Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sunny Sheep

The new sheep have been enjoying these past few days of warm temps and sunny skies.
They love to sleep in the sun. The lambs snuggle up close to their mom and use her as a windbreak.
In the photo above you can see Chloe (front left) in her hugely pregnant self. Directly behind Chloe is Moose who is also pregnant, but not as large. Their udder development seems to be going at about the same rate so I think they will lamb around the same time. The sheep on the right is Leda. She is the leader of the pack and is always the first to check us out when we get anywhere near their pen. She should be bred too, but I have no idea when she might lamb. Probably on the coldest snowiest night in February.

The whole flock!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Greens in the Greenhouse

On this the 29th day of December the lettuce, spinach, red mustard and kale are slowly growing in the greenhouse....
amidst some weeds. They will provide a few meals this winter and then will take off sometime in the end of March and will be far ahead of anything I can plant next spring.
We were able to have a mixed greens salad on Christmas day along with our own leg of lamb, blue mashed potatoes, and roasted carrots and parsnips. That meal was in the works since at least February when I started the seeds for the onions in the salad; although I could count from the conception of the lambs in October 2013. Isn't meal planning fun when you have to start the year before!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Barn Water

I am loving my new water tank in the barn.  Eventually we will dig a trench and get a water line up to the barn, but for now we will be using this 275 gallons tank that was made for transporting a corn syrup product. Alan has figured out the secret to filling the tank and not running the well dry. And if we top it off every time the weather is nice we shouldn't have to haul too many buckets of water this winter.
It has been great not having to haul water up to the barn. The chickens are right outside the barn so their water is easy to carry and the goats are all down hill so that's not too bad either. The sheep have the biggest water need so having the water tank in the barn is a godsend.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our First Vet Visit

Today was a big day for the new sheep, their first vet visit. The last three weeks with the new sheep have been a very steep learning curve for me. First we had the leg problems with the littlest lamb (learned all about joint ill) then we had the ewe with runny stools (maybe scours, changes in diet from the move, stress, etc) and then three of the sheep didn't want to eat. All the sheep seem to have gotten their appetites back, are eating lots of hay, devouring their grain, and nibbling on their minerals. But now we have two sheep with very itchy backs/shoulders. I was able to examine one of the sheep and found a crusty, scabby area which is intensely itchy for the sheep.

That brings us to our vet visit. Finding a vet was a chore in itself, but today Abby from Dr Hoshall's practice in Oley came for a visit. She was excellent; so calm with the animals and very willing to discuss and explain.  She diagnosed probable mites and gave all the sheep Ivermectin and the one sheep with the worst case a shot of antibiotic.  Even the little lambs got some Ivermectin just in case. She also recommended an Ivermectin pour on treatment. Hopefully, we will see improvement and then we can finally let the sheep and goats meet each other 3-4 weeks after the sheep are better.

The other reason I had the vet come out was to trim the sheeps' hooves. The new mama ewe had very overgrown hooves and took the most trimming. The sheep with the worst dermatitis also got her hooves trimmed, although she wasn't quite as bad.  The other two sheep we left alone, except for their shots.  The vet thinks they are too close to lambing to stress out with hoof trimming and I was thankful for that. I don't need us inducing early labor.  She recommended trimming their hooves about 2-3 weeks after they deliver.  And she thinks they will lamb in about a week. Maybe we'll have Christmas lambs!

All in all I was very happy with this vet visit. I have never had a large animal vet come out to the house and was nervous about how it would go, but Abby was great!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Barn Door

Alan put in the second barn stall door so now we can have two different stalls with separate access to the barn paddock.
We also got some nice hardware for the latches and cut the doors into their two parts, like Dutch doors.
We have had the sheep for three weeks now but I am not ready to let them even come close to our goats yet. Two of the sheep have had loose stools and have been off their feed and two have been scratching between their shoulders and the one who will let me touch her has some weird crusty lumps on her back. Finding a large animal veterinarian has proven a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I think I found one. Hopefully I can get someone out this week to check them all out.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Finished Fence

It always amazes me how fast a crew of guys who do something all the time can be. Our fence took less than two full days. Unfortunately, the snow that fell on the first day make for a muddy mess that probably won't be repaired until spring. But the fence looks great!
They even put in supports for a livestock bridge that Alan will build next year so we can access the pasture on the other side of the stream.
We spent Saturday rebuilding the sheep paddock outside the barn. The sheep were very happy to be able to go outside again. They did not seem to appreciate being stuck in the barn for two days.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Fence!

Today the fencing crew came to start the new fence. Despite the snow, forecasted as snow showers but in reality became 3-4 inches, the crew got all of the posts in and a little over half of the fencing up. Tomorrow they will finish putting up the wire fencing, add the electrified wire along the top of the fence and install five gates. They think they may be done by noon.
These pictures were taken early in the day so the snow fall is minimal.
The crew was interesting to watch. They brought quite a bit of equipment and supplies with them.

This is the post pounder. I wonder how many fingers the guy at the post has lost. He kept putting his hand on the post as it was being pounded into the ground.
Of course the sheep were stuck in the barn all day, but the lambs kept active.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Hayloft

There is something very reassuring in knowing your hayloft is full.
Alan surprised me and took last Friday off so we hitched up the wagon and got two loads of hay and straw, 52 bales in total. We already had about 20 bales up there so I am hoping that lasts us through winter and into spring.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Lambs' Big Day

Today was the first day the lambs went outside here.  The smaller lamb was not doing well; having trouble walking, wasn't gaining weight or eating as well as his brother, and generally not looking so good.  Trying to find a vet for sheep has proven difficult, so I gave him a five day course of antibiotics and the tincture of time and he seems to have, hopefully, turned the corner. He has a long way to go to catch up to his brother though!
He's the one in the blue jacket. I am hoping I will be comfortable enough to take the jacket off soon. It may not be apparent in the photo, but he is about 75% the size of his brother.
The other sheep didn't seem to mind the little guys, even though the lambs tried nursing on everyone. But I think the other sheep were relieved when the mother sheep and her lambs went back in the barn.
That's our very pregnant ewe in the foreground above. Her udder hasn't bagged up yet so it will be a bit yet. Maybe Christmas babies?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

And Some of the Sheep Get to Go Outside!

This past weekend we worked hard to make an outside run off the barn and cut in a barn door for the sheep. We finally heard that the fence guys are coming on the 11th, but we needed to let the sheep out before then. So we made a temporary pen with more cattle panel (one of these days I need to count how many of those we have bought over the years) and cut one of the planned doors from the stalls.
After we had the pen in place and the door ready to be hung it was time to cut the opening.
Needless to say, the sheep weren't very pleased with the noise of the saw and stayed as far away as possible.
They weren't quite sure what to do with the new opening.

Maddy had to coax them outside with some delicious grain.
And then they noticed the neighbors farther up the hill.
The door is hung and functional. We still need to cut the door into the traditional barn door with separate top and bottom doors, and we need latches. But it works and the sheep are now happy to go outside.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How I Cooked the 43 Pound Turkey

The turkey was a success. The hard part of cooking the turkey was finally deciding on the exact method.  I looked at cooking it overnight at 250 degrees, but then I read it wasn't a good idea if the turkey was over 20 pounds. So I ended up with the tried and true 325 degrees method, with a twist.
But first the turkey was brined overnight in a citrus/cider brine.
We woke up at 5AM on Thanksgiving morning and brought the turkey inside (it was too heavy for even my husband to carry in by himself.) I rinsed the brine off the turkey and got it ready in the pan while the oven preheated. My roasting pan was almost big enough. Cheap disposable aluminum trays made extended sides to catch the drippings and keep the drippings from getting onto the bottom of the oven. The oven was just big enough.

The turkey went into a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes then 5 1/2 hours at 325 degrees. I checked his temperature at noon and he was more than done! That's only 6 hours to cook a 43 pound turkey. He probably would have been fine with even less time. He was a bit overcooked, but he still was delicious.
We had 13 people for Thanksgiving dinner, gave away quite a bit of turkey as leftovers and still got a big mixing bowl and a small bowl filled with meat today

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lambs in Jackets

I've been worried that the one new lamb was cold so my daughters made lamb jackets.
They seem to like the jackets and he seems perkier this morning. I found the directions to make the jackets on this great blog losing sleep counting sheep. So many things to learn about sheep.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


We are building our sheep flock! Yesterday I took delivery of four ewes (one of whom just had two ram lambs.) We went from one sheep to seven in an afternoon.
The other three ewes should all be pregnant. One of the ewes is huge but I don't know when she might go into labor. Maybe she'll have triplets!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Firewood Prep

We need to get going on our firewood prep for winter, even though the high temperature today is predicted to be 79 degrees. Five days ago our high temp was 31 degrees.  Alan wants to have a large pile on the patio so when the worst part of winter hits we don't have to depend on the trailer to get firewood to the house. We need to get this pile...
to look like this...

So little time!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Front Bed

The previous owners had a short wire fence in front of the flower bed bordering the road. Every fall they would put burlap over it to keep the cinders from the road out of the flower bed.  They told me they put up the burlap on Thanksgiving weekend, but we are supposed to get snow the day before Thanksgiving. The township boys probably won't need to put down cinders and plow, but just in case, I put up the burlap today.
Of course that wasn't exactly what had to happen. This spring I took out all the old wire fencing and posts. They had seen better days and needed to come out when we took out the huge mat of Lily of the Valley. I didn't really want to put the old fencing back so now everything is new. I think it looks nice and tidy.
This project just about finishes up the front yard in the winter preparations.  Now on to stacking firewood!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Do You Cook a 43 Pound Turkey?

Over the weekend we worked on getting the turkeys ready for their trip to Iceland. Alan worked on a different transport cage  because we thought the door to the cage I used last year isn't big enough to get the Tom in and out. So Alan added a wire door to an old dog house. Of course the Tom was too wide to fit through this door too! Luckily the top comes off as well.
I thought it would be too hard to carry the cage with the three turkeys inside so we loaded two of the turkeys, put the cage in the back of the Subaru, then put in the last turkey.Luckily our butcher helped carry the cage once we got to the farm. It took all three of us to carry it!
And the turkeys had no clue. Here they are enjoying some cauliflower leaves in their last days.
The packaging was a little more difficult this year as the turkeys were bigger. Our Tom dressed out at approximately 43 pounds and the two hens dressed out around 25 pounds each. Now I just have to figure out how to cook a 43 pound turkey!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter Fig Care

It's time for the fig trees to move to their winter quarters, the barn.
Fig trees can be winter hardy, with a little protection, not too far south from us. But I would just kill them if I kept them outside in our winters. So they will have a cozy spot in the back corner of the barn until it's time to get them started again in the spring.

This pretty simple article on fig tree care in winter recommends watering the fig trees once a month. The hard part will be remembering to do that!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

More Gardening in November

We had a bit of snow on Thursday, but the garden is holding its own. And the temperatures are finally down into the fall range instead of the 60s we had earlier this week.
The radishes, in the foreground, and beets are doing well after the snow.
The chard is a little droopy but still going strong.
I have kale outside and also in the greenhouse.
All the kale is doing well and the baby spinach and lettuce in the greenhouse (to the left) will probably just be dormant for most of the winter. Then when the late winter sun starts heating up the greenhouse they should take off and we will be eating our own lettuce and spinach in early April.

I gave up on the cauliflower and pulled it all up today.  The heads of cauliflower were about the size of a nickel.  So the chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep all got to enjoy munching on a bit of green.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Radish Cover Crop

The daikon radishes planted for a cover crop are doing very well, even though they are covered in a little snow now. Some of the radishes are getting to be quite large. Once the frigid winter hit those roots they will break down and are going to definitely add a good bit of organic matter to the soil.
And I guess if we were really craving radishes we could eat some too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Harvesting Saffron

I actually harvested three stigma from my one blooming crocus.
The stigma are the tiny reddish orange thread-like objects hanging below the flower.

After drying, they can be stored then used in cooking. The Pennsylvania Germans considered saffron a must have ingredient in some soup recipes. A 1/4 tsp is going to take a lot more stigma!

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Beautiful Day in November

Today was an absolutely beautiful day for November 10th. The high was around 60 degrees and the sky was clear. And no breeze; a perfect day to rake leaves. Alan surprised me by taking a half day at work and we raked up the leaves that have fallen so far. There are still a few trees holding on to their leaves but the bulk of the leaves have fallen. Today I was reminded again how wonderful our yard vac is.

With all the shredded leaves available I was able to mulch the garlic. First I built up a little fence around the garlic bed to hold the leaves.
Then I had to barrow in the leaves.  Now they are snug in their bed and ready for the cold winter.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The First Barn Inhabitants

Saturday morning we found the turkey that had been living with the goats had been attacked and was headless. We weren't exactly sure what had killed her though.
Saturday night I heard some strange barking noises outside. When I went out to listen more closely I heard coyote yipping and yowling. Since our other three turkeys are a week and a half away from their date with destiny I didn't want to lose them to coyotes! So we moved them into the new barn stall. The whole time we were moving the turkeys we could hear the coyotes on the ridge to the south east.

The turkeys would not walk on the concrete! We had to carry them into the barn and into their new temporary home. They are better with walking on the hay, but are still shuffling around a lot. Sorry turkeys, only nine days left.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saffron Crocus

I didn't think the saffron crocus bulbs I planted far too late would do anything; however, they all came up and now one is blooming!
I don't think I'll get any actual saffron this year, but it is nice to have something blooming in early November.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gardening in Late October

We still have fall gold raspberries! And many, not just a few here and there.
I need to cut them back but I am waiting for frost. I may start cutting some back now and give the goats a treat.
The peppers are also going strong, as well as the marigolds and, of course, the swiss chard.
I don't remember the garden looking this great this late in the season.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Working on More Firewood

We still have a big ash tree that came down in Sandy that we hadn't cut up. This was the one tree that was ours that fell onto the game land. Most of the other trees that fell down were game land trees that fell onto our property.
Sunday we went a little bit into the game land and got out the easiest to harvest rounds. We cut about 24 large rounds, each one must weigh close to 80 pounds.

We also moved some other logs to where they will be easier to get to once the new fence is up.  The tractor sure did help with moving some of the larger logs.
All this work is for next winter. Hopefully, we already have enough for this winter.