Monday, March 26, 2007

Highly productive weekend...

We're nearly finished with as much of the chicken coop as necessary before we order our day-old chicks.Got the roof on, and have nearly finished installing the roosts. Window are cut and the only thing remaining before ordering our chicks is to screen in the windows, and screen in the sofit area.

Dixie stopped by and commented she has "brooder" lights. We also have wrangled a small brooder, which will hold 50 chicks for a couple of weeks. Our plan is to put the chicks straight into the coop in their "warm area".

That way, they can become used to humans and noise as we continue working on the exterior. They'll live in their little area for about a month before allowed outside in their daytime pens.

While working on the coop, we had the little bummer out. He's so cute in his little red harness. This weekend, we introduced him (very carefully) to the ewes and ram. He's way too little to go into the pen by himself.


This morning I took him to the feed trailer while I fed the flock. He had his own little pile of alfalfa and was a happy little guy. He jumped and ran back and forth between the pen and the trailer.

No problem getting him to follow me... he really believes I'm his "mother".

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are there chickens or eggs yet?

That's all we're hearing from Cindy's Mom, who just can't wait to have truly "farm fresh" eggs and chicken.

We have the "perfect spot" for an 8x8 foot coop, a concrete pad that has both water and electric (currently not functional) to it.


The coop is being built on the pad to the right, and the outside runs will be towards the tree and to the right (towards the sheep pen).


Bev and Cindy both have considerable construction experience, so aside from allowing me to pound nails into the plywood, I was "the mule"... You know, carry this, hand me that, wait for me... Geez, I got tired just watching them work.

All Mom will have to do is come out the back door, cross the driveway and walk about 60 feet to get to her chickens.


We'll have a "peaked" roof... slope is 4:1, so not real steep, but enough to handle the snow load. This next weekend, we'll have the roof on, and be ready to order our chicks.


Mom wants eggs. We figure as long as we're going to have a hen or two for her, we might just as well have some brown eggs to sell. Total chicks on our list is 50. That should yield about 20 hens. Another neighbor aka "The Egg Lady" told us she has 15 hens and is getting about a dozen eggs a day.

I'd be thrilled if Bev could take orders in St. George or even Cindy taking orders in Enterprise to sell 10 doz eggs a week. With the price of eggs rising... and brown eggs on the high end, we could pretty much cover our costs and make a little profit.


We got the nest boxes installed (full of tools right now), the door, and a few of the rafters up before the wind got too bad. Time out for a couple days as the weather is pretty "iffy"... forecast for better than 30 mph wind and thunderstorms.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

A day of new life, and loss

Here I was, working away on a web site. Cindy had gone to work at another farm, and Bev was filling in on the Senior bus, when the call came in.

"This is Dixie. I've got a ewe that's stuck in the same position for four hours. I need help now!."

It was like "tag, your it"... so off I went.

Shortly after I caught up with Dixie near the lambing pens, she had me at the head of the ewe. My job was to contain the ewe while she pulled on the little lamb. Within a couple of minutes this yearling momma had her first little ewe lamb.

Sorry, no pictures as there were no free hands.

I'm happy to report that both Ma and little lamb are doing very well. By the time I left she had the little girl up on her feet and was cleaning and nursing her.

It was a "planned loss" day, as we took Missie to the vet to have her put down. At 15, she's lived a very full life and crossing the Rainbow Ridge was a only a matter of time. Over the past few weeks, she had been losing bladder control and we found a massive tumor inside her mouth.


Wouldn't you know it, the regular vet was out of town, so we were referred to another very nice new vet. I was absolutely amazed at his compassion. Cindy and I were there to hold her as "Doc" administered the injection and then confirmed her passing. Then, to my amazement, he allowed us privacy for as long as wanted.

Sad task completed, it was time to again look to the future... off to purchase building materials for our chicken coop, and surprise, surprise... put a greenhouse on lay-away.

Personal side note: With blue skies and temps in the 70's, my poor ears are sooooo sunburned. Shortly I'll get a pic of me in my summer straw.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Here's just a couple of reasons to fall in love with this valley

Every once in a while, we're treated to spectacular sunsets. This is the most beautiful sunset I've seen since arriving in December. If you didn't know for sure you were looking at a sunset, you'd think there was a huge range fire.


I let Sarah come play one-to-one with "Freezer". What a hoot! The first picture is kind of "game on"... while the second one... well, let's just say he's not taking any guff from her.



Another life lesson learned. Breakfast is served outside, and you're on "all fours" from here on out.


There's one thing I can be sure of. I have a shadow, a little black lamb whose name is "Freezer".

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Our first bummer... and guess who's "Mom"

Early last week... just a couple of days after the "sheep roundup", Dixie stopped by to share the joy of one of her older ewe's having quadruplets. Yeah... that's four little lambs and just two teats.

The little black one is a small ewe. The little guy in front with the white "top-knot" is destined for the freezer. I'm not sure which of the others are ewe and ram... but know the ewe will stay in the herd and the little guy will either go to the freezer or the market in a few months.

That's only the beginning of the story...

Sunday evening, after having worked all weekend on various projects, we got a call from Dixie. The little black guy with the white top-knot was up for adoption. His little black sister had died earlier, the result of both being the runt, and not strong enough to jostle for the two teats.

We hurriedly finished dinner, and told Mom we were going to Dixie's. We didn't tell her why.

Last year she got to be "Mom". I've seen the pictures and have been told she even let the little lamb sleep in her bed.

I'm "Mom"... and I've even learned to say "Maaaaa--a--a--aaaa"! I'm not nuts... this little guy has his own pen about 15 feet from my bed.

He wasn't real interested in his first bottle... took three attempts over the evening and into the next morning to get a mere 6 oz of Lamb Replacement down him.

He really looks pretty good. Dixie just wants to make sure he's raised to our advantage. We'll probably add some true "bummers" in a month or so as her yearling ewe's have their first offspring. Any that drop twins will have one removed to us.

Now, I've got plenty of help as three of the dogs participated last year with this "bummer business". They're very attentive and actually concerned about his every move. They wash his face and his butt, and herd him around the back yard. This is Coda getting the face-washing honors.

As you can see... he has imprinted nicely. I can now expect him to be my shadow for the next 5 or 6 months. He's living in a big dog crate in the kitchen right now. I've got a little stool where I sit and feed him.
Last night, Sarah "assumed" the overnight duty. She was up fretting every time he moved around. Of course, she'd whine... and then he'd cry. So, at 2:30 AM I was feeding him.

This morning... a minor miracle... He took all his bottle while standing on "all 4's" from just inside his crate. Shortly after that, he has settled down for a nice, long nap.

Last evening, we took him out front for a little exercises "sans dogs". As he was "maaa-ing", the rest of our little flock was paying very close attention. Was fascinating to see them all lined up at the fence peering our way to see who was crying.

Oh, and he really does have a name... Freezer.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Big Boy Ram Arrives!

Shortly before sunset Friday evening, Aljinon arrived. He's a BIG BOY!


Fortunately he's pretty tame and the transfer from trailer to sheep pen went smoothly.

Chiquita has always been the "queen" of the pen, but within a few minutes... the "king" established a new order.

Even though both ewes are hopefully bred, we're going to house everyone together for a while. That saves having to build another manger, another shelter, and round up another water barrel.

The girls took a few minutes to sniff around, as did he... a couple of "pee's" to establish scent and let him know their status, and it was "game on".

Chiquita thought she'd challenge him... first a playful head butt... and then run around and mount him. That didn't last two minutes!

Al lowered his head, back up a couple of steps and charged Chiquita, putting on the ground and rolling her over. After that, she was staying clear of him.

Before you get worried that the girls can't get away, they have a shelter that is too small for him to enter... a good safe house.

When I went out to feed the next morning, the manger was turned upside down and moved about 10 feet south, there were serious paw marks all over the pen. They must have had quite a party.

I can guarantee you, Al's now in charge. His ladies are at his beck and call.

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Another outside project... yanking roots!

About Thursday, Cindy and I just couldn't stand the computers. Seems our web host had been invaded by a nasty virus at the end of last week. There wasn't really anything we could do to help, so rather than work on web sites... we took out our frustrations on some old roots.

When Bev, Cindy and Mom moved here, there was a "hedge" of overgrown juniper. They managed to get it all cut down, leaving only the roots to remove.

With the ground thawing, no wind, a nice cloud cover, we thought we'd get started. This isn't anything we're going to get done in a day or two.

The guy that built this place prided himself on his concrete work. Hence, there's concrete everywhere you look. That's both good and bad.

In this case, it may be kind of good. At least most of the roots are confined within a concrete lined planter. Never mind they went down nearly two feet.

With the help of the Avalanche, a heavy tow chain, an axe, and a couple of shovels we cleared better than half of them in the first of two areas.

I gotta tell you though... I was three days or more recovering. Didn't hurt anything... but had muscles yelling that I didn't know I owned.

Posted by Shari Thomas @ 4:11 PM :: (0) comments

Our worms arrived!

The first 2# of red worms arrived Wednesday. Cindy has prepared a home in the basement for them. Later we'll move the adults to the big outdoor bin and keep the basement as a nursery.

This plastic bin is plenty large enough for about 5# total.

The worms will help us use up food waste, paper waste, horse and sheep manure, and spoiled bedding. In turn, they'll produce nice black casting, which contain a ton of nutrients for our garden.

They've settled in very nicely... working away on food waste and paper waste. Since they're not happy when you shine light on them, I didn't want to peel back much of their bedding. If you look closely above the pear core, there are a few little wigglers who didn't dive fast enough to avoid the picture.


The plan is to actually create windrows and generate enough castings in a couple years to sell to folks in Enterprise, Cedar City, and St George.

That will become our major cash crop, with market lambs as an additional income generator. The horses are for hobby, and the chickens will provide meat and eggs, as well as add their droppings to the composting operation.

With only an acre-foot of water, it's important for us to find ways to conserve (be good stewards) while also creating a way to show that we use the water we are allowed. If you fail to use your share, you can have it taken away... and it's very expensive to get it back.

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Has it really been a week already?

Wow! With good weather, we've been working on projects from sunrise to sunset. Let's see if I can catch the week up a bit.

We recovered nicely from the sheep roundup, got our new fencing in anticipation of "Aljenon" arriving later in the week. At some point in time, we've got to get a "farm truck"... we "city girls" look kind of funny hauling fencing in the Avalanche.

That's just the first of three panels. After taking out the back window and laying down the back seat, we still had to use our "ratcheted tie-down" to hold it in place.

Those panels are awesome! All we have to do is sink three step-in steel posts per panel and wire the panels in place to create a nice little pen. Each panel is about 16' and is at least 48 inches high. Now, unless we trench down, these don't provide any "burrowing critter" control. However, because we have dogs, and do send an occasional one out to the pens... the coyotes seem to leave us alone.

We're looking for a guard animal as our little flock gets bigger. Around here, you can get a donkey for $25 at the BLM auction. They're better protectors than llamas... and they'll eat whatever scraps are left around, including some of this tumbleweed.

Posted by Shari Thomas @ 12:28 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sheep Roundup Day!

As note earlier, Saturday was "Sheep Roundup Day" at our neighbor's little farm. She has graciously hosted our ewes for the last month, so her ram could do his work. While there, she's fed them, watered them, etc. When she asked for help with the roundup, it was kind of like... we owe it to you! Of course we'll be there.


So, yesterday with the temperature just above freezing and a north wind of better than 10 mph, we got into our farm clothes and went on a sheep roundup.



Now, Cindy and Bev and I have been pretty "citified" over the years, but with them being ex-cops... rounding up and taking down sheep for a last check before dropping lambs shouldn't be too hard.

I've caught my share of wayward rabbits during my years in the rabbit business, so figured I could be of some use.

Well...

The roundup went fairly well. Only our big ewe and one other one decided that the small pen wasn't where they wanted to go. After a few minutes of working them around (or was that them working us) we had everyone in the pen.



That's when Dixie explained the next step.

We'd capture each ewe, check to see if she's pregnant, clip around her bags and "private parts", check the ear tag, and then put her back to pasture.

Total ewes: 12

Total rams: 1

Total women: 4

Game on!

With 3 of us working to isolate a ewe, one watching the ram (he's not real crazy about Dixie), here's how it went down.

Dixie would kind of identify one... or say just catch whichever one we can. I would try to turn or head the ewe back. Bev worked to slow one down by grabbing a couple hands full of wool, while Cindy was the "dogger".



Her flying tackles were accurate.

The one time I actually lassoed one, the rope was so short, I was on my butt before I knew what happened.

Wouldn't you know it. The very first ewe we caught was the ONLY one not bred. Silly us, we left it in the small pen, and in the melee caught that damn ewe three times.



Once down, the ewe's were pretty quiet, only an occasional kick if Dixie got too close with the shears. Here's where we really got a good education.

We found both our ewes are pregnant. They'll be due sometime in July. She patiently explained what the "gunk" was... that's wax and it's how the lambs find the teats. There's also a waxy plug in the teats. Ewe's have two teats and they may or may not show much of a bag (to us that means milk) before they drop (give birth to) their lambs.


As you can see, we sometimes had to flip the Merino ewes as their wool is black and we couldn't see what we were doing. Of course flipping put the dogger under the lamb in the snow.


After all 12 ewes were clipped, checked and turned to the right pen/pasture, only one step remained... docking a lamb's tail.

Ok, before you go getting into a tizzy... we dock tails for sanitary reasons. You see, lambs are born with long tails, which collect manure, which attract flies, and all kinds of disease... so they have to be removed. All lambs, whether they're female or male, get their tails docked.

We use a banding system that slips onto their tails about 2 inches from their butt. It's quick, virtually painless, bloodless, and very humane. Any little boys that are marked for the meat market also get their little testicles banded. After a quick vaccine this little guy was done, and down running around.

Round up done, it was time to head for home. We loaded Chiquita and Merino into the back of the truck for the half-mile ride home.

Here's Cindy with Chiquita just before the roundup started... and then me with her in the back of the truck once we got home. If you look carefully, Merino is hiding behind her.

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Three weeks 'til spring... and this what we look like

Remember a few days ago when they forecasted snow, and it was a big "ho-hum"?

Well, they weren't whistling Dixie about the next one. Yesterday it wasn't worth going out for pics... here's what we look like today.





With a forecast of low 30's for the high temp and near zero for the low temp... I expect this will hang around until the week end.

Oh, and Saturday morning we're helping a neighbor herd sheep. She has a small flock that has to get to the lambing pens. It's already too late for one ewe who dropped her twins in the pen. This should be a real adventure... just hope I stay on my feet as I'm not sure I want to wallow in sheep $h!t.

Posted by Shari Thomas @ 12:34 PM :: (0) comments