Monday, December 30, 2013

The Largest Snowflakes I've *EVER* Seen...

True to the predictions, we got another foot of snow overnight. Thankfully, the 3/4 inches of new ice never materialized. Power remained intact at our home through the night.

Sean was up before 5am to clear the snow with his new snow blower. It took nearly an hour to clear the driveway, create paths to the animal's gates, and excavate the vehicles from the solid foot of wet snow blanketing them. Once freed, Sean (and Justin) set off to liberate one of our neighbors. When they return, it will be time for morning chores. Having two men living here to care for the majority of the manual labor, worth every dish I have to wash. Just sayin'.

It wasn't so much "snow falling" last night as it was the sky throwing loosely packed snowballs at us! Seriously, never have I seen snow flakes the size of these! Check it out:

Thanks for visiting with us today friends. ♥

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ice Storm 2013

I remember the Ice Storm of 1998 vividly. I was eight months pregnant with my third child, Kristen, and living in Belfast, Maine. We were without power for a couple days, but we managed just fine. With a heat source that we could also use to warm up food on, city water that never failed, an abundance of oil lamps for light and plenty of books to read, the only care we had came from keeping one five year old boy and one four year old girl occupied during the day. And finding a contractor to remove the large limb that crashed into the roof of our home from a tree that loomed over it. Compared to those that lost their power (and also their ability to heat their homes) for an entire week or longer, we were relatively comfortable.

Fifteen years later, my life has taken a widely different path. No longer a "townie" our family lives in a very rural setting. When this year's storm warning came, we expected to be among those that would be without electricity for the duration. We were not overly concerned about it. Our home is heated with a wood stove so we expected to be warm. Though our water is now from a private well, it overflows at the outside pump, so water would be available at a moderate pace. Our cooking oven is fueled by propane which allows us to cook even without a power supply. And, the cherry on top, my new "smart" phone had a 3G connection most of the time, so we could check facebook and email to keep in contact with friends and family. We even spent a little time watching Netflix on it. I don't know the exact numbers, but tens of thousands of our neighbors were without electricity for a week or more. Neighbors less than a mile away were without for 4 days. We lost electricity for 4 hours. I am afraid I have no riveting "surviving Ice Storm 2013" stories to tell you. Only images from around the homestead to share.

Our week in images:

Jasmine's hay manger was frozen to the ground and her pallet was covered with ice.
She did not seem to mind. 

Trees, heavy with ice bend with the
weight. It is going to take some time for
them to make a full recovery.
The doe's woodland pasturage is affected. The
smaller trees bend more than the larger
deciduous trees and pines. The does will have
no trouble eating the leaves
from the tops of these trees come Spring.

Tree limbs encased in ice and covered in snow. 

Mallard conference. 

Fresh hay or lightly soiled hay from the goat stalls are spread around the chicken yard for the chickens, ducks, geese, and guineas to pick through and rest their cold feet upon. We do not use hay that the goats have been using as litter, but goats are picky about their hay. If it touches the ground, ours will sleep in it, but eating it is out of the question. Our birds are only too happy to put it to good use. 

Pearl Guinea and Chocolate Guinea Fowl
In the barn, Keren Happuch and her mother, Rachel bask in the sun and enjoy their morning's hay. 
Ebony grunts warnings at the barn chickens availing themselves of her water. They ignore her and continue
 their onslaught. Sometimes, a few brave souls attempt to steal her grain. 
Simon and Charles have settled any differences and reside together in the barn.
The doe yard is untouched by goat hooves. Our goats are a little spoiled and prefer to be
snug in the barn to exploring barren pasturage. 

Ever my companions, Cassy and Delilah followed me into the pasture to keep me company while I snapped some images. 
Delilah did not want to stay in the
barn with the other goats.
She was hopeful that I came bearing treats. When
I had not, she followed me, good-naturedly, anyway.
I love these girls. ♥

Judah is a handsome and friendly buck. Won't he make lovely babies someday?
We did not lose electrical power for long, but there was a constant need to chisel out water buckets and check on our animals through the rain and cold. Though pretty to the eye, ice makes all the walking surfaces treacherous and they needed attention, sanding and salting regularly. When we were not attending to these needs, what did we do?

Board games in the evening. (Check out the chocolate guinea hanging out on the wooden goat behind Justin.)
French toast, bacon and fresh pineapples for brunch and board games in the morning.
And where was our recovering chocolate "house" guinea?
Chocolate Guinea was watching the happenings from a clothes dryer rack in the kitchen. Check out those lovely polka dots!
We also spent plenty of time snuggling Maggie's new puppies. Nearly 10 days old,
their eyes are unopened still, but they sure snuggle sweetly! ♥
All the cats take turns on the best
napping spot in the house, on top of
the piano. Talon spends the most
 time there.
Boogie enjoys keeping it warm for Talon
whenever he is away.

Our good-natured breeding stock of heritage turkeys seem confused about their move to the barn, but they enjoy our visits. See how curious our hens are of the camera. Both toms, Aquila and Lazarus, were all puffed out and showing off for me. Take a look....

As we reflect on how blessed we are to have come through the storm in good order, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are still dealing with the aftermath of this storm while preparing for a new bout of 10-14 inches of snow expected Sunday night into Monday morning. Winter is sure making a grand entrance this year. Stay tuned to see what happens next!

Thanks for visiting today. We're really glad you did.
Sonja ♥

Monday, December 23, 2013

Guineas and Goats

I love to barter with other artisans and crafters at shows and fairs. There it is. Now you know another of my secrets. Often, bartering is the only way I could afford to treat myself to some "want" I have and couldn't purchase... yet.

At our final show of the year last weekend, I met Felecia Bowen whose boyfriend, Joe, creates the coolest deer, snowmen, and owl sculptures from tree log and branch segments. (If you are reading this and have a webpage where people can see images of your creations, please let me know, so I can link it for you.) I had to have a goat made for us. When Felecia came over to browse, I asked if Joe might create a goat for us- "Jedidiah" style. And, we negotiated a mutually beneficial trade.

What do you think?

I can just picture him on our display table with baskets of our goat's milk soap surrounding him for the 2014 shows. Perhaps a small, tasteful chalkboard tag with our price hanging from an ear or displayed between his horns? When I look for items to decorate our displays, I want items that draw attention and also make me smile. He sure does both!

In true goat fashion, he has already been caught thinking up mischief. This requires just a little back story...

Last night, we had to bring one of the chocolate guineas inside because it was limping on its left foot a bit. There were no signs of injury, but we prefer to be safe than sorry. As soon as little guinea is walking normally, he [(she?) We still can't tell them apart... ] will be returned to the coop with the rest of his/her family. For now, he/she is staying inside in a kennel, warm and protected from Fenn to rest up and mend. And, if it also gives me a little additional time to handle and keep him/her tame, all the better...

About an hour into "The Sound of Music" with Sean and the girls I dramatically declared, "The only thing that could make this evening any better would be a guinea to snuggle and pet while I watch this." Taking my cue, Sean retrieved our guinea from his/her safe kennel and deposited it on my lap. Guinea settled nicely into my wrap and allowed me a little cuddle time until, bored with my affection and attention, he/she decided that hanging out on the goat's back was preferable. And, this is what we got:

Which only goes to show if you have goats, even wooden ones, be prepared for the mischief that follows them. And, if you are blessed enough to have both goats and guineas? Forget about it.

Thanks for popping in for a visit. I'm glad you came. 
Sonja ♥

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Talking Dogs and Winter Preparations

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but winter is here. Temperatures into the single digits (or worse!) for days on end, climbing to a high in the low 30's on the nice days, kind of "here".

Before we had the farm, Sean looked at winter in a vastly different light. A light that included snow boarding, sledding and other enjoyable cold weather activities. I attempted snow boarding once and quickly realized that strapping my feet to a board and hurling myself down a steep incline was hazardous for my health and well-being. But, even I enjoyed the cold weather activities of making snowmen and snow tubing.

These days, snow means WORK and lots of it. Winter has become an endless cycle of chipping away soiled hay or litter from stalls and thawing water buckets, fingers, and toes. The animals on the homestead are faring slightly better than their humans at keeping themselves warm in bodies covered with feathers and fur. Though, the geese, ducks, and guinea fowl finally succumbed to better sense and have begun going inside the chicken coop at night rather than piling on top of each other in a corner.

A night time move
We moved our turkeys from their yard in the back up to the barn for the winter. We have nine turkeys living here right now, our five and four that belong to neighbors. Our neighbors birds are leaving this weekend, which I don't want to think about. Even knowing they were well-raised and cared for and that they do not belong to us, it is still a little sad knowing they are destined to become some one's dinner. Instead, I focus my energy and attention on the three Blue Slate turkeys; Lazarus, Mary, and Martha and the pair of American Bronze turkeys that will live here through their natural lives. We moved them at night to make it less stressful on everyone. Sean and I walked into their pen scooped up a turkey under each arm and walked to their new home. Picking them up and carrying them to the barn was easy. Getting them to release us was more difficult. They did not want to be put down and flapped their wings wildly. With a little coaxing and petting, all the turkeys were settled into their winter stall. It is not ideal because there is no yard for them to play in, but it is a large 10 ft x 6 ft wide x 8 ft tall stall. I scattered some fresh hay and scratch for them to dig through. Once we add some limbs and 2x4's for them to climb onto and around, it should be more suitable and do the trick until March when the weather breaks.

Tur-chicken in the top left of this image is blending with his peeps. 

Our silly mixed up "tur-chicken" moved into the stall with the turkeys. Hatched at the farm this summer, he imprinted on the turkey poults while brooding together with them. When it was time to settle the chicks and poults outside to their respective permanent homes, the chick promptly flew the chicken coop and broke into the turkey pen where he lived all summer and fall. No amount of coaxing would change his mind and since he isn't doing any harm and the turkeys have accepted him, we allow them to live together. I wish I captured a video of the suspicious looks the turkeys gave him when he began to crow. It was truly hilarious.

A couple of our roosters, Charles (on the left) and Simon (in the middle) prefer a
flock of their own instead of taking their chances at finding love in the main coop. 
He is not the only chicken to fly the coop. We have a group of roosters and hens that live with the goats. They have decided that the pig's food is much to be desired and fearlessly eat from Ebony's dish without regard for her potentially lethal teeth. At night they roost on the walls between the goat's stalls. More than one morning, Sean has come inside with a collection of eggs found in the corner of one of the goat's stalls nestled near a group of sleeping goats.

So far, Fenn is the only one truly happy with the wintery conditions. Undaunted by the blustery conditions, he lays in mounds of snow with a look of pure happiness. I love watching him pounce and play in the element he was truly bred for. Sadly, for now, he is unable to be outside without one of us walking him. The snow piled up along the fencing of his yard gives him just enough of a height difference that Fenn is able to jump his fencing at will. If he would choose to remain in the yard, that would not pose a problem, but he does not. He is up and over the fence in a wink and immediately disappears into the woods for a visit with our neighbors living on the road that winds about a mile on the other side of the woods. Twice on Monday, he was returned to us. Sean took the time to shovel the snow away from both sides of the dog fencing, but it did not prevent Fenn from escaping the 2nd time. So, until Sean can get out there with some chicken wire to make the fence once again Fenn-proof, Fenn is an inside pooch and lets us know about his distress vocally. Check it out:

I took a peek at the extended forecast this morning. It looks like we are getting ready for a warm snap toward the middle of next week. Temperatures in the 30's seems downright balmy on a day like today! What's the weather like in your neck of the woods? How do you keep you animals happy through the cold winter months?

Thanks for visiting with us today. We're sure glad you came.
Sonja ♥

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Emu Plans

I have a confession. I have a soft spot in my heart for large birds. I love peacocks, I love ostriches, and I love Emus. I do.

Sonja at Benson's Wild
Animal Farm, NH
I remember seeing Disney's Swiss Family Robinson movie as a child, captivated by the scene where they participate in Ostrich riding races. The closest I have ever been to an Ostrich or Emu was playing "tag" with one while visiting a zoo as a young girl. In my memory, I have the scene of me tip-toeing up behind an Emu at the Kismet Preserve and touching it. It jumped, turned tail and chased me across the lawn. When my legs couldn't carry me anymore, I stopped, scared and not knowing what to expect. The Emu stopped, too. Then, it turned and ran the other way. So, I chased it. We did this dance back and forth for quite while as my family watched on in amusement. My mother remembers it being an ostrich at Benson's Wild Animal Farm. Whichever version is true, I have always secretly wanted to have one someday.

Photo Courtesy of Abundance Farms
Photo Courtesy of Abundance Farms
But, I live in Maine. And, people in Maine do not routinely keep emus or ostriches or even peacocks. So I locked these thoughts into the corner of my mind filed under "Someday I hope to..." and that is where it lived quietly until last weekend. Somehow the topic of emus came up between Sean and I. I shared my memory with him and confided my desire to "someday" keep a small flock of emus here. Sean asked some good questions, like; Where would we keep them? How would they earn their rent? Do you know anyone who keeps Emus? I did not realize how much I had thought about really keeping Emus here until I heard myself address each question. "I would like to keep them in the pasture with the goat does or kids." * "I can make them profitable by selling their eggs to people who want to carve them, eat them, or hatch them. I can use the eggs for making jewelry or home decor pieces. Also, we could hatch and sell young emus." * "Marissa Carabin of Abundance Farms keeps emus. I will contact her to ask her about them." Sean looked at me a long minute and then said, "If you really want an Emu, I think we should get some."

Photo Courtesy of Abundance Farms
I do really want emus, but first things first. There were some pretty important things I did not have answers to: How would they do in the cold weather? What do they eat? How long do they live? Today was research day. I could not find web pages of anyone local who keeps emus, but that is okay. I started my search for information at the American Emu Association website. I read a half dozen of Marissa's blog posts about her experiences keeping emus. And, I found a well-written guide about emu care at Sybil's Den.

Photo Courtesy of Abundance Farms
My research has turned up these basic facts: Emus are a member of the ratite family. They are omnivores and eat foods similar to that of our local wild turkeys. A commercial ratite food is available at some feed stores. (I made a note to call ours to see if they could order me some if I needed it.) They grow to 5-6 feet at the head and can weigh 110-140 pounds on average. I found conflicting reports of how long emus can live. One report suggested they can live to be around 30 years of age! They do fine in cold weather, but like any animal, they require adequate shelter and appropriate fencing to keep them safe and plenty of room to run. I read accounts of emus living with pasture animals and saw pictures of them playing in ponds like ducks or geese. I saw pictures of people hand feeding them. I also read about the struggle to return them into their pen and the various bruises that resulted. There is a lot to consider.

Photo Courtesy of Abundance Farms
I have more research ahead of me. I am a planner by nature. It took us two years to find and purchase our heritage turkeys. I would like to be ready to obtain a couple emu chicks or six fertile hatching eggs this summer, but I am prepared to wait longer. I want to find the perfect ones for us. In the meantime, I can plan and I can dream. ♥

If you haven't had the opportunity to do so, I highly recommend a visit John & Marissa at Abundance Farms . Marissa takes fantastic images of her flocks and herds. I appreciate her allowing me to use some of them in writing this article.

Thanks for visiting with me this evening, friends. I am sure glad for your company.
Sonja ♥

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

And *THAT* was November...

I cannot believe how quickly time feels to be passing. It is almost as if I can watch it lay spent; little minutes and hours, used, mingled with torn out days from a calendar all in a jumbled pile on the floor. Perhaps it is only because we had (and still have) so much to do this past month preparing for winter and shows. Perhaps it is only that it is already 9 pm and tomorrow's morning comes much too early for me. To be completely frank, part of my lack of posting lately is that I am so busy living our life, working the farm, and growing our business, I have no energy to spend the time necessary writing about it. For the first time in many years, I stopped journaling; stopped the nightly ritual of writing that orders my mind for rest. Whatever the cause, I have been sorely remiss in posting for us. This is a deficiency I hope to amend.

At the end of October, we hosted our first Open Farm Day. Some 52 guests visited with us for the day. We prepared for 100 people not knowing how our advertising had been received. We were pleased to have as many guests as we did. Sean demonstrated how to milk a dairy goat for interested ones; some bravely tried their hand at it. I showed a small group how to make our goat's milk soap from scratch and then assisted anyone who wanted to make soap samples to bring home for themselves. My sister, Kelli, spun fiber into yarn on a hand spindle and spinning wheel for interested spectators. My favorite part of the day was answering questions and sharing how we keep our flocks and herds here on the homestead. Sean thoroughly enjoyed helping people to make apple cider with the borrowed, antique, hand-cranked apple press, aching arm muscles and all.


Before our "Farm Day", Sean and I gleaned as many apple trees as we could find from willing neighbors and abandoned fields (with permisson, of course). We picked Macintosh, Granny Smiths, Wolf River, Red Delicious, and tart yellow apples. When mixed, these made the most delicious apple cider- 10 gallons for me to freeze and preserve for our family's winter use and 10 additional gallons to age in carboys until they became hard cider perfection.

With winter fast approaching, there has also been wood to prepare for ourselves and friends. One Sunday afternoon was spent assisting with the cutting and stacking of several cords of wood with friends. Bringing in wood is no easy task, but it is better accomplished with friends.

Our own wood situation is a bit of a concern. We mitigate our need for heating as much as humanly possible. The heat does not come on until November 1st and goes off again in March. We keep the house in the 60's when it is just ourselves at home and dress in sweaters and warm socks. With careful husbandry, we get along with using just a few cords of wood each season. But, with all the other demands on our time; running the farm and preparing for and attending craft fairs and art markets, we are really behind in getting ourselves ready for this year's cold. The meager two week supply of wood living in the barn makes procuring wood, splitting, and stacking it a real priority.

At the beginning of the month, we met a reporter from our local Bangor Daily News newspaper named Brian Swartz. Brian visited us early one morning and interviewed Sean and I for a story about our Mosaic Eggshell Jewelry line. There is a saying that says, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Good publicity is even better. Brian's positive article was published a few days ago (Read it Here) and immediately resulted in us getting several new orders from our Etsy shop and FB page. How exciting!

We've attended craft fairs or art markets every Saturday for the past 2 months and have been mostly well received. The craft fair at the Airport Mall is a two-day event; Friday from 9 am to 8 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. We enjoy meeting new friends and displaying our products, but it makes for very long days for us. If you are local and are interested in seeing our wares in person, we've signed up to be at the Airport Mall again December 13-14 and December 20-21. These will be our final craft events of the year. In addition to participating in these other venues, I arranged and hosted an Art Market to help support my mother's fight with breast cancer. A talented group of 19 local artisans and I were able to raise more than $800 to help her with on-going medical bills.

With all the events we've attended, we have been creating jewelry as fast as our little hands can!

In between all these demands on our time, Sean and I stole a day to drive North to Littleton, Maine to visit our friend, Carla at her growing dairy farm. Our mission to pick up the last addition to our goat farm for the year, a lovely Lamancha doeling named Classy was successful. She is a sweet tempered lass to be sure. There was a bit of transitioning for her to be accepted into the herd, but after about a week or sorting who was who, Ellie, Delilah and Classy have all become fast friends. She and Asher will make such beautiful kids in the years to come.

The final touch on our barn project for this year was building and installing three doors; one between the buck's stall and their field, another between the doe's stall and their field and the last between the horse's stall and her field. The weather dropped into the teens with wind chills reaching the negative digits, just in time for it to be as miserably cold as possible for us to complete this last project. We could not wait or put it off, not with the cold expected to last and the wind whipping directly into the opened stalls. My legs stopped feeling the cold after about an hour's time into our work. It was miserable work made more so by frozen fingers, clumsy and numb, but it had to be done. It took us nearly 5 hours in the frigid cold to complete, but once finished, the barn was snug and cozy and its occupants are as safe as we can make them for the winter ahead.

Even dressed in layers and warming up inside by the wood stove periodically, I still managed to get a mild case of frostbite. When we finished and went inside for the night, I changed into warm, comfy pj pants. My legs and feet were bright red- like the color of a cooked lobster and ice cold to the touch. My youngest, Meg, helpfully drew a warm foot soak, but I could only stand to have my feet in it for a few seconds- it felt like sharp little icy needles were stabbing me all over. It took a couple hours to thaw out, but I eventually did with no lasting harm. I have a pretty good pain tolerance, but I have never felt like that before and hopefully never will again!

Sean took some time this weekend to put in more green metal posts to secure the buck field from Asher's repeated escape attempts and freed him from his "time out" lock down in the milk room. It also allowed us space to build a temporary pen for Ebony in the barn. It is much handier to have all the critters housed in the barn once the snow flies instead of having to dig paths into the back yard to get food and water to them morning and night. Having these things finished feels good and with the exception of our wood, puts us in good standing for winter to come.

So far, Ebony seems to be pleased with her new digs. What they lack in size is made up for in warmth. Charles and Simon (our barn roosters) and their small flock of hens visit her when there is food to be stolen and have taken to roosting along Ebony's 2x6 pen boards at night. Our Miss Piggy has not been used to waking early in the morning to a chorus of crowing 2 feet from her head nor to the clanging of milk pails and the bleating of goats being milked, but seems good-natured about the change. She issues a disgruntled grunt or two from under her mound of hay and then resumes her snoring. The addition to Ebony in the milk room gives the does pause each morning when they take their stands. They stop short and eye her snoring mound of hay suspiciously but grain in their buckets coaxes them to take their places and milking resumes uninterrupted.

So, that is where we are and what we've been doing. Things are moving along as they do. We are getting prepared for winter, slower than we'd like, but steadily improving matters. For the first time ever, I am looking forward to snow- if only for the quieter pace of less to do in gardens, in the barn, and selling our wares. A rest of sorts before Spring returns and with it a flurry of new activity.

I hope this post finds you all healthy, wealthy, and wise. ♥ Thanks for visiting with us today.
Sean and Sonja ♥

Friday, October 11, 2013

Open Farm Day 2013

You are Invited. 

Our first year of homesteading is coming to a close as the end of the year approaches. Before blankets of snow tuck everyone and everything in for the winter, we want to celebrate our first year with neighbors, family, and friends. What better way to do that than by sharing our homestead with you?

9 AM Goat Milking Demonstration: We'll hold off on our morning dairy goat milking until 9 am. Ruby and Jane will take the milk stands first. Followed by Leah and Rachel. Get a first hand view of how to milk a goat doe from start to finish. We'll share how everything from washing our does udders to straining the milk. Try your hand at milking if you want to.

12 NOON Goat's Milk Soap Demonstration: Join Sonja in the kitchen for a live demonstration of making a basic goat's milk soap recipe. Our Lally Broch Farm Goat's Milk Soap needs to cure for 4-6 weeks to complete the saponification process. But, don't worry! Sonja prepared for your visit by making some unscented goat's milk soap in advance. From noon to 4 pm, visitors can melt the pre-made soap, add their favorite essential oil combination, and bring home a 1.5 oz soap sample of their very own creation.

11 AM & 2 PM Fiber Demonstration: Join local "Treadle and Threads" fiber artist, Kelli Bucklin in a live fiber spinning demonstration. She'll show you how to clean, card and spin fleece. If time allows, Kelli will set up her spinning wheel and weaving loom and demonstrate how they work.

11 AM- 4:30 PM Cider Pressing: Bring your apples and your own containers to our homestead and use our hand-cranked cider press to make up to 2 gallons of apple cider for free. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase apples from local orchards from us to eat or press into cider for a small fee.

Kids' Activities All Day: 

Petting Area and Farm Animal Viewing: Kids may be able to pet young chicks, ducklings, and goat kids in our petting area. They can visit the pastures to see our retired Quarter Horse, Jasmine and friendly goat does browsing. This is rutting season, so though our bucks are friendly, touching them would not be a good experience! But, you can certainly watch them in their pasture, climbing on logs, head-butting, and maybe you'll even catch them trying to convince a doe that they are irresistible! Watch the turkeys in their yard. Throw some bread or scratch to the chickens, ducks, and geese. Check out the new Guinea fowl. Visit Ebony, our Vietnamese Pot-belly Piggy. And, be sure to stop by to see our the bunnies in the barn.

Face Painting: Free

Games: Try to catch an apple suspended on a string. Play a game of bean bag toss.

Farm Stand and Gift Shop Open 9 am - 5 pm.

We strongly recommend rubber boots or comfortable shoes and warm clothes for your visit. This is a homestead with farm animals. As cute as farm animals can be, animals poop... a lot... unexpectedly. Please, keep this in mind. Also, though we anticipate your visit will be full of great memories for you, farming and homesteads carry inherent risk. Animals, even "friendly" ones can injure people and carry germs. By visiting our farm/homestead, you are assuming those risks 100% for yourself and those you bring with you. 

Directions to Lally Broch Farm

We are very excited about sharing our homestead with you. This is our first year and there is so much to do before this homestead becomes the farm Sean and I are dreaming of, but this is a celebration of where we are and what has been accomplished this year.

Thanks for visiting, Friends. We hope to see you soon. ♥

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Goaties, Keets, & Ducks... Oh My!

I never thought I would feel this way, but I kind of miss the winter. Not the mounds of snow that have to be removed, certainly, but the "down" time. The quiet. Days snuggled in with a warm fire in the woodstove and the snippets of the sounds of my family around me in various rooms going about their days. I am certain that when winter comes to Maine, I will have forgotten wanting its quiet. But, right now, when we are so busy preparing for it and finishing all the last details of farming this year, it doesn't sound so bad.

When you are busy time seems to fly by.  At the same time, there never seems to be enough of it. Summer has ended. The Twomblys of North Carolina have returned home. We enjoyed a final showing at the Belfast Art Market. The barn is mostly complete save the doors, filling the hay loft, building larger pens for the bunnies to spend their winter, and building the kidding stalls. Oh, and there is the repair work that now needs to be done thanks to our randy buck, Asher.

This is what happens when an 18 month old goes into his first true "rut" and is desperate to get to some does- any does. That used to be a solid wall sheathed in 1/2 inch OSB.

In addition to these necessary Autumn chores, we also need to get our wood split and stacked and spend some time preparing for our first ever "Open Farm Day". We are tentatively planning to host it on October 26, 2013 from 9am-5pm. I will finalize the date and post a schedule of activities early next week, so be sure to check back.

In the meantime, I polled our farm's Facebook friends about what they would like to see posted. Unfortunately, somehow, I lost the footage of the hen laying an egg. So, for those of you that voted for that option, you'll have to wait a little longer to see that up close and personal. For you others that wanted guinea fowl, ducks, and goats, here you go.

First, a visit with our wayward goat does:

And, then video and footage of the growing Guineas:

We purchased our Guinea Fowl locally in Montville, Maine from Shelagh Delphyne . She has great, healthy stock and I can't recommend her highly enough. Shelagh breeds several varieties of Guinea Fowl. She is very knowledgeable and is quick to share her experience with new Guinea Fowl keepers.  Shelagh, after seeing some pictures we posted on our Facebook page, was also kind enough to point out that wood shavings as bedding can be a problem for Guinea keets. Since I use pine shavings for almost all our littles, I wanted to look into that. Sure enough, I found several sites, such as this- Maguire Farm- warning against using wood shavings since the keets might get confused and attempt to eat them. The information I found at Guinea Fowl International suggested not using wood shavings on keets less than a week old.

Here at Lally Broch Farm, we used shelf liner paper for the keets for the first week or so. Then, we switched over to the pine shavings. We had no issues with our keets using the pine shavings, but I think it is important that new keepers (such as us) are informed of potential hazards. I have seen our keets scratch and peck around in the shavings, but thankfully, ours did not seem inclined to eat any of it.

So, that is what has been happening around here. We are very excited to host an official "Open Farm" Day and hope that we will entertain many friends and new friends that day. If you are interested in coming out for a visit, be sure to check back for a detailed schedule and information.

Thanks for visiting today, Friends. ♥
Sonja ♥


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Barn Building 2013: Video

Here it is, the video of all the barn building work that happened at the homestead over the summer.

You know our philosophy of only building as we can afford to, of not putting ourselves into debt. Well, I confess we adapted- just a bitsy. We did end up needing a small loan to finish our work for the year. And, there are Pros and Cons to this. On the Pro side: we are living like it is 2016, the barn is soooo ahead of schedule. This frees our time and minds to work on smaller projects, no less important; like expanding the turkey yard and getting the gardens put to bed for the winter, ready for the new Spring. I love driving into the yard and seeing that "Big 'Ole Barn" waiting for me, knowing all the goats have good shelter for the winter to come. I imagine the loft filled with sweet smelling hay. In the Con column: we have an outstanding loan and owe nearly $2,000 for barn materials. Over the last 2 years, we built a solid 20x30, two-story, metal roofed barn, all told, for about $5,000. Could we have done it for less? Of course. But, doing so would have taken a couple more years for us to find all the dirt cheap or donated supplies we needed. Consider the time involved finding and obtaining those supplies and the work involved making them ready for use. Consider the yard space needed to store the supplies until we had enough on hand to continue the work. In the meantime, the barn would have been usable, but it would have leaked some, not be nearly as nice to gaze upon and it probably would not have been so solidly put together. I think we made the right choice. We reused everything we could, accepted donations of windows (Thank you, Ryan & Kimmy and Brad & Debbie!) and Typar (Thanks, Dad!) and purchased new where we needed.

We still need to finish building the doors between the stalls and pasture and upstairs in the hay loft. We need to finish wrapping in Typar to protect the OSB from the weather. And, those things will be done this year.

Next year, when the weather breaks, we'll begin the work of siding the barn permanently and painting it. Barn Red, of course.

I have to say how appreciative we are for our family's support and help and that of our friends. Daddy Dale was here most days working on the barn, with Sean or I, or alone. Momma Twombly made some fantastic meals for us, took on shipping out the jewelry ordered from out-of-state this summer, and helped me at the Belfast Art Market each Friday. Justin and Caitlin pitched in to lend a hand on projects or around the homestead. Kristen and Meaghan helped with keeping the house tidy. Sonja's Dad, John donated the Typar to finish wrapping the barn. Ryan and Kimmy donated the new windows for the kidding stall area. Brad and Debbie donated the new upstairs windows. Keith and Nancy loaned us their ladders. Uncle Alan loaned us his nail gun. The list is pretty extensive and I apologize if I have overlooked anyone. We appreciate all of your kindness and support. ♥

Thanks for visiting today, friends. See you soon!
Sonja ♥

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Naomi Joins the Herd

One of the services Sean and I provide is that of a "goat school" for some of our neighbors, newer to keeping goats and full of the same questions Sean and I had when we began. For a flat fee (based on the number of goats in the herd) Sean and I call on our students at their homesteads at the beginning of each month. During our visit, we show our students how to check over their goats for potential issues. We look at the goat's weight, posture, postern, hooves, eyelid color, coat, etc. We discuss things like; how much and what kind of feed to provide, how often to worm, and how and when to trim hooves. We help our students to get used to keeping good records about the health of their herd. Depending on what topic is of interest during the visit, we print out reference sheets from reputable internet sources for our students to add to their "farm binder".
Our goal is for our students to feel more comfortable in providing routine care for their herd, which can mean a healthier herd. Of course, since neither Sean nor I are veterinary doctors and do not pretend to know everything there is to know about goats, we always refer our students to a licensed, reputable Vet if a medical need arises. But, the reality is many homesteaders and hobby farmers treat routine issues without calling on the services of their Vet: things like, worming, trimming hooves, treating mild cases of scouring, kidding, and the like. We learned from trial and error, asking advice from other goat keepers, and lots and lots of research when things cropped up over the years. I remember vividly the panic I felt the first time Leah began scouring and I didn't know what to do. Scouring is still a serious concern to be addressed, but how much more comfortable I am in my knowledge of how to treat it now!

It was on such a visit earlier this month that we met the little Nigerian Dwarf doe that would come home with us for Zacchaeus (when he gets bigger). Originally, our only plan for Zacchaeus was to employ him as our farm's embassador, as cute, good-natured and small as he is. But, after looking over our student's newly acquired (and soon to be sold) herd of 6 Nigerian Dwarf goats, I had an epiphany: the lovely red doe was 2 years old and was supposed to be about 2 1/2 months pregnant. Neither she nor any potential doelings would be related to Zacchaeus. Best case scenario, little red would have at least one doe kid which would give us two Nigerian Dwarf does available for breeding in coming years. Worst case scenario, little red was not pregnant, but she could be bred to Zacchaeus next year and we'd have additional milk and kids to sell. With these thoughts in mind, we made an offer for her.

Now, you may be wondering why someone would acquire goats and then immediately sell them. Basically, our student had it in mind to keep Nigerian Dwarfs. The breed is popular for many reasons, among them: they remain small, eat less than full sized breeds, have delicious milk, and are often good tempered. This group of Nigerians were lovely, small, and probably would have delicious milk, but they were not friendly with other goats. In fact, though nearly half the size of their full-sized compatriots, these Nigerian Dwarfs had no problem violently ramming the others often and without provocation. After a week of this and in fear of damage to their other goats, our student found them a new home without any other goats to bother. 

And now, you may be wondering, why on Earth would you want one of these goats in our herd of docile and loveable goats. Well, here was my thinking on that. Adding a single goat to a herd is not usually recommended. Herds have a dominance order, like most animals and they establish this order with verbal cues and by feigning head butting and if that doesn't get the message across, actual ramming. It is usually better to add new goats in pairs because many people (us included) believe that the newer goats get accepted better into the herd that way. No one goat is being picked on overmuch when there are two new ones added and the new goats have each other to hang with and snuggle at night. Adding a single goat who thinks she is dominant into a herd of goats who have a differing opinion can go one of two ways. Either the dominant thinking goat is right and she shows all the other goats that immediately and they usually settle in. Or, the dominant thinking goat is wrong and she finds out that the rest of the herd won't stand for the bad behavior. In either of these cases, the new doe is accepted into the herd within a little time. Now, sometimes, the dominant goat never learns and actual fighting breaks out within the herd. In cases like this, we feel it is best to remove the aggressive doe for everyone's safety. Since our student was not selling the other Nigerians until the end of the week, we took the red home on a trial basis, hopeful that she would settle in.
And, that is what happened. We named little red, "Naomi."

Naomi (2 years old and full grown) with Keren (born March 2013)
They are very nearly the same size.

The first night, we decided to introduce Naomi to the doe kids because they were currently the same size and in our experience kids seem to be more accepting of new additions and changes to their routine. A little sniffing of each other, a feigned head butting from Naomi and everyone went back to their resting places to chew their cud and/or sleep. It was quite uneventful, really.

In the morning, after we milked the does and fed everyone, we let the kids and Miss Naomi into the main pasture. The older does nosed about the new addition. Some of them went on alert with their tails straight up, but within a few minutes, it was business as usual in the yard. Sean left for work and I kept watch on the does for a while, but other than their normal romping, eating, and playing, there was nothing to be concerned about.

Naomi sunning herself in the front pasture. The fencing to the wooded back
pasture is open, but the goats generally remain in the front in the morning and
then, in the heat of the afternoon, retire to browse the shrubs and trees.
And, so Naomi has joined us at the farm. It is difficult for us to tell if she is pregnant or not, but we'll start looking for the signs of kidding in November. I prefer to kid in the spring, but I am not entirely displeased at the thought of a new 2 pound baby to love. ♥

Thanks for visiting today, Friends. I am sure glad you came.
Sonja ♥