Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Double Dew Claw

One of the unique traits of the Great Pyrenees breed is that they have two dew claws. A lady at work who used to breed Pyrenees warned me that some times individuals in the breed can have problems with the dew claws, so they need to be checked every so often. Sure enough, I checked Feta's claw and you can see below how the rightmost dew claw had started to curve in on itself. Interestingly, Alfredo's claws didn't present a problem. Good genetics.
So while we were in the pasture trimming claws, I took a picture of the family. Feta's in the pic below, sniffing baby Silas.
Another trait with Pyrenees is that they are ridiculously affectionate towards children. Kids can pull and squeeze on their necks, tug on their massive jowls, and scream in delight, and the Pyrenees take it in stride as you can see below. The only problem is size - klutzy large dogs and uncoordinated toddlers can make for some (hilarious) wipeouts.
Good family and good dogs.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting Goats

So yesterday I put a deposit down on a starter flock of goats. We're getting Kiko goats from John Jeffries, who breeds Kikos on his farm over across town. He's got a herd of around 50 Kikos plus a whole lot of (goat) kids running around. We looked at getting Katahdin sheep, but we went with goats for 3 reasons:1.) Land - our land is perfect goat land. The pasture that we've fenced in is full of sericia lespedeza, cedars, locust trees, briars and rose. The sericia is choking out the fescue and other grasses, and the goats will relish the browse. Parasites are inevitable in goat herds, and will be the biggest threat to our herd. S. lespediza actually acts as an anti-helmitic that kills the worm eggs and slows down the adults in the goats intestinal tract. Lespedeza is also a legume that's high in protein. One man's weed is another's resource.

2.) Price & Support - The goats are about half as expensive as the sheep we were looking at for local breeding stock. Also, John is very easy to talk to, and breaks things down easily. From experience, you never really have a clue what you're doing with livestock until you start to raise that particular animal and have to start troubleshooting problems. Having someone who can hold my hand through the first year, and whose farm gate is always open is very attractive to our family.

3.) Market - We have a good amount of connection with people who come from other countries and areas of the world where goats are valued as a meat source. I have no problem dealing with people from other cultures - and that's skill or stumbling block that's taken for granted. A friend from Trinidad recently brought Carla goat curry to try - and Carla loved it. So whether we keep the goat operation small for our own use, or want to scale it up, we've got the options either way, and we really dig that.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Ridiculous Foot of Snow

So Saturday night into Sunday, a fast moving system dumped an inch of rain and then over a foot of snow on us. The day before, it was nearly 70 degrees. Seriously, the end of March and over a foot of snow? It's depressing, and it's really screwed things up. The weather man predicted 1-3 inches. He was right, but there was an additional 9 inches he forgot to mention...
Hopefully this will be the last time this year that I have to hike up and down our road because of the snow. It's getting old.
The pups were ready to be fed. Squirt got popped by the fence last week, so you can see in the pic that he stays way, way back.
So Feta didn't wouldn't even wait for me to fill her bowl. The bucket had a bunch of goodies mixed in with their dry dog food. Apparently she was a fan!
I'm so glad that I didn't put the hens out on pasture last week - really dodged a bullet. This year's been really crazy so far. It's good to see this while just getting the farm started, because it shows me what I have to plan for worst case.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First Turkey Eggs

So I've got my first turkey hen starting to lay. These are two of the Narragansett eggs. She's laying an egg about every other day or so (0.75/day). I'm guessing things will ramp up as spring starts to come in full swing. Interesting how they're camoflouged/mottled. So I've got a Tom that does his duty and a hen who lays, so we'll probably end up overwintering some more hens and another tom this year and start getting two breeding flocks going - a tom with 3 hens. That should give us around 30 eggs to hatch a week; depending on sales this year, I'd like to have around 75 turkeys for sale next year. Hatching our own poults would be cheaper - buying poults vs keeping 8 or 9 turkeys through the winter, plus the customers that buy these birds want to see them preserved, and that would be a huge added value for them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Pasture Coop Site

So it's getting close to moving the laying flock back down to the pasture. With daylight savings, we've got a little more time in the evening, so Simmey and I went down to check the state of the pasture. Last winter, I left the hens on pasture too long, so I'm paying for it now. The grass had been stunted, and it's recovering.
Where Simmey's standing with his entourage of "puppies" is where the pasture coop will need to be moved later this week. I've got to attach some eye bolts through the 4x4 skids so I can drag it. The spot is on the edge of the pond (that doesn't hold water - thank you interstate blasting), and more importantly, relatively flat, especially for our land.

Last year, we got beat up pretty bad by the varmits. We've taken quite a few precautions this year - the massive Pyrenees above, a fence packing 15 joules and 9.5 kvolts. We're a step closer to success either way.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bartering with Eggs

So March can be a rough time for egg sales. At the Wynn's Winter Market, the other egg producers hens have stepped into full swing, and the larger Fayetteville Farmers Market won't start until April. Coming home with 15 or 20 dozen eggs can be pretty disheartening, so I've had to get pretty creative in pushing the eggs.

This week, I barter a case of wet dogfood for the pups at the local feedstore for 7 dz leftover eggs. The old man who owns the feedstore is a Korean War Vet, so he and his family tend to hook me up, having fought a tour in Iraq and all. Still doesn't make up for the broken neck & PTSD! It turns out that the dogfood is pretty high dollar stuff - IAMS. You can see a little of the label that's been taken off. The pups will love it.The temptation is to go out and pick up a grocery store or restaurant account to supply eggs. However, once the markets begin, I'll have no problem selling, and would be forced to decide between market customers or the new grocery/restaurant accounts. At the local Organic food store/co-op, it seems like they change egg vendors every month. I don't want to be that kind of producer. I want my kids to grow up to be stable, so I figure the farm should be too.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Finding Shorts - Cutoff Switch

So I put a cut off switch in the pasture where the hot wire comes down from the house at the top of the holler and feeds into the fence. It looks kind of confusing in the pic below, but it works and makes sense. The hot wire comes from the right side of the pic and ties into the black insulated wire on the left side of the cedar post. The wire loop attached to the rebar/yellow insulator applies tension to the hot wire. The rebar is also flexible, putting some give into the line when deer hit the line. The black wire that wraps around the post feeds into the cut off switch. It's wrapped to keep from pulling out the switch out - once again because of the deer. A line feeds from the bottom of the switch into the fencing lines. I still need to add two more lines to finish off the fencing. They'll go on top to give the fence a height of 5 ft. The reason for the cutoff switch is to make it easier to find things like the scene below. A rotten branch fell, landing right on the line, snapping the insulator. (The bottom wire is the ground wire.) Having a cutoff switch lets me know if the shorts in the pasture fencing or the pasture running down the holler.
Who needs a gym when you can climb up and down hillside ravines all day?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Wynn Family Winter Market

fWell, little Silas has taken to his new home quite well. As you can see, he's got no problem kicking back and catching up on his zzzzs.
On another note, we've been selling all winter at a the Wynn Family winter market. Candye Wynn, avoiding the camera below, and her family started the winter market a couple of winters ago and graciously extended an offer to us to sell our eggs there this year. There's all kinds of greens, root veggies, pork, eggs, winter squashes, canned veggies and jellies, and a ton more stuff.
Oh yeah, you can also sign up for one of our free range heritage or broad-breasted turkeys for Thanksgiving. Hurry up though, because they're going fast!
On the right here is Dave Dickey. Dave's got quite the acreage of apples, fruits, and strawberries, and as you can see below winter squashes. Dave's a great guy and a joy to visit with.
The winter market will end at the end of this month, when the Fayetteville Farmers' Market starts. But until then, swing by between 9 am -noon on Saturdays at the Firefighters Association Building (the old Bus Stop) next to the Brickhouse Restaurant on the westside of Hwy 71 (S. School St), in between 9th and 15th St.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Squirt - the LGD Conscript

First of all, thanks for all the kind congratulations over the birth of young Silas, my son. You guys rock! Now back to the farm...

So Squirt is our yellow dog - sort of. I say sort of because in the past year, Squirt has developed a very unique habit of waiting at a house about a mile and a half down the road for us to come home. When he see the truck or car pass, he darts back home, escorting us back up the hill to the house. After making sure we're home safely and that we don't have any treats, he turns around an trots downhill to begin the process again. It's gotten so bad that we took his collar off, because we got tired of kids catching him and calling us to go get him. He knew what he was doing, we knew what he was doing, but the residents of the nearby town of West Fork, and more importantly the Washington County Sheriff just assumed he was lost.

So a few days ago, Squirt was imprisoned in the pasture. Unwilling to endure a shock escaping from the electrified pasture border, he's been conscripted to a life wondering the hills of our pastures as a livestock guardian dog (LGD). The young Pyrenees really enjoy having him around - despite the upper cut being delivered by Alfredo in the photo below!
The Pyrenees really look up to Squirt, and Squirt has stopped trying to bolt out the gate when it's opened. In fact, he's starting to lord his status as top dog over Feta & Alfredo, picking a bowl of food at feeding time, and daring the pups to try to get a bite.

Feta & Alfredo had some run ins with hens last year that ended poorly for the hens. My hope is that the Pyrs will follow Squirt's example come this spring as Squirt has never shown the slightest interest in poultry (We've taken the birds off pasture for the winter). I've also got an interesting "invention" that should help alleviate any bad habits the Pyrs may have picked up last season with their puppyish exuberance - but more about that later.