Friday, June 6, 2014

More fun around the farm!

It's been an exciting few days around here!

We are taking part in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with our eggs, and quickly realized we needed our baby chickens to start laying to meet demand.  This obviously can't be forced, so I started searching craigslist for laying hens.  After a couple dead ends,  I found my chicken man!  We quickly made arrangements to meet in the next town over at a Tractor Supply to pick pick up our newest egg makers.   It was like a farm drug deal... just swap out the drugs and illegality for chickens in the back of a pick up truck!!  Some of our new chickens lay white eggs!  We've only had brown egg layers in the past... so as commonplace as a white egg is to a grocery store- this was a new and exciting thing for our farm!

Something actually felt oddly right about pulling up to Tractor Supply with a dog crate in my van and transporting 5 new hens home... maybe it feeling oddly right wasn't it... just nothing felt peculiar.  I got home and thought... wow... I didn't even hesitate... the farm girl transformation is just about complete! Oh, 17 year old Sb... if you could see your future.

We also welcomed our three bottle calves this week!  Squirelly, Bert and Moe, our three holstein bulls.  They are about 5 days old and sweet as they can be!

To clear up a few questions I've received on Facebook.  Yes, we named them.  We name everything.  We can't help it.   Yes, they are our "pets" for the time.  Farming has desensitized me in a way.  Don't get me wrong.  I grieve every creature we lose-- or better stated, I grieve every creature we lose prematurely.  I hurt for the loss and waste of the animal.  When we lost our first chicken to a dog attack, I worried myself sick.  I thought I would never be able to do this.  Losing animals is nearly a certainty... it's life... and it's hard.  When we lose animals to attrition (sometimes baby chickens go missing-- could be hawk-- could be hungry guardian dog (who doesn't watch chickens anymore mind you!)-- could be fox or any other hosts of silent predator), I still grieve- not to the point that I used to- but I still mourn.

But questioning whether I can eat something I named is not a problem for me.  A friend beautifully stated... that there's nothing more precious (and lost on our culture) in this life than to see our food process from beginning to end.  I don't know if we will keep one of our three bulls for our personal consumption-- but I do know that I can take them to the stockyard knowing that they were given a healthy and cared for life.  I can sell our eggs, knowing that our chickens are incredibly content.  That they have acres of land to roam and forage and a clean coop to return to at night.  That they have a guardian dog who watches over them intently.  We respect the land and the animals and treat them well-- something heavy industrial farming loses.   In small farming, you do get to know the animals, you do care for them, I don't mourn them when they serve out their purposes- there is no grieving in that.

Even more fun for us is sharing our farm chores with our friends!  A little Tom Sawyer wisdom goes a long way... I'll put out the call when we have fences to whitewash!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Shepherdess Report...

It's been nearly a month now, and I'm happy to report we are definitely bonded!

Each sheep has eaten out of my hand now, though Hannah still has some reservations about the matter.  She's perfectly content to just wait me out and clean up whatever little feed has hit the ground (I try to save her a little).   Alexander, on the other hand, is now my biggest fan.  He lets me pet him down the back and scratch his ears, just as long as I have treats.  He, Lincoln and Rummy all love to be pet if it means they get treats.  I get snorts and grumbles from the others- treats are just not enough incentive for petting time.

I survived my first official "ramming".  Technically,  it wasn't me Matthew was ramming, I just got caught up in it.  I had wandered down to the barn, not intending to go in... and since I was not intending to go in, I was barefoot.  Well... I couldn't resist and went just inside the gate to feed them... they weren't crowding too badly, mostly it was Alexander and Cammy and I just hanging out and the next thing I knew there was a flash of black and I saw a lowered head crash into Alexander's side.   Matthew had started about 10 feet back and launched himself into Alexander... evidently not appreciating a line to the feed bucket.  I instantly thought I was going to be stepped on, so I jumped and Alexander's side pinned me against the gate.  He's thankfully very soft and squishy and weighing in just over 100 lbs, I escaped unhurt, though my heart was racing quite a bit!!  Boots are now a standard requirement-- and I will not stand against the gate again!

The boys are quite funny together, butting heads and acting very much like rams from time to time.  Mostly, the flock is very quiet and peaceful, wandering their field trimming the tree line.

Sissy, our guardian dog is now their dog.  We put her in with them, with some trepidation due to her not being so awesome with our baby chickens (read: she discovered that chicken is delicious), but she's been amazing with the sheep.  After an initial round up session, she doesn't chase them at all, just wanders around their barn, walks her perimeter and then spends most of her day laying on the hill in sight of her flock.  We can't seem to keep her in their actual yard... she just climbs out of the gate... but we're convinced she just likes to go up on the hill for a better vantage point.  On another side note- we believe that our sweet Sister Bear is pregnant!   We will be keeping an eye on her and will keep you updated, but if it's true, we will have Patriotic Puppies (should be due around July 4th!).  They will be for sale as livestock guardian dogs and will be raised with the sheep, but if you know our dogs, their personalities would easily lend them to be a giant indoor lap dog too :)!

Sis is an awkward picture taker...

... wasn't even using a flash.  Weird dog.  She really is pretty. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Loving the Rain! Shepherdess Day 7

We have had cloudy, cold days here lately.  But the Babydolls seem to love it- they play back and forth from the barn to the field, to the barn, to the field again!   They are loving the cool, wet grass and the boys have been butting heads and chasing each other.  

We learned yesterday that Bub can climb gates!  He climbed in-- walked around-- checked his sheep and climbed back out.  He cares for them- and they like him- they don't mind when he comes  into the barn.

 I wish I had a night vision camera- last night he walked down to the barn with me- several of the sheep were laying down, I sent him in first and most of them didn't even get up- Lincoln and Bub got nose to nose- so sweet.  He walked around- checked on each one and headed out to the pasture to do a perimeter check.   He's such a good dog. 

Looking forward to sunnier weather so I can wash the rest of the fleeces!  I have washed two black fleeces and am anxious to wash the white ones as well! 

It's been an amazing week.  I feel like it's not quite real still.  I am amazed by these animals.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shepherdess Day 5!

Well... Bub didn't last the night.  We found him back with Sis this morning.  This is going to be a learning curve for him and for us.  It's hard to leave your best girl.

I'm afraid I dehydrated myself... all that fence work yesterday proved well worth it, but between my nervousness for Bub's first night with the sheep and my lack of water, I woke up at 3am with a terrible headache.  So shepherdess workout tip #1- remember to drink water.  Mercy.

I'm at 90oz of water so far today... not letting that happen again!

The sheep have loved their freedom today.   With the moon as bright as it was last night I was able to look out and see them throughout the night.  Quietly moving through the fields.  So peaceful.

Today they have ventured out, getting to know their new yard.   I called them tonight and they literally ran into the barn and all came to the gate.  I could have jumped and clapped I was so excited except that would have proved unhelpful.  The sheep are good with quiet, slow movements.  It will be a good lesson for us all.  A little more quiet, a little more grace.  But them coming to the gate at my presence is a good sign.

I have a mental list of the sheep who have eaten out of my hand.  Dr. Phil is a pro... so is Cammy.   Seth and Matthew are getting there.  Rummy,  every now and again and Lincoln is pretty good too.  Alexander and Hannah are pretty unsure of me still... but today was Alexander's day.  Or nearly.  He came soooo close.   Maybe tomorrow.   Each day we learn about each other a little more.  So, maybe tomorrow.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Shepherdess Day 4!

Lots of fence work to be done today.  We've had rain showers on and off, and so far I think the sheep liking being in the barn, but I think they are ready to get out to pasture!  

We got it done and they were more than happy to head out to pasture.  We even brought Bub down and introduced them to their very own body guard.  I didn't grab a picture... I was too busy watching him.  He was giddy!   They all settled into a nice rhythm.   He bounced around the field with them for a while... but soon, just followed them.  To the field, to the barn, to the field, to the barn.

The tough part is going to be keeping him there.  Sis is lovingly calling to him from her pen.  (Please note... their naming was just not well thought out-- Bub and Sis are not actually brother and sister-- we should note that- because she may be expecting.  And just because we are from Kentucky-- doesn't mean we are from that part of Kentucky!!  ha.)

Anyway.  Day 4- success!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shepherdess Day 3!

Still loving it.

Like you were worried.

The boys got their turn with the sheep!  They were so excited.  This is going to be such a family adventure for us.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Shepherdess Day 2!

Made some progress today with the sheep.  They are still so timid-- this is all so new to them.  Try as I might- I am not Cathy- their previous mama.  

Dr. Phil 
So far, Dr. Phil, the oldest ram, has the most courage.  He eats out of my hand first each time.  He's almost letting me pet him while I feed him.  He's very spry and quick for being 8!

I was lucky enough to have my mom in for the weekend, she snapped a couple photos while I fed.  
For now, I'm just going down and sitting with them for extended times.

The boys are really anxious for the sheep to get to know them as well.   All in good time.

Sweet Cammy
So far, the boys seem more eager to eat than the girls.  They just aren't sure.  Except for Cammy, my smallest ewe.  She just may be on her way to being a favorite.  She's just slightly shorter than the other girls and she wants to trust... she's just not quite sure yet.  She is proving that she is brave...  she's first girl to eat from my hand.   We're getting there.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Gotcha Day!

***I'm going to backdate these few first posts, because I just haven't had the time to edit and post what I had written until now!! ***

They're here!!   Sarabee's Babydolls are a reality!  I can't believe it.

It all really came about so quickly.

Shortly after moving to Kentucky, I set my heart on sheep.   It wasn't long after starting to really dig into shepherding and researching breeds, that I had my heart firmly set on Olde English Babydoll Southdowns.  Most people who know me, have sat through picture searches and retelling of websites and blogs that I've become obsessed acquainted with.

Then came the craigslist searches.  Long before I had my barn, and even longer before I had my fences or any semblance of a working plan to raise sheep, I was searching craigslist and registry sites for a flock of my own.

It's funny how when the dream starts becoming reality those searches start to dwindle.

Last Saturday, just 6 days ago, I saw a friend post pictures of a fiber festival she was attending and there was a picture of a sheep being sheared.  I thought... I haven't checked craigslist in a month-- I'll just go see what's out there.

Listed there was my flock.  A whole flock.

The post was 11 days old.  I looked at my husband and said "I am kicking myself... there was a whole flock of Babydolls for sale 11 days ago.  I am sure they are gone."  But he encouraged me (as he does) to write anyway.  So I did, I didn't expect a reply.

The next morning at church I was shocked to receive an email.  "They are still available, would you like to come out and meet them?".   I don't remember much of that day... I just knew I had to get to that farm.

The rest is a blur.  I met the sweet owners, Pete and Cathy, hear their story, meet the sheep, then fell in love, made a downpayment and started a game plan for the rest of the week.  Fence building would have to be a priority-- I have an amazing Father-in-law who quietly affirms my desire to farm.  I can't stress enough how much of a support he has been.

And here we are today... we found we still have a bit to do... some holes in our back fence were quickly found by Hannah, one of our ewes... so we spent the majority of the day trying to coax the sheep into the barn.  Patience was our virtue though and they all ended up in the barn before the heavy rain and storms came through.  We have some feed to use for a couple days as an incentive for them to trust me and get to know me as their shepherd.

I'm a shepherd.  I can't quite get over that.   Wow.  I'm exhausted.  My fitbit pedometer says I made 16,000 steps today.  I may have to market this as a shepherdess workout plan!

Looking forward to seeing their sweet faces in the morning!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It's been a while.

So I thought after my 31 days blog, I would take a little break.  Clear my head.  Refocus.

Then came the holidays.  Then came the new year.  Then came the guilt.

Before I knew it, it's been 6 months and I've not typed a word.

Part of it was shame.  A large part.

I felt like after my 31 days of writing about songwriting, I should have written more songs.  I should have an album and a grammy nod.  Ha.   Seriously, I felt a twinge of failure.   There are still songs to be written-- still songs being written.  Still focus there, but I'm starting to let go of the pressure.   I still sing regularly, I lead worship at my church and I feel so connected and so directed in that.   I write when words come.   That is all anyone can do.   Cross the river they are led to.   So with all of that-- I'm leaving the shame of not blogging behind.

On to today!  Things around the farm have stayed busy!  I've heard it said "there's always work to do on the farm."  This is not a saying, it's a fact.  As a homesteader, it's a way of life.... as far as homesteaders go, we are homestead-lite.  Still more Walmart in my life than I'd like-- but many less grocery bought eggs in my diet.

Speaking of eggs...
We have new chicks, some we have incubated, some we purchased so as to expand our egg colors!  We now have Easter Eggers (blue and green eggs) and Leghorns (white eggs) to blend in with our brown egg layers.

Our turkeys are grown and laying eggs now as well!  We have 10 in the incubator as I type!  We'll know in about a week or two if the Toms are doing their jobs!

Bub and Sis, our livestock guardian dogs, are wonderful.  Sis just had her first birthday and Bub turned two!  They are so sweet.  Sis hit a hard learning curve with the chickens and we lost several as a result.  She loved to play with them- just a bit too much (Think Lenny from 'Of Mice and Men').  Bub, on the other hand, is an amazing protector.  During this harsh winter, I looked out to see Bub curled up in his house with two hens perched up on his back.

They are soon to begin their most important job.  Guarding the sheep!

It's finally happening!  I'm getting my own flock!

These precious babies are coming from a farm in Harrodsburg, where they have been lovingly cared for, many since birth.  They are registered Babydoll Southdown sheep- which has been my dream breed.  They are considered miniatures, they don't weight over 100 lbs at maturity and only stand 17-21" off the ground.   Their wool is wonderful.  I have two hefty bags of it in my van right now, I'm looking forward to cleaning them in the next couple days!

Three of my sweet Ewes, a bit camera shy. 
Needless to say, there is still much preparation to happen around the farm before these sweethearts can join us.  I've got a fence to finish up, a barn to clean out (our greenhouse took a Wizard of OZ type flight during a windstorm a month or so ago and it's pieces were retired to the barn.... they'll now need to be rehomed or rebuilt.)  After seeing their digs at their current farm, I'm trying to figure how best arrange their barn and their stalls.  

It's all so exciting and overwhelming!  

So, farm wise- we're up to date!  I'll post a farm boy update soon as well!  

It's nice to be back.