One was planned and one was not.
We had planned on butchering our Pekin ducks this weekend and that went according to plan.
Coming back from church and finding our favorite pig with his neck ripped open was not.
I know that there is life and death on a farm, but my heart hurts to think that pig was in pain. He had to have been. He was laying outside the pen, so he must have gotten out. He was in the pen with the other three before church and something happened in the meantime. I'm not even kidding when I say it looked like someone tried to cut off his head from the top down. We looked and looked for a clue as to what happened. Jon blamed Max right away, which I knew he didn't do. I've seen Max with blood on him and there was not a single drop of blood anywhere to be found on him.
We eventually did find a few drops and smears of blood around the females and into the bull pen. My guess is that he got caught on barb wire trying to go under, panicked and ripped his neck open. Jon thinks that a stray dog or coyote got to him. We won't ever know, unless I can get Max to speak human.
Like I said, I know there is life and death on a farm, but seeing an animal in so much pain was difficult. The most difficult part was we only had a shotgun, instead of a .22. Thankfully our neighbor had the gun and my husband was able to put him out of his misery. That helpless feeling was overwhelming at times last night because I COULD NOT MAKE IT BETTER. You may think I'm too attached to a pig, but this guy was special. He was always the first to run up to you for a rub and was just a friendly guy. Next time, if there is a next time, we will be more prepared.
One was planned and one was not.
Baby Calf Dos was born this morning. I saw him as I was headed down the driveway. It's cold, windy and rainy just like it was for Baby Calf Uno (aka Marty aka White Chocolate aka MWC). Of course, it's another bull. Sure hope we can have a few heifers thrown in there... We've decided to hold off on any banding. It's our intent to not castrate at all but if we do, it will be later after we see how the bulls develop.
Let's see if I can correctly post the pictures this time. Keep in mind that I am NOT the photographer in this operation. Which will become evident shortly.
Well we didn't get as much done as we hoped but Jamie's little sister stayed with us, so it's ok. She's a bit of a city girl so it was good for her to experience the joys of country living. And of course we threw in some chores, for good measure.
The first poultry shelter is finished and in operation. We put the Pekin ducks in it, rather than move them back into the "coop" for the night. Which worked out perfectly because my cousin had just finished cleaning the nasty bedding out of the coop and those ducks like to splash and make a mess.
Which brings me to a "soap box moment". My youngest cousin lives nearby and will be a senior in high school next year. He wanted to help on the farm and a gladly agreed. A big part of "sustainable agriculture" is minimizing the money spent on big machinery and expensive equipment. However, in turn, it is often much more labor intensive. I'm not here to debate which is better for a successful farm but I would like to point out how it can benefit rural communities. If a fourth of the farmers in a rural county/area embraced this strategy, there's a good chance it would increase the population by a good 25-50%. A farmer with a thousand acres could easily (I use the term loosely) support 2-5 employees. 20+ would be on the conservative end for more intensive operations (such as large scale produce production). With numbers like that, it wouldn't take long for nearby towns to flourish to past heights of prosperity. As long as everyone wasn't farming the same thing, there would be unseen stability for the community. It's a much healthier population influx, as opposed to one large employer coming into town and then possibly going bankrupt or moving out in 10 years.
(stepping off soap box)
Lawn mowing troubles took up a good part of my weekend AGAIN. But I'll spare you the details. We have a Grazing Conference in Tecumseh Thursday and Friday and we are very excited. The speaker is Greg Judy and he is a very good speaker and quite the expert in Holistic Grazing. I went to Junction City, KS earlier in the year to hear him speak and I look forward to a two-day event to get even more information.
FYI, we will be butchering some 7-8 week old Pekin ducks this weekend. These are the ducks that we have been taking out to a pen to hang out in the grass and sunshine all day, so they are "pastured". What they don't get from the grass and bugs we make up with organic feed that we have made for us, so they are also "organically raised". The carcass weights should be between 4-6 lbs and the price is $5.50 per pound. If anyone would like some, please let one of us know.
We had a visitor stay at the farm overnight on Monday. She goes by the name of 564.
I found a calf hiding in the thickets along the road to the west of our farm. I thought it belonged to our neighbor's to the north so I started heading it that way. Then, as we came to the opening in our fence, it took off on a sprint into our farm. This thing was a furry cannonball! I watched as it went through a three wire electric fence into the bull paddock. Then the yearling bull chased it through another fence and then it went through as double wire gate (And broke one of the wires). It finally stopped when it got to the cows and heifers. Our neighbor came over but it wasn't his and there's really no one else nearby with cattle. We found out that a guy was moving cattle and his trailer had come open and this poor thing had fallen out. Apparently it had been out there for 2-3 days. The guy came over on Tuesday, with two other guys, and the four of us tried to catch the calf. None of us could rope to save our lives and we couldn't catch the little squirt. So he called Bruce Sturdy and Bruce came out later that afternoon hopped on his horse and had the thing roped and in the trailer in about fifteen minutes. Come to find out, Bruce's wife is our landlord's niece!
ANYWAY, without further ado
Our guest liked to tag along with our only calf and his momma.
And a random shot of Open Sky, green grass, a little farm pond and happy cows
You take obnoxious pictures of your husband, pretending like he's going to run into you with a lawn mower...
Whew...that was close!
How does such a little calf get such a big name? Easy, you have a good friend named Marty who also has the most awesome nickname every...White Chocolate. Then the decision of what to name your first bull calf is easy...
I prefer to call him White Chocolate and Jon prefers Marty, but we know who we are both talking about. He is doing so great, running around like a champ. He's also the world's best Hide and Seek player, because I have a hard time finding him sometimes in the tall grass.
Cows are such curious creatures. Before you know it, you are done taking pics of a little calf and WHOA....
There's a cow right behind you checking you out!
Peonies! I can't wait to see what they look like when the bloom. I had three hot pink peonies at home that I just adored.
I love it when things start popping up in spring. Here is a beautiful Iris...
Oh, how I love me some Iris! I caught the bug last year and I dug up and replanted all the Iris in my backyard. There were several clumps that had never bloomed, so I was so anxious to see what color they were. I also found a nasty visitor...Iris Borer. Yuck!
And the last little bits of lilac are fleeting. Oh, how I wish I had some hydrangeas out here...I miss mine from my house in town sooo much. My favorite was my Annabelle hydrangea. I just love how it turns from green to white and then back to green again. I love color in flowers, but my favorite little area was the front of my house, where I had planted only green and white flowers. It was so soothing.
Jon and I are both so excited, because we've been waiting not so patiently for our cows to start calving.
And he is a little cutie! I did say he, because he is a little bull calf. And you can definitely tell he is Shorthorn, especially with that coloring. Jon and I were little nervous nellies trying to decide if he nursed enough. We did see him nurse for about 5-7 mins and then hop around a little which is always a good sign. Jon thinks he missed the birth by 30 minutes, so this little one is brand new! Can't wait for the other cows to have their babies...come on mamas!
It finally happened. I had to break out... the lawnmower...
I kept holding out for hair sheep and goats, mainly because of all the junk/stuff hidden in the tall grass throughout the farm. I'd hate to find something by hitting it with the mower. Alas, the grass has decided not to wait for me to buy sheep so I had to start mowing this week. Unfortunately, between fixing the mower four times and picking up junk and tree branches in the "yard", it has been slow going. Despite all that, I came back ready to go yesterday - I had my hat on, sweet new sunglasses, ipod, hearing protection and long sleeve shirt. Before I got anywhere, the mower broke AGAIN but this time I can't fix it, so I need to find someone to work on it...
Playing with cute puppy dogs...
Taking care of baby chicks, baby ducks, baby turkeys and a few guineas as well...
And taking care of some BIG, noisy ducks...
I know people say that you can't brood ducks, turkeys and chickens all together, but it's worked out great for us! We did lose a couple turkeys when we first got them, but they are notoriously hard to raise. So far, everyone gets along great. Although I did see one little Bourbon Red poult pecking on an Indian Runner duck who finally got tired of it. So, he turned around and whacked the crap out of the little poult with his beak. It was pretty funny...
I just spoke with the owner of Jag Wireless and he said we should have 5 Mbps of broadband internet in a week! It's "Line of Sight" so we have to be able to see the antenna/dish from our house. We're on a high spot but the closest tower is down on the other side of a hill about 7 miles away. But all we had to do was tell them that we were interested and they said they would get a repeater tower put up for us. It's HALF THE PRICE of satellite and should be much more dependable. So I was very excited to find these guys. Work has been rough with our mobile broadband, I tested the speed on Friday and I was running at .08 Mbps...
Well, we had our interview with NET yesterday. I can't say that I've been on camera like that before so, needless to say, I felt pretty silly. As soon as it was over I was wishing we could rewind and do it all over again. I didn't even think about the fact that I should be looking into the camera and there were so many things I wanted to say but didn't. Oh well, they have hours and hours of interviews that will be cut down to 30 minutes, so I'm hopeful that they can pick out a couple minutes that make us look/sound good.
The documentary is about local foods in and around Nebraska. They asked us to interview because they wanted someone who was just getting started. We talked to the producer about coming back to follow our progress, so we'll see.
Farm updates - I fixed the tiller yesterday and (shallow) tilled up a small area. Jamie said we need to shallow till and then pull the weeds out before we do the deeper tilling. Beats me, I'm just the farm hand... Tried to move the pigs to a different pen so they could graze but they decided they didn't want to. I thought I could coax them with food but I was wrong. They weren't in a hurry to run off but they definitely weren't in a hurry to go where I wanted them to. After 20 minutes, I finally called for reinforcements and Jamie helped me get them back in.
I just saw that dang groundhog again!!! I took him about three miles away and dropped him off at an abandoned farmstead. But here he is! I know it's the same one because he was running straight towards the house. I ran downstairs as fast as I could, to head him off, and he turned and ran. I engaged in pursuit with my K9 partner but the culprit escaped. Max is continuing to canvas the area. Meanwhile, I've attempted to interview witnesses but they are refusing to cooperate. They are too busy eating and drinking (and quacking).
That's what I get for trying to be nice. Well, (as the song goes) no more Mr. Nice Guy.
The weather looks like it's finally going to stay warmer. It shouldn't be long before we start complaining how hot it is.
We have started turning our attention to more permanent solutions on the farm. We are still very much in "survival mode", fixing things as they come up. But we are at the point where we are moving towards more long term solutions, in particular, with the animals. The poultry are growing quickly and we are running out of space. The Pekin ducks are about a month old and need to be outside. We have debated whether to give them free range and to bring them in at night or to try the "pastured poultry" approach. We've decided to try the pasture approach and will be building movable shelters/tractors for the Pekin ducks. That will allow them be outside eating grass and bugs as they please while providing protection from predators and weather. We will probably do the same with the turkeys and possibly some of the chickens. It's the more labor intensive option but we think it makes sense. The egg laying chickens and ducks will likely be free range around the farm during the day and cooped up at night to keep them safe. If we encounter problems with this scenario, we will go to an egg mobile (a hen house on wheels) with portable poultry netting.
The garden has been on the back burner, a bit, but Jamie has been diligently growing her seedlings and we hope to have them in the ground this week. There was a large garden here previously and we have asparagus growing like crazy. We were told there are 400 crowns of asparagus and I believe it...
We let our ducks outside to roam this weekend for the first time. And they had a blast. They were a little hesitant at first, but dove right in eating dirt and grass. And like I said, they are going through puberty. I about fell on the floor laughing the first time I heard them. So, let me explain, when ducks are little they peep just like baby chicks. I was surprised by that, because I always assumed ducks quacked since they were born. These ducks are about three weeks old and I just noticed last week that their voices are changing. Instead of a cute "peep-peep", its more like a broken bicycle horn. I wish I could imitate it for everyone, because it just cracks me up!
I took a video of them getting let outside for the first time and you might be able to hear them with their voices cracking. But you will also get to see what happens when one of the ducks gets his foot caught and his owner panics...