Thursday, June 11, 2015

Farm Update!

So much has been happening at this little farm and I think a full-on farm update is in order. It is June and the place has never been busier in its five-year history at this location. How busy is it?! Well, on 6.5 acres I am raising a small flock of sheep, dairy goats, pigs, rabbits, meat birds (chickens), turkeys, geese, dogs, cats and a cart horse! Morning chores take about an hour and a half now to make sure everyone is set for the day and my evening everyone is ready for another feeding. I'd say 4 hours a day are spent outside on the farm doing the work of keeping all the animals (well over 100) happy. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll do my best to answer them all.

Goats

The dairy goats are becoming such an important part of this farm and that is only notable because I put them off for so long. I was intimidated by dairy animals and scared of the commitment. Now I am in love with my udder marriage. I get 1.5 -2 gallons of milk a day from my two Alpine does - Bonita and Ida. I am making cheese, soap, and enjoying their milk every day! This spring they gave birth to three healthy kids this year and all three were sold to other farmers. One couple came up from PA to get Bonita's twins and it was so nice to meet them! The whole family came and since the pickup they have kept me up to date with messages on how they are doing. Thanks Chris!

Sheep

The flock is made up of six now. I have three ewes, a ram, and two older wethers. All are Scottish Blackface save for the two older wethers - Sal and Joseph, who are Border Leicester crosses. This is a good size for this little farm and this year four lambs were born, three made it, and all three were sold to fellow farmers. They are on grass here on the hillside and share a pasture with Merlin.

Horse(s)

Just Merlin and he is doing so well. I could not ask for a better friend, teacher, and trail mate of equine kind. We are riding and driving several times a week! He's in amazing shape but starting to go a little white in the cheeks now that he is 20 years old. He still has a lot of years in him, but I am hoping to find him another small draft to be his buddy but right now I am waiting for the right animal at the right price.

I almost got an Icelandic Horse earlier this month because the owner needed a new home for him and was asking a crazy-low amount for him. However, the horse had special needs and an allergic reaction to bugs and needed special fly gear, a stall, and looked like a zombie from all the scabs. So I passed on that horse. He was the right breed, size, training, age and close by but I can't have a hard keeper here. Hoping for a Haflinger, draft cross, type horse. I would love another Fell but right now that isn't in the cards and I won't do another payment plan on a horse. Totally worth it for Merlin but not again.

Rabbits

So far just the Giant Chin and not a single successful breeding all spring. I must admit this is discouraging and I don't know if it is the female, male, or something else entirely. Besides not creating more rabbits they both have escaped their hutches and destroyed the garden and were NOT easy to catch and return to their hutches. So to be frank, the rabbits are not on my best side right now and have eaten all of my broccoli, turnips, and baby lettuce so I might eat them.  I'm 67% kidding.

Pegs!

The four little piggies are doing well! They are small at just 12 weeks old and in the barn right now where they get a steady diet of goatsmilk, scraps, pig chow and fresh water on clean hay. Since the barn's remodel this spring it is so light and bright in there and at night that barn is the place all the new laying hens, geese, and goats hunker down for with NPR on the radio.

P.S. If you have not read Name of the Wind yet, you won't get the pegs reference. You should read that book right now.

Poultry

There are about seventy-five meat birds outside the farmhouse in three different tractors! They are doing well and I could not be happier with my birds from Freedom Ranger Hatchery. I started with a hundred, handed out 25 of the chicks to neighbors and friends (The Hattons and Wesners) and the rest are here being raised for friends and family. They get moved twice a day, morning and afternoon and so far I haven't had to mow my lawn once thanks to their managed grazing. They are around 3lbs each right now and will be taken to a local poultry butcher in a few more weeks when they are a good size. I am ordering another 50 going into the late/summer fall. I think this year I will raise ALL of my own chicken! A big deal!

There are three turkeys here - two toms and a hen - and one little poult that was hatched out in an incubator. That poult is being raised with a small group of eight laying hen chicks (Speckled Sussex) and so far is doing really well!

The geese (Cyrus, Saro, and Ryan) are all doing well and going strong. Geese live to be 40 years old, did you know that? No one told me that when I bought my first pair in 2008 and they are still here and living it up in the fields and streams of Cold Antler. Having a trio of geese adds a sense of royalty to the place, since no other critter seems to walk around looking so stuck up. They waddle around eating mostly grass and some poultry feed.

Dogs

Old Annie is doing amazingly well and nearly 16 years old! I can't believe it, the 4-year old I adopted in Tennessee is still running and jumping on the daybed and enjoying daily walks and still kills the occasional chicken that gets in her path. She loves it.

Gibson is a tried and true farm dog. He never became the trial dog I dreamed of (money and time were too constrained to travel to lessons) but he is the farm dog of legend around here. He herds all stock, from chicks to turkeys to sheep and is wise around horses and lambs alike. He is now five and still curls up every night with me in bed. I have never been this close to another animal before, being the first and only dog I raised from a puppy and have never spent a single night apart from him.

Little Friday is wonderfully insane. At 9 weeks old she is a pile of energy but has learned to sit and is getting used to going on morning chores with Gibson. Her crate training is going okay, as is her potty training. She is pure joy to be around and is already a regular at my Tae Kwon Do class with Gibson.

Cats

Cats are sociopaths and don't care what I write about them or what you think about them.

11 Comments:

Blogger Jamie J said...

Had my drink come out of my nose when I read the cat update. My cat is a love obsessed stalker. A total creeper. Sounds like life is good if not content. Hoping for a right horse at the right price to come along with the hope that I catch my parents in the right mood to agree to let it live on the "farm" I've slowly been trying to create on their 6.5 acres. So far goats have been a resounding no. I'm planning on "accidentally" acquiring a Guinea hen at the poultry swap and see what happens. If all goes well and I'm not disowned (since at 40 years old I can't get grounded- I'm pretty sure I can't get grounded) I might start planning to "accidentally" get a goat.

June 11, 2015 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Nancy Lewis said...

Totally agree about the cats, and I've had two in the past. Black devil cat next door killed one of my ducks just for funsies.

June 11, 2015 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

"Cats are sociopaths and don't care what I write about them or what you think about them."

ACCURATE. And yet I love them so.

June 11, 2015 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Cats are sociopaths just for being cats, but you don't care if Annie the dog kills your chickens???

June 11, 2015 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Sure I care. I don't set chickens free in front of her for sport. It just happens sometimes. I think Annie has killed 8 chickens in her life? She is 16, so she averages one every 2 years. I bet Boghadair alone has killed 40+ songbirds in 3 years being an inside/outside cat and that's not counting all the other things he kills like chipmunks, mice, shrews, voles, rats, etc.

Cats are 100% sociopaths because that's what cats are. I accept that. :)

Also, it was a joke.

Also, I like dogs more.

June 11, 2015 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Sparkless said...

Have you thought of taking on a horse border instead of buying another horse? You could make a bit of money and Merlin would get a buddy. You've probably already looked into it.
Your farm is looking great!

June 11, 2015 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger The Weekend Homesteader said...

Have you tried breeding your rabbits by the phases of the moon, either the new moon or the full moon? I did that with mine and had my most successful litters to date. My does had 9,9, and 8 kits. Here is a blog post I wrote on the subject. http://theweekendhomesteader.blogspot.com/2015/03/by-light-of-moon.html

June 12, 2015 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Sounds like you are in a great space right now. So happy for you that you are hummin' along with summer. Amazing that Annie is still going strong. Must be all that love. Enjoy your weekend, farmer.

June 13, 2015 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Christina S said...

It sounds like you are having an awesome time... I am interested to see how your chicken tractors go...our chickens have to stay in a coop / fenced in area due to our 6 dogs ...they are killers also :) I would love for them to be moved around in the yard and next to the house so that they could eat the bugs ( we live in the woods and have a ton of bugs :). Keep sending updates, I love to hear them :)

June 13, 2015 at 10:19 AM  
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