I haven’t done an accountability post for Second Time Around Homestead in a while. I’m not really going to now, nor am I doing resolutions for the new year. However, the end of 2021 does seem like a good time to wrap up on what we have been up to.
So many people we know have quarantined or had Covid. There has been no rhyme nor reason whether it be those who were vaccinated or not. Among other things it has cut down on the odd jobs that the youngest could do for some cash – stacking wood, pulling nails, etc.
C has his new job and enjoys working nights. He is a talented millwright so the work is easy enough. However, the work schedule of four nights on and four nights off is difficult to keep with any sort of schedule for the rest of us. Planning time for get togethers or even dinners together can be challenging. Forget the mess of scheduling around holidays. The mill requires at least one highly qualified millwright to be there for every single shift. Luckily, the team works well together and they agreed on how to split shifts amongst the holidays. I’m still not really sure what time of day we are scheduled for a meal at my in-laws for New Years Day to celebrate our Christmas, but I know we’re cooking and bringing the prime rib and she is doing the sides.
Our youngest daughter has nordic racing and luckily we have actually had enough snow so that there was very little dry land training. Her first race was last week and next week she has two. The standard winter cold is making her training more difficult, but she might be as stubborn as I, so she will push through it.
Winter road crew workers are completely underappreciated. We all are so thankful when the plow and sander have gone through so we can travel safely, but have you thought about the challenges on their drive to work? Luckily, there has only been one ice storm for our son to navigate on his way to work so far this winter.
The eldest daughter is an old hand at traveling around the country now as she delivers trained dogs to their owners and shows the owners how to use the training. It must be hard to say goodbye to some of these dogs that she has worked with so tirelessly.
The litter of puppies we had left our house for the furever home journey just after Christmas. It was time, as all but one had learned how to climb out of their enclosure. We’ll work on improving that for the next litter. I did learn that I prefer to try to house train puppies during summer seasons than winter seasons. Worrying about six puppies staying warm in the ice and snow vs one (my prior experience) is completely different. Six puppies can run around in the warm grass for ages, though. I am quite convinced that puppies are adorable simply so we don’t want to murder them for all the work, noise, and sheer amounts of mess they create.
CSA and Subscription Boxes
About a year ago, I had started looking into selling subscription boxes. Also, while planning the garden I had considered CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), but our garden isn’t large enough to cover shares in case of a crop failure. However, I haven’t forgotten the idea and came up with a new concept. Subscription boxes and CSA’s are similar. In both cases you have an idea what you will be receiving, but ultimately it is up to the farmer or producer what goes into your share. A CSA pays in advance for a set period and set amount of product. A Subscription box typically pays by month, each month.
Baking CSA Planning
Planning Baking CSA’s requires being mindful of the requirements of my Cottage License. Therefore I can not deliver or ship out of state. The rest of the requirements are specific but they are all around food safety and labeling, which I would do anyway. There is a monetary limit that annual sales must be under, but that isn’t a challenge for me yet. The other considerations are marketing and knowing my audience (what do people want?).
I have created three Baking CSA’s. Each is for 8 weeks on a rolling “flavor” schedule. Within an 8 week period you should receive every flavor, but your Week 1 might be someone else’s Week 4. In this way I make large quantities of the same flavor, which makes quality control so much easier than adjusting for different ingredients and cook times.
We are now rolling out an 8 Week Cookie CSA, in which you have a choice between a dozen or two dozen cookies per week. An 8 week Muffin CSA in which you have a choice between jumbo or regular sized muffins. Mini muffins may be added soon, we’ll see. Similar to the Muffin CSA is an 8 week Bread CSA. Again, I do batches of the same flavor for everyone, regardless of what number week it is.
Egg CSA planning
The Egg CSA is much more straightforward than the Baking CSA’s. You choose between one or two dozen eggs a week for eight weeks. This is one that really benefits us as being a CSA instead of a subscription box. This spring we will need to replace many of our older layers with pullets. The upfront payments for CSA’s can cover that initial cost. The girls are currently on vacation and hardly laying, so this CSA cannot start until the daylight hours are longer and the girls start earning their keep again. (I could provide a lamp in the coop to extend the light hours, but it seems rather unnatural. Mother Nature usually has a pretty good system in place. Also, it can be problematic if we have a power outage.)
What many farmers struggle with about CSA’s is that it is so easy to spend the cash in hand and not have it for costs for the entire season. One must be able to hold a budget to know that there isn’t more income for weeks 3-8 even if you have spent the initial investment. However, you still need to deliver their shares. Some farmers achieve this budgeting by having a separate account for the CSA money and only withdrawing from that for CSA supplies.
For example, if I were doing that with my Egg CSA, then all the CSA income would go into the account. A portion would be withdrawn for the pullets. Then weekly or so a small withdrawal would be withdrawn for feed and care costs. This way the money isn’t intermingled with other streams and buying more garden seeds or packaging for the cookies. Other farmers do intermingle the income streams, but do so mindfully. It just requires careful planning.
Subscription box planning
Subscription boxes are similar to CSA’s. Often, someone pays monthly to receive a package within a theme. I have sold some of our totes this way, but I did a terrible job at marketing them. It’s worth trying again.
Meanwhile I am working on designing a Vermont subscription box. The purchaser has the same cost each month and know it will be Vermont themed, but I fill it as I like. For example, I am thinking the first box is Northeast Kingdom themed, since that’s where I live. Another might be maple themed, another winter themed,… The key is to make sure the perceived value meets or exceeds expectations. Something like maple can be difficult for that as maple syrup is sooooo expensive.
New Crafting Projects
School Art Portfolios
I was asked to make some art portfolios for an elementary classroom, similar to the totes that I sew. What a great use of these empty feedbags to keep them out of the landfill! It should be pretty easy to sew up and then add velcro instead of handles. What a great idea – I wish I had thought of it!
My snowman hats were a huge success for Holiday sales. I made more than 30 of them from October to December. I like these snowman hats because they are not Christmas-y but rather perfect for all winter. I’ll keep some more in stock. However I want a new style of hat, too. Coming into February I decided on a “sweet” design of a cupcake hat. It will take a little playing around until I get the design I like, but hopefully it will be just as popular! There are plenty of cute Spring designs too, but that seems too warm for winter hats. I may explore some St Patrick’s Day designs though.
So this is where we are at and generally our wrap up. Now I want to know about you:
What have you been doing that you would like to share?
Or, what goal are you working towards?
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