This year’s garden patch started out as hay and pumpkins from the 2015 season, became deep bedding over the winter, grew us pumpkins in 2016, and now is a nicely mulched bed that took only a little bit of weeding to turn into a no-dig garden. Continue reading Pumpkins to No Dig Garden
Below are clips of Sweet Pea giving birth and nursing an orphan lamb. The lamb was rejected by his mother because I made the mistake of bathing him, and he didn’t smell right to her any more. Continue reading Sweet Pea gives birth and feeds another lamb
I’ve already posted some of this on Facebook, so forgive the duplication my dear Facebook followers.
Last year was a very bad year. It started with a ewe aborting her lamb. Of the five ewes bred, only 1 bore a lamb. The other three didn’t abort, they just didn’t seem to be carrying. Then a few months later there was a snapping sensation in my bad hip as I sad down, and I pretty much laid on the couch for three months. I’m somewhat better now but still going around with the doctors trying to figure out what is wrong and if it can be fixed.
The pair of oxen I’d started were 4 months old when I wasn’t able to work with them any more. They’re still with me, they did ok being kicked out to pasture with the ewes and not being handled, but now they’re rowdy teenagers without enough training. We shall see what happens with that, I may have beef quarters available in fall/winter. They are being finished on grass at the moment, but I might yet be able to retrain them, we have all summer to try.
This year has been a little crazy, but mostly everything is turning out ok in the end. We changed the ram’s diet to include beet pulp to supplement his hay and pasture, and he perked up and really did his job this year. We had 8 lambs from 7 bred ewes.
I had a sick lamb that I made the mistake of bathing, so his mother didn’t recognize his scent when I brought him back despite trying to only wash the dirty end and not use any scented products. I’ll post in a minute my video of our unsuccessful attempt to graft the rejected lamb on to a ewe that was giving birth at the same time.
A second lamb was rejected when he was born in a mud puddle in the midst of two ewes giving birth at the same place and time. I found the one lamb crying in the mud, and another being doted on by two ewes, one of which was still in the process of birthing, so we’re not positive about either’s identity. I assigned the well-loved lamb to the ewe that wasn’t just about to have another, and put everyone in separate pens for better bonding. Thankfully one of the two ewes giving birth that day is one of my best milkers, so I was able to tie her up and get the rejected babe the colostrum he needed in a bottle. (We don’t milk sheep as a habit, but will save colostrum and do medically necessary milking as needed at weaning time.) After that he joined the first rejected lamb in assisted nursing school. I let the milking ewe go after three days of milking colostrum so I only had one problem ewe to deal with. After much hassle, and some time in an adoption stanchion, momma did accept both rejected lambs. We called her own son Moses (because he passed through the water and then was fostered to his own mother) and the younger one pigpen (because he never got a proper newborn bath from his momma, that mud stayed on him and he looked like a black sheep for a while.) The foster family is on a separate pasture for now, as lambs that don’t know their mothers are bound to have issues out in the big flock. They are almost old enough now for early weaning if necessary, so I’m thinking of letting them go with the flock and see how they do with a less controlled environment.
Then there was the chicks. I’d just received my annual order of chicks and gotten them set up, when I went out to the barn and discovered a new little guy wandering around on his own. I scooped him up and put him in the brooder, and went hunting for the nest. There were five more chicks and five more eggs, one chick was still wet and obviously in need of a mother. I scooped them up and played around with some emergency incubation options for the wee one, ending up with him tucked inside my clothing, getting the humidity he needed from my own skin. When he was all dry and his breath settled down, he went into the brooder with the others. A friend lent me an incubator, and two more of the eggs hatched successfully. The whole brood is doing well now, and is testing the capacity of my new 4’x4′ brooder. (The brooder I whipped together in a hurry because I realized I’d used the cardboard brooder set aside for these guys on an earlier hen raised clutch and it wasn’t in a condition to be reused. The new brooder is tall enough that it can accommodate broody hens as well as baby chicks, but easier to reach into the back of than the old dog crate based brooder.)
Then piglets! The piglets are a new venture for us. So far they’ve been trouble free although a bit shy. I was a bit behind on getting things set up for them because of the other craziness, but we had an empty stall and decided a quiet and dark corner for introduction week wasn’t a bad idea. We hope to move them soon onto the deep bedding areas, to get them to work digging and loosening up the bedding for easier removal.
I’ve decided to give the YouTube channel another try. I just can’t emulate the better DIY channels with well spliced clips and time lapses. My PC is too old to run any of the three video editing programs I’ve tried, and uploading that much raw footage for use in the online editor takes too long. I’m trying shorter clips that can just be sandwiched together or left standalone.
On the more uncertain side, my hip may need surgery, and I am still exploring what that might mean for the farm. If I don’t expect to be able to run the farm, we will postpone the surgery until after butcher season, and shut down the farm until I’m able to run it again. The good news is though that I have some reports that I might only be completely down for a couple weeks, and I know a guy that could farm sit for me for that long. I can do most of my daily barn chores with a cane, and did so last summer, so I don’t need to be 100% to keep the animals. The good news is that they could potentially fix an issue I’ve lived with my whole life, I could be reaching my best physical condition of my life as I’m going into middle age.
So, I hope to have more good news to share this year, and we should have lamb and pork for sale this year, plus possibly beef.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but you’d be amazed how hard it can be to convince the animals of this.
The calves and the sheep have separate accommodations in the evening, but go out to graze together in the morning.
Yesterday I opened up a small field that had just finished a good rest and was flush with clover. The critters would have eventually found it on their own, but it’s just good practice for me to move them. The calves are learning commands, and I like to give the sheep good reasons to come when I call them.
The boys did not want to go. They only recently have been weaned off morning milk and oats in favor of me having time to move them to fresh pasture in the morning. They kept mooing at me and at the barn and trying to turn back around. Once we got where we were going though, they stopped dead in the gate, front feet on the good grass, back feet on the old grass, and started eating. Seems I’d been right after all about where the good eats were…
The sheep had been roaming far off and would be a long time in coming, so I went on with my other chores, which put me outside the corner of the fence. When the sheep finally came, they made a beeline for me, and got stuck in the corner. “No sheep, you just passed the gate, go back! See, that one’s gone in, follow her!” I had to go around, and get it all sorted out. They were quite happy tearing up great mouthfuls of clover when I left for church.
Thanks to Vicki Solomon of Evergreen Oxen for loaning us the yoke and taking the picture, and to the folks of Western NY Oxen who encouraged me to put this little gathering together. John Deer and Case did well, although I myself made some mistakes. They’re well on their way to becoming useful members of the Eddy Ridge team.
Feeding the new calves. Case is still kinda new to the whole eating thing, and well just about everything. He was born 4/8 and this was recorded 4/10. John Deer is a week older and has this bottle thing down.
We’re hoping two years from now these guys will be competent “handy steers” who will help us put up hay. In five years they’ll get the proud title of “oxen” and be capable of heavier work. But for today their job is being babies, drinking milk and enjoying grooming, and getting used to life.
Deer is a week old, Case was born just over a day ago, his navel was still wet when I picked him up yesterday. They are close relatives, and hopefully will grow up in sync to be a well balanced team.
Thanks to breeder Jason DeMay of Towpath farm for getting us off to a great start, and all my other farmer friends that have been advising me on my first calves.
‘Tis the season for many of our most troublesome weeds to flower, which is exactly the best time to control them by mowing, after they have expended their energy making flowers, but before they go to seed. Our largest pasture was cleared by a contractor with heavy equipment, and the BCS is soon to get busy on the smaller pastures, but there are lots of little corners we can’t even get our BCS flail mower into that require really small scale equipment.
My scythe is in need of peening, so it is having trouble with the thicker weeds. I decided to get out the string trimmer and give it a try. I’d never before managed to start a pull-start engine, but farming has done a lot for my upper body strength, and I actually managed it, got a few feet into the mass, and realized I wasn’t cutting well because I was out of string. So off to the store we went for more trimmer string. When perusing products, we encountered the “Ugly Head Hybrid Trimmer Head” which claimed to reduce line breakage and convert to a light brush blade. We got the trimmer head home, and gave it a whirl. Hubby took point with the trimmer, and advanced on the burdock. He quickly realized strings were not sufficient and switched to the brush blades. I watched him for a little while carefully nibbling away at each stalk, and then I went and got my billhook. Before I could even propose a contest, he had turned off the trimmer and started to study the problem.
I cleared a good path with the billhook, then hubby asked for the billhook and I went and found the machete. In short order we cleared the patch together, and freed the tangled wreck of last year’s chicken tractor from the weeds. (Snow load did it in, the next model will be modular so we can fit it up in the loft out of season.)
The string trimmer may see some love again in some fence line maintenance, but for the time being she’s parked back in the garage. I guess I need to get around to setting up a peening log soon. Sometimes the old fashioned way really does work best.