the crowing hen

my life as a farmer

Mother Nature is laughing

Spring seems to have arrived overnight, despite the sleet storm we had. I woke up early to the melodious calling of our Guinea fowl (LOL) and found our first goose egg of the season – hooray! Neither Pip nor Priscilla claimed it, but it will be greatly appreciated at tomorrow’s breakfast. ;) And I thought that would be my biggest surprise of the day. Off to feed the pigs and does … everyone came rushing out for breakfast but after the barn should have been empty, I heard some little bleating sounds. A quick head count confirmed that everyone was outside eating so I poked my head in and found two newborn goat kids! None of the ladies owned up to the kids, but a quick butt check confirmed that Bella, daughter of our own Pinto Bean and Agamemnon (formerly of Silly Goats Farm in Milton Township), had surprised us all.

Bella as a baby with her mom, Pinto Bean

Bella as a baby with her mom, Pinto Bean

This autumn I watched Bella run away from any buck that tried to approach her. I told her former owner, Robin, that I was sure she would climb a tree to avoid being bred. And I was disappointed because she is from stupendous milking lines … but I’d made my peace with it.  But apparently, she had a secret tryst with a fella – and looking at the kids, my money is on Sprocket being this baby daddy. Notice any resemblance?

baby sprocket chasing bella

baby sprocket chasing bella

Here are Bella’s newborn twins, the first goats born at our new home and the first of 2014. Congratulations, Bella!

baby Hansel

baby Hansel

baby Gretel

baby Gretel

Bella & Rowen with Hansel and Gretel

Bella & Rowen with Hansel and Gretel

long absent from blogging, but not from farming!

ice storm tues 12

I’m not sure how the better part of a year has passed without attention to this blog – all I can say is it’s been a jam-packed bunch of months. We moved this summer to a much larger homestead and have been scrambling to get everything set up … just in time for snow to fly. This winter has reminded us that we live in Maine! Before we were all buried under snow and ice, we expanded our farm family … rather considerably!

We now have American Guinea hogs. I’m so excited about this – I wanted hogs for a long time, but the usual heritage breeds were just too big for me to handle. And then I found out about AGHs and fell in love. We purchased two baby gilts in the summer and they were joined by a baby boar late this autumn. Here’s a baby picture of Fish, our boar:

Fish

It’s hard to believe how much they’ve all grown. The girls were scarcely bigger than cats when we brought them home. As you can see, they’re not much smaller than the Nigerian Dwarf does now:

CIMG8956

Fish and the girls have been honeymooning for about a week now, and we are looking forward to baby AGHs by late May. While we will be holding some back for ourselves, there will also be purebred, pedigreed piglets for purchase.

We also have sheep now – a stunning group of Shetlands. We have 2 hogs (unbred females under 1 year old), 7 ewes, and our ram, Hammer. Here’s Blossom, the prettiest of the bunch:

Blossom

And here are a few of the other ewes. Hammer does not like having his picture taken, LOL.

the Shetland ewes

There are a few turkeys – intended for Christmas dinner, but they were still so small that it didn’t seem worth the effort of butchering them. And now … I’m kind of in love with them. I had no idea that turkeys made such wonderful sounds.

turkey trio

Sadly, it was a bad year for guinea fowl. Two of our young hens hatched out a whopping big brood of keets but true to their reputation for poor parenting, they lost one after another. It was especially sad because the colors were magnificent – lavenders, pieds, whites, and so on. The hens themselves were also taken by predators. Here is the last keet:

the last keet

The Muscovy ducks enjoyed a great deal more success and honestly I’m feeling a bit overrun by Muscovy ducks by now!

PicMonkey Collage waterfowl

We attempted to replace Sprocket as our herdsire for the Nigerian Dwarf goats, but his replacement remained stubbornly small month after month, and when breeding time came, he had absolutely no interest. He’s been happily placed in a pet home (after being wethered).

Patrick the house goat

We lost our big buck, Spartacus, to bloat, but only after he’d spent some time with the ladies. I fervently hope that the two Angoras he was with have gorgeous kids. Here are several of the does:

CIMG8953

Our Silver Fox breeding program is finally taking off, too, after too many failures to count. Sometimes, even when you pay for the best stock available, Mother Nature just doesn’t play along. We now have three black does and one black buck, and a blue buck and a blue doe. Our blue buck had some unapproved time with one of young black does (because sometimes Mother Nature has her own plans altogether!) and we are thrilled with the seven kits she has had – five blues and two blacks. These adorable babies will be for sale in approximately six weeks.

birthday bunny Collage

We also have two does, a fainter and a Nigerian Dwarf, due to kid within the next couple of weeks. They were bred to Sprocket, the wonderful ND buck we’ve had for years now. I’m so curious to see what they look like. Lambing season will also be taking place soon. Our garden plot has been lovingly amended since we moved here and I’m dreaming these last winter days away with visions of garden bounty.

Hoping you and yours are well – thank you for visiting! If you would like to place an order for chicks, ducklings, hogs, goats, sheep, or rabbits, please let me know.

hurry up and wait – that’s part of farming, too!

Our plans to begin moving at the end of the month have been unexpectedly sidelined due to the bank cutting back on appraisers because of the low demand in the housing market, which means that anyone who is buying a house now has to wait weeks longer than expected while an appraiser becomes available. My main concern is getting the old fence pulled up and the new fence put in while the ground is soft – but, it will go how it goes, and I know there’s nothing I can do that will hurry things along. Trying to find my zen, LOL.

Spring may not yet be here in regard to the weather (we had a snowstorm last week!), but the animals certainly feel spring has arrived. Our rabbits shocked us with three unexpected litters – the bucks somehow managed access to the does despite being separated by cages and a dozen baby bunnies were the result. The Silver Foxes in the barn were exposed to goat hooves, too, and after losing several in one over-active evening, we gave the remaining babies to Mary Margaret to raise with her litter. She is a very protective foster mama and is taking excellent care of her new charges. I tried to get a picture, but she was having none of it!

Mary Margaret Mama of the Year

a bevy of baby bunnies

No eggs have resulted, but yesterday I placed two of our “baby” Muscovy hens with a new drake and all three appear extremely happy with the new arrangement.  You can see the Icelandics in their breeding coop behind the ducks.

two hens with new Muscovey drake

The Barred Hollands are in a reinforced coop, looking extremely secure. ;)

Barred Hollands

The Marans and Ameraucanas are getting used to a chain link dog kennel I purchased that Max wrapped in tarp for a weather-break. The Ameraucanas don’t like anyone – including other chickens – but this arrangement enables me to make best use of the two Blue Copper Maran roosters I have to increase fertility rates. Mr M, the senior roo, just wasn’t performing well enough with the five hens he had to cover. :0

new Maran and Ameracauana enclosure

Marans and Ameracaunas

Our baby goats are growing at a fabulous rate. All of them had been sold, but a buyer backed out at the last moment, leaving me with two kids from Pinto and Spartacus. The wether will go into the freezer next fall, but the doeling is just so utterly fab that I plan to breed her. Isn’t she an eyeful?

pinto's doeling

And who remembers itty-bitty Silverjacket, who lived in the mudroom for awhile this winter? She’s getting so big and beautiful now, and is still an absolute love. She really enjoyed having some little girls come on a farm visit this morning – here, she looks like she’s saying, “Come back and play some more!”

Silverjacket

Here’s a line-up of this year’s mama goats:

Eve, Pinto and Maybellene

Eve, Pinto and Maybellene

And a group picture with all of the girls. Next year sure will see a lot of baby goats!!

a gaggle of goats

Eve’s gorgeous bucklings have gone to their new home and I’ve been getting four or five cups of milk a day from her – I don’t weigh in pounds, but that’s over two pounds a day, according to my hasty Google search, LOL. I find it amazing that such a small animal can produce such a quantity of milk, even with someone as clueless as I am is doing the milking. ;) Today we feasted on French toast that was made from homemade bread (sweetened with maple syrup from friends Chloe and Tom), our own milk and eggs, and homemade butter that the kids made from cream skimmed off the top of our Tide Mill Farm raw milk. I love self-sufficiency!!

heavenly feast

heavenly feast

We are still waiting on the Guinea fowl to contribute to our bounty – they will probably begin laying next month, but in the meantime they are adding to our environment by detracting from it. Specifically, by wandering around and devouring any and all ticks they encounter. :)

Mr Buckwheat and Pinky

Mr Buckwheat and Pinky

Little Lulu

Little Lulu

I’ll close with a stylish monochrome image from the barnyard. Wishing you all the best of the season!

Ursa, Silverjacket, Java Joe and Maybellene - all dressed up in classic black & white

Ursa, Silverjacket, Java Joe and Maybellene – all dressed up in classic black & white

A few additions to our barn family to be on the lookout for: a mini llama and Guinea hogs! But before they can join us, there will be a little more of that “hurry up and wait” happening.

we need a pocket watch

Arthur says he’ll wear a pocketwatch and keep me on schedule if I get him a nice little waistcoat to wear. ;) I need someone to keep me on track, that’s for sure!

Time is relative. Let's eat some hay.

Time is relative. Let’s eat some hay.

Everyone here at the farm is growing and doing great. The baby goats are such a delight. I have recently begun letting them out for a few hours on dry days and we all love watching them race up and down the enclosure, playing goofy goat games. I snapped a few pictures on Saturday, which was their 2nd day outside.

naughty Annie sets a bad example of climbing the fence

naughty Annie sets a bad example of climbing the fence

 

"Hey, what's over there? Ha ha, made you look!"

“Hey, what’s over there? Ha ha, made you look!”

It's a goat party!

It’s a goat party!

brave babies explore the remains of the Christmas tree

brave babies explore the remains of the Christmas tree

Pinto's sweet doeling is the last one available for sale this year!

Pinto’s sweet doeling is the last one available for sale this year!

On the poultry front, Pip and Priscilla are sitting on the hugest clutch of eggs and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that we will be overrun by adorable Pilgrim goslings later this month. I’d be over the moon! The chickens are laying well – with the exception of the Marans, who seem to know they’re in the limelight and are milking it for attention. I have oodles of orders for Marans and am lucky to get an egg a day from them. :( I’ve placed a wooden egg in their nestbox to deter any egg-eating that might be going on. For those who have placed an order, I appreciate your patience – Mother Nature is the boss when it comes to livestock! ;)

 

 

 

 

happy birthday!

Silverjacket is one month old today! She celebrated a day early by having her first faint – pretty remarkable when you realize most Myotonics don’t have their first faint till they’re a few months old. She’s an absolute rapscallion and is everybody’s favorite baby. Here she is modeling her birthday gift – her first collar, in hopes she’ll acclimate well to going on walks.

Silverjacket

And here she is again with her beautiful mama, Maybellene (also supporting a collar, very loosely as she is not yet used to it):

myotonics

Attempts to secure a purebred Myotonic buck, and perhaps an unrelated doe, are ongoing. I appreciate the interest of everyone who has contacted me. Unfortunately, they are extremely rare and most of the breeders are in the southern US which makes transportation an issue. I recently contacted two farms closer by, but one is requiring me to become registered and I have learned in the past (with the Nigerian dwarf goats) that there is not a market here for the cost associated with purebred, registered goats. I continue to tout the importance of homesteading and of offering rare and heritage breed animals at a cost we can all afford, rather than an elite few. Why Myotonics? Because they are quiet, low-maintenance, robust, friendly and small. A dual purpose goat, they also offer an excellent meat-to-bone ratio for those who are exploring the benefits of raising their own meat. In all ways, they’re ideal for the small homestead – as are the Nigerian dwarf goats.

Other baby news here on the farm involves our twin kits from Mary Margaret, who are now beautifully furry and have opened their little eyes. They are too cute! These two little babies are a Satin Rex/New Zealand mix and are ideal for pets. Interested in purchasing one or both of them? They’ll be available in about 2 months, when they’ve fully weaned from Mary Margaret.

sleepy babies

utter cuteness

one baby bunny

Silver Fox kits should also be available for pet, show, or meat later this summer. Jupiter, our new buck, is growing at a good rate and is an absolute darling in personality. Queenie and Deedee are waiting patiently for him to mature a bit more. ;)

a silver fox doe tries to pretend she's invisible

Stay warm out there while the winter winds continue to blow for a bit longer!

tiny but mighty

Mary Margaret had a very small litter of kits – just two – but they are big and healthy and she dotes on them. The babies are three days old today (or more accurately, they will be three days old around 10 pm tonight) and are full of wiggles and squeals when I touch them. Mary Margaret allowed me to take them out for quick pictures today while she enjoyed a quick visit from Arthur, who has missed her terribly. It was a bunny family sort of Sunday morning. :)

family photo time!

family photo time!

These babies will be for sale once they wean from their mama. Both Mary Margaret (a satin Rex) and Arthur (a New Zealand) are smart, healthy, friendly pet bunnies. Large breeds, such as these, are not particularly suitable for young children because of the possibility of getting scratched trying to carry around such a big rabbit but they do make excellent house pets and can readily be paper-trained or taught to use a litter box for cage-free periods. Arthur likes to play with balls and has even begun “fetching” small items that he can carry in his mouth. A happy rabbit is as much fun as any dog or cat, in my opinion.  The baby bunnies will be sold to appropriate homes on a first-come, first-serve basis.(It won’t be possible to sex them before 10 weeks old, by the way.)

 

 

baby it’s cold outside!

With the thermostat barely touching the zero, it’s the coldest morning we’ve had this year. I went out at midnight to check the animals before going to bed, and made the decision to keep the barns closed up today. I always give the the animals the option of going out, no matter how inclement the weather, but it seemed wiser today to keep the doors closed and maintain what heat their bodies are able to generate. The birds all got extra rations, including cracked corn, to help their little bodies burn a little warmer.

Image

The goats and rabbits all got extra grain and lots of fluffy fresh hay to munch on and burrow into. The buck barn has been transformed into a sort of Noah’s Ark, as the outlying animals (such as Frigg and Freyr, the Icelandic chickens) were brought in a couple of days ago when the temps started dropping. The fellas don’t seem to mind the extra company and most certainly enjoy sampling everyone else’s food. ;) 

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Inside, Silverjacket and her mama Maybellene are doing great. As soon as the weather warms back up, I’ll start introducing them back to the herd – probably just in time for Pinto to finally surprise us with her kids. On the bunny front, we welcomed Jupiter, a 12 week old Silver Fox buck, to our family. Jupiter will breed with DeeDee and Queenie once he figures out what’s what and we hope for better success with the Silver Fox breeding program here on the farm. Dennis Hopper, our previous buck, will be neutered and allowed to live with the does full-time, which will please him to no end. 

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We’re unsure whether to paint the maternity ward pink or blue for Mary Margaret’s kits, which are due any day. Surely Mary Margaret is the bunny version of a Marilyn Monroe-esque voluptuousness. But I’m sure she’s looking forward to regaining her sturdy, trim figure once her beautiful kits are born. If you’re interested, please contact me – several people have already asked to have a baby bunny reserved from her litter. I’m sure they’re going to be stunning, and as Mary Margaret is a pet and not intended for breeding, it’s unlikely I will breed her again for a year. 

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Arthur, the big daddy-to-be, decided to explore further than usual during his free-play time yesterday and wound up in the dining room. Rowen’s stuffed animal on the chair above didn’t prove a very satisfying playmate and the cats keep running away from him. Poor boy! But he amuses himself by playing with balls and running after me for extra pats. He’s a most amazing rabbit, and such a wonderful addition to the family. I was saddened to read of the unscrupulous (and uncaring!!) practices revealed in CCRR’s expose (https://bangordailynews.com/community/severe-neglect-at-maine-livestock-auction-maines-first-only-licenced-rabbit-shelter-reveals/). While I do support the raising of livestock for food – I am a homesteader, after all – I can’t bear the abuse of animals for any reason, but especially not for financial gain. Our true selves are revealed by how we treat those who have no power over us. 

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I spent much of yesterday making 4 lbs of organic, homemade granola – just in time for keeping warm through this bitter weather. Stay safe & warm, and don’t forget that animals need more water than ever during in these brutal temps!

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bunny business

Still no multiplying of bunnies in the traditional sense, but we are all eagerly awaiting Mary Margaret and Arthur’s litter of kits. By my limited math skills, she should be due early next week, but she has already built her nest and is quite protective of it … which makes cage-cleaning interesting. ;) She looks radiant with her shiny, velvety fur and is ever-eager for petting and compliments. :)

Mary Margaret

Mary Margaret checks her nest for readiness

Mary Margaret checks her nest for readiness

tMary Margaret doesn't want me rying to peek into her nest

Mary Margaret doesn’t want me trying to peek into her nest

While almost-mama Mary Margaret lugs around a big tummy and frets about her nest-making skills, it’s all fun and games for almost-papa Arthur. He’s taken on a part time job to help make ends meet ;) and is officially Silverjacket’s socialization partner. LOL. Maybellene is not completely at ease with the fact that her daughter’s only playmate is a rabbit.

but where are your references?

but where are your references?

The outside bunnies are enjoying themselves tremendously. Queenie and DeeDee continue to bicker like old spinster sisters about who’s the boss of their cool bunny condo. In another area, Dennis Hopper (our Silver Fox buck) pines for springtime romance. ;)

Queenie, who very much lives up to her name

Queenie, who very much lives up to her name

DeeDee, with her lovely black mask and gloriously silver-tipped fur

DeeDee, with her lovely black mask and gloriously silver-tipped fur

Next door, Agatha and Cass are much quieter – and a little camera shy! Cass has the loveliest sky-blue-pink eyes and Agatha’s touch of silver fox in her family tree shows up in her random silver-tipped hairs.

Cass and Agatha

Cass and Agatha

Cass

Other babies are due to make an appearance. Pinto is ready to kid at any minute. She has me out in the barn giving her bedtime backrubs and double checking that she’s still nearly too wide to fit through the doorways. ;)

Pinto is regal in her late days of pregnancy

Pinto is regal in her late days of pregnancy

Meanwhile, Silverjacket is growing at a rapid rate and is an absolute rascal. Eve’s belly continues to swell and I suspect she will be ready to kid the end of next month. Annie seems to have once again evaded the bucks’ advances and remains girlishly slim – but as I learned with Maybellene, not all goats fill out the way the Nigerian Dwarfs do, so my hopes aren’t entirely extinguished. ;)

Wishing everyone well as the days lengthen and thoughts turn toward spring!

three days and all’s well

I haven’t had much opportunity to spend time with our newest addition to the barn family due to outside-the-farm job demands, but I have seen enough of Maybellene’s interactions with her daughter to be touched by how solicitous she is to the wee one. This is the first singleton birth we’ve had here on the farm, and maybe it makes a difference when the dam has only one kid to look after. And of course, the accommodations on the sun porch are pretty optimal. ;) Whatever has contributed, the skinny, shivery little doeling that surprised me on January 3rd is a curious, robust, playful creature on January 6th. She loves coming over for delightful scritchy-scratchies along her back and flanks and gladly snuggles up for some laptime cuddles. Maybellene is still quite leery of us, but as I’ve learned with my other does, it can take many months before some goats will accept new humans into their trust. I’m patient. Anyway, on to the utterly adorable baby photos – enjoy!

 

baby fainter Collage

 

maybellene

 

mama says it's time to come home.

 

I think Pip and Priscilla are having baby-envy – I found a goose egg in yesterday morning’s egg contribution! As much as I want more Pilgrim geese, I can’t bear the thought of incubating eggs already. I don’t think a gaggle of baby geese wandering through the house until spring arrives would do much to improve my dismal housekeeping skills. ;)

 

farm fun 001

 

Outside, we’re having another “dusting” snowstorm that has left a couple of inches and shows no sign of stopping. It’s a winter wonderland out there! Wishing everyone well as the days lengthen and the livestock remind us that spring really isn’t far around the corner.

oh Maybellene!

Three months ago, I brought Maybellene home to The Crowing Hen farm from her previous home downstate. The owner thought she might be bred due to her silky fainter buck jumping several fences to get in with the does, but she wasn’t sure. Maybellene didn’t fill out and didn’t become moody, the way my Nigerian dwarf does do when they are expecting, so I thought she was probably not bred and even let her spend some time with Spartacus, our Spanish-cross buck. Two days ago, Niek called me at work to say Maybellene wasn’t eating. The other does are terribly pushy with her, since she’s still the newbie, and after giving her a look-over, I figured she was just getting bullied and I set aside special meals for her that the other girls couldn’t access. Yesterday, I noticed some discharge and of course I wondered if maybe she really had been bred when I bought her, but her ligaments were rock hard. We checked her through the evening and again at bedtime, but nothing seemed to be happening; some of my other does have shown discharge when they’re ready to be bred and I thought that might be the explanation. And then when I brought the girls breakfast this morning, I was confronted yet again by how much I have to learn about goats:

Maybellene surprised usYou have to keep in mind that it’s only about 2 degrees here, so I was pretty concerned. Maybellene had cleaned the baby up very well, and it was able to stumble around.

Maybellene's doelingA dab of selenium to prevent white muscle disease, followed by a quick swab of iodine at the umbilical cord seemed to verify that it was a little doeling. I sat quietly out of the way (after clearing off the other goats to another area) and watched. Maybellene came from a farm where they don’t even name their goats, let alone handle them, so she was very leery of me. Over the 15 minutes or so that I watched from a corner, Maybellene didn’t do much with the doeling after the initial nosing and I began to worry. I have frozen goat milk but no colostrum. And the baby was getting colder and much less active.

Maybellene and doeling

I decided to go inside and get help from Niek, my husband. Together, we carried mama and baby into a quickly arranged make-shift barn on the sunporch. While I went outside to secure all the barn doors – the last thing we needed was Annie letting all the other goats out! – Niek did his impersonation of the Goat Whisperer. By the time I came back in, he had the doeling nursing and Maybellene, who barely tolerates having me nearby, was standing still and letting him handle her. I’ll freely admit to being a little jealous, but I was too relieved to let it get to me. Maybellene and her stunning daughter are now resting peacefully in their indoor barn.

recuperating inside

Maybellene’s daughter is a pure-bred Myotonic (fainting goat). Her flappy ears are common at birth, and will soon come to stand up in the usual fashion like her mom’s. The sire is a stunning silver-colored silky fainter that I have kicked myself repeatedly for not getting a photo of. My search for a Myotonic buck continues … now in earnest! I had one lined up from southern Maine, but the owners decided they could not part with him. After having Maybellene for a few months, despite her standoffishness, I can understand why they chose to keep him. This is a remarkably quiet breed of goat that shows none of the occasional assertiveness of the other goats as they jockey for position in the herd. Sweet-natured, quiet, easy-going. I’ll be keeping Maybellene’s daughter, but if I can find a mate for the mother & daughter in the future, I’ll be happy to offer this breed in addition to the others I currently have. :)

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