Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Our First Baby Lamb!!

This weekend, our very pregnant sheep Pot Pie had her baby lamb. We named him Meatball.

Me holding Thing #3, who is holding meatball. Thing #2 has a new baby chick.
Meatball is very healthy and doing great. He's nursing well, and as of today I think Pot Pie is transitioning from colostrum to milk. His belly is looking fuller, and he's even begun taking a few small nibbles of grass and sips from the water bucket.

Monday, April 28, 2014

First Chicken Processed

Corn the Rooster became our first homestead meat this weekend.
On Saturday, I processed Corn the Rooster.

He had to go. He was a great rooster, and was very protective of the flock. But he attacked us when we got eggs. He attacked us when we just went to hang out by the chickens. He flew up when I was outside of the fence a few times and tried to peck me in the face. He attacked Wife and Things #2 and #3, on several separate occasions.

He just had to go.

So, on Saturday, he went.

Growing the Chicken Collection

Some people collect stamps. Other, coins. Still other collect Beanie Babies, or beer bottle caps (wait....I do that too), or baseball cards.

Us? We collect chickens.

New less-than-a-week old Americauana/Araucana chicks. We got 10.
After moving the new chickens out of the chick-u-bator and into the chicken pen, we had an unoccupied chick-u-bator in the shed. Since it's before hay season, and the chick-u-bator is just out, we grabbed 10 blue egg layers when we went to get vaccines for the sheep and milking-time oats for the cow.

Thing #2 loves baby chicks.

He called this one "Brownie."
After getting these 10 new chicks and dispatching Corn the Rooster, we're at 41 total chickens of varying ages.

New Chickens, Meet Old Chickens

On Saturday, we officially introduced the new chickens to the old chickens. By this I mean I removed the little introduction pen I had constructed, and the flocks intermingled at last.

The new chickens being assumed into the existing chicken flock.
This shot shows 9 new chickens and 13 old chickens.
Overall, it went very smoothly.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wild Turkey Egg

Yesterday, while checking on the sheep, i found a wild turkey egg.

The speckling is very cool on this wild turkey egg.
It was nestled snugly in a small section of overgrowth that my neighbor had just mowed.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Octave Homestead Update

I've been slacking on posting lately because things have been so busy lately. From Easter preparation to baseball games, from plumbing disasters to chicken introductions, and from buying a new car to attending the funeral of a dear family friend, there has been A LOT going on the last 14 days. Really, the untimely death of Pancake set off a whole string of very stressful events that have precluded me from posting more often. I hope to be back on track now.

To start it off, look how pregnant Pot Pie the sheep is!

Actually, this is a terrible angle that doesn't really let you see it.
But trust me - she's about to pop.

Milking Photos

Recently, my dad came to visit and snapped a few pics of me hand-milking Bridget at the stanchion. I like this one the best:

You can see the stream of milk flowing into the bucket.
The kids' yellow step-stool, Abigail, makes the perfect milking stool.
I also took some shots of Thing #2 learning to milk. He's a great little helper, and, well, he's learning.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Choose Your Own (Homesteading) Adventure

In the wide world of project management, there's an old saying that goes something like this:

You can do this project fast, cheap, and correct. But you can only pick two. -Old Saying

I would call the setup of a farm, the initial infrastructure build, as a "project." And in something like building a portable cow care station, or constructing a winter dry lot, or designing a movable chicken coop, this "law" still hold sway.

Where's the "all of the above" bubble?

But what about everyday life? Is there a pattern that can look at the bigger picture of managing the day to day activities of a homesteader?

I believe there is. I've found that day-to-day life on a farm follows a similar pattern - you can't have it all. I've said it before, and I guess now I'll say it in print:

You can make farming as difficult or as easy as you want it to be. -Bubs

For example, if you wanted to cut a hay field, driving a tractor with a sickle bar mower is faster than hand-scything it. However, there is a trade-off. You gain something and you lose something in each of these two very simple scenarios. In the first, you opt for "quality" and "speed," but pay out the nose for the equipment. In the second, going for "quality" and "price" means it takes longer.

Projects are one thiung, and we all undertake them. But I've been thinking about the everyday activities - stuff we do every single morning and evening, as opposed to one-off or once-in-a-while projects. I like to call this daily flurry of activity "farm management." I think farm management, especially hobby farm management, boils down to a dance between four distinct elements:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Homestead Update

What an emotional start to the month of April.

First, we're still reeling today from the unexpected death of Pancake, one of our sheep, who passed away yesterday morning along with her two lambs in utero.

On the other end of the spectrum, our seedlings are popping up like crazy. The seed-starting greenhouse is doing a great job getting sprouts up and, well, sprouting.

Tomatoes in the upper right, brassicas to the left, and lettuces underneath. Yay greenhouse!

A Very Tough Loss

Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, we lost Pancake the sheep. Worse still, we also lost her two unborn lambs - one male, one female.

It was a very hard, very sad day, and a very tough loss of three little sheep lives.

Pancake, left side with the brown markings, was pregnant when I took this picture.
I found her yesterday morning out in her pen. I had checked on the sheep last night, like I do every day (twice a day, for that matter), and she looked perfectly fine. In fact, I saw her tail wag as she reached up and took a few bites of wild bamboo leaves. She had shelter, water, food, and the company of her two sheep-mates.

She did not make it to the morning.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Cow Cart

I truly believe that within certain reasonable guidelines (like how long it takes to walk from one side of the farm to the other, how long it takes to hand-milk, much much you can lift, etc.), homesteading can be as difficult or as easy as you design it to be.

Taking care of the cows could involve multiple trips back and forth, first with cow, then lugging buckets of water, then staking them out, then lugging manure back, and so on. But it doesn't. I've designed a simpler approach. Presenting the cow cart:

The cow cart has everything I need to stake out (and clean up after) a cow for a day.
Except, of course, the cow herself....
Like all of my crazy, wacked-out schemes well-thought-out, rational designs, this one does not have "plans" associated with it. I basically used scrap wood pieces on top of a cart I bought from Northern Tool.

Using it, I can make a single trip per cow to wherever I need to go on the homestead and get the cows everything they need.

Ending the Endless Summer, Step 2: Reasonable Bedtimes

Wife and I are still trying to battle the endless summer. Some days we fight the battles better than others. Lately, we've actually slipped back into old habits of watching TV late-night, and this has led to me being very tired in the morning. Heck, last night I passed out around 10, and still woke up with the sun (actually, I snoozed for a while and really got up at 6:30).

Despite the nearly 8 hours of sleep, I am exhausted today.

I need to follow Mickey's example and use candlelight more frequently at night.
The blue-light TV waves are messing with my sleep mojo.
So what gives?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Work Is Worth It

Each morning, I spend between 60 and 90 minutes (closer to 60 most days) on the daily farm chores, with another 30 to 45 minutes each evening. A huge chunk of that time is spent milking, moving, and watering Bridget the milk cow. The rest is dedicated to moving Brisket, picking up manure, checking on the pigs, watering the sheep, feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, feeding the new meat rabbits, getting some feed going for the next day, and otherwise tending to various miscellany around the farmstead.

But then, when I come inside, strain the milk, clean up, get everything put away, and then survey the "fruits of my labor," so to speak, it's all worth it.

This morning's eggs and milk. That's a full dozen eggs, and about 3/4 a gallon of milk.
All of this was produced in the last 12 hours by the animals we keep.
In addition to just "knowing where our food comes from," we also know that it is vastly more healthy and better tasting than any store-bought alternative.

Yeah, the work is worth it.

New Meat Rabbit Breeding Stock

We added yet another species to the farm last night. We bought two breeding rabbits: one 11-month Californian doe, and one 5-month New Zealand White buck.

Our new breeding stock meat rabbits. Left, Skittles the Californian doe.
Right, Coconut, the New Zealand buck.
We're still searching for a second breeding-age doe, but in the meantime, we have some new friends to get to know.