Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Clearing Brush

Over the years our pastures have been encroached upon by the brush growing out of the woods. We can probably increase the size of our grazing area by at least 15-20% by clearing back the brushy areas. We already cleared a good bit of brush before the fencing was installed. Now we need to get to work on the main pasture areas. Time for the goats and sheep to get to work!
Here is an example of one of our areas in need of clearing (probably a good 25 feet wide and 10 feet tall and many, many feet long):
The first area we put the goats to work on is now looking like this:

We have to pull up the stumps and roots and seed but already the pasture looks so much bigger!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Let the Shedding Begin

Moose has begun shedding like crazy.
We are able to pull out big clumps and she will happily stand there.
This is why I wanted hair sheep. It is easier and cheaper than having to shear them!  I think we may have the most padded birds' nests around this spring! But I am starting to wish for a bit of wool to play with.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stream Work

The stream has been eroding its banks since we moved here and today Alan had a chance to work on diverting the stream. Here are two examples of the worst of the erosion.

It was amazing how quickly Alan was able to begin to change the course of the stream.
In the photo below the new stream course is to the left and the old to the right.
We thought the stream originally followed the course to the left and after a few hours of water movement the stream found the old stream bed and the water was running clear again.
Now very little water is flowing through the old sections of stream and the new (old) course looks great. Now I just have to wait to see if any of my yellow flag irises were disturbed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gate Work

Our new gates worked great when first installed, but gradually over the winter the one we use the most became harder and harder to operate. Finally, I couldn't even close it from inside the pasture.

The top hinge pin was nearly out of the hinge and the bottom hinge had slid down on the gate. This left the hinge side of the gate sitting on the ground. To close the gate one had to back up the the gate, lift the gate up onto the latch and then push with your entire body to close it.
It took a bit of levering, adjusting and wrench work to raise the gate in the bottom hinge and straighten out the top hinge pin but now the gate works perfectly!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Own Heron

The gift shop at work sells some very nice items. I spotted two heron sculptures a few weeks ago when all the spring merchandise began arriving. Unfortunately, they were pretty pricey. Wednesdays are usually special sale days and this past Wednesday was 20% of all Spring merchandise. So I asked if the heron (by this time my favorite one had sold) would count as spring merchandise and the ladies running the shop said "Of course!"  So he came home with me!
I couldn't get him to stand next to the stream since the ground is still frozen and the spike to hold the heron upright wouldn't go into the ground. But the leafy debris under the Rhododendron would accept the spike, for a little while, so I could see how the heron would look.  We are wondering if he will attract more herons or scare them away!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Frost Seeding

With the snow fall we had on Friday of 7-8 inches, and the rapid melting immediately after, Saturday was a great day to frost seed.  We bought an Earthway broadcast spreader and the snow cover, down to 3-4 inches by Saturday afternoon, helped me learn to use the spreader's settings and tell where I had already seeded. I could get a nice even spread over about a 6-8 foot swath as I walked along. The hardest part was not slipping all over the place and dropping the spreader since I had the slippery melting snow to contend with. And our property is mostly hills making footing even trickier.
The Earthway spreader is a pretty neat gadget; very easy to figure out the settings and easy to operate. I was really happy with the coverage I was able to obtain. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


Yesterday, before the snow came back, I found this row of spinach in the garden.
I have been able to overwinter spinach in the hoop house but never in the garden. Hopefully I can remember this and plant more spinach next fall for early spring harvest.

Happy First Day of Spring!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Finally, Signs of Spring

Despite the 50+degree days we have been having we still have large swaths of 3-4 inches of slushy snow.
But there are some signs of impending spring, if you look hard enough. It took a bit of digging, but I found some rhubarb.
The tree peony has buds.
But best of all are the crocuses coming up in the front lawn!
Last fall I planted 100 crocus bulbs in the front yard. The catalog said they would bloom in late March/early April and it looks like they are right on track. I can't wait to see them blooming!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cover Crops at the End of Winter

Our snow has finally melted enough that I can see the cover crops in the veggie garden. The winter rye is looking no worse for wear after being under a foot or so of snow for a few months.
The Austrian Winter Peas are just becoming visible.
And some of the Crimson Clover looks like it took a beating under all the snow. We'll see how it recovers once the warmer temps are here to stay.

It will be great to get back to work in the soil!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mapping It

Maddy has a degree in Geography and made us a great map of our property. I then added a bunch of details, so anything that looks amateurish is my handiwork and not my daughter's work.

The map helps to demonstrate the hilliness of our property.  The bottom corner is the highest elevation and the stream runs along the lowest part of our little valley. The stream also loses about 5 or 6 feet as it runs down towards the house (at the top of the image.)

In this close up of the area around the house it is easier to see the elevation lines. The bottom right corner of the house faces pretty much towards the south.
The area right around the house and on either side of the stream is fairly level . Across the stream from the house is the firewood processing area.
The back or farm part of the property is much hillier.
The green shaded areas are woods and/or shrubby areas. The pastures, in white, are slowly being encroached by brush. This year's task for the goats and sheep is to clear back the brush so we can expand the pastures back to their original size.  We should be able to increase the pastures by approximately 25% by clearing the brush. And we will make the goats very happy with that job too.

It is hard to see, but the pale, thin line around the perimeter of the back part of the property is the new fencing and the gray rectangle in the upper left is the barn. We will have three main pastures, the first on the south side of the stream, the other two split by the finger of green shaded area in the middle of the image. Each main pasture will then be managed intensively, moving the animals around with temporary electric fencing. I am excited to see how this all works. The chickens caught on quickly to the concept and would get all excited when I was moving their electric fencing.  I am hoping the sheep and goats will be able to be out on pasture by May, but the snow had better start melting faster!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lambing Clinic

Today my daughter, Maddy, and I went to a lambing clinic.  It was great to spend the day with other sheep people and talk lambing. I think my education up to this point was at just the right level to get the most out of this class. Nothing seemed to go over my head and I was never bored. Some of the information reaffirmed things I was doing and I learned a lot of new ideas and concepts to add to my sheep husbandry. By midmorning my brain hurt!

While it was sad to see dead lambs, they were extremely educational. I was very interested in the necropsy demo that was on the schedule but just being able to see lambs used to demonstrate malpresentations was very helpful. It's hard to visualize how you would bring a leg around that was pointing backwards when you are just reading about it in a book.

Seeing the necropsy made me more confident to try one. A simple incision on the abdomen of the lamb moving towards the ribs then cutting through the ribs to open the chest cavity was all that is really needed. I just need to get some disposable scalpels.  From the necropsy it was suspected that this poor little lamb was stepped on and died from internal hemorrhaging.
After lunch we all went back to the farm and saw demonstrations of ear tagging, weighing, taking temperatures, tail banding, etc. I even got to band a tail! While my Royal White sheep don't need their tails' docked, I might need to do this if I ever get any wool sheep. The process is the same for castration.
This little lamb was a teeny, tiny triplet born during the morning session. It looks a lot bigger here though:
All in all it was a great way to spend a damp March Saturday!  Thanks to Caroline Owens for hosting and organizing the event and sharing her knowledge. Also a great big thank you to Dr. Jackie Rapp for imparting tons of her knowledge all morning; and to Jan Motter and Jerry McCarthy for sharing their expertise as well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Melt is On!

The last few days of 40s and 50s for highs have done wonders for our stream. Three days ago the stream was still completely covered by ice and snow; you could hear the water rushing underneath, but no water was visible. All that changed yesterday. This morning when I went out to feed just about the entire stream is free of ice and snow. What is left is very dirty ice from when the higher waters yesterday during the rain washed over parts of the ice.
That's dirty ice to the left of the bridge in the above picture.

It's nice to see and hear the stream again.
The upper stream is fairly straight, but the lower portion is quite twisty.
We need to work on straightening out this part of the stream since all the sharp bends get worn away and then the banks collapse. It's easy to see how the stream has changed course over the years and we would like to lessen the erosion.

And maybe this year we can get some ducks to swim in our stream.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Building a Lamb Creep From Pallets

I have wanted/needed a lamb creep and finally have one. My husband has been extremely busy at work but was able to carve out an afternoon to make me very happy. I have been showing him plans and he finally realized what exactly I needed in a lamb creep.

I was thinking he would want to work with new wood but he thought we could make a lamb creep from pallets. Saturday evening we went out and found two pallets which would work beautifully. Luckily, Alan is a facilities manager and they are moving a huge lab and have lots of pallets sitting around waiting to go. The plans I found for a lamb creep had the height at 3ft and the spacing of the uprights at 8 inches. These two pallets are exactly 3 ft tall and the spacing of the uprights ranged between 7.5 to 8.25 inches. The middle 2x4 was also at 1ft 6inches like in the plans. These pallets were waiting to be made into  a lamb creep!
Cutting the pallets to the size needed would give us a creep approximately 3ftx5ft. The short end went up against the door frame. A 2x4 was nailed to the siding nailers of the pole barn and sandwiched the short wall.
The long wall got a notch for the nailer.
Then the long wall was sandwiched as well by 2x4's.
The great thing about this creep is we can dismantle it as needed. The walls slip into their 2x4 slots and pin into place. Here is the corner:
The short wall is attached with a hook and eye. We need a beefier hook but this is working for now:
The finished creep:
We took two boards off the unused portion of a pallet and used them to block off two of the spaces so it would be harder for the ewes to stick their heads in, but they still try:

I guess eventually the ewes will give up trying to get into the lamb creep.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snowy Day Chores

We already had at least 3 inches of new snow when I went out to feed at 8AM this morning and it was snowing heavily.  Unfortunately, today was the day I needed to clean out the large sheep stall. 16x8 feet of packed straw, hay and manure! Thankfully, Maddy's workplace was closed due to the weather so I had her help. By the time we finished there was at least 6 inches of new snow on the ground.
This is what we dug out of the barn:
It took at least 12-13 large wheelbarrow loads to get the stall cleaned out. But the sheep seem to like the clean fresh straw bedding.
We found this in the packed straw! Must have been baled up in the hay or straw. I hope ram 3 didn't find a piece of aluminum and eat it. I guess we need to add "hardware disease" to the list of differential diagnoses.

On the next "nice" day we just have an 8x8 foot stall left to clean out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sad Day

I went to check on the sheep for the evening and found ram 3 had died. He never did show much improvement after the second vet visit. He wasn't eating, wouldn't take a bottle and didn't seem to respond even to tube feedings.
Today he wasn't getting up, was breathing rapidly, and laying his head back on his chest. Every once in a while he would lift up his head and move it around. He must have just died before I went out since he was still warm.
His mother, Moose, was very upset when I moved ram 3 out of the pen. She is up there now pacing around looking for him and calling.

So, to find the good in all of this (I sure hope this gets easier as I don't think this will be the last time we have a sheep die) here are some things that I learned throughout ram 3's illness:
1. I have great vets. They come quickly in an emergency, are knowledgeable, and reasonably priced.
2. I found a great farm store, Weaver's Farm Supply near Fleetwood, PA. They have nearly every livestock healthcare supply item you could want at great prices. Better than Tractor Supply!
3. The dose of pennicillin for a 36 pound lamb is 1 ml.
4. No matter how hard it is to do, I must make sure a ewe is milked out if her lambs are not able to nurse.
5. I have gotten pretty good at tube feeding, although it helps greatly to have an extra pair of hands with a larger lamb.
6. I need a stanchion and a lamb creep. This site has some plans I am studying for ideas. 
7. I need to learn to perform a necropsy. The vets had a couple of theories as to what ailed ram 3 and I do as well, but a necropsy may have given the answer. My daughter and I will be taking a lambing clinic on March 14th and there will be a vet demonstrating a necropsy. Hopefully, we will be allowed to take photos. So much to learn, so much to learn.