Monday, December 31, 2007

We had a hay day today!

I spent some time on the phone the past few days trying to locate hay for both the alpacas and the cows. The alpacas need about 100 bales of a good quality orchard grass hay and the cows need about twice that but not anything quite so nice (or expensive) so I was working on finding sources for both of them.

Luckily, I found some good quality orchard/timothy grass right here in Roxboro. They only had 10 bales available but would ask another past buyer if she wanted to sell 50 of her bales as well. So, today we went over to pick up our 10 bales. They were a nice young family with two kids almost the ages of Evan and McKayla. They also had a trio of Nigerian Dwarf goats and one of their does looked very much like our chocolate doe Peppermint. We had a nice but short visit there.

We ran some errands in town then took our bales of hay and groceries home before headed out to our next stop. Yesterday we had stopped in at a local farm about 5 miles from us that had a barn full of round bales of hay. I had asked if they were selling any of their hay and was told yes they sure were. The round bales were mostly fescue and about 1000+ lbs each. We asked for three at $40 a piece. It should feed the cows and donkeys for at least a month I hope. As it was raining still yesterday we arraigned to come back today to pick them up. All three round bales actually fit onto our trailer and we made the short ride home. It was dark by the time we pulled into the driveway so we left the bales on the trailer overnight.

I will also note here (so I can remember when I did it) that I wormed Cherry Blossom and Riona , our Dexter cows today.

The chickens gave us 15 eggs today.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The barn is buzzing with energy!

What a day... so many things to write about today.

It started out before I even left the house this morning. I was standing in the kitchen getting the carrots for the rabbits as I do every morning and as I looked out the window I could see our alpaca Noodle laying out in the middle of the pasture by herself. I thought this was odd so I watched her for a second. She soon got up and walked over the the poop pile with her tail up and then walked off still with her tail up.

I went into the living room where Neil was stoking the fire and said "Hey, Noodle is in labor!". Now, Noodle is the same alpaca that was due anytime after 12/15 but didn't look pregnant to me nor have I felt any fetal movements and two days ago was untrasounded as open. So, Neil responded with "Really?" I headed out to the barn to work on chores while keeping an eye on Noodle. When I feed the rest of the girls (alpacas) Noodle did not come in from the pasture. I walked out to look at her and her vulva was dilating so it confirmed my thought. I went in a fed our cow Riona as she was still separated out with her new calf, but some hay out for her and the alpacas and went and peeked at Noodle again. She had already progressed so much that the cria's nose and front hooves were out. I headed up to the house to get the camera and to let Neil know that if he wanted to see the birth he had better get outside soon.

By the time Neil got down to the barn I had gotten Noodle in from the pasture and the LGDs out as they were far too interested in the bits that were sticking out already. Within 20 minutes our newest cria was born. A medium fawn girl with vicuna markings (a lighter underside). She appeared healthy enough but she was tiny! I estimated at about 10lbs. A normal cria weight should be about 12-16lbs. I got her dried off, as it was pretty chilly outside with a strong wind, and got her fleece cria coat on her right away. Once Noodle got a good sniff of her I moved them both into the barn and gave Noodle some breakfast.

Neil went back to the house to check on the kids while I busied myself with the rest of my chores and keeping an eye on the little cria to make sure she was doing OK. At about an hour old the cria began trying to stand up and with a little help for balance started looking to nurse. Noodle on the other hand didn't seem to want anything to do with nursing and would continually move away from the cria every time. This was odd as she was such a good mom to her last cria and nursed him until he was 10 months old. I ended up holding Noodle's head so that she would hold still and let the cria nurse and get that all important colostrum.

Later in the morning it was decided that we should let Riona and her calf out with the other cows to get some exercise. I also needed to muck out their stall and this was easier done without them in it. Well, that lead to a 45 minute physical struggle between Riona and Cherry Blossom, our boss cow. Blossom has always pushed Riona around but now that she had a calf to protect Riona wasn't backing down as easily. They pushed, shoved and chased each other till they were exhausted.

Meanwhile, I cleaned out the barn and Neil got started making space for his saws so he could start siding the goat barn. We both worked on stripping the chicken wire off the outside of the goat barn on the sides Neil was working on today. This was a frustrating job as there was a gazillion staples holding it on and they all had to be individually cut with wire cutters. I made sure at least every hour I went in and held Noodle while the cria nursed. It gets dark here about 5pm and Neil was trying to get the front of the goat barn done tonight as the goats had made a hole in the chicken wire covering it and could get out at their leisure.

We were working by flashlight by this time and Neil was just nailing on the final panel of the day when we heard alpacas screaming! I knew it was Peter and Sid our two mature intact males. The thing is they were in adjoining pastures so shouldn't be able to get to each other. Neil and I ran over to the screaming and found Peter on top of Sid and the two were struggling to get up. By flashlight Neil and I quickly assessed the fact that the two of them had entangled themselves in the electric string fencing. It was caught in Sid's mouth around both their legs and necks. The fencing needed to be cut and fast. I stayed with the alpacas and tried to keep them calm and from not struggling further while Neil ran to the barn to get the wire cutters. Once the wires were cut they both got up and walked away... mouths hanging open from constant spitting and screaming. By flashlight I tried to see if either had any serious injuries but I just couldn't see that well. Both of them were walking with no visible limp and we had no blood on us from handling them so I hoped they were OK for the night. I am just so glad that that happened when it did and not 30 minutes later when we would never have heard them up at the house. I hate to even think of that outcome.

After that burst of adrenaline Neil went up to the house while I did the evening chores. Once up at the house Neil and I looked at each other and agreed that was just too much emotion for one day.

I made one final barn check at 10pm to hold Noodle again for the cria to nurse. Everyone else seemed settled in for the night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rain, rain, go away....

I can not even believe that I am complaining about the rain after our long summer draught but it has been raining for 4-5 days straight now. The areas around the barn where the animals come in and out are slick with mud... I sink in at least 6 inches deep in the cow pasture! Only last month this ground was cracked it was so dry. I love we are getting rain... I just wish we would have a day or two of dry weather in between.

Anyway, this morning Ed Kinser from Enchanted Hills Alpacas (the farm we purchased the alpacas Celtic Woman and Peter Piper from as well as our three Nigerian Dwarf Goats and some of our chickens too) drove down to our farm from VA. He was here to look at our 8 month old female alpaca, Celia. We are hopefully going to be making a trade with Ed with Celia for his breeding male Derwydd Peruvian Novio. The Kinser's are breeding for appaloosas and Novio just doesn't fit their breeding plan and I have always liked him and planned to breed Celtie to him this month anyway.

Derwydd Peruvian Novio

So, Ed was down here looking at Celia and her mom Gritona. I mentioned that I wasn't sure if Gritona was bred or not and Ed piped up that he had his portable ultrasound machine in the car and he would be more then happy to check her for me. (It is the visible kind not the audible kind.) Ed said that he would be more then happy to check all my girls if I wanted as it didn't take very long. (Ed also understandably stated that he couldn't be responsible for the accuracy of the results as he is not a vet.)

We checked Gritona who is 6 months along and determined she was pregnant, then we did Eloise who is 3 months along and found her to be pregnant as well. We then did Fiore and not surprisingly we didn't see anything that would make us believe she was pregnant. Then, finally, we did Noodle as she just hasn't "looked" pregnant to me and I have not been able to feel any fetal movements at all when I have checked over the last few weeks. Well, Noodle came up as open as well.

I was a bit disapointed in not getting a cria out of Noodle this year. Things like this happen when you raise livestock. If this deal goes through with Novio I plan to just pasture breed him to all 5 of our open girls in January... next December will be busy!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish all our family and friends a Merry Christmas! We miss you all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Duck anyone?

So, the main thing I wanted to get done right after chores this morning was to butcher our drake duck for dinner tonight. Neil and I rounded him up and took him back behind the shed where I have the killing cones set up. I had warned Neil that he was strong and would be difficult to keep hold of but still I don't think Neil was prepared for the struggle he got.

I had been dreading this job for two reasons. First, the ducks all have very distinct personalities, unlike the chickens, so it was going to be emotionally harder to kill one of the ducks. But, secondly, I was not looking forward to hand plucking the feathers from the duck either. The oil on the feathers makes scalding less effective so most resources recommend dry plucking. Ducks also have two layers of feathers; the exterior feathers and the downy feathers underneath. This makes for more difficult plucking.

Not to disappoint, the plucking of the duck was awful. Neil and I both worked on the duck trying to get the feathers out for almost an hour. The whole time I was muttering that next year we will be sending our ducks out to be processed. I do not want to repeat that task again!

On the other hand he sure was tasty! I prepared Duck à l'orange for the first time for our Christmas Eve dinner. It wasn't that difficult and he came out delicious. I also made a mushroom risotto along with sauteed brussel sprouts with garlic.

After dinner Neil made his famous chocolate chip cookies that are about 5 inches across and chewy and full of chocolate. His Dad particularly loves them so Neil made a whole extra batch as a Christmas present for his Dad. Some we put out for Santa along with both Chocolate and Strawberry milk because Evan and McKayla wanted to know which one Santa liked best.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yard cleanup.

Neil's parents arrived in town last night to spend a few days with us, including Christmas.

We had asked Neil's dad to bring up his leaf blower when he came as the leaves where piled high all over the yard. Neil's dad blew the leaves for us while Neil went out into the pasture to cut up more of our downed tree with the big chainsaw.

Me? I spent the day wrapping presents because MiMi (Neil's mom) took the kids for the day so I could get it all done in peace.

Then tonight the kids decorated their gingerbread house. I esembled the house and then gave the icing bag to Evan and dishes of candy for both of them and just let them go for it. I think it came out really good for a 3 and 5 year old.
McKayla and Evan decorating the gingerbread house.

The finished house.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Our newest member...

Tonight Neil brought home the newest member of the farm.

Neil has been working in Charlotte, NC and after getting out of work today he stopped and picked up our third American Chinchilla rabbit. This will be our second doe. She came from the same breeder as our other two but from a different genetic line so we could have some diversity in our breeding. The breeder also exposed her to a buck overnight last night so if all went well she is coming to us pregnant and will kindle in 30-32 days.

Neil got home late after his long drive so we placed her in her new home next to the other buns in the dark. I hope she settles in OK.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And so he shall be know as...

Well, our new little calf seems to be doing well. I have him and Riona sectioned off in the alpaca side of the barn all by themselves. Riona has proven to be quite protective of him and head butts the fence if the alpacas or dogs come too close.

I have been trying to handle him as much as possible so he (hopefully) will not be afraid of me as he grows. This afternoon, I was rubbing his ears and I noticed that the tips of his ears which should come to a point like an inverted letter "V" in fact seemed to have notches in them that made the tips of his ears like the letter "M". I had never seen anything like this before. Since it affected both ears symmetrically I knew it was unlikely to be an injury.

I posted a question about it on the American Dexter Cattle Association chat site to see if anyone else had seen this before. Well, it turns out that the Dexter is one a few breeds that carry the "ear notching" co-dominant gene. It is not considered a fault in the breed but it was recommended not to breed for it as it can become severe and the ears end up looking like tulips! No worries with my little guy as he is destined for our freezer in 18 months anyway. But, I will have to be careful how I breed Riona to in the future.

So, in light of my little guys ears, I officially dubbed him "Nick". The name fits him well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's a boy!

Finally, Riona (our Irish Dexter first freshener cow) delivered us a bull calf today... only eight days overdue!

I noticed her off by herself being restless about 10:30am this morning. By 11am she was beginning to have hard contractions. I went out into the pasture to be near her but not too close and watched for about 30 minutes. She was having contractions about every 2 minutes or so. I had to go back up to the house to check on the kids but returned 45 minutes later (about 12:15pm) to find that she had progressed enough that I could see two little hooves had emerged!

As this was her first calf I am sure she was a little confused with what was going on. She kept walking around, especially during contractions. I'm sure it helped with the pain and moving the calf along in the process. She was being pestered by our 8 month old bull calf, Chuck. He followed her around everywhere. By 12:45pm Riona was lying down during her hardest contractions and again Chuck was right there licking her head. After she got up and down a few more times I noticed that Chuck had figured out that Riona was lactating and was using her as a milk bar while she was pushing... how rude! I decided it was time I got more involved then just watching from a distance so I moved in to keep Chuck away from her (well at least her udder). It was only two more good pushes and at 1:03pm the calf was delivered!

As I expected, and the main reason I wanted to be with Riona when she calved, was that as Riona got back to her feet our boss cow Cherry Blossom (Chuck's mom) moved in between Riona and her calf. CB loves the babies and would have prevented Riona from returning to him if I had not been there. So while I was checking the calf over Riona moved away about 30 feet and watched.

Since Riona delivered him lying down he never was hung head down during the delivery. This is an important thing as when they are head down hanging from mom during delivery the fluid in their lungs is expelled through their mouth and nose. So, immediately after he was born I cleared his nose and mouth of any membranes and lifted him by his back hocks and hung him for 3-4 seconds. Then I rubbed his rib cage to stimulate him to breath and took a peak to see if it was a heifer or bull calf. Meanwhile CB had been licking him off or trying too with all my fussing with him. So, I picked the slimy little guy up and took him over to Riona, who seemed very pleased to have him back and started cleaning him off right away.

I let Riona bond with him for about 15 minutes all the while scooting off Cherry Blossom and Chuck (who was still trying to nurse from Riona). We were all on the far side of our five acre pasture, it was cold outside enough that we could see our breath and the calf was starting to shiver so I picked the little guy up (thank goodness for mini breeds as he was only about 40lbs) and headed to the barn. I had hoped that Riona would follow me up but she didn't budge a bit. So, up at the barn I got the calf settled into the dog crate that had straw already in it (from our canine visitors earlier this week) and covered him over with a heavy towel. Then I grabbed a lead rope and went back down for Riona.

I needed to keep Riona and the calf away from Cherry Blossom and Chuck, at least for a few days until they bonded well, so I moved Riona into the female alpaca pasture. This has the added benefit of having the largest area inside the barn with lots of dry straw to help keep the little guy warm. Once reunited Riona was very pleased and become quite protective of him with the LGDs and alpacas, not letting them come close to check him out. I stayed out in the barn with them until I was comfortable that everyone was going to get along. Also, I wanted to stay until the calf got up to stand and nurse for the first time. That happened about 2:15pm.

I returned to the barn to check on things around 3pm. The calf was resting at first but after a few minutes got up to nurse again. By 3:30pm Riona had past the placenta which the dogs quickly disposed of for her. It might seem a bit disgusting to let the dogs do this but it is part of their "job". Livestock guardian dogs instinctly remove anything from the pastures that would produce a scent that would attract predators. This is especially important around vulnerable newborns that would be easy prey to coyotes.

My final check down at the barn was at 9:30pm. He was up and nursing again... strong little guy. I am a bit worried about him getting chilled tonight but hopefully he will stay in the barn and not wander outside. I am not sure Riona would know to bring him back inside.

With all that went on today I also had to deal with totally frozen water lines to the barn. I had to tote water from the house at least three times today. It will be a long winter if I have to do that everyday. Hopefully this weekend Neil can figure something out to insulate the hoses.

The chickens gave 15 eggs today but after I collected them I forgot them outside and they froze.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Daily happenings.

I woke up around 7am as usual and peered out the windows. It seemed bright and sunny out and I saw no sign of a frost but for some reason I just couldn't get going this morning. I much preferred to snuggle up on the couch with Evan in front of the wood stove which was burning away after stoking it this morning. Finally, about 8:45am I figured I needed to go do the morning chores.

Outside it was chilly still and when I went to water the animals my water hose was frozen so I know that it must of gotten cold overnight. But, it was dry and the animals all seemed happy to be laying about in the sun.

When I had Riona on the milking stanchion, so she could eat her breakfast in peace, I actually was able to strip some milk out of one of her teats. I really wish she would go ahead and have this calf. I am looking forward to having our own fresh dairy products from here on the farm.

I tasted one of the pickled eggs that a I made a few days ago. It was so good! Probably the best pickled egg I have ever had. Needless to say I had a total of four with in an hour. :) I also put another 32 eggs on to hard boil. The kids really like HB eggs for snacks and we have plenty to eat up. I will put about a dozen of these into the pickling brine as well.

My two duck drakes were fighting again this morning. I had never seen ducks fight before and it can be quite comical. But, I really don't need two drakes and they are both black so one will have to go. The larger one has "angel wing" and is much heavier caruncled on the head so he will be the one to go. I will have to wait for Neil to help me with the deed as I tried to pick him up and he was just too strong and wiggly for me to keep hold of. I think we will having duck for Christmas!

Only 12 eggs today.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Another canine visitor.

This morning while doing chores Emmie and Berk, our LGDs, started barking like crazy out in the pasture. I was in the chicken coop so I came out to see what was going on. Up by the house was what looked like a golden retriever. It was moving over to the fence line to checkout Emmie and Berk even though they were absolutely nuts and trying to climb the 6' fence to get to him. I called out and when the golden saw me he came running over. Again, it turned out to be a young dog, somewhere between 6 months and year old at the most. I had no problem catching him by the collar. He had a tag with a phone number on it so I put him in our dog kennel and had Neil call the owners to let them know we had their dog.

Neil had to leave a message and as it was Sunday we figured the owners were at church. After calling the golden's owners several more times we finally got him home around 3pm!

For a good part of the day Neil worked on the electric fence so the animals would stay put in it again. Our Anatolian dog Emmie has been getting out most nights and this morning our bull calf was out wandering about for the third time this week. Neil changed the fence from a grounded system to an alternating loop system where instead of each line being "hot" the animals must touch two of the five strands to be shocked. This will work better in our drought conditions we hope.

It was cold outside so I made up a pot of French Onion soup for dinner and I made homemade bread bowls to serve it in. Boy, didn't that hit the spot after being outside most of the day!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Daily happenings

It was cold and rainy today. At times it was just misty and others it poured but either way it was cold and wet all day.

Still no babies. This makes Riona (the cow) 4 days overdue. Noodle (the alpaca) was only due today. Her pregnancy was never confirmed via ultrasound so I am not even sure she is actually pregnant.

I discovered this new breadmachine recipe for White Bread on one of the boards that I read "Keeping a Family Cow" moderated by Joann, author of the book by the same name. The loaf came out beautifully with a perfect crust and it was dense and chewy on the inside. I think I will be using this recipe for a while!

For 2 lb loaf of White Bread:

1.5 C buttermilk
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs olive oil
1.5 tsp salt
4 C bread flour (sub up to 1/2 wheat flour for wheat bread)
1 Tbs yeast

Use the regular cycle, light-medium crust. Push the button!

For dinner I put the breadmachine to work again and made some pizza dough for homemade pizza for dinner. As usual I made one cheese and one pepperoni but I also kept a small bit a dough aside and made cinnamon bread sticks out of them for dessert. Tasty!

Neil went up into the attic and brought down all the Christmas decorations this afternoon. He then set up the tree and put on the lights. Evan, McKayla and I then got it all decorated. It looks really pretty. It was so comforting tonight as I sat knitting to the lights of the Christmas tree and the wood stove, Neil and Evan were piled on the couch sleeping, and Christmas music played in the background. I love evenings like this.

The hens gave 15 eggs today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The waiting game...

It rained last night. It was just a light rain but still I swear I could hear the earth sigh a sigh of relief. Here in the Southeast we are still experiencing a severe drought and most major cities are either out of water or very close. I hope this doesn't continue into the new year... it has been our biggest challenge our first year on the farm.

Yesterday I had e-mailed Riona's (one of our Irish Dexter cows) original owner to see if I could get a firm date on when she was bred. I was told when I picked her up last April that she had been bred in Jan and then again in Feb. According to my cow gestation calendar, if she had been bred on the last day of Feb she should have calved on December 7th.

I heard back from her today saying that her last breeding date was recorded as March 4th. Still, that would put her due date as December 11th so she is still overdue. She is bagging up and her vulva is swollen and this morning I noticed some mucous discharge from her vulva so maybe it will be soon! I can only hope!

Speaking of eminent babies... one of our alpacas, Noodle, has a due date of tomorrow the 15th. So I have been watching her closely. Alpacas very rarely show any signs of parturition prior to being in active labor so there really isn't much I can watch for to give me a clue if she is on schedule. Again, just a waiting game.

The hens have been providing so many eggs for us lately ( seventeen today) that we haven't been able to eat them fast enough. I have been trying to find more recipes to use them in. Tonight I made a batch of pickled eggs. This is the recipe I used:

German-Style Pickled Eggs

2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
6 whole cloves
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

In a large saucepan, combine the first eight ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Place onions and eggs in a large jar; add enough vinegar mixture to completely cover. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Use a clean spoon each time you remove eggs for serving. May be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

*Note on using fresh eggs in this recipe. Truly fresh eggs are near imposable to peel when hard boiled. I planned ahead for making hard boiled eggs by setting aside several dozen eggs a few weeks ago. When I cooked these up they peeled wonderfully. I just keep replacing my "older egg" stash with the oldest eggs in the house as I use them and use my "fresh eggs" in my everyday cooking.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Evening's activity

I don't think I have slept through the night in a few weeks. Every night it is something new on the farm.

Last night Emmie and Berk, our LGDs, started barking about 12:45am. I had only been in bed for about 30 minutes so I really wasn't even asleep yet. Their barking didn't stop right away which was my clue that something was up. I got dressed and went out to the barn to investigate (I keep hoping that it will be a new calf).

I didn't see anything out of normal so I was just leaning on the gate in the barn speaking with the LGDs when I heard a howl... a beagle howl. Emmie and Berk immediately started barking and jumping up on the fence. I looked back up to the house where the howl seemed to come from and I could see a beagle looking dog in front of the house... then I saw two. With noses to the ground and howling as beagles do they started coming down to the barn. Emmie and Berk where beside themselves at this point! As I watched them move toward me I realized I was seeing more then two... there were FOUR! As they reached the barn and started smelling everything I could see that they were young dogs... maybe 4-5 months old (very cute). As cute as they might have been their presence and their howling was causing quite a stir around the barn. The LGDs were going crazy, I could hear the alpacas alarming, the donkeys were braying and the poultry were squawking! I needed to do something with these pups. I didn't want to just run them off as I would hate for something bad to happen to them. I dug around in the barn and dragged out my wire collapsible dog kennel and set about to catch the pups. This turned out to not be an easy task. They seemed friendly but skittish and would run from me anytime I got close. Well, it took over 20 minutes to successfully catch all four of them and get them secured in the kennel. I threw some straw in with them and covered over most of the kennel with a blanket (mostly to keep them quiet as it was a very warm night). Thankfully, they were all wearing orange reflective collars with a brass nameplates riveted to them. The last pup into the kennel I slipped the collar off of him before leaving them to go back to the house. It was now 1:30am but I called the number on the collar just the same in case the owners were actively looking for the pups so they would know they were safe and secure for the night. I left a message and headed to bed.

I slept horribly, if at all, with the pups and the LGDs barking all night. By 6am I was up and out doing chores. Around 7:30am I called the number on the pups collar again to make sure they had heard my message. The pups were so loud and the animals were still on edge I really wanted them picked up sooner then later. This time I spoke with the wife and she said her husband was on his way to get them. True to her word an older Southernly gentleman showed up about 10 minutes later to collect the pups. He was so apologetic about the pups causing trouble for me. Turns out he forgot to latch their gate last night. I was just happy to have them returned home safely!

15 eggs today.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, I was outside around 3am this morning again. This time I was woken up to thumping on the deck. When I looked out it was Emmie, one of our Anatolian LGDs, sniffing around for spilled cat food. Emmie is supposed to be confined to the livestock pastures but with no rain and our dry ground the electric fence has not been "grounding". In other words it is not shocking the animals when they touch it. Emmie, has figured this out and she has been having nightly adventures out of the pasture.

So, I got dressed and went out to return Emmie to the pasture where she belongs. I was hanging out in the barn for a few minutes just watching the animals when a heard something walking through the dry leaves just outside the barn. Tate, my fearless Entlebucher dog, had come outside with me but he was at my feet.

Neither Tate or the LGDs seemed upset so I looked out the barn door only to see our 8 month old bull calf walking toward me. So, he also had walked through the electric fence. He has always been standoffish (something he got from his dam Cherry Blossom) and doesn't take food treats from your hand and is not halter broke. I felt a pit in my gut thinking I would be chasing him around all night. But, I went in and got a leaf of hay and hoped he might follow it. Thankfully, he did. He was closest to the female alpaca pasture gate so I slowly lead him with the hay over to there and with a bit of coaxing got him in that pasture for the night. This is also the only pasture completely fenced in with woven wire so I didn't need to worry about him getting out again overnight.

Someday I will be able to sleep through the night.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Work on the barn gets done!

I noticed this morning while doing chores that end of our 6' woven wire fence had gotten mangled a bit. After feeding I walked out into the pasture to get a closer look. This part of the fence is kind of loose since it was the end of the roll but didn't quite reach where the next wooden post will be. In the future when we get more fencing we will be splicing them together, but for right now, the end of the roll is being staked with a T-post and then the electric fence begins. It was obvious that a deer had gotten tangled in the woven wire and struggled to get free. The spacing on the wire had been distorted and the fence was leaning out quite a bit. It will still hold our livestock for now so it is not at the top of our list for fixing today. It will be nice when we have 6' fencing all around the pasture so the deer can't get in at all.

Neil actually got a chance to work on the end wall of the barn today! He got about 2/3 of the wall framed in and sided. All that is left is framing around the 8' wide door and putting on the rest of the siding. Hopefully next weekend will see the completion of the barn siding project. We still need to build some doors and my office in the barn but I am happy to have the wind break this wall will provide the animals.

I brought more hay up from the semi-trailer today. While I was in there I counted the bales I had remaining. I have 31 bales left after taking today's load. That means I have only about 45 days left of hay at best. Come January I am going to have to find some more hay... probably about 50-75 bales at the very least.

This afternoon I also took the tractor out into the pasture and collected the down wood out in the tree stand. It made for a good load of wood on the tractor. I figure it will be a couple of days of cutting anyway. Oh, and Neil took a few minutes and sharpened the chainsaw chain for me. I did a test cut after the fact and it was like cutting through butter! That will make cutting wood so much faster.

Neil and I also got the 10x10 pop-up canopy set up over the catch pen for Eloise once she arrives. The transporter called this afternoon and said it would be later this evening that he would be delivering her.

10pm Update: Well, Eloise is here at last! Finally, all of our alpacas are here on the farm with us. She has a cute face but being a black alapca in the dark of night it was hard to get a good look at her. I threw some hay down for her along with some water and after a bit left her to settle down for the night. I can't wait to see her in daylight.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Odds and Ends

The weather was warm here today and I took advantage of that and worked outside most of the day. I got my firewood cut, brought hay up to the barn from the semi-trailer, mucked out the alpaca part of the barn, cleaned out my asparagus bed and mulched it over with the soiled straw from the barn, emptied the trailer from a run to Southern States for livestock feed yesterday (300lbs of feed and 4 bales of straw), threw a clean bale of straw back down for the alpacas, assembled the four PVC pipe mineral feeders (two for the goats and one each for the male and female alpacas) and lastly in preparation for our alpaca Eloise's arrival tomorrow I moved the 10x10 catch pen out of the female alpaca pasture and put it over by the tool shed (Eloise will have to be in isolation from the other alpacas for ~2 weeks). Whew!

The chickens gave us 20 eggs today! Three I found in the goat barn again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I lost a rooster today...

and I don't know why. That bugs me.

Two mornings ago I discovered one of my Welsummer roosters trying to hide behind the metal feed can in the chicken coop while the turkey tom was all puffed up next to him. When I extracted the rooster I noticed that he was bleeding from his comb. I don't know why the turkey was picking on him. My only thought at the time was that now that there is only one tom turkey he doesn't have anyone else to dominate besides the roosters.

Anyway, I ended up putting the Welsummer rooster in one of the brooder pens with some water and feed to let him de-stress and heal from his wounds. I really wasn't that concerned about him as he walked right over the water and had a drink. I just thought he was being bullied a bit.

Then last night I noticed that he seemed really depressed. I went in to pick him up and he was very thin and non-responsive. So, not surprising, I discovered him dead this morning when I went in to do chores. I looked him all over and couldn't find anything odd about him except his wasted condition and the laceration on his comb. There was a small amount of blood in the brooder but not enough to be fatal by any means. I am stumped. I wish I had the funds to send him off to the state lab for necropsy, maybe that would give me an answer.

But, for now I will just keep a close eye on the rest of the flock, although I don't know if would notice anything before it was too late as this rooster I had just been watching a few days before and he seems fine.

Got a few tasks done today. I spread some straw inside the chicken hoop house to encourage the birds to go in there and to give the ducks a warm place to sleep at night. I cleaned out the chicken nest boxes and refilled with clean straw (something I do at least every other day). I got my wood cut and stacked for the day. I have also had to start bringing the rabbit water bottles into the house and filling with warm water to keep them from staying frozen all day.

I got 16 eggs again. Three of which I found in the goat barn and two in a nest by the cows milking stanchion.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Daily Musings

Another bitter cold (for NC anyway) and windy day here. Still, I got a few things done. I recovered the hoop house in the chicken pen that the turkeys and ducks tend to spend a lot of time in. The old tarp had become completely tattered from the chickens and turkeys roosting on the top of it and the hole in the top was bigger then what was still being covered. It didn't provide much shelter for the birds anymore. So, yesterday, I had picked up a new heavy duty 12x16 tarp to recover the house with. After I finished getting the new tarp in place it was amazing the temperature difference inside of the house just by getting out of the wind. Wind chill is what kills most livestock. Give them a place to get out of the wind and they will be quite happy.

I also got my daily tractor bucket load of firewood cut and stacked.

I got some exciting news today too. I heard from the farm in CO, Fossil Ridge Alpacas, that has been breeding and boarding one of our female alpacas, Eloise. She was picked up by the livestock transporter this morning and is due to arrive here on Sunday afternoon! I am quite excited to have her here at last.

New record: 16 eggs today. Three which were green from my easter egger chickens.