Two more doelings! I could hardly believe it, had to keep checking at first! Esmie did great for a morning time labor and delivery, with only a little assistance. She is being a wonderful attentive Mom, too. The girls are sturdy within only a short time from birth, and so adorable with gorgeous coloring and looong floppy ears!
These girls are so cute and playful! They still need a new home! Seegersong is giving them a lot of her nice creamy milk but now I am getting some too, and made my first cheese of the year: delicious fresh feta.
On March 29th Seegersong had two doelings, long legged girls with black coats plus a little roan, lovely ears, and gentle bleats. Seegersong is being an excellent Mother this year.
I wish I had more time to blog!
It's early yet, and the garden has not even been planted so I don't know what will flourish and what will not….will my bees all die or will my resistant-to-mites colony manage to pull through this wet wet winter and be able to replicate? Will the young fruit trees bloom and be pollinated and give me some of their first crops? I'm in suspense as the Spring approaches. The does are swelling round their bellies with anticipation, growing kids hidden within.
What is in abundance now, known and in hand, is wool! I have been almost feverishly spinning and knitting and here is one result, shown on my son Brendan:
Click on the picture to see more pictures!
Who wants to see only the pretty stuff? This Fall I have experienced the repercussions of producing more than one person can handle, despite some wonderful help from my Fall intern, Kylie. She has helped me keep up on making sure the sheep and goat's hooves are trimmed beautifully and their barn cleaned nicely. However, in the garden the growing season never really stopped with the warm wonderfully wet weather. It just brought more green growth, and SLUGS of course. I am eternally behind! I cleared out beds of tomato plants even as they had many more ripening on them: I had freezers full of dried tomatoes and sauce and simply had had enough!
I grew sweet potatoes for my first time in Oregon. I had some idea that you can leave them in the ground till the first frost, so I just let them be and no frost, no frost, no frost….in the meantime I am busy with all my projects and starting into the fall routines of spinning and spinning and spinning (and knitting). Finally I dug them, knowing waiting till the frost was not wise as its just rain rain rain….here's what I got. All crusty, cracked from all the rain, and chewed on too! I thought it was funny, though a little disappointing, too. Surprisingly, they are nice inside and tasty, too, if you are brave enough to cut into one!
The Summer is starting to turn towards Fall, but still no rain. It has been a long dry season, and the spring that flowed all last year despite a very hot dry season last Summer too, has stopped. This is scary. The 7600 gallons of rainwater in our barrels was used up on irrigation long ago. Now I am irrigating with well water, which I worry about getting low.
The big (huge) project this Summer was putting in an extensive drip irrigation system throughout all the gardens and orchard. It uses rainwater barrels and gravity until they run out, then is easily switched to the well water. This project was made possible by Darby, Shady Grove's Summer intern. She did a marvelous job researching, designing, and putting into place this immense water and time saver. Now I just hope our water hold out! In the meantime, the produce is coming in and I am looking for more work-for-farm-products helpers to help us eat it all!
The Summer started with little kids and shearing sheep. Now Seegersong's kids are off to their new homes and Esmerelda is almost grown up. The sheep are getting a little wooly again, and have been extremely affectionate ever since shearing, wanting me to rub their chins and behind their ears for as long as I can. I have been getting a lot of burrs off them. Darby got here right before shearing and got to participate, experiencing both us and my friends Debo and Leela shearing Ordu ourselves which took a long time, and having Orwen done by a professional at Debo's in only a few minutes. Their fleeces are beautiful and I am trying to get caught up enough to start spinning them.
On June 2nd, our goat Seegersong had her kids: a doeling and a buckling. Her labor and delivery went smoothly, all in mid-morning hours which was nice for me. Then she didn't seem to know what to do with them, so it took me the rest of the day to get her to accept them and nurse them. I gave them a couple bottle feedings with the colostrum at the beginning. I thought I might have to bottle feed, but they all got the hang of the nursing after a lot of encouragement on my part. I like to have the dam raise the kids though as is clear in my last article, I am learning there are plusses and minuses to each way. One just has to choose which works better for one's own situation. I do find that the kids are as friendly either way as long as they are interacted with frequently even if dam raised.
These little ones are smaller and taking a lot of naps, in comparison to Esmie who seemed older than them at birth, and I will have more pictures of them when they are just a little more grown.
I am also putting up a picture of what my new colony of bees (from a package this spring) were doing yesterday. I don't think they were swarming, they seemed as populous as before in there today when I checked. Yesterday was not that hot but it was sort of muggy (for here) and because of some showers maybe the workers couldn't go forage out far and were just "hanging around"!? Today I took off the entrance reducer and put on a super for honey and left a ventilation hole open in it, so I hope that helps. It is supposed to be in the 90's this weekend, so if they were hot then, they will be more so this weekend.
Farming and crafting naturally and by hand is hard work, fraught with failure, unexpected expenses and loss. Some days I feel discouraged and spent. But nature has her ways of bringing me around and once my mind has been rearranged off the productivity track and onto the gratitude track, there is still hard work, there are challenges that I learn from, and there is bounty beyond that.
I came to this rearrangement of my attitude through my teacher Bessie, this time around. I was all focussed on her milk production, how much I could get from her, and was weaning Esmie. Having them separate was causing upheaval because the herd had to be divided, and my place and my herd are both small. Esmie was happy enough, grazing with Seegersong each day, but Bessie was having a practically unending temper tantrum. Days went by. The agitation continued. I asked advice from a goat group on Facebook, and was given the news that they never will forget or stop wanting to nurse on Mom as long as she is in milk. I want to keep both goats, so what to do? I read fiasco farm web page and learned something revolutionary to my thinking: never wean, just separate for the night and milk once a day in the morning! Lose some milk but gain very robust kids, happiness and peace on the farm, and greater freedom and less work! I am doing this now and am less focused on the production. And what do you know? I am still getting a lot of milk! Bessie is giving me over 6 cups each morning, more than I was getting from one milking before (yes less than from 2 milkings but not by half.). Let go, mother nature says.
Other times, I learn the amazing results of taking control. Finally we clipped the Black Andalusians (the minions) wings! Tom ( I was holding) clipped expertly as if he's done it all his life. His Dr. training proves to come in handy on the farm for many procedures. Finally they are not driving me crazy flying over the fences, screaming and squawking everywhere and scratching up seedlings till I chase them out again! I couldn't understand why we didn't do it earlier.
Was born to Bessie March 21, close to midnight. I was going down to check as I knew Bessie was getting close, and heard Esmie yelling as I went down the path. I got down there and took it all in with a quick sweep of my lantern light: There was Bessie delivering her placenta and looking at her kid that was behind a gate: she had already creeped behind the kidding pen door, which I had left open as I hadn't confined Bessie yet; and there, in the kidding pen was a dark wet flat on the ground form. I quickly freed the doeling, who Bessie attended to with motherly gruntings, and went to the form on the straw, towels pulled quickly from my kidding bag. It was a very weak, wet, cold kid. I toweled him vigorously and tried to get Bessie interested in him and tried to squirt her colostrum in his mouth. Anyway, the rest was a long night. Bessie totally gave up on him, and despite Tom and I warming him, tube feeding him, etc, she was right: he was somehow compromised, it looked like not fully developed with his narrow rib cage, etc. He couldn't get up by himself. After the night, day and next night of 2-hour feedings and ending up bringing him into the house, he died. I think Bessie somehow knew he would and that's why she didn't accept him. She was not upset, that way, when he disappeared. I had done my best to stay detached but by the time I'd bottle fed him and got up all night I was sad to have him go. May he become part of all the life that exists on the farm , I said as I buried him in the orchard.
In the meantime, Esmie is just bouncing all over and is the cutest little kid ever! I don't know how I will part with her when it comes time to sell her! (but I will manage.) She seems to take after Bessie in form which is so great. Bessie is just pumping out the milk. After the buckling died, I am having to keep milking her some, she has so much. And, Esmie only drinks from one side, so I get the other. Yum! The most delicious goat's milk ever! Soon, yogurt! ice cream! cheese!
Or, one person's definition of permaculture.
Permaculture seems to be loosely defined as a system of agriculture in which the various aspects involved support one another to produce in a symbiotic manner that can last for a long while. I have discovered that the philosophy includes, for me, a flexible and creative mindset in which, when I encounter a problem, I don't fight the natural inclinations of the organisms I work with, but instead find solutions that go along with the nature of each critter or plant or landscape involved.
The chickens gave me such a problem over the last several weeks. Some of my Black Andalusians have been insisting on getting into the barn (even when I closed gates and doors) even if it required flying into the window, in order to lay their eggs in the manger. This caused problems at feeding times as sometimes these same hens would peck the noses of my hungry ruminants. I spent a long while chasing them out and trying to keep them in their smaller yard around their coop, but to no avail. Then my permaculture philosophy kicked in! I built them a nesting tray above the manger, with a sheet attached to cover the hay area for the animals. Even as I was putting up the side rail a chicken came in and started laying an egg!
Last weekend my friend and I took off at 5 in the morning to make the dark and rainy drive down to near Roseburg where we took a day-long class called lambing school. Sorry I took no pictures. The facility for the class was a huge lambing barn on a sheep ranch with 1300+ head of sheep: Mont Alto Ranch. The managers of this ranch helped teach the class along with extension agent and others. We watched and one class participant assisted in one lambing. There were 2 more lambings that happened while we were there as well but they occurred unnoticed until after lambing. It was fascinating to see such a large operation and to see how it was managed. Pasture management was discussed, and nutrition, and silage use for sheep. I do not have enough animals to use silage as a plastic-wrapped roll needs to be consumed within a few days from the time of opening it to stay fresh.
The experience was valuable as well as interesting. It was helpful to get input from experienced farmers, as well as observe demonstrations of these experienced farmers docking (banding tails so they will fall off), castrating (also by banding), grafting (getting a ewe to take a lamb not born to her), and helping a lamb to get more milk (milking right into the lamb's mouth). I am feeling slightly less nervous about my upcoming kiddings !
Please email me if the comment setting does not allow you to make a comment. I would like feedback! I am wondering if this blog is interesting, and what you might like to know more about (bees? goats? fibers and fleeces? gardening? permaculture? everyday happenings on the farm?). I am also open to discussion and debate on topics I might raise. I will post more if interest is shown. I can farm journal in my blog, or in my notebook where no-one is likely ever to see it but me, when I look up when I started onion seeds last year, etc.
Happy New Year! The new year, about endings and beginnings. New Birth, and Death. Long, dark nights leading to lengthening days.
This Year, I resolve to help liberate our (human's) conversation about death. Let's talk freely about death! Let's embrace death's presence in our lives, and embrace the lives of those who are dead and especially, dying. It makes my heart more full of love and compassion, not less, to celebrate death--yes, celebrate it in all its grief, mystery, loss, and opportunity for life on the other side of the coin: opportunity to appreciate life, to clarify and magnify and prioritize. I'm feeling like it is hard to say these kinds of things for fear of being mistaken for saying I am glad that someone or something died. I am not; I am saying I am glad they lived.
this is a great podcast series I hope you enjoy as much as I do:
Common decisions to folks of the past, decisions that probably took very little deliberation, are often novel considerations to the modern American. The one we recently faced was: what to do when the rooster gets disruptive to the peace and harmony on the farm? I'm trying to be polite about this issue, and sensitive to different approaches, but that just added to the debate in my head that lead me to the inevitable age-old solution: eat him.
This was our first time to kill and consume our farm raised animal, and was not an easy thing for us. Howl was getting aggressive, ostracizing the other rooster, upsetting all of us with his chasing, squawking and overdoing crowing, even disturbing the hens-- some of whom are starting to lay eggs. I sent out an email to the Willamette Women Farmer's Network, to see if anyone was interested in a rooster, but was not surprised by no response. Over a few days when we had heavy rainfall so that the chickens were more cooped up, I could see the situation would escalate. So, we took him out when roosting, as chickens sleep heavily, put him in a cat-carrier for the night, and butchered first thing in the morning. He was plucked,cleaned and like a store-bought bird in the fridge by 6:30 am, not entirely done smoothly. We read how in Raising Chickens for Dummies, but one has to learn by actually doing it.
I grew up eating home-raised meat. I couldn't eat the animals I knew the best, that were my pets. Then I became became vegetarian for many years as I felt uncomfortable with not knowing how my meat was raised, and uncomfortable with knowing that if I knew the animal, if it were my pet, I wouldn't want to eat it. Later I started eating meat again, mostly from sources I think might be a bit more humane and healthful. It feels most honest to eat an animal you are willing to kill.
Anyway, our Christmas eve dinner was delicious, and balance and calm are restored in the barnyard.
My picture isn't the greatest, of this potted conifer I have brought in for our Christmas tree. In real life, it is quite a pretty tree and doesn't even drop needles. After Christmas, it goes back onto my deck to live another year.
Since keeping bees, I have become more aware of the toxins they are exposed to, and the damage this does to the bees. Christmas tree farms use chemicals and they spray them on with helicopters. This causes a lot of "overspray" which gets onto whatever blooming plants are around that the bees are foraging on; here in Oregon, frequently, blackberry. I have learned about some problems beekeepers have near Christmas tree farms. I just think there are better alternatives, and the one I have any control over is having my potted tree year after year. I hope more people consider this option and that the farms are converted to food growing plants--how about hazelnuts?
Several months ago I got the help of Gabe and then Brendan (my sons) to finish fences that the contractor, Rodney, who built the barn and other fences, was no longer available for. We overcame inexperience and ended up with some pretty good fences! Filled with do-it-yourself spirit, I plunged into the next thing on my home-improvement list.
The last couple months Brendan and I have been working on transforming the unfinished garage into a finished workshop. It has been quite an experience, with the level of expertise we started with being minimal. The garage door runners made things especially tricky, as well as the varying distances between each stud and beam. Learning the hard way is sometimes the most gratifying.
The bees love the protein supplement. There are still a few going for the chicken food, but not so many. It hasn't even been 60 degrees and they are coming out in droves for it. Mainly from Dusk, the colony Karessa helped me make. We used bees from mostly Night, and some from Day, and a queen from Heike Williams. The queen was mated in the Coast Range, and her bees seem to be more robust, strong for this climate, and possibly more mite resistant. At the rate they are going, I'd better be looking out for a swarm in early spring, or, preferentially, make an early split! In Day, which is the colony with a lot of dead bees in front frequently, the bees are active up in the top, the Vivaldi board, where I have been feeding them sugar. They didn't seem to be coming out the bottom entrance though I have made sure to keep it unblocked by dead bees. I took out the cork from the top hive box, giving them an upper entrance which will also improve their circulation. Night has a lot of moisture in the Vivaldi box, making the sugar wet. Both had dead bees in the top too. which I cleared out.
Sipping on a glass of mead made from our own bees' honey by Brendan and I helps with looking on the bright side regarding the challenges, and adds to celebrating the triumphs! Bad news first, last week one of the Buff Orphington hens, Sophie, got killed by most likely a hawk. I had been gone for most of the day and in the late afternoon one of the roosters was out cackling away while all the other fowl were in the house early. I got him in and didn't find Sophie till the next morning, in the orchard with a bloody head and not otherwise very damaged looking. I think the roosters may have not let the hawk stay and feast so that is good. And, the chickens seem more cautious since then, often staying near the sheep and goats. The chickens are able to roam most of the property as I have made little openings in the fences for them. I can close them as needed. The funny thing about the openings is, when I first made them Seegersong squeezed through the one into the chicken yard and in the meantime, all the chickens were hanging out in the barn! I reduced the openings after a couple more times of Seegersong being in there. I could hardly believe she could fit, never actually saw her do it, and just imagining how she must have gotten down on her belly and slithered through like a goat-snake makes me laugh.
The old bad news is about one of my bee colonies. There have been a lot, I mean piles, of dead bees hauled out of there, or having crawled out and died, right at the entrance. They look like young bees, as they are still fuzzy and have intact wings. This started a few weeks ago and actually seems not so extreme now. I talked to my mentor, Karessa of Nectar bee Supply, and did a quick inspection on a warmish day, and looks like my one treatment for mites was not enough to prevent the Parasitic Mite Syndrome. The mites carry viruses etc. and the bees get sick. Well, it is not a good time of year for treating more, so I am supporting them with feeding and they will either live or they will die.
Next thing the bees have done is, this morning, when I went to feed and clean at the chicken coop, there were bees all over the chicken feed in the feeder in the coop! I have crumble and they think it is a good protein source! Live and learn. Bees normally get their protein from pollen that they make into bee bread in their combs. When they need more they go for other sources. When they can get out on warmer days in winter they forage, here sometimes on Hazelnut blossoms and other winter blossoms. My hazelnut trees are still babies. I went and got protein from Nectar Bee Supply that I can put outside the hives in a bucket with holes in the sides. I will put it out tomorrow in hopes they will like it more than the chicken food, because the chickens seemed a little afraid of going in their coop in the pouring rain today, hanging out in the barn again instead!
One more scare was Orwen limping. On Sunday Tom saw it when we went to catch him to fix his coat which is still a little big on him (till his wool grows in a little more) and was lop-sided. He held Orwen while I washed and checked and put Hoof-and-heal on. Nothing obvious, no sign of Hoof rot. I did the same the next day, and the next, he was not limping anymore so disaster averted!
Here's the long awaited for good news: Bessie is pregnant! The ultrasound shows "at least twins" and the blood test confirmed the pregnancy! (It was a little early for the ultrasound to be for sure). Who wants an adorable mini nubian goat kid come spring? Irresistible!