Monday, December 5, 2011

Handsome Rams Arrive!

The Boys are here!!!!

Handsome and sweet looking, isn't he?  He's not named yet.  I'm waiting for his breeders to name him.  Dick brought the rams down from Maine.  Having Dick deliver the rams was a boon given how busy I am with working on the barn.

Our two rams were born this spring and they have been here only a few days. Today was their first chance to leave their stall and go out into their pasture.  They sniffed and could clearly smell the herd of young ewes but they couldn't see them.  They tried flirting with my herd of Nigerian Dwarf Goats and got a couple of the goats kind of interested.  They ate a lot of grass, butted heads a few times and generally seemed to have a good time.  Tomorrow will be another day in and out.  In a few days we'll divide our ewes into 2 breeding flocks and let these boys get to work sparking next springs lamb crop!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 9th! Beautiful Weather!!!

I've been enjoying working on the barn for several reasons.  First, I get to work with my brother and I really like that.  Second, I get to watch the animals and be more aware of herd health, herd dynamics and individual behaviors.  Third, I get to drink in all that beauty of the different flocks/herds in their pastures, the surrounding forest, the view through the bare trees to other mountains, etc.

I've really been enjoying our small flock of Cascade Farmstead ewes.  I think I finally know all six by name now.  I admit to having some favorites.

This is Lisette and I think she's very sweet.  She's the color of butterscotch, has no horns and is unfortunately the shyest but maybe someday she'll be tamer.

This is Lady of the Lake.  She's the friendliest and always ready to lead the herd after me.  They've eaten their pasture down quite a bit so it's time to move them onto another pasture I think.  This will be the first time they follow me down the center aisle of the pastures to get to another pasture.  I'm hoping it easily becomes part of our morning and evening routine.

This is the view down the road from the barn driveway to the house driveway and beyond.  The first half we have to plow because the town didn't have the funds to repair it after all the road fixing needed to get back to normal after Irene.

Okay.....this photo is from the late spring but I'm thinking about baby goats again because it's breeding season for next year's kid crop.  This is Leoneea with her twin babes Tao and Rasha looking out from behind a wall.   Leoneea has such a lovely look to her and like all the other goats was a great mother to her young. Tao still likes to climb into laps although he's a bit big and Rasha (the doeling) is a sweetie who likes nothing better than to get some patting.

Zetta gave birth to 4 babies; 3 doelings and a buckling.  This photo shows them only a few hours old.  I've been telling all the does this year to only give birth to 1 or 2 babies this year.  I don't want the herd to grow so quickly!!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Note to Self!

Note to Self!!!  Next time I am painting or staining something remember to  try a sample of the chosen color rather than trust the color chart.  I was rushing to get the barn stained before winter and the temps have been dropping.  I found someone local to do the job and he and I both thought it should get done soon so I chose a color that I thought would be sort of a golden oak color.  I almost panicked when I came out of the barn to look at the front that had just been sprayed! It looked like yellow more than wood; sort of a yellow ochre color.  Yikes.  It's not like I live near a paint store and the stain had already been bought and winter is coming so I had him finish it.  It's okay...much better now that it's dry.  It's sort of a golden saddle leather color.  Next stain job will be in a color to mellow it a bit.  That's the fun of using translucent   stain.   Oh, and I'm pleased to report that most of the snow has melted.  Or at least half the field is bare now.  I guess my optimism is showing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Storm

We got a winter trial with 4 inches of snow on October 28th.  Then on Saturday we got about 24 inches of snow.  We woke up Sunday morning glad that it had stopped ahead of schedule and amazed to look out at the results.  The texture of the snow allowed it to create slumps over the balcony railing.

Here's a look down the driveway.

Here is our 20 foot pond in a photo that shows the depth of the snow.

It took us a day to get ready for the storm and then a day to clean up after it.  I managed to plow down from the new barn.....a good thing since the town doesn't yet plow that road.  Our town did plow to our house driveway although they sunk the big plow truck in the mud along the dirt road that leads to our driveway.  With a week of days in the 40s and 50s I'm hoping the snow melts and that the goats can go out to pasture for a few more weeks.  The dogs LOVE the snow and it was deep enough to make them look like albino Corgis!  They get excited when the snow falls off the barn roof.  They pounce on it yelping in excited falsetto.  Back to working on the new barn this week.

"Bowl with Eggs" still life in reality

Our hens have started laying and the eggs are such lovely works of art and such miracles.  Okay, so I'm easy to impress because I see the beauty and miracle of just about everything.  I'm particularly enjoying the sight of the soft blue/green eggs in a bowl that my friend Susan created and gave to me.  The color is a pretty close match although the greenish eggs vary somewhat in tint from blue/green to more of a soft olive green.

I'm also enjoying the garlic harvest.  Here's what a bulb of garlic looks like when it's just been cut down from the hayloft.  Below is after the roots have been trimmed and the outer layer of skins have been rubbed off.  Ready to add to the pile we keep ready to add to dinner creations!

Note: these garlic photos feature another piece of ceramic art by my friend Susan.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wish I had another sunny day to get some more up to date barn photos but here are a couple.  It's a lot further along now and the fencing is done as well but none of that has been photographed recently.  Well pump goes in this week and that's exciting for me since hauling water gets old fast.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Barn Building Progress

So here's the progress report on the new barn.  The goat stalls are finished.  These consist of a main stall about 16X10' for day use and next to it a 16X6' stall to put kids in overnight when I'll be milking the does in the morning.  These stalls have a removable panel in between them so kids will be able to see their moms and even sleep with just a wire panel between them.  If it proves better to have complete separation I have other stalls at the south end of the barn that can be kid overnight stalls.  The name of the game with this barn is flexibility so the kid overnight stall has 2 hay mangers placed in such a way that it could be divided in half if need be.  Beyond the kid stall there is a row of 4 kidding/lambing stalls and they are created by dividers that are created as needed by dropping 2X6" boards into metal tracks.  This means I can have 1 big stall, 2 slightly smaller stalls for 4 individual stalls.  Each has it's own gate  (or will have when my brother Jeff gets back from sailing his boat south)  and the aisle itself will be usable in a pinch for yet another kidding place.  Can you tell we were low on room last year?

Here's the kid overnight stall.

Notice that we have yet another style of manger here.  Jeff and I designed and built this on the spot starting with a length of 2X6 screwed from the other side as the bottom.  We created both sides by taking 3 pieces of 2X6 and sawing one of them diagonally in half to form the slant for each side.  Pieces of scrap livestock panel were attached with fencing staples, a piece of shiplap siding provided a handy groove to cover the sharp ends of the top of the wire and provide some height.  Strips of shiplap edges covered the other wire edges at bottom and sides.  Here's a closer shot:

Notice the peek gap in the stall partitions?  It's so that animals can peek in and out to see what's going on.  When the dogs are in the center aisle instead of with the goats they'll want to keep an eye on stuff and the goats certainly like to look out to see what's happening.

Outside the main herd stall is a 16X16' run-in shed area.  It's got openings to the north and west.  Since the wind whips across this field from the north we'll have a sliding barn door to keep the chill out during the cold months.  During summer the breezes will help keep everyone cool.  The floor of this run-in area is sand and gravel.  We'll build some platforms for here and in the stalls.  Goats love to jump  up on stuff and they especially like to have somewhere to jump up onto when the guardian dogs are feeling frisky and playful.  The windows haven't been put in yet. Still waiting on that except for the buck stall which is already occupied by a full grow buck, a full grown wether and 2 young wethers.
Here's the run-in area.

This run-in area is across a center aisle from the sheep run-in area which is designed and built the same way.  With long spans of 16' for the walls we had to figure out a system to stabilize the walls.  We framed them up and then hammered a 5' piece of conduit pipe and attached the wall to it like this:

We used cedar boards as apron boards along the bottom to keep drafts out.  The cedar is resistant to rot of course and can be replaced easily if needed.  The sill of the wall is more than 6" off the ground.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Warm now to keep us warm later

Winter is coming and Joseph is working hard and sweaty to catch up with the firewood splitting and stacking for winter.  We've got more wood down than we can keep up with.  With the amount of land we have we can't even keep up with what comes down in wind storms.  We're hoping to afford an old beater pick-up truck for hauling wood out of the forest.  For now we work it close to home or drag it during the winter using the tractor so that it slides on snow and doesn't get full of the grit that will dull a chainsaw blade so quickly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dogs and Goats

Our goat herd have been loving the pasture, the sun and the stone walls they get to climb on. Our Livestock Guardian Maremma dogs have been hanging out with their charges. Great photo of Tao and Luna (young goats) hanging out with Vera the Maremma.

Hay Manger Design Improvements

My brother said it was a pain to make the manger the way he did the first one with the routed out 2X4 so this time we pre-bent the section of panel by screwing one end of a 2X4 to a barn post at floor level with the panel under it. We maneuvered the panel until we had the "bend line" where we wanted it under the 2X4 and then I stood on that (my participation) while he bent the panel for the side bend. We repeated it on the other side and then used large barbed fence staples to attach it to the 2X6 wall. You can see the photos attached.

Ewe Lambs Arrive!

Here are our ewe lambs from Greener Pastures Farm. They arrived a week or so ago and are settling in nicely. From top to bottom they are named (remember, it's an "L" year for Greener Pasture's Farm!): Lorelei, Lola, Lisette, Lilibeth, Laughter in the Rain, and Lady of the Lake.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fencing Detail and Design

Our pasture system is not a regular rotational grazing system. We've also integrated a medicinal hedgerow and some sylvopasture research experiments. Sylvopasture combines pasture and livestock production with trees. The trees we're using are mostly Ashworth Honey Locust trees. They are a variety developed before chemical fertilizers when the USDA was looking for high protein livestock feed options. These honey locust bear seeded pods that can be fed to sheep, goats and chickens. The leaves can be fed to livestock and they are a nitrogen-fixing tree so their roots will nourish the pasture grass growth. Not only that but their leaves are finely cut compound leaves that will not cast a dense shadow and not smother grasses when they fall. We'll be growing some of these full size and also experimenting with coppicing some of them. Coppicing means cutting the tree down and letting suckers grow from the stump to harvest on a schedule determined by the size of growth that best suits your needs.

Our medicinal hedgerow experiment consists of a 6 foot alley pasture between 2 other pastures. This is being planted with herbs that, once they grow enough to stick into the pasture on each side, will be available for grazing by flocks. I'll be doing research on what immune boosting, deworming, etc. herbs are helpful. For now there are gingko and sea buckthorn planted down the center. Both produce palatable nourishing fruit.

Our fencing system also includes some areas that aren't meant to be grazed but are food production areas that the dogs will be able to guard against fruit predators such as bear, raccoon, etc. We have Russian quince, persimmon pear and mulberry so far. We'll be adding some apples and persimmons trees from our nursery beds once it's a good season for transplanting.

We've put honey locust trees into corners of many of our rotational grazing plots. We've protected them with livestock panels that are attached to the corner brace fence posts using eye-hooks and re-bar. You can see it in the photos.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hay Manger Design

Here is a photo of our hay manger created using a piece of hog panel and 2X4 edges. The 2X4 edges were cut on a table saw to create a place for the wire to get held securely. The 4X4 mesh of the hog panel is perfect in that no one can get their head stuck and it's all rigid enough to be very solid and, we hope, indestructible.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This photo shows a small bit of the fenced corridor around all our rotational pastures. We've taken half of our 10 acres of pastureland, built a barn on it with a center alley and 8 main grazing pastures along with 4 smaller paddocks. The paddocks are used when the animals can't be kept on the grass because it hasn't grown enough, is over-grazed or during winter.

There are separate paddocks for rams, ewes, does and bucks. Each group also has it's own corner of the barn for shelter. Having the whole area surrounded by a corridor that the Maremma dogs can patrol all night makes it possible to keep our livestock protected even if the dogs aren't in with each group.

The center alley and perimeter corridor are both 16 feet wide which allow us to use livestock panels to divide them or block them off at any point. There are SO many gates in our fencing system and I'd have put in more if we could have afforded it. Being able to move animals from one area to another in the easiest way demands a lot of gates.

Maybe someday we'll be able to free range our goats through our 100 acres for at least some walks but I'm not sure how we'd keep the dogs with us and I'd certainly not want to risk our goats and sheep to the local predators.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The ewes have arrived!! This was an "L" naming year at Greener Pastures Farm so our girls are named Lorelei, Lola, Laughter in the Rain, Lisette, Lilibeth and Lady of the Lake. Here is a photo of them in their stall. Also note photos of the new barn and fencing. Fergey, our Maremma Livestock Guardian Dog keeps an eye on everything with his sister Vera. They live with the goats but maybe someday will also live with the sheep. At night they will be able to patrol the entire perimeter of the pasture in a fenced corridor so that they can keep predators away from everyone.