There’s never a dull moment on the farm… which translates to “there’s so much happening to keep us busy, we have no time to write about it all!” And so, here are the headlines from the past few months. Each of these truly deserves its own post, but I must be content to catch you up with just the tidbits!
Sundance Farm Acquires 7 American Guinea Hogs
Jan 31, 2021- These are in addition to the three Yorkshire piglets we were given around Thanksgiving. They are good at foraging, and so should do well on pasture. One died in February from pneumonia, but we “hospitalized” (in the heated garage) and saved three others who also contracted the disease. YES! *fist pump*
200 Baby Chicks Arrive and Die Like Flies
Feb 2021- Not quite as dire as it sounds, but despite all our heroic efforts to feed several sick chicks with an eyedropper of electrolyte solution, we lost 40 of our new Whiting birds. A pile of little dead chicks is a terribly depressing sight. The survivors are now laying beautiful green and blue eggs, though!
24 Out of 25 Turkey Poults Survive
February 2021 – If you ever learn about turkeys as we have, you will know just how miraculous that headline is! Baby turkeys are incredibly cute, but terribly stupid. They are so curious, they would walk right into a fox’s mouth just to see what was in there. They also can’t seem to figure out where their food is, or how to get water, or how to get away from the heat lamp if they are too warm. No sense of self preservation at all! And yet, they survive… This was our trial batch – the next batch, which will be ready for Thanksgiving – just arrived!
4 Out of 6 Eggs Hatch in Incubation Experiment
March 2021 – We tried out a Christmas present from Grandma – an egg incubator! And of course the first chick hatched while she was here. 🙂 In a subsequent trial of 30 eggs, only four hatched as well. However, a homeschooling friend also hatched some of our eggs, and out of twelve eggs, 9 peppy little chicks popped out! It is such a fun thing to do, I highly recommend it!
Flock of Hair Sheep Added to the Farm
March 2021 – Aah, the irresistible draw of livestock for sale on Craiglist! Well, Nathan drove down to Kentucky and came back with 13 ewes/ lambs to add to our 2 rams from December (we did mention that we traded processed and frozen chickens for two Katahdin rams somewhere on the blog, right?). These are meat sheep, and they do not need shearing. Since that time, 4 lambs have been born here, and they are the SWEETEST animal I have EVER seen.
Local Beekeeper Sets Hives on Sundance Farm
March 2021 – After meeting at a local Weston Price chapter, Nathan agreed to let a local beekeeper bring some hives to the farm. It’s delightful to know we are helping the bee population, and we have a kind new friend, Jim, to tell us all about them, too!
Greenhorns Steer Two Bulls Flawlessly
March 2021 – Nathan and I teamed up, prepped meticulously, and castrated (by banding) two of our year-old bulls all by ourselves (after the vet appointment fell through twice). God spoiled us by letting it all go swimmingly. 🙂
Enormous Grain Bin and Eggmobile Projects Completed
April 2021 – Nathan, with much needed help from his amazing Dad and brothers, built a huge grain bin in an oversized lean-to next to the barn to keep all of our organic, non- GMO peas, oats, and corn safe and dry. He now mixes and grinds all our own feed fresh daily. Did we mention our animals are a little spoiled here? The Eggmobile is a large chicken coop built on wheels (an old trailer frame, actually) that now houses 230 egg laying chickens. Inside are roll away nesting boxes that are kept quite busy with the occupants of the coop; but when not laying, the birds spend most of their time outside in the field snatching up bugs, taking dust baths, eating grass, and occasionally (ok, pretty regularly now) taking jaunts over the portable fence to find even MORE forage to eat. They all come back in at night, though, before the door closes to keep them safe from predators.
600 lb Pig Arrives at Farm
April 2021- A 600 lb Red Wattle Hog was given to us by a friend who (due to work travel) was no longer able to raise them. Emma (as we named her) is now quite happy out on pasture with our sole surviving Yorkshire pig, Dumbo (male).
Sheep, Cattle, and Dogs Escape! All on the Same Day!
April 2021 – In a multifaceted display of poor judgement, I attempted to move the sheep, untrained on electric fences, into an area solely bounded by portable electric wire fencing. Almost simultaneously, Nathan was moving the cattle into a new area, whose only boundary was also portable electric wire fencing (which apparently wasn’t all the way up?). In any case, the sheep were wandering all over the property, the cattle were all but stampeding down the driveway, and nothing but prayer saved the day. But -where were the ….dogs? In all the excitement, we left that gate open over there!! Gone. They were gone. No idea where they went…. And so I began the drive to find them. Thankfully, they’d only gone a few properties over, but in this country, that’s a LOT of running through fields to get them back to where they belonged!
Mink Makes Sorties into Turkey/ Chicken Field Coop
April 2021 – After making it through the perilous first month, several of the turkeys and a few chickens lost their lives to what we believe to be a mink. After an unsuccessful attempt at an offensive move with traps (and losing more birds), we retreated the poultry back to a field closer to the barn, where the mink apparently find the dogs too intimidating to venture near.
5 ft Long Rattlesnake Sighted – Suspected Chicken Killer
May 24, 2021 – Nathan sighted a very large, mature timber rattlesnake while caring for the egg layers one morning. “Do we have rattlesnakes in this area?” came the question over radio. “This thing definitely rattled at me!” This sighting came just a day after a Whiting was found dead in the Eggmobile of unknown causes, with only a little fluid and some swelling at the breast. Apparently, Timber rattlesnakes are quite rare to see in the wild, and we haven’t seen ours since.
Rosie Found to be with Pups!
May 2021 – Early in May, Rosie experienced her first heat. As responsible breeders, we duly seperated the dogs and kept Rosie in her own roomy stall. However, Great Pyrenees are the Houdinis of the dog world. She escaped that stall several times, though we thought we secured it better every time. We tried another stall, but she CHEWED THROUGH THE WALL to get to the other side to Bosco. We patched that up too. Finally, we chained her to a tree during the day and brought her back to the stall at night, which seemed to work – until it didn’t. And so here we are, with a “teen puppy mom”, due around July 12th.
Calf Breaks Through Fence While Farmer is at Church
June 2021- One weekend, when Nathan and I happened to go to different Masses, I came home to find our oldest calf, Turkey, munching away on the grass – outside the area designated by the portable electric fence. Apparently, the fence wasn’t on, and she walked right through it. Thankfully, she was quite content and I was able to herd her back in to the pasture myself with little fanfare. Again, prayer saves the day!
Water Pump Goes on the Fritz
June 2021 – We had a few weeks of spotty water availability due to our 25+ year old well pump deciding it was time to retire. What a way to find out how dependant we are on not only electricity, but water! When the pump was working, we filled the animals’ waters, sometimes going without washing dishes or taking baths/showers ourselves to keep them alive until we could hire someone to help replace the pump. It took longer than expected, since all the plumbing and well folks were busy working to fix up homes that were swamped due to some flash flooding we had. A huge thunderstorm brought six inches of rain in two hours, along with a tornado threatening to make an appearance!
Two Stocker Cattle Arrive
June 17, 2021 – Craigslist livestock – so hard to say ‘no’ to a good deal! Nathan drove down to Kentucky for these 15 month old Aberdeen/Hereford crosses, only to discover they had pinkeye. After chasing them all over the place to load them up (one of them injuring his leg in the process, and the other breaking out and running down the road at one point in time), the seller gave us $100 off the asking price of each and a basketful of succulent vegetables from his garden. Pinkeye in cattle is no joke (can cause blindness) and treatment is labor intensive. Add to that the regular care of the leg wound (rinsing, squeezing out pus, disinfecting, and wrapping) of the one which is ongoing, I’m not quite sure it was worth it.
Sheep Lost to Complications Due to Bloat
June 27, 2021 – A young female sheep was found to have bloat. There is a 25% chance of survival of this condition in sheep. Treatment involves getting a solution of baking soda, water and oil into the rumen – no easy task! After tubing her the first day, she seemed better, but the next day she was blown up like a balloon again. The second attempt at tubing caused her so much distress, we had to euthanize her.
Hog Lost Due to Heat
June 28th, 2021 – An American Guinea Hog (male) was found dead in the wallow; possibly due to over-drinking water during a heat wave. The others appear to be doing well, including the females, which are bred and expecting in October.
Lighting Storm Kills 13 Cornish Cross Chickens (and 3 Squash Plants)
June 29th, 2021 – Thirteen of our meat birds were found dead after lightning struck near their shelter in the pasture. Were they killed by the bolt, or did they die of fright? We’ll never know… The squash plants all just kind of looked… badly singed. We concluded that it must have been a lightning bolt, as we saw one touch down near the garden, and all the other plants were unharmed. Who knew?
Well, that’s about two-thirds of the events that have us running morning til night- I left out the rather uninteresting ones, like planting the garden, going to the farmer’s markets for the first time, the dogs chasing (and sometimes eating) the poultry, and the chicken butchering every week or two. Thanks for reading, and keep us in your prayers as we continue on this crazy ride! It’s a lot of work, but SO much fun!