So yesterday I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger. I know, I know, I’m so mean. So here is how the day unfolded…
We rushed through our chores yesterday morning and started loading up our farm truck. A large dog crate with straw in the bottom was secured in back. A cooler with bottles of water thrown in the back seat. And since farm trucks are notorious for breaking down when you least expect it, I also threw in a tarp, jumper cables, a crowbar, a bucket of water and a lot of other junk I thought we might need.
A little after noon, we three girls started off on a road trip, and a little under two hours later we ended up at a barn full of, you guessed it, SHEEP!
Seven weeks ago, I had reserved a ram lamb, sight-unseen, after finding an ad in a farm paper. Goodness sakes, I didn’t even have any pictures of this lamb! I wanted a ram that was a 50/50 Katahdin/Dorper cross, was 100% grass fed, and highly parasite resistant. Everything the farmer told me over the phone matched what I had been searching for, so I went with my gut feeling and reserved myself a ram.
Seven weeks is a long time, though, and I began to doubt my gut feeling more each week. Yeah, I’m a worrier….
At the farm, we followed the farmer over to the stall where he had separated my ram and his mother, a registered Katahdin. And here they are:
And here is his sire, a full blooded Dorper:
He then showed me the rest of his flock. I wish I had gotten a picture. These grass fed, organic sheep were exceptionally nice. I just wanted to take them all home. These sheep were not wormed with conventional deworming chemicals, just free choice kelp. No grain, just grass and hay. As I was standing there trying not to drool, the farmer pulled out another ram lamb from the flock for me to look at. He had told me about this lamb on the phone, but I had decided against him because he wasn’t pure white. But looking at this second handsome lamb, I made another rash, gut-driven decision: “I’ll take both, please.” I think I shocked Anna. LOL
Yes, I bought two rams. One ram lamb would have been awfully lonely all by himself…..
Here are some pictures of my two handsome boys under the crab apple tree.
And for the record, the farm truck got us there and back without a hitch. Also, it’s a good thing the truck has a cap. It took the white lamb three whole seconds to smash the front off the dog crate. Lambs are strong! So the dog crate and all my “junk” ended up on the back seat and the lambs rode loose in the enclosed truck bed.
So that is the latest farm news. I will try very hard not to buy any more sheep this year, but I don’t promise anything!
Anna, Laura, and I spent part of yesterday afternoon grinding feed. It’s one of those farm jobs that I’m not crazy about, which is probably why I tend to put it off till the last minute. Yesterday’s fresh-off-the-grinder menu included turkey feed, layer feed, and pig grower. All three feeds share just about all the same ingredients, but different amounts of these ingredients based on each animal’s needs.
One nice thing about mixing your own feed is the ability to adapt the ration to fit your current needs. Say the weather suddenly gets a bit chilly at night and the turkeys look a a little stressed; we can add a few more pounds of Thorvin Kelp to their feed to give their immune systems a bit of boost.
All the grains are added, so Anna and Gyp head to the barn to add the minerals and supplement.
After the minerals are added, we auger out a few buckets of feed to dump in the mineral box. This makes sure all the minerals are pushed into the the mixer. (Is Laura standing on something, or am I really THAT short?)
Once everything is mixed together, we put the feed in the appropriate barrels. And there you have it, freshly ground, GMO Free feed.
Stay cool today everyone. We gals have a busy day today, and hopefully, if everything goes as planned, I’ll have some exciting news to share with you tomorrow. 🙂
Our meat chickens love being on pasture! You should see how they gobble down the grass each morning after we move their shelters to a fresh square of pasture.
The grass is growing faster than the chickens can keep up with it. Since meat chickens don’t like tall grass, we are grazing the grass shorter in front of the shelters with the goats and sheep. The goats and sheep are enjoying the grass, and the chickens are happy: win, win!
The first of the spring chicks are here! There are 153 Cornish Cross chicks and 10 Reich’s Golden Reds layer pullets in the brooder.
I called the post office a little after 6 this morning, and confirmed that our chicks were there. The chicks must have been creating a lot of noise because the lady that answered the phone didn’t need to go check, she knew!
After Mom and Anna brought them home, Anna carefully transferred them from their shipping box into the brooder. She told me these chicks are very lively and healthy looking. Yay! (And why aren’t I out there seeing for myself? Half our family, including myself, is down with the flu.😕)
At this age, the chicks don’t need much fussing over. In fact, too much fussing over them is stressful, and stress is amazingly detrimental to baby chicks. They just need a warm, dry place with plenty of food, water, and grit.
It’s now officially spring in my mind. There are chicks in the brooder.
One year ago yesterday, I brought my first sheep home to the farm.
It was the day before Easter, and Anna, Laura, and I took off early that morning in the mini-van-turned-sheep-hauler. Of course, sheep were the topic of discussion on the drive. I kept coming up with reasons why this was a bad idea, and Anna kept telling me these sheep were the perfect fit.
At the farm, we entered a small shed, and there they were: a lovely white yearling Katahdin ewe and her three day old twins and an eight week old chocolate colored ewe lamb. It didn’t take me long to say I’d take them.
The ride home was pretty uneventful; we only took one wrong exit. If you get stuck in holiday traffic (because you took the wrong exit) with two sheep looking out your van’s back windows, you are going to create a bit of a stir. Bored, sleepy looking children suddenly come alive, bouncing, pointing, and shouting. Teenagers whip out cell phones and take pictures, and some people just look at you like you’ve lost your mind.
My little flock settled right in to their new home. I had been worried that the stress of traveling would be too much for the newborn lambs, but they took it in stride.
It took me over a week to pick out the girls’ names. I knew the yearling ewe was going to be the matriarch of my future flock, and I wanted a name that would fit that position. I finally decided on Olga. Good Old Olga. The chocolate ewe lamb I named Sabine, and Olga’s ewe lamb I called Estella.
Now, one year later, I admit Anna was right: these sheep are the perfect fit. They are wonderful!
Olga is my steady sage of a ewe. Most of the time she is dignified and queen like. Occasionally she forgets herself and leads the younger ewes on a wild charge across the pastures, her tail flying wildly behind her.
Olga will walk up to the fence to see me, allow me to pet her a few times, but then steps back; royalty must keep its distance from the commoners.
Sabine is more easy going than Olga, but still has that lovely sheep dignity about her.
Sabine has been wary of me from the start, but over this winter, I’ve won her approval. It never ceases to thrill me when I’m able to win an animal’s trust.
And then there is Estella. Estella grew up here on the farm hanging out and goofing off with the baby goats. Now, she acts like a goat. She is demanding like a goat. She is quirky like a goat. She possesses none of her mother’s dignity, whatsoever! And I love it! She’s the perfect sprinkle of humor in the act!
All three of them are due to lamb starting in mid-May. I know Olga is a good mother, and I really think Sabine will be, also. But Estella…oh help!
I have one year of being a shepherdess under my belt. I’m highly anticipating year two.
There are animals in the garden, and for once, they are actually supposed to be there.
Photo by Laura: Goats & Garlic in the Garden
I’m experimenting with housing animals in the garden while it is in its winter dormancy. I’d love to say the idea came while trying to find a way to increase biodiversity, mimic nature, and increase fertility in our garden soil. The truth is, I desperately needed a place to put the goats over the winter, and the tomato patch was the only place that wasn’t flooding. So to make lemonade out of a lemon, I’m calling it an experiment station.
In the fall, the tomato patch had about 6+ inches of wood chips on it so the goats didn’t have direct contact with the soil. Deeply bedded calf hutches protected them from elements.
In the typical goat fashion, the does managed to spread a nice layer of waste hay mulch over the whole tomato patch. I’m hoping with the wood chips, hay, manure and urine, we will have a nice fertile layer into which we can plant our tomatoes.
The “goats in the garden” experiment led me to try a second experiment: chickens in the garden.
Yesterday, Anna and I threw some cow manure on the garden with the manure spreader. This morning the whole gang helped us move our mobile chicken coop on to the garden. We surrounded the area we wanted “chicken tilled” with electric poultry netting. The hens are loving scratching through everything. Happy hens = yummy eggs! They don’t realize they are actually working, tilling the cow manure into the top layer of the soil.
I’m only planning on leaving the chickens here for a week or less. By then, the chickens will be ready to move on to their next job.
We are currently being held in the icy grip of February, a memorably cold February. Sunday night’s temp is going to be in the negatives! But I’m not too unhappy about it. In fact, I’m thrilled. Before you think I’ve got a frostbitten brain, I should explain that there is one awfully large beef hanging in dad’s meat cooler AKA garage. Large is an understatement. HUGE! While we were skinning it out on Monday, we once again considered breeding smaller cows in the future. 😜 Cold weather like this is wonderful for chilling meat. Actually, it’s a bit too cold, but we have a heater on a thermostat to keep the garage just above freezing.
So this weekend, we will be cutting roasts and grinding burger. A lot of it. We will drink way too much hot coffee. We will probably get lost as we try to find the different cuts that are in our butchering book. (But hopefully we are better at cutting roasts this year. Last year after searching in vain for the chuck roasts, we cut some odd roasts from the rump that we labeled Rump Chucks. Bet you never had one of those before!)