Sunday, February 24, 2013

Busy Week on the Farm

 It has been a very busy week on the farm. Things that we meant to get done last weekend got postponed because we got the nasty bug that's been going around. Ian ended up with Strep throat and then, once everyone was better, I got a two day migraine that kept me indoors.

 We thought that Sweetie had mastitis and she stopped nursing the triplets, so I had to milk her and bottle feed the babies. Luckily, it wasn't mastitis, but only a bruised udder and she's letting them get their milk straight from the source again. They are growing like weeds and are at the ridiculously cute stage where they bounce around the yard all day.

This may have been the only time they were still all day

 Coco is still pregnant, but is starting to show signs that the baby (babies?) might come soon. Of course, I thought Sweetie was going to deliver weeks before she actually did, so what do I know? She's as standoffish as always, so it's hard to tell if her tail ligaments have softened yet. She is starting to hollow out a little, but not nearly as much as Sweetie had before she delivered. It could be today, or it could be in another month. Next time I won't field breed them, so I have a better idea of when to expect the babies.

She is camera shy, but I finally managed to get a decent picture

 Daddy brought home a big pile of pallets, which is great, because they can be used for so many things. He also got some long pieces of rain gutter that we'll use to plant strawberries in, some, 2x4s, and a bunch of scrap plywood. 

16 masonry pallets, some of which were used to give Bacon a raised floor in the pig pen

 The first big project that we (actually he) tackled was getting the main part of the garden fenced. After the umpteenth time that the goats ate my sprouting artichoke plants, there was no choice. We didn't have quite enough fencing to go around the whole area, but that's where the pallets come in. We used five of them in the northwest corner and a gate off of the old chicken run to finish it off. It was just in time too, because the peas, asparagus, and lettuce had started sprouting. The goats did manage to wipe out most of the Brussels sprouts and broccoli seedlings though. 

Welded wire fencing and pallets 
 I would have been in the way while he was working on the fence, so I used the time to turn over more of the raised beds. I'm doing my best to get all of the Johnson grass and Bermuda grass out of the garden, so every fork full of dirt has to be checked for rhizomes. They are, pretty much, the bane of my existence right now. If you miss even a single piece it sprouts again. I would guess I got about 70% of it out, so it'll be an ongoing battle. I've finished 17 of the beds, and only have another 4 to go.

Lily collects the pieces of rhizome so we can toss them in the pig pen

 The next project was getting a permanent pig shelter built. I wasn't able to help with that either, because Bacon had managed to head butt me on Friday evening while we were trying to get her back in her pen and I had a terrible headache. I am also missing a bit of skin from my temple where her rough hair rubbed it off. It felt like getting hit with a baseball bat covered in Brillo pad. Let me just tell you, a pig REALLY dislikes being picked up and has no problem letting you know it!

She looks so innocent, but it's all an act

 Anyway, the kids helped Daddy, by fetching pieces of roofing and wood. Lily likes to be in charge of handing out the screws. By the time the ibuprofen had kicked in and I was able to handle being out in the sunshine they had the supports up and the roof in place. The floor is a couple of pallets and it will have a plywood back and side walls to make sure there is enough shade come summertime. 

The shelter backs up to the compost bin

Her favorite thing is to be told she's a big helper 

 After getting a good start on the pig house, Daddy and the twins went to pick up our new addition! Hamlet had been castrated and was ready to join Bacon. He's from the same litter, but he's slightly smaller than her. Between the two, we should have about 350 pounds of pork in the freezer come July. I'm also planning on rendering the lard and making some homemade sausage. If we manage to get a smokehouse built before then we will smoke our own hams and bacon.

Bacon and her buddy Hamlet
 The last big thing that happened was that I finally got my Lovage seeds to sprout. I had some growing when we lived in California, but have had lousy luck with it here. I put the seeds in the back corner of the herb bed and covered them with a hot cap made from a 2-liter bottle so that the soil would warm up a bit and the animals wouldn't bother them and, after 10 days I had six sprouts. For anyone who hasn't had Lovage, it tastes like slightly spicy celery and it grows six feet tall. I'm looking forward to adding it to soups and gravy. It's a perennial, so once it's established I won't have to worry about it ever again. 

A couple of Lovage seedlings inside their tiny greenhouse
 That's it for now. I hope everyone has a great week! 

 Blessed Be...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spring (and kids) have arrived

 Texas doesn't care what the calendar says, spring has arrived. To prove it our Nubian doe, Sweetie, gave birth on Wednesday.

 She and Cocoa were both field bred early in the fall, so I didn't know exactly when they were due to kid. I could tell just by looking that Sweetie was further along than Cocoa, so I had been watching her closely for the last few weeks. Her udder was filling for about a month, but her tail ligaments had just "gone away" in the last two days and her sides sunk in on Tuesday, so I knew it would be soon. On Wednesday afternoon I went out to check on her and discovered that she had gone back into the pen by herself. This was not normal, usually she is wandering the property with her buddy. I went in and she started licking my hand and arm. I was pretty sure she was in very early labor although I didn't see her having any contractions

 I wanted to stay with her, but Gabe's bus was due any minute and I had to go out front and wait for it. Plus, I thought I had plenty of time before things really got going. I got Gabe off of his bus, grabbed my phone, book, camera, and a drink and headed back out to the pen. As I got close I heard a teeny-tiny little "Maaahhh" and saw a slimy little bundle lying on the floor of the goat shed.
 I was shocked! Sweetie hadn't made a sound! I got into the pen, crab walked into the shed (it's only 4 feet tall) and checked on the baby. It was breathing and healthy looking and Mama was cleaning it off just like she was supposed to.

What a good mama!

 I praised her and waited for the twin that I was sure was coming. As I was waiting the twins (the human ones) got home from school and they and Lily came out and joined me. Aislyn was kind of grossed out by the "bubble" that was coming out of Sweetie, but she changed her tune once we were able to see the hooves and nose of the next baby.
 Sweetie gave one big grunt and the baby started to slither out. Since she was standing I reached out, caught it, and laid it on the ground near Sweetie's head. It was entirely enclosed in the sac still, so I ripped it open and started cleaning off the baby's nose and mouth.

 While I was doing that Sweetie gave another grunt and I looked up to see a THIRD baby being born! I reached out and caught it just before it hit the ground. It couldn't have taken her more than 3 minutes to get the second and third babies out.


 Once everyone was cleaned off I made sure that each of them nursed, so that they got the colostrum that would keep them healthy in the coming weeks. Then it occurred to me to check and see what sexes they were. Three girls! That means we get to keep them all and breed them in a year or so. I am imagining huge quantities of milk for cheese making and, possibly, soap making in the future.

 We named them Rose, Petunia, and Daisy. Everyone is doing well. Mama is nursing all three, without any need for me to bottle feed any of them. They spent a good part of this afternoon out in the, yard romping and playing with Boris, who's pretty sure that the babies are his and growls at any other animal that comes near them (except Mama, of course.)

 The human kids are absolutely in love with them and I have to tell them constantly not to pick them up. Luckily, I don't have to follow the same rule, and pick them up at every opportunity. I tell myself that I'm just making sure they'll be friendly when they get bigger, but I really just want to give them cuddles.

Here are some more pictures of the new additions...

Petunia is the smallest and most cuddly

Daisy is the biggest and most independent

Rose is the most curious

Notice Boris in the background, keeping an eye on "his" babies
 Now I'm just waiting on Coco to have her kid or kids. Since it's her first kidding I'm not sure how many to expect from her.

 Other than spending a huge chunk of my day watching cute baby goats romp around, I am getting the garden ready. I just got the broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower in the ground today, which is a little late, but I hope we'll still get a decent harvest. Peas and lettuce will get planted this weekend, and I hope to get the tomato and pepper seeds started indoors too.

 Sunday we will be going to pick up a feeder piglet to raise for the freezer. I've decided to name it Bacon as a reminder not to get too attached. Expect to see a post about little Bacon later this week.

 Well, that's it for tonight. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

 Blessed Be...