Monday, March 30, 2009

More hay today.

Our cow hay guy called me a few days ago to let me know about some Orchard grass hay square bales he had. He knows that is what we feed our alpacas and wanted to know if we needed some more. I really didn't but it was too good of a deal to pass up. So, this morning he delivered 35 bales of it. We had just enough room out in the hay trailer to fit it.

It is not as nice as the Orchard grass hay we are currently feeding that came from up North but it will be good for supplimenting this summer's pasture, feeding the goats and rabbits and feeding to the cows on the milking stanchion.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More of little brown dog...

Well... little brown dog was here all night again!

I called animal control right away and, after a reporting our history with brown dog, was told an officer could come out this afternoon to pick him up. So, it would be another day of brown dog on the farm.

I normally have the doorway to the barn blocked by a section of goat paneling (to keep out not only stray dogs but our own beloved house dog, Tate, as well. Tate likes to find eggs in the barn and eat them... a practice that is neither good for Tate's waist line or the gathering of eggs for sale.

Little brown dog was quite interested in the barn door so I had a thought. I took the tractor out to the goat barn and retrieved the large wire dog kennel that I often use to house goat kids overnight so I can milk their dams. I reassembled the kennel outside the barn but near the door. I then continued on with my morning chores but left the door unblocked. Sure enough curiosity got the best of him and he came into the barn to check out Emmie and Berk as they eat their breakfast. As soon as I felt he was far enough into the barn I quickly blocked the door again so he couldn't leave. Then from the outside I pushed the kennel up against the doorway, removed the goat panel and opened the kennel door. When little brown dog tried to leave the barn again I swung the door shut and he was caught! He did not like being caught one bit and barked and barked in his cell. I dragged the kennel away from the barn door so finally the alpacas could relax, come into the barn, eat and get dry.

Just as I was getting brown dog settled away from the barn, some folks I was expecting arrived to purchased some of our Muscovy ducks. They were a wonderful family and stayed and visited far longer then they had intended too I think. After much discussion they took home four of our female ducks, three chocolate and one black. Just as they were leaving our two Irish Dexter bulls decided to make themselves a nuisance and broke the wire clips that hold a woven wire fence to its T-posts, slipped under the fence and were head wresting with each other in the alpaca pasture! These fine folk (who also raise cows) helped me round up the rouge boys and return them to the cow pasture where they belong. A big thank you to the Adkins' family!

Later this afternoon, the animal control officer arrived and was so thrilled that brown dog was locked up in the kennel. It made transferring him the dog box on the truck so easy. She asked a few more questions about him and then they were gone! Yeah! No more little brown dog!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brown dog here to stay?

I awoke at 5am this morning and I could see out the window that the little stray brown dog from yesterday was pacing down at the barn again. Goodness knows how long he had been here before I woke. He stayed here all day... in the rain... pacing the fence and trying to squeeze through the gap in the gate. He would bark at the kids and I any time we were outside. He would also bark at the alpacas when they came close to the barn so they stayed out in the pasture all day in the rain as well.

I went outside at 11:30pm and he was still there... still pacing the fence. I have never seen him laying down at all. He has been pacing or running the fence for almost 36 hours. You would think he would be tired and hungry by now.

Anyway, if he is still here in the morning... which I am sure he will be. I will have no other option then to call animal control. He is stressing out our animals, barking and acting unpredictable around me and the kids and he just needs to be gone. I have never called animal control before in my life but this little guy gives me no other option. I wish his people would just come get him and keep him gone.

As an aside... Emmie was still in the pasture this morning! The first time in weeks! Yeah!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stray dogs

The phone woke me early this morning. It was my neighbor T. calling to tell me that both of my livestock guardian dogs were outside the pasture fighting with two stray dogs. I quickly threw on some jeans and boots and headed out the door. My arrival was change enough that my dogs stopped fighting and I got them safely back into the pasture. I couldn't see any obvious wounds on my dogs... one of the strays was not so lucky and he had blood on his neck, leg and inside his mouth. The larger of the strays (the bloody one) was a yellow lab (cross?) and the other was smaller, brown and medium haired. I could see that the lab had an invisible fence collar on and had in ID tag hanging off it. The little brown dog had no collar at all.

T. was out behind her house so I went over to find out what she had seen. I guess the strays were trying to get into the pasture which was aggravating my two (that's their job... good dogs!). T. said she went in to get the phone and when she came back my LGDs were out of the pasture fighting. I had no doubts that Emmie can get out but I was unsure how Berk had gotten out as well. T. was worried about her dog that is on a run behind her house as neither of the strays had left the farm. They were in fact running all over marking everything! T. and I tried everything to catch them... dog food, treats, offering a ride in the car... nothing would bring them closer to us. Then the lab came over to T's. dog and T. managed to get her hand around his collar. Unfortunately, that act started a fight between the dogs which had to be broken up with a stick.

Neither stray seemed to have any interest in returning home and even moving on to some other property. By now an hour had gone by and we still couldn't catch them. The lab and I had moved back over to the area between our house and barn. I had totally forgotten about how my LGDs had gotten out in the first place... which turned out to be a good thing since Emmie came running out from behind the barn again and grabbed the lab over the haunches and laid him down on the ground. I knew this was my only shot to get hold of him. While Emmie still had him pinned to the ground I reached in and snapped the lead to his collar. I pulled him the few feet to the deck and quickly tied him up. Then I grabbed Emmie and pulled her off of him and took her back to the barn. Then I went behind the barn to see where Emmie had gotten out this time.

Emmie watches out across the cow pasture - photo taken last week

It seems I finally curtailed her normal route of escape yesterday. This time she actually opened the 16 foot gate enough for her and Berk to get out. This is quite a feat as the gate is a heavy corrugated steel one and all the weight is resting on a cinder block angled out. So, for one of us to open it we need to lift it up several inches to clear the block before it will swing in to open. She must have been very determined to get out to get those dogs! The gate is now additionally held tight by a chain.

Back up at the house I got the owner's phone number off the lab's collar and left a message that he was here, that he had been in a fight but he was now secure and waiting to be picked up. About an hour later the owner returned my call and said that they would not be able to come get him until the afternoon. I asked her if the brown dog was hers and she said no it wasn't. Darn, as the brown dog was still pacing the fence, barking and just generally making a pest of itself.

Later this afternoon, the owner's arrived to pick up the lab. I showed them were I had found a few minor puncture wounds on his neck and leg and recommended they be clipped and scrubbed clean. At the same time the gentleman, R., that purchased some hens and roosters last week arrived to get some cross bred duck eggs he was going to incubate. After the lab left R. told me that someone had pulled over up on the road and picked up the brown dog as well. I am glad he saw that because I had missed it.

Anyway, R. took about 25 duck eggs that are a possible cross between our Muscovy hens and the Peking drake that we got as a free duckling at Southern States last Spring. The drake is now gone but I have been pulling the eggs until I am more sure that they will be pure with our Muscovy drakes. Since I am not interested in having mule ducks hatch out I had been feeding the eggs to the dogs on their food in the mornings but R. asked if he could have some to hatch out instead. I was happy to oblige.

About 45 minutes after brown dog was picked up he showed back up here at the farm! This time he stayed for about 10 minutes and then headed back up the road again... presumably home.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What to do about Emmie?

My frustration with our livestock guardian dog Emmie getting out of the fence is reaching a boiling point. I am tired of getting up in the middle of the night to lock her up in the barn. I know I could just lock her up every evening but what good is a guard dog if they can't be free to guard? I had for a few days last week started locking her up at night... until she started escaping earlier and earlier to avoid me. On the nights that I don't happen to wake up and look for her she has always been out in front of the barn in the morning waiting to be returned.

Not this morning though... Emmie was no where to be found on the farm. I jumping in the Suburban and drove up the road 1/4 mile to see if I could see her (or her body beside the road...groan). With no luck I drove the other direction and went up a side road that is visible from our farm. About another 1/4 mile up that road is the volunteer fire department house. I pulled in their driveway to turn around and as I did I noticed across the street was Emmie... sleeping on the stoop of a house.

I parked the Suburban at the VFD and walked over to get Emmie. The older gentlemen that lives there came out and told me that Emmie comes by his place a few times a week and hangs out. He said he knew were she was from since he can see the back side of our pasture from his place and sees her there all the time. Sigh.. at least I know where to look for her in the future.

Now, I knew my next problem was that I would not be able to get Emmie into the Suburban. I tried... but when 150lb dog growls at you know it isn't going to happen. I locked up the Suburban and Emmie and I hiked it back home. Luckily, the VFD's property shares a corner with our property so we could just cut through the woods a bit and then follow the electric fence back home. I was cursing that we have no gates on the far side of the pasture. It was frustrating to be so close yet have to walk so far. After Emmie was back in the pasture via the barn I had to walk all the way back to get the Suburban again. Not how I wanted to start my day!

Since Emmie doesn't get out during the day I went back in the house to get breakfast for me and the kids before coming back out to do chores. After chores were done I went to investigate how she got out this time. I was very surprised to she that she had squished herself under the 10 inches of woven wire fence that Neil had consciously left unblocked yesterday thinking that Emmie would never be able to get under it. Think again! She dug down enough and bent the fence enough to wiggle through... I could see the nail marks in the dirt were she pulled herself under. I blocked that space up and hope that will be the end of Emmie getting out. I guess only the morning will tell...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More chicken sales

I sold another 7 laying hens today. I think I am going to regret selling so many... I may not get enough eggs to fill all my customers needs. Oh well, I have a hard time saying no when someone asks if they can have that many. While we were collecting the hens (more of the cross breeds we raised last year) he noticed all the roosters I had penned up and asked about them too. So, he took all eleven of the roosters that I was planning on butchering out this week!

I know I will be without the birds for the freezer but I have such little time now with the new baby. I was happy to sell these knowing in just a few months I am sure to have more chicks hatch out. Which means more extra roosters. We are now down to just the three roosters on the farm. It is going to be quiet around here for a while.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Noodle's new cria...

I snapped this photo of Noodle's new cria this morning. He is doing really well and nursing fine. He will stay in the stall in the barn with his dam until the rain stops and it drys up a bit outside. This is Noodle's third cria and she is being an excellent mom.

The one thing odd about this little guy is his ears... they are curved up over his head. I noticed this yesterday after he was born and figured it was because his head was stuck in the birth canal for so long and that they would correct themselves. They still may, but as of today they are still curved up over his head. I wonder if this is the way they developed while he was in-utero instead of being flat back against his neck. It will be interesting to see how they change as he grows.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why does is seem that....

...animals always pick the coldest, wettest times to give birth?

It has been raining here for two days and the rain is supposed to be here for 2 more days still. I was in the kitchen getting ready to go out to the barn to do chores when I looked out the window to see our alpaca, Noodle, laying down out in the wet pasture. She was just laying there. I watch for a moment and then went to find Neil to let him know I thought that Noodle was in labor.

Down at the barn Noodle came in as I was graining all the girls. A quick lift of her tail confirmed a birth was impending. As she was eating I slipped a halter on her so I could lead her into one of the stalls where it was at least dry. On the way to the stall Noodle cushed and then laid on her side during a contraction. That is when I saw the cria's nose wiggling and breathing! This might sound like a good thing but it is not. The proper presentation for most large animals, alpacas included, is the have the two front feet/legs present first followed by the head.

With the nose out as far as 2 inches and no toes I was a bit concerned. I had Neil, who was out in the garage by now, come and stay with Noodle with instructions to move her into the stall if she stands up. Meanwhile, I came back up to the house to read through a few alpaca books to see if this was an easy malposition to correct. Returning to the barn with refreshed knowledge, an arm full of towels, a bucket of warm soapy water and some K-Y I hoped for the best outcome.

A quick pelvic exam revealed one little foot just inside the cervix but only one. Noodle's cervix had yet to fully dilate so there was no room for me to reach in to try to locate the missing foot. I had to wait for labor to progress more. In the meantime the cria's little nose kept twitching and breathing... which was a good thing. I stayed with Noodle for another 20 minutes with no progress in the birth. I ran back up to the house to get the cordless phone so I could call the vet. Back at the barn, I called the vet's after hour emergency number and left a message.

As I walked back in to the stall with Noodle I was thrilled to see TWO FRONT LEGS out about 8 inches! I was doing the happy dance and ran down to the garage to let Neil know I thought all was well. I few minutes later the vet returned my call and I was happy to tell him everything was fine.

Noodle was pretty tired and she didn't make any progress after the cria's head was delivered even after another 30 minutes had passed. I don't like to assist with deliveries if at all possible as I think it often adds more stress to the dam and baby to be handling them a lot. But, I felt that Noodle needed a little help to complete this delivery. I took a dry towel and grabbed hold of the two front legs. During Noodle's next contraction I put some gentle traction toward her feet and the shoulders slipped out. The next contraction I assisted again and the cria was delivered. Since it was so cold and wet out and the cria was stressed from being in the birth canal for so long I quickly toweled it off and put on a polar fleece jacket on it to keep its core temperature up.

The little cria is a male that looks just like his sire, our stud Novio.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicken sales.

Got a call this morning from someone looking for laying hens wondering if we had any for sale... we sure do! They arrived about an hour later and we picked out six hens (mostly the cross breed chicks we hatched out last year). They also rescued one of the roosters to add to their flock as well. Since we are getting more then enough eggs it will be nice to have less birds to feed. It will also make room for the chicks I know will hatch out this year from hidden nests around the farm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My new sourdough starter is doing well. I only started it about 48 hours ago and it is already beginning to bubble. Below is a photo of it before I fed and mixed it for the day. I hope not to forget about it this time around. Unfortunately, I can't seem to lay hands on my sourdough cookbook at the moment... it's around here somewhere.

I remembered to take my camera to the barn to get a photo of our newest buckling. I think he is very handsome with his black and white markings. I wish I could use him as a future buck but since he is related to our all our does he will have to be sold or at least wethered. Anyone interested in this great boy?

Oh, I made another 2 dozen bagels today. I put a dozen in the freezer for later. I told you it was a bad thing I learned to make these!

Evening Update: Our LGD, Emmie, was out again tonight. When I went down to the barn to lock her up again I discovered the last two roosters sleeping on the milking stanchion. I caught both of them up and put them in the hoop house. Now all of the roosters to be butchered are separated out from the flock. That leaves me with just three roosters: my Dominique, Speckled Sussex and Hill Roamer.

My Speckled Sussex Rooster (aka Speck)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bagel Success!

Ok... this was a bad thing... learning to make my own bagels that is.

This morning I mixed my starter with the rest of the dough ingredients and let it rise while I was out doing chores. I returned to a doubled dough which I divided into 12 balls, poked a hole in the centers, boiled for 2-3 minutes then baked for 20 minutes more. Yummy! They are the BEST bagels I have ever had. They have a great crunch to the crust and are wonderfully dense and chewy on the inside. It is not good for a bagel lover to be able to make them on demand!

I cooked them in two batches. The first batch are the lighter colored ones in the photo. I decided I wanted them a bit darker for the second batch. Still both had a great crunch to them.
Don't they just look delicious?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Today's update

Let's see, what did I get done today? I managed to track down seven of the roosters and get them isolated into the hoop house pen. Looking around the barn yard I still see two more roosters that have evaded me. I will get them when I can as it will be awhile before I get these others butchered anyway.

The birds are all still laying well. The chickens gave 23 eggs this morning! I had a customer drive in and purchase them before I even made it back to the house to package them up. :) Oh, I keep forgetting to mention it up to this point but our goose has been laying for a few weeks now. She has been giving an egg about every other day. I have been taking them from her as I am not real interested in having a larger flock of geese... the two we have are enough. If she keeps it up into warmer weather I think I will let her set on some. Meanwhile, I have been blowing out the goose eggs so I can save them. I plan on using some for Easter Eggs for the kids this year. The others I plan on listing on our sight for sale for others to use in egg art.

I also got creative with one of the goose eggs and made this little gargoyle...

It uses a goose egg for the body and a bantam egg for the head. His features are made with Sculpty polymer clay and he is painted with a textured sand paint. I thought he came out adorable for my first attempt.

In the kitchen I started something new for me today. The kids and I love bagels but I have never made them before thinking they would be too much work. Well, I found a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site for mini bagels and it didn't seem too intimidating so I got it started today. It uses a 14 hour starter consisting of flour, water and yeast. I got it mixed up and it is bubbling away on the counter. Tomorrow I will make the bagels!

While I was mixing the bagel starter it occurred to me that I hadn't even peeked at my sourdough starter in about 6 months! It has been in the back of the refrigerator and forgotten during my final months of pregnancy and the two months since our daughter was born. I dug it out of the fridge and discovered it taken over by mold... yuck! I threw it out, cleaned out my sourdough crock and started over.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

This and that....

I managed to get three more roosters butchered off today. It would have been four but one of them escaped from the pen I had them in as I was trying to get hold of him. Now that all the roosters I had separated out are butchered I will start catching a few more this evening and put them into the pen so they can be easily caught during the day when I want to butcher more.

I also put our American Chinchilla rabbit buck in with our two does. I will leave him with the does for a few days. If all goes as it should we should have two litters of kits the middle of April.

The warm weather has definitely effected the birds as I found another duck egg today and the first turkey egg as well.

Neil and his Dad are still working away on the new garage. Today they are framing in the front wall that will have a car door, a people door and a window in it. Once it is all framed and sheathed I look forward to getting it painted like the barn so our farmyard will start having a cohesive look to it.

Berk, one of our LGDs, lazes about on this warm afternoon.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Meeting new neighbors

We had a wonderful visit here at the farm from a family that moved not too far from us a few months ago from Upstate NY. We sat out on the deck (it was over 90F today) and talked for several hours while our kids played together. They are starting a CSA to start in the spring of 2010. Planning and greenhouse construction is where they are at right now. It look forward to watching that plan develop!

I love meeting and connecting with like minded people.

Oh, I discovered the first duck egg of spring this morning. I didn't leave it in the nest yet... the weather is still a bit too unpredictable. After a few more weeks I will let the ducks start setting.

One of our black Muscovy ducks.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Kid's Rooms

I have spent the past two days rearranging the kids bedrooms.

When we moved here the kids chose to share one bedroom and use the second bedroom as their playroom. Now after two years they have decided that they would like their own spaces instead. Evan is to move into the current playroom and McKayla will stay in her current room. It was a bit of work to get Evan's loft bed disassembled and moved, after that the rest of the furniture moved pretty fast. Then the toys needed to be sorted with some to go in each room.

Then today I started painting McKayla's room. She chose to have a pink room (no surprise). It took a few start and stops over the day but I got about 2/3 of the room painted. The room is so bright and cheery now. It is so nice to have some color finally in our all white house that I feel inspired to get the living room painted too!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Another baby goat is here.

It was about 9pm tonight when I could hear the livestock guardian dogs aggressively barking down at the barn. Knowing them as I do I figured that something was being born and they were being protective of it.

I hoped it might be our first spring cria (baby alpaca).

McKayla and I went down to the barn and there, just inside the gate, was our Nigerian Dwarf goat, Pepper, with a wet little baby standing beside her. It was a beautifully marked black with white kid. I lifted it up and determined it was a buckling. I got him and Pepper settled into one of the stalls for the night. Then I went ahead and put Emmie our LGD in there with them as it was very cold (about 17F) and I figured it would give the little guy one more warm body to sleep with if needed.

This will be the last of our goat kids for this spring. Two does and a buckling.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Snow... and lots of it!

It snowed last night! Yeah! This is our third snow coverage of this winter but only the first that I have been able to enjoy since I was still on bed rest from the c-section during the last two. Here are some pictures of the farm... just beautiful...