Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I was right!

Sweet Pea delivered some time through the night! A single baby, I'm not sure if it is a doe or buck yet (I'll check later today). That's how it should go though - she's a champ and so far wins the best mommy of 2014 award. She had her baby cleaned up, she was nursing, her placenta was delivered and she was mommy talking (unique voice for her baby to recognize her, from other goats).
You can't see it very well in this photo, but it has a dark ridge on its spine. A real cutie.
I feel good that we are starting to know what we are talking about when it comes to pregnancy and birth. It should be a natural thing, but that's not always the case - sometimes they need assistance. I'll try and get a non-red toned picture later today...the red is from the heat lamp. It's still cold here...Spring...where are youuuuuuu????

Monday, March 24, 2014

No kidding?

It's that time of year kidding time. As I've mentioned in the last post, we are having issues when it comes to goat kids. The first two mothers lost their babies. However, since then, we had one of our angora goats deliver twins. Twins! Frankie Blue (that's right, we have a female goat named Frankie and a male cat named Alice - we don't play the typical gender roles here when it comes to naming animals) gave birth, completely unassisted to two bucks. They are so cute. One was good to go, right from the start. The other, which I believe was the first one born, had a little tougher go around. He was cold when we went out there. We brought him inside, snuggled him against me with a heating pad covering him up. Mark brewed a cup of coffee and gave the goat a bit, mixed with sugar, to get him some much needed energy. Mark also milked Frankie and we were able to get some colostrum into little Bandit (named for the black circles around his eyes). He perked up and was able to get back to momma quickly. This year, Frankie was able to get both boys cleaned off and was interested in getting them nursed, unlike last year, where she basically ignored Sweet Pea for the first few days.
Here we are, nearly 5 days later and the boys are doing great. They spend some supervised time in the farm yard with their aunts and uncles. They are playing and hopping around - it's really a fun time for baby goats.
Now, Sweet Pea and Itty are supposed to be delivering. Sweet Pea has a full bag, sunken sides, loose vulva, and as of my last check (about an hour ago) a little goo coming out of her who ha - all the signs of pending delivery (in fact, I assumed that last night around midnight we'd be dealing with new kids in the barn) - but we are still waiting. I'll keep making barn checks and hopefully we will have a couple more healthy deliveries soon. So I thought I'd share some animal pictures with you...

Bandit and Decaf, playing in the pasture

Decaf - sweet boy with blue eyes, just like momma.

Bandit - he's smaller than his brother, but more independent

I just think this is cute - this is Itty (on the far side) with her son from last year, Coffee. You can generally find them together, snuggled up like this.

Jester stays real still when the babies come near him - like he's afraid he will crush them or something. I love the sweet smile on Bandit's face, as he snuggles his nose into Jester.
In other news - we were able to get a bunch of seeds started! 322 of them to be exact (50 tomatoes (3 varieties), 54 asparagus, 34 cauliflower, 36 broccoli, 36 cabbage, 36 celery, 36 Brussels sprouts, 16 jalapeno, 24 green pepper) - WOOT! 

Above is the rack that we built to start our seeds on - we need to grab another 4 ft. shop light to go for the bottom shelf. I thought the window would be enough light for the top shelf - but I worry it won't be enough - we could probably just put shade tolerant veggies up there.  We need to get some thing in the ground, once it warm just a touch more. Just things that like cold feet :-)
Ok - time to go check on a goat!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do you know what I saw this morning?

...a real live crocus! A few of them actually! Do you know what that means? SPRING! The flowers seem to realize that the snow is (hopefully) gone for good. Nervously, I checked the forecast this morning and saw this:

50's and 60's and we'll pretend that the 48 on Saturday will actually make it above 50. This is very exciting to everyone in Ohio (and I'm sure elsewhere too). We've been kept inside too long. We're all cranky. We've gained too many extra "winter pounds". We need to be in the dirt, dirty hands, dirty feet, sweaty foreheads. This is the time that we stretch out from underneath our woolen blankets and do something. Although, if you ask my dogs (both asleep in separate chairs, breathing that heavy sleep breathing) they are hoping for a couple more days of hibernation. LOL. 
This weekend had its ups and downs. Mabel, our very experienced dairy goat, had some issues with her delivery this weekend. She was working and pushing and just could not open up to get her baby out. We called the vet and she came to delivery a dose of oxytocin - it worked, she opened almost immediately. Unfortunately, the one fetus that she had was already dead. Not from the delivery, it was already dead and from the look of the placenta, it had been dead for a couple of days (which explains why Mabel was trying to expel the baby, even though her body wasn't really ready for delivery). The baby was deformed though. It had more of a fur-like fiber, than the regular hair that I'm used to seeing - it also had an extended lower jaw and missing teeth. This is two babies now lost. It's sad, so sad. This is not what we signed up for...ok, I guess it's all part of being a farmer. But last year births were so simple - most giving birth when we weren't even in the barn, they would just sneak and drop a baby and we'd be like - who does this one belong to?!?! So far, two births have ended with two calls to the vet, one c-section, two dead babies. Disheartening, to say the least. I spoke to someone else at Mark's work and she too is having issues with her goats - in fact, she has lost three of her nannies - UGH! At least we still have our girls - just wish they had their babies too. :-( Hmmpht. We still have 2, maybe three more girls that should deliver, although they are our angoras/angora crosses, not dairy. We are having an autopsy done on this fetus though - just to figure out if there is something going on with the entire herd - or if it is just a fluke. Either way, I'm kinda done with all the death we've experienced this year. I wonder how many others are having goat abortion/deformation issues out there??
In good news - with this warm weather coming and, frankly, the date on the calendar is telling me we are about 7 1/2 to 8 weeks away from Mother's Day...also known as my preferred planting day! My goal is to have our seedlings ready to be put in the ground that weekend...which means we need to get the seeds started inside in the next couple of days! In years past, we have tried a number of different methods to starting seeds. We've tried setting up a table in front of our front window, where the morning sun shines through...but we ended up fighting the cats for that space - who, apparently, thinking that our seedlings were planted for them to lay on. Grr. We tried planting in the basement, but got some funky mushrooms trying to fight for planting space. So this year, we built a seed starting rack.We built a simple rack, made from 2x4s The rack has four shelves - each shelf is 4 ft. long by a foot deep. The bottom shelf is about 6 inches from the ground, shelf two is 18 inches above that, shelf three is 18 inches above that and shelf four is 2 feet above that. The bottom threes shelves have shop lights, on chains, so we can adjust the distance above the seedlings. The top shelf doesn't have the lighting, but we can put more shade tolerant seedlings up there and just set the rack near a window. Another great aspect - we added castors to the bottom of the rack - then we can move it around, as needed (including to the porch to harden the plants). Today, my plan is to mix some dirt, with peat, alpaca poo, bunny poo and compost and get ready to plant - although Mark and the kids will likely help actually plant the seeds. Time to make a plan for what needs to go in first! I wonder how many seedlings we can actually get on there!? Hmmm....more details to follow on that. 
Enjoy spring everyone! We deserve this one!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Is it Easter already?

Green eggs and ham anyone? So looky what we have here! Last year, our "Easter Egger", so their breed is called, laid pink eggs that seemed to have some sort of hypercolor ability - when you would get them wet, or hold them tight in your hands, they would change color. Very strange. So far this year, we have a consistent white egg layer (Andy, our Blue Andalusian), our three brown layers are laying here and there - not sure if those four eggs came from one bird or a mix of the three ladies and now we have one egg that is a beautiful blue/green color. Great job Hedwig! She's a beautiful bird and a sweetheart. So glad that, for now, we won't have to be buying eggs at the store! Awesome!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More on the Chicken Tractor

It is complete (sorta). The chicken tractor is out in the yard and the birds are in it...Loving their new space and all the grass that comes with it. We still need to make some tweaks on this...we were able use some of the fencing that we already had, leftover from other projects, and fence the yard area. We need to add some sort of door, to keep them warm in inclement weather (which I hear is coming back tomorrow for a couple of days). The roof is just a tarp, stapled on place all the way down one side and partially down the other - the flap at the bottom, allows us to lift the tarp and put in clean food/water. We've roped the containers from the cross bar, to keep them 1) level and 2) off the ground, so the birds can easily reach, but hopefully lessen the filth that only chickens can make (you chicken people know what I'm talking about here). We will convert the roof to some sort of plywood - with a hinged area and probably be wheeled, to make for easier moving (it took three of us to move it yesterday).
For those of you who don't raise birds, or are thinking about getting birds - the reason for something like this is to combine the free range and caged ideas. Unfortunately, we cannot just let our birds wander...we have a smaller property (they'd always end up at the neighbors), we have hawks and coyotes...it just isn't safe; however, if you leave them in one space (for example, our current coop is a stationary building with a fenced yard) - they tear up the yard so quickly, that they essentially live in a mud/dirt swamp area. This moveable coop - chicken tractor allows you to move them regularly. Once they have been on an area and clipped the grass and (ahem) fertilized the area, you simply move the structure to a new area. If you move it slow enough, the birds will just move with the structure. You can move them onto your garden beds to help weed, or once you've put the garden to bed for the season, you can put the tractor out there and they will eat the leftovers and again, fertilize the beds for next year...and fresh "pasture" means less grain that you need to supplement with. WIN WIN. They seem happy in there - running around, testing their still-growing wings very cute.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Building a Tractor

...and CHICKEN tractor!
Our meat birds were quickly growing out of their coop, in the basement. We decided this morning to move them into a side yard, off the chicken coop outside. We blocked the doorway between the two yards so that the larger layers won't hen-peck the newbies. All of the birds are getting to know each other through the safety of a fenced yard.
We were hoping to get the chicken tractor completed yesterday - but it just took longer than expected. Here are some photos We are trying to use up as much of our scraps as possible...leftover barn siding etc. We will need to paint the whole structure. We also need to add a roof - the one side will be hinged, so we can get in there and put in clean food and water for them. There is a roost bar on the other side.
The extension off the front will be fenced in - so we can let them run around have have access to all the fresh grass etc. They will also go into our garden to add fresh poo to the garden areas. We'll be able to move them to areas that we need cleaned out for raised beds etc. It'll be so good for them and us!

Friday, March 7, 2014

A fresh start at Fresh Egg's Farm

It's official, I'm a full time farmer and house wife. My contract ended with my last employer and since I wasn't willing relocate, my job ended mid-January. It's strange to not have be at the laptop all day. I still haven't adjusted and its been a month. Sometimes I get that panic feeling of having to check my emails or phone calls - but then I remember that I'm not currently tied to that lifestyle. It's a good thing that I'm not working too, with all that has been happening around here. The Snowmageddon - Polar Vortex (is it Vorti, since there is more than one?), has given as a winter that will go down in history. It has been such a rough winter. The past two days have finally offered us a bit of a warm up - which is wonderful.
We've had a bit of sadness around here too - Steve, our favorite ram, passed away recently. He was such a good boy and an incredibly beautiful sheep. We all miss him dearly, including his pen-mate, Jester. Although he is surviving and keeping on, it's obvious to me that he misses his buddy. We are working with the farm (Marushka Farms) that we originally got Steve and Jester from, to see if we can purchase two lambs, from this year's stock. More sad news came this week - with the excitement of a pending twin delivery from our first timer, Ethel. She was in labor and I realized, as time went by, that she just was not progressing the way that she should. It was time to call the vet. We love our vet - she came out immediately and told us the bad news that the baby was likely dead and that the momma was too small to deliver the baby. We would need to do an emergency c-section. We took her into the vet office and they got to work. We were able to be present for the procedure - which gave us and the kids a learning experience, although sad, it was quite interesting. As the vet progressed through the section - and cut open the uterus - dead tissue began to ooze out of the uterus. It quickly became obvious that the baby had been day for more than a day and she was simply trying to abort it. Also, there was no twin. What we thought was a twin on the ultrasound must have been a dual image for the same kid. Finally, there was now a significant chance that we would lose Ethel too. Due to all of this dead tissue and a mess of a delivery - the chance for infection is great. She spent the first night in the vet's office - and amazed the vets at how much she improved overnight. She came home the night before last and we have antibiotics for her. We also have her separate from the others - but where she can still see them - so she doesn't get too lonely.It seems that she is coming out of the woods - but it's hard to get too positive with this one. I know that loss is all part of having a farm - but this has just been a long, tough, sad, winter. We continue to try to look at the positive though.
My company offered me a healthy severance package, which will allow us to plan and purchase for the future. We have a huge wish list and have been trying to prioritize what we need, when.
:: Chickens
We ordered another round of meat birds - 25 were ordered, 27 arrived. Currently, they are living happy and healthy in a brooder box that we built in our basement. However, they are quickly outgrowing this space and we will need to, hopefully, get an outdoor space ready for them this weekend. We keep changing what we want out of this space for them - so it's time to decide and get it going. We have five layers, along with the two turkeys, currently in the hen house. They are just starting to get back into laying - the first several eggs we got were cracked (stepped on? dropped? too cold??) and had to be tossed - but yesterday we got three beautiful eggs! Uncracked and ready for eating :-) We have an order for several more layers to come in April - this will be a great addition for our family. I'm hoping that we can learn to preserve the eggs better and have less time without eggs or having to buy store eggs (ewww). We are also hoping that momma turkey will get it together and hatch some babies out for us. Wouldn't that be awesome!!?? Turkey babies born and raised on the farm for Thanksgiving dinner!?!?!?!?!
:: Bees
Yep - we are jumping back into bees this year with a vengeance. Last year, if you remember, we started with two hives - a good start for newbie ("new bee" har har har) keepers...but this year we are doubling that. We've been able to purchase 4 nuks from Don Popp's Honey Farm, along with some extra bee boxes, to get us started. The boxes will need sanded and painted...but are good and sturdy. We expect the bees sometime around mid- to late- April. I know that this year's pick up will go better than the last - I will be prepared!
:: Trees and Bushes and Food, Oh my!
I know that we keep saying that we are FINALLY done buying fruit trees etc for the property and I've come to the conclusion that...I just really like the idea of fruit trees and bushes growing on the property. If we have the space, why NOT grow as much as we can?! I mean, if there is too much for us...then there is always trading and sharing, right? So we've put in an order for the following items:
-Two different elderberry plants
-6 grape plants - the nursery refers to them as "red, white and blue" grapes, because each set comes with a set of three plants - Glenora (blue grapes), Lakemont (white grapes) and Reliance (red grapes) - and we got two sets. The arbors will be set for these along the driveway, between the peach/pear/cherry trees and the road.
-Tangerine tree - this will grow inside, during inclement weather, along side of our Meyer Lemon.
-Issai Hardy Kiwi - KIWI!? Did Fresh Eggs Farm just say Kiwi...in Ohio????? Welll....these are a type of kiwi that grows on a vine, similar to a grape (you arbor/trellis them, as you would grapes). The fruit is hairless (unlike the Kiwi you are probably used to seeing at the grocery) - inside they are green with black seeds and you can just pop them in your mouth! YUM!!!!!
:: Rhubarb - we found out that our kids are HUGE fans for rhubarb and the couple stalks that we are getting from our one plant, just don't seem to be cutting it. So we are adding another.
:: Asparagus - we got seeds for these last year and they didn't really seem to grow well. We ordered another packet of seeds; however, then I read that it was better (easier) to get asparagus starts that are already established. So we ordered some from the nursery.
:: Walla walla onions - YUM!
:: Brown fig tree - I've never tried growing figs, nor have I even had a fresh fig before; however, these seem to be a staple in the self sufficient garden.
:: Pecan Tree - we already have a pecan tree, but she is old and doesn't produce the way we'd like. We are hoping to get this tree established, before we lose the other one completely.
:: Other Plants - we've also placed and received our seed order for this year. The list is as follows:
  • Amish Paste Tomatoes
  • Pink Ponderosa Tomatoes
  • Cantare Beans
  • Bull's Blood Beets
  • Calabrese Broccoli
  • Catskill Brussels Sprouts
  • Brunswick Cabbage
  • Danvers Half Long Carrots
  • Giant of Naples Cauliflower
  • Utah Tall Celery
  • Stowell's Evergreen Sweet Corn
  • Delikatesse Cucumber
  • Boston Pickling Cucumber
  • Luffa Gourd
  • Birdhouse Gourd
  • Bushel Basket Gourd
  • Tom Thumb Lettuce
  • Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Blacktail Mountain Watermelon
  • Tennessee Red Peanut (thought these would be fun to try)
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • California Wonder Pepper
  • Butternut Squash (Waltham)
  • Early Prolific Straightneck Yellow Squash
  • Table Queen Bush Acorn
  • Zucchini (Black Beauty)
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
  • Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin
  • Riesentraube Cherry Tomato
  • Asparagus (I'm not sure what we will do with these - maybe still try to grow them?)
All of these seeds were purchased through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds -  this is an heirloom seed company, not affiliated with Monsanto. I think it's important to support these companies, as much as possible. We need to keep our seeds untainted from that GMO mess. Soon, we will be building a seed starting rack - so we can keep them out of the basement, safe from cats (who like to compete for window sun space) and control the amount of light they get (we are hanging florescent lights above the seeds, on each level). I'm really excited about this part! We've needed racks for a LONG time - I've got it planned in my head - just need to do it!

We've got our maple trees tapped and slowly but surely, they are starting to fill the buckets up. Yesterday was really our first warm day... and we should continue for the next week to have nice days and cold nights (hopefully, the perfect combination for a nice sap flow). We have to tweak our boiling process - I believe we are boiling too long, or too high or...I'm not really sure.

So what else have I been working on? Flooring and woodwork. UGH - I pulled all the carpet from our living room and parlor - we are working on refinishing the floors in these rooms. It's amazing how much gunk, dirt and dust collect in carpets. The floors underneath are beautiful wide planks - and will be amazing, once we have them all sanded and sealed etc. As part of this room redo - and due to some playing with the budget, we were able to work out getting a pellet stove installed in the parlor - WHAT A DIFFERENCE THIS STOVE HAS MADE IN OUR LIVES! I can't say it enough. It has saved us money - we were spending $90-$180 per week, just on oil...and that was barely enough to keep it so our pipes didn't freeze and we weren't completely miserable (but with the polar vortex stuff I mentioned earlier - it was still so rough). The stove gave us a warm house, yes, but it also gave us an extra warm place to warm up in front of, after doing animals or spending any time outside. That toasty flame was the only thing that kept me from cracking this winter. Love.

I apologize for not posting in a while - but we've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride here and busy busy busy. Hope all of you are doing well in blogland.