Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reflections on my Year and a Half as a Farm Chick

In some ways I look back to when we moved in to our little white house on the bog and think, Has it really only been 18 months since we jumped head first into this adventure?

Then there are the days where I see the stacks of boxes in the basement, and the pictureless walls of our living room and think, Well we did just move in. There hasn't been time to get to ALL of the odds and ends!

In a weird way, both things are true. It has been a year and a half since we started down the build-a-farm-from-scratch path, but it has been an intense 18 months.

We've gone from 13 chickens, down to 5, then back up to an all time high of 40+ chickens (I don't plan on doing that again anytime soon). We started with two "female" bunnies who turned out to be a boy and girl, and whom had litters of babies like clockwork until we were able to get Papa bunny neutered.

We entered the world of livestock ownership with three goats, Spike, Archie & Gertie, and presently have 9 goats with more on the horizon in the near future.

We've crashed and burned hard, in our first year of gardening, but have lived and learned about what we did wrong and hope to build a garden this Spring that will feed us until next Spring.

I've also acquired a few bits of folksy wisdom and farm chick tricks along the way that have borne themselves out as true and useful for me-

*Foxes come out in force at the full moon. If the moon is full and nightfall sneaks up on you before you've had a chance to lock up the chickens, you've all but handed Mr. Fox his supper.

*The groundhog gets it wrong, but the frogs are always right. Phil says 6 more weeks of Winter, but the chorus of Pacific Tree Frogs who call my bog and pasture home say otherwise. This (times about 100) is what it sounds like at my house 3 weeks or so before Spring starts sneaking in.

*Critters escape, pipes burst and tires go flat at the worst possible time, always. And mostly when your hunky farm hand is away on a business trip.

*Goats will NOT eat anything. In fact, they're rather picky eaters. They will mouth just about anything to determine whether or not it is edible, which is probably where they got their unearned reputation as eaters of tin cans.

*To keep your chickens healthy and laying during the Winter months, supplement them with a carbohydrate (cracked corn, grain, day old bread) twice a day; once when you first turn them out in the morning and again right before they roost up for the night. The morning feed gives their body a little burst of calories that keep the eggs coming, the evening feed gives them a belly full of heat-generating carbohydrates that keep them sufficiently warm through the night without needing supplemental heat sources.

*A good pair of muck boots are worth their weight in gold. Spring for quality - they're an investment in your health and comfort!

I'm learning more little bits and pieces every day, and even though this place is still kicking my butt on a daily basis, I have an evolving vision of what it will be someday and that keeps me putting on my old jeans and my holey sweatshirt and getting back out there every day. Chipping away, S-L-O-W-L-Y but surely enough, we'll get there.

The little red shed, probably the closest thing we'll have to a proper barn for a while yet. ;)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Name these babies!

Chardonnay's little girls are three days old, but they still don't have names! So, here's what we've settled on - a naming auction.

Hello, world!

The highest bidder will get to choose the babies names, with 100% of the auction's proceeds going to Heifer International, an organization who's goal is to end hunger and abject poverty by giving families in developing countries livestock to help supplement their diet and family income. (Read more about Heifer's works here.)

This auction will be occurring on this blog, as well as on my personal Facebook page, with regular updates about top bidders and name choices. So get creative and bust out those checkbooks people! FYI - It costs $120 to donate a goat to a family in need, therefore $120+ is our goal! And fear not for these babies' fate. They will either remain with our herd or be sold as milkers to another family. They will, God willing, have a long, productive, happy life as someones family milker. :)

I'll start the bidding at $20 for Snowdrop & Blossom. :) I'll keep the naming auction going through Valentines day. Payment for a winning bid may be made directly to Heifer (on your honor), or to me, which will in turn be sent directly to Heifer (on my honor).

Now - go bananas in the comments! Lets give these happy lassies some great names! :)))

Proud Mama Chardy and her wee ones

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Chardy delivered her babies just about an hour and a half ago now - two beautiful little tiny blue-eyed doelings!

Mama and babies are doing just fine. Chardy, as always was a trouper. She is the easiest birthing Mama ever!

This is the second time Chard has had babies since she came to our little farm, and I have been lucky enough to be present at both births. Not all critters welcome human "helpers" during labor, but Chardonnay not only doesn't seem to mind it, I get the feeling that she waits to go into labor until I'm there with her.

I knew she was going to go soon, though we had no idea when she was bred (oops!) so we couldn't count the days to help narrow down her estimated due date. Yesterday I spent some time "up top" with the ladies. I don't know how else to explain how I knew that she was about to begin labor other than to say that she gave me a sort of vibe that said "Stay close, Mama. I need you."

So I fed her up good last night, and Rex and I went to peek on her late in the evening, with no signs of active labor to be found.

This morning I got up, and thought - I need to get my butt up to the goat house! I dressed, grabbed an old towel, my birthing kit, camera, phone and a bag of hot dog buns.

When I first got up there, things seemed completely normal. I fed the girls the bread, giving Chard a little extra, figuring that a carbo-load couldn't hurt right before birthing. I grabbed my folding camp chair and had my daughters turn the other does out to graze so that Chardy could have a little peace and quiet. At this point she went into the manger and laid down. This was the first indication that she was, in fact in labor. Up to this point, it had just been my gut telling me that I needed to sit with her and watch her a little. The bond between a farmer and their animals is amazing!

Things progressed rapidly from there. Chardy only labored for about 20 minutes before delivering her babes. (I will post video over on The Bog Blog later today for those of you who'd like to see the full monty. ;) )

The little girls both have Mama's blue eyes, and both are getting around a little already, slowly but surely.

I've given both babies some colostrum gel and some goat drench to get their blood sugar up and their rumens going. Last I saw, they were in the neighborhood of Mama Goat's udders, but couldn't quite figure out how to connect the dots. I'll be checking on them hourly, just to make sure no one gets rejected or goes hungry.

Oh, what a way to start a morning. I'm so exhausted from helping and tidying up after, that I feel like I gave birth today.

Goat Granny needs a shower and a nap - stat!