Keeping an eye on things!

Saturday, December 31, 2016


What an odd word. Miriam Webster Dictionary defines reflection as:
1.  the production of an image by or as if by a mirror
2.  the return of light or sound waves from a surface
3.  a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation
4.  consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose

When I peer out of my office window on this December 31st day, and see the ducks playfully enjoying a rare thawing of their water in the pond, each of those definitions seems relevant. The sun is producing a light show as it bounces off the surface of the water. The ducks have an upside-down mirror image of themselves mimicking each movement they make. I see several potential Spring projects that need to be tackled on the island, the gazebo and the edges of the pond. Lastly, is the feeling of accomplishment I have as I realize the amount of work that was put in on that pond over the course of the year.  Back-breaking, muscle-aching, dirty fingernail kind of work that resulted in an exuberant weeping willow tree only beginning to reach it's full potential, flowering bushes and perennial plants now hibernating for the winter, and my Grandmother's bright blue gazing ball adding much needed color to the otherwise drab December landscape.

Oh yes, and the orange fence. That ghastly orange fence that surrounds what proved to be a very fruitful garden this year. I have great ideas for that fence and it does not include the color orange. I will reflect more on that later.

2016 has been for us a year of major changes, new adventures, hard work, heartbreak, sacrifice, and celebration. Sounds like every year everyone ever has reflected on doesn't it? Nothing new, or as the saying goes, same story...different version. It seems strange though how new life, new projects and new goals makes everything seem different.  Take for example the pigs. We finally got them to the processor two months later and 50 pounds heavier than expected, but to our delight were told that our pigs were some of the healthiest he had ever seen. (I shared my daily feeding with goat's milk which elicited a hearty "I can't wait to see how beautiful that meat is going to look!"). Funny how such a simple thing can give you a feeling of great accomplishment. We have never raised pigs before, yet after this experience I find myself already deciding on the different breeds I want to try next year, and preparing for a much earlier butchering date! 
Prior to moving to Missouri we had never raised goats either. Now here we are on our fifth freshening (birthing baby goats and producing milk for you non-goat people) with four different goat mamas.  We have been blessed every single time with beautiful healthy babies and practically error free births and lactating. Only once did we have to give a baby some milk replacer, and only for two days until mama got that milk thing figured out. Now, thanks to our beautiful new goat Petunia, we have our fifth set of twins.

You did good Petunia!

 Girl and boy

Adorable aren't they? This set is a little different then the others as these can be registered as full Nubian, ensuring us a better return when we sell them. 

So, here we are beginning a new year, and already the wheels are turning for what lies ahead. We know for sure that we are getting lambs in the Spring because I am absolutely sick of mowing 15 acres of perfectly good grass. I have already purchased steel rings and clips to slip over t-posts to keep the lambs from wandering, and to make sure that they graze where needed. After researching thoroughly the different breeds available, we have settled on Shetlands, a docile breed of smaller stature known for their exceptional wool. The plan is to get a ram and two unrelated ewe lambs to start a small herd, and thanks to the many forums I keep up with on-line, there is a breeder not far from us willing to hold back a few when she starts lambing in March.

I also received a lovely photograph from my oldest daughter for Christmas of a brown and white calf. To my husbands typical reaction of disgruntled unbelief, she announced that the calf in the picture is my new present, that he is a steer, and his name is Charlie. I love it! 

We now have our chicken breeds we have been wanting for different egg colors and better overall market prices. Egg sales should be good next year, as should our take at the small animal auction when we start hatching chicks in February. We have a steer to raise just the way we want to have excellent quality grass fed beef next fall. Our milk goat is producing an enormous amount of milk to feed these babies, so we will have an excess of fresh goat's milk when they are weaned. I cannot wait to make all kinds of fabulous milk based products. Hopefully our other goat is pregnant now so I can trade the babies for horse training lessons as agreed upon by the buck's owner.  Bartering is fantastic! The lambs will keep the grass mowed, freeing up my time to concentrate on more pressing chores. (Like learning how to shear sheep. ha ha). The new pigs will keep the north/east tree line cleared out and benefit from any milk we have left over. I also need to extend the surface of my road-side stand to accommodate more vegetables as I know the garden will be great next year. 
We may need to reflect upon our goals for the farm at the end of spring when everything is topsy-turvy and nothing is going as planned!

In the mean time, here are some of this year's memories, or reflections as some would say.




Whew, that was a lot of reflecting! It's been a good year and we look forward to sharing the next one with all of you.
From all of us at Heeby Jeeby Chickens, and D'Ranch...Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Goat selfies, ugly molting, and other nonsensical things.

I love to read blogs from other farms and browse through their adorable photos of the farmers and their animals. They are always so well posed, well lit, and the clean fluffy animals happily stand still with perfect little photogenic faces looking with great expectation at the camera. How hard could that be?  Um...really hard. Impossible actually. They must have taken thousands of photos to get only one or two that were blog worthy. I have a much greater respect now for these people and their animals after attempting my own.

No, I won't stop running so you can take my picture!

Chickens : "No way lady, we are outta here! "
Donkey : "I am keeping one eye on you in case you make any sudden movements with that camera".

After being stepped on, knocked down, head-butted, and pooped on,
this look says "I swear if you do not stand still I will leave you tied to a tree".
Not a good hair day, but the goat is cute!

Lesson learned. Goat selfies are a health hazard. Don't even get me started on the pig selfie I attempted. 

So I guess I will stick to chicken photos. Like this poor darling who has just decided to molt, a full month after her friends.  We have below freezing weather in the forecast for tomorrow and I am just relieved she has chosen to sleep in the barn this week. We have all heard the phrase "ugly crying" referring to us females who tend to bawl with mascara running and snot dripping. Well, this is officially ugly molting. Some chickens lose a few feathers on their sides, or their backs. They may grow new tails or wing feathers after a week of shedding, but this poor hen has lost half of her feathers including all the ones on her neck and back, most of her fluffy side feathers and half of her wings. 


Well at least the rest of the farm is unconcerned with me and my camera. So here are a few moments for your enjoyment. Including one actual selfie with a precious chick named "Pink". (If you know her and her music, then you will get it.) Thanks, Alexa for the name

Afternoon nap
Paco enjoying his dirt bath
Waiting for Cheerios

(New babies)
(Do you see the cat in the straw?)
We love our chickens!

Happy farming my friends.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Learning the hard way

     We have all done it, tried something new then realized down the road that you should have done things differently. Perhaps educated yourself a little more or asked a few knowledgeable friends for their advice on the subject.  Your new mantra becomes "Next time, thing will be different"!  I have always told my children "You cannot learn from always being perfect, you learn from making mistakes". I can say that with absolute certainty because I have mastered learning that way my entire life!

     As I look out onto the farm today, I see thousands of leaves covering the ground, a pond that insists on displaying its affection for the color green, a hen house that is still in the "when I get to it" stage, and pigs.  Yes, big fat pigs.



 It is simple really, I should have called in August to have them put on the schedule for processing in October. Naively I picked up the phone last week, called a local butcher, and was told that they would be happy to process the pigs after the 1st of the year. What?! But they are only two little pigs, surely they can be fit in to the schedule? With a giggle that could only mean "Oh, you silly first time pig lady", I was informed that scheduling begins in early August, and that as of November the facility shuts down, sterilizes, and prepares for deer season. After which they shut down again, sterilize, and open back up in January for regular business.   Surely not all facilities do this, so I called another. And another. And yet another.  After seven calls, and seven identical answers I realized I would have to rethink this whole pig thing.

     The frustration that comes with a simple lack of knowledge is always a hard pill to swallow. Why didn't I call sooner? Why didn't just one of the dozens of people I spoke to about raising these pigs warn me of this Autumn shut down? Why did I think this would be an easy endeavor? Each passing day they grow larger and harder to contain, although they are still in the normal range for butchering. I only know this because I have since been scouring every pig article I can find about home processing. Could I butcher them myself? Oh. heck no, but I still want to know what is involved in the process so I am better informed. For now, we continue to move their pen around every few days, and let them out to run free and frolic in the pasture an hour or so each morning. As long as they have to be a part of our farm, they will have the best quality of life I can give them.  I just pray there is a sudden opening in the butcher's schedule before December!

God bless, and happy farming!