Saturday, May 31, 2014

The good, the bad, and the really ugly

First, the good:

The bees are back!  Phil’s bees have come back to the farm for another season of pollination and honeymaking.  Welcome back bees!  We are happy to host you at Ole Lake Farm!

If you look close, you can see the bees moving in and out of the hive on the lower left side
Next, the bad:

You locals know that the mosquitoes this spring are way beyond bad.  Horrible, awful, voracious, vicious, vile; pick your adjective!  It’s bad enough that they prey on us humans, but what really gets to me is the poor goats, especially the little ones.  Searching the internet for safe repellents, along with the various herbal concoctions, is good old Avon Skin So Soft.  So off to Aunt Lila, our very own family Avon Distributor Kevin went, returning with two big bottles of the stuff.  It seems to help some.

Yep, our goats smell like old women.

This morning I brewed up what amounts to a very strong rosemary tea.  This also seems to help some.  I have been out planting tomatoes (in the rain) and although there are clouds of the nasty beasts around me, I’ve only been bit a hundred or so times.  Instead of thousands. 

And then the ugly:

Cutworms are my enemy.  

 And I am their nemesis.

There are few things quite like walking out to the garden and finding your plants chewed off at the soil line.  It is but a small consolation to dig around the stump of the once beautiful plant and find the miscreant.  Capital punishment is meted out by my flock of feathered executioners who are especially fond of dining on the perpetrators. 

Lest you worry over  my newly planted tomatoes, they are all protected by soggy newspaper collars. 

And just a few photos from earlier in the week: 

Ranger just barely fit in our largest animal crate for the short ride over to Righteous Oaks Farm.  Matt and Katie report that he is doing fine at their place.

Cramped quarters!

Some hens love to sunbathe...

While others prefer to dust bathe in the shade. 
 So, time for a little lunch, then out to the to fight the rain and bugs again.  Until next time, be well.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Caprine Transitions

Thank goodness Kori was here to revive that hen on Friday, or she surely would have died.  What a strange thing… 

Yesterday (Saturday) was a pretty busy day for the entire Flowers bunch.  Kevin preparing another field for planting (this one will be wheat), Kurt and Rollie in the woods a good portion of the day doing something with firewood and breaking down equipment, Kori helping out with miscellaneous activities, Ardis vending at a flea market, and I in the garden. 

Yesterday was also the first day of the new Farmers Market in Aitkin.  We had thought about participating as vendors, and still hope to in the future, but for this year, it just didn’t work out.  Normally I would never go to town on the weekend… I spend enough time there during the week, but I just had to go in and check out how it was going though.  I think this is just a great thing for the local producers and the community.  So, after milking and muffin making, I headed for town.

Before visiting the farmer’s market, I got a run in on the town streets and paths.  A little variety is nice, and I got to meet this gal (I think) near the river.

Had a nice visit at the Farmer’s Market with the various folks that were there.  Purchased some awesome Cracked Wheat Potato Bread, and some amazing asparagus.  The set up was nice and the vendors seemed to be moderately busy while I was there.

Back to the main topic of today's post though, Caprine Transitions.  Caprine is the goat family, and of course Transitions is change.  Every member of the goat crowd has something going on.  For Ranger, the plan is to move today over to Matt & Katie’s place, Righteous Oaks Farm to spend the summer with their buck.  For the doelings, more unfortunate things (from their point of view) are happening.  Yesterday, Kori and I gave Ivy and Sunflower their tattoos.  As purebred registered goats, the American Dairy Goat Association requires that they be tattooed, so now they are.  Sorry, no pictures of the actual deed, but here is Sunflowers sporting her green inked ears.

This is also weaning weekend, so as of today, the doelings are separated from their mammas.  Vinca and Daisy will be milked twice a day.  Ivy and Chicky are moving to the chicken yard and will be commuting back and forth to the summer coop pasture on nice days to graze.  Sunflower left us yesterday.  A very nice young man purchased her and she will be joining a doe his house.  At some point, Ivy will be moving to Righteous Oaks Farm too, to become their first dairy goat, but for now she will stay with us for a while longer.  Chicky will most likely be sold too. 

So, I didn’t really get a garden update in here, but this is getting really long!   Since tomorrow is Memorial Day, we will get some extra time in here at home, so maybe I will get back to you then. 

So, until next time, be well friends.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Heroic Hen Rescue

I saved a life yesterday.

My terms for living at home mean that I have daily chores and tasks that I have to perform. Yesterday I had to rake sticks and dirt, and ashes, which is about as much fun as it sounds. I had finished the first batch of tasks and was about to start raking ashes next to the garden when I noticed something really, really, weird.

A hen, on her back, in Mom's garden.

Now, a chicken flat on her back is not normal chicken behavior. It's not even normal dead chicken behavior. So I was naturally quite concerned, and ran over, wondering if this was some poor hen that had passed and Mom had, for whatever reason, chucked it in the garden.

She was alive. Panting like crazy, warm to the touch, and in shock, but alive. I picked her up gently, in case she had injuries, and brought her into the house. I put her in the sink, gave her a drink of water, and covered her with a wet towel.

This poor hen couldn't hold her head up on her own and seemed very tired, or at least kept going limp and closing her eyes. I moved her from the kitchen sink - she didn't seem to have a problem with being in the sink for extended periods of time - to a cat carrier in the warm shed, which, contrary to its name, is the coldest place to be during the summer. Out of the sun, and in a good place to nap, I left her to recover.

When I checked on her during chore time, I found her able to support her head, but she didn't seem to want to move around much. At bedtime, when Mom delivered her back to the summer coop, apparently she was well enough to get up and walk off on her own. Today we can't even tell which hen was the one with problems.

Current theories about how this hen ended up where she was: Kurt thinks she flew over the fence, got dehydrated, and flopped over. Its also very likely a bird of prey picked her up and then dropped her, sending her into shock (we've never had a problem with raptors going after the hens before). I personally think the aliens almost got her, but decided they didn't like the taste of chicken.
A happily rescued hen

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When being broody isn't a bad thing

Last Sunday night was moving day for some of the flock.  Javier and 14 of our nicest hens moved from the Winter Coop to the Summer Coop.  I liken it to the movement of senior citizens from Florida to Minnesota, without the mini-vans.  The rest of the flock will follow in a few weeks, but right now they are separated because the eggs from the hens that went with Javier are the ones I want to save for hatching.  Since our hands were full of poultry, I have no visual record to display for you, but it goes something like this:  At dusk, as many family members as there are on hand head for the coop.  Javier is pulled off the roost first, and put in a safe place, which in this case was a dog crate.  This time he also got a spur-trim as his spurs have gotten so long we deemed them to be a hazard.  Then, one by one, the hens are removed from the roost and handed off to the hen transporters, who carry them two at a time out to the Summer Coop.  I must add that Kori is traditionally the one who does the roost-removal task.  She is quite good at this, so if she ever moves far away she will have to plan her vacations around this spring and fall activity.  Really.

Javier and his harem enjoy greener pastures

For our first few years of chicken-keeping, our chicks were selected from a catalog, much like seed varieties or a new swimsuit.  This has really become the “normal” way of obtaining chicks.  Hatched in giant incubators in large hatcheries (frequently located in Iowa for some reason), chicks are sent to us through the mail.  The arrival date for the chicks is carefully noted on the calendar and middle of the night runs to the post-office planned.

These days, we are trying to do things a little more traditionally.  I’m not saying that we won’t ever mail-order birds again, but hopefully this won’t be necessary too often.

One of our farm hens has “gone broody”. 

A broody hen… broods.  She sits on the nest all day, all night, with only brief breaks for a bite to eat, a sip of water, a poop.  After a quick strut around the coop, feathers fluffed and clucking importantly, she returns to the nest and settles stoically in with a look of stern concentration.

This Australorp hen takes her work very seriously

In a more natural setting, this hen would find a secluded place before this broody period and deposit an egg there every day until the desired amount has accumulated.  She would then begin her twenty-one day sit-in.  In the confined environment of the coop, the nests provided by me, the farmer, are the only reasonable place.  Trouble is, from the hen’s point of view anyway, the eggs keep going away; removed (or stolen if you will) by me.  This hen has good timing.  I have given her 13 eggs to hatch.

Check back in 21 days folks, we should have some very cute chick pictures to share!

A couple other pictures to share today:

The greenhouse is getting pretty crowed!  And yes, the lettuce is outstanding!

The oats is up!  That hole there is a varmint track (deer).
So that's all for now folks.  This is the most amazingly beautiful day and my "wanna do" list is long.  To those of you who are not in Minnesota on this very fine day, I am truly sorry.  I wish you were here to experience the best Mother Nature has to offer.  The harsh winter is forgiven.

As always, be well.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Collaring the Kids

Kori is at the keyboard today. Yesterday, as one of my chores, I had to loosen Chikorita's collar, which was getting a little too tight. Easier said than done, because baby goats are as tricky to catch as they are to photograph.
But I did my best.

You can see Chicky's collar is too tight

That might be the best picture of a goat ever taken. I'm so proud.

The kids were around, but I couldn't go near them
Everyone was racing around and I just took a seat to enjoy the show and take pictures. And then we got company. 

Follow the leader
Spot was rather okay with the affair
Everyone loves cats
This went on for a while, and even Lily joined in, but I was still no closer to grabbing Chicky and loosening her collar. So I settled for taking lots of pictures. 

My phone's camera is better than Mom's camera. So there.
Finally, I managed to corner Chika when she tried to follow her mother back into the shed. Once I got her in my lap she was perfectly compliant and cuddly, but getting her there is always the problem.
I remember last year, with Pete and Ole, they became a lot more friendlier once we leash-trained them. That'll probably happen in the next few weeks, which is always fun. They're getting so big!
Last night Mom made goat cheese, which was ready to be consumed by this afternoon. It was the usual concoction of basil and garlic. I understand why goat cheese is so expensive, because that stuff is good.
Mom will post something tonight or tomorrow. Thanks for reading!