwing hand fulls of apples into the air and doing the criss-cross applesauce dance or as vividly as I recall sitting forlorn at our dinner table last fall, resigned to eating a second helping of mashed potatoes instead of moving on to apple tarts. The point of this blog post is to look towards the future, which the present is using two-thumbs up to point at. What I mean by that is that it is looking like a fantastic year for apples.

The Golden Delicious tree in full bloom next to our chicken barn.

The reason that the future is so bright for the apple crop this year was the lack of frost in the last couple of weeks. If you recall, only a week or two ago, apple trees all over were in their full-blooming beauty. Because the trees did not get to put much energy into producing fruit last year, many of the trees had an overwhelming amount of flowers on them this year. Everywhere I looked, I saw the (mostly) white blossoms covering apple trees. It was during this critical time that we didn’t get a frost. The flowers survived and many of them were pollinated, and now there are little baby apples on the trees.

A little baby Zestar apple!

Now we must hope (and pray) from here that we don’t get too much rain, causing an increase in rot– or too little rain, causing the fruit, and our hope for a good apple season, to shrivel up and die. But as things are going, I am starting to drool over all of the apples I may eat.

We should not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The lack of frost also positively impacts many other fruits. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, pears, and what have you also dodged Jack’s bullet. It will still be a couple of months before I am biting into a fresh apple from the backyard, but it will only be a couple of weeks before I am biting into a fresh strawberry from our patch.

The Non-Store Farm Projects

Somehow it has been a few weeks since our last blog post. Our last post was on our summer plans for the Store, so I thought it would be fitting to follow that up with a post on our summer plans and projects for the rest of the farm besides the Store.

Now, I must start this off by saying that we have a lot of things we would love to do on the farm (and we fully intend to give them our attention when the store is complete. This is a list that includes things like getting pigs and setting up a greenhouse. This is absolutely not that list.

This list is one that we hope to accomplish this year. It is a list of tasks that we feel we have no other choice but to give our time to despite the fact that we would love to be pouring everything in to the store right now. Without further ado…

1) Build a blueberry house. This year is looking great for the blueberry bushes, and we want to make sure that the birds don’t enjoy the harvest instead of us (and you!). This project involves putting some posts in the ground along with enough structure attached to those posts to allow us to staple netting up. We started this project this week, and I am hoping that it is completed by the end of the long weekend.

2) The garden. It is planting season right now, and we are very excited to add more and more of our own produce to our Weekly Produce Program. The garden is a large and constant job, and we will spend more time on it than on the rest of the things on this list, so even though it isn’t exactly a new project, I felt justified in listing it.

3) Build a new chicken house. We have been expanding our chicken operations steadily for the last couple of years, and thanks to our faithful customers , we are in need of more coop space so that we can keep expanding. We are planning it as a large hen house with space along the back to put rabbits, as that venture has experienced steady growth as well.

4) Fence in our pasture. To go with the new chicken house, we need to finish digging holes and putting up fence posts to create a pasture area that takes up a large portion of our backyard. We are talking dozens of fence posts. I am literally starting to refer to myself as the mole because of the quantity of holes that I have been (and will continue to be) digging. The goats and the chickens will co-exist in this pasture, and the foxes will exist outside of the pasture.

5) Other. I put other here because it seems like we can’t go two or three weeks without coming across another project that is way more pressing than we realized. I’m sure you all can relate!

This list, along with our farm store exterior project list, holds the goals of the next few months. I’d like to think that we can accomplish them all, and we are planning on working like packhorses to make it happen, but I will be realistic and be content to finish one project at a time.

Spring Goals: the Store’s Exterior

The “before” picture, the current exterior of the Farm Store.

It is always exciting to me when we undertake an exterior aspect of the store. Don’t get me wrong, the interior is exciting too (the whole thing is exciting to me!), but the outside of the store adds an aspect of immediate visibility to the general public. We can work for weeks on the inside of the store, and then we work on one exterior project for 2 hours, and I get a dozen comments from people that have driven by and taken notice. Well, it is now the season for exterior work! It is time to give the good people of Glen Aubrey something to look at as they pass our store.

We have a lot of goals lined up for the outside of the store this summer, and we hope they all add up to us being completely finished with the exterior before the weather cools. Naturally, I think that all of these goals are achievable. My heart and mind tell me that there is no reason why they shouldn’t be… but experience tells me that I should work hard and not take it for granted that these goals will come to fruition in a timely manner.

So, without further delay, here is the summer schedule for the exterior of the store:

1) Finish clearing the yard around the store. We already did the large majority of it, but there is still an old tree to cut up as well as a scrap metal pile and wood pile to make go away.

2) Cut the window and door holes in the Tyvek.

3) Build the deck for the front of the store. This will be where people enter and come up to the ice cream window. I plan on starting to dig holes for the posts for this in the next week or two.

4) Finish the roof. We still have to put up the new metal roof on the front side of the store (the back is finished) and then we have to put up the ridge vent and gable trim. I get the feeling that this would have been nice to finish it all at once instead of trying to remember this year exactly what we were doing. Alas, mother nature denied our request late last fall.

5) Put gravel down in front of the deck for the parking lot. Actually, we will need to fill in and roll out the hills and valleys first, but you get the idea. We plan to put a parking area of crushed stone in front of the store.

6) Put up the siding (board and batten) on the exterior of the store. She’s gonna look nice.

7) Paint/stain the board and batten.

8) Stand in our new driveway looking at the exterior of the store and feel a sense of accomplishment.

9) Go get ice cream.

There you have it. If we can do all of those things, the outside of the store will really be shaping up. We are excited to make it happen. If you see us out working, don’t hesitate to stop in and say hi or give us a honk with your horn as you pass by. We may not see who it is, but we’ll still wave.

Farm Store Update

It has been a little while since we have given an update on how the store is coming, but I can assure you that we have been working on it the whole time. The progress can sometimes seem slow, but when we look back at it, there is certainly progress to be seen.

Last time we gave an update, we had just finished installing all of the new doors and windows. We promptly covered up everything with Tyvek. This wrap protects the house from the elements and adds a small element of insulation for heating purposes.

At some point in the coming months, we will cut the Tyvek around the windows in preparation for putting up siding to finish the exterior. When we get to this, we will also Tyvek the peaks of the walls before siding them as well.

Here (above) you can see the back end of the store which is a little bit more finished. If you were to walk up the steps of that porch in the middle, you would enter our future commercial kitchen (formerly the garage).

This is where we have spent the vast majority of our time over the last few weeks. Some of the differences a casual observer may notice include the existence of a floor now, as well as the insulation on the walls and the drywall on the ceiling.
We are very excited to be nearing the completion of the kitchen, but as you can see, we still have a bit of work to do. Next on our list is to finish putting drywall on the walls, then put the lights in, as well hook up the electrical outlets. Then we have to hook up that shiny sink under the window and put our heater in. At some point, all of this drywall needs to be spackled and painted as well. Then comes the floor…. after all of that I think the room itself (though empty of appliances and whatnot) will be a finished product.
At that point, we can walk up and out of the kitchen to go work on our store’s exterior (exit to the right) or we can walk one more step up into the main area of the store to get working on that. Let’s get to it!

Lessons from the Farm

One of my favorite parts of the farm, which really is one of my favorite parts of life, is learning the life lessons that seem to come up all the time. Some of these lessons are like low hanging fruit. They are easy to see and just begging us to learn them. Even if we don’t see this low hanging fruit, we run the risk of running right into it anyway. And some of these lessons are a little higher up on the tree, and if we want to enjoy the benefits of them we have to get a ladder or climb the tree and go up there to get them.

Of all these fruity lessons that are constantly ripening and waiting to be picked, I find myself frequently bumping my head on the low hanging fruits of delayed gratification. I always knew that delayed gratification was often a fine thing, noble even, but this farming venture has made me get up close and personal with it.

Our culture, when you think about it, is very much centered around our desires and immediately gratifying them.  Are you hungry? Go to McDonald’s, or Burger King, or any other of a hundred food joints that can get your food out to you in mere moments. Want a new car? Buy one on credit and pay it off later. There are a hundred other examples, and I’m not saying that stopping at a fast food place or buying a new car is bad, but I am saying that our culture teaches us that we should get what we want when we want it. And I do think that an attitude like that… one that is centered around me and what I want and how the world can make me happy… is ultimately destructive to ourselves and those around us.

Back to the farm…. I will say that I have very much been raised in the roughly the same culture as everyone else, and it took me a bit of getting used to how things work on a farm… namely the idea that so much of all that we do is for the future. Take the gardens, where you spend countless hours preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watering the plants, and weeding the garden before you can even think of harvesting anything from it. Then, once you harvest from it, half of the stuff gets frozen or canned and put away for an even later date. Another example would be the goats…besides feeding and watering them twice a day everyday and cleaning the barn regularly, we built the goat barn for them. We got a buck and bred them. And we waited five months while doing prenatal care and finally(!!!), we got to have goat kids and goat milk. These are just two examples, but you get the idea. A farm is a place where you put a lot of work in for a long time before you reap the rewards. That is delayed gratification.

So, what is better about having something later as opposed to having something now. Let me tell you. I feel like a king every time I sit down with a cup of goat’s milk and sip it, and the great part is, I have more than I could ever drink. There is great satisfaction in working hard for something and achieving it, and failing along the way only makes the end that much better. Also, I know a lot about goats now. I am by no means an expert, but I am delighted to say that I have learned a lot of really fascinating things… mostly because we had to blunder our way through various issues. Finally, such work builds character.  Hard, apparently unrewarding work is magnificent at developing self-control, patience, and perseverance, qualities which I think we all would admit we could use some more of.

Now we all have our projects and goals that try to teach us delayed gratification, and I am not at all trying to preach to people who probably understand the concept better than I. Instead, based on what our little farm has taught me, I want to encourage others as they undertake or are in the midst of their formidable tasks or are even considering doing something hard where the end is obviously to their benefit. These things have their own form of goat milk at the end, and it is rich and creamy.

Tis the Season for Baby Chicks!

It is that time of year again. You know, that time when Spring is so close and yet so far. Yesterday’s snowfall of 2-1/2 feet has us feeling “tis the season” …not for Winter Wonderland but for Spring to show herself! Well she’s starting… We’re hatching chicks!

Rhode Island Red Chicks for sale here!

Now I will admit that the chicks have lost a bit of attention to the new baby goats. Most visitors come to see the goats, and for good reason. It’s tons of fun to have a furry little goat crawl all over your lap and nibble on your nose–and if you haven’t gotten that experience, I highly recommend that you come visit before they grow out of their cute stage! But this isn’t a post about baby goats. This is a post about baby chickens.

They want attention too!!!

It is a magical thing to see a baby chick first poke a little hole in its shell, then slowly work a crack around the middle before giving a mighty heave to push the egg apart. There is something special about seeing a newborn creature that is just at its beginning. And, of course, it’s a practical thing. Thanks to our wonderful customers, we have a pretty good chicken business going, and the hatching of the chicks is a big part of that.

The chick enterprise.

We have to keep some of the chicks we hatch to replenish our egg laying hens every year, but we also hatch plenty to sell so that other people can experience the pleasure of  backyard farming and sitting down to a breakfast with eggs that were produced by their very own chickens. Some people even buy fertilized eggs from us so that they can hatch the eggs themselves.

For us, the routine is well underway. Every two weeks we collect fertilized eggs and put them in the incubator. It takes them three weeks to develop, and then they hatch. We have already hatched two batches of chicks, and our two incubators are loaded with the next batches. We will keep hatching chicks every two weeks until we call it quits for the year in September. This makes it so that we have chicks for visitors to see and hold all summer, and we also have chicks ready to sell all summer for those wishing to start (or continue) their own chicken venture.