Sunday, April 27, 2008

More fencing

I am pleased that Neil and I got the major run of cross fencing finished this weekend. The job included installing the last of the angled cross braces on the end posts, installing two 12' gates and run about another 100 feet of woven wire fencing. But we now have an additional pasture in which to purposefully separate our livestock! Yeah!

We also got a great start on installing the woven wire on the section of fence line that will split this new pasture we just formed into two pastures. There is only about another 150-200 of fencing on that run and a single four foot gate to install and I will have two pastures in which to put the animals.

The last bit of work we did for today was to get a watering system set up in the new pastures. In the large trash/junk pile out in the woods that we inherited with the farm has been an upside down cast iron tub. I wasn't sure what condition it was in but I had in mind to move it up to the pastures as a water trough. We got the tractor down to the pile and using chains moved it up to the shed to evaluate it. This was not the "loins foot" type but a newer style that would fit like a modern tub today. That meant that three sides were exposed and only one side had a face to it. But, besides being baby blue in color it was in perfect condition still. Not a chip on it. Neil installed a new drain for me so it would hold water again and I could easily drain in out to keep it clean. Once that was done we took it out to the pasture and set it up on some bricks to level it and keep the drain off the ground. For now I will have to fill it a few times a week from a 50 gallon drum that fits in the bucket of the tractor. In future we hope to get a gravity feed system worked out.

With the fence done and water available the new pasture is now ready for some livestock. That will happen tomorrow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What a beautiful day we had today. Temps in the low 80's, sunny skies with big puffy clouds floating overhead while we worked outside.

I finished mowing the lawn, planted my seed potatoes, mulched the asparagus beds, mucked out the alpaca barn, put weed block down around more of the raised garden beds and just enjoyed being outside.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just a few updates

Well, just an update on a few things around the farm.

Purslane's (one of our American Chinchilla rabbits) litter of ten kits has been doing great so far! Today they are 10 days old. They are so big now, eyes open and looking like little miniature rabbits. They are starting to act like popcorn kernels and vaulting straight up into the air. As warm as it has been I am still nervous that they will vault out of the nest box overnight and get chilled and die (that happened to Purslane's first litter at 9 days old). Hopefully I will have some rabbits for sale in a month or so.

The remaining 13 chicks that hatched out in the incubator are still doing well. Yesterday I took them out of the brooder box and put them in with the chicks in the brooder pen that were hatched out under my Orpington hen over a week ago. I wasn't sure if the older chicks would pick on the little ones but so far everyone seems happy. One of the older chicks has a wry beak where the top and bottom beak do not align properly. It will need to be culled but for now it is growing well. If it continues to keep up with the others I will cull it at 10-16 weeks old.

The ducklings are growing quickly. I love the little ducks... they are so cute. Sadly, there are two ducklings that will also have to be culled. One has a malformed neck. The neck comes out of the body at about a 90 degree angle from front so it looks like there is an "S" curve in his neck. Otherwise it seems fine. The other duckling to be culled also has a wry beak. If they do well growing out they will be culled about 16 weeks old. The Pekin duckling we got at Southern States is twice the size of our Muscovy duckings. I don't know his age so it may be that it is just a week or so older. But it sticks out like a soar thumb being so big and yellow. McKayla loves it though and holds it whenever she can.

I am now pretty sure that both my Nigerian Dwarf does are pregnant from our new buck Gottaway. If so we will have kids sometime in July.

My tomato and pepper seedlings are growing strong. I may have to re-pot some of the tomatoes into larger pots before transplanting them into the garden. The garden... sigh... I don't know what to do about that. I need to figure out an attractive way to keep the poultry out of my raised boxes. Last year they were too young to come out to the garden but this year it has become a favorite place to scratch and dust bath. I can't plant anything in them until I get this figured out.

Finally, another one of the turkey hens is MIA today. I sure hope that they are setting on nests because if something is eating them at this rate I wouldn't have any turkeys by the end of the week.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Missing turkey hen

Our turkey count here on the farm is one tom and four hens. They all stick together like glue and it is very rare that you see one out of eyesite from the others.

Today I noticed that there are only three hens about. I looked around to see if I could locate her in the barn or the cow pasture but with no luck. So, I figure one of two things happened to her:

1) She got snatched by a fox or coyote during the night.
2) She is sitting on a nest of eggs hidden somewhere on the farm.

Since there are no signs of anything tramatic happening overnight I am really hoping for the latter. I guess I will only find out after another 28 days when any eggs would have hatched out. Maybe she was upset with me stealing her egg everyday. I would love to see her appear with a string of poults walking behind her.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Time for turkey... eggs that is.

Well, with the mild success of hatching eggs in the incubator I decided to set some turkey eggs in it today. I had been collecting turkey eggs for over a week now (usually two a day) with the thought that I would incubate them since none of my four turkey hens seem to care at all about setting on them. I hope to have at least 50% hatch rate as I have several people on my turkey poult waiting list and several other people wanting to be on my Thanksgiving turkey list.

If it works I hope to set several more batches of turkey eggs this spring/summer as well.

We had farm visitors today that stopped by to see the alpacas. I always enjoy talking alpacas and showing off the farm.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fence progression.

Finally, we had a weekend with no rain so we could continue work on our new pasture cross-fencing. Yesterday, we finished drilling the holes and setting the posts. Today, we got about 300 feet of woven wire stretched and installed. I know it doesn't sound like much but it involved a lot of splicing. Neil was able to get the "end rolls" free from the fencing company working at his job site right now. The rolls are only between 50-75 feet long. It defiantly made for longer labor time to install but without this fencing we wouldn't have been able to cross-fence at all this year so we don't really mind.

We would have finished one whole run but we were driven out of the pasture in the late afternoon by a sudden thunderstorm. So, now we will have to wait until next weekend to finish up and move some of our alpacas around.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shearing Day

Good as their word the shearer's arrived at 7:30am ready to roll. A half an hour to set up their equipment and explain the procedure and we were bringing in our first alpaca by 8am.

We got all 18 animals done by 11am... just three hours. That is 6 animals an hour or only 10 minutes each to get them in, shorn and out. Not too shabby for a crew that had limited shearing experience.

Once we were done we all packed up and headed down to David Rosin's farm. It didn't take long to finish up at David's and before we knew it our shearing day was over. I had been so anxious about how it was all going to happen and it was hard to believe that it was done for another year.

Neil and I learned a lot throughout the day and hopefully we will remember and bring some of that knowledge to next year's shearing day!

When we returned home late that afternoon we were greeted by a strange noise coming from the bedroom. For a second I couldn't figure out what it could be and then it dawned on me... it was the noise of a chick. I had purchased a small still air egg incubator a few weeks ago and had set some eggs in it to see if I could get some to hatch out. I admit I have been so busy with other things that I haven't paid much attention to the incubator... only checking every few days to see if the temperature was OK and adding water. I couldn't even remember what day I actually set the eggs in it.

I peaked inside and I had two chicks hatched out and three more that were pipping out! I moved the incubator to the kitchen where it would be easier to keep an eye on them. I was amazed that my lackadaisical attempt at hatching eggs actually produced life! I look forward to morning to see if any further are hatched out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Final prep for shearing

I spent the day doing the last of the tasks I needed to get done before tomorrow's shearing day. I straightened up the barn a bit more, making room for the snack table and a work surface for tagging the fleeces. Then I mowed the lawn to make the farm look neat and tidy.

In the afternoon Neil's mother arrived to whisk Evan and McKayla off for a few days of fun. It was wonderful for her to travel up from SC to be with the kids so we could concentrate on the shearing. They plan on staying in a hotel, swimming, getting room service and visiting a children's museum while away. They should be back on Friday afternoon.

Just as the kid's were leaving David Rosin, of Day Dawn Alpacas, pulled into the farm towing his trailer. He was followed by David St. Laurent, of Rolling Meadows Farm. David R. was transporting four of David S.'s alpacas from David S.'s farm just North of us in Virgilina, VA. We pulled the trailer up near the barn and gave water and hay to them. They will spend the night in the trailer before getting shorn in the morning.

While they were here I enlisted the help of the Davids to get one of our males, Sidney, in from the big pasture. He likes to graze out with the cows so it is a little more difficult to get him into the barn when we need to. A long length of rope held between the three of us quickly and easily moved him up into the barn. Once in the barn I secured him in a stall for the night with some hay and water. I was glad to have that done so we didn't need to worry about it in the morning as the shearers are to be here at 7:30am to get started.

Both David's will be here tomorrow to help with shearing our 13 alpacas and one llama and David S.'s 4 alpacas. We will then all travel down to David R.'s farm on the South side of Roxboro to shear his 11 alpacas. It should be a full day!

I finished up my day by cooking up some breakfast goodies for the morning: Banana Nut Bread Muffins and Homemade Biscuits and Sausage. Along with some doughnuts and juice it should keep everyone energized through the morning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Broody Birds

I snapped a few photos today of our Embden goose and one of our chocolate rippled Muscovy ducks that have been setting on eggs for a few weeks now. They both laid their eggs in the nice nest box that Neil built for me a few months ago. None of the birds used the box for the longest time and I think Neil was doubting the need to build it. I think it was just something new to their environment and it took a bit for them to get used to it and trust it was a safe place to brood their young.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Herd Health Day

Today was our herd health day for our alpacas. Once a month we get our hands on each of our alpacas and check body condition scores, trim nails, give Ivomectin injections and any other vaccines or medical treatments needed.

Since I don't make a habit of reaching out to touch or pet our alpacas I look forward to this day so I can get my hands on these super soft creatures! It is also the best time to remove any foreign material from their fleeces. And today that was a major part of our time since this coming Thursday is our annual shearing day so I wanted to remove as much veggie matter from deep in the fleeces as possible. As usual we had very few problems and everything went very smoothly.

In the rabbit hutch our doe Purslane kindled a litter of 10 kits this morning! This is her third kindling but unfortunately she lost both of her previous litters due to cold weather. I am holding my breath that all goes well with this litter.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Call of Nature

Wasn't I surprised this morning when I went to feed the rabbits to find that our doe Chamomile was in with our buck Sasaparilla! A few months ago when Sas had figured out how to wiggle into Cams cage Neil reinforced the connections between the vertical and horizontal wire mesh sides. So, how could I now find both rabbits together?

I looked along all the seams and they all seemed tight still. After being puzzled for a few more minutes it finally dawned on me how she got over... The new kindling box that Neil built has a small horizontal platform on top (about 5x11 inches). Cam must have stood up on that platform and reached up to the top of the wire mesh, which is about 14 inches or so above the height of the platform and smushed and wiggled herself through the unreinforced ceiling junction into Sas's cage.

She must have REALLY wanted to get over there to be with the buck. Oh well, I was planning on putting them together soon anyway. Maybe she knows more then me!

*Note: we did not build these cages. They were here when we moved to the farm. We really want to build new rabbit hutches but that may not be a project for this year.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

An odd duck.

We had to go to Southern States to get some feed today and when we arrived we discovered that their "Spring Chick Days" was going on. You got a free chick with every purchase of chick starter. Well, that is one of the items I needed to pick up so we got to pick out a free chick to take home with us.

We chose to get another duckling. They had White Peking or Mallard ducklings to choose from. The kids and I picked a Peking since we didn't have any white ducks. McKayla named it "Eggy". We brought Eggy home and he/she settled right in with our new Muscovy ducklings born yesterday.

Evan with Eggy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Our first ducklings are here!

Back at the beginning of March two of our Muscovy ducks (our blue hen I call Cinder and one of the self-blues I call Angel) laid their eggs in the hollow base of an old oak tree in the cow pasture just a few feet outside of the poultry run. So, for a few weeks now I have been peaking into the tree every morning and asking "Any babies in there yet?" and there never is... that is until this morning!

This time when I looked in on the ducks I saw a small little head sticking out from under Angel. I was so excited to finally have a baby duck around. My next thought was that I needed to move everybody out of the tree right away because if the duckling(s) wandered out of the tree they would be fair game as a snack for our Livestock Guardian Dogs.

I got a bucket out of the barn and put some hay in the bottom and headed back to the tree. I scooted Angel off to the side and found 5 hatched ducklings and one egg that was mostly pipped out. I put them in the bucket along with some of the unhatched eggs. I moved them into an empty brooder in the chicken coop. Back at the tree I reached under Cinder and found two more ducklings and a bunch more eggs. I moved them and both Cinder and Angel into the brooder. By the end of the day we had 19 ducklings hatch out. They are so very cute!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

After almost a week straight of rain today it cleared off and was warm again. By the afternoon the grass had dried out enough that I was able to mow the lawn for the first time of the season. It is amazing to me how different (and neat and tidy) the farm looks when the grass is mowed down. I like to mow with the tractor as for the most part I have a great view of the pastures and all the animals we have.

Today was particularly fun as the animals were also very thrilled that the rain was gone and the sun was out. The four cows and our mini donkey were just straight out running around the pasture, skipping and twisting all the way. The alpacas were out grazing as a herd what little grass has started to grow in their pasture too.

Just a pleasent day after such a cold wet gloomy week.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Final chick count

Well, I had two more chicks hatch out last night to bring our chick count to seven. Six of them are light colored and only one is dark.

McKayla with chick.

I sold a dozen eggs today.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Gloomy day.

Not much going on here at the farm today. It rained most of the day so we stayed inside except to feed the animals.

The only sad thing to report is my last chick to hatch out yesterday didn't make it. It was actually alive this morning but still looking really weak. Then this afternoon when I checked on them I found it dead. The other five seem to be doing well eating and drinking so I hope they will all make it. Peaking under the hen did not reveal any more pipped eggs for now.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More chicks...

I was pleased to discover that the four little chicks I discovered yesterday all seem bright and alert this morning. I took a peak under the broody hen and found two more eggs that were pipping out. I put them in the box with the chicks under the heat lamp while I finished up chores.

Later in the afternoon when I checked on the chicks again one of the chicks had successfully hatched out and was dry and fluffed up. The other chick was half out of the egg and looking tired. I hope to see six fluffy chicks in the morning we will see.

Since this hen has proven to be a good mother hen I slipped a few of the Welsummer eggs under her to see if she would continue to sit long enough to hatch them out as well.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

We have chicks at last!

This morning while in the chicken coop I heard the chirping of chicks coming from the corner nest box. As I walked over to investigate I saw a limp chick on the ground under the wall mounted box. My heart sunk at first but when I picked it up I saw a spark of life. There was some blood on the side of it's head, most likely from the fall, but I hoped it was just cold. I slid it into the neck of my fleece jacket as I set about getting a brooder ready.

I found the bottom of a plastic tote up on the deck and brought it down to the coop. I put it into one of the large brooder pens with some straw on the bottom. I then got down one of the brooder heat lamps and set it up over the tote. I held the limp chick under the lamp for about five minutes flipping it over to keep from getting to hot. Once I saw it start to move a bit I set in on the straw under the lamp and went to see how many other chicks I had.

I found three fluffy chicks under the hen in the nest box. I decided the best thing to do to prevent any more falls would be to move the chicks into the tote and move the broody hen and her remaining eggs in the brooder pen along with them. She seems to be a nicely stuck hen and settled right back down on the eggs on the nest I made for her next to the new brooder tote.

Into the tote I but a chick waterer and some chicken pellets that I ran through the blender to become crumbles. The crumbles I put into the bottom of a paperboard egg carton. This is the perfect size and height for young chicks to feed.

My little cold chick was now chirping and moving around a bit, although still not walking well. I have faith that it will continue to improve now that it is warm again and I will find it looking good come morning!

These chicks are mixed "farmyard" birds. The hen sitting on them is a Buff Orpington. The eggs are both light brown and green. The brown eggs could be from the Orpingtons and the New Hampshire Reds and the green eggs from the Easter Eggers. The hens laying these eggs could have bred with any of our roosters which include Welsummer, Cukoo Maren, Barred Rock, Dominique, Speckled Sussex, Dark Cornish or our Hill Roamer Roo. It will be fun to see what they grow into.