Wednesday, December 28, 2016

-10* to 40* and a Foot of Snow Expected...

When the forecast calls for -10* weather with winds gusting up to 40 MPH, that means a lot of preparation for the humans on the homestead. Water buckets need to be brought inside overnight or placed where they can't freeze to burst. The barn doors get closed tight. We try to coerce the turkeys and geese to get inside. Unsuccessfully; no matter how vehemently I extol the dangers of that kind of cold, they absolutely refuse to listen. We've spent many an hour attempting to cajole their compliance over the years. I won't lie. There have been tears. Now, with more experience, I explain matters to them, provide them with a warm place to shelter and leave them to decide. They nearly always make the call to remain outside, near the shelter, but not inside it. Que sound of my frustrated eye roll.

And, so it was with this first (really early) potentially deadly cold snap. Sean planned to create another larger shelter for the duck and geese enclosure in the fall. Time got spent on other necessary things and the build got pushed back until the night that the cold was supposed to arrive. After working all day doing demolition on a construction job, Sean came home and set to work securing another shelter. Using 4 pallets, 1 deep and 2 wide, he created a 48" tall frame. This he sheathed in OSB to block any drafts. The roof was made with a couple 2x4's running from one end to the other at a slight angle (to help rain and snow to fall off it), covered with another full sheet of OSB. While this build functions perfectly, come Spring, I would like to see the OSB removed (and repurposed, of course) and replaced with aluminum siding on the walls and greenhouse ridged plastic siding across the roof. (This will let in the light and help to add warmth in the winter months.) For the moment, I am just appreciative of Sean's effort.

Blocks of ice are over a foot deep!

All the animals weathered the storm completely unscathed. No frostbite on wattles or toes. You might wonder, "What do temperatures like that do to the duck pond?" Check it out...

Sean uses either an ax or his chain saw to free up a hole in the pond for the fowl. They get fresh drinking water daily in an actual container, so they don't technically need the luxury of open water to bathe in, but they seem to appreciate it. As long as they do, Sean provides it... most days. It's a lot of work and during storms, they may have to forgo a swim for the day until we clear out the driveway and create paths to all the animal enclosures.

The blocks of ice he cut through this last time were over a foot thick. This was not from the single cold snap. He opened a bigger area for the ducks and geese this day. These blocks of ice represent the total thickness of ice that has covered the pond so far this season. Still and all, that's a lot of ice!

A week later than these pictures were captured, yesterday was a balmy 40* day with bright sun. Sean was home from a job unexpectedly. We used the time wisely. First, he began with cleaning one of the kidding stalls. I suspect that we'll have kids in the beginning of January. (Bad Asher GOAT!) In preparation for new kids, I washed all our goat sweaters (they'll be used this early in the year!) and the towels in our kidding kit.

Asher weighs about 150 lbs.
Eli weighs about 125 lbs.
Then, we spent some time building a new fence around the unused Turkey coop. Since my run in with the fox earlier this year, our turkeys are making their home with the chickens these days. That has left their coop unused. We used 37 pallets in good condition and some decent 2x4's that Sean pulled from a recent job to create a new buck pasture. Because our largest bucks will be sheltered here, we made sure to include a lot of corners which adds significant strength to the walls. We think that 3 pallet lengths is about as far as we want to stretch any section. I like the results. I think it makes their enclosure look like a primitive fort wall. It also gives lots of places for either buck to be out of sight of the other- should one need a little "me" time. And, it provides many nooks to offer hay within and also places to scratch horns or heads against. It's only been 24 hours but so far it is a success. Ultimately, I need to collect another 12 pallets to expand the back wall to its final size. For now, though, the yard area is 36' long by 28' feet wide. While nowhere near as roomy as the main buck pasture, it is sufficient to stretch legs and get exercise.

A little head scratching feels so nice!
With this move, we have freed up another stall within the main barn and removed Asher and Eli, our largest, most persistent bucks far away from our herd of only-too-willing does. We are hopeful that this move will allow us better control over who gets mated each year. (When left up to the goats, there is a general consensus that they should ALL be bred. All. The. Time. We disagree.) This move should also allow our young, yearling bucks to grow stronger without the additional stress of vying for the hay mangers while avoiding our big guys. I foresee having to eventually add electric fencing to the new buck area, but for now, the boys are content. We are predicted to get at least a foot of snow beginning tomorrow night into Friday. Enjoy it while you can, lads!

Thanks for visiting with us tonight. We're so glad you came.

Sonja ♥

Monday, December 26, 2016

Winter Updates; Peanut's Growing and Greenhouse Dreams

Resting, crop closure and throat repair completed.
It's been just about 6 weeks since Nut was found injured. She is doing great. I had no idea if our intervention would lead to the chance of Nut eventually leading a normal life or not, but I feel like she is past the point of concern. If it were not winter, she would be reintegrated into the flock right now. As it is, she and her siblings will spend the winter in my studio. As cute as she is and as happy as I am that she is alive and thriving, this is not a perfect solution. Chickens in the house are never high on my want list. So, I am adding moving the chickens outside to my list of reasons to look forward to spring. :)

Walnut, Chestnut and our little Peanut. :) 
We brought Nut's two siblings inside to keep her company for a couple reasons. The first and most important to us is that as flock animals, raising a chick as a singleton is not a good idea. Nut will need to develop social skills to find her place within the flock. She needs chicken companions to learn those skills. Secondly, we find it is always easier to add an established group to our flock rather than a single bird. Singletons tend to get bullied. Lastly, it was easier to let Momma hen return to her friends in the flock instead of wintering over in a make-shift separate, safe pen. And so it is that we have three 6 week old chicks in my studio for the next 12 weeks.

It makes studio time a little more distracting, but that is not altogether a terrible thing. It is good to look up from time to time and take a break.

Framed and the temporary back wall of greenhouse plastic up.

Plastic up. Needs strapping and trim, but WOW!
Work tends to slow a bit in the winter, but it does not stop. Work never stops on a homestead. When there is not building, planting, or creating, there is planning. One of our most pressing jobs is the building of our greenhouse. This is a game changer for us. The hope of food nearly year-round and the ability to get a solid jump on planting before May or June is huge for our family. Just, HUGE. We framed out the metal supports for our greenhouse in October. Our friend, Cheri, visited and gifted us with the lumber we needed to complete building its sides. Our friend, Jenny, gifted us with greenhouse plastic. And, slowly over the last couple months, Sean built the frame. My Dad found us a 30,000 BTU and another 12,000 BTU Monitor kerosene heater. Things were falling into place. Sean and I worked together to get the plastic into place and secured it by wrapping it under the wooded side supports. Between the weight of the greenhouse itself and the cement blocks we purchased, we hoped it would be enough until we could strap over the top of the plastic to secure it permanently.

Through the GUSTING WIND.
With Sean and I holding onto the plastic, it took all our strength to
keep the greenhouse intact. 
Sean removing the last of the plastic- for now.
And, then the temperature dropped to -10* and the winds picked up to 40 MPH. Sean and I tried to secure the plastic better for a little while and then, gave in to the Wind's mighty strength and removed the plastic before it was damaged and rendered completely useless. Thus ended the dream of a winter garden space for this year. The wind may have icy fingers with which to win the first round, but we have opposable thumbs and the brains Jehovah gave us. We'll tackle this again in the Spring. For now, everything is safely stored to weather the winter storms that may come.

This morning, Sean was home from working any construction jobs and we spent some time sketching out and planning on the goat fencing expansion for Spring, including new field shelters and hay manger systems. It is exciting to look forward to warm weather and proper work days here.

Before then, we have a lot to do. Included in that list is the clearing out and organizing of the 2nd story of the barn and moving Sean's heavy table saw and band saw from our extra doe stall to the upstairs. Kidding time is fast approaching. Thanks to Asher's ability to foil our every attempt at keeping him OUT of the doe pasture, we will need all the stalls we have available. (Bad, BAD Goat!) In a renewed effort to have some say over his breeding schedule, we have devised yet another idea of keeping him contained. That, too, is on the list. Plus, we are ready to move to selling our farm wares almost exclusively wholesale. That means I need to increase our inventory from it's current $7,000 mark to $30,000 before April. Read that: Sonja now lives in her studio. She will see you in the Spring. :) This move is truly exciting and absolutely terrifying all in one. That is a lot of time and resources to invest in our homestead wares. And, we are a year ahead of our initial projections, but all things considered we really believe that this is what is going to be best for our faith, family, and farm.

For those of you who are interested, you can find our Lally Broch Farm Goat Milk Soaps, Bees' Wax Wraps, Eggshell Jewelry, and Organic Soy Scent Tarts at The Local Variety in Bucksport, ME, Silkweeds in Searsport, ME, and the Marsh River Cooperative in Brooks, ME. You can find our Jewelry and Scent Tarts at The Not So Empty Nest in Brewer, ME. The Maine Gathering in Camden, ME sells our Jewelry. The Bath Cottage in Cocoa Beach, FL stocks our Goat Milk Soaps and Jewelry. You can find all of our items online at our Etsy Shop, too. We are hoping to add 12 additional New England shops by Spring.

It is time to get back to working in the studio. Thanks for stopping by to visit with us, Friends.

Sean and Sonja ♥

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nut, The Chick

November is not the best time for new chicks to be born. I know that, but apparently the hens have other ideas. We have had more than one hatch illicit chicks so late in the year. One hen hatched out six chicks. Mary, our Blue Slate turkey hen, hatched out three more chicken chicks. Ridiculous, right?

If you have read about our homestead before, you know that we raise our animals as naturally as possible. Mothers raise their young with minimal interference from us- unless we must. While Mary and her chicks are doing well, Momma hen has not been so well off.

About 2 weeks ago, while doing chores, I found one of her Littles cold, wet and injured in the horse field. It was alive, but barely. Chicks don't spend every minute underneath their mothers, but extended periods of cold can quickly be the end of a chick that hasn't feathered out completely. I scooped it up and brought it inside to get it warmed, hoping that it would perk up and be able to be returned to it's mother. But, after getting it cleaned up, I saw a comparatively large hole in the side of the chicks neck. At three days old, I did not hold out much hope for it's recovery. The thing is, once clean and warm, it was alert, peeping madly for it's family. I could not return it to the outside. That would be a certain death sentence; chickens will pick relentlessly at injuries. I couldn't give it it's mother or siblings, but I could offer food and water. Would it even eat?

Before closing the wound.
I offered wet chicken crumble. It ate with an appetite. I offered water. It drank on its own. "Okay," I thought. "Two choices. Do I give it a chance? Do I euthanize to not prolong it's suffering. How long can a chick survive this way? Would it slowly starve to death? Would the wound get infected?" As I watched it walk around seemingly unfazed, eating and drinking, I thought, "It wants to live. I have to try."

Cracked corn visible through the wound before repair.
Our first hurdle was to clean out the area. The crop was clearly opened and just mutilated; the skin was paper thin and delicate. Stitches would be the best option for long-term closing of an open wound, but I just didn't have enough skin to work with. I decided to try to use super-glue. But, besides infection, my biggest concern with that was that I would glue the crop completely closed. Again, certain death. I don't recommend what I did. It worked- so far, but I think it was as much dumb luck as anything else. The mashed food left a horrible messy field to work in. I carefully cleaned away as much of it as I could and offered the chick a bowl of cracked corn. This is not exactly ideal. It is hard and rough and could very well cause damage to the organ I was trying to save. But, I needed something that could fill out the crop, so that I could see where I was working and so that I could be certain that I was not gluing it to itself. The corn was hard enough that with tweezers, I could remove piece by piece any excess, giving me an idea of where the crop should close. Using a tweezers, I carefully pinched the delicate skin closed around the corn and using a toothpick, Sean applied superglue. It worked. I replaced the cracked corn with wet chicken crumble and little chick resumed eating and drinking immediately. We watched carefully for her to eliminate waste. And, she did- regularly.

After closing the wound and a full belly, a little nap.
After about a week, Meg decided little chick needed a name. She called her "Nut" as in: "She's a tough nut to crack." And, she is. It has been two weeks. Nut is doing great. Her neck is almost completely healed. The only residual issue we've noted is that when she drinks, she often lifts her head several times after drinking to swallow her water. I suspect that is to do with the damaged crop. Perhaps her water does not go down as it should, but she seems to work around it. She has shown no signs of infection. She is active and as far a I can see, happy and thriving. Time will tell what the end of the story will be. I am very hopeful that it will have a happy ending- one that includes going back outside to live with the rest of the flock eventually.

This video was taken just minutes after the repair to her wound.

Sweet, baby taking a nap. ♥
On the mend; two weeks old. ♥
For now, little Nut spends her day hanging with the peoples or her stuffed animal duckling buddy.

We'll update you as Nut grows.

There are tons of things happening around here. We've had our most successful Open Homestead Day, we've gone hiking with goats a couple times, our front herb garden has been worked on, our greenhouse(!) has been framed and is ready for plastic, new displays have been created and so, so much more. I won't go back and post everything that has happened these past 5 months, but I will definitely have some posts and updates for y'all. Stay tuned!

Thanks for visiting with us today. I am glad of your company.

Sonja ♥

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dreams in Summer

Each summer, we look forward to Sean's family arriving for the warmer months. Now that his parents are retired, they are able to travel more; splitting their time between North Carolina, Florida, and Maine. While it is always lovely to visit and spend time together, it adds another layer to our lives. Instead of us working until sunset most days- we try to stop early for dinner or a game of cards when it is possible. And, feel self-inflicted guilt when it is not. ♥

This year, they are coming just days before Creatively Maine Pops Up again in Bucksport- for the first time, we will be opened July and August! Instead of focusing on weekly markets and weekend craft shows, I will spend the next 62 days at the shop. When I am not studying for Christian meetings and preaching the Word, milking goats, making cheese, tending animals, home-schooling girls, making soaps, scents, bee's wax wraps and massage melts, and restocking shops. It is going to be a BUSY summer. Thankfully, I am never alone. There is Sean. And, again this season, there is Shea (from Gentle Meadow Goat Farm). This would not be possible without them. Having never opened in the summer months, this is a risk- but one entered into thoughtfully with lots of HOPE.

So, with thoughts of our upcoming summer schedule clearly before us, Sean invited me to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary a little early (like, 6 weeks early) since last weekend was realistically the only weekend we would have free until September. I already shared what romantic people we are. So it will come as no surprise that we celebrated our love and marriage by spending the weekend working together, completing projects to make our homestead more homey. It was perfect. Really.

New doe pasture lands.
We expanded both the doe and buck pastures by adding 150 feet of fencing to the does and an additional 100 feet of fencing to the bucks' pastures. This means our hay bill should lessen some- easing the cost of feeding this year a little.

We received the huge roll of greenhouse plastic gifted to us by our friend, Jenny of Pebblestone Farm. This will be the year that our greenhouse dream becomes a reality. We live in zone 5A. To be able to grow much of our own food nearly year-round and provide for ourselves and the families that have purchased CSA shares from us is a GIFT. We spent some time fencing the front garden beds and planting seedlings of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, kale, broccoli, lettuces, and the like.

Bergamot, Stinging Nettle, Lavender, Oregano, Dill,
Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Anise, Apple Mint, Orange Mint,
Wintergreen, Thyme, and Chives
Almost to the front door. We need about 10
additional pallets to finish this project and then,
We found more useful pallets to fence the new path into our home. It will be completely lined with edible, perennial herbs. There is more to be done to it, but a good start has been made. The best part? Total cost so far is less than $50 and that includes the landscaping fabric, pebbles, and additional ornamental plantings! The girls are saving their pennies for a trip to Italy this fall and have cheerfully agreed to paint the fencing for me for a reasonable price.

Farm sink finished, counter tops tiled, and copper back splash installed. 
Sean has been working on our kitchen over the winter months. He installed this back splash to tie into the copper accents in our farm kitchen. I am in love with the look. It is EXACTLY what I envisioned. Sean will paint the ceiling with a fresh coat of paint tonight and other than replace the kitchen window and build my new farm table and benches, the kitchen will be finished!

Half way there! 
For my part, I spent a little time spray-painting some Silkweeds DIY finds gloss white enamel. I reupholstered the seats with upholstery Sean and I found at Marden's for only $1.99/yard. (I grabbed 5 yards of the fabric so I can create bench cushions once I have benches and have a little left over for when the cats claw the seats and I have to redo them.) I love the finished look. The accent chairs are just what I wanted. I love the lines. I wanted chairs that were substantial, but still feminine; fabric that was "country" without being "dated". I am pleased with the results.

Eve checking out the new pasturage.
There is a saying, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." By the end of the weekend, I could barely walk. My arms and legs are covered with fresh scratches from brush and thicket and new, blue bruises from carrying posts, buckets, and stray goats. My nails were crusted with dirt. Each night we crawled into a warm shower to remove bits of bracken, sweat, grime and tangles. Being clean never felt so lovely. We ordered out for pizza because we couldn't move another muscle to cook one night. We warmed left-overs the next. All the while, we talked and dreamed of the homestead we are carving out together. Best. Anniversary. Ever.... So far.

Monday came and life's rhythm resumed. Sean's week will be split between working on a concrete project at the beginning of the week and building a 10 x 10 woodshed he's been hired to construct at the end of the week. I spent yesterday cleaning the house with the girls, making chevre, yogurt, and feta, watering the gardens and completing the animal chores so that when Sean got home, we could eat dinner together as a family. I noticed that Phoebe-goat is definitely getting closer to kidding. It should be any day now. We are hoping for twin lamancha does. Of course, I am obligated to add, "but as long as they are healthy, we don't care if we get bucks." Between us, alive bucks are better than sick or dead kids of any kind- healthy does are better, though. And, healthy lamancha does are better than better. I'll post images as soon as she decides to kid for us. She is kidding much later in the season than we ever planned, but it's something to look forward to.

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. We love your company.
~Sean and Sonja ♥

Monday, June 13, 2016

All Sean Ever Does is Build, Mend or Move Fencing and Other Stories From the Past Month

Found in our field! So pretty!
This post is going to be a long one, friends. I have been capturing images as we are living life, but Winter's rest quickly becomes Spring's frenzy- and I have been at a loss for more time. Time to post. Time to write. Time to think, really. In the rare convergence of an empty house and a full camera, I plan to steal a few guilt-free minutes to edit images and video and share happenings with you all. And, since this website is one of the only places in my world where I reign supreme, the stories will come as they flow from my fingers and not in the order in which any of them happened. Feel the power!

This Spring brought some unexpected and wonderful new additions to the homestead. One group of additions came via a phone call from a friend of a friend. Her family is moving and they were looking for a home for their geese and a couple of hens. Despite what our checking account thinks, we are not a non-profit entity. Though we would love to save the world, it is not a realistic view that we can take on every creature needing a new home. We have to ask several questions to see if the animal is a good fit for us and our plans for the future. Questions like: (1) Do we have the room to care for the animal(s), (2) Can we afford to care for them? (3) How will they benefit our homestead goals? etc. If they pass these questions, we visit and see if the animal responds well to Sean and I. Finally, Sean and I talk it over and make our decision. It is hard not to get our hearts invested, but we have to before we make the decision to commit to a new animal.

Ferdinand and Frances settled in and made friends with Caitlin and Justin immediately.
With those thoughts in mind, we were very interested in meeting Mariel and Annabelle's birds. They called about our caring for their Sebastapol goose, Ferdinand and his mate, Frances and their companion hens, Georgia and Winona. I have long wanted to add Sebastapol geese to our homestead, but they are not a necessity and their relative expense made them an unlikely addition... until now. The new birds settled in easily. Almost immediately, Frances began building a nest and laying eggs. Our intention was to allow her to hatch her nest, but after 5 weeks of sitting on them, none hatched in that attempt. We candled the eggs to see if there was any development, but most of the eggs had not been fertilized. We are hopeful to have some success in the future, but it seems that more practice and maturity is wanted from young Ferdinand.

Our next planned livestock purchase will be our family cow; a highland bottle baby. We have done our research and this is the breed that best suits our situation. For one thing, they are generally known to be relatively docile. They are on the smaller size for cows- around 800 pounds instead of 1200+ pounds. They browse more than graze and are bred to live in harsh conditions- our weather will suit them just fine. Plus, they are tanks in terms of health- generally hardy. Since we will only use the milk for our family's needs- 1-3 gallons/per day will be more than sufficient to make cream into butter and milk into cheese. (Pay Attention: This is called foreshadowing...)

Ever the romantic, originally, I was saving my pennies for a new push lawn-mower for our upcoming anniversary gift. The one I currently use is neither self-propelled nor does it have a shoot to direct the cut grass. I end up looking like She-Hulk after mowing for a bit. While green toes are all the rage this season, it would be very nice to have a mower that I can attach a bag to, which will collect the cut grasses. These can be recycled into bedding for nest boxes or composted. Nothing goes to waste if it can be helped! The new mower slid down my wish list when we found 330' of field fencing for only $139 last week. SCORE!!!!!

Fence installation: Take One. 
Why fencing in lieu of a mower? Our guinea fowl and ducks have almost unanimously decided that our neighbor's yard across the road and stocked with THREE dogs is the perfect place to hang out. You know, the grass is always greener... Sean and I protested this decision citing the danger of the road and the dogs. But, our protests fell on deaf ears. After losing two guineas and a drake this spring, we decided that we had to completely fence off the road frontage across the horse pasture and on the opposite side of our driveway. Last weekend, Sean and I spent two days installing welded-wire field fencing. We had an old roll that had seen better days and a brand new roll. Attached end to end, these spanned to about half the distance we wanted to cover. I looked online and discovered a sale at Tractor Supply, so my mower money went to fencing instead. I expected to pay about $70 for a roll of 100 feet of 4' tall welded-wire fencing- the kind to match what we already had on hand. It wouldn't work long-term for goats, but would be just fine to persuade birds to remain on the right side of it. Instead, I found real field fencing. The good kind; 12 gauge wire, 130 more feet for the same price as 2 rolls of the inferior kind. Color me happy! Except now, if we use the new wire, that will mean we have 3 different wires protecting the front of our property. While it will work, technically, it will look terrible. But, Sean just spent 12 hours not even a week ago digging posts and setting wire. You see the dilemma. Do I ask him to redo all his hard work for aesthetics? Or, do we continue on with the new wire and cut it off?

New high-tensile wire installation
So, the new wire is living where it should be- all in one line, across the horse pasture and there was enough left to install it to match the other side of the driveway, too. The rusted fencing Sean removed will go far into the woods to expand the doe pasture. It will need to be replaced at some point in the future, but it has some life left to it and I am less concerned about aesthetics in the back 40. Not only does the new fencing look better, it is perfect to safely hold in the dairy cow we will get ourselves for next year's anniversary present. That, my friends, is a good man. He never complained once. And, the cherry on top: after telling this story to our friend, Shea of Gentle Meadow Goat Farm offered us one of her unused lawn mowers. We need to check it out, but I am calling this a win all the way around!

Grazing in the newly opened pasturage.
Since we were on a roll with fencing, Sean grabbed his chain saw and set to clearing a four foot swath so we could set posts and expand the goat doe pasture. It is now as close to the river as it is going to be. We can call that side officially finished. We will add more fencing to the back area to open the woods beyond our backyard this year. We thought to make waddle fencing from the fast-growing alders, but upon more reflection, that idea was nixed in favor of high-tensile field fencing. While I love the idea of using wood from our land to make the fencing and it worked great for our raised garden beds in the backyard, the alders would need to be repaired as they decay, so there is the concern of upkeep. We also need to consider the time involved in harvesting alders, cutting them to size, delimbing branches and weaving the fencing. Additionally, I am worried about the fencing standing up to our herd of goats testing it. We are still planning on using it to separate our property line from that of our neighbors. That will give us some idea of how it will stand up over time.

Spring also brings the planning and planting of the vegetable gardens. We already built raised beds in the front garden and it is as large as it is going to be. This year, we purchased one 12' x 20' x 8' metal arched frame and were gifted a second one. These will fit end to end through the center of the garden beds. We will build wooden side frames off of the main support. Once covered with greenhouse plastic, our entire front garden beds will be covered under a working greenhouse for the first time ever!

Last year, we planted perennial lemon balm, apple mint, orange mint, wintergreen, peppermint, chives, dill, oregano, and mullein in the herb garden. This year, we added bergamot, comfrey, thyme, stinging nettles, and anise. I love the variety of herbs we are growing to flavor foods and create extracts and infusions for our goat's milk soaps. Unfortunately, so do the goats and chickens. These have joined forces to wreak havoc on my precious plants. The chickens love dust bathing in the fresh-dug soil and care not whether they pull up young, tender plants in the process. The goats have no excuse, they just rip entire plants from the ground. Because they are goats and they can. Something had to be done to protect my plants. Chicken wire was an option and while it might thwart the birds, it would not stand up to the goats. Also, it is not very pretty to look at. In a perfect world, money would be no option. Since that is not reality, we came up with a plan B. You have to use your imagination, but once the pallets are all secured so they run the entire length of our home, gates are installed on both ends, and the fencing is painted white, I think it will look great. Along the front of the fencing, I will plant flowering annuals and draping vines, like ivy or morning glories in pretty pots. Behind the fencing, my herbs will grow unmolested by birds or four-legged infidels. Guests will walk though the sweetly fragrant herbs to reach our front door, instead of braving the turkey-laden mudroom porch steps. Can you picture it? I can. Vividly. All I need now is 20 pallets in great condition, 4 sturdy, black hinges, 2 locks, a couple gallons of white paint and some river stones for the path.

2 barred rock chicks hatched
by a duckling and Jordan, our turkey poult.
We've had a single turkey poult and 16 chicks hatch so far this season. A leghorn hen is sitting on a nest of another dozen eggs in the pig shelter. They should hatch any day. A Rhode Island Red hen is sitting on a nest of random eggs in the chicken coop. These should hatch in a couple weeks. We have not had success with ducklings this year so far. Out of 4 nests, we had only one duckling hatch- and his Momma squished him accidentally. One duck hen hatched 2 barred rock chicks, but her duck eggs never hatched. It is discouraging. There is still time, but I really thought we would have a few goslings and ducklings already.

Peter and Jareth. 2016 kids
Fresh Chevre with Chives
We had 15 healthy kids born on the homestead this season; 8 bucks and 7 does. Of those, we are planning to keep 3 does to add to our line. And, we are still expecting goat kids from Phoebe and maybe Cassie. Phoebe has begun to form her udder, but she is keeping secret as to when she thinks her kids will drop. Cassie is a wild card. She is HUGE, but no udder at all. I think she is pregnant. Sean is unconvinced. We'll see! In the meantime, goat's milk is flowing. Sean and I are milking 6 does each morning and I am making cheese nearly every day. Today was feta and yogurt. Yesterday I made chevre. With all its ups and downs, it feels like we are making progress towards making this homestead a real working entity. I have the callused hands to back that up and I wouldn't trade it for the world most days.

Thanks for checking in with us today, Friends. We're glad you are here.
~Sean and Sonja ♥

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother Hen Hatches Her Nest

I can't believe that an entire month has passed since I last wrote. Where has the time gone? Most of it has been spent caring for our animals and restocking in preparation for upcoming shows and shops. Sean is working steadily for clients; replacing roofing, repairing clapboard, painting, repairing drywall. He's also been busy at home. Besides his regular chores, Sean finished painting out our kitchen cupboards and furnishings and installed our daughter, Caitlin's new kitchen sink and counter top. I have posted images on our FACEBOOK PAGE and if you are not already following us there, please join us!

Rather than recap all the happenings for the past month, I'll start with some fresh news: Baby Chicks!

Several of our feathered females are broody. Currently, we have duck Chapelle sitting on a nest of 9 turkey eggs and a dozen of her own Muscovie eggs inside Jasmine's stall. Frances is sitting on a nest of a dozen goose eggs inside a dog crate within the duck and goose enclosure. My favorite hen turkey, Lydia, is sharing a nest with another hen. Between them, they are sitting on over 2 dozen eggs under our rabbit hutch. Priscilla is sitting on a nest of turkey eggs inside the chicken yard. And, our hen, Maggie has chosen to lay her turkey eggs up in the rafters of the chicken coop. We are excited for all the chicks, goslings, and turkey poults to hatch.

Someday, we might invest in an incubator for better control of hatching, but for now, our chicks are hatched naturally, which has its pros and cons, like everything else. In the Pro column is that even with nights still dipping into the 30's and below, we don't worry about the temperature of the eggs. The mothers are perfectly suited to regulate the proper temperature for their nests. We don't fuss with turning the eggs or measuring for proper humidity. In fact, mostly, we leave them alone as much as possible. The Con side includes predator attacks on either the mother, the eggs, or both. About a month ago, in the middle of the night, we had a fox take a mother hen from a nest she made in the pig stall that had only about a week left before hatching. It was heart-breaking to lose the hen and and all the would-be chicks. Once in a while, a Mother hen gets tired of sitting on her nest and leaves it before the chicks hatch. Sometimes, the chicks don't hatch all at once and get trampled by their siblings or don't get warmed up fast enough and die. Hatching with an incubator is not danger-free nor stress-free. Power outages happen. Spikes in temperature or drops in humidity can all effect hatching. We just do the best we can with what we have. It is all anyone can do. Thankfully, most of the time, things go well and the result is fluffy, chirping, healthy chicks. ♥

Our first nest to hatch was the only hen laying in an approved nesting area, an actual nesting box. Momma hen hatched 6 eggs without our assistance and another with a little help from her friends. (See video)

We're trying to get back into the habit of writing more frequently, but Spring adds a lot of work on the homestead. Right now, we are prepping for gardens and CSA Shares. We'll post more later! Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. I hope you have a great day! ~Sean and Sonja ♥

Monday, March 21, 2016

Graphic Video: Breach Birth~ Naomi & Bailey Kid Over the Weekend

As predicted, Naomi kidded yesterday. And, in typical Naomi fashion- she stole off into the field to have her kids without our prying eyes or helping hands. Sean cared for the afternoon chores on his own yesterday. So as to not steal his joy in gifting me the afternoon "off", I let him... Until he raced back inside with a shout of, "Kids dropped in the field.... Naomi.... looks like one is already dry and standing... you want to help?" Storm door slam. Boots a-movin'.

Of course I wanted to help. Well, to be completely honest, I was tired and *really* wanted to nap, but that was not going to happen, regardless of kidding. Sean grabbed towels and headed back to the field. I slid on my boots and barn coat, grabbed my camera and followed Sean to the barn.

Naomi was laying under the outside manger in a mess of discarded hay from before the winter snow came. As advertised, one kid was nearly clean, mostly dry and standing wobbly. Naomi was clearly still in labor and pushing hard. I was mortified to spy the unborn kid's leg sticking out, no head. Sean said, "It's breach." as the thoughts formed in my mind. We didn't wait. Sean immediately reached inside, hooked the other leg and pulled it free of its mother's body. Naomi may not like to have our assistance, but she needed it today. It was difficult to see if the kid was moving or not and there was no time to wait or inspect. I braced myself that it might be still-born. Sean applied steady pressure and pulled the kid free. We both sighed in relief to see the kid kick and sputter.

Trauma forgotten. Naomi cleans Jareth.
Tobey enjoys some Colostrum. 

I picked up both the kids and Sean led Naomi to an empty, clean kidding stall in the barn. Sean grabbed some fresh hay, grain, and a bucket of fresh water while I helped clean and dry the kids. Naomi kidded twin bucks. They are gorgeous. One is red, like his Momma. We'll name him Jareth. The younger buck is black with a white blaze on his forehead and white saddle across his hind legs. His name is Tobey. They are both Nigerian Dwarf/Lamancha cross. They both have lamancha "elf" ears. :)

After things settled, we gave Bailey a once over. I suggested that we put her into the other empty kidding stall for the night. "I can, but she might not kid for days still. Do you want to keep her confined all that time?" Sean asked. I did think she was close, but Sean was right and I was still tired. I should have gone with my gut.

Chloe was very interested in what was happening on the other side of the wall.

This morning, Sean went out to check on the new baby goats and their Mommas and discovered Bailey had kidded in the night. She had one pure white kid curled up with her. Sean looked around to see if she'd had a twin, which we expected. No kid in any of the doe stalls. He turned to come inside to relay the good news, but then thought, "I better check the buck stall, just in case..." And, there she was. Curled up in a corner, sleeping peacefully. Another tawny kid. They were both dry and cleaned off and the placenta had already passed. Sean took a minute to give them a once-over and check for their gender. Two does! Both Lamancha "cauliflower" eared! Winner! These ladies will stay here on the homestead. We named the pure white lass, Rebecca and her sister is named Tabitha. We'll call them Becca and Tabby.

Bailey is attentive and cleans her kids regularly. This one is Tabby. 
Tabitha: Sanaan/LaMancha Cross.
Where do you keep your extra cute? In your wattles, of course!
 That brings the total to fourteen kids born on the homestead this year; six does and eight bucks. We believe that we have three more does to kid; Leah, Cassie, and Phoebe. I think they are due next month, but goats being goats... who know? ;)
Becca the beautiful. Sanaan/LaMancha Cross.

Tobey~ Nigerian Dwarf/Lamancha Cross 
Jareth~ Nigerian Dwarf/Lamancha Cross
Thanks for visiting tonight, friends. We're glad you did.
~Sean & Sonja ♥