Time has finally arrived and we are days away from having Vanilla Bean deliver some kids. Based on her size, I am anticipating multiples. I have got my birthing kit ready and a spare spot for the new babies when they arrive. I will keep everybody posted when the good news comes.
Sorry I haven’t posted lately, life outside of the farm has been giving me a run for my money. It truly is a blessing to head home and have a safe haven after a long day at work. Somehow feeding, cleaning and taking care of the animals keeps you grounded.
Some updated news- I believe we will have some baby goats end of April through the beginning of May. Vanilla Bean is going into her 4th month and she definitely looks pregnant. Aspen looks smaller but I think we should be expecting babies in late spring. I am starting to get ready with my new milk stand.
The other news is the pigs have been doing such a good job we moved up their butcher date to the end of March. They have been a great bunch. Very friendly, loves to play and chase, and love attention. If we ever would keep a batch so far this would be the one.
The last item is we caught a muskrat in the barn one evening. It wasn’t doing any damage but we were surprised that it came in the barn. We decided to live trap it and let it go. That was a couple of weeks ago and as I was heading out to the pig pen, I saw it again. I am guessing it is living near the pond and come up to the pig pen for cover.
I headed out to the barn for my normal evening chores. Some of the quail had laid some eggs on the ground between the barn and their outside run. As I walked through the run, I was completely startled by some noise in the back.
It was dark so as I turned my head and my headlamp caught up I discovered a giant grey horned owl. It had come in from the top and eaten over half the quail.
The goats were on the other side of the fence and the owl was puffing its feathers. It reminded me of a turkey. It was also hissing.
This is one predator we didn’t dispose of. I cleared the remaining netting and was able to get it to fly away.
We were impressed with the size, weight and talons up close. It was a beautiful animal. Who had quite a buffet.
So I have been finding some leftovers of an animal that I did not recognize. Each time all my animals were all looking great but I was seeing poop that was about the size of a dog. . . and we don’t have a dog. As I would check the barn, I noticed a beaten path near the bottom of the door. We decided to put out the live trap and discovered we had a possum. However, I kept finding leftovers in the barn so we kept putting out the trap. As a result, we had to dispose of 4 possums in the last week and a half.
Initially, I was considering leaving them alone since they weren’t bothering the animals but after further research we realized that they are extremely dangerous to horses. We also discovered that a neighbor lost a do due to a possum too. So, unfortunately we… I mean Dustin needed to dispose of the possums.
From my last batch of chicks, one little rooster was discovered in the pack. Over time the rooster has been hanging out with his own set of girls and has been keeping out of the way from Bob (the other rooster). This week he began to crow and it has been pretty funny listening to him find his voice. As long as he doesn’t cause any issues in the barn, this rooster will officially be named- Big Blue.
One other little discovery was the chickens have found Oliver’s heated bed and have been laying eggs. I caught Oliver sleeping and keeping the eggs warm for me.
The pigs have gotten big fast and they now start talking and run to their window as soon as they hear me calling. It is pretty funny listening and seeing them. It is like a litter of puppies.
I am super excited with my updated news on the goats. I have been practicing my skills of recognizing when the goats are in heat and with some help from my neighbor landed right on the target with Vanilla Bean. This weekend, Vanilla Bean met her boyfriend, William, the buck and had some fun. At first she was pretty nervous and wasn’t too sure but once she figured it out she kept wanting more. three times more before we left. What was humorous was I also tried to breed Aspen, with no luck, but Vanilla Bean was interested in any buck if he was interested.
Sadie came with me and it was pretty funny also watching the two mate. The buck begins to wag his tongue and then playfully lick and nibble Vanilla Bean. We have fun imitating the buck. I am hoping for some kids in late April/ early May.
The kids were pretty excited for halloween and since we loved the movies this year around wonder woman and star wars, the kids & goats decided to theme their costumes. We enjoy taking the goats with us for Halloween and check in with all the neighbors. Every year, we are so blessed how the neighbors keep their lights on and give the students enough treats to last for the next month.
One of my true loves is time up on the Lake Superior North Shore. There is little that compares to the scenery and uniqueness of the region. Every resort and hotel could be booked up and you could still feel like you have the trails to yourself. I have tried going to other places but I continue to return to the North Shore. I start to notice myself going through withdrawals if I don’t get back up a few times a year. For MEA weekend, we took a long weekend away from the farm and enjoyed the tail end of a Minnesota Fall.
Once we returned from our long weekend, we have been enjoying getting the animals ready for winter and Sadie, in particular, has begun her training with the pigs. Unintentionally or intentionally, she enjoys to train the animals to come to her when she feeds them. The pigs are pretty smart and now come when you call them looking for what treat you are going to bring them. Our neighbor also does the same thing. He has several apple trees and calls the pigs over and dumps over a pile of apples for them to enjoy. This last weekend I let the pigs run through the back field and they were pretty excited. We are going to give them a few more weeks in the garden and eventually move them out to a back pasture with lots of space to run and dig up the ground.
As you can see in the picture, Sadie has trained all the animals so the goats, chickens and pigs all give her attention.
As we were out in the back field cleaning up some of the fencing, I caught Charlie doing a true goat behavior and chuckled to myself. He wanted the tall weeds to eat and used the old gate to get to it.
It has probably only been a few weeks since we brought our last batch of pigs into the butcher but Dustin was already talking about the next batch. We wanted to do some updating on our fencing before we ordered the next batch, so I was not in any huge hurry. Well, the itch to get some more pigs won and we headed out to Annandale to pick up another batch. We decided to try Berkshire/ Duroc cross to see if we could still get the Berkshire marbling we like along with a faster growing pig.
Sadie was pretty taken with all the piglets and we ended up heading home with 6 instead of the original 4-5. One more slid in at the last minute due to Sadie falling in love with one little piglet. We spent our Sunday getting everything ready and having the group take over my garden.
Once we got them all settled, we headed up to the house for dinner. Dustin and I decided we would check on the group once the kids went to bed. It was completely dark once the kids went to bed so with flashlights we began to hunt the garden for the group of piglets. I walked along the fence and they were not in their shelter so began walking the fence line. They still weren’t somewhere I could see. By that time, Dustin came out to help and he was walking the other side of the fenced in yard. He couldn’t see them either. We headed to the gate and to our surprise, one of the kids left the bottom of the gate open to the pen.
You can guess what is going through our minds at that time. Pitch darkness and 6 piglets escaping who knows where in the neighborhood. As we expanded our search, my flashlight caught the dog carrier that I brought them home in. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a series of little behinds. Right outside the fenced in area, I left the pet carrier and all 6 piglets were asleep in the carrier. I was very thankful for many things at that moment… thankful we checked on them before we went to bed, thankful they were all fine, thankful they only went 5 feet outside the fenced area instead of 500 feet, etc.
Besides the excitement of the new piglets on the farm, we also are beginning to get ready for the winter months. Once fall hits, I head to the local hay auction. This year the demand is significantly larger than the supply. This year prices are exceeding $4/ bale and no straw has been available through the auction. two years ago I was getting bales at $2.50/ bale. Last year I was spending around $3.60/ bale. You got to love craigslist because I have been able to find a farmer down the street that has plenty of straw so my anxiety stayed low. Never a good feeling to head into the cold months without having your hay stocked up. So, the family spent our Saturday throwing 70 + bales of hay up to the loft for the winter.
It has been a little while since I have posted partly due to the amount of multi-tasking I am now doing with the school year in full swing. We have had a lot of changes both professionally and personally. Throughout all the changes, I still relish the opportunity to head home from a hard day of work and hang out in the barn. I am also so amazed at how the farm has shifted so many other interests. As a family we have become in the habit of trying new recipes and learning how to make recipes in a more traditional approach. So, even though I still have some spagettios in the pantry we are truly enjoying some farm cooking.
Other news is fall has arrived and the farm has become quieter with the pigs heading to the butcher. We tried a new breed and was surprised to taste the difference in the meat. Dustin is already making plans for another batch. Here is some of the bacon from our last batch of pigs.
On the chicken side, my little chicks are getting big and I am starting to see I have a couple of roosters in the pack. We will have to see how long they will be sticking around. One other habit the little chicks have been doing is they enjoy to sit on the goats. The even cuter scene is the goats will stop moving and stand perfectly still when the chicks are roosting on their backs.
I have never had chicks do this nor did I have the goats be calm enough to tolerate this behavior. Now it almost appears that they enjoy it. My middle batch of hens have all started laying and one of the new additions you might see in the egg carton are some darker eggs. It is creating quite a rainbow in the egg cartons.
Looking ahead, I am putting my tractor and goats in the school homecoming parade so I am guessing they are going to get quite a bit of attention. I will post pictures after next week.
So lately my next batch of chicks are now at laying age and they’ve been doing pretty good with giving me eggs everyday or every other day. What I started noticing though is that my leghorns were laying everyday but I wasn’t always finding their eggs. I have three leghorns and first I started getting three white eggs everyday. Then I started getting two white eggs everyday. Then I was down to one egg everyday. And what I started noticing is that those leghorns we’re jumping over the fence and adventuring off everyday.
And so finally on a weekend I was able to observe and watch where the leghorns went.
To my surprise the leghorns had created a nest on the outside of the fence hiding in the tall grass. When I discovered their nest they were approximately eight or nine eggs lying there. So I picked up all the eggs and thought I had got the situation under control. What I discovered the next couple days is at the chicken stop laying eggs there. I started finding eggs and other random spots around the barn.
Well now it has been a few days and now they are 0 white eggs in my barn and 0 white eggs in that old nest and I am guessing they have found a new spot to lay and now I’m having to hunt all over the yard to try to figure out where the new spot is. What was semi humorous to me a few days ago is now getting more and more frustrating. I had even put a fake egg in the nest hoping that they would return to that nest. It did not work.
Getting a little frustrated that I can’t find the new nest of leghorn eggs.
We have come a full circle and completed the county fair. It was 5 days of camping, competing and enjoying warm Minnesota days with a full fair menu. The kids had a good run and I even registered us correctly to compete. The kids did receive blue ribbons for both showmanship and breed categories. Eli was a little sad because he didn’t get a reserve champion but we had some good conversations around focusing our efforts for future years.
I am super excited to have a great quail hatch since I lost so many of my older quail due to the racoon and fox. I had 48 eggs and had close to 40 hatch. They were mostly healthy and quickly becoming independent. The chicks began hatching around 14 days and continued to hatch to 19 days. In the second picture you can see the size difference between a early and late hatch.