Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Prep

So it's that time of the winter when you think you get a break from farming, and you realize that the spring will be here before you know it.

We have taxes to prepare. We have seeds to buy. We have supplies to stock up on.

So this is where I need to get to work. Yeah, yeah, the taxes, aren't really too hard. It's kind of fun amortizing sheep. Unfortunately, 2 of them got "expensed" this year because we never got to bred them. Which made me spend the last 15 minutes making my sheep spreadsheet. I can make anything into a spreadsheet. But as time goes on, my memory might not be able to remember who was born when, how many lambs they had, etc. It's important to track farm data. And it's important to have records. If the IRS comes calling, I can show them - because they are all listed by NAME on our schedule F - when we bought a ewe, how many lambs she has had, and when she has left us.

It's also time to buy seeds for the garden. I found a great local supplier that focuses on selling seeds that are SUCCESSFUL in the arid, Colorado climate zone. They even had a type of beet called the Detroit Red. of course, I had to try that one. But it's seed buying time, and it's also time to lay out my greenhouse and my planting rotation. With the death of my previous computer, I have lost my rotation spreadsheet - so it's time to break out Eliot Coleman's book and work through it again. I'll get it perfect this year!

I'm also buying a small, 3-egg incubator this year. It's relatively inexpensive, but it only does 3 eggs at a time. All automatic and timed, with warning bells and countdowns. We are going to try to breed my Anconas. They are the only ones we really can. The Production Reds - well, not only are they mixed breeds, but we have no roosters left. We ate them. Our Black Sex Links don't have any roosters... that's the point of Sex Links. Our Araucanas had no roosters. My Buff Cochins do - I would only breed them to sell the chicks. And my Buff Minorca hen is the last of her bunch... attacked by something. So that leaves my spotty Anconas. It's going to be a test run to see if we are OK at breeding. If we are, we may pick some good breeds of chickens and breed our own, instead of buying from a hatchery. We'll see.

So it's winter. Time to plan for the spring - for moving the chickens back outside, cleaning out the barn, getting ready for lambs, chicks, and putting seeds in the ground. It's going to be a good year!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bye, Bye, Jean Claude

Our sheepy gigolo has gone on to his final destination. Nancy came and took Jean Claude Van Ramme away yesterday. From our estimation, he did his deed. He had 10 ewes to impregnate - as we don't want momma Shirley getting pregnant again. We have no scientific proof - no ultrasounds or hormone screenings. But when miss Lucy and Pretty Princess Penelope - 2 of our smallest sheep, are suddenly looking quite round, and when they practically clamber over the stall walls for food - we know these girls are eating for 2 (or 3, or possibly 4)

Jean Claude Van Ramme, with some of the ladies

So depending on when he did his job, we could start seeing lambs at the end of March, or as late as June. Bring on the babies!

We'll miss Jean Claude. He was a gentle ram (I even broke the rules and petted him a few times). It seems he didn't want to go, he liked his ladies. But our intent was not to keep him. As hard as it is to say goodbye to any of our animals - it's now time to focus on our mommies.

Out of our 11 ewes, one is still tending to her rams. That leaves 10 ewes to have lambs this spring. Of them, Miss Laverne has had at least 2 sets of twins (I need to look at her records to be sure, it might be 3 sets of twins) So we know Laverne is a top notch sheep mommy.

That leaves our other 9 ewes - none of which have lambed before. It is a high likelihood that they will have twins - which brings the risk of abandonment. Sheep, unlike people, have a chemical they release during delivery that really numbs them, and make delivery easy and painless. I am jealous. It can also leave them a little unsure of that is going on. They may not realize they have given birth to one or either of their lambs, and sometimes can walk away from them. A secondary issue there is that the Pyrenees may take over and "adopt" the lamb, making it hard for the momma to come back, if she realizes what's going on. So we need to make sure we keep an eye on our 9 new mommies, and make sure that their babies get a chance to bond with mom, and start nursing. This may require isolation for a short time. When Lenny and Squiggy were born, this wasn't really an issue. Laverne had done it before, and she shared a stall with Shirley. It happened NYE night, in the barn, there was no where for her to go. Miss Shirley was a good auntie, and she often nudged the boys back to their mother.

This time around, we have 11 ewes, and 2 rams sharing a stall. We'll need to keep a watchful eye on them and make sure that babies and mommas have found each other and are nursing well. I'd rather they nurse from their momma than be abandoned and bottle fed. So it's going to be a busy spring. And if Miss Laverne has any ewe lambs - we're keeping them!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January Picture Update

These pictures are all out of order, but I don't feel like moving them around. Blogger always drops them in backwards. I guess I should know better.

ANYHOW - it's like 60 degrees or something out here. As a Michigan girl, I keep asking when we are going to get winter, because this is outrageous! Anyhow, as my tulips are turning over in their beds wondering what they are supposed to be doing - we took advantage of the sun and our built-in dog park and had some fun in the sun!

Here, Larry is about to open the gates to the "park" - Athena is probably the most excited, because Larry has a frisbee in his hands.

He also had a soft frisbee for Hobbes, who is still sort of learning the whole fetch thing.

While we were out, the horses next door came over to say hi. This is Wiley - isn't he handsome? He couldn't get enough of being petted. Not sure if he liked it, of if he was just hoping I'd have some hay for him. Sorry big guy, I should have brought some carrots over, but we don't have any good grass on our pasture, either!

This is Larry petting Huckleberry Finn. Finn is still a young horse. He still thinks my clothes, and my camera are tasty food. Larry wants to ride him, but he's still too young.

Atlas was over at the fence having words with the horses. He was looking at me like "I'm not doing anything wrong" but he does bark at them. I don't think they like it, and I don't either, but he's doing his job, I guess. Finn looks very interested in Hobbes, who is hiding behind the tall straw. We can also see Bubba - Atlas is almost as big as him! ANd way in the background, you can see Picasso.

Here is our greenhouse - end walls, base boards, hip boards, and wiggle wire track ready to go. Next, we gotta put the plastic on! Anyone free next weekend to help? We'll probably need 8 people total...

This is little Lucy. She LOVES being petted, and will stand next to me for hours if I am petting her. Charlie Brown is sticking his nose in for some attention too. We're pretty sure our little Lucy is expecting, as she isn't so little anymore.

This is Goliath giving a check up on Lucy, Charlie Brown and Jan.

Here is Atlas out on the pasture. He has such a thick, heavy coat I swear he looks more like a lion than a dog!

Atlas is usually much happier watching over his sheep. he's here with Velma, Linus, Jan and Gertrude in the background.

Here's a quick video of our dogs playing in the pasture. You can see that Hobbes is working on fetching, Athena and Grish already know how, though Grish is slowing down a bit. The "pups" Atlas and Goliath just don't get it, but that's OK.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Farm Year in Review

Welcome, 2009! We had quite a year on the farm. It's hard to believe we have a whole year under our belt, and so many changes and fun things happened. Here is a quick rundown.

We were greeted on January 1, 2008 with two new baby lambs in the barn. Miss Laverne had given birth to two beautiful baby rams over night, and they were the sweetest things! We named them Lenny and Squiggy.

By June, they had grown to 100 pounds each, sprouted some cute little horns, and it was time to say goodbye. We don't raise our sheep as pets, we do raise them for food, and even though I miss them very much, they tasted very good, too! I'm not sure if you can buy lamb from anyplace else and know that they were given a kiss goodbye on their way to the meat processor!

As spring approached - we got all the chickens back out to the pasture into their chicken house. We had a great year supplying eggs to our favorite restaurant, the Wayside Inn! Our girls were laying more eggs than the restaurant needed, so we decided to head to the Berthoud Saturday morning farmer's market - where we sold eggs, chickens and turkeys. We made a lot of new friends at the market, found some great new customers, and had a wonderful time!

Spring is also a time of baby chicks - new egg layers, new meat chickens and new baby turkeys. We planted a fruit tree orchard, which we can't wait to start harvesting this fall. We finally got our hands on a farm truck that runs - you can't miss the sky blue old Ford pick up rambling through town (or sitting in a parking lot not wanting to run!)

Summer also brought us a bunch of new sheep! We picked up some sheep in Karval in May, as well as some other sheep from a neighbor in Boulder at the end of summer. It brought our herd up to 11 sheep.

In May, we celebrated the 1 year birthdays of our guard dogs, Atlas and Goliath. My, how they have grown!!

Atlas and Goliath the previous summer, at only 10 weeks old.

Atlas and Goliath in May, at 1 year old!

Summer brought with it the addition of 2 kitties, to help control the mouse population in the barn - Natasha and Marie

July was also a time where we said goodbye to my little Ditka, he was 16 years old, and a good companion for me for many many years.

We rented a ram this fall, Jean Claude Van Ramme - and were surprised when Miss Shirley gave birth to surprise twin rams in September. We realized it could only have been Lenny or Squiggy that got her pregnant - so it was one less sheep for Jean Claude to pursue.

Charlie Brown and Linus born to Miss Shirley. Surprise!

Then of course, there was the final processing weekend of the year - Turkey Processing weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was a lot of work, we had a lot of help from family, friends and neighbors and had a great time helping make people's holidays a little more unique!

We finished off the year by making sure all our animals have warm places to sleep at night, plenty of food to eat, and preparations for next year's farming projects. We got the greenhouse started, and are almost finished with it, and that should give us a boost for next year's production, and a special winter home for the chickens next winter.

We are thankful for our wonderful friends, neighbors and family that give us a helping hand, and a lot of support throughout the year. We are thankful for our wonderful customers and friends that love to eat the things we grow, and we are thankful for land and our wonderful animals that make all the hard work worthwhile. Thanks for being part of our journey, and there is more to come in 2009!