Friday, February 24, 2012

Pics From The Barnyard

Everything has been pretty calm this week.  Steak is having some issues as we found out we were given the wrong medicine and had been treating for pneumonia rather than scours.  We now have the correct medicine and have been giving some electrolytes to try and perk him back up.  Stupid is doing excellent and is really thriving.

I thought I'd share some pictures from the barnyard:

This is our rooster Roy and some of his hens.  You can see a young rooster sulking in the background.  He needs a home if anybody is interested!
This is Flurry.  She is our first livestock birth on the farm and is the sweetest little doeling.
This is Flurry and her mother Snowball.  I love the expression on Snowball's face.
This is our doe Bunny.  She thinks she is the queen of the barnyard and she's always in everybody's business.
This is our wether Karl.  He's a big baby and always looking for a scratch on the head or a treat.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Peat Pellets, Peppers, & Patience

I had read for a few years about starting garden plants using peat pellets.  I looked at some one year but could not understand how anything could grow in such a little pellet.  However, after reading more on the subject, I learned you must allow the peat pellets to soak in water and they expand.  It's similar to the souvenir washcloths you buy at the beach that have been compressed into fun shapes...but with dirt.

I bought 30 peat pellets at a local garden supply shop to bring home and begin my experiments.  TH bought  a small 6x8 greenhouse last year but we never had the opportunity to put it up.  This year he has promised that it will be put up in time to start our own tomatoes, peppers, and other plants.

Peppers are the first thing I'm starting.  My chosen varieties for this planting are:  Marconi, CA Wonder, Pepperocini, and Ashe County Pimiento.  I soaked the pellets, added my seeds, placed the completed pellets in a re-purposed plastic meat tray, put the tray in a plastic bag, and seated the tray on top of the refrigerator where it will be warm and out of the princesses' reach.  I'm a little concerned that it will be difficult to keep the varieties separated until planting but I've drawn a diagram in my gardening notebook and labeled the tray L & R to try and avoid any confusion.
This will be my fifth year trying to start my own plants.  Previously, I have ended up with tall, spindly plants that die horrible deaths.  Hopefully, with the change in planting medium and the addition of the greenhouse, we will be able to provide at least a portion of our own plants.  Come on spring!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

TH's Ingenuity

TH was tired of wrestling with the calves so he used his "I-Can-Build-That" super power and fashioned a wooden box that the two buckets could be placed in and not knocked over during feedings.  This has led to a couple of discoveries:

1.  You can give a calf a bucket but you can't make it drink.  They really have done pretty well with the bucket feedings but they still have that overwhelming natural instinct to buck their head and drink with their heads pointed upward.  We considered using bottles but because the lady we purchased them from had been using buckets, we thought it best not to switch them back and forth.

2.  If you leave your bucket, your milk is up for grabs.  Steak has realized that when Stupid decides to go off bucking his head, he can sneak into his bucket and get some big gulps down before Stupid comes back.  Steak is the smaller of the two but if this trend continues, I foresee him having a growth spurt!  Steak has also learned that if he sticks his tongue in Stupid's ear, Stupid runs away leaving his bucket unguarded.

3. As with Pavlov's dogs, calves very quickly learn that the sound of the barn door opening likely means a meal is soon to follow.  Steak and Stupid can recognize the sounds of us approaching and immediately jump up and start balling.  It is a great sound to hear them up and about as it means they are still hanging in there.

Yesterday, the princesses got to go with us to the barn to meet Steak and Stupid. They thought the calves were cute but were more interested in the huge snowflakes falling outside.  It was a fantastic day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Calves moved to the barn

The calves were successfully moved to the big barn yesterday.  The Hubbie, The Hubbie's brother, and our dear friend Misplaced Hippie Man (MHM for short) worked very hard Saturday afternoon to make it happen.  The electric to the barn needed to be repaired and then the ancient hay and miscellaneous items that have been residing in the needed area had to be removed.  I was able to help some but was mainly used as a go-fer which I didn't mind as I was just happy to be outside working.  (Special thanks to The Meme for watching Princess1 and Princess2 for us!)

Transferring the calves from one field to the other proved to be a little tricky.  The Hubbie and MHM teamed up to move "Stupid" (The Hubbie named the calves for us) and The Hubbie's brother and I worked on trying to move "Steak".  I ended up with the better team as The Hubbie's brother got tired of trying to coax the calf to move and resorted to picking it up and carrying it.

The Hubbie called upon his "I-know-a-guy" super power again to have a friend come out and give the calves their vaccines and give us some pointers.

This morning's feeding went well.  The calves jumped up when they saw us coming which is always a good sign.  "Steak" ate his bucket well and "Stupid" ate some of his and covered The Hubbie with the rest.  The Hubbie would also like to add that all the articles of calf rearing neglect to warn men that they should keep their guard up during feedings.

We cleared out the goat shed from the calves' sleep over and spread out new bedding.  The goats were very happy with being freed and put on quite the show with their midair gymnastics.  The momma goat "Snowball" is still mad at us for the cow fiasco and is keeping her distance but all is forgiven with the others.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Let's raise some bottle calves!

INSPIRATIONHow To Raise a Bottle Calf by Jackie Clay, Backwoods Home Magazine (Jackie Clay is my farming hero.  She is a big reason why we feel inspired to try what we try.  If you don't subscribe to Backwoods Home Magazine, you should visit their website and see why we love it so much!)

We had read for a couple of years now about buying young male calves from dairy farms and raising them for  beef.  We don't like grocery store beef and needed a cost effective way of providing our own beef so this sounded perfect for us.

I unsuccessfully watched craigslist for affordable calves nearby.  I was getting discouraged about our calf buying prospects until The Hubbie used his "I-know-a-guy" super power and found the number for a diary farm that might have some young calves for sale.

The Hubbie called and spoke with the lady over the farm who told him she would have some but it may be a few weeks.  So, The Hubbie and I bought a big bag of calf replacer, bottles, and a few other odds and ends in preparation.  Our plan for housing was to let the baby calf stay in the goat barn with our 3 1/2 (one is only a couple of weeks old) goats until we were comfortable feeding it and then move it over to the big barn with the larger pasture after repairing the fence.

We thought we had time to get all of our preparations in order but the lady called Thursday afternoon and said she had calves for sale if we wanted them.  So, we figured we had the feeding items why not?

Mistake #1: We don't own a livestock trailer.  We have to use a pick up truck with a camper on the back so our livestock acquisitions are limited to what we can haul safely in the truck.  Once The Hubbie chose TWO calves to bring home, wood shavings were put in the back of the truck and the two calves were lifted in by The Hubbie's brother.  They made the trip well so we're very thankful of that.  We are also on the hunt for a cheap livestock trailer.

Mistake #2:  Just because you're told a calf is "bucket trained" doesn't mean it is going to automatically or joyfully eat from a bucket.  The lady told The Husbbie that he should feed them as soon as he got them home.  We mixed up two servings of the calf replacer and carried out our two buckets to the calves.  Let me just say that the natural urge for a calf to buck it's head while eating makes feeding them out of a bucket an interesting experience.

Mistake #3:  Believing that our goats would be okay with the addition of calves to the field.  This proved to be the biggest mistake of the evening.  The calves had never been out in a field before so the combination of being hauled to a new place and then being released to run and play was a bit much for them to handle.  One of the calves is a bit more....remedial than the other so it went berserk.  It was running all over, falling over, ran into a fence post, and just created overall chaos in the barnyard.  The goats kept their distance so we thought they'd eventually figure out that cows don't eat goats.

After staying with the animals for a while, it seemed everybody was calming down so I went inside and The Hubbie took The Hubbie's brother back home.  I was cooking chicken and dumplings for supper and just happened to look out the kitchen window in time to see our goats disappearing into the woods on the next road over from us.  Panicked, I called The Hubbie to let him know he needed to hurry home and help find where the goats got out.  I just knew we'd never see our adult goats again but was really hoping the baby goat could be found and brought back home.

The Hubbie used his "I-Can-Fix-This" super power to find our goats in the woods and keep them close by until I could bring the truck over to haul them home.  I'm very thankful that the folks across the way at least knew us so that when I was knocking on their door to tell them I needed to park in their driveway and chase goats through their woods, they gave us a "Bless your heart" and told us to go right ahead.

Long story short, we got the goats back home.

This left us with the problem of where everyone would stay for the night.  The calves were already bedded down in the goat barn so that was fine.  The goats had to bunk with the chickens for the night.  The goats and chickens are used to each other and since the chickens sleep on the highest roost anyway, room wasn't an issue for the night.

Today was the first day we have ever had to wake up extra early to do farm chores.  The Hubbie says that this means we're actually on our way to being real farmers.

The calves made it well through the night and were eager to get their buckets this morning.  The goats don't trust us at the moment but we were able to move them out of the coop and into the fenced chicken yard for today.  The chickens got their coop door opened and they are out free ranging and having a good ole' time as usual.  The Husband hopes to expedite the barn and fence repairs today and move the calves over to a barn stall tonight.  This would be good for everyone, especially the goats.  Hope it all comes together!