Wednesday, December 24, 2014

First Rule of Farming

It never seems to fail.  You have planned it all out, you know what you will be doing for the next few days, week, month, season, or even year.  Then it happens....  What is it that happens?  Anything and everything.  Here are a few examples:

For the next two days you will be grinding grain so that there is ample feed for the week while you do other projects.  However, two hours into the first day of grinding you turn around to see the cattle coming for you.  They pushed the fence down and have made a break for it.  So, now you have to spend most of today getting all the cattle back in and fixing fences.  Only throws you off a day, but still, it happens.

Seeing as how building projects are done in the winter cause the summer you are too busy farming to build anything, this winter you will do an addition to your house to make room for the new addition.  Then a month before winter hits, you are approached and told that all new improvements must me stopped and the house will be appraised or moved because they are widening the road and your house is in the new set back.  So, now you have to wait a year to do any building on or build a new house.  Well, moving the house or building a new one on that scale can only be done after the ground thaws to put in new footings.  That means you are not just pushed back one winter, but one winter, one summer, and into the next winter!  Oh yes, that also means that you will be so busy trying to move everything, the house, the farmyard, the fencing, that you will miss a year of crops cause there just isnt time for both when you have a 90 day growing season.  It happens (and is happening right now to us)!

You plan to breed your new pair of chickens cause they are from really good lines and look awesome.  They are both young and you have them in a breeding pen just waiting on the first egg.  Only for the hen to be taken by an owl right before she is due to start laying!  It happens.

So, what is the first rule of farming?  Flexibility!  Anyone can make plans and stick to them, but as a farmer, when you have livestock, weather, rainfall, and customers to deal with, you have to be flexible!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Organic or Not Organic that is the question...

So, from time to time I toy with the idea of going Organic or even more extreme to go Biodynamic (which to me makes more sense than organic since it is the old style of farming.) I could do without the sprays and synthetic fertilizers in fact now that I have inherited the farm we are stopping the use of them (can't afford them anyway).  For me the biggest factor stopping me going this route is no use of antibiotics. To me, I will do holistic treatments and they work most of the time, but sometimes you have to use modern medicine to help your animals. Under these systems the animals are now no longer certified and has to be sold just because you treated the animals to save it. I am sorry but if my kid is sick and natural methods arent working I am going to take them to the hospital and get them something to get my kids better. After treating them I wouldn't sell off my kids why should it be the same with my animals??... 

Ok, so animals are raised in general for food not as our offspring, but what about that dairy cow you raised from a calf hand reared through thick and thin, prized of the herd to a farmer, she is considered one of our offspring, our hopes and future are in that cow and others like her.  If she is treated we are expected to get rid of her??... 

It is the duty of a farmer to raise the healthiest food we can!  Also to be the guardian/mother to our animals to provide them with the best life possible.  God gave us this responsibility to care for the land and animals in our care that their lives would provide us as we have provided for them. Too me the use of antibiotics is one of those tools God has given me to help when the time is needed. I do agree that their use is way too high but going from one extreme to another does not make sense to me. Farming is about balance, too much of one thing never works out well for the farm, the soil or the animals. 

We sell what we produce on our farm direct to people in town.  I agree it would nice to have some type of certification saying yes we run our farm more naturally than the current farming practice, because than they know yes this is ok food to eat without being able to come out to the farm to see it themselves because like us, they are busy people. However since I don't agree with no Antibiotic use I don't see us going biodynamic or organic.  It makes it harder for us to get people to try what we produce because it is not certified even though if they came to the farm they would see how we raise our animals and crops. I guess I am old fashioned and believe that people should get to know their farmer and trust him like they use too with the growing of their food. Perhaps we need a certification called the responsible farmer for those who believe in the Balance of farming like our forefathers did.... Dan

Why We Farm!

Yes, I admit it, I am one of those that probably spends too much time on FB somedays.  Recently there has been a lot of talk on the negative aspects of farming.  A particular person made a post that really hit home this year for us.  Many people are so moving from the city's to farms recently.  They have "stars in their eyes" about this lifestyle.  I do not call it a job, because a job you get to go home from and not worry about til the next day.  This is a lifestyle.  It is something that you live day in and day out.  Last year and this year we have had massive crop failures.  It makes it very tight.  You worry about how you will pay the electric bill.  What animals can I sell and still be able to not impact myself in a bad way so that I can make that payment.  We have lost calves this year.  We have lots chickens to hawks, coyotes, foxes, and due to a very wet spring an outbreak of coci even though they were on medicated chick feed.  Fences have been damaged and walked through.  Garden didnt get cleared and planted properly this year and the veggies we did have all died due to health issues and being unable to go water them.  We have nothing here at home to can except what people have traded with us.  Egg production is down due to the loss of adult hens to the hawks.  Our local butcher closed down and now we have to drive three hours one way to get animals done up to sell the meat.  It adds to the costs for sure.  Our meat bird flock was decimated due to a storm that went through and blew open the building that was their hut and the coyotes got in, that was all in one night.  We have no money, very few crops, and our livestock is going down rather then up due to many factors.  It is a bad year.   We suffer through illness just like anyone else.  We suffer through injuries just like anyone else.  We do not get to take time off without it affecting everyone and everything.  I got hurt pretty bad this year.  Causing a situation that I was unable to walk and am still recovering.  Hubby has had to take it all on himself.  Everything.  Being cooker, cleaner, feeder, feed grinder, waterer, hauler, birther, harvester, everything.  For two weeks.  I am finally able to start helping again, although I still can not stand for long nor can I carry anything, not even our 20 month old daughter.  I can get the kids to help do minor chores.  Like feeding the rabbits and goats.  Doing the dishes.  With help of a chair and my 7 yr old (who loves to cook) we can make breakfast and lunch, but not dinner yet.  Nor can I milk my own goats again yet.  I have breeding coming up in a month and I am just hoping that I can get out there to transfer who I want to when I need to.  If not, hubby will still have to do it.

So why do we do it?  Why do we live this lifestyle and why do we farm?

Lets see if I can explain this where people will understand.  I do this for the crops, the livestock, my children, my self, my husband, and those that purchase from us.  I do it because it is a hard life, but much more rewarding then almost anything else.  To be able to give my family healthy food to eat.  To teach my children through our daily lives what is important in life, the first being your family.  I do it for those little miracles.

For my children:  I love to watch the faces of my children as they watch a calf born from the cow they helped to raise.  The joy at sharing that moment with them.  To watch the excitement as a chick hatches into their hands.  As they bottle feed a sick baby goat and help give it medicine to make it stronger and healthy again.  To then watch that baby goat be able to run and bounce around.  The deaths are part of that too.  They experience death often too.  Be it during butchering or from predation or from illness.  It happens and they know it.  They learn to deal with it in a manner that helps them in life.  They do not take life for granted.  To watch your children plant seeds and love to get dirty and grow things at the same time.  Then to watch them get to harvest veggies from the seeds they planted.  They love that they got to do it and then they really enjoy eating it.

For my husband: To support him in his decisions on the farm.  To help him see his vision and figure out how to get there.  For him to feel good that another year has gone by and he accomplished something many people find too hard or too stressful.  For him to feel loved and useful.  To help him support his family and get those large jobs done.  To allow him the freedom to be with his children when he wants to and not just "after work".  To allow him to sleep I will take night watch when a first timer is calving or an animal is sick.

For the crops:  To enhance the soil in the old fashion to help our crops.  As ultimately that is helping us.  To grow the food for our livestock so that we know they are eating just as healthy as we are.

For the livestock:  To be able to provide the best we can everything they need.  To give them treatment when needed, pasture, feed, water.  To be able to be thankful to them for their life that will ultimately give you your food for your life.  To watch those births and miracles they provide for us.

For my customers:  So they too can get good quality.  So they know where their food is coming from.  So they can experience some of the farming life when they choose to and see the miracles themselves.  Even if it is just the miracle of a garden or a chick hatching.

For myself:  Mostly it is for myself.  As human beings we are ultimately selfish.  We look out for what can benefit us.  For me, my benefit is the joy this life brings to my children and my husband.  For the pleasures a good harvest can bring.  I dont do this to fix fences, I really do hate to do that.  Worse yet is cleaning out the barn.  But I still do those jobs so that I can experience the joys and miracles that I so want.  I love to watch a new life come into the world.  I love to be able to give people the food and quality they love to eat.  I love for my children to be able to play outside and I know they are safe.  I love to see my husband take a deep breath after a hard days work as he looks out over the job he completed and realize just what he accomplished that day.

I know this all sounds romantic.  The honest truth is, the reasons I live this life are more important to me then the reasons I would leave this life.  Sick animals sometimes have to be put down.  It is up to you to do it.  No one else.  Farming as a bottom line is a hard life.  You dont get vacations, but you get miracles.  You have to fix fences when the animals or wild life breaks through them, but in doing so you get to see the daily growth of your livestock.  You have to collect eggs everyday or they freeze or the chickens learn to eat them, but you get eggs that you know are healthy.  You have to milk the cow/goat twice a day, but you get fresh milk, cream, butter, and cheese.

I love this lifestyle because you get out of it what you put into it.  There is never just one way to do things.  You learn more everyday and nothing is ever the same.  We work hard to live well.  Some people rather work hard at a 9-5 job to buy the things we provide for ourselves.  I am grateful to those people, because it is them that buys from us that allows us to pay our bills.  And it is them who are grateful to us for working so hard to provide it to them.  I do this because my heart and soul are in it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August just isnt August this year!

Well, this year the weather has been so off.  August has been hot and dry, until now, mid August.  It is cool and almost frost at night.  The crops are ready to harvest a whole month early, which is not normal and we were not prepared for that.  We are now shuffling through the steps faster then normal.  No biggie, we will get it done. 

Remember that new goat from the last post?  Well, she isnt lonely anymore.  She still doesnt get along well with my other two, but they have all settled into an agreement of sharing a pasture during the day and separate stalls at night.  She is eating well and giving almost three liters of milk a day.  All the animals are benefiting from her gift.  Angel is now being weaned so the other animals are getting more of Amber's milk daily.  We got our clover field cut and they are loving the hay from that.  So we will be good.  Oh yes, and the other two never did kid.  So, we will try again for a December breeding to have May baby's!

Our rabbits have been producing like crazy.  I had two more large liters born and we just butchered 4 yesterday of the older ones.  We sell our Rex's as pets or breeding stock depending on their quality.  What doesnt sell and I cant breed we eat.  We sell some for pets mostly to pay for the pellets to feed the breeding stock so that all the meat we get from them is free.  It is rare that I have to buy pellets without being able to pull it from the rabbit fund.

Our Whipcream gave birth finally too!  To another bull calf.  UGH!  We cant seem to get a heifer out of her!  Oh well.  Her bag this time is huge and we are getting great milk from her.

We have butcher dates set for the cows and pigs we do not want to over winter for the end of October.  That will be great to get them out of here.  It will help on our work load for the winter.  Dan is going to be stuck doing the winter chores this year as I will not be able to help him outside this year.  

All our gardening was a failure this year.  I got sick shortly after my last post and was down for a couple weeks.  When I finally was able to move around again I found that no one had watered anything and everything except my chives and onion is dead.  No more herbs this year to last us over winter.  No more cucumbers or squash.  Sad deal for me as I love my fresh stuff.  I replanted peas and beans as those can still grow in enough time though.  

We have also decided (more I did) to thin out the chickens.  Anyone that I do not want I am having butchered in two months.  I decided I am done with those hatchery jersey giants.  They did not get anything close to what they were supposed to.  I am enjoying my other breeds very much and will keep them.  

On the other hand.  It is even better having Dan home now.  He isnt trying to shuffle work with harvesting and he is able to start teaching the girls things I simply dont know or cant do.  They have become a great help and I am so blessed to have them as my family.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

It Is Really July?

Yeah, so I have been very bad.  I feel like I havent had time to breath and the blog is the last thing on the chore list.  Today I think it is a good day to do a catch up because Dan is in town getting a tractor tire fixed, it is windy and cold outside, and one of the girls is sick, so I am in the house while she takes a nap.

April-  April came and went.  Nothing major happened other then the snow was still on the ground by the end of the month.  Unusual for us, usual we are melting in April.  Due to the snow it did set back a lot of our plans.  Our garden boxes didnt get put in.  No fencing got done.  No tilling or discing in the fields.  Just nothing really.  I was busy all month, but really cant remember on what.  Oh yes, I was hatching chicks and ducks all month.  I started in March.  You see, a friend of mine put on a poultry show and I helped her.  I did the behind the scenes stuff.  I guess show isnt the correct term either as there was no judging.  It was a sale.  We did well for a first time sale and plan to do it again next year.  I will have to hatch earlier for that though.

May-  So busy!  Finally got the new baby goat the first of this month.  She is growing well and loves attention.  We named her Angel.  The snow melted the first week, then it snowed again and melted the second week and dried up by the third week.  We have family come visit us, but had to plant the fields too.  We got all of the fields planted just in time for the May 31st deadline.  We also started to suspect that Pearl was pregnant due more to her behavior then anything, but she started to look a bit wide.  After all the crap with Cesar over winter, I did not expect any kids this year, so we are watching and waiting to see what happens.  I suspect she will kid in June.

June- Got some discing done in the field we decided to summer follow.  We want to plant alfalfa in it and didnt have time to do a cover crop so we will summer follow it to help with the weeds.  There has been no rain.  We desperately need rain.  None of the crops are growing well.  We finally got the flax seed cleaned from last year.  Something is not right there.  Only got 1100 bushel off 200 acres.  It is considered a big crop failure.  We are now at the last of our savings with no more income coming in.  With the flax failing, it isnt worth the trucking fees to get the flax to the elevator to sell it as it would cost me as just to truck it as I would get from selling it.  It puts us in a really bad bind.  No income coming in, bills stacking up, crops this year not looking good, it just isnt a good year.  Luckily we did a job for someone transporting early this month and can cover the bills off that job for the next two months.  We need to take on more jobs, but when we do, we are not completing our own jobs on the farm.  So it is a double edged sword.  Still no baby goats, but now Snowflake is starting to bag up a tiny bit.  Or is it just fat?

July- Had the chance to get a new goat that is two and in milk.  She has the bloodlines I have wanted, so should work well for what we want.  I picked her up the first part of July.  I have had her now for a week and she is milking 2 liters a day for me.  It is just enough to feed Angel.  Our cow that I was using to feed her dried up and I have been very short on milk for her.  Now she is doing well getting the goat milk and having a good time of it too.  She is bottle fed so I am milking at 8 am and 8 pm every day.  The new goat, Amber, is lonely and not eating as well as I would like.  I tried to put Angel with her, but Angel wants nothing to do with Amber and climbs out of the fence to get back to me.  I cant put Pearl or Snow with Amber cause guess what, no baby's!  They are still pregnant.  Dan watches Pearl's stomach move around from the baby, but still nothing.  They have to be born soon, cause the end of Feb is when I moved Cesar to the greenhouse from the barn.  That only leaves 5 days til their last possible due dates.  Now what?  We wait.  Remember that post?  Impatiently waiting?  Yep, it repeats it's self.  Well, this month we have got a lot accomplished though.  We got most of the goat fencing done.  We have been cleaning out around the barn and milking parlor.  We should have both finished by the end of this month and then I can start to white wash the inside of the barn and get everything resecured.  Then next month maybe we can get the new room built onto the barn.  No extra jobs this month, but I started to sell my chicken feed and that has really helped.  That alone is paying half our bills this month.  So we are ok for this month.  The stress of not having enough money is really starting to affect me, but I try to not let anyone see how much.  I know it affects Dan too, but he tries just like I do.  If we can get two or three more good jobs this year or a decent crop this fall, we will be ok.  I hate having to depend on things like that.  It shouldnt be that way.  We have to finish getting everything set up properly to be able to have things make money!  For some reason this year everything seems to be taking twice as long as it should.  The garden was a bust, had bugs attack it and nothing we tried worked.  It is dead.  I am hoping to save some of the perennial herbs, not so sure I can.  It is one of those years that you just want to scream, cant anything go right?  Every project has been put off or only partially done and some things just shut down.  I had someone tell me once, if you really want to know what faith is, be a farmer.  You have to have faith that everything will go just right for you to have a crop just to be able to live and farm for another year.  God must really be wanting to test my faith this year as everything has failed.  Yet it seems that things are coming along right as they are needed most, so we hope, pray, and have faith that we can keep going.

So, it is mid July and here we stand.  Hunched over and starting to feel defeat, but not allowing that to happen.  We are who we are and we work hard everyday to build the life we so desperately want.  With Dan having quit his job in January it really puts the financial issue of farming into more perspective.  We try to do things locally and sell at the farmers market and do minor jobs for people, but it seems that everyone that wants the work done or buy things are so far away it would cost us more to go there to do it then we would get paid for it.  So it isnt always feasible.  A friend of mine has loaned me one of her sons.  He has been a great help because he wants to learn farming.  Since he has been here he is learning all sides of it.  He has witnessed a birth, a death, and the financial stress of it.  It is enough to put anyone off farming, yet he persists and still wants to learn.  We are teaching him everything he wants to learn and everything we can think of in exchange for his help in completing some of the chores, even if it is daily chores so that we have time for the bigger projects.  It gives me hope that Dan and I are not just building this life for it to be thrown away after our time is over.  That the next generation will want to keep it going.  I can only hope that at least one of our children will follow in our foot steps.  I dont want my children to have a hard life like we are having getting things set up.  I want it to be ready for them to take over and be profitable and a good life.  That is the goal we work so hard for.  Our children.  That is why, even when all seems to be going down and lost, when everything seems to be against us, we can rally and keep going forward and find ways to do what we need to do.  Because we do it for them.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Impatiently Waiting

It feels like you are either so busy you forget to breath, or you are impatiently waiting on those miracles of life and sometimes waiting so hard you forget to look at the ones happening around you.

I have been impatiently waiting on one of our Jersey cows to calve.  She was due two days ago.  For the last two days I have been sure she was going to have it.  All of her pins are gone.  She is so swollen that it looks like the calf will just slide out any second.  Yet here I sit, in suspense.  I am normally pretty good at predicting these things with my cows.  Not this one.  This is a new cow for us and her first calf here.  After two or three you really get a sense of how the cow will progress.  This cow, she just likes to very very very slow progress and keep you waiting.  Last night I went to bed and thought about what she will have.  I am hoping for a heifer calf, of course.

Impatiently waiting keeps you on your toes and on the edge of your set.  It keeps you guessing and checking.  And unfortunately, it keeps everyone else annoyed that you are being so impatient.

With this particular occurrence, I realized this morning, that in the last four days since I have been watching her so close, I have forgotten to look around me.  I have hatched out turkey poults, ducklings, and some chicks.  All of which is a miracle its self.  Little bundles of down needing my attention.  They are all growing well and very strong.  Already trying to get out of the brooders.  In the next few days they will be moved to the chicken house.

Just a reminder, dont get too caught up in one experience that you forget to realize and participate in all the other ones going on around you.  Smile, it is spring and a great day!


The true irony of this, is several hours after I posted this, she delivered a still born heifer calf.  It is only the second time it has happened here, but every time it is felt.  Just shows even more, remember what you have, because you may not get what you think you will.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Green Excitement

I am weird.  I know this.  I dont mind this either.  I am one of those people that get excited over the smallest and oddest things.  I love to see new things emerge and things grow and new life, in all forms.  So, as with every year, I started some seeds.  In years past I didnt have my green house so inevitably, my house was too small for all I would start and half would die from lack of light.  Just the way it is.  Well, this year, I have my greenhouse.  For the most part, it has worked well.  There are kinks I need to work out for next winter, but for the big reason, starting plants to be ready to plant in May, it is working great.  A week ago I started another batch.  My first batch is now almost a month old and doing very well, the more cold hardy things like peas, lettuce, and onions.  This batch though was pumpkin, cucumber, beans, and carrots.  Everyday, I go in to water the older plants and check the seeds to see if anything sprouted.  It is like a kid at a birthday party.  Awaiting the gifts so you can open them.  I love to go in and see a tiny sprout barely out of the ground.  Well, in this case, barely out of the soil in the packets.  Today, this is what I found when I went in.

Cucumber Sprout

Cucumber Sprout

Pumpkin Sprout

My Blueberry Bushes!  

Another Blueberry Bush.

This is buds on my largest Blueberry Plant

Carrot Sprout.

The same carrot sprout.  Just looks cool.

Pea leaf.

Tomatoes, Corn, and Dill.

These are the one month old variable plants.






Pea plants and green onion.

In the front is pea plants and garlic.  The pot in the back (right) is a normal yellow onion I bought from the store that started to sprout.  So I planted it.

Buds on my chives.

Another bud on the chives.

Thyme sprout.

And this is my perpetual helper.  She has to be in the greenhouse when ever I am.  This is Tink.

At least I love a simple life.  I cant wait to taste some of the veggies of my labor lol.  I really do enjoy seeing this and knowing that I am helping to nurture it along.  I just hope that I can pass on this love of growth and transformation to my children.  They love to go and pick the veggies and eat them off the plant, so maybe that will be enough to start a seed in their hearts.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ice Inspiration

There always seems to be something.  You have a lot to do and not a lot of time.  So you schedule it out so that you can get things done on time for your needs.  You work hard at your daily list and just as you think by some small chance you will make your deadline, bam!  Something happens.  It doesn't always have to be big either.  It can be something as small as calling to get some info from someone.  Yesterday we called to get more info on licensing and permits for starting our diary.  One call turned in to four hours on the phone with various different people and offices.  So, how do you look at it?  You are now behind your schedule yet got a lot of good info you needed.  Good and bad?  I heard it said in farming you take the bad with the good.  I think it is that way in life.  Not just farming.  Farming is dealing with life and a few hundred acres. 
So, combine the hours on the phone with the walk I decided to take yesterday to check the highland cows and horses, mostly because the hoarfrost was awesome, and my day was shot!  I knew the animals were fine as I can see them from my upstairs of the house.  But how many of you have seen really clear and beautiful hoarfrost?  This was what we got to wake up to.

The view into our pasture.

The horses coming out of the trees to say hello.  All the white on the trees are hoarfrost.

Linnie, the Highland Cow.  See the frost on her hair?

Up close of hoarfrost on tree stems.

Up close of hoarfrost on cattle panels.

Beautiful huh?  For me, it isn't just about taking the bad with the good.  It is about looking beyond that.  Looking at the possibility of what might be and what is under it all.  Take the hoarfrost for example.  It is a combination of heavy fog and sub 0 temps.  The fog touches something and it creates tiny ice crystals and they build and build.  The tiniest little drop of water, so small it can hang in the air can create beauty like this. 
So if we take the bad with the good and look deeper, maybe we can all find the inspiration and beauty we need to get our lists done and learn to enjoy either the process or the outcome.  Besides, if it isn't bringing good or beauty to your life, why do it?

Saturday, February 8, 2014


I originally wanted this blog to be about the successes of the farm.  But you know what?  That isnt what a farm is about!  It is about the learning process.  It is trying new things when something doesnt work like you want it to.  It is about working hard and persevering to reach a goal that you want.  It is about life, death, laughter, and heartache.  In one day you can have so many different emotions and many of them will rush at once.  I think that this week was a reality check for us.  Our whole goal has been to make the farms we remember our grandparents being on when we were kids.  Ones that have many different animals that all work together and they can make a living on it.  May not be a big one, but it was enough.  We want to be together and work together as a family.  We want the bonds that we will hold us together through it all.  There are hard times.  A lot of hard times.  There are good times.  Not as many as you would hope, but that is what you work so hard to get.

So here is an update of things since November.  This winter had been horrid.  We lost the first two calves of the season to -40 C cold and winds.  Then we had a bull calf born and all was ok.  Then two days later, a heifer calf born and she ended up half frozen due to weather and had pneumonia.  Thank goodness (or not depending on how you look at it) that we have a working relationship with our vet.  We called in and got a shot of Nuflor and she is totally recovered in a matter of days.  She is now a bottle calf.  My barn is full so I had no where to put her, so she is in my green house that is attached to my house.  She was too big to fit in a dog crate so I put her in a make shift pen in there.  We have a sale in April we are supposed to go to and cant seem to get anything to work right.  My chicken house still isnt done (was supposed to be done in December) so that I can separate the birds to get pure chicks.  My pigs that I bred do not seem to have carried anything.  They should be due in 3.5 weeks, but nothing.  I was supposed to have had piglets for that sale.  I had plants started and the new kittens we got in December had killed half of them.  They like to knock the pots over.  The rabbits wouldnt breed.  They just fought.  The girls would not settle.  After several attempts over a period of a few weeks I finally got ONE to settle.  Now just hoping she delivers so that I have my baby bunnies for the sale.  I watch them and do not leave them so I know when a successful breeding attempt was made.  My new buckling that I got last fall seems to not have grown at all over winter.  He has been up and down so much with this weather.  We have been working them every three months mostly cause even the vet doesnt know what else to do for them.  The two does are good.  He hasnt been.  He finally has started to turn around and get really good over the last week.  It seemed no matter how much food and water he had, he just was not growing!  He even felt thin.  So much for having goat kids this year!  He has been in no shape to deal with the girls.  And yes, my goats are tested and they are CAE, CL, and Johnnes free.

Ok, I will stop there.  You see my point, right?  It is about learning and figuring things out.  Here it many times takes more then one person to do all the chores and other things that need to be done.  It is the nature of the beast as they say.  So, when we sit down and realize that the projects we are behind in are the most important projects on the farm, it is NOT a good feeling.  Then when we realize that we are loosing money on the farm due to these set backs, it is even worse.  Oh yeah, then combine those feelings and realizations to the fact that it is Dan's job that was keeping him gone 12 hours a day and causing all sorts of havoc, well, then you have a hard choice.  Do you keep your job and know you have money to pay the bills, but everything else suffers for it, or do you quit your job and make everything else, including your family life, better and just work hard to try pay the bills off what you can and will make off the farm?  Knowing that you only have a few months of savings to make sure that bills are paid.  Each family and person will have to make those choices for themselves.  Our decision we came to as a family, which means, no cable tv, no eating out, no extras for a long time, was for Dan to be here.  In order for us to reach our goals, we have to make sacrifices and work hard.  The only way to do that is to do it together every day.

So, our big realization?  Trust in yourself and each other.  There are bad times.  There are good times.  There are hard times.  Always remember your blessing and remember that the trails will pass.  Keep in mind what is most important for you and your family.  Our blessings are many this winter too.  The heifer calf was the first heifer born from a mom that has given us 14 prior bull calves.  She is healthy now, very friendly, and loves the attention.  She will be a great cow to have here.  The buckling is getting meat back on him.  It is hard to keep him in his stall in the barn now.  He would rather jump out and run all over the barn and head butt the girls and show he is feeling better.  We have the go ahead on our milk parlour and are finishing the approvals on our processing building.  And most important.  We have each other.  I realized through all of this that this is really what it is about.  Working, failing, and picking yourself back up to try again until you succeed as a family working towards your future.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Grain Dryer + Chinook = Capsize

We have these strong winter wind storms up here in the great white north.  They are called Chinook's.  We also have plow winds.  They are very different and both can be dangerous.  I prefer a Chinook.  Why you ask?  Well, because it is WARM!  It can be -40 F and with a Chinook it will warm up to +40 F over night.  It will stay warm until the Chinook moves on.  We have had them last two weeks.  The winter break they give is so wonderful, but normally it is just a bit of wind that warms it up 10 degrees and only stays for a few hours.  Now a plow wind can only be described as a sideways tornado.  And it does not warm up the air.  Now most years we get Chinooks one or two times a year and plow winds we can generally avoid because we, unlike a lot of neighbors, have lots of trees.  They can and do knock over trees, but in general our area seems to not have very many of these.  

So this winter is very odd.  Instead of having one or two small Chinook's, we had a huge long one.  It started with the winds.  They came from the south and south west.  Strong enough to shack the house, blow out windows and over turn equipment.  Our grain dryer was the worst hit.  It was on it's stand, all secure, and has been for years.  Yet the unrelenting winds did not care.  Gusting to over 120 km.  Luckily the grain truck wasnt damaged too.  But the grain truck stopped the grain dryer from going anywhere.  A grain dryer is normally very round and stands in the air.  Well, not anymore.  

You can see part of the grain dryer top is under the truck and the metal sides that keep the grain in is all bent up.  The center is luckily untouched, but the screens are destroyed.

The screens around the outside are normally attached to each other.  You can see on the right that it is fully open and on the left you can see how smashed up it really is.

Once spring hits (as our temps are back below 0 again) and all the snow melts we will stand it up and see if we can straighten any of the screens.  A good hammer and a welder and we hope we can fix it.  We will know later in the summer.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Orphaned Calf and a Good Dog

Something can be said for a good dog.  My dog may not be a working dog.  She may not always listen either, but you know, when it comes to baby animals, she is the best.  We have not had many orphaned animals here, but last year we did have a calf.  Mom, who is usually a good producer and a good mom, was disturbed at birth from coyotes and never bonded to the calf.  So, of course, in it came.  We were building our greenhouse and it was covered and warmer then outside, so we put the calf in there.  When he came in, he still had all the amniotic on him, mom never cleaned him, never nursed him, and he was half frozen, very very cold to the touch.  We knew the first thing was to get him dried off and warmed up.  Once that happened, then he would be able to stand and drink.  We got the calf on a bed of hay in an extra large dog kennel with a heater blowing at him and I went to get towels.  Not gone more then a few minutes and I come back to the dog having cleaned the calf mostly off.  Stimulating the calf and cleaning him off.  She (the dog) was doing a great job cleaning him off and getting him him warmed with all the licking.  So I decided to leave her to it.

So then I go to get the camera when I finally think about it.  She has been cleaning for about 10 minutes already and the calf is finally starting to respond.

She really seemed to enjoy cleaning him off.

Here is the dog still cleaning cleaning off the face.  You can see the calf is drying very well.  This was about 20 minutes after the calf came in.

All dry and getting warmer by the minute.

Our 6 yr old feeding the calf it's first bottle.  All dry and warm thanks to the dog.

She acts just like mom and cleans the calf every chance she got. 

Especially the calf's face after having a bottle!

An no, my dog has never had a litter of pups.  But something has to be said for a dog that instinctively helps care for the animals.  As long as it isn't pigs, she just wants to eat them.  Yet I can set a chick right on her!  A good dog can be worth their weight in gold on a farm.  Even if it is a dog to step in to mother.  An orphaned calf or even orphaned goats can be cared for easier with a good dog.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


We raise a couple litters every year.  We have only ever had one issue with a rabbit kindling and she had her kits early due to a move.  She later was breed and had several more litters for us.  I found for the most part if you let them do their thing, they will do better.

A doe (female rabbit) is general pregnant for 31 days.  Mine usually kindle the night of day 30.  On day 28 of gestation I will put the nest box in the does cage along with straw for the nest box.  I usually put some straw in the box and some outside the box.  I found the doe will add as much straw as needed for the temps.

Doe is in the nest preparing it.  She will add more straw as she gets the straw that is in there were she wants it.  Moving it around.

The doe has a mouth full of straw.  She will also get in and out of the box to add straw.

Once she has enough straw she will start to pull fur.  She could end up with a bare stomach from this.  Depending on how cold she may then put more straw on top of that and make a mock hole for the kits. 

Here you can see the fur in the "hole" in the straw the doe made.  This was taken about 6 hours before she kindled.

This was taken two hours after she kindled.  I found she would pull more fur after she kindled.

Here are the kits hours after they were born.

Another of the babies.

Here they are two weeks old.  Their eyes are going to open soon.  At this point I will usually change the straw for the babies.  Makes for a clean bed.

They will grow fast at this point.  You can see the fur coming in and they will are starting to open their eyes.

You will notice that the doe also replenished the fur in her nest.

I have yet to have any kits out of the nest box prior to three weeks old.  However, it is a known issue.  Does do not put the kits back in the nest and they can freeze.  If you happen to go out and find a kit laying in the bottom of your cage cold to the touch, you best warm it up before you call it dead.  It is really simple.  Put the kit into a zip lock bag with it's head out so it can breath (if it is alive) and then emerge just the body of the kit in the bag into warm water.  About 101 F will do the trick.  Once the body of the kit is warm watch for several minutes for signs of life.  You will be surprised how many will still be breathing and once warm, the breathing will pick up and those kits will still grow quickly.  I have used this trick with goat kids and even a calf once.  That is one way to save a kit that was on the floor of a cage.  But with it still in the cage at least there is a chance to save it.  That is why one thing I think is very good is "baby saver" wire.  It is basically the same small wire you use on the bottom of the cage 2" up the sides, front, and back.  It prevents the kits from falling out of the cage if they get out of the nest box.  

I usually try to keep alfalfa hay in the cage from the time mom kindles until she weans the kits.  Usually mom is on timothy, but while nursing and raising kits, she gets all the alfalfa she can eat and a cup of pellets until the kits are about three weeks old.  At that time, I try to make sure the pellets are always available too.  The baby's will start to come out and eat at this time,so for maximum growth, I give the best food I can.  Water is a must and needs to always be available.  

Doe's will only feed their kits two times daily usually.  Until the kits can follow her around.  You will notice she will jump in, be there just two to three minutes, then jump out.  When the temperatures are extremely cold, it is not uncommon to bring in the nest box over night, take it out in the morning for them to be nursed, then take the nest box back in during the day, and again returning for them to nurse in the evening, just to be brought back inside at night.  I have not personally done this, but it is not a rare event either.  I have not lost kits, but I breed for warmer months of the year.  However, in the early spring, we can still get the occasional temp of -40 C or so.  I would bring them in if it was that cold.  Mine are in an insulated building to protect them from wind.  So usually they can stay very warm in the winter with the straw in their cages and the wood bottom nest boxes.  

As for the nest boxes themselves.  I found that the summer, the kits could get very hot.  I can see the use of a wire bottom nest box for the purpose of keeping the kits cooler and allowing the flow of feces and urine out of the nest box.  You will have to choose which bottom to go with according to your temps and when you plan to breed.  

You can also get the kits used to being held if you take them and handle them.  If your doe is used to your smell then this should not be an issue.  I have handled all my liters from the day their were born to check for dead or disfigured babies.  I usually do this in the afternoon.  I give mom a treat (kale works wonders) and remove the nest box while she is eating.  Then I will give her a bit of whole oats with the shell still on.  About a teaspoon worth.  It will help her keep her body condition and increase milk supply.  While she is eating the oats is when I put the nest box back.  The doe's will usually go to the box, smell the kits, and hop away.  Remember, they usually will not go back into the box unless they are going to feed them, so do not worry if she does not go see them.  You should handle them very little the first few weeks as they need the warmth of the liter to stay warm and healthy.  I will caution you though, if your doe is new to you, or it is not used to your scent or you, then I would not try to handle the baby's.  Especially if it is her first litter.  She may become over stressed.  The most critical time is the first 24 hours.  

Sometimes a doe is very protective over her liter.  They will bite and scratch and pound you with their feet if they want to protect their young.  I have only had one doe do that.  I could not feed her or care for her while she was pregnant or once she had kits without leather gloves on during those times.  When not pregnant and without kits, she was very sweet.  The sweetest of bunny's can be the most protective and hormonal of mothers too.  The treats will help occupy her so that you can check the young.  You can check them without picking them up.  

If you are trying to figure out if the baby's are eating, go check them.  If their belly's are nice and round and they are warm, then they are eating.  If they are a bit cold, or the belly's are not full and you can see the skin folded, then come back in the evening or morning and check again.  If at that time they are still not fully belly's and are not warm, then you may want to look at fostering with another rabbit that has a litter.  I have never had a rabbit not care for her young.  So, I can not speak from experience on fostering.  

I hope this has helped someone.  I hope the photo's help too. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rabbit Nesting Box

When we first got our rabbits we looked and looked at building our own nesting boxes.  Most said to make sure they weren't too big that the rabbits use them for litter boxes, but then they also said to not make them too small or the mom may accidentally land on a baby while getting into the nesting box.  Everywhere I looked there were different sizes.  I tried the "normal" size for a large rabbit, but found that I was loosing baby's to mom jumping on them.  So I made mine a bit bigger and have not had another issue.  There are minor things I would change in the future if I built more, but these work great.

I always tend to draw things out to see what I am doing first.  

I am very much a visual learner, hope the photos help.

All measurements were based on 1/2" plywood!

Measurements were:

Bottom: 20" x 12"

Sides (two of these): 6" x 20" x 10" x 10"

Back: 10" x 11"

Front: 6" x 11"

Top: 12" x 10"

Now for the assembly.  Once you have all of your pieces cut, assembly is a snap.

Apply the sides so that they sit on the bottom.  For all the cuts to work this is imperative.  The sides so not go on the side of the bottom, but on the bottom.  We have an air gun, so we stapled it.  You can use a handle stapler, small nails, or small screws.

Once both sides are on, then you can move on to the front.

The front is put between the to small ends of the sides and on top of the bottom.  I found this provides the best stability.

Then you can move on to the back.  It also sides between the sides and on top of the bottom.

Then the top goes on.  Be sure you have this on the right way.  It should cover both sides and be equal in length to match the top of the sides from front to back.

Now you have a nest box.  There are a few things I found I would change.  Well, one really.  For summer kindling I would put a wire bottom on instead of a wooden one.  This way, the baby's (kits) feces and urine will go through.  However, for the winter time here, I found the best for us was the solid bottom.  With the straw in the bottom it will keep the bottom dry of feces and urine from the babies and keeps them warm enough.  

My does look tiny in their box, but sine I breed in late winter, it is just fine as the amount of straw and fur in the boxes is enough to keep kits warm and allow mom in and out with out landing on the kits.