Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Startin' a bid'ness is hard!

Our weekend was SO busy. We were literally up from sunrise to dark and running full speed getting things done. I was asleep each night before my head hit the pillow. I had an order to get out for my products that I just couldn't squeeze in. We took last night "off" after work to tie up weekend loose ends and I got it done - delivered it this morning.

There is so much to do to get my little StarsHollow Farm business where I want it. I have the new logo design from my girlfriend - it is FABULOUS! I need to make a couple of edits to the copy that will go on the back of my lotion bottles and the ingredient list and then I'll need to transfer my new logo onto all my existing items - brochure, business cards, all the labeling... She is going to get me a price quote from a printing company and then we'll need to order and wait for the labels to come in. Once they're in, if they are correct, I will begin sending out samples to stores with a wholesale pricing sheet.

If I didn't have a full time job I'd be making a lot more progress - but I NEED my full time job. I am not comfortable weaning myself from the corporate teat so to speak. I have vacation, sick days, a steady income, retirement.... so yeah, not ready to give that up and throw myself completely into this new endeavor until I am confident it could fly and support me, pay my mortgage, feed me, feed the animals and support my bad horse habit.

I know there are things to be done for my business. I get home and there are OTHER things screaming to be done around our place - yard work, animal work, house work so the new business work falls to the back burner. It is always on my mind so I know it will get done one of these days...but the initial set-up to get StarsHollow Farm where I want it, is a lot of detail. Is that why people say "the devil is in the details"?

Once everything is set-up and good to go - it will be a bit easier. We'll have a system. We'll be able to make orders as they come in and with steady customers will get an idea of how much inventory to keep on hand. We'll be able to track growth and try to grow the business as we can. Right now it's all a little bit pieced are parted out in between my day job and the rest of the work it takes to keep our place clean and running and the ani-mules happy.

I made a sugar scrub last night with a new ginger scent - my customer LOVED it! It will be really fun once I am up and running. I'm excited about my new hip and cool scents vs. my first attempt at scents - they were all very "old lady" - gardenia, lilac, rose....

I dunno why my first instinct when I began to create these products was to go with the old lady scents.... oh... yeah.... maybe cuz I am also a cat lady and have 5 cats (down from 7 cuz 2 died of old, old, old age and I haven't replaced them - so I am trying!).... and cuz I feed the birds and like to watch them ....... I'm in practice for when I hit 80 I guess.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goat shows and horse clinics

Harmody Farms took two of our does to a show in Longmont, CO last weekend. They decided to buy our goat doeling and they are thinking about buying our yearling milker. In the meantime, they asked if it was possible for them to hold onto the milker while they decided. I feel bad cuz they are doing all the work of milking her and feeding her... they feel bad cuz they are keeping our goat! Funny.

Sounds like our does did well - showed well and placed well and weren't too freaked out by all the sudden attention it takes to be a show goat! The milker had to have the insides of her ears shaved so if she won the judge could read her tattoo number and verify it was really her. And her udder had to be shaved. Yowza! I'm glad no one has to shave MY udder.

Our current farm project is to acclimate the horses to the lush, green pasture. We keep them in their pens while the grass is coming in so that the pasture isn't turned into a big, dry-lot, dust bowl as they eat, eat, eat the grass before it's established. When we begin to turn them out, we have to do it gradually. If we let them out to gorge on the green, rich grass all day they would founder and become really sick. Suppose you could liken it to letting me have my fill of chocolate and fried foods all day long, all at once after being on a grapefruit diet for five months. They are up to 4 hrs out in the grass. When they get up to 6 hrs straight, we let them out all day and they do fine.

We are having problems with Rosso. He is a bit of a nancy-boy. He will NOT stay in the pasture in the evenings due to bugs. He has a mesh horse sheet on to protect his delicate skin from the bugs, he gets sprayed with bug spray and yet he can NOT stand to be in the pasture when the bugs are beginning to arrive. Seriously - he goes completely apeshit. I'm worried that he's not getting in his aclimating hours because during the week we can't be home to let him in after 4 hrs is up and during the week, we get home late enough that he spends most of his time hiding in his lean-to vs. out in the pasture with the other two horses. I tried letting them all out for a couple hours this morning with Furry Husband letting them in before he went to work and we'll let them out a couple hours tonight too. Sheesh.

I have a horse clinic June 29th with a guy by the name of John Kummrow. He is an exercise therapy guy and has an excellent eye for body, posture, muscles. My trainer rode with him and consulted with him and he was able to pinpoint areas where she is weak and improve them. She said she couldn't get correct flying changes on her gelding and after the consult with John having her access different muscles, she got very consistant correct changes.

It'll be a little odd having a burly man watching my body that closely. Also, he uses pressure points ON your muscles to help you access those muscles and call them into action...so y'know to have some stranger-man touching me will be a little wierd. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll probably like it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

20 years since High School....

.........................Yes, this is THE actual Mercy High School in Omaha, NE

Oh good lord. I got my 20th high school reunion information in the mail this week. What happened?! How did I get to be this old??? Would the time have flown even without Furry Husband keeping me plied with alcohol? Can I blame the years flying by on him and random alcohol induced blackouts?? Well, the last 12 years I could. I guess the other 8 are all my own damn fault....

I attended Mercy High School in Omaha at the height of all the John Hughes films. I dreamed about a boy like Jake from Sixteen Candles, fell in love with Andrew McCarthey in St. Elmo's Fire, wanted to BE Molly Ringwald and longed for a VW Carmengia to drive like her character in Pretty in Pink. Secretly thought a boy like Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club would be scary cool and loved his kiss scene at the end of that movie. I listened to each and every one of those soundtracks over and over and over in an obsessive teenage loop of hormones, moodiness and angst. I haven't heard those songs probably in 20 years and if I did, I'd know all the lyrics by heart. I can hear one playing in my head just writing this post!

Mercy was attached to a convent and it wasn't unusual to have nuns walking the halls. They were not like the nun in Blues Brothers, all rulers and whacking and gliding and judgement - they were diminutive, 4' tall, older women with soft grey curly hair...toy poodle like. I was never hit with a ruler - well by a nun anyway. There was one that had a touch o' the dementia I think and would take your hand in her little papery, bony paw and hold you there softly asking how you were while telling you about her life in Ireland as a girl. You watched the spit build up in the corners of her mouth and tried to politely get away and get to class.

We had all these wierd Highschool chants... like you'd honk your car horn in sync with the syllables to "come out, come out wherever you are, the Mercy girls are in the car!" I bet all the working stiffs in neighborhoods with resident Mercy girls just cringed hearing the horns honking out THAT little ditty at random times. And now that I'm old and know there are pedophile sickos out there...well, that just seems like some sort of sick ADVERTISEMENT don't it?? And we used terms like 'sodium' if a guy had a nice ass. Or if we could get alcohol, it was 'Beverly'... as in "Is Beverly coming to the party?" and we went to school dances so packed with sweaty hormone filled bodies blowing off steam that the gymnasium walls actually sweated. (can you say ewwww?)

I don't have any BAD memories of highschool - nothing abnormally bad. Pimples, boys, social status woes - not fitting in, wanting a boyfriend, thinking I was just the grossest girl and would NEVER have a boyfriend and let me tell you - hair product for curly hair was sorely lacking in the 80's. I think we all know NE is known for having just a wee bit o' humidity. My having a bad hair day was 365 day event. Tho, I think those things are all sorta universal.
I'm gonna go. Making poor Furry Husband come with and we'll go visit his Mom first in Rock Island, IL. Then stop at the reunion on the way back to CO. I can't believe I've become this mean. Making him visit his Mom AND attend my highschool reunion. Actually he could hide in the hotel room if he wanted... but I am making him come to Omaha NE with me and trust me, that is bad enough.

I sent in some pix of our happy, quirky life for the slideshow. I sent in some normal pix of us along with things like below because I think it will get a laugh. I know I will wake up some day regretting the pix of me showing a buck kid at the WY Fuzzy Goat Show. There I am, with my little buck kid, right next to a fierce looking 8 yr old girl. Or maybe she's just wondering if I brought Beverly with me into the show ring?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Speaking of chickens....

When we first moved to our little rural house, I thought that if I could just have chickens, it would be a true affirmation that I was now, finally, a country mouse. I became obsessed with chickens.

I found this website called Eggbay.com Yes, you read that correctly. Eggbay. I think there was some issue with Ebay and they had to change their name at a later date to Eggbid.com. Auction after auction involving chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, peafowl, pheasants, fertilized eggs for you to hatch - you name it and if it involved farm yard fowl, you could find it on Eggbay.

I joined a chatroom about chickens and every day read about the problems people had with chickens. Mysterious disease, aggressive roosters, predators, dog attacks, chicken housing, chicken nutrition, chicken hatching, chicken raising, chicken butchering, chicken shows.

I pleaded with Furry Husband that I HAD to have chickens. He kept saying once I wasn't commuting back and forth to Denver for my job 4 hrs a day I could have my chickens.

One day we stopped in a local feed store for dog food. On their bulletin board was an add for 4 free banty hens. (Banty hens are miniature chickens - around 1/4 the size of a regular ol' chicken) I took the number and called... the lady said I could have them if I could catch them. Furry Husband was in the car with me looking a little panicked... after all, I was still commuting to Denver and this wasn't the "plan".

We got to this lady's house and the whole time Furry Husband is asking me if I know how to take care of chickens, do I know what they eat, where will they live... I pulled every single answer right outta me bum and completely hoodwinked him. Sounded like I'd been raisin' chickens my whole life. HA!

We caught the little Mille Fleur Banties... 4 little hens... cute, cute, cute! I bought an old crib at a thrift store, turned it upside down in my tack shed and there they lived. I was completely enamored with them and would watch them, talk to them, pick them up and pet them...roll my eyes when Furry Husband would shout "NO CHICKENS IN THE HOUSE!" I was delighted when they started laying eggs.

The way I saw it, they were relaxing - like a fish aquarium - only chickens were interactive! You could touch them and pick them up and they left you gifts... eggs!

One morning I went out to the chickens and there were 3 HUGE eggs. Wow. I ran inside to show Furry Husband and I was excitedly chattering at him how happy my chickens must be because lookit these big eggs they laid! I bet it was all the talking and little nonsense songs I sang to them! Wow - that is so cool that they would lay those big eggs just because I was SUCH a good chicken owner.

I got to work and told ALL my co-workers. I called friends and told them about how happy my chickens were cuz they laid these big eggs for me. I was so proud and happy and excited over my little hens.

And then Furry Husband called.

Turns out when he got home from the restaurant he managed at the time, he decided to bring home some extra large eggs... he rubbed them around in the dirt to make them look au naturale and he planted them in my little chicken house with my hens when he got home around 2am.

I bet the look on my face was just classic as the realization dawned on me. And oh my gawd...I'd just told ALL those people about how my chickens..... how they loved me.... how it was all cuz I talked to them....the giant eggs were a display of love....

Furry Husband had tears rolling down his face and couldn't breathe from laughing so hard. He laughed for MONTHS with a childlike, evil glee about me swallowing that joke without even a moment's hesitation.....

S'ok. I hear paybacks are a bitch....

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Word is gettin out

I had an order for lotions and potions last week from a woman in Denver who went to that store in Denver that wants to carry my product! That store doesn't even HAVE my product yet but they recommended me to this woman. That is pretty awesome!

I met with my friend, the graphic designer, to figure out a more professional look for my lotions. I ordered some sample cosmetic bags cuz we decided it'd be fun to put 3 different scents in one package and sell it that way. Think I will really focus more on lotion than anything because it's more cost effective, fun and easy for me and I know it's a really, really good product.

Besides, there are SO many soap makers out there and 99.9% of them make a MUCH prettier bar o' soap than I ever will. Don't get my wrong - I like my soap, it's good and cleans those dirty body parts while keeping them soft and smooth but it sure ain't purty. And I know me and I know I won't spend enough time learning how to make them purty. I'm too impatient and too crushed when they don't turn out right and they would never be "good enough".

I think by focusing on ONE thing and doing one thing well, I can always expand into other products at a later date. I read in a "Small Business for Smart Women" book from the library that it's good to keep your focus narrow.

And that is what I'm doing. Once I get the design back from my friend and she helps me pick out the type of label - glossy and waterproof - from a label making company and I can price things out, I'll develop a wholesale pricing sheet and begin sending samples to stores for retail sales. Start small... just like a case study from my MBA marketing class.... the case o' Boston Market and how they almost went under cuz they grew too fast. That certainly won't happen with me! ha ha - as if I could compare my little Star's Hollow goat milk lotion start-up with Boston Market Rotisserie Chicken...

Goats vs Chickens!
Smackdown 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A brush with fame....

I am a big dork. Anyone who knows me knows what a huge dork I am. And I know I'm a dork and I think as long as you know and sort of revel in your dork-dom, well, somehow it's o.k.

Our little dog will actually go out to the end of our driveway, get the paper and bring it back to us. If we don't have a paper, sometimes I'll make her steal the neighbor's paper - I read it - put it back in the blue protective bag and return it to the end of their driveway on my way to work. They don't walk to the end of the driveway until well after I'm gone so is it really so wrong to "borrow" their paper?

I haven't been caught yet.... and if I am, well I can blame it on the dog. "oh geez! I'm so sorry! She just can't tell WHICH paper is the right one to bring back! Bad dog! Bad, bad dog!" and then I go inside and pet my little dog and give her extra treats and a conspiratal wink cuz I'm sneaky that way. All girls catholic school taught me well, oh, yessss, so well.

Well the neighbors didn't get a paper either. Sigh. I had to go online for my favorite comic fix. Cul de Sac. It only recently started appearing in our paper and I really like it's quirkiness! Then cuz I had a little extra time, I found my favorite comic author's blog. I sent him an e-mail thanking him for the grin and the "honey, you gotta read Cul de Sac today!" over my coffee in the mornings to my sweet Furry Husband.

See? I told you I'm a dork.

I got to work today and he responded! I feel all big and important now! I can look my co-workers in the eye and feel just that much more superior cuz I got an e-mail back from a celebrity. HA HA!

I feel so vindicated! It wasn't like when I sent Steve Martin a fan letter back in the 70's and he replied. But when I ripped open the letter practically panting with excitement, that Steve Martin sent ME, Shannon, ME in Omaha, NE, a letter!

Well, my face fell when I realized it was obviously a form letter with a stamped signature and not personally to ME at all. I don't think I wrote another fan letter to anyone until I was an adult and could handle that sort of disappointment.

Even in my adult life, my favorite stand-up comedian, Bob Marley, never, ever, replied back from a fan e-mail. Even tho' I made t-shirts with his face on them and made Furry Husband wear one and sit in the front row with me when Bob Marley came to the Denver comedy club. Tho we did get a vague mention in his blog that I just KNOW was to me. So at least that was better than nothing.

I dunno. I guess I just get a little "enthusiastic" about the people that make me laugh? I know - people are busy and have lives and careers and there are all sorts of wierd, crazies out there these days that take any attention as a green light for camping out in front of a celebrity/artist/comedian's house claiming to be knocked up with that person's love child. I mean lookit what poor David Letterman went thru! I don't expect them to be my new best friend or anything but it is so COOL to get a real response from a real person and know they acknowledged you, one of the "little people".

Everyone check out today's Cul de Sac comic. I added it to the "Keepin' Me Happy" section of my blog... go on already.... open it and have a giggle!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


We need hay. For whatever reason we calculated incorrectly. We bought enough hay to get us through to second cutting - we thought! Usually in Colorado people get 3 cuttings of hay. The first is usually more grass (if it's an alfalfa grass mix of hay) and it's more stemmy - meaning more stem than the good protien filled leaves. Second cutting is better - and third cutting is the bees knees (if put up correctly)!

This time of year is BAD for buying hay. No one has cut the first cutting of hay yet. Most people are getting down to the last of the hay they bought for getting thru winter and don't have extra to sell. Prices are high. Hay is not as good because it's the stuff either no one bought when hay season was in full swing and other nicer hay was available or it's incurred damage due to winter storms - like moisture getting in to make it moldy.

We found some hay - it isn't premium hay but it's decent and as I said before - beggars can't be choosers! We picked up 23 bales on Sunday to get us through til first cutting - gulp - we hope!

We will have to revamp our hay figures. Granted, we brought home a new horse that needed weight in November. We had an extra doe. We had LOTS of babies this spring... and all of these things caused our hay to vanish.

We like to feed second and third cutting hay. We feed a grass/alfalfa mix and the second and third cuttings give us a finer hay with more alfalfa. It is less waste - cuz the goaties do NOT like the stemmy hay and won't eat it and it will be more protien for their production as well as good hay for our horses.

I think when I call our hay contact, Ellie, to put in our order for hay this year, I will up our total number of bales by 150 bales - will ask her for 550 bales of hay for the year. THAT should get us through to second cutting next year.

We used to pick the hay up from the field from a guy by the name of Schlagel. He was in his 70's and put up hay. If we picked it up out of the field before the stacker machine came, it was .25 cents cheaper. I'd drive the pick-up and Furry Husband would throw bales into the back. If I brought Schlagel a home made pie, we'd get our hay another .25 cheaper! Those were the days...
Ol' Schlagel went out of the hay bid'ness and now goes to auctions and buys tractors, fixes them and re-sells them. I wonder how many pies I'd have to bake to get a good deal on a tractor....?

When you get hay, you not only have to load it onto your truck or flatbed trailer, but when you get home, you have to unload it and stack it in your hay shed. You lift, carry and throw every bale not once, but at least two times.

We've always stacked the hay ourselves... full on heat of summer, hay chaff gets EVERYWHERE and I do mean EVERYWHERE, it is itchy and dusty and I have increasing reactions to the hay chaff/dust so that it's hard to swallow and breathe. We wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, kerchiefs around our nose/mouth just like kids playing cowboy and heavy gloves. It is very hot and sweaty work. Hay bales are anywhere from 60 - 75lbs and they are not exactly comfortable to carry and/or stack. The hay pokes you all over and is simply not pleasant in any way, shape or form. Pictures like this make me wonder just how drunk or drugged does a woman have to be to look this happy and alluring in a pile of hay? And would anyone REALLY have sex IN a hay pile? Seriously. Spend a day stacking hay and the image below would send you screamin' down the dirt road far, far, away.

Turns out that Ellie has a 15 yr old son. Her son charges .50/bale to unload and stack the hay in our shed. We paid Ellie's son last year.

We got home one day and there was our hay shed, completely full of beautiful, green, fresh smelling hay and neither Furry Husband or I had shed one drop of sweat. You could practically see the light shining down from above and hear the angellic songs. Oh, man. That feeling. We felt like we'd won the lottery. Like we was a Rockefeller or a Kennedy or a Hilton. Like we WAS somebody. We happily paid the .50/bale and I'm looking forward to doing it again this year! Thank the good, baby, bobble head Jesus for 15 yr old farm boys!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Lions, Tigers and Bears.... OH MY!

Our goat vet called yesterday. A client of hers lost a doe to a mountain lion. The Division of Wildlife was going to reimburse the people but they needed to know how much the doe was worth. Goat vet was calling some people asking them how much they sell their does for.

You'd think it'd be an easy question but it's not! So much goes into the selling price. Yes, you always hope to get a fair price and our animals are healthy and happy and the milk tastes good. Milk is going up to $5/gal in these parts so I know what I'd LIKE to get for my milking does. They are nice animals that come from nice lines and I know they'd do well in the show ring as well as in the milk room.

People don't always want to pay that. They can pick up milkers at the sale barn for cheaper... but those animals could be sick, have diseases, have behavior problems... you just don't know what you are getting. My goats have been given a clean bill of health and you get a copy of their negative test results, you can taste the milk, you can put them on the stanchion and milk them if you want, they are registered and come from nice show herds. You know you are getting a quality, healthy animal.

I start out with the price I'd like to get and then we negotiate... because at the same time, the goats HAVE to go. I can't afford to keep them. Selling them for less than I wanted, is still less of a money drain than keeping them and feeding them!

And if people want more than one goat, well heck, I'll work with them to give them a deal. And I've sold goats for cheap because I know they are going to a good home.

So when our goat vet asked... well I gave her both the price I begin with and the price I've sometimes gotten. It's just not an easy question! Tho' I did tell her if the people wanted a replacement Alpine doe, that I still have two for sale...

Always gotta work that goat sellin' angle!