Keeping Rams on the Homestead

This week, one of our rams damaged a fence (and hurt his face in the process) due to his raging hormones and breeding season. There weren’t even any ewes nearby, he just wanted to fight with the immature rams on the other side of the fence. Based on the damage, they weren’t wanting to fight with him so much – wisely so since he is nearly twice their weight. He busted a 2×6 and bent a heavy gauge wire cattle panel. Not to mention cutting his face up.

This is not our first time dealing with this, and is definitely not the worst damage we have had. So I thought it was a good time to discuss rams on the homestead.

I get a lot of questions from new homesteaders and homesteaders with children about keeping rams (or bucks, or bulls, or machos – male alpacas)…any intact male livestock…on the homestead. We only have ever kept rams, so I will speak to them specifically, though the concept of keeping intact males on the homestead is similar across all species with some specific details per the specific species.

Intact males are dangerous. There is no way around that concept. And anyone who does not acknowledge that they are dangerous is putting themselves and potentially others in danger. Of course there is always that one exception out of a thousand…but we are not speaking to that. That being said, they are totally manageable with the right set-up and practices. But the first and foremost thing that must always be in your mind when dealing with them is that they are dangerous. By remembering that fact, you can keep yourself and everyone else safe.

Housing

The first issue to deal with when keeping intact males is their housing. They need different housing than your basic adult female or castrated male. Specifically with the fencing. Rams are a 300lb (approx) creature that is a lot of muscle, bathed in testosterone, with a battering ram for a skull. As you can see above, they are able to bust up fencing pretty easily. We have even had a ram bust a 4×4 post in half with his head. We have had them break gates right off their heavy-duty hinges, and even break the heavy-duty metal hinges. They have a shocking amount of power. It makes me shudder to even think of the power that a bull has now that I have seen the power a ram has. So, keep in mind the power as you are planning your housing and fencing.

We have found that, for the most part, using 4×4 wood posts set at least 2 feet in the ground, 2×6 rails, and heavy-gauge cattle panels as fencing works and holds them. We do have to do repairs on occasion, like the fence this week. But as you can see he didn’t get through the fence, so the other sheep were safe from him. Even the ram that broke the 4×4 post, didn’t get through the fence since the heavy-gauge cattle panel kind of held the fence together even though it was bent up like crazy. Putting the posts closer together, and using 2×6 uprights halfway between each post can help create a very secure fence. Whatever type you use, make sure it is strong.

Height also matters. Rams will climb/jump fences when they really want to get to the other side. Ram fencing needs to be at least 4.5 feet high to really be sure they can’t go over. Higher if you have a tall breed.

Another thing to consider are the gates. You need to use heavy-duty gates that have heavy-duty attachments (hinges and latches). You also need to choose latches that can’t easily be rattled open. A ram will paw at, and head butt a gate repeatedly. We have had them do this enough that the vibration “rattled” the latch open.

It is best to keep the rams housed far from the ewes. If you only have one ram, you need to keep a wether (castrated male) with him so he won’t be lonely. When housing several rams together, keep them as far from the females as possible since being close will cause them to fight with each other constantly and will lead to injuries and potentially death of the lower-ranking rams. When you split your rams up into the breeding groups with the females for the year, it is best to not have them along shared fences, meaning one group on one side of the fence and another breeding group on the other side of the same fence. The rams will want to fight each other through the fence and will break the fence, or hurt themselves, or hurt each other.

Handling

As with many animal topics, there are a couple of schools of thought about handling rams. Some people like to bottle raise rams and make them as friendly as possible. There is also the concept of not handling them at all and keeping them “wild.” We have been around both types of rams (the very friendly and the very wild ones) and we found both these practices to lead to dangerous rams. We prefer to keep our rams not-so-friendly, but not wild either. We want them to be used to humans and able to be handled when needed for vet care and hoof trimming and such, but we don’t want them coming up to us to be pet like our ewes do. When they are lambs, we let their mothers raise them. We spend a lot of time in the pen with all the ewes and lambs, petting the ewe lambs and handling them, but we purposefully don’t pet the ram lambs and only handle them when necessary. This has led to rams that are used to our presence, but don’t have a desire to come to us for affection or anything. The rams raised like this have been our safest rams. As adults they keep their distance, but don’t run through a fence in a crazed fear when we go into their pen.

If you don’t have someone on the homestead that is big and strong enough to wrestle a ram when needed then you need to set up a system that includes a catch chute so that you can catch and restrain the ram(s) when needed. Every animal needs to be handled at some point, and you can’t just not give the males the care they need because they are hard to handle. A ram will need his feet trimmed a few times a year, plus annual shots, and then the potential vet visit for a more serious issue. The ram above that cut up his face needed to have ointment put on the wound to help it heal up. You have to have a safe way to handle the rams when needed.

The number one rule when in a pen with a ram is do not take your eyes off of the ram. Not even for a second or two. The number two rule is to keep your distance and make them keep theirs. Rams are strong, and fast, but when charging they can’t change directions very fast. So, as long as you keep your eyes on them you will see them start the charge in time to jump up on the fence, or to jump to the side at the last minute before they get you. Never underestimate them or grow complacent in keeping yourself alert when you are in the pen with them. Even routine feeding time can become a chance for you to get hurt if you aren’t paying attention. And a ram who has been calm and not even hinted at coming after you can one day decide he doesn’t want you in his presence.

Kids

Rams and kids don’t mix. If you are going to keep intact male livestock and have kids you need to be very careful and put specific plans in place to keep everyone safe. No kids in ram pens – ever. And no kids in any pen that includes a ram during breeding season.

Aggressive Rams

All rams have the potential to hurt you and be aggressive. But that is different than having an aggressive ram. if you have a ram that is continually aggressive you need to get rid of it. You are breeding that aggression into your lines and will continue to have more aggressive rams. Additionally, it is not worth the risk to keep an aggressive ram. It is also not good for him because you are less likely to provide him with the needed care if he is aggressive. Don’t keep a chronically aggressive ram.

Most rams are not as aggressive their first year of life. Don’t let this cause you to be complacent. But understand that they definitely get more aggressive as they reach their full maturity their second, and sometimes third breeding season. Sometimes, using only first-year rams for breeding and then butchering them for meat and replacing with first-year rams again before the next breeding season can be a way to keep from having to deal with as much ram aggression. You still should follow all the ram suggestions above, but you will most-likely not have as many ram aggression issues. There are downfalls to this plan as well, but it works well for some homesteaders.

Keeping intact males on the homestead can be safe, when handled correctly. Always keep in mind that any intact male can be dangerous, and plan accordingly to keep yourself and your livestock safe.

Sheep Breeding Season

It is hard to believe, but it is time to breed the sheep again already. This will be our first season with 4 breeding rams and we have planned out which ewes each of them will cover. We are limited on our birthing space, so, to attempt to avoid hypothermic lambs and loss of any lambs, we are trying to space out the lambings (and thus the breedings) so that we only have a couple ewes due at a time. Experience tells us this will not go exactly as we plan, we humans don’t have as much control over these things as we wish we did, but we are hopeful it will line out pretty well and we will be able to have all the ewes in a dry, warm place for their lambings. Our first breeding group has been put together and our first breeding has already taken place. So we are off and running.

Since I didn’t get to blog much about this last lambing/kidding season, I decided to catch you up on what happened as far as lambing and kidding this last year…

Lambing/Kidding Season 2022

Since the new farm property was built to house adult horses, there were no enclosed barn areas, only loafing sheds. So we decided last winter to build what we call the birthing barn. It has 2 permanent jugs (jugs are sheep birthing stalls that are about 5ftx5ft) and a way to set up a 3rd temporary jug. We finished the birthing barn just in time for our first two ewes to move in and bless us with a birth of twins and then triplets all within 8 hours of each other. Both ewes did great and all the lambs were healthy and strong. It was an exciting start to the season.

We added a camera to the birthing barn this year. I am well-known as a low-tech person. But I must admit, the addition of a camera to the birthing area made SUCH a big difference in our lives. We were able to get so much more sleep, which was especially useful this year as we spent a lot of time at the pediatric hospital during lambing season and thus were not getting much sleep anyway. If you haven’t added one to your homestead yet, you should seriously consider it. I love it. No more hiking out to the barn every couple hours at night when we think a ewe or doe is close to giving birth. The camera is great.

Freya (Wensleydale) and her newborn ram lambs

We thought the next two females that we needed to bring up to the birthing barn were our two Nubian does, but one of our ewes surprised us. We had never had a surprise lamb born before. We keep a really close eye on everything during breeding season and keep very good records of each ewe and when she goes into heat and gets bred. This ewe had been bred 3 different times, coming into heat on the expected schedule for a ewe. So I marked the last breeding down as the one she got pregnant on and gave her a due date according to that. Little did we know that she had gotten pregnant before any of those heat cycles and breedings. Why she had “fake heats” on schedule and allowed the ram to breed her even though she was pregnant…we are not sure.

Because we had been in and out of the pediatric hospital with our son that month, and because we thought none of the ewes were due in that time period, we weren’t keeping a close eye on them and their symptoms. If we had, we would have noticed the udder development on this first-time mother. Instead, we went out to feed one morning and found a hypothermic ram-lamb, born out in the elements at 26F. Despite the fact that his mom was a young first-time ewe, she was doing her best to get him up and going. From what we could tell, he stood and nursed some before he laid down and became hypothermic. We rushed him into the house and started working on heating him back up. He was the worst case we have dealt with and we really didn’t expect him to make it. But, two hours later he was still alive, and we decided to re-unite him with his now-frantic mother so they could bond and he could hopefully get up and about on his legs. We had moved his mom into the birthing barn and we set up a heater and took turns sitting out there keeping an eye on him. He was still weak for a few days and definitely took longer to get going than our other lambs. But he survived and his mother bonded with him well.

Mabel (American Bond x BFL) and her mother Matilda (American Bond)

Next were the two Nubian does. The first doe’s first kid presented with just one leg coming. And Daniel wasn’t home. And I was sick with a nasty cold/cough. But that was OK, because the last couple of years, Sunshine has been doing more and more of the deliveries and trying to learn how to help when help is needed. So she was going to handle the delivery. She tried and tried, while Little Miss held the doe and I talked her through it, but she couldn’t figure out what was going on and finally I had to take over. I quickly saw why she was having so much trouble, it was quite a tangle in there – all legs and heads. It was triplets and two of them were tangled together, with one leg from one trying to come with the head of the other behind it. It took me awhile to figure it all out and I kept working through the legs and heads trying to figure out which went to which. What ended up making it so I could figure it out was that one had smaller legs (a doeling) and one had larger legs (a buckling). Once I realized that, I was able to get the front two legs and head of one and bring it forward and out. Then I went for the second one and it was pretty easy because the third was still in it’s sack so I could tell which was which, I just had to get its head to come around, it had gotten pushed back during the untangling. Then the third came fine. All three survived (praise the Lord) even though it took a while to get them out. The doe was fine too.

We were hoping for no problems with the second doe, but ended up with another difficult delivery. I was recovering from the nasty cough, but I had fractured 2 ribs from coughing so hard. Yes, apparently this is a thing, I went to the doctor and it was confirmed. So I was nursing those very painful fractured ribs under strict instructions to not do anything physically strenuous when this doe went into labor. And no one was home except Little Miss and I. The doe was taking forever, 5 hours had gone by with obvious labor but no pushing, and since she was an experienced Mom, we started to realize that something was wrong, but there wasn’t much that Little Miss could do on her own. I called to try to figure out the ETA on help arriving in the form of anyone in the family over the age of 7 without broken ribs. It was not looking promising. So I called our vet – he was out of town. Little Miss kept watch on the doe and she started laying down, giving a tiny push, and then getting up, and then repeating the process over and over. It was definitely looking like a stuck kid. Finally, she laid down, with her behind away from Little Miss’ view, and pushed over and over again. We thought she must be finally making some progress, but when she stood up and turned around there was just one huge head coming out, no legs. Little Miss yelled (via the birthing cam) for me to come help. Right then, Daniel arrived home. To save my ribs, Little Miss tried to do the delivery while Daniel held the doe and I gave Little Miss instructions. But the doe was pushing so very hard and the baby was so thoroughly wedged she could not get the head back in, nor could she get in to get the legs forward. It had been so long already and the kid’s head was swelling and we were starting to worry for the kid and any other kids inside, so fractured ribs didn’t matter – I had to help. It took quite awhile, and hurt oh-so-badly to work against the constantly straining mama. It was killing me, but I had to keep going because I didn’t want to lose any of them. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not get that huge head back in so I could bring the legs around. Finally, I decided that I had to just try to get the legs around with the head out. It was tight and very rough on doe, kid, and I, but I was finally able to bring one leg around. At that point I remembered that our friend, who is very experienced with birthing goats, had told me that she has had several does successfully deliver a kid with one leg back. It had been so much time and work to get this far, that I decided to just pull with the leg back to get it out. I wasn’t even sure the kid was still alive, and the doe was going downhill. So I didn’t bother with the second leg, I just pulled the kid with the one leg and head out. It took a little resuscitation, but the large doeling recovered and survived. She was quickly followed by a small buckling. Praise the Lord, both kids and the doe were fine. I, on the other hand, was not. I was really really hurting. I messed up my back in my attempts to protect my ribs and was in so much pain between the two. I spent a few days in bed recovering and eventually was none worse for the wear. But 5 goat kids joined the 6 lambs born at that point and all were doing well.

Thankfully, the rest of the season went by without incident, and the birthing barn worked out great for each ewe to have a chance in a jug when it was her turn. We had 3 more singles born to the first-time moms, and another set of triplets, and another set of twins to experienced moms. Only 1 ewe didn’t take, and she was one of the ewe lambs born last year, so it was expected. We were very surprised that the other 3 ewe lambs born last year plus 2 other first-time ewes (not born last year) all took and lambed. Usually ewe lambs are about a 50/50 chance to get pregnant. So it was a good year as far as ewe lambs getting pregnant.

Daisy’s (East Friesian) ewe lambs

We will see how this new breeding season goes!

One Year!!! Building a Homestead Vs. Moving an Existing Homestead to a New Location

It has been a longer break than expected…but I am back at the computer, ready to share what has been going on.

From 2012-2021, we built our dream of a homestead on a small 3-acre property in the high-altitude Rockies. It was a lot of work, but realizing a dream usually is. Last summer, we moved that little dream homestead to a 30-acre property in the High Plains of Colorado. We knew moving a homestead to a new location would be a lot of work, but we figured it would be similar to the work we had put in for the last 9 years building our homestead. We were wrong – it is SO much more work!

Don’t get me wrong – we have been so blessed by this move and are loving our new, much larger, homestead, and all the opportunities the new space gives us. But we are so, so, so much busy-er than we expected. Thus, the absence from the blog.

When we built our previous homestead, for the most part, we added things one-at-a-time and were able to do the work maintaining what we had while adding the new project in – generally one new project at a time. This new property had some infrastructure – buildings, fences, etc. Which have been very helpful and we are very grateful for what it came with. But most of it is not set up in a way that works for the livestock we have and the way we like to manage the livestock. So, while we are trying to maintain what we already have (the daily chores of feeding, watering, cleaning, milking, weeding, repairing damage to buildings and fences), plus spring birthing/hatching season and all the extra work that brings, not to mention life outside of the farm, we are also trying to build infrastructure that works for our animals and how we like to manage them and build vegetable and fruit growing infrastructure and get gardens going. And it is not a one-project-at-a-time thing as we add new aspects like it was when we originally built our little homestead. Everything is at the top of the priority list fighting for its spot and everything needs to be done right now (well really, yesterday) because we already have all the livestock and they need what they need. Add to that learning a new climate and environment, and learning how to help reverse the damage that this property has sustained to its soil and ecosystem. Oh, and don’t forget the fact that we moved a large family into a small house and have needed to find and make ways to manage human housing as well. And…well folks…there just are not enough hours in the day.

We are so excited and hopeful about this new adventure. And that helps us face the exhaustion and days where we just feel so very overwhelmed. And doing this all together as a family makes it fun and unites us in new ways as well. It is fun brainstorming together when we need to solve a problem or are dreaming about a new something. Everyone is so creative and has great ideas on how to accomplish things. We are very happy and surprised at how much we have accomplished in just one year…even with a to-do list that never ends. So it is good – but not easy. Long days, short years.

As we are celebrating one year at our new farm, I thought I would make some time to jump online and give a blog update on what is going on around here. There is so much it is going to be a long post, just talking about what is going on outdoors, let alone indoors. So I will keep this one to just the outdoors.

Hoof Stock

The sheep and goats had a very productive birthing season. They birthed 19 babies (5 goat kids and 14 lambs) – which is a very large amount for us considering our average year before was about 4-5 babies with our biggest year before this being 9 babies. We had our first (and second) set of triplet lambs ever born on our farm. We also had a set of triplet goat kids. Three sets of triplets! We were also very blessed in that every single ewe and doe got pregnant and gave birth except the smallest ewe lamb from last year. We did not expect any of the ewe lambs from last year to get pregnant, but they all did except one. All of the lambs and kids survived and are thriving well.

We have been continuing to improve and build more fencing for the hoof stock pastures and pens and have also been building some more shelter for them. Ultimately, we need a nice big barn, but that is down the road a bit, so for now we are working to make sure they have adequate housing for what we need in the moment.

We are continuing to work on intensive grazing the ewes and lambs to bring life back to our soil (we don’t have the infrastructure to get the rams out on pasture yet). We are able to graze them on small sections of about 1/3 of our property by using electronet fencing. We are working on building a moveable shelter, which will bring that area up to more than half the property that will be able to be intensively grazed by them in small grazing portions. The pasture is very fragile, especially due to the windy, dry spring we had. It is all much shorter than it was this time last year. So we are being careful to move the sheep as needed to not over-graze it.

We are utilizing the fact that goats can be staked-out to graze some of the areas that are unreachable by the ewes and lambs with the two adult does. The area that they are on was grazed by the ducks last year, and as you can see (in photo below) it is in much better shape than the pastures (in photo above). So the grazing we did of the ducks last year really added a lot of nutrition to the soil and helped it along. Someday, we hope the whole property will be healthy and green.

Ducks

We have the ducks out grazing again this year. We are using the duck tractors we built last year, along with electronet poultry fencing.

We only have some grazing right now. One hen hatched two ducklings for us earlier this spring. It was her first time and she made a few mistakes, thus ending with just two ducklings, but I am sure that the experience will help her do better next time.

We were not set up for duck setting and brooding when she decided she wanted to set. So she set and hatched in a big plastic dog crate. Which worked fine, but we were wanting something more permanent for duck setting and brooding. We have since then been able to build a little broody duck house and pen from some building scraps we had around the farm. Another one of those infrastructure things we needed to do that I was discussing above.

We have another Muscovy hen setting now. She decided to set in the corner of the duck coop, so we left her there. The other hens are leaving her alone and letting her do her thing.

We decided to set up the incubator inside with some duck eggs in it to supplement for loss. We also have a hen setting, and I set up the second incubator with some eggs to supplement her hatch as well. So we have two incubators going right now.

Chickens

As I said, we have a hen setting – our ten-year-old Silkie hen, Eve. She has set and hatched 1-3 clutches for us every year since she started laying. She is an excellent broody hen and we are so glad we have her. She is small and can only sit on 6 standard eggs. But she can easily raise 10-12 chicks, especially in the warmer summer weather. So we have the back-up eggs in the incubator to increase the hatch and give her plenty to raise for us.

We don’t like free-ranging our chickens for several reasons. BUT we do like putting our chickens to work and giving them nutrition similar to free-ranging. We like to have our chickens live in our barnyards and stalls and work through all the compost and stall waste, eating bugs, grubs, seeds, etc. It keeps the stalls free from maggots in the deep bedding and helps our compost become black gold much faster. The new farm was not set up in a way for us to keep our chickens in the barnyards like we like to. We were able to build a coop and pen for the standard size chickens last fall that made it possible for us to dump the compost into their pen so they could work through it.

That has been working great. We clean out the stalls and dump it in there and we bring all the kitchen and garden scraps to it as well. They dig through it and work it. We pile it back up, they dig back through it, repeat…until after about a month or so it is pretty well broken down and then it goes into the “more composted” compost pile and we bring them a new load to work through. It keeps our feed bills down in that they eat a lot less when they have compost to work through. It is physically and mentally healthy for them. And it creates compost for the garden faster than when we just pile it all up.

But we ultimately want to get chickens living in each of our barns and barnyards with the hoof stock. The bantam hens have been living in a little backyard-type coop and haven’t been able to free range or even work compost since we moved here. It was fine for the winter, but we were really happy to get them set up to live out in the ewe barn so they can dig through those stalls and have a better diet and mental stimulation. We just built a little coop and hooked it to the fence.

They seem very happy with their new set up. They have a ton of space compared to the little backyard coop they lived in all winter. And all the bugs, grubs, seeds, etc that they can find.

Guineas

Last summer we got Guinea keets in hopes that when they grew up they would keep the snakes backed off from the house and barn areas. We had a lot of rattlesnakes last year and wanted a natural solution to the issue. We had heard Guinea hens would help keep snakes away and we were very excited to try it out.

Thus far it seems to be working. We have only seen two snakes (both bull snakes) and they both were way out away from the buildings and main housing area. So, it seems that the guineas really do help keep snakes at bay.

Gardens

Gardening at the new property has probably been the biggest challenge of everything we have done so far. We had the “windiest spring on record since 1981” and no rain. We had day-after-day of wind for weeks. We had 40-60mph sustained wind all from one direction for hours on end. It wreaked havoc on our seedlings, any seeds we planted, and our season-extending tents and WOWs. It was a rough spring for the garden.

The wind has finally calmed down, and we have gotten some rain in the last three weeks or so. Many seedlings died, hundreds of seeds never sprouted or died as tiny sprouts. But, some seedlings have survived, some were not out in the garden yet at the time of all the wind, and some seeds are finally starting to sprout. It seems like everything is way behind where it should be, but such is life.

We did not have the resources last fall to build the raised-bed main veggie garden that we plan to build. So we decided to use straw bales this year, giving us time to gather more resources and creating a foundation of decomposing straw for next year’s raised bed garden. The straw bale garden suffered the worst with the wind. Some stuff is starting to come back and we are nursing it along, but it has not done great so far.

We have also been plagued by mushrooms. The straw bale method book talked about mushrooms coming as part of the composting process, but made it out to be a one week or so and then they will be gone type of thing. We have been dealing with mushrooms for over a month and it looks to not be ending any time soon. They uproot the seedlings and push out the seeds we plant before they can sprout. Frustrating.

It is still early in the season. We are grateful for a much longer growing season than we used to have in the mountains. There is time for the wind-wrecked stuff to recover and produce. And we are hopeful it will.

The container gardens are doing much better than the straw bale garden thus far. The container gardens include planted containers we brought from the old homestead here, containers we built and planted last year, and some containers/raised garden beds that were already here when we moved in. We amended the soil in them, built them up or repaired them, and have been using them.

Most of the containers are kitchen and medicinal herbs. But there are also some fruits and veggies in them. We have harvested and enjoyed chives, rhubarb, garlic scapes, and peas already from the container gardens.

Garlic Scapes

The apple tree and some strawberries survived the winter. But then they were killed by the winds. The gooseberry bushes look to also have been killed by the wind – but it is unclear on those. Such a bummer. We hope to add more fruit trees and bushes in the future. But for now, there is enough on the list to get to that fruits will have to wait.

Overall, a very productive and very busy spring. We are learning, expanding, and enjoying the new farm.

Sunday Homestead Update – Gardening Season?

Could it possibly be true that gardening season is starting? It doesn’t feel possible. And yet here I am, starting my first seeds of the year indoors. At our previous farm I didn’t start seeds until mid to late March. But our new climate means a longer growing season and an earlier last-frost. And so it is true…gardening season is starting. This will take some getting used to.

Cold Frame

We have wanted to build some cold frames for many years to extend our season. But at our previous farm there was really no good location to build them so it kept getting put off. The new farm has a great location, and so we were excited to get one built to plant this spring and hope to do more this fall if it works well. We lined up bottles full of water along the back to add thermal mass. We got down to 18F one night and the cold frame only got to 30F. So that is promising. This week I planted our first spring crops in the cold frame. Seeds and plants in soil in February? Again…this will take some getting used to.


Root Cellared Veggies Update

We are still happily eating out of the root cellar. We finished up everything we had except winter squash and pumpkins. So we don’t know the exact length that the onions and garlic could have lasted given time. The potatoes were all eaten, with a few withered sprouting ones left. But the winter squash and pumpkins are still going great. We have decided to purposefully slow down our consumption of them so we can see how long they will last. But the root cellar is holding a great temp and we are really happy with it.

Cheesemaking

I am working through all the frozen sheep milk from last year that we couldn’t make into cheese due to the move. I have now made 6 gallons of it into cheese. There is still over 20 gallons left to get through before the milk sheep begin lambing in March.

We set up two repurposed refrigerator cheese caves. One is in the root cellar. It is a mini fridge and is holding perfect temp without being plugged in due to the root cellar temperatures. And a few dishes of water in the bottom of it are keeping the humidity in a good place. The second one is in a regular temperature room, so it has to be plugged in to maintain the temp we need, and, because it is a full-sized refrigerator, we are using tiny fans in the bottom to blow across the water drawers with humidifier wicks in them. That keeps the humidity up enough.

To read how we made a small refrigerator into a cheese cave, you can click here. At some point I will write up how we did it with the larger one. The main issue with the larger one that makes it different than using a small one is humidity. Especially if you live in a dry climate like we do.

Birthing Barn

The new farm we moved to is not set up for birthing out sheep and goats, especially not in the colder months. We don’t have any enclosed barns, only large and tall horse loafing sheds. We have been discussing and contemplating what to do about this issue on and off since we moved in. We have toyed with several different ideas of converting the loafing sheds, but eventually landed on building a small birthing barn and pen to be used until we eventually build a full-sized barn for all the sheep and goats to use all winter. We attached it to the poultry barn.

With our first lambs due in March, we have been working to get the birthing barn built and ready so we could move the first two ewes that are due into it. It has 2 jugs (birthing stalls) with the possibility of setting up a temporary third one as needed. It is closer to the house so we can easily keep an eye on them. And it is warm and cozy to help decrease the chance of hypothermic babies. We finished the important aspects of it and moved the first two girls in this week. When warmer weather hits we will be able to finish the trim, painting, and all the little details. But for now, we are ready for lambing and kidding season!

We always enjoy building as much as possible with free pallet wood. High lumber prices definitely brought our pallet-wood building to a whole new level with this barn build.

Heritage Arts

I am only working on one knitting projects right now (gasp!) because I just want to get it done. It has been on the needles for like 2 years and just keeps getting put off for other projects. It is an alpaca shawl with a lace border. It will be nice to finally finish it (hopefully!).

Daniel also bought me a couple of jelly rolls of fabric to make us a new quilt for our bed. I decided on a bear paw pattern and have started piecing it. I am really excited about how this will turn out, but nervous about how long it will take me to complete with everything else in life. 🙂

Feeders, or Beds?

We have had LGDs and goats using the feeders as beds lately. Cushy hay up off the cold ground on a sunny winter day…makes sense to me. The rams just go on eating right around the dog.

Preparing for Lambing and Kidding Season

We are closing in on the start of birthing season on our homestead. I have posted an article over at Mother Earth News about what needs to be done to prepare starting at 6 weeks before delivery all the way up to delivery. Check out my Week-By-Week Guide to Birthing Season article to get your homestead ready too.