Friday, September 20, 2013

Winding Down

 I think it's nearing the end of farm stand season - everything in the greenhouse has slowed way down. Today I got a handful of cherry tomatoes instead of the pounds I was getting just a few weeks ago. We'll still have cooler weather stuff in the fall (lettuce, kale, winter squash) and hopefully some eggs...but no more delicious tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans or zucchini!

Ryan trying to sell some produce (and probably himself, too - he isn't a big fan of his foster sister Lexi).

I thought there weren't many beans anymore but I picked a big bowl full this morning.

Nathan's first foray into preserving - this tomato relish/chutney is really spicy and really good.

Ryan getting ready for another day on the farm. He gets to bring me the sheep almost every morning since I've been checking Ewean's foot. 

Walt's also doing some morning stretches.

From L to R: Hank, Skyler, Walt, Saul and Gus. Skyler and Gus are the definite (and I think only) girls.

Hank the rooster.

But not the King Rooster. Zebra Head just keeps growing...

Nom nom nom blackberries.

Another case of least this time I knew what to do. Sheba is a lot heavier than Speckles so she's having more trouble hobbling around.

The girls were pretty excited to come out for another walk today.

May stretching for the tastiest leaves. This is how Maggie now stands up for grain - it's almost on command.

It's hard to get pictures of Maggie because every time I bend down, she comes running over to see if I have anything for her. 

Mother Clucker helping with the brush removal.

We leave for our trip tomorrow. It's a bit nerve wracking leaving all the animals (the dogs are coming with us). I had to stop myself from writing an essay to our landlord about goat care. I limited it to a paragraph...or two...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Zip Zap

We got our electronetting! It's definitely not the cheapest fencing available but it's so easy to set up and portable that I think it will be really handy to have. We used our farm stand money to buy it - along with the goats, 2 tickets to the agricultural exhibition we went to a few weeks ago and soon, a larger freezer.

Now we can just move the sheep or goats to wherever we want them to mow/weed. 

The energizer box that we got can either take D cell batteries or a 12 V battery. We're using the D cells now and even with some vegetation around the fence we're getting a charge of 4000 to 8000 volts...enough to make poor Abby yelp and run across the orchard when she touched the new fence.

Our cheapy fence tester 

 The sheep enjoying the first row of the orchard. The first time Oprah got zapped, she unfortunately ran forward right over the fence (it bent under her weight) and the others followed (of course). I think my mistake was not leaving the fence open to their regular paddock. If she'd had a safe escape route, she would have just gone back through there instead of through the fence. I changed the fence set up and so far so good - I've seen each of them get zapped on the nose and then jump back and continue grazing away from the fence. The goats will definitely take a lot of training/observing before I'll trust them in there...

We're still having troubles with Ewean's foot. She came to us limping (dumb new sheep buyers! we've learned our lesson - she was likely a cull animal and we bought her with foot rot already present) and throughout the summer we've trimmed her feet regularly and treated them with a copper naphthenate spray. Her left front never quite heals, though, and now I've seen her grazing on her knees occasionally. We really need to get it under control before the wet season when it could spread to the other ewes and to Thomas. We're going to give her some injections of penicillin and then if it's still bad after a week, we'll try foot baths in zinc sulfate with pasture rotation (the foot rot bacteria dies in the soil after 2 weeks if there are no sheep in the pasture). If it hasn't cleared up by the end of October after that regime, we're going to have to think about butchering her. That sounds harsh for a foot issue but we got our sheep for meat production, not pets, and foot rot is a pretty serious condition to deal with. You don't want it in your entire flock and you don't especially want susceptibility to foot rot being passed on in your breeding animals (there is likely a genetic component to how susceptible an animal is). It's also a painful condition for poor Ewean. 

On a happier note, I took the (totally back to normal) goats for a little walk this morning! At first they just wanted to follow me (the lady with farm crack in a bowl).

Naughty jumping Maggie (but so very cute).

Suddenly they realized they were walking right by all of these tasty blackberry bushes.

It was easy to lead them back to their yard with some grain after awhile - I guess grain still beats tasty leaves. 

So thirsty after their adventure.

Chewing their cud in the firepit.

Squishy's still diligently sitting in her nest. This morning I went to candle the eggs again for the last time so that I could double check that two of them are unfertilized and then take those out of the nest. Since we're going away for a week I don't want to leave them in there to rot and possibly explode after the others hatch. Unfortunately, there were only 4 eggs left - Squishy seems to have eaten one of the fertilized eggs. Maybe it cracked and broke, or something was wrong with it...or she just decided to eat it. Let's hope it's one of the first two options. She's only 6 months old but I think she'll be a good teen mom.

I 'chick-proofed' her brooding area with chicken wire over the too-large x-pen gaps, hardware cloth underneath to prevent predators digging in, and chicken wire across the top of the xpen so nothing can climb or fly in. I really hope at least one of the two remaining eggs hatches normally!

The Ameraucana chicks are getting big. I think they might actually be called Easter-Eggers since they're crosses of the different Ameraucana colours instead of being the 'right' colour types. I'm not that much of a chicken nerd (yet) that I care. I also think that three of them are boys. That I do care about...Gus and Skyler are definitely girls but Hank, Saul and Walt are looking iffy.

Taking a communal dust bath.

I was building a new compost bin (very fancy, I call it 'le palet' style)

and I noticed this little meeting taking place. I think Abby's explaining the ways of the farm to the chicks...mainly "I'm in charge, here, and don't you forget it". 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rhododendrons Suck

When we first got the sheep I came across a blog that talked about how careful you have to be when moving sheep past rhododendrons, since these plants are poisonous to grazing animals (and apparently, even the honey made from rhododendron pollen is toxic for people). After reading that, we fenced off the rhododendron plant that's in the yard by our house right away. When we put the goats in there, I added another layer of fence to block off the plant since goats are much better at getting over/under/through fences than sheep are. 

Yesterday morning we woke up to 2 very sick goats. They were both unusually quiet and standing still and shaking. May had vomited and neither was interested in food. I knew right away it was the rhododendron - sure enough, they'd pushed the fence down (I'm still kicking myself because I *knew* that fence wasn't strong enough to keep them away from the plant). 

We started reading what to do; the goats needed to be given activated charcoal to try and soak up the toxins. Since it was 7:30 on Sunday morning, we couldn't reach anyone except the small animal emergency clinic, and they wouldn't give us any charcoal since they aren't licensed to practice on large animals. 

While waiting for drug stores and health food stores to open (I guess people use activated charcoal for their own stomach issues) we made an oil/baking soda/tea/ginger mix and gave it to the goats. The oil apparently coats the stomach, the baking soda helps to relieve gas, the tannins in the tea help neutralize the toxins and the ginger helps relieve pain. Honestly, I have no idea how well this works but it was better than doing nothing while waiting for the stores to open. The sooner you can get some of the toxins out of their system, the better - so it was good that May was at least vomiting some of them out.

We ended up going to at least 10 stores before finding the activated charcoal tablets at a health food store. We mixed some of the tablets with water and gave that to the goats, followed an hour later by milk of magnesia. By the afternoon the goats were seeming better and were interested in eating some blackberry leaves. This morning they are both eating hay and a tiny bit of grain. They're a bit quieter and less active than usual but they are much better than yesterday. 

This is where that damn rhododendron plant went:

Needless to say, that was not a relaxing Sunday. Emma was supposed to come visit for the day but I had to cancel since we were dealing with the goats. I'm going to buy some electric netting fence today so that we can make temporary paddocks for goats and sheep when we want them to graze/browse certain areas. We let the goats out on Saturday and walked around with them but we need to train them some more before they have free range of the property - at this point we'll just lose them out there!

Up until Sunday, we had a beautiful sunny week and a few visitors. My mom came on Tuesday and we roasted the last of the roosters (one of the two that we'd slaughtered a few months ago). Then Ross visited for the rest of the week to plan a trip that we're going on next week. 

The chickens have him cornered.

Magpie has decided that she likes walking around on top of the coops. She can fly up 8" no problem!

The cows that may or may not be pregnant...if they are, the calves are due any day. It's like that show "I didn't know I was pregnant". The women are usually so large pre pregnancy that they don't get any bigger when pregnant. Never seen that show? neither....I never watch crappy TV....

Abby continues to love her foster sister, Lexi...
(this is also how I feel about those rhododendrons!)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fall Grazing

Three of the 5 eggs (one got..squished) under Squishy have chicks growing in them! We shined a really bright flashlight through a little hole in some cardboard and into the egg ("candling"). It was so cool seeing the veins and eyeball and everything, and seeing the chick move in the egg. If things go well, 3 chicks could hatch on September 20th-21st!

The goats are settling in well. They've stopped calling for their mum all the time and now they call for us to give them more blackberry branches and grain. They're both eating out of our hands already.

The sheep have pretty much eaten all the grass in their paddock and the one behind them. They can't be let out into the 'main' area anymore since they go right through the fences and in with today I brought them with me to water the orchard. There is lots of nice grass in there and they were pretty excited to taste it all. They only tried to eat the pear tree leaves a few times...The goats would demolish a young orchard like that in about 10 minutes!

Maggie getting braver

Our pumpkins are finally turning orange!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We've Goat Some News

Why is Ryan trying to nap on this tiny little bed? Because his crate has been borrowed from him and put to better use...

(have I mentioned before that dog crates and xpens are the most useful things to have around on a farm? Tarps, too.)

Welcome to the farm, Maggie & May!

Maggie & May are 4-month old Nubian goat sisters.

They're pretty timid right now - they were just taken away from their mom last night, when we picked them up. They've been calling for her a lot.

They're still happy to eat, though!

Goats are apparently pickier eaters than people think. They seem to enjoy munching on the blackberry branches I cut for them. They're in the yard near the house while we get them a little tamer. It's handy since we walk by them constantly and can give them treats easily, but there isn't much for them to eat in there.

Goats are notorious fence testers. Hopefully we can keep them contained!

Their faces are pretty similar but Maggie has these funny wattles under her chin, and a white tail.

May has a black tail and a white stripe around her belly.

 They are adorable...I want to pet their ears so badly! I think they'll come around pretty soon - they're very curious.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Staying Put

I had to lift Squishy out of her nest this morning to eat and drink. As soon as she was done she ran back in. She sure is dedicated. 

Our one and only watermelon is finally ready! It's really good...but I don't think I'd bother trying to grow watermelons again. So much work for so little!