Frosty Sheep

This morning there was a good amount of frost covering the ground. As I surveyed the Homestead I noticed that not only had it covered the ground, but all of the sheep had a layer of frost on their backs. I knew that whitetail deer fur was so insulating that snow could land on their back and not melt because not enough heat escaped from the deer’s body. It would then stand to reason that sheep, with their wonderful wool, would have similar experience. Despite having the sheep since late last fall, they stayed at my brother in law’s house over the winter so when I saw them it was always later in the day.  So I got to discover this today.

Isn’t nature amazing?

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Ram Ramming and Ripped Pants

So somehow a cup got into the sheep’s pen over the weekend and rather than leave it there I decided I was going to go in and get it.  I decided that I should probably bring my crook with me, just in case.  It turned out to be a wise decision.

As I opened the gate and entered the pen George bellowed and got up and came my way.  This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, so it didn’t raise any red flags.  As he got close I grabbed his horns, gave him a quick pet, and redirected him away from me.  So far so good.

It was at this point he turned to face me, and then proceeded to back up.  Now I knew it was on.  He started his charge and I decided keeping the metal crook between he and I was my best course of action.  I also yelled his name in a deep voice to try and distract him from his goal.  As he got closer he turned his head slightly and slowed so I ducked to his blind side and again grabbed his horn.  Again I redirected him.

I quickly retrieved the styrofoam cup and headed for the gate.  Unfortunately George wasn’t done.  He backed away again and gave it another go.  I think the fact that the crook was between us confused him, because he wasn’t sure whether to ram the crook or me.  He got close enough before I was able to retreat to the gate that I grabbed his horns one more time.  Horn tightly clenched in one hand, gate opened with the other, I managed to catch my pants on the end of the fence tearing a neat two inch slit in them.  I was able to redirect him one last time and complete my escape through the gate.

He acted as though nothing happened and came over for a pet at the fence.  I have to say my heart rate had elevated throughout the ordeal but with cup in hand I was victorious with only a small tear in my pants to show for it.

I probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to enter his domain.  With the nights getting colder the ewes have been showing signs of coming into heat.  This in turn makes the rams more territorial, so today’s experience wasn’t altogether unexpected.  I really like that crook though.

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The Accused

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My Defense

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Success!

All those long and late nights in the barn after everyone else was asleep, moving and organizing all of our “stuff” was well worth it.  We had our annual fall party on Sunday and it was, as far as I can tell, a rousing success.  It seems as though each year the party has grown and this year it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds.

But let me return to the preparing.  I most obviously couldn’t have done it without especially my wife, but the kids also chipped in as well.  Our two older boys were a great help the day before, and the morning of the party.  I am not sure we would have been ready in time were it not for them helping, and not just helping, but being eager and joyful helpers.  As a father it is always nice to see your children enjoying serving other people, and that is what they were doing.  They were serving our guests before they arrived.

The party itself is king of a blur for me.  I didn’t have nearly enough time to visit with nearly enough people but everywhere I looked I saw smiling faces and children having fun so it was a great day.  For those of you who know me, you know I love talking.  I love taking people, especially people who haven’t been to one of our fall parties, on our hay ride and showing them the property and explaining how it has gotten to where it is today.  Despite my enjoyment of the hay rides, I think my favorite part of this party was looking out over the fields and seeing many many kids of all ages, some not technically kids anymore, playing and smiling.  There was by far the most amount of kids this year, in total probably between 35-50.

I even managed not to end up buying a ridiculous amount of hot dogs, we have leftovers, but nothing obscene.  The weather held out and it was a glorious fall day.  I honestly couldn’t have hoped for anything better.

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Final Push

I have been trying to get the last things done for the party. To that end my mother in law came over and watched the littler kids while I got some things done.

There was a small amount of chainsaw work that needed to be done. Small enough that I may have considered not wearing my chainsaw chaps. That is until I was reminded how quickly things go wrong. A thread I follow on TractorbyNet told about how a gentleman got nicked with the chainsaw he was using, had to go to the hospital and has to keep his leg immobilized for six weeks. Fortunately his is mending and will be fine but it was just the unfortunate reminder I needed that no matter how “small” the job is, safety doesn’t depend on the size of the job.

I was also able to get the old water heater, air conditioner, a few batteries, and some other scrap metal loaded up and taken to the metal yard.

The chickens seem to be fine. I have checked some more for mites and haven’t found any sign. May have just been unlucky. As many people know, prey animals hide any sign of illness as long as possible. Many times until it is too late to notice or do anything about it. I will keep an eye on them but I am hopeful it was an isolated incident.

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We Lost a Hen

Late this morning Homestead Boy #2 came inside exclaiming that there was a dead chicken in the coop. I grabbed some gloves and headed to check things out. Sure enough, there was a dead hen in the middle of the coop. I took her out and did a quick exam. I found no wounds, no feather loss, and only a few what looked to be mites, certainly nothing that seemed excessive. I disposed of the hen and got to figuring what could be done to make sure no more birds were lost.

Apparently wood ash is a good material for chickens to take dust baths in. Fortunately we had two five gallon buckets of wood ash from the small wood burner we had in the barn. I took an aluminum baking pan and out about half wood ash and half sand for a dust bath.

On the way home from the dog groomer I stopped at TSC and picked up some poultry spray and this evening I cleaned out all the old bedding, sprayed down the coop, and put down all new bedding. I also raked out the run area and sprayed it down as well.

While I was at it I changed out the rabbit litter and took everything down to the compost pile.

I am hoping this takes care of any problem. The hen was one of the smallest and was what I will call failing to thrive. Fortunately it was not Homestead Boy #2’s favorite hen, Hunter. However she is another small hen so we will have to keep an eye on her. In fact tonight while I was working in the barn I noticed it was starting to rain. Hunter had stayed outside to sleep on the roost there, so I went out and out her in the coop. I figured cold and wet was not a good way to spend the night.

Sometimes farm animals die, even if you try to provide everything they need. I just hope there isn’t something else going on.

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Heat

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In that crate is 346 pounds of fire breathing, back breaking, house warmth for this winter. Who wants to help me get it into place once I build the surround?

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Parental Musings – Alone Time

I have seen on Facebook and in videos parents who are hiding in the bathroom just looking for five minutes of alone time.  My thoughts on that are this, alone time is over rated.  In fact, with a toddler it’s a little scary.  I am not worried when my two year old is hanging on my leg begging for cookies.  I get really nervous when I can’t see my two year old, and come to think of it… I haven’t seen her in fifteen minutes.  That is when you find the bathroom sink overflowing, or a hallway wall covered in marker, or a Nutri-Grain bar smeared into the carpet.  That banging on the bathroom door while you are in there, sweet music to my ears.  I know right where they are.  When the knocking stops, and I can’t hear them, time to hurry up and get out of the bathroom.  I’ll save alone time for when they are asleep.

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Moooooooooo!

Is what the cow says. On Saturday I had the opportunity to learn how to milk a cow and a goat. It was actually a class that covered all things home dairy. A nearby farm, Firesign Family Farm, offers classes on all sorts of self-sufficiency/homestead/farm type things. We talked about fencing requirements for both goats and cows. We also talked about pasture and food requirements, handling, milking stations, routine, and health care. There were twelve of us, including a friend of mine who I was able to to convince to join me, in the class and anyone who wanted was able to trim the goat’s hooves and milk bot a goat and cow.

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The cows waiting to come in for milking

Going into the class I was very interested in goat milking. With goats being smaller and more manageable, I thought, and also producing far less milk I wanted to know if that would be an option that would ever appeal to me.  One thing that should be obvious about goats, and I guess I had never really thought about, was that their udders are much smaller than a cows. Stands to reason that a smaller animal would have smaller udders, but if you don’t think about milking much, it’s not something you ruminate on. While I didn’t have any problem milking the goats, I pretty much used only my thumb and first finger. Not a big deal. We then got to taste both fresh warm and cold goat’s milk. I had never had goat’s milk before but had heard about how “gamey” it tastes. I was surprised that it didn’t taste that much different than cow’s milk. There was a slight difference, but nothing off putting at all.

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Then we moved on to her jersey cow. There is something about cows. Maybe it was watching city slickers when I was young and growing attached to Norman, but those big brown eyes just get to you. I knew as soon as we brought the cows in, if I was going to be milking something it would have to be a cow. As I said, they milk Jersey cows at Firesign. They can supply up to six gallons of milk a day! Even if you share half with the calf that’s still three gallons a day. That is a lot of milk drinking, cheese making, ice cream making, etc. and I am not interested in starting a herd share program at this point so that was something to think about.

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Seriously, how can you not like cows?

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Filtering the milk

 

Milking the cow seemed easier. I don’t know if it was the size of the udders, or my attitude about the animal, but it was a lot of fun. We then got to try fresh warm milk, and cold which we drink as a family anyway.

The class was great. Ruth was a lot of fun, and a fount of information. I will definitely be going back for more classes which are listed here.

Upon getting home I started doing some research on a cow breed that I have looked up before, the Dexter. Dexter cows are a much smaller breed, and thus produce less milk. More along the lines of one to three gallons a day. Splitting that with a calf now sounds more reasonable. Dexter are also considered a triple threat cattle breed. Not only do they provide milk, but they are a good meat breed as well. The third threat is that they can be draft animals. All I can think about now is how awesome it would be to have a fall party hay ride on a wagon pulled by Dexter cows.

This gives me one more thing to think about. It would be really fun to be able to produce our own milk and cheese from right here on the homestead. I know milking is a chore, but with only one to milk it may be manageable. I have also heard about leaving the calf and heifer together if you want to go on vacation so the calf takes care of the milking while you are on vacation. It isn’t anything I am going to do this winter, unless I run into a smoking deal, but something to think about for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Done, For Now

My wife got home early enough this evening for me to spend a little time working on the patio.  I was able to move a couple more buckets of crushed lime, and level the area with a rake.  It still isn’t perfect, and probably never will be.  I don’t plan on putting a stone or metal edging around the rock.  I will just rake it back when it becomes necessary.  Because of that it won’t have that finished look.  But I only have a few hours into it and a load of crushed lime, so I am pretty happy with where it is at right now.  I still have some dirt to smooth out around it, but I am going to wait until I put the back blade on the tractor to do that, hopefully later this weekend.  For now, it’s done.

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I also found another craigslist deal the other day.  A gentleman was selling forty 5.5′-6.5′ t posts and about twenty five 8′ treated posts.  The treated posts are anywhere from 5″-9″ in diameter.  I got them at a deal, and the guy delivered them because he wanted them gone!  Can’t argue with that.  This should get me a good portion of the way towards fencing in more of the front for next year so that maybe I can buy a bull calf for beef.

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My Kids Keep Me Humble

Over the past few weeks I have been going out into the barn at night, after the kids are asleep. I spend a couple hours trying to move, organize, and decide what can be donated out of the things we have in the barn. I TRY to make it into bed before midnight. All of this has been motivated by preparing for our annual fall party. (If you haven’t gotten an invite let me know) I have been pretty pleased with my progress. But any time I ask my kids what they think of my work they shrug their shoulders and say it looks the same. They definitely keep me humble.

Not only am I trying to get the barn organized and ready, but there are a multitude of things to be done outside as well. With the daylight hours growing shorter it has been harder and harder to get things done when my wife gets home from work or after the kids activities. I was lucky that today my mother in law was able to come over for a few hours.

During that time I moved all the asphalt/cement/rocks down to their respective piles at the back of the property. I think in all I moved four full tractor buckets of asphalt/cement that had been picked out of my “clean” fill dirt.

After that I hooked the trailer up to the tractor and unloaded the wood from it. It hadn’t gotten any light since it had been put there. Luckily I was able to position the trailer so that it was slightly downhill towards the tailgate. This allowed me to flip the rounds 90 degrees and just let them roll out of the trailer. The longer branches I just pulled out. Homestead boy #1 was my helper for both of those projects.

Then I started on our patio. Several days ago I had a load of crushed limestone delivered. I am going to use that as a patio off the driveway and next to the barn. That will mean that the patio furniture will have a permanent home, not on the grass, so I won’t have to move them every time I go to cut. I got a really good start on that, getting the whole shape dug out using both the tractor and hand shovels. Homestead boy #2 and homestead girl #1 thought it would be fun to help with the shovels, but quickly tired of it and went to play with the rabbits.  I didn’t get pictures until I was out working in the barn tonight, but I wanted to throw some pictures in the post.  I think it will look less messy by daylight.

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In these pictures it actually looks pretty terrible. I hope it doesn’t when I am done.

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In my defense I needed to hurry up to leave to go to a banquet.

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We also solved the mystery of which hen was laying. I had thought it might be an Amberlink, but today I caught Atilla the barred rock in the neat box. It makes much more sense. She probably just stopped for a bit after getting acclimated and has now resumed. The Amberlinks should start laying later this month with any luck.

All in all, I was very happy with the progress I made. Now off to work on the barn.

 

 

 

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