Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our First Morning with Dilly

I have sooooo much to write about Dilly's first night and day, but no time this minute. Enjoy this video and check back for the story later.

Ok, I am back and settled in from another normal busy day, with time to write a little before I capture some well deserved sleep. To start this tale, I must confess that I love living in a community where people are willing to help one another. Even when they don't know you personally. Just because they can. So with that, I thank Seth and Brianna, KelLee, Jake and Sarah. And, this is why:

I wrote a few days ago about the male guard llama for sale in Waldoboro that we called on. What I failed to mention is that Sean and I own neither truck nor animal trailer - highly inconvenient for the venture ahead. Sean called our friends Seth and Bri to see about borrowing their truck. Like the true spiritual brother and sister they are, they kindly agreed.

Truck secured, we tackled the problem of the trailer. I called on my friend, KelLee. KelLee called on one of her friends, who had a trailer, but it was not in any condition to haul a 400 pound llama. Undeterred, she called another friend of hers. Within hours, she texted me with Jake and Sarah's names, phone number, and address. Seriously. Just like that. Trailer secured.

We put the address of Mr Farmer and Jake and Sarah into the GPS and we were off on our adventure. Our first stop was to pick up the trailer. As we pulled up, Jake and his young son were preparing to pump up the tires for the trailer, which was sitting ready in their yard. Then, they attached the license plates, gave us the registration, and assisted with hooking up the lights. Sarah and I met and talked about our different farms' production and goals. As we discussed Sean and I getting turkeys later in the summer, I offered to give them the 2 turkeys we would not be keeping as breeding stock. Sarah accepted and the guys finished up their preparations. Just like that, within 20 minutes, we were back on the road with an animal trailer supplied by people who had up until those moments, had no idea we even existed. Who does that? Small family farmers in Maine, willing to help other small family farmers. I am overwhelmed with the generosity we have once again been shown. How can I express how blessed we are by our friends and neighbors?

When we arrived at Mr. Farmers, he called Dilly to meet us. Dilly is friendly and inquisitive.  Immediately, he stuck his nose in my hair to give me a good smell. Dilly was a little wary of Sean, but warmed up to the bread Sean offered. He was definitely fondly attached to Mr. Farmer, nuzzling his neck and allowing him to put the new halter we brought on. We visited for several more minutes and then, Mr. Farmer opened the gate and began walking Dilly to our trailer. Concerned that I would be comfortable handling this large, shaggy beast, I asked if I could walk with him. Dilly allowed this change of handling all the way to the trailer, but when Sean and Mr. Farmer left to get some fresh hay, Dilly decided to follow along and I (mindful of my recently healed fractured left humerus) let go of the lead rope and watched Dilly trot off to be with his human.

Sean and Mr. Farmer loaded Dilly into the trailer. We exchanged email addresses, we made the agreed upon payment and I accepted a gift of the two day-old goslings carefully boxed to be ready for out trip home. The trip was uneventful, excepting the misguided GPS taking us on every dirt road it could find for our return trip, until we mutinied and used our human sense of direction to find a paved road. Not to be ignored, mother nature chimed in with a drenching thunder and lightening storm to pass directly over our home, just as we got there.

We waited the storm out inside and settled the goslings into the ducklings brooding cage until it passed. Then, Sean, Meg and I walked Dilly into the paddock to meet our goats and Jasmine. Both Dilly and the goats were unsure of this new arrangement, but no one looked inclined to start trouble, so we left them alone to get themselves sorted during the night. Jasmine ignored all the goings-ons.

White sweater + muddy goats= laundry!
In the morning, Sean and I decided to interact with Dilly to start getting acquainted with our new addition. Though Dilly seemed aloof at Mr. Farmers, he was not actively guarding a herd and therefore behaved vastly differently than he did in the conditions at our growing farm. You have to understand, Dilly is not a pet to be loved on or trusted. Dilly is a guard llama. His instincts are all telling him that he must defend his territory and his herd - even against us! Armed with grain, Sean and I broached the paddock for our first encounter. As you can see in the video above, Dilly was alert, but interested in us only slightly; the grain we had to offer him, more so. We watched for tell tale signs of Dilly's displeasure: ears pulled back, stomping and blowing, charging into our personal space and NEVER did we take our attention off him or turn our back on him. Then, Sean accidentally made a mistake.

Sean here.  As Sonja stated, Dilly seemed fine with us.  His ears were forward, he was calm, and seemed happy with being fed.  Until he and I ended up alone in the stall.  At which point, Dilly decided that I constituted a threat to his position as Alpha Llama, a position I was not even aware was in contestation.  Llamas really don't look formidable in repose.  When you are on the receiving end of an angry llama's attack, you suddenly realize that they are twice as big as you and have much stronger teeth and jaws.  Although he did not employ these (thankfully), he did try to force me down to the ground with his body and neck.  I tried to get out of the way but he cornered me and wouldn't let me pass.  My wife is terrified and unable to help while the llama screams and blows in my face in his attempt to throttle me into submission.  A llama scream is like the cross between a donkey baying and a horse neighing, only much louder and continual.  I eventually was able to push him off and maneuver my way over the stall wall to escape.  The whole attack lasted less than 30 seconds but seemed a lot longer.  Our ignorance to llama husbandry was to blame. While we will attempt to curb this kind of behavior in the future, the experience has certainly reminded us that no matter how calm and friendly an animal may seem, when taken out of its environment, it is nothing but unpredictable and dangerous and MUST MUST MUST be treated as such.

Sonja continues: What we underestimated and were unprepared for was the llama's natural instincts. Were a coyote or fox to breach our fencing to menace our livestock, and Dilly sprung into action to defend our does, we would praise him for his watchfulness. That is exactly what Dilly did to Sean. Dilly does not know us yet or accept us as part of his herd. Sean's going into the stall with him, in a confined space, with does and kids present, was a dangerous situation that we should have recognized and avoided. And, we added him to pasture with a herd of females, (which is a known trigger to male llamas- only, we didn't know that at the time), instead of acclimating him in his own pasture for a time, first. Additionally, Dilly is an unaltered male with his fighting teeth intact. The first part of which, must be remedied immediately. Castration alone will not change his protective nature and territorial dominance, which is desirable in a guard animal, but the absence of testosterone will affect it markedly. And, in time, we hope he will be more accepting of our presence.

For now, while we reconsider the wisdom and our ability to continue caring for an animal of this sort, he will be moved to Jedidiah's pasture. Jedi is a sweet boy, but he is also intact and horned. A fitting companion, we hope. So far, there has been no signs of hostility among them, but this will be watched for. It has only been the one day, so we cannot jump to any conclusions without further research and experience. As a precaution, our girls have been clearly warned to stay completely away from the llama fencing. Appropriate no trespassing and warning signs will be posted to warn others of the potential for danger. If he shows no signs of improvement with our working with him, then, Dilly will have to find a new home. That would break my heart, but we will not keep an aggressive animal on our farm. We'll keep you posted.

Good night, friends!
Sean and Sonja ♥

Shared with Backyard Farming Connection Hop #14

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ducklings Take Their First Bath...

... and meet some new friends.

What else can you expect? You drive an hour to buy a llama and you come home with not only the llama in question, but also, two- day old Brown Chinese/Buff goslings. They are adorable fluff balls, but LOUD. Though they are younger than our ducklings by several days, they are slightly larger. We are hoping for both a male and a female. Or two females. The only combination that would be really inconvenient is two males, but the odds are in our favor. As I am attempting to update, they are snuggled in the top of my shirt, pecking at my necklace, hair, and earrings with their curious little bills. It is distracting, but they are warm and bonding with me... I hope. The alternative of sitting on them seemed chancy.

Yesterday afternoon, the ducklings took their first bath in the kitchen sink. Ducklings do not float like adult ducks can and must be watched very carefully. Ducklings produce a natural oil from a gland in their tail region which coats their feathers as they preen. Without that protection, they can drown. Another danger is catching a chill and getting sick. With these dangers in mind, we added just a few inches of water to the sink to get them used to the water and watched them intently- while filming video, of course. In no time at all, they will be swimming pros!

Tonight, we introduced the ducklings to their new neighbors. The ducklings were not sure about this turn of events and tried to establish some kind of pecking order with the ducklings sitting on top, but the goslings were having none of that! A few dabbles with their bills and everyone was sorted. That settled, the ducklings settled under their lamp for the night. As it is also long past time for this girl to be in her bed, too, the goslings must be returned to their nest box.

I intended to write about the new llama and our amazing adventure in getting him today, but I am zonked! So, tune in tomorrow for pictures and video of our new pal, Dilly!

Good night, friends!
Sonja ♥
Adult Buff Goose
P.S. Thse pictures are similar to what these new little guys are going to grow to look like.
Adult Brown Chinese Goose

Creating a Second Goat Pasture

In preparation for separating Jedi and Pepper into their own field, Sean and I worked this past weekend on fencing in the second pasture for them. Eventually, the goats will have a total of 5 pastures to rotate around, ensuring fresh green edibles for them most of the year. Though this is exciting work to be getting another one complete, it is physically draining on Sean, since he is digging them manually with a post hole digger. Good exercise, for sure, but the repetitive motion is tough on the back, shoulders and arms. My job is to make sure the placement is accurate, hold the post in place, once it is set, and to help back fill the holes around them, while he tamps them in. I also provide cold drinks, keep black flies and mosquitoes at bay, and of course, capture the event with photographs or videos.

Sean starts a new hole by ramming the digger into the sod to cut it. Then, with a small assistance of gravity, he continues thrusting the sharp digger into the hole, scooping out clay and dirt as he progresses. He set 10 poles in this manner on Sunday afternoon, then finished setting the last 3 Monday morning.

When the hole is 2-3 feet deep, he sets the cedar post into it and back fills with the dirt he removed, tamping it down with a stick so that the pole sits straight and doesn't move too much.

After all the poles were set, Sean muscled the 330 foot roll of livestock fencing onto the wagon of the riding mower and I drove it into the field. This roll weighs 190 pounds. It is not easy to maneuver it to where it needs to be. I certainly can't do it alone! I help with holding the end and pulling it tight to the post, so Sean can secure it by hammering fencing staples into each post. And here again, I keep the black flies from their blood-thirsty attack of Sean's person and mine.

Sean unrolled the fencing, but we had it upside down! It was at this point in the proceedings, that I wisely decided to stop talking, while Sean turned it all over and got it settled properly. It didn't take him much longer to fix it, but as much as the fencing weighs rolled, at least it is movable. Unrolled, it is ungainly, difficult to work with as it wants to bend into itself and sharp! I bravely kept up my assault on those pesky mosquitoes while Sean fought with the fencing.

After 3 hours of working, Sean used his heavy wire cutters to open the wall where a new gate will live, after it gets built. And, I showed the goats into the new pasture. They were hesitant at first to venture inside, but soon wasted no time mowing the field down, happily eating budding brush, and field grasses.

As tired as both Sean and I are at the end of each day, it feels so good to be getting so much accomplished! I would love nothing better, but to have the money it would require to just stay home full time and devote more of our time and effort to farming. Maybe, someday, as the critters produce and we sell what we won't use ourselves to others, that dream will be a reality.
For today, we just keep working along towards the goal of
sustaining ourselves from the good of our land.

Before I go, though, I had to add this picture of the beautiful group of butterflies I saw in the horse field. I don't know anything about butterflies, but it was really neat to see them all in a group. And, then, they flew off all together across the field.
Hope you all have a great week!
Sonja ♥

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Pig in a Blanket...

What a busy day so far!

Sean replaced the copper piping from the kitchen sink that has not been draining properly for a week, with new pvc pipes. We shall know in a few minutes if it is repaired- meaning: the sink will drain, my dishwasher will work, and neither of these things will flood into the basement. All that remains is to clean and sanitize all the dishes that have been just sitting, waiting to be washed and to scour the basement floor which has caught its share of nasty water during the week's "fixing" of it. I am so proud and happy to be married to a man who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, try new things (even when he's out of his comfort zone), and NEVER gives up.

 I can happily report.... IT WORKS!!!

After he got the new pipes plumbed, he replaced my lawn mower belt. I took that time to load a wagon full of fire wood to get the girls started on that chore, when they get home today and I replanted some flowers into new pots and planted some lettuce in pots for the porch. Once the mower was again in business, I mowed the back lawn and Sean finished the fencing around the new Piggie house and emptied the shed of it's winter burden of odds and ends. These Sean will sort and move whatever is of value tobe kept into his wood shed and he will dispose of the rest. We bartered with our friend Laurie some eggs and grocery items for 2 hours of her weeding in my back flower garden. While Sean and I were working on our yard projects, she went to work! She did a fantastic job! And, brought us some rhubarb, too. I think I will make some apple rhubarb crisp for Sean's dessert tonight.

 It took us about 45 minutes to coax the pot bellies to leave their home on the hill and move to their new spacious yard. They were not pleased with the idea. Patches gave in to her stomach and followed a tub of food into the new pen. Ebony was having none of that! She grunted and growled. She walked three times the distance in the wrong direction. Sean tried rigging a leash for her. I tempted her with grain. Nothing was moving that pig! Finally, Sean grabbed an old blanket. We wrangled Ebony onto it, and with Sean lifting one side and me hoisting the other, we carried her squealing and unhappy down the hill and to the side of her new pen. I had the head, so I opened that side. Deciding any fate was better than another ride like the one just experienced, she walked into the pen of her own accord and immediately started digging up some muddy bits.

This is hog heaven. Some green grass, some fresh dirt to dig in, fresh hay in the 8'x8' water proof stable with a nice window for added light. The building lists to the left, but that shouldn't bother its new guests. (The overall plan is to completely replace their housing next spring, after the barn is finished this year.) And, we still need to fix the door, which had lost one of its hinges over the winter, but that is an easy fix. Later this summer, when the chicken coop gets its new cedar shingles, the pig palace will get new cedar shingles, too. So, we are not done, but it is an honest start to our day. And, as I write this, both piggies have wagging tails and a happy countenance.

Now, Sean is getting us some hot water for much deserved showers and I am sitting for a minute debating on what to have for breakfast, since it is past 4 pm already. I am thinking cheeseburgers on the grill and salad. I am exhausted, but the dishes are washing, the wood is getting stacked, the sun is shining and this country girls is very, very happy.

Have a great day, friends. I hope you enjoy the sunshine.
Sonja ♥

PS. If the ducklings are girls, their names are Becky and Kimmy. If boys, Dale and Ryan. And, if there is a mixture, well, we'll see!

Save the Drama for Your Llama...

Sean has wanted a llama forever; to guard the does, to sell the fleece when sheared, to go hiking with, as a companion... because it's a LLAMA.  And, it does make a kind of sense. Take our decision to separate out our bucks from our does, (so we can control the pace and heritage of our kids) add that to our intention on keeping both turkey and goat paddocks further into the wooded portion of our land (to clear out the underbrush and provide more grazing land) and you come out with our does living relatively unprotected from predators. Additonal reasons to keep a llama, is for fiber. Llamas appreciate a hair cut in warm summer months and their fleece can sell for a small sum of money, which helps defray the cost of keeping the llama. Also, llama manure is so fully digested, it can be added directly to a garden without needing to compost it (according to this website HERE). A less important reason to obtain a llama is that Sean dreams (literally) of hiking with his llama up Mt Waldo, to the quarry nearby and in the woods. And, of course, of riding his llama (which I stand firmly against.)

And... it's a LLAMA.

On the other hand, most llamas are expensive to buy by my standards. A previous Uncle Henry's ad had one priced at $450, which is on the low side. Depending on training, lineage, sex, fiber quality, you can expect to pay from $600 to over $1,500 for a llama. That is not in the budget. Even considering that we can get along with purchasing a lower priced animal since fiber production (we don't expect huge amounts of money from the fiber of one llama) and lineage are not as relevant to our needs (we won't be breeding our llama), but $450 is still more than I can reasonably spend at the moment- with our main barn still in need of finishing.

Enter "Mr. Farmer" from Waldoboro and his brown llama, named Dilly.

Mr. Farmer is retiring from a life of farming to settle into a smaller home with his wife, to enjoy his grand kids and the rest of his days. When we spoke on the phone, he gave me the impression of my Grandpa George- hard working, rugged, capable. He recalled how he has kept goats, geese, ducks, turkeys, chicken, and cows throughout his life, for milk, eggs, and meat. Now he's selling them off. He acquired Dilly at a farm auction about 2 years back for his herd of dairy goats, age unknown for certain. His neighbor, who keeps a small herd of llamas, looked the boy over then and placed him at about 5 years old, which makes Dilly about 7-8 today. Dilly loves his goats and his people. Mr. Farmer sounded quite sad to let him go, saying how he'd miss Dilly running to see him and thrusting his nose in Mr. Farmer's face in greeting each day. Dilly walks on a halter, but most of the time is content to follow Mr. Farmer around as he completes his chores. We talked for about an hour with me asking questions and Mr. Farmer patiently answering them. At the end, Mr. Farmer offered us a price we could afford and we set a time for Sean and I to visit his farm on Tuesday night to meet Dilly.

Then, the serious thinking, discussing and research began. Our llama needs to be 1. healthy, 2. friendly to humans, 3. affectionate with our goats, and 4. reasonably willing to protect them from predators. Sean and I read no less than 10 websites devoted to care and keeping of llamas. We discovered that many people have their llama's fighting teeth sawed off when young to prevent fighting among themselves, that they can live to be 20-30 years old, depending on how well they are cared for, that they thrive in cold weather and require a 3 sided shed to be comfortable and get out of the wet or cold. We read that 2 llamas can live off  1/2 acre of land well and that they do best in herds of other llamas, sheep, or goats. Contrary to common belief, llamas only spit as a warning. Llamas are generally good tempered, but will defend their herd (when the does are in heat, especially) by head butting or pushing humans away. Llamas can be fed for less than the cost of keeping a large dog. They need a variety of shots to prevent rabies and tetanus, like other livestock. (This reminded us that our goats were due for their shots, too.) All in all, we were very encouraged by our reading when we settled into bed for the night.

This morning, I contacted a friend about the possibility of her accompanying us with a truck and trailer on Tuesday for our visit. KelLee readily agreed. What a blessing to have someone in our lives who not only has been farming for a while, but is willing to help and share her knowledge with us! We thank God for her, often.

So... the best I can tell... we may have a guard llama sooner than we anticipated. But, that is how things happen around here. Animals have a way of finding us at just the right time for where we are in this journey. I am only glad that we planned an extra 10x10 stall in our barn blueprint!

We'll let you know what happens!
Sonja ♥

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Livestock Updates: Videos May 24

It was brought to my attention today that I have not updated you on the regular goings-ons around the farm. I agreed and thought I might take some time to do that today. Today turned into tonight before I knew it and now, it is 10 pm and I am finally settled to unwind before bed.

Jasmine has been put into service in assisting us to mow the lawn around the front part of our lawn which is desperate to become a pond. It regularly has 2 feet of standing water in the middle. It is my hope that this year, it will get its wish. In the meantime, Sean put up a temporary fence around it. I can't mow there, but Jasmine is having the best time eating the foot tall green grass growing all around it. She has not been eating very much of her hay, preferring the greens in her pasture, which is a good sign for this time of year. Meaghan spent the last two weeks brushing her winter coat from her and she looks just gorgeous.


Sean and I finished installing a gate for entrance into the goat pasture today. That makes bringing Ellie out for her milking much easier. We suspect that Pepper might be pregnant. I bought a pregnancy test, but getting her to pee in the cup, has proved more difficult than anticipated. If she is, that is a good thing; as a 2 year old, she is ready to be bred and we had planned on breeding her with Jedi this year. Leah and Rachel are growing and healthy. Asher had a milk goiter on his neck. (This is a swelling cyst on the chin/neck area of a nursing goat. Sometimes it comes to a head and ruptures. We feel it is better to lance the goiter with a sterile needle, drain it, and treat with a topical iodine or alcohol against infection.) This happens often with young goats and though it looks horrible as it swells, it usually remedies itself and did for us this time. Abigail is not showing any signs, and like her brother is growing like a weed. Notice how much bigger both Abigail and Asher are compared to Buster! Jedi is in need of a hoof treatment, which he is scheduled for on Sunday afternoon. He will not like the process, but will feel much better after it is done. And, it is time to administer routine worming medicine all around this weekend, too.

Patches and Ebony are glad that weather has changed. They did some housekeeping and removed all the hay from under their shelter. They are scheduled to move to their new home this weekend. I know they are really going to love the new place, though they may miss the ducks company, initially. I will take pictures and video of their new place. It seems like this move is taking forever, but I guess that is because I am anxious to see them settled. I know they are going to love all the room in their new yard and home.

Canines & Felines:
There are no new happenings to report about the dogs or cats (thankfully!) if you go under the premise that no news is good news. They are all accounted for, healthy, and other than needing baths, which is on the list for this weekend and a hair cut for Angus, everyone is doing fine.

Bridget has moved to her summer home and is busy digging escape holes from inside her house. She might as well be a wild bunny through the warmer months. There has been more than one time, that I have looked out the kitchen window to spy her sunbathing on the wrong side of her fenced area, this being our queue, to move her home over, so she can begin again with her digging endeavors. Edith is in need of her monthly teeth clipping. I am sure Sean will take care of that this weekend, too- just not when I am around. While I am normal impervious to handling or assisting with any necessary vetting, but when it comes to this chore, Sean is on his own! I cannot deal with it. Thankfully, he can, as his routinely doing it, keeps Miss Edith alive and able to eat and drink properly.

Sean finished the roof of the chicken coop last weekend. This weekend, we are expanding every one's fencing to give them twice the room. It is almost time for the ladies to be on pasture part of each day, which means, it is time to build this year's chicken tractors! Today, the chicken and duck hens laid 20 eggs! This is a new high count for us.

Sean and I candled the new incubating eggs and were pleased to find that 27 out of 28 eggs are growing normally. One of them contained the tell tale red blood ring of an egg that failed to develop in the early stages of chick development and needed to be removed. The eggs are on day 11 of development today. They are due to hatch on June 3.

The ducklings are thriving. They had their first play date outside today with me. We all enjoyed that very much. I especially loved today's discovery. When I went inside to grab my camera, they ran to the side of the cage peeping madly as soon as I got out of their sight. When I walked to the other side of the cage to sit near them to snap some pictures, they ran to the side I was sitting on. Based on that behavior, I had a hunch that the ducklings had imprinted successfully on me. When I took them out, my suspicion was confirmed. Just writing this makes me smile. I was so hoping that would happen! They follow me around like... well, baby ducks.

After some research online, I believe that one of these ducklings is a Mallard and the other is at least part, Black Swedish. We'll be able to tell for sure when they get their permanent feathers in a few months. They still need names, but these things take time to get them right.

All seven varieties of tomatoes and 5 varieties of peppers are growing well; the tomatoes have already been replanted and have grown again to nearly 18 inches tall and are beginning to flower! We'll be putting them in their garden plots soon. The eight grape plants, planted in the last two years, have woken up from their winter's rest and are budding like crazy. The strawberries have blossoms, but no berries, yet. We still must begin our cold tolerant veggies, still. It is getting on in the year and the onions, carrots, peas and radishes are all wanting to be planted or we'll risk a stunted season for them.

I think that catches everyone up to date. With the long weekend coming up, I know we are going to have much more to post. For now, this country girl needs some bed time, but I couldn't resist just one more duck picture!

Goodnight, friends!
Sonja ♥

Let's Talk Turkey

With all the work we do... to get animal housing finished; fencing installed, moved around, and secured; feeding and watering accomplished; hoofs trimmed and animals inspected; manure scooped and composted; garden boxes built, filled, and planted; lawns mowed, garden beds weeded, goats milked; eggs collected... and so on... around here adding another breed of critter might seem incongruous to our goal of simplifying our lives. And, if we were going to begin breeding, say peacocks, or parrots, or llamas, I would agree. But, let's talk turkey.

Does THIS look like free range?
Most families in the United States roast, at least, two turkeys each year; 40 million turkeys are the center piece for thanksgiving celebrations alone. Since the 1970's, commercially raised and processed turkeys have been selectively bred to create excessively large bodies with lots of white breast meat. These hybrids can't fly, can't naturally reproduce, and are often prone to horrible health issues. According to's website, " The Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey and the Broad Breasted White Turkey are the two main breeds of today's commercial turkey industry... these particular breeds have been strictly managed and bred for maximum meat production and minimum cost. The two strains of Commercial Turkeys that we offer will not reproduce naturally and are specifically developed for their efficient feed to breast meat conversion rate. They are the perfect choice for farmers looking for the most efficient turkey meat production." Additionally, states, "...these birds are typically raised in factory conditions, sometimes thousands to a barn, and may be treated with growth hormones to enhance their size and antibiotics to prevent disease... Many factory-farmed birds are injected during processing with a solution that might contain water, stock, butter, or other seasonings to make the bird plumper, and more flavorful." These birds may be labeled as "free range" since they are not kept in cages and are allowed to roam, though often with no more than 3 sq ft or space each. Put that way, it doesn't sound very appetizing to me.

Top Left: Butterball turkey; Top Right: Young pastured turkey;
Lower Left: Wild turkey; Lower Right: Mature pastured turkey
Our plan calls for us to buy and raise a small number (for breeding stock) of heritage turkeys much like how their wild counterparts live, minus the worry of predators and attack. Sean and I are planning on fencing off some of our lightly wooded land, (not currently in use between the goat pasture and raised garden beds) adding a out-building for shelter. First, we will rotate some goats to live there for a week or two to help clear out some of the brush undergrowth to open it up for pasturage to grow to this new area. Then, we will inspect the area to make sure it is suitable to our new additions later this summer. When our poults are fledged out and ready to be outside, they will move into their new home. We will not be eating our new turkeys. These, like all the other animals on our small and admittedly dysfunctional farm, will live out their days in peace and safety. But, they will earn their keep. We will, collect their eggs and hatch batches of heritage turkey poults to sell to neighbors who want to raise their own turkeys to feed their families. Heritage turkeys take longer (at 24-28 weeks) to grow to maturity, but every review I've read agrees they taste better and they are not treated with any of the chemicals or additives described above.

Bourbon Red Toms
Sean and I have thought it through, researched the benefits and costs in terms of time, care, and our ability. With all that in mind, our new breeding stock of six Heritage Bourbon Red Turkeys have been ordered from Muddy Hoof Farm in Lubec, Maine. According to our research, mature toms weigh about 30 pounds; hens, 12 to 14 pounds. The Bourbon Red is ranked No. 2 for taste. They are curious turkeys. Anything in their area is subject to close examination by them. They are calm, friendly and often underfoot during feeding time. They’re good sitters and mothers, but also tend to go broody early, so we'll need to keep an eye on that. We will be driving to pick up our guys from the farm on August 9th. I can't wait to meet our new guys and for this new adventure to begin.

Sonja ♥

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Marvelous Creation

I am amazed by all the processes programmed inside a tiny little poultry egg to change it from my family's breakfast to a perfect miniature replica of the parent that laid it. I suppose other birds develop in much the same way, but I have no first hand knowledge of their doing so. As I have been sitting and talking with various friends these past few days about our hatching ducklings and the miracle of their creation, I am once again just dumbfounded by the design involved.

Putting aside the fantastic transformation and journey that occurs inside the reproductive tract of female fowl, which allows fertilization to occur and eggs to be laid, in the first place, (You can read an in-depth and scientific report of that HERE.) I am talking about simple timing. Think of this, an average hen lays an egg about every 28 hours. This hen will lay her clutch of, say 10 eggs over a period of two weeks, adding one egg at a time. Only once she has laid all the eggs for that clutch, and she begins to sit on them (to keep them warm) and turn them (so they'll develop inside the eggs correctly), do the eggs "wake up", as it were, and begin to develop. And, ALL the eggs will hatch within hours of each other. So, Mr. Egg laid on day 1, significantly older than MS. Egg laid on day 10, begin to develop and grow at the same time. Marvelous engineering!

And, here is another part that astounds me. When it is time for the eggs to hatch, a remarkable change takes place. The veins carrying a blood supply, spidering around the inside membrane of the egg, stops pumping blood through the exterior of the egg. The blood is pulled back into the chicks body through its umbilicus and closes off to the exterior egg membrane. The yolk that is the chicks source of nutrition is absorbed completely. What sets this chain of events into action? The chick does, after it breaks through to the air sac and begins tapping the inside membrane of the egg with its egg tooth. As the chick pips around the egg, signals are sent to the circulation system that hatching will occur soon and the necessary changes ensue. Just completely fascinating! It is for this reason, you cannot simply crack and peel baby chicks out of their eggs before they are ready. To do so, runs the risk of the chicks bleeding to death.

I am finding great joy on this path that my husband, children and I are on. And, I guess, that is, in part, one of the reasons for our writing this blog- to share the joy that is bubbling up in our lives with you. Farming is hard, back breakingly hard, some days and spiders aplenty *shudder*, on others. (And, we are just a small family farm!) There is tragedy; sometimes hard losses. We are new to this; we make tons of mistakes and do things twice as hard as they need to be done, simply because, we don't yet know better. (But, we will. In time... and with a lot more research and practice.) But, there is also JOY. Joy in growing delicious, untreated, healthy foods for our family and neighbors. Joy in seeing hard work's reward. Joy in knowing we did our best when their seems to be no reward forthcoming. Joy in watching my girls grow into capable young women. Joy in depending less on supermarkets and stores and more on each other. Living in some small way closer to how my grandparents were raised and their grandparents before them.

Thanks for stopping in! I hope you have a blessed day.
Sonja ♥

May 22 Update on ducklings

I will update this post later in the day with video and pictures.

Both ducklings are fine and thriving. They are alert, active, preening, sleeping, peeping, and doing all the normal things baby ducks do. Comfort zone, Oh! How I welcome thee back! There was even signs of two droppings on the towel near the water dish! I know, kind of strange to get excited about that, but it is a great sign that these little ones will thrive so long as we continue with the right conditions!

My other job beckons me this morning, but I will be back later tonight with more updates on all things farm related. For now, have a good day for yourselves!

Sonja ♥

More pictures and video, as promised.

He's not looking! I could be held now?

The one in the back is the one that hatched solo. The striped one in the front was assisted by us.

And the new feather weight wrestling champion is...

Vigorous signs of life!

Monday, May 21, 2012

And, Then There Were Two...

The 2nd duckling had a lot harder time being born. It tried and tried with an open hole, almost the size of a half dollar piece, to free itself; with its membranes drying out more and more as time passed. Finally, at 5:30 tonight, Sean and I made the decision to help it along carefully. I started to peel away the hard outer shell bit by bit until it was open (video above). There was no trace of any fresh blood- which is a good sign. When we got to this point, little ducky decided to meet us after all. (video below).

I helped dry and warm new little ducky by wrapping the new duckling into this warmed towel and slipped it into my shirt. It peeped for a few minutes and settled to sleep while I petted it's head and neck.

A couple hours later, both duckies are in the brooder, alternately sleeping and peeping. The older duckling has eaten a little and had a taste of water. I introduced the younger duckling to the water by slowly dipping the tip of its bill into the waterer, but it did not seem interested in drinking, yet. That's normal. They may not eat or drink anything for a day or even two after hatching.

I was excited to see the older duck preening itself  only 4 hours after hatching and both ducklings have gotten to their feet to creep about a little. I am still worried for the younger duckling and will keep a very close eye on it, but for now, we have 2 of the sweetest little ducklings that I have ever seen.

And, now, I can finally get some sleep.

Good night, friends.
Sonja ♥

One Duckling Arrives: Video

Meaghan was eager to show me when I arrived home from work just after 1:30 pm today, to see this! One duckling, (not the one that was further along last night, mind) had worked its way already out and was very nearly dry! The other duckling is peeping away, but seemed uninterested in finishing the business at hand.

I grabbed a clean, warm towel and cuddled the duckling to help warm it- sure wish I knew if it was a drake or a hen!- before placing it in the 10 gallon tank we are using as a brooder. Meg and I added the water dish and I dipped its tiny beak in the water, to show where it was located. Then, I left it alone, meaning, I did not touch it, but I took lots of video and pictures!

"Little hatched duck" was peeping up a storm one second and taking a siesta, the next. The tank is set to 98 degrees at duck level at the warmest side. "LHD" stumbled around the tank, peeping as it went . I felt so badly, that it has no Momma to cuddle up under or bond with and no brother or sister to snuggle with, at the moment. Eventually, I gave in to its insistent, little peeps, wrapped it in a cloth and tucked it gently into the top of my shirt. It settled down almost immediately, after attempting to taste my neck a time or two, that tickled!

As I write this it is 3 pm. Other duckling has made slightly more progress, but is not budging outside that egg, yet! It is so hard not to just go over and peel it out! But, I am controlling myself and bonding with "little shirt duckling" instead, who is napping right now contentedly warmed by my body heat, listening to the sound of my heart beating. Time enough to cuddle "new duckling" tonight.

We've got to get these "peeps" some names! Any thoughts?
Sonja ♥

As a side note: You may notice in the pictures and video that the incubator has some unhatched chicken eggs in the automatic turner. When the ducklings began to hatch, we turned off the automatic engine, and began turning the chicks by hand. Once the other duckling hatches and is dry, we will remove it to the safety of the brood tank. I do not recommend hatching in this manner. We were in a bind when the duck eggs began disappearing, so we used our incubator very cautiously in a tandem hatch for a few days. As an additional precaution, we removed 2 rows of egg turning yellow brackets, so the ducks would have more room to hatch in safety. Again, it worked this time, for the ducks, (any success remains to be seen for the chicks) but I would not recommend doing this, if you have any other option open to you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ducks Enoying a Bath: Video May 20, 2012

I should be in bed, but I can't sleep until I have some kind of resolution for the ducklings to be. I suppose I should also be concerned about Sean, who has bravely disassembled the drain to the kitchen sink and is currently persevering trying to unclog the pipe amidst water dripping on his head, in the basement. I would lend him a hand, but other than passing him a bucket, he does not need me and has requested I not assist with this mess. I was not about to argue the point! It looked nasty when I peeked down there a few minutes ago.

At 9:58 pm, we have a few pips in the eggs, some white membrane showing through, but no ducklings, yet! This is almost as bad as being in actual labor with the waiting and pacing and watching for progress. My biggest fear is that they will tire, won't be able to break through the inner membrane and die so close to the end, suffocating inside their eggs. This waiting is just awful!

10:50 pm, No progress on the sink, but both ducklings  pecked several cracks in the outer shell of their eggs, but had not gotten through either the outer of the inner membranes. We were now past 24 hours from the pips. I had to help. I was just sick with worry. Carefully, I candled the egg, to see where the duckling was. I could see the outline clearly, so I cautiously and gently just poked the membrane with a tiny sewing needle. No blood. I slowly and very, very tentatively edged it open, just wide enough so the duckling could breathe. I could see the tine beak! At this point, Sean joined me and we assisted the other duckling in the same manner and replaced them into the incubator to keep them warm. Now that I know they have air and can hear them peeping, I feel much better.

Now...  more waiting! This is going to be a lengthy night.

12:31 am, no hatching yet, plenty of peeping and a trace of blood on the inner membrane where the ducklings beak is moving about. We are sleeping in the living room upstairs tonight. Me, on the couch and Sean, on the floor, so we can check them frequently. The brooder (This being currently a 10 gallon aquarium, which will be easy to regulate the temperature and stay free from drafts, until they graduate into the wire cage we've used for chicks with good results) is all set up and waiting complete with light and soft towel to receive any babies. I am knackered! I can barely type. I have to get some rest. Sean is playing his game boy. I don't know how he can do that, but right now, I am glad for it.

5 am, no ducklings, still, but we are up an extra horse, courtesy of our across the street neighbors. Their lovely lady, Cowgirl wants to be friends with Jasmine in the worst way. This is the third day in a row that she has jumped her fence to visit us. We don't mind, since our animals have sporadically decided to forsake their intended homes to explore the vicinity. It happens. I do feel badly for them. I know what it is like to try, in vain, to constrain the sometimes wanton beasts of our field. Sean kindly, walked Cowgirl home and then, got up to start the wood fired furnace, so our girls could have hot showers before school.

I feel like the walking dead. Early to bed tonight, I think.
Sonja ♥

Kristen & Meaghan -VS- 2 Cord of Fire Wood: Video

We have been picking away at the pile of fire wood living on the front lawn, a little at a time. Today, Kristen and Meaghan pitched in (again) to deliver another five trailer loads to the wood shed, where they stacked their haul. While this was taking place, Sean watered the animals and then, worked on building a new gate for the Doe paddock. I helped him by feeding the critters, collecting and caring for the chicken eggs, and then busied myself re-potting the variety of  36 pepper plants which had overgrown their starter pots. They are almost ready to go into their spots in this year's garden beds.

I am so proud of how well the girls worked together to help with this necessary chore. It makes life better for the whole family when everyone is eager and willing to pitch in. Or, at least, can be bought for the small price of being allowed to watch a TV program and roller blade in the basement un-nagged by Mom, once this chore was complete. However you want to think of it, I appreciated the attitude with which the assistance/assignment was carried out. :)

Kristen learned how to drive the riding mower, too. The blade was not engaged, but she got the hang of handling pretty quickly. In no time, she could turn it on, adjust the choke, put it into gear and was zipping around the lawn.

That's my girl! Sonja ♥

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The First Official Milking

       Sean here.  As Sonja and I are working closer and closer to running a functional farm, we are confronted with numerous "firsts" to deal with.  Today was a rather important one.  After spending a couple hours building a milking stand, we were rewarded with our first "goat-milking" experience.
       Firstly, everything that I expected was pretty much thrown out the window.  Our doe, Ellie, actually knew a lot more about the procedure than either of us.  After I brought her out of her stall, she eyed the milking stand and made a bee-line for it.  After popping her head in the holding slot, I secured her and we took our positions.  Sonja was in charge of getting everything cleaned and sterilized and was wonderful as always, while I would be doing the hands-on business.  While she was contendly munching on her grain, Ellie scrunched down so I could get to it.  I will the first to admit, it's going to be a while before I get really good at milking a goat.  I pictured the process in my head before, thinking I would be a milking fool with no training at all.  Well, of the little milk that I was able to coax out of her, the majority ran down my arm and didn't go near the 16" opening of the bowl that I was aiming for.  After about 10 minutes of trying different finger positions and techniques, we ended up with about a quarter of a cup of milk to bring into the house.  Far from the 4-6 ounces that we are hoping for.  But we will persist!  After reading some online, I feel better prepared for tomorrow morning where we will hopefully have more success.

--Good night all!

The Ducks Are Chirping Inside Their Eggs!

After a long day of work around the farm today, we came in to enjoy dinner of chicken on the grill and some rice our daughter, Meaghan prepared. It was delicious and I thought it a fitting end to our day, but the evening had more excitement in store for us. The ducks began chirping inside their eggs. The process of them exiting their eggs and entering our world has begun. So exciting! This can take a day or two before the ducklings completely emerge or as little as a few hours! I can't help but check them every few minutes to see if they have begun pipping through the eggs hard shell with their egg teeth yet. Thus far, they are rocking, but that is all.

I raised the humidity to 70 percent by adding more warm water to the basin below them. This will help the shell membranes to remain soft enough for the little guys to free themselves. It is difficult to just watch and wait, but that is all I can do for now.

Our delight at the thought that we might have our ducklings before morning overshadows all the work accomplished today. But since, I need something to do to occupy my hands and mind, I will tell you about our day, anyway. Or, at least of our achievements:

1. Sean was able to finish the roof for the chicken coop and it looks wonderful! Just perfect! I am so proud and happy that this was able to get done today. I know our girls appreciate it, too. Bring on the rain now, the chickens are ready!

2. Sean and Aidan emptied boxes of superfluous items taking up valuable room in the wood shed and consigned them to the bonfire we had crackling and ready. Meaghan, Kristen, and I, with help from our friends, Aidan and Cherie, loaded and stacked five wagons full of wood in the newly acquired space in the wood shed.

3. I wrote up the information and forms for our Egg Share CSA. I couldn't help but candle the duck eggs to show Cherie and Aidan the progress of the ducks. We heard them tapping inside the eggs. Then, Cherie and I heard the ducks chirp inside the eggs!

4. Sean built a new milking stand. It looks wonderful. We couldn't help take it for a "test drive." I sanitized all the milking equipment, made a cleaning solution to sanitize Ellie's teats. Sean lead Ellie to the stand and she jumped up all on her own! She knew what was what. At least one of us did! I washed her udder with a warm cloth, dried it with a clean cloth, then dipped each teat into the solution and let it dry, while Sean washed and sanitized his hands. Careful, not to touch anything but Ellie, Sean set to work milking. Before we collected milk for our own usage, Sean squirted 5 streams of milk into a waste bowl for the cats to clear the teat of any bacteria or clots in the milk. Then, he started collecting the milk for us in a stainless steel bowl. While Sean was busy milking, I stood with Ellie at her head, talking to her, petting her and watching her enjoy an additional treat of grain today. We did not collect much tonight, but with practice, we'll do better in the days to come! I strained the milk through a clean cloth into a sanitized mason jar and washed the milking equipment. The jar was immediately placed into the refrigerator. We'll add to it in the days to come. I can't wait to begin making cheese!

We did not get to work on the new pig pen today, but there will be time for that tomorrow. I consider this day a success.
Good night, friends!
Sonja ♥

Morning Musings

Even with the alarm set to 7am, in an effort to "sleep in" a little this morning, my natural clock has me awake by 5 am. I laid in bed, awake, but thankful for the shared body heat trapped in a cocoon of down quilts and blankets. It is a marked contrast to the chilliness of our room, with its window open, letting in the coolness from the night before. The dawn is starting to break and the sky is lightening. As if on cue, the roosters begin their cacophony of "Cock A Doodle Dos!" emphatic that everyone be as awake as they are. I am not ready to be awake yet. I'd rather go back to sleep. Instead, I read in a book from my night stand and listen to the soft sounds of Sean's breathing. At least, one of us is enjoying some more time dreaming. I don't begrudge him his rest. He is certain to need it for our planned work day around the farm today.

Our last Saturday was a blur of activity which produced very little accomplishment. Today, should be much better. The roof to the chicken coop has been weighing heavily on our shoulders. We will both rest much better with it finished. Then, Sean is going to built a new milk stand from a design in one of my books. I am very excited about this. The goat kids are already 6 weeks old, and we have yet to milk Ellie with any effort to regularity or use the little milk we have gotten.With the addition of the milk stand, that changes today.

A small bonfire to burn more of the construction debris and broken wooden furniture stored in the wood shed will help to clean out unusable things and make room for stacking the rest of the 2 cords of new cut wood living currently on the front lawn. And provide a space to keep the riding lawn mower under cover when it is not in use, instead of stored under its tarp.

Then, it is time to finish adding rails to the new pig yard and to move the pigs down to their new home. They are going to love their new digs with its 8 ft x 8 ft building and its 625 square footage of yard for them to dig up and sun bathe in. Their new home is getting fresh siding of cedar shingles later this summer and a brand new door, but I don't think they will mind the construction noise, too much.

If all that gets finished, we may have time to reconfigure the hen yard and add the last two 15 ft fencing units to expand the size of the chicken and duck yards. That should not be a very difficult project in terms of time or strength and will be a nice ending to an honest day of work.

Sean's alarm is going off, signalling that it is time for us to pull our lazy bones from this bed and get cracking on our day.

I hope you all enjoy the sun!
Sonja ♥

Friday, May 18, 2012

There's Never Any Shortage of Things To Do!

Unlike Saturday's LONG day of accomplishing very little, today has been a whirl wind of industriousness!

The day started with candling the duck eggs living in our incubator. We also checked three random chicken eggs in the incubator and we saw tell tale "spiders" inside all three eggs! (These resembled #3 in the illustration to the right.) We will candle all the eggs on Sunday and remove any that are not growing by then. Sean headed out the door to his work. That accomplished, I started the 2nd load of laundry and then, settled into the morning's animal chores. I fed the chickens and ducks, goats, & horse. Sean watered all the critters. 
In my egg collection round, I got 12 eggs this morning before 10am! When I checked later in the day, I found 4 more chicken eggs and several duck eggs. The duck egg production seems to have suffered since several of our ducks decided to live with the pigs instead of the chickens last week. I am worried that our porcine residents are enjoying an addition to their diets as a result. This means, that since the weather has truly broken here in Maine, our piggies are just about ready to move to their Spring/Summer/Fall home, down over the hill in the back yard. I am sure they will enjoy their new neighbor "Backyard Bunny" very much. Mental note to add that to our chore list for this weekend, if we get the other chores finished.

My long path to the wood stack.
After I washed the eggs and refrigerated them, I headed back outside to start mowing the front lawn. In an effort to be more efficient, I mowed in a very large pattern. My trail allowed me to load the lawn mower trailer full of cut fire wood from the front of the house and mow all the way to the back yard. I stopped briefly to unload the trailer cargo of wood near its new home before mowing down through the rows of grapes beginning to come alive for the season at the far side of the house and around to the front wood pile again. I took 3 trips total this morning before I cut the lawn far enough that getting wood was out of my mowing path. It is not much, but I added another 100 pieces of wood to the wood shed in this manner. Then, I finished mowing the front yard and returned to finish the back forty. The front lawn is looking very nice, with the exception of the bits needing the weed-whackers attention around the edges. The back lawn is looking a bit ragged, since this is the first time through with the mower. After my next round in a couple of days, it will start to green up more and look much better. The black flies were not biting while I was mowing; I was very pleased with that.

Pig pen partially fenced. Bunny yard in background.
Lawn NEEDING to be mowed!
When Sean returned from work today, he checked the fresh water for the animals, adjusted a fence in the goat pasture, moved Jasmine to a new fenced in area to help with my mowing responsibilities around the pond, and then, started working on the chicken coop roof. It looks hopeful that the roof will be finished by tomorrow morning at this rate, which is good news for everyone. The hens will enjoy their water-tight home and we will enjoy not needing to change muddy, soggy litter after each small shower that passes through.

Since Sean did not require my help with the roof, I decided to make myself busy by attempting to mow the fruit tree area. I may start calling it our orchard in future writings. In truth, we planted a variety of seven fruit trees 2 years ago in a nice area near the horse paddock, but as the largest of these is only 5 feet tall, having a real orchard is still very much in the dreaming phase. I was able to get about half way through this task before I was reprieved with the untimely breaking of the lawn mower drive belt (again!). Even mowing slowly and carefully, cutting grass that is already growing a foot tall is hard on the equipment. Once, we initially tame the areas, though, we should have no trouble keeping them to a manageable height.
It is my hope that we will be able to add to our fruit trees this year. At present we have 2 pear trees, 2 plum trees, 2 cherry trees, and 1 peach tree planted. I would like to add another peach tree and 2 apple trees to the mix. It is nice to think of the future day when we will be able to pick and eat the fruits of our plantings. I can easily picture the making of various pies, jams, and other goodies future Sonja will bake. If that dream is to become a reality, we are going to need to replant 2 of our existing trees to a higher level and add a top coat of compost to each tree base. More work for another day.

For today, it is enough. What this tired couple needs is food, snuggle time, and a good night's rest. Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to sign in on our member page or drop us a note; we love hearing from you!

Goodnight friends,
Sonja ♥

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Good Rainy Wednesday!

After working the last two days at my real job (read that: paying job), I am home for the whole day today. This is a good thing because I can find all sorts of things to do to be useful around here. Already completed is today's laundry and dishes, our teenagers were driven to school, some groceries shopped for, stamps bought and invitations for the upcoming 8th Grade Graduation BBQ have been written, addressed, and sent. Breakfast was yummy; 2 egg omelet with sharp cheddar cheese and 3 perfectly crisped slices of bacon with a glass of water to wash it down. Even though the skies keep threatening more rain, it is turning out to be a fairly nice day. The kind of day where you can curl up in a comfy chair with a throw over your legs and a nice book to read... once you finish all the chores, of course! I am keeping that mental picture in to forefront of my mind as an incentive to keep me on the ball.

In addition to the mundane household necessities, I have also taken the opportunity to check on the remaining duck eggs and made my 1st attempt at seeing any evidence of life in the newly incubating chicken eggs. This is Day 3 for the batch of chicken eggs, so I was kind of hoping that I might see some signs of red veining or something, but all that was visible in the 3 eggs I sampled, were the yolks floating inside of the eggs. It is either too soon to tell or the hens laying these eggs were too fast for our lads! The duck eggs seem to be progressing fine. Two of the three eggs living in the incubator are definitely alive and moving in their shells. I have not seen signs of their beaks poking through the air sac membrane, though, so that is the next milestone  and, of course, I can't yet hear them pipping inside their eggs. I wish I knew for sure which day of development we are on, so I could better anticipate the hatching day, but I can only make a guess. According to the charts I have studying as if they held the answers to a million game show question and my previous blog posts regarding when we discovered the nest, my best guess is that today is day 24. The eggs could, just as likely, be only 22 days old or as old as 26 days. So, I continue to watch and wait. I have stopped turning them, as almost all the websites suggest doing that after day 21. This is nerve wracking and exciting. I just hope the ducklings hatch and are healthy! And, if they could manage to do so today, all the better!

In a sad end of events, Momma duck outside, abandoned her nest and rejoined the rest of her flock. As upsetting as this is to us, she seems to be showing absolutely no signs of dismay. Is it strange that I feel a little jealous of a duck? I mean, here I am watching these eggs like they contained my own children inside; checking the temperature and humidity levels several times a day, worrying about maintaining the right conditions, worrying about when to stop turning them, worrying that some catastrophe could strike, worrying about handling them too much, worrying about worrying too much... and she is out splashing around in the pool without a care in the world. Just saying.

In other news, the new kids have become increasingly daring in their wanderings. Sean found them yesterday out near the dog play yard. So, I am on goat guard duty today and tomorrow until he and I can either install some low chicken fencing with its smaller gauge wires around the perimeter of the goat pasture or we can reinstall the electric fencing to dissuade their meanderings. I strongly suspect these will be about as effective a measure as they were when Rachel and Leah were small enough to fit through the fencing and that we will resort to the same remedy that we did then- feeding them up good so they are no longer small enough to fit through the fencing. It is a good thing that they are so stinking cute, still!

I have no pictures of today's activities. It is too difficult to try to photograph the candling of eggs one handed. But, I will leave you with this picture of the kids in the hay from the weekend.

I hope you all have a great day!
Sonja ♥

P.S. I have added some new features to the blog and updated it's look. I am hoping this will be as easy to read. If you hover your mouse to the right side of the page, you should now see three new items. One is a "Translation Key" for my readers from other countries. I am not sure why I might be of interest to anyone in Russia, Germany, or Malaysia but I am happy to have readers from so far away. I hope this new application is functioning and I will be toying with the format over the next few days. Secondly, I added a widget to show how many page views the blog has received each week. (That one is mostly self-serving, I admit.) The third widget is a place so that any of you readers who are so inclined can sign in as regular readers of our blog. I would love it if you would take a minute to follow the steps to sign in. It would really add to our enjoyment our writing of the Lally Broch Farm Blog, in knowing there are real live people out there reading it! ♥

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Death from Above!" Video of Hens Roosting

At night, the ladies put themselves to bed in the highest point available to them, which happens to be the rafters of their coop. It is both really cute and a little creepy to walk in at dusk and look up to see them all staring down at you!

Also, it can be dangerous to your personal cleanliness. Thus far, I have avoided this nasty disagreeable situation. Sadly, Sean cannot say the same.

Sonja ♥

Rachel & Leah Video (May 12, 2012)

While Sean was working on getting more of the chicken coop roofed Saturday night, I settled myself onto the bale of hay to watch the goats enjoy their evening. The kids were running around, tustling with each other. Momma Ellie was busy nibbling green shoots of vegetation in the field. Pepper had her fill of the hay, took a drink of water and then settled for a nap by the gate. I thought that her leg was in an odd angle, but she must not have minded that, since she continued in that position for quite some time! Leah and Rachel were quite industriously munching on hay through the fence (as you can hear in the video). The snorting discernible toward the end of the video was of Jedi sniffing my ear and shoulder, deciding if I might be more tasty than the hay. Thankfully, he decided that I was unlikely to and he returned to eating the hay, too. I couldn't help snapping a few pictures!

He's such a goofball sometimes!

Chickens Enjoying a Dirt Bath: Video (May 13)

I couldn't help it. I had to take some footage of this.

The hens have dug out the corner of their yard, inconveniently in the way of the entrance gate. When the weather is dry, they pile into the hole, fluff up their feathers and wash themselves with the dry dirt. They never understand the concept of when the hole is full and often pile all together, squawking loudly as a hen occasionally gets dislodged from the best spot.
Buff Orpington has a magnificent red comb & wattle.
Since I was already attempting to video this, I thought to attempt to capture a good representative picture of each breed of chicken currently kept at our farm. Photographing chickens is not an easy task! They are clever, fast, and disinclined to sit still or remain looking at the camera for even a second!

Buff Orpington (back) Americauna (front)
Buffy had already enjoyed her dirt bath for the day and was busily preening her feathers into place when I caught this picture on Saturday.

Americauna Hen
Our Americauna named Jovi was the most difficult of the hens to photograph. She is extremely skittish of humans. Still fairly young at nearly 10 months old, we are hopeful that in time, she might settle and at least, tolerate human attention. At the moment, she prefers to be "hands off!" Besides the beautiful blue eggs she lays, I love her striking brown and black plumage. We have two of her eggs in the incubator just now. I sure hope they are fertile and hatch!

Black Sex Link or Black Rock
Black Sex Links or Black Rocks are a crossbred between two breeds of chicken, wherein you can tell the male chicks from the female chicks at hatching because of their difference in coloring. There are many, Many, MANY combinations that produce these useful hens. I think the black hen on the left with the lovely brownish-red feathers on her breast are quite lovely. She lays medium sized brown eggs nearly daily because as one of last year's chicks, she is still young. Sean wanted to name her, "Newt." but I was not convinced as that name did not resonate with me. Instead, I call her Penny.  

Australorp Hen
You can compare the Black Sex Link chicken above with the Black Australorp Hen on the right. In contrast to the multi colored feathers of the Sex Link, the Australorp is completely black. The comb, wattle, and red around the eyes also differ. The Australorp hens are very friendly. They will settle onto my lap or Sean's arms and allow themselves to be petted. In the sun, their feathers are so black that they appear an almost iridescent quality to them. These are some of my favorite hens.

Barred Rock Hen
The Barred Rock above is named Emma. She is a lovely, old fashioned type of breed, very gentle with the other hens and doesn't often get involved in any "pecking order" disputes, preferring to scratch the afternoon away looking for bugs. I love her variegated feathers. Emma lays smallish almost round eggs. She is a slightly older hen and doesn't lay each day, but no matter, she is a

I still have yet to capture good pictures of a Rhode Island Red, a Lacey Wyandotte, and a Buff Cochin. I will continue to try and post them when I get some!

Have a great day!
Sonja ♥