The wetlands police, overstocking and husbandry issues

Not too far from us is a property on a major road we checked out but rejected due to the house being a structural mess and the five acres being true wetlands (one of the local rivers runs through the middle).

Anyway, in the last few months someone bought the property, which had turned into a mold palace and is currently overstocking illegally.  Due to the river issue, very few animals of any kind could be raised on the land.  But there are currently more than a dozen sheep, half a dozen alpacas, two dozen or more poultry, five calves, a dozen or so goats, and a few llamas, all on five acres of wetlands. There were some fencing issues, although the loose animals did not make it out to the street.  They did get hay for the animals, but it’s of poor quality and the sheep are wool breaking due to stress.  And the sheep are not a breed that sheds, so it’s pretty bad.  The calves are very skinny and so are the alpacas.

But they fixed the fencing and the animals have hay and water.  It’s not a situation where you can file a cruelty or neglect complaint.  They’re just bad at “having animals” and some might die, but the animals just might not.  Sometimes animals can get along for years on bad hay and generally poor forage.  And overstocking is a relative thing to most people.

The reason I’m finally writing this up even in passing is that the wetlands police are pretty ostentatiously not shutting them down or taking their stock away.  Even though with the overstocking literally in the flow path of a river, there is an actual case for wetlands policing.  Things are changing in this county, I guess.

I’m not sure what it means for the future.  And we’ll see in a few months if it’s just a delay in processing.


Homesteading Diary, Monday December 2

Husband and I: Husband is doing better, I am still pretty tired from the poor weather though.

Goats: still on track to go to freezer camp in a couple more days.  The two wethers are getting almost as big as the doe, so at least 100lbs of offal/cuts/heads is probable.

Sheep:  The ewes are looking ok to my untrained eye.  They don’t look scrawny, like it’s all going to the lamb(s), but they also don’t look like they’re getting overfat (no signs of back fat or other overconditioning according to my lambing books’ drawings).  Despite the wastage, we’re going through about a bale a week and that seems to be adequate and likely to remain the eating rate after the goats are gone. And the ram lambs look ok as they pass out of lambhood.  Icelandics are relentless grazers, it’s really stunning to watch.  One can barely tell our pasture was overgrown this summer.

The little golden ewe looks a lot more pregnant, but still like it’s a just a single lamb.  Oh well, that’s typical for a first lambing.

Still no bunk feeder, putting a screen on won’t work with the manger, but they are wasting less hay as the grass gets less available and just eating quicker instead of being a bit leisurely as they were in early November.

Ducks: It was sleeting like crazy today and the ducks didn’t even care, they were as happy as anything in this crazy weather.  So we will continue to watch and wait on moving them into the barn since they seem quite happy in their run.  Did get them onto fresh new grass finally, so that’s off our backs for a week.

Kids: Busting out the light box (a form of therapy for SAD, which is rampant up here) has helped both of them with moodiness.  My oldest wanted to party in the sleet and didn’t understand why I was agin’ it until she heard the sound through an open window.

Thanksgiving was delicious and we used the long weekend to catch up on holiday shopping.

It’s been an ok few days.

Homesteading Diary, Tuesday November 26

Husband and I: still working through a series of health problems.  It’s all the bare minimum to get to the next day right now.

Goats: the goats were contained with our last fencing efforts, but two of them got unhappy and now just crawl under the fence, careless of the shocks.  Hunting season has slacked off, so one of the local butchers said they did have freezer space next week, so hopefully we can just go with that option, since the health stuff has really made it impossible to set a date to do it ourselves, even though the weather is really great for it.  The escapee goats have started nibbling a neighbor’s trees, so it’s time for freezer camp.

Sheep:  Unlike the goats, Bucky and Shaft are perfectly contained and happy to hang out eating hay and grass with the ewes and don’t even try to test the fence now.  So once the goats (even the sole non-escapee, little tame Taco) are turned into deliciousness, there should be no further misfortunes with stray livestock eating the wrong trees in the wrong yard.

Three of the ewes look pretty pregnant and one looks maybe sorta pregnant.  I am beginning to think we might actually have an out of season conception on our hands, but things will be more obvious around Christmastime.  Getting the sheep to notice where we put the minerals has been hard, they’ve only eaten a little and I worry about that one and have to hope the hay and alfalfa treats are good enough.  I still have the expectation that seven lambs are most likely if the ewes carry to term successfully and nothing about their growing size suggests fewer or more right now.

The hay situation is miserable, our homemade manger leads to spilled hay like whoa and the only reduction in lossage is by giving 1/5 or less of a bale at a time and “fluffing” the hay in the manger a few hours later so the fresh bits are back on top.  We ordered a bunk feeder, but it’s backordered and who knows when it will turn up with the holiday.  Until then, small amounts and lots of fluffing and sighing at all the hay on the ground.  The goats jumping into the manger doesn’t help.  I am writing this post so I will remember to try putting a screen on top in the next day or so and see if that helps reduce the lossage.

Ducks: Down to 2 eggs a day the last couple of days, if we stay on the mend, we’ll probably move them at long last into the barn this weekend.  They have ridden the frosty mornings and nights out like gangbusters, happy as anything even when their swimming water is frozen and their waterer is crusted over with ice.  Due to the health stuff, they haven’t been moved like they should have been and are down to mostly bare earth, so I am going to give it a try with my little arms today or tomorrow.  I’ve been keeping them on 2 quarts of feed, 1 in the am and 1 in the pm.

Kids: Not sick as far as we can tell, just a little stir crazy with the cold and rain.  It’s been warmer and sunnier this week, so we’ll get them both out more.

It’s been a hard week and is likely to continue being hard for another week or two.  But we’re all still here, the animals and kids are healthy and ridiculously well fed and we don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, so that stress is off our minds.  We are going with these neat people who like to source local and organic and sustainable whenever they can.  They used to be a nice local go-to for us when we were living in suburbia and they are always worth the custom.

Sustainable urban farmer Will Allen is coming to Snohomish

This is just a fangirl post. Will Allen is the Joel Salatin of urban farming, often cited/referenced, never duplicated.

He brings a wonderful sense of practicality to his desire to help support his community that is simply amazing in the urban farming space, which is laden with, well, impracticality.  He is pretty neat and he is going to be in MY TOWN WOO.

Sadly, I can’t go tomorrow or when he’s at Focus on Farming.  But it’s so cool to know he’s come down to visit us in Northern Cascadia.

Growing Power, site describing their work, including their non-urban farming efforts.

He’ll be keynoting at Focus on Farming.  There is the poster for his day tour, with all the locations, yay!

He’s worth seeing!

Homesteading Diary, Monday October 28

Husband and I: completely wore ourselves out putting up fencing this weekend, eight hours of manual labor.  We also went ahead and put the hay out.  Timing was pretty good, we’re getting frost warnings this week, and my husband wanted the hay out with the first real frost or a little before.

Goats and sheep: Now that we’ve got the fencing in and electrified, neither the goats nor the sheep have tried to set themselves free.  So in all likelihood the goats will stick around until spring and lambing season.  But it’s only been a couple days, we’ll see where the week takes us.  The goats were sad, but they get to eat hay during midday while the sheep hang out in the pasture being relentless in their consumption.  The sheep eat a bit of hay in the very early morning and later in the evening.  Due to exhaustion and not knowing where the trimming shears are, we didn’t get the hoof trimming and wool trimming in, but Shaft’s wool has in fact almost all the bramble I was really worried about.

The girls are calmer around Bucky and Shaft.  Shaft has not gotten the memo that he is too immature to breed and keeps trying to make it happen.  We will have a ram pen and stricter breeding protocol next breeding season.  But it is highly unlikely that Shaft at 4mo is going to father anything this year.

Ducks: Cayuga still not laying, greatly hoping it’s not a drake.  The other three lay just fine, but cannot decide whether they should lay in their nest or in the mud, so I have to walk carefully when taking care of their food and water to avoid stepping on the egg(s) they lay in the mud before I gather them.

Kids: They enjoyed a recent visit to one of the local pumpkin patches and acquired two adorable little pumpkins.

General local stuff:  We ordered more fencing and price-shopped a little and found a better deal with a local branch of a megachain of farm stores.  Said branch also has more reliable delivery than the co-op.  We’ll still use the co-op for hay and some other things, their prices are good for a lot of basics, they just have elderly delivery truck issues right now and can’t do the big stuff deliveries we really need this year.

Also, cattle panel fencing is ugly and this makes me sad, but it would make our neighbors sad if our livestock kept getting out because we chose prettier fencing that was less reliable.

Well, off to find those shears so we can get our hoof maintenance and condition checks on.

Homesteading Diary, Monday October 21

Husband and I: both tired from having to unload hay, straw and cattle panels this weekend since the co-op’s delivery truck broke down and we had to pick everything up ourselves.  This meant we couldn’t put up as much fencing and do as much patching as we wanted.  We’ve made some good plans though, and we appear to be getting physically stronger anyhow.

Goats: STILL ALIVE…for a little longer.  We have to do a bunch of maintenance with the sheep, so the goats get to stay alive probably another 2-3 weeks.  We will try to time butchering them so they don’t get any of the hay, but they might get some, since it’s getting towards that time of year.  They are giving less trouble, mostly eating a lot of grass and hanging out near the sheep.  Not so bad right now.

Sheep:  We have six now instead of four, and the new sheep have wandering feet.  Their bloodlines are IIRC from the original Icelandic imports, before Icelanders started altering their breed for maximum meat production, tameness and white wool output.  Our new sheep are named Bucky (white badgerface) and Shaft (moorit).  So there is a lot of curiosity in the new guys and a certain amount of skittishness that isn’t present in the other four, who are more mellow and happy to respect nearly any kind of fencing with or without electricity/hotwire.

I’m currently on sheep patrol, until we can patch enough boundary fence to let them roam during the day and not wander into the front yard.  Gotta round the little guys up every few hours until evening, when the whole flock gathers near the barn to eat.  Predation is not an issue right now (thankfully), but we do need to set a real boundary fence line, our current one fizzles out halfway across our back woods.  Shaft, the most wanderlusty of the two new guys, got tangled in some bramble yesterday and then decided to compound the problem by getting tangled in the SmartFence today, bramble, legs, head and all.  He ran away yesterday before I could really tell how bad the bramble situation was, but today I was able to use the tangled fencing to catch him and keep him from strangling himself and a lot has shed off or fallen off, but there’s still one clump we’ll have to hack out tomorrow, maybe today if I can do it by myself.  His fleece is pretty thick and awesome and low-lanolin, a shame I’ll have to hack it up.

Ducks: Still laying pretty steady, but we’re seeing the winter slowdown.  Will probably put them in the barn next month and possibly use a lamp, haven’t decided yet.

Kids: The eldest loves to spend her days as a ballerina alicorn princess and the youngest has decided crawling is not the only way to get around and is walking more than two steps AT LONG LAST.  And both kids love oatmeal and duck eggs, just not together.

General local stuff:  We made it to Fiber Fusion Northwest over the weekend.  I got to untangle the mysteries of how thread is made, and feel a bunch of raw fleeces.  I ended up with a light coat of lanolin for my troubles, but it was good to sample how a variety of other breeds’ raw fleeces feel after being sheared and minimally processed (quick rinse, trimming of poop and burrs/etc).  Eldest child was quite delighted at the fiber animals on display, especially the ultra-tame alpacas, freshly sheared and ready for treats from anyone.  Also got some information about machinery for fiber processing.  Nice little informative festival, hope to spend a lot longer there next year!

Farmer’s Market Roundup: Snohomish Farmer’s Market

Today a confluence of circumstances allowed us to go as a family to the nearest local farmer’s market, in the lovely town of Snohomish.  Right near the center of town they have a nice little market each Thursday until October from about 3pm to about 7-8pm, depending on when darkness falls.  We went and wandered and picked up some nice local goods.

Berries and broccoli from a very-local farm whose name is lost to toddler carping: $12.75

Absolutely delicious and enticingly flavored knotweed honey, with a side order of perfectly adequate fireweed honey from the folks at Frontier Flyers Honey: $23 ($12 for the knotweed, and $11 for the fireweed)

Baked treats from a lady’s car, blueberry/peach coffee cake (1) with REAL PEACH PITS for me, the mommums, and chocolate no-bake (2) for my husband and our oldest.  The baby didn’t get any baked treats, but did get the joy of people telling her she was AWESOME for being in an Ergo carrier: $5 total (would have been a bit more, but the lady cut us a break because I got the last coffee cake piece and “It was a small one, two dollars is fine.”

They have a scrip system for using credit cards.  You go to one of the nice old ladies running the market FAQ booth and they will run your credit card for a fixed amount and give you tokens that the vendors can return cash change for.  Pretty handy!  We didn’t go that route, but it’s good to know for another time.  In the meantime, I got printed lists of the farmer’s markets in Snohomish and King counties, which I will probably use to make the rounds this year.  I will dig up my reviews of the mostly King County farmer’s markets I made it to last year and put those up soon enough, but this year, I will focus on Snohomish County.  Should be interesting!

I like farmer’s markets, the vendor selection was very local and pretty solid, a mix of food and tchotkes.  And in a Very Seattle twist, there was stuff like organic homemade dog treats next to the handpopped kettle corn with the stand run by children and handcarved wood bagatelles.  Fun market, will visit again!