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.

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/.

Playing Catch-Up

Our little farm family has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few weeks since we moved in. First a donkey, then a couple goats, some more goats, a couple of dogs and now 4 chickens and a rooster. The arrival of each additional animal on the farm has required some mighty fancy footwork to keep them housed properly with a care and maintenance plan in place for each one. Throw in an almost solid week of rain into the mix and we have certainly been playing catch-up! I do believe we are finally settling in with the proper arrangements, but we know there are a few more arrivals not too far around the bend. We should be able to take a short few breaths before we bring in the sheep, but it has definitely been interesting getting to this point.

The chicken tractor itself was much more of a challenge that I had imagined. We were up late Friday night trying to finish it up because we knew our chickens would arrive sometime Saturday. The sun came up and we had already been in the garage putting the final touches on it when the pastor of our prospective new church arrived at our gate with his feathery donation to our cause. To be honest, although he did tell me the breeds I cannot currently remember, but I do know there are 1 hens and one rooster. They went into the chicken tractor as soon as I got it into place and for the next day had to check to see if they were actually still there. Each time I checked, two to four of the hens were all congregated together in one or two nest boxes and the rooster was either in one by himself or hanging out on one of the roosts. They eventually did come down though and are now enjoying the green grass of home as well as all the insects they could want.

As for the goats, they’ve been somewhat of a challenge. We confiscated their living quarters to house the two new Anatolian Shepherd puppies we picked up on Friday and made a temporary pen for the goats. We knew that wouldn’t work long so we got straight to work on a proper pen that we were able to finish this weekend as well. They really seem to like their new abode and I’ve even had to shew the donkey out of it a few times since she seems to now think she is a goat too. Which brings me to the only dilemma of late. It seems that Amelia the goat and Ruth the donkey have become quite the pair and are nearly inseparable. I bring a tray of feed in the evening to get the goats to all come in the barn together, but Amelia has gotten wise to my scheme. She will not go into that barn and will hide right underneath her donkey protector. It has taken quite some coaxing the past few nights to be able to safely separate them and get Amelia into the pen with the rest of her family.

The Goat's New Pen

The Goat’s New Pen

That’s about all for now, and I think it’s quite enough for one weekend! 🙂 Sorry I don’t yet have any pictures of the puppies, but it won’t be long.