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 ♥