I love it when we find balance on the farm. Our daily life is very routine-oriented and when anything changes that routine, it takes me almost a week to fine-tune how my chore times look. Maybe I am slow to adapt, I don’t know!
As our farm goes, we try not to have too many different groupings of animals to care for at one time, as that complicates life greatly. Sheep and milking goats are our mainstay, but we really depend on our pigs and our roasting chickens to get us through the food year, even though we only need to keep them as part of the farm animal scene for a portion of the year.
This year things have worked out quite well in that regard. We got our roasters early, and our piggies late. So this was swap week. We picked up the piggies on Sunday, and the chickens had their date with destiny on Tuesday. It’s been a long week, but I think things have died down to a dull roar now.
I think that I can finally get to bed at my usual earlier hour again! Yesterday morning I got out to chores a little on the later side (as I am totally dragging, having to stay up until 11 or 11:30 to check on our expectant mom) and couldn’t see Snow Pea’s face through the tarp on the greenhouse… well, she hasn’t been popping up for breakfast with alacrity in the past few mornings, she waits to see the green coming at her before she makes the effort. But as I approached the greenhouse where I had penned her, all I heard was grunting. Yay! She stood up to greet me and when she turned around I saw a pink nose and two little hooves protruding from her backside. So I left her to it, and while I fed everyone else, checked on her periodically. Everytime I approached, though, she stopped what she was doing to beg for food, so I had to ignore her. Just as I was getting set to begin milking, I heard her bellow her welcome “maah” and her boy was on the ground, shaking his head and snorting. So our complement of goat kids is complete: 3 doelings and 4 bucklings. Not a bad year!
We do not have a barn, so everything we do on the farm is done in a series of small greenhouses with heavier, more opaque covers than the usual plant greenhouse. I milk our goats in one of them, and while I milk I hum a little, talk to the goat in question, and look around. I was not pleased last week to see this near the top of one of the supporting arch posts of the greenhouse, 5 or 6 feet away from the milking stand and our little operation:
I am a huge Star Wars fan, and like Leah, Han and Luke, was not overly pleased to see this under construction! I am not a fan of whitefaced hornets, or bald-faced hornets as they are called. It’s a beautiful little structure, but not welcome near our milking goats as they are tethered to the milk stand! I have been watching this thing for awhile now and told my husband that I don’t believe it’s active anymore. I milk twice a day and I spend quite a bit of time in there… no action. Until last evening as Sock Monkey was giving her all, I saw one crawl in there. I couldn’t believe that it would fit when it landed, as it is very small still, but it went right in. I was able to take a picture of the creature in there, and amazingly enough it’s visible in the picture!
I know that young wasps are being raised in there, but I am curious as to why the whole paper structure isn’t being enlargened by the hornets. If Darth Vader were still around I am sure it would be turning into a monster of a hive!
OK, I know that I was raised in the suburbs and have had a few things to get used to in the course of raising sheep and goats. You know, difficult lambings, mud up to your knees when we have springs like this one (!), dealing with maggoty fly-strike in a favorite ram, heavy hay bales, driving rain and sleet, knowing when to say goodbye to your favorite ewe, milking goats at 4:30 on schooldays, etc. Sometimes my husband (who grew up in a community that was farming at the time) says, “I didn’t think you’d be able to do that!” and I just think that you never know what you are capable of until you try.
There is one thing that I don’t think I will ever get used to, no matter how long we live here and farm. I think it’s a primal sort of a reaction that I just can’t seem to get past. The “S” word. I know that they are not a dangerous population around here, but I can’t help being startled and getting a total shiver when one pops out at me. Yup. Snakes! AARGH! Baby rat snakes and garter snakes are beautiful in their own way (when I think about them intellectually)… but when they pop out of a hay bale that I have just picked up I tend to react more viscerally (you know, yelling, dropping the bale, and hopping around) until it’s gone someplace else… anyplace else, as long as it’s away from me. Shiver, shiver!
I really appreciate the fact that the snakes are living there in the greenhouse, as I presume they are well-fed on the mouse population and are keeping them at bay, but I use my trusty rake before I grab a bale these days! When it’s time to grab a new bale, I use the rake to pull it off the pile and then I smack it a few times with the back of the rake head to wake any sleepy serpents, while loudly saying things like: Get up you lazy guys and get cracking! You aren’t catching any mice just lying around in that cushy bale! It *almost* never fails.
The schoolyear for us officially ended yesterday! Oh my, I am tired. It’s been a busy week so far, even without adding school into the mix. Our yearling doe Rhubarb surprised us a little early with two beautiful bucklings late on Sunday afternoon. Of course, Sunday afternoon it was raining buckets, but our Rhubarb had her boys tidily tucked behind her, and when I got out there to do evening chores, they were both dry and fed. Their little tummies were very full, and one of them was dozing on his feet… I guess he figured it had taken him a bit of energy to get up onto those silly legs, he wasn’t going to give up yet!
One of the boys has been named Batty due to the fact that he has protruding ears (hardly noticeable, I know!) which are the “elf” type ear that LaMancha goats can have. His brother has been dubbed Bud, as he has the “rosebud” type ears. Other than one being slightly darker than the other in coloring, the ears are the best way to tell these calm and gorgeous boys apart. And I guess that I need to get a picture of Bud in here. Wouldn’t want to give Batty all the p.r.!
Now, we just have one more yearling doe who is almost ready to kid… We’re waiting, Snow Pea!
Time is flying when you are trying to finish up the schoolyear and are also getting ready for the yearly Maine Fiber Frolic! We had a great weekend for the fair. Lots of great folks came by to say hello and fondle our fibers!
People make fun of me because I am really fixated on the weather. I have multiple favorite internet weather sites on my browser bar set for 1 click viewing (don’t you just love the hour-by-hour breakdowns???), and I also have to admit that my biggest reason for even wanting to own a t.v. is that I love the local 5-7 a.m. news, particularly the weather report. It’s so much more area-specific than anything you can find elsewhere, even on the internet. I love knowing what Kevin Mannix has to say about our little part of the world, mid-coast Maine, because it’s usually pretty accurate! And let’s face it, my comfort is driven by the weather these days. If I go out to do chores at 5 a.m. dressed incorrectly, I pay for it in a big way. Once I am outside I usually push through no matter what, but being under-dressed or over-dressed is just a misery! And now that the black flies and mosquitoes have made their appearance, the challenge is that much greater. How to keep yourself covered without dying of the heat, now that’s a conundrum for the next few months!
The arrival may not have been at an airport with lots of people waving signs, but we look forward to this day with anticipation all year. Yay! And it’s been the perfect week to get them started, not too hot and not too cold. Those cute little yellow fuzzballs are enjoying their new home in the back of one of our greenhouses, pecking around and having some fun. I bet they are glad to be out of that old delivery box!
We really enjoy watching these guys grow. It’s amazing to compare their growth with that of laying hens… no comparison! The Cornish X breed is definitely wired differently and it’s nice to know that they will be here and gone in 8 or 9 weeks total. It’s kind of like the pig thing: because we are not breeding them, we don’t have to worry about overwintering, feeding in the snow and bad weather, etc. They come, we enjoy them and their antics, they provide lots of good fertilizer, and then they provide us (and quite a few others) with a year’s great eating. Love it!
Once they get feathered out we will be able to let them run around behind the greenhouse in the grass and scrub, under the maple trees. Summer is coming, I can feel it :* )
The lambs are growing incredibly fast and having a great time playing follow-the-leader and Red Rover in the paddock. Hamish, one of Kate’s boys, finds a congenial spot for a rest after a frolic with his friends.
Hamish and his brother Macbeth (named after one of my favorite literary detectives created by M.C. Beaton) are two of my favorite lambs. They not only have a lot of personality, but their fleece type is so typically Coopworth that I can’t decide which one I might want to keep (if they continue growing well and looking as good as they do right now! ). Oh the decisions!!
In the meantime, I will just spend as much time in the paddock as I can and enjoy the lambie antics!
It’s been awhile since I have posted. I am listening to the rain pour down on the metal roof and the thunder and lightning are quite entertaining! The last few weeks have been totally insane. We had our final lambs two weeks ago today. Fuzzy Lumpkin had triplets as a first time mom and we lost the first one who was a breach… long story, difficult birthing. He was a ram lamb and quite small. The other two are a white ram and a black ewe. Beautiful! The white ram got his bottom jaw caught around his mother’s pelvic bone and it was very swollen, but he is fine now. It took 3 of us to get those poor lambs sorted, but they are doing well. We have been calling the white ram Willow, and his sister
Zoola :* ) We thought we were going to have to bottle feed Willow
but he is a fighter and Fuzzy is a great mom, just like Sophie!
We also have been waiting for our grandson to make his entrance.
He was born on the Monday after the last lambs, and is a gorgeous baby. 8.5 lbs and very laid back. His sister Abbie is thrilled with him (so far) and we are enjoying him immensely. It’s been a very emotional couple of weeks, exhausting but wonderful. I can’t believe our youngest son is a father. Time is really flying!
In the meantime the Maryland Sheep and Wool show took place and our American Coopworth Registry was there with a cooperative members’ booth, rain and all. They did great! It’s always an exciting show and a great time for members to meet up with each other.
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!