The past 5 months have seem tremendous change here at the farm. Time is a funny thing. Some days it seems like it’s dragging along like cold syrup and then suddenly a month has fled and I’m left wondering where it went. Winter has finally decided to leave our little corner of the world alone for a while, finally. The Flower Moon came up last night all pink and lovely. For the first time the evening was warm enough to actually be outside comfortably. The cold water in Lake Erie seems to hold the seasons back here. Some years more than others. This was one of those “Winter, you’re drunk, GO HOME” kind of years. A year of staying close to the fire, nestled close with the ones I love. AND a season of blissing out on Heilung.
This band/tribe has rocked my world in a profound way. The tiny hairs on my ancestral DNA strands stand up and quiver when I listen to it. Sort of the modern ancient Proto-European foundations of Techno? With deer antlers. These were the noises my ancestors made before the Romans intruded into their lives, bringing Civilization to an ancient balanced lifestyle. Or at least a close approximation. Northern European Primitivism without all that White Supremacy garbage.
So with this as the soundtrack of my life for the past while, let me tell you what has been occupying my time. Winter brought the building projects to a crawl. I spend enough time outside at work, to the point that once I got off, all I really wanted to do was collapse into a chair and enjoy the warmth. But as things began to thaw, I started thinking of what was to come. The goat search resumed and I ordered 50 Buckeye Chicken hatchlings. These didn’t get here till late April. Things were still pretty chilly and I hadn’t started on the coop bin yet so they were set up in the unused milking parlor. Maybe it was arrogance, or apathy, or simple stupidity, BUT I failed to realize how much security I had in place in years past when it came to starting birds. The chicks arrived on a Monday and on Thursday I was looking forward to a 4 day weekend. That night I went out to close up the barn more towards the darker end of dusk. When I walked into the barn I noticed that the chicks weren’t making their normal ruckus. The reason being that some 4 legged varmint had come into the barn and devoured 45 of them!!! They were just gone. The few that were left were huddled in the corner of the brooder box. For a second I considered the possibility that one of the dogs had gotten to them, but the gate was closed and the door to the parlor was closed. It had to be someone who was small enough and hungry enough to slip between the bars of the parlor walls, 4×6″ squares. I figure it was a raccoon, but a friend who lives on the other side of the block claims to have seen a Canadian Fisher roaming in the neighborhood. He’s got no reason to exaggerate or lie and he is familiar with the forest so I trust his judgment. This is not a creature I’ve seen and I hope I never do. But regardless, someone had a tremendous meal, at my expense. And here is the thing. Will M and I were discussing the loss the next day, and when it comes to raising livestock as a business, mistakes are deadly. If I were a bagel maker like Jared T (JT’s Bagels) and I made a mistake and wrecked a batch of bagels, I would have just thrown them out and made more. But with livestock, mistakes, even tiny ones, can mean that someone dies needlessly. In this case, most of my flock was just gone.
Won’t make that mistake again. I had already been planning on setting up the coop bin, the next day in fact. Josh K had come out a couple of weeks previously and we had disassembled the ring and roof that we had tried (and failed) to lift into being last year. These things come apart so fast. Patrick T came over and helped move stuff around and set out the parts we would need, and on Saturday, Will M and his 2 groundmen, Kyle and RJ came over and we put that sucker up.
Having the practice of both setting these things up and taking them apart made things a ton easier this time. That and the fact that there was no loft going into this one made things a lot simpler.
The doors pretty much match the other bin. I say pretty much because the windows are slightly different but not enough to matter. Once the doors were up, the remaining chicks moved in. Tiny little birds in a cavernous shell. Since then, I’ve been working on building out the inside of the thing.
I decided on a little feed room and a larger nursery/breeding room. This allows me the option of secluding particular birds for selective breeding and the ability to seclude broody hens in such a way that they can have exclusive access to their nest of eggs without the other birds adding eggs once the brooding process has begun. Because I’m raising Buckeye Chickens as a mainstay, I would like to help continue the breed. Perhaps in the future, seeking out better birds of the same breed to add stronger blood to the flock without losing the breed. The entire area is enclosed in chicken wire to keep the jerk who came over for dinner from getting what they want, just in case they do somehow get in. How this will work in the future remains to be seen.
The new chicks arrived Monday of this week.
The age difference of a few weeks is very apparent at this point.
In addition to the birds, the flock has expanded to include our newest guest, Thelia.
The local Goat Lady, Tammy F, had to make some hard decisions this year and reduce her flock (from somewhere north of 40!!!) and has sold this girl to me already with another one to come sometime later this summer. Both are mostly Lamancha (note Theila’s “gopher ears”) which just pleases me to no end. The other 2 kids, Hector and Andromache were a bit terrified of her at first, but not in an aggressive way. She isn’t pushy they way Hector is. Rather, she is quietly present and mildly insistent. Come to find out, Tammy uses crackers as a treat. Who knew? When it came to naming her, Leah had requested we stay with a Mythological theme. I couldn’t really find anything that felt right, so she was just “the new goat” for a while. Then when I brought it up at work, Willie S suggested Thelia. A brief bit of research revealed that the word is actually a plural form of the word Thelium, which in Ancient Greek means nipple/breast. Thelia has the longest nipples I’ve ever dealt with for a goat. Milking her is remarkably fast.
An interesting thing about her arrival. Last year saw a terrible year for Alfalfa with how wet and cool things were. My normal hay supplier didn’t even bother to square bale his fields because the quality was so low. Instead he round baled it all. I have not way of dealing with the 5′ diameter bales. I just cringe when I think of attempting to roll one of these things back to the barn and losing control of it. Imaging many hundreds of pounds of hay careening down the hill towards the barn. Not something I was willing to try. The kids have been eating Teff all winter and not really enjoying it. So when Thelia arrived, she promptly turned her nose up at the stuff. Also, Tammy feeds her goats, especially her milking nannies, a mix of her own formulation from a local mill. I couldn’t get the same mix right away, as they aren’t a big mill and don’t keep a lot of the ingredients on hand. This forced me to turn to a chain farm store for feed. Thelia was having none of this. She wouldn’t eat it at all. This took her from just over a gallon of milk per day to not quite half that in the space of about 3 days. Tammy agreed to sell me a few bales of hay and a bag of feed to tide things over till my order at the mill is ready. Within 3 days of going back on her regular eats, she’s back up to over a gallon. If nothing else, this really shows how what we eat has a direct impact on how our bodies function. Also, she loves crackers, nom nom nom nom nom nom……