farm update: early fall

Pigs

Alexander bought two shoats (weaned piglets) on Memorial Day when they were just a few weeks old. He takes care of their fencing, feeding, and a little back scratching too. He makes sure their water tank is full and that they have shelter. He plans to take them to the processor around Christmas or after the New Year. This is his business now, and he’s doing great with it.


Llama

Larry is almost 6 years old, and he’s so watchful. He’s been our shepherd for over four years, and we have never had coyotes in the barnyard. Even through laming season, we’ve been so grateful for his presence among the sheep. When neighbors walk their dog down the road or ride their horses, he’s always on the alert and lopes to the fence line staring down the passersby.


Sheep

We recently sold five rams and will be looking for a mature ram in the near future. We currently have 14 ewes in the pasture and 4 going to the processor soon. Eva manages the flock. She feeds them morning and evening, keeps their water tank full and clean, and gives them fresh hay bales. Eva also keeps and eye on any pregnant ones. She loves and dreads when lambing season starts. Eva’s really quite astute with the sheep, and we trust her judgement and responsibility.


Chicks!

We have 14 chicks that will be egg layers in a few months. Isabel takes care of the chicks keeping them warm with a heat lamp and safe in the pen in the barn. They eat like there’s no tomorrow, so she fills their feeder often and water too. They’ll join the 17 hens and 2 roosters in the chicken tractor in the next couple of weeks. William takes care of the chickens. He opens the coop at dawn, makes sure they have feed and water, and he closes the coop after dusk. Sometimes he remembers to add straw to the nesting boxes. Isabel and Providence gather eggs daily after lunch. Nora washes the eggs and puts them in egg cartons. When we sell farm fresh, pastured eggs, the profits go to lots of different hands.


Kittens!

Our barn cat Pearl had 5 kittens. They get held all the time. The kittens sit on girls’ laps while they do school, get carried inside warm sweatshirts in the yard, but they do sleep with their mama on the hay. Nora feeds the mama cat and tries to keep the rooster away from her food throughout the day.


Garden

The farm stand went really well this summer. The girls are a little but older and took more responsibility. Isabel and Nora sat at the farm stand speaking to neighbors, meeting their dogs, answering their questions about our farm goods, and giving them their change back. Alexander, Eva, William, Isabel, and Nora had helped to plant the vegetable garden and had weeded it for many weeks, so they earned the profits of the farm stand.

Even though the summer garden has yielded up it’s fruit, several varieties of pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash are still going strong. We harvested the last of our cabbages yesterday and made this delicious stew. The meal was simple and hearty and bread pudding was baking while we ate. The air has been quite crisp in the evenings, so it all felt very much like an Irish night. Hey, a girl can dream.


Raspberries

The variety of raspberries that we have produces in June and in September. This is the largest berry we’ve harvested to date. The bushes are so full everyday! We add raspberries to everything, and this year we finally made raspberry jam.


Honey

William transitioned to being our main beekeeper this late spring, although Nathan sometimes does still gear up with his bee suit and checks on them. This is our first year doing honey comb. It is so delicious in hot tea! Samuel likes it on yogurt while William eats it by the spoonful. It is fine to chew the wax and eat it. It’s also fine to chew it and then spit it : )

I hope you enjoyed hearing all about our recent farm days!

 from our farmhouse kitchen with love, Damaris


fall farm update

New Coop

Nathan and Alexander built a chicken coop with downloaded free online plans. This “chick-shaw” can house 30 chickens, never needs cleaning, and is mobile. The boys move it around every few days so that the manure gets spread out throughout the pasture. William lets the chickens out at sunrise and closes them up after dusk, but, really, they return to the coop when the sun goes down on their own. They free range all over the pasture during the day, and a couple of them like to lay their eggs in the sheep’s hay feeder. I don’t think sheep like eggs, we just have to remember to go get them. We currently have 20 hens and 1 rooster. He’s the nicest rooster ever.


Raspberries

We never thought, but raspberries our more prolific in the fall than even the summer harvest. Our variety produces in June and again in September, but this year, we still have some frozen under the snow.


Pigs

Nibbles turned a year old, and we (along with a few customers) are grateful for full freezers. The children are looking forward to bacon and eggs, and mom has meals planned though the winter. We have a fourth pig still growing which will be a year old in the spring.


Pumpkins

We had a very low harvest for all of our garden vegetables this year except for pie pumpkins. They were lustrous and abundant. It’s so delightful to use them around the house until we’re ready for baking them.


Bees

In the fall, Nathan and William add a reducer to the hive entrance. This prevents other insects like wasps from getting in and stealing the honey. We’re still enjoying raw, unfiltered honey, and we have it for sale too! We see a few bees still visit the few wildflowers that are most cold-resistant.


Sheep

We had three lambs born this fall. A singleton and a set of twins. One of the twins had a hard time within the first 48 hours, so we brought her in the house and bottle fed her. Really, force-fed her. She didn’t want to eat for 2 weeks. This is when Nathan noticed that her knee joint was swollen. He did some research and found that lambs that are rejected by their moms are especially susceptible to an infection. Alexander gave her a shot of penicillin for 10 days, and although she’s quite small, she is back in the pasture with the flock and just started eating sweet supplemental grain this week.


Llama

Larry has been the best shepherd for our sheep! We have never had any incident with losing even a lamb to predators. Each time there’s someone going on a walk with their dog or a neighbor riding a horse down our road, he races to the fence and watches. Larry lives with the sheep in the pasture and is always with them.

Fall is quieter than summer. We’re happy to have enough hay till the spring and all the animals buttoned up for the cold weather.

Until next time!

 from our farmhouse kitchen with love, Damaris


Farm Update: Early Summer

A Swarm Of Bees In May is worth a load of hay...

We moved the hives to a different location closer to the orchard and in the shadow of huge pines trees. Nathan and William have been checking on the new bees to make sure they’ve been settling in and making themselves at home. No stings yet!

A was an Apple pie; B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it

Nathan and the boys planted eleven new apple trees this spring. We love that they’re mostly heritage apples which one can’t find in the grocery store. The happy little trees are Harrison, Orleans, GoldRush, Early Fiji, Cox’s Orange Pippen, and Russet. Even though it will be a few years until harvest, the kids are putting in their orders for pies and crisps!

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The sheep are very low maintenance during the warmer months when the pasture is thick with nutritious grasses. Harry is our ram, and the four ewes stay pretty close to him. We expect that two ewes are pregnant and due in August! Larry, the llama, still keeps guard, but Harry has mostly taken over moving the sheep around the pasture.

This Little Piggy…

We’re discovering that Holly has a temper sometimes. When she’s annoyed at the flies, she squeals lets out a loud grunt. Holly gets so excited when one of the kids is coming near and when Nathan pulls up the drive way. She’d been in a temporary pen, but just a couple of wees ago moved onto a bigger and better abode. She shares pasture with the sheep and the llama, and they don’t seem to care. You already heard that we added little Rosie who follows Holly around.

More news about the pigs: We are borrowing a boar (a mature male pig) from a nearby farm in hopes to have piglets in early September. The boar has made himself at home, for he insists on eating first. He also tilts the water trough enough to make puddles and cool off in the mud.

There was an old woman, Went blackberry picking…

The raspberries have been unkempt and overgrown, and finally this spring, Nathan tilled a larger plot and has been transplanting them with the boys. It’s a larger raspberry patch now and has room for growth.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

We planted the garden in May which seems late to other hardier zones, but not much earlier than that we still have nights below freezing. We have become used to this rhythm, and it works well for us because around that time, we are finishing the longer schooldays. Also, waiting till May allows for less careful watch over the seedlings. We plant everything at once, even the hardier varieties that would stand lower temperatures. This simplifies the process for us, and we still enjoy a hard day in the soil with as many hands as are available to help. This year, Nathan’s Dad shared his insight and labor all afternoon. It made a huge difference in how much we were able to get planted!

I’m enjoying putting a blog post together about vegetable and herb gardening. It will be ready soon!

with love. Damaris


Meet Larry

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed a new addition to our farm. Meet Larry the Llama!

For Nathan and the boys, his name was a no-brainer. Eva and I suggested Lawrence, though, isn’t that far more sophisticated? But I realize that’s not what we’re going for here, so – Larry it is!

To be honest, Nathan and I both have always thought llamas to be…well…ugly. We didn’t know the difference between alpacas and llamas, and we thought, frankly they just look like bug-eyed, goofy-haired, skinny camels. Well, turns out llamas are in the camelid family and cousins to the smaller alpacas, which are bred for the finer fibers in their fleece. Llamas are a domesticated animal native of the Andes Mountains of Peru. They can pack (carry) 30% of their body weight, are very hardy, and surprisingly low-maintenance.

Our Larry is quirky and independent. He’s attentive to our small flock of sheep and in constant alertness. He seems to be happy and at home grazing out in the pasture.

So…why a llama?? Ever since we’ve had sheep, we couldn’t leave them in the pasture over night due to coyote predators. Eva would let them out of the barn in the morning, and Nathan would put them in at night. This was not what we wanted for the long-term. It’s unnecessary work (who needs that?!) and unnecessary cost (ditto!) in feed and bedding. The way to fix the problem is get the sheep a babysitter…err guardian.

We considered several options for guardian animals. We narrowed it down to a dog or a llama. The down side of using a dog is that it would need dog food fed separate from the sheep, whereas llamas eat the grass/hay just the same as sheep. Also, while certain breeds of dogs can make great livestock guardians, they can be noisy during the night. So there you have it, process of elimination is effective in decision making- ha!

Timing was key – Nathan had an out-of-state work conference coming up, and we wanted to go with him to make it a family trip. Just in the eleventh hour, Nathan found a young male llama a half-hour away ready to join our farm! We tried to coordinate a delivery, but Nathan ended up renting a U-Haul trailer and picking up the llama after work. We introduced him to the sheep three days before our trip! We didn’t even know how he and the sheep would get along, but it went really smoothly, considering.

Now that Larry the llama has been here a few weeks, he really is a great guard animal and a wonderful addition to our farm! He’s bonded well with his little flock…now to bond with us…eek! More to come, I’m sure!

with love. Damaris