Sunday Homestead Update

Garden

We had wonderfully warm weather this week, which was very much appreciated after the snow last week.  Everything is starting to green up and grow like crazy.

The warmer weather helped get some things done around here.  Most of the garden is planted now, with the seedlings inside their protective Wall-o-Waters and frost fabric tunnels.  I am also trying a new season extender option this year – they are called plant accelerators.  They are similar to the WOWs, but there is not water involved and they are bigger and can stay on the plant longer.  I bought three of them for the trial, if they work well we will get more in the future.

Pretty much all that is left are the things that can’t be planted until after the average last frost, which for us is still another month away.

Barn Cat Issues

We love having bird houses and feeders and attracting birds to our property.  We have quite a colony of violet-green swallows that return each year and help keep the bug population under control around the farm – which we are very grateful for.

The problem we are having is that one of our barn cats, Midnight, is an avid hunter and literally the most athletic cat we have ever seen or owned.  He can jump and climb in ways that seem impossible and we are always amazed and shocked when we see him move and how agile he is.  The other two cats are just basic barn cats, who do great at catching rodents and such but don’t go out of their way to do crazy stunts or catch birds.

These skills make Midnight quite the bird predator.  He can catch them in mid air as they fly by, as well as climb the trees and get to their nests.  Every time we see him with one we catch him and take it away from him – whether it is dead or alive we take it away because we are trying to teach him to leave them alone.  Last summer this “training” seemed to be helping.

Because of him last year we took down all our bird feeders and just left up the bird houses because we didn’t want to lure the birds to their death.  We trimmed all the branches around a couple of the bird houses, to see if it would help because he couldn’t sit on them to get to the bird house.  The problem is that he is so athletic that he just climbs the trunk and sticks his paw right in the house while clinging to the trunk.

Last year we hung several bird houses on the side of the mill building, this worked great because he definitely can’t climb the wall to get to them.  But we still have a lot of houses on trees that the birds love and we need to find a way to keep him from them.

So our latest attempt at thwarting him is to put sheet metal around the trunks just below the birdhouses.  We picked a type that will rust, which I think will look nice and blend in with the trunk.  We put them up this week, since the swallows have returned and are beginning to nest.  Time will tell if he is athletic enough to figure out how to get around them.  But for now, the birdhouses are safe.

It is a hard spot to be in, we need the barn cats for rodent control, but we do’t want them to kill the birds.

Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

The warm weather made us feel summer-y and we decided to make our first ever goat’s milk ice cream.  I was able to skim the cream off the milk, albeit just a little bit off each jar since it naturally homogenizes.  It took several days, but we were able to get a quart of cream saved up and we made our basic ice cream recipe with it.  It was delicious!  And Braveheart and Little Miss, who can’t have cow’s milk, were able to enjoy some ice cream for the first time in a long time.

Can’t Accomplish Anything

It is really hard to get anything done around the homestead when all this cuteness is available for viewing at any time.  Whenever we walk by the barnyard our visual senses are bombarded and we just have to stop and watch…for 5 minutes…10…15…20…….an hour!

This page will probably take forever to load…but I just had to share all the adorable pictures with you all.

 

 

 

Sunday Homestead Update

We are in the middle of a spring cold spurt.  February was unexpectedly warm, and April has been unexpectedly cold.  Snuggling up with a cup of tea and my knitting while the snow flies.

Chickens

The cold weather made us decide to hold off another week on integrating the flocks.  Hoping it will be warmer next week!

Sheep

We built a creep feeder for the lambs by using a couple of boards to hold one of the birthing stall’s door open only enough for the lambs to squeeze in.  Toffee, one of our ewes, was trying her hardest to join the lambs in the stall so she could eat some of their extra alfalfa.  It was comical.

The moorit ewe lamb, Rose, absolutely loves the dogs.  She might think she is a dog…I am not sure.  Last week I posted a picture of her cuddling with our older LGD, Tundra.  This week I caught her nuzzling up with our younger LGD, Anya.  It was so adorable.  Anya is doing so well settling in with the livestock around here.

At one point this week I closed Tundra on the other side of the fence from little Rose and Rose ran up and down the fence calling to him like he was her mom.  When he came back in she ran right over to him and he licked her face.  It was so cute.  This lamb definitely has a special bond with the dogs.

The little ram lamb is doing wonderfully.  He is a big boy, as big as Rose, who is 2 weeks older than him.  His BFL father definitely shows in his head and ears!  We have named him Fergus.

Daffodil and Rose are really enjoying playing together in the barnyard.  Fergus will join them this week and learn how to run, jump, climb, and play.

Sorting Chickens

Our chicks are now 10 weeks old and we are getting ready to integrate the females in with our older hens and separate out the cockerels into their own coop/pen.  Since we are selectively breeding our chickens, we keep close track and records of each of the birds.  So in preparation for the integration we banded each of the chicks and added them to the flock tracking sheet.

My favorite type of bands are these colored and numbered ones from Strombergs.  I use the color to indicate which generation they are, and the number is for the individual bird.  They stay on quite well, though we do occasionally find one off.  And they come in a good variety of sizes.

10-week-old Silkie

We also clipped the left wing on every bird because we will be free-ranging them in the barnyard and we do that to keep them from flying up and over the fences.

We decided to use an alphabetical naming system this time around, since we are just getting back into breeding.  So all the first generation birds are names that start with “A” – second generation will start with “B” – and so on.  So the kids had fun coming up with “A” names for all the chicks.

10-week-old Salmon Faverolles Pullet

10-week-old Partridge Chantecler Pullet

We ended up with 27 surviving chicks – 7 cockerels, 19 pullets, and 1 unknown.  The cockerels are all Buff Chantecler.  We will pick the best one or two and keep them as breeding roosters, the rest will be butchered once they are big enough.  There are 4 Buff Chantecler, 4 Partridge Chantecler, 1 Red Chantecler, 5 Easter Egger, and 5 Salmon Faverolles pullets.  The last chick is a beautiful Splash Silkie.  We are not sure yet if it is a male or female.

L to R: Buff Chantecler, Partridge Chantecler, Salmon Faverolles

End of Lambing/Kidding Season 2017

Fiona was our last ewe due this year.  Her ultrasound put her due date eleven days ago, and we have been anxiously waiting and wondering what was taking so long.  Apparently she just had her own timing as she had a perfectly healthy delivery this morning.

We had bred her to a white BFL ram.  It was our first time trying out a BFL.  Fiona herself is also white.  The ultrasound said she had twins and she has been very large the last few weeks (though her wool makes it a bit hard to really tell), so we were expecting white lamb twins.  We were very surprised when the first feet began to appear and they were black.  And even more surprised when no second lamb followed after the first.

She gave a us one single, large, healthy, pewter-colored ram lamb!  His coloring is beautiful, with a dark silvery/grey body, black legs and head, and some pretty white and grey markings on his face.  He is a big boy, our biggest baby of the season.  His wool is longer than the wool of the other lambs (because of the BFL) and we are really excited to see how it turns out.  Fiona is a CVMxMerino and has very fine-wool.  So he is a BFL/CVM/Merino, which should be a cool combination and create a nice wool.

We finally got the ram lamb we have been anxiously hoping for!  After EIGHT females were born this year!  Whooohooo!  He will likely be our future flock sire.  But he was born too late in the year to breed this coming breeding season, so we will likely buy another ram as well to service the flock this season, and to give us another year breeding Fiona (his mother – since he can’t breed his mother).

He is up and nursing and doing well so far.  He is even doing a bit of bouncing and playing, which we don’t usually see in our lambs the first day.  So I would say he is strong and vigorous!

That finishes off lambing/kidding season for us.  It has been a wild ride this year, with many highs and lows.  Quite a rollercoaster of a season for us that started way back on February 14.  We had 4 goats kids born (one breech stillborn) and 5 lambs, and there were 8 females and 1 male.  The most babies we have ever had born in one season before this was 3, so 9 is a big jump in “production” for our little farm.  Quite an adventure!  We are beginning to discuss who will stay and who will go, but the final decisions wont be made for a couple of months at the earliest because we will leave all the lambs with their mothers until 10-12 weeks at least.  So for now we can just sit back, relax, and enjoy watching the bouncing babies in the barnyard.  😀