Monthly Archives: April 2013

Shelter

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The big project this year, aside from the garden fence, was to put up a barn in the Neutral Zone, so that we could use it in bad weather without having to walk animals across the road.  John and Thaddeus got things started after several weeks of considering, and then reconsidering, design options.  And then, alas, having to mentally pick the whole building up and move it 30′ back from the road, because it turns out you probably should check with the county before you put a building in the right of way.  Lesson learned!

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And now it’s finished! And we love it.  It’s beautiful to look at, which is good because we see it directly out the living room window. It has a nice clean milkroom, and enough room to house all the goats if need be.  Hooray for an easier summer ahead, and in case I haven’t said it enough already, thank goodness for skilled and helpful family members… we are so blessed.

Farm Born

It’s spring officially now, and everything is giving birth all at once, in a mad, crazy onslaught of flowers and labor and tiny living things.

In the last 7 days we’ve had baby turkeys arrive, both in our incubator, and courtesy of our Royal Palm turkey hens, who decided to do the communal thing and have ALL been sitting for the last month on a huge batch of 20 or so eggs.

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Healthy chicks get moved to the brooder – the hens picked a terrible place to hatch babies, on the second floor loft of the barn, so they don’t get the option of raising them because we don’t want to find out how they try to get them down from there!

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Goat kids!  We’ve had three does kid so far:  Violet, Lady, and Badger, and have 5 doelings and 2 bucklings now, in addition to the older kids we brought home on Easter.  Two does left to kid, and they are taking their time getting around to it…

Garden 2013: In The Ground

In 2012, we barely got the compost on the garden by mid-may, so everything went into the ground after the last freeze date.  But this year, we worked hard to lay out beds earlier, so that we could get the frost-proof seeds in the soil earlier.  And when I say ‘we’, I mostly mean Talina, Thaddeuss, and Glenna, because Megan is 8 months pregnant and it turns out that hauling compost and shoveling it into rows is not compatible with that condition!

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Other things not compatible with being 8 months pregnant: bending over and putting hundreds of tiny seeds in the ground.  So this weekend we expanded our monthly brunch and called on our friends to come help us do the bending and squatting on Megan’s behalf.

 

We have the best friends in the world.

 

Many people came, boots and gloves in hand, and although there was a bit of distraction while Badger gave birth in the middle of brunch, we were able to rally and incredibly, to get all of the early seeds in the ground.

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It doesn’t look all that different right now, but hiding under those pretty rows is kale, lettuce, chard, beets, radish, parsnips, peas, garbanzo beans, broccoli, rapini, carrots, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.

Grow little seeds, grow!

Kid Rescue

Tuesday night we were out late, and came home to do chores in the dark.  We’ve been waiting for the does to start kidding, and we noticed right away that one of the yearlings, Violet, looked like she was no longer pregnant…  but we didn’t see any kids!

Right away we started to worry that as an inexperienced mother, she may have had them in the pasture and then left them there when the rest of the herd headed in for the night.  We got headlamps and flashlights and took a walk, but the back pasture is almost 15 acres of thick forest,  and although we had an inkling of where they’ve been hanging out the most, we really had no idea where to look for two tiny cat-sized goat kids in the freezing dark.  After 30 minutes or so we realized the futility of the effort and reluctantly gave them up for dead, not knowing how long they’d already been left exposed and unfed.

Wednesday morning the sun came up on a frosty morning, and I decided to take another walk in the daylight, to see if I could at least recover the bodies.  Better than leaving them for predators to discover; the last thing we want to do is encourage our local predators to think of the goats as potential meals on legs.  I took the mother with me on a lead, since she was still wailing, thinking maybe she’d remember where she left them.

Violet was pretty useless as a guide; she would dash off into the blackberries and then… eat some leaves calmly.  Then she’d start crying again and run off, only to… stop for a snack.  But just when I was about to give up and go in to change for work, I heard an unusual cry.  At first I dismissed it because it seemed way too strong to even possibly be from a day old baby goat who’d been left outside all night, but when I heard it again, I hauled Violet from her latest pile of blackberries and took her toward the sound.

As we neared the general area, Violet took off running, and calling.  And then she… ran right back to the herd and went back to eating blackberries.  Sigh.  I went along the path she’d taken anyway, and as I went past yet another pile of blackberries I heard the cry again, looked to my right, and oh my lord, up on a tiny ledge on the hill above me was a little baby goat.

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As I crawled up the hill to rescue the doeling, who actually looked fantastic considering she’d spent all night shivering in the woods, my eye happened to catch a bit of white 5 feet below, under a thicket.  Another kid??  It was dirty and crumpled up, and I worried I was going to find it dead, or worse, partially eaten.  With the doeling in my jacket to warm her up, it took me several minutes to figure out how to get into the thicket to reach the other kid.  Once I grabbed it, I could tell it was freezing cold, but, still breathing.  Into the coat it went, too.

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With two trembling goat kids in my jacket, I hiked back to where Violet was calmly eating with the herd, and hauled her out of a blackberry bush down to some flat ground.  I put the stronger doeling up to her teats and she started to suckle right away – the little buckling was not strong enough to stand on his own, so he stayed warm in my jacket while I let his sister get some colostrum.  And then we took the long hike up to the barn again, dragging the reluctant teenage mother along behind me.

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Little buckling came into the house with me to warm up: he got warm milk, a hot pad, a warm bath, and repeat until the inside of his mouth was no longer an ice cube.  After a few hours he could sort of stand on his own, and I brought him back to the barn for some socializing with his mom and sister.

He spent the first night in the house with us, to make sure he stayed warm enough and fed, but when he woke us up the next morning crying for milk, we decided he was strong enough to be back on his own!

Not quite how we pictured our first kidding on the farm, but we’re so relieved it was successful, even though it appears we now have another bottle baby to feed for the next month.

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Our adorable little runt baby, in Talina’s arms, meeting Pippin for the first time — Pippins head is as big as the buckling!

Pasture Poultry

I’ve mentioned previously that this year we have a plan to raise a few dozen laying hens for sale as layers, while also doing the Neutral Zone pasture some good.  Our birds are old enough now to be off the heatlamp and out in the world, but they needed somewhere safe to spend the nights!

After much discussion, the actual end product seems like it sprang fully formed into life – it took just one day to go from theory to reality!  And here it is:20130423-142158.jpg

Based on a cheap trailer bed, we leveraged old fence posts for the wood frame, covered it with a metal roof, and sided it in chicken wire.  The floor is a powder coated smaller guage wire mesh that’s easier for the birds to walk on, and strong enough to hold both them AND a food container if it needs to.

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The teenagers took a few days to get the hang of the door — we spent about 4 nights having to go out after dark and carefully migrate all 25 of the oldest birds into the coop from under the coop, but they learned quickly and now it’s an easy process to shut the door and open it again each morning.

Looking forward to hauling this across the road and getting the birds out on their future pasture home!

Green Pastures

Our weekend of fencing culminated yesterday evening with the installation of a new gate! Fabricated by Thaddeus, it looks awesome and is considerably lighter than one commercially available. So handy to have a skilled set of hands on the farm.

This morning the sheep got their first taste of the new pasture! 30 minutes after this photo was taken the little bastards found the weak spot in the fence (the un-gated opening to the garden area, blocked only by a wooden pallet), and were in the road. Jerks.

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New Frontier

Last winter, we lost our chance for a winter garden to the hungry, hungry deer, who jumped THROUGH our garden fencing and demolished it, and all the winter crops we’d attempted to plant.  Deer make bad neighbors.

So this year, it was time for some more serious protection.  Some planning, an auger for the tractor, and the help of friends, and voile: from ugly old horse fencing to a brand new huge fenced garden area!

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The new garden fence will be 9′ high, and actually encloses the front part of the house, all the way down the hill by where the trees we recently cut down were.  It’s HUGE!  We won’t be using all of it this year, but it’s allowed us to double the garden space we had last year, which seems pretty big right now.

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While digging the postholes we discovered an interesting phenomenon — just 10′ apart, the auger brought up vastly different soil types:  a nice red topsoil to the east, and to the west, sand.  So curious about what’s going on under the surface…

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Another view of the new fence – we worried it would seem bulky out the front windows of the house, but mostly when I see it I just think about all that food we’re going to be eating in December next year.  Take that, deer!