Breeding an occasional litter is just a little of what we do. We are not big breeders whose every waking moment is about having the next litter of puppies, spending our weekends traveling to shows in every surrounding state (been there, done that). We absolutely love our dogs and they are a huge part of our lives, but we are more than just breeders and our dogs are much more than "breeding stock". They are part of our family, not our business. We do have other interests and jobs and a busy life with lots more going on. We hardly watch tv, don't spend much time on electronics, and some nights we don't get to sit down until 9:00 or 10:00 PM. While I know Lagottos are the reason you are here, if you want to read about us and life here, then read on. If not, then you can skip this page. There are pics on "Photos" page of some of the things on our homestead. If you click on the album it will show you the photos, but if you click on the pics it will give you detailed descriptions of what each picture is. There are also hundreds of pics on my Instagram (link on home page). It is much easier for me to upload there, so that is the site that gets the most added.
My husband is an electrical engineer and the fixer/builder/maker of whatever my whims happen to be that week. I am a master herbalist as well as a second degree reiki practitioner. I don't do reiki on clients for money. It was part of a spiritual journey and my wanting to learn about alternative healing and holistic health care.
We feel that many people have lost the skills of being self sufficient and have no idea where their food comes from. This is something we wanted to get back to. I absolutely love cooking and occasionally cater events. There is something so satisfying about going out to the garden, determining what to cook for dinner, by what was ready to pick. Ripe Poblano peppers? Chili Rellenos! Eggplant? Eggplant parm, moussaka, or roasted with some red peppers and summer squash on the grill. Roast some tomatoes and fresh herbs from the garden and have a delicious deeply flavored pasta sauce. Sunday brunch? Gather your fresh eggs, some nettles, basil, tomatoes, add some sausage and you have a delicious sausage nettle fritata. The list goes on and on.
We planted a community garden a couple of years ago and invited people to come over and learn some about growing their own food. Many brought their kids and they had a blast. They brought bags and could take home anything they picked. It was a great experience and a great deal of fun. The kids were surprisingly excited to find the ripe vegetables and pick them. They held their bags like treasures. I was so happy to share with my neighbors and friends, not only our vegetables, but the knowledge. We aren't experts by any means, but it is something we love.
We were contacted by an organization that works with mentally handicapped and autistic kids. They wanted to know if we would be willing to donate some fertile chicken eggs so the kids could follow the progress and watch the baby chicks hatch. When the chicks are born they will come back to the farm and the kids will come for periodic visits to feed the chicks, watch them grow and interact with the other animals. We will have baby lambs and goats for them to bottle feed. They will be able to play with the dogs. After summer gets going they are going to come and pick their own vegetables out of our garden and then their care givers will take them home and cook dinner with whatever they picked. I am very honored to have been asked to participate in this, and hopefully it will be a great experience for the boys. They all live in a state run home, so they do not have these opportunities anywhere in their lives. We are blessed to have a wonderful farm and we are very happy to share it with these kids.
I grow many of my own herbs, both medicinal and culinary as well as lots of fresh organic veggies. We have a large greenhouse and in the winter we plant cool weather plants, so we have access to fresh greens during the winter. Currently we are growing romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, broccoli, stinging nettles and green onions. We give fresh broccoli and spinach to the dogs, goats and chickens. In the summer we have almost every vegetable you can imagine, except corn. We may grow corn this year for the chickens, but while yummy, it doesn't have much nutritional value. We have apple trees, grapes, currants (red, pink and black), blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and gooseberries. I have dwarf Meyer lemon trees in the house with several lemons waiting to be picked. We have two orange trees, two lime trees, a fig tree, and three banana trees. It is possible to have citrus and fruit trees in New York!
My puppy nursery is a bright warm room off the kitchen, and the perfect environment for the babies. They get lots of attention, and get to come into the kitchen to play and run underfoot. Since we have to keep it so warm for the infant puppies and it is so bright, with lots of windows on three sides, it serves a triple purpose. The second is for my inside plants and starting my seedlings. I also found some amaryllis bulbs, dying in pots in someone's yard this summer. I just asked what they were and was told I could have them. I have never grown them, but figured I would give it a try. I gave the bulbs some TLC and grew a bulb into a three foot, red, four flower gorgeous thing, just in time for Thanksgiving. My husband makes wine, so the third purpose is to keep the wine warm in the primary fermenting stage, since the yeast has to be warm to feed on the sugar and create the alcohol. This is probably the most useful room in our house.
We have a small flock of chickens that we free range for fresh, organic eggs. We are still getting eggs every day, even in winter. Leave it to me to have "different" chickens. I have Lavender, Crele, and Isabel Cuckoo Orpingtons, French Black Copper Marans. We do not raise them for meat, just for nutritious eggs for us and for the dogs, specifically the pregnant and nursing mothers. I give the chickens snacks every single day, wheat bread, fresh veggies, a little corn, yogurt, and whatever I can find that I think they will like. We feed them flax and some other things so they produce eggs higher in omega 3's. They are happy, spoiled chickens which is why I think they are still laying for us.
We have a small herd of goats: Angora (which often are mistaken for tiny sheep) and produce glorious Mohair. We have goats that produce milk with a higher butterfat content than many goats. Our milk tastes exactly like cows milk. I mean exactly with no "goaty" flavor. The wangy flavor associated with goat milk is either due to the diet the goat eats, the handling of the milk, or the time it takes to cool the milk down. We use a technique that cools it quickly, we feed our goats only the best hay and food. If we want to have that "goat" flavor for our cheese, we have to handle it differently and allow those flavors to develop. Nubians are dairy goats specifically for milk production with higher butterfat which means sweeter milk, and have the cute floppy ears. We drink the milk but we also use the milk to make soap, lotion, cheese, butter and yogurt. We also feed whole goat milk and yogurt to the nursing moms, and babies. After we make the cheese, the leftover liquid is whey, which is extremely nutritious and we save that and give small amounts to our dogs and they love it.
We have a small flock of Finn sheep, Wensleydales, Gotlands, and Teeswaters . The Finn sheep are known for their prolific birthing and lustrous wool. They are small, friendly and easy keepers. The sheep that have been with us the longest are seriously dog friendly. Sheep are very smart, if given attention. We have some that will answer when we call their names, and come running to the fence, when they hear our car pull up. Farm animals can be so incredible, if you interact with them, and treat them kindly. If you never speak to them, or give them attention, they never develop the loving personality. My Finns will come and snuggle, if I go sit in the pasture. I cannot express the feeling of utter contentment of sitting on the back hill, with my sheep. It is zen for me.
Wensleydales and Teeswaters are large, long wool sheep, know for their gorgeous curls, and natural luster. We are going to use our sheep for milk (yes milk!) as well as wool. Spun together with the Mohair from the goats, it will make a beautiful luxurious yarn.
Sheep milk is sweet like cow's milk and has the consistency of half and half. For those who do not like the taste of goats milk (though you wouldn't be able to tell our goat milk from cow's), sheep milk may be the thing for you. It also has more solids in it than cow's milk so it makes twice the amount of cheese than the same amount of cow's milk. This is another thing we felt vital to our goal of self sufficiency. We are expecting spring lambs and are absolutely thrilled! I cannot wait for Lagotto puppies playing together in the pasture with the baby lambs. I just may die of cute. Pics certainly to come. Baby Lagottos coats always remind me of lambs with their little curls start to come in. It makes my heart happy to think about.
We have 15 beehives, and produce our own honey and wax, which we use in our products. Honeybees are extremely necessary to the world's food supply and increase the yield on our vegetables and fruits. We have planted a "bee garden" with different flowers that bloom early, mid and late summer so the bees have plant of pollen to make honey as long as possible. We may do propolis and pollen at some point, but for now, we are just harvesting wax and honey.
We are big into composting for a variety of reasons. So much of our landfills are overfilled with food waste that could be composted. Another reason is for the glorious compost to nourish our gardens. We raise red wigglers (yes worms), who are champions at breaking down the food waste. So much of the year our outdoor compost is cold and frozen, so we wanted a way to deal with our food scraps during the winter. With the amount or gardening we do, the compost and the worm castings are like black gold. We also use the manure from the chickens and goats to fertilize the soil and enrich our dirt. We do not have to buy garden soil or fertilizers, so that is something else sustainable for us and keeps pounds of food waste out of the landfills.
If it sounds like we have a lot going on, we do. We work all of the time, but it is all for the benefit of our family and animals. It is a satisfying life, one I think I was destined for, it just took me a little while to figure it out. My degree is in business, but my heart is with the earth, and I am happiest with my hands in the dirt.
We do have a few more critters :). We have an Umbrella Cockatoo (Fancy), a rosie bourke, and two cats, Missy and Daisy.
Update: We opened our own old fashioned apothecary/herb shop and commercial greenhouse. We sell non-gmo, heirloom, and organically grown vegetable plants in the spring, along with companion plants that reduce pests. We also have medicinal and culinary herb plants. We grow and sell currant, gooseberry, elderberry and blueberry bushes. We have succulents, all grown here. We grow carnivorous plants, which help with insect control. We also started a daylily farm here! Daylilies are my favorite landscaping flower. They come in thousands of color combinations. In our apothecary and herb shop we make a variety of herbal remedies, medicinal teas. salves, pain relief, soaps, lotions and so much more. We have turned what we love and the desire to help people into our full time business. We didn't know what busy was until we opened the greenhouse and store. I make 95% of the products in the store, in small batches, so it is quality controlled, and extremely time consuming.
The puppies get to come to the store and enjoy lots of socialization from the customers, after they have had their first shots. It is extremely good for them and the people love it. That way they are exposed to people of all kinds on a daily basis.
I am sure there will be more to come, but I am not sure I could fit much more into my day. I am finally living my dream life. It is really hard work, year round, but nothing would satisfy me more. I cannot stand being idle. No chance of that now :)