We have chickens

A friendly acquaintance needed to find their chickens a more rustic home, so we offered to take them since we were wanting to try chickens over ducks this year.  Pictures hopefully this weekend, my husband is working out the final roaming/run area for them.  Right now they are parked in our front yard and getting stirred up by a very silly little big girl.

Speaking of, I might call her Ram Tamer, since that is what she’s done.  Our rams now will stand still for petting due to her valiant and persistent efforts at feeding them by hand.  They are “right” kind of tame, not the kind of tame where you can get head butted (which usually is from roughhousing with lambs too often).

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Can you make hay while the sun shines?

We can’t.  No shame though, we only have 5 acres, and only 4 that can be used for the sheep.  My husband and I had a thrilling (to us) discussion about the process of haymaking.  I thought it was just like grass clippings, but it’s more complex than that.  You have to cut the grass a specific length and then stack it up and then turn the stacks so the cut grass dries evenly.  And only then can you make haystacks or bales.

There is no point to doing all this by hand unless you want a very special exercise program for the summer.  But for small holdings (under 20 acres), or acreage on a mountain/hill/etc., there are walk-behind tractors and balers that have lovely videos on youtube and produce some nice bales with not much physical effort.  And before walk-behind equipment and conventional tractors, there were horse-drawn options, which one could still use I guess, if you already have the horses.

The whole point of the discussion was to figure out if it was possible to hay a little to cut down the hay bill, since we are only going to keep a small fiber flock anyhow.  But as it turns out, the best way to reduce the hay bill is to continue the soil improvement quest so that we can cut down how much hay has to be available each year.  Right now we need about nine months’ worth with the number of animals we have.  Getting that down to the seven we originally figured on would save about what magically haying an acre would.

While this was in draft, I found out that while haying our own land is probably not worth it, it might be worth it in the long term to help out some of the neighbors by haying their 5-20 acres where those neighbors are not able to stay on top of the mowing year to year (such is life in the country!)  We would get a break on our hay bill, some much-desired exercise and the neighbors would get cleared yards without the hassle of running animals as lawnmowers.  So it’s something to mull over and think about in a couple of years.

Secret raspberry garden

I am not a fan of the landscaping that came with this place, but some of it has unexpected summer joys attached.  Like this ever-bearing raspberry sport that survived and thrived in the shadow of the Himalayan menace that stalks our acreage.

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Ever-bearing means it was domesticated.  It survived unlike the secret rhubarb from a couple years ago, which sadly got shaded out.  We failed it for the last time.  :(  But hey, RASPBERRIES THE BIRDS CAN’T FIND WOOOOOOOO.

Vaccinating little lambs and not-so-temporary fencing

We managed to get all the lambs vaccinated with their initial shots today.  As is the case with many folks who do not farm full-time, we have been trying to change our electronet over to other types of fencing, but we aren’t done yet, so it’s still up.  Our solution to the entanglement issue is boosting the charge with a plug-in charger instead of a solar one. And it’s only on one side instead of two, so that’s a sort of progress.

We also got the shearing for spring done, I may offer some of that in July, it looks much nicer than I thought it would.  I hope to have some more pictures up Monday of the sheared sheep. In the meantime, here is a picture of some ferns.

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Pretty cute ferns!

Pasture improvement is slow and steady

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This used to be a massive blackberry thicket.

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Grey and Ripley love hanging out up here in the shade. I wouldn’t enjoy sticks under me, but I’m no sheep.

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You can really see the slope and how they tore into the blackberry here.

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This was much more brownish-yellow before the sheep got to it.

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Now that’s the start of some soil fertility.

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Not a golf course yet, but maybe someday? Hehe.

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Miracle or mundane?

The sheep are doing a pretty decent job.  As much as we fret about how terrible and sparse our pasture is, right now the sheep cannot eat as fast as new growth comes in, and that’s from all their stompyfoot and grazing and pooping.  So it is getting better, but the process is years-long no matter how hungry the little sheeps are.  (The older kids call them “sheeps”).