Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Productive day abruptly ended.

I was feeling really motivated today to clean up the farmyard. You know all that stuff that tends to pile up over the winter when you don't feel like dealing with it. I brought more of the cut firewood out of the woods and stacked it under the deck. I moved and restacked some metal roofing that was left by the previous owners. The roofing had gotten blown around the yard a few days ago in a huge windstorm we had. I took advantage of having to move it anyway and made my new stack a bit more out of the way. This helped clear some space near the kid’s playground area. I found homes for items left around like some gas cans and the pop up shade tent. I moved a bunch of the kid’s toys back under the deck and picked up some trash items that had blown into the yard.

I was feeling really productive... that is until I started moving some bits and pieces of welded wire fencing that we have used in various places around the farm. We had just been throwing the small rolls over the drive-thru gate behind the chicken coop and I was tired of having them sprawled all over. I figured I would just move them 40 feet or so on the other side of the goat barn where no one ever goes or can see. This too was going well and I was pleased with the way it was looking when I stepped into a pile of leaves and drove two nails into the bottom of my foot! Ouch!

I slipped my boot off right away and already my sock was stained with blood at both sites. I put the boot back on and limped up to the house where I cleaned up the wounds and said some choice words to myself for being so careless! I can’t remember the last time I have had a Tetanus booster? I think it was entering into college so that makes it 20 years ago now! I guess I will go see a doctor in the morning and get a booster vaccine.

I rested my foot for a bit but it was soon time to get evening chores done. It took a bit longer then usual but I got through them ok.

The chickens that I had seperated out last night laid no eggs at all today. I guess they don't like the new digs. The free ranging girls left seven eggs for me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Livestock in motion.

Well, it got cold again last night and it is supposed to stay cold all week. Since our rabbit Purslane kindled unexpectedly this week I was afraid that if I left the kits out in the cold I would loose another litter like I did last month. I needed to do something to keep them warm so I brought them into the house in one of our medium pet carriers. They are sitting on top of the washing machine behind the curtain in an attempt to reduce Purslane's stress level of being moved to a strange place. I am still concerned about the kits due to the move but am sure they will fair better here in the house then outside in the cold.

Out in the cow pasture today I discovered two more duck eggs in the hay the cows mulched down from the round bales. I put them with the egg I found yesterday in poultry hoop house. I will keep my eyes peeled for more hidden eggs now.

While out in the cow pasture I was visited by the goats. They almost always come to be with me when I am in the pastures. It is the result of being bottle-fed and doted on the first three months of their lives... I am their Mom and they love me! Well, our new goat, Gottaway, must have finally decided that he was missing out on something in the cow pasture and wiggled his way under the bar gate to get out of the alpaca pasture. Yeah! He has only been watching Gabby, Pepper and Little Joe for over a week doing this multiple times a day. He immediately set out to investigate everything on this side of the gate... the pasture, the new hay bale feeder, the cow stall in the barn and he sniffed at the goat barn door but didn't go in. Later on I saw him back in the alpaca pasture so I knew he had it figured out. Then tonight at feeding time Gabby, Pepper and Little Joe came tearing through the gate to get to the goat barn for their nightly ration of goat pellets. I lock the goats up in their barn at night so they will not eat the alpacas feed. I was hoping that Gottaway would follow them in but he did not. He wouldn't go back through the gate again. Oh well, it was a first step. Maybe over this week he will get it all figured out finally.

This evening I also got most of the hens separated out from the flock that I want to have purebred chicks from this spring. Chickens have the ability to store sperm for several weeks and from multiple roosters. If you want pure stock from hens that normally run with multiple roosters you need to separate them from the roosters for at least three weeks (although it has been documented that even seven weeks after removal hens have laid fertile eggs!). I pulled my four Cuckoo Marens and my Hill Roamer hen and put them in one of the brooder/breeding pens. Then I pulled five Plymouth Barred Rocks and my two Welsummer hens and put them in a second pen. I still need to pull two Buff Orpingtons and two New Hampshire Reds that I want to cross with my Dark Cornish Rooster for our meat birds. I will try to get that done later this week.

The hens laid 15 eggs today.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

First Duck Egg?

I made a discovery this morning while doing my chores. The kiddy pool in the poultry run that is for the ducks had a large white egg sitting in the bottom of it this morning. Only one of my chickens lays a white egg and that is my Hill Roamer hen "Cookie". Cookie is close to a bantam sized bird so her eggs are very petite so I knew this wasn't from her. I have been waiting for the ducks to start laying and it appears that my wait is soon to be over.

I change the water in the pool every other day so this egg may have been there for up to 48 hours. I am 99% sure it is not a viable egg but I still put it into the hoop house in a nest of straw so the ducks (and maybe turkeys too) will realize that is where they should be laying eggs.

I am looking forward to having ducklings around the farm. They are just so cute!

The cows and donkey(s) have completely demolished the three round bales of hay that we got around the first of the year. They did pretty good about consuming most of the first two but by the time the third one got broken into they were walking up and over it, bedding down in it and generally just wasting hay. I figure we lost a good 10% out of the first two bales and more then 25% out of the third bale. So, today we headed up to Tractor Supply in South Boston, VA to purchase a round bale feeder ring. This is an 8' round ring that encloses the hay bale to prevent excess wasting of the hay. It was an investment at $125 but if they are going to be wasting 25% of our $40 bale then after 13 bales of hay it will have paid for itself.

The hens laid 12 eggs today.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Surprise in the Rabbit Hutch... Take II

Well, you can only imagine my surprise, when feeding the rabbits this morning, in finding a tiny dead rabbit kit in Parslane's hutch in front of the nesting box. At first I thought that I just must have missed one of the kits from her kindled litter last month and that she had just pulled it from the back of the nest box finally. But, when I picked it up I instantly knew that this was a brand new kit! I reached into the nest box and pulled out 6 other wiggly kits!

Now I know I said four days ago when I opened the door between Purslane's and Sasaparilla’s (our buck) hutches that I hoped it wouldn't take 3 months for the next litter but I wasn't expecting FOUR DAYS either! I put fresh straw in the nest box, returned the layer of fur and placed the kits back into the nest box. Then scratching my head I came into the house to study the calendar.

Rabbits are pregnant for 31-32 days. Purslane kindled her last litter on January 8th. That puts today at day 32. I had separated Purslane and Sasaparilla in the morning before she had kindled in January and the two have been apart until four days ago. The only thing I can figure is that Sass bred Purslane one final time the morning that she kindled before I separated them. Is that possible? To get pregnant while you are about to give birth?

Anyway, Sass has been shut out of Parslane's hutch again and he is not too happy about it. Thumping his hind feet on the floor of the hutch.... he will get over it!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Finally... the worms are here!

All week I have been waiting for my Red Wiggler worms to arrive. They were supposed to be here last Friday. Everyday I check the mailbox hoping they will be there... but no worms.

Then today, after an afternoon spent in town running erronds, we returned home to find our new worms waiting for us in the mailbox! Yeah! We opened the box and got our worms settled into their new home in the worm bin. I fed them a small amount of kitchen scraps. In the reading I have been doing it recommends not overfeeding at first because the food can rot before the worms get settled in starting eating it. It takes about three months for the first batch of compost to happen. This will be perfect timing for using it in the gardens this summer!

McKayla wanted to hold one. She wants to make pets out of them! I finally convinced her that the worms would be happier in the bin with the lid on so it would be dark.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Farm happenings

Not too much going on here today. Just the usual farm things.

I moved our American Chinchilla rabbit buck from Chamomile's hutch into Purslane's hutch. He had been in with Cham for 48 hours and she was starting to avoid him so I figured she was either bred or just sick of having him around. He and Purslane seem to enjoy each others company so I will keep them together until I see signs of Purslane possibly kindling again. Hopefully this time it won't take three months.

I had made a salad the other night with an avocado purchased from the store... it was yummy. The pit was so round and smooth that McKayla had kept it to touch and hold. I discovered it again today and was going to throw it away when McKayla said, "Mommy, can't we grow it? It is a seed isn't it?" That got me thinking... I wasn't sure. The thought never occurred to me. So, a quick zip onto the Internet told me that is was possible with a bit of TLC to grow an avocado tree from a store bought pit. Wouldn't that be wonderful to have homegrown avocados! So, we stuck three brads (very small nails) around the top of the seed and placed it into a small glass of water so that the brads held the pit half in and half out of the water. This we placed on the windowsill over the kitchen sink where it will get the most sun. It may take several weeks to sprout says the website I found. Only time will tell...
The hens gave 16 eggs today.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Growing Challenge Update

Wow, its Monday already and time for another Garden Challenge update.

The thing I wanted most to get done this week was to start a vermiculture bin. I was on the ball and ordered my red wiggler worms last Monday and hoped to get them on Thursday or Friday. But here it is the following Monday and still no worms in the mail. I did get the bin made on Friday so everything is all set for their arrival. I guess I will be calling tomorrow to see where my worms are.

I did get a flat of lettuce seeded early in the week as well. I sowed Rocky Top Lettuce from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. These were actually seeds from lettuce I grew last season and saved. They have already sprouted and the tiny leaves are emerging from the soil. I have never grown lettuce inside before. I do hope it does well as I am looking forward to fresh salads again.

I had hoped to get more seedlings going but I didn't manage to find the time this week. I still have plenty of time though. Here in NC it is typical to set out tomatoes on April 15th so I still have 8-10 weeks before that. I shouldn't try jumping the gun too much or I will have leggy plants to deal with.

Outside of the Growing Challenge, the kids and I took our barn cat Sweet Pea to the vet's this afternoon so she could be spayed tomorrow. I missed her when out doing chores tonight as she always follows me around as I am working in the barn. She has even started coming into the chicken coop as I collect eggs so she can rub against my legs. It will be nice having her home again on Wednesday.

The chickens gave 16 eggs today.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

What's happening on the farm today.

I was saying to Neil last night that I was surprised that there had been so little scuffling between our new Nigerian Dwarf goat buck "Gottaway" and our whether "Little Joe". I had expected some head butting and chasing but really things were very calm out there.

Last night Gottaway did not follow the other goats into the goat barn where they stay over night. I let him stay in with the alpacas and he seemed to do just fine. I figure he will learn our routine in a few days and hopefully follow the others in for dinner. This morning I released the goats from their barn and they went racing into the alpaca pasture as usual to vacuum up any spilled grain and eat the hay I put out there. So, all seemed fine with all four goats together again. Nobody seemed to be upset.

It was about an hour later I was down at the barn again and I noticed that Gottaway and Little Joe both had bloody noggins. They obviously had been butting heads enough to get their horn buds bleeding. I looked both of them over and there were no serious wounds so I threw down more hay to distract them (which worked) and left them to work things out.

By evening, I could tell there was no fresh blood so the head butting must have slowed down. I still couldn't get Gottaway into the goat barn so he will spend yet another night with the alpacas.

With the warmer weather of spring coming I went ahead and put our rabbit buck Sasaparilla in with our new doe Chamomile. Chamomile had been put in with a buck at the breeders before coming here but it didn't take as she didn't kindle when expected. I wasn't too upset by this as after loosing Parslane's litter to cold exposure I really wanted to wait for warmer weather for more kits. Putting Sass and Cham together now should produce a litter the beginning of March for us. Then at some point I will put Sass back in with Purslane for a second spring litter.

We also had visitors to the farm today. We had a couple from Virginia that was just driving by and saw the alpacas and stopped to see them. We talked alpacas for a bit and then started wandering the farm to see some of the poultry we had. They are interested in getting some Barred Rock chicks from us and well as some turkey poults. I told them I hoped for April chicks.

Then in the afternoon we had a local family stop by to visit and see the farm. They raise horses in Semora, NC as well as Boar goats, chickens and a few ducks. They have a small kitchen garden as we do and she is interested in learning to make goats milk soap (yeah, I have someone to learn with now). Their two daughters are almost the same age as Evan and McKayla and they all played nicely together. It was a nice visit and we hope to get over to their farm to see the horses soon.

Late afternoon found Neil and I in the woods clearing and cutting more firewood. The kids played nearby (no… not too close) on the old stumps. Once we had cut the wood we needed for the next few weeks all of us took a hike into the woods to the back corner of our lot. I always forget how much land we have that is wooded until standing in that corner looking back at the property. We hope to get some of this woodland fenced in for the cows and goats this summer. It will be great for them to get out of the sun in midday and the goats will help keep the understory clear.

The hens gave an even dozen today.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Newest Acquisitions

So, finally today was the day that Ed Kinser from Enchanted Hill Alpacas was bringing his male Derwydd Peruvian Novio to trade for our little girl TNF Shakespeare's Celia. It has been a waiting game in getting the health certificates needed by both to cross the state line.

We are very excited in having such a high quality male here on the farm. In about two weeks we will let him in with the females and have him cover the 5 open girls. Next year we will see the outcome of this trade pronking around the pastures!

Derwydd Peruvian Novio

Ed is also a long time breeder of Nigerian Dwarf goats and is where our three goats, Peppermint, Gabby and Little Joe, came from last spring. I had been talking with Ed last month about how I was having a difficult time locating a registered breeding buck to lease. It seems all the herds within an hour of me are closed herds and do not allow goats off or on their farms for breeding. I was surprised when Ed called me earlier in the week and offered us a yearling buckling at no charge! He said he was downsizing a bit to make life easier. He had this little guy on the market but remembered that I was having troubles finding a buck and was nice enough to offer him to us. He wanted to know if he should bring him along with Novio? Why yes!

Enchanted Hill Gottaway

This of course means that we will have to build a goat buck barn and pasture in a few months. In the short term he can just spend it with our does and hopefully breed them for early summer kids. But, once the kids are born he will have to go off to the buck barn along with Little Joe, our whether, who will be his pasture mate.

My red wiggler worms did not come today! The hens gave 15 eggs.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The worms are coming...

I have wanted to get red wiggler worms for well over a year now. Starting a vermiculture bin would allow us to compost our kitchen waste into wonderful worm castings. Worm castings and worm "tea" (the liquid produced in the process) are incredible soil fertilizers.

The worms will also let the kids see the process of composting up close and personal. McKayla is especially excited as she wants to hold them and make pets of them.

The journey to getting red wiggler worms has taken so long as I have been trying to find a local source for them. The closest I have come is still over an hour and half away. With fuel costs it was still less expensive to get them online and have them shipped. Well, this week I finally did it. I ordered my worms on Monday and due to arrive today!

I picked up two Rubbermaid tubs to convert into our vermiculture bin. Following directions I found online I drilled 1/2 inch holes every two inches all the way around the top of one bin about 2 inches down from the top. Then another row of holes two inches apart about 2 inches from the bottom. These two rows of holes will provide the airflow necessary to keep the contents of the box from rotting before the worms can eat it. With drill in hand I also drilled 1/2 inch holes all over the bottom of the bin to allow for plenty of drainage and more air flow.

The tub with holes was then put inside the tub without holes. The intact tub will collect the worm "tea" and any escape worms. I ended up putting two spare bits of 2x4s into the bottom of the intact bin to hold the perforated bin up a bit. The tubs fit together too snuggly without them and airflow would have been severely restricted. Finally, the lid of one tub goes on top to complete the bin.

Next, the kids and I shredded some newspaper, got it wet in the sink and then wrung it out to be the moistness of a damp sponge. We fluffed it up again and put it into our bin. The worm's home was now all ready we just needed to wait for the mail to be delivered (usually around 3pm here) to get our little red wigglers. The kids asked every few minutes if the worms were here yet. We were all very excited to get them.

The worm bin ready for the worms.

Finally, the mail arrived.... and no worms! The air of disappointment was thick in the house! They had been shipped 2-3 day priority and today was the last delivery date they should have been here. I only hope they arrive tomorrow otherwise it will be Monday and I fear the worms may no longer be alive by then!