Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bad Chicken Mommy

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning the power went off. In my subconscious mind I heard the house go quiet. However, I chose to roll over and go back to sleep. I don't really know what time it happened, but I am guessing it was around 1 a.m. At 4 or so, I sat straight up and almost screamed, we have no power and so the new chicks have no light or heat!!! As I stumbled around turning on light switches that didn't work, trying to find some clothes, I finally just threw on my robe and barn boots, and almost flew to the barn. It was dark and quiet outside. The moon was fairly bright but not enough to do much good. I grabbed the box the chicks arrived in and in the cover of darkness fumbled my way to the brooder. The first sign that all was not well was the silence. Normally they are peeping quit loudly. I reached into the brooder and tried to count as I picked up chicks and place them in the box. I felt a lot of chilled and cold birds. Their little feet were so cold! With tears in my eyes I gathered them all and ran back to the house. All the while I was wondering how I could warm them. When I got back to the house my husband was already dressed and had the 4 wheeler cranked. He was headed to get the generator cranked. As I paced back and forth holding the box of chicks, the lights flickered and came on. I decided to put the chicks under the light in one of the ovens with the door cracked to warm them quickly.
Since I was up, I went ahead and put the sourdough in to pans. After that, we went back to bed to try and catch a quick nap for an hour or so. I got up a bit later and checked the chicks. Good grief!! Now they were so warm they were panting! Poor little things. Once again I returned them to their brooder and made sure they all got something to drink.
I put the bread in to bake (don't worry it was not the "chicken oven") and started other chores. When the bread came out of the oven and I went to take it out of the pans, it refused to budge. How old to you have to be before you stop doing stupid stuff?? I forgot to grease the pans. After totally destroying one loaf, I walked away disgusted. What in the world was I going to do with all that bread. Chicken food I suppose. However, later I went back and after the moisture had softened the bottoms I managed to get them out with not much harm. I then put them on racks in the warm ovens, the bottoms dried out and all was well.
I got bread delivered and was able to get on with my day, the last before the big anniversary party. Fingers crossed it ends better than it started!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meat Birds

Today the first of our meat birds arrived. The rest will get here on Monday. The post office normally calls around 6 a.m. to let me know they have arrived but today didn't call until about 10. I was starting to get a bit worried and was in the process of leaving a message with the hatchery when they called. I hurriedly made the bread delivery and headed to pick them up. They had to wait in the truck for a bit since I had still not completely finished getting the brooder set up, but are now happily enjoying food and water.
We are raising two different breeds this year. The ones that arrived today are called "Freedom Rangers". These are supposed to range more for their feed as opposed to the Cornish rock crosses who are content to pretty much lay at the food dish. The flavor of the Rangers is said to be much tastier as well. Of course a side by side taste test will have to be done! We will be processing 65 this year and for the first time will be feeding a solely organic diet to the birds. This is something we are pretty excited about. If all goes well we hope to have a few extra to sell.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Week In Recap

What a week this has been. It started last Sunday when I was informed of the surprise 50th anniversary party we are throwing next weekend for my in laws. ( don't worry they don't read my blog!!) Yep, I had a fourteen day notice.This is something I love doing but would prefer a little more notice. My precious in laws were blessed with three boys and so two weeks was probably not so bad after all! The first part of the week was spent ordering flower arrangements, menu planning, list making and finally ordering the cake. Of course it must be spectacular and covered with violets (the 50th flower). Any marriage that lasts 50 years is cause for great celebration and so I want it as special as possible.

Everyone needs to throw a large party once a year!It certainly makes you look at everything with a critical eye! And so the yard work marathon began. Flower beds cleaned out and weeded, pots filled with pansies, trailer after trailer, full of leaves hauled away. A good lick was made this week and final touches will be made next week with mulch spread, grass mowed and the last of the pots planted. One full day will be dedicated to house cleaning as well.

On the critter front.....

We sheared Friday evening. Or should I say our shearer came! They are actually a sweet young couple who both shear. They did a lovely job and the ewes looked exceptionally well. All but one had nice pink eyes membranes, so deworming was minimal. Several girls looked to be only a couple of weeks out for lambing, so that is right around the corner. I saved a few of the best fleeces and hope to send them off to be woven into blankets at some point before fall. Of the three goats left to go, one kidded yesterday. Marta is my older alpine. She had twins, a beautiful doe kid that will definitely stay here, and a nice buck. All of the other kids are doing very well and growing like crazy. I am milking some and still letting them nurse, but also have introduced the bottle. Each evening I let everyone have a "snack" and it has made them all easy to handle and friendly. I hope to get into a better milking routine in the coming weeks.
On the garden front.....
FINALLY we got some things in the ground! We were able to turn part of the garden yesterday
and got onions and potatoes planted. I bought several different varieties to plant this year. A purple fleshed one called "All Blue", a "Cranberry Red' that is pink skinned and pink fleshed and "Rose Finn Apple Fingerling" to name a few. My husband was most unimpressed and wanted to know what was wrong with the "regular" ones. We'll plant those too :o) ! I was also able to get the raspberry bed weeded and a few more bushes planted (they have lived in pots all winter, poor things) and will get them mulched this week as well. The plum trees are just about to burst open and if fruit sets we will be covered up in plums this year. The blueberries that we planted last year look like they are doing well and have lots of buds, so we may actually harvest a good many from them. I also got the grape vines weeded and plan to prune them this week. I replaced most of the herbs that got zapped by the cold winter. Yes, it was a busy week, but hard days working , bring good nights sleeping.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcome Home Bella!

A few weeks ago my friend and future neighbor in Fancy Gap called to tell me that her karakachan dog, mom, to my LGD's had escaped from her vet's office in the neighboring town of Galax. She was so distraught and sad, I cried with her. We talked about the possibility of her making it home. She took out ads in the newspaper and flyers were posted everywhere. The police were contacted. Bella is very standoffish and elusive with everyone but her owner so catching her would not be an easy task. After a month, hope was beginning to fade. However, yesterday, 30 days after her escape, Bella came home. She traveled 29 miles, braved snow storms and interstates. She is about 15 pounds lighter, but none the worse for wear. She came home to her family and her flock. What a great testament to the personalities of these dogs! We are thrilled with the news. Welcome home Bella!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The List is Long

Spring has sprung and the time has changed. My list today was long. I came nowhere near to finishing it.
Up early to do inside things, like laundry and dishes. Yuck and double yuck.
I have been boarding a friends draft horse, quarter horse, 3 donkeys and 3 goats for several months and they left this morning to head out to West Virginia. We got them all loaded and off around 10:30. I did routine chores and started weeding my herb beds. It looks like almost all my culinary herbs were lost except for the chives. I will end up replacing a lot this year. The climbing yellow snow peas that I planted a couple of weeks ago are peaking out of the ground. Most of the medicinal herbs like the comfrey, lemon balm and valerian look to be okay.
I had to make a feed run and while there picked up some lettuce plants. Normally I just so seeds but I needed some instant gratification today!! I got those in the ground when I got home. I checked into growing millet while at the feed store. We had planned to resow the back field last fall but that didn't happen, so we are going to plant millet to bale for an extra hay crop for the goats. That doesn't go in until about May 1st, thank goodness.
Several beds weeded, I headed down to milk and finish the evening chores. When feeding the chickens I noticed a critter laying in the pasture on the outside of the pen. Upon closer inspection I found it was a dead possum. Looks like the LGD's did their job and he didn't make it back to the chicken coop for seconds.
As dusk fell I was on the porch giving the furniture a spring scrubbing.. I will never forget one of my friends saying that it was such a lovely place and that I must spend all my time out there relaxing. Someday I will, that's why I keep it clean.. :o)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Meanwhile Back At the Ranch..

Well it was a flying trip to say the least.We drove through some torrential rains but the sun cleared over Green Fence Farm as we pulled off the interstate. Only intending to buy two cashmeres, I came home with five. Imagine that. It was a longer trip home as it as was dark and a drizzling rain fell most of the way. We stopped for supper and still made it in around 10:30 p.m.. We left the girls on the trailer with water and hay to unload this morning. A couple of the have girls been combed out, but as you you can see the others are waiting for me!

We got the girls settled and they will be in a quarantine pen for about 2 weeks. After that they bred does will go in the kidding pasture and the unbred will go in with a buck. Don't know if they will breed this late, but you never know.

Today we had to run another strand of wire because my older ram refused to stay out of the hay field. It is really starting to green up nicely. I guess he thinks so too!

It was also the puppies first "meal". They wiped out a plate in short order! After they finished they cleaned each other up. It is so fun to watch and play with them, all of them have different personalities. They boys seem to be more laid back and food oriented while the girls are busy playing, growling and barking. It looks like we have 3 reserved so far with only 4 left and I have yet to advertise. We will probably not keep a pup from this litter since we are in good shape as far as guardians here. However, when we get to our farm in Virginia that will be a whole different ball game since the coyotes are a bigger problem there.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Road Trip

We were supposed to head up to Staunton, Virginia next weekend to pick up some cashmere goats. Last night we had heavy thunderstorms and all plans for outside projects have to be put on hold for the day, so we are going to make a quick turnaround trip today. If all goes well we should be back before midnight. I actually like these trips as it gives my husband and I a chance to talk and I get lots of knitting projects done along the way.
I am baking this morning and will deliver bread around 10. We will get all critter and milking chores done and hopefully head out by noon. Round bales need to put out today.
( Before we head out I will also lay out a roast to corn for the next few days. Don't forget about St Patrick's day next week! I am planning a traditional meal.) I need to get labels on my goat milk soap for the store for this morning delivery as well. Wow! I better get busy! Pics tomorrow of the new arrivals.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sad News

After a restless night I got up early to check the ewe that was having problems from yesterday. Unfortunately she did not make it through the night. I am devastated. Not only have I lost a great ewe, I also lost the twins she was carrying. Raising sheep is not for the faint of heart I was once told. I am inclined to agree. As I spoke to another breeder (and mentor) today, she reiterated the fact that in raising sheep, we all question our sanity at times. And we do this WHY? For the love of the breed, the love of the animal.... I had to work today so to make this even harder I was unable to get a necropsy done to even find the true reason for her death. And so we bury her, thank her for her life, her contribution to our farm and pray there is truly a rainbow bridge that these fine and faithful animals cross over..

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And Then There Are Those Days...

Yesterday was the beginning of our "goat milking" season. I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to start baking so I could get the milking done before I headed off to work. Baking done, I headed to the barn to get morning chores done before going to work. All was well and I left around 9:30. I got home at 5:30 p.m. and began evening rounds. As I was feeding I saw a young doe (that was not supposed to be bred) had kidded within the last hour or two. The tiny kid looked to be a preemie; tho cleaned and warm I instantly knew this was probably a lost cause. I fed her some pre-mixed colostrum and warm milk. I went on to finish other chores. I checked her every 10 minutes or so, offering a bottle, but no significant improvement.
This morning I checked the critters only to find I had lost the little kid from last night. I baked for the store and delivered before coming back to milk and feed the kids. It was a hectic morning because I was trying to get to my mom's house to check on her. She broke her ankle last week and my sister and I are taking turns with checking on her.
Bread delivered and kids fed I headed off to check on Mom. All was well and after a couple of hours I started back home. I had to stop off to pick up dog food and paper towels.
This afternoon's feeding revealed a homesteader's nightmare.
The little doe that lost her kid was extremely depressed and refused to eat. I repeatedly led her to food and she picked a bit. While feeding one of the bottle kids, she let out a scream and ran off, refusing to finish. Apparently that was a gas bubble and by last check she was her old self and feeling fine. The most distressing was finding a ewe, that yesterday was eating and fine, down and deathly ill. I checked eye lids and she was a bit pale, however not so that I would think parasites would be the sole cause. I de-wormed her nonetheless, and gave her some supportive vitamin drenches. I checked her temperature and it was normal, but I noticed a slight bloody tinge on the thermometer and later noticed she passed a bloody poop. I then started her on antibiotics. Her breathing is labored and I wonder if something has gone wrong with the pregnancy. I am really not sure what we are dealing with and am worried I may loose her. Unfortunately we have no good sheep vets around here and I have had to learn to do most things on my own. I will continue to monitor her.
These are the days I question my sanity. I could be in Key West laying on the beach in the sun drinking a margarita. Maybe I will make a margarita as I wander back down to the barn....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Beautiful Day

It was a beautiful day today. Our temps are still not average but at 56 it felt like a heat wave compared to the past few weeks! We picked up all of the winter debris that has come down in the last few months and munched up the leaves in the yard. Those went in the garden to be turned over at some point (we hope!!) in the near future. We also got the pastures fertilized. I cleaned out the stall the puppies are in and tidied up the barn a bit.

It has been a very busy week with 5 more kids arriving. The most exciting was the birth of triplets belonging to one of the nigerian dwarf does. Teeny, tiny little things, all doing great. The last of the saanens kidded so now we are just waiting for the alpines and a cross or two to finish up the season. Hopefully that will be soon so we can take a breath before the sheep start lambing. We had some prospective goat buyers out took a little tour around the barn.

I am doctoring one of my highest producing does that has a touch of mastitis. I am using an antibiotic but also using a homeopathic salve that I massage on to her udder after each milking. This means I get to bottle feed her kids while she is recuperating!

We still haven't caught the critter that got in the hen house but Chance is doing his job so no more losses, thank goodness.

It was a long day but lots accomplished and that the way I like it ;o)~~

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Least Favorite Chores

Today brought on one of my least favorite chores. It was time to disbud the goat kids. I absolutely detest this chore. I do it only because I have found that horns on a dairy goat are not really a good thing. They tend to use them to be ugly to each other. I have a couple of horned girls and believe me, they use them to their advantage. Doug cleaned up the holding box yesterday so I was able to do it myself this time. I disbudded them and held them afterwards. To be honest I am probably the world's worst disbudder and may have to do it again. yuck, yuck, yuck.
I checked the garden to see how it had dried (still to wet to plow) and picked about a half a bushel of spinach and lots of brussels sprouts. I also checked the orchard. It looks like we may have a bumper crop of plums if the weather cooperates, which will good since we are almost out of jelly.
I finished most of my afternoon chores and headed to gather eggs. When I opened the chicken house I was greeted by a dead, half eaten chicken. Looks like we had a visitor last night, most likely a possum. grrr...We set a live trap using the deceased bird as bait and then I called Chance down to the coop. I got the "Mama No!! please don't make me guard the chickens!!" look, right before he high tailed it towards the house. That is his least favorite chore! But bribery will get you everywhere and even he couldn't pass up a leftover piece of steak. He is now on guard inside the pen until we catch the offender. Hopefully it will be tonight.