Sunday Homestead Update – Orf?

Orf?  To me, it sounds like I am asking a question in sea lion language.  But actually, Orf, also called sore mouth, is a virus that can be found in sheep and goats, and is transmittable to humans too.  We got a call this week that our new ram was potentially exposed to it for a day during his travels from Iowa to us.  The downfall of having such a small farm is that it is pretty much impossible for us to quarantine new animals coming to our farm.  Thus, we run the risk of dealing with contagious diseases.  Supposedly, orf is only spread when the animal has active sores, which the other ram did NOT have when MacDougal was with him.  MacDougal doesn’t have any active sores right now either.  The gestation of the virus is usually 7-10 days, but can be as long as 3 weeks.  We are currently 2 weeks out from the potential exposure.  So there is a very high likelihood our flock will not get it – and that is what we are desperately hoping for.  But until next week, we wont know for sure.  We are doing what we can to limit contact as much as possible between the rams and the rest of the flock, just in case, while we wait.

Gardens

The mice are eating our gardens like crazy.  As are the robins.  The robins have eaten all the bean and pea seeds we planted.  And the mice are eating pretty much every small seedling we put out, and every little sprout that tries to pop up.  This is despite all the traps set around the seedlings and sprouts…which are catching mice each night.  So the garden is a couple of weeks behind where it normally is.  Being behind might not matter a whole lot in a regular gardening situation, but when you only have a 10-week growing season frost-to-frost, being behind by a couple weeks is a problem.  We also have a frost coming this week, so we are planning out blanketing and will do what we can to not let it kill anything.  Welcome to gardening in the Rockies.

We have put up some bird netting to deal with the robin issue and re-planted the beans and peas.  We re-planted lettuce, spinach, beets, radishes, and kale and put clear plastic cups over each one to hopefully let the seedling pop up and grow without getting eaten.  Obviously, they will outgrow the cups quickly, but this will hopefully give them a good start while we continue to battle the mouse wars.  No idea if it will work.  At this point, we are grasping to just try to get the seedlings going.

To continue our battle, we built a log-roll bucket trap to see if we could gain some ground on the mouse situation by catching more than just what our single use traps can handle.  But the bucket trap has yet to catch anything.  We are having a lot of sprung traps, and catching less mice each night lately.  We are hoping that doesn’t mean that our trapping has caused a natural selection and only the trap-smart mice are left and breeding.  LOL.

Ermine

In addition to the mouse issue, as well as the lice issue I talked about last week (see below for an update), we found a very concerning critter in the barn – an ermine.  Thanks to the cats, it was dead, and it is a very good thing because it could have killed all 14 of our chicks in one night, or potentially a full grown chicken or two.  Yes, they look tiny and cute, but they are savage predators and can kill a full-sized chicken!  And they definitely would enjoy dining on my little 4-week-old chicks.  Thank you barn kitties!  I am sure this guy put up quite a battle, and I am so glad the cats got him.

Chickens

Our broody hen, Eve, is hatching her eggs today.  We put 5 eggs under her, as well as 5 in the incubator to make up for loss.  Out of 10 eggs, 9 were fertile.  All were alive at lock-down on Thursday.  So it is looking to be a good hatch.  As the chicks in the incubator hatch out and strengthen, I will take them up and put them under Eve.  She can easily raise 9 chicks, even though she is too small to set on 9 full-sized eggs.

Goats & Sheep

We have continued with our natural oil herbal treatments on the goats for lice.  We are barely seeing any live lice anymore, maybe just one or two each day when we treat them.  We are continuing to treat them until we are past 22 days – the life cycle of the lice.

Marigold is supposedly due to lamb this week, but she is not showing any symptoms at all.  So we have decided that she didn’t take.  This means lambing season is officially over (and was over a month ago).

All the lambs (and the goat kid) are all doing very well; growing and playing like crazy.  The LGD is doing very well with them now, after our extra training sessions last week, and knows not to play with them.  We are getting plenty of milk each day from the sheep and goats and are really enjoying having it and making all our dairy products with it.

Family

We found out this week that our 4-year-old son, who has had 14 surgeries in his short life and faced many medical challenges, is yet again having liver issues.  After multiple smaller surgeries that were unsuccessful, he had a big surgery last fall that we were all very hopeful would fix his liver issues long-term.  At first it seemed like it had, but he is struggling again.  After an 8-month-long break (which we are so grateful to have experienced), we are back to the world of doctor’s appointments and testing while we figure out what is going on and plan the next steps.

Disease…pests, pests, and more pests…late frosts…it has been a challenging season so far.  But there is always something good to be found as well, as long as one is willing to look.  We are.

Sunday Homestead Update – First, Mice…Now, Lice!

Last week I discussed our current infestation of mice, and now, this week, we found that our goats have lice.  Sigh.  How did our goats get lice?  We have not brought in any new goats (these lice are species-specific).  The only time they left the farm was in November when Pansy went to get bred.  I have contacted the breeder and she says none of hers have lice.  Strange.  Little Miss spends large amounts of time brushing and grooming and petting and loving on her goat, and definitely would have known if the goat had lice before now.  A few days after the doeling was born, Little Miss found one bug on her.  We checked her and mama over thoroughly and didn’t find anything else, so we didn’t think much of it.  Last week, Little Miss didn’t have time to brush and love on Pansy and baby Pearl much, so several days went by without the normal grooming.  Then, early this week, she went back to her grooming routine and found them both totally infested with lice.  Eeeeek!  and ICK!  Maybe Pansy had a low-grade infestation all along but the grooming kept it under control?  Maybe they got them from the wild deer and elk in the area? (the vet said that is not possible).  I just don’t get it, and that is frustrating because if we don’t know how they got them, how do we prevent it from happening again?

Pansy, wet from her lice treatment

Anyway…I did some research on the internet about goat lice, and man-oh-man this is one of those topics that everyone has their own opinion on and no one seems to agree and I feel like I can’t trust anything I am reading because everyone is so differing in their opinions.  So I decided to try something altogether different, but that my gut was telling me to do.  We have a natural spray that I have used for bug repellent before.  It is an off-label use.  The main ingredient is tea tree oil and our friend uses the spray as an udder wash on her dairy goats, as well as a bug spray for them, and has never had any issues with it.  It is safe for them, even though this use is definitely off-label.  I felt like I should try it out before we went to the usual vet treatments.  Little Miss and I sprayed both of them down and rubbed it well into their fur down to the skin (with a rubber glove on).  We did it at about 10am and we saw millions of lice.  That evening, at barn chore time, we examined them (in the dark of the barn) and could only find 1 moving lice.  The next morning, we sprayed them down and worked it to the skin again.  When we were doing that, we saw that there was a huge decrease in lice, exponentially less.  We are conitnuing the treatments every day or two.  The life cycle is 22 days, so we will just continue this way for awhile and hope that it works.

As far as the mouse infestation goes…we continue to catch 12-15 mice daily.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I find this crazy and don’t know how to get ahead of this issue.  It seems they are multiplying faster than we can catch them.  We will press on and hope that the numbers start decreasing soon.  One benefit of the mouse overpopulation is that the barn cats are so busy with the mice that they haven’t had the time or energy to bother the swallows.

Gardens

We had a couple of hard frosts this last week.  All but the newest 2 of the Gooseberry and Currant bushes had put on flowers.  So we blanketed the flowering ones to help keep the flowers alive and increase our harvest.

It worked well and everything survived.

That was likely our last frost, but we are still being careful with putting frost protection on anything we put out because last year we had a surprise frost June 9th.  We have continued to plant and transplant new veggies this week.  We have also been harvesting and using the rhubarb, chives, and asparagus.

The robin population is booming and they are eating our newly planted bean and pea seeds, as well as digging up the Medicinal Herb Garden in search of worms.  The Medicinal Herb Garden doesn’t start really sprouting until mid-June, and all those seeds went in in the fall.  So I am concerned all this robin digging is messing them all up and they wont sprout.  So we put bird netting over that garden.  The robins are none too pleased with the new scenario.  But hopefully we will have some herbs start sprouting in there soon.

Speaking of the Medicinal Herb Garden…that is where our apple trees are planted.  We planted two apple trees in there 2 years ago.  After the first winter, one had died down to the root stock, but started sending up branches from there.  We decided to let it do that.  This last winter was their second winter.  The one that had survived the first winter died down to the root stock, and the other one died BACK down to the root stock again.  It seems these varieties, even though they are supposedly able to survive our cold climate, can’t survive here.  And we have had two very mild winters in a row – so if they can’t handle that, they definitely won’t make it long-term.  So we are re-thinking the apple tree plans now.

Sheep

Votes are in and it was pretty clear what our new ram’s name is…MacDougal.  MacDougal is settling in very well.  He and Remi are living in the bachelor pen together.

Our Livestock Guardian Dog is struggling again this year with the lambs, like she did last year.  She is just about to turn 4-years-old and I think it continues to be a maturity thing.  When the lambs are tiny, and stay close to their moms, and the moms are very protective, she is fine with them.  In fact, she is excellent with them.  She will belly crawl over submissively to sniff them and check them out and respects the ewes.  But as they get bigger, and start to run and play, and the ewes are not very protective anymore, then she starts to get into trouble.  She can’t resist the running, bouncing, playing lambs (who could!?) and wants to run and play with them (heck, I want to run and play with them too!).  The problem is that she is 110 lbs of dog, and wants to play like a dog, and they are much smaller lambs, who play like lambs.  The main issue is that she grabs one of their back legs and holds it, while they run along.  She is gentle and doesn’t break the skin or anything, but this has led to some limping lambs, both last year and this year.  The limp goes away after a couple of days, but it is still not good.  So we have been spending extra time training with her this week and teaching her this is not OK.  And she has also had to spend some extra time living in the back pen with the males when we can’t be keeping an eye on the situation.  Overall, she is an amazing LGD, and we fully expect her to grow out of this and not have this issue every year.  The training this week has shut it down…for now…but we will keep an eye on things.

Is Marigold pregnant?  Or not?  We are not sure.  She is supposedly 10 days from her due date, but we are not seeing very clear signs to support this.  We are wondering if she didn’t take, or if she didn’t take and then got bred at a later date than we thought.  We are keeping an eye on her, and we have her on the end-of-pregnancy diet just in case.  But I am guessing we are done lambing for the season.  Time will tell…she might surprise us.

Chickens

Our very awesome, sweet, friendly rooster, Ben, had moved into the bachelor pen because we can’t use him for breeding anymore since we kept him so long and now would be doing some major inbreeding if we kept using him.  But he is so great and gentle that it seemed a waste to eat him.  So we decided to separate him out for now, and let our new roo, Nilo, do a year or two of breeding and then bring Ben back once we had less of his daughters and grand-daughters in the flock.  Well, some friends came by to drop off fiber at the mill and look at our sheep and they saw Ben and heard his story.  They have a flock of free-ranging hens and would like to have a rooster to protect them, but have had trouble with mean roosters and didn’t want to deal with that.  So Ben has now moved on to live with them.  He seems happy to have a flock to look after again, and it will be a very nice home for him.

Ben the rooster, with the flock last year

The oldest hen on our farm, a Silkie named Eve, has been setting eggs and raising chicks for us for many years now.  She is 7 years old and still lays 4 eggs a week when she is not brooding.  She raises anywhere from 1-3 clutches of chicks for us every year.  What a great hen!  Well, she is at it again, setting on 6 eggs.  I put another 5 in the incubator because she can raise more chicks than the amount of eggs she can fit on (she is a bantam), and it will make up for any loss we have too so she is raising a full clutch.  All 5 eggs in the incubator are fertile (good job, Nilo!) but I haven’t gotten around to candling the ones under Eve yet.  I expect they are all fertile too.  They will hatch out next week.

Eve

In the Farm Kitchen

We have continued making dairy products with all this fresh goat and sheep milk.  This week we made more yogurt, mozzarella, and our first batch of chevre.

I have also been making some herbal medicines this week.  I made an Arnica/Comfrey salve, and a liver cleanse tincture.

Sunday Homestead Update – a Full Homesteading Mom Life

I live a full life.  At times, it feels totally overwhelming and I have to stop myself and take a breath and just realize how blessed I am to have such a full life.  A life full of love, relationships, fun, noise, messes, craziness, (occasional) quiet moments, losses, success, failure, a never-ending list of things to do and get done, dishes, laundry, and more dishes…and so much more.  This week I actually found myself changing a diaper with one hand, while holding a baby chick in the other, and, as if that wasn’t challenge enough, my phone rang and it was an important call that I needed to take and could not ignore.  I just burst out laughing, looking at myself in this crazy situation.  Obviously there is a story there, but it is too long for me to get into why I was changing a diaper while holding a baby chick, but it was indeed a necessary situation and I didn’t have another choice in the moment.  Nonetheless, I am spending this Mother’s Day being loved on by the ones I love the most, and feeling thankful for all the crazy homesteading Mom moments that I am blessed to experience each day – even the ones that make me want to scream.  🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!  I hope you can feel thankful for all the crazy mom-ing in your lives too.

Our farm is currently overflowing with animal mothers and babies.  Spring in the Rockies!

Chickens

Our batch of purchased chicks arrived this week.  These are the chicks that we originally ordered to be delivered during our hatch in January so we could brood them together.  There was a mix-up at the hatchery and they printed our shipping label, but didn’t ship our chicks.  Since we already had our own newly hatched chicks in the brooder, we decided not to have them re-ship the next week.  Instead, we waited until we were ready to do another brooding…which is this week.

There were 16 of them, and 3 died right after arrival, the rest are doing well.

Goat

Pansy was due to kid on April 27th.  She finally kidded this week, 9 days late.  It was a complicated delivery, but both mom and doeling are alive.  And the doeling, named Pearl, is oh-so-cute.  I will share more about it later this week.

Sheep

We have a barnyard full of ewes and lambs.  Blue lambed this week, leaving us with just one pregnant ewe left for this season (Maggie).  Everyone is growing well, the lambs are playing and romping together, and the mamas seem happy to not be so very huge and pregnant any longer.  Maggie is not due until mid-june, so we have a break from birthing here for awhile.

Blue’s little girl got a name, finally.  It took us awhile – I think the spring lambing/kidding season sleep-deprivation added to the delay.  But she is now known as Misty.  She is almost 1 week old now.

Daisy has continued to become more bonded to little Nora, she is turning into a good mom.  I believe that she will be a fine mother in the future, and that the traumatic birth is the cause of these issues.  We are just so glad that we didn’t have to bottle feed her.  Nora is almost 2 weeks old now.

Blizzard is a ball of energy.  He is always wanting to play and run and head butt with the other lambs.  Typical boy.  He also has decided that the LGD is his BFF, which is cute.  We constantly find them cuddled together, or if Anya is running around, Blizzard will be running right behind her.  Fiona is the attentive, but also laid-back, experienced mom of the group, and seems happy to let Anya (the LGD) babysit for her.

Blizzard is 3 1/2 weeks old now.

Twilight is the oldest lamb, and that lends itself to her being kind of a bully to the others.  She is so much bigger than the new babies and she uses it to her advantage, pushing them around when she can get away with it.  But she is a beautiful ewe lamb and nice with the humans.  She is 5 weeks old now.

We are working on weaning all the babies to a 12-hours-off, 12-hours-on milk-sharing schedule.  Twilight and Nora are already there, and we are getting the younger ones there as well in the next couple of weeks.  It is nice to have so much milk now that they are getting older and we can take a good share of it.  We are making dairy products in the kitchen and really enjoying it.

Gardens

It is crazy to me that we are already putting seeds and seedlings outside.  This week has been full of planting and gardening.  Time is flying by me this spring!

Sunday Homestead Update

We have continued to have (mostly) warm weather in the 40sF with sun, and have worked outdoors on the homestead as much as we can, but have also been busy off the homestead this week and thus could not get done as much as we hoped.

Sheep

Autumn’s stanchion training has gone great and she is ready to be milked once she lambs.

Her udder is beginning to build now.

We are about 3 weeks from her due date and the start of lambing season.  Very exciting!

Chickens

A year or two ago we decided that the lower coop would permanently be the bantam coop.  Our roosters are generally very large, and we were worried about them in their interactions with the bantam hens.  We are not keeping the bantams for breeding, they are actually for setting, they are our broody girls.  So we don’t need them to be in with the roosters.  Making the small lower coop their home worked out well.

But there was a benefit that we would get from that decision that we didn’t see until more recently.  The bantam hens are very kind and gentle with new arrivals to their coop.  We have been able to put several hens in there over the last year or so that were injured by aerial predators, or were outcasts in the upper coop being bullied and picked on and the bantam hens accepted them with open arms (…er, uh, wings?).  Additionally, we can put the young pullets in with them to grow until they are big enough to join the regular flock and they are all very nice to them.

So this week we moved over our latest bunch of young pullets.  They are about 8 weeks old now, and wont be able to join the big flock until they are at least 14 weeks of age.  The bantam hens were fine with their new roommates and accepted them without incident.  Of the 10 chicks we hatched in January, we are guessing at this point that 5 are pullets and 5 are cockerels based on feather coloring, size, and comb color.  Right around 9 weeks the males combs are much pinker than the females.  So we left the (suspected) cockerels in the grow pen in the barn, and brought the (suspected) pullets down into the bantam hen coop.

Five, 8-week-old pullets with our Bantam Cochin hen, Willow, in the front.

Garden

We got the entire compost pile moved over to the new garden last weekend.  Then we were able to purchase soil to finish filling the boxes for this year.  There will be a lot of settling and we will need to add more next year, but this is what we will work with for now.

We also got the posts up for the new garden fence, and took some branches off the tree that is hanging over the garden.  We went back and forth about whether to just remove the whole tree, or whether we should just branch it.  We decided to branch it and see if that is enough.  Hoping to get the rest of the fence up this week before the snow flies again.

Cheesemaking

It has been 3 months since our stirred-curd cheddar went into the cheese cave!  We brought it out and tried it.  It was VERY good!

How exciting to get to try our first-ever cheddar after waiting 3-months and find it to have been a success.  We put two quarters of it back into the cave (after waxing over the cut sections) to try the flavor at 5 mos, and then 7 mos.  The flavor was definitely a mild cheddar, and we are interested to see how it tastes after some more aging.

LGD

Anya has found that the new compost heap we made by cleaning out the stalls and scraping the barnyard with the tractor is a nice warm place to lay in the sun.

While I was taking the photo, one of the barn mouser cats, Midnight, was doing everything he could to get my attention.  He also got Anya’s attention, though he didn’t want it.

 

Sunday Homestead Update – Bitter Cold

We have been staying warm inside, but also having to do the extra winter work to keep the critters outside healthy and warm.  It has been cold and snowy, and getting well below zero at night.

Fun Farm Kid Story

We had a fun incident happen this week that revolves around the concept of kids that grow up on a farm.  Sunshine, our 15-year-old daughter, has been cooking with me since she was tiny.  She loves cooking and by about 9-years-old she was cooking at least one dinner a week for our family on her own.  Over the years she has cooked more and more, and with us in the hospital a lot the last 4 years she has been called on to cook even more.  Thankfully she enjoys it and has found many new recipes over time that our family loves.  All that to say – she has done a lot of cooking in her life thus far.

This week we were given a store-bought turkey.  While Mtn Man and I were at the Children’s Hospital with Mr. Smiles I called her and asked her to please get the turkey in the oven because we would be later than I expected and it needed time to cook.  She said no problem, and I didn’t think twice about it because she is more than capable of handling the task.  She called me back 5 minutes later – what is this plastic thing in the turkey holding the legs together…it looks like some sort of a handle?  And why is there a bag inside the carcass?  And what is this red button thing stuck in it?

I started laughing for joy as I realized, in all her years of cooking, she has never cooked a store-bought bird!!!  What an awesome farm-kid life to make it to 15 years old and only have cooked your own chickens fresh from the farm – which don’t have any bags of organs and a neck inside them, nor plastic handles on their legs, nor a pre-stuck-in thermometer, really basically no packaging at all except the plastic around it.  I love it!!!

Root Cellar in February

We have had some trouble with our root cellar in the basement not being as cold as it was last year – the remodel of the basement might have to do with this and we are still working on options of what to do.  So our over-wintered produce has not kept as well as we hoped this year.  The garlic have all gone bad, though we were able to eat them until a few weeks ago – I am probably going to can them next year.  We have a few onions left.  We have eaten many, but have lost many to rot as well.  And we have two winter squash still looking good that we will probably enjoy this week.  No squash rotted, we have just eaten them all.

So not as long of a root cellar season as we had hoped for, but not terrible either.

Sheep & Goat

When we put up hay this summer we were planning to keep fewer sheep over the winter than we ended up keeping, so we have been running low on hay.  Thankfully, we were able to find some good quality, reasonably priced hay not too far away.  We got that put up this week and we should now have enough to make it until next haying season.

Chickens

The baby chicks are still doing well in the grow pen in the barn.  It is amazing how fast they grow and change.

We had an incident this week with Lily, one of our silkie hens.

We found her with a bleeding wound on her comb when we let them out of the coop one morning.  And then we saw two of the other hens bullying her and attacking her a little later.  We don’t know if they caused the wound, or if they just went after her because she was wounded.  Chickens can be brutal with that kind of stuff.  We didn’t want to risk trouble, so we moved her into the small broody coop in the barn so that she can heal.  Once she is healed we will likely move her in with the chicks (who will be about 7 weeks old by then).  Then she can be integrated back into the flock with them, since integrating just one chicken in alone is nearly impossible.

Coyotes

It is coyote breeding season, and every year during this time they for some reason congregate on our property and drive our LGD, Anya, crazy.

The last couple weeks we have been seeing them on the property multiple times a day at all different hours and in different group sizes.  Their footprints fill the snow all over the area.  And they have howling parties in the front yard at about 2 am most nights.  This gets Anya all worked up so that once they are done she is still barking like crazy in the barn and Mtn Man has to go out there to calm her down.  We will be grateful when this is over and they move back to their regular patterns.

Heritage Arts

We recently discovered a new place to get project bags.  Mtn Man bought me this awesome bag from Front Range Bags.  I love all the features it has, with three inside pockets on one side, and a zippered inside pocket on the other.  Plus two different yarn rings, which open so you can put the yarn through without cutting it.  And the outside has a pocket on each side as well.  But what I was most impressed with was the quality of the sewing.  As someone who has done a lot of sewing myself, and also has purchased other handmade bags, I found the sewing quality on these bags to be top notch and better than any I have ever seen.  I am loving using my new bag!

Little Miss got two bags as well.  Hers were a smaller version for socks.  They didn’t have exterior pockets, but had the other features.  And the fabric handles on hers have a snap so they can easily be attached to another bag, or a stroller, or whatever.

Hazel and Jerry

These two continue to enjoy their morning snuggles by the fire and afternoons in the sun puddles – even using each other as head pillows.