Visitors at the Farm

Presley was feeding the rabbit some celery.
Presley was feeding the rabbit some celery.

While picking up feed today, my cousin, Kodi, called to see if today was a good day for a visit.  Of course, I said yes.  One of the great joys of having a farm is to get to share it with others, especially kids.  I love to hear them giggle and to see their eyes dance.  Each reacts differently to the animals and to the knowledge gained as to where their food come from.  I whole-hardheartedly believe that if you introduce kids to the circle of life early it is just a fact of life.  Emotions have yet to be attached and all animals have not yet fallen into the category of “pet”.  This makes it easier to understand that in order for us to live something must die.  This is a fact that we can not escape- even a vegan kills a carrot to have carrots for dinner.

First, we fed treats to the goats and the heifer, then we held baby chicks, and then went to the big chicken house to collect eggs.  After gathering the eggs, we brought some rabbits inside to play with and feed treats.   One of the kiddos that Kodi brought over just kept asking if we could eat the egg that she got from the hens.   I got so tickled at her and I agreed.  So, then all the kids (6) had to have a turn cracking eggs into the bowl.  Kids are fun!

The Brooder House

Kids are handy, too.  I had an earthworm bin that was ready to be divided.  This involves picking the worms out of the soil contained in the bin and then rebuilding the bins.  For this job, we spread newspaper out on the table and I dumped the contents into the middle and the kids hunted up the earthworms and put them bowls for me.  By the time they did this, I had their eggs cooked.  Everyone ate good- except Luke he doesn’t do eggs.  Then it was time to go.  I had a lot of fun and so did they.  I hope some seeds were planted that will cause them to care about where their food comes from and how it got to them.

Kids on the Farm

The sun has set and it is just about time to go round up the chickens.  I have a batch of hens that prefer to sleep in the hay-feeder and roam all day long.  Usually this is ok, because the dogs keep most predators away. However, I lost another bird last night so all the hens must go to the hen house for awhile.  I know they don’t like it, but it is for their own good.  If I wait till they are asleep, all I have to do is go pick them up and move them.  The hens won’t fly away even though their neighbors keep disappearing- which is the reason they are such easy targets for night time predators.

Chickens are funny creatures, they make us laugh often.  Often times chickens get the bad wrap of being stupid birds, but this is really not true.  They are smart enough to come in out of the rain, it is just that the rain just doesn’t bother them.  As a matter of fact, they probably like looking for worms in the rain since the rain cause the worms to come to the top of the soil.  Now, that doesn’t seem so dumb.  As I went to the coop this evening caring a bag of feed, I thought the chickens were pretty much up for the night.  It was not quiet dark, just dusk.  As I went in the door, I happened to look back towards the hay-feeder and saw several hens jump down and make a bee-line for me.  Apparently they knew what was in the bag.  After filling the 50 lb feeder, I was heading back to the house.  The rooster who hangs out in the coop was chasing one of the hay-feeder roosting hens.  Well, the rooster who sleeps in the hay-feeder with his harem did not like this at all.  He hopped down and began to chase the rooster who was chasing the hen- kind of like follow the leader at break-neck speed.  Like I said, the chickens make me laugh- and they make me eggs!

Farm Fresh Eggs!
Farm Fresh Eggs!

Another cold front is moving in tonight.  With the temperature dropping to 30′ tonight, we might have ice in the morning and possibly some snow.  Thankfully, we won’t have to turn on the heaters in the greenhouse.  The plastic alone adds 5 degrees so it won’t drop below freezing.  It should not get that cold until the weekend.  With the sun shinning, I plan on bumping seedlings then.  Before we know it, January will be over and then only four more weeks of heating the greenhouse.  Once March gets here the danger of the greenhouse dropping below freezing will be over.    I look forward to March, but I am enjoying today.

Digging For Earthworms
Digging For Earthworms
The coop rooster and one of his girls.
The coop rooster and one of his girls.

More Babies!

After a wonderful time at church, we came home to find that Salsa had a baby while we were gone.  What fun!  We love baby animals and goats are about the cutest things.

See, no ears!  She is so sweet.

Salsa is a LaMancha dairy goat.  Her breed has almost no ears- just little nubs.  When mixed with a nubian, the babies will have little nubs with just a bit of ear hanging down.  Just precious.  Not only did we get a cute little black doe with a touch of white on her head, we will get fresh goats milk in about 2 weeks.  I don’t milk, other than to milk out colostrum, for the first 2 weeks.  This gives the mother time to settle in and get the baby off to a good start while allowing all of the colostrum to leave the system.

Colostrum is the first milk that any mother produces, humans included.  This first milk is very thick, like Eagle Brand Milk, and very sweet.  Not only is it sweet, it is very full of antibodies and vitamins that a newborn needs to be strong and healthy.  If a new born baby doesn’t get this colostrum, they usually die.  During the first few hours after being born the cells in a newborn’s stomach and intestine are unusually large which allow the antibodies to pass through directly into the blood stream.  This protects the newborn from disease and illness until their immune system gets going.  So, it is very important that a newborn nurse as soon as possible.  Sometimes things happen and a mother may die or become ill and not be able to nurse her newborn.  This is why I will milk out colostrum and freeze it- just in case I ever need it.  You can buy colostrum in the feed store, but man-made stuff just doesn’t make for a good replacement.

Kidding season is under way!  Right now we have 2 more in early labor down in the barn.  I expect to wake up to babies or at least to babies being born.  It is hard for the kids to go to sleep knowing that such a thing is going on.  This is what makes all the days of feeding and watering and fence repair worth it.

It amazes me how a newborn can sleep!  Sweet baby girl
Jonathan with his goat, Maple.  She is one of the 2 having babies shortly.

The Farm Has Expanded

Minnie Pearl and Lou Lou, my new lambs

Last week some friends gave us a Boer baby that was the smallest of a set of triplets.  She was just a few hours old and very small.  We were so excited.  However, as it happens, she did not make it.  I was very upset.  I knew better, but we hadn’t had a bottle baby in a long time and I was so excited. 

My sweet family began whispering behind my back and making me leave the room so they could talk.  They were making plans to buy me a new bottle baby because I was sad.  So, tonight I was surprised when Tony said we could go get these little lambs if I wanted to.

At first I wasn’t sure.  Painted Desert sheep are not my favorites.  I prefer the “regular” looking sheep or the Jacob Sheep.  When I started with milk goats I choose the breed that I thought was the cutest.  The problem with that was that I choose Saanens which originated in the Alps.  For those of you not familiar with that area of the world- it is very cold there.  This means that these guys are great for snow, but not Texas summers.  After last summer I made the decision to sell the Saanens to folks more north of us and switch to the desert breeds- Nubians and La Manchas.  I am glad I did.  So when pondering the sheep questions, the thought popped into my head “Are we really going to do that again?”.  So, I went with the desert sheep.

These little girls are so cute!  The are furry and warm, very different from goats.  Now, when these girls get big enough we will breed them.  Then lamb will be on the menu at the Farm On Holly’s Hill.  The thought of eating lamb may make some of you squeamish, but you need to understand that lambs that go to the butcher are weighing in at 125 lbs or more.  Lambs are not the little furry cute things you see in the picture books.

But for now, we will simply enjoy bottle feeding these two and watching them play.  You never know, I may decide I like Painted Desert Sheep.  I didn’t think I would like La Mancha goats either, but I love Salsa now!  She is my favorite dairy goat- next to Saphire.  But she is my best milker.  Being breeders, it is ok to get attached, breeders don’t go to the butcher.  The girls are named Minnie Pearl and Lou Lou, after Hee-Haw one of my favorite shows growing up.  The kids love to get those DVDs from Netflix.