Warmer weather is here and I saw my first few flocks of Canadian geese flying north so I know that spring is on it's way! It's been such a long winter that I forgot about watching for the most reliable sign of warmer weather! Needless to say, I am happy that I was able to be working outside for most of the day in a tank top. Now if only I could swap these rubber boots for flip flops...
Most of the day was spent filling sand bags. We found water creeping in to the horse barn and decided to sand bag it before it gets too bad. My boys and I did most of the work though the girls joined us around lunch time due to an early out for school. There was some complaining going on but for the most part everyone worked together and we got about 60 bags up. We still have another 40 or so to fill and move. That will have to wait for tomorrow. It probably doesn't sound like much but there is a reason for that.
We can't drive the truck down to the barn because the roads are still blocked with snow. So, we have to put the bags in a sled and pull it to the barn which is a good 500 feet or so. Not so bad in the snow but there is bare dirt in places which makes moving the sled challenging. We had 8 to 10 bags in the sled at a time, each weighing 35 pounds...so we were pushing quite a load each trip!
While moving our first load, we got caught up on the bridge crossing the creek. One of the horses met us on the bridge which is narrow...about wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. He wanted to cross, but couldn't. We tried to back him up but he wouldn't cooperate. Instead, he tried to jump over the sled (with 10 sand bags in it) with the four kids and I standing around the sled. Thankfully the only one injured was me. He pushed me up against the rail on the bridge and when he jumped, his knee (I think) hit me in the lower left part of my back. The pain was incredible and I thought I was seriously injured at first.
He made it across the bridge without trampling the children. Once on the other side, he decided he wanted to cross again. The kids formed a line and would not let him step one hoof on the bridge. He stomped and snorted and eventually got tired of waiting for us to move and chose instead to go through the creek. He acted up a bit when we brought the other load out but settled down eventually.
Needless to say, I am very sore. I did take some ibuprofen and am really hoping I won't wake up crippled tomorrow. The horse was trying to "apologize" later on. He is young, not quite 4 years yet. He is such a social animal, rarely does he behave like a horse, more like a giant dog. He was a rescued horse, spent his first two years severely neglected when he and his herd of 23 were seized by law enforcement. He then spent a year out to pasture being rehabilitated (by the county Sheriff's Office) before we purchased him. He was 400 pounds underweight when they seized him. Considering his beginnings, I am surprised he is as wonderful a horse as he is! We do feel very lucky to have him. This winter has been so long and harsh. I think he is really enjoying the nicer weather. Needless to say, however, he is going to have some real intense training go one this spring as soon as all the snow is gone!
On a positive note, all of my seeds arrived today! YAY. I am so excited! A friend of mine has offered to volunteer 40 hours planting and caring for them as part of her Master Gardener credentialing. I am STOKED as I need all the expertise I can get! I have planned out a few things, thinking about doing raised beds. I have so many things to do to get ready for spring! Thank God this winter is about over!
Our new logo is complete! I am so excited about it and really happy with the way it turned out! I think she did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of our farm! I love the rolling hills and the sunrise! This is what I see every morning when I look out the east windows towards the pond and the horse pasture. The rooster is so colorful and the vegetables and eggs are the main staple of what we do. This logo will go on everything, from our labels to our letterhead. I am SO excited to have business cards made! Maybe even a jacket! Carmen Hubbs over at Co:mission:d
did a fantastic job and I highly recommend her for all of your graphic design needs!
As if it couldn't get any better, last night my mother-in-law handed me an envelope with some papers in it. What I found inside was a notarized form transferring the Soper brand to my husband and I. This brand has been in the Soper family for generations and now it has been passed on to us. What an awesome start to Spring!
I ordered seed today for the crops this summer. I am SO excited! I ordered them from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
which only sells only open-pollinated, pure, natural and non-GMO seeds
. My entire crop will be from heirloom seeds and entirely organic! I can't wait to get planting! I will have sweet corn, 2 kinds of tomato, cucumbers, 2 kinds of green beans (1 pole and 1 bush), zucchini, carrots, spinach, onion, beets, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, rhubarb, 2 kinds of lettuce, 7 kinds of peppers (both sweet and hot), celery, 2 kinds of watermelon and 2 kinds of pumpkin.
I didn't order any herbs so will be looking to trade my excess seed for herbs (seed or cuttings), or other fruits, vegetables, etc. Specifically I am looking for potatoes, blackberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, strawberries, garlic, basil, cilantro, dill, sweet marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory, sage, stevia, thyme and chives but I am open to exchanging for other varieties that I don't already have on hand. I will be saving seed for next year's crops and may possibly have seed for sale depending on how good my yields are.
Mary-Kate had her kits yesterday. She had 15 this time around. Once again, her nest sucked and all 15 died. I'm pretty ticked off at her and my daughter wants to send her to Camp Freezer tomorrow. I am contemplating giving her one more try. Someone suggested breeding her the same time as Ashley and Cruella and then adding 1/2 of the litter to each to foster with their litters which would make Mary-Kate basically a baby incubator. Mary-Kate has such big litters that I hate to cull her, but we've lost 27 kits now which is a loss of $400 to $670 when sold as fryers. The other does won't be ready to breed again until the beginning of April so we have some time to weight our options.
Other than that, the weather is supposed to change again and get near 50 degrees by end of next week. I can't wait! I am so tired of being cold. The ground is soaked and covered with snow. Things will need to dry out significantly before I can even think about working the ground. I definitely will be starting seed indoors
A reminder for me as to why I don't use artificial heat or light in my hen house...We had a power failure this morning. Normally, this isn't a big deal. Only today, it WAS a big deal. No power=no lights for the baby chicks. Sadly, we lost another chick. While older chickens can survive without artificial heat, baby chicks cannot. Thankfully the little cheeps let us know something was wrong because they got VERY noisy. When they are cold, they let you know it! Unfortunately one little girl didn't make it. =(
A hen's laying frequency is regulated by the number of hours of daylight in a day. Generally they need 12 to 14 hours each day of light to reach their peak production. Naturally, they slow down in the winter. This can be compensated for by using artificial light. Additionally, some people use heat in their coops. This keeps egg production rather steady throughout the cold and dark winter days.
There are a couple cons to this practice. A hen has a set number of eggs she will lay in her lifetime. If she does not take a seasonal break due to artificial light and heat, she will lay her life quota of eggs sooner and be a "spent" hen. Then comes the decision to keep her as a pet or put her in the freezer. Hens have been known to live in excess of 12 years. Most consider a hen "spent" around 3 or 4 years old.
Another problem that was the main deciding factor in my decision to NOT use artificial heat and stop using artificial light was power failures. Our region is known for some terrible storms and losing power for several hours or even days is not uncommon. My fear was that, in allowing my hens to have artificial heat, in the event of an extended power outage, the sudden change in temperature would send the hens into shock. I decided it was best to allow them to get acclimated to our harsh winters to they can tolerate the sub zero temperatures regardless.
Come January, I unplugged the lights. It was SO cold and the eggs were freezing almost as soon as the hen would leave the nest. Not to mention that it takes an incredible amount of energy for a hen to lay. I wanted them to expend that energy staying warm when the wind chills plummeted to -40F or colder! As soon as I stopped the lights, they stopped laying. I struggled with the urge to buy eggs from the store during the hens hiatus but I just couldn't get myself to do it. A majority of eggs from the store are laid by hens either kept in batteries or CAFO's and I just can't support those practices. A friend and fellow hen keeper was able to supplement our egg shortage with her flock as she chose to use artificial heat and light for her flock.
I am happy to report that we did not lose a single hen to the cold, despite having 105 inches of snowfall for the season (so far) and crazy cold temperatures!
They have arrived and not a moment too soon as we have just been issued a Blizzard warning! I am SO GLAD they arrived a day early!
I received the call from the post office at 7 a.m. and rushed to get the chicks home. I quickly realized that one brooder was not going to be enough for 75 chicks (we actually received 80). So, we ran to town to get supplies to set up two more brooders, each for about 25 chicks.
We used plastic 5-foot diameter wading pools. We constructed a guard out of hardware cloth and covered it with sheets to protect the chicks from drafts. We suspended brooder lamps from the ceiling using hooks and chains. Each lamp had a 250 watt red heat bulb. Each brooder has 1 gallon water and 1 24-inch feeder tray. We used pine shavings as bedding. We were going to use newspaper but the paper was so slippery and we worried about leg injuries.
It took several trips to town and about 6 hours to get everything settled before we felt we could take a break. There were 3 chicks in the bunch that are rather lethargic and probably won't survive, but since we received extra chicks, hopefully it will balance out.
My son was especially excited to see two Turkens in the brown-egg-layer assortment we ordered. I almost ordered them separately for him. They are true "red necks" according to my son. They have no neck feathers and look like turkeys but they are 100% chicken! We are trying to come up with "red neck" names for girls since both are females.
I am wiped out but the day is not over yet. The younger twins have hunter education classes all week for 3 hours each night. SO, no rest for the mama, yet!
Today two more horses joined us on the farm. My in-laws had their two quarter horses at another location. Unfortunately that location is beginning to flood and all had to be moved.
So, this morning they arrived. I was a little apprehensive as these horses (Doc & Winnie) are much older than our young gelding (Paco). They don't get as much human interaction and can be rather bad mannered. They also are quite a bit bigger than our boy (although he is faster!). We penned up our boy while bringing the other two in. He was So excited! (He came from a herd of 23). They didn't seem very pleased to see him and wandered off to check out their new accommodations while he stayed behind in the corral. After Paco settled down, we let him out. He decided at that point that eating was more interesting than meeting Doc and Winnie. Go figure!
Eventually the three met up. Some kicking and stomping occurred but they settled down rather quickly. I don't think it will be too long before they are pals. Paco is rather submissive and very social. As soon as Doc & Winnie realize he isn't a threat, I think they will accept him just fine.
My ankle is rather sore, however. Doc has a TERRIBLE habit of crowding and kicked the outside of my right ankle four or five times. I discovered bruising and abrasions when I took my sock off to check. I don't like a horse that crowds SO Mr. Doc and I will be having some training going on until we reach a mutual agreement that I will not be bullied by him. I can't blame the boy though. He's been out to pasture for years, then was kept with some other horses that were poorly trained and not well cared for, to going into a corral for nearly 5 months only to get moved again to my farm. He needs some daily interaction. I plan to be riding him regularly by the end of summer!
Oh, and I am now officially shopping for my first pair of cowboy (girl) boots. Never though I'd see the day THAT happened. But Doc taught me today the value of having my ankles protected! Thanks Doc! =D
We decided today was the day to clean the nest boxes for the hens. What a MESS! The hens took it upon themselves to knock down a bale of hay and spread it everywhere. I didn't realize they had hay more than 12 inches thick on the floor! WOW. While cleaning, we found a secret hiding space where a hen was sitting on 4 eggs. Sneaky little hens.
With the addition of the rooster, we will have to break the eggs into a glass before cooking them, for now. Although a friend of mine who also raises hens had read that as long as the eggs are gathered soon after being laid and promptly refrigerated, that the eggs won't develop any surprises that could ruin one's appetite.
Now that the boxes are cleaned and loaded with fresh straw, I am eager to get up in the morning and see if they have any eggs in the nests. I really hope they start laying everyday again. In the meantime, the baby chicks may be here as soon as Monday. We are getting pretty excited about their impending arrival!
My husband is going to be SO upset with me!
I got a call from dispatch and was connected with a kid who found two dogs running on the highway. A 19-year-old kid! He was worried about the dogs getting ran over so he picked them up and called the sheriff's office and wanted to know what to do with them. I offered to take pictures and post them on our Homeless Pets page
and on Facebook
. The kid brings them out to the farm and I had no intentions of keeping them here, but it wasn't until he arrived that I realized how young he was and how small the dogs were and I could tell right away by looking at them that these were someone's pets.
The poodle was very dirty and I wanted to bathe her before taking her photo. I wasn't going to have the kid wait. So, I decided we could crate them in the mud room now that the rabbits and cats are back outside until we find their owner. The hubby, however, has expressed his preference to NOT foster any dogs...but...I couldn't say "no" to these ones though the kid didn't ask me to take them.
Anyway, these little dogs are SO sweet! They are so affectionate. I hope we find their owner soon before I get attached! In the meantime, I am searching for donations for building kennels. Thankfully these two are small enough that we can get away with crating them. But the baby chicks are arriving early next week and the mud room will be dedicated to them until they are big enough to go to the hen house with the rest of the flock.
I woke up from my nap this morning (brought on by a bout of insomnia) to hear rain...something we haven't had in months. My first thought was "Oh, no! The babies!" because we moved all of the rabbits back outside now that the temperatures have increased.
I went to the window where I can see directly into the hutches where the baby bunnies are and was happy to see that, despite how soggy and wet it is outside, the hutch was doing it's job and everyone inside is nice and dry. They actually appear to be really enjoying being outside after being cooped up in the mud room for so long.
It's nice to sit here in my dining room and watch the baby bunnies racing around their hutch playing. I am seeing more and more wild rabbits making their way out and fully expect to see an explosion of little wild cotton tales here soon. The number of wild birds is also on the rise and my cue to refill the bird feeders hanging in the yard (now that I can get to them!)
We are finally seeing temperatures above freezing and have moved the rabbits back outside, including the babies! Everyone seems very happy to be in the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up in my mud room for the past few months. I am very happy to say that all have survived this awful winter we've had and I HOPE we don't see another winter like it for MANY years!
I've so excited that our baby chicks will be arriving early next week! The cats were removed from the mud room as well and returned to their rightful place in the horse barn. One one cat is protesting the move but his complaints are falling of deaf ears as he managed to kill two baby mini lops while in the mud room. If I had my way, the cat would no longer be alive. BUT, you ca't kill them for doing what comes naturally to them...I just wish he would focus those awesome hunting skills on the mice instead!
The chickens are doing awesome! I've been able to leave the hen house door open for about the past two weeks. I can't keep leaving it open at night as eventually the coyotes will get wind of them but the chickens, ducks and the goose all have enjoyed their early morning frolicks in the dirt. I am toying with the idea of filling up the pool for the ducks to take a swim in...but I need it as a brooder for the baby chicks coming next week. Maybe I'll pick them up another pool today.
Spring is fast approaching and I am LOVING the sight and sounds of the bird coming out of their long winter sleep. I even saw my first skunk (dead on the road) so Spring isn't too far off! Maybe that groundhog wasn't wrong after all...The wild cotton tales are also showing themselves and soon we will have wild rabbits invading the farm. I still need to come up with a way to protect our gardens this year from becoming the inevitable feast for them!
We were mentioned on another blog which is pretty awesome! I am just grinning! We've had this rather covert operation going on with a local mom who has reserved three of our mini lops to surprise her munchkins with this coming Easter! She has posted pics of the ones they chose on her blog Slow Mo Mama
with another mention here