Keeping an eye on things!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Continuing the dark tale...

I find it much easier to write about the tragedies of last year while enjoying the opposite effect this year. I am happy to say we are up to 50 chicks and 5 ducklings in a 5 week span, and have another 50 + 30 to hatch. By hatching only a dozen a week, I can minimize the loss should anything happen to the incubator, eggs, or the brooder heat. It is also much easier to house them in groups based on age.

But enough of that happy, positive, things are looking up talk! We have a story wrought with sadness, frustration and life lessons to finish! Carry on.

Now where was I?
Oh yes, Neville.

 Neville was the first Royal Palm turkey on the farm, and I fell in love with him at first sight. They are a beautiful bird, bred for show not really for meat, and when in "turkey love" their faces turn a brilliant blue and their waddles apple red.  Due to the popularity of the breed, I  purchased 18 fertile Royal Palm eggs which I incubated with the intent of raising, breeding, and selling them.  Naturally, they were in the incubator when the temperature problem happened. Out of 18 eggs, 2 hatched, one died almost immediately leaving me with one tiny bird that I rested all my hope on. If it was a female I could at least pair her with Neville and have chicks next year. Three weeks later she was killed by a visiting dog.
After suffering yet another crushing defeat, I was determined not to give up, so an order for 6 turkey chicks was promptly placed to the nearest hatchery, and after traveling 2 1/2 hours we were once again proud turkey parents. The hatchery threw in another one for good luck, so 7 adorable little 2 day old poults began our new flock. Three weeks later a torrential rain drowned 4 of them while they huddled together in the false safety of their enclosure. Once the water subsided, the big birds were allowed out to free-range. That's when the fox got Neville.

How much can one Heeby Jeeby Mom take??!!

Obviously much, much more. One by one, the chickens began disappearing. There were no feathers on the ground indicating an eagle attack, no headless carcasses hinting at a raccoon invasion, so who was the culprit? Then, we saw it. The bushy red tail and the tall pointed ears carrying away the 10th hen of the week in broad daylight. That little bugger, along with a few of her closest friends and relatives, succeeded in thinning our flock from 40 hens, 8 roosters and 21 ducks,  to 18 hens, 5 roosters and 16 ducks. Several of the birds were attacked, killed, and left under a tree. Almost like the foxes were killing for sport rather than hunger. How they achieved killing a full grown Tom turkey is still beyond my comprehension, but nonetheless it happened. Then, strangely, they were gone. Just like that.

With 22 hens no longer laying eggs, sales were drastically cut and I could no longer fill weekly orders. Three egg clients had to take their business elsewhere. Heeby Jeeby Hatchery could not offer the 9 different breeds for sale that we had advertised, and our selection of chicks for next year would be slim. Basically, we were starting over.

Things had to start looking up! Nope. Memorial weekend our precious buck, Reddick, died of congestive heart failure. He had always had a cough and had been checked for every possibly cause, but it finally took its toll on him. Red was a tri-colored mini Nubian and was exactly the right size for our farm. Not too big, sweet tempered, and would have produced small, beautiful babies that were of registered stock. Naturally, the does had already kidded and were not even close to coming into heat again, so Red never got the chance to strut his stuff. We buried him next to Cherry, our first milk goat, on the hill overlooking the farm.

Oh, speaking of hills, we had our hay cutting cancelled. Twice. Then one no-show. So now we have no hay, now way to cut it, and a field turning to straw.

OK enough of this! It's even more than I can take and I lived it. Thank God above that He also decided enough was enough and we began to see blessings emerging from the darkness.

  • A farmer down the road contacted me and needed 6 hens to replace his flock. I had 6 hens without roosters that I was keeping strictly for egg production. 
  • A young girl contacted me wanting a black Shetland ram to breed with her white ewe. I had 2 black ram lambs for her to choose from.
  • A couple messaged me needing a new rooster and 2 ducks for their flocks. Guess what? I had a rooster without hens, and 2 ducks needing a home.
  • I advertised for hay equipment within budget, small enough to fit my little tractor and in 5 minutes had a phone call with exactly what I needed for a ridiculously low price.
Coincidence? More like divine intervention.

Then the biggest break of all...a friend called and asked if I had tried the huge swap meet near the caves to sell my wool products. I told her that I had never thought of selling there, but that I had wanted to visit and had never got around to it. "We sell out every year", she explained, "Including all of our goats." Ding Ding Ding. The bells went off in my head. I began frantically researching the swap meet known locally as Jacob's Cave Animal swap, and discovered that up to 50,000 visitors go through there every selling season. Hundreds of vendors sell everything from Tupperware to rifle targets, and small farm animals are the biggest draw. 

Since I had already perfected setting up the farm stand for the farmers market, adding a pen to house a few small ruminants and a couple of duck carriers would be easy peasy. What I found at that swap meet was a family of vendors who spend a week selling, chatting, eating, and sharing everything they can with their neighbors. No one goes hungry. No one has a bad day. No one is a stranger. Never have I had a more enjoyable experience selling farm animals! People from near and far come to the swap, and each one is looking for something specific. The wool was a huge hit and I was able to sell it raw and unwashed to several visitors. Who knew?! Poncho became the talk of the swap after passers-by noticed him "working the sheep" through the fence. Then the newspaper showed up and did an interview, showcasing Poncho and the wool roving I had just hand-carded during an impromptu class. 
Lily even had her day in the spotlight as the "How to Milk a Goat" lead star. Twice a day, shoppers would stop and gather around the milking stanchion watching as we demonstrated the finer points of goat care. Lily was only too happy to comply as long as the feed held out. 

So what did all of this teach me?  Life on a farm, even a little hobby farm, is not always picture perfect. Animals die, get sick, get hurt, then are born and bred to start again. Things break, fall apart, and you learn to fix them and carry on. Just when you think you "can't take no more" take some more. But most important of all, God is good. I learned from each of these lessons, and have a greater appreciation of all things farm related. So now...

  1. The incubator has been adjusted and is working fine. 
  2. The remaining three turkeys are big and healthy, and are opposite sex so babies should be happening this year. 
  3. I purchased a beautiful little Pygora buck (Pygmy/Angora) to add to the fiber mix and to produce fuzzy babies. At least 2 of the 3 goats are now pregnant.
  4. The sheep have been confined to their large run for the last three weeks, and yesterday we welcomed our 1st set of twins for the year. Without hiking up a mountain.
  5. I have reserved not one, but TWO swap meets; June and October. No more trying to scrape by at little markets (Though of course we will still try!).
  6. I pick up my new used hay equipment next month so we can cut/bale/store and sell our own.
Farming is hard. Farming is heartbreaking. Farming is wonderful and joyful and beautiful. 
Farming is life.

Happy farming everyone.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

And so it begins...again

Hello fellow farmers. It's me, Heeby Jeeby Mom. Remember me?

It has been one year since my last post. Why so long? This story is not a nice one, in fact it is quite dark and dreary, so grab your favorite beverage, take a comfortable seat, and ready yourself for an epic tale.  I like to call it "Farming faux pas" or "Tough lessons, big losses". To drive the point home I have even added some wonderful life lesson quotes that are familiar to each of you. Ready? Here we go.

Last January, I set up the incubator as normal, clean and ready to hatch dozens of eggs to jump start my Spring profits. Strangely, only 1/3 of the eggs survived the first 3 weeks of incubation. Out of that 1/3 (approx 13 eggs) 2 hatched. 1 died. Curious, but not unheard of, I started over. 48 eggs in the "bator", temp was perfect according to the digital readout, humidity steady at 65%, HJ Dad and I took a short trip to visit Alexa in Louisiana. Four days later we returned home to obvious signs of a power outage, and 48 ruined eggs. Here we go again.
Now I am 30 days behind schedule with one chick to sell. The blessing was that the ducks had started to lay again so with 2 dozen duck eggs and 2 dozen chicken eggs newly set in the incubator, I started over...again. In years past, even when using our own home made crude incubator, our duck hatch rate was 98%, chickens about 92%. Fast forward one month, we get 6 chicks, 5 ducks. The other eggs in the incubator died.
Here is an image of a fertilized egg, with proper veining and the "eye spot" of the embryo clearly visible. If an egg is unfertilized, there will simply be a yolk sloshing around inside the shell.

Now let's compare that to a dead egg.

Image result for candled eggs blood ring      
In both of these examples, you can clearly see the blood ring which indicated early death due to bacterial growth within the egg. Bacteria is introduced when the "bloom" or "cuticle", (the protective coating on every egg shell) is somehow compromised. This can be through a hairline fracture,  rubbing or washing the egg, or incubating at an improper temperature. Fun fact: The U.S. is the only country that washes its eggs. One of the most common ways for bacteria to enter an egg is by washing the "bloom" off the outside of the shell. That is why we must refrigerate store bought, pre-washed, production raised eggs. Farm fresh, right from the chicken's butt eggs can be stored on the COUNTER TOP for up to ten days with NO ILL EFFECTS. I have heard all the arguments. "You'll get salmonella!" "There is poop on that egg!" You wash the egg shell off before you use it. Duh.

Back to the story.

I never wash eggs before I incubate them. There is no possible way all of those eggs had hairline cracks. had to be the temperature, but the incubator was only a year old; I was stumped.  We were now well into the month of March and all of my online competition had already been selling newly hatched chicks for over a month. I did some internet research about poor hatch rates, and determined the temp was a little low. Here we go again with another 48 eggs and an extra 0.6 degrees Celsius on the thermometer.  Do I really need to say it? 11 out of 48 eggs hatched. I was over it.

Now I have 14 chicks and 9 ducklings. Four chicks and 2 ducks are born with deformed legs. None of these survived past 2 weeks of age. In 6 years of incubating chicks that has NEVER happened. When you do the math and figure I get an average of $3 per chick and $5 per duckling...I was out $500 give or take a few. That also meant my plans to use that money for farm improvements and animal purchases was gone. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

The beginning of March through the end of April is also lambing/kidding time at D'Ranch, the big animal counterpart to Heeby Jeeby Hatchery. Rowdy gave birth to three gorgeous kids: two boys and a girl. Without a doubt the best mother on the farm, she nursed all three with no issue and kept them safely by her side.
 Petunia was next. Her Nubian twins, one boy and one girl, were picture perfect. Although her mothering skills are seriously lacking, and she would wander off and leave the babies unattended for hours, they grew to be healthy perfect kids.

 So far so good; I was starting to imagine profit recovery happening. March is typically "monsoon season" in Missouri, so keeping these babies warm and dry is imperative for their survival the first couple of weeks. The sheep did not get that memo. When it rains it pours.

There are two accessible shelters on the farm, and one large dry barn. Where do the ewes lamb? 300 feet up the side of the hill, under a tree, in the dark, in the rain. Those beautiful little Shetland ewes did not disappoint though! The first to lamb was Daisy, the brown and white ewe, and she graced this world with the most beautiful set of triplets you have ever seen. They looked like panda bears; the boys almost identical twins, the girl the absolute opposite coloring like a negative/positive photo. I trudged up the muddy hillside in that freezing rain three times carrying babies and finally dragging mama down only to have her run back up after the babies were tucked away in the straw.
What could she possibly be looking for? She ran back to the birth site and that's when it struck me: she was protecting the afterbirth like another lamb. Typically, ewes will eat the afterbirth which gives them a major boost of vitamins and energy to begin recovery and milk production. Only after I trudged yet again up that muddy hill and recovered the entire thing, placing it in the trailer with her, would she settle down and begin taking care of those babies. Nature is crazy sometimes.

Things were looking up. 
One week later, tragedy struck.

The babies and their mama were safely tucked away in the horse trailer with straw bedding to keep them warm and dry. Generally this is a perfect solution when lots of animals are birthing at the same time. The trailer can be cleaned and restocked for the next birth weekly, and the families moved to the barn. Easy peasy. I never realized the death trap I had surrounded them with.

Each morning I would check on the babies and make a point of touching and petting each one to ensure they were friendly and easy to handle. The morning the last of the crippled ducklings died, I made my way as usual to the horse trailer with a heavy heart, hoping the lambs would cheer me up. What I encountered was so horrific it brings tears to my eyes even now as I write about it. One of the beautiful boys had somehow caught his head in a piece of looped twine on the side of the trailer and hung himself trying to get free. Daisy was bleating for him and nudging his little body, but could get no response. I did everything I knew how to revive him, and finally after rocking his tiny body in my arms for what felt like hours, I wrapped him in a woven feed sack and carried him away. Sometimes the most important life lessons are the ones we learn the hard way.

If any of you reading this have twine looped anywhere your animals can reach, CUT IT. If I had simply followed that advice and left the cut ends dangling instead of looped, I would have prevented an unnecessary death.  Twine is essential on the farm, we all know that. It is used for everything from fence mending to tie downs.  Getting rid of twine is not the answer, storing it properly is. 

The same day as the tragic accident, Buttercup gave birth. 300 feet up the side of the hill, under a tree, in the rain. At least it wasn't dark. Danged sheep.

Both of her boys were black, just like their daddy, Coffee. Although Coffee also sired Daisy's babies it was obvious his genetics won out in this round. One day later, Gizmo also gave birth to twins, one boy one girl, also black only with bright white spots on their heads like their mama. That one was a complete surprise and I couldn't help but feel that God was helping to mend my broken heart by giving me such a wonderful gift. 

By the end of April, all of the animals were again roaming freely on the farm, including the chickens and ducks. This is the time of new growth, new bugs, and freshly turned soil. Neville, the Royal Palm tom turkey, was one of the most animated when it came to scratching and fluffing the wet ground looking for worms and grubs. I had just picked up 18 fertile turkey eggs to hatch, and was looking forward to giving Neville a mate while profiting from selling the others. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Let's consider this a chapter ended, or rather an intermission. Too many tragic narratives tend to bring the reader down so until the next time we meet, read the comics, tell some jokes, watch your favorite comedian to lighten the mood...because this dark tale has only just begun.

Happy(ish) farming everyone.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Goat milking 101

We have excellent milk goats. Until recently, I did not fully grasp the blessing of that statement. As a still budding farm-girl, everything I have learned on this farm has been through trial and error, and a few tips from the dozens of forums and blogs I follow. Watching with dread the videos of goat milking gone wrong, and observing the consequential jump in "goats for sale", I came to realize that through a little work and determination...we have excellent milk goats.

This face says it all. 

Until we purchased Lily, Petunia was in our minds, our only good milker. Rowdy, being half Boer, is a poor milker when in milk, (and her milk is less than palatable), but she still produces enough to keep the pigs and all the barn cats happy. 
Then came Lily.

Her giant udder and ridiculously easy temperament makes milking a joy. She can give a half gallon of milk in just under two minutes. As long as the grain hold out, she stands unflinching while she is being tugged and squeezed, massaged and nudged. Her milk is sweet, rich and the perfect fat ratio to produce a lovely chevre (soft cheese).  

Each of our goats have been taught to exit their barn stalls and beeline straight to the milking stanchion. They hop up on the platform, turn 180, and stick their heads through the holding gate to enjoy their morning grain. There was no trick to teaching them this accomplishment; As the saying goes "Build it and they will come". In this case, feed them and they will come! Learning to milk goats with proficiency...let's just say that took a little longer!  Now I am happy to say I can perform that feat with my eyes closed, or when the battery light in the barn dies and a flashlight has to suffice. So I figured why not share that knowledge? 

The three videos below are my version of goat milking 101. Lily was only too happy to volunteer for the lead role in this production, and you will see in the second video, Sparky the barn cat felt left out. So much so that he basically steals the show.  OK, Hollywood producer I am not, but if you can envision what is going on behind the cat, you will get the gist of it. Also, product placement was NOT part of the plan, but alas, every dairy product container becomes a food scoop in our re-purposed farm world. Therefore, the background is what it is. Enjoy!

The scabby goat knees in this next video cracks me up. Goats are adaptable, so where there is a fence, there is a way to crawl under it. Hence, scabby knees. Obviously she is so proud of her knees that she wants you to focus only on those while I am trying to vye for your attention in the background. I cannot even imagine how many outtakes the Discovery Channel must have on file. Creating video with animals involved is ridiculous.

That's a wrap!
Happy farming everyone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

C.S.I. Missouri


The verdict has been handed down, and the case is now closed. 
Without a fair trial you ask?  Let's work through the timeline so you can see the evidence for yourselves. 

The accused
Do not let that innocent face fool you, she is a full-fledged, veggie eating machine. You all know the song "There's no Mountain High Enough...", that's her theme song.  Just substitute the word fence for mountain, and sing right along.

The crime.
The complete destruction of a flourishing vegetable garden. After fighting Japanese beetles for four months, the green beans were finally producing. The cucumbers were fully in bloom again and the tomatoes were turning a lovely shade of pink. The broccoli had perfect little heads forming, and the okra was almost the same height as the gorgeous white corn stalks abundant with fat ears. Spaghetti squash and cantaloupe were in full spread out mode, and a dozen sweet watermelons were ripening on the vine.

The evidence.
One does not get an hourglass frame like this from simply grazing on ivy and leaves. 

These are not dark stones, beetles, or lost grapes. No sirree, these are in fact a pile of pebbly poops. (See earlier blog for full description)

There are exactly two types of creatures on this farm that leave behind these little piles; sheep and goats. The sheep are now housed in this fantastic solar electric mesh fence (Thank you so much Premier One Supplies, you guys rock!), meaning they cannot get out and nothing can get in. Their alibi is solid.

That leaves goats. There are three goats on this farm: Rowdy (the accused), Petunia the ditzy milk goat with horns, and Lily the milk goat extraordinaire. Lily cannot jump, her udder is too big. She just sort of ambles along happily foraging in the forest. Petunia, while capable of jumping, is not capable of breaking her tie out rope.  She is, however, capable of wrapping herself 14 times around a tree because going the opposite way to unwind is beyond her comprehension. 

These other crime photos are shocking and unedited, so viewers beware.


 The bare vines of the once prolific green beans, the sad stubs that used to be broccoli heads, and the bare stalks of what promised to be a banner corn yield. I could not bring myself to show the crushed skulls of the watermelons, it was just too much to bear. 
Now, a good detective will have noticed the obvious breach in the fence structure just behind the corn, visible in photos 1 and 3. 

The eye-witness.

So there you have it, the evidence has been presented and the proof is infallible. Not to mention the adorable eye-witness testimony. 
That darned goat is guilty, guilty, guilty!

The sentencing.
A thicker, shorter, stronger tie-out rope with larger clasp and swivels. No grain, no horse cookies, no alfalfa treats until those saddle-bags start shrinking! And of course, daily love and brushing because after all, she is my best grazer. What can ya do?

Blessings to you all, and happy farming!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fairy Eggs and Bumble Foot

Sounds like a title to a fairy tale doesn't it? "The Adventures of Fairy Eggs and Bumble Foot!". These two words however, are not character names, rather names of two phenomenons that occur when you raise chickens as long as I have.

Let's start with "Fairy Eggs". These tiny wonders are rare in appearance and occur when something has disturbed the reproductive cycle of a hen. They simply indicate she did not have time to produce a yolk before her body deposited the egg, so voila! An egg the size of a playing marble. It has been several years since I found a fairy egg so this was a special surprise yesterday. Notice the calcium deposits on the large blue egg next to it? That is another anomaly that occurs when a chicken does not absorb all of the calcium she is getting, so it is deposited in tiny bumps on her eggs. This generally occurs in older hens and can be a sign of slow reproduction, over eating or water shortage. In this hen's case, it is probably water. She tends to hang out in the coop even when there is a pond within 20' of her front door. Silly girl.

Now onto Bumblefoot. Technically the name is ulcerative pododermatitis, but 99.9% of chicken people call it Bumblefoot. This term can strike fear in even the most seasoned chicken herder, and is a condition that can prove fatal if not treated immediately. In 20+ years of chicken raising we have had exactly TWO hens with Bumblefoot. If you figure we have seen over 400 birds grow to maturity on this farm, that's pretty good odds. The first case was found before the wound became serious and was easily soaked out. (More on that in a minute). This my peeps is a picture of what the newest case looked like. Warning, it's a little bit gross.

The picture on the left is the wound after it had been cleaned and the "corns" removed. Sorry for not getting a before picture, (I was holding a chicken) but imagine a sliver in your finger that becomes infected. A giant pus pocket forms around it, swelling your finger up until the only relief is to dig that bugger out of there. You now have a visual idea of what this hen was suffering with. Most commonly, Bumblefoot occurs when a scratch or puncture on a bird's foot becomes infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.  This bacteria is found frequently in the environment, and seldom is it something you can determine and eliminate from the coop (although good sanitation is always a good idea!). However, this bacteria can even cause Bumblefoot in birds when there has been no particular injury, if their skin gets irritated enough to let the infection take hold. For instance if a bird roosts on a wire or rough-hewn log, the resulting abrasion could cause the bacteria to grow

As I mentioned earlier, the first hen to show signs of Bumblefoot was limping slightly and when I tipped her upside down to check her feet I noticed the bottom of one was swelling and red in appearance, with a small white dot in the center of the "pocket". It was a lucky catch and after a good epsom salt soaking the dot, redness and swelling went away. This 2nd hen was not so lucky. While you generally see Bumblefoot on the bottom of a chicken's foot, in Goose-Goose's case it was found on the side of her toe.  The "corns" that you see on the paper towel are hard deposits that form under the skin and cause great discomfort to the bird as she walks on it.   

Chickens have amazing pain receptors and healing abilities. Unless you spend countless hours with your birds and know their sounds and mannerisms, you will probably not know if they are injured, sick or hurting until it is too late. They show no outward signs of minor pain. This girl was limping a little so I scooped her up to see if she had a thorn or a rock wedged between her toes. Good thing I did. The picture on the left was just before I performed her surgery and as you see her eyes are bright, she is alert, her comb is deep red and she appears totally healthy. If she had been perched on her log or sitting on a nest I would not have given her health a second thought. The picture on the right was 5 minutes after surgery. Still no signs of pain, just hunger. The toe is bandaged and thoroughly coated with Vetericyn the "don't even think about raising chickens without it wonder spray". Goose-Goose is enjoying some feed mixed with home-made yogurt for probiotics to help her heal.  Aren't chickens wonderful funny creatures?

That's all folks! Hope you enjoyed this little science lesson. I have found it very helpful to keep literature handy on chicken keeping just for such emergencies and if what I have shared helps you help your chickens then hooray! Until next time...

Happy farming everyone!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On the other hand...

   People often comment to me that I am "too busy".  Perhaps, but in what sense?  Too busy to volunteer? Too busy to go to the movies? Too busy to properly comb my hair? I think this hat looks good, for the second day in a row. 

   Every person I know has a difficult time juggling all of the time consuming tasks that life throws at them each and every day.  It does not matter if you are a stay at home parent with two toddlers, a road warrior who travels place to place and job to job, a retired couple who happily toddles in the garden (yeah, right, like retired people EVER have time to toddle), or a hobby farm mom who has a to-do list longer than her refrigerator door...we are all too busy. It is WHY we are too busy that matters.  Are you happy? Definitely.  Do you take pleasure in what makes you busy? Every day.  Do you still make time for you? Sometimes, but I am working on it. My priorities are in order (most of the time), and really, isn't that what counts the most?

 I do not have gorgeous model hands.  They have short-clipped nails embedded with dirt, and their dark tan color and deep lines from countless hours of summer sun ages them. That's OK.  There is an old adage that states "busy hands keeps the devil at bay", meaning stay busy and you will be less tempted to do things not so favorable with your time!  When I am not too busy working in my garden, trimming horses hooves, brush-hogging pastures, snuggling chickens, or milking goats, I find myself spending idle time on my home computer sucked into the world of Facebook and Pinterest.  Afterwards, the wave of guilt that I have just wasted two hours staring at a monitor washes over me and I have to reprimand myself for not getting things done.  Those sites are terrific, and I thoroughly enjoy browsing them, but I am too easily distracted into sitting until my hips hurt.

   Here's another, "have you hands full", meaning to be busy.  Four months ago I took on a part-time job as our church secretary.  I also opened a booth at our local farmer's market once a week.  With Heeby-Jeeby Dad often away at his day job for 12 hours or more, my time is spent alone, or more specifically in the company of dozens of non-English speaking critters.  This gives me time to explore new ways of making a living on our farm.  After the disastrous shearing of our new sheep (Next time will be better, I promise), I knew the wool was "worthless" at market, so I had to get creative.  Voila!  Pinterest to the rescue. (Don't judge me). 

   Now I have these wool combs I fashioned all by myself, also known as husband bonkers, that I spend a few minutes each day creating roving for various projects.  Wet felting, dry felting, spinning, stuffing, batting...the possibilities are wonderful! When my "hands are full", the creative juices start flowing and there are things to look forward to.  When idle, I get fidgety and eat cookies.  

   We also purchased a new milk goat knowing that our other girl could not keep up with the demand of milk and cheese we are experiencing.  Since I am a "hands on" kind of girl, I settled into my seat at the nearby animal auction and with bidding card "in hand" I waited. Without further ado, may I introduce Lily. 

It was love at first sight!  She was destined for the slaughter house and I was determined she would go home with me instead.  Poor thing had not been milked for a couple of days and her udder was nearly touching the ground. Her hooves were overgrown and curling under her feet, and she was skin and bones, but she had the sweetest face and a calm disposition so she HAD to be saved.  We are still having a hard time getting her to fatten up, even with free choice grain and supplements, but her hair is shiny, her feet are trimmed, and her milk production is udderly fantastic.  Sorry, couldn't help myself. 


   The ewes did their jobs well and produced five gorgeous lambs this year, three ram lambs and two ewe lambs.  We were hoping for more ewes since we would hold those back for our own flock, but this is a good beginning. As usual, the names we come up with make no sense to anyone but us.  There was Hamlet, Cornelius, and Philip; all three went to auction after they were weaned.  The girls are Marigold and Gizmo.  We tried to stick with flowery names but obviously failed.  All five sheep will need sheared soon, so we will " try our hand" at it again. Maybe this time I can beat my record of 5 hours and 15 minutes?!  No, not for all of them, for one of them.  You read that correctly. They hated me for days afterwards.

Any professional looking at this photo just passed out. Yes, that is a line of wool that I missed on one of the passes with the clippers. Yes, she is laying on her side.  (These sheep are TINY!!!) And yes, I am thinking it will require Valium for both the shearer and the victim next time. 

   The Heeby-Jeeby Hatchery did great this year with a record number of specific breed chicks sold, and a few laying hens and ducks too.  The new incubator Alexa brought me was invaluable and not having to turn eggs by hand three times a day was a nice time-saver.  It also allowed us to transfer the eggs to our homemade incubator during the hatch so they could be warm and cozy away from the other eggs.  We will be expanding even more during the fall months and creating an area in the new garage for a brooding pen and two more brooding tubs to keep our weekly hatches rotated.  I am really proud of our accomplishments this year in keeping the death toll to a minimum by having a secure pen, egg house, and foliage cover.  While never a fun topic to discuss, it is the sad truth of chicken farming; some chickens will die every year, unexpectedly, by either illness, injury, or attack.  So far we have had only two! Out of 40 adult birds and 60 new chicks, having only two expire is a blessing.  We did have two others try to commit suicide under our tires on the tractor, but both luckily came out with only broken legs and a much wiser focus, which I guess goes "hand in hand!".  Silly birds.

   That's a wrap, folks. Is anyone else sick of the "handy" way I threw in all those hand words? C'mon, seriously, let me see a "show of hands". Sorry, sometimes my left hand does not know what my right hand is doing.  Ok, I'm done now. I really need to get busy.

Happy farming everyone!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April showers...

Those April showers better get a move on if we are to get May flowers! It seems when you don't want the rain, there it is.  When you do, it is no where in sight. Spring is a fickle time.

Knowing that, we try to do everything possible in a few weeks time to beat the impending Spring rains and completely wear ourselves out before Summer even begins to show itself. Stalls to deep clean, rocks to remove, garden soil to till under, and trees to fertilize are just a sprinkling of the chores we tackle here each day. Then comes babies. Tiny fluffy butts abound!

Fuzzy, squeaky, precious little babies that fill our home with the sound of chirping and peeping from dusk 'til dawn. The living room becomes the brooder until a sufficient set up is permanently established in the new garage currently under construction. Heeby Jeeby Dad has generously agreed to set aside 4' x 14' just for babies. Hooray!!
Baby Naked Neck is very impressed.

So is Cisco.

Perhaps he is more interested in the newest additions to the Heeby Jeeby family...Sheep!
These beauties are Shetlands, prized for their exceptional wool quality and small easy going statures. I am pleased to introduce Buttercup (L) and Miss Daisy (R).

And who could forget their handsome fella? This is Coffee. a.k.a. Coffee Cup, Coffee Bean, Coffee Boy, Coffee Coffee Coffee...the list goes on.  As long as he gets ample love and scratches he doesn't care what you call him.

As you can see, keeping their wool clean is going to be a full time job! Actually, right after these pictures were taken 2 of the 3 were sheared.  Now THAT is a story for another time!  Their wool is incredibly long and thick and it was imperative that the girls get theirs off before lambing which could be any time now. More babies coming soon! Yippee!

Which way did they go? 

Mystery appreciates everyone stopping by this month and enjoying our fresh milk and eggs at the farm stand. The cheese is a big hit and we are having fun discovering new flavors and techniques. Next week we will have garden seedlings to offer as well as wool roving! Who knew farming could be so much fun?!

 Until next time, Happy farming friends!