Thursday, November 8, 2012

Never a dull moment

Who says living in the country is quiet and peaceful? I guess if you like just empty space around your domain it would be tranquil, but throw a few animals on that space and see what happens!

This week Bill and I took the plunge and added four more sheep to our little flock of four. Our good friends Janice and Lewis Cox run a successful (and beautiful) flock of sheep in Lake City. We've learned so much from them, and successfully bottle fed two of their orphaned lambs. This past June we added our first ram to be papa to the flock. All we needed were more girls to really get production rolling.

Janice invited me to come see what she had available from this year's lambing. How do you pick? I wanted them all of course. I picked out four and then took Bill with me on another day to pick them up. Janice was so patient with me. She walked all the sheep into the corral, separated out the lambs from the flock and got them sorted. I looked over all the lambs a second time. Of course I changed my mind, picked out different ones and we loaded them into the dog crates on the back of the truck. Thank God they fit! We got them home, let them out into an electric netting circle connected to the turkeys and I got a phone call. Janice said that in the mixing of the flock again, I had gotten one that was already spoken for. Drat! She said she would come exchange her, no problem.

Well, on her farm, with gates and corrals, and shoots, it was no problem. But on my farm, only flimsy electric netting held them in. These weren't bottle fed babies like I was used to either. They didn't want to have humans touching them, no way, not one bit.

When Janice came, getting the lamb off the truck was easy smeasy. Getting one lamb out of five scared lambs flocking and running around was a different story. We tried catching, cornering, diving for a leg, and then shooing them into the cage we had taken off the back of the truck. Not good. They pushed through the netting, and headed toward the other end of the pasture! The other sheep started calling to them. The ram was especially enthusiastic--he knew they were girls. Thankfully there was a fence and a gate between them.

After locking up the older sheep in their small pen, we herded the crazies into that side of the pasture and then, after many attempts, got them to go into the old garden area that had a fence around it. It took us an hour and a half.

 I learned something. Sheep aren't easy to pick up and move like chickens. Bill and I could barely manage getting them into the truck and driving them over to where they were supposed to be. Of course we locked up Mistake Sheep safe and sound for Janice to take back home. I think our friendship survived. We made a memory for sure. The first thing Bill said when we were huffing and puffing was,"We need to build more fencing."   

The top picture is the four new ones with the one we raised here on our farm. (Ours has the collar.) See all the grass the chickens and turkeys have made for them?

Monday, June 4, 2012


Today is one of the saddest days we've had on our farm. Today we lost our very first lamb baby. The one we arrived home on Mother's Day to find in the field. The one we waited for with much excitement. Our very first lamb from our very first bottle baby that we raised last year. And the worst part about it is that it was our fault.

Yes, I saw the cherry tree branch wilting, and yes I knew that they are poisonous, but somehow my brain didn't put the two together when I was out in the field yesterday. I saw where the chickens had pecked the bark all the way around a young cherry tree. They wringed a few plumb trees too before we moved them to a new area. Now the trees are in the process of dying and dropping leaves. Wilting cherry leaves produce arsenic, but healthy leaves are safe for the sheep to eat.

The baby lambs have just begun to nibble on green things as they walk through the field with their moms. Apparently, our older lamb nibbled on a wilted leaf yesterday morning. By the afternoon she was down with a stomach ache and bloated. I didn't know what was wrong. My friend Margie came with her years of experience and knowledge and helped me give the lamb some baking soda and mineral oil hoping that we could get her to pass any blockage. Early this morning I checked on her and she was worse. Bloated bigger and clearly in pain. I held her and gave her more baking soda and oil, but it didn't help. She was gone in less than an hour.

Bill and I both cried and cried. Losing birds is sad, losing lambs is torture. I asked him if he wanted to continue raising sheep. The way I feel today makes me wonder if I can go forward. But Bill wants to keep working on it. We've moved the sheep to the other side of the fence where no cherry trees are. That's the only thing I can think of that it could have been. Thank God the other three are okay.   

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Puppies

Yesterday we traveled to the panhandle to pick up our new puppies. Just a five hour jaunt to the big city of Holt, FL. The sky was overcast as we went through patches of rain on I10 and we arrived just as the clouds cleared.

Draggin' Acres Farm is a shady maze of paddocks filled with big goats, tiny goats, one cat and about 5 Great Pyrenees dogs. The puppies met us at the gate along with their mother, and human mother, Brooke. She gave us the "tour" all along introducing us to the new arrivals in the baby goat department. There were a few I could have scooped up and put into the extra dog crate we brought, but I resisted.

Brooke's puppies are raised with the goats 24/7. All the dogs and the goats act as a herd together and the dogs take on the responsibilities of protectors as they get older. The bond they form is strong enough for the dogs to risk their lives for the animals they protect. There are other guardian breeds of dogs, but we chose the Great Pyrs because of their good temperament with people. At least that has been our experience. Lilly, our first guardian puppy also came from Brooke last year. In fact, these two new fluffy bundles are her half-sister and half-brother. Hopefully Lilly will be interested enough in them to teach them what happens here on our farm. Brooke didn't have any chickens so that will be a new adventure.

What made the day even better was having Catherine, our daughter, drive over from Alabama and meet us for lunch then travel with us to Brooke's farm. She was the photographer and the one who keeps me on my toes about blogging and all that computer stuff. (thank you sweetheart)

 Ziggy and Cricket are our newest arrivals. I think they've melted Bill's heart already. Now they get to start farm school and the best part is they get to eat all the chicken they can hold.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Goose Adventures

My family is always full of surprises. Recently my aunt and uncle came for their first visit to our farm. I was so excited to show them all the things we've been doing. When they arrived, they had a big cage in the back of their pickup truck.

"We brought you something," my aunt said with a big smile. I looked in the back of the truck and saw four heads with long necks and big eyes. Four big geese looked back at me. They were just as surprised as I was.
Of course I thanked her, I mean, when do you ever get four big geese for a present? My next thought was, "Where am I going to put them?"
My aunt seemed to think they would be fine in the corral with the ducks for now. At least until they settled in. Then she said I could just let them roam around the farm and they would be happy. We found a container big enough for them to have a "pond". So far so good.
The next day we received a giant goose egg and I thought this was going to be a good relationship after all. Well, that's what I thought until on day three, big goose number one decided to spread his giant wings, glide over the electric netting away from the ducks, and settle on his own in the north end of the property. Geese two, three, and four soon followed. Well, maybe they know where they live now, I thought. My mom and Danielle, my daughter in law, were staying over, Bill was out of town, and I figured the geese could do their own thing. But then we had trouble. The four wild things did NOT want to stay on Laughing Chicken Farm property. In fact they were flying over fences like crazy and I could just barely see them in the neighbors field.
"Get in the truck!" I yelled and we three girls drove up the driveway. I parked and jumped out, running through blackberry bushes and cactus. I caught the first goose and handed her to my mom. I asked her to hold on tight and sit in the truck with her. Poor mom's shoes were full of cactus spines and sand spurs. Without complaining, she held the goose on her lap. Danielle and I could only catch one more goose. The more we ran after them, the farther away they flew. We all rode back to the house with the two geese in our arms. I rode on the tailgate while Danielle drove and the goose in Mom's arms pooped all over her lap while uttering deafening honks the whole way home.
Danielle took the pictures while I clipped the wing feathers on the two we'd caught so they would stay behind the fencing. We could hear the male calling while the females called back all through the night. I felt so helpless.
Thankfully, the next morning the male had made it back. I opened the fence, and he walked in. I was just glad he didn't get eaten during the night. After talking with my aunt, we decided it was best to find them a new home. A friend came and picked them up and off they went down the road again in the back of a pickup truck, necks stretched out and eyes wide with surprise.