Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Deju vu all over again

Three years ago, I saved a runt chick, whom I named Peep.  She lived in my closet for a couple of months, until she got big enough and strong enough to join the flock.  I integrated her gradually, bringing two bigger chicks into a large box in the greenhouse to perch with her a couple of nights.  Chickens, being cannibalistic by nature, will attack a small chick and have her for dinner.  I figured if there were only two larger chicks, they would leave her alone.  It was a good plan.  The three of them did fine for two nights, and then I took all three out to the Moop, which I foolishly had in an open pasture, it being my first experience with having free range chickens.

A week later, a hawk got Peep, along with six other chicks.  I moved the Moop to a secluded area and strung mono-filament fishing line over the pen, which seemed to work until a few months ago, when the hawks got very aggressive and began diving through the line to get at the chickens.  So now their pen is covered with deer netting.  A few chickens escape now and then, but it is into some pretty thick woods, and I haven't found any dead chickens for a couple of weeks.  I hope that problem is solved.

Last Thursday I got 31 new chicks.  They all seemed healthy, although one was a little bit slower than the rest.  Today when I got home from market, it was obvious that this chick was not going to make it if I left her with the others.  They were running over the top of her, and even when I sat her in the the feed trough, where she hungrily pecked at food, I came back five minutes later to find that they had pushed her out, and she was lying splayed out on the floor of the old water trough they are living in.

Peep II is sitting on my lap as I type this.  She is very happy to be in here with me.  If she is like Peep I, she will welcome being held and talked to.  When I am sure she is going to make it, I will get her a mirror so that she bonds with a chick (even one in a mirror) rather than just with people.

It is so good have her snuggled up in my lap, with the hem of my soft cotton turtleneck pushed up around her little body.  She is making soft peeping sounds from time to time.  I find myself comparing it to a cat purring.

Good luck, Peep II.  May you make it through this perilous time.  Now I know not to put chickens where predators can get them.  No more wide open fields for the little guys.  Once they are feathered out, they will go into the big pen with the older chickens, and with deer netting overhead for added protection.  :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Crazy Campines!

Well, the Campines have found a new place to hide their eggs.  There is an old tote filled with twine - as he opens a bale of clover hay to feed the cows, the milker makes an effort to throw the twine into the tote.  Sometimes he makes it.  The tote is about half full of twine.

One of the milkers moved the tote to sit on top of a box with our new power washer in it.  The other night when they brought Sugar Pie into the barn to take care of her, Mike found four eggs in the pile of twine.  So I have been checking the box daily.  There is an egg or two or three every day.

Today I went out to check the new little chicks and walked over to the box to check for eggs. I don't know who was the most surprised, me or the hen I disturbed!  It is pretty dark in the barn and I didn't even see her.  I reached into the box to search for eggs and hit a bunch of warm feathers - attached to a very indignant chicken!  She went flying out, and I found two nice, warm eggs in the twine. 

The Campines are such funny little chickens.  They just don't like to follow the rules.  Maybe that is why I like them so much.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sad news

Sugar Pie, who is out of Smarty Pants and was born two years ago on the farm, gave birth to her first calf last night.  It was a hard birth.  I called five vets before I could get some help out here.  Mike, his son Thomas (they are milkers), and two neighbors, Eric and Ted, did their best to get the calf out, but it took until the vet got here to turn the calf's head to remove her.

Vet said it might not have made any difference, but perhaps he could have saved the calf if he had gotten here sooner.  The calf did not make it, but Sugar Pie is doing well.

I really liked this vet.  We do need a better backup vet, and I now have him on my list.  Wish I had known about this vet earlier.  Maybe we could have saved the calf, and I know it would have been a lot easier on Sugar Pie if the vet had been here sooner.

Quattro's calf is already sold!

How quickly they go.  Quattro's calf went to a buyer who has been on the wait list for a heifer for two years.  He picked her up last Friday.  I am happy to report that they want her for milk, so she will have a long and happy life.  They have a hobby farm and have goat milk, but wanted to enjoy cow's milk.  In two years, they will have it.  He has a fine calf.  She is so long legged!  All I could think is how easy she will be to milk, with those long legs.  No udder hanging nearly to the ground as she gets older.

I named her Quill.  Have a happy life at your new home, Quill.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quattro did it!

Oh, what a glorious day!

Supposedly my farm is for sale.  The doctor informed me I need to slow down.  So I have been making plans - a smaller farm?  a house on a lake?  a house in town and live like a normal person?

I just can't seem to wrap my mind around any of these. 

This morning, I went out to help the morning milker Luis, just a bit of training, no going out to the pasture.  He is new, and I wanted to show him some tricks for improving production.  His wife Nicki told me that there was a cow about to freshen in the pasture, so while Luis got the milker on Lucy, I went out to check.  Yup, walking on uneven ground, and I am paying for it now.  My knee hurts.  Sigh . . .

Anyway, Quattro is about to freshen.  I would say two days at minimum, maybe even today.  So after milking, Luis and I got her into the nursing pen, filled the tank with water, made sure she had some hay.  She is eating, so I would say the birth is at least a half day off, although Quattro is an old hand at this and may well munch on hay while pushing the calf out!

The weather is fantastic today.  Sunny, and no wind for the first time in days.  I went out to check the chickens, as a few had gotten loose.  They followed me back into the pen, and I made sure the gate was secure this time.  I will have to show Clay how to secure it so they cannot escape.

So I am imagining living in town.  What would I be doing with my time?  I have no idea.  No chickens?  Not getting to watch the birth of another calf?  Not seeing the delight in the shareholders' eyes when they see all of the milk they are getting with a fresh cow? 

I am a farmer at heart.  My main frustration is a lack of time to do such things as travel - I did love my trip to Macedonia last fall.  Maybe there is a way to make this work.  Having an assistant didn't work out well.  She wanted more and more money.  Last year more than 100% of my profit from the farm went to pay her salary (yes, I lost money because of that salary she got), and still she wanted more.  For my time, I was paid nothing. I took money out of my savings to live.  That business model is not sustainable!

I have some new people on board this year, working fewer hours and seeming to get everything done that needs doing.  Maybe this will be the year that things work out. 

I just do not want to leave this place. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My new knee

Knee surgery went very well.  The first two days were a bit rough, but now I'm on day 3, and I can say that I am feeling less pain now than I did before the new knee.

I'm trying to be good and take it easy, but I did a couple of loads of laundry, also cooked a bit, including some GREAT low carb bread.

Well, after doing pretty much nothing all day and taking a three hour nap this afternoon, can you believe, I am ready for bed, and it is only 8:30!!