June 2013


I am in the process of completely over-hauling and updating my website over the next few days.  If you discover a link that isn’t yet working, it’s likely an area still under construction (I do still have a family to care for and a farm to run, after all!).  For several years now, I have maintained 2 separate websites– one for more personal stuff, and one for more general, farm related items.  My goal has been to merge these two sites into one, once we got moved.  That time is now, so please be patient with me, and I will hopefully have it complete in the next few days!

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….and LOTS of it around Red Gate Farm.

cows

 

Meet Tiffany (the white cow), Holly (the black cow), and their bull calves, Rib Eye and T-Bone.  Holly is a purebred Lowline cow, though on the larger side.  Tiffany is a registered Lowline, but she is part of the breed-up program, so in fact, she is 50% Lowline and 50% Charolais (pronounce “Shar-lay” for you city folk).  That’s where her white coloring comes from.  The brownish calf is hers and the black one is Holly’s.  Both calves were sired by a purebred Lowline bull, and the previous owner kindly banded them for me so we will have steers rather than bulls as they grow.  None of them are friendly, though they tolerate my presence nearby.  I can get within about 3-5 feet before they run, but I have never touched them.  Just when I get the chance, I always suddenly envision a hind leg flying up and knocking me in the thigh, and that is something I can’t afford right now.  I have managed to scratch the cows’ backs with a stick before, but they didn’t seem too thrilled about the idea.  For the most part, we have an agreement.  I simply ensure they always have fresh pasture, and they are happy to let me stand and look at them all day in return.

As if I had time to do that.

Our intent at this point is to have the cows re-bred later this summer, as part of the deal when I bought them.  In the mean time, the cows and calves will be used to graze our pastures and help clear our dense brush in the far paddocks with the pigs.  Next year, about the time the cows are ready to calve again, we will finish the boys off on the spring lush, and then they will become dinner. We are planning one for our family, and are hoping to sell the other one as a custom slaughter to help pay for our little herd and any expenses that might be involved over the next year or so.   Whether we will stick with these larger lowlines long-term is yet to be decided.  They aren’t what I had originally planned–they are quite a bit larger than I wanted, but they were literally the only cow/calf pairs available that I could find.  The herd was also a show herd with a lot of disease and genetic testing, which I liked, and the farm was a natural, grass-fed, no hormone or antibiotic type place, which I liked even more.  So although these were cull-cows, they were fine for a newbie like us just to raise a little beef on.

Thus begins our adventures with cattle.

and bacon and pork chops and ribs and…..

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Meet Honey and Maple!  I haven’t decided which is which yet, as they look identical other than one is slightly larger than the other. They are our new heritage Red Wattle pigs.  A few months ago, while we were still in CO, I payed a deposit to Donna over at South Pork Ranch.  We have a little over 2.5 acres here at Red Gate Farm that we want to clear, and we figure we might as well let animals do the work for us.

Pigs from South Pork Ranch have been bred to thrive on pasture and forage, though they do supplement with grain and other foods.  They were just 8 weeks old and freshly weaned when I picked them up this past weekend.  We plan to supplement with as big a variety as I can–organic grains, excess milk, whey, kefir, and all the kiddos’ leftovers.  Thus, I officially maintain a slop bucket in my kitchen now.  As well as a few jars of souring milk.  Apparently sour milk is better for their guts than fresh milk.  Since they came home, they have been in a barn stall to friendly them up, teach them my voice and the feeding schedule, and that way, hopefully, once they are turned loose in the thick forage, they will come out from hiding when I call.  I hope to have them out, converting all the green stuff, bugs, roots, mushrooms, and whatever else they eat into scrumptious hams sometime this weekend.

Goats grazing a subplot of the 2.5 acres.

Goats grazing a subplot of the 2.5 acres.

In the mean time, the goats have been having daily grazing sessions in the forage.  Yes, they are eating the grass in the photo.  Silly goats seem to having trouble figuring out they are “browsers” instead of “grazers” and that they are supposed to be in goat heaven eating up all that scrub behind them.  Hopefully they’ll figure it out soon enough and give the pigs a head start.  I’m also gonna be turning our other critters out there so all can tag-team this brush and make some progress turning this area into nice pasture.

I just love the concept of using the old-fashioned forest “glen” way of raising pigs (and the other animals), letting them do the hard work of clearing and massaging the land, and rather than wasting all that cleared brush by burning or hauling it off somewhere, it is converted into all sorts of meat and milk.  It’s such a symbiotic and natural way to do it, and while I’m focusing on other aspects of the farm, my thick brush is being converted into pasture.

Maple...or Honey...in the stall, looking for a hand-out.

Maple…or Honey…in the stall, looking for a hand-out.

Critters have been joining our farm left and right around here.  All of them were planned and expected, and we are loving the idea of living on a “real” farm.

In early June, our last Alpine doe, Faith, delivered an adorable little buckling.  Our former buck Stallion is the sire, and the little guy is built on the stockier side, just like his sister Joy.  I knew Faith was in labor, and I checked her regularly through the day and night as we were working around the farm.  I wound up being so exhausted from all the work I’d been doing that day though, that I missed the actual birth.  I showed up about 15 minutes late, to find Faith drying him off.  Oh well.  She had delivered around 5 in the morning, which meant I got to check on him, make sure he nursed, and then I went back to bed.  We are proud to have “Pride” as our first little goat baby born on Red Gate Farm.

Faith with new son, Pride

Faith with new son, Pride

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For now, I am planning to use Pride to breed Caramel and Mocha this fall.  All my goats are now officially related to Stallion, and those 2 does are the two most distantly related.  I have been thrilled with the genetics coming out of crosses with Stallion’s genetics, so I am going to try that, but then that’s it.  I have to find a new line if I decide to breed the other girls this fall.  We’ll see what happens.

In addition, if you recall back around Christmas, S and I gave JR a bird cage with the understanding that if he earned his money and proved responsible, we would allow him to fulfill a long-time wish to buy pet birds after we moved.  JR waited patiently.  I helped him do some research on breeds, and he decided he wanted cockatiels.  Once we got moved in, I started watching Craigslist for him.  I quickly became discouraged for him when sellers refused to talk to a child.  I found it so sad.  JR did great asking his questions, making calls, but one guy went so far as to just hang up on him.  I tried to intervene on that one, but for the most part, I wanted JR to have the experience with this.  Eventually, we found a hobbyist with a pair of hand-raised 1 year old babies–a male and female for a fair price.  It was still expensive, so JR and I discussed the risks of using his hard-earned money, but he really wanted to go for it.  So he did, and now JR is the proud owner of 2 beautiful and sweet little cockatiels.

JR playing with Neptune and Cindy.

JR playing with Neptune and Cindy.

We’ve had them about a week now.  They are still settling in.  There is no denying that our house can get a little loud and chaotic, so we are trying to give them plenty of time to adjust and feel safe.  JR has been working diligently with them, though, to politely step up on his finger and not be afraid.  He offers them different treats throughout the day as he tries to figure out their favorites.  His hard work is paying off, and they are beginning to trust us more and more.  Yesterday, for the first time, they “asked” to be let out of the cage.  I think we are about to see their real personalities emerge, as they settle in.  They are becoming more vocal and playful, and just generally seeming more at peace.  The little male already mimics sounds and whistles, which is fun.  JR is hoping to teach him a few words.

We have several other new additions to the farm, but I will show those in another post later.  Time to go do some house cleaning!

I’m learning that farming has it’s very own sense of fashion and style.  It’s all about practicality and comfort.

Part of my new favorite attire:  a good pair of muck boots!  Just perfect for walking through the pasture grasses covered with wet morning dew.

Part of my new favorite attire: a good pair of muck boots! Just perfect for walking through the pasture grasses covered with wet morning dew.

R showing off her own sense of fashion, now that she likes to try to dress herself.  Hmmm, let's see, she picked a cute little pink and white striped sundress, covered it with one of N's long-sleeved shirts, grabbed her favorite play sandals, and topped it all off with JR's cowboy hat.  Now that girl has style!!

R showing off her own sense of fashion, now that she likes to try to dress herself. Hmmm, let’s see, she picked a cute little pink and white striped sundress, covered it with one of N’s long-sleeved shirts, grabbed her favorite play sandals, and topped it all off with JR’s cowboy hat. Now that girl has style!!

N modeling his normal, every day attire.  It was just a cute photo I couldn't resist adding.

N modeling his normal, every day attire. It was just a cute photo I couldn’t resist adding.

No true farm kid is seen without a little red wagon, right?  At least, that's what my little farm kids seem to think.  They spend hours riding theirs down our driveway hill, or tow it behind when doing outdoor work like picking up sticks.  Definitely a staple around here!

No true farm kid is seen without a little red wagon, right? At least, that’s what my little farm kids seem to think. They spend hours riding theirs down our driveway hill, or tow it behind when doing outdoor work like picking up sticks. Definitely a staple around here!

Certainly, no outfit is complete with a furry lap warmer.  If it happens to purr, that only increases the value!

Certainly, no outfit is complete without a furry lap warmer. If it happens to purr, that only increases the value!

One thing we love about our area is the fact that things grow so well here.  Pastures are lush and bright green.  Trees are thick and gorgeous.  Vegetables grow without any assistance most of the time.  Unfortunately, with the good comes a bit of bad too.  Specifically, we have LOTS of poison ivy.  It grows thickest right at the forest line, mixed in with all the wild berries.  Now, the kiddos love to pick the wild black raspberries that grow along the forest edge, so we have spent a great deal of time teaching them what poison ivy looks like:

Source: internet stock photo

Source: internet stock photo

One morning, M walked downstairs complaining of her face and ear itching.  She definitely had some type of mild, blistery rash.  We suspected poison ivy, so scrubbed her with Fels-Naptha, an old-fashioned laundry soap bar that is known for neutralizing poison ivy oils, and I doused her in Calamine lotion to reduce the itching.  Then, we started trying to figure out how she got it all over her face.

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The next morning, she came downstairs asking for more Calamine lotion.

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Thankfully, the swelling went down as the day progressed so I didn’t have to take her to the doctor.  Unfortunately, it took about 10 days for the toxins to migrate through her body, causing lumpy, itchy little rashes all over her body rather randomly.  Bless her heart, M is not a complainer, so she rarely said anything.  Eventually, we discovered that tea tree oil eliminates itch on contact, so I gave her free-reign of the tea-tree oil, and caught her using it every few hours on any new rash that flared up.  I’m sure that helped make it more tolerable.

We were still baffled by how she got it to begin with though.  It wasn’t until about the third day, when I saw her new barn kitty, Shadow, emerge from the forest that I had a thought.  I asked her if she had held Shadow recently, and she said yes.  Upon further questioning, we discovered that the day before her face broke out, she had been sitting on the porch and Shadow came over, stood on his hind legs, and rubbed his head all over her face and neck.  Apparently, he had the oils all over his fur, and transmitted it to M.  He’s a VERY friendly kitty.  Needless to say, in addition to teaching the kids about poison ivy, we have also now instructed them to not let the cats rub against their faces!

If you happen to suffer from insomnia, I have discovered the totally organic, all natural, completely chemical/drug-free solution!  Just come work on our farm with us for a week!  I have had the best sleep of probably my entire adulthood from the work being done around here!  Now, it’s time to start catching up on the blog a bit.  There is sooooo much tell, I’m just gonna go story by story until I catch up….

First, I have to show off one of S’s first projects.  He had to remove an old, dead tree.  It finally succumbed this past year, and no green leaves appeared this spring.  It had to go before a branch fell on the house.

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He felt like it was a job he could handle, so with a little help from his brother, they got things set up.  They roped the most threatening of the big branches and winched it to another tree to pull the limb AWAY from the house.  S then donned his safety gear, including bee helmet and safety climbing harness, and headed up the tree to start cutting.

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The branch fell perfectly, right between the house, the cisterns, and the septic tank.  The process went so smoothly, they decided to move on to the next branch.   He’s slightly convinced he’s part ape.

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They repeated the process until all large branches were down, leaving only a large stump.

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You might be wondering why safety gear included a bee helmet.  Well, just about 3 feet under S’s right arm is this:

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Look inside.  See them?  Since S is allergic to bees, he allowed me to climb a ladder to get this photo for him–without a helmet, just so you know.  He’s so sweet.  Anyway, the remaining trunk is full of a feral honey bee hive.  We like feral honey bees.  These got a little upset with all the chainsawing, as was expected and hence the reason behind the bee helmet.  We also weren’t sure how high up in the branches the hive went.  After the branches fell, though, the bees quickly calmed.  Overall, they proved to be quite a mellow bunch, and we are hoping to re-locate them to one of our hives.  That’s a future project, though, so in the mean time, they get to keep their trunk.

This project was a huge success, everything went well, and we now have lots of firewood sawed and ready for splitting.  In fact, of all the “what ifs” that could have happened, but didn’t, there wound up being only one casualty.  Unfortunately, it was my favorite spruce tree.

Before

Before

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After

Oh well, guess I can’t complain too much.  S may be destined to be a lumberjack yet.