We have 120 acres, a small farm compared to those in the lower 48, but for this area, it's not bad! Rick and I built the house ourselves, about 2800 sq ft, with the help of a few friends, a timber framer, an electrical contractor, and a plumbing/heating contractor. The right side of the house is 'real' timberframe with the logs hand hewn. We lived in a small camping trailer the first winter while building. We had bought the land, all virgin forest with nothing but a 4-wheeler trail on it, then put the old place up for sale. Little did we know the place would sell within a month, we thought it would take maybe a year or so to sell it, and we had to be out for the new owners to take over January 1st... the dead of the cold Alaska winter. We had cattle, pigs, sheep, and dogs to move to the new place and no place to move to. So Rick bought an old D-6 Catterpillar and began clearing land to build the house on and put the animals on for the winter. It was an interesting winter, to say the least! We started building in October of 1999, and haven't looked back since.
It took 3 years of clearing to get our first crop of hay, a meager taking with a young field, in 2002. Hay farmers here get one cutting usually done by the 1st of July. It's too wet in the fall for a 2nd cutting unless a rare dry spell hits and the dew stays away, which is very rare indeed. If you can buy the equipment to put up wrapped round bales of haylage, then you'll get your second cutting most years. But that's if you can afford to buy that expensive equipement. So you plan on one cutting, and let the livestock graze off the 2nd cutting, which of course requires lots of fencing in of the fields too. Rick works hard, often bulldozing or constructing during the summer months well into 11pm or more when it's light out till nearly midnight. This of course he does after putting in 10 hours daily at an off-farm job. Me, well I stay home full time to care for the animals here. I plant a large garden every spring that supplies enough beans, broccoli, carrots, and potatoes for most of the winter. I raise 100+ chicks in the spring each year, selling some in the fall and keeping the rest for laying hens as we sell the eggs all year round too. I milk my Registered Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats twice a day, am the first in Alaska to go on milk test and also go for dairy stars on my does - and we're doing well with them too. We currently have the 2nd highest all-time one day milk test weight for an ND doe in the country - a proud accomplishment and a tribute to the right milk genetics too. I also teach herding lessons for beginners, as well as train my dogs for stockwork, ranchwork, and occasional herding trials. I love to get new people interested in herding as it's something the dogs just love to do and it makes them so happy too!
In June of 2005, we finally were able to paint the barn. No small task, it took some 40+ gallons of paint to get it covered. Then we added on the traditional white trim. Since the roof is blue, we giggle and tell people we have an All-American barn - red, white, and blue!
We have Black Angus cattle, a flock of Shetland-cross sheep and a flock of Indian Runner ducks that are used for dog herding training, a few pigs, and our AKC Australian Cattle Dogs which we breed, train, and compete with, as well as doing ACD rescue too. We also have a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, their milk is much better as milk replacement for livestock and more digestible for dogs and puppies, and wonderful to drink for ourselves also. We make our own ice cream, cheeses, and yogurt too. Rick also keeps a few hives of honey bees every year, and most years we have honey for sale in the fall and winter months. We're a rather diverse farm, but we like it that way!
Thanks for visiting our farm page. It's a work in progress, so come back and visit often!
Life in Alaska is different, but it's wonderful. A recent documentary on Alaska ended with a good commentary - "Alaskans are a different type of people. They are kind, they are friendly, they are hard working, they are tenacious. They never take for granted what they have, and live with the most awe-inspiring scenery of anyplace in the United States. Once you've gone to Alaska, a part of you never leaves. "
We're glad we live here.
As with most farms, developing the farm for the animals and hay comes first. We finished construction on a new chicken coop for the 100+ layers we keep, and have now cleared another 10 acres of virgin forest for new hay ground. In the aerial photo left, you can see to the right of the barn the left edge of the 30'x60' kennel building which will have enclosed indoor sleeping quarters attached to the outdoor runs for the dogs. We expanded the heated room in the barn for the dogs and will be installing ahot water heater,stainless sink and counter instead of just the coldwater faucet there now. It has one wall for dog crates and the opposite side is the fridge and freezer for our beef and pork as well as the dogs' raw meat and bones.
As things keep getting built, things keep getting moved around. Sometimes there are just too many piles of lumber and building materials for my liking - ha! The fabric Coverall has now been moved onto a solid wall for added height and the John Deere and haying equipment is now stored under cover. The Case skid steer is also stored under the left barn wing. The goats stalls are on the right so they have free run to the outdoors in nice weather and their chainlink fenced yard is under the right barn wing so they can play even in the rain. The milking stand gets moved to the heated room in the winter, so no milking in the cold which is fine with me! The cattedogs do enjoy the fresh milk too.
The barn loft can store more than 1000 square bales. We use large round bales of haylage for the cattle, prefering it over regular 1/2 ton dry hay, and store that outdoors since it's sealed in plastic wrap. We find the cattle keep their weighton and still gain much better in the winter with it. We built a regulation sized herding arena for cattle and sheep this past spring so we regularly move the sheep down there and graze them along the way.
Ahhhhh, not only did we get the barn painted in June of 2005 but we've also begun putting up the house siding. It was one of the last things we wanted to get done, and didn't do it until now since an 'uncompleted' house is taxed less than a finished house - go figure! Other things were more important too - now that the animals are all living in nice, comfortable quarters, 20 acres is in hay production, and haying equipment and tractors have been amassed, it was time to do the house too. Rick cut down a number of very large old-growth White Spruce trees that had been killed by the invasive Spruce Bark Beetle. We do have a terrible problem with the beetle here too, and we are being left with standing dead spruce everywhere. So, he began cutting them down and hauled the logs off to the local wood miller who then sawed them into lumber. Our siding is beautiful! Sanded on one side, it made very attractive and durable siding, equal to any cedar siding we've seen except a more blonde color. So the front of the house is now sided. The next big project will be to add in the planned 'arctic entry' on the north side. This involves the usual excavation work, foundation, and framing in. This also will give us a place to put the many coats, hats, boots, gloves, wet dogs