Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year in Review

Well, we've made it through another year on the farm. Here's a quick review of the highlights of the year.

January is always a time for reflection, and at our house, it's also a time where we see the projects of the year piled up on us! We ended 2009 with a hardwood flooring project that had barely gotten started (we're still working on it!!) and we had the shell of a greenhouse waiting for us in the snow.

January is when we plan what to grow, how many chickens to get and when and what we are going to do for the year. February is when we start making it all happen, and this year, March seemed to be the month when everything DID happen.

In March, when the snow had cleared, and it wasn't too much of a mess to work in, we finally got our greenhouse plastic put up. We put the call out to neighbors and friends, because this was a job that could not be done by two people alone. We got started early, to beat the afternoon wind, and managed to get our greenhouse all put together in one quick day. We celebrated with cinnamon roles! it was a good start to a new year.

In late March and Early April is when the farm started filling up with babies again! We had 10 pregnant sheep, who gave us 16 lambs all within a 2 week span. The one pictured above was little Freddie, one of the first. We were also blessed with Ginger, Trouble, Sparks, Angel, Pebbles, BamBam, Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Arlo, Betty, Wilma, Annie and Simon. Simon shared the same birthday as our other little Lamb, Shannon. Daddy had a busy week running between birthing sheep and us in the hospital. But that's what spring is about! Aside from lambs, and babies - we also filled the brooder up with baby chicks.

And, boy, with the Farmer's Market and everything else on our plates, spring and summer just flew by. No pun intended, the next thing we know, our turkeys are growing big, and have found themselves perched on our patio furniture!!

And since we always have to try new things, we found ourselves a cast-off dairy bull calf to bring home. He was a scrawny little thing. We named him Marlow, and bottle fed him for most of the summer. He's a big boy now!

Summer proceeds to fall, and before we know it, it's time for the sheep to mow the lawn again. We didn't even get out our reel mower once this year. Why would we? These guys mow for free! In this picture, you can see 3 of our ewe lambs that got spared from the BBQ to stay with us as breeding ewes. This is Pebbles, Betty and Trouble. We also kept Angel, she's such a sweetie!!

We had another surprise this fall. Velma, the only sheep who didn't give birth in the spring, must have made "friends" with Charlie Brown or Linus before they went to the processor in spring. She gave birth to lamb number 16 this fall. Shaggy is still with us! Most of the other sheep look to be pregnant again, and hopefully ready to give birth in the next month or so. I just love baby sheep!

This year wasn't all smiles and giggles, though. We said goodbye to our old friend, Grish. The house is much quieter without that grumpy old man, and dare I say a little bit empty, too. We also struggled a bit with our turkeys this year. But it's lessons learned that hopefully we can do better next year. The recession hit us again this year, with Larry losing his job in the fall. He's still looking, but we are hoping for some more activity on the interviewing front after the new year.

So as we round out the end of the year, we had a successful run with the greenhouse for our first summer. Our orchard trees are growing bigger, and Shannon got to eat some fresh pears right off the tree! The flooring project is almost done - we just need to finish the doors and the trim and put our room back together...

From all of use at Long Shadow Farm - Larry, Kristin and Shannon, and Marlow the cow, Atlas, Goliath, Hobbes and Athena (our dogs), Schroediger, Klondike, Boo and Pinky (our kitties) and Shirley, Laverne, Lucy, Velma, Daphne, Alice, Marcia, Jan, Cindy, Gertrude, Trouble, Angel, Betty, Pebbles and Shaggy (our sheep) and all the chickens - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Glue glorious glue!!! Sigh.... I swear that any time you are building something in a house and the instructions say, "Apply glue here" you are probably doing something wrong. Vinyl is for records not for walking on. Wood and stone are for walking on. Because you were a jackass and installed cheap ass flooring I am going to have scrape and sand my subfloor. Thanks.

Note the black stuff? That is mold. We will get to WHY that is on my floor in a bit. Happily the subfloor nor the studs are damamged, they just have a little mold on the surface. Contrary to what the dude in the vest at Lowes or Home Depot tell you, you cannot clean mold off wood with bleach. (Its long and involved, but bleach will only kill the mold on the surface, when the mold inside the wood comes back, the bleach is gone.) Happily I found some Sodium Carbonate at Lowes and that WILL do the job. It leaves a surface residue that kills the mold that trys to "come back".

More pictures of mold on the studs. I'm so incredibly pissed off at the person who built this tub surround.

This is why I'm so mad. A VAPOR BARRIER!!! ARGHHHH!!!!! OK, lets talk vapor for a bit. A vapor barrier would be fine on the other side of Cement Backer Boards. (known as Cement Building Units or CBU) The problem is, the assbite who built my shower stuck the tile to DRYWALL! Hey dude... if the word Drywall didn't clue you in, there is probably no hope for you. Cement is not "water proof", it simply isn't damaged by water. In fact, a CBU can be soaked, stay soaked, and be so wet it rots the 2x4s that it is attached to and suffer no damage at all..... at least, untill the 2x4s rot away and collapse. That is why you would install a vapor barrier on the other side of a CBU. By using drywall you are saying, "no enough water is going to penetrate the tile (LOL) so I figure this will stay dry". In that case, installing a vapor barrier just ensures that any water that DOES get through the tile totally destroys the dry wall. (I pulled the dry wall off the studs with my hands.... usually one fist full at a time because it was mush) Its like the person who installed my tub surround read a book about how to build things correctly....and then did the opposite.
Strangely enough... they decided that this whole mosture barrier thing was like too hard to do around the waste vent pipe (the big black thing) and so they just quit. ARGHHH!!!! WTF people... either you NEED the moisture barrier or you don't. I can't see any logic that yields, "I need 50% of the tube covered, the rest can have no barrier that will be fine".

So in this next pic, you can see why the wife is so pissed off at me. That is the attic you see under the slanted exterior wall. Yeah... the unheated attic. Exposed to the unheated garage. IE.... its freaking cold. And its pouring cold air into the house. While I write this, I have since fixed the problem by installing unfaced insulation into those interstud spaces. It is much warmer now. (recall the only heat we can afford to run is the wood stove..... only the babies room gets the electrical ceiling heat turned on)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Processing Weekend

Thank goodness it's over.

It was a frustrating year for turkeys, and an even more frustrating weekend for selling turkeys. While we planned on having lots and lots of turkeys so that we could keep the Bourbon Reds for breeding, we ended up with only 23, and exactly 23 people on my buyers list.

At the last minute, we had people calling for turkeys, we had no more to sell. We had people show up that weren't on the sign in sheet and we had none to sell.

Our double breasted whites had a lot of casualties - drowning in the sheep tank when they were just chicks, eaten by coyotes, and other various deaths. We had a lot of losses. We ended up with only a few large birds and a lot of Bourbon Reds. Most of our turkeys ended up weighing 7.5 pounds or less, with only a half a dozen or so weighing more than that. People were disappointed.

Some folks got turned away. Some folks went home with birds too small or too large.

Though Larry reminds me that more people went away happy than went away sad, one unhappy customer pretty much ruins it for me.

Add on top that last week I had to call my restaurant and tell them we had no more eggs. And weeks before that, I had already cut off all my other egg customers. It's been a rough fall for farming.

The only thing I can say is that we improve our processes each year. We get better at raising our birds, protecting them from predators, and apparently we have to protect them from themselves (falling in the water tank!) we learn more about when to get turkey chicks and the breeds and what sizes they grow to. But still, I get frustrated when I can't get people what they want. But I have said it before, this isn't a manufacturing plant. I can't turn a dial and make the process faster, I can't change a tool and make the birds a different size. We get what we get, they grow how they grow, and with a pack of 6 coyotes living in the ridge behind our pasture, and a voracious skunk in the area AND a brazen fox who steals chickens in daylight - this was not our best year. Usually.... Mother Nature Wins. We have to learn to work with her, with our animals, and remind people that we can't make promises, we can do the best we can, and that's what we do.

In the meantime - it's time to shut down for the winter. No crops. No birds to process. No baby chicks. No baby lambs - nothing new until Spring. I'm tired, my hands are raw, my back is sore. Processing is hard work. And after a weekend like this, it's thankless work, too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

And Then There Were Four

We laid an old friend to rest today. I would never trade the 15 or 16 years of companionship with a dog because of the heart break of saying goodbye, but it doesn't make it easy. His last days were getting harder. His hind legs hardly worked, he couldn't get up in the morning without help, he fell down a lot, sometimes down the stairs, or out in the snow. He's been relieved of his pain, and his non functioning knees and hips. He can run free wherever he may be. Someday, Athena will be there to join him, just like my Hobbes will some day join Ditka again. Until then, I hope he died knowing he was loved, and that we were letting him go because we loved him so much.

Still, nothing makes goodbye any easier.

Grish and Athena chewing on a "stick" they found on a camping trip in Michigan several years ago.

Grish playing fetch just the other day

Larry and Grish playing fetch in the snow this week

Grish with snow on his nose

Larry and Grish

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Autumn!

Autumn is my favorite season. I love Halloween, the changing colors of the leaves, pumpkin pie, and sweater days. It also brings the opposite of Spring to us. In the Spring, we have baby animals galore (which I also love!) Lambs, a new calf, and more baby chicks than you can imagine.

This time of year is when all those babies we raised start to fill up our freezers, and our tummies for the months to come. That's right - it's time to harvest.

We have had a mini-success for our first year in the greenhouse - from zucchini to tomatoes to basil and cilantro - lots of yummy veggies for us to eat. Next year, we'll be even better at it!

We also took half our lambs to the processor this past week. I do get sad when they go, and say goodbye to them when I can. I miss them, but I also know they had a great life, and our pasture can only support so many sheep - I can't keep them all. So when we say goodbye to them, I know they spent their days running and playing, being silly and being sheepies. We have folks lined up to take them home and fill their bellies.

It also means Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and our baby turkeys will go on to their final destination, too. I have to tell you, that I appreciate my food like I never have before. And I take none of it for granted. We are getting to the point where we can grow everything we need right here on our farm. You can't appreciate food more than when you grow it from seed to plant, from baby to full grown.

So it's a bittersweet time for us. It's a time for goodbyes, but also a time to reap what we have sown, to see our hard earned successes, and to eat well. We eat like kings at our house, and we love every morsel!

Monday, August 24, 2009

We're in the news!

Click the headline above to see our article this past week in the Berthoud Recorder.

And don't forget, it's time to order lamb, and your Thanksgiving Turkey!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We love Surprise Lambs!

Remember that time Shirley gave birth and we had no idea? Charlie Brown and Linus were the product of a tryst with Lenny OR Squiggy (we'll never know). Lenny and Squiggy were our first lambs, Laverne's boys. Charlie Brown and Linus were our second batch - we didn't elasticate any of them. Looks like Charlie Brown OR Linus got to Miss Velma. Velma was the ONLY ewe of our then 11 ewes that did NOT get pregnant from Jean Claude Van Ramme. She had one more winter with a ram to get pregnant - and if she didn't... she was going to have to go. Which would have been a shame. Velma is one of our 4 friendly ewes. She likes to be petted, and has the cute white patch on her face! I like her. I spent all spring trying to get a peek at her behind to see if her udders were swelling - hoping hoping hoping she was pregnant.

Unlike Shirley, when she had surprise lambs, and we thought she was just getting fat off grass. We've been watching Velma. We watch them all. At the end of a day eating grass, they all look pregnant. So we look at them in the morning, when they have spent all night ruminating, and they are back to being svelte. Velma never looked big!! I swear it. So when Larry said to me, with a grin that only comes for the happiest moments... "come here, this is really funny" I thought he was talking about the dogs in the truck. When I asked if I needed the camera and he said "yes!" I knew it wasn't about the dogs in the truck. It had to be a lamb (but he wouldn't tell me!)

Good job Velma! he's a real cutie!

Marlow is curious and wants to have a look at the lamb, while Larry cleans out the barn stall.

Little Shaggy lamb. Born 8/18/09. No, that's not milk on his chin, he has a white spot like his mama!

Velma and little Shaggy

Just when it is time to start "processing" lambs and saying good bye to our other lambs, another little one comes along. He's so sweet.

And speaking of saying goodbye, Simon and Sparks are probably going to go soon. We originally wanted to increase our flock to 12 ewes. That meant keeping 1 ewe lamb. When Pretty Princess Penelope died, that meant keeping 2. Larry now thinks we have enough pasture and space in the barn, let's up our flock to 14. That means out of our original 16 lambs from spring, we get to keep 4 ewe lambs. We've identified them based on size and their genetics (i.e. their moms are good sheep, stout sheep, and have multiple lambs) Our lucky ladies are Betty (Laverne's, and by far the largest ewe lamb we have), Fiona (one of the smallest, but she belongs to Shirley, who had triplets this time), Angel (she's big and very sweet - and all white!) and Trouble (she's a good sized ewe lamb, and very very friendly. And she has a big mama, Marcia!) Shhhh... just don't tell the others. They get to go on to their destiny and fill lots of tummies with yummy food. Don't ask me any more about it, or I might start to cry.

SO, we also discovered a way to keep our spastic house dogs very happy. Let them hang out in the truck. Of course, they were expecting to go for a ride. They didn't get one.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

GAH! Icky tomatoes!

OK, I think tomatoes are icky to begin with, but what's up with these? I hope the rest turn out ok! Thanks, in advance, to the folks at the hightunnels discussion group for any input you have!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Update

Just a quick summer update on fun things on the farm. It's summer in full swing - that means Farmer's Markets, running irrigation, flies everywhere, and animals seeking shade...

This is Scout kitty, one of our barn cats. NO, it isn't Schroed. This is Scout - she was confounded by the fencing in the garden. All she wanted was to get to me for some loves and pets. I love Boo Radley and Scout - they let us know when they need water and food, and always check up on us for affection. I don't think these two are going to run away. I think it's more likely they are going to turn into house pets. We'll see!

Our watermelon plant has a flower! Will it give us melons?

The turkeys are now on their own. Turkeys tend to be pretty self reliant, and don't need us to fill their water and food for them often, as they go looking for their own stuff. They had a field day after last night's rain, the field was full of bugs. I can't imagine what it would be like without birds eating the bugs! And the turkeys, well, they just let themselves right into our back yard.

These are our current pen chickens - broilers and egg layers, about a month old. The layers will stay here until they can eat adult chicken food and move in with the rest of the hens. The broilers will be gone in a month! You can see the Silver Lakenvelders, which I plan on breeding someday. And then there is my mystery bird!

Is it BEAR? Is is a MOUNTAIN LION! Is it a WOLF?? No, it's an Atlas footprint. That's my foot. And that's the size of Atlas' paw! We have big dogs!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Baby Chicks

I hatched 2 more baby chicks, they are about 5 days old, and living in a box in our office. This keeps them from being eaten by cats in the barn, or stepped on by a cow. They can't go outside for a few weeks, so they get to stay inside until our new turkeys and meat birds show up. Once there are a few more out in the brooder, we can fix the lid and they can stay safely in the barn until it's time to go outside.

These are successful Ancona chicks. As opposed to my weird mystery chick. Don't know what was its mother or its father - so we'll see what she turns out to be. But these two are certainly Anconas!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Introducing Marlow!

A few picture updates before we get to our new friend....

Here is our greenhouse. The roll up sides are in action, and they are pretty cool. Shade cloth has been ordered and is on its way - a necessity in this Colorado sun!

What you see in here is a work in progress... lots of things plants, as well as lots of weeds. We are working on it!!

Just a shot of some of our orchard trees. I hung CDs from the trees to try and scare the birds away. I can't wait until they start to bear fruit this fall! I am looking up all sorts of fruit recipes - cobblers, pies, muffins, tarts - YUM!

Here are our most recent baby chicks - Cornish Rocks for meat chickens, my black and white Silver Lakenvelders, and my one little mystery chick that we hatched right here. I have 3 more eggs that are due to hatch in 10 days!

And here is our new friend, Marlow the cow! He is a cast off from a dairy farm. Boy cows are no good for the dairy, so he was taken from his mother, along with 5 of his friends. He's very emaciated (I suspect at a couple of weeks, he may have been weaned too early) We are bringing him home to raise him on the pasture, and eventually eat him.

We are bottle feeding him, and he LOVES us. Atlas doesn't like him, he's scared of the sheep and they are scared of him, and Hobbes thinks he's just another big dog to play with. He's very friendly, and we want him to stay that way - when he's full grown we do NOT want him to get mad at us!

We're trying to turn this bull calf into a steer calf, and apparently he's been banded twice and gotten the band off. We think the equipment we have to band the lambs will work on him (seriously, sheep have large testicles - his are smaller than our lambs) But we sort of want to shut down his hormone production in an effort to keep him from getting aggressive. If a sheep wants to get mad and butt me, they can knock me on my duff. If a full grown, or even half grown bull wants to do the same - he can kill me. So we want him to stay a gentle giant.

People keep telling me that you can't name something you are going to eat, so why did we name Marlow? Well, first, try and stop me from naming an animal! Second, I can name something and still eat it. We ate Linus or Charlie Brown, and Lenny or Squiggy (we don't know which ones we got and which ones we sold). I still ate them! But to me, naming them means I care about them. That's why *I* raise animals. This guy could have been tied to a pen and turned into veal. Or he can come to our house, have a pasture full of grass, friends to play with, and an idiot like me who will scratch him behind the ears. Part of why I think our animals do so well is because they are loved and cared for. Marlow is my friend. He's not a commodity. He's not inventory on a shelf. He's the little baby calf I always wanted. And I can love him, name him, pet him, hug him, and still eat him one day. I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saturday Farmer's Market

Starts this weekend in Berthoud! We'll see you there!

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Animals - Chicks and Kitties

So, we got some new animals this month - 2 new barn cats (we still miss you, Marie and Natasha - come home anytime!), Silver Lakenvelder chicks and more Cornish Rock Cross meat chickens!

First - Meet Radley. He is one of our new barn cats. We rescued him from the Longmont Humane Society. He's a very friendly kitty, as you can see here.

And he met the chickens today. I don't think he really cared one way or another....

Our other new kitty is Boo. She came to us from a nice lady who couldn't keep her, and knew she was skittish around strangers, and used to being outside. She is definitly shy, and hides in the cat carrier when she hears us coming. I know she doens't spend all day in here, I can hear her run for it, when I open the barn door! She's really just shy, I can reach in here and pet her. She just prefers things on her own terms. OK, Boo!

We also got some new chicks. The fluffy yellow ones are Cornish Rock Crosses - your typical meat chicken. YUMMY!

The black and white ones are Silver Lakenvelders, egg layers that I have been wanting to get for a while! I can't wait to breed these guys!

In the meantime, I will keep trying to breed the Anconas. This little chick in the middle is sure confusing me... it came from a white egg (or so i thought) so it must have had an Ancona as a mom - and the only roosters we have are Anconas, and one little Buff Cochin? So why does this little chick look so much like a Red Sex Link? We'll have to see what it grows into!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New baby chick!

We got our second chick from the incubator last night. WAHOO! The night before, when I put in the protective tray, I swore I saw eggs moving when I put them back in. I thought that two of the eggs were jiggling on their own. Looks like I was right on one of them. In the picture below, you can barely see where the chick first started pecking a hole through its shell. It's a very dirty egg, but I can't wash them before I try to hatch them, because I might make the egg too cold when I wash it, and stop the growth process.

I woke up the next morning to find this - a wet little baby bird just emerged from its shell! I was surprised at how dark the bird was. Granted, its momma is an Ancona - I know this because it came from a pure white egg. Its poppa was probably also an Ancona, but COULD have been a buff cochin bantam (highly unlikely) or that Buff Minorca rooster that I have. Either way, it would be a yellow chick, or a yellow chick with black spots? So we'll just have to see how this one surprises me as it grows up.

Here is is again in the incubator, trying to dry its feathers before we put it out in the world. Apparently, it is admiring Larry's diploma...

Here it is sleeping in the brooder all by itself. Poor birdy. We put it out in the greenhouse during the day with the baby turkeys, but it isn't warm enough in there at night for a day old chick. it'll have to stay with the heat lamps for a few weeks - and by then, our next batch of meat birds and my Silver Lakenvelders will be here, so it won't be alone.

This one should be safe by itself. We don't have cats anymore (come home kitties!) and we build a chicken wire mesh lid for the brooder pen - so no cats can eat them, no birds can swoop off with them, and no hens can peck at them and steal their food!

I will probably name the little rascal Tweety Too!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Greenhouse Fun

Things are moving along smoothly - just another summer on the farm. The meat chickens are out in their pens. These ones are about 4 or 5 weeks old...

The egg layers are back out on the pasture.

And this year, we have a greenhouse. We moved the turkeys to the greenhouse while they are still small. There are only 7 left (from 25 to start!) as the cats kept eating them. Bad kitties! But turkey babies are good for eating bugs, and these are slow growers, so they can stay in the greenhouse for a while - Midget Whites and Bourbon Reds!

Here is some of my celery. I've never been successful growing celery in the past, so this is exciting!

I also have lettuce, which I have shown a propensity for in the past. I must make a salad tonight.

We also have carrots, kale, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, bok choy and one little pea plant growing in the greenhouse. I have planted many other things, but some of the seeds just haven't sprouted. We live and we learn! We'll only get more successful each year.

OK, off to the humane society to look at kitties!