Aside from the humans there are a plethora of tenants who are all equally as hard working at making Sweetwater Lane Farm the place it is. Here’s a quick rundown of the characters and their contribution to the homestead.
Ella the Milk Cow, aka Queen Ella.
Ella came to the farm about 5 years ago with her first calf Jazz. We got Ella as a wedding gift from Gus’ Dad and stepmom. They asked us what gift they could get us for our wedding. They wanted to give us something that we would use, that would last and we could enjoy for years to come. The phone went silent for a moment when our reply was “how about a milk cow?” I think “dining set” or “knife set” was more the response they expected.
When she arrived she was a little worse for wear having been kept at a less than ideal location for the first 2 years of her life. We got her back to full health and, along with her calf, is now the beneficiary of our lush pasture land. Jazz moved on to another farm down the Pemberton Meadows after she was trained as a milk cow here. Each year Ella has produced a steer calf for us which has provided us with our year’s supply of beef. She also provides us with as much milk as we need (sorry we can’t share it with guests due to gov’t regulations).
Ella with a couple of her calves from past summers. (Yes cows can have horns. She’s not a bull.)
Layer Hens: Beside the main house sits an old horse tack shed. When we arrived we turned it into a chicken coop which is now the night time digs for around a dozen layer hens. By day you’ll see them scratching from one end of the property to the other. Whether it’s flipping cow patties for worms, grass and seeds from the pasture or a passing flying bug they are after it. We collect eggs in the morning which you’ll find in the fridge for breakfast while you are staying here.
Expect these ladies to be scratching around the place while you are here.
Meat birds: When we arrived at Sweetwater the pasture was severely over grazed and depleted. There were patches of tussocky grass amidst the dirt field. We did a little research on ways to rebuild the pasture and settled on rotational grazing. We have been pupils of Joel Salatin’s work over the years which inspired us to use the methods we do. Chickens are a large part of this. By using bottomless coops and moving them over the grass twice a day we provide our meat birds with fresh salad bar twice a day and spread their manure evenly over the pasture. Along with seeding nutritional varieties of grass each year this has been the single biggest input to building the lush pasture we now have, which in turn feeds the milk cow.
In 2013 we became a certified Slaughtersafe farm which means that we can raise, process, package and sell poultry directly off the farm. Many local families, as well as BnB guests, are customers of ours over the summer.
Above:Day old chicks in the brooder coop.
Below: broilers out on the pasture in bottomless coops.
Over the years we have raised piglets in the forest behind the house. This year we have 3 little (soon to be large) piggies roaming approximately 3/4 acre of forest. We are lucky enough to have the food scraps from local restaurant & hot spot Mile One to sustain them over the summer. In the fall they have one bad day and become the most amazing bacon, sausage and pork.
Three little piggies
We have a colony of honey bees that we keep on the top balcony in a top bar bee hive. Their main job is to keep our fruit trees and flowers well pollinated. Our neighbors have even spotted them working away in their yards too. We keep them on the top balcony as its one of the first places to catch the daylight warming them out of their hive for the day and its out of reach of any potential passing bears. We ask that you keep off the small balcony while you are here and watch them through the glass door. If you’d like a closer inspection let Gus know and he’ll give you an insight into the top bar bee hives. Oh, and they also give us some pretty sweet honey each year too! (Nb: if you have an allergy to bees make sure you come prepared with what you need to deal with a sting, just in case.)
Above: Working with the bees in the top bar hive
Below: Bees returning from foraging to their hive last spring
Our fearless golden retriever is a sucker for a low lying hand. He will position himself for a pat given any opportunity. Feel free to turn him down but he will be forever grateful and your new best friend if you oblige. His main job on the farm these days is to scare off predators and alert us to their presence. He has kept many a bear from our chickens over the years and for that we keep him well fed.
The Cat Brothers
You’ll see Barnsley and MJ prowling the premises. Barnsley may even come to greet you when you arrive. The barn cat brothers showed up days after we moved in as kittens and have kept the rodents at bay ever since. Although they don’t always get along with each other they are certainly happy to share their space with guests.
Barnsley posing for the shot. MJ’s a little more elusive.
They all look forward to sharing their home with you on your next stay at Sweetwater Lane Farm BnB.