Sand Holler Farm



Why so quiet?

Marissa     General         2

Wow, this blog is being neglected.  Loads of stuff happening around the farm.  Time for a general update!

Mom got back from the Seed Savers Exchange conference 2 weeks ago.  She is brimming with ideas and we are eager to implement some.  She has promised a blog post about the happenings soon!

We had ramped up to hosting 8 WWOOFers at a time on the farm.  WWOOFers are Willing Workers On Organic Farms.  They come from all over the world to work your land.  In return, they get room, board and an education on farm life.  In general, it’s a very positive and rewarding experience.  However, any endeavor that depends heavily on human nature is bound to have some tragic failures.  We recently lost 4 WWOOFers in one day.  The community aspect of living and working in a group like this doesn’t always go smoothly and unfortunately, the breakdown of a comfortable living situation caused the loss of so many.  We are back on track though with better rules and some more oversight so hopefully we will learn a lesson from this hardship!

And then the rats.  I know, what’s so bad about a couple of rats on a farm?  Lots is bad.  Because it’s not a couple of rats.  We are infested.  It started with lazy grain storage.  We hadn’t had a problem in the past so we weren’t overly protective of our animal feed.  But they found it and they came.  It took a huge effort to secure all the food sources from them.  We had multiple containers chewed through before we found the right ones.  But we can’t prevent the rats access to water.  We have open water troughs for all our animals, so there is an abundance of water on the property when there is literally none in the rest of the land around us.  So the rats came for the food and stayed for the water.  And then discovered the garden.  So now they have another abundant food source.  To date, 49 cantaloupes have succumbed to those incisors.  Countless pounds of black eyed peas have disappeared overnight.  And a myriad of other random fruits and vegetables have been found nibbled in the morning.  The fight was on and we decided to fight dirty.  We found the rat poison that would do the least damage to any other animals and set it out a few days ago.  Sure enough, some of the poison was nibbled on and there was a funny smell from under the harvest house.  So we upped the effort seeing that it was effective.  Now the whole farm smells like success.  It’s horrible.  Each morning we gather up the dead bodies and dispose of them.  But many more are dead in their hidey holes in our buildings.  Life is fun on a farm.  Good thing I’m at the office this week!  :)

The cows have been back the last two days.  Yesterday we worked on fencing across the bottom of the creek bed that they are coming in on.  In the past, this had a clever gate that stayed closed when the creek flow was low but lifted and let the water through when it flooded.  But we had a massive flood last year that tore it off completely.  And now that everything is so miserably dry, the creek is empty the cows are using it as a highway.  Hopefully we’ve kept them out for good!

The goat kids are starting to wean.  We are most likely going to sell all the doelings this year.  It’s hard to see the cuties go, but we already have enough milkers!

I promise some more updates and pictures soon!





St. John Colony

Marissa     General         0

The farm is very near an area called St. John Colony.  I’d seen the signs when we first bought the farm but didn’t really know what the story was until we stopped at the historical marker across from the cemetery.  The text reads:


This community began in the early 1870s when a group of freedmen and their families, led by Rev. John Henry Winn, relocated here from Webberville (approx 20 mi. North).  The original fourteen families purchased about 2000 acres of land to establish a town and family farms.  Originally named Winn’s Colony in honor of John H. Winn, the community name was changed to Saint John Colony after Winn organized Saint John Missionary Baptist Church in 1873.

The community grew steadily and at its peak included homes of about 100 families, farms, stores, a school, cotton gin and grist mill.  A post office, under the name Machiesville, opened in 1890 with Lewis Machey as postmaster.  Churches, in addition to Satin John Missionary Baptist, included Zion Union Missionary Baptist and Landmark Missionary Baptist.  the boundaries of the colony extended into Bastrop County.

The post office was closed in the 1920s and the school was consolidated with Lockhart shcools in 1966.  The churhces remain actrive, and the community graveyard known as SAint John Cemetery or Zion Cemetery contains the graves of many of the area’s pioneers.  Descendants of some of the founding families still reside in Saint John Colony.


The St. John Zion Union Baptist Church has certainly seen better days.

On the other side of a goat farm from the church is the cemetery, complete with hand painted sign.

It’s a neat little community and I’m eager to learn more about it.  There are several other churches one of which has carved marble tablets with additional local history.  I’ve not had a chance to transcribe it all because it’s worn and hard to read, but it’s on my list!




Busy, Busy, busy and Onions!

Marissa     General         0

Long time no post.  I stayed on the farm over the past week while Mom and Pops went to the Seed Savers Exchange conference in Iowa.  Lots to report but still catching up on the more mundane aspects of life.  Just wanted to post one of my favorite onion pictures.  Red, white and yellow onions hanging in the kitchen for drying.  Yum!




Garden Life Support

Stephanie     Gardening         0

Hello, I’m “Mom” finally making an appearance as an author on the blog!

It is only the middle of July and already the garden is on life support mode! We have had more than a dozen days over 100 degrees and the triple digits look to be stretching out as far as we can see on the calendar. Sand Holler is also experiencing some pretty stiff sustained winds and the humidity dips down to xeric levels in the afternoons. So we have flat chard, droopy beans, and crispy squash. But the okra, long beans and most of the melons and tomatoes are basking in the hellish weather.

We have covered the chard with the winter garden hoops and put up shade cloth instead of row cover. We’ll see how effective our little “oases” are for the tender greens. The mustard and the callaloo still look perky but we are prepared to pamper the rest of the leafy veggies as well.

The worst of our woes is the invasions by raccoons, those devilish little bandits who have a predilection for knowing exactly when cantaloupes and watermelons are hours from being picked. They have left nothing but hollow shells with only little tooth grooves to show that varmints are responsible instead of fruit loving aliens.

We can almost hear them smacking their lips in the woods when we come out and discover the depredations in the morning. Today we buy more electric fence!




Nickle Farm Cats

Marissa     Animal Husbandry         4

Cats make life pretty special.  We have two around the Nickle Farm in Austin.  Binker (whose real name is Delilah, but that’s way too sophisticated) and Blue, the stray cat from the farm, are always up to no good…or just being lazy.

Binker is a bit of a catnip fiend.  Blue on the other hand, acts as though she is on drugs all the time anyway so doesn’t see the need to indulge.  I’ve never been able to keep catnip growing for very long.  It wasn’t much of a mystery why, but still funny when I caught the culprit in the act!

When we first got chickens, I had some fears that Binker may find the chicks a bit too tasty looking.  I’d heard terrible horror stories about the family cat and new chicks so I kept them separated until I thought the chickens could hold their own.  Still, I watched carefully.  I had actually purchased a breed of chicken called the Lakenvelder because it looked like Binker – white with a black head and tail.  During some of the first supervised visitations, one of the Lakenvelders took a shine to what she must have thought was her furry long lost mother.  The chicken would sneak up on Binker and try to…well, I’m not sure as she never got close enough to do anything.  I imagined she wanted a hug or cuddle, but Binker was quick to skitter off when that pesky pullet came near.  So the cat never did try anything funny as she was too busy keeping her distance!  She did watch them like a hawk…but most likely so she wasn’t the victim of chicken attention!

Binker is also a good garden cat.  While there is the occasional bathroom usage in a newly seeded row, for the most part, she is very non-destructive and probably saved countless tomatoes from passing birds.  When it’s hot in the summer, she loves to lay in the shade of plants on the damp earth in the rows.

And then there’s Blue.  She’s not been around chickens yet (all of ours moved to the farm in Dale last summer) but she eats every songbird in sight.  We can’t keep a belled collar on her so we do our best to remove bird habitat that is within her reach.  If only we could redirect her to the rodents in the shop!  Though she is interested in one type of rodent – squirrels.  She would love nothing more than to get her paws on a big juicy squirrel.  I have no idea what she would do once she did, and she probably doesn’t either.  She spends countless hours under the bird feeder watching the critters.  She even ‘talks’ to them, I guess trying to coax them down.  One particular squirrel seems to have no fear of her as it can certainly move faster, as has been proven time and time again.  We joke that these two are actually friends and just playing tag.  The squirrel will waltz across the deck right in front of Blue.  The first sign of a muscle twitch from the cat and the squirrel is already in a tree.  And then they do play in the tree together too.  Instead of just running up and away, the squirrel will taunt Blue and run around the trunks and even get under or behind Blue and wait for her to notice.  Always a laugh when those two are in the yard!

Blue’s most endearing trait is her unconditional love for Willa.  At one year old, Willa is in that phase of squeezing, fur pulling, shrieking at and generally torturing with love any furry critter she can get her hands on.  Blue just takes it all and acts as though she were getting a gentle chin rub.  As wild and obnoxious as that cat is, she is the best pet for our little girl.  Blue has been Willa’s constant companion since the day she was born.