Was fun to find old shutters, doors and windows in the barn.
We went on a field trip today to Brightwood Farm. Susan and Dean were so inspiring. They, too, were suburbanites before starting their farm 13 years ago. First, Susan showed us the veggies growing in their greenhouses. They have a winter CSA which I think is super smart. I don’t even know of anyone around my area who does a CSA in the winter. They are all in the summer. They also sell their farm bounty at the Charlottesville Farmers Market.
Then we took a look at the Tunis ewes who were born last year. They didn’t let us get close to them – all together keeping their distance in a mass of reddish wool. We also saw the chickens and goats. The buck was getting amorous with one of the does. She wanted nothing to do with him. I could see why. She and the other does had just given birth two weeks ago. The paddock was full of little goats. They were adorable. Next, we headed over to the other paddock to see the older ewes and the ram. The ram was on loan from another farm. They keep him for about six weeks and I think they said their lambs would be born in May. They don’t breed their ewes in the first year because they say it compromises their health. That is why the young ewes were in a separate paddock while Joe, the Tunis ram, was in residence. Susan and Dean showed us how to trim the hooves of on one of the ewes and with their coaching I gave it a go. A new skill learned!
Susan conducted a wine tasting for us with their elderberry, elderberry flower, grape, blackberry and peach wines. They were delicious and we took home three bottles to serve next month when we host the (h)OUR Economy potluck.
By this time it was feeding time for the bottle goats. While Susan held the little goats, Dave helped them drink from the bottle. They were still learning. Hope they all thrive. They really were just too cute. I believe Susan said they were Spanish goats.
No pictures in this post. I thought about taking my camera but didn’t want the distraction.
Here are some links Susan and Dean gave us-
Virginia Associate of Biological Farming – vabf.org
Fencing supplies from Premier 1 – premier1supplies.com
ATTRA sustainable agriculture – attra.ncat.org
These are our Katahdin lambs. No, they are not goats despite people, including ourselves, mistakenly calling them so. They were a test to see if we could keep sheep alive. And we did for about 7 months. The plan was that they would become dinner in the spring. However, they are neutered males and they started harassing the ducks a couple weeks ago so they met their maker today. Yesterday, they were picked up by our friend, Joe, a meat processor. I got up early and spent some time reflecting. I let Caesar and Czar (names given to them by the people we got them from) out of the barn so they could headbutt each other in the pasture one last time. They are not processed the day they travel because it is stressful for them so today was the day. I thought this was going to bother me more than it has. I imagine if we ever raise lambs from birth it will be harder. In Hit by a Farm by Catherine Friend she talks about taking their first lambs to slaughter and it taking a few months before she could eat their meat. She finally squared it with herself by thinking of it as – I took care of you, now you take care of me. I believe, too, that she was the one who said saying grace before eating took on a whole new meaning when she started raising the food she ate.
It snowed lightly today and stayed cold so evidence of duck and cat activity was preserved under the pine trees. The duck prints look bigger and the cat prints look smaller that I would have expected.
Eartha is Smokey’s sister. She is a long haired tortoiseshell. Her fur looks so much more vibrant in person. She doesn’t like being picked up but will let select people stroke her. You know you’ve been selected when she circles you and meows. She’ll jump up and move around so you stroke her just where she wants it. Typically purring the whole time.
We say she is the perfect Halloween cat because she is black and orange (and every color in between) and is a scaredy cat. Much more likely to dart away than the other cats.
Here are our two Silver Appleyard drakes. The one in the bottom photo is the alpha drake. He gets to have sex with the ducks. The one in the top photo seems to be the guard. When ever there is a threat, real or imagined, he is the one most likely to attack or fall back as a decoy.
Len, the beagle, is being chased off by the guard. He’s quite good at it.
Walking away in victory.
My sisters dog really was going after the ducks and it was interesting to watch the guard separate himself from the flock, draw attention to himself and seemed ready to take the fall. Fortunately, we got the dog by his collar and averted disaster.
Here are two of the ducks. I have a hard time telling them apart. There seems to be an alpha and then there is one that always seems to straggle behind.
Here is the duck house made by my husband and daughter. This photo was taken almost a week ago. It was time to clean out the house. I’m not on an exact schedule – it really depends on how dirty it is – one week I’ll just add pine flakes and the next I’ll remove it all, add it to the compost, let the duck house dry out and add a new layer of pine flakes about 4 inches thick. Now that they are full grown and they spend more time in the house with longer nights the poo accumulates more and I clean it more than in the summer. However, we are having an extreme cold snap here now – temps below freezing even in the daytime – so today I just scooped up the poo and left the pine flakes behind. I guess the poo froze before it had time to get smashed into the pine flakes.
The ducks aren’t very fastidious with their eggs. Sometimes they are on the cleaner end of the duck house but often they are right in the middle of messy poo. I was just cleaning them off with water and recently found that my Dr. Bronners Pure-Castile soap does a good, quick job of cleaning the eggs.
This is the first egg we got from our ducks. They started laying in early October when they were five months old. We have four females and there was one day when we got four eggs. That number dropped off and during the weeks of very short daylight we only got one egg a day. The past two days we’ve gotten two eggs each day so it looks like they are increasing production.
The Silver Appleyards are good foragers. They spent the summer in our backyard and what we call the barn garden. It is the fenced in area between the backyard of the house and the barnyard.
We have one of those black plastic ponds that they loved to swim in. We kept trying to get them to go out in to the pasture but they wanted to be where I guess they felt safe. Finally, they ventured out to the pasture and sometime in September they waddled down to the creek. Soon, every morning they left the backyard and headed off to the water and we wouldn’t see them until late in the afternoon. I don’t remember now how we discovered they were getting under the fence and heading to our neighbors pond. Boy, had they found paradise!
Here they are headed to the fence and freedom. At first I was very nervous about predators. They seemed so happy though when they found a virgin part of the pasture full of bugs or when they were in the creek billing the banks for food that I decided I’d rather they live a short life happy than a long one penned up. Plus, we wanted them getting most of their food from nature rather than the chicken feed we give them. There were a couple of weeks in the late summer/early fall when they weren’t eating any of the chicken feed. That was cool. I feel very lucky that nothing has happened to them – I was sure by now we would have lost at least one of them. My opinion of their foraging may change if anything happens to them. We still have a lot of winter to go and our neighbor says that is when the coyotes come around.
Soon after we moved in we acquired six Silver Appleyard ducklings. We found a woman on Craigslist who was expecting a shipment of ducklings from Holderread Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center. They have a minimum – something like 25 – so the ducklings stay warm and have a better chance of survival. She didn’t want so many so she sold some to us. I think we brought them home on May 1st when they were just two days old. We traveled about two hours to get these silly ducks but they are on The Livestock Conservancy’s critical list and getting a heritage breed appealed to us. We had had every intention of starting with chickens until we realized how wet our land was.
They lived in our master bath tub for the first couple of weeks. The tub was unusable to us because of the plumbing so it was a perfect solution. Oh, that’s the water dish they are all standing in!
The EcoGlow20 by Brinsea (quickly delivered via Amazon Prime) did a good job of keeping them warm when they needed it. I don’t remember them needing it very often or for very long. Good to have on hand though.
When the ducks were a few weeks old our daughter made an enclosure for them out of some of our moving boxes and duct tape. It was on our second story porch. They really had room to run in that thing.
Aren’t they cute!
Not many harvest days for us in the winter. I realize now that our carrots were too close together. We have to be more aggressive thinning our seedlings.
Spinach really loves the cold temps.
Good for you food — leg of lamb – seasoned with garlic, rosemary and lemon juice – carrots from the garden and potatoes from the market. Oh, and a small spinach salad.
And then making a broth with the bone–