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Breeding

New Arrivals

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New Arrivals

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I had this absurd notion that once the baby arrived everything would calm down and we would have many days of quiet and rest. There is no such thing on a farm, especially one with so many animals depending on you every day. Our family of 4 has now become 5 and we're all in love. It's as if the new little guy can sense how busy we are and has decided to be the most easy going baby he possibly can be. He spends most of his days eating and sleeping while we juggle how to get everything done both inside and outside of the house. We have been fortunate to have Matt's mom here for the last several weeks so now that I am all healed up and she is headed home the real test begins.

We have been playing around with the sheeps feed and mineral supplement, because of where the Icelandic sheep originate they do better with a much higher amount of minerals than most sheep. The more we learn about natural care of the sheep it seems as if you can keep their reproductive health at its optimum, prevent illnesses and parasites all through the right balance of minerals. Our fingers are crossed that they're all healthy enough to breed and that we'll have many lambs running around the pastures come spring. All due to the second new arrival on the farm.

The Ram made its arrival at the farm about a week after we came home from the hospital. He is at least twice the ewes size and with his huge coat of black wool a formidable presence on the landscape. Their first moments of being introduced were like a small dance, the flock fled his approach and then slowly approached him as a group and fled again. This little sequence was played over and over again. They eventually got used to each other but Lulu, our pyrenees puppy, is still skeptical and doesn't want to be in the temporary paddock we set up for the Ram's time on the farm. Luckily there is still a large part of the paddock that Lulu can have to herself and one of the shelters for her to sleep in at night.

The farm was covered in four inches of snow yesterday and we started to worry because the hoop house where the chickens will winter is still not done. The side vents are finished and the wiggle wire we used to frame the plastic arrived and was installed around the door frames but we are still without doors. The chickens didn't seem to mind the snow and it mostly melted away by the afternoon so hopefully we can get them into their new shelter before the real deep freeze sets in.

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Animal Update

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Animal Update

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We have had our Icelandic sheep for almost three months now and where they once would run away from us as soon as we let them out of their shelter in the morning they now calmly hover around waiting for food. This is our breeding flock so their natural forage has been supplemented with a little bit of grain to get them up to weight for pregnancy and birthing. That and we are still working on fencing and growing enough quality forage to keep them in green pastures year round. Some of them were incredibly small since there were at least two sets of twins but now most of them have more than doubled in size and we feel comfortable bringing a ram to the farm in the next month to start breeding. The main challenge with them has been to keep them in fresh green grass. The pastures closest to their shelter were soon not enough so we fenced in our front yard and with the use of a temporary fence rotated them around our almost two acre yard while trying to keep them out of our garden and about a hundred trees we have planted since we bought the property. The temporary fence did not keep a couple of the more daring sheep in so we were constantly chasing them out of the garden and back into their fenced area. We were finally able to make the fence a little hotter which for the most part has kept them in. Two of the smaller sheep were injured after a 55 mile an hour windstorm blew fencing material into their pasture and they got tangled up in it and wounded their legs. Matt spent weeks bandaging them up and giving them medicine. They were spending so little time foraging that we were worried they weren't going to make it but they are now completely healed up and enjoying their second rotation around the green grass in our yard.

Lulu, our six month old Pyrenees puppy really has two families, the one that feeds her and plays with her but the one she spends the most time with is her sheep who she also spends her nights with. She is still figuring out that the sheep are not puppies and have no desire to play with her but when it comes to guarding them she is all business. It's hard to believe that she won't be a fully mature guard dog until she is two because her instincts and willingness to stand her ground are already so strong. We are also hoping to bring a sheep herding dog to the farm but we will wait until next year to start that project.

Lulu's instinct with the chickens isn't as helpful as it is with the sheep. She hasn't injured any yet but she loves to chase them around and we have seen her mouth around a couple of the older hens. The 37 Bard Rock chicks we got in the mail are now almost fully grown and should be laying eggs within the month. We think there at least 10 roosters in the bunch and have heard the beginnings of crowing early in the morning. We have only had one rooster up until now and the prospect of 11 cock-a-doodle-doos at 6 am is not very exciting so there might be some Coq-au-vin in our future.

We lost one chick on it's trip from the hatchery to the farm but none since we brought them home, we have not had as much luck with the turkey pullets we brought home at the same time. Three died during the over 100 degree weather we had this summer and 4 were very lethargic with foot deformities so we decided to cull them, which left us with one. It was a hard decision but we didn't want to see them in pain anymore. Lulu's vet said it was pretty common in turkeys that are non-heritage breeds but we also did some research and found the foot deformities are related to a magnesium deficiency. We really want to have turkeys for our family and friends next year so we found a hatchery that specializes in heritage breeds and we will look into putting together our own feed recipe that will focus on any deficiencies our soil might have. It was a huge disappointment to lose so many but one of what I am sure will be many hard learned lessons we will experience over the next several years of starting a farm.

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Chicklets and Poulets

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Chicklets and Poulets

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We received a call at 5 am this morning that our chicks and turkey poulets had arrived at the post office.  We knew they would be arriving in a small box and that they will have been without water or food for 24 hours so before anyone had coffee or breakfast we rushed down to our local USPS where our friendly postal woman Diana was keeping them safe on a table with boxes full of other peoples chicks. This is our fourth brood of chickens but it still feels like Christmas morning anticipating their arrival and getting to hold our fuzzy little feathered friends for the first time. The kids got to help me free them from their tiny box and put them in their new home, which is an old watering trough for the horses that used to live here. Our farm family now includes 25 Bard Rock Hens, 5 Roosters, and 8 Bronze Turkeys.

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Icelandic Sheep

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Icelandic Sheep

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We recently took a trip to Alderwood Ranch on Whidbey Island, run by Katie and Randy, to meet their flock of Icelandic Sheep and see if its the breed for us. We have been researching the Icelandic sheep for awhile because it is one of the oldest breeds of Sheep and has many traits that we are interested in. Its a hardy breed that can withstand colder weather which we were worried about with our lack of windbreak or buildings on the farm right now. They are good mothers, also known for prolificacy, typically having twins and triplets. The main reason we are interested in them is that they are tri-purpose which means that you can get milk, meat, and fiber from them. We don't have much infrastructure on the farm yet, besides a couple of horse shelters, so we won't milk them right away but that is an adventure we can save for the future. I don't know how long we will be able to resist having fresh milk to make our own butter and cheese with. The first ones to greet us upon our arrival were Toto and Piglet, the Wether Rams (castrated males), they are used as another form of protection on the property besides the two Llamas and the Icelandic Sheep dogs that the Alderwood Ranch breeds. Randy said they sometimes put the Wethers in with the isolated Rams to keep them in check and calm them down a bit. They loved hanging out near us while we chatted about our plans but most of the Sheep kept their distance with their lambs in tow.

We learned a lot about the breed and ended up rethinking our whole plan on how to fence the farm. Which we better get started on pronto because we have 8 Icelandic Ewes coming to the farm in less than a month! The plan is to bring in a Ram this fall, so hopefully by spring we could have a dozen or more little lambs frolicking around the farm.

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