We’ve arrived! After many years of waiting, wondering, studying homesteading, preparing the farm, we finally made it! I cannot express to you how wonderful it feels. As you read, we had a few unwelcome adventures along the way. There’s nothing like a leaking fuel line, an unexpected layover at a small-town repair shop, on a hot day with a trailer full of overheating livestock from a cold climate, and a loose and stubborn chicken running around a parking lot , being chased down by 2 kids and 2 helpful truckers, to get the blood pressure up a bit! I drove the truck and trailer, and a girl-friend drove my minivan with the kiddos. She was such a God-send through the whole ordeal, and for the whole week after! What should have been about a 15-18 hour trip turned into a 22 hour trip. We arrived at almost 2 in the morning, got the kids in bed and began unloading animals. We had to walk each of the goats, dogs, and donkeys about 200 feet from the trailer to the barn, through the tall hay field. The tall grass was so foreign to them, not a single animal attempted to take a bite! They didn’t know what to think of this stuff brushing against their bellies! Oh, what an adventure that day was!!
While Will, our resident house pet knows and seems to enjoy the place, he doesn’t leave the front porch much.
The other animals, to the contrary, are still trying to figure out this place. Some seem to think they have died and gone to a heaven far beyond anything they could have dreamed of, while others are still trying to figure out whether they are in heaven or some kind of purgatory.
Honey bees: definitely think they’ve died and gone to heaven! I’ve never seen such full pollen sacs on the workers’ legs, and when we checked today, the queen has gone crazy laying eggs. The workers are building up honey and pollen stores, and are so content foraging, they showed no signs of aggression as we inspected the hive today.
When we first arrived, the chickens weren’t quite sure what to think. Until today, they were living in the stock trailer, using it as a makeshift coop until we could get theirs’ finished. Notice the rabbit cages are also still in there, until we get a permanent area set up.
It took a couple of days for the hens to learn to go INTO the trailer at night, rather than hide out UNDER it. It also meant that M has stayed busy hunting eggs when they decide to lay in the grass or under the trailer, rather than in the makeshift nestboxes we put in the trailer.
Look closely, they’re under there, enjoying the shade.
Hens foraging the hay field. They have definitely decided they are in hen heaven! Their feed consumption has dropped by half I think, and their crops are always stuffed with bugs, seeds, and whatever other treats they are finding out there. Our egg yolks have already turned a bold orange color from all the greens they are consuming.
The donkeys aren’t sure what to think. Probably depends on what time of day you ask them. Most of the day, they hang out in their spacious stall together. I added a few toys to keep them entertained. In the late afternoon, they get to go out to the trimmed pasture as we wean them on to the rich grass here. As long as the grass is short, they enjoy it, but if you ask them to go into the longer field grass, they get pretty nervous. They don’t seem to realize it is food as well. In addition, the bugs are driving them batty. I have had to start using a bug repellent ointment in their long ears due to all the bites they were receiving. After a few hours in the buggy, humid outdoors, they are usually standing at the barn doors waiting eagerly for me to let them back in to their cool, bug free stall.
Donkeys: Too short to see over the rails!
Dogs: Totally in heaven here! As soon as I let them out every morning, they run and romp and chase each other until they are almost overheated. The fighting has decreased significantly, and even then, it is typically only when I put them back into the stall together at night. The only problem so far is that my white dogs have turned a clay-orange color since we are in the midst of a very wet, muddy spell here.
Like the donkeys, the goats’ thoughts seem to vary with the time of day. At night, or when the donkeys are out, the goats are stuck inside a stall/alley area. They have plenty of room, but get very bored. Latte tends to bully Joy to no end during those times (hence the reason I allow them 2 areas to roam).
Mocha and Caramel, growing as fast as IL weeds free-choice nursing on almost a gallon a day of Latte’s milk!
The girls are definitely in caprine heaven when we turn them out. They run and leap and romp almost as much as the dogs at first. They have also worked up to staying out for about 8 hours a day now, and seem to be thriving.
The only issue the goats have had is that the stress of the move combined with the heavy milking from Joy and Latte caused them both to drop a lot of weight. To make matters worse, none of the goats were eating their portions of grain like they used to. As a result, I was forced to purchase my first non-organic feed in the form of Calf-Manna. This is a product that contains a load of B vitamins that work to stimulate the appetite, as well as high carbs to help with weight gain. Despite the non-organic nature, it is a pretty good product for such issues. It works. Faith is due to deliver next week, so I am eager to see how that goes. She also shrunk in size SIGNIFICANTLY, but I can’t tell if she has lost weight, if the baby shifted, or what happened there.
We also have 3 new faces around the farm. Two days after our arrival, my friend and I were working on cleaning out the barn when we saw several mice run out of their hiding spaces. The next morning, I called the local small-town animal shelter and told him I was in need of some barn cats. I told him I would take ferals or otherwise unadoptables, but couldn’t pay a lot of money in adoption fees since they were destined to be barn cats and I had no idea if they would stick around. He told me to come on over for a visit. M and I went over, and came home with 3 new kitties. The added bonus is that all 3 are SOOOO sweet and lovable! It’s a bit hard to milk with a kitty intent on helping, but we are getting by.
Shadow, testing out the new hen nesting boxes we were working on.
A few other random Red Gate Farm happenings, and some of the projects that have kept us busy this week (in addition to the normal unpacking associated with a move):
My first hay! My friend and I cut it with a scythe, raked it and fluffed it for 3 days while it dried, and then S helped me get it into the barn for storage. It isn’t much at around 150 pounds, but I’m pretty proud of it, and the animals seem to approve.
S and JR working on the chicken coop.
The hay field, desperately needing cut, but the weather won’t cooperate.
My garden! I built the square foot garden boxes and planted the seed while I was here in March. Many of the seeds sprouted! We are already eating radishes, and looking forward to harvests of sunflowers, spinach, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, onions, beans, kohlrabi, corn, and more! There are plenty of squares that didn’t grow, so I have ordered plant starts from Azure Standard to fill the gaps. We also plan to expand on these beds quite a bit.
Chicken coop got finished today! I will have better photos later.
Fruit in the orchard. Some of the trees seem to be having a problem — blight or leaf curl maybe?–so I treated with some copper sulfate. Oh, how we would all love to eat our own fruit this year!!
Iris, peaking over the gate into the front of the barn. She likes to know what’s going on at all times.
That’s it for now! I’ll post more as I have time. Tons of work to do around here.