Winter’s End and the Coming Spring of 2017

Dear readers, we’re very sorry to leave you hanging for so long since our last update, but rest assured, there’s been much going on around the farm.

Plus Three Minus One

We made it through our first lambing/kidding season with three new babies, two lambs and one kid, all boys! It has been entertaining to watch the youngsters bound around the open field and their mommas all have done a great job in raising them so far.

Unfortunately we did suffer the loss of one of our male goats a few weeks ago. We came home late one night and went to bring all the animals in, but Lewis didn’t come home. I got everyone else situated and went looking for him. I found him laying on his side in the pasture in convulsions and not really responsive at all. We put him in a quarantine pen for the night and tried to get him to eat or drink, but except for breathing and a heart beat it seemed there was no hope. The following morning poor Mr. Lewis died.

We assume he suffered from some sort of parasite or worms even though we had the animals on a worming program. His death set us into motion to step up a more aggressive worming plan with the other animals and so far everyone else is still healthy.

Garden

We managed to fence in a 50×30 area for a garden and began planting some over-winter plants. Now that the weather is warming we have begun the process of Spring planting. We’ve planted many different varieties of plants in order to determine what works best in our location. Our current planting list includes:

Artichoke Beans (bush and pole)
Beets Bell Peppers
Blackberry Blueberry
Carrots Cauliflower
Corn Grape
Jalapeno Peppers Kale
Potatoes Raspberry
Squash

We’ve also planted several varieties of flowers to help with pollination, pest control, and ground conditioning. One thing is pretty evident in this experience and that is making this garden work is going to take quite some effort. The ground we’ve been preparing was covered in weeds, Bermuda grass, and other grasses. These ground covers have been so persistent that whether trying to cover the ground with cardboard (in some areas) or completely tilling other areas, the grass comes back almost overnight.

We bought a wood chipper to make use of the vast amount of fallen trees and limbs in our woods. Hopefully soon we’ll have enough mulch to begin to fight the grass into submission throughout our garden.

Equipment

As mentioned, we added a chipper/shredder to our equipment inventory and look forward to the opportunities it represents. Our tractor has died again and we’re considering taking it in to a real mechanic as my engine skills have reached their limit with whatever problem this MF205 might have. We are considering the possibility of even selling this tractor off for scrap, depending upon the cost of repair, and purchasing a better and more reliable workhorse. Either option represents a considerable expense we have been hoping to avoid, but such is the farming life.

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A Sunday Afternoon Surprise, Our First Lamb

Not much was getting done around the farm while the temperatures dipped below 20 degrees. On Sunday the thermometer finally pushed upwards and when it hit about 45 I decided it was time to get to work on the garden. With tiller in hand I set to work preparing the bed. Sometime later I heard Ruth the Donkey making a ruckus so I looked in her direction and didn’t see anything spectacular (boy did I miss it!). I figured they may just be low on water and I’d be down there soon to take care of it anyway so I kept on digging.

When I was done I packed up the tiller, filled up the animal dishes and headed for the barn. We went through our usual routine, with one exception. One of the sheep didn’t come running to the barn at feeding time. Strange, but I’d take care of it after everyone was safe and sound.

The time came and I approached said stubborn sheep. Then I noticed something I didn’t quite recognize at first. Suddenly my brain told me what my eyes saw…4 itty bitty legs behind the sheep…she had a lamb!

I turned to our 4 year old and told him to run and get mommy, quick! He looked at me, puzzled, and said, “What?” Okay, so he comes from my bloodline and isn’t very quick to act 🙂  I went to get her and together we gently got momma and baby into a lambing pen and watched.

It looked like momma had done a great job of cleaning up her baby and the lamb seemed in good shape. It was trying to get milk while momma stood there patiently, but couldn’t latch on. I caught momma up in my arms, leaned her back and my wife trimmed some overgrown wool, cleaned everything up and then checked the milk flow. Nothing was coming out, but she tried a few more times and the blockage cleared, nearly spraying me with a nice flow of milk.

We guided the lamb to momma and it took a nice long drink then let momma up again. This time baby lamb was able to latch on and began drinking.

Since then we’ve watched carefully and everything seems to be going well. I administered the CD&T vaccine (not my favorite chore) and we’re keeping momma well fed and watered. An exciting day on the farm welcoming our very first lamb!

Wanda's First Lamb

Wanda’s First Lamb

Highs and Lows of the 2016 Summer on the Farm

Keeping this blog up to date has been a real challenge with the combination of busy days and having no internet access on the farm as of yet. I’d love to report that we’ve accomplished a ton of monumental successes on the farm this summer, but all I can really say is that we’ve been (almost) keeping up with things.

Since our “petting zoo” has increased and our need to keep back the fast-growing grass we tried to let the animals out of their fenced pastures and graze our backyard. We met with a mixed result in that they did help keep the grass down, but their curious nature caused some damage to some of our household things on the front and back porch. We’ve decided that until we can fence off “our” space, the animals will just have to stay in their pastures.

What this means is a little more work on our part to keep the grass around the house mowed. This wouldn’t be so much of a stretch, but unfortunately within the past month both our riding lawn mower and our tractor have decided it is time for them to take a break. I’m pretty sure we can get the lawn mower back in commission soon, but the tractor is another issue entirely.

I haven’t had time to tear down the engine, but I’m pretty sure it is a substantial failure. As I was cutting grass the other day, the tractor just shut off with no indication of trouble. When I tried to restart it a steady stream of black, oily water poured out from the drain hole at the base of the exhaust pipe. I replaced the head gasket back a few months ago to fix water entering the engine, but I think from the volume of water now that there’s a far worse failure internally. Time will tell. If you’re good at working on tractors and want to give me a hand, I’d certainly welcome the help as the old diesel in our Massey isn’t familiar to me at all. There isn’t much to the simple 20HP engine, but I’m simply learning on-the-go. Of course donations for a new tractor would be even better hahahaha!

Aside from the hardships, some things have been going well. Our 4 chickens now seem to be in full gear providing us with 4 fresh, tasty eggs each and every day with few exceptions. We also had a great visit from an experienced shepherd who showed us how to catch, halter and take care of our sheep. Before I saw her grab and subdue one of our ewes I wasn’t sure it was possible because they are so strong and wild. Now that I have seen what to do I have so far been able to catch and halter one of the ewes as well as our ram. That is really going to help us take even better care of our little flock.

The goats are much friendlier and are relatively easy to manage and, according to our experienced shepherd, one of the does appears to be pregnant. Sooo…it is time to add a few more small pens to the barn in order to have space to start welcoming our zoo babies!

Here are a few pictures of our summer adventures (which can also be seen on our FaceBook page at: https://www.facebook.com/whirldworksfarm/.

Spring on the homestead

Spring on the new homestead has been a very busy time trying to establish both the home and the farm. Much of the outdoor work over the past month has been hurried between rain storms and a busy calendar of activities. The rain has been mostly welcome at our place as we have not experienced the flooding of other areas. So far the only inconvenience has been the inability to cut the grass and make hay because the ground remains so soft. On the other hand, the ground that was so hard-baked last year and nearly impossible to dig has been a delight for me in my unending chore of putting up fences. Speaking of which, for the past few months my only option for pulling the fence tight was to attach the end to my tractor and pull forward slowly being careful not to pull the poles out of the soft earth. A couple weeks ago I finally gave in and bought myself a fence puller and am so very glad I did. The result is far more satisfactory.

Fence puller

 

 

 

 

Much of this fencing has been put up in preparation for the newest members of our farm family. I had (nearly) finished this task this past Sunday evening and was a bit frustrated because I knew our sheep would arrive the next day. Monday arrived and we headed out on our Texas hill country adventure. We took a short detour at the LBJ Ranch and enjoyed a short walk to the living history farm. It’s interesting how different the experience is now that we are trying to actually emulate some of the things they demonstrate.

Once we loaded back up in the truck we soon left the main highway and traveled deeper into the beautiful hills. We entered through the ranch gate and drove a few miles along dirt roads that wound through the hills and down through crystal clear water crossings. When we arrived at the rancher’s home I was in awe of the beautiful spot. The home is nestled in a small valley between two tall hills and a picture-perfect creek flowed just below the home and barns. Angora sheep gracefully bounded along the hillside above us. We were met by the wonderful owners who are the third generation to live on this true slice of heaven.

We were treated to a cold glass of ice-tea inside the cozy home and enjoyed getting to know the rancher and his family as well as some of the history of their operation and livestock. We felt we could have spent hours with them and enjoy every minute, but it was getting late and knew we had a more than three hour drive home so we headed out to meet our sheep.

The rancher rounded them up and gave us some great pointers then we loaded them up in the trailer and headed for home. As we crested a small hill and drove around a corner progress came to a stop because a large cow stood in the middle of the road. We noticed that we were now between her and her calf and she wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. We just sat there patiently until she decided to go back to her calf and made our way back to the highway.

Darkness came quickly as we drove home, but as we finally reached the street-lights of our hometown one of the trailer tires blew out. It was frustrating to be so close to home to deal with a flat tire, but it was a blessing that the tire had waited until we were back in civilization to give out. We pulled into a gas station and a friendly resident of our new town graciously offered his help. Before long we were back on the road and very relieved to enter through our own gate.

It was quite late so we weren’t able to spend much time welcoming the sheep to their new home. I backed the trailer up to the barn and unloaded them into their pen. We made sure they had what they needed for the night and hurried ourselves to our own beds.