Wow, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. On May 5th (while having a Kentucky Derby Party at the house) we had 6 new sheep delivered. They are all girls (ewes). Three adults and three little ones. We found them on Craig’s List. I know, not how you are supposed to buy livestock, but they were the right breed at the right price, and they were delivered.
The sheep are a mix of American Blackbelly and Soay. American Blackbelly are descended from the Barbados Blackbelly sheep, a breed that came from the Caribbean. American’s differ from the Barbados in that the American Blackbelly has horns due to some cross breeding way back. Blackbelly’s are known for their ability to tolerate heat, do well on marginal forage and little grain, ability to breed year round, disease resistance and parasite tolerance and their lean mild-flavored meat.
Soay are descended from a population of feral sheep on the 250-acre island of Soay in Scotland. They still have a lot of their wild instincts. Both the Blackbelly and Soay are “hair” sheep. Hair sheep naturally shed their coat and do not need to be sheared. Hallelujah. I have enough to do without having to figure THAT out.
When the sheep first arrived they were a little freaked out, but not too bad. Within a few hours, they were looking for treats. The original owner had trained them to come for plain animal crackers, and it does indeed work. They are small animals, which is good, as I’m not a very large woman (though technically, the 4-legged animals are my husband’s project).
Then, on May 12th, we drove to Prosser, about 1 1/2 hours north and west of here, to pick up 8 female goats. These goats are on loan from a friend, who needed to ween this spring’s offspring off of the does. We, in turn, were in need of 4-legged lawn mowers. So the Mama’s get to take a vacation to Jen’s house. There was much crying and carrying on for the first few days as they wondered where their babies were and dealt with their “boobs” being sore. They seem to be settling in now and are quite friendly. They are a mix of Boar (a meat breed) and Nubian (a milk breed), and are quite the motley crew. We’ll keep one, and likely buy one of the babies from her as well, later in the year.
We kept everyone in a smaller pen at first, just to get them acclimated (and to knock down the fox tail grass in there before it dried out), but now they are all out on pasture together. The sheep are calm, quiet and reserved. The goats are curious, noisy and boisterous. Kind of like cats vs dogs. I’m still trying to decide which I like better. The sheep are easier, for sure. So far I’ve had to cut one goat out of a livestock panel with bolt cutters (it’s really thick wire and I was afraid of hurting her if I forced her head back through – she was pretty stuck) and untangle another from the electric net fence after she got her head into it, and then back through it about 10 times while trying to get out. (Turns out it was likely grounding out on the wet grass – I’ve since mowed the fence strip, hopefully solving the problem). But there is something wildly satisfying about throwing goats a pile of bind weed you just pulled, and them acting like it is Christmas. Or watching them strip a willow branch down to nothing and then look up to see if you have more. They are like miniature garbage trucks.
Meanwhile, I’ve now got two Sunday farmers markets under my belt (much much better than Spokane. Love you Spokane, but just saying, you can’t beat wine country tourists for cash).
And the ducks have graduated (they are now three weeks old) from their stock tank to the whole horse stall to being able to go outside and forage and swim in their kiddy pool. Ducks grow incredibly fast. And they are incredibly messy. The move out of the stock tank was necessitated by them going through 5 gallons of water in a day, most of which ended up in the bottom of the tank. Can you say anaerobic composting. Yuck. But they are all doing well, and starting to quack a bit, rather than just peep. Can’t wait until they are old enough to start tackling slugs in the garden. OMG the slugs are everywhere!
I’ve prevented one of the turkeys from committing suicide three times now. He’s figured out how to fly out of his stock tank, and then immediately into the duck’s kiddy pool pond. Thankfully, we have a rock in there to stand on, which he did, all wet and bedraggled. At this point, he’s stopped doing that (and the pool has been moved) and he flies in and out of the tank when he feels like it. The turkeys are only three weeks old (two males and a female, by the looks of the feathers), and a little young to not be under a heat lamp at night, so they are not quite ready to graduate to their outside dog pen just yet.
The 25 baby chicks turned 6 weeks old on Saturday, and graduated to the big bird coop, as they no longer require a heat lamp. They can go in and out of the coop if they want, but so far, they have just decided to hang in there. I’ve given them their own water, and a food dish that is fenced off so that the bigger birds can’t get to it. You know those free range eggs that are called “free range” because the birds have “access” to a small patch of grass outside through a small door, but they never actually go outside because they don’t know what the door is for? I’m starting to see how that could happen. But given that we have neighbors on both sides with outdoor cats that like to hunt, I’m happy to have them hang out in the coop until they are bigger and don’t look so much like kitty dinner. Meanwhile, the adult hens go in and out all day, so eventually, they will get the idea.
I still have two hens sitting on eggs in places I can’t reach. If we don’t see some baby chicks here in a week or so, drastic measures are going to need to be taken. I also have a buff orpington who sits on a nest box all day, but not on any eggs. I throw her off once a day in the evening, she cackles at me like a wild woman, goes and gets something to eat and drink, and then is right back on the nest within a few minutes. If I needed more chicks, I’d stick some eggs under her, but I don’t. Hormones! These guys are eating me out of house and home as it is. So now that I have a venue for eggs, I’m only getting 9 or 10 a day, after having too many all winter. Ugh.
In amongst all this insanity, my husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We took the day off (after taking care of all the critters) and drove up to Palouse Falls for a hike. It was gorgeous. We also stopped in Dayton for a visit to Mace Mead Works to sample the product, which I highly recommend.
Oh, and we had a FROST on May 10th and 11th. Just about 32 degrees, so the damage was light on the fruit trees. Thankfully, there was fair warning, and I hadn’t planted any of my warm season crops yet. So other than the potatoes looking like someone took a blow torch to them (they will come back – happened ALL the time in Colorado) no harm, no foul. But this week, the temps are in the 90’s, and I am planting warm season crops like a mad woman. Yesterday was beans, corn, cucumbers, summer squash, cantaloupe and watermelon. Today it is tomatoes/tomatillos. Tomorrow will be peppers…or eggplant…or celery…or the second batch of carrots, which I am way behind on…or all of the winter squash. That is if there isn’t another goat in a fence, or a turkey in a pond, or a rabbit passed out from heat stroke. Welcome to farming. You can maybe see how it’s been two weeks since my last post. And I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2012, where also on the list this week is: finish building extra rabbit cages (babies are old enough to be separated and NEED to be separated, as they are likely male and female), build a new compost pile from the chick brooder litter, and get the chipper going again so I can create some more bedding for the rabbits (and the chickens and the ducks). Oh, and find some old straw to mulch the strawberries. And make a batch of soap, and some bath fizzies that I’ve been trying to perfect. You get the idea. Phew!