Monday, November 19, 2012

Selling Last Years Calves

We had 12 calves last year and need to sell six this year. This is the most we have had to sell so far. We had 6 in 2010 and kept four heifer calves that were our black bull's daughters. They are having calves for the first time this year. We have kept 4 heifers and a replacement bull. And we are keeping one bull to butcher next summer. Our plan is to keep 4 heifers a year and then start selling the older cows through the years. We can handle about 24 breeding cows and their calves on our farm at one time.

Well anyway, we rounded up the calves and sorted them this morning to be loaded into the trailer to be taken to town to sell. We were up and out at the farm at 6:00 am. John took half a sack of feed into the dark....out into the field to round up the calves. I got the corral set up to sort the calves. The man with the trailer was coming at 7:00 and we had to be ready. We practise with the herd, getting them use to the corral and the head shoot for just this reason.

Well we were up early but the trailer didn't arrive until 8:30. That's the way it usually happens! But we got all loaded and on the way. They will be sold on today and we should receive a check on Wednesday. It is a very strange set-up. I guess we should go to a sell someday. But this is easier. And I like getting the check in the mail.

Everything we earn from the calves we put back into the farm. We build roads, ponds, fences, and barns. That is something we agreed to at the very start. So much has to be done tothe farm to get it into shape to really produce. We really aren't there yet but every year gets us closer.

We walked one of the bulls down to join the main herd and as we approached, our herd bull, Norbert, came up yelling. He was not very welcoming!! When we turned the young bull around and started back to the other field to join his year mates, he was ready to get away from Norbert! We learn something everytime we work the herd.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Being brave....

Heard from an old friend yesterday. She called because it was my birthday. We were room mates in college for three years. I haven't spoken to her in over twenty years. It was so good of her to call. Very Good. I miss her.

I miss her sense of humor, her love of family and friends and her down-earthiness. (is that a word?) She is a only child with wonderful, protective parents. They use to come to school every Friday to get her and bring her back every Sunday. An hour drive. She and her husband have five kids. I missed the chance to watch them grow up. I bet they had a blast. Her dad was (is) quite the joker. I'm sure he and her mother have enjoyed such a big family.

I didn't think we had much in common. Our fundamental beliefs are very different. It was hard to have conversations at times. It seemed better to just walk away.

The differences in people don't matter as much as the things you have in common. The years have given me a little better perspective on those differences. And as we both have children, homes, aging parents, and we are both trying to stay afloat in these trying times, the common stuff is more abundant.

I was talking to an old friend yesterday. I'm glad she called.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life and Death on the Farm

We lost a ram the other day to what has to be have been a coyote (or pack of them). He was in a field without donkey protection. Lesson learned. We loose animals sometimes to owls, hawks, dogs, coyotes and once to a bobcat. There are a lot of hungry animals in the woods. And you take a dry summer like this past one and it really stresses the native wildlife. We try to protect our animals with field fencing and large cages or coops at night. But where there is a will there is a way!

Of course, as my daughter points out to me, the largest, hungriest animals on the farm are us.  And to that regard we sent the first of our ram herd to the butcher about two weeks ago. Five rams. And now they are in the freezer.

I have never experienced such before. I was not raised on a farm. My dad was not a hunter nor a fisherman. My maternal grandfather had a large farm that supplemented his earnings to feed his large family. He would raise a couple of cows to sell for his kids school tuition or to have a little extra cash some years. I think I remember "Gramps" butchering a hog and putting it in a smokehouse but my mother thinks I dreamed it.

We loaded the rams by feeding them in the trailer on Saturday and then again on Sunday and then just shut the trailer gate. Very anti-climatic. We drove to the local abattoir. Unloaded, one at a time, as the man weighed them. And then went into the office to tell the lady how we wanted them processed. They would be killed, then hang for 9 days, and then they would butcher and package the meat. And so I picked up neatly packaged meat, just like you would see in the grocery store.

Until I started this new life, I really never thought about where the food in the markets came from. There is such a push right now for "farm to table" but someone has to raise and care for those animals. All my family has been made more aware of the reality of the process. I think it makes me more determined to give the animals on my farm the best life they can have for the time they are with us.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Guinea on the Roof

My Guineas go into the chicken coop at night with the chickens.
Well most of them. Sometimes one or two won't come off the roof.
I love to watch them in the morning after I let them out of the coop.
They will all go onto the roof and run from one side to the other making the most aweful noise.
My husband has asked me if I can possibly find a more obnoxious bird.
He does not realize that peacocks are in his future!
One of first times they ran across the roof like this,
Jack and Jerry were in their end of the barn and
they came running out in a panic, kicking and braying!
The donkeys are now used to the noise.

Katahdin Sheep

A little background for those of you not familiar with Katahdin sheep. Katahdins are hair sheep. That is, they don't grow wool that has to be sheared. They grow a two-layer coat, an inner layer of fine wool that sheds out naturally in the summer and an outer hair coat that remains slick during the heat of the summer. As you can see in the Honey and Adele post, Honey is shedding her last bit of winter wool. Katahdins were developed as a breed by a Maine sheep farmer, Michel Piel. Story goes that in 1957 he read a National Geographic artical about West African hair sheep. He was a sheep farmer but had to shear his sheep. He combined a number of breeds and by the late 1970s he had a hair sheep breed that met his goals of excellant meat production without having to shear. He named it for Mt. Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jack and Jerry, the Guard Donkeys

Jack and Jerry came up for a visit this morning. They are our guard donkeys. They guard the sheep from coyotes and dogs. They are small standard cross-back donkeys. They normally are fed with the sheep but sometimes when I catch them by themselves, they get a little bit of grain in their feed buckets.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Honey and Adele

We started our Katahdin sheep herd last December with five ewes. This past spring we had lambs. All of the ewes twinned. Twins are typical. All the ewes had a boy and a girl. Which is not typical.
Except Honey. She had two girls. And for some reason she lost one.
So she just has Adele.
And she is a very attentive mother. 
Honey is our most friendly ewe. All the children who visit the farm can pet her and feed her from thier hands. And Adele is following in her mother's footsteps. Adele is so curious and friendly to the point at times for trouble. But always fun!

Monday, October 1, 2012

New calves on the farm.

This one is Isabelle. She is Sara's calf. Her mother is Millie. Millie was born on Sara's second wedding anniversary and was a gift from her Dad and me. Sara's favorite movie growing up was "Seven Brides For Seven Brother's" and Millie was the first bride. If you know the story, the brothers were named alphabetically for men in the bible. When Millie had the first granddaughter she continued the names and named her daughter Hannah. Millie's (the cow) calf last year was named Hannah. Following the tradition, this years calf is Isabelle.

And this heifer calf was born on Sunday. Her name is Remi. (St. Remi)
Her mother is Helena. Helena is actually the first calf that we breed ourselves with the first herd bull, Paul Heinz, ear tag #57 and Cow 34. As you might guess, Paul Hienz was a black bull. We have four of his daughters on our farm now. Remi is Norbert's calf. You might guess the color of Norbert!

Oh and Isabelle is Norbert's daughter. Norbert is now our Herd Bull.
Paul Heinz has left the farm.

Adventures in baking!

Sara here! I want to tell you about some baking we have been doing. We stopped at Panera last week and bought two muffins to split and share - a pumpkin muffin and an apple cinnamon muffin. After trying them both, we (me and Jo) decided that we needed to try to make some. So we found a recipe that we really liked online (here's the recipe that we started with) and made a few tweaks to it, like more pumpkin spice and a whole can of pumpkin puree and of course we doubled the streusel topping. I must say, they turned out wonderful!! So the next week we decided to take that muffin recipe that we liked so much and turrn it into an apple cinnamon muffin. We used apple pie filling instead of the pumpkin puree. The apple pie filling has chunks of apples in it, just perfect for a muffin. And we added lots of cinnamon! Here's the batter in the large muffin tins.

They turned out wondeful as well. I'm not even a fan of cinnamon and I love them! We also plan to make / create a blueberry muffin and a chocolate muffin. The great thing about the original muffin recipe we started with is that we figure its not really all that unhealthy (for a muffin, that is). It has applesause in it to keep it moist and half a cup of oats in it. And we added flax seed meal to the apple muffins. Flax is really good for you, but you couldn't even tell it was in the muffins. 

Seven Spring Ewes

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Feeding the Chickens

These are our stories from the farm, learning how to get back to the old ways and raise food like generations before us did.

And the title? Feeding the chickens is basically the first thing I do in the morning, every morning.