Happy Wednesday Homesteaders! It’s time for an update!
I am dedicating this blog to Liz who called me out for not keeping my fellow homesteaders up to date with what is going on. Thanks Liz!
Where to start? We have had some signs of spring and are excited about the upcoming spring and summer. Last year we were a little dazed with the move and I had some health issues so we were unable to make as much progress as we would have liked. But, this year all is well and we are moving full steam ahead. Ashley has set up her greenhouse and has some plants ready to be moved outside. Her garden plot is tilled and ready; however we have not put up any barriers to keeping the chickens out of the garden. That is a priority as soon as we get some drier weather.
Speaking of the girls we have acquired eighteen more laying hens, twenty one more chicks, and two goslings. First, where we get more layers? We acquired these hens from people who were moving. The first three came from a nice young couple who would not be able to keep chickens in their new location and wanted them to go to a good home. They generously gave us a nice coop and all of their chicken supplies. The other fifteen came from people who had a very short time frame for moving and could only take half of their flock. The last group of hens was free ranging and living in trees, so the process of catching them looked like an episode of The Three Stooges. Gerald and Jill were truly good sports during this crazy acquisition adventure. Secondly, why did we get more layers? We acquired the hens because I now have a guaranteed buyer for all of my eggs. I have a few customers who buy directly from the farm and I have arrangements with a farm to fork restaurant in Portland to buy whatever I have on our scheduled pick up day. This is a really nice arrangement because I never have any eggs that are older than a week on hand.
Our newest addition is an eight month old Dexter steer that we have named Traeger. We like to name our animals and bond with them, but we know that the end game is freezer camp. He is cute little guy and we are working on settling him down a bit. He was out on pasture with his mom before we got him and he has had little or no contact with humans, which makes him pretty skittish. It is a process, but he is getting a lot better. Although he is a long way out from taking food from our hands, he does not take off like a shot every time we enter his pen. When the ground dries up later in the spring we will bring Belle, our year old heifer, down the hill which might help to settle him since she very trusting and affectionate with us. It will be nice for them to be together in the big pasture.
We have a new pair of African Geese Goslings. Geese are used for guarding chickens and we decided to try them with our flock. We have recently lost two of our roosters who roosted in the trees to a predator so instead of getting more roosters, we got some goslings. The two roosters that are left are large and good protectors, but they are also tough on the hens because they are so large. I have one hen who is wearing a chicken saddle and hens lay fewer eggs when you have roosters in your flock. Since African Geese are a gentler breed our hope is that they will become guardians for the flock while not coming after us every time we are in with the chickens.
The goaties all have nice clean goat houses. The entire family pitched in and helped clean out all of the goat houses and put in fresh bedding. We got some bad news/good news. The bad news is that Martha can jump over the fence in the big pen, the good news is that they are very good to follow me right back into their pen. This discovery led us to play musical goat barns so that everyone was securely contained. George, Martha, and Lumos are now sharing the big single stall barn with a lovely high fence that will contain them. Summer, Violet, Eva, and Wall-E are now sharing the largest two stall barn with Lolly and Nox. This works out really well as all of the miniature sized goats are housed together. Annie is still not integrated into the herd, but I don’t think she minds as she spends so much time with humans that I don’t think she knows she’s a goat.
We are getting three feeder gilts! We decided to go with the feeder pigs instead of the bred sow. The sow that was available was not mean or aggressive, but she was not a sweet baby like Jo. If I am going to be dealing with a five hundred plus pound animal going through labor I want to make sure that she is gentle and trusts me. The gilts are ¾ Gloustershire Old Spot (GOS) and ¼ Berkshire. If I really like one of these girls then I will keep her for breeding, otherwise I will look for a full GOS. They have a lovely disposition and you cannot beat the flavor of their meat.
Have a great week!