Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Beginnings on the Farm (Everything!)

So now that we have the chins here, now what?  Well, this is our starting point, and here we go!

Some quick updates on a variety of things:

Chickens / turkeys -- we raised some over the winter, tried to add them to the flock... none made it.  We decided in the future, we will only put chickens outside in the spring / summer, so they will have time to acclimate (over a longer period of time).  So that said... we got two more turkeys and 5 polish chickens and are currently raising those (indoors).  Also, in December, our chickens started laying their first eggs!  How exciting!  We are selling off excess eggs by the dozen and we hope that some chickens go broody and we hatch out some baby chicks at some point!

Two (of 5) baby polish chickens 

Our two white turklets!

Goats -- we have two adult females -- Raven (black nigerian dwarf) and Ivy (caramel pygmy).  We believe they are both bred -- Raven to Charlie (tricolor nigerian dwarf) and Ivy to Sebastian (buckskin? nigerian dwarf).  If they are bred, we could potentially see kids as early as the next few months!  Super excited about that possibility!

Charlie (back) and Raven (front)



Chinchillas -- they are having babies!  We plan to expand our herd, as well as continue to show and provide some for sale, and babies are the way to do that!  Just today, we found (I believe) 6 new babies!  Super excited to see the future of the herd and how things pan out over the long run.  We just weaned some babies last week and I'll attach a photo of the cutest little angora that is looking for a new home.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Beginnings on the Farm (Chinchillas!)

Somewhere in all of this getting goats, we were working on getting  ready to bring out chinchillas home.  It wasn't until early December that we were able to get out to Ohio to bring our cages back.  It took us a bit to set those up, and then some time to set up the water line.  Still working out kinks with that, but hey, one thing at a time.

Next would be to bring back the chins!  On December 15th, I loaded up every last carrier I could find, and packed up all my chinchillas from their boarding location...and brought them home!  They haven't been home with me since about sometime in 2014/2015, pushing 7 years!  Super exciting to have them home!

Even more exciting was that by the next morning, we had three new babies!  They weren't breeding well for their "hosting breeder," but I believe in the following month after they arrived, we had 15-20 babies born!  Great start to bringing the herd back!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Beginnings at the Farm (Goats)

The end of September was a busy time for us --

On the 24th, Mike proposed (I said yes, of course).

On the 25th, we went goat-shopping to celebrate and brought home two registered Nigerian Dwarf goats -- Charlie & Raven.

On the 26th, thanks to borrowed money, the furnace / AC unit / ductwork went into the chinchilla barn.

On the 27th, we had a moment to breathe.

On the 28th, we closed on the farmhouse!  Who-hoo!!

Charlie (back) and Raven (front)

We added some additional goats, first an adult female pygmy goat (Ivy) and an adult Nigerian Dwarf male (Sebastian).


Sebastian making a funny face

We also added some younger ND's to the herd...

brother / sister buckling / doeling (brought home at 10 weeks)

four half-sister doelings brought home at 3-4 months

So now we're up to an awful lot of chickens / turkeys and 10 goats!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Beginnings At The Farm (Chickens)

So we moved into the farm in the summer, June / July 2021.  It wasn't long before we got ourselves some chickens and learned all about "chicken math."  Mike has a friend who has some turkeys, and after meeting the turkeys, we decided that we wanted some of those as well.  

We originally started building a coop outside, and quickly learned that wasn't the way to go.  Our new coop (which is now almost complete, and is being used as we speak) is inside the barn barn (technically a huge multi-section lean-to) and is all nice and fancy for our feathered friends.  We've had pretty decent luck with the chickens and turkeys, and have only lost a few to acclimation issues and a few to predators.  Hopefully those numbers stay low, as we like our feathered friends!  Our chickens just recently started laying eggs (late Dec 2021) and we hope the turk turks are soon to follow.

Mike and I at Rural King with our first chick!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Moving on from the Zoning Board Meeting

So, knowing that there wasn't a chance to keep the chin business / rescue in Chesterton, we started looking for new places to move.  The 1+ acre in Chesterton wasn't right, so the next place, we literally talked about -- the neighbors better be cornfields!

All work stopped on the barn, and we got deposits back on a handful of things, but unfortunately, much of the money -- about $50,000 -- had already been spent on what was already done.

We stopped taking in rescues and worked on rehoming the chins that we had.

...and as there's never a dull moment in the chin world, there was some issues with our boarding situation for where our chins were at Jim's, and we had a bit of a falling out, so the chins needed to be moved to board elsewhere, like ASAP.  This was about April/May 2021.

Thankfully, we were able to find another breeder, a tad closer to home this time, that could take them in and board them for a bit.  We took them there in three trips.

Around this same time, we stumbled on a great farm property a few miles outside the farm town of Wolcott, Indiana.  We went to look at it, and put in an offer right away.  One of the barns on the property was perfect!  It would only have been more perfect if the barn had already been heated and cooled, but heck, it had running water, cement floor, and some insulation, so something better than nothing!

Getting the Wolcott property would be a feat in itself.  From the day we first saw the property, it took 2 days short of 6 months to close.

First, we were a week short of closing, when I got a text from our lender asking for me to call her.  Turns out, they couldn't do agricultural loans, and we had to start the whole process again, with another lender.  So, we do.  Fast forward to almost being ready to close again, and we found out, the seller had not finished parceling the land (there were two parcels available, 2.76 acres with the house and barns and another 8.88ish acres of farmable land -- at the time, we were to the 2.76 acres and plan to somehow get the rest at a later date).  Part of the terms of the agreement was that the seller would have 30 days possession of the house and 90 days possession of the barns after closing.  We asked about this being negotiable due to me needing to sell my house, and he said he would see what he could do about the 30 days for the house.  Long story short, he moves his tenant (from the house).  Well, then, when closing isn't happening, he wanted us to put down money amounting to $2500.  He said he would refund $1250 at closing (if it closed) and that this would cover his lost income from rent.  I was so mad about this, I actually told our real estate agent to tell the seller, that if he wanted us paying rent, then I wanted to move in.  That turned out to be a great idea, because he agreed that if appraisal came back good, we could.  So, we moved into the house about 3 months prior to owning it.  

The seller's meeting for parceling came and went... it was denied for seemingly stupid reasons... so we ended up adding the other acreage to the loan, so now it is a total of 11.5 acres, give or take.  Finally, we closed on 9/28/2021.

Here is the building that will be the new chin barn --

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

What Happened to Chesterton? (part 2)

 ...realistically, nothing much happened to the chin business, we just switched gears a bit.

Rather than setting out orders for pickup, we started hoofing them to the post office.  No one can see boxes set out for pickup if they're not set out for pickup!

Rather than having people come to the house for chinchillas, we started meeting people at the local grocery store.  It was about 5-10 mins away depending on traffic, so I started giving customers that address, and asking customers to text me when they were about 5-10 minutes away, so I knew when to leave.  While of course this was more effort than meeting people at the house, this worked well enough.

We had one major learning curve, right at the beginning of doing all of this.  At the very beginning, I was packing the chinchilla up in the carrier at my house, then simply handing the adopter the chinchilla (in carrier) and their take home bag at the pickup spot.  In case you haven't seen our carriers, they are cardboard pet carriers with round pre-punched dime-sized airholes, similar to what you might get when buying a small animal from a pet store.  You cannot see the chinchilla through the carrier,.

So for the one appointment, the appointment was set at 3 pm.  At 2:15, I get a text that says "I'm here!"  I wasn't even *home* as I expected to have still quite a bit of time before that appointment, so I rush home, put the chin in a carrier, rush back.  Now I normally would give the chinchilla a quick once-over before putting it in the box, but I didn't want to make her wait any longer than she already was going to, so I hurried and grabbed him out of his cage and put him in the carrier.  Later, I would learn what a mistake this was going to be.

So I get to the meeting place and hand off the carrier and take home bag.  Immediately the new owner says she's going to open the box.  Knowing this chin tends to be one of the bouncier ones, and not wanting the chin to get away from the new owner, I tell the owner that she should get in the car, close the doors, and then open the box.  So she does.  I sit there for a minute or two and I see them peering in the box and then I drive away.

Maybe 20 minutes later I get a text asking about some fur loss on the chinchilla's nose.  From the picture, one of two things are possible.  Either (1) the chinchilla repeatedly stuck its nose in and out one of the circular "air holes" in the box, irritating / rubbing the fur or (2) the chinchilla developed fungus on the nose.  I told her these were the possibilities, and hold her that I would suggest she treat for fungus, because even if it wasn't fungus, it wouldn't hurt anything.  Tell her how to do so, she seems fine with it, and I thought that was the end of it,

Stupid me.

Couple days later, I get a phone call.  Owner of the fungus chin -- she is absolutely bawling, thinks the chin is going to die, and tells me she is rushing him to the vet.  For what?  Oh, well, some breeder-hating-chin-group on facebook (that already told them they hate me, by the way), told her that fungus KILLS (ah-hahahahahahaahhaha no) and they can't believe how I made no big deal out of it and yadda yadda yadda.  She goes to the vet, calls me up.... Then tells me, that I need to (1) refund her for the chin, (2) let her keep the chin, and (3) pay her vet bills, or she's going to sue me.  I told her, I am happy to refund her for the chin if she returns it, and she's like, "oh, well, yeah, AFTER I paid to treat it."  No, honey, I could have treated it myself at home, but by all means, pat yourself on the back for spending $$$ to treat it at the vet.

I told her, it's in the health guarantee that if she thought the chin was sick she could return.  She claims I didn't tell her about that.  My health guarantee and sales policy are on my website -- unfortunately, I cannot make people read them, but they are there for those that want to.

So she goes and posts on this chin group about how horrible I am.  She writes a negative review on my facebook page.  She mentions that I tried to hide that the chin was sick by telling her to not open the carrier until she was in her car, and then I immediately sped away.  Not what happened, but ok.

Let's fast forward a week... she's now posting that she, her cat, and her dog all have fungus.  Hold on...let's back up for a second.  I've had times where there's a major fungal outbreak and I've had 20 chins that have had fungus... and I have NOT, and neither have any other animals in my care.  How does one chin with fungus infect every human and every animal in the house?  Oh yeah, due to poor hygiene.  But yes, by all means, blame me.

Oh, let's not forget, she called code enforcement and she called animal control.  So I got a nice visit from animal control, who found nothing wrong with ANY of the animals in my care (not even another one with fungus!).  They told me that she informed them that I was selling "decaying" animals (in their own words, "it's ringworm, so what? super common") and they said my animals looked so clean!  Not even the cages, the animals themselves.  I ended up writing a Freedom of Information Act letter to get their report, so if she ever did decide to sue me, I would have that to back up that I am not breeding animals in bad conditions and whatever else she was accusing me of.  She basically was saying that that animal I sold her was one of *many* sick ones and I was scamming everyone with pics of healthy ones and then actually doling out sick animals...not quite.

This all ended well enough... (1) animal control found no issue with my animals, simply said "you know this is a zoning issue? (yes) ok, well, we have no problem with you, the animals are cared for well", (2) zoning honestly wasn't sure what to do with the whole thing because chinchillas aren't mentioned in the county ordinances so they weren't messing further with it, and (3) the girl never did sue me.

So here's what we learned ---> all future chinchillas / animals that we brought to that grocery store parking lot were brought in an all-wire carrier, so the new owner could physically see them prior to them going into their take-home carrier.  Also, all future animals were eyeballed to death to be sure they didn't have so much as one hair out of place that someone could later complain about.

Monday, January 17, 2022

What Happened to Chesterton? (part 1)

In looking back, I realize that my last post that talked about our location... specifically mentioned how great Chesterton was.  That sentiment was very short lived, as, well, I no longer live there.

So what happened to Chesterton?  Well, let me tell you.

If you're on our facebook page, you probably know much of this already as a lot of this has been posted there, as this all was going on.

So, at Chesterton, the barn was being worked on, albeit slowly, due to the order of things needing to be done and the schedules of all of the contractors.  This was right about Christmas time 2020.  So with the barn being on hold at the time, we ended up putting a small room in the basement, so we could move the chins in there, temporarily.  With the chins there, appointments started up again.

One such appointment went to the wrong house.  I found this out when the person arrived, as they had this story to tell me about how they went to the wrong house, said they were there to see the chinchilla lady, were told they had the wrong house... but the guy knew which house it was, and was driving past there, so they should follow him and he would point it out.  This seemed innocent enough at the time, helpful neighbor, cool.

...until I got a call from code enforcement which said that it was reported that I have / breed chinchillas and that I'm running a business out of the house.  The guy at code enforcement was actually very helpful, and explained to me that I might be able to continue doing what I was doing, if I applied for (and was granted) a use variance.

So I looked into how to do that, got the form to fill out.  We spent days on end filling out this paperwork, as every question practically required an essay type answer.  The cost of applying for this use variance was $425.  Once the application was accepted, we then had to send out certified return receipt mailings to everyone within 500 feet of the property lines.  Since the property was over an acre, that amounted to 30-something people, to the tune of almost another $300.  This was to alert all the people nearby that there would be a zoning meeting where we would be petitioning for the county to basically let us run out business out of our home.  A sign was also put in the yard, for the same purpose.

Prior to the meeting, it was specified that people who wanted to speak in this case could write letters for or against.  We learned who these letters should be sent to, and put out notices on facebook and our website, in case anyone wanted to either come to the meeting or write in for us.  A good handful or two of people did write in letters to the zoning board.

The day came for the zoning meeting.  Mike and I went over there to petition our case.  I was the petitioner, Mike was there speaking "for" me, and the other 20-odd people?  Yeah, they were all speaking out "against" us.  They didn't want the increased traffic, increased strangers, they didn't want their residential zone turned into someplace someone would have a home business.  It didn't matter how much I (or the letters) mentioned that there's very few people here in a given week, that it's not busy, that literally -- you wouldn't know there's a business if someone didn't tell you -- they still said, nope, too many strangers, too many this, too much that.  The sad thing too, was that none of my actual, like next door neighbors, had any issue... it was all people down the block and people living on the street behind me that caused issues.  Looking back, we've come up with the idea that there was a ringleader who gathered everyone up... as basically, all those people on the street behind me?  Yeah, there was no way they ALL would have shown up for the meeting, and they ALL did.

We also learned at the meeting... my property was zoned R1 - rural residential (that we knew).  I had looked this up, prior to moving there, and one of the "permitted uses" was "breeding and raising of farm and exotic animals."  So, when I was asked by the zoning board, "what gave me the idea that I could do this?" I brought this up.  Well, turns out, part of their ordinances are under review, so while it is not currently "find-able" (for lack of a better word) anywhere in the current ordinances, property owners are restricted to having no more than four animals total.  It doesn't matter if you live on 1/10 of an acre or 20 acres, you are allowed four animals.  Doesn't matter if it's four cows or four pet fish.  Four total.  Now, how you are supposed to breed / raise any type of animal with only owning four, I'm not sure, but that exited out staying there for any period of time.

They also asked about my packages, as a board member had apparently driven by one day when I had packages outside for a package pickup.  I told them, these were for items that I sold online.  They then told me that I needed a business license for that, and I could reapply for a separate one for just that.  I told them, I've never needed one for something like that (where you're mailing things out and customers don't actually come to the home) and they basically said, "well, here you do... here, anyone selling anything on facebook or craigslist should have a business license."  Yeah, ok.

So, the zoning petition was denied, and that meant everything should shut down as far as the chinchilla business. be continued