Monday, May 28, 2012

Have we got milk!

After providing just barely enough milk to meet what we felt would be our average production per share for the first three years, our herd was beset by a problem caused by eating moldy hay.  My complaints to the provider fell on deaf ears, and he insisted his own animals were eating the same hay with no problems.  We had MANY problems, not the least of which was a drop by two-thirds in production.  Thank goodness for loyal shareholders who knew that there were good years to go with the bad.  They stuck with us.

This is a good year.  Our production is so good that we are leaving the calves with their mothers, letting them drink as much as they like.  No measured out gallon feedings morning and night.  Have at it, little ones!  We have more milk than we know what to do with.  In fact, we have been approved for a pet food license, and so some of the excess milk is being packaged for customers who want pet food - certified organic milk from grass fed cows, in glass jars, clearly labeled "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION."  Whatever.

So anyway, if we have milk, we obviously have calves.  No calves, no milk.  We sold the first two, then our two heifers both lost huge bull calves that they just couldn't give birth to without help.  The vet didn't get here in time to save the calves, but both moms are doing fine.

We kept two bull calves.  One will replace Romeo as soon as he is done breeding this year's cows.  He is getting a bit cantankerous, and at a very young age.  I think Earl will be a great replacement, but we will make sure that he has viable sperm before we make our choice.  If it isn't Earl, then it will be Larry.

Essie Mae and Earl - Essie Mae is out of Quattro

Lucky and Larry - Lucky is out of Rosie
 Last week, Blackie gave birth to the most magnificent heifer calf I have ever seen!  She doesn't have a white hair on her body - sleek, black and playful.  She got lost on her first day in the big pasture.  I was frantic, looked everywhere for her.  The next morning, she was still not home.  When Luis, our morning milker, got here, he said he would start at the barn, I would go back out to the pasture from which she had disappeared, and we would work our way to the middle.  He called me on his cell phone, laughing.  She was in the barnyard, behind the old barn!  She must have been making her way back to the nursing pen.

Ebony, just born to Blackie

Ebony and Blackie in the pasture

These are such magnificent animals.  I love them all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Darned chicks . . .

Well, the new not-so-little chicks have been integrated into the bigger flock.  Tina came over to help.  It has become an annual tradition, this moving of the chicks.  While nothing will ever compare with the first year, when we backed the Moop up to the greenhouse where we were keeping them, I crawled into the large box that was their home, and I handed them out one at a time from the bottom of the dark box, it is still a fun evening.

These chicks were not nearly as interesting as the Campines.  Campines SCREAM when handled.  Our method now, after several years of experience, is to put four or five chicks in a tote, put the lid on, walk over to the Moop, crawl into the Moop with the tote and open it up to grab out the chicks and put them on the roost.  All other breed tolerate this move.  Not the Campines!  There is much foot tapping and screaming the whole time we are walking from barn to Moop.

This year, there are no new Campines coming into the flock, so it really was an almost disappointingly calm bunch of chicks that were moved - 30 of them, including Peep II.  All went without incident.  This was Sunday night.

Monday night, Clay and I pulled all but two from under the Moop.  Tuesday night, all 30 of them were miraculously inside the Moop at sundown.

Last night Clay called me to say most were huddled under the Moop again.  I told him to go home, I was exhausted and didn't want to haul them out.  They would be all right there for the night.

He left.

I lay in bed thinking of how much work I had put into them, and one raccoon could destroy them in one night.  I got out of bed, put on old clothes, long sleeved shirt, heavy socks, because I know from experience how dirty a job this is. Twenty-one of the thirty were under the Moop, slightly out of reach.  I went out there and pulled them out one by one, counting as I went.  One felt lighter, and I heard the little plaintive peep peep peep peep PEEP!  Yup, it was Peep.  She immediately calmed down to two peeps as I carried her to the door of the Moop.

It was not how I wanted to end the day, but they are all safely inside.  No raccoon treats last night.

Oh, how I hope they get it right tonight!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another imprinted chick

Last summer, I told the story of the four little chicks that hatched out here and imprinted on me.  I didn't even spend much time with them - they were only in the house about a month, in the atrium.  I spoke to them when I put food and water in their box, but I didn't pick them up.  But imprint they did, and when I took them out with the big chickens, they would come running to me every time I entered the chicken run.  I enjoyed sitting on the back step of the Moop and waiting for them to hop all over me.  They sat on my shoulders.  They sat on my head.  They sat in my lap.  Goldie had a penchant for picking at my eyes, and I had to remember to wear my glasses when I went out there.  I sold one of them, but the other three are still here and let me pick them up, even the Campine rooster, Tiny.  He isn't wild about it, but it is a miracle that I am able to handle him at all.   Campines are skittish to say the least.  Ricky Ricardo is just a big baby and is not happy until we have some cuddling time before he goes to roost.  Goldie is still my buddy, too.

Peep didn't show any signs of imprinting until tonight.  She has been back with the big chicks for several days now, and seems to be doing okay.  But today she went missing.  I was sure a critter had gotten her.  But then I heard her frantic peep from behind a feed bag in a corner.  She had managed to fly out of the big water tank that serves as a home for the chicks.  She led me on a merry chase, but eventually I got her back in the tank.

Tonight I went out to make sure they had food and water for the night, and she was running around outside again.  I leaned over; she ran to me and hopped into my outstretched hands.  Her panicked five-note peeping slowed to two or three peeps as she leaned against my chest.  Yes, she has definitely imprinted.  I have another baby.

I am just so in love with that chick!

We are done planting!

We have planted the last seed in the greenhouse for 2012.  There are flats everywhere.  The pallets on the floor are nearly full.  I'm saving a little room for John's Golden Cayenne plants.  He is coming out to pot them up this afternoon.  I start the seeds for him, and then he pots them up.  It saves him a lot of money, since he plants hundreds of these plants for his special golden cayenne hot sauce. 

Kyle is new in the greenhouse this year.  He has learned fast and did a great job.  Once the garden is up and ready for hoeing and weeding, I will have more work for him. 

Here is the greenhouse in full bloom!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Peep is back with the flock

Peep has been living in the atrium for a couple of days.  She flew out of her box last night and slept under the steps.  I put her back in the box this morning, but it was hopeless.  She spent the day in freedom, running around in the atrium.  It appears that she tried to eat a few leaves from the plants out there as well.

Tonight she was peeping - five peeps.  That as far as I can tell is a sign of agitation.  She wouldn't settle down.  Last night, when the sun went down she got quiet.  I attributed it to the natural light out there, the gradual darkening as the sun went down.

After listening to her distress, I picked her up and took her to the barn.  I put her in with the whole flock.  They didn't pay much attention to her.  No one abused her.  She seemed okay, back down to three peeps.

I just got back in the house from checking to make sure she was okay.  She was settling down for the night, in the heart of the group.  I think she will be okay.  She is small, but she is healthy and sturdy.  She is where she belongs.