Friday, October 30, 2015

Garage Update

Work on the garage is continuing, both inside and out. The gable end is nearly finished getting it's siding and the doors have been made for the attic storage area.

We got some nice strap hinges from Van Dyke's.
The inside of the garage/shop area is coming together too.

All the insulating, drywalling, spackling, and painting is done. Alan picked up a great stainless steel slop sink. He is finishing up the surface conduit/wiring then it is time to move in. Most of his shop has been stored in a friend's barn. It will be nice to have everything he needs to work on the rest of the house here in the shop instead of 15 minutes away.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

State of the Garden

Fall-the time to review how the garden fared, what worked and what didn't. This was the end of a full 12 months with cover crops. I definitely liked the fall sown oats and daikon radish. You could barely tell there was anything planted in the bed by the time spring rolled around.  The radishes especially left no trace of their presence after the winter freezes and snows. The crimson clover didn't do so well over the winter. And I am still sold on using buckwheat as an interim planting for ground that might be bare for a few weeks otherwise.

Not so great was the winter rye. Waiting until pollen shed to cut the rye, then waiting 2 weeks for the roots to begin deteriorating allowed too many weeds to become entrenched. I don't think I will be planting anymore rye.

I will definitely continue to have a bed used for composting garden waste. Right now I have two beds of finished compost, one bed now cooking, and one bed being built. The soil under the two finished beds of compost looks beautiful and should grow great veggies next year.

I am lucky to have access to a good amount of sheep manure and some chicken manure from my own animals. Knowing what they have been fed and how they have been treated makes me comfortable using their manure to fertilize the garden. We also have a yard vac which shreds the leaves and mixes them with grass clippings.  So I have various beds treated differently. Four beds have fall sown oats, two have daikon radishes. Some of the beds have garden compost and others have composted sheep manure. And some beds have shredded leaves/grass clippings along with manure.

Spike the cat likes to keep me company in the garden.  He is sitting in one of the old compost beds. Directly above him is a bed of oats, then the leek bed (which did really well this year), then another oat bed, then beets, parsnips, the old thai pepper bed now covered with sheep manure, then carrots.  In the background, beyond the little white fencing, is the large double bed of daikon radishes.

I read somewhere that chicken bedding used as mulch on garlic grows the best bulbs. I had the perfect chicken bedding to use so we'll see how the garlic does. I used shredded leaves last year and the garlic didn't do so well. I am not sure if that was the shredded leaves or the drought, although I did try to water that bed fairly regularly. 

Fall is my favorite time in the garden. So many possibilities for next year and the weeds are mostly dead. Having the oats with their bright green color makes the garden seem so alive and ready to grow.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

More Pasture Clearing

Various ruminants were busily working away at the brush in the upper pasture for most of the summer. Last spring it looked like this:
Now it looks like this:
And over the hill looks like this:
It hard to get a photo to give a good sense of scale, but the area is about 300 feet long and about 70 feet wide. Next up is raking, then spreading seed and praying for rain. This work will nearly double my largest pasture.

I am really looking forward to seeing how the pastures perform next year. Between all the sheep manure and urine and the liming the soil fertility and environment should be improving and giving a better harvest of grasses.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

More on the Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium

The Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium was much more than the necropsy workshop.  After the necropsy workshop we decided to split up and my daughter attended a pasture workshop; unfortunately she didn't learn much new information. I went to a sheep/goat skills workshop and learned how to tip a sheep (something I have been wanting to learn for a long time.)
Other topics covered included hoof trimming (I passed since I just trimmed all my sheep's hooves 4 days before), collecting manure samples directly from the rectum, giving boluses, ear tagging and tattoing, and a hay evaluation area. I was glad to get hands-on training in collecting the manure samples since waiting around for a sheep to poop is time-consuming and I wanted to make sure I didn't hurt the sheep. But really, collecting a sample was pretty much the same as doing a vaginal exam on my patients. And I learned that I will NEVER tattoo my sheeps' ears.

The hay evaluation segment was very educational. There were multiple samples of hay that had been analyzed for nutritional values of crude protein, total digestible nutrients, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and molybdenum. Calculating digestible dry matter and neutral detergent fiber (total structural fiber) were also covered. Surprisingly, the worst looking hay had the highest nutritional value.
So you can't tell how nutritious your hay is accurately without submitting samples to a lab for analysis. This link has directions to make your own hay core sampler using an old golf club.  I am not sure if the few sheep I have and the multiple hay sources I use would make it worthwhile to have the hay tested.
Friday was packed full of great hands-on learning. Saturday was more lecture oriented, but I was able to attend the hands-on worm egg counting workshop. The FAMACHA course my daughter and I took at Delaware Valley Ag College just showed how to make the slides. I learn best if I do something with someone explaining as I go. This workshop was perfect. My sample had 29 Strongylid eggs in the two sections of the McMaster slide which calculates to a total worm egg load of 1470 per gram of feces. Fascinating! There were also coccidia oocysts in my sample too. They also gave us a handy laminated page with multiple microscope images.

I think the worm egg counting workshop was the highlight of the symposium for me.Now I just need to get a microscope and some McMaster slides.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall Preparations

In between all the other things going on around here, we've been getting in loads of hay. Today was our fifth load for a total of 130 bales of hay and 8 bales of straw. I am hoping we can do one more load; getting more straw and finishing up with a little more hay. My hay farmer is pretty good about keeping hay around so if I run out in early spring it won't be horrible, just a pain.
Getting the garage work mostly completed has made more room in the barn for hay and straw. And I need to figure out where to put some lambing jugs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Raddle Me This

What is light brown, wears a green coat, and leaves red marks? Elwood in his spiffy green sheep coat and his ram marking harness.
Just look at that handsome fellow! He has been in with his ewes for two days and has already marked two ewes. That red thing between his front legs is a marking crayon (or raddle.) In 17 days (the average length of a sheep heat cycle) the red will get replaced with blue. If he did his job properly all the ewes should have bred in the first 17 days, but someone may have just been finishing ovulation when he joined the group. He has been spending all day sniffing urine and slobbering in ewes' ears.
Mama Sadie was marked on the first day, but her mark isn't as dark as Moose's. Moose was marked on the second morning. And she was love sick. She followed Elwood around, sniffing him, and just being all flirty.
Hopefully we will have lambs in early March. Moose was such a good mother. I hope she has twins this time.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium

I love learning new ideas, techniques, anything. A day without learning something is a wasted day. I heard about the sheep and goat symposium nearly a year ago and have been waiting patiently. My daughter and I went up for the Friday and Saturday sessions. I am thinking we should have stayed in Ithaca for the farm tours on Sunday, but we really did need to get home.

The conference was great! We started with a necropsy workshop (now I found out last year it was a hands-on field necropsy, I would have loved to participate in that.) Cornell has a great little ampitheater for dissections. The veterinarian doing all the demonstrating, Dr Mary Smith, was a great teacher.
Here she is holding up a goat placenta. Those round red discs on the clear membranes are the cotyledons (a human placenta is made up of 15-30 cotyledons closely spaced.)  The cotyledons attach to the caruncles inside the uterus.

Above is the inside of a two year old ewe's uterus. The caruncles are the white blob-like things. This is so different from a human placenta and uterus.The structure of the uterus is more like a cat uterus than a human uterus.
The last animal dissected during the necropsy demo was a two year old ewe Dr. Smith had just euthanized that morning. The ewe had been ill for a while, been on antibiotics but wasn't getting any better and had stopped eating. Then her one eye began to bulge out. It was interesting to see the antibiotic residue in the ewe's tissues. None of the internal organs gave any clue as to what ailed the ewe. It wasn't until the head was sliced in half down the middle that the answer became apparent.

This ewe had a large tumor in her sinus cavity and was unable to breath and eat, so breathing won.
I am really glad we went to the symposium and I hope it works out that we can attend next year. I will have another post about the rest of the symposium soon.