as i get older
The Bourbon Reds are doing amazingly well. Hands down the healthiest poultry I ever raised. Loud as church bells, bright eyed and alert, they are going to be fine table birds. And they're some of the first heritage livestock being raised for the table here, and that's exciting in itself. The Scottish Blackface sheep are next. I'll be loading up the truck this weekend for a road trip to Barb Armata's farm down in Esperance to meet my future flock. I'm really excited about this breed. They're very hearty hill sheep, and something about them suits me. I'm the same way about the highland cattle (I met three highland steers tonight in Cambridge by the way, another story for another time). Between them, the blackface, and the border collies I feel like Cold Antler is going to need its own tartan...
There's still trouble in paradise. The fox is still here, taking lives. The meat rabbit kits fell ill with something (bloat, I think) and are recovering on hay and spring water. I'm not sure how, but the young meat stock became sickly and got diarrhea. The angoras are all well, but I've separated them and am monitoring their feed and care extra closely. They seem fine but thinner than I'd like. I'm waiting to sell them until they are bright and I'm 100% sure they aren't suspect. I'll keep you posted but I think it was a simple intestinal issue that some of the younger rabbits simply couldn't fight it off. I lost two. My rabbitry is around 20 animals now, and on the mend.
I've decided to slow down a bit, be a little more realistic about my abilities. The garden isn't being expanded anymore. No corn this year (boo), but there will still be pumpkins (I demand pumpkins) and plenty of lettuce, onions, broc, and tomatoes. I discovered a USDA butcher one town over that will process my poultry (from clucking chicken to shrink-wrap) for three dollars a bird. It's not that I can't do it here, but after the food poisoning (which I think came from careless chicken processing at home) I think I will let the pros have at it. The fox has eaten half of my current meat bird crop but I am keeping them locked up best I can and building a pen. I am doing my best.
This year, I have to chalk up so much as experience and lessons.
I know a lot of folks read about things like the fox, or bloat in the rabbits, and shake their heads at me. But please understand that I only share the stories of dogs eating chickens, or sick animals, or bear-eaten hives, or any of the messy stuff to show that this life (and lifestyle) isn't perfect. I get hurt and sick. Animals die. Crops wither from blight. Sometimes it's lonely. As wonderful as a small farm is it's a morality play 78% of the time. Sick rabbits, predators, ramming sheep, electric fencing hives, all of it is part of the play and it's never simple....
I am learning to farm and sometimes it's not pretty. Mistakes are part of that education. I need to accept that and appreciate what I gain in understanding what not to do. I only ask you refrain from judging the new kid for a few years.
I'll get better as I get older. I hope.
photo from wikipedia