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.