Just checking in after another long blogging hiatus and ,boy, are there things to talk about!

Last where I left off I was just launching my Patreon page and wrapping up the first chapter of Green Shift. Now, a whole two seasons later, I am just getting into illustrating chapter two. What took me so long? Well Sarah and I relocated to another farm in the middle of the season and got wrapped up in a whole mess of new, exciting preparations.

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The Farm is called West Cote. No that’s not OUR house…That’s the historical house and home of the owner of the farm. We live in a 2 bedroom cabin down the hill. You can read more about the property at Wikipedia. 

The owner of the farm has a few milk cows and I am charged with milking, pasture rotation and general care. This is my first experience with cows and after about 5 months on the job I can say with relative confidence that I like them more than goats. I want my own milk cow one day. Not only are they beautiful, powerful animals that (can) regenerate land but I have found the milk and manure they produce more than justifies the expense and effort to care for them. The breed we raise are American Milking Devons pictured below.

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This arrangement has worked out great so far, with the landowner and I really getting along and hammering out a very clear concise agreement that has resulted in very few miscommunication. Sarah and I now have our own acreage to work with. As a young person, it is difficult for me to ever imagine getting enough money to buy land to have a farm/market garden. But, if I have learned anything this year, it’s that there are opportunities for someone with passion and a willingness to work to find a creative agreement to use someone else’s land.
Now that I have my own land I have been doing all the fun, cool, organic farming experiments I have always wanted to do such as…

Raising ducks for eggs!

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I have always been fascinated by ducks, the semi-aquatic, cold-hardy, hipster alternative to chickens. This year, after TONS of research, we have a flock of 27 ducks and 2 drakes (male ducks). These birds require minimal protection from Virginia’s winter cold but need access to lots of water and predator protection. We keep them behind an electrified fence netting made by the Premier Fence company. We use this movable pen to rotate the ducks around our property so they get fresh grass and so their fertile manure is spread throughout our garden. They drink out of, bathe in and do unspeakable things within 3 plastic kiddie pools that we clean daily.
Having ducks allowed me to experiment with another fun hobby of mine…

Raising bugs and water plants for animal food. I grew a black soldier fly larvae and dubia roach colony with great results to supplement the ducks’s feed which consisted of greens from the garden, fermented brewers grain from my P/T bartending gig, soy-free, non GMO layer feed and duckweed grown on the farm.

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Duckweed is a neat little nutritious water plant that baby ducks eat naturally in the wild. Perfect for raising domestic ducklings too!

One thing I set to work on IMMEDIATELY upon moving was creating an organic garden. While it was already summer I still managed to get a lot of perennials that I had in pots put into the ground. I also used a garden creation technique I always wanted to try called sheet mulching, which is a no-till process involving layering carbon and nitrogen-rich mulch. It worked out nicely and we even got a crop of greens in.
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Over the Autumn, I dug a good 12-15 (can’t remember off the top of my head) raised beds, mulched them with forest leaves and cow manure and I will leave them to the earthworms until spring 2017. I am SUPER excited for next season. I am specifically stoked to grow the many varieties of medicinal herb seeds I have. In 2016 I became aquatinted with Tulsi, Turmeric, Moringa, Bee Balm, Curry Tree, Hollyhock, Echinacea, Ashwaganda, Lotus and many others. This year I am looking forward to meeting Spicebush, Asphodel, Goji, Evening Primrose, Self-Heal, Licorice, African Dream Root, ect.
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And the one thing I wanted more than ANYTHING once I got my own yard and house was a dog…And not just any dog but a Wolfdog. For the uninitiated, a Wolfdog is a dog with recent wolf heritage. I have been fascinated with wolves and wolfish dogs for my entire life. One day I stumbled upon someone who had Husky mutt puppies whose father was a wolf hybrid. I met a pup and we instantly bonded.

Introducing Loki, the Destroyer of worlds…

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My family dog growing up was a German Shepherd named Gretchen. I can say that Wolfdogs and normal dogs are a world apart. Loki is only 8 months old and I’m pretty sure he is smarter than I am. He has a presence all his own that is hard to describe. He has been a wonderful farm dog once we laid down the rules. Loving, neurotic, goofy and oh so cute. In 5 months he has gone from this…

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To this…

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He’s awesome. I love him and I need to stop before I make this whole post about my new dog.

You know what else I love? Our new town of Scottsville, VA. I moved from NYC, a city of 8 million, to a small town of less than 500. And I love it. Over these last 9 months we have made so many great new friends. Everyday I am amazed by the awesome people we meet in this small town. Most people here are interesting, friendly and helpful in so many ways and have made us feel very much at home. There is still drama, especially when everyone knows everyone, but this is life.

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Yes, it’s been one hell of a year. But now things are winding down. The garden is sleeping, the cow will be going dry, the dead of  winter is upon us and 2016 is coming to a close. And, like clockwork, I hibernate indoors and create Sci Fi comics. Hoping to get a good amount of content done in January, February and March. 2017 is going to be a big year hopefully filled with profitable farmers markets, days out on the James river, nights out with friends and new plants and animals being born on the farm. I’ll keep ya posted. Peace.

-A.R

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