Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Jump Right In

This week was a busy one indeed. Not only did we get the new cow Penny, we have been getting a new milk routine established. Milk cows are pretty easy to work into a routine because they love routine. They love schedules. Penny has adjusted to family farm life well and we are slowly getting some weight on her skinny body.

Devin has decided to put permanent fencing up where we have had temporary fencing the last two years. It will be easier to keep the sheep contained and the area is nice and large. I can still sub-divide the area with electric cord to keep the cows in one area of the paddock. Needless to say, Devin has been a work horse driving fence posts. We have no equipment or tractor, so hard manual labor is how we get things done here.

          ***The younger girls bought ducklings with their saved money. Here they are letting them have a short swim in the sun***

I have found myself over flowing with raw milk now that we have two cows to milk. This made me decide it was a good time to start getting pigs. We will run them in the forest for a majority of the time, but for now the little ones are getting milk. We picked up two piglets last night and they are getting settled. I tried many times to get a short video of the piglets off my phone, but it has not been accomplished as of yet. My computer is not playing nicely with my phone. I am not computer whiz at all either. HERE is a link to see the little boogers from my FB page.

                                               ****The first piglets of the year****

One thing I have learned is that the best thought out plans are usually thrown a curve ball at some point. My meat bird chicks were supposed to ship out the end of March. I had feed orders and customer orders all based on that ship date. Then the curve ball came and the chicks showed up at my post office on Friday, 5 weeks early. It was a mistake made on the hatchery end, but we frantically got brood boxes ready and now they are all here cheeping away. The weather is not quite warm enough to keep the brood boxes in the garage as I planned, so we have them in the basement. It is not ideal, but often times such is the case. Less than ideal doesn't equate with terrible. It simply means one must be flexible. I suppose I have gotten really good at being flexible over the last several years. Having a large family does that to a person.

                     ***2 years ago we bought our first dairy cow, and today we have 5!***

I have met many people the last year who want to farm in some capacity, folks who want to opt out of the commercial food system and develop a relationship with their food. My advice is to always jump right in. Sometimes you start with a few hens in the back yard, sometimes you raise a few chickens for meat. You might even decide to buy a beef cow for your land. Whatever the goal, you must start somewhere. You have to stop waiting for the *perfect* time because that time may never come. There are always curveballs to throw off the best and most well thought out plans.
The time to jump right in is now. You might need to start small, but by all means start, and be flexible when the ball curves and ruins your plans. Farming and agriculture are not exact and precise sciences but rather art forms often times.

The last week here has been full of hustle and bustle. The animal chores have doubled and we are finding ourselves exhausted by dinner time. It is a good kind of exhausted though. It's the kind that lets you know without a doubt that your day was filled with work and all the many blessings that go along with that work.
I can't imagine my life if I had never the inclination to just jump right in. How about you?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My New Penny

This week has already been a busy cow filled week.

Last October we hauled Belle off to a friend's farm to breed with his Hereford bull. She ended up staying most of winter, but we finally picked her up on Monday.

Belle is somewhat of a *beefy* looking Jersey, but I was pleased to see she was healthier than ever. She kept weight on nicely and was easy to load and bring back.
It didn't take long before Belle and Lucy hooked up and spent the entire day and night, like long lost friends.

Then on Tuesday we took the trailer up to  a nearby dairy and bought a new milk cow.

She is a young, 2 year old jersey, who just freshened a couple of months ago.  She is very gentle, although a bit shy.
She really is not too sure about the chickens clucking around.
She is milking well, and after a week I suspect she will be completely settled in to a milking routine here.

My only complaint is that she is quite skinny.

Here she is next to Lucy. I will be spending the next month trying t get some weight on her. She is easy to hand milk too, even though we use a machine milker.

She seems to be fitting in well with the calves and cows here.

After much thought and family debate, we decided to name her Penny. We especially love the white dot on her face.

                                        As of writing this, Lucy has not left Penny's side.

We also made good use of yesterday's nice weather to repair the sheep shelter/canopy.

The snow collapsed the canopy and the poles are badly damaged. Devin will have to replace most of them, but we have it rigged in the meantime. Now, we just wait for lambing to begin.

2 years ago we had no cows and today we have 9. I admit that we are somewhat smitten with the sweet Jersey beauties and will likely get more as the year progresses.

For now, we are enjoying the warm weather, the abundance of fresh milk and the promise of a spring season.

Happy Hump Day!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow Day Part 2

Today the south is getting hammered with more snow. Thankfully I am in the northern parts of the state so we are being spared the ice.

The snow, however, is sticking and still falling. In fact it is supposed to fall all day long.

Here are some pictures from this morning.

The day will be filled with sledding and snowman making because tomorrow it will all melt away, and by the weekend it will be in the 50's outside.

Next weekend it is supposed to be a nice 64 degrees. Only in the South does one get to experience several seasons within a week's time.

Here's hoping all my neighbors south of here stay safe!

Happy Snow Day Ya'll!

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Hard Truth of Farming

One thing we have learned as our family farm has grown is this: there will be births and deaths.

This week feels like spring in my mind, although the weather isn't agreeing, because the baby chicks have arrived.

These will be new laying hens for us this year and they are so cute! The kids have enjoyed having the brood box right inside the house.
Unfortunately, there is always a chick or two who do not handle the journey well and die. This batch was no exception. Three chicks died, and although it was sad, the kids have learned to accept this reality.
The remainder of the chicks are doing fabulous this morning, chirping their little hearts away.
It feels like spring in the house.

Lambing season is also upon us and that makes spring ever more a reality for me as well. We spent a good part of Tuesday preparing an area to lock the sheep in at night.

We used the temporary canopy area used by the cows during the polar vortex and simply fenced it in with cattle panels.

The area gives us a place to lock the sheep at night that is predator safe. No wild dogs or coyotes will get in and try to hurt a lamb. Now we just wait and see who lambs. I know that Lyla, the black ewe, is pregnant and ready for sure. Her belly is huge and her udder is filling with milk. The other two ewes I cannot tell for sure yet.
Spring lambing is always exciting and we are now ready.

Of course there are times when the baby animals or even the large animals do not fair so well.
Such is the case with our youngest bull calf we got just last week.

A few days ago this little guy showed signs of a respiratory illness. He had a slight runny nose, but he was still eating well. We treated him with an injection and he seemed much better the next day.
Yesterday morning he was curled up and lifeless in the corner of the calf stall. He was very cold so we brought him inside and placed him next to the fire.

 We tube fed him warm milk and placed heated cherry pit packs and towels on him. After a couple of hours he started to open his eyes. His body temperature was a low 98 degrees, however, as he was hypothermic.
I  called the vet and followed his advice of an injection and attempts to get him warmed up. We placed him on a dog bed and kept the warm pit packs and blankets on him. We pet him and rubbed him and did our best to keep him stimulated all day long.
He never did warm up enough. By 4 in the afternoon he died. It was sad.

We have never lost a calf.

Today we are aware of life and death on a farm once more. Just when you think you've got this all figured out, you are humbled by the fragility of life and you are more aware of the many animals in your care.
Some live and some die, despite your best efforts.

Today we are dreaming of spring and warm weather. We are discussing our plans of endless afternoons playing outside and planting a garden. We are remembering how grateful we are to experience farming in such an intimate way.

We are also looking ahead to a new milk cow. Yes! In about a week we will be getting another milking cow and we are excited! There is always something to look forward to!

Here's hoping you have a fabulous weekend and that spring shows up in your corner of the world soon!

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