Saturday, March 15, 2008

If this is what Spring will be like, I better get my sleep in now!

We've had several gorgeous days in a row here and have taken full advantage of them. Unfortunately, that means that there is precious few moments left over for things like blogging. The little time I've been at the computer has been while feeding Abby. And that means that any writing I do has to be one-handed. That does not make for easy typing. And you know how verbose I can be.

So, here are a few of the farm updates and chores we've been working on. We've taken a few days off from school to play catch-up on chores and to give ourselves a breather. We seem to have hit a math wall with Caleb, so it was a good time to just back off.

1. On Wednesday, we drove to Lincoln, ran a few errands, and then drove on to Milford to pick up 4 baby Nubian goats. We got 2 does and 2 wethers. I will plan on going into much greater detail when I have pictures to post of them. We get totally mobbed by these precious little goats every time we go in the barn and I've just not brought my camera with me...yet. I will, though. I promise. They are so incredibly cute.

2. Speaking of goats, we made a hard decision Tuesday. We've been dancing around it for a while now and just finally got forced into a decision. Our pygmies needed a solution. First, they had been standoffish ever since bringing them home about 6 weeks ago. They were raised without much interaction from people and so were very fearful. We could not get them to warm up to us. We also had to deal with the issue of housing miniature goats and full-size (Nubian) goats together. Since our pygmies were about the same size as the Nubian kids, it brought up a few problems. First, how do you keep adults housed together when half of them are the size of kids...where do you put the manger, waterer, etc. so that both can use them comfortably. When the kids are together, the same problem exists, especially because Pygmy kids are only 2-5 lbs at birth! They are obviously going to need special attention to size of fencing, manger, etc. We also were wondering about the wisdom of having bought them with horns still on. Though many people have horned goats, it is generally recommended to disbud them. Goats can easily injure each other or people, usually playfully, but seriously nonetheless. I couldn't imagine having to deal with a gored goat playmate or gored child.

So, with the coming of the Nubians, our hand was forced. We made a family decision to butcher the Pygmies for meat (they are considered a dual purpose breed...descent suppliers of milk, but with a stocky build good for meat as well). It was hard. However, it went okay and in the end, both our kids decided that goat meat was really very tasty. I guess that just goes to show that even named animals can be eaten, even by children. It was hard, and if it wasn't, I would worry about all of us! But, as with all meat, the animal gives its life so that we can live ours. It is a gift of God (though I do realize not his original design) and we are grateful for the chance to know our food. It may seem weird to some, I know, but it has given us a deep appreciation for our food.

3. Chief Wahoo had kittens! Friday morning, while out feeding the goats, Caleb noticed that Chief no longer had a bulging tummy. He saw her coming out of the barn, so we went in and heard scritch-scratching coming from up in the hay loft. We climbed up there and found the kittens hidden in a little box. Chief came back and didn't seem to be too worried about us finding her litter. She climbs into the box to nurse the kittens. It is quite adorable, as the box is really quite small. There is barely room for her in there, let alone the 4 kittens!

4. The kids and I worked at repairing the old fence around the old garden. We have been using it as a compost pile, but the fence was in disrepair, so chickens, dogs, and just about everything else was getting into it and dragging around any meaty additions. So, the kids and I fixed the fence back up and got the gate back on so it looks neat and keeps out most critters.

5. We also spent some time just cleaning up the outside. Our yard was starting to look a little junky. The garage remains unfinished and thus open, which means that both dog and wind carry everything out and about the yard. Also, a decent amount of junk had built up in the wooded area just to the north of the house...rusted cans, broken glass, etc. We cleared it all out and took a trip to the dump. We also got rid of our dishwasher via Craigslist. It had been sitting out on the patio since we removed it from the kitchen during remodeling and, well, I was starting to wonder if we shouldn't just go ahead and complete the look with upholstered furniture on the front porch, if you know what I mean.

6. The chicks in the basement are growing like mad. They've already had a good amount of real feathers come in. No more puff balls. We have decided, though, that we will not purchase chicks at the farm store again. We had such great success with our chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery last fall. We didn't lose any during shipping and all were very healthy. Only 1 died from unknown reasons (the others that died were killed by predators) and it was after several weeks of having them. Well, the chicks we brought home from the farm store were not nearly of the same quality. We lost 3 nearly immediately, which is a 10% loss (way more than the normal expected loss). And, of the ones that are left, we have one who's beak does not line up properly, most of them had major problems with poo building up on their rear ends, one of them seems to have her eyes glued shut, and one has a minor deformity of the feet. Way too many problems, especially in proportion to the number of chicks we got. Lesson learned. We still need to order broilers and will be doing that through McMurray.

7. We got some more of the garage roof done. The major problem is that the roof requires that we only work on it when the temperature is warm enough for the tar. That hasn't happened very often this winter. Don was able to get the chimney in, though, for the wood stove and now we can finish up the roof, weather permitting. It is so tedious.

8. Bonnie got hold of another hen. We were able to get her in time, and though her neck and wing were chewed, I think she will make it. She spent the night in the kitchen in a pet carrier and by morning, was feeling much better. I put her back in the coop early the next morning and after standing there in the same spot for a good 15 minutes, she finally rejoined the others and is back in the swing of things. And now, I can't even figure out which one she was...we have several others of the same kind (Barred Rocks). We think we may find another home for Bonnie. Though I think she could eventually be trained out of this, we can't keep sacrificing our laying hens in the meantime. And from our reading, it will take quite a while, if it can be done. The problem is that we are essentially fighting many, many of years of breeding instincts into her breed. I hate to give up on Bonnie, but we don't feel like we have the skill to deal with this. We've been looking at the Maremma Sheepdog breed. They have a very stron9.g instinct to protect their "herd", be it sheep, goats, cows, what have you. Even chickens. They are pricey, but it would definitely be worth it to start off on the right foot. I don't want to have to fight instinct; I want to be able to just direct it. It seems that much of the training with these dogs is just bonding them with their herd in the right window. If they grow up with the critters, they will protect them. We'll be checking into it further. Research first...then act. We are learning.

9. And lastly, we spent a good part of the day getting the lumber we need for the other projects we need to complete soon. We will be building a portable chicken coop so that we can move our free ranging hens (and roosters) out to the pasture. They will forage all day and then we will shut the door on it at night so they will be protected from predators. We are also building stalls and a milking area into the barn for the goats. Included in that project is building a milking stand, which I believe the kids and I will start tomorrow. It is a smaller project that we can handle without Don's help.

Whew. So that's that. Things have been so busy, but we've really been enjoying the challenge of it. I am starting to get a little tired, though. And, with that, I am off. It is, after all, time for the Nubians bottles!

1 comment:

Prairie Chick said...

Wow, and I thought *I* was busy! :D Enjoyed reading about your farm life, mine seems laid back in comparison, but things will start picking up around here all too soon... Nice to "meet" you!