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In Our Backyard

The last two weeks have shown us a beauty of nature that we rarely see.

Lovely little American Goldfinchs gather on and under our bird feeders in our back yard.  The red house finch is in the middle of this little flock.

Adult males in spring and early summer are bright yellow with black forehead, black wings with white markings, and white patches both above and beneath the tail. Adult females are duller yellow beneath.  We normally don’t have them at our feeders or in the fields until late spring, early summer so this is a real treat.

At one time this week I counted over thirty on the ground under feeders eating up the sunflower seed that had been picked out of the feeders.

I love watching all the birds from my kitchen window.
We have finches, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, long-tailed blackbirds and several mourning doves every morning.

Since they’ve arrived so early I’m hoping with all my heart that spring is truly just around the corner.

Spring Cattle Move

Today a job that should have been done a month ago was completed.  Weather changes and the fact that Eddie and I have been sick for a week prevented us from pulling a bull from our fall calving herd.

Stormy weather prevented the cattle work for at least a month.

Buckshot has been with this herd since November 30th, 2017 and we normally only leave the bulls with our herds about three months.  Moving a bull away from a herd is not always easy but today it was a piece of cake!!  A bucket of feed, a cattle prod and competition down the lane will work every time.  He stood at the gate with 46 cows and calves and all the master had to do was walk him to the front of the line and when he herd his brother bulls down the lane he came through the gate pretty as you please!!  He is now in the bull lot with the other two bulls showing them whose boss or so he thinks!!

Buckshot and Samson back in the bull lot together again for about three months. Arby is in there with them but he would rather eat his “Cheerios” first before confronting big brother!

Now, our mountain long field is opened up and full of the Fall calving herd and hopefully all of them mother’s have been bred.  There’s 23 cows and 23 calves grazing our part of Little Mountain today and it will be wonderful sitting on the front porch watching them graze but not today!

Our Fall herd is enjoying some very precious green grass this afternoon.

The three bulls are playing nice for the moment!

I’m back in the house out of the wind nursing my sinuses and trying to get well!! We’ve been sick since last Tuesday and a week is too long to not be out on the farm or at least on the front porch!  I’m so tired of being cooped up when the sun is shining.  The wind is still blowing so I mustn’t take chances of being out too long.

 

Addition To The Farm

You would think that I have enough to do on the farm but alas NO!!  I have a friend that had a big flock of ducks and she had been giving me her duck eggs because they don’t eat them. They butchered most of their flock and asked me if I wanted the what was left over.

I got seven full-grown ducks from Nikki & Eddie Garey and I appreciate them so much.

I got two drakes and five hens and what a beautiful addition to our farm animals.  It only took one day for them to get use to their new owners and home.    They’re very easy to tend to, all I do is put out feed which is usually whole corn and maybe some leftover biscuits crumbled up for them.  They get water from the pond and in the winter I will keep a trough of warm water out for them to drink.  They don’t like being cooped up, so they’re free to range the farm as they wish!

I’m very lucky to have them because I love to bake with duck eggs and they are awesome when making French toast, cakes and pies.

I’ll be making lots of beautiful and mouth-watering pound cakes for hubby.

Last night I made two egg custard pies, my favorite! The duck eggs helped to fill the deep dish pie crust up to the rim!!  I am getting two eggs a day now and will be using the next ones for making my loaf bread and rolls.

From left to right, duck egg, white chicken egg and brown chicken eggs. Most all of my chicken eggs would be considered large if bought in a grocery store.

This is the last carton of beautiful duck eggs given to me and I stuck a brown chicken egg in the carton to show the difference in size.

These are American Pekin Ducks and the Pekin duck is a domesticated duck used primarily for egg and meat production. We will have them for their egg production and beauty on our pond.

They love the pond and love grazing the lawn around the pond and through the garden searching for night crawlers (WORMS). It’s very entertaining watching them playing in the water and noodling around the pond edge searching for food.

They’re resting now after a good swim and cleaning. I think they’re one of the best birds at cleaning and oiling themselves, especially after a run through the garden. They come out with their breasts brown and yucky and just a few minutes in the pond and they’re snow-white!

From Inside the House

This morning we woke to snow on top of last weeks snow but we had a beautiful blue sky.  Last week we got about 10 inches of snow and the most we’ve had all winter. Over half had melted and this morning we woke to five more inches on top of the leftovers.  It was 25* when we woke this morning and now its 38* now.  The best part – we didn’t lose any calves this time.  Here’s a touch of our beauty in western Virginia and Craig County on the mountain:

It’s melting now and by mid-week we’ll be in the 60’s and rain.  It will be a sloppy mess but needed for our crops and gardens.  We haven’t had snow like this for a couple of years and we all knew it was time.  I’m not saying the spring snows are over but sure hope they are.

We have six more cows to calve from our spring herd and these mom’s and their little ones could sure use a break.

My chickens don’t like the snow either and a few got trapped under the grainery last night and refused to walk through the snow to their warm house but it looks like they all survived and are ready to see some green grass and mud!

Everyone be safe and spring is here even though it doesn’t look like it!!!

 

Spring Calving Season is Here Again

Our first calf was born on March 4th and since then we’ve had six more, two this morning.  I didn’t get to see any of them until Sunday and those four were quite lively.  They’ve all been smaller than usual and one of the two born this morning in low 20 degree temps and high winds is not doing well.  Eddie says it’s very weak but is getting up, when it’s up his mom is laying down.  He took me to see the spring her and their new babes on Sunday afternoon.

They were spread all over the hill eating grain until they heard the old gray Dodge start down the driveway. By the time we got to the field gate, they were all there except the little guy born that morning.

When the cows see that white bucket they know there’s some grain in the troughs.

This is the spring herd getting some grain and bringing their youngsters to meet the old woman on the farm (me)!

This little gal was the first of the year born on March 4th. She can run like the wind and keeps her mama in a tither all the time.

Daylight Savings Time bought this little guy to the farm.

A closer shot of the newborn.

 

 

 

 

 

After feeding the grain and we were leaving the field I got this closeup and he was looking for mama and bawling.  She went running!!

Mama, where are you???

We went back to the stable to refill the buckets. This gives you a view of the gray Dodge (1970) and the feed wagon.

Inside the feed wagon is three ton of corn gluten. The cows love it!!

The little ones born this morning are doing better than we expected but we’ll keep a close eye on them and in the meantime, we have another mama trying to deliver while I’m posting this little ditty!!

Morning Feed Ritual at the Farm

Our morning ritual around here in the winter season begins shortly after breakfast and I always fix us a good breakfast to start the day.

Hubby heads out to feed the three small herds of cattle.  Each herd is a little different but the two biggest herds (25-30 cows) get two 4×5 round bales of hay every day.  One of these herds also has 24 calves with them which are 2-3 months of age.  They mimic mom and eat some of the hay too but mainly depend on her milk until they’re about 5-6 months old.  The third herd consists of 14 heifers that will be bred in June.  They are fed one 4×5 round bale each day along with a five-gallon bucket of corn gluten/whole corn mixture every other day.  Then we have our herd of bulls which is only three but those guys can eat and get two square bales of hay each day and corn gluten once a week.  Everyone is fat and sassy!

My feeding schedule consists of three rabbits that we use for breeding stock.  They are part Lop but the perfect size for meat rabbits.  Each morning and afternoon they are given fresh water, a cup of rabbit pellets, a carrot and half of a sweet apple.  They love apples and I treat them in the winter time because there is no fresh grass to feed them.  I keep a bat of hay in their hutches for eating but I also keep hay covering the wire floor of the hutch to keep the frigid wind off of them.  They have a nesting box in the hutch in the winter time to get out of the wind. Their hutches are cleaned weekly regardless of the weather.

Sebastian

Marigold

Cleome

 

 

 

 

 

Then I head out to the chicken house with a gallon of hot water, an egg basket and any scraps from the table.  I have 33 chickens, one of which is a rooster.  I have five young hens that tend to roost in the egg nest every night after I shut them in the building.  Each morning those nest have to be cleaned out so the eggs aren’t nasty because chickens just don’t care what they lay those eggs on.  The chickens have a large tub outside of the building for water during the day and a large pan inside that doesn’t freeze often but when it’s in the 20’s it has to be refilled four or five times a day and the eggs are gathered more often too.  They have a feed trough that is four feet long, six inches wide and about four inches deep.  I fill it every day with scratch grain, black-oil sunflower seeds and during the winter laying crumbles.  In the summer they forage the entire farm but there’s not much to be found in the wintertime.  A few times a month they get a treat of dried mealworms which they love.  Currently with all those chickens I’m only getting about a dozen eggs a day but they’re wonderful eggs that are large, brown, pink, green, blue and a couple white ones.  Egg production will pickup in the spring!

                                                                                                                                                

 

Once the feeding is done and the eggs are gathered, I’m off to the wood shed to bring in enough to fill of the stove for the night and if it’s calling for rain or snow, I fill up one end of the porch.   The bird feeders are then filled and then it’s time to come in and make preparations for dinner!!

It’s Been A Year

I still can’t believe she’s gone and still get weepy when I think of her. Our Cocker Spaniel, Sassy, died a year ago today and we’re so sad.  Eddie bought her for me as a puppy in 2004 and she has been our baby ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in peace my beautiful girl!!

 

A Taste of Frigid Weather

I don’t like being unprepared for much of anything but the last two weeks or so of frigid air gave me a real kick in the pants!  We have been used to teens and single digit weather but not with 20 – 45 mile an hour winds.  We were able to keep the house good and warm but had to keep heaters in the cellar and laundry room around in the clock.  We didn’t have any frozen water pipes or lose any of the valuable canned goods.

We did however have to keep chopping holes in the streams that water our cattle.  We had to move two herds due to the mountain springs freezing solid and the feed we gave them was increased by an extra roll of hay each day, giving the two larger herds three round bales and the heifers two.  The heifers and bulls  were given corn gluten every other day.

January 3rd we went to Rural King to pick up salt and feed for the chickens and he bought me a new insulated barn coat and insulated bib coveralls!!!  Along with the Extreme socks Heather bought me for Christmas, the flannel lined jeans Shawn got me and these from Eddie the winter weather coming would not be taking hold of me!!!!

First pair of flannel lined jeans I’ve ever had and they are so comfortable.

Flannel-lined jeans, heavy flannel shirt, black under armor, insulated flannel lined bibs and a wonderful insulated hooded barn coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know how the Pillsbury Dough Boy  feels now, waddling around!!!!

January 5th was the worst day and the pickup wouldn’t start, the big tractor fuel was frozen and wouldn’t start, and we used the small Kubota until the hydraulics froze up.  At this point the cattle were fed the old fashioned way by using 15 square bales of hay loaded onto the old Dodge pickup for the larger herds and 10 square bales to the heifers.  We keep bales of hay in the loft of the bull barn for the bulls and they were fed hay and grain.  I had filled up the firewood on the porch and in the house and was constantly chucking it into the woodstoves.  I made a huge pot of soup on the stove and our bodies stayed warm and full on the inside!!! The chickens and rabbits were checked hourly along with Mischief, our coon hound and all were given fresh warm water. Mischief stayed wadded up in her house with enormous batts of hay! We had been feeding her extra food to keep some fat on for just this kind of weather. We take good care of all of our animals. The temperature that day finally reached 12* but the wind was raging and expecting to last through noon Saturday.  With the wind chill the last few days our temps were ranging from -12* to 0*.   Mr. Caldwell was working on thawing the tractor all day in the frigid cold and wind!

Finally on Monday we were able to get out and do some extra winterizing to prepare for the next onset which might be within the next week!

The chickens are out and able to free range again although there isn’t much grass for them to find and they love anything green.

Cleome staying in her warm nesting box loaded with fresh hay.

Marigold is doing the same but she comes out more than Cleome.

Sebastian has two sections to his hutch. When the wind is howling you won’t catch him out in this open area of his hutch.

During the storm they didn’t have this loose hay out in the open part of their hutches but they will now until spring. There is one area of their hutches that has no hay and that’s because it’s their “potty” area behind their nesting boxes..

Marigold likes to sit on top of her box a lot but didn’t during the bad weather! It’s unbelievable how Mother Nature had provided them with such luxiourious fur coats for the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with the rabbits taken care of before the next batch of frigid weather, I went straight to the hen house.  Extra bedding was put in their nests to help keep the eggs from freezing.  There’s not much I can do with their water freezing except take them warm water more often.  Hopefully in the spring the electricity will be added to their house but this new house is much warmer and cleaner than the old one.

The chickens are out and able to free range again although there isn’t much grass for them to find and they love anything green.

The hens belong to this cinder-block building now. It’s warm, easier to clean because it has openings along the lower end of the shed to clean out under the roosts with a pressure hose. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter UNLESS it gets in the 20 degree range or lower.

We have a frost-free spigot outside of the building to get their water. No more hauling jugs of water up the hill behind the house anymore!!

We have 36 hens now and Eddie put 14 nesting boxes so that everyone will have plenty of room to provide us with wonderful farm fresh eggs.

There’s no crowding on the roosts but chickens are the worst for having a pecking order.

Yesterday I put a layer of fresh hay on the floor for the older girls to sit in during the day. These ladies are all four to five years old and don’t lay much but they’re my girls so they get preferential treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use a metal pan for their water so that when it freezes I can take it outside, pour a little hot water over the bottom and the ice pops right out.  I do carry a jug of hot water with me when I go check the water for the rabbits, chickens and the dog.  They love that warm water to warm their insides!  I’m keeping the rabbits and the chickens feed bowls full.  If they have plenty to eat their fat stores will help to keep them warm.

Now that the animals are better prepped for the frigid air to return it was time to fill up the porch with two types of firewood.

The east end of the porch has well seasoned firewood. I put one end of a 9 x 12 tarp down on the porch and place the wood on top of it. This protects the porch and the leftover end of the tarp is pulled up over the wood and held in place with extra sticks of wood and bungee cords. The stack when full if about five feet high and fills the eight feet length of the end of the porch.

The west end of the porch has the same amount of wood but this has not seasoned as much and we use it at night to hold the fire for several hours. It’s heavier because it’s not been cut and split as long, is dry but not as dry as the other wood. We don’t have to worry as much about Flue fires with seasoned wood and there’s been a lot of complete home losses in Virginia this year due to fires!

We have two piles of wood outside and one is seasoned, split and covered.  The other is dried but not fully seasoned and not split.  We have plenty more in the woods ready to take down and bring in to the house.

We keep a large rack of firewood in the house beside the stove (about 18-24 inches away from the stove so we won’t have to go out everytime we need to fill the stove.

 

 

 

We have two large ponds on the property and both have 8-10 inches of ice on them now but the overflows water the heifers and the bulls. The other cattle now get their water from some lowland springs that rarely go dry but we have to watch them because with the weather we were having they will freeze and have to be broken up a few times a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve made it through the first of the really cold winter weather but we’re ready for the worst to come in the next three months.  Between now and then I’ll sit with my new seed catalogs and prepare for what we all hope to be an early spring!!   When we expect high winds and possible power outages I keep plenty of buckets of water in the laundry room for flushing the toilets and several gallon jugs of water for cooking and hand-washing.  We keep supplies of candles, oil lamps and matches on hand and small wood on the side porch for the wood cook stove.  Four small tanks of propane are always full to heat the laundry room (holds our main source of water pipes) and the cellar.

Stay warm and don’t forget to prepare for the next winter hit of weather!

Down with the Old

The chickens needed a new home due to the age of their existing house!  It leaked like a sieve.  Critters were getting in no matter what we did and killed eleven of my new chicks that were under two months of age.  The hill I walked to get to it was becoming a hazard for me in the winter months.  We moved the chickens (they were not happy at first) into a cinder block building which has electricity and water and a separate room for their feed.

Old Chicken house is made mainly of wormy chestnut. When we started tearing it down we were able to save some better boards.

After two weeks of tearing off boards when we had an hour to spare, it’s starting to look like a spooky shell!!

As we tore off the outsides, everything was thrown to the inside of the shell to burn.

The only parts of the building that weren’t wormy chestnut were oak and pine replacements over the years.

Even the nesting boxes were wormy chestnut. We saved them to use for nesting boxes in the new house.

Next we cut the main support beams on the interior and wrapped a chain around them which was attached to the tractor and started pulling it down.

Amazingly the roof fell straight down on to the interior debris.

Within two hours the fire was almost finished except for some large beams that served as ground support. It took two days for the smoke to dissapate and then it was time to pile up the tin roof and dispose of it.

Fairly simple clean up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the chickens use the remaining area as a dusting bath!  Next spring I’ll spread it out a bit and start a new area for gardening.

Wild Rabbit Comeback

I went out and bought tame rabbits last year and now the wild rabbit population has exploded on the farm.
I love watching them and now the farm is alive with all sizes. I’m sure the coyotes, eagle, hawks and owls will keep the population in check though.

Fortunately for them we have lots of briar patches for them to hide in from predators.

Who couldn’t love that face!!! She never did run.

Snapping turtle

Every year our pond becomes invaded by snapping turtles that eat the fish and frogs from the ponds. A few weeks ago we found where some varmint had found several turtle egg nests on the farm on the side of a mountain spring that runs through the farm to Sinking Creek.

Dirt bank along side the branch where the turtles had climbed, dug perfect holes, laid their golf-ball-sized eggs and covered them to hatch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We think this was probably done by a coon, skunk or even a raven or two.  Every nest, and we counted at least six had been raided and what eggs were left will not hatch. 

You can see the shells along the side of the hole and below it.

But with that being said we don’t like having them in our pond so we set “trot lines”  (heavy nylon thread with a huge hook on the end ) to catch the beast that eat our frogs and fish.  We caught one night before last and our dinner that night was chicken fried turtle. fried potatoes, cantaloupe and asparagus.  So good!!!

Fried turtle is so good!!

Fried potatoes and onions on the left and fried turtle on the right.

Bunny World

The farm is alive with little animals everywhere, domestic and wild! On April 2nd my two rabbit does, Cleome and Marigold had a total of 16 little ones and 13 survived. I weaned them this week, placing them all together in a large pen and they’re so much fun to watch with each having their own personality and playful attitudes.

A few of the cute faces at three weeks of age.

The babies are all Lops which mean they have the droopy ears.

They can leave the farm this week

 

 

 

 

 

We have black, tan, tan and white, white, white with black spots, white with black eyes,   It’s hard not to fall in love with such beautiful creatures.

In their new play house!

This is one is so curious.

Group hug!

There are two this color, solid white but seem to have more fur and they love to rub noses with me.

Love those floppy ears

Looks like her mom.

Rabbit ration, carrots, apples and lots of green grass is their diet that they’ve been eating for three weeks. My granddaughters love bananas too.

Spring peepers

Have you ever heard of petoots or spring peepers?  It’s those noisy little beings we hear every spring when it starts to get warm!  I love hearing them but I’ve never seen them or ventured out to see what they looked like.  I’ve always assumed they were little tiny frogs.  This year I found out!!!

I went with hubby one morning to feed the cattle and in our back field we have a small pond that’s never gone dry (yet)!    As we drove by the pond we could see the pond just wiggling with life and the noise was deafening.  We went to the back-end of the field and dropped off the hay to roll off the hills to the cattle and then drove back to the pond.  I had my camera with me and finally got pictures of hundreds of the little noise-makers and they weren’t a bit afraid as I took their picture!  You can click on the photos to enlarge and see what I’m talking about.

Petoots of every size!

Usually where there’s one, there’s two!

The noise was deafening and hubby says when he spring turkey hunts you can’t hear the turkey for the frogs!

This isn’t a very big pond but the entire pond was covered with the little buggers! So, my friends, spring petoots, means mating season for frogs!!!

Now all I have to do is find out why we don’t hear the whippoorwill anymore!!  I love listening to them as much as the petoots and grouse drumming in the spring!

It’s just about time . . .

This little fat guy came to visit in 2015 and we had almost thirty that year. I had five or six feeders out and had to fill them twice a day.

April 15th is my deadline for putting out the hummingbird feeders. Last year I was late getting them out and didn’t have near as many.  This year I’ve got the jump on them I hope by putting out two feeders on the front porch this morning. I’m early but they might be too!!

First feeder out and ready!

I’ll start with two feeders and always in bright red. That seems to be their favorite color and I plan to have red and purple flowers all over the porch and yard this year. I’ll be watching out for the first fuchsia plant to hand on the porch too. Their vibrant colors really attract them.

Last year the few hummers that I had loved the butterfly bush, geraniums, bleeding hearts and the columbine.

That beak looks deadly, doesn’t it?

We have the ruby-throated hummingbirds here at the farm.

We think they’re stunning birds!

This was last years batch and I think the most we had at any given time was 10-12 and that was toward the end of the season.

Get those feeders out this weekend and let us know how many you have and when you first sighted them!

Here’s my recipe for the feeders, all natural:  1 cup sugar to 4 cups of water.  I mix it up in a pitcher and put it in the microwave for 6 1/2 minutes to sterilize it and keep it from fermenting.  I let it cool to touch and then pour in the feeders.

 

Spring Calving Season

Our spring calving season began on March 13 with this little girl (heifer) and it was such a beautiful day.  

This little bull started our calving on the 19th, followed by the next two within minutes of each other. Now we wait for the 25 to come!!

Preparing for Spring

We’ve had some glorious three weeks of spring-like weather and now the cold and wind is back!!

Crocus are blooming and the jonquils and daffodils are up.

Crocus are blooming and the jonquils and daffodils are up.

Along with building a new cattle holding pen, hubby and I have been cleaning up around the farm while waiting on our lumber.   We had lots of trees come down during the fall and winter and we’ve been cutting them up for firewood and piling the brush to be burnt (if the wind ever quits blowing).  Hubby plowed the garden this week so if we had any cold weather (which we are experiencing now) the freeze and thaw would be great for the disking when we get ready to start the garden.

Starting to plow the garden.

Starting to plow the garden.

Dark rich soil for a promising 2017 garden crop.

Dark rich soil for a promising 2017 garden crop.

While he was plowing I started cleaning up the yard.  We have beautiful maple trees on three corners of the yard which provide us maple syrup in the spring and wonderous shade in the summer but in the fall and winter they shed their beautiful coats into our yard.  It takes lots of time and strong arms to rake it all up and pile on the compost pile.

Before the cleanup my yard and flower/rose beds are covered with leaves which protect them from the freezing cold.

Before the cleanup my yard and flower/rose beds are covered with leaves which protect them from the freezing cold.

 

 

 

After the cleanup, the yard starts looking like this before the  grass greens, the roses sprout leaves and the perennials show their pretty faces:

In front of the front porch after cleanup

In front of the front porch after cleanup

East backyard after cleanup

East backyard after cleanup

Front yard after cleanup

Front yard after cleanup

 

 

 

 

 

Now, all I have to do is the rose garden and the new perennial bed we made last spring.

We just have to wait for another warmup which we hope is on the way next week.  We’re also hoping that the warmup we had and this freezing weather doesn’t have any adverse effect on the honeybees because they sure were working hard to find food last week.

Spring means new life on the farm and we’re expecting 20+ cows to start calving in the next two weeks.  My hens have picked up on their production and I’m getting a dozen eggs a day now.

You just can't beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

You just can’t beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year.  Great brown egg layers!

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year. Great brown egg layers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My rabbit does were bred this week and we should have kits around the 30th of March.  They’re all lops and last years babes were a huge assortment of colors.  I think the first batches this spring will go to new homes and the second mating will be meat rabbits.

Marigold visits Sebastian.

Marigold visits Sebastian.

Sebastian was glad to see his ladies.

Sebastian was glad to see his ladies.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleome waiting her turn.

Cleome waiting her turn.

Baby chicks and ducks will probably join us in April and our next big project is to get rid of the old chicken house which is in bad need of repair.

Chicken house is ancient and chickens should love their new abode which is a cinder block building that way back in the day was a hog house.

Chicken house is ancient and chickens should love their new abode which is a cinder block building that way back in the day was a hog house.

The hog house is bigger, has electricity and will be warmer for the chickens. We have lots of cleanup to do to the outside because the wild blackberries are surrounding it.  There's a no-freeze water spigot beside it and there's storage for feed on the inside.

The hog house is bigger, has electricity and will be warmer for the chickens. We have lots of cleanup to do to the outside because the wild blackberries are surrounding it. There’s a no-freeze water spigot beside it and there’s storage for feed on the inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Varmints on the Farm

GRAPHIC NATURE!!  I went to gather the eggs yesterday afternoon and found one of my last year ISA Brown hens behind the feed barrel dead.  Her head was missing and something had eaten all of the meat from her neck.

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year.  Great brown egg layers!

The brownish-red hens with white tail feathers are my babies from last year. Great brown egg layers!

We are having a spring full of varmints.  Hubby has set live traps and caught several huge opossums, three or four skunks and a bunch of feral cats.  We don’t have any cats and we think someone is dropping them on our road because they’re everywhere!  At night he has seen red foxes and a pair of gray foxes circling the pond.  We have a bald eagle, golden eagle and a numerous bunch of red-tail and chicken hawks.  I saw a young bobcat my last week of hunting season!  We are surrounded by the varmints and my egg production suffers from it!!!  I have two young roosters that warn of danger flying overhead but I think they’re too busy being the men of the henhouse to keep close watch on the ground danger!

Egg production has gained strength with the longer and warmer days and I’m getting 10-12 eggs per day out of 24 (23 now) hens.  The “eggs for sale” sign is back out at the end of the driveway and neighbors are starting to come looking for fresh, large eggs of many colors.

You just can't beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

You just can’t beat fresh farm eggs that come from free range chickens!

 

Granddog spends the night

For about three weeks or more my daughter and her family have been losing a lot of sleep! The culprit:

This is Jippy!  He belongs to my daughters family and like most single house dogs, he rules the roost most of the time.

This is Jippy! He belongs to my daughter’s family and like most single house dogs, he rules the roost most of the time.

Jippy seems fine during the day but at night around 11:00 he can’t seem to lay for any length of time on his tummy.  He pants from then until 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.  He wants to be snuggled, ears rubbed and he’s constantly up and down.  This behavior is causing the entire family to lose sleep which is much-needed when you are working away from home or going to school which applies to all in the house!

Heather asked me to meet our vet at her home on Thursday and Doc Bowman couldn’t find anything physically wrong with Jippy except for being a little overweight which he has been for over a year.  She drew blood and hoped to have the results back by today.

Me and Papa decided to give them a big break last night and I kidnapped him and brought him to our house to spend the night.  He was quiet and seemed content to be with us and usually is going outside a lot to look for his “mommy” but he didn’t last evening.

We went to bed at 11:00 and he snuggled right in close to me and was fine until 12:00 and he jumped up like something had hold of him.  He turned his head toward me and tucked his head under my hand and I started rubbing his ears (both) and it settled him unless I stopped.  We did this until about 2:00 and then he wanted to take a potty break.  I let him out and he stayed for about 15 minutes.  Once he came in he was restless and constantly panting.  At time he would get under the bed covers and crash for a 10-15 minutes with no panting and then he would come out from the covers and get right in my face panting and acting like he needed to tell me something. He continued wanting both ears rubbed and they were hot. This makes me think there’s something in his ears.  I tried to listen and feel for any tummy rumblings and sometimes I did but not enough to think he had a belly ache.  We’ve all been careful about what he eats since this started.  I felt so sorry for him and wished he could talk!!  Papa slept until 5:00 this morning and  let him outside to potty and then sat in the living room with him the rest of the morning watching westerns together.  I don’t know how Heather, Joel and Victoria have gotten any rest in the last few weeks.  Hopefully, Doc Bowman will find the answer in the blood work and fix the issue quick.  Flu season is all over the state and my kids need their rest to fight that off and stay healthy!

Jippy seems fine now, don’t ya think!

Sleeping peacefully on Sassy's bed in our bedroom while I write this post.

Sleeping peacefully on Sassy’s bed in our bedroom while I write this post.

Feed the Birds From the Garden

One of 27 of my hens that heads straight for the bird feeders as soon as the hen house door is opened.

One of 27 of my hens that heads straight for the bird feeders as soon as the hen-house door is opened.

Part of the bird feeding station.

Part of the bird feeding station.

I love feeding the wild birds in our back yard during the winter.  There’s just so many species that flock to the feeders all during the day including my chickens!

 

I have 10 feeders in the back yard and the wild birds depend on me during the winter months when they can’t find seeds and other food.  I use black oil sunflowers that we raise in our garden, wild bird feed from our local farm supply store, and saved grease from my kitchen which I save in foil pans and stick in the freezer all year round.  We also dry any leftover sweet corn from the garden.  I pick it, shuck it and air dry it in our grainery and then place in mesh bags which are stored in lidded trash cans until feeding time.  I put the corn on a squirrel feeder and the birds and squirrels love it.  We had such an abundance of corn leftover after freezing for ourselves and sharing with our family, friends and neighbors.  I hate waste and the birds love it and so do my rabbits.

Sweet corn dried from the garden and now feeds the birds and squirrels. They love it!

Sweet corn dried from the garden and now feeds the birds and squirrels. They love it!

 

 

 

Another feeder in the back yard.

Another feeder in the back yard.

The wildbirds scratch it out on the ground which the ground feeders love and so do the chickens!

The wild birds scratch it out on the ground which the ground feeders love and so do the chickens!  The bucket holds walnuts that I gathered in the fall, dried and de-hulled for the squirrels.  The bluejay like them too.  The metal feeder, box feeder w/gallon jar and the gourd feeder are all handmade.  At the back-end of the station is another handmade feeder with four sections which the wrens prefer over the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The collection of birds grows with each year:backyard-birds-2016-7 backyard-birds-2016-6 backyard-birds-2016-9 backyard-birds-2016-1 backyard-birds-2016-14 backyard-birds-2016-17 backyard-birds-2016-19 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-3 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-8 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-9 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-10 flocking-to-feeders-01092017-11

Furry Friends Enjoy the Back Yard

We have some fox squirrels that keep the feeders empty all year round.  I’ve made a point of gathering walnuts, hickory nuts and chestnuts for our squirrels every year.  We’ve had a few lean years in the way of food for all of the wildlife.  We have orchards for the deer to feed in but these guys will move out of the area if there isn’t any feed and we love watching them from our kitchen window.  I found out last year that all of the excess sweet corn at the end of the growing season is also great for the cattle but the squirrels, wild birds and deer will eat the sweet corn after it dries up.  We pick it off, shuck it, and then lay out on a screen to dry and then store the whole ear in barrels with a lid for the really bad winter when the ground is covered with snow and ice for long periods of time.  We saw a small buck in the garden last night digging up frozen turnips too.  If you love watching the wildlife as much as we do, help them out a little.  Baby, it’s cold out there.

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Eddie built this squirrel feeder about 10 years ago and the wildlife still love it. You’ll laugh yourself to death when you see a full-grown squirrel in that gallon jar!!!

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This guy watches me when I’m moving around in the kitchen or the bathroom.

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News Update. . .Lost in Time

Please forgive my silence. Between the garden, animals and the issues unforeseen, I’ve just been inundated with work and only open the computer a couple times a week.

The garden is full!!! With so much rain this summer, our pantry is running over.

The garden is full!!! With so much rain this summer, our pantry is running over.

Our granddaughter graduated from high school in June and starts college in a couple weeks.  Where has the time gone!!!

Victoria and proud Uncle Shawn

Victoria and proud Uncle Shawn

Parents, Victoria, and maternal grandparents.

Parents, Victoria, and maternal grandparents.

On top of that we have a brand new grandson born three months early and he’s in New Jersey (450+ miles from Virginia). He’s in a neonatal unit at Children’s Hospital in New Jersey. His mother had some major health issues which caused toxemia and the baby had to be delivered early on July 8th. He weighed 2 pounds and 2 ounces and 14 inches long. He’s a little fighter and gained some weight and now weighs 3 pounds and 15 inches long. Declan Bryant is his name. He’s having some serious issues this week and the little guy is exhausted. Shawn, our son, is in New Jersey this weekend to see him for the second time and he’s keeping us updated.

Shawn's first visit with his son.

Shawn’s first visit with his son.

I’ve been canning and freezing green beans, broccoli, cabbage, pickles, squash, apples, rhubarb and Eddie told me last night that I’ll have more beans in the coming week and corn after that. We’ve pulled the onions and waiting on the brussel sprouts. We have a crock of kraut fermenting now and hope it’ll be ready before anything else comes in.

Pickles, pickles and more pickles!

Pickles, pickles and more pickles!

Squash pickles

Squash pickles

Canned fresh squash

Canned fresh squash

Green beans and we're not done yet!!! I think we'll sell the ones coming in now.

Green beans and we’re not done yet!!! I think we’ll sell the ones coming in now.

I’ve taken on two part-time jobs working on websites for two sisters and working away from the house on one of them 2-3 days a week. The other one I do from home. It’s a little extra spending money. Our big yardsale/estate sale was for one day and we cleaned out one house on the farm and made around $2500.00. I’m in the process of filling it up again from the other buildings and we may have one more sale next spring just to get rid of it all.

This is enough news for now but will catch up again later. I haven’t touched my blog in some time but haven’t given up on it.

One more bit of news, neighborhood dogs that aren’t watched after cleaned out our duck population in one night back in June, I think, and another one got in my chickens this week. I’m down to 21 hens and two roosters at this point.

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This is just a quick catch up and I’ll hopefully be back soon! Love you my friends and want to ask you all to keep our grandson and son in your prayers.

Busy Day

I slept late this morning and didn’t get up until  7:45 so started breakfast pretty quick.  I think a good breakfast starts the day out right.  We had waffles and link sausage and cantaloupe.  After breakfast I washed up the dishes, made the bed and turn on the computer.  I turn it on and walk away when I have things I want to get done because I can get wrapped up in it pretty quick and lose track of time.

The cookie tins were depleted this weekend so the first thing I did was fill up one tin with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and the other with Snickerdoodles.

Snickerdoodles is one of the easiest recipes you can make and they're really good.

Snickerdoodles is one of the easiest recipes you can make and they’re really good.

My favorite recipe for Oatmeal Raisin cookies and the Mr.'s favorite.

My favorite recipe for Oatmeal Raisin cookies and the Mr.’s favorite.

After these were in the tins and the mess cleaned up, hubby asked Heather and I to go to the back fields and count the fall calves and see if we thought we should send them on to the market.  We did this and checked them all out for pinkeye or other abnormalities and found none.

Heather helped me pull two large baskets of grass for the rabbits and I cleaned out their cages and made sure they had enough water, grain and sunflower seeds and then she headed home.

I came in fed Sassy her lunch and headed to the henhouse to check on the water, feed and sitting hen situation.  I have a ISA Brown hen and a Sexlink hatching this weekend.  I testing something I read last year about the shape of eggs can determine the sex of the chicks the hens hatch.  More on that later!!

I filled up the lawn mower and mowed the inside yard and waiting for the sun to cool off before finishing.  I would like to get all of the trimming done before the showers move in tonight.  Then I dead-headed all of the roses.  They’ve been so beautiful this year.

Now it’s time to fix some supper but hubby won’t be out of the hayfield for probably another hour or so and I have plenty of time.  We’re having fried turkey biscuits, potato salad, green beans and cantaloupe.

It’s been a productive day but cookie baking took most of the morning!  I hope everyone has had a very good day!

Spring calving

2016 spring herd grazing along.

2016 spring herd grazing along.

Most of our morning was spent with our cattle, my daughter & son-in-law, and two very good friends.  We had 24 calves from this herd and they all received their baby vaccinations, pinkeye and tetanus shots, eartagged and banded if they were bull calves.  Everything went smoothly and only took about two hours.  We have some beauties in this herd and the last one was born last week.

2016 (3)Big Herd cows calves 2016 (6)Big Herd cows calves 2016 (8)Big Herd cows calves

After taking care of all of them we turned Clyde and Sam (new bull) in with the herd.  This is always a big chore but went quickly this morning since we had such wonderful help.  I hope they all know how much we appreciate giving us their time and muscles.

Now we watch them grow!!

Eddie likes to play with the little ones when they're just a couple days old.

Eddie likes to play with the little ones when they’re just a couple days old.

2016 (11)Big Herd cows calves

New Babes on the Farm

We’ve added stock of a different kind on the farm that we’ve not had here in a long time or never.
First to arrive were two Swedish Black ducks that were supposed to be mallard ducks. Our granddaughter fell in love with them right off at Tractor Supply.

Pablo and Gwen were Victoria's first real farm animals, I believe. She'll correct me if I am wrong.

Pablo and Gwen were Victoria’s first real farm animals, I believe. She’ll correct me if I am wrong.  They’re laying on her butt while she’s reading a book at our house.

Like all babies they grow so fast and boy did they!

But they were still captivated by their mommie!! Wherever she went they went and she took them for walks every day.

But they were still captivated by their mommie!! Wherever she went they went and she took them for walks every day.

Victoria’s boyfriend, Cody, built them a nice hutch which we kept close to the pond but had it shielded from predators.

Duckling hutch

Duckling hutch

Victorias ducks and new hutch 042016 (6)

Hutch with shade and close to the pond.

Hutch with shade and close to the pond.

They kept growing.IMG_0025 IMG_0024 IMG_0023

Papa told her they weren’t mallard ducks and she did the research to find out what kind of duck they were.  In the meantime and while she thought they were mallard ducks, Papa told her that mallard ducks would migrate in the fall unless they grew up with domestic ducks.  She was devastated and talked him into letting her have a couple white ducks to grow up with and he relented.  She came home with seven white ducklings.  Pablo and Gwen were jealous and soon taught them they were the head-honchos on this farm!!IMG_0014 IMG_0024 IMG_0025

Here’s the gaggle of ducks (or is that for geese?)!  We also inherited another duck from a lady that got one for Easter and kept it in her home (after full-grown) and finally decided a full-grown duck did not belong in the house.  Her name is Fiona and she is full-grown compared to these and they all live happily together on the pond.

Then we decided to raise rabbits and I bought two female lops from a friend of ours and a un-related buck.  We’ve had them since the first week of April and they were bred a few days before I picked them up.

This is Cleome.

This is Cleome.

This is Marigold.

This is Marigold.

This is our buck, Sebastian!

This is our buck, Sebastian!

On May 8th, Cleome had three little ones but one did not make it. It was a three weeks before Marigold introduced her little ones to me and we thought she had seven but today after weaning them from their mama’s we found out she had eight.  They are all now in their big playpen together and giving mom’s a much needed rest so they can gain back some weight and grown their beautiful coats back.  Here are the two litters combined and they have been eating fresh grass, rabbit grain, apples and carrots for a week now.IMG_0010

The hutch has an enclosed room with hay for them to eat or stay warm in.

The hutch has an enclosed room with hay for them to eat or stay warm in.

We have two solid black ones.

We have two solid black ones.

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They have plenty of feed and I pull grass for them three times a day and more if they eat it up.

They have plenty of feed and I pull grass for them three times a day and more if they eat it up.

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There only two that look alike and they're both solid black.

There only two that look-alike and they’re both solid black.

They really seem to like their new nest and have been playing and running all afternoon.

They really seem to like their new nest and have been playing and running all afternoon.

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I can't tell if this little solid white one is enjoying his new nest or if he's eating his nest but it is content!

I can’t tell if this little solid white one is enjoying his new nest or if he’s eating his nest but it is content!

One of the white ones have black dots on both eyes and one has a black streak down it's back.

One of the white ones have black dots on both eyes and one has a black streak down it’s back.

This shows their play area and where they eat and get their water.  I need to get them a couple salt blocks since the weather is heating up.  They're hutch gets more shade than their mother's hutches.

This shows their play area and where they eat and get their water. I need to get them a couple salt blocks since the weather is heating up. They’re hutch gets more shade than their mother’s hutches.

We used chicken wire on the sides of the play area and a tighter wire on the floor.

We used chicken wire on the sides of the play area and a tighter wire on the floor.

So, we have 10 ducks, 13 rabbits, 29 chickens and about 75 head of cows and calves on the farm currently.  Today one of my older hens decided to go broody and set so I foresee baby chicks in a few weeks to add to the menagerie!

 

Beautiful New Stock

Our two-year old heifers will soon meet the one of the men of their life.  These girls have turned out so much better than we hoped.

Six of eight heifers born in March & April of 2014.

Six of eight heifers born in March & April of 2014.

The other two have got out and went back to a closer herd of cattle.  One may have gotten bred in March right before we sold one of our bulls.  We put the date on our calendars to watch since we try to keep close tabs on heifers when having their first babies.  The other one recently decided to take out some old fence and join that herd as well.  She and the other six will be back together in mid-June when one of the new bulls, Buckshot, will meet his first ever small herd. There are six Angus and the other two are Angus White-faced.

The cattle market prices have dropped drastically since last fall and now will be the time to add bought heifers but these were raised on the farm.  Their mothers are good milkers and their daddy came from a Holstein mother.  We can only hope and pray they are great nurturing mothers with lots of milk!